The Violet Fairy Book HTML version
The Nine Pea-Hens And The Golden Apples
Once upon a time there stood before the palace of an emperor a golden apple tree, which
blossomed and bore fruit each night. But every morning the fruit was gone, and the
boughs were bare of blossom, without anyone being able to discover who was the thief.
At last the emperor said to his eldest son, 'If only I could prevent those robbers from
stealing my fruit, how happy I should be!'
And his son replied, 'I will sit up to-night and watch the tree, and I shall soon see who it
So directly it grew dark the young man went and hid himself near the apple tree to begin
his watch, but the apples had scarcely begun to ripen before he fell asleep, and when he
awoke at sunrise the apples were gone. He felt very much ashamed of himself, and went
with lagging feet to tell his father!
Of course, though the eldest son had failed, the second made sure that he would do better,
and set out gaily at nightfall to watch the apple tree. But no sooner had he lain himself
down than his eyes grew heavy, and when the sunbeams roused him from his slumbers
there was not an apple left on the tree.
Next came the turn of the youngest son, who made himself a comfortable bed under the
apple tree, and prepared himself to sleep. Towards midnight he awoke, and sat up to look
at the tree. And behold! the apples were beginning to ripen, and lit up the whole palace
with their brightness. At the same moment nine golden pea-hens flew swiftly through the
air, and while eight alighted upon the boughs laden with fruit, the ninth fluttered to the
ground where the prince lay, and instantly was changed into a beautiful maiden, more
beautiful far than any lady in the emperor's court. The prince at once fell in love with her,
and they talked together for some time, till the maiden said her sisters had finished
plucking the apples, and now they must all go home again. The prince, however, begged
her so hard to leave him a little of the fruit that the maiden gave him two apples, one for
himself and one for his father. Then she changed herself back into a pea-hen, and the
whole nine flew away.
As soon as the sun rose the prince entered the palace, and held out the apple to his father,
who was rejoiced to see it, and praised his youngest son heartily for his cleverness. That
evening the prince returned to the apple tree, and everything passed as before, and so it
happened for several nights. At length the other brothers grew angry at seeing that he
never came back without bringing two golden apples with him, and they went to consult
an old witch, who promised to spy after him, and discover how he managed to get the
apples. So, when the evening came, the old woman hid herself under the tree and waited
for the prince. Before long he arrived and laid down on his bed, and was soon fast asleep.
Towards midnight there was a rush of wings, and the eight pea-hens settled on the tree,
while the ninth became a maiden, and ran to greet the prince. Then the witch stretched
out her hand, and cut off a lock of the maiden's hair, and in an instant the girl sprang up, a
pea-hen once more, spread her wings and flew away, while her sisters, who were busily
stripping the boughs, flew after her.
When he had recovered from his surprise at the unexpected disappearance of the maiden,
the prince exclaimed, 'What can be the matter?' and, looking about him, discovered the