The Crimson Fairy Book HTML version

Lovely Ilonka
There was once a king's son who told his father that he wished to marry.
'No, no!' said the king; 'you must not be in such a hurry. Wait till you have done some
great deed. My father did not let me marry till I had won the golden sword you see me
The prince was much disappointed, but he never dreamed of disobeying his father, and he
began to think with all his might what he could do. It was no use staying at home, so one
day he wandered out into the world to try his luck, and as he walked along he came to a
little hut in which he found an old woman crouching over the fire.
'Good evening, mother. I see you have lived long in this world; do you know anything
about the three bulrushes?'
'Yes, indeed, I've lived long and been much about in the world, but I have never seen or
heard anything of what you ask. Still, if you will wait till to-morrow I may be able to tell
you something.'
Well, he waited till the morning, and quite early the old woman appeared and took out a
little pipe and blew in it, and in a moment all the crows in the world were flying about
her. Not one was missing. Then she asked if they knew anything about the three
bulrushes, but not one of them did.
The prince went on his way, and a little further on he found another hut in which lived an
old man. On being questioned the old man said he knew nothing, but begged the prince to
stay overnight, and the next morning the old man called all the ravens together, but they
too had nothing to tell.
The prince bade him farewell and set out. He wandered so far that he crossed seven
kingdoms, and at last, one evening, he came to a little house in which was an old woman.
'Good evening, dear mother,' said he politely.
'Good evening to you, my dear son,' answered the old woman. 'It is lucky for you that you
spoke to me or you would have met with a horrible death. But may I ask where are you
'I am seeking the three bulrushes. Do you know anything about them?'
'I don't know anything myself, but wait till to-morrow. Perhaps I can tell you then.' So the
next morning she blew on her pipe, and lo! and behold every magpie in the world flew
up. That is to say, all the magpies except one who had broken a leg and a wing. The old
woman sent after it at once, and when she questioned the magpies the crippled one was
the only one who knew where the three bulrushes were.