Nix Nought Nothing

Nix Nought Nothing

Nix Nought Nothing is an English fairy tale collected by Joseph Jacobs in his English Fairy Tales. A similar tale was collected by Andrew Lang in Scotland. The story, in various guises, is very widely distributed, and also has close similarities to the Greek myth of Jason and Medea.



A queen gave birth to a son while the king was away, and not wanting to christen him until his father returned, decreed that he should be called Nix Nought Nothing until that time. The king was gone for a long time, and Nix Nought Nothing grew into a boy. As the king journeyed home, a giant offered to help him over a river in return for "Nix Nought Nothing," and the king, not knowing that he had a son by this name, agreed. When he learned what he had done, the king tried to give the Giant the hen-wife's son, and then the gardener's son, but both of the boys betrayed their origin, and the Giant killed them. In the end the royal couple had to give the prince to the Giant.

The Giant had a daughter, and she and the prince grew very fond of each other. When the prince was grown and the Giant sent him to clean the stables, she summoned animals to clean it for him. When the Giant sent him to empty a lake, she summoned fish to drink it. When the Giant commanded him to bring down a bird's nest from a tall tree without breaking any of the eggs, she cut off her fingers and toes to make a stairway, but during that adventure one egg broke. The prince and the Giant's daughter decided to flee. The Giant chased after them. The girl had Nix Nought Nothing throw down her comb, which became a brier, and then her hair dagger, which became a hedge of razors, and then she dashed a magic flask, which produce a wave that drowned the Giant.

They set off toward the King's castle, but the Giant's daughter was too weary to go on. Nix Nought Nothing went without her. When he arrived the hen-wife whose son had died cursed him, so he fell asleep without giving his name, and could not be wakened. The Giant's daughter had climbed a tree to wait for the prince, and a gardener's daughter, coming to fetch water, saw her reflection in a pond and took it for her own. She decided, since she was so beautiful, that she would try to marry the sleeping stranger. The hen-wife taught the gardener's daughter how to remove the spell off for as long as she wished. She woke the prince for a time, and they agreed to marry.

Then the gardener went to get water and saw the Giant's daughter, and brought her down, telling her the news. She went up to the castle and implored the prince to wake, telling him all that she had done for him; it was to no avail. But she called him Nix Nought Nothing, and the king and queen learned that he was their own son. They made the gardener's daughter remove the spell, burned the hen-wife, and married Nix Nought Nothing to the Giant's daughter.

Mythic resonances and parallels

A Scottish story entitled Nicht Nought Nothing was collected by Andrew Lang in Morayshire and published in Revue Celtique. In an essay entitled A Far-travelled Tale[1] Lang theorizes that Nix Nought Nothing is related to the classical myth of Jason and Medea; an American English variant was read by Mr Newell before the Folk-Lore Congress entitled Lady Feather Flight. Mr Newell suggests that Shakespeare's Tempest has mythic resonances with this tale.

See also

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External links

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