A girl, who is a master-maid to an ogre, does all the work in helping a prince to outwit him. Thereafter, the prince loses any memory he has of the girl and is betrothed to another. In the meanwhile, the girl finds her way to a hut, where she lives virtually in the shadow of the castle, and eventually is invited to the wedding.
The master-maid, though she is initially passive, is about as active a passive figure one could meet, and she is curious in this way (at least to me) and stands apart from many other tales in the degree to which the hero is only acting out his passive helpmate's knowledge. And then, as if to further punctuate this, when they are separated she is the one who takes the active part and the hero absolutely retires into a sleeping beauty type amnesia.
The tale is a fun one in that its frame lent itself to an opportunity to playfully deal with the budding relationship between the prince and the master-maid. It is also quite fun with the hard knocks the sheriff, lawyer and bailiff are delivered.
At least some original versions explain away the prince's second love, the one who replaces the first in his memory, as an evil troll and have her (agh!) torn apart at the end even as the wedding celebrations commence for the reunited prince and master-maid. How picturesque. I prefer to leave the second love a question mark, though her supplanting of the first love is magical and foretold by the first.
The trial of separation is one that must be undergone, there's no getting around it, and so it occurs. Any number of readings could be given as to what it means.
Parts of classical myth appear in the tale with the Herculean task of cleaning the stable. But this tale outdoes others with the nature of some of its remarkable adventures and magical creatures, such as the river-sucker and hill-borer episode in which is told the story of fresh water being made into salt water.
Return to the fairy tales - book one