Fairytale Retellings & Prompts: Yellow Dwarf

This month we’re doing a series called the A-Z blogging challenge where we dive into Fairytale Retellings and provide prompts for writers. Writers are the people making the books, television shows, and movies of tomorrow. For more information on the challenge check out my earlier post here.

Here’s one you might not have heard of before. I freely admit it was news to me. It is called “The Yellow Dwarf” a French literary fairy tale by Madame d’AulnoyAndrew Lang included it in The Blue Fairy Book.

The Yellow Dwarf is short, and has a yellow complexion (possibly referring to jaundice), a bald head, big ears, and an ugly face. He may or may not be depicted with a beard. He is tricky, aggressive, and possessive, and will stop at nothing to cause misery.

A widowed queen spoiled her only daughter, who was so beautiful that kings vied for the honor of her hand, not believing they could attain it. Toutebelle (a.k.a. Bellisima) is known for being vain, selfish, and spoiled, and is showered with attention. (She had already rejected twenty suitors.)

Uneasy that her daughter would never marry, the queen went to visit the Fairy of the Desert for advice. She made a cake to protect herself from the lions that guarded the fairy, but she lost it.

That day, the yellow dwarf encounters a queen. He saves her life in exchange for her daughter’s hand. After saving her and agreeing to marry the princess he shows the queen his home. However, his home is filthy and miserable, and the princess would most likely grow to hate living there. The queen returns home and grows more and more ill at the thought of her daughter’s impending arranged marriage to the little man.

Her daughter, distressed, goes to seek the same fairy. Toutebelle finds the dwarf’s orange tree, where she encounters him. The dwarf tells her what her mother had promised, and when she’s ready to reject it, the lions arrive to attack her. He saves her just in time from being eaten by lions eating her and promises to marry him.

Later, back at the castle, Toutebelle falls in love with the King of the Gold Mines and decides to marry him instead. On the day of the wedding, the Yellow Dwarf, with the help of the Fairy of the Desert, interrupt the celebration. The fairy arrives in her cart driven by two large turkeys, and the yellow dwarf appears mounted on a cat. The yellow dwarf kidnaps Toutebelle, and the Fairy of the Desert kidnaps the king. The king makes his escape and then goes to save his beloved.

She chained him in a cave and turned herself into a beautiful woman, but her feet being unchanged, the king was able to tell who she was. He told her that he would hate the fairy as long as she kept him chained up, but would love her if she freed him.

The Fairy of the Desert freed him and brought him to her castle, carrying him by the castle where the princess lived; she saw them and became convinced that the king was unfaithful to her.

The king lamented his fate along the sea, and a kind mermaid left enchanted sea rushes behind to look like his body and freed him. She gave him a sword to fight his way to the princess. Convinced the sea rushes were his body, the fairy did not pursue him.

The king uses the sword to fight his way through sphinxes and dragons to find his path blocked by maidens with garlands of flowers; he still presses on, tearing apart their garlands, and reaches the princess. He persuades her of his fidelity.

The Yellow Dwarf finds the two and takes the king’s sword which the king had accidentally dropped. He then threatens the princess saying if she refuses to marry him, he’ll kill the king. The king would rather die than see the two wed, but the princess agrees not wanting her lover to die. Scared of letting the king live any longer he runs him through with the sword killing him. Toutebelle dies of grief upon seeing her lover’s dead body.

“The kind Mermaid, grieved at the sad fate of the lovers, caused them to be changed into two tall palm trees, which stand always side by side, whispering together of their faithful love and caressing one another with their interlacing branches”

The Yellow Dwarf

Not my favorite tale for obvious reasons, one there’s way too much of the dwarf taking advantage of the damsels in distress. Though the princess is spoiled she doesn’t particularly deserve her fate. I’ve got tons of ideas how to retell this story but I’m going to leave a prompt with you.

How would you rewrite this classic french fairytale? Would the characters get together at the end or would you keep them apart?

For more blogs participating in A to Z 2020 click the link here.


T.S. Valmond is the science fiction and young adult fantasy author of The Bolaji Kingdoms Series and The Verity Chronicles. As an award-winning poet, world traveler, and sign language interpreter she uses her experiences to fuel her stories. She’s a regular contributor to the website and founder of the Riders & Flyers group.


  1. I think I have read this one. Yes, there are a few stories without a happy ending. The literary stories of Hans Christian Andersen are often in that category, as are those of Oscar Wilde. Maybe it’s the literary ones?

    There are some stories about spoiled princesses who marry someone who seems to be a peasant and then turns out to be a king. Not crazy about that either. I prefer the ones where the girl saves her lover after a long quest.

    This one? Maybe the dwarf and the desert fairy get together? After all, if she can make herself look good, maybe he can too. Or maybe he thinks he DOES look good, and doesn’t understand why girls don’t like him?

    1. You and I like the same kind of stories! *wink*

  2. I’ve read this one. As you say, there are many reasons to dislike it! I guess I’d sum it up by saying that there is no hero or likable character at all. Everyone lies and breaks promises. I guess if you go by that “theme,” there are all too many modern stories that parallel it! lol
    Black and White (Words and Pictures)

    1. So true! I’m cracking up laughing.

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