Three Heads in the Well, The


Three Heads in the Well, The
   This is a *fairy-tale included in a *chapbook of 1764 entitled The History of Four Kings, their Queens and Daughters; it was already popular in Elizabethan times, as is shown by the partial incorporation of its main scene into George Peele's The Old Wives' Tale (1595). According to the chapbook, the King of Colchester's daughter, ill-used by her stepmother, goes off to seek her fortune, shows kindness to a beggar, and comes to a well from which three heads rise one after another, singing 'Wash me, comb me, lay me down softly'; she does so, and they give her such beauty that she marries a king. Her jealous hunchbacked half-sister tries to imitate her, but her meanness and rudeness to the beggar and the heads bring her leprosy, bad breath, and marriage to a poor cobbler (Opie and Opie, 1974: 156-61; Philip, 1992: 48-52, 55-6).

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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