The Grey Fairy Book
The Story of Bensurdatu
There was once a king and a queen who had three wonderfully beautiful daughters, and
their one thought, from morning till night, was how they could make the girls happy.
One day the princesses said to the king, ‘Dear father, we want so much to have a picnic,
and eat our dinner in the country.'
‘Very well, dear children, let us have a picnic by all means,' answered he, and gave orders
that everything should be got ready.
When luncheon was prepared it was put into a cart, and the royal family stepped into a
carriage and drove right away into the country. After a few miles they reached a house
and garden belonging to the king, and close by was their favourite place for lunch. The
drive had made them very hungry, and they ate with a hearty appetite, till almost all the
food had disappeared.
When they had quite done, they said to their parents: ‘Now we should like to wander
about the garden a little, but when you want to go home, just call to us.' And they ran off,
laughing, down a green glade, which led to the garden.
But no sooner had they stepped across the fence, than a dark cloud came down and
covered them, and prevented them seeing whither they were going.
Meanwhile the king and queen sat lazily among the heather, and an hour or two slipped
away. The sun was dropping towards the horizon, and they began to think it was time to
go home. So they called to their daughters and called again, but no one answered them.
Frightened at the silence, they searched every corner of the garden, the house, and the
neighbouring wood, but no trace of the girls was to be found anywhere. The earth seemed
to have swallowed them up. The poor parents were in despair. The queen wept all the
way home, and for many days after, and the king issued a proclamation that whoever
should bring back his lost daughters should have one of them to wife, and should, after
his death, reign in his stead.
Now two young generals were at that time living at the court, and when they heard the
king's declaration, they said one to the other: ‘Let us go in search of them; perhaps we
shall be the lucky persons.'
And they set out, each mounted on a strong horse, taking with them a change of raiment
and some money.
But though they inquired at every village they rode through, they could hear nothing of
the princesses, and by-and-by their money was all spent, and they were forced to sell