The Pink Fairy Book by Andrew Lang - HTML preview
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The Troll's Daughter
There was once a lad who went to look for a place. As he went along he met a man, who asked him where he was going. He told him his errand, and the stranger said, 'Then you can serve me; I am just in want of a lad like you, and I will give you good wages--a bushel of money the first year, two the second year, and three the third year, for you must serve me three years, and obey me in everything, however strange it seems to you. You need not be afraid of taking service with me, for there is no danger in it if you only know how to obey.'
The bargain was made, and the lad went home with the man to whom he had engaged himself. It was a strange place indeed, for he lived in a bank in the middle of the wild forest, and the lad saw there no other person than his master. The latter was a great troll, and had marvellous power over both men and beasts.
Next day the lad had to begin his service. The first thing that the troll set him to was to feed all the wild animals from the forest. These the troll had tied up, and there were both wolves and bears, deer and hares, which the troll had gathered in the stalls and folds in his stable down beneath the ground, and that stable was a mile long. The boy, however, accomplished all this work on that day, and the troll praised him and said that it was very well done.
Next morning the troll said to him, 'To-day the animals are not to be fed; they don't get the like of that every day. You shall have leave to play about for a little, until they are to be fed again.'
Then the troll said some words to him which he did not understand, and with that the lad turned into a hare, and ran out into the wood. He got plenty to run for, too, for all the hunters aimed at him, and tried to shoot him, and the dogs barked and ran after him wherever they got wind of him. He was the only animal that was left in the wood now, for the troll had tied up all the others, and every hunter in the whole country was eager to knock him over. But in this they met with no success; there was no dog that could overtake him, and no marksman that could hit him. They shot and shot at him, and he ran and ran. It was an unquiet life, but in the long run he got used to it, when he saw that there was no danger in it, and it even amused him to befool all the hunters and dogs that were so eager after him.
Thus a whole year passed, and when it was over the troll called him home, for he was now in his power like all the other animals. The troll then said some words to him which he did not understand, and the hare immediately became a human being again. 'Well, how do you like to serve me?' said the troll, 'and how do you like being a hare?'
The lad replied that he liked it very well; he had never been able to go over the ground so quickly before. The troll then showed him the bushel of money that he had already earned, and the lad was well pleased to serve him for another year.
The first day of the second year the boy had the same work to do as on the previous one-namely, to feed all the wild animals in the troll's stable. When he had done this the troll again said some words to him, and with that he became a raven, and flew high up into the air. This was delightful, the lad thought; he could go even faster now than when he was a hare, and the dogs could not come after him here. This was a great delight to him, but he soon found out that he was not to be left quite at peace, for all the marksmen and hunters who saw him aimed at him and fired away, for they had no other birds to shoot at than himself, as the troll had tied up all the others.
This, however, he also got used to, when he saw that they could never hit him, and in this way he flew about all that year, until the troll called him home again, said some strange words to him, and gave him his human shape again. 'Well, how did you like being a raven?' said the troll.
'I liked it very well,' said the lad, 'for never in all my days have I been able to rise so high.' The troll then showed him the two bushels of money which he had earned that year, and the lad was well content to remain in his service for another year.
Next day he got his old task of feeding all the wild beasts. When this was done the troll again said some words to him, and at these he turned into a fish, and sprang into the river. He swam up and he swam down, and thought it was pleasant to let himself drive with the stream. In this way he came right out into the sea, and swam further and further out. At last he came to a glass palace, which stood at the bottom of the sea. He could see into all the rooms and halls, where everything was very grand; all the furniture was of white ivory, inlaid with gold and pearl. There were soft rugs and cushions of all the colours of the rainbow, and beautiful carpets that looked like the finest moss, and flowers and trees with curiously crooked branches, both green and yellow, white and red, and there were also little fountains which sprang up from the most beautiful snail-shells, and fell into bright mussel-shells, and at the same time made a most delightful music, which filled the whole palace.
The most beautiful thing of all, however, was a young girl who went about there, all alone. She went about from one room to another, but did not seem to be happy with all the grandeur she had about her. She walked in solitude and melancholy, and never even thought of looking at her own image in the polished glass walls that were on every side of her, although she was the prettiest creature anyone could wish to see. The lad thought so too while he swam round the palace and peeped in from every side.
'Here, indeed, it would be better to be a man than such a poor dumb fish as I am now,' said he to himself; 'if I could only remember the words that the troll says when he changes my shape, then perhaps I could help myself to become a man again.' He swam and he pondered and he thought over this until he remembered the sound of what the troll said, and then he tried to say it himself. In a moment he stood in human form at the bottom of the sea.He made haste then to enter the glass palace, and went up to the young girl and spoke to her.
At first he nearly frightened the life out of her, but he talked to her so kindly and explained how he had come down there that she soon recovered from her alarm, and was very pleased to have some company to relieve the terrible solitude that she lived in. Time passed so quickly for both of them that the youth (for now he was quite a young man, and no more a lad) forgot altogether how long he had been there.
One day the girl said to him that now it was close on the time when he must become a fish again--the troll would soon call him home, and he would have to go, but before that he must put on the shape of the fish, otherwise he could not pass through the sea alive. Before this, while he was staying down there, she had told him that she was a daughter of the same troll whom the youth served, and he had shut her up there to keep her away from everyone. She had now devised a plan by which they could perhaps succeed in getting to see each other again, and spending the rest of their lives together. But there was much to attend to, and he must give careful heed to all that she told him.
She told him then that all the kings in the country round about were in debt to her father the troll, and the king of a certain kingdom, the name of which she told him, was the first who had to pay, and if he could not do so at the time appointed he would lose his head. 'And he cannot pay,' said she; 'I know that for certain. Now you must, first of all, give up your service with my father; the three years are past, and you are at liberty to go. You will go off with your six bushels of money, to the kingdom that I have told you of, and there enter the service of the king. When the time comes near for his debt becoming due you will be able to notice by his manner that he is ill at ease. You shall then say to him that you know well enough what it is that is weighing upon him--that it is the debt which he owes to the troll and cannot pay, but that you can lend him the money. The amount is six bushels--just what you have. You shall, however, only lend them to him on condition that you may accompany him when he goes to make the payment, and that you then have permission to run before him as a fool. When you arrive at the troll's abode, you must perform all kinds of foolish tricks, and see that you break a whole lot of his windows, and do all other damage that you can. My father will then get very angry, and as the king must answer for what his fool does he will sentence him, even although he has paid his debt, either to answer three questions or to lose his life. The first question my father will ask will be, "Where is my daughter?" Then you shall step forward and answer "She is at the bottom of the sea." He will then ask you whether you can recognise her, and to this you will answer "Yes." Then he will bring forward a whole troop of women, and cause them to pass before you, in order that you may pick out the one that you take for his daughter. You will not be able to recognise me at all, and therefore I will catch hold of you as I go past, so that you can notice it, and you must then make haste to catch me and hold me fast. You have then answered his first question. His next question will be, "Where is my heart?" You shall then step forward again and answer, "It is in a fish." "Do you know that fish?" he will say, and you will again answer "Yes." He will then cause all kinds of fish to come before you, and you shall choose between them. I shall take good care to keep by your side, and when the right fish comes I will give you a little push, and with that you will seize the fish and cut it up. Then all will be over with the troll; he will ask no more questions, and we shall be free to wed.'
When the youth had got all these directions as to what he had to do when he got ashore again the next thing was to remember the words which the troll said when he changed him from a human being to an animal; but these he had forgotten, and the girl did not know them either. He went about all day in despair, and thought and thought, but he could not remember what they sounded like. During the night he could not sleep, until towards morning he fell into a slumber, and all at once it flashed upon him what the troll used to say. He made haste to repeat the words, and at the same moment he became a fish again and slipped out into the sea. Immediately after this he was called upon, and swam through the sea up the river to where the troll stood on the bank and restored him to human shape with the same words as before.'Well, how do you like to be a fish?' asked the troll. It was what he had liked best of all, said the youth, and that was no lie, as everybody can guess. The troll then showed him the three bushels of money which he had earned during the past year; they stood beside the other three, and all the six now belonged to him. 'Perhaps you will serve me for another year yet,' said the troll, 'and you will get six bushels of money for it; that m&kes twelve in all, and that is a pretty penny.'
'No,' said the youth; he thought he had done enough, and was anxious to go to some other place to serve, and learn other people's ways; but he would, perhaps, come back to the troll some other time.The troll said that he would always be welcome; he had served him faithfully for the three years they had agreed upon, and he could make no objections to his leaving now.
The youth then got his six bushels of money, and with these he betook himself straight to the kingdom which his sweetheart had told him of. He got his money buried in a lonely spot close to the king's palace, and then went in there and asked to be taken into service. He obtained his request, and was taken on as stableman, to tend the king's horses.
Some time passed, and he noticed how the king always went about sorrowing and grieving, and was never glad or happy. One day the king came into the stable, where there was no one present except the youth, who said straight out to him that, with his majesty's permission, he wished to ask him why he was so sorrowful.'It's of no use speaking about that,' said the king; 'you cannot help me, at any rate.' 'You don't know about that,' said the youth; ' I know well enough what it is that lies so heavy on your mind, and I know also of a plan to get the money paid.'
This was quite another case, and the king had more talk with the stableman, who said that he could easily lend the king the six bushels of money, but would only do it on condition that he should be allowed to accompany the king when he went to pay the debt, and that he should then be dressed like the king's court fool, and run before him. He would cause some trouble, for which the king would be severely spoken to, but he would answer for it that no harm would befall him.The king gladly agreed to all that the youth proposed, and it was now high time for them to set out.
When they came to the troll's dwelling it was no longer in the bank, but on the top of this there stood a large castle which the youth had never seen before. The troll could, in fact, make it visible or invisible, just as he pleased, and, knowing as much as he did of the troll's magic arts, the youth was not at all surprised at this.
When they came near to this castle, which looked as if it was of pure glass, the youth ran on in front as the king's fool. Heran sometimes facing forwards, sometimes backwards, stood sometimes on his head, and sometimes on his feet, and he dashed in pieces so many of the troll's big glass windows and doors that it was something awful to see, and overturned everything he could, and made a fearful disturbance.
The troll came rushing out, and was so angry and furious, and abused the king with all his might for bringing such a wretched fool with him, as he was sure that he could not pay the least bit of all the damage that had been done when he could not even pay off his old debt.
The fool, however, spoke up, and said that he could do so quite easily, and the king then came forward with the six bushels of money which the youth had lent him. They were measured and found to be correct. This the troll had not reckoned on, but he could make no objection against it. The old debt was honestly paid, and the king got his bond back again.
But there still remained all the damage that had been done that day, and the king had nothing with which to pay for this. The troll, therefore, sentenced the king, either to answer three questions that he would put to him, or have his head taken off, as was agreed on in the old bond.
There was nothing else to be done than to try to answer the troll's riddles. The fool then stationed himself just by the king's side while the troll came forward with his questions. He first asked, 'Where is my daughter?'The fool spoke up and said, 'She is at the bottom of the sea.' 'How do you know that?' said the troll. 'The little fish saw it,' said the fool. 'Would you know her?' said the troll. 'Yes, bring her forward,' said the fool.
The troll made a whole crowd of women go past them, one after the other, but all these were nothing but shadows and deceptions. Amongst the very last was the troll's real daughter, who pinched the fool as she went past him to make him aware of her presence. He thereupon caught her round the waist and held her fast, and the troll had to admit that his first riddle was solved.Then the troll asked again: 'Where is my heart?' 'It is in a fish,' said the fool. 'Would you know that fish?' said the troll. 'Yes, bring it forward,' said the fool.
Then all the fishes came swimming past them, and meanwhile the troll's daughter stood just by the youth's side. When at last the right fish came swimming along she gave him a nudge, and he seized it at once, drove his knife into it, and split it up, took the heart out of it, and cut it through the middle.
At the same moment the troll fell dead and turned into pieces of flint. With that a,ll the bonds that the troll had bound were broken; all the wild beasts and birds which he had caught and hid under the ground were free now, and dispersed themselves in the woods and in the air.
The youth and his sweetheart entered the castle, which was now theirs, and held their wedding; and all the kings roundabout, who had been in the troll's debt, and were now out of it, came to the wedding, and saluted the youth as their emperor, and he ruled over them all, and kept peace between them, and lived in his castle with his beautiful empress in great joy and magnificence. And if they have not died since they are living there to this day.[From the Danish.]
Esben and the Witch
There was once a man who had twelve sons: the eleven eldest were both big and strong, but the twelfth, whose name was Esben, was only a little fellow. The eleven eldest went out with their father to field and forest, but Esben preferred to stay at home with his mother, and so he was never reckoned at all by the rest, but was a sort of outcast among them.
When the eleven had grown up to be men they decided to go out into the world to try their fortune, and they plagued their father to give them what they required for the journey. The father was not much in favour of this, for he was now old and weak, and could not well spare them from helping him with his work, but in the long run he had to give in. Each one of the eleven got a fine white horse and money for the journey, and so they said farewell to their father and their home, and rode away.As for Esben, no one had ever thought about him; his brothers had not even said farewell to him. After the eleven were gone Esben went to his father and said, 'Father, give me also a horse and money; I should also like to see round about me in the world.' 'You are a little fool,' said his father. 'If I could have let you go, and kept your eleven brothers at home, it would have been better for me in my old age.' 'Well, you will soon be rid of me at any rate,' said Esben.
As he could get no other horse, he went into the forest, broke off a branch, stripped the bark off it, so that it became still whiter than his brothers' horses, and, mounted on this. rode off after his eleven brothers.
The brothers rode on the whole day, and towards evening they came to a great forest, which they entered. Far within the wood they came to a little house, and knocked at the door. There came an old, ugly, bearded hag, and opened it, and they asked her whether all of them could get quarters for the night.'Yes,' said the old, bearded hag, 'you shall all have quarters for the night, and, in addition, each of you shall have one of my daughters.' The eleven brothers thought that they had come to very hospitable people. They were well attended to, and when they went to bed, each of them got one of the hag's daughters.
Esben had been coming along behind them, and had followed the same way, and had also found the same house in the forest. He slipped into this, without either the witch or her daughters noticing him, and hid himself under one of the beds. A little before midnight he crept quietly out and wakened his brothers. He told these to change night-caps with the witch's daughters. The brothers saw no reason for this, but, to get rid of Esben's persistence, they made the exchange, and slept soundly again.
When midnight came Esben heard the old witch come creeping along. She had a broadbladed axe in her hand, and went over all the eleven beds. It was so dark that she could not see a hand's breadth before her, but she felt her way, and hacked the heads off all the sleepers who had the men's night-caps on--and these were her own daughters. As soon as she had gone her way Esben wakened his brothers, and they hastily took their horses and rode off from the witch's house, glad that they had escaped so well. They quite forgot to thank Esben for what he had done for them.
When they had ridden onwards for some time they reached a king's palace, and inquired there whether they could be taken into service. Quite easily, they were told, if they would be stablemen, otherwise the king had no use for them. They were quite ready for this, and got the task of looking after all the king's horses.
Long after them came Esben riding on his stick, and he also wanted to get a place in the palace, but no one had any use for him, and he was told that he could just go back the way he had come. However, he stayed there and occupied himself as best he could. He got his food, but nothing more, and by night he lay just where he could.
At this time there was in the palace a knight who was called Sir Red. He was very well liked by the king, but hated by everyone else, for he was wicked both in will and deed. This Sir Red became angry with the eleven brothers, because they would not always stand at attention for him, so he determined to avenge himself on them.
One day, therefore, he went to the king, and said that the eleven brothers who had come to the palace a little while ago, and served as stablemen, could do a great deal more than they pretended. One day he had heard them say that if they liked they could get for the king a wonderful dove which had a feather of gold and a feather of silver time about. But they would not procure it unless they were threatened with death.The king then had the eleven brothers called before him, and said to them, 'You have said that you can get me a dove which has feathers of gold and silver time about.' All the eleven assured him that they had never said anything of the kind, and they did not believe that such a dove existed in the whole world. 'Take your own mind of it,' said the king; 'but if you don't get that dove within three days you shall lose your heads, the whole lot of you.' With that the king let them go, and there was great grief among them; some wept and others lamented. At that moment Esben came along, and, seeing their sorrowful looks, said to them, 'Hello, what's the matter with you?' 'What good would it do to tell you, you little fool? You can't help us.' 'Oh, you don't know that,' answered Esben. 'I have helped you before.' In the end they told him how unreasonable the king was, and how he had ordered them to get for him a dove with feathers of gold and silver time about. 'Give me a bag of peas' said Esben, 'and I shall see what I can do for you.' Esben got his bag of peas; then he took his white stick, and said, Fly quick, my little stick, Carry me across the stream.
Straightway the stick carried him across the river and straight into the old witch's courtyard. Esben had noticed that she had such a dove; so when he arrived in the courtyard he shook the peas out of the bag, and the dove came fluttering down to pick them up. Esben caught it at once, put it into the bag, and hurried off before the witch caught sight of him; but the next moment she came running, and shouted after him, ' I Hey is that you, Esben.?''Ye--e--s!' 'Is it you that has taken my dove?' 'Ye--e--s!' 'Was it you that made me kill my eleven daughters?' 'Ye--e--s!' 'Are you coming back again?' 'That may be,' said Esben. 'Then you'll catch it,' shouted the witch.
The stick carried Esben with the dove back to the king's palace, and his brothers were greatly delighted. The king thanked them many times for the dove, and gave them in return both silver and gold. At this Sir Red became still more embittered, and again thought of how to avenge himself on the brothers.
One day he went to the king and told him that the dove was by no means the best thing that the brothers could get for him; for one day he had heard them talking quietly among themselves, and they had said that they could procure a boar whose bristles were of gold and silver time about.
The king again summoned the brothers before him, and asked whether it was true that they had said that they could get for him a boar whose bristles were of gold and silver time about.'No,' said the brothers; they had never said nor thought such a thing, and they did not believe that there was such a boar in the whole world
'You must get me that boar within three days,' said the king, 'or it will cost you your heads.'
With that they had to go. This was still worse than before, they thought. Where could they get such a marvellous boar? They all went about hanging their heads; but when only one day remained of the three Esben came along. When he saw his brothers' sorrowful looks he cried, 'Hallo, what's the matter now?'
Off went the stick with him, and very soon he was again in the witch's courtyard. There he emptied out the malt, and next moment came the boar, which had every second bristle of gold and of silver. Esben at once put it into his sack and hurried off before the witch should catch sight of him; but the next moment she came running, and shouted after him, 'Hey! is that you, Esben?''Ye--e--s!' 'Is it you that has taken my pretty boar?' 'Ye--e--s!' 'It was also you that took my dove?' 'Ye--e--s!' 'And it was you that made me kill my eleven daughters?' 'Ye--e--s!' 'Are you coming back again?' 'That may be,' said Esben. 'Then you'll catch it,' said the witch.
Esben was soon back at the palace with the boar, and his brothers scarcely knew which leg to stand on, so rejoiced were they that they were safe again. Not one of them, however, ever thought of thanking Esben for what he had done for them. The king was still more rejoiced over the boar than he had been over the dove, and did not know what to give the brothers for it. At this Sir Red was again possessed with anger and envy, and again he went about and planned how to get the brothers into trouble.
One day he went again to the king and said, 'These eleven brothers have now procured the dove and the boar, but they can do much more than that; I know they have said that if they liked they could get for the king a lamp that can shine over seven kingdoms.''If they have said that,' said the king, 'they shall also be made to bring it to me. That would be a glorious lamp for me.'
Again the king sent a message to the brothers to come up to the palace. They went accordingly, although very unwillingly, for they suspected that Sir Red had fallen on some new plan to bring them into trouble.As soon as they came before the king he said to them,
'You brothers have said that you could, if you liked, get for me a lamp that can shine over seven kingdoms. That lamp must be mine within three days, or it will cost you your lives.'The brothers assured him that they had never said so, and they were sure that no such lamp existed, but their words were of no avail. 'The lamp!' said the king, 'or it will cost you your heads.'
The brothers were now in greater despair than ever. They did not know what to do, for such a lamp no one had ever heard of. But just as things looked their worst along came Esben.'Something wrong again?' said he. 'What's the matter with you now?' 'Oh, it's no use telling you,' said they. 'You can't help us, at any rate.' 'Oh, you might at least tell me,' said Esben; 'I have helped you before.' In the end they told him that the king had ordered them to bring him a lamp which could shine over seven kingdoms, but such a lamp no one had ever heard tell of. 'Give me a bushel of salt,' said Esben, 'and we shall see how matters go.' He got his bushel of salt, and then mounted his little white stick, and said, Fly quick, my little stick, Carry me across the stream.
With that both he and his bushel of salt were over beside the witch's courtyard. But now matters were less easy, for he could not get inside the yard, as it was evening and the gate was locked. Finally he hit upon a plan; he got up on the roof and crept down the chimney. He searched all round for the lamp, but could find it nowhere, for the witch always had it safely guarded, as it was one of her most precious treasures. When he became tired of searching for it he crept into the baking- oven, intending to lie down there and sleep till morning; but just at that moment he heard the witch calling from her bed to one of her daughters, and telling her to make some porridge for her. She had grown hungry, and had taken such a fancy to some porridge. The daughter got out of bed, kindled the fire, and put on a pot with water in it.'You mustn't put any salt in the porridge, though,' cried the witch.
'No, neither will I,' said the daughter; but while she was away getting the meal Esben slipped out of the oven and emptied the whole bushel of salt into the pot. The daughter came back then and put in the meal, and after it had boiled a little she took it in to her mother. The witch took a spoonful and tasted it.'Uh!' said she; 'didn't I tell you not to put any salt in it, and it's just as salt as the sea.'
So the daughter had to go and make new porridge, and her mother warned her strictly not to put any salt in it. But now there was no water in the house, so she asked her mother to give her the lamp, so that she could go to the well for more.'There you have it, then,' said the witch; 'but take good care of it.'
The daughter took the lamp which shone over seven kingdoms, and went out to the well for water, while Esben slipped out after her. When she was going to draw the water from the well she set the lamp down on a stone beside her. Esben watched his chance, seized the lamp, and gave her a push from behind, so that she plumped head first into the well. Then he made off with the lamp. But the witch got out of her bed and ran after him, crying:'Hey! is that you again, Esben?' 'Ye--e--s!' 'Was it you that took my dove?' 'Ye--e--s!' 'Was it also you that took my boar?' 'Ye--e--s!' 'And it was you that made me kill my eleven daughters?' 'Ye--e--s!' 'And now you have taken my lamp, and drowned my twelfth daughter in the well?' 'Ye--e--s!' 'Are you coming back again?' 'That may be,' said Esben. 'Then you'll catch it,' said the witch.
It was only a minute before the stick had again landed Esben at the king's palace, and the brothers were then freed from their distress. The king gave them many fine presents, but Esben did not get even so much as thanks from them.Never had Sir Red been so eaten up with envy as he was now, and he racked his brain day and night to find something quite impossible to demand from the brothers.
One day he went to the king and told him that the lamp the brothers had procured was good enough, but they could still get for him something that was far better. The king asked what that was.
'It is,' said Sir Red, 'the most beautiful coverlet that any mortal ever heard tell of. It also has the property that, when anyone touches it, it sounds so that it can be heard over eight kingdoms.''That must be a splendid coverlet,' said the king, and he at once sent for the brothers.
'You have said that you know of a coverlet, the most beautiful in the whole world, and which sounds over eight kingdoms when anyone touches it. You shall procure it for me, or else lose your lives,' said he.
The brothers answered him that they had never said a word about such a coverlet, did not believe it existed, and that it was quite impossible for them to procure it. But the king would not hear a word; he drove them away, telling them that if they did not get it very soon it would cost them their heads.
Things looked very black again for the brothers, for they were sure there was no escape for them. The youngest of them, indeed, asked where Esben was, but the others said that that little fool could scarcely keep himself in clothes, and it was not to be expected that he could help them. Not one of them thought it worth while to look for Esben, but he soon came along of himself.'Well, what's the matter now?' said he. 'Oh, what's the use of telling you?' said the brothers. 'You can't help us, at any rate.' 'Ah! who knows that?' said Esben. 'I have helped you before.'
In the end the brothers told him about the coverlet which, when one touched it, sounded so that it could be heard over eight kingdoms. Esben thought that this was the worst errand that he had had yet, but he could not do worse than fail, and so he would make the attempt.He again took his little white stick, set himself on it, and said, Fly quick, my little stick, Carry me across the stream.
Next moment he was across the river and beside the witch's house. It was evening, and the door was locked, but he knew the way down the chimney. When he had got into the house, however, the worst yet remained to do, for the coverlet was on the bed in which the witch lay and slept. He slipped into the room without either she or her daughter wakening; but as soon as he touched the coverlet to take it it sounded so that it could be heard over eight kingdoms. The witch awoke, sprang out of bed, and caught hold of Esben. He struggled with her, but could not free himself, and the witch called to her daughter, 'Come and help me; we shall put him into the little dark room to be fattened. Ho, ho! now I have him!'
Esben was now put into a little dark hole, where he neither saw sun nor moon, and there he was fed on sweet milk and nut-kernels. The daughter had enough to do cracking nuts for him, and at the end of fourteen days she had only one tooth left in her mouth; she had broken all the rest with the nuts. In this time however, she had taken a liking to Esben, and would willingly have set him free, but could not.
When some time had passed the witch told her daughter to go and cut a finger off Esben, so that she could see whether he was nearly fat enough yet. The daughter went and told Esben, and asked him what she should do. Esben told her to take an iron nail and wrap a piece of skin round it: she could then give her mother this to bite at.The daughter did so, but when the witch bit it she cried, 'Uh! no, no! This is nothing but skin and bone; he must be fattened much longer yet.'
So Esben was fed for a while longer on sweet milk and nut-kernels, until one day the witch thought that now he must surely be fat enough, and told her daughter again to go and cut a finger off him. By this time Esben was tired of staying in the dark hole, so he told her to go and cut a teat off a cow, and give it to the witch to bite at. This the daughter did, and the witch cried, 'Ah! now he is fat--so fat that one can scarcely feel the bone in him. Now he shall be killed.'
Now this was just the very time that the witch had to go to Troms Church, where all the witches gather once every year, so she had no time to deal with Esben herself. She therefore told her daughter to heat up the big oven while she was away, take Esben out of his prison, and roast him in there before she came back. The daughter promised all this, and the witch went off on her journey.
The daughter then made the oven as hot as could be, and took Esben out of his prison in order to roast him. She brought the oven spade, and told Esben to seat himself on it, so that she could shoot him into the oven. Esben accordingly took his seat on it, but when she had got him to the mouth of the oven he spread his legs out wide, so that she could not get him pushed in.'You mustn't sit like that,' said she.
'How then?' said Esben. 'You must cross your legs,' said the daughter; but Esben could not understand what she meant by this.'Get out of the way,' said she, 'and I will show you how to place yourself.'
She seated herself on the oven spade, but no sooner had she done so than Esben laid hold of it, shot her into the oven, and fastened the door of it. Then he ran and seized the coverlet, but as soon as he did so it sounded so that it could be heard over eight kingdoms, and the witch, who was at Troms Church, came flying home, and shouted, 'Hey! is that you again, Esben ?''Ye--e--s!' 'It was you that made me kill my eleven daughters?' 'Ye--e--s!' 'And took my dove?' 'Ye--e--s!' 'And my beautiful boar?' 'Ye--e--s!' 'And drowned my twelfth daughter in the well, and took my lamp?' 'Ye--e--s!' 'And now you have roasted my thirteenth and last daughter in the oven, and taken my coverlet?' 'YeÄeÄs!' 'Are you coming back again?' 'No, never again,' said Esben. At this the witch became so furious that she sprang into numberless pieces of flint, and from this come all the flint stones that one finds about the country. Esben had found again his little stick, which the witch had taken from him, so he said, Fly quick, my little stick, Carry me across the stream.
Next moment he was back at the king's palace. Here things were in a bad way, for the king had thrown all the eleven brothers into prison, and they were to be executed very shortly because they had not brought him the coverlet. Esben now went up to the king and gave him the coverlet, with which the king was greatly delighted. When he touched it it could be heard over eight kingdoms, and all the other kings sat and were angry because they had not one like it.
Esben also told how everything had happened, and how Sir Red had done the brothers all the ill he could devise because he was envious of them. The brothers were at once set at liberty, while Sir Red, for his wickedness, was hanged on the highest tree that could be found, and so he got the reward he deserved.
Much was made of Esben and his brothers, and these now thanked him for all that he had done for them. The twelve of them received as much gold and silver as they could carry, and betook themselves home to their old father. When he saw again his twelve sons, whom he had never expected to see more, he was so glad that he wept for joy. The brothers told him how much Esben had done, and how he had saved their lives, and from that time forward he was no longer the butt of the rest at home.[From the Danish.]
Once upon a time there lived a young king whose name was Souci, and he had been brought up, ever since he was a baby, by the fairy Inconstancy. Now the fairy Girouette had a kind heart, but she was a very trying person to live with, for she never knew her own mind for two minutes together, and as she was the sole ruler at Court till the prince grew up everything was always at sixes and sevens. At first she determined to follow the old custom of keeping the young king ignorant of the duties he would have to perform some day; then, quite suddenly, she resigned the reins of government into his hands; but, unluckily, it was too late to train him properly for the post. However, the fairy did not think of that, but, carried away by her new ideas, she hastily formed a Council, and named as Prime Minister the excellent 'Ditto,' so called because he had never been known to contradict anybody.
Young Prince Souci had a handsome face, and at the bottom a good deal of common sense; but he had never been taught good manners, and was shy and awkward; and had, besides, never learned how to use his brains.
Under these circumstances it is not surprising that the Council did not get through much work. Indeed, the affairs of the country fell into such disorder that at last the people broke out into open rebellion, and it was only the courage of the king, who continued to play the flute while swords and spears were flashing before the palace gate, that prevented civil war from being declared.
No sooner was the revolt put down than the Council turned their attention to the question of the young king's marriage. Various princesses were proposed to him, and the fairy, who was anxious to get the affair over before she left the Court for ever, gave it as her opinion that the Princess Diaphana would make the most suitable wife. Accordingly envoys were sent to bring back an exact report of the princess's looks and ways, and they returned saying that she was tall and well made, but so very light that the equerries who accompanied her in her walks had to be always watching her, lest she should suddenly be blown away. This had happened so often that her subjects lived in terror of losing her altogether, and tried everything they could think of to keep her to the ground. They even suggested that she should carry weights in her pockets, or have them tied to her ankles; but this idea was given up, as the princess found it so uncomfortable. At length it was decided that she was never to go out in a wind, and in order to make matters surer still the equerries each held the end of a string which was fastened to her waist.
The Council talked over this report for some days, and then the king made up his mind that he would judge for himself, and pretend to be his own ambassador. This plan was by no means new, but it had often succeeded, and, anyhow, they could think of nothing better.
Such a splendid embassy had never before been seen in any country. The kingdom was left in the charge of the Prime Minister, who answered 'Ditto' to everything; but the choice was better than it seemed, for the worthy man was much beloved by the people, as he agreed with all they said, and they left him feeling very pleased with themselves and their own wisdom.
When the king arrived at Diaphana's Court he found a magnificent reception awaiting him, for, though they pretended not to know who he was, secrets like this are never hidden. Now the young king had a great dislike to long ceremonies, so he proposed that his second interview with the princess should take place in the garden. The princess made some difficulties, but, as the weather was lovely and very still, she at last consented to the king's wishes. But no sooner had they finished their first bows and curtseys than a slight breeze sprung up, and began to sway the princess, whose equerries had retired out of respect. The king went forward to steady her, but the wind that he caused only drove her further away from him. He rushed after her exclaiming, 'O princess! are you really running away from me?'
'Good gracious, no!' she replied. 'Run a little quicker and you will be able to stop me, and I shall be for ever grateful. That is what comes of talking in a garden,' she added in disgust; 'as if one wasn't much better in a room that was tightly closed all round.'
The king ran as fast as he could, but the wind ran faster still, and in a moment the princess was whirled to the bottom of the garden, which was bounded by a ditch. She cleared it like a bird, and the king, who was obliged to stop short at the edge, saw the lovely Diaphana flying over the plain, sometimes driven to the right, sometimes to the left, till at last she vanished out of sight.
By this time the whole court were running over the plain, some on foot and some on horseback, all hurrying to the help of their princess, who really was in some danger, for the wind was rising to the force of a gale. The king looked on for a little, and then returned with his attendants to the palace, reflecting all the while on the extreme lightness of his proposed bride and the absurdity of having a wife that rose in the air better than any kite. He thought on the whole that it would be wiser not to wait longer, but to depart at once, and he started on horseback at the very moment when the princess had been found by her followers, wet to the skin, and blown against a rick. Souci met the carriage which was bringing her home, and stopped to congratulate her on her escape, and to advise her to put on dry clothes. Then he continued his journey.
It took a good while for the king to get home again, and he was rather cross at having had so much trouble for nothing. Besides which, his courtiers made fun at his adventure, and he did not like being laughed at, though of course they did not dare to do it before his face. And the end of it was that very soon he started on his travels again, only allowing one equerry to accompany him, and even this attendant he managed to lose the moment he had left his own kingdom behind him.
Now it was the custom in those days for princes and princesses to be brought up by fairies, who loved them as their own children, and did not mind what inconvenience they put other people to for their sakes, for all the world as if they had been real mothers. The fairy Aveline, who lived in a country that touched at one point the kingdom of King Souci, had under her care the lovely Princess Minon-Minette, and had made up her mind to marry her to the young king, who, in spite of his awkward manners, which could be improved, was really very much nicer than most of the young men she was likely to meet.
So Aveline made her preparations accordingly, and began by arranging that the equerry should lose himself in the forest, after which she took away the king's sword and his horse while he lay asleep under a tree. Her reason for this was that she felt persuaded that, finding himself suddenly alone and robbed of everything, the king would hide his real birth, and would have to fall back on his powers of pleasing, like other men, which would be much better for him.
When the king awoke and found that the tree to which he had tied his horse had its lowest branch broken, and that nothing living was in sight, he was much dismayed, and sought high and low for his lost treasure, but all in vain. After a time he began to get hungry, so he decided that he had better try to find his way out of the forest, and perhaps he might have a chance of getting something to eat. He had only gone a few steps when he met Aveline, who had taken the shape of an old woman with a heavy bundle of faggots on her back. She staggered along the path and almost fell at his feet, and Souci, afraid that she might have hurt herself, picked her up and set her on her feet again before passing on his way. But he was not to be let off so easy.'What about my bundle?' cried the old woman. 'Where is your politeness? Really, you seem to have been very nicely brought up! What have they taught you?' 'Taught me? Nothing,' replied he. 'I can well believe it!' she said. 'You don't know even how to pick up a bundle. Oh, you can come near; I am cleverer than you, and know how to pick up a bundle very well.' The king blushed at her words, which he felt had a great deal of truth in them, and took up the bundle meekly. Aveline, delighted at the success of her first experiment, hobbled along after him, chattering all the while, as old women do. 'I wish,' she said, 'that all kings had done as much once in their lives. Then they would know what a lot of trouble it takes to get wood for their fires.' Souci felt this to be true, and was sorry for the old woman. 'Where are we going to?' asked he. 'To the castle of the White Demon; and if you are in want of work I will find you something to do.' 'But I can't do anything,' he said, 'except carry a bundle, and I shan't earn much by that.'
'Oh, you are learning,' replied the old woman, 'and it isn't bad for a first lesson.' But the king was paying very little attention to her, for he was rather cross and very tired. Indeed, he felt that he really could not carry the bundle any further, and was about to lay it down when up came a young maiden more beautiful than the day, and covered with precious stones. She ran to them, exclaiming to the old woman,'Oh, you poor thing! I was just coming after you to see if I could help you.' 'Here is a young man,' replied the old woman, 'who will be quite ready to give you up the bundle. You see he does not look as if he enjoyed carrying it.' 'Will you let me take it, sir?' she asked. But the king felt ashamed of himself, and held on to it tightly, while the presence of the princess put him in a better temper.
So they all travelled together till they arrived at a very ordinary-looking house, which Aveline pointed out as the castle of the White Demon, and told the king that he might put down his bundle in the courtyard. The young man was terribly afraid of being recognised by someone in this strange position, and would have turned on his heel and gone away had it not been for the thought of Minon-Minette. Still, he felt very awkward and lonely, for both the princess and the old woman had entered the castle without taking the slightest notice of the young man, who remained where he was for some time, not quite knowing what he had better do. At length a servant arrived and led him up into a beautiful room filled with people, who were either playing on musical instruments or talking in a lively manner, which astonished the king, who stood silently listening, and not at all pleased at the want of attention paid him.
Matters went on this way for some time. Every day the king fell more and more in love with Minon-Minette, and every day the princess seemed more and more taken up with other people. At last, in despair, the prince sought out the old woman, to try to get some advice from her as to his conduct, or, anyway, to have the pleasure of talking about Minon-Minette.
He found her spinning in an underground chamber, but quite ready to tell him all he wanted to know. In answer to his questions he learned that in order to win the hand of the princess it was not enough to be born a prince, for she would marry nobody who had not proved himself faithful, and had, besides, all those talents and accomplishments which help to make people happy.
For a moment Souci was very much cast down on hearing this, but then he plucked up. 'Tell me what I must do in order to win the heart of the princess, and no matter how hard it is I will do it. And show me how I can repay you for your kindness, and you shall have anything I can give you. Shall I bring in your bundle of faggots every day?'
'It is enough that you should have made the offer,' replied the old woman; and she added, holding out a skein of thread, 'Take this; one day you will be thankful for it, and when it becomes useless your difficulties will be past.''Is it the skein of my life?' he asked. 'It is the skein of your love's ill-luck,' she said. And he took it and went away.
Now the fairy Girouette, who had brought up Souci, had an old friend called Grimace, the protectress of Prince Fluet. Grimace often talked over the young prince's affairs with Girouette, and, when she decided that he was old enough to govern his own kingdom, consulted Girouette as to a suitable wife. Girouette, who never stopped to think or to make inquiries, drew such a delightful picture of Minon-Minette that Grimace determined to spare no pains to bring about the marriage, and accordingly Fluet was presented at court. But though the young man was pleasant and handsome, the princess thought him rather womanish in some ways, and displayed her opinion so openly as to draw upon herself and Aveline the anger of the fairy, who declared that Minon-Minette should never know happiness till she had found a bridge without an arch and a bird without feathers. So saying, she also went away.
Before the king set out afresh on his travels Aveline had restored to him his horse and his sword, and though these were but small consolation for the absence of the princess, they were better than nothing, for he felt that somehow they might be the means of leading him back to her.
After crossing several deserts the king arrived at length in a country that seemed inhabited, but the instant he stepped over the border he was seized and flung into chains, and dragged at once to the capital. He asked his guards why he was treated like this, but the only answer he got was that he was in the territory of the Iron King, for in those days countries had no names of their own, but were called after their rulers.
The young man was led into the presence of the Iron King, who was seated on a black throne in a hall also hung with black, as a token of mourning for all the relations whom he had put to death.'What are you doing in my country?' he cried fiercely. 'I came here by accident,' replied Souci, 'and if I ever escape from your clutches I will take warning by you and treat my subjects differently.' 'Do you dare to insult me in my own court?' cried the king. 'Away with him to Little Ease!'
Now Little Ease was an iron cage hung by four thick chains in the middle of a great vaulted hall, and the prisoner inside could neither sit, nor stand, nor lie; and, besides that, he was made to suffer by turns unbearable heat and cold, while a hundred heavy bolts kept everything safe. Girouette, whose business it was to see after Souci, had forgotten his existence in the excitement of some new idea, and he would not have been alive long to trouble anybody if Aveline had not come to the rescue and whispered in his ear, 'And the skein of thread?' He took it up obediently, though he did not see how it would help him but he tied it round one of the iron bars of his cage, which seemed the only thing he could do, and gave a pull. To his surprise the bar gave way at once, and he found he could break it into a thousand pieces. After this it did not take him long to get out of his cage, or to treat the closely barred windows of the hall in the same manner. But even after he had done all this freedom appeared as far from him as ever, for between him and the open country was a high wall, and so smooth that not even a monkey could climb it. Then Souci's heart died within him. He saw nothing for it but to submit to some horrible death, but he determined that the Iron King should not profit more than he could help, and flung his precious thread into the air, saying, as he did so, 'O fairy, my misfortunes are greater than your power. I am grateful for your goodwill, but take back your gift!' The fairy had pity on his youth and want of faith, and took care that one end of the thread remained in his hand. He suddenly felt a jerk, and saw that the thread must have caught on something, and this thought filled him with the daring that is born of despair. 'Better,' he said to himself, 'trust to a thread than to the mercies of a king;' and, gliding down, he found himself safe on the other side of the wall. Then he rolled up the thread and put it carefully into his pocket, breathing silent thanks to the fairy.
Now Minon-Minette had been kept informed by Aveline of the prince's adventures, and when she heard of the way in which he had been treated by the Iron King she became furious, and began to prepare for war. She made her plans with all the secrecy she could, but when great armies are collected people are apt to suspect a storm is brewing, and of course it is very difficult to keep anything hidden from fairy godmothers. Anyway, Grimace soon heard of it, and as she had never forgiven Minon-Minette for refusing Prince Fluet, she felt that here was her chance of revenge.
Up to this time Aveline had been able to put a stop to many of Grimace's spiteful tricks, and to keep guard over Minon-Minette, but she had no power over anything that happened at a distance; and when the princess declared her intention of putting herself at the head of her army, and began to train herself to bear fatigue by hunting daily, the fairy entreated her to be careful never to cross the borders of her dominions without Aveline to protect her. The princess at once gave her promise, and all went well for some days. Unluckily one morning, as Minon-Minette was cantering slowly on her beautiful white horse, thinking a great deal about Souci and not at all of the boundaries of her kingdom (of which, indeed, she was very ignorant), she suddenly found herself in front of a house made entirely of dead leaves, which somehow brought all sorts of unpleasant things into her head. She remembered Aveline's warning, and tried to turn her horse, but it stood as still as if it had been marble. Then the princess felt that she was slowly, and against her will, being dragged to the ground. She shrieked, and clung tightly to the saddle, but it was all in vain; she longed to fly, but something outside herself proved too strong for her, and she was forced to take the path that led to the House of Dead Leaves.
Scarcely had her feet touched the threshold than Grimace appeared. 'So here you are at last, Minon-Minette! I have been watching for you a long time, and my trap was ready for you from the beginning. Come here, my darling! I will teach you to make war on my friends! Things won't turn out exactly as you fancied. What you have got to do now is to go on your knees to the king and crave his pardon, and before he consents to a peace you will have to implore him to grant you the favour of becoming his wife. Meanwhile you will have to be my servant.'
From that day the poor princess was put to the hardest and dirtiest work, and each morning something more disagreeable seemed to await her. Besides which, she had no food but a little black bread, and no bed but a little straw. Out of pure spite she was sent in the heat of the day to look after the geese, and would most likely have got a sunstroke if she had not happened to pick up in the fields a large fan, with which she sheltered her face. To be sure, a fan seems rather an odd possession for a goose girl, but the princess did not think of that, and she forgot all her troubles when, on opening the fan to use it as a parasol, out tumbled a letter from her lover. Then she felt sure that the fairy had not forgotten her, and took heart.
When Grimace saw that Minon-Minette still managed to look as white as snow, instead of being burnt as brown as a berry, she wondered what could have happened, and began to watch her closely. The following day, when the sun was at its highest and hottest, she noticed her draw a fan from the folds of her dress and hold it before her eyes. The fairy, in a rage, tried to snatch it from her, but the princess would not let it go. 'Give me that fan at once!' cried Grimace.
'Never while I live!' answered the princess, and, not knowing where it would be safest, placed it under her feet. In an instant she felt herself rising from the ground, with the fan always beneath her, and while Grimace was too much blinded by her fury to notice what was going on the princess was quickly soaring out of her reach.
All this time Souci had been wandering through the world with his precious thread carefully fastened round him, seeking every possible and impossible place where his beloved princess might chance to be. But though he sometimes found traces of her, or even messages scratched on a rock, or cut in the bark of a tree, she herself was nowhere to be found. 'If she is not on the earth,' said Souci to himself, 'perhaps she is hiding somewhere in the air. It is there that I shall find her.' So, by the help of his thread, he tried to mount upwards, but he could go such a little way, and hurt himself dreadfully when he tumbled back to earth again. Still he did not give up, and after many days of efforts and tumbles he found to his great joy that he could go a little higher and stay up a little longer than he had done at first, and by-and-bye he was able to live in the air altogether. But alas! the world of the air seemed as empty of her as the world below, and Souci was beginning to despair, and to think that he must go and search the world that lay in the sea. He was floating sadly along, not paying any heed to where he was going, when he saw in the distance a beautiful, bright sort of bird coming towards him. His heart beat fast--he did not know why--and as they both drew near the voice of the princess exclaimed, 'Behold the bird without feathers and the bridge without an arch!'
So their first meeting took place in the air, but it was none the less happy for that; and the fan grew big enough to hold the king as well as Aveline, who had hastened to give them some good advice. She guided the fan above the spot where the two armies lay encamped before each other ready to give battle. The fight was long and bloody, but in the end the Iron King was obliged to give way and surrender to the princess, who set him to keep King Souci's sheep, first making him swear a solemn oath that he would treat them kindly.
Then the marriage took place, in the presence of Girouette, whom they had the greatest trouble to find, and who was much astonished to discover how much business had been got through in her absence.[Bibliotheque des Fees et aes Genies]
Once, upon a time there was a man and his wife who had two children, a boy and a girl. The wife died, and the man married again. His new wife had an only daughter, who was both ugly and untidy, whereas her stepdaughter was a beautiful girl, and was known as Maiden Bright-eye. Her stepmother was very cruel to her on this account; she had always to do the hardest work, and got very little to eat, and no attention paid to her; but to her own daughter she was all that was good. She was spared from all the hardest of the housework, and had always the prettiest clothes to wear.
Maiden Bright-eye had also to watch the sheep, but of course it would never do to let her go idle and enjoy herself too much at this work, so she had to pull heather while she was out on the moors with them. Her stepmother gave her pancakes to take with her for her dinner, but she had mixed the flour with ashes, and made them just as bad as she could.
The little girl came out on the moor and began to pull heather on the side of a little mound, but next minute a little fellow with a red cap on his head popped up out of the mound and said:'Who's that pulling the roof off my house?' 'Oh, it's me, a poor little girl,' said she; 'my mother sent me out here, and told me to pull heather. If you will be good to me I will give you a bit of my dinner.'
The little fellow was quite willing, and she gave him the biggest share of her pancakes. They were not particularly good, but when one is hungry anything tastes well. After he had got them all eaten he said to her:
'Now, I shall give you three wishes, for you are a very nice little girl; but I will choose the wishes for you. You are beautiful, and much more beautiful shall you be; yes, so lovely that there will not be your like in the world. The next wish shall be that every time you open your mouth a gold coin shall fall out of it, and your voice shall be like the most beautiful music. The third wish shall be that you may be married to the young king, and become the queen of the country. At the same time I shall give you a cap, which you must carefully keep, for it can save you, if you ever are in danger of your life, if you just put it on your head.
Maiden Bright-eye thanked the little bergman ever so often, and drove home her sheep in the evening. By that time she had grown so beautiful that her people could scarcely recognise her. Her stepmother asked her how it had come about that she had grown so beautiful. She told the whole story--for she always told the truth--that a little man had come to her out on the moor and had given her all this beauty. She did not tell, however, that she had given him a share of her dinner.
The stepmother thought to herself, 'If one can become so beautiful by going out there, my own daughter shall also be sent, for she can well stand being made a little prettier.' Next morning she baked for her the finest cakes, and dressed her prettily to go out with the sheep. But she was afraid to go away there without having a stick to defend herself with if anything should come near her.
She was not very much inclined for pulling the heather, as she never was in the habit of doing any work, but she was only a minute or so at it when up came the same little fellow with the red cap, and said:'Who's that pulling the roof off my house?' 'What's that to you?' said she. 'Well, if you will give me a bit of your dinner I won't do you any mischief,' said he.
'I will give you something else in place of my dinner,' said she. 'I can easily eat it myself; but if you will have something you can have a whack of my stick,' and with that she raised it in the air and struck the bergman over the head with it.
'What a wicked little girl you are!' said he; 'but you shall be none the better of this. I shall give you three wishes, and choose them for you. First, I shall say, "Ugly are you, but you shall become so ugly that there will not be an uglier one on earth." Next I shall wish that every time you open your mouth a big toad may fall out of it, and your voice shall be like the roaring of a bull. In the third place I shall wish for you a violent death.'
The girl went home in the evening, and when her mother saw her she was as vexed as she could be, and with good reason, too; but it was still worse when she saw the toads fall out of her mouth and heard her voice.
Now we must hear something about the stepson. He had gone out into the world to look about him, and took service in the king's palace. About this time he got permission to go home and see his sister, and when he saw how lovely and beautiful she was, he was so pleased and delighted that when he came back to the king's palace everyone there wanted to know what he was always so happy about. He told them that it was because he had such a lovely sister at home.
At last it came to the ears of the king what the brother said about his sister, and, besides that, the report of her beauty spread far and wide, so that the youth was summoned before the king, who asked him if everything was true that was told about the girl. He said it was quite true, for he had seen her beauty with his own eyes, and had heard with his own ears how sweetly she could sing and what a lovely voice she had.
The king then took a great desire for her, and ordered her brother to go home and bring her back with him, for he trusted no one better to accomplish that errand. He got a ship, and everything else that he required, and sailed home for his sister. As soon as the stepmother heard what his errand was she at once said to herself, 'This will never come about if I can do anything to hinder it. She must not be allowed to come to such honour.'
She then got a dress made for her own daughter, like the finest robe for a queen, and she had a mask prepared and put upon her face, so that she looked quite pretty, and gave her strict orders not to take it off until the king had promised to wed her.
The brother now set sail with his two sisters, for the stepmother pretended that the ugly one wanted to see the other a bit on her way. But when they got out to sea, and Maiden Bright-eye came up on deck, the sister did as her mother had instructed her--she gave her a push and made her fall into the water. When the brother learned what had happened he was greatly distressed, and did not know what to do. He could not bring himself to tell the truth about what had happened, nor did he expect that the king would believe it. In the long run he decided to hold on his way, and let things go as they liked. What he had expected happened-- the king received his sister and wedded her at once, but repented it after the first night, as he could scarcely put down his foot in the morning for all the toads that were about the room, and when he saw her real face he was so enraged against the brother that he had him thrown into a pit full of serpents. He was so angry, not merely because he had been deceived, but because he could not get rid of the ugly wretch that was now tied to him for life.
Now we shall hear a little about Maiden Bright-eye When she fell into the water she was fortunate enough to get the bergman's cap put on her head, for now she was in danger of her life, and she was at once transformed into a duck. The duck swam away after the ship, and came to the king's palace on the next evening. There it waddled up the drain, and so into the kitchen, where her little dog lay on the hearth-stone; it could not bear to stay in the fine chambers along with the ugly sister, and had taken refuge down here. The duck hopped up till it could talk to the dog.'Good evening,' it said. 'Thanks, Maiden Bright-eye,' said the dog. 'Where is my brother?' 'He is in the serpent-pit.' 'Where is my wicked sister?' 'She is with the noble king.' 'Alas! alas! I am here this evening, and shall be for two evenings yet, and then I shall never come again.'
When it had said this the duck waddled off again. Several of the servant girls heard the conversation, and were greatly surprised at it, and thought that it would be worth while to catch the bird next evening and see into the matter a little more closely. They had heard it say that it would come again.Next evening it appeared as it had said, and a great many were present to see it. It came waddling in by the drain, and went up to the dog, which was lying on the hearth-stone. 'Good evening,' it said. 'Thanks, Maiden Bright-eye,' said the dog. 'Where is my brother?' 'He is in the serpent-pit.' 'Where is my wicked sister?' 'She is with the noble king.' 'Alas! alas! I am here this evening, and shall be for one evening yet, and then I shall never come again.' After this it slipped out, and no one could get hold of it. But the king's cook thought to himself, 'I shall see if I can't get hold of you to-morrow evening.' On the third evening the duck again came waddling in by the drain, and up to the dog on the hearth-stone. 'Good evening,' it said. 'Thanks, Maiden Bright-eye,' said the dog. 'Where is my brother?' 'He is in the serpent-pit.' 'Where is my wicked sister?' 'She is with the noble king.' 'Alas! alas! now I shall never come again.'
With this it slipped out again, but in the meantime the cook had posted himself at the outer end of the drain with a net, which he threw over it as it came out. In this way he caught it, and came in to the others with the most beautiful duck they had ever seen- with so many golden feathers on it that everyone marvelled. No one, however, knew what was to be done with it; but after what they had heard they knew that there was something uncommon about it, so they took good care of it.
At this time the brother in the serpent-pit dreamed that his right sister had come swimming to the king's palace in the shape of a duck, and that she could not regain her own form until her beak was cut off. He got this dream told to some one, so that the king at last came to hear of it, and had him taken up out of the pit and brought before him. The king then asked him if he could produce to him his sister as beautiful as he had formerly described her. The brother said he could if they would bring him the duck and a knife.Both of them were brought to him, and he said, 'I wonder how you would look if I were to cut the point off your beak.'
With this he cut a piece off the beak, and there came a voice which said, 'Oh, oh, you cut my little finger!'
Next moment Maiden Bright-eye stood there, as lovely and beautiful as he had seen her when he was home. This was his sister now, he said; and the whole story now came out of how the other had behaved to her. The wicked sister was put into a barrel with spikes round it which was dragged off by six wild horses, and so she came to her end. :But the king was delighted with Maiden Bright-eye, and immediately made her his queen, while her brother became his prime minister.
The Merry Wives
There lay three houses in a row, in one of which there lived a tailor, in another a carpenter, and in the third a smith. All three were married, and their wives were very good friends. They often talked about how stupid their husbands were, but they could never agree as to which of them had the most stupid one; each one stuck up for her own husband, and maintained that it was he.
The three wives went to church together every Sunday, and had a regular good gossip on the way, and when they were coming home from church they always turned into the tavern which lay by the wayside and drank half a pint together. This was at the time when half a pint of brandy cost threepence, so that was just a penny from each of them.But the brandy went up in price, and the taverner said that he must have fourpence for the half-pint. They were greatly annoyed at this, for there were only the three of them to share it, and none of them was willing to pay the extra penny.
As they went home from the church that day they decided to wager with each other as to whose husband was the most stupid, and the one who, on the following Sunday, should be judged to have played her husband the greatest trick should thereafter go free from paying, and each of the two others would give twopence for their Sunday's half-pint.
Next day the tailor's wife said to her husband, 'I have some girls coming to-day to help to card my wool there is a great deal to do, and we must be very busy. I am so annoyed that our watchdog is dead, for in the evening the young fellows will come about to get fun with the girls, and they will get nothing done. If we had only had a fierce watchdog he would have kept them away.''Yes,' said the man, 'that would have been a good thing.' 'Listen, good man,' said the wife, 'you must just be the watchdog yourself, and scare the fellows away from the house.' The husband was not very sure about this, although otherwise he was always ready to give in to her. 'Oh yes, you will see it will work all right,' said the wife. And so towards evening she got the tailor dressed up in a shaggy fur coat, tied a black woollen cloth round his head, and chained him up beside the dog's kennel.' There he stood and barked and growled at everyone that moved in his neighbourhood. The neighbour wives knew all about this, and were greatly amused at it.
On the day after this the carpenter had been out at work, and came home quite merry; but as soon as he entered the house his wife clapped her hands together and cried, 'My dear, what makes you look like that? You are ill.'
The carpenter knew nothing about being ill; he only thought that he wanted something to eat, so he sat down at the table and began his dinner.
She got her neighbours summoned, and they helped to lay him in the coffin--it was one of those he himself had made; but his wife had bored holes in it to let him get some air. She made a soft bed under him, and put a coverlet over him, and she folded his hands over his breast; but instead of a flower or a psalm-book, she gave him a pint-bottle of brandy in his hands. After he had lain for a little he took a little pull at this, and then another and another, and he thought this did him good, and soon he was sleeping sweetly, and dreaming that he was in heaven.Meanwhile word had gone round the village that the carpenter was dead, and was to be buried next day.
It was now the turn of the smith's wife. Her husband was lying sleeping off the effects of a drinking bout, so she pulled off all his clothes and made him black as coal from head to foot, and then let him sleep till far on in the day.The funeral party had already met at the carpenter's, and marched oft towards the church with the coffin, when the smith's wife came rushing in to her husband. 'Gracious, man,' said she, 'you are lying there yet? You are sleeping too long. You know you are going to the funeral.'
The smith was quite confused; he knew nothing about any funeral. 'It's our neighbour the carpenter,' said his wife, 'who is to be buried to-day. They are already half-way to church with him.''All right,' said the smith, 'make haste to help me on with my black clothes.' 'What nonsense!' said his wife, 'you have them on already. Be off with you now.'
The smith looked down at his person and saw that he was a good deal blacker than he usually was, so he caught up his hat and ran out after the funeral. This was already close to the church, and the smith wanted to take part in carrying the coffin, like a good neighbour. So he ran with all his might, and shouted after them, 'Hey! wait a little; let me get a hold of him!'
The people turned round and saw the black figure coming, and thought it was the devil himself, who wanted to get hold of the carpenter, so they threw down the coffin and took to their heels.
The lid sprang off the coffin with the shock, and the carpenter woke up and looked out. He remembered the whole affair; he knew that he was dead and was going to be buried, and recognising the smith, he said to him, in a low voice, 'My good neighbour, if I hadn't been dead already, I should have laughed myself to death now to see you coming like this to my funeral.'From that time forth the carpenter's wife drank free of expense every Sunday, for the others had to admit that she had fooled her husband the best. [From the Danish]
There once lived a king and a queen who ruled over a very great kingdom. They had large revenues, and lived happily with each other; but, as the years went past, the king's heart became heavy, because the queen had no children. She also sorrowed greatly over it, because, although the king said nothing to her about this trouble, yet she could see that it vexed him that they had no heir to the kingdom; and she wished every day that she might have one.
One day a poor old woman came to the castle and asked to speak with the queen. The royal servants answered that they could not let such a poor beggar-woman go in to their royal mistress. They offered her a penny, and told her to go away. Then the woman desired them to tell the queen that there stood at the palace gate one who would help her secret sorrow. This message was taken to the queen, who gave orders to bring the old woman to her. This was done, and the old woman said to her:'I know your secret sorrow, O queen, and am come to help you in it. You wish to have a son; you shall have two if you follow my instructions.' The queen was greatly surprised that the old woman knew her secret wish so well, and promised to follow her advice.
'You must have a bath set in your room, O queen,' said she, 'and filled with running water. When you have bathed in this you will find. under the bath two red onions. These you must carefully peel and eat, and in time your wish will be fulfilled.'
The queen did as the poor woman told her; and after she had bathed she found the two onions under the bath. They were both alike in size and appearance. When she saw these she knew that the woman had been something more than she seemed to be, and in her delight she ate up one of the onions, skin and all. When she had done so she remembered that the woman had told her to peel them carefully before she ate them. It was now too late for the one of them, but she peeled the other and then ate it too.
In due time it happened as the woman had said; but the first that the queen gave birth to was a hideous lindorm, or serpent. No one saw this but her waiting-woman, who threw it out of the window into the forest beside the castle. The next that came into the world was the most beautiful little prince, and he was shown to the king and queen, who knew nothing about his brother the lindorm.
There was now joy in all the palace and over the whole country on account of the beautiful prince; but no one knew that the queen's first-born was a lindorm, and lay in the wild forest. Time passed with the king, the queen, and the young prince in all happiness and prosperity, until he was twenty years of his age. Then his parents said to him that he should journey to another kingdom and seek for himself a bride, for they were beginning to grow old, and would fain see their son married. before they were laid in their grave. The prince obeyed, had his horses harnessed to his gilded chariot, and set out to woo his bride. But when he came to the first cross-ways there lay a huge and terrible lindorm right across the road, so that his horses had to come to a standstill.
'Where are you driving to? ' asked the lindorm with a hideous voice.
The prince turned home again, and told the king and the queen what he had met at the cross-roads; but they thought that he should try again on the following day, and see whether he could not get past it, so that he might seek a bride in another kingdom.The prince did so, but got no further than the first cross-roads; there lay the lindorm again, who stopped him in the same way as before.
The same thing happened on the third day when the prince tried to get past: the lindorm said, with a threatening voice, that before the prince could get a bride he himself must find a mate.
When the king and queen heard this for the third time they could think of no better plan than to invite the lindorm to the palace, and they should find him a mate. They thought that a lindorm would be quite well satisfied with anyone that they might give him, and so they would get some slave-woman to marry the monster. The lindorm came to the palace and received a bride of this kind, but in the morning she lay torn in pieces. So it happened every time that the king and queen compelled any woman to be his bride.
The report of this soon spread over al1 the country. Now it happened that there was a man who had married a second time, and his wife heard of the lindorm with great delight. Her husband had a daughter by his first wife who was more beautiful than all other maidens, and so gentle and good that she won the heart of all who knew her. His second wife, however, had also a grown-up daughter, who by herself would have been ugly and disagreeable enough, but beside her good and beautiful stepsister seemed still more ugly and wicked, so that all turned from her with loathing.
The stepmother had long been annoyed that her husband's daughter was so much more beautiful than her own, and in her heart she conceived a bitter hatred for her stepdaughter. When she now heard that there was in the king's palace a lindorm which tore in pieces all the women that were married to him, and demanded a beautiful maiden for his bride, she went to the king, and said that her stepdaughter wished to wed the lindorm, so that the country's only prince might travel and seek a bride. At this the king was greatly delighted, and gave orders that the young girl should be brought to the palace.
When the messengers came to fetch her she was terribly frightened, for she knew that it was her wicked stepmother who in this way was aiming at her life. She begged that she might be allowed to spend another night in her father's house. This was granted her, and she went to her mother's grave. There she lamented her hard fate in being given over to the lindorm, and earnestly prayed her mother for counsel. How long she lay there by the grave and wept one cannot tell, but sure it is that she fell asleep and slept until the sun rose. Then she rose up from the grave, quite happy at heart, and began to search about in the fields. There she found three nuts, which she carefully put away in her pocket.'When I come into very great danger I must break one of these,' she said to herself. Then she went home, and set out quite willingly with the king's messengers.
When these arrived at the palace with the beautiful young maiden everyone pitied her fate; but she herself was of good courage, and asked the queen for another bridal chamber than the one the lindorm had had before. She got this, and then she requested them to put a pot full of strong lye on the fire and lay down three new scrubbing brushes. The queen gave orders that everything should be done as she desired; and then the maiden dressed herself in seven clean snow-white shirts, and held her wedding with the lindorm.When they were left alone in the bridal chamber the lindorm, in a threatening voice, ordered her to undress herself. 'Undress yourself first!' said she. 'None of the others bade me do that,' said he in surprise. 'But I bid you,' said she.
Then the lindorm began to writhe, and groan, and breathe heavily; and after a little he had cast his outer skin, which lay on the floor, hideous to behold. Then his bride took off one of her snow-white shirts, and cast it on the lindorm's skin. Again he ordered her to undress, and again she commanded him to do so first. He had to obey, and with groaning and pain cast off one skin after another, and for each skin the maiden threw off one of her shirts, until there lay on the floor seven lindorm skins and six snow-white shirts; the seventh she still had on. The lindorm now lay before her as a formless, slimy mass, which she with all her might began to scrub with the lye and new scrubbing brushes.
When she had nearly worn out the last of these there stood before her the loveliest youth in the world. He thanked her for having saved him from his enchantment, and told her that he was the king and queen's eldest son, and heir to the kingdom. Then he asked her whether she would keep the promise she had made to the lindorm, to share everything with him. To this she was well content to answer 'Yes.'
Each time that the lindorm had held his wedding one of the king's retainers was sent next morning to open the door of the bridal chamber and see whether the bride was alive. This next morning also he peeped in at the door, but what he saw there surprised him so much that he shut the door in a hurry, and hastened to the king and queen, who were waiting for his report. He told them of the wonderful sight he had seen. On the floor lay seven lindorm skins and six snow-white shirts, and beside these three worn-out scrubbing brushes, while in the bed a beautiful youth was lying asleep beside the fair young maiden.
The king and queen marvelled greatly what this could mean; but just then the old woman who was spoken of in the beginning of the story was again brought in to the queen. She reminded her how she had not followed her instructions, but had eaten the first onion with all its skins, on which account her first-born had been a lindorm. The waitingwoman was then summoned, and admitted that she had thrown it out through the window into the forest. The king and queen now sent for their eldest son and his young bride. They took them both in their arms, and asked him to tell about his sorrowful lot during the twenty years he had lived in the forest as a hideous lindorm. This he did, and then his parents had it proclaimed over the whole country that he was their eldest son, and along with his spouse should inherit the country and kingdom after them.
Prince Lindorm and his beautiful wife now lived in joy and prosperity for a time in the palace; and when his father was laid in the grave, not long after this, he obtained the whole kingdom. Soon afterwards his mother also departed from this world.
Now it happened that an enemy declared war against the young king; and, as he foresaw that it would be three years at the least before he could return to his country and his queen, he ordered all his servants who remained at home to guard her most carefully. That they might be able to write to each other in confidence, he had two seal rings made, one for himself and one for his young queen, and issued an order that no one, under pain of death, was to open any letter that was sealed with one of these. Then he took farewell of his queen, and marched out to war.
The queen's wicked stepmother had heard with great grief that her beautiful stepdaughter had prospered so well that she had not only preserved her life, but had even become queen of the country. She now plotted continually how she might destroy her good fortune. While King Lindorm was away at the war the wicked woman came to the queen, and spoke fair to her, saying that she had always foreseen that her stepdaughter was destined to be something great in the world, and that she had on this account secured that she should be the enchanted prince's bride. The queen, who did not imagine that any person could be so deceitful, bade her stepmother welcome, and kept her beside her.
Soon after this the queen had two children, the prettiest boys that anyone could see. When she had written a letter to the king to tell him of this her stepmother asked leave to comb her hair for her, as her own mother used to do. The queen gave her permission, and the stepmother combed her hair until she fell asleep. Then she took the seal ring off her neck, and exchanged the letter for another, in which she had written that the queen had given birth to two whelps.
When the king received. this letter he was greatly distressed, but he remembered how he himself had lived for twenty years as a lindorm, and had been freed from the spell by his young queen. He therefore wrote back to his most trusted retainer that the queen and her two whelps should be taken care of while he was away.
The stepmother, however, took this letter as well, and wrote a new one, in which the king ordered that the queen and the two little princes should be burnt at the stake. This she also sealed with the queen's seal, which was in all respects like the king's.
The retainer was greatly shocked and grieved at the king's orders, for which he could discover no reason; but, as he had not the heart to destroy three innocent beings, he had a great fire kindled, and in this he burned a sheep and two lambs, so as to make people believe that he had carried out the king's commands. The stepmother had made these known to the people, adding that the queen was a wicked sorceress.
The faithful servant, however, told the queen that it was the king's command that during the years he was absent in the war she should keep herself concealed in the castle, so that no one but himself should see her and the little princes.
The queen obeyed, and no one knew but that both she and her children had been burned. But when the time came near for King Lindorm to return home from the war the old retainer grew frightened because he had not obeyed his orders. He therefore went to the queen, and told her everything, at the same time showing her the king's letter containing the command to burn her and the princes. He then begged her to leave the palace before the king returned.
The queen now took her two little sons, and wandered out into the wild forest. They walked all day without ending a human habitation, and became very tired. The queen then caught sight of a man who carried some venison. He seemed very poor and wretched, but the queen was glad to see a human being, and asked him whether he knew where she and her little children could get a house over their heads for the night.
The man answered that he had a little hut in the forest, and that she could rest there; but he also said that he was one who lived entirely apart from men, and owned no more than the hut, a horse, and a dog, and supported himself by hunting.
The queen followed him to the hut and rested there overnight with her children, and when she awoke in the morning the man had already gone out hunting. The queen then began to put the room in order and prepare food, so that when the man came home he found everything neat and tidy, and this seemed to give him some pleasure. He spoke but little, however, and all that he said about himself was that his name was Peter.
Later in the day he rode out into the forest, and the queen thought that he looked very unhappy. While he was away she looked about her in the hut a little more closely, and found a tub full of shirts stained with blood, lying among water. She was surprised at this, but thought that the man would get the blood on his shirt when he was carrying home venison. She washed the shirts, and hung them up to dry, and said nothing to Peter about the matter.
After some time had passed she noticed that every day he came riding home from the forest he took off a blood-stained shirt and put on a clean one. She then saw that it was something else than the blood of the deer that stained his shirts, so one day she took courage and asked him about it.
At first he refused to tell her, but she then related to him her own story, and how she had succeeded in delivering the lindorm. He then told her that he had formerly lived a wild life, and had finally entered into a written contract * with the Evil Spirit. Before this contract had expired he had repented and turned from his evil ways, and withdrawn himself to this solitude. The Evil One had then lost all power to take him, but so long as he had the contract he could compel him to meet him in the forest each day at a certain time, where the evil spirits then scourged him till he bled.
Next day, when the time came for the man to ride into the forest, the queen asked him to stay at home and look after the princes, and she would go to meet the evil spirits in his place. The man was amazed, and said that this would not only cost her her life, but would also bring upon him a greater misfortune than the one he was already under. She bade him be of good courage, looked to see that she had the three nuts which she had found beside her mother's grave, mounted her horse, and rode out into the forest. When she had ridden for some time the evil spirits came forth and said, 'Here comes Peter's horse and Peter's hound; but Peter himself is not with them.'Then at a distance she heard a terrible voice demanding to know what she wanted. 'I have come to get Peter's contract,' said she.
At this there arose a terrible uproar among the evil spirits, and the worst voice among them all said, 'Ride home and tell Peter that when he comes to-morrow he shall get twice as many strokes as usual.'
The queen then took one of her nuts and cracked it, and turned her horse about. At this sparks of fire flew out of all the trees, and the evil spirits howled as if they were being scourged back to their abode.
Next day at the same time the queen again rode out into the forest; but on this occasion the spirits did not dare to come so near her. They would not, however, give up the contract, but threatened both her and the man. Then she cracked her second nut, and all the forest behind her seemed to be in fire and flames, and the evil spirits howled even worse than on the previous day; but the contract they would not give up.
The queen had only one nut left now, but even that she was ready to give up in order to deliver the man. This time she cracked the nut as soon as she came near the place where the spirits appeared, and what then happened to them she could not see, but amid wild screams and howls the contract was handed to her at the end of a long branch. The queen rode happy home to the hut, and happier still was the man, who had been sitting there in great anxiety, for now he was freed from all the power of the evil spirits.
Meanwhile King Lindorm had come home from the war, and the first question he asked when he entered the palace was about the queen and the whelps. The attendants were surprised: they knew of no whelps. The queen had had two beautiful princes; but the king had sent orders that all these were to be burned.
The king grew pale with sorrow and anger, and ordered them to summon his trusted retainer, to whom he had sent the instructions that the queen and the whelps were to be carefully looked after. The retainer, however, showed him the letter in which there was written that the queen and her children were to be burned, and everyone then understood that some great treachery had been enacted.
When the king's trusted retainer saw his master's deep sorrow he confessed to him that he had spared the lives of the queen and the princes, and had only burned a sheep and two lambs, and had kept the queen and her children hidden in the palace for three years, but had sent her out into the wild forest just when the king was expected home. When the king heard this his sorrow was lessened, and he said that he would wander out into the forest and search for his wife and children. If he found them he would return to his palace; but if he did not find them he would never see it again, and in that case the faithful retainer who had saved the lives of the queen and the princes should be king in his stead.
The king then went forth alone into the wild forest, and wandered there the whole day without seeing a single human being. So it went with him the second day also, but on the third day he came by roundabout ways to the little hut. He went in there, and asked for leave to rest himself for a little on the bench. The queen and the princes were there, but she was poorly clad and so sorrowful that the king did not recognise her, neither did he think for a moment that the two children, who were dressed only in rough skins, were his own sons.He lay down on the bench, and, tired as he was, he soon fell asleep. The bench was a narrow one, and as he slept his arm fell down and hung by the side of it.
'My son, go and lift your father's arm up on the bench,' said the queen to one of the princes, for she easily knew the king again, although she was afraid to make herself known to him. The boy went and took the king's arm, but, being only a child, he did not lift it up very gently on to the bench.
The king woke at this, thinking at first that he had fallen into a den of robbers, but he decided to keep quiet and pretend that he was asleep until he should find out what kind of folk were in the house. He lay still for a little, and, as no one moved in the room, he again let his arm glide down off the bench. Then he heard a woman's voice say, 'My son, go you and lift your father's arm up on the bench, but don't do it so rough!y as your brother did.' Then he felt a pair of little hands softly clasping his arm; he opened his eyes, and saw his queen and her children.
He sprang up and caught all three in his arms, and afterwards took them, along with the man and his horse and his hound, back to the palace with great joy. The most unbounded rejoicing reigned there then, as well as over the whole kingdom, but the wicked stepmother was burned.King Lindorm lived long and happily with his queen, and there are some who say that if they are not dead now they are still living to this day. [From the Swedish.]
The Jackal, the Dove, and the Panther
There was once a dove who built a nice soft nest as a home for her three little ones. She was very proud of their beauty, and perhaps talked about them to her neighbours more than she need have done, till at last everybody for miles round knew where the three prettiest baby doves in the whole country-side were to be found.
One day a jackal who was prowling about in search of a dinner came by chance to the foot of the rock where the dove's nest was hidden away, and he suddenly bethought himself that if he could get nothing better he might manage to make a mouthful of one of the young doves. So he shouted as loud as he could, 'Ohe, ohe, mother dove.'And the dove replied, trembling with fear, 'What do you want, sir?' 'One of your children,' said he; 'and if you don't throw it to me I will eat up you and the others as well.'
Now, the dove was nearly driven distracted at the jackal's words; but, in order to save the lives of the other two, she did at last throw the little one out of the nest. The jackal ate it up, and went home to sleep.
Meanwhile the mother dove sat on the edge of her nest, crying bitterly, when a heron, who was flying slowly past the rock, was filled with pity for her, and stopped to ask, 'What is the matter, you poor dove?'And the dove answered, 'A jackal came by, and asked me to give him one of my little ones, and said that if I refused he would jump on my nest and eat us all up.'
But the heron replied, 'You should not have believed him. He could never have jumped so high. He only deceived you because he wanted something for supper.' And with these words the heron flew off.
He had hardly got out of sight when again the jackal came creeping slowly round the foot of the rock. And when he saw the dove he cried out a second time, 'Ohe, ohe, mother dove! give me one of your little ones, or I will jump on your nest and eat you all up.'
This time the dove knew better, and she answered boldly, 'Indeed, I shall do nothing of the sort,' though her heart beat wildly with fear when she saw the jackal preparing for a spring.
However, he only cut himself against the rock, and thought he had better stick to threats, so he started again with his old cry, 'Mother dove, mother dove! be quick and give me one of your little ones, or I will eat you all up.'But the mother dove only answered as before, 'Indeed, I shall do nothing of the sort, for I know we are safely out of your reach.' The jackal felt it was quite hopeless to get what he wanted, and asked, 'Tell me, mother dove, how have you suddenly become so wise ?' 'It was the heron who told me,' replied she. 'And which way did he go?' said the jackal. 'Down there among the reeds. You can see him if you look,' said the dove.
Then the jackal nodded good-bye, and went quickly after the heron. He soon came up to the great bird, who was standing on a stone on the edge of the river watching for a nice fat fish. 'Tell me, heron,' said he, 'when the wind blows from that quarter, to which side do you turn?''And which side do you turn to?' asked the heron. The jackal answered, 'I always turn to this side.' 'Then that is the side I turn to,' remarked the heron. 'And when the rain comes from that quarter, which side do you turn to?' And the heron replied, 'And which side do you turn to?' 'Oh, I always turn to this side,' said the jackal. 'Then that is the side I turn to,' said the heron. 'And when the rain comes straight down, what do you do?' 'What do you do yourself?' asked the heron. 'I do this,' answered the jackal. 'I cover my head with my paws.' 'Then that is what I do,' said the heron. 'I cover my head with my wings,' and as he spoke he lifted his large wings and spread them completely over his head. With one bound the jackal had seized him by the neck, and began to shake him. 'Oh, have pity, have pity!' cried the heron. 'I never did you any harm.' 'You told the dove how to get the better of me, and I am going to eat you for it.' 'But if you will let me go,' entreated the heron, 'I will show you the place where the panther has her lair.'
'Then you had better be quick about it,' said the jackal, holding tight on to the heron until he had pointed out the panther's den. 'Now you may go, my friend, for there is plenty of food here for me.'
So the jackal came up to the panther, and asked politely, 'Panther, would you like me to look after your children while you are out hunting?'
'I should be very much obliged,' said the panther; 'but be sure you take care of them. They always cry all the time that I am away.'
So saying she trotted off, and the jackal marched into the cave, where he found ten little panthers, and instantly ate one up. By-and-bye the panther returned from hunting, and said to him, 'Jackal, bring out my little ones for their supper.'
The jackal fetched them out one by one till he had brought out nine, and he took the last one and brought it out again, so the whole ten seemed to be there, and the panther was quite satisfied.
Next day she went again to the chase, and the jackal ate up another little panther, so now there were only eight. In the evening, when she came back, the panther said, 'Jackal, bring out my little ones!'And the jackal brought out first one and then another, and the last one he brought out three times, so that the whole ten seemed to be there.
The following day the same thing happened, and the next and the next and the next, till at length there was not even one left, and the rest of the day the jackal busied himself with digging a large hole at the back of the den.That night, when the panther returned from hunting, she said to him as usual, 'Jackal, bring out my little ones.' But the jackal replied: 'Bring out your little ones, indeed! Why, you know as well as I do that you have eaten them all up.'
Of course the panther had not the least idea what the jackal meant by this, and only repeated, 'Jackal, bring out my children.' As she got no answer she entered the cave, but found no jackal, for he had crawled through the hole he had made and escaped. And, what was worse, she did not find the little ones either.
Now the panther was not going to let the jackal get off like that, and set off at a trot to catch him. The jackal, however, had got a good start, and he reached a place where a swarm of bees deposited their honey in the cleft of a rock. Then he stood still and waited till the panther came up to him: 'Jackal, where are my little ones?' she asked.And the jackal answered: 'They are up there. It is where I keep school.' The panther looked about, and then inquired, 'But where? I see nothing of them.' 'Come a little this way,' said the jackal, 'and you will hear how beautifully they sing.' So the panther drew near the cleft of the rock.
'Don't you hear them?' said the jackal; 'they are in there,' and slipped away while the panther was listening to the song of the children.
She was still standing in the same place when a baboon went by. 'What are you doing there, panther?'
The bees flew out in a huge swarm, and made furiously for the panther, whom they attacked on all sides, while the baboon soon climbed up out of the way, crying, as he perched himself on the branch of a tree, 'I wish you joy of your children!' while from afar the jackal's voice was heard exclaiming: 'Sting, her well! don't let her go!'
The panther galloped away as if she was mad, and flung herself into the nearest lake, but every time she raised her head, the bees stung her afresh so at last the poor beast was drowned altogether.[Contes populaires des Bassoutos. Recueillis et traduits par E. Jacottet. Paris: Leroux, Editeur.
The Little Hare
A long, long way off, in a land where water is very scarce, there lived a man and his wife and several children. One day the wife said to her husband, 'I am pining to have the liver of a nyamatsane for my dinner. If you love me as much as you say you do, you will go out and hunt for a nyamatsane, and will kill it and get its liver. If not, I shall know that your love is not worth having.''Bake some bread,' was all her husband answered, 'then take the crust and put it in this little bag.' The wife did as she was told, and when she had finished she said to her husband, 'The bag is all ready and quite full.' 'Very well,' said he, 'and now good-bye; I am going after the nyamatsane.'
But the nyamatsane was not so easy to find as the woman had hoped. The husband walked on and on and on without ever seeing one, and every now and then he felt so hungry that he was obliged to eat one of the crusts of bread out of his bag. At last, when he was ready to drop from fatigue, he found himself on the edge of a great marsh, which bordered on one side the country of the nyamatsanes. But there were no more nyamatsanes here than anywhere else. They had all gone on a hunting expedition, as their larder was empty, and the only person left at home was their grandmother, who was so feeble she never went out of the house. Our friend looked on this as a great piece of luck, and made haste to kill her before the others returned, and to take out her liver, after which he dressed himself in her skin as well as he could. He had scarcely done this when he heard the noise of the nyamatsanes coming back to their grandmother, for they were very fond of her, and never stayed away from her longer than they could help. They rushed clattering into the hut, exclaiming, 'We smell human flesh! Some man is here,' and began to look about for him; but they only saw their old grandmother, who answered, in a trembling voice, 'No, my children, no! What should any man be doing here?' The nyamatsanes paid no attention to her, and began to open all the cupboards, and peep under all the beds, crying out all the while, 'A man is here! a man is here!' but they could find nobody, and at length, tired out with their long day's hunting, they curled themselves up and fell asleep.
Next morning they woke up quite refreshed, and made ready to start on another expedition; but as they did not feel happy about their grandmother they said to her, 'Grandmother, won't you come to-day and feed with us?' And they led their grandmother outside, and all of them began hungrily to eat pebbles. Our friend pretended to do the same, but in reality he slipped the stones into his pouch, and swallowed the crusts of bread instead. However, as the nyamatsanes did not see this they had no idea that he was not really their grandmother. When they had eaten a great many pebbles they thought they had done enough for that day, and all went home together and curled themselves up to sleep. Next morning when they woke they said, 'Let us go and amuse ourselves by jumping over the ditch,' and every time they cleared it with a bound. Then they begged their grandmother to jump over it too, end with a tremendous effort she managed to spring right over to the other side. After this they had no doubt at all of its being their true grandmother, and went off to their hunting, leaving our friend at home in the hut. As soon as they had gone out of sight our hero made haste to take the liver from the place where he had hid it, threw off the skin of the old nyamatsane, and ran away as hard as he could, only stopping to pick up a very brilliant and polished little stone, which he put in his bag by the side of the liver.
Towards evening the nyamatsanes came back to the hut full of anxiety to know how their grandmother had got on during their absence. The first thing they saw on entering the door was her skin lying on the floor, and then they knew that they had been deceived, and they said to each other, 'So we were right, after all, and it was human flesh we smelt.' Then they stooped down to find traces of the man's footsteps, and when they had got them instantly set out in hot pursuit.
Meanwhile our friend had journeyed many miles, and was beginning to feel quite safe and comfortable, when, happening to look round, he saw in the distance a thick cloud of dust moving rapidly. His heart stood still within him, and he said to himself, 'I am lost. It is the nyamatsanes, and they will tear me in pieces,' and indeed the cloud of dust was drawing near with amazing quickness, and the nyamatsanes almost felt as if they were already devouring him. Then as a last hope the man took the little stone that he had picked up out of his bag and flung it on the ground. The moment it touched the soil it became a huge rock, whose steep sides were smooth as glass, and on the top of it our hero hastily seated himself. It was in vain that the nyamatsanes tried to climb up and reach him; they slid down again much faster than they had gone up; and by sunset they were quite worn out, and fell asleep at the foot of the rock.
No sooner had the nyamatsanes tumbled off to sleep than the man stole softly down and fled away as fast as his legs would carry him, and by the time his enemies were awake he was a very long way off. They sprang quickly to their feet and began to sniff the soil round the rock, in order to discover traces of his footsteps, and they galloped after him with terrific speed. The chase continued for several days and nights; several times the nyamatsanes almost reached him, and each time he was saved by his little pebble.
Between his fright and his hurry he was almost dead of exhaustion when he reached his own village, where the nyamatsanes could not follow him, because of their enemies the dogs, which swarmed over all the roads. So they returned home.Then our friend staggered into his own hut and called to his wife: 'Ichou! how tired I am! Quick, give me something to drink. Then go and get fuel and light a fire.'
So she did what she was bid, and then her husband took the nyamatsane's liver from his pouch and said to her, 'There, I have brought you what you wanted, and now you know that I love you truly.'
And the wife answered, 'It is well. Now go and take out the children, so that I may remain alone in the hut,' and as she spoke she lifted down an old stone pot and put on the liver to cook. Her husband watched her for a moment, and then said, 'Be sure you eat it all yourself. Do not give a scrap to any of the children, but eat every morsel up.' So the woman took the liver and ate it all herself.
Directly the last mouthful had disappeared she was seized with such violent thirst that she caught up a great pot full of water and drank it at a single draught. Then, having no more in the house, she ran in next door and said, 'Neighbour, give me, I pray you, something to drink.' The neighbour gave her a large vessel quite full, and the woman drank it off at a single draught, and held it out for more.But the neighbour pushed her away, saying, 'No, I shall have none left for my children.'
So the woman went into another house, and drank all the water she could find; but the more she drank the more thirsty she became. She wandered in this manner through the whole village till she had drunk every water-pot dry. Then she rushed off to the nearest spring, and swallowed that, and when she had finished all the springs and wells about she drank up first the river and then a lake. But by this time she had drunk so much that she could not rise from the ground.
In the evening, when it was time for the animals to have their drink before going to bed, they found the lake quite dry, and they had to make up their minds to be thirsty till the water flowed again and the streams were full. Even then, for some time, the lake was very dirty, and the lion, as king of the beasts, commanded that no one should drink till it was quite clear again.
But the little hare, who was fond of having his own way, and was very thirsty besides, stole quietly off when all the rest were asleep in their dens, and crept down to the margin of the lake and drank his fill. Then he smeared the dirty water all over the rabbit's face and paws, so that it might look as if it were he who had been disobeying Big Lion's orders.
The next day, as soon as it was light, Big Lion marched straight for the lake, and all the other beasts followed him. He saw at once that the water had been troubled again, and was very angry.
'Who has been drinking my water?' said he; and the little hare gave a jump, and, pointing to the rabbit, he answered, 'Look there! it must be he! Why, there is mud all over his face and paws!'
The rabbit, frightened out of his wits, tried to deny the fact, exclaiming, 'Oh, no, indeed I never did;' but Big Lion would not listen, and commanded them to cane him with a birch rod.
Now the little hare was very much pleased with his cleverness in causing the rabbit to be beaten instead of himself, and went about boasting of it. At last one of the other animals overheard him, and called out, 'Little hare, little hare! what is that you are saying?'But the little hare hastily replied, 'I only asked you to pass me my stick.' An hour or two later, thinking that no one was near him, he said to himself again, 'It was really I who drank up the water, but I made them think it was the rabbit.' But one of the beasts whose ears were longer than the rest caught the words, and went to tell Big Lion about it. Do you hear what the little hare is saying?'
So Big Lion sent for the little hare, and asked him what he meant by talking like that. The little hare saw that there was no use trying to hide it, so he answered pertly, 'It was I who drank the water, but I made them think it was the rabbit.' Then he turned and ran as fast as he could, with all the other beasts pursuing him.
They were almost up to him when he dashed into a very narrow cleft in the rock, much too small for them to follow; but in his hurry he had left one of his long ears sticking out, which they just managed to seize. But pull as hard as they might they could not drag him out of the hole, and at last they gave it up and left him, with his ear very much torn and scratched.
When the last tail was out of sight the little hare crept cautiously out, and the first person he met was the rabbit. He had plenty of impudence, so he put a bold face on the matter, and said, 'Well, my good rabbit, you see I have had a beating as well as you.'
But the rabbit was still sore and sulky, and he did not care to talk, so he answered, coldly, 'You have treated me very badly. It was really you who drank that water, and you accused me of having done it.''Oh, my good rabbit, never mind that! I've got such a wonderful secret to tell you! Do you know what to do so as to escape death?' 'No, I don't.' 'Well, we must begin by digging a hole.' So they dug a hole, and then the little hare said, 'The next thing is to make a fire in the hole,' and they set to work to collect wood, and lit quite a large fire.
When it was burning brightly the little hare said to the rabbit, 'Rabbit, my friend, throw me into the fire, and when you hear my fur crackling, and I call "Itchi, Itchi," then be quick and pull me out.'
The rabbit did as he was told, and threw the little hare into the fire; but no sooner did the little hare begin to feel the heat of the flames than he took some green bay leaves he had plucked for the purpose and held them in the middle of the fire, where they crackled and made a great noise. Then he called loudly 'Itchi, Itchi! Rabbit, my friend, be quick, be quick! Don't you hear how my skin is crackling ?'And the rabbit came in a great hurry and pulled him out.
Then the little hare said, 'Now it is your turn!' and he threw the rabbit in the fire. The moment the rabbit felt the flames he cried out 'Itchi, Itchi, I am burning; pull me out quick, my friend!'
But the little hare only laughed, and said, 'No, you may stay there! It is your own fault. Why were you such a fool as to let yourself be thrown in? Didn't you know that fire burns?' And in a very few minutes nothing was left of the rabbit but a few bones.
When the fire was quite out the little hare went and picked up one of these bones, and made a flute out of it, and sang this song:
Pii, pii, O flute that I love, Pii, pii, rabbits are but little boys. Pii, pii, he would have burned me if he could; Pii, pii, but I burned him, and he crackled finely.
When he got tired of going through the world singing this the little hare went back to his friends and entered the service of Big Lion. One day he said to his master, 'Grandfather, shall I show you a splendid way to kill game?''What is it?' asked Big Lion. 'We must dig a ditch, and then you must lie in it and pretend to be dead.' Big Lion did as he was told, and when he had lain down the little hare got up on a wall blew a trumpet and shouted-- Pii, pii, all you animals come and see, Big Lion is dead, and now peace will be.
Directly they heard this they all came running. The little hare received them and said, 'Pass on, this way to the lion.' So they all entered into the Animal Kingdom. Last of all came the monkey with her baby on her back. She approached the ditch, and took a blade of grass and tickled Big Lion's nose, and his nostrils moved in spite of his efforts to keep them still. Then the monkey cried, 'Come, my baby, climb on my back and let us go. What sort of a dead body is it that can still feel when it is tickled?' And she and her baby went away in a fright. Then the little hare said to the other beasts, 'Now, shut the gate of the Animal Kingdom.' And it was shut, and great stones were rolled against it. When everything was tight closed the little hare turned to Big Lion and said 'Now!' and Big Lion bounded out of the ditch and tore the other animals in pieces.
But Big Lion kept all the choice bits for himself, and only gave away the little scraps that he did not care about eating; and the little hare grew very angry, and determined to have his revenge. He had long ago found out that Big Lion was very easily taken in; so he laid his plans accordingly. He said to him, as if the idea had just come into his head, 'Grandfather, let us build a hut,' and Big Lion consented. And when they had driven the stakes into the ground, and had made the walls of the hut, the little hare told Big Lion to climb upon the top while he stayed inside. When he was ready he called out, 'Now, grandfather, begin,' and Big Lion passed his rod through the reeds with which the roofs are always covered in that country. The little hare took it and cried, 'Now it is my turn to pierce them,' and as he spoke he passed the rod back through the reeds and gave Big Lion's tail a sharp poke.'What is pricking me so?' asked Big Lion.
'Oh, just a little branch sticking out. I am going to break it,' answered the little hare; but of course he had done it on purpose, as he wanted to fix Big Lion's tail so firmly to the hut that he would not be able to move. In a little while he gave another prick, and Big Lion called again, 'What is pricking me so?'
This time the little hare said to himself, 'He will find out what I am at. I must try some other plan. 'So he called out, 'Grandfather, you had better put your tongue here, so that the branches shall not touch you.' Big Lion did as he was bid, and the little hare tied it tightly to the stakes of the wall. Then he went outside and shouted, 'Grandfather, you can come down now,' and Big Lion tried, but he could not move an inch.
Then the little hare began quietly to eat Big Lion's dinner right before his eyes, and paying no attention at all to his growls of rage. When he had quite done he climbed up on the hut, and, blowing his flute, he chanted 'Pii, pii, fall rain and hail,' and directly the sky was full of clouds, the thunder roared, and huge hailstones whitened the roof of the hut. The little hare, who had taken refuge within, called out again, 'Big Lion, be quick and come down and dine with me.' But there was no answer, not even a growl, for the hailstones had killed Big Lion.
The little hare enjoyed himself vastly for some time, living comfortably in the hut, with plenty of food to eat and no trouble at all in getting it. But one day a great wind arose, and flung down the Big Lion's half-dried skin from the roof of the hut. The little hare bounded with terror at the noise, for he thought Big Lion must have come to life again; but on discovering what had happened he set about cleaning the skin, and propped the mouth open with sticks so that he could get through. So, dressed in Big Lion's skin, the little hare started on his travels.
The first visit he paid was to the hyaenas, who trembled at the sight of him, and whispered to each other, 'How shall we escape from this terrible beast?' Meanwhile the little hare did not trouble himself about them, but just asked where the king of the hyaenas lived, and made himself quite at home there. Every morning each hyaena thought to himself, 'To-day he is certain to eat me;' but several days went by, and they were all still alive. At length, one evening, the little hare, looking round for something to amuse him, noticed a great pot full of boiling water, so he strolled up to one of the hyaenas and said, 'Go and get in.' The hyaena dared not disobey, and in a few minutes was scalded to death. Then the little hare went the round of the village, saying to every hyaena he met, 'Go and get into the boiling water,' so that in a little while there was hardly a male left in the village.
One day all the hyaenas that remained alive went out very early into the fields, leaving only one little daughter at home. The little hare, thinking he was all alone, came into the enclosure, and, wishing to feel what it was like to be a hare again, threw off Big Lion's skin, and began to jump and dance, singing--I am just the little hare, the little hare, the little hare; I am just the little hare who killed the great hyaenas.
The little hyaena gazed at him in surprise, saying to herself, 'What! was it really this tiny beast who put to death all our best people?' when suddenly a gust of wind rustled the reeds that surrounded the enclosure, and the little hare, in a fright, hastily sprang back into Big Lion's skin.
When the hyaenas returned to their homes the little hyaena said to her father: 'Father, our tribe has very nearly been swept away, and all this has been the work of a tiny creature dressed in the lion's skin.'But her father answered, 'Oh, my dear child, you don't know what you are talking about.' She replied, 'Yes, father, it is quite true. I saw it with my own eyes.' The father did not know what to think, and told one of his friends, who said, 'To-morrow we had better keep watch ourselves.'
And the next day they hid themselves and waited till the little hare came out of the royal hut. He walked gaily towards the enclosure, threw off, Big Lion's skin, and sang and danced as before--I am just the little hare, the little hare, the little hare, I am just the little hare, who killed the great hyaenas.
That night the two hyaenas told all the rest, saying, 'Do you know that we have allowed ourselves to be trampled on by a wretched creature with nothing of the lion about him but his skin?'
When supper was being cooked that evening, before they all went to bed, the little hare, looking fierce and terrible in Big Lion's skin, said as usual to one of the hyaenas 'Go and get into the boiling water.' But the hyaena never stirred. There was silence for a moment; then a hyaena took a stone, and flung it with all his force against the lion's skin. The little hare jumped out through the mouth with a single spring, and fled away like lightning, all the hyaenas in full pursuit uttering great cries. As he turned a corner the little hare cut off both his ears, so that they should not know him, and pretended to be working at a grindstone which lay there.The hyaenas soon came up to him and said, 'Tell me, friend, have you seen the little hare go by?' 'No, I have seen no one.'
'Where can he be?' said the hyaenas one to another. 'Of course, this creature is quite different, and not at all like the little hare.' Then they went on their way, but, finding no traces of the little hare, they returned sadly to their village, saying, 'To think we should have allowed ourselves to be swept away by a wretched creature like that!'[Contes populaires des Bassoutos. Recueillis et traduits par E. Jacottet. Paris: Leroux, Editeur.]
The Sparrow with the Slit Tongue
A long long time ago, an old couple dwelt in the very heart of a high mountain. They lived together in peace and harmony, although they were very different in character, the man being good-natured and honest, and the wife being greedy and quarrelsome when anyone came her way that she could possibly quarrel with.
One day the old man was sitting in front of his cottage, as he was very fond of doing, when he saw flying towards him a little sparrow, followed by a big black raven. The poor little thing was very much frightened and cried out as it flew, and the great bird came behind it terribly fast, flapping its wings and craning its beak, for it was hungry and wanted some dinner. But as they drew near the old man, he jumped up, and beat back the raven, which mounted, with hoarse screams of disappointment, into the sky, and the little bird, freed from its enemy, nestled into the old man's hand, and he carried it into the house. He stroked its feathers, and told it not to be afraid, for it was quite safe; but as he still felt its heart beating, he put it into a cage, where it soon plucked up courage to twitter and hop about. The old man was fond of all creatures, and every morning he used to open the cage door, and the sparrow flew happily about until it caught sight of a cat or a rat or some other fierce beast, when it would instantly return to the cage, knowing that there no harm could come to it.
The woman, who was always on the look-out for something to grumble at, grew very jealous of her husband's affection for the bird, and would gladly have done it some harm had she dared. At last, one morning her opportunity came. Her husband had gone to the town some miles away down the mountain, and would not be back for several hours, but before he left he did not forget to open the door of the cage. The sparrow hopped about as usual, twittering happily, and thinking no evil, and all the while the woman's brow became blacker and blacker, and at length her fury broke out. She threw her broom at the bird, who was perched on a bracket high up on the wall. The broom missed the bird, but knocked down and broke the vase on the bracket, which did not soothe the angry woman. Then she chased it from place to place, and at last had it safe between her fingers, almost as frightened as on the day that it had made its first entrance into the hut.
By this time the woman was more furious than ever. If she had dared, she would have killed the sparrow then and there, but as it was she only ventured to slit its tongue. The bird struggled and piped, but there was no one to hear it, and then, crying out loud with the pain, it flew from the house and was lost in the depths of the forest.
By-and-bye the old man came back, and at once began to ask for his pet. His wife, who was still in a very bad temper, told him the whole story, and scolded him roundly for being so silly as to make such a fuss over a bird. But the old man, who was much troubled, declared she was a bad, hard-hearted woman, to have behaved so to a poor harmless bird; then he left the house, and went into the forest to seek for his pet. He walked many hours, whistling and calling for it, but it never came, and he went sadly home, resolved to be out with the dawn and never to rest till he had brought the wanderer back. Day after day he searched and called; and evening after evening he returned in despair. At length he gave up hope, and made up his mind that he should see his little friend no more.
One hot summer morning, the old man was walking slowly under the cool shadows of the big trees, and without thinking where he was going, he entered a bamboo thicket. As the bamboos became thinner, he found himself opposite to a beautiful garden, in the centre of which stood a tiny spick-and-span little house, and out of the house came a lovely maiden, who unlatched the gate and invited him in the most hospitable way to enter and rest. 'Oh, my dear old friend,' she exclaimed, 'how glad I am you have found me at last! I am your little sparrow, whose life you saved, and whom you took such care of.'
The old man seized her hands eagerly, but no time was given him to ask any questions, for the maiden drew him into the house, and set food before him, and waited on him herself.
While he was eating, the damsel and her maids took their lutes, and sang and danced to him, and altogether the hours passed so swiftly that the old man never saw that darkness had come, or remembered the scolding he would get from his wife for returning home so late.
Thus, in dancing and singing, and talking over the days when the maiden was a sparrow hopping in and out of her cage, the night passed away, and when the first rays of sun broke through the hedge of bamboo, the old man started up, thanked his hostess for her friendly welcome, and prepared to say farewell. 'I am not going to let you depart like that,' said she; 'I have a present for you, which you must take as a sign of my gratitude.' And as she spoke, her servants brought in two chests, one of them very small, the other large and heavy. 'Now choose which of them you will carry with you.' So the old man chose the small chest, and hid it under his cloak, and set out on his homeward way.
But as he drew near the house his heart sank a little, for he knew what a fury his wife would be in, and how she would abuse him for his absence. And it was even worse than he expected. However, long experience had taught him to let her storm and say nothing, so he lit his pipe and waited till she was tired out. The woman was still raging, and did not seem likely to stop, when her husband, who by this time had forgotten all about her, drew out the chest from under his cloak, and opened it. Oh, what a blaze met his eyes! gold and precious stones were heaped up to the very lid, and lay dancing in he sunlight. At the sight of these wonders even the scolding tongue ceased, and the woman approached, and took the stones in her hand, setting greedily aside those that were the largest and most costly. Then her voice softened, and she begged him quite politely to tell her where he had spent his evening, and how he had come by these wonderful riches. So he told her the whole story, and she listened with amazement, till he came to the choice which had been given him between the two chests. At this her tongue broke loose again, as she abused him for his folly in taking the little one, and she never rested till her husband had described the exact way which led to the sparrow-princess's house. When she had got it into her head, she put on her best clothes and set out at once. But in her blind haste she often missed the path, and she wandered for several hours before she at length reached the little house. She walked boldly up to the door and entered the room as if the whole place belonged to her, and quite frightened the poor girl, who was startled at the sight of her old enemy. However, she concealed her feelings as well as she could, and bade the intruder welcome, placing before her food and wine, hoping that when she had eaten and drunk she might take her leave. But nothing of the sort.
'You will not let me go without a little present?' said the greedy wife, as she saw no signs of one being offered her. 'Of course not,' replied the girl, and at her orders two chests were brought in, as they had been before. The old woman instantly seized the bigger, and staggering under the weight of it, disappeared into the forest, hardly waiting even to say good-bye.
It was a long way to her own house, and the chest seemed to grow heavier at every step. Sometimes she felt as if it would be impossible for her to get on at all, but her greed gave her strength, and at last she arrived at her own door. She sank down on the threshold, overcome with weariness, but in a moment was on her feet again, fumbling with the lock of the chest. But by this time night had come, and there was no light in the house, and the woman was in too much hurry to get to her treasures, to go and look for one. At length, however, the lock gave way, and the lid flew open, when, O horror! instead of gold and jewels, she saw before her serpents with glittering eyes and forky tongues. And they twined themselves about her and darted poison into her veins, and she died, and no man regretted her.[From the Japanische Marchen und Sagen.]
The Story of Ciccu
Once upon a time there lived a man who had three sons. The eldest was called Peppe, the second Alfin, and the youngest Ciccu. They were all very poor, and at last things got so bad that they really had not enough to eat. So the father called his sons, and said to them, ' My dear boys, I am too old to work any more, and there is nothing left for me but to beg in the streets.''No, no!' exclaimed his sons; 'that you shall never do. Rather, if it must be, would we do it ourselves. But we have thought of a better plan than that.' 'What is it?' asked the father.
'Well, we will take you in the forest, where you shall cut wood, and then we will bind it up in bundles and sell it in the town.' So their father let them do as they said, and they all made their way into the forest; and as the old man was weak from lack of food his sons took it in turns to carry him on their backs. Then they built a little hut where they might take shelter, and set to work. Every morning early the father cut his sticks, and the sons bound them in bundles, and carried them to the town, bringing back the food the old man so much needed.
Some months passed in this way, and then the father suddenly fell ill, and knew that the time had come when he must die. He bade his sons fetch a lawyer, so that he might make his will, and when the man arrived he explained his wishes.
'I have,' said he, 'a little house in the village, and over it grows a fig-tree. The house I leave to my sons, who are to live in it together; the fig-tree I divide as follows. To my son Peppe I leave the branches. To my son Alfin I leave the trunk. To my son Ciccu I leave the fruit. Besides the house and tree, I have an old coverlet, which I leave to my eldest son. And an old purse, which I leave to my second son. And a horn, which I leave to my youngest son. And now farewell.'
Thus speaking, he laid himself down, and died quietly. The brothers wept bitterly for their father, whom they loved, and when they had buried him they began to talk over their future lives. 'What shall we do now?' said they. 'Shall we live in the wood, or go back to the village?' And they made up their minds to stay where they were and continue to earn their living by selling firewood.
One very hot evening, after they had been working hard all day, they fell asleep under a tree in front of the hut. And as they slept there came by three fairies, who stopped to look at them.'What fine fellows!' said one. 'Let us give them a present.' 'Yes, what shall it be?' asked another.
'This youth has a coverlet over him,' said the first fairy. 'When he wraps it round him, and wishes himself in any place, he will find himself there in an instant.'
Then said the second fairy: 'This youth has a purse in his hand. I will promise that it shall always give him as much gold as he asks for.'
Last came the turn of the third fairy. 'This one has a horn slung round him. When he blows at the small end the seas shall be covered with ships. And if he blows at the wide end they shall all be sunk in the waves.' So they vanished, without knowing that Ciccu had been awake and heard all they said.
The next day, when they were all cutting wood, he said to his brothers, 'That old coverlet and the purse are no use to you; I wish you would give them to me. I have a fancy for them, for the sake of old times.' Now Peppe and Alfin were very fond of Ciccu, and never refused him anything, so they let him have the coverlet and the purse without a word. When he had got them safely Ciccu went on, 'Dear brothers, I am tired of the forest. I want to live in the town, and work at some trade.''O Ciccu! stay with us,' they cried. 'We are very happy here; and who knows how we shall get on elsewhere?'
'We can always try,' answered Ciccu; 'and if times are bad we can come back here and take up wood-cutting.' So saying he picked up his bundle of sticks, and his brothers did the same.
But when they reached the town they found that the market was overstocked with firewood, and they did not sell enough to buy themselves a dinner, far less to get any food to carry home. They were wondering sadly what they should do when Ciccu said, 'Come with me to the inn and let us have something to eat.' They were so hungry by this time that they did not care much whether they paid for it or not, so they followed Ciccu, who gave his orders to the host. 'Bring us three dishes, the nicest that you have, and a good bottle of wine.''Ciccu! Ciccu!' whispered his brothers, horrified at this extravagance, 'are you mad? How do you ever mean to pay for it?' 'Let me alone,' replied Ciccu; 'I know what I am about.' And when they had finished their dinner Ciccu told the others to go on, and he would wait to pay the bill. The brothers hurried on, without needing to be told twice, 'for,' thought they, 'he has no money, and of course there will be a row.'
When they were out of sight Ciccu asked the landlord how much he owed, and then said to his purse, 'Dear purse, give me, I pray you, six florins,' and instantly six florins were in the purse. Then he paid the bill and joined his brothers.'How did you manage?' they asked.
'Never you mind,' answered he. 'I have paid every penny,' and no more would he say. But the other two were very uneasy, for they felt sure something must be wrong, and the sooner they parted company with Ciccu the better. Ciccu understood what they were thinking, and, drawing forty gold pieces from his pocket, he held out twenty to each, saying, 'Take these and turn them to good account. I am going away to seek my own fortune.' Then he embraced them, and struck down another road.
He wandered on for many days, till at length he came to the town where the king had his court. The first thing Ciccu did was to order himself some fine clothes, and then buy a grand house, just opposite the palace.
Next he locked his door, and ordered a shower of gold to cover the staircase, and when this was done, the door was flung wide open, and everyone came and peeped at the shining golden stairs. Lastly the rumour of these wonders reached the ears of the king, who left his palace to behold these splendours with his own eyes. And Ciccu received him with all respect, and showed him over the house.
When the king went home he told such stories of what he had seen that his wife and daughter declared that they must go and see them too. So the king sent to ask Ciccu's leave, and Ciccu answered that if the queen and the princess would be pleased to do him such great honour he would show them anything they wished. Now the princess was as beautiful as the sun, and when Ciccu looked upon her his heart went out to her, and he longed to have her to wife. The princess saw what was passing in his mind, and how she could make use of it to satisfy her curiosity as to the golden stairs; so she praised him and flattered him, and put cunning questions, till at length Ciccu's head was quite turned, and he told her the whole story of the fairies and their gifts. Then she begged him to lend her the purse for a few days, so that she could have one made like it, and so great was the love he had for her that he gave it to her at once.
The princess returned to the palace, taking with her the purse, which she had not the smallest intention of ever restoring to Ciccu. Very soon Ciccu had spent all the money he had by him, and could get no more without the help of his purse. Of course, he went at once to the king's daughter, and asked her if she had done with it, but she put him off with some excuse, and told him to come back next day. The next day it was the same thing, and the next, till a great rage filled Ciccu's heart instead of the love that had been there. And when night came he took in his hand a thick stick, wrapped himself in the coverlet, and wished himself in the chamber of the princess. The princess was asleep, but Ciccu seized her arm and pulled her out of bed, and beat her till she gave back the purse. Then he took up the coverlet, and wished he was safe in his own house.
No sooner had he gone than the princess hastened to her father and complained of her sufferings. Then the king rose up in a fury, and commanded Ciccu to be brought before him. 'You richly deserve death,' said he, 'but I will allow you to live if you will instantly hand over to me the coverlet, the purse, and the horn.'What could Ciccu do? Life was sweet, and he was in the power of the king; so he gave up silently his ill-gotten goods, and was as poor as when he was a boy.
While he was wondering how he was to live it suddenly came into his mind that this was the season for the figs to ripen, and he said to himself, 'I will go and see if the tree has borne well.' So he set off home, where his brothers still lived, and found them living very uncomfortably, for they had spent all their money, and did not know how to make any more. However, he was pleased to see that the fig-tree looked in splendid condition, and was full of fruit. He ran and fetched a basket, and was just feeling the figs, to make sure which of them were ripe, when his brother Peppe called to him, 'Stop! The figs of course are yours, but the branches they grow on are mine, and I forbid you to touch them.'
Ciccu did not answer, but set a ladder against the tree, so that he could reach the topmost branches, and had his foot already on the first rung when he heard the voice of his brother Alfin: 'Stop! the trunk belongs to me, and I forbid you to touch it!'
Then they began to quarrel violently, and there seemed no chance that they would ever cease, till one of them said, 'Let us go before a judge.' The others agreed, and when they had found a man whom they could trust Ciccu told him the whole story.
'This is my verdict,' said the judge. 'The figs in truth belong to you, but you cannot pluck them without touching both the trunk and the branches. Therefore you must give your first basketful to your brother Peppe, as the price of his leave to put your ladder against the tree; and the second basketful to your brother Alfin, for leave to shake his boughs. The rest you can keep for yourself.'
And the brothers were contented, and returned home, saying one to the other, 'We will each of us send a basket of figs to the king. Perhaps he will give us something in return, and if he does we will divide it faithfully between us.' So the best figs were carefully packed in a basket, and Peppe set out with it to the castle.On the road he met a little old man who stopped and said to him, 'What have you got there, my fine fellow?' 'What is that to you?' was the answer; 'mind your own business.' But the old man only repeated his question, and Peppe, to get rid of him, exclaimed in anger, 'Dirt.' 'Good,' replied the old man; 'dirt you have said, and dirt let it be.'
Peppe only tossed his head and went on his way till he got to the castle, where he knocked at the door. 'I have a basket of lovely figs for the king,' he said to the servant who opened it, 'if his majesty will be graciously pleased to accept them with my humble duty.'
The king loved figs, and ordered Peppe to be admitted to his presence, and a silver dish to be brought on which to put the figs. When Peppe uncovered his basket sure enough a layer of beautiful purple figs met the king's eyes, but underneath there was nothing but dirt. 'How dare you play me such a trick?' shrieked the king in a rage. 'Take him away, and give him fifty lashes.' This was done, and Peppe returned home, sore and angry, but determined to say nothing about his adventure. And when his brothers asked him what had happened he only answered, 'When we have all three been I will tell you.'
A few days after this more figs were ready for plucking, and Alfin in his turn set out for the palace. He had not gone far down the road before he met the old man, who asked him what he had in his basket.'Horns,' answered Alfin, shortly.
'Good,' replied the old man; 'horns you have said, and horns let it be.' When Alfin reached the castle he knocked at the door and said to the servant: 'Here is a basket of lovely figs, if his majesty will be good enough to accept them with my humble duty.'
The king commanded that Alfin should be admitted to his presence, and a silver dish to be brought on which to lay the figs. When the basket was uncovered some beautiful purple figs lay on the top, but underneath there was nothing but horns. Then the king was beside himself with passion, and screamed out, 'Is this a plot to mock me? Take him away, and give him a hundred and fifty lashes!' So Alfin went sadly home, but would not tell anything about his adventures, only saying grimly, 'Now it is Ciccu's turn.'
Ciccu had to wait a little before he gathered the last figs on the tree, and these were not nearly so good as the first set. However, he plucked them, as they had agreed, and set out for the king's palace. The old man was still on the road, and he came up and said to Ciccu, 'What have you got in that basket?''Figs for the king,' answered he. 'Let me have a peep,' and Ciccu lifted the lid. 'Oh, do give me one, I am so fond of figs,' begged the little man.
'I am afraid if I do that the hole will show,' replied Ciccu, but as he was very goodnatured he gave him one. The old man ate it greedily and kept the stalk in his hand, and then asked for another and another and another till he had eaten half the basketful. 'But there are not enough left to take to the king,' murmured Ciccu.'Don't be anxious,' said the old man, throwing the stalks back into the basket; 'just go on and carry the basket to the castle, and it will bring you luck.'
Ciccu did not much like it; however he went on his way, and with a trembling heart rang the castle bell. 'Here are some lovely figs for the king,' said he, 'if his majesty will graciously accept them with my humble duty.'
When the king was told that there was another man with a basket of figs he cried out, 'Oh, have him in, have him in! I suppose it is a wager!' But Ciccu uncovered the basket, and there lay a pile of beautiful ripe figs. And the king was delighted, and emptied them himself on the silver dish, and gave five florins to Ciccu, and offered besides to take him into his service. Ciccu accepted gratefully, but said he must first return home and give the five florins to his brothers.When he got home Peppe spoke: 'Now we will see what we each have got from the king. I myself received from him fifty lashes.' 'And I a hundred and fifty,' added Alfin.
'And I five florins and some sweets, which you can divide between you, for the king has taken me into his service.' Then Ciccu went back to the Court and served the king, and the king loved him.
The other two brothers heard that Ciccu had become quite an important person, and they grew envious, and thought how they could put him to shame. At last they came to the king and said to him, 'O king! your palace is beautiful indeed, but to be worthy of you it lacks one thing--the sword of the Man-eater.'
Ciccu was very much surprised at this sudden command, and he walked thoughtfully away to the stables and began to stroke his favourite horse, saying to himself, 'Ah, my pet, we must bid each other good-bye, for the king has sent me away to get the sword of the Maneater.' Now this horse was not like other horses, for it was a talking horse, and knew a great deal about many things, so it answered, 'Fear nothing, and do as I tell you. Beg the king to give you fifty gold pieces and leave to ride me, and the rest will be easy.' Ciccu believed what the horse said, and prayed the king to grant him what he asked. Then the two friends set out, but the horse chose what roads he pleased, and directed Ciccu in everything.
It took them many days' hard riding before they reached the country where the Man-eater lived, and then the horse told Ciccu to stop a group of old women who were coming chattering through the wood, and offer them each a shilling if they would collect a number of mosquitos and tie them up in a bag. When the bag was full Ciccu put it on his shoulder and stole into the house of the Man-eater (who had gone to look for his dinner) and let them all out in his bedroom. He himself hid carefully under the bed and waited. The Man-eater came in late, very tired with his long walk, and flung himself on the bed, placing his sword with its shining blade by his side. Scarcely had he lain down than the mosquitos began to buzz about and bite him, and he rolled from side to side trying to catch them, which he never could do, though they always seemed to be close to his nose. He was so busy over the mosquitos that he did not hear Ciccu steal softly out, or see him catch up the sword. But the horse heard and stood ready at the door, and as Ciccu came flying down the stairs and jumped on his back he sped away like the wind, and never stopped till they arrived at the king's palace.
The king had suffered much pain in his absence, thinking that if the Man-eater ate Ciccu, it would be all his fault. And he was so overjoyed to have him safe that he almost forgot the sword which he had sent him to bring. But the two brothers did not love Ciccu any better because he had succeeded when they hoped he would have failed, and one day they spoke to the king. 'It is all very well for Ciccu to have got possession of the sword, but it would have been far more to your majesty's honour if he had captured the Man-eater himself.' The king thought upon these words, and at last he said to Ciccu, 'Ciccu, I shall never rest until you bring me back the Man-eater himself. You may have any help you like, but somehow or other you must manage to do it.' Ciccu felt very much cast, down at these words, and went to the stable to ask advice of his friend the horse. 'Fear nothing,' said the horse; 'just say you want me and fifty pieces of gold.' Ciccu did as he was bid, and the two set out together.
When they reached the country of the Man-eater, Ciccu made all the church bells toll and a proclamation to be made. 'Ciccu, the servant of the king, is dead.' The Man-eater soon heard what everyone was saying, and was glad in his heart, for he thought, 'Well, it is good news that the thief who stole my sword is dead.' But Ciccu bought an axe and a saw, and cut down a pine tree in the nearest wood, and began to hew it into planks.
'Don't be in a hurry,' answered the Man-eater, who of course did not know whom he was talking to, 'and perhaps I can help you ;' and they set to work sawing and fitting, and very soon the coffin was finished.
Then Ciccu scratched his ear thoughtfully, and cried, 'Idiot that I am! I never took any measures. How am I to know if it is big enough? But now I come to think of it, Ciccu was about your size. I wonder if you would be so good as just to put yourself in the coffin, and see if there is enough room.'
'Oh, delighted!' said the Man-eater, and laid himself at full length in the coffin. Ciccu clapped on the lid, put a strong cord round it, tied it fast on his horse, and rode back to the king. And when the king saw that he really had brought back the Man-eater, he commanded a huge iron chest to be brought, and locked the coffin up inside.
Just about this time the queen died, and soon after the king thought he should like to marry again. He sought everywhere, but he could not hear of any princess that took his fancy. Then the two envious brothers came to him and said, 'O king! there is but one woman that is worthy of being your wife, and that is she who is the fairest in the whole world.''But where can I find her?' asked the king 'Oh, Ciccu will know, and he will bring her to you.'
Now the king had got so used to depending on Ciccu, that he really believed he could do everything. So he sent for him and said, 'Ciccu, unless within eight days you bring me the fairest in the whole world, I will have you hewn into a thousand pieces.' This mission seemed to Ciccu a hundred times worse than either of the others, and with tears in his eyes he took his way to the stables.'Cheer up,' laughed the horse; 'tell the king you must have some bread and honey, and a purse of gold, and leave the rest to me.' Ciccu did as he was bid, and they started at a gallop.
After they had ridden some way, they saw a swarm of bees lying on the ground, so hungry and weak that they were unable to fly. 'Get down, and give the poor things some honey,' said the horse, and Ciccu dismounted. By-and-bye they came to a stream, on the bank of which was a fish, flapping feebly about in its efforts to reach the water. 'Jump down, and throw the fish into the water; he will be useful to us,' and Ciccu did so. Farther along the hillside they saw an eagle whose leg was caught in a snare. 'Go and free that eagle from the snare; he will be useful to us; ' and in a moment the eagle was soaring up into the sky.
At length they came to the castle where the fairest in the world lived with her parents. Then said the horse, 'You must get down and sit upon that stone, for I must enter the castle alone. Directly you see me come tearing by with the princess on my back, jump up behind, and hold her tight, so that she does not escape you. If you fail to do this, we are both lost.' Ciccu seated himself on the stone, and the horse went on to the courtyard of the castle, where he began to trot round in a graceful and elegant manner. Soon a crowd collected first to watch him and then to pat him, and the king and queen and princess came with the rest. The eyes of the fairest in the world brightened as she looked, and she sprang on the horse's saddle, crying, 'Oh, I really must ride him a little!' But the horse made one bound forward, and the princess was forced to hold tight by his mane, lest she should fall off. And as they dashed past the stone where Ciccu was waiting for them, he swung himself up and held her round the waist. As he put his arms round her waist, the fairest in the world unwound the veil from her head and cast it to the ground, and then she drew a ring from her finger and flung it into the stream. But she said nothing, and they rode on fast, fast.
The king of Ciccu's country was watching for them from the top of a tower, and when he saw in the distance a cloud of dust, he ran down to the steps so as to be ready to receive them. Bowing low before the fairest in the world, he spoke: 'Noble lady, will you do me the honour to become my wife?'But she answered, 'That can only be when Ciccu brings me the veil that I let fall on my way here.' And the king turned to Ciccu and said, 'Ciccu, if you do not find the veil at once, you shall lose your head.' Ciccu, who by this time had hoped for a little peace, felt his heart sink at this fresh errand, and he went into the stable to complain to the faithful horse. 'It will be all right,' answered the horse when he had heard his tale; 'just take enough food for the day for both of us, and then get on my back.'
They rode back all the way they had come till they reached the place where they had found the eagle caught in the snare; then the horse bade Ciccu to call three times on the king of the birds, and when he replied, to beg him to fetch the veil which the fairest in the world had let fall.
'Wait a moment,' answered a voice that seemed to come from somewhere very high up indeed. 'An eagle is playing with it just now, but he will be here with it in an instant;' and a few minutes after there was a sound of wings, and an eagle came fluttering towards them with the veil in his beak. And Ciccu saw it was the very same eagle that he had freed from the snare. So he took the veil and rode back to the king.
Now the king was enchanted to see him so soon, and took the veil from Ciccu and flung it over the princess, crying, 'Here is the veil you asked for, so I claim you for my wife.' 'Not so fast,' answered she. 'I can never be your wife till Ciccu puts on my finger the ring I threw into the stream. Ciccu, who was standing by expecting something of the sort, bowed his head when he heard her words, and went straight to the horse.
'Mount at once,' said the horse; 'this time it is very simple,' and he carried Ciccu to the banks of the little stream. 'Now, call three times on the emperor of the fishes, and beg him to restore you the ring that the princess dropped.Ciccu did as the horse told him, and a voice was heard in answer that seemed to come from a very long way off. 'What is your will?' it asked; and Ciccu replied that he had been commanded to bring back the ring that the princess had flung away, as she rode past. 'A fish is playing with it just now,' replied the voice; 'however, you shall have it without delay.'
And sure enough, very soon a little fish was seen rising to the surface with the lost ring in his mouth. And Ciccu knew him to be the fish that he had saved from death, and he took the ring and rode back with it to the king.
'That is not enough,' exclaimed the princess when she saw the ring; 'before we can be man and wife, the oven must be heated for three days and three nights, and Ciccu must jump in.' And the king forgot how Ciccu had served him, and desired him to do as the princess had said.
This time Ciccu felt that no escape was possible, and he went to the horse and laid his hand on his neck. 'Now it is indeed good-bye, and there is no help to be got even from you,' and he told him what fate awaited him.
But the horse said, 'Oh, never lose heart, but jump on my back, and make me go till the foam flies in flecks all about me. Then get down, and scrape off the foam with a knife. This you must rub all over you, and when you are quite covered, you may suffer yourself to be cast into the oven, for the fire will not hurt you, nor anything else.' And Ciccu did exactly as the horse bade him, and went back to the king, and before the eyes of the fairest in the world he sprang into the oven.
And when the fairest in the world saw what he had done, love entered into her heart, and she said to the king, 'One thing more: before I can be your wife, you must jump into the oven as Ciccu has done.'
'Willingly,' replied the king, stooping over the oven. But on the brink he paused a moment and called to Ciccu, 'Tell me, Ciccu, how did you manage to prevent the fire burning you?'
Now Ciccu could not forgive his master, whom he had served so faithfully, for sending him to his death without a thought, so he answered, 'I rubbed myself over with fat, and I am not even singed.'
When he heard these words, the king, whose head was full of the princess, never stopped to inquire if they could be true, and smeared himself over with fat, and sprang into the oven. And in a moment the fire caught him, and he was burned up.
Then the fairest in the world held out her hand to Ciccu and smiled, saying, 'Now we will be man and wife.' So Ciccu married the fairest in the world, and became king of the country.[From Sicilianische Mahrchen.]
Don Giovanni De La Fortuna
There was once a man whose name was Don Giovanni de la Fortuna, and he lived in a beautiful house that his father had built, and spent a great deal of money. Indeed, he spent so much that very soon there was none left, and Don Giovanni, instead of being a rich man with everything he could wish for, was forced to put on the dress of a pilgrim, and to wander from place to place begging his bread.One day he was walking down a broad road when he was stopped by a handsome man he had never seen before, who, little as Don Giovanni knew it, was the devil himself. 'Would you like to be rich,' asked the devil, 'and to lead a pleasant life?' 'Yes, of course I should,' replied the Don.
'Well, here is a purse; take it and say to it, "Dear purse, give me some money," and you will get as much as you can want But the charm will only work if you promise to remain three years, three months, and three days without washing and without combing and without shaving your beard or changing your clothes. If you do all this faithfully, when the time is up you shall keep the purse for yourself, and I will let you off any other conditions.'
Now Don Giovanni was a man who never troubled his head about the future. He did not once think how very uncomfortable he should be all those three years, but only that he should be able, by means of the purse, to have all sorts of things he had been obliged to do without; so he joyfully put the purse in his pocket and went on his way. He soon began to ask for money for the mere pleasure of it, and there was always as much as he needed. For a little while he even forgot to notice how dirty he was getting, but this did not last long, for his hair became matted with dirt and hung over his eyes, and his pilgrim's dress was a mass of horrible rags and tatters.
He was in this state when, one morning, he happened to be passing a fine palace; and, as the sun was shining bright and warm, he sat down on the steps and tried to shake off some of the dust which he had picked up on the road. But in a few minutes a maid saw him, and said to her master, 'I pray you, sir, to drive away that beggar who is sitting on the steps, or he will fill the whole house with his dirt.'So the master went out and called from some distance off, for he was really afraid to go near the man, 'You filthy beggar, leave my house at once!' 'You need not be so rude,' said Don Giovanni; 'I am not a beggar, and if I chose I could force you and your wife to leave your house.' 'What is that you can do?' laughed the gentleman. 'Will you sell me your house?' asked Don Giovanni. 'I will buy it from you on the spot.'
'Oh, the dirty creature is quite mad!' thought the gentleman. 'I shall just accept his offer for a joke.' And aloud he said: ' All right; follow me, and we will go to a lawyer and get him to make a contract.' And Don Giovanni followed him, and an agreement was drawn up by which the house was to be sold at once, and a large sum of money paid down in eight days. Then the Don went to an inn, where he hired two rooms, and, standing in one of them, said to his purse, ' Dear purse, fill this room with gold;' and when the eight days were up it was so full you could not have put in another sovereign.
When the owner of the house came to take away his money Don Giovanni led him into the room and said: 'There, just pocket what you want.' The gentleman stared with open mouth at the astonishing sight; but he had given his word to sell the house, so he took his money, as he was told, and went away with his wife to look for some place to live in. And Don Giovanni left the inn and dwelt in the beautiful rooms, where his rags and dirt looked sadly out of place. And every day these got worse and worse.
By-and-bye the fame of his riches reached the ears of the king, and, as he himself was always in need of money, he sent for Don Giovanni, as he wished to borrow a large sum. Don Giovanni readily agreed to lend him what he wanted, and sent next day a huge waggon laden with sacks of gold.'Who can he be?' thought the king to himself. 'Why, he is much richer than I!'
The king took as much as he had need of; then ordered the rest to be returned to Don Giovanni, who refused to receive it, saying, 'Tell his majesty I am much hurt at his proposal. I shall certainly not take back that handful of gold, and, if he declines to accept it, keep it yourself.'
The servant departed and delivered the message, and the king wondered more than ever how anyone could be so rich. At last he spoke to the queen: 'Dear wife, this man has done me a great service, and has, besides, behaved like a gentleman in not allowing me to send back the money. I wish to give him the hand of our eldest daughter.'The queen was quite pleased at this idea, and again messenger was sent to Don Giovanni, offering him the hand of the eldest princess. 'His majesty is too good,' he replied. 'I can only humbly accept the honour.'
The messenger took back this answer, but a second time returned with the request that Don Giovanni would present them with his picture, so that they might know what sort of a person to expect. But when it came, and the princess saw the horrible figure, she screamed out, 'What! marry this dirty beggar? Never, never!'
'Ah, child,' answered the king, 'how could I ever guess that the rich Don Giovanni would ever look like that? But I have passed my royal word, and I cannot break it, so there is no help for you.''No, father; you may cut off my head, if you choose, but marry that horrible beggar--I never will!'
And the queen took her part, and reproached her husband bitterly for wishing his daughter to marry a creature like that.
Then the youngest daughter spoke: 'Dear father, do not look so sad. As you have given your word, I will marry Don Giovanni.' The king fell on her neck, and thanked her and kissed her, but the queen and the elder girl had nothing for her but laughs and jeers.
'Let it be in two months,' answered Don Giovanni, for the time was nearly up that the devil had fixed, and he wanted a whole month to himself to wash off the dirt of the past three years.
The very minute that the compact with the devil had come to an end his beard was shaved, his hair was cut, and his rags were burned, and day and night he lay in a bath of clear warm water. At length he felt he was clean again, and he put on splendid clothes, and hired a beautiful ship, and arrived in state at the king's palace.
The whole of the royal family came down to the ship to receive him, and the whole way the queen and the elder princess teased the sister about the dirty husband she was going to have. But when they saw how handsome he really was their hearts were filled with envy and anger, so that their eyes were blinded, and they fell over into the sea and were drowned. And the youngest daughter rejoiced in the good luck that had come to her, and they had a splendid wedding when the days of mourning for her mother and sister were ended.Soon after the old king died, and Don Giovanni became king. And he was rich and happy to the end of his days, for he loved his wife, and his purse always gave him money. [Sicilianische Mahrchen]