Fifty years ago there lived a king who was very anxious to get married; but, as he was quite determined that his wife should be as beautiful as the sun, the thing was not so easy as it seemed, for no maiden came up to his standard. Then he commanded a trusty servant to search through the length and breadth of the land till he found a girl fair enough to be queen, and if he had the good luck to discover one he was to bring her back with him.
The servant set out at once on his journey, and sought high and low-in castles and cottages; but though pretty maidens were plentiful as blackberries, he felt sure that none of them would please the king.
One day he had wandered far and wide, and was feeling very tired and thirsty. By the roadside stood a tiny little house, and here he knocked and asked for a cup of water. Now in this house dwelt two sisters, and one was eighty and the other ninety years old. They were very poor, and earned their living by spinning. This had kept their hands very soft and white, like the hands of a girl, and when the water was passed through the lattice, and the servant saw the small, delicate fingers, he said to himself: 'A maiden must indeed be lovely if she has a hand like that.' And he made haste back, and told the king.'Go back at once,' said his majesty, 'and try to get a sight of her.'
The faithful servant departed on his errand without losing any time, and again he knocked at the door of the little house and begged for some water. As before, the old woman did not open the door, but passed the water through the lattice.'Do you live here alone?' asked the man. 'No,' replied she, 'my sister lives with me. We are poor girls, and have to work for our bread.' 'How old are you?' 'I am fifteen, and she is twenty.' Then the servant went back to the king, and told him all he knew. And his majesty answered: 'I will have the fifteen-year-old one. Go and bring her here.'
The servant returned a third time to the little house and knocked at the door. In reply to his knock the lattice window was pushed open, and a voice inquired what it was he wanted.'The king has desired me to bring back the youngest of you to become his queen,' he replied.
'Tell his majesty I am ready to do his bidding, but since my birth no ray of light has fallen upon my face. If it should ever do so I shall instantly grow black. Therefore beg, I pray you, his most gracious majesty to send this evening a shut carriage, and I will return in it to the castle.
When the king heard this he ordered his great golden carriage to be prepared, and in it to be placed some magnificent robes; and the old woman wrapped herself in a thick veil, and was driven to the castle.
And the king believed her words, and the marriage took place without the veil being once lifted. Afterwards, when they were alone, he raised the corner, and knew for the first time that he had wedded a wrinkled old woman. And, in a furious burst of anger, he dashed open the window and flung her out. But, luckily for her, her clothes caught on a nail in the wall, and kept her hanging between heaven and earth.While she was thus suspended, expecting every moment to be dashed to the ground, four fairies happened to pass by. 'Look, sisters,' cried one, 'surely that is the old woman that the king sent for. Shall we wish that her clothes may give way, and that she should be dashed to the ground?' 'Oh no! no!' exclaimed another. 'Let us wish her something good. I myself will wish her youth.' 'And I beauty.' 'And I wisdom.' 'And I a tender heart.' So spake the fairies, and went their way, leaving the most beautiful maiden in the world behind them. The next morning when the king looked from his window he saw this lovely creature hanging on the nail. 'Ah! what have I done? Surely I must have been blind last night!'
And he ordered long ladders to be brought and the maiden to be rescued. Then he fell on his knees before her, and prayed her to forgive him, and a great feast was made in her honour.Some days after came the ninety-year-old sister to the palace and asked for the queen. 'Who is that hideous old witch?' said the king. 'Oh, an old neighbour of mine, who is half silly,' she replied.
But the old woman looked at her steadily, and knew her again, and said: 'How have you managed to grow so young and beautiful? I should like to be young and beautiful too.' This question she repeated the whole day long, till at length the queen lost patience and said: 'I had my old head cut off, and this new head grew in its place.'Then the old woman went to a barber, and spoke to him, saying, 'I will give you all you ask if you will only cut off my head, so that I may become young and lovely.' 'But, my good woman, if I do that you will die!' But the old woman would listen to nothing; and at last the barber took out his knife and struck the first blow at her neck. 'Ah!' she shrieked as she felt the pain. 'Il faut souffrir pour etre belle,' said the barber, who had been in France. And at the second blow her head rolled off, and the old woman was dead for good and all. [Sicilianische Mahrchen.]
Long ago there lived a rich merchant who, besides possessing more treasures than any king in the world, had in his great hall three chairs, one of silver, one of gold, and one of diamonds. But his greatest treasure of all was his only daughter, who was called Catherine.One day Catherine was sitting in her own room when suddenly the door flew open, and in came a tall and beautiful woman holding in her hands a little wheel. 'Catherine,' she said, going up to the girl, 'which would you rather have-a happy youth or a happy old age?' Catherine was so taken by surprise that she did not know what to answer, and the lady repeated again, 'Which would you rather have-a happy youth or a happy old age?'
Then Catherine thought to herself, 'If I say a happy youth, then I shall have to suffer all the rest of my life. No, I would bear trouble now, and have something better to look forward to.' So she looked up and replied, 'Give me a happy old age.''So be it,' said the lady, and turned her wheel as she spoke, vanishing the next moment as suddenly as she had come. Now this beautiful lady was the Destiny of poor Catherine.
Only a few days after this the merchant heard the news that all his finest ships, laden with the richest merchandise, had been sunk in a storm, and he was left a beggar. The shock was too much for him. He took to his bed, and in a short time he was dead of his disappointment.
So poor Catherine was left alone in the world without a penny or a creature to help her. But she was a brave girl and full of spirit, and soon made up her mind that the best thing she could do was to go to the nearest town and become a servant. She lost no time in getting herself ready, and did not take long over her journey; and as she was passing down the chief street of the town a noble lady saw her out of the window, and, struck by her sad face, said to her: 'Where are you going all alone, my pretty girl?''Ah, my lady, I am very poor, and must go to service to earn my bread.' 'I will take you into my service,' said she; and Catherine served her well. Some time after her mistress said to Catherine, 'I am obliged to go out for a long while, and must lock the house door, so that no thieves shall get in.' So she went away, and Catherine took her work and sat down at the window. Suddenly the door burst open, and in came her Destiny. 'Oh! so here you are, Catherine! Did you really think I was going to leave you in peace?'
And as she spoke she walked to the linen press where Catherine's mistress kept all her finest sheets and underclothes, tore everything in pieces, and flung them on the floor. Poor Catherine wrung her hands and wept, for she thought to herself, 'When my lady comes back and sees all this ruin she will think it is my fault,' and starting up, she fled through the open door. Then Destiny took all the pieces and made them whole again, and put them back in the press, and when everything was tidy she too left the house.
When the mistress reached home she called Catherine, but no Catherine was there. 'Can she have robbed me?' thought the old lady, and looked hastily round the house; but nothing was missing. She wondered why Catherine should have disappeared like this, but she heard no more of her, and in a few days she filled her place.
Meanwhile Catherine wandered on and on, without knowing very well where she was going, till at last she came to another town. Just as before, a noble lady happened to see her passing her window, and called out to her, 'Where are you going all alone, my pretty girl?'And Catherine answered, 'Ah, my lady, I am very poor, and must go to service to earn my bread.'
'I will take you into my service,' said the lady; and Catherine served her well, and hoped she might now be left in peace. But, exactly as before, one day that Catherine was left in the house alone her Destiny came again and spoke to her with hard words: 'What! are you here now?' And in a passion she tore up everything she saw, till in sheer misery poor Catherine rushed out of the house. And so it befell for seven years, and directly Catherine found a fresh place her Destiny came and forced her to leave it.
After seven years, however, Destiny seemed to get tired of persecuting her, and a time of peace set in for Catherine. When she had been chased away from her last house by Destiny's wicked pranks she had taken service with another lady, who told her that it would be part of her daily work to walk to a mountain that overshadowed the town, and, climbing up to the top, she was to lay on the ground some loaves of freshly baked bread, and cry with a loud voice, 'O Destiny, my mistress,' three times. Then her lady's Destiny would come and take away the offering. 'That will I gladly do,' said Catherine.
So the years went by, and Catherine was still there, and every day she climbed the mountain with her basket of bread on her arm. She was happier than she had been, but sometimes, when no one saw her, she would weep as she thought over her old life, and how different it was to the one she was now leading. One day her lady saw her, and said, 'Catherine, what is it? Why are you always weeping?' And then Catherine told her story.
'I have got an idea,' exclaimed the lady. 'To-morrow, when you take the bread to the mountain, you shall pray my Destiny to speak to yours, and entreat her to leave you in peace. Perhaps something may come of it!'
At these words Catherine dried her eyes, and next morning, when she climbed the mountain, she told all she had suffered, and cried, 'O Destiny, my mistress, pray, I entreat you, of my Destiny that she may leave me in peace.'
And Destiny answered, 'Oh, my poor girl, know you not your Destiny lies buried under seven coverlids, and can hear nothing? But if you will come to-morrow I will bring her with me.'
And after Catherine had gone her way her lady's Destiny went to find her sister, and said to her, 'Dear sister, has not Catherine suffered enough? It is surely time for her good days to begin?'And the sister answered, 'To-morrow you shall bring her to me, and I will give her something that may help her out of her need.'
The next morning Catherine set out earlier than usual for the mountain, and her lady's Destiny took the girl by the hand and led her to her sister, who lay under the seven coverlids. And her Destiny held out to Catherine a ball of silk, saying, 'Keep this--it may be useful some day;' then pulled the coverings over her head again.But Catherine walked sadly down the hill, and went straight to her lady and showed her the silken ball, which was the end of all her high hopes. 'What shall I do with it?' she asked. 'It is not worth sixpence, and it is no good to me!' 'Take care of it,' replied her mistress. 'Who can tell how useful it may be?'
A little while after this grand preparations were made for the king's marriage, and all the tailors in the town were busy embroidering fine clothes. The wedding garment was so beautiful nothing like it had ever been seen before, but when it was almost finished the tailor found that he had no more silk. The colour was very rare, and none could be found like it, and the king made a proclamation that if anyone happened to possess any they should bring it to the court, and he would give them a large sum.
'Catherine!' exclaimed the lady, who had been to the tailors and seen the wedding garment, 'your ball of silk is exactly the right colour. Bring it to the king, and you can ask what you like for it.'Then Catherine put on her best clothes and went to the court, and looked more beautiful than any woman there. 'May it please your majesty,' she said, 'I have brought you a ball of silk of the colour you asked for, as no one else has any in the town.' 'Your majesty,' asked one of the courtiers, 'shall I give the maiden its weight in gold?'
The king agreed, and a pair of scales were brought; and a handful of gold was placed in one scale and the silken ball in the other. But lo! let the king lay in the scales as many gold pieces as he would, the silk was always heavier still. Then the king took some larger scales, and heaped up all his treasures on one side, but the silk on the other outweighed them all. At last there was only one thing left that had not been put in, and that was his golden crown. And he took it from his head and set it on top of all, and at last the scale moved and the ball had founds its balance.
'Where got you this silk?' asked the king.
Now there lived at the court a wise woman, and she said to Catherine, 'You have suffered much, my poor girl, but at length your luck has turned, and I know by the weighing of the scales through the crown that you will die a queen.''So she shall,' cried the king, who overheard these words; 'she shall die my queen, for she is more beautiful than all the ladies of the court, and I will marry no one else.'
And so it fell out. The king sent back the bride he had promised to wed to her own country, and the same Catherine was queen at the marriage feast instead, and lived happy and contented to the end of her life.Sicilianische Mahrchen von Laura Gonzenbach. Leipzig, Engelmann, 1870.
Long ago there lived a very rich man who had three sons. When he felt himself to be dying he divided his property between them, making them share alike, both in money and lands. Soon after he died the king set forth a proclamation through the whole country that whoever could build a ship that should float both on land and sea should have his daughter to wife.
The eldest brother, when he heard it, said to the other, 'I think I will spend some of my money in trying to build that ship, as I should like to have the king for my father-in-law.' So he called toether all the shipbuilders in the land, and gave them orders to begin the ship without delay. And trees were cut down, and great preparations made, and in a few days everybody knew what it was all for; and there was a crowd of old people pressing round the gates of the yard, where the young man spent the most of his day.'Ah, master, give us work,' they said, 'so that we may earn our bread.'
But he only gave them hard words, and spoke roughly to them. 'You are old, and have lost your strength; of what use are you?' And he drove them away. Then came some boys and prayed him, "master, give us work,' but he answered them, 'Of what use can you be, weaklings as you are! Get you gone!' And if any presented themselves that were not skilled workmen he would have none of them.
At last there knocked at the gate a little old man with a long white beard, and said, 'Will you give me work, so that I may earn my bread?' But he was only driven away like the rest.
The ship took a long while to build, and cost a great deal of money, and when it was launched a sudden squall rose, and it fell to pieces, and with it all the young man's hopes of winning the princess. By this time he had not a penny left, so he went back to his two brothers and told his tale. And the second brother said to himself as he listened, 'Certainly he has managed very badly, but I should like to see if I can't do better, and win the princess for my own self.' So he called together all the shipbuilders throughout the country, and gave them orders to build a ship which should float on the land as well as on the sea. But his heart was no softer than his brother's, and every man that was not a skilled workman was chased away with hard words. Last came the white-bearded man, but he fared no better than the rest.
When the ship was finished the launch took place, and everything seemed going smoothly when a gale sprang up, and the vessel was dashed to pieces on the rocks. The young man had spent his whole fortune on it, and now it was all swallowed up, was forced to beg shelter from his youngest brother. When he told his story the youngest said to himself, 'I am not rich enough to support us all three. I had better take my turn, and if I manage to win the princess there will be her fortune as well as my own for us to live on.' So he called together all the shipbuilders in the kingdom, and gave orders that a new ship should be built. Then all the old people came and asked for work, and he answered cheerfully, 'Oh, yes, there is plenty for everybody;' and when the boys begged to be allowed to help he found something that they could do. And when the old man with the long white beard stood before him, praying that he might earn his bread, he replied, 'Oh, father, I could not suffer you to work, but you shall be overseer, and look after the rest.'Now the old man was a holy hermit, and when he saw how kind-hearted the youth was he determined to do all he could for him to gain the wish of his heart. By-and-bye, when the ship was finished, the hermit said to his young friend, 'Now you can go and claim the king's daughter, for hte ship will float both by land and sea.' 'Oh, good father,' cried the young man, 'you will not forsake me? Stay with me, I pray you, and lead me to the king!' 'If you wish it, I will,' said the hermit, 'on condition that you will give me half of anything you get.' 'Oh, if that is all,' answered he, 'it is easily promised!' And they set out together on the ship. After they had gone some distance they saw a man standing in a thick fog, which he was trying to put into a sack. 'Oh, good father,' exclaimed the youth, 'what can he be doing?' 'Ask him,' said the old man. 'What are you doing, my fine fellow?' 'I am putting the fog into my sack. That is my business.' 'Ask him if he will come with us,' whispered the hermit. And the man answered: 'If you will give me enough to eat and drink I will gladly stay with you.' So they took him on their ship, and the youth said, as they started off again, 'Good father, before we were two, and now we are three!' After they had travelled a little further they met a man who had torn up half the forest, and was carrying all the trees on his shoulders. 'Good father,' exclaimed the youth, 'only look! What can he have done that for?' 'Ask him why he has torn up all those trees.' And the man replied, 'Why, I've merely been gathering a handful of brushwood.' 'Beg him to come with us,' whispered the hermit.
And the strong man answered: 'Willingly, as long as you give me enough to eat and drink.' And he came on the ship.
And the youth said to the hermit, 'Good father, before we were three, and now we are four.'
Off they went again, and before they had gone far they met a man striding towards them whose steps were so long that while one foot was on the north of the island the other was right down in the south.'Good father, look at him! What long steps he takes!' 'Ask him why he does it,' replied the hermit. 'Oh, I am only going out for a little walk,' answered he.
'Ask him if he will come with us.' 'Gladly, if you will give me as much as I want to eat and drink,' said he, climbing up into the ship.
And the young man whispered, 'Good father, before we were six, and now we are seven.' But the hermit knew what he was about, and why he gathered these strange people into the ship.
After many days, at last they reached the town where lived the king and his daughter. They stopped the vessel right in front of the palace, and the young man went in and bowed low before the king.'O Majesty, I have done your bidding, and now is the ship built that can travel over land and sea. Give me my reward, and let me have your daughter to wife.' But the king said to himself, 'What! am I to wed my daughter to a man of whom I know nothing. Not even whether he be rich or poor--a knight or a beggar.'
And aloud he spake: It is not enough that you have managed to build the ship. You must find a runner who shall take this letter to the ruler of the Underworld, and bring me the answer back in an hour.''That is not in the bond,' answered the young man. 'Well, do as you like,' replied the king, 'only you will not get my daughter.' The young man went out, sorely troubled, to tell his old friend what had happened. 'Silly boy!' cried the hermit, 'Accept his terms at once. And send off the long-legged man with the letter. He will take it in no time at all.' So the youth's heard leapt for joy, and he returned to the king. 'Majesty, I accept your terms. HEre is the messenger who will do what you wish.'
The king had no choice but to give the man the letter, and he strode off, making short work of the distance that lay between the palace and the Underworld. He soon found the ruler, who looked at the letter, and said to him, 'Wait a little while i write the answer;' but the man was soo tired with his quick walk that he went sound asleep and forgot all about his errand.All this time the youth was anxiously counting the minutes till he could get back, and stood with his eyes fixed on the road down which his messenger must come.
'What can be keeping him,' he said to the hermit when the hour was nearly up. Then the hermit sent for the man who could hit everything he aimed at, and said to him, 'Just see why the messenger stays so long.''Oh, he is sound asleep in the palace of the Underworld. However, I can wake him.'
Then he drew his bow, and shot an arrow straight into the man's knee. The messenger awoke with such a start, and when he saw that the hour had almost run out he snatched up the answer and rushed back with such speed that the clock had not yet struck when he entered the palace.
Now the young man thought he was sure of his bride, but the king said, "Still you have not done enough. Before I give you my daughter you must find a man who can drink half the contents of my cellar in one day.''That is not in the bond,' complained the poor youth. 'Well, do as you like, only you will not get my daughter.' The young man went sadly out, and asked the hermit what he was to do. 'Silly boy!' said he. 'Why, tell the man to do it who drinks up everything.' So they sent for the man and said, 'Do you think you are able to drink half the royal cellar in one day?' 'Dear me, yes, and as much more as you want,' answered he. 'I am never satisfied.'
The king was not pleased at the young man agreeing so readily, but he had no choice, and ordered the servant to be taken downstairs. Oh, how he enjoyed himself! All day long he drank, and drank, and drank, till instead of half the cellar, he had drunk the whole, and there was not a cask but what stood empty. And when the king saw this he said to the youth, 'You ahve conquered, and I can no longer withhold my daughter. But, as her dowry, I shall only give so much as one man can carry away.''But,' answered he, 'let a man be ever so strong, he cannot carry more than a hundredweight, and what is that for a king's daughter?' 'Well, do as you like; I have said my say. It is your affair--not mine.'
The young man was puzzled, and did not know what to reply, for, though he would gladly have married the princess without a sixpence, he had spent all his money in building the ship, and knew he could not give her all she wanted. So he went to the hermit and said to him, 'The king will only give for her dowry as much as a man can carry. I have no money of my own left, and my brothers have none either.''Silly boy! Why, you have only got to fetch the man who carried half the forest on his shoulders.' And the youth was glad, and called the strong man, and told him what he must do. 'Take everything you can, till you are bent double. Never mind if you leave the palace bare.'
The strong man promised, and nobly kept his word. He piled all he could see on his back
-chairs, tables, wardrobes, chests of gold and silver--till there was nothing left to pile. At last he took the king's crown, and put it on the top. He carried his burden to the ship and stowed his treasures away, and the youth followed, leading the king's daughter. But the king was left raging in his empty palace, and he called together his army, and got ready his ships of war, in order that he might go after the vessel and bring back what had been taken away.
And the king's ships sailed very fast, and soon caught up the little vessel, and the sailors all shouted for joy. Then the hermit looked out and saw how near they were, and he said to the youth, 'Do you see that?'The youth shrieked and cried, 'Ah, good father, it is a fleet of ships, and they are chasing us, and in a few moments they will be upon us.'
But the hermit bade him call the man who had the fog in his sack, and the sack was opened and the fog flew out, and hung right round the king's ships, so that they could see nothing. So they sailed back to the palace, and told the king what strange things had happened. Meanwhile the young man's vessel reached home in safety.'Well, here you are once more' said the hermit; 'and now you can fulfil the promise you made me to give me the half of all you had.'
'That will I do with all my heart,' answered the youth, and began to divide all his treasures, putting part on one side for himself and setting aside the other for his friend. 'Good father, it is finished,' said he at length; 'there is nothing more left to divide.''Nothing more left!' cried the hermit. 'Why, you have forgotten the best thing of all!' 'What can that be?' asked he. 'We have divided everything.' 'And the king's daughter?' said the hermit.
Then the young man's heart stood still, for he loved her dearly. But he answered, 'It is well; I have sworn, and I will keep my word,' and drew his sword to cut her in pieces. When the hermit saw that he held his honour dearer than his wife he lifted his hand and cried, 'Hold! she is yours, and all the treasures too. I gave you my help because you had pity on those that were in need. And when you are in need yourself, call upon me, and I will come to you.'As he spoke he softly touched their heads and vanished.
The next day the wedding took place, and the two brothers came to the house, and they all lived happily together, but they never forgot the holy man who had been such a good friend.[Sicilianische Mahrchen]
Three brothers and one sister lived together in a small cottage, and they loved one another dearly. One day the eldest brother, who had never done anything but amuse himself from sunrise to sunset, said to the rest, 'Let us all work hard, and perhaps we shall grow rich, and be able to build ourselves a palace.'And his brothers and sister answered joyfully, 'Yes, we will all work!'
So they fell to working with all their might, till at last they became rich, and were able to build themselves a beautiful palace; and everyone came from miles round to see its wonders, and to say how splendid it was. No one thought of finding any faults, till at length an old woman, who had been walking through the rooms with a crowd of people, suddenly exclaimed, 'Yes, it is a splendid palace, but there is still something it needs!''And what may that be?' 'A church.'
When they heard this the brothers set to work again to earn some more money, and when they had got enough they set about building a church, which should be as large and beautiful as the palace itself.And after the church was finished greater numbers of people than ever flocked to see the palace and the church and vast gardens and magnificent halls. But one day, as the brothers were as usual doing the honours to their guests, an old man turned to them and said, 'Yes, it is all most beautiful, but there is still something it needs!' 'And what may that be?' 'A pitcher of the water of life, a branch of the tree the smell of whose flowers gives eternal beauty, and the talking bird.' 'And where am I to find all those?' 'Go to the mountain that is far off yonder, and you will find what you seek.'
After the old man had bowed politely and taken farewell of them the eldest brother said to the rest, 'I will go in search of the water of life, and the talking bird, and the tree of beauty.''But suppose some evil thing befalls you?' asked his sister. 'How shall we know?' 'You are right,' he replied; ' I had not thought of that!'
Then they followed the old man, and said to him, 'My eldest brother wishes to seek for the water of life, and the tree of beauty, and the talking bird, that you tell him are needful to make our palace perfect. But how shall we know if any evil thing befall him?' So the old man took them a knife, and gave it to them, saying, 'Keep this carefully, and as long as the blade is bright all is well; but if the blade is bloody, then know that evil has befallen him.'
The brothers thanked him, and departed, and went straight to the palace, where they found the young man making ready to set out for the mountain where the treasures he longed for lay hid.And he walked, and he walked, and he walked, till he had gone a great way, and there he met a giant. 'Can you tell me how much further I have still to go before I reach that mountain yonder?' 'And why do you wish to go there?' 'I am seeking the water of life, the talking bird, and a branch of the tree of beauty.'
'Many have passed by seeking those treasures, but none have ever come back; and you will never come back either, unless you mark my words. Follow this path, and when you reach the mountain you will find it covered with stones. Do not stop to look at them, but keep on your way. As you go you will hear scoffs and laughs behind you; it will be the stones that mock. Do not heed them; above all, do not turn round. If you do you will become as one of them. Walk straight on till you get to the top, and then take all you wish for.'
The young man thanked him for his counsel, and walked, and walked, and walked, till he reached the mountain. And as he climbed he heard behind him scoffs and jeers, but he kept his ears steadily closed to them. At last the noise grew so loud that he lost patience, and he stooped to pick up a stone to hurl into the midst of the clamour, when suddenly his arm seemed to stiffen, and the next moment he was a stone himself!
That day his sister, who thought her brother's steps were long in returning, took out the knife and found the blade was red as blood. Then she cried out to her brothers that something terrible had come to pass.'I will go and find him,' said the second. And he went. And he walked, and he walked, and he walked, till he met the giant, and asked him if he had seen a young man travelling towards the mountain. And the giant answered, 'Yes, I have seen him pass, but I have not seen him come back. The spell must have worked upon him.' 'Then what can I do to disenchant him, and find the water of life, the talking bird, and a branch of the tree of beauty?'
'Follow this path, and when you reach the mountain you will find it covered with stones. Do not stop to look at them, but climb steadily on. Above all, heed not the laughs and scoffs that will arise on all sides, and never turn round. And when you reach the top you can then take all you desire.'
The young man thanked him for his counsel, and set out for the mountain. But no sooner did he reach it than loud jests and gibes broke out on every side, and almost deafened him. For some time he let them rail, and pushed boldly on, till he had passed the place which his brother had gained; then suddenly he thought that among the scoffing sounds he heard his brother's voice. He stopped and looked back; and another stone was added to the number.
Meanwhile the sister left at home was counting the days when her two brothers should return to her. The time seemed long, and it would be hard to say how often she took out the knife and looked at its polished blade to make sure that this one at least was still safe. The blade was always bright and clear; each time she looked she had the happiness of knowing that all was well, till one evening, tired and anxious, as she frequently was at the end of the day, she took it from its drawer, and behold! the blade was red with blood. Her cry of horror brought her youngest brother to her, and, unable to speak, she held out the knife!'I will go,' he said. So he walked, and he walked, and he walked, until he met the giant, and he asked, 'Have two young men, making for yonder mountain, passed this way?' And the giant answered, 'Yes, they have passed by, but they never came back, and by this I know that the spell has fallen upon them.' 'Then what must I do to free them, and to get the water of life, and the talking bird, and the branch of the tree of beauty?'
'Go to the mountain, which you will find so thickly covered with stones that you will hardly be able to place your feet, and walk straight forward, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left, and paying no heed to the laughs and scoffs which will follow you, till you reach the top, and then you may take all that you desire.'
The young man thanked the giant for his counsel, and set forth to the mountain. And when he began to climb there burst forth all around him a storm of scoffs and jeers; but he thought of the giant's words, and looked neither to the right hand nor to the left, till the mountain top lay straight before him. A moment now and he would have gained it, when, through the groans and yells, he heard his brothers' voices. He turned, and there was one stone the more.
And all this while his sister was pacing up and down the palace, hardly letting the knife out of her hand, and dreading what she knew she would see, and what she did see. The blade grew red before her eyes, and she said, 'Now it is my turn.'So she walked, and she walked, and she walked till she came to the giant, and prayed him to tell her if he had seen three young men pass that way seeking the distant mountain.
'I have seen them pass, but they have never returned, and by this I know that the spell has fallen upon them.'
'And what must I do to set them free, and to find the water of life, and the talking bird, and a branch of the tree of beauty?'
'You must go to that mountain, which is so full of stones that your feet will hardly find a place to tread, and as you climb you will hear a noise as if all the stones in the world were mocking you; but pay no heed to anything you may hear, and, once you gain the top, you have gained everything.'
The girl thanked him for his counsel, and set out for the mountain; and scarcely had she gone a few steps upwards when cries and screams broke forth around her, and she felt as if each stone she trod on was a living thing. But she remembered the words of the giant, and knew not what had befallen her brothers, and kept her face steadily towards the mountain top, which grew nearer and nearer every moment. But as she mounted the clamour increased sevenfold: high above them all rang the voices of her three brothers. But the girl took no heed, and at last her feet stood upon the top.
Then she looked round, and saw, lying in a hollow, the pool of the water of life. And she took the brazen pitcher that she had brought with her, and filled it to the brim. By the side of the pool stood the tree of beauty, with the talking bird on one of its boughs; and she caught the bird, and placed it in a cage, and broke off one of the branches.
After that she turned, and went joyfully down the hill again, carrying her treasures, but her long climb had tired her out, and the brazen pitcher was very heavy, and as she walked a few drops of the water spilt on the stones, and as it touched them they changed into young men and maidens, crowding about her to give thanks for their deliverance.
So she learnt by this how the evil spell might be broken, and she carefully sprinkled every stone till there was not one left--only a great company of youths and girls who followed her down the mountain.
When they arrived at the palace she did not lose a moment in planting the branch of the tree of beauty and watering it with the water of life. And the branch shot up into a tree, and was heavy with flowers, and the talking bird nestled in its branches.
Now the fame of these wonders was noised abroad, and the people flocked in great numbers to see the three marvels, and the maiden who had won them; and among the sightseers came the king's son, who would not go till everything was shown him, and till he had heard how it had all happened. And the prince admired the strangeness and beauty of the treasures in the palace, but more than all he admired the beauty and courage of the maiden who had brought them there. So he went home and told his parents, and gained their consent to wed her for his wife.Then the marriage was celebrated in the church adjoining the palace. Then the bridegroom took her to his own home, where they lived happy for ever after. [Cuentos Populars Catalans, per lo Dr. D. Francisco de S. Maspous y Labros. Barcelona, 1885.]
There was once a girl so poor that she had nothing to live on, and wandered about the world asking for charity. One day she arrived at a thatched cottage, and inquired if they could give her any work. The farmer said he wanted a cowherd, as his own had left him, and if the girl liked the place she might take it. So she became a cowherd.
One morning she was driving her cows through the meadows when she heard near by a loud groan that almost sounded human. She hastened to the spot from which the noise came, and found it proceeded from a lion who lay stretched upon the ground.
You can guess how frightened she was! But the lion seemed in such pain that she was sorry for him, and drew nearer and nearer till she saw he had a large thorn in one foot. She pulled out the thorn and bound up the place, and the lion was grateful, and licked her hand by way of thanks with his big rough tongue.
When the girl had finished she went back to find the cows, but they had gone, and though she hunted everywhere she never found them; and she had to return home and confess to her master, who scolded her bitterly, and afterwards beat her. Then he said, 'Now you will have to look after the asses.'
So every day she had to take the asses to the woods to feed, until one morning, exactly a year after she had found the lion, she heard a groan which sounded quite human. She went straight to the place from which the noise came, and, to her great surprise, beheld the same lion stretched on the ground with a deep wound across his face.
This time she was not afraid at all, and ran towards him, washing the wound and laying soothing herbs upon it; and when she had bound it up the lion thanked her in the same manner as before.After that she returned to her flock, but they were nowhere to be seen. She searched here and she searched there, but they had vanished completely! Then she had to go home and confess to her master, who first scolded her and afterwards beat her. 'Now go,' he ended, 'and look after the pigs!' So the next day she took out the pigs, and found them such good feeding grounds that they grew fatter every day.
Another year passed by, and one morning when the maiden was out with her pigs she heard a groan which sounded quite human. She ran to see what it was, and found her old friend the lion, wounded through and through, fast dying under a tree.
She fell on her knees before him and washed his wounds one by one, and laid healing herbs upon them. And the lion licked her hands and thanked her, and asked if she would not stay and sit by him. But the girl said she had her pigs to watch, and she must go and see after them.
So she ran to the place where she had left them, but they had vanished as if the earth had swallowed them up. She whistled and called, but only the birds answered her.
At last she thought that perhaps if she climbed a tree she might see further. But no sooner was she seated on the highest branch than something happened which put the pigs quite out of her head. This was a handsome young man who was coming down the path; and when he had almost reached the tree he pulled aside a rock and disappeared behind it.
The maiden rubbed her eyes and wondered if she had been dreaming. Next she thought, 'I will not stir from here till I see him come out, and discover who he is.' Accordingly she waited, and at dawn the next morning the rock moved to one side and a lion came out.
When he had gone quite out of sight the girl climbed down from the tree and went to the rock, which she pushed aside, and entered the opening before her. The path led to a beautiful house. She went in, swept and dusted the furniture, and put everything tidy. Then she ate a very good dinner, which was on a shelf in the corner, and once more clambered up to the top of her tree.As the sun set she saw the same young man walking gaily down the path, and, as before, he pushed aside the rock and disappeared behind it. Next morning out came the lion. He looked sharply about him on all sides, but saw no one, and then vanished into the forest.
The maiden then came down from the tree and did exactly as she had done the day before. Thus three days went by, and every day she went and tidied up the palace. At length, when the girl found she was no nearer to discovering the secret, she resolved to ask him, and in the evening when she caught sight of him coming through the wood she came down from the tree and begged him to tell her his name.
The young man looked very pleased to see her, and said he thought it must be she who had secretly kept his house for so many days. And he added that he was a prince enchanted by a powerful giant, but was only allowed to take his own shape at night, for all day he was forced to appear as the lion whom she had so often helped; and, more than this, it was the giant who had stolen the oxen and the asses and the pigs in revenge for her kindness.And the girl asked him, 'What can I do to disenchant you?'
But he said he was afraid it was very difficult, because the only way was to get a lock of hair from the head of a king's daughter, to spin it, and to make from it a cloak for the giant, who lived up on the top of a high mountain.
'Very well,' answered the girl, 'I will go to the city, and knock at the door of the king's palace, and ask the princess to take me as a servant.'
So they parted, and when she arrived at the city she walked about the streets crying, 'Who will hire me for a servant? Who will hire me for a servant?' But, though many people liked her looks, for she was clean and neat, the maiden would listen to none, and still continued crying, 'Who will hire me for a servant? Who will hire me for a servant?'At last there came the waiting-maid of the princess. 'What can you do?' she said; and the girl was forced to confess that she could do very little. 'Then you will have to do scullion's work, and wash up dishes,' said she; and they went straight back to the palace.
Then the maiden dressed her hair afresh, and made herself look very neat and smart, and everyone admired and praised her, till by-and-bye it came to the ears of the princess. And she sent for the girl, and when she saw her, and how beautifully she had dressed her hair, the princess told her she was to come and comb out hers.
Now the hair of the princess was very thick and long, and shone like the sun. And the girl combed it and combed it till it was brighter than ever. And the princess was pleased, and bade her come every day and comb her hair, till at length the girl took courage, and begged leave to cut off one of the long, thick locks.
The princess, who was very proud of her hair, did not like the idea of parting with any of it, so she said no. But the girl could not give up hope, and each day she entreated to be allowed to cut off just one tress. At length the princess lost patience, and exclaimed, 'You may have it, then, on condition that you shall find the handsomest prince in the world to be my bridegroom!'
And the girl answered that she would, and cut off the lock, and wove it into a coat that glittered like silk, and brought it to the young man, who told her to carry it straight to the giant. But that she must be careful to cry out a long way off what she had with her, or else he would spring upon her and run her through with his sword.
So the maiden departed and climbed up the mountain, but before she reached the top the giant heard her footsteps, and rushed out breathing fire and flame, having a sword in one hand and a club in the other. But she cried loudly that she had brought him the coat, and then he grew quiet, and invited her to come into his house.He tried on the coat, but it was too short, and he threw it off, and declared it was no use. And the girl picked it up sadly, and returned quite in despair to the king's palace.
The next morning, when she was combing the princess's hair, she begged leave to cut off another lock. At first the princess said no, but the girl begged so hard that at length she gave in on condition that she should find her a prince as bridegroom.
The maiden told her that she had already found him, and spun the lock into shining stuff, and fastened it on to the end of the coat. And when it was finished she carried it to the giant.
This time it fitted him, and he was quite pleased, and asked her what he could give her in return. And she said that the only reward he could give her was to take the spell off the lion and bring him back to his own shape.
For a long time the giant would not hear of it, but in the end he gave in, and told her exactly how it must all be done. She was to kill the lion herself and cut him up very small; then she must burn him, and cast his ashes into the water, and out of the water the prince would come free from enchantment for ever.But the maiden went away weeping, lest the giant should have deceived her, and that after she had killed the lion she would find she had also slain the prince.
Weeping she came down the mountain, and weeping she joined the prince, who was awaiting her at the bottom; and when he had heard her story he comforted her, and bade her be of good courage, and to do the bidding of the giant.
And the maiden believed what the prince told her; and in the morning when he put on his lion's form she took a knife and slew him, and cut him up very small, and burnt him, and cast his ashes into the water, and out of the water came the prince, beautiful as the day, and as glad to look upon as the sun himself.
Then the young man thanked the maiden for all she had done for him, and said she should be his wife and none other. But the maiden only wept sore, and answered that that she could never be, for she had given her promise to the princess when she cut off her hair that the prince should wed her and her only.But the prince replied, 'If it is the princess, we must go quickly. Come with me.'
So they went together to the king's palace. And when the king and queen and princess saw the young man a great joy filled their hearts, for they knew him for the eldest son, who had long ago been enchanted by a giant and lost to them.
And he asked his parents' consent that he might marry the girl who had saved him, and a great feast was made, and the maiden became a princess, and in due time a queen, and she richly deserved all the honours showered upon her.[Cuentos Populars Catalans.]
Once upon a time there were seven brothers, who were orphans, and had no sister. Therefore they were obliged to do all their own housework. This they did not like at all; so after much deliberation they decided to get married. There were, unfortunately, no young girls to be found in the place where they lived; but the elder brothers agreed to go out into the world and seek for brides, promising to bring back a very pretty wife for the youngest also if he would meanwhile stay at home and take care of the house. He consented willingly, and the six young men set off in good spirits.
On their way they came to a small cottage standing quite by itself in a wood; and before the door stood an old, old man, who accosted the brothers saying, 'Hullo, you young fellows! Whither away so fast and cheerily?''We are going to find bonny brides for ourselves, and one for our youngest brother at home,' they replied. 'Oh! dear youths,' said the old man, 'I am terribly lonely here; pray bring a bride for me also; only remember, she must be young and pretty.' 'What does a shrivelled old grey thing like that want with a pretty young bride?' thought the brothers, and went on their way.
Presently they came to a town where were seven sisters, as young and as lovely as anyone could wish. Each brother chose one, and the youngest they kept for their brother at home. Then the whole party set out on the return journey, and again their path led through the wood and past the old man's cottage.There he stood before the door, and cried: 'Oh! you fine fellows, what a charming bride you have brought me!' 'She is not for you, said the young men. 'She is for our youngest brother, as we promised.'
'What!' said the old man, 'promised! I'll make you eat your promises!' And with that he took his magic wand, and, murmuring a charm, he touched both brothers and brides, and immediately they were turned into grey stones.
Only the youngest sister he had not bewitched. He took her into the cottage, and from that time she was obliged to keep house for him. She was not very unhappy, but one thought troubled her. What if the old man should die and leave her here alone in the solitary cottage deep in the heart of the wood! She would be as 'terribly lonely' as he had formerly been.One day she told him of her fear.
'Don't be anxious,' he said. 'You need neither fear my death nor desire it, for I have no heart in my breast! However, if I should die, you will find my wand above the door, and with it you can set free your sisters and their lovers. Then you will surely have company enough.'
'Where in all the world do you keep your heart, if not in your breast?' asked the girl.
When the old man had gone out about his business his bride passed her time in embroidering beautiful flowers on the bed quilt to make his heart happy. The old man was much amused. He laughed, and said to her: 'You are a good child, but I was only joking. My heart is really in--in--''Now where is it, dear husband?' 'It is in the doorway,' he replied.
Next day, while he was out, the girl decorated the door with gay feathers and fresh flowers, and hung garlands upon it. And on his return the old fellow asked what it all meant.'I did it to show my love for your heart,' said the girl. And again the old man smiled, saying, 'You are a dear child, but my heart is not in the doorway.' Then the poor young bride was very vexed, and said, 'Ah, my dear! you really have a heart somewhere, so you may die and leave me all alone.' The old man did his best to comfort her by repeating all he had said before, but she begged him afresh to tell her truly where his heart was and at last he told her.
'Far, far from here,' said he, 'in a lonely spot, stands a great church, as old as old can be. Its doors are of iron, and round it runs a deep moat, spanned by no bridge. Within that church is a bird which flies up and down; it never eats, and never drinks, and never dies. No one can catch it, and while that bird lives so shall I, for in it is my heart.'
It made the little bride quite sad to think she could do nothing to show her love for the old man's heart. She used to think about it as she sat all alone during the long days, for her husband was almost always out.One day a young traveller came past the house, and seeing such a pretty girl he wished her 'Good day.' She returned his greeting, and as he drew near she asked him whence he came and where he was going.
'Alas!' sighed the youth, 'I am very sorrowful. I had six brothers, who went away to find brides for themselves and one for me; but they have never come home, so now I am going to look for them.'
'Oh, good friend,' said the girl, 'you need go no farther. Come, sit down, eat and drink, and afterwards I'll tell you all about it.'
She gave him food, and when he had finished his meal she told him how his brothers had come to the town where she lived with her sisters, how they had each chosen a bride, and, taking herself with them, had started for home. She wept as she told how the others were turned to stone, and how she was kept as the old man's bride. She left out nothing, even telling him the story of her husband's heart.
'Yes, do go,' she said; 'it will be a good deed, for then you can set your brothers and my sisters free.' Then she hid the young man, for it was now late, and her husband would soon be home.Next morning, when the old man had gone out, she prepared a supply of provisions for her guest, and sent him off on his travels, wishing him good luck and success.
He walked on and on till he thought it must be time for breakfast; so he opened his knapsack, and was delighted to find such a store of good things. 'What a feast!' he exclaimed; 'will anyone come and share it?''Moo-oo,' sounded close behind him, and looking round he saw a great red ox, which said, 'I have much pleasure in accepting your kind invitation.'
'I'm delighted to see you. Pray help yourself. All I have is at your service,' said the hospitable youth. And the ox lay down comfortably, licking his lips, and made a hearty meal.'Many thanks to you,' said the animal as it rose up. 'When you are in danger or necessity call me, even if only by a thought,' and it disappeared among the bushes.
The young man packed up all the food that was left, and wandered on till the shortening shadows and his own hunger warned him that it was midday. he laid the cloth on the ground and spread out his provisions, saying at the same time: 'Dinner is ready, and anyone who wishes to share it is welcome.'
Then there was a great rustling in the undergrowth, and out ran a wild boar, grunting, 'Umph, umph, umph; someone said dinner was ready. Was it you? and did you mean me to come?''By all means. Help yourself to what I have,' said the young traveller. And the two enjoyed their meal together. Afterwards the boar got up, saying, 'Thank you; when in need you be you must quickly call for me,' and he rolled off.
For a long time the youth walked on. By evening he was miles away. He felt hungry again, and, having still some provisions left, thought he had better make ready his supper. When it was all spread out he cried as before, 'Anyone who cares to share my meal is welcome.'
He heard a sound overhead like the flapping of wings, and a shadow was cast upon the ground. Then a huge griffin appeared, saying: 'I heard someone giving an invitation to eat; is there anything for me?'
Next morning, when he awoke, he began to wish himself over the moat; and the thought occurred to him that if only the red ox were there, and thirsty enough to drink up all the water in the moat, he might walk across it dry shod.Scarcely had the thought crossed his brain before the ox appeared and began to drink up the water. The grateful youth hastened across as soon as the moat was dry, but found it impossible to penetrate the thick walls and strong iron doors of the church.
'I believe that big boar would be of more use here than I am,' he thought, and lo! at the wish the wild boar came and began to push hard against the wall. He managed to loosen one stone with his tusks, and, having made a beginning, stone after stone was poked out till he had made quite a large hole, big enough to let a man go through.The young man quickly entered the church, and saw a bird flying about, but he could not catch it. 'Oh!' he exclaimed, 'if only the griffin were here, he would soon catch it.' At these words the griffin appeared, and, seizing the bird, gave it to the youth, who carried it off carefully, while the griffin flew away.
The young man hurried home as fast as possible, and reached the cottage before evening. He told his story to the little bride, who, after giving him some food and drink, hid him with his bird beneath the bed.
Presently the old man came home, and complained of feeling ill. Nothing, he said, would go well with him any more: his 'heart bird' was caught.
The youth under the bed heard this, and thought, 'This old fellow has done me no particular harm, but then he has bewitched my brothers and their brides, and has kept my bride for himself, and that is certainly bad enough.'
Out crept the young man from under the bed, and the girl took the magic wand (which she found where the old man had told her), and, touching the twelve grey stones, transformed them at once into the six brothers and their brides.Then there was great joy, and kissing and embracing. And there lay the old man, quite dead, and no magic wand could restore him to life, even had they wished it. After that they all went away and were married, and lived many years happily together. [Cuentos Populars Catalans.]
Long ago there lived two brothers, both of them very handsome, and both so very poor that they seldom had anything to eat but the fish which they caught. One day they had been out in their boat since sunrise without a single bite, and were just thinking of putting up their lines and going home to bed when they felt a little feeble tug, and, drawing in hastily, they found a tiny fish at the end of the hook.'What a wretched little creature!' cried one brother. 'However, it is better than nothing, and I will bake him with bread crumbs and have him for supper.' 'Oh, do not kill me yet!' begged the fish; 'I will bring you good luck--indeed I will!' 'You silly thing!' said the young man; 'I've caught you, and I shall eat you.' But his brother was sorry for the fish, and put in a word for him.
'Let the poor little fellow live. He would hardly make one bite, and, after all, how do we know we are not throwing away our luck! Put him back into the sea. It will be much better.'
'If you will let me live,' said the fish, 'you will find on the sands to-morrow morning two beautiful horses splendidly saddled and bridled, and on them you can go through the world as knights seeking adventures.''Oh dear, what nonsense!' exclaimed the elder; 'and, besides, what proof have we that you are speaking the truth?' But again the younger brother interposed: 'Oh, do let him live! You know if he is lying to us we can always catch him again. It is quite worth while trying.' At last the young man gave in, and threw the fish back into the sea; and both brothers went supperless to bed, and wondered what fortune the next day would bring.
At the first streaks of dawn they were both up, and in a very few minutes were running down to the shore. And there, just as the fish had said, stood two magnificent horses, saddled and bridled, and on their backs lay suits of armour and under-dresses, two swords, and two purses of gold.
'There!' said the younger brother. 'Are you not thankful you did not eat that fish? He has brought us good luck, and there is no knowing how great we may become! Now, we will each seek our own adventures. If you will take one road I will go the other.''Very well,' replied the elder; 'but how shall we let each other know if we are both living?'
'Do you see this fig-tree?' said the younger. 'Well, whenever we want news of each other we have only to come here and make a slit with our swords in the back. If milk flows, it is a sign that we are well and prosperous; but if, instead of milk, there is blood, then we are either dead or in great danger.'
Then the two brothers put on their armour, buckled their swords, and pocketed their purees; and, after taking a tender farewell of each other, they mounted their horses and went their various ways.
The elder brother rode straight on till he reached the borders of a strange kingdom. He crossed the frontier, and soon found himself on the banks of a river; and before him, in the middle of the stream, a beautiful girl sat chained to a rock and weeping bitterly. For in this river dwelt a serpent with seven heads, who threatened to lay waste the whole land by breathing fire and flame from his nostrils unless the king sent him every morning a man for his breakfast. This had gone on so long that now there were no men left, and he had been obliged to send his own daughter instead, and the poor girl was waiting till the monster got hungry and felt inclined to eat her.When the young man saw the maiden weeping bitterly he said to her, 'What is the matter, my poor girl?' 'Oh!' she answered, 'I am chained here till a horrible serpent with seven heads comes to eat me. Oh, sir, do not linger here, or he will eat you too.' 'I shall stay,' replied the young man, 'for I mean to set you free.' 'That is impossible. You do not know what a fearful monster the serpent is; you can do nothing against him.' 'That is my affair, beautiful captive,' answered he; 'only tell me, which way will the serpent come?'
'Well, if you are resolved to free me, listen to my advice. Stand a little on one side, and then, when the serpent rises to the surface, I will say to him, "O serpent, to-day you can eat two people. But you had better begin first with the young man, for I am chained and cannot run away." When he hears this most likely he will attack you.'
So the young man stood carefully on one side, and by-and-bye he heard a great rushing in the water; and a horrible monster came up to the surface and looked out for the rock where the king's daughter was chained, for it was getting late and he was hungry.But she cried out, 'O serpent, to-day you can eat two people. And you had better begin with the young man, for I am chained and cannot run away.'
Then the serpent made a rush at the youth with wide open jaws to swallow him at one gulp, but the young man leaped aside and drew his sword, and fought till he had cut off all the seven heads. And when the great serpent lay dead at his feet he loosed the bonds of the king's daughter, and she flung herself into his arms and said, 'You have saved me from that monster, and now you shall be my husband, for my father has made a proclamation that whoever could slay the serpent should have his daughter to wife.'
But he answered, 'I cannot become your husband yet, for I have still far to travel. But wait for me seven years and seven months. Then, if I do not return, you are free to marry whom you will. And in case you should have forgotten, I will take these seven tongues with me so that when I bring them forth you may know that I am really he who slew the serpent.'So saying he cut out the seven tongues, and the princess gave him a thick cloth to wrap them in; and he mounted his horse and rode away.
Not long after he had gone there arrived at the river a slave who had been sent by the king to learn the fate of his beloved daughter. And when the slave saw the princess standing free and safe before him, with the body of the monster lying at her feet, a wicked plan came into his head, and he said, 'Unless you promise to tell your father it was I who slew the serpent, I will kill you and bury you in this place, and no one will ever know what befell.'
What could the poor girl do? This time there was no knight to come to her aid. So she promised to do as the slave wished, and he took up the seven heads and brought the princess to her father.Oh, how enchanted the king was to see her again, and the whole town shared his joy! And the slave was called upon to tell how he had slain the monster, and when he had ended the king declared that he should have the princess to wife.
But she flung herself at her father's feet, and prayed him to delay. 'You have passed your royal word, and cannot go back from it Yet grant me this grace, and let seven years and seven months go by before you wed me. When they are over, then I will marry the slave.' And the king listened to her, and seven years and seven months she looked for her bridegroom, and wept for him night and day.
All this time the young man was riding through the world, and when the seven years and seven months were over he came back to the town where the princess lived--only a few days before the wedding. And he stood before the king, and said to him: 'Give me your daughter, O king, for I slew the seven-headed serpent. And as a sign that my words are true, look on these seven tongues, which I cut from his seven heads, and on this embroidered cloth, which was given me by your daughter.'Then the princess lifted up her voice and said, 'Yes, dear father, he has spoken the truth, and it is he who is my real bridegroom. Yet pardon the slave, for he was sorely tempted.' But the king answered, 'Such treachery can no man pardon. Quick, away with him, and off with his head!'
So the false slave was put to death, that none might follow in his footsteps, and the wedding feast was held, and the hearts of all rejoiced that the true bridegroom had come at last.
These two lived happy and contentedly for a long while, when one evening, as the young man was looking from the window, he saw on a mountain that lay out beyond the town a great bright light.
'What can it be?' he said to his wife. 'Ah! do not look at it,' she answered, 'for it comes from the house of a wicked witch whom no man can manage to kill.' But the princess had better have kept silence, for her words made her husband's heart burn within him, and he longed to try his strength against the witch's cunning. And all day long the feeling grew stronger, till the next morning he mounted his horse, and in spite of his wife's tears, he rode off to the mountain.
The distance was greater than he thought, and it was dark before he reached the foot of the mountain; indeed, he could not have found the road at all had it not been for the bright light, which shone like the moon on his path. At length he came to the door of a fine castle, which had a blaze streaming from every window. He mounted a flight of steps and entered a hall where a hideous old woman was sitting on a golden chair.She scowled at the young man and said, 'With a single one of the hairs of my head I can turn you into stone.'
'Oh, what nonsense!' cried he. 'Be quiet, old woman. What could you do with one hair?' But the witch pulled out a hair and laid it on his shoulder, and his limbs grew cold and heavy, and he could not stir.
Now at this very moment the younger brother was thinking of him, and wondering how he had got on during all the years since they had parted. 'I will go to the fig-tree,' he said to himself, 'to see whether he is alive or dead.' So he rode through the forest till he came where the fig-tree stood, and cut a slit in the bark, and waited. In a moment a little gurgling noise was heard, and out came a stream of blood, running fast. 'Ah, woe is me!' he cried bitterly. 'My brother is dead or dying! Shall I ever reach him in time to save his life?' Then, leaping on his horse, he shouted, 'Now, my steed, fly like the wind!' and they rode right through the world, till one day they came to the town where the young man and his wife lived. Here the princess had been sitting every day since the morning that her husband had left her, weeping bitter tears, and listening for his footsteps. And when she saw his brother ride under the balcony she mistook him for her own husband, for they were so alike that no man might tell the difference, and her heart bounded, and, leaning down, she called to him, 'At last! at last! how long have I waited for thee!' When the younger brother heard these words he said to himself, 'So it was here that my brother lived, and this beautiful woman is my sister-in-law,' but he kept silence, and let her believe he was indeed her husband. Full of joy, the princess led him to the old king, who welcomed him as his own son, and ordered a feast to be made for him. And the princess was beside herself with gladness, but when she would have put her arms round him and kissed him he held up his hand to stop her, saying, 'Touch me not,' at which she marvelled greatly.In this manner several days went by. And one evening, as the young man leaned from the balcony, he saw a bright light shining on the mountain. 'What can that be?' he said to the princess. 'Oh, come away,' she cried; 'has not that light already proved your bane? Do you wish to fight a second time with that old witch?'
He marked her words, though she knew it not, and they taught him where his brother was, and what had befallen him. So before sunrise he stole out early, saddled his horse, and rode off to the mountain. But the way was further than he thought, and on the road he met a little old man who asked him whither he was going.Then the young man told him his story, and added. 'Somehow or other I must free my brother, who has fallen into the power of an old witch.'
'I will tell you what you must do,' said the old man. 'The witch's power lies in her hair; so when you see her spring on her and seize her by the hair, and then she cannot harm you. Be very careful never to let her hair go, bid her lead you to your brother, and force her to bring him back to life. For she has an ointment that will heal all wounds, and even wake the dead. And when your brother stands safe and well before you, then cut off her head, for she is a wicked woman.'
The young man was grateful for these words, and promised to obey them. Then he rode on, and soon reached the castle. He walked boldly up the steps and entered the hall, where the hideous old witch came to meet him. She grinned horribly at him, and cried out, 'With one hair of my head I can change you into stone.'
'Can you, indeed?' said the young man, seizing her by the hair. 'You old wretch! tell me what you have done with my brother, or I will cut your head off this very instant.' Now the witch's strength was all gone from her, and she had to obey.'I will take you to your brother,' she said, hoping to get the better of him by cunning, 'but leave me alone. You hold me so tight that I cannot walk.'
'You must manage somehow,' he answered, and held her tighter than ever. She led him into a large hall filled with stone statues, which once had been men, and, pointing out one, she said, 'There is your brother.'
The young man looked at them all and shook his head. 'My brother is not here. Take me to him, or it will be the worse for you.' But she tried to put him off with other statues, though it was no good, and it was not until they had reached the last hall of all that he saw his brother lying on the ground.'That is my brother,' said he. 'Now give me the ointment that will restore him to life.'
Very unwillingly the old witch opened a cupboard close by filled with bottles and jars, and took down one and held it out to the young man. But he was on the watch for trickery, and examined it carefully, and saw that it had no power to heal. This happened many times, till at length she found it was no use, and gave him the one he wanted. And when he had it safe he made her stoop down and smear it over his brother's face, taking care all the while never to loose her hair, and when the dead man opened his eyes the youth drew his sword and cut off her head with a single blow. Then the elder brother got up and stretched himself, and said, 'Oh, how long I have slept! And where am I?'
'The old witch had enchanted you, but now she is dead and you are free. We will wake up the other knights that she laid under her spells, and then we will go.'
This they did, and, after sharing amongst them the jewels and gold they found in the castle, each man went his way. The two brothers remained together, the elder tightly grasping the ointment which had brought him back to life.
They had much to tell each other as they rode along, and at last the younger man exclaimed, 'O fool, to leave such a beautiful wife to go and fight a witch! She took me for her husband, and I did not say her nay.'
When the elder brother heard this a great rage filled his heart, and, without saying one word, he drew his sword and slew his brother, and his body rolled in the dust. Then he rode on till he reached his home, where his wife was still sitting, weeping bitterly. When she saw him she sprang up with a cry, and threw herself into his arms. 'Oh, how long have I waited for thee! Never, never must you leave me any more!'
When the old king heard the news he welcomed him as a son, and made ready a feast, and all the court sat down. And in the evening, when the young man was alone with his wife, she said to him, 'Why would you not let me touch you when you came back, but always thrust me away when I tried to put my arms round you or kiss you?'
Then the young man understood how true his brother had been to him, and he sat down and wept and wrung his hands because of the wicked murder that he had done. Suddenly he sprang to his feet, for he remembered the ointment which lay hidden in his garments, and he rushed to the place where his brother still lay. He fell on his knees beside the body, and, taking out the salve, he rubbed it over the neck where the wound was gaping wide, and the skin healed and the sinews grew strong, and the dead man sat up and looked round him. And the two brothers embraced each other, and the elder asked forgiveness for his wicked blow; and they went back to the palace together, and were never parted any more.[Sicilianische Malirchen. L. Gonzenbach.]
There was once a man who had a son who was very clever at reading, and took great delight in it. He went out into the world to seek service somewhere, and as he was walking between some mounds he met a man, who asked him where he was going.'I am going about seeking for service,' said the boy. 'Will you serve me?' asked the man. 'Oh, yes; just as readily you as anyone else,' said the boy. 'But can you read?' asked the man. 'As well as the priest,' said the boy. Then I can't have you,' said the man. 'In fact, I was just wanting a boy who couldn't read. His only work would be to dust my old books.' The man then went on his way, and left the boy looking after him. 'It was a pity I didn't get that place,' thought he 'That was just the very thing for me.'
Making up his mind to get the situation if possible, he hid himself behind one of the mounds, and turned his jacket outside in, so that the man would not know him again so easily. Then he ran along behind the mounds, and met the man at the other end of them.'Where are you going, my little boy?' said the man, who did not notice that it was the same one he had met before. 'I am going about seeking for service?' said the boy. 'Will you serve me?' asked the man. 'Oh, yes; just as readily you as anyone else,' said the boy. 'But can you read?' said the man. 'No, I don't know a single letter,' said the boy.
The man then took him into his service, and all the work he had to do was to dust his master's books. But as he did this he had plenty of time to read them as well, and he read away at them until at last he was just as wise as his master--who was a great wizard--and could perform all kinds of magic. Among other feats, he could change himself into the shape of any animal, or any other thing that he pleased.
When he had learned all this he did not think it worth while staying there any longer, so he ran away home to his parents again. Soon after this there was a market in the next village, and the boy told his mother that he had learned how to change himself into the shape of any animal he chose.'Now,' said he, 'I shall change myself to a horse, and father can take me to market and sell me. I shall come home again all right.'
His mother was frightened at the idea, but the boy told her that she need not be alarmed; all would be well. So he changed himself to a horse, such a fine horse, too, that his father got a high price for it at the market; but after the bargain was made, and the money paid, the boy changed again to his own shape, when no one was looking, and went home.The story spread all over the country about the fine horse that had been sold and then had disappeared, and at last the news came to the ears of the wizard. 'Aha!' said he, 'this is that boy of mine, who befooled me and ran away; but I shall have him yet.'
The next time that there was a market the boy again changed himself to a horse, and was taken thither by his father. The horse soon found a purchaser, and while the two were inside drinking the luck-penny the wizard came along and saw the horse. He knew at once that it was not an ordinary one, so he also went inside, and offered the purchaser far more than he had paid for it, so the latter sold it to him.
The first thing the wizard now did was to lead the horse away to a smith to get a red-hot nail driven into its mouth, because after that it could not change its shape again. When the horse saw this it changed itself to a dove, and flew up into the air. The wizard at once changed himself into a hawk, and flew up after it. The dove now turned into a gold ring, and fell into a girl's lap. The hawk now turned into a man, and offered the girl a great sum of money for the gold ring, but she would not part with it, seeing that it had fallen down to her, as it were, from Heaven. However, the wizard kept on offering her more and more for it, until at last the gold ring grew frightened, and changed itself into a grain of barley, which fell on the ground. The man then turned into a hen, and began to search for the grain of barley, but this again changed itself to a pole-cat, and took off the hen's head with a single snap.The wizard was now dead, the pole-cat put on human shape, and the youth afterwards married the girl, and from that time forward let all his magic arts alone. [From the Danish.]
So the father ordered a beautiful ship to be fitted up, and the young man sailed away in it. After some weeks the vessel cast anchor before a large town, and the merchant's son went on shore.
The first thing he saw was a large notice written on a board saying that if any man could find the king's daughter within eight days he should have her to wife, but that if he tried and failed his head must be the forfeit.
'Well,' thought the youth as he read this proclamation, 'that ought not to be a very difficult matter;' and he asked an audience of the king, and told him that he wished to seek for the princess.'Certainly,' replied the king. 'You have the whole palace to search in; but remember, if you fail it will cost you your head.'
So saying, he commanded the doors to be thrown open, and food and drink to be set before the young man, who, after he had eaten, began to look for the princess. But though he visited every corner and chest and cupboard, she was not in any of them, and after eight days he gave it up and his head was cut off.
All this time his father and brothers had had no news of him, and were very anxious. At last the second son could bear it no longer, and said, 'Dear father, give me, I pray you, a large ship and some money, and let me go and seek for my brother.'So another ship was fitted out, and the young man sailed away, and was blown by the wind into the same harbour where his brother had landed. Now when he saw the first ship lying at anchor his heart beat high, and he said to himself, 'My brother cannot surely be far off,' and he ordered a boat and was put on shore.
As he jumped on to the pier his eye caught the notice about the princess, and he thought, 'He has undertaken to find her, and has certainly lost his head. I must try myself, and seek him as well as her. It cannot be such a very difficult matter.' But he fared no better than his brother, and in eight days his head was cut off.
So now there was only the youngest at home, and when the other two never came he also begged for a ship that he might go in search of his lost brothers. And when the vessel started a high wind arose, and blew him straight to the harbour where the notice was set.
'Oho!' said he, as he read, 'whoever can find the king's daughter shall have her to wife. It is quite clear now what has befallen my brothers. But in spite of that I think I must try my luck,' and he took the road to the castle.On the way he met an old woman, who stopped and begged. 'Leave me in peace, old woman,' replied he. 'Oh, do not send me away empty,' she said. 'You are such a handsome young man you will surely not refuse an old woman a few pence.' 'I tell you, old woman, leave me alone.' 'You are in some trouble?' she asked. 'Tell me what it is, and perhaps I can help you.' Then he told her how he had set his heart on finding the king's daughter. 'I can easily manage that for you as long as you have enough money.' 'Oh, as to that, I have plenty,' answered he.
'Well, you must take it to a goldsmith and get him to make it into a golden lion, with eyes of crystal; and inside it must have something that will enable it to play tunes. When it is ready bring it to me.'
The young man did as he was bid, and when the lion was made the old woman hid the youth in it, and brought it to the king, who was so delighted with it that he wanted to buy it. But she replied, 'It does not belong to me, and my master will not part from it at any price.''At any rate, leave it with me for a few days,' said he; 'I should like to show it to my daughter.' 'Yes, I can do that,' answered the old woman; 'but to-morrow I must have it back again. And she went away.
The king watched her till she was quite out of sight, so as to make sure that she was not spying upon him; then he took the golden lion into his room and lifted some loose boards from the floor. Below the floor there was a staircase, which he went down till he reached a door at the foot. This he unlocked, and found himself in a narrow passage closed by another door, which he also opened. The young man, hidden in the golden lion, kept count of everything, and marked that there were in all seven doors. After they had all been unlocked the king entered a lovely hall, where the princess was amusing herself with eleven friends. All twelve girls wore the same clothes, and were as like each other as two peas.'What bad luck!' thought the youth. 'Even supposing that I managed to find my way here again, I don't see how I could ever tell which was the princess.'
And he stared hard at the princess as she clapped her hands with joy and ran up to them, crying, ' Oh, do let us keep that delicious beast for to-night; it will make such a nice plaything.'
The king did not stay long, and when he left he handed over the lion to the maidens, who amused themselves with it for some time, till they got sleepy, and thought it was time to go to bed. But the princess took the lion into her own room and laid it on the floor. She was just beginning to doze when she heard a voice quite close to her, which made her jump. 'O lovely princess, if you only knew what I have gone through to find you!' The princess jumped out of bed screaming, 'The lion! the lion!' but her friends thought it was a nightmare, and did not trouble themselves to get up.
'O lovely úprincess!' continued the voice, 'fear nothing! I am the son of a rich merchant, and desire above all things to have you for my wife. And in order to get to you I have hidden myself in this golden lion.''What use is that?' she asked. 'For if you cannot pick me out from among my companions you will still lose your head.' 'I look to you to help me,' he said. 'I have done so much for you that you might do this one thing for me.' 'Then listen to me. On the eighth day I will tie a white sash round my waist, and by that you will know me.'
The next morning the king came very early to fetch the lion, as the old woman was already at the palace asking for it. When they were safe from view she let the young man out, and he returned to the king and told him that he wished to find the princess.'Very good,' said the king, who by this time was almost tired of repeating the same words; 'but if you fail your head will be the forfeit.'
So the youth remained quietly in the castle, eating and looking at all the beautiful things around him, and every now and then pretending to be searching busily in all the closets and corners. On the eighth day he entered the room where the king was sitting. 'Take up the floor in this place,' he said. The king gave a cry, but stopped himself, and asked, 'What do you want the floor up for? There is nothing there.'
But as all his courtiers were watching him he did not like to make any more objections, and ordered the floor to be taken up, as the young man desired. The youth then want straight down the staircase till he reached the door; then he turned and demanded that the key should be brought. So the king was forced to unlock the door, and the next and the next and the next, till all seven were open, and they entered into the hall where the twelve maidens were standing all in a row, so like that none might tell them apart. But as he looked one of them silently drew a white sash from her pocket and slipped it round her waist, and the young man sprang to her and said, 'This is the princess, and I claim her for my wife.' And the king owned himself beaten, and commanded that the wedding feast should be held.
After eight days the bridal pair said farewell to the king, and set sail for the youth's own country, taking with them a whole shipload of treasures as the princess's dowry. But they did not forget the old woman who had brought about all their happiness, and they gave her enough money to make her comfortable to the end of her days.[Sicilianische Mahrchen. L. Gonzenbach.]
Once upon a time there lived a man with one daughter and he made her work hard all the day. One morning when she had finished everything he had set her to do, he told her to go out into the woods and get some dry leaves and sticks to kindle a fire.
The girl went out, and soon collected a large bundle, and then she plucked at a sprig of sweet-smelling rosemary for herself. But the harder she pulled the firmer seemed the plant, and at last, determined not to be beaten, she gave one great tug, and the rosemary remained in her hands.Then she heard a voice close to her saying, 'Well?' and turning she saw before her a handsome young man, who asked why she had come to steal his firewood. The girl, who felt much confused, only managed to stammer out as an excuse that her father had sent her. 'Very well,' replied the young man; 'then come with me.'
So he took her through the opening made by the torn-up root, and they travelled till they reached a beautiful palace, splendidly furnished, but only lighted from the top. And when they had entered he told her that he was a great lord, and that never had he seen a maiden so beautiful as she, and that if she would give him her heart they would be married and live happy for ever after.And the maiden said 'yes, she would,' and so they were married.
The next day the old dame who looked after the house handed her all the keys, but pointed her out one that she would do well never to use, for if she did the whole palace would fall to the ground, and the grass would grow over it, and the damsel herself would be remembered no more.
The bride promised to be careful, but in a little while, when there was nothing left for her to do, she began to wonder what could be in the chest, which was opened by the key. As everybody knows, if we once begin to think we soon begin to do, and it was not very long before the key was no longer in the maiden's hand but in the lock of the chest. But the lock was stiff and resisted all her efforts, and in the end she had to break it. And what was inside after all? Why, nothing but a serpent's skin, which her husband, who was, unknown to her, a magician, put on when he was at work; and at the sight of it the girl was turning away in disgust, when the earth shook violently under her feet, the palace vanished as if it had never been, and the bride found herself in the middle of a field, not knowing where she was or whither to go. She burst into a flood of bitter tears, partly at her own folly, but more for the loss of her husband, whom she dearly loved. Then, breaking a sprig of rosemary off a bush hard by, she resolved, cost what it might, to seek him through the world till she found him. So she walked and she walked and she walked, till she arrived at a house built of straw. And she knocked at the door, and asked if they wanted a servant. The mistress said she did, and if the girl was willing she might stay. But day by day the poor maiden grew more and more sad, till at last her mistress begged her to say what was the matter. Then she told her story--how she was going through the world seeking after her husband.And her mistress answered her, 'Where he is, none can tell better than the Sun, the Moon, and the Wind, for they go everywhere!'
On hearing these words the damsel set forth once more, and walked till she reached the Golden Castle, where lived the Sun. And she knocked boldly at the door, saying, 'All hail, O Sun! I have come to ask if, of your charity, you will help me in my need. By my own fault have I fallen into these straits, and I am weary, for I seek my husband through the wide world.''Indeed!' spoke the Sun. 'Do you, rich as you are, need help? But though you live in a palace without windows, the Sun enters everywhere, and he knows you.'
Then the bride told him the whole story. and did not hide her own ill-doing. And the Sun listened, and was sorry for her; and though he could not tell her where to go, he gave her a nut, and bid her open it in a time of great distress. The damsel thanked him with all her heart, and departed, and walked and walked and walked, till she came to another castle, and knocked at the door which was opened by an old woman.'All hail!' said the girl. 'I have come, of your charity, to ask your help!' 'It is my mistress, the Moon, you seek. I will tell her of your prayer.' So the Moon came out, and when she saw the maiden she knew her again, for she had watched her sleeping both in the cottage and in the palace. And she spake to her and said: 'Do you, rich as you are, need help?'
Then the girl told her the whole story, and the Moon listened, and was sorry for her; and though she could not tell her where to find her husband, she gave her an almond, and told her to crack it when she was in great need. So the damsel thanked her, and departed, and walked and walked and walked till she came to another castle. And she knocked at the door, and said:'All hail! I have come to ask if, of your charity, you will help me in my need.' 'It is my lord, the Wind, that you want,' answered the old woman who opened it. 'I will tell him of your prayer.' And the Wind looked on her and knew her again, for he had seen her in the cottage and in the palace, and he spake to her and said: 'Do you, rich as you are, want help ?'
And she told him the whole story. And the Wind listened, and was sorry for her, and he gave her a walnut that she was to eat in time of need. But the girl did not go as the Wind expected. She was tired and sad, and knew not where to turn, so she began to weep bitterly. The Wind wept too for company, and said:
'Don't be frightened; I will go and see if I can find out something.'
'From what one person and another have let fall,' he exclaimed, 'I have contrived to learn that he is in the palace of the king, who keeps him hidden lest anyone should see him; and that to-morrow he is to marry the princess, who, ugly creature that she is, has not been able to find any man to wed her.'
Who can tell the despair which seized the poor maiden when she heard this news! As soon as she could speak she implored the Wind to do all he could to get the wedding put off for two or three days, for it would take her all that time to reach the palace of the king.
The Wind gladly promised to do what he could, and as he travelled much faster than the maiden he soon arrived at the palace, where he found five tailors working night and day at the wedding clothes of the princess.
Down came the Wind right in the middle of their lace and satin and trimmings of pearl! Away they all went whiz! through the open windows, right up into the tops of the trees, across the river, among the dancing ears of corn! After them ran the tailors, catching, jumping, climbing, but all to no purpose! The lace was torn, the satin stained, the pearls knocked off! There was nothing for it but to go to the shops to buy fresh, and to begin all over again! It was plainly quite impossible that the wedding clothes could be ready next day.
However, the king was much too anxious to see his daughter married to listen to any excuses, and he declared that a dress must be put together somehow for the bride to wear. But when he went to look at the princess, she was such a figure that he agreed that it would be unfitting for her position to be seen in such a gown, and he ordered the ceremony and the banquet to be postponed for a few hours, so that the tailors might take the dress to pieces and make it fit.
But by this time the maiden had arrived footsore and weary at the castle, and as soon as she reached the door she cracked her nut and drew out of it the most beautiful mantle in the world. Then she rang the bell, and asked:'Is not the princess to be married to-day?' 'Yes, she is.' 'Ask her if she would like to buy this mantle.'
And when the princess saw the mantle she was delighted, for her wedding mantle had been spoilt with all the other things, and it was too late to make another. So she told the maiden to ask what price she would, and it should be given her.
The maiden fixed a large sum, many pieces of gold, but the princess had set her heart on the mantle, and gave it readily.
Now the maiden hid her gold in the pocket of her dress, and turned away from the castle. The moment she was out of sight she broke her almond, and drew from it the most magnificent petticoats that ever were seen. Then she went back to the castle, and asked if the princess wished to buy any petticoats. No sooner did the princess cast her eyes on the petticoats than she declared they were even more beautiful than the mantle, and that she would give the maiden whatever price she wanted for them. And the maiden named many pieces of gold, which the princess paid her gladly, so pleased was she with her new possessions.
Then the girl went down the steps where none could watch her and cracked her walnut, and out came the most splendid court dress that any dressmaker had ever invented; and, carrying it carefully in her arms, she knocked at the door, and asked if the princess wished to buy a court dress.
When the message was delivered the princess sprang to her feet with delight, for she had been thinking that after all it was not much use to have a lovely mantle and elegant petticoats if she had no dress, and she knew the tailors would never be ready in time. So she sent at once to say she would buy the dress, and what sum did the maiden want for it.This time the maiden answered that the price of the dress was the permission to see the bridegroom.
The princess was not at all pleased when she heard the maiden's reply, but, as she could not do without the dress, she was forced to give in, and contented herself with thinking that after all it did not matter much.
So the maiden was led to the rooms which had been given to her husband. And when she came near she touched him with the sprig of rosemary that she carried; and his memory came back, and he knew her, and kissed her, and declared that she was his true wife, and that he loved her and no other.Then they went back to the maiden's home, and grew to be very old, and lived happy all the days of their life. [Cuentos Populars Catalans, per lo Dr. D. Francisco de S. Maspons y Labros (Barcelona: Libreria de Don Alvar Verdaguer 1885).]
A king had two sons. They were a pair of reckless fellows, who always had something foolish to do. One day they rowed out alone on the sea in a little boat. It was beautiful weather when they set out, but as soon as they had got some distance from the shore there arose a terrific storm. The oars went overboard at once, and the little boat was tossed about on the rolling billows like a nut-shell. The princes had to hold fast by the seats to keep from being thrown out of the boat.
In the midst of all this they met a wonderful vessel--it was a dough-trough, in which there sat an old woman. She called to them, and said that they could still get to shore alive if they would promise her the son that was next to come to their mother the queen.'We can't do that,' shouted the princes; 'he doesn't belong to us so we can't give him away.'
'Then you can rot at the bottom of the sea, both of you,' said the old woman; 'and perhaps it may be the case that your mother would rather keep the two sons she has than the one she hasn't got yet.'
Then she rowed away in her dough-trough, while the storm howled still louder than before, and the water dashed over their boat until it was almost sinking. Then the princes thought that there was something in what the old woman had said about their mother, and being, of course, eager to save their lives, they shouted to her, and promised that she should have their brother if she would deliver them from this danger. As soon as they had done so the storm ceased and the waves fell. The boat drove ashore below their father's castle, and both princes were received with open arms by their father and mother, who had suffered great anxiety for them.
The two brothers said nothing about what they had promised, neither at that time nor later on when the queen's third son came, a beautiful boy, whom she loved more than anything else in the world. He was brought up and educated in his father's house until he was full grown, and still his brothers had never seen or heard anything about the witch to whom they had promised him before he was born.
It happened one evening that there arose a raging storm, with mist and darkness. It howled and roared around the king's palace, and in the midst of it there came a loud knock on the door of the hall where the youngest prince was. He went to the door and found there an old woman with a dough- trough on her back, who said to him that he must go with her at once; his brothers had promised him to her if she would save their lives.'Yes,' said he; 'if you saved my brothers' lives, and they promised me to you, then I will go with you.'
They therefore went down to the beach together, where he had to take his seat in the trough, along with the witch, who sailed away with him, over the sea, home to her dwelling.
The prince was now in the witch's power, and in her service. The first thing she set him to was to pick feathers. 'The heap of feathers that you see here,' said she, 'you must get finished before I come home in the evening, otherwise you shall be set to harder work.' He started to the feathers, and picked and picked until there was only a single feather left that had not passed through his hands. But then there came a whirlwind and sent all the feathers flying, and swept them along the floor into a heap, where they lay as if they were trampled together. He had now to begin all his work over again, but by this time it only wanted an hour of evening, when the witch was to be expected home, and he easily saw that it was impossible for him to be finished by that time.
Then he heard something tapping at the window pane, and a thin voice said, 'Let me in, and I will help you.' It was a white dove, which sat outside the window, and was pecking at it with its beak. He opened the window, and the dove came in and set to work at once, and picked all the feathers out of the heap with its beak. Before the hour was past the feathers were all nicely arranged: the dove flew out at the window, and at, the same moment the witch came in at the door.
'Well, well,' said she, 'it was more than I would have expected of you to get all the feathers put in order so nicely. However, such a prince might be expected to have neat fingers.'
Next morning the witch said to the prince, 'To-day you shall have some easy work to do. Outside the door I have some firewood lying; you must split that for me into little bits that I can kindle the fire with. That will soon be done, but you must be finished before I come home.'
The prince got a little axe and set to work at once. He split and clove away, and thought that he was getting on fast; but the day wore on until it was long past midday, and he was still very far from having finished. He thought, in fact, that the pile of wood rather grew bigger than smaller, in spite of what he took off it; so he let his hands fall by his side, and dried the sweat from his forehead, and was ill at ease, for he knew that it would be bad for him if he was not finished with the work before the witch came home.Then the white dove came flying and settled down on the pile of wood, and cooed and said, 'Shall I help you?'
'Yes,' said the prince, 'many thanks for your help yesterday, and for what you offer today.' Thereupon the little dove seized one piece of wood after another and split it with its beak. The prince could not take away the wood as quickly as the dove could split it, and in a short time it was all cleft into little sticks.
The dove then flew up on his shoulder and sat there and the prince thanked it, and stroked and caressed its white feathers, and kissed its little red beak. With that it was a dove no longer, but a beautiful young maiden, who stood by his side. She told him then that she was a princess whom the witch had stolen, and had changed to this shape, but with his kiss she had got her human form again; and if he would be faithful to her, and take her to wife, she could free them both from the witch's power.
The prince was quite captivated by the beautiful princess, and was quite willing to do anything whatsoever to get her for himself.
She then said to him, 'When the witch comes home you must ask her to grant you a wish, when you have accomplished so well all that she has demanded of you. When she agrees to this you must ask her straight out for the princess that she has flying about as a white dove. But just now you must take a red silk thread and tie it round my little finger, so that you may be able to recognise me again, into whatever shape she turns me.'
The prince made haste to get the silk thread tied round her little white finger; at the same moment the princess became a dove again and flew away, and immediately after that the old witch came home with her dough-trough on he back.'Well,' said she, 'I must say that you are clever at your work, and it is something, too, that such princely hands are not accustomed to.'
'Since you are so well pleased with my work, said the prince, 'you will, no doubt, be willing to give me a little pleasure too, and give me something that I have taken a fancy to.''Oh yes, indeed,' said the old woman; 'what is it that you want?' 'I want the princess here who is in the shape of a white dove,' said the prince.
'What nonsense!' said the witch. 'Why should you imagine that there are princesses here flying about in the shape of white doves? But if you will have a princess, you can get one such as we have them.' She then came to him, dragging a shaggy little grey ass with long ears. 'Will you have this?' said she; 'you can't get any other princess!'The prince used his eyes and saw the red silk thread on one of the ass's hoofs, so he said, 'Yes, just let me have it.' 'What will you do with it ?' asked the witch.
'I will ride on it,' said the prince; but with that the witch dragged it away again, and came back with an old, wrinkled, toothless hag, whose hands trembled with age. 'You can have no other princess,' said she. 'Will you have her?''Yes, I will,' said the prince, for he saw the red silk thread on the old woman's finger.
At this the witch became so furious that she danced about and knocked everything to pieces that she could lay her hands upon, so that the splinters flew about the ears of the prince and princess, who now stood there in her own beautiful shape.Then their marriage had to be celebrated, for the witch had to stick to what she had promised, and he must get the princess whatever might happen afterwards. The princess now said to him, 'At the marriage feast you may eat what you please, but you must not drink anything whatever, for if you do that you will forget me.'
This, however, the prince forgot on the wedding day, and stretched out his hand and took a cup of wine; but the princess was keeping watch over him, and gave him a push with her elbow, so that the wine flew over the table- cloth.
Then the witch got up and laid about her among the plates and dishes, so that the pieces flew about their ears, just as she had done when she was cheated the first time.
They were then taken to the bridal chamber, and the door was shut. Then the princess said, 'Now the witch has kept her promise, but she will do no more if she can help it, so we must fly immediately. I shall lay two pieces of wood in the bed to answer for us when the witch speaks to us. You can take the flower-pot and the glass of water that stands in the window, and we must slip out by that and get away.'No sooner said than done. They hurried off out into the dark night, the princess leading, because she knew the way, having spied it out while she flew about as a dove.
At midnight the witch came to the door of the room and called in to them, and the two pieces of wood answered her, so that she believed they were there, and went away again. Before daybreak she was at the door again and called to them, and again the pieces of wood answered for them. She thus thought that she had them, and when the sun rose the bridal night was past: she had then kept her promise, and could vent her anger and revenge on both of them. With the first sunbeam she broke into the room, but there she found no prince and no princess--nothing but the two pieces of firewood, which lay in the bed, and stared, and spoke not a word. These she threw on the floor, so that they were splintered into a thousand pieces, and off she hastened after the fugitives.With the first sunbeam the princess said to the prince, 'Look round; do you see anything behind us?' 'Yes, I see a dark cloud, far away,' said he. 'Then throw the flower-pot over your head,' said she. When this was done there was a large thick forest behind them. When the witch came to the forest she could not get through it until she went home and brought her axe to cut a path. A little after this the princess said again to the prince, 'Look round; do you see anything behind us?' 'Yes,' said the prince, 'the big black cloud is there again.' 'Then throw the glass of water over your head,' said she. When he had done this there was a great lake behind them, and this the witch could not cross until she ran home again and brought her dough-trough.
Meanwhile the fugitives had reached the castle which was the prince's home. They climbed over the garden wall, ran across the garden, and crept in at an open window. By this time the witch was just at their heels, but the princess stood in the window and blew upon the witch; hundreds of white doves flew out of her mouth, fluttered and flapped around the witch's head until she grew so angry that she turned into flint, and there she stands to this day, in the shape of a large flint stone, outside the window. Within the castle there was great rejoicing over the prince and his bride. His two elder brothers came and knelt before him and confessed what they had done, and said that he alone should inherit the kingdom, and they would always be his faithful subjects.[From the Danish.]