A variant of the Beauty and the Beast tale, East of the Sun and West of the Moon is rather more intricate in many ways. Here, the youngest beautiful daughter of a peasant family brings them out of poverty by agreeing to wed a white bear (ie a 'Beast'), who takes the form of a human prince at night. The girl stays up one night to see his face by candlelight, but inadvertently spills three drops of tallow on the Prince's shirt. This incident unexpectedly brings into effect a curse by the Prince's stepmother, a troll - the Prince is now compelled to leave the heroine and return to the troll Queen's castle, a castle that lies east of the sun and west of the moon, where he is to marry a troll princess as arranged by said stepmum. The tragedy is that the stepmother's curse would actually have been lifted after a year of marriage to our heroine if only she hadn't been so impatient to take that midnight peek at her beautiful prince.
What follows is rather different from what we get in Beauty and the Beast. In the Norwegian version, the heroine must travel far and wide to seek the troll Queen's castle, getting there only with the help of three old women and the winds from the four corners of the Earth (East, West, South and North winds). Once she gets there, she rescues her Prince from the trolls and they live happily ever after (hmmmm, that comes up a lot, doesn't it?).
The bits about this fairy tale that I really adored included the powerful imagery relating to the girl's sorrow at having to leave her family to marry the white bear, the depiction of the heroine's courage and determination to seek a castle that no road led to, and the way in which Nature's elements conspired to help her find her love again. Also, it was pretty cool to see the heroine rescue the hero for once, instead of the other way around:)
If you're thinking of getting hold of this particular tale, I would recommend getting the copy that's featured in Maria Tartar's Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, simply because it contains lots of juicy commentary about the historical and cultural contexts of a very richly layered story. I hope you enjoyed this post, and happy reading!:)