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Copyrighted Material
The Violet Fairy Book, by Andrew Lang
Category: Lithuanian fairy tale
Once on a time there were three princes, who had a step-sister. One day they all
set out hunting together. When they had gone some way through a thick wood
they came on a great grey wolf with three cubs. Just as they were going to shoot,
the wolf spoke and said, 'Do not shoot me, and I will give each of you one of my
young ones. It will be a faithful friend to you.'
So the princes went on their way, and a little wolf followed each of them.
Soon after they came on a lioness with three cubs. And she too begged them not
to shoot her, and she would give each of them a cub. And so it happened with a
fox, a hare, a boar, and a bear, till each prince had quite a following of young
beasts padding along behind him.
Towards evening they came to a clearing in the wood, where three birches grew
at the crossing of three roads. The eldest prince took an arrow, and shot it into
the trunk of one of the birch trees. Turning to his brothers he said:
'Let each of us mark one of these trees before we part on different ways. When
any one of us comes back to this place, he must walk round the trees of the other
two, and if he sees blood flowing from the mark in the tree he will know that that
brother is dead, but if milk flows he will know that his brother is alive.'
So each of the princes did as the eldest brother had said, and when the three
birches were marked by their arrows they turned to their step-sister and asked
her with which of them she meant to live.