February 22, 2017

Toads and Diamonds, By Charles Perrault


Oh Charles Perrault, you sure gave the world some fantastic tales when you published Tales of Mother Goose 350 years ago. This tale, which I think of as "Diamonds and Toads," is such a favorite of mine that my first fairy tale site was called Diamonds and Toads.

The submission window for the "Diamonds and Toads" issue opens March 1 at 12 a.m., EST, so I thought publishing the story here might help writers and poets who wish to submit. And don't forget that the window closes at 11:59 p.m. On March 30, EST. and please read the guidelines. Here they are: https://tinyurl.com/zb3ex9x

I'm also going to share my thoughts on the story, so--spoiler alert! Scroll below and start reading the story before coming back up here for some perspective.

Why do I love the story so much? Probably because its message is that words can be jewels or they can be nasty and animalistic. Also, when my sisters and I were growing up, our mother would admonish us about fighting by saying "toads and snakes are dropping from your lips!" Our poor mother!

I used to think that having jewels and flowers popping out of my near-constantly chattering mouth would be quite a gift. But now, much older, and a little wiser, I hope, I see both the gifts for the "sweet" daughter and the "curse" for the surly daughter are, in fact, both curses. 

What kind of gift is having rocks, however pretty, ejecting themselves from your mouth? What if the "lucky" sister talks in her sleep? Wouldn't she choke to death? And wouldn't she be forced to babbble ceaselessly by greedy people who get their mitts on her?

And that prince! Princes in fairy tales are booby prizes, because they are almost always greedy, creepy (as in "Snow White") or barely one dimensional. In this story, the prince finds the heroine very pretty, but it's what jumps out of her mouth that seals the deal. That doesn't bode well for the good sister's future.

The other, surly sister ends up an outcast who dies. Yes, she was pretty awful, but did she deserve to be rejected from society and die?

As in many fairy tales, the parent is the real villain here. That mother plays obvious favorites, then ends up driving both daughters away! Fairy tales can be so enjoyably nasty, can't they?


(Top image by Margaret Evans Price, next is by Mabel Lucie Atwell, next is unknown, and last, Gordon Laite.)

Toads and Diamonds

There was once upon a time a widow who had two daughters. The eldest was so much like her in the face and humor that whoever looked upon the daughter saw the mother. They were both so disagreeable and so proud that there was no living with them.

The youngest, who was the very picture of her father for courtesy and sweetness of temper, was withal one of the most beautiful girls ever seen. As people naturally love their own likeness, this mother even doted on her eldest daughter and at the same time had a horrible aversion for the youngest—she made her eat in the kitchen and work continually.

Among other things, this poor child was forced twice a day to draw water above a mile and a-half off the house, and bring home a pitcher full of it. One day, as she was at this fountain, there came to her a poor woman, who begged of her to let her drink.


"Oh! ay, with all my heart, Goody," said this pretty little girl; and rinsing immediately the pitcher, she took up some water from the clearest place of the fountain, and gave it to her, holding up the pitcher all the while, that she might drink the easier.

The good woman, having drunk, said to her:

"You are so very pretty, my dear, so good and so mannerly, that I cannot help giving you a gift." For this was a fairy, who had taken the form of a poor country woman, to see how far the civility and good manners of this pretty girl would go. "I will give you for a gift," continued the Fairy, "that, at every word you speak, there shall come out of your mouth either a flower or a jewel."

When this pretty girl came home her mother scolded her for staying so long at the fountain.

"I beg your pardon, mamma," said the poor girl, "for not making more haste."

And in speaking these words there came out of her mouth two roses, two pearls, and two diamonds.

"What is it I see there?" said the mother, quite astonished. "I think I see pearls and diamonds come out of the girl's mouth! How happens this, child?"

This was the first time she had ever called her child.

The poor creature told her frankly all the matter, not without dropping out infinite numbers of diamonds.

"In good faith," cried the mother, "I must send my child thither. Come hither, Fanny; look what comes out of thy sister's mouth when she speaks. Wouldst not thou be glad, my dear, to have the same gift given thee? Thou hast nothing else to do but go and draw water out of the fountain, and when a certain poor woman asks you to let her drink, to give it to her very civilly."

"It would be a very fine sight indeed," said this ill-bred minx, "to see me go draw water."

"You shall go, hussy!" said the mother; "and this minute."

So away she went, but grumbling all the way, taking with her the best silver tankard in the house.

She was no sooner at the fountain than she saw coming out of the wood a lady most gloriously dressed, who came up to her, and asked to drink. This was, you must know, the very fairy who appeared to her sister, but now had taken the air and dress of a princess, to see how far this girl's rudeness would go.

 "Am I come hither," said the proud, saucy one, "to serve you with water, pray? I suppose the silver tankard was brought purely for your ladyship, was it? However, you may drink out of it, if you have a fancy."


"You are not over and above mannerly," answered the Fairy, without putting herself in a passion. "Well, then, since you have so little breeding, and are so disobliging, I give you for a gift that at every word you speak there shall come out of your mouth a snake or a toad."

So soon as her mother saw her coming she cried out:

"Well, daughter?"

"Well, mother?" answered the pert hussy, throwing out of her mouth two vipers and two toads.

"Oh! mercy," cried the mother; "what is it I see? Oh! it is that wretch her sister who has occasioned all this; but she shall pay for it"; and immediately she ran to beat her. The poor child fled away from her, and went to hide herself in the forest, not far from thence.

The King's son, then on his return from hunting, met her, and seeing her so very pretty, asked her what she did there alone and why she cried.

"Alas! sir, my mamma has turned me out of doors."



The King's son, who saw five or six pearls and as many diamonds come out of her mouth, desired her to tell him how that happened. She thereupon told him the whole story; and so the King's son fell in love with her, and, considering himself that such a gift was worth more than any marriage portion, conducted her to the palace of the King his father, and there married her.

As for the sister, she made herself so much hated that her own mother turned her off; and the miserable wretch, having wandered about a good while without finding anybody to take her in, went to a corner of the wood, and there died.[1]


  1. I love this fairy tale, too! I first read it in Spanish, actually. But, I love it! ~ Luisa

  2. I know. It's just very enchanting!

  3. I do like the tale, and it's well written. I'd like to think that in a better world these two would team up and use their gifts to survive in the world and escape their abusive mother.

  4. So...maybe we're supposed to think the Prince magnanimous for loving her enough to take the jewels, etc. instead of a proper dowry? It's big of him, right?

  5. For fans of this tale type, check out The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, which features a Russian version of the story, Father Frost. I really enjoyed it!