The Crimson Fairy Book HTML version
Once upon a time the things in this story happened, and if they had not happened then the
story would never have been told. But that was the time when wolves and lambs lay
peacefully together in one stall, and shepherds dined on grassy banks with kings and
Once upon a time, then, my dear good children, there lived a man. Now this man was
really a hundred years old, if not fully twenty years more. And his wife was very old too-
-how old I do not know; but some said she was as old as the goddess Venus herself. They
had been very happy all these years, but they would have been happier still if they had
had any children; but old though they were they had never made up their minds to do
without them, and often they would sit over the fire and talk of how they would have
brought up their children if only some had come to their house.
One day the old man seemed sadder and more thoughtful than was common with him,
and at last he said to his wife: 'Listen to me, old woman!'
'What do you want?' asked she.
'Get me some money out of the chest, for I am going a long journey--all through the
world--to see if I cannot find a child, for my heart aches to think that after I am dead my
house will fall into the hands of a stranger. And this let me tell you: that if I never find a
child I shall not come home again.'
Then the old man took a bag and filled it with food and money, and throwing it over his
shoulders, bade his wife farewell.
For long he wandered, and wandered, and wandered, but no child did he see; and one
morning his wanderings led him to a forest which was so thick with trees that no light
could pass through the branches. The old man stopped when he saw this dreadful place,
and at first was afraid to go in; but he remembered that, after all, as the proverb says: 'It is
the unexpected that happens,' and perhaps in the midst of this black spot he might find the
child he was seeking. So summoning up all his courage he plunged boldly in.
How long he might have been walking there he never could have told you, when at last
he reached the mouth of a cave where the darkness seemed a hundred times darker than
the wood itself. Again he paused, but he felt as if something was driving him to enter, and
with a beating heart he stepped in.
For some minutes the silence and darkness so appalled him that he stood where he was,
not daring to advance one step. Then he made a great effort and went on a few paces, and
suddenly, far before him, he saw the glimmer of a light. This put new heart into him, and