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The Grey Fairy Book

The Grey Fairy Book

4.6 15
by Andrew Lang, Henry J. Ford (Illustrator), H. J. Ford (Illustrator)

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Thirty-five stories, many from oral traditions, others from French, German, Italian collections: "The Goat-faced Girl," "The Sunchild," "The Street Musicians," "The Twin Brothers," "Prunella," and many more. 59 illustrations.


Thirty-five stories, many from oral traditions, others from French, German, Italian collections: "The Goat-faced Girl," "The Sunchild," "The Street Musicians," "The Twin Brothers," "Prunella," and many more. 59 illustrations.

Product Details

Dover Publications
Publication date:
Dover Children's Classics Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.42(w) x 8.52(h) x 0.77(d)
Age Range:
10 - 13 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Grey Fairy Book

By Andrew Lang, H. J. Ford

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1967 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-12021-8



THERE was once upon a time a king who was so much beloved by his subjects that he thought himself the happiest monarch in the whole world, and he had everything his heart could desire. His palace was filled with the rarest of curiosities, and his gardens with the sweetest flowers, while in the marble stalls of his stables stood a row of milk-white Arabs, with big brown eyes.

Strangers who had heard of the marvels which the king had collected, and made long journeys to see them, were, however, surprised to find the most splendid stall of all occupied by a donkey, with particularly large and drooping ears. It was a very fine donkey; but still, as far as they could tell, nothing so very remarkable as to account for the care with which it was lodged; and they went away wondering, for they could not know that every night, when it was asleep, bushels of gold pieces tumbled out of its ears, which were picked up each morning by the attendants.

After many years of prosperity a sudden blow fell upon the king in the death of his wife, whom he loved dearly. But before she died, the queen, who had always thought first of his happiness, gathered all her strength, and said to him:

'Promise me one thing: you must marry again, I know, for the good of your people, as well as of yourself. But do not set about it in a hurry. Wait until you have found a woman more beautiful and better formed than myself.'

'Oh, do not speak to me of marrying,' sobbed the king; 'rather let me die with you!' But the queen only smiled faintly, and turned over on her pillow and died.

For some months the king's grief was great; then gradually he began to forget a little, and, besides, his counsellors were always urging him to seek another wife. At first he refused to listen to them, but by-and-by he allowed himself to be persuaded to think of it, only stipulating that the bride should be more beautiful and attractive than the late queen, according to the promise he had made her.

Overjoyed at having obtained what they wanted, the counsellors sent envoys far and wide to get portraits of all the most famous beauties of every country. The artists were very busy and did their best, but, alas! nobody could even pretend that any of the ladies could compare for a moment with the late queen.

At length, one day, when he had turned away discouraged from a fresh collection of pictures, the king's eyes fell on his adopted daughter, who had lived in the palace since she was a baby, and he saw that, if a woman existed on the whole earth more lovely than the queen, this was she! He at once made known what his wishes were, but the young girl, who was not at all ambitious, and had not the faintest desire to marry him, was filled with dismay, and begged for time to think about it. That night, when everyone was asleep, she started in a little car drawn by a big sheep, and went to consult her fairy godmother.

'I know what you have come to tell me,' said the fairy, when the maiden stepped out of the car; and if you don't wish to marry him, I will show you how to avoid it. Ask him to give you a dress that exactly matches the sky. It will be impossible for him to get one, so you will be quite safe.' The girl thanked the fairy and returned home again.

The next morning, when her father (as she had always called him) came to see her, she told him that she could give him no answer until he had presented her with a dress the colour of the sky. The king, overjoyed at this answer, sent for all the choicest weavers and dressmakers in the kingdom, and commanded them to make a robe the colour of the sky without an instant's delay, or he would cut off their heads at once. Dreadfully frightened at this threat, they all began to dye and cut and sew, and in two days they brought back the dress, which looked as if it had been cut straight out of the heavens! The poor girl was thunderstruck, and did not know what to do; so in the night she harnessed her sheep again, and went in search of her godmother.

'The king is cleverer than I thought,' said the fairy; 'but tell him you must have a dress of moonbeams.'

And the next day, when the king summoned her into his presence, the girl told him what she wanted.

'Madam, I can refuse you nothing,' said he; and he ordered the dress to be ready in twenty-four hours, or every man should be hanged.

They set to work with all their might, and by dawn next day, the dress of moonbeams was laid across her bed. The girl, though she could not help admiring its beauty, began to cry, till the fairy, who heard her, came to her help.

'Well, I could not have believed it of him!' said she; 'but ask for a dress of sunshine, and I shall be surprised indeed if he manages that!'

The goddaughter did not feel much faith in the fairy after her two previous failures; but not knowing what else to do, she told her father what she was bid.

The king made no difficulties about it, and even gave his finest rubies and diamonds to ornament the dress, which was so dazzling, when finished, that it could not be looked at save through smoked glasses!

When the princess saw it, she pretended that the sight hurt her eyes, and retired to her room, where she found the fairy awaiting her, very much ashamed of herself.

'There is only one thing to be done now,' cried she; 'you must demand the skin of the ass he sets such store by. It is from that donkey he obtains all his vast riches, and I am sure he will never give it to you.'

The princess was not so certain; however, she went to the king, and told him she could never marry him till he had given her the ass's skin.

The king was both astonished and grieved at this new request, but did not hesitate an instant. The ass was sacrificed, and the skin laid at the feet of the princess.

The poor girl, seeing no escape from the fate she dreaded, wept afresh, and tore her hair; when, suddenly, the fairy stood before her.

'Take heart,' she sad, 'all will now go well! Wrap yourself in this skin, and leave the palace and go as far as you can. I will look after you. Your dresses and your jewels shall follow you underground, and if you strike the earth whenever you need anything, you will have it at once. But go quickly: you have no time to lose.'

So the princess clothed herself in the ass's skin, and slipped from the palace without being seen by anyone.

Directly she was missed there was a great hue and cry, and every corner, possible and impossible, was searched. Then the king sent out parties along all the roads, but the fairy threw her invisible mantle over the girl when they approached, and none of them could see her.

The princess walked on a long, long way, trying to find some one who would take her in, and let her work for them; but though the cottagers, whose houses she passed, gave her food from charity, the ass's skin was so dirty they would not allow her to enter their houses. For her flight had been so hurried she had had no time to clean it.

Tired and disheartened at her ill-fortune, she was wandering, one day, past the gate of a farmyard, situated just outside the walls of a large town, when she heard a voice calling to her. She turned and saw the farmer's wife standing among her turkeys, and making signs to her to come in.

'I want a girl to wash the dishes and feed the turkeys, and clean out the pigsty,' said the woman, 'and, to judge by your dirty clothes, you would not be too fine for the work.'

The girl accepted her offer with joy, and she was at once set to work in a corner of the kitchen, where all the farm servants came and made fun of her, and the ass's skin in which she was wrapped. But by-and-by they got so used to the sight of it that it ceased to amuse them, and she worked so hard and so well, that her mistress grew quite fond of her. And she was so clever at keeping sheep and herding turkeys that you would have thought she had done nothing else during her whole life!

One day she was sitting on the banks of a stream bewailing her wretched lot, when she suddenly caught sight of herself in the water. Her hair and part of her face was quite concealed by the ass's head, which was drawn right over like a hood, and the filthy matted skin covered her whole body. It was the first time she had seen herself as other people saw her, and she was filled with shame at the spectacle. Then she threw off her disguise and jumped into the water, plunging in again and again, till she shone like ivory. When it was time to go back to the farm, she was forced to put on the skin which disguised her, and now seemed more dirty than ever; but, as she did so, she comforted herself with the thought that to-morrow was a holiday, and that she would be able for a few hours to forget that she was a farm girl, and be a princess once more.

So, at break of day, she stamped on the ground, as the fairy had told her, and instantly the dress like the sky lay across her tiny bed. Her room was so small that there was no place for the train of her dress to spread itself out, but she pinned it up carefully when she combed her beautiful hair and piled it up on the top of her head, as she had always worn it. When she had done, she was so pleased with herself that she determined never to let a chance pass of putting on her splendid clothes, even if she had to wear them in the fields, with no one to admire her but the sheep and turkeys.

Now the farm was a royal farm, and, one holiday, when 'Donkey Skin' (as they had nicknamed the princess) had locked the door of her room and clothed herself in her dress of sunshine, the king's son rode through the gate, and asked if he might come and rest himself a little after hunting. Some food and milk were set before him in the garden, and when he felt rested he got up, and began to explore the house, which was famous through-. out the whole kingdom for its age and beauty. He opened one door after the other, admiring the old rooms, when he came to a handle that would not turn. He stooped and peeped through the keyhole to see what was inside, and was greatly astonished at beholding a beautiful girl, clad in a dress so dazzling that he could hardly look at it.

The dark gallery seemed darker than ever as he turned away, but he went back to the kitchen and inquired who slept in the room at the end of the passage. The scullery maid, they told him, whom everybody laughed at, and called 'Donkey Skin;' and though he perceived there was some strange mystery about this, he saw quite clearly there was nothing to be gained by asking any more questions. So he rode back to the palace, his head filled with the vision he had seen through the keyhole.

All night long he tossed about, and awoke the next morning in a high fever. The queen, who had no other child, and lived in a state of perpetual anxiety about this one, at once gave him up for lost, and indeed his sudden illness puzzled the greatest doctors, who tried the usual remedies in vain. At last they told the queen that some secret sorrow must be at the bottom of all this, and she threw herself on her knees beside her son's bed, and implored him to confide his trouble to her. If it was ambition to be king, his father would gladly resign the cares of the crown, and suffer him to reign in his stead; or, if it was love, everything should be sacrificed to get for him the wife he desired, even if she were daughter of a king with whom the country was at war at present!

'Madam,' replied the prince, whose weakness would hardly allow him to speak, 'do not think me so unnatural as to wish to deprive my father of his crown. As long as he lives I shall remain the most faithful of his subjects! And as to the princesses you speak of, I have seen none that I should care for as a wife, though I would always obey your wishes, whatever it might cost me.'

'Ah! my son,' cried she, 'we will do anything in the world to save your life—and ours too, for if you die, we shall die also.'

'Well, then,' replied the prince, 'I will tell you the only thing that will cure me—a cake made by the hand of "Donkey Skin."'

'Donkey Skin?' exclaimed the queen, who thought her son had gone mad; 'and who or what is that?'

'Madam,' answered one of the attendants present, who had been with the prince at the farm, '"Donkey Skin" is, next to the wolf, the most disgusting creature on the face of the earth. She is a girl who wears a black, greasy skin, and lives at your farmer's as hen-wife.'

'Never mind,' said the queen; 'my. son seems to have eaten some of her pastry. It is the whim of a sick man, no doubt; but send at once and let her bake a cake.'

The attendant bowed and ordered a page to ride with the message.

Now it is by no means certain that 'Donkey Skin' had not caught a glimpse of the prince, either when his eyes looked through the keyhole, or else from her little window, which was over the road. But whether she had actually seen him or only heard him spoken of, directly she received the queen's command, she flung off the dirty skin, washed herself from head to foot, and put on a skirt and bodice of shining silver. Then, locking herself into her room, she took the richest cream, the finest flour, and the freshest eggs on the farm, and set about making her cake.

As she was stirring the mixture in the saucepan a ring that she sometimes wore in secret slipped from her finger and fell into the dough. Perhaps 'Donkey Skin' saw it, or perhaps she did not; but, any way, she went on stirring, and soon the cake was ready to be put in the oven. When it was nice and brown she took off her dress and put on her dirty skin, and gave the cake to the page, asking at the same time for news of the prince. But the page turned his head aside, and would not even condescend to answer.

The page rode like the wind, and as soon as he arrived at the palace he snatched up a silver tray and hastened to present the cake to the prince. The sick man began to eat it so fast that the doctors thought he would choke; and, indeed, he very nearly did, for the ring was in one of the bits which he broke off, though he managed to extract it from his mouth without anyone seeing him.

The moment the prince was left alone he drew the ring from under his pillow and kissed it a thousand times. Then he set his mind to find how he was to see the owner—for even he did not dare to confess that he had only beheld 'Donkey Skin' through a keyhole, lest they should laugh at this sudden passion. All this worry brought back the fever, which the arrival of the cake had diminished for the time; and the doctors, not knowing what else to say, informed the queen that her son was simply dying of love. The queen, stricken with horror, rushed into the king's presence with the news, and together they hastened to their son's bedside.

'My boy, my dear boy!' cried the king, 'who is it you want to marry? We will give her to you for a bride, even if she is the humblest of our slaves. What is there in the whole world that we would not do for you?

The prince, moved to tears at these words, drew the ring, which was an emerald of the purest water, from under his pillow.

'Ah, dear father and mother, let this be a proof that she whom I love is no peasant girl. The finger which that ring fits has never been thickened by hard work. But be her condition what it may, I will marry no other.'

The king and queen examined the tiny ring very closely, and agreed, with their son, that the wearer could be no mere farm girl. Then the king went out and ordered heralds and trumpeters to go through the town, summoning every maiden to the palace. And she whom the ring fitted would some day be queen.

First came all the princesses, then all the duchesses' daughters, and so on, in proper order. But not one of them could slip the ring over the tip of her finger, to the great joy of the prince, whom excitement was fast curing. At last, when the high-born damsels had failed, the shopgirls and chambermaids took their turn; but with no better fortune.

'Call in the scullions and shepherdesses,' commanded the prince; but the sight of their fat, red fingers satisfied everybody.

'There is not a woman left, your Highness,' said the chamberlain; but the prince waved him aside.

'Have you sent for "Donkey Skin," who made me the cake?' asked he, and the courtiers began to laugh, and replied that they would not have dared to introduce so dirty a creature into the palace.


Excerpted from The Grey Fairy Book by Andrew Lang, H. J. Ford. Copyright © 1967 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Andrew Lang (1844–1912) was a novelist, journalist, poet, and literary critic best known for his collections of fairy tales known as The Fairy Books.

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The Grey Fairy Book 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book draws from the fairy tales and wives tales from all over Europe and other parts of the world, and I could't get enough of them when I was a kid. Along with other books, I gave my old copy of this to my boy after reading it to him, and he asks the same questions I once asked my grandma, like, 'How can he do that?', 'How can that happen?' and 'Can animals really talk?' This book inspires kids to read so that they can learn to answer questions and know what is out there so they'll know what to do when they come upon it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read it twice and if i read it again imight never get tired of it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pony Name :: Bloom <br> Human Name :: Bianca Lomner <br> Age :: About 14 <br> Gender :: Le femme <br> Appearance [Pony] :: Bloom's a light pastel yellow, not quite gold but not lemon-y, either. She has a sunset orange mane, with streaks of red and neon yellow. Her eyes are an off-setting violet, the lightly colored irises almost appearing translucent. Her cutie mark is an indigo iris in full bloom, the stem coiled around a little sapling stabilizer <br> Appearance [Human] :: Bianca has tanned skin, wild russet hair with pink highlights, and sky blue eyes accentuated with smoky cat-eye make up and a tad of mascara on her light eyelashes. She has a silver necklace with an iris pendant. Her attire includes black shredded skinny jeans, an off-the-shoulder pastel shirt with flower decal, and scarlet Converses <br> Persona :: Better figger it out yerself. I will say this: There are many layers to her emotions. Read into them however you like <br> Crush/Partner :: Nerpeh schmerp <p> Pony Name :: Treble <br> Human Name :: Trevor Johann <br> Age :: 18 <br> Gender :: Male <br> Appearance [Pony] :: Treble's a creamy ecru color. His eyes are big, a warm amber, hidden behind a pair of scientist's goggles. He wears a small golden stud on his right ear. His mane is an unruly navy, spiked slightly in layers and dyed black in streaks. His cutie mark is a music note: &#9836 <br> Appearance [Human] :: Trevor's a muscular, pale guy, with brown eyes and shaggy black hair. He's pretty tall and skinny, not 'ripped' but still chiseled. He's got a pair of slim glasses atop his nose. On his right forearm is a tattoo of an electric guitar. His wardrobe includes jeans, rock band t-shirts, high tops. He's rarely seen without his guitar. <br> Persona :: Kinda an outcast, he's a cute person. <br> Crush/Partner :: Nope.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Grace marker
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
HUMAN NAME Rachel Dawson<br> <p> PONY NAME Rainbow Dash<br> <p> NICKNAMES Rach, RD, Dash, Dashie, Rainbow<br> <p> AGE 17 years<br> <p> GENDER Whatcha think idiot? For those who are gender confused, I am a female.<br> <p> APP cyan blue skin, long messy rainbow hair, dark rose eyes, strong build<br> <p> CLOTHING white tank top w/ cutie mark on it underneath a blue short sleeve vest, pink and white skirt that stops a half an inch above leggings, black leggings that stop an inch above her knees, blue sneaker-boots<br> <p> PERS funny, awesome, cool, brave, fearless, lazy (sometimes), hard-worker, loyal, braggish, adventurous, prankster, jokester<br> <p> PET tortoise named Tank<br> <p> CRUSH/BF Soarin<br> <p> OTHER is the captain of every sports team in the school<br> <p> <p> HUMAN NAME Theresa Simmons<br> <p> PONY NAME Twilight Sparkle<br> <p> NICKNAME Twilight, Twily, Twi<br> <p> AGE 18 years<br> <p> GENDER Um... not answering that. You should know.<br> <p> APP purple skin, dark pirple hair w/ a pink streak, purple eyes<br> <p> CLOTHING blue blouse w/ pink bow, dark purple skirt with cutie mark on base, knee-high purple socks and mary janes<br> <p> PERS smart, loyal, generous, honest, kind<br> <p> CRUSH/BF Flash Century<br> <p> PET purple and green dra- I mean dog named Spike!<br> <p> OTHER not much but you can ask!<br> <p> <p> HUMAN NAME Sarah Dawson<br> <p> PONY NAME Scootaloo<br> <p> NICKNAME Scoot<br> <p> AGE 12 years<br> <p> GENDER Female you idiots!<br> <p> APP orange skin, short maroon hair with one curl at the top, light lavender eyes Rachel-style<br> <p> CLOTHING grey sweatpants and a t-shirt<br> <p> PERS brave, not-so-brave, determined, loyal<br> <p> OTHER member of the CMC<br> <p> That's all for today, stalkers!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*chuckles nervously* see uni res four in my bios.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name:Friends can call me Em. Bullies can call me Miss Emerald Soryl Firefly. <br> Gender: *facepalms* <br> Age: 17 <br> Height:5' 9" <br> Eyes: Pinkie style indigo <br> Hair: Like vinyl scratch's except teased quite a bit more and its black with purple highlights <br> Outfit:black t shirt with indigo skirt and a skull and crossbones with heart eyes (my cutie mark) belt with black and indigo striped wristwarmer/fingerless gloves with same mark on the back of the hand. Black combat boots with my cutie mark on it <br> Personality:sarcastic and always shooting comebacks at you if you see her as a "tough girl" or "just another PMS-ing emo" Kind and loyal to those who at least attempt to see past her tough shell. Extremely loyal and will get back at people in the worst ways if the harm her friends IN ANY FORM. <br> Crush: Tobuscus *blushes* <br> Other: <br>
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pony name: Lunar Eclipse |&bull;| Human name: Luna Eclipse (she still goes by that name) |&bull;| Gender: Female |&bull;| Rank: Vice principal |&bull;| Personality: Bold, Strict, and nervious. |&bull;| Appearence: She has her regular light blue hairstyle and wears her crown. She has blue eyes, and wears a blue jacket over a blue and white plaid shirt with lighter shoes. She also wears a dark blue plaid skirt and long socks to match.(its like a school uniform) |&bull;| items: she always carries a clipboard with her. |&bull;| Other: most students dont bond or talk with Luna since shes not so soft and kind like her sister. Luna always has a nervious look on her face when she patrols.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Human name: valerie fultan. Pony name: violet flower. Apperance: light purple skin. Long dark purple hair. Violot eyes. Wearing a light blue tank top. A white skirt with a little violet on it. Purple flats. Sixteen. Shes shy. But loves everything and hopes to make freinds. Ask her anything and everything
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Human Name: The Doctor ////// Pony Name: Doctor Whooves ///// Gender: Male ///// Age: Looks like 17 years old ///// Height: 6'3 ///// Skin: A nice tan ///// Hair: A cute dark brown haircut ///// Eyes: A warm blue ///// Clothing: A collar jacket, white hirt, blue jeans, and dark brown sneakers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Human Name: Stella Sputnick <br> Pony Name: SwiftStar <br> Age: 15 <br> Gender: *facepalm* <br> Appearance: Off-white skin, long messy blue hair with white streaks, blue eyes <br> Usually Wears: A white tank top with cutie mark on it, a denim jacket, aqua blue knee-length leggings, and blue Converse. <p> Human Name: Flora Benson <br> Pony Name: Frostbite <br> Age: 8 <br> Gender: *facepalm* <br> Appearance: Aqua blue skin, black hair with silver streaks that is short and scruffy, blue eyes. <br> Usually Wears: An elbow-length black shirt with cuffs on the sleeves, black jeans, and black combat boots. <p> Human Name: Haley Carin <br> Pony Name: Hurricane <br> Age: 13 <br> Gender: *facepalm* <br> Appearance: Grey skin, messy black hair with blue streaks, blue-grey eyes <br> Usually Wears: A white tee with cutie mark on it, a navy blue unbuttoned elbow length tee, black leggings, and checkered Vans.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pony Name: Rosbud Golden Sparkle Pelt Color: Bright Pink Eye Color: Dark Green Tail/Mane Style: Long Rarirty style. Wears it in a low ponytail. Clothes: Black Converse low top sneakers. Purple Swetshirt with pink sparkley letters in front of a leaporad print purple heart with angel wings that says "Mares Rock". On one side of the heart there is a guitar with a few music notes. Under the sweatshirt is a short sleeved white shirt. There are also a few stars on the sweatshirt. She wears knee high shorts in the summer with hearts on the back pockets. In the Winter time she wears Skinny jeans with hearts on the back pockets. Personality: Kind, romantic, can be sarcastic, funny, can be immature.