The Violet Fairy Book HTML version
The Goat's Ears Of The Emperor Trojan
Once upon a time there lived an emperor whose name was Trojan, and he had ears like a
goat. Every morning, when he was shaved, he asked if the man saw anything odd about
him, and as each fresh barber always replied that the emperor had goat's ears, he was at
once ordered to be put to death.
Now after this state of things had lasted a good while, there was hardly a barber left in the
town that could shave the emperor, and it came to be the turn of the Master of the
Company of Barbers to go up to the palace. But, unluckily, at the very moment that he
should have set out, the master fell suddenly ill, and told one of his apprentices that he
must go in his stead.
When the youth was taken to the emperor's bedroom, he was asked why he had come and
not his master. The young man replied that the master was ill, and there was no one but
himself who could be trusted with the honour. The emperor was satisfied with the
answer, and sat down, and let a sheet of fine linen be put round him. Directly the young
barber began his work, he, like the rest, remarked the goat's ears of the emperor, but
when he had finished and the emperor asked his usual question as to whether the youth
had noticed anything odd about him, the young man replied calmly, 'No, nothing at all.'
This pleased the emperor so much that he gave him twelve ducats, and said, 'Henceforth
you shall come every day to shave me.'
So when the apprentice returned home, and the master inquired how he had got on with
the emperor, the young man answered, 'Oh, very well, and he says I am to shave him
every day, and he has given me these twelve ducats'; but he said nothing about the goat's
ears of the emperor.
From this time the apprentice went regularly up to the palace, receiving each morning
twelve ducats in payment. But after a while, his secret, which he had carefully kept, burnt
within him, and he longed to tell it to somebody. His master saw there was something on
his mind, and asked what it was. The youth replied that he had been tormenting himself
for some months, and should never feel easy until some one shared his secret.
'Well, trust me,' said the master, 'I will keep it to myself; or, if you do not like to do that,
confess it to your pastor, or go into some field outside the town and dig a hole, and, after
you have dug it, kneel down and whisper your secret three times into the hole. Then put
back the earth and come away.'
The apprentice thought that this seemed the best plan, and that very afternoon went to a
meadow outside the town, dug a deep hole, then knelt and whispered to it three times
over, 'The Emperor Trojan has goat's ears.' And as he said so a great burden seemed to
roll off him, and he shovelled the earth carefully back and ran lightly home.
Weeks passed away, and there sprang up in the hole an elder tree which had three stems,
all as straight as poplars. Some shepherds, tending their flocks near by, noticed the tree
growing there, and one of them cut down a stem to make flutes of; but, directly he began
to play, the flute would do nothing but sing: 'The Emperor Trojan has goat's ears.' Of
course, it was not long before the whole town knew of this wonderful flute and what it
said; and, at last, the news reached the emperor in his palace. He instantly sent for the
apprentice and said to him: