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The tale of the boy who tricked the Devil - Iseult Gillespie

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In a small town, a proud mother showed off her newborn son. Upon noticing his lucky birthmark, townsfolk predicted he would marry a princess. But soon, these rumors reached the wicked king. Enraged, the king stole the child away, and sent him hurtling down the river. But the infant’s luck proved greater than the king’s plan. Iseult Gillespie tells the tale of the boy’s journey to meet the Devil.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Iseult Gillespie
  • Director Lucija Bužančić
  • Narrator Adrian Dannatt
  • Storyboard Artist Lucija Bužančić
  • Animator Lucija Bužančić
  • Art Director Lucija Bužančić
  • Composer Adam Alexander, Gavin Dodds
  • Sound Designer Adam Alexander, Gavin Dodds
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
“The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs” is a German fairytale collected by the Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, who were German scholars and cultural researchers who travelled around Germany in the nineteenth century writing and adapting folk tales that may otherwise have been lost or forgotten. You can read the English translation of this tale in full here.

Many similar versions crop up in folk tales throughout the world, which exhibit similar narratives, quest-like structures, and ghoulish characters. In the Indian fairy tale of “The King Who Would Be Stronger Than Fate”, an evil king tries repeatedly to get rid of the poor man prophesized to marry his daughter – only to have him escape each grisly task. In the Serbian tale of “The Story of Three Wonderful Beggars”, known as “Vasilii the Unlucky” in Russia, a group of bandits take pity on a poor man and trick the evil king who wants him dead.

Today, the tales of Brothers Grimm are perhaps the most widely told to and known by children and adults, particularly in the United States and Europe – including “Snow White”, “Sleeping Beauty”, and “Cinderella.” You can test your knowledge of the Grimm brothers and their more well-known tales with this fun quiz. As may be clear from the dark tale of the devil’s golden hairs many of the Grimms’ original tales were dark, sinister and violent. Since the publication of their original folktales, the Grimms’ fairy tales have been sanitized or made into more overtly moral tales. You can read more about this editing process in this short article. Then, visit this link for another dive into the dark aspects of fairy tales.

In addition to evil kings, determined maidens, and valiant poor men, the Devil is a common figure in folk tales. As this article on British lore about the Devil details, these legends often form the basis for place names and natural phenomena. For more comparative information on the Devil in North America and Russia, visit this blog.
This article outlines the ways in which the devil reappears throughout different cultures and religions; while this piece examines how the Devil was imagined in Medieval art.

Just as important is the figure of the devil’s grandmother, a common figure in Russian tales about curses and unfortunate events. In some cultures the Devil’s grandmother is a powerful witch called Old Frick, an intriguing figure that this article explores in detail.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Iseult Gillespie
  • Director Lucija Bužančić
  • Narrator Adrian Dannatt
  • Storyboard Artist Lucija Bužančić
  • Animator Lucija Bužančić
  • Art Director Lucija Bužančić
  • Composer Adam Alexander, Gavin Dodds
  • Sound Designer Adam Alexander, Gavin Dodds
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma
  • See more