Bibliographic Information (best version for telling):

Grimm, Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm. "Cat-skin." in De la Mare, Walter, ed. Animal Stories. New York: Scribner's, 1940. 297-308.

Ethnic Origin: German


Running Time: 14 minutes


Power Center(s):

When the princess must hide her identity three times at the three feasts, pretending to be a rude country girl, and the king guesses her secret.


Old King

The Queen

The Princess

Young King in nearby realm

Various messengers, weavers, huntsmen, counselors, cooks, and courtiers


1. Queen' with golden hair dies, king notices his daughter's hair is similar and plans their wedding.

2. Horrified princess demands three dresses and fur mantle

3. Princess flees with dresses and mantle into woods, hides in tree

4. Princess as scullery maid, then at young king's feasts in her gowns

5. Princess' identity revealed and she marries king.

Setting: old king's castle in dense woods, the woods, the young king's palace kitchen, young king's great hall.


When his queen dies after childbirth, a king promises never to marry again unless it be to a woman with the same golden hair as his former wife. He decides to marry his daughter when he discovers she is the only woman to fit the description. The daughter demands three dresses to be woven: one as gold as the sun, one as silver as the moon and pure as driven snow, and one as bright and dazzling as the stars. When king accomplishes these seemingly impossible tasks, she asks for a mantle made of one piece of fur from each animal in the kingdom. The king succeeds in this task as well, and the princess must flee the, disguised by the mantle and taking the three dresses with her. She is made a scullery maid in a neighboring kingdom. After three feasts, which she infiltrates dressed in her gowns, she marries the king of that land when he guesses her true identity.

Rhymes/Special Phrases/"Flavor":

Princess saying, "I have no mother and father and I'm good for nothing except to have boots thrown at my head."

"Queen and princess' hair is so bright a gold that if they walk into a room it is as if fifty candles were carried in."

Audience (why is this story appropriate for the audience? developmental characteristics?):

This story is appropriate for an elementary school child, probably one in second or third grade because of its content and length. Its length may prevent younger children from following the whole story. It addresses the issue of industry mentioned by Piaget in that the princess must take her own life into her hands and make something of herself; she realizes that she can succeed, just as these children are learning that they can, too. In a similar vein, it addresses the growing concept of identity (Erickson) with which these children struggle at this age.

Source(s) recommending this story/collection as good for storytelling?

MacDonald, Margaret Read. Storyteller's Sourcebook. Detroit: Neal-Schuman/Gale Research Co., 1982.

Greene, Ellin. Storytelling: Art and Technique. New Providence: Bowker, 1996. (recommends De la Mare collection for professional reading)

Sawyer, Ruth. The Way of the Storyteller. New York: Viking, c1942.

Bibliographic information on other versions/variants (at least two)?

Grimm, Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm. Állereirauh, or the many-Furred Creature." in Lang, Andrew, ed. The Green Fairy Book. London: Longmans, Green, 1929. 276-281.

Grimm, Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm. "Many-Fur." in Segal, Lore. The Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1973. 236-246.

Brief comparison of all versions/variants in terms of language, rhythm, "tellability," "flavor," content, etc. Stress the differences in style rather than those of content.

I chose the variant I did, by Walter De la Mare, because of certain "flavorful" phrases with which he told his story that the others did not. Not all of them I have included in the final telling, but were sources of inspiration none-the-less. For instance, De la Mare's queen has hair of "purest, clearest gold." When the messengers return from searching, "their travail, their journeyings, had been in vain." I did not find this suitable for this age group. I omitted De la Mare's huntsmen mocking Cat-Skin and telling her to "beware of the 'Walk-by-Nights!'" De la Mare also calls his drudging princess "Cat-skin" which is easier to say than "Many-Fur" (Segal) or "Many-furred Creature," or "Allerleirauh" (Lang). The third has the nicest flow, but few children would be able to make sense of it.

There was one content issue I liked in the De la Mare version: he mentions the old king at the end and includes what has happened to the lascivious old wretch, which I thought needed to be answered.

The Segal version is shorter and uses fewer direct quotations from the characters than De la mare. Its style is blunter, the details in different places (i.e., the princess makes bread soup for the king), and the character development is not as natural. Also, the young king is much more brutal a character: it is he who throws boots at the princess, and at the end of the story her fur mantle doesn't fall off; he rips it off.

The Lang version is in the middle of the other two stylistically, being not as brutal and not as detailed. For instance, the Lang princess uses the striking phrase "no use except to have boots thrown at her head" but fails to say that anyone did throw boots at her. Also, Lang editorializes a little in the course of the story, taking the role of minstrel or storyteller: at one point, the text reads "Ah, beautiful King's daughter, what is going to befall you now?"