The Red Fairy Book HTML version
The Three Princesses of Whiteland
THERE was once upon a time a fisherman, who lived hard by a palace and fished for the
King's table. One day he was out fishing, but caught nothing at all. Let him do what he
might with rod and line, there was never even so much as a sprat on his hook; but when
the day was well nigh over, a head rose up out of the water, and said: `If you will give me
what your wife shows you when you go home, you shall catch fish enough.'
So the man said `Yes' in a moment, and then he caught fish in plenty; but when he got
home at night, and his wife showed him a baby which had just been born, and fell a-
weeping and wailing when he told her of the promise which he had given, he was very
All this was soon told to the King up at the palace, and when he heard what sorrow the
woman was in, and the reason of it, he said that he himself would take the child and see if
he could not save it. The baby was a boy, and the King took him at once and brought him
up as his own son until the lad grew up. Then one day he begged to have leave to go out
with his father to fish; he had a strong desire to do this, he said. The King was very
unwilling to permit it, but at last the lad got leave. He stayed with his father, and all went
prosperously and well with them the whole day, until they came back to land in the
evening. Then the lad found that he had lost his pocket-handkerchief, and would go out in
the boat after it; but no sooner had he got into the boat than it began to move off with him
so quickly that the water foamed all round about, and all that the lad did to keep the boat
back with the oars was done to no purpose, for it went on and on the whole night through,
and at last he came to a white strand that lay far, far away. There he landed, and when he
had walked on for some distance he met an old man with a long white beard.
`What is the name of this country?' said the youth.
`Whiteland,' answered the man, and then he begged the youth to tell him whence he came
and what he was going to do, and the youth did so.
`Well, then,' said the man, `if you walk on farther along the seashore here, you will come
to three princesses who are standing in the earth so that their heads alone are out of it.
Then the first of them will call you--she is the eldest--and will beg you very prettily to
come to her and help her, and the second will do the same, but you must not go near
either of them. Hurry past, as if you neither saw nor heard them; but you shall go to the
third and do what she bids you; it will bring you good fortune.'
When the youth came to the first princess, she called to him and begged him to come to
her very prettily, but he walked on as if he did not even see her, and he passed by the
second in the same way, but he went up to the third.
`If thou wilt do what I tell thee, thou shalt choose among us three,' said the Princess.
So the lad said that he was most willing, and she told him that three Trolls had planted
them all three there in the earth, but that formerly they had dwelt in the castle which he
could see at some distance in the wood.