The Grey Fairy Book
The Magician's Horse
Once upon a time, there was a king who had three sons. Now it happened that one day the
three princes went out hunting in a large forest at some distance from their father's palace,
and the youngest prince lost his way, so his brothers had to return home without him.
For four days the prince wandered through the glades of the forest, sleeping on moss
beneath the stars at night, and by day living on roots and wild berries. At last, on the
morning of the fifth day, he came to a large open space in the middle of the forest, and
here stood a stately palace; but neither within nor without was there a trace of human life.
The prince entered the open door and wandered through the deserted rooms without
seeing a living soul. At last he came on a great hall, and in the centre of the hall was a
table spread with dainty dishes and choice wines. The prince sat down, and satisfied his
hunger and thirst, and immediately afterwards the table disappeared from his sight. This
struck the prince as very strange; but though he continued his search through all the
rooms, upstairs and down, he could find no one to speak to. At last, just as it was
beginning to get dark, he heard steps in the distance and he saw an old man coming
towards him up the stairs.
‘What are you doing wandering about my castle?' asked the old man.
To whom the prince replied: ‘I lost my way hunting in the forest. If you will take me into
your service, I should like to stay with you, and will serve you faithfully.'
‘Very well,' said the old man. ‘You may enter my service. You will have to keep the
stove always lit, you will have to fetch the wood for it from the forest, and you will have
the charge of the black horse in the stables. I will pay you a florin a day, and at meal
times you will always find the table in the hall spread with food and wine, and you can
eat and drink as much as you require.'
The prince was satisfied, and he entered the old man's service, and promised to see that
there was always wood on the stove, so that the fire should never die out. Now, though he
did not know it, his new master was a magician, and the flame of the stove was a magic
fire, and if it had gone out the magician would have lost a great part of his power.
One day the prince forgot, and let the fire burn so low that it very nearly burnt out. Just as
the flame was flickering the old man stormed into the room.
‘What do you mean by letting the fire burn so low?' he growled. ‘I have only arrived in
the nick of time.' And while the prince hastily threw a log on the stove and blew on the
ashes to kindle a glow, his master gave him a severe box on the ear, and warned him that
if ever it happened again it would fare badly with him.