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The Wise Little Girl: Fairy Tale Summary

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Turns out, a wise little girl is no match for the greatest ruler in the land! In this tale of girl power, ~'The Wise Little Girl~' introduces us to the wisdom of a child and how it helps her father win in the end.

Besting An Opponent

Have you ever outsmarted someone others might think is smarter, stronger or more sophisticated than you? That's exactly what the namesake in the fairy tale ''The Wise Little Girl'' accomplishes. The story, written by Russian author Alexander Afanasyev, shows the wisdom, or knowledge, of a young girl, even as she goes up against the powerful and shrewd Emperor.

Let's take a closer look at the tale.

Meeting ''The Wise Little Girl''

When our story begins, there's no little girl in sight, only a rich brother, a poor brother and their respective horses. The pair have set out for a livestock market in a neighboring town.

When the pair decide to rest for the evening, they tie up their horses - the rich man's stallion and the poor man's mare - and bed down for the night. The men are surprised, upon awakening the next morning, to discover not two horses, but three. But, this is no math problem. During the night, the mare had given birth to a foal, or young horse.

After taking some milk from its mother, the foal walks over next to the stallion, a rather innocent move that sparks a great debate between the two brothers.

Who Owns the Foal?

The richer brother is convinced of his ownership because the foal was standing next to his stallion, but the poor brother said the foal had clearly been born to the mare during the night, making it his property.

To settle the dispute, the pair head off for the town square, where the Emperor himself is holding court, ruling on matters of justice. The Emperor is well aware of who had rightful claim to the foal, but is feeling playful and issued a challenge in the form of a riddle. He asks: ''What is the fastest thing in the world? What is the fattest? What's the softest and what is the most precious?''

Solving the Riddle

The pair return home, after being given a week to solve the riddle and return. The rich man relies on the help of a neighbor to formulate his answer. The poor man asks for his seven-year-old daughter's help (enter the ''wise little girl''). The brothers return to the Emperor and present their answers, with the wise little girl's answer touching the Emperor.

For the response, the Emperor promises the poor man the foal, plus a cash bonus, but there's a catch. He issues a challenge to the poor man, who must bring his daughter to the Emperor. She ''must appear before me neither naked nor dressed, neither on foot nor on horseback, neither bearing gifts nor empty-handed,'' the Emperor says.

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