So the brother's on his last try, right? He meets the fox and says "'Though knowest how to find all kinds of hiding-places...I let thee live, now advise me where I shall hide myself so the King's daughter shall not discover me.'"
The fox, in his (or her) wisdom, realizes "That's a hard task". True to Fox's archetypal association with the feminine, both go to a spring and dip themselves into it (water element being archetypal feminine). When they come out, they are shapeshifted, for the fox is a stall-keeper in the market, and a dealer in animals. The young man is a sea-hare.
The marketplace symbolism is found in these tales a lot. It represents "the world" in a very broad sense. It's the place where we exercise our desire, and more importantly our choice making. We make our choices according to what is valuable to us. That which we choose, that which we are attracted to, is always indicative of our values. The marketplace in any culture reveals its people's desires.
That our princess wants to remain alone and without a masculine partner is fine if she wants to sit in samadhi all the time, but that's not a particualrly creative space for a human, as far as I know. Alchemical development is aimed at wisdom development, which is based in human experience, and sexuality is a huge part of humanness, including learning about those who are not of your gender. Wisdom is about bringing heaven to earth, about the cocreative meeting between masculine and feminine powers.
So the fox is going to present to the princess a new choice; he's going to tempt her into the act of desiring something.That something is symbolized by the sea-hare.
Now I've considered this sea-hare thing a bit. Though the image I used on the beginning of the first in this interpretation series shows a gastropod, a large sea slug, getting chucked out the window, there is no way, Jose. The sea-hare we're talking about is no more physical than the guy in the egg or the belly of the fish. It's a mythical animal. I could find no references to this mythic, magic sea hare, excepting in an excerpt from one of the Apuleiuses of Roman day, in which he mock defends the art of magic, in reference to The Metamorphoses (click for link), that uber famous ancient tale of magic and story of conversion to the cult of Isis, also known as The Golden Ass. 'Metamorphoses' means, of course, transformation, metamorphosis, the cornerstone of alchemy. That ancient alchemical novel was written in imitation of another, and blah blah, it's a whole big deal in ancient literature.
No, that slimy gastropod can't be the deal. The fox becomes a dealer in animals; magical animals, apparently, perhaps never seen before or since. I'm going to assume we're talking animals that aren't of the domesticated sort, for "the merchant went into the town, and showed the pretty little animal, and many persons gathered together to see it. At length the King's daughter came likewise, and as she liked it very much, she bought it, and gave the merchant a great deal of money for it. Before he gave it over to her, he said to it,"When the King's daughter goes to the windows, creep quickly under the braids of her hair." Wild animals represent that in us which is untouched by our conditioning.
Sight is, as I said, all about what's out there; it is a projection device, like a camera. Whereas hearing is a receiving of something into our bodies, reception being symbolically in alignment with the mechanics of human sexuality of the hetero sort. Meaning, the body parts in the act of sexual union are: male= projection or expression and female= inner, dark, and reception. Water element has many qualities, but one of the primary qualities of the sea is also receptivity, for all waters run to the sea. Moon is always associated with water element, and the tides are one big reason. Also, the sea-hare creeps close to her ears, right? Where it can be heard, but not seen.
The princess has till now not developed the feminine ability to receive. Which means, she's missing that aspect of development, of wisdom, of creative power. She's missing the desire-spark, and that's got her stuck in a rut.
The hare or rabbit is perhaps THE primary shapeshifting animal in European culture (fox is probably a close second) due to its association with the changeable moon, as well as its over the top procreative power. For shapeshifting is very much tied into creativity. All creativity is shapeshifting, right? Transformation is often symbolized by the hunting chase and kill, for it's the same as the marketplace, where desire is the motivation. Hare to fox, fox to hare, all taking place within the body and aura of Terra, of Gaia. Understanding this basic nature of creativity is Lesson #1 in Magic Class, thus it's featured in lots of these stories. The tales seek to instruct us in the nature of the universe beyond the slow-motion version we get in the sensory reality.
I don't really see any encoded explanation of how or why this feminine sea-hare aspect of experience might suddenly become desirable to the princess. Lots of other folks in the market think the sea-hare is beautiful, but considering all of the magical qualities symbolized by the hare, it's impossible to get specific. Maybe she just gets sexually attracted to someone, and in that becomes open to her sea-hare female sexuality; the beginning of the story does say she gives the guy 3 tries because he's handsome, so there's that. Perhaps she had never even come out of her castle into "the world", and when she does, she sees folks partnered, in love, and desires that experience. Maybe she's wondering what it would be like to have a child, and the old clock is ticking. Maybe she heard a love song, maybe this good looking dude whispers sweet nothings in her ear. The fox is, as I believe I said, a sexy animal, and so is the hare, with its prolific procreative abilities. Maybe she ran into this dead end:
or maybe this:
Whatever it was, she does indeed go to the windows to look again for the young man, the sea-hare-brother creeps under her braids, and she cannot see him, of course. I'd like to point out that in some traditional European societies, braids are for maidens, who keep their hair braided to signal unmarried status. So creeping under her braids can be sexual innuendo.
She's not happy with her failure; archetypal masculine air element spirituality is very perfectionistic. "She was full of anxiety and anger, and shut (the window) with such violence that the glass in every window shivered into a thousand pieces, and the whole castle shook."
True to the earlier images of transformation with the egg and the fish, she is changed forever, and her behavior reflects this. Just as a bird must shatter the egg shell (well not exactly in one blow or anything), so her breaking of the windows shows us she has finally made it through to the other side of her process! The walls and windows of the castle are like the egg shell or the body of the fish. This image of the whole castle shaking is reminiscent of The Tower in tarot:
That she is angry and anxious also indicates transformation; she's not feeling in control of her little world any more. She has fallen from her Yertle the Turtle position of "lord of all I survey" and stepped into an experience where are some things that are beyond her capabilities, some areas of life in which she is an abject beginner. Emotions are not always described in symbolic stories. Also, anxiety and anger are masculine: air element (anxiety, usually spurred by thoughts) and fire (anger).
She finds the sea hare under her hair now; that which she was endeavouring, however unconsciously, to find was not seen because it was as close to her as her own skin. Like an animal, her femininity was entirely natural, yet she had been unacquainted with it. That the sea-hare is behind her is another symbol common in these tales, for that which is behind us is that which we can't see with our physical senses, and is therefore usually ignored. It doesn't matter to the ego- usually. Some folks are pretty concerned with their own rear ends, I guess. The fox knew this.
The princess throws the sea-hare on the ground in a fit of pique, so our hero gets to skinny off. The two tricksters plunge back into the spring and return to their usual forms. Springs are magickal, of course, for they represent The Source, water element direct inspiration.
Next- Dum, dum, tee dum...
Just as the youth who became king once respected the princess's skills, so this tale ends with the now-queen expressing "great respect for him, for she thought to herself, 'He is able to do more than I.'" Not sure if that last statement came down to us in a refined way, for it's more like he can do things she can't do without him. Anyway, the point is, that she's no longer in resistance to her own femininity. All's well that ends well! Balance is good!
Thanks for taking the ride with me, that one was fun, since I just plunged in with little forethought, and it had some unusual elements. And a final word from Rumi, great poet and teacher of alchemy. Not my favorite translation, but ... i.e. you can't claim restraint from anything unless you want to do it. You're a coward if you just learn to squash desire, from the alchemical point of view. Just creating another habitual behavior, digging another rut, and there's no alchemy in habits and resistant self identities, like the princess's, unless they're broken.