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What the Rose did to the Cypress

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What the Rose did to the Cypress

by Andrew Lang

Genre: Fairy Tale
Setting: Fantasy
Format of Original Source: Short Story
Recommended Adaptation Length: 60 Minutes, 90 Minutes

Candidate for Adaptation? Not Likely


: ‘O my father! I have sworn to myself that I will not marry, even if a thousand years go by, unless someone answers my riddle, and that I will give myself to that man only who does answer it.’


The three days passed; then the riddle was asked: ‘What did the rose do to the cypress?’ The prince had an eloquent tongue, which could split a hair, and without hesitation he replied to her with a verse: ‘Only the Omnipotent has knowledge of secrets; if any man says, “I know” do not believe him.’


Then a servant fetched in the polluted, blue-eyed headsman, who asked: ‘Whose sun of life has come near its setting?’ took the prince by the arm, placed him upon the cloth of execution, and then, all merciless and stony hearted, cut his head from his body and hung it on the battlements.

Synopsis: A princess puts her suitors to death unless they can answer her riddle, “What did the rose do to the cypress?” Seeking to avenge his brothers’ deaths, a prince travels to a faraway land to learn the answer to the riddle. He meets a girl who falls in love with him and turns him into a deer. He escapes and is caught by another girl, who turns him back into a man. He journeys to the Caucasus, where he kills many evil “negroes” and slays a dragon. He befriends a lion, a giant bird, a cloth-merchant, and a king. He learns the answer to the riddle and gives the answer to the cruel princess. At first he refuses to marry her, takes her captive, and takes her stuff. After she has learned her lesson, he makes her his fourth wife. [MP]


There’s not much plot here to sustain a musical, but perhaps the thin plot of Answer-the-Princess’s-Riddle-Or-Die is enough of a structure for you.  Other concerns about racism and sexism might be red flags for you, or you might like the challenge of adapting around those issues.


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