The protagonist of a fairy tale is often a courageous man who risks mortal danger in order to achieve some noble quest. The king’s attendant in this story is heroic in every way. He is the only one ”loyal and courageous” enough to go in search of a feather from the ogre. Along his journey, he accepts further challenges without hesitation. As a result, he performs many good deeds, helping others out of their predicaments. With the help of the heroine, he effectively prevents the ogre from doing further harm in the world. His heroism is abundantly rewarded in the end with both material wealth from the king and the hand in marriage of a “beautiful girl.”
Good versus Evil
Most fairy tales make clear distinctions between good and evil and generally demonstrate that good always triumphs over evil. The ogre in this story is a clear embodiment of evil. He eats every human being he sees and even kidnaps a girl to hold her hostage and make her his wife. Because the ogre is pure evil, the reader is not expected to have any sympathy for the ogre in the end, when he is tricked into being stuck on the ferry boat. A parallel to the ogre is the presence of the Devil in the monastery, who has disguised himself as a priest and caused discord among them for ten years. Another figure of evil is the snake that has stopped up the fountain of the two noblemen. Based on the Bible, the snake in the Garden of Eden is a symbol of pure evil. In contrast with the ogre, the Devil, and the snake, all of the human beings in this story are helpless victims of these evil forces. The protagonist, the king’s attendant, represents the greatest force of good, as he is the only one brave enough to risk death in order to help save everyone else from evil. As a result of his good deeds, the Devil is forced out of the monastery, the snake’s head is crushed, and the ogre is trapped on the ferry boat, where he cannot harm anyone again.
Like bravery and courage, this story demonstrates that loyalty brings rewards. The protagonist is described as one of the king’s most “loyal” attendants, who is the only one willing to risk his own life in order to cure the king of his illness. It is this man’s loyalty to his king that initially leads to his quest for the ogre’s feather. In the end, his loyalty is greatly rewarded by the king.
Courage and Bravery
Like many fairy tales, this story is about heroic acts of bravery on the part of the protagonist. The protagonist is one of the king’s “most courageous” attendants. None of the king’s other subjects are brave enough to go in search of the ogre who eats every human being he sees, but the protagonist shows his bravery by saying, simply, “I will go.” When the people he meets on his journey to find the ogre ask if he will bring them back a feather and ask the ogre a question, the man cheerfully agrees to their requests without hesitation, even though each new request makes his mission that much more dangerous. When the man knocks at the ogre’s door, the ogre’s wife, a beautiful girl, warns him of the danger he is in, as her husband eats every human being he sees. But the man shows his bravery once again with his matter-of-fact attitude in the face of death: ‘”Since I’m already here, I’ll stay and try my luck. If I get eaten, that’s that.'” In the end, the man’s courage and bravery are abundantly rewarded.
Each request that the man accepts, starting with the king’s need for a feather from the ogre in order to cure his illness, is in the service of selflessly helping others who are in need. He also performs good deeds in promising each of the four parties he meets along his journey to ask the ogre for a solution to their predicament. When he follows through on these promises, the problems of each party are solved. While the hero accepts each challenge without promise of any material reward for his efforts, he is richly rewarded in the end. The message of this tale is that doing good deeds will be rewarded with love and material wealth.
Jennifer Smith – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 12, Italo Calvino, Published by Gale Group, 2001.