The Red Fairy Book
The Twelve Dancing Princesses
ONCE upon a time there lived in the village of Montignies-sur- Roc a little cow-boy,
without either father or mother. His real name was Michael, but he was always called the
Star Gazer, because when he drove his cows over the commons to seek for pasture, he
went along with his head in the air, gaping at nothing.
As he had a white skin, blue eyes, and hair that curled all over his head, the village girls
used to cry after him, `Well, Star Gazer, what are you doing?' and Michael would answer,
`Oh, nothing,' and go on his way without even turning to look at them.
The fact was he thought them very ugly, with their sun-burnt necks, their great red hands,
their coarse petticoats and their wooden shoes. He had heard that somewhere in the world
there were girls whose necks were white and whose hands were small, who were always
dressed in the finest silks and laces, and were called princesses, and while his
companions round the fire saw nothing in the flames but common everyday fancies, he
dreamed that he had the happiness to marry a princess.
One morning about the middle of August, just at mid-day when the sun was hottest,
Michael ate his dinner of a piece of dry bread, and went to sleep under an oak. And while
he slept he dreamt that there appeared before him a beautiful lady, dressed in a robe of
cloth of gold, who said to him: `Go to the castle of Beloeil, and there you shall marry a
That evening the little cow-boy, who had been thinking a great deal about the advice of
the lady in the golden dress, told his dream to the farm people. But, as was natural, they
only laughed at the Star Gazer.
The next day at the same hour he went to sleep again under the same tree. The lady
appeared to him a second time, and said: `Go to the castle of Beloeil, and you shall marry
In the evening Michael told his friends that he had dreamed the same dream again, but
they only laughed at him more than before. `Never mind,' he thought to himself; `if the
lady appears to me a third time, I will do as she tells me.'
The following day, to the great astonishment of all the village, about two o'clock in the
afternoon a voice was heard singing:
`Raleo, raleo, How the cattle go!'
It was the little cow-boy driving his herd back to the byre.