silver tree

Gold-Tree and Silver-Tree

Gold-Tree and Silver-Tree is a Scottish fairy tale collected by Joseph Jacobs in his Celtic Fairy Tales. It is Aarne-Thompson type 709, Snow White. Others of this type include Bella Venezia, Nourie Hadig, and Myrsina.


A king had a beautiful wife, Silver-Tree, and an even more beautiful daughter, named Gold-Tree. One day the couple walked by a pond, and Silver-Tree asked a trout if she was the most beautiful queen in the world, whereupon the trout said that although Silver-Tree was fair in her own right, Gold-Tree was still a hundred times more beautiful. Enraged and jealous, Silver-Tree took to her bed and declared she would never be content unless she had Gold-Tree killed and consumed her heart and liver. Horrified, the King contacted a neighboring king's son who had asked to marry Gold-Tree. Desperate to protect his beloved daughter, her father agreed and sent them off; then he gave his wife the heart and liver of a he-goat, at which she believed her daughter to be dead and her jealously was laid to rest for some time.

Silver-Tree went back to the trout, which told her Gold-Tree was still more beautiful, and living abroad with a handsome prince. The scheming Silver-Tree begged a ship of her husband to visit her daughter. The prince was away hunting; Gold-Tree was terrified at the sight of the ship, as she recognised the ship's flag and knew it was her jealous mother. The servants locked her away in a room so she could tell her mother she could not come out. Silver-Tree persuaded her to put her little finger through the keyhole, so she could kiss it, and when Gold-Tree did, Silver-Tree stuck a poisoned thorn into it.

When the prince returned, he was grief-stricken and could not persuade himself to bury Gold-Tree, because she was so beautiful, even in death. He kept her body in a secret room. Having married for a second time, he would not let his new wife into the room. His new bride was puzzled at why her husband was constantly morose and despondant. She knew it had something to do with the secret he kept locked in the bedchamber in the tallest tower of the palace. One day, he forgot to hide the key as he usually did, and the new wife went in. There she found the body of Gold-Tree, who surpassed the second queen greatly in beauty, although she was not jealous. She tried to wake Gold-Tree, and found the thorn in her finger. Pulling it out, she revived Gold-Tree. Because of the wakened one's identity, she offered to leave; but their husband refused to allow it.

Silver-Tree went back to the trout, who told her what had happened. Furious, Silver-Tree took the ship again. The prince was hunting again, but the second wife said that the two of them must meet her. Silver-Tree offered a poisoned drink. The second wife said that it was the custom in their land that the person who offered the drink drank of it first. Silver-Tree put the drink to her mouth, and the second wife struck her arm so that some went into her throat. She fell down dead.

The prince, Gold-Tree, and the second wife lived happily thereafter.


The poisoner who feigns drinking her own poison is also found in Child ballad 87, Prince Robert.

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