I have read an annotated version of King Thrushbeard that “proves” how misogynist it is, and confirms the story’s purpose in frightening women into subjugation and obedience. And I can see where the annotators get that.
But this story has always appealed to me, and it was only as I was retelling it for Tuesday Tales that I finally understood why.
In it I see a sort of parable.
There is the princess (free to choose, but having no power of her own) who will not accept the young king. He is offering himself to her, even though (apparently) she has no dowry to come with her. He has chosen her for herself.
She thinks she doesn’t need anyone, then learns otherwise when she is cast penniless and unskilled into the world. The king who wanted her humbled himself and became the beggar who won her “by chance,” and lives along side her in poverty, with patience, attempting to teach her skills while at the same time revealing how unfounded all her former prides are.
He provides for her not having to go hungry for long (probably letting the cook know who she is) and shares her public humiliation cleaning up the scraps in the great company.
(Yes, some of this is magnified from the original in my retelling, but that is my prerogative as the teller.)
Mostly I was struck by the image of a great King who humbled himself to live alongside a useless princess so that he could protect her through trials that would make her more fit to be queen.