The Pink Fairy Book HTML version
How the Hermit Helped to Win the King's Daughter
Long ago there lived a very rich man who had three sons. When he felt himself to be
dying he divided his property between them, making them share alike, both in money and
lands. Soon after he died the king set forth a proclamation through the whole country that
whoever could build a ship that should float both on land and sea should have his
daughter to wife.
The eldest brother, when he heard it, said to the other, 'I think I will spend some of my
money in trying to build that ship, as I should like to have the king for my father-in-law.'
So he called toether all the shipbuilders in the land, and gave them orders to begin the
ship without delay. And trees were cut down, and great preparations made, and in a few
days everybody knew what it was all for; and there was a crowd of old people pressing
round the gates of the yard, where the young man spent the most of his day.
'Ah, master, give us work,' they said, 'so that we may earn our bread.'
But he only gave them hard words, and spoke roughly to them. 'You are old, and have
lost your strength; of what use are you?' And he drove them away. Then came some boys
and prayed him, "master, give us work,' but he answered them, 'Of what use can you be,
weaklings as you are! Get you gone!' And if any presented themselves that were not
skilled workmen he would have none of them.
At last there knocked at the gate a little old man with a long white beard, and said, 'Will
you give me work, so that I may earn my bread?' But he was only driven away like the
The ship took a long while to build, and cost a great deal of money, and when it was
launched a sudden squall rose, and it fell to pieces, and with it all the young man's hopes
of winning the princess. By this time he had not a penny left, so he went back to his two
brothers and told his tale. And the second brother said to himself as he listened, 'Certainly
he has managed very badly, but I should like to see if I can't do better, and win the
princess for my own self.' So he called together all the shipbuilders throughout the
country, and gave them orders to build a ship which should float on the land as well as on
the sea. But his heart was no softer than his brother's, and every man that was not a
skilled workman was chased away with hard words. Last came the white-bearded man,
but he fared no better than the rest.
When the ship was finished the launch took place, and everything seemed going
smoothly when a gale sprang up, and the vessel was dashed to pieces on the rocks. The
young man had spent his whole fortune on it, and now it was all swallowed up, was
forced to beg shelter from his youngest brother. When he told his story the youngest said
to himself, 'I am not rich enough to support us all three. I had better take my turn, and if I
manage to win the princess there will be her fortune as well as my own for us to live on.'
So he called together all the shipbuilders in the kingdom, and gave orders that a new ship
should be built. Then all the old people came and asked for work, and he answered
cheerfully, 'Oh, yes, there is plenty for everybody;' and when the boys begged to be
allowed to help he found something that they could do. And when the old man with the