As Pretty as Seven

As pretty as seven is a fairy tale which was popular in 19th and at the beginning of 20th century. It's almost forgotten now, just like Ludwig Bechstein, who included it in his collections. While everybody knows Brothers Grimm today and almost nobody heard about their (almost) contemporary Bechstein, we should know he was much more successful as a fairy tale writer in his lifetime. The reason is probably approach to his writing.

Bechstein and Grimms frequently included the same stories in their collections what gives us an opportunity to compare through numerous editions often heavily rewritten versions. Ludwig Bechstein offered more optimism and less cruelty, his messages were less scholar and educative, his language more colorful. It would be interesting to make a stud with a goal of explaining why are Brothers Grimm today's de facto standard and Bechstein more or less just a footnote to literary history.

Well, As pretty as seven can't be used for such comparison because we can find it only in Bechstein's collection called German Fairy-Tale Book.

This is a classic love story as we are used from fairy tales. There's a prince who falls in love with a nice but poor girl. He doesn't care about her social status but she does and he really has to try hard if he wants meet with her.

His father hears about the meetings from a servant and decided to get rid of the girl. His people burn the home of the girl (her name is As pretty as seven), her parents die and she saves only her bare life. Prince beliefs she is dead too and after some time his father convinces him to start looking for a wife among available princesses.

But As pretty as seven doesn't completely disappear from his life. She gets a job in the castle (disguised) where prince recognizes her just before the marriage. He marries her instead of the chosen princess and the happy couple is finally joined together.

Here is how Oskar Herrfurth portrayed the crucial scenes from the fairy tale:

He first saw her at the church.

She believed he'll offer her a job but he only wanted to be with her.

A wicked servant (behind the tree) reports everything to the king.

King destroys the family, yet As pretty as seven survives.

Prince at first doesn't recognize his love in disguise.

But in the end they end up together. She becomes a princess.

It's probably interesting to note how Herrfurth presented the girl. She is beautiful and this beauty is a central element of the story. while she stays modest and even covers her face to prevent people from staring at her, it's not enough. This beauty is a curse which eventually causes the death of her parents. Red hair is often connected with such 'fatal women', what may painters used when portraying women with important, often tragic influence on historic events. There's is another characteristic of red-heads, of course - they are strong and born survivors. No matter what Oskar Herrfurth meant when he was drawing this series of postcards, As pretty as seven belongs among them.

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