The Brown Fairy Book
The Sister of the Sun
A long time ago there lived a young prince whose favourite playfellow was the son of the
gardener who lived in the grounds of the palace. The king would have preferred his
choosing a friend from the pages who were brought up at court; but the prince would
have nothing to say to them, and as he was a spoilt child, and allowed his way in all
things, and the gardener's boy was quiet and well-behaved, he was suffered to be in the
palace, morning, noon, and night.
The game the children loved the best was a match at archery, for the king had given them
two bows exactly alike, and they would spend whole days in trying to see which could
shoot the highest. This is always very dangerous, and it was a great wonder they did not
put their eyes out; but somehow or other they managed to escape.
One morning, when the prince had done his lessons, he ran out to call his friend, and they
both hurried off to the lawn which was their usual playground. They took their bows out
of the little hut where their toys were kept, and began to see which could shoot the
highest. At last they happened to let fly their arrows both together, and when they fell to
earth again the tail feather of a golden hen was found sticking in one. Now the question
began to arise whose was the lucky arrow, for they were both alike, and look as closely as
you would you could see no difference between them. The prince declared that the arrow
was his, and the gardener's boy was quite sure it was HIS--and on this occasion he was
perfectly right; but, as they could not decide the matter, they went straight to the king.
When the king had heard the story, he decided that the feather belonged to his son; but
the other boy would not listen to this and claimed the feather for himself. At length the
king's patience gave way, and he said angrily:
'Very well; if you are so sure that the feather is yours, yours it shall be; only you will
have to seek till you find a golden hen with a feather missing from her tail. And if you
fail to find her your head will be the forfeit.'
The boy had need of all his courage to listen silently to the king's words. He had no idea
where the golden hen might be, or even, if he discovered that, how he was to get to her.
But there was nothing for it but to do the king's bidding, and he felt that the sooner he left
the palace the better. So he went home and put some food into a bag, and then set forth,
hoping that some accident might show him which path to take.
After walking for several hours he met a fox, who seemed inclined to be friendly, and the
boy was so glad to have anyone to talk to that he sat down and entered into conversation.
'Where are you going?' asked the fox.