So the concept of the story is thus: three maidens live in a forest with an old woman who makes them spin gold flax into yarn and never see or speak to men. One day while she's away a Prince stumbles across their cottage and falls in love with the youngest girl. After some events he steals her away from the cottage but on the way back to his castle the old woman (really a wicked witch in disguise) casts a spell and she falls into the river and is turned into a water-lily. After much mourning the prince asks a magician how he can restore her to human form. The magician tells him, he does it and they all live happily ever after.
After much reflection the only reason I can think of that this tale is less well known than some others is because it has been told less. According to Wikipedia it's only been included in three collections, the most well known of which is The Blue Fairy Book. Personally I really loved The Water-Lily. The Gold Spinners. It had a bit of everything I love - wicked witches, magic, transformations, people rescuing each other. I also really liked how the girls were kind of a bit pissed off about being made to constantly spin all the time but they weren't all 'oh woe is me, I must be rescued' like girls in fairytales often are. There's a bit when the girl is a water lily and she sings this little rhyme which could be taken as her waiting to be rescued but I read it more as her berating the prince for just forgetting her as soon as she wasn't immediately there any more and not doing anything to save her. Like, come on Prince! All it will take is you magically transforming into a crab, going underwater for ten days during which time your parents will have given you up for dead. What are you waiting for?
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