Part 4 out of 6
'I will be back in a moment, good mother,' said he. And three
minutes later he placed a purse full of sequins in the old
No one can imagine the joy of the whole family at the sight of
all this wealth. The tiny, tumble-down cottage was rebuilt, the
girls had new dresses, and their mother ceased selling veils. It
was such a new thing to them to have money to spend, that they
were not as careful as they might have been, and by-and-by there
was not a single coin left in the purse. When this happened
their hearts sank within them, and their faces fell.
'Have you spent your fortune?' asked the head from its corner,
when it saw how sad they looked. 'Well, then, go at midnight,
good mother, to the bridge, and call out "Mahomet!" three times,
as loud as you can. A negro will appear in answer, and you must
tell him to open the trunk, and to give you the red purse which
he will find there.'
The old woman did not need twice telling, but set off at once for
'Mahomet! Mahomet! Mahomet!' cried she, with all her might; and
in an instant a negro, still larger than the last, stood before
'What do you want?' asked he.
'The head, your master, bids you open the trunk, and to give me
the red purse which you will find in it.'
'Very well, good mother, I will do so,' answered the negro, and,
the moment after he had vanished, he reappeared with the purse in
This time the money seemed so endless that the old woman built
herself a new house, and filled it with the most beautiful things
that were to be found in the shops. Her daughters were always
wrapped in veils that looked as if they were woven out of
sunbeams, and their dresses shone with precious stones. The
neighbours wondered where all this sudden wealth had sprung from,
but nobody knew about the head.
'Good mother,' said the head, one day, 'this morning you are to
go to the city and ask the sultan to give me his daughter for my
'Do what?' asked the old woman in amazement. 'How can I tell the
sultan that a head without a body wishes to become his son-in-
law? They will think that I am mad, and I shall be hooted from
the palace and stoned by the children.'
'Do as I bid you,' replied the head; 'it is my will.'
The old woman was afraid to say anything more, and, putting on
her richest clothes, started for the palace. The sultan granted
her an audience at once, and, in a trembling voice, she made her
'Are you mad, old woman?' said the sultan, staring at her.
'The wooer is powerful, O Sultan, and nothing is impossible to
'Is that true?'
'It is, O Sultan; I swear it,' answered she.
'Then let him show his power by doing three things, and I will
give him my daughter.'
'Command, O gracious prince,' said she.
'Do you see that hill in front of the palace?' asked the sultan.
'I see it,' answered she.
'Well, in forty days the man who has sent you must make that hill
vanish, and plant a beautiful garden in its place. That is the
first thing. Now go, and tell him what I say.'
So the old woman returned and told the head the sultan's first
'It is well,' he replied; and said no more about it.
For thirty-nine days the head remained in its favourite corner.
The old woman thought that the task set before was beyond his
powers, and that no more would be heard about the sultan's
daughter. But on the thirty-ninth evening after her visit to the
palace, the head suddenly spoke.
'Good mother,' he said, 'you must go to-night to the bridge, and
when you are there cry "Ali! Ali! Ali!" as loud as you can. A
negro will appear before you, and you will tell him that he is to
level the hill, and to make, in its place, the most beautiful
garden that ever was seen.'
'I will go at once,' answered she.
It did not take her long to reach the bridge which led to the
city, and she took up her position on the spot where she had
first seen the head, and called loudly 'Ali! Ali! Ali.' In an
instant a negro appeared before her, of such a huge size that the
old woman was half frightened; but his voice was mild and gentle
as he said: 'What is it that you want?'
'Your master bids you level the hill that stands in front of the
sultan's palace and in its place to make the most beautiful
garden in the world.'
'Tell my master he shall be obeyed,' replied Ali; 'it shall be
done this moment.' And the old woman went home and gave Ali's
message to the head.
Meanwhile the sultan was in his palace waiting till the fortieth
day should dawn, and wondering that not one spadeful of earth
should have been dug out of the hill.
'If that old woman has been playing me a trick,' thought he, 'I
will hang her! And I will put up a gallows to-morrow on the hill
But when to-morrow came there was no hill, and when the sultan
opened his eyes he could not imagine why the room was so much
lighter than usual, and what was the reason of the sweet smell of
flowers that filled the air.
'Can there be a fire?' he said to himself; 'the sun never came in
at this window before. I must get up and see.' So he rose and
looked out, and underneath him flowers from every part of the
world were blooming, and creepers of every colour hung in chains
from tree to tree.
Then he remembered. 'Certainly that old woman's son is a clever
magician!' cried he; 'I never met anyone as clever as that. What
shall I give him to do next? Let me think. Ah! I know.' And he
sent for the old woman, who by the orders of the head, was
'Your son has carried out my wishes very nicely,' he said. 'The
garden is larger and better than that of any other king. But
when I walk across it I shall need some place to rest on the
other side. In forty days he must build me a palace, in which
every room shall be filled with different furniture from a
different country, and each more magnificent than any room that
ever was seen.' And having said this he turned round and went
'Oh! he will never be able to do that,' thought she; 'it is much
more difficult than the hill.' And she walked home slowly, with
her head bent.
'Well, what am I to do next?' asked the head cheerfully. And the
old woman told her story.
'Dear me! is that all? why it is child's play,' answered the
head; and troubled no more about the palace for thirty-nine days.
Then he told the old woman to go to the bridge and call for
'What do you want, old woman?' asked Hassan, when he appeared,
for he was not as polite as the others had been.
'Your master commands you to build the most magnificent palace
that ever was seen,' replied she; 'and you are to place it on the
borders of the new garden.'
'He shall be obeyed,' answered Hassan. And when the sultan woke
he saw, in the distance, a palace built of soft blue marble,
resting on slender pillars of pure gold.
'That old woman's son is certainly all-powerful,' cried he; 'what
shall I bid him do now?' And after thinking some time he sent for
the old woman, who was expecting the summons.
'The garden is wonderful, and the palace the finest in the
world,' said he, 'so fine, that my servants would cut but a sorry
figure in it. Let your son fill it with forty slaves whose
beauty shall be unequalled, all exactly like each other, and of
the same height.'
This time the king thought he had invented something totally
impossible, and was quite pleased with himself for his
Thirty-nine days passed, and at midnight on the night of the last
the old woman was standing on the bridge.
'Bekir! Bekir! Bekir!' cried she. And a negro appeared, and
inquired what she wanted.
'The head, your master, bids you find forty slaves of unequalled
beauty, and of the same height, and place them in the sultan's
palace on the other side of the garden.'
And when, on the morning of the fortieth day, the sultan went to
the blue palace, and was received by the forty slaves, he nearly
lost his wits from surprise.
'I will assuredly give my daughter to the old woman's son,'
thought he. 'If I were to search all the world through I could
never find a more powerful son-in-law.'
And when the old woman entered his presence he informed her that
he was ready to fulfil his promise, and she was to bid her son
appear at the palace without delay.
This command did not at all please the old woman, though, of
course, she made no objections to the sultan.
'All has gone well so far,' she grumbled, when she told her story
to the head,' but what do you suppose the sultan will say, when
he sees his daughter's husband?'
'Never mind what he says! Put me on a silver dish and carry me to
So it was done, though the old woman's heart beat as she laid
down the dish with the head upon it.
At the sight before him the king flew into a violent rage.
'I will never marry my daughter to such a monster,' he cried.
But the princess placed her head gently on his arm.
'You have given your word, my father, and you cannot break it,'
'But, my child, it is impossible for you to marry such a being,'
exclaimed the sultan.
'Yes, I will marry him. He had a beautiful head, and I love him
So the marriage was celebrated, and great feasts were held in the
palace, though the people wept tears to think of the sad fate of
their beloved princess. But when the merry-making was done, and
the young couple were alone, the head suddenly disappeared, or,
rather, a body was added to it, and one of the handsomest young
men that ever was seen stood before the princess.
'A wicked fairy enchanted me at my birth,' he said, 'and for the
rest of the world I must always be a head only. But for you, and
you only, I am a man like other men.'
'And that is all I care about,' said the princess.
[Traditions populaires de toutes les nations (Asie Mineure)].
The Sister of the Sun
A long time ago there lived a young prince whose favourite
playfellow was the son of the gardener who lived in the grounds
of the palace. The king would have preferred his choosing a
friend from the pages who were brought up at court; but the
prince would have nothing to say to them, and as he was a spoilt
child, and allowed his way in all things, and the gardener's boy
was quiet and well-behaved, he was suffered to be in the palace,
morning, noon, and night.
The game the children loved the best was a match at archery, for
the king had given them two bows exactly alike, and they would
spend whole days in trying to see which could shoot the highest.
This is always very dangerous, and it was a great wonder they did
not put their eyes out; but somehow or other they managed to
One morning, when the prince had done his lessons, he ran out to
call his friend, and they both hurried off to the lawn which was
their usual playground. They took their bows out of the little
hut where their toys were kept, and began to see which could
shoot the highest. At last they happened to let fly their arrows
both together, and when they fell to earth again the tail feather
of a golden hen was found sticking in one. Now the question
began to arise whose was the lucky arrow, for they were both
alike, and look as closely as you would you could see no
difference between them. The prince declared that the arrow was
his, and the gardener's boy was quite sure it was HIS--and on
this occasion he was perfectly right; but, as they could not
decide the matter, they went straight to the king.
When the king had heard the story, he decided that the feather
belonged to his son; but the other boy would not listen to this
and claimed the feather for himself. At length the king's
patience gave way, and he said angrily:
'Very well; if you are so sure that the feather is yours, yours
it shall be; only you will have to seek till you find a golden
hen with a feather missing from her tail. And if you fail to
find her your head will be the forfeit.'
The boy had need of all his courage to listen silently to the
king's words. He had no idea where the golden hen might be, or
even, if he discovered that, how he was to get to her. But there
was nothing for it but to do the king's bidding, and he felt that
the sooner he left the palace the better. So he went home and
put some food into a bag, and then set forth, hoping that some
accident might show him which path to take.
After walking for several hours he met a fox, who seemed inclined
to be friendly, and the boy was so glad to have anyone to talk to
that he sat down and entered into conversation.
'Where are you going?' asked the fox.
'I have got to find a golden hen who has lost a feather out of
her tail,' answered the boy; 'but I don't know where she lives or
how I shall catch her!'
'Oh, I can show you the way!' said the fox, who was really very
good-natured. 'Far towards the east, in that direction, lives a
beautiful maiden who is called "The Sister of the Sun." She has
three golden hens in her house. Perhaps the feather belongs to
one of them.'
The boy was delighted at this news, and they walked on all day
together, the fox in front, and the boy behind. When evening
came they lay down to sleep, and put the knapsack under their
heads for a pillow.
Suddenly, about midnight, the fox gave a low whine, and drew
nearer to his bedfellow. 'Cousin,' he whispered very low, 'there
is someone coming who will take the knapsack away from me. Look
over there!' And the boy, peeping through the bushes, saw a man.
'Oh, I don't think he will rob us!' said the boy; and when the
man drew near, he told them his story, which so much interested
the stranger that he asked leave to travel with them, as he might
be of some use. So when the sun rose they set out again, the fox
in front as before, the man and boy following.
After some hours they reached the castle of the Sister of the
Sun, who kept the golden hens among her treasures. They halted
before the gate and took counsel as to which of them should go in
and see the lady herself.
'I think it would be best for me to enter and steal the hens,'
said the fox; but this did not please the boy at all.
'No, it is my business, so it is right that I should go,'
'You will find it a very difficult matter to get hold of the
hens,' replied the fox.
'Oh, nothing is likely to happen to me,' returned the boy.
'Well, go then,' said the fox, 'but be careful not to make any
mistake. Steal only the hen which has the feather missing from
her tail, and leave the others alone.'
The man listened, but did not interfere, and the boy entered the
court of the palace.
He soon spied the three hens strutting proudly about, though they
were really anxiously wondering if there were not some grains
lying on the ground that they might be glad to eat. And as the
last one passed by him, he saw she had one feather missing from
At this sight the youth darted forward and seized the hen by the
neck so that she could not struggle. Then, tucking her
comfortably under his arm, he made straight for the gate.
Unluckily, just as he was about to go through it he looked back
and caught a glimpse of wonderful splendours from an open door of
the palace. 'After all, there is no hurry,' he said to himself;
'I may as well see something now I AM here,' and turned back,
forgetting all about the hen, which escaped from under his arm,
and ran to join her sisters.
He was so much fascinated by the sight of all the beautiful
things which peeped through the door that he scarcely noticed
that he had lost the prize he had won; and he did not remember
there was such a thing as a hen in the world when he beheld the
Sister of the Sun sleeping on a bed before him.
For some time he stood staring; then he came to himself with a
start, and feeling that he had no business there, softly stole
away, and was fortunate enough to recapture the hen, which he
took with him to the gate. On the threshold he stopped again.
'Why should I not look at the Sister of the Sun?' he thought to
himself; 'she is asleep, and will never know.' And he turned
back for the second time and entered the chamber, while the hen
wriggled herself free as before. When he had gazed his fill he
went out into the courtyard and picked up his hen who was seeking
As he drew near the gate he paused. 'Why did I not give her a
kiss?' he said to himself; 'I shall never kiss any woman so
beautiful.' And he wrung his hands with regret, so that the hen
fell to the ground and ran away.
'But I can do it still!' he cried with delight, and he rushed
back to the chamber and kissed the sleeping maiden on the
forehead. But, alas! when he came out again he found that the
hen had grown so shy that she would not let him come near her.
And, worse than that, her sisters began to cluck so loud that the
Sister of the Sun was awakened by the noise. She jumped up in
haste from her bed, and going to the door she said to the boy:
'You shall never, never, have my hen till you bring me back my
sister who was carried off by a giant to his castle, which is a
long way off.'
Slowly and sadly the youth left the palace and told his story to
his friends, who were waiting outside the gate, how he had
actually held the hen three times in his arms and had lost her.
'I knew that we should not get off so easily,' said the fox,
shaking his head; 'but there is no more time to waste. Let us
set off at once in search of the sister. Luckily, I know the
They walked on for many days, till at length the fox, who, as
usual, was going first, stopped suddenly.
'The giant's castle is not far now,' he said, 'but when we reach
it you two must remain outside while I go and fetch the princess.
Directly I bring her out you must both catch hold of her tight,
and get away as fast as you can; while I return to the castle and
talk to the giants--for there are many of them--so that they may
not notice the escape of the princess.'
A few minutes later they arrived at the castle, and the fox, who
had often been there before, slipped in without difficulty.
There were several giants, both young and old, in the hall, and
they were all dancing round the princess. As soon as they saw
the fox they cried out: 'Come and dance too, old fox; it is a
long time since we have seen you.'
So the fox stood up, and did his steps with the best of them; but
after a while he stopped and said:
'I know a charming new dance that I should like to show you; but
it can only be done by two people. If the princess will honour
me for a few minutes, you will soon see how it is done.'
'Ah, that is delightful; we want something new,' answered they,
and placed the princess between the outstretched arms of the fox.
In one instant he had knocked over the great stand of lights that
lighted the hall, and in the darkness had borne the princess to
the gate. His comrades seized hold of her, as they had been
bidden, and the fox was back again in the hall before anyone had
missed him. He found the giants busy trying to kindle a fire and
get some light; but after a bit someone cried out:
'Where is the princess?'
'Here, in my arms,' replied the fox. 'Don't be afraid; she is
quite safe.' And he waited until he thought that his comrades
had gained a good start, and put at least five or six mountains
between themselves and the giants. Then he sprang through the
door, calling, as he went: 'The maiden is here; take her if you
At these words the giants understood that their prize had
escaped, and they ran after the fox as fast as their great legs
could carry them, thinking that they should soon come up with the
fox, who they supposed had the princess on his back. The fox, on
his side, was far too clever to choose the same path that his
friends had taken, but would in and out of the forest, till at
last even HE was tired out, and fell fast asleep under a tree.
Indeed, he was so exhausted with his day's work that he never
heard the approach of the giants, and their hands were already
stretched out to seize his tail when his eyes opened, and with a
tremendous bound he was once more beyond their reach. All the
rest of the night the fox ran and ran; but when bright red spread
over the east, he stopped and waited till the giants were close
upon him. Then he turned, and said quietly: 'Look, there is the
Sister of the Sun!'
The giants raised their eyes all at once, and were instantly
turned into pillars of stone. The fox then made each pillar a
low bow, and set off to join his friends.
He knew a great many short cuts across the hills, so it was not
long before he came up with them, and all four travelled night
and day till they reached the castle of the Sister of the Sun.
What joy and feasting there was throughout the palace at the
sight of the princess whom they had mourned as dead! and they
could not make enough of the boy who had gone through such
dangers in order to rescue her. The golden hen was given to him
at once, and, more than that, the Sister of the Sun told him
that, in a little time, when he was a few years older, she would
herself pay a visit to his home and become his wife. The boy
could hardly believe his ears when he heard what was in store for
him, for his was the most beautiful princess in all the world;
and however thick the darkness might be, it fled away at once
from the light of a star on her forehead.
So the boy set forth on his journey home, with his friends for
company; his heart full of gladness when he thought of the
promise of the princess. But, one by one, his comrades dropped
off at the places where they had first met him, and he was quite
alone when he reached his native town and the gates of the
palace. With the golden hen under his arm he presented himself
before the king, and told his adventures, and how he was going to
have for a wife a princess so wonderful and unlike all other
princesses, that the star on her forehead could turn night into
day. The king listened silently, and when the boy had done, he
said quietly: 'If I find that your story is not true I will have
you thrown into a cask of pitch.'
'It is true--every word of it,' answered the boy; and went on to
tell that the day and even the hour were fixed when his bride was
to come and seek him.
But as the time drew near, and nothing was heard of the princess,
the youth became anxious and uneasy, especially when it came to
his ears that the great cask was being filled with pitch, and
that sticks were laid underneath to make a fire to boil it with.
All day long the boy stood at the window, looking over the sea by
which the princess must travel; but there were no signs of her,
not even the tiniest white sail. And, as he stood, soldiers came
and laid hands on him, and led him up to the cask, where a big
fire was blazing, and the horrid black pitch boiling and bubbling
over the sides. He looked and shuddered, but there was no
escape; so he shut his eyes to avoid seeing.
The word was given for him to mount the steps which led to the
top of the cask, when, suddenly, some men were seen running with
all their might, crying as they went that a large ship with its
sails spread was making straight for the city. No one knew what
the ship was, or whence it came; but the king declared that he
would not have the boy burned before its arrival, there would
always be time enough for that.
At length the vessel was safe in port, and a whisper went through
the watching crowd that on board was the Sister of the Sun, who
had come to marry the young peasant as she had promised. In a
few moments more she had landed, and desired to be shown the way
to the cottage which her bridegroom had so often described to
her; and whither he had been led back by the king's order at the
first sign of the ship.
'Don't you know me?' asked the Sister of the Sun, bending over
him where he lay, almost driven out of his senses with terror.
'No, no; I don't know you,' answered the youth, without raising
'Kiss me,' said the Sister of the Sun; and the youth obeyed her,
but still without looking up.
'Don't you know me NOW?' asked she.
'No, I don't know you--I don't know you,' he replied, with the
manner of a man whom fear had driven mad.
At this the Sister of the Sun grew rather frightened, and
beginning at the beginning, she told him the story of his meeting
with her, and how she had come a long way in order to marry him.
And just as she had finished in walked the king, to see if what
the boy had said was really true. But hardly had he opened the
door of the cottage when he was almost blinded by the light that
filled it; and he remembered what he had been told about the star
on the forehead of the princess. He staggered back as if he had
been struck, then a curious feeling took hold of him, which he
had never felt before, and falling on his knees before the Sister
of the Sun, he implored her to give up all thought of the peasant
boy, and to share his throne. But she laughed, and said she had
a finer throne of her own, if she wanted to sit on it, and that
she was free to please herself, and would have no husband but the
boy whom she would never have seen except for the king himself.
'I shall marry him to-morrow,' ended she; and ordered the
preparations to be set on foot at once.
When the next day came, however, the bridegroom's father informed
the princess that, by the law of the land, the marriage must take
place in the presence of the king; but he hoped his majesty would
not long delay his arrival. An hour or two passed, and everyone
was waiting and watching, when at last the sound of trumpets was
heard and a grand procession was seen marching up the street. A
chair covered with velvet had been made ready for the king, and
he took his seat upon it, and, looking round upon the assembled
company, he said:
'I have no wish to forbid this marriage; but, before I can allow
it to be celebrated, the bridegroom must prove himself worthy of
such a bride by fulfilling three tasks. And the first is that in
a single day he must cut down every tree in an entire forest.
The youth stood aghast as the king's words. He had never cut
down a tree in his life, and had not the least idea how to begin.
And as for a whole forest--! But the princess saw what was
passing in his mind, and whispered to him:
'Don't be afraid. In my ship you will find an axe, which you
must carry off to the forest. When you have cut down one tree
with it just say: "So let the forest fall," and in an instant all
the trees will be on the ground. But pick up three chips of the
tree you felled, and put them in your pocket.'
And the young man did exactly as he was bid, and soon returned
with the three chips safe in his coat.
The following morning the princess declared that she had been
thinking about the matter, and that, as she was not a subject of
the king, she saw no reason why she should be bound by his laws;
and she meant to be married that very day. But the bridegroom's
father told her that it was all very well for her to talk like
that, but it was quite different for his son, who would pay with
his head for any disobedience to the king's commands. However,
in consideration of what the youth had done the day before, he
hoped his majesty's heart might be softened, especially as he had
sent a message that they might expect him at once. With this the
bridal pair had to be content, and be as patient as they could
till the king's arrival.
He did not keep them long, but they saw by his face that nothing
good awaited them.
'The marriage cannot take place,' he said shortly, 'till the
youth has joined to their roots all the trees he cut down
This sounded much more difficult than what he had done before,
and he turned in despair to the Sister of the Sun.
'It is all right,' she whispered encouragingly. 'Take this water
and sprinkle it on one of the fallen trees, and say to it: "So
let all the trees of the forest stand upright," and in a moment
they will be erect again.'
And the young man did what he was told, and left the forest
looking exactly as it had done before.
Now, surely, thought the princess, there was no longer any need
to put off the wedding; and she gave orders that all should be
ready for the following day. But again the old man interfered,
and declared that without the king's permission no marriage could
take place. For the third time his majesty was sent for, and for
the third time he proclaimed that he could not give his consent
until the bridegroom should have slain a serpent which dwelt in a
broad river that flowed at the back of the castle. Everyone knew
stories of this terrible serpent, though no one had actually seen
it; but from time to time a child strayed from home and never
came back, and then mothers would forbid the other children to go
near the river, which had juicy fruits and lovely flowers growing
along its banks.
So no wonder the youth trembled and turned pale when he heard
what lay before him.
'You will succeed in this also,' whispered the Sister of the Sun,
pressing his hand, 'for in my ship is a magic sword which will
cut through everything. Go down to the river and unfasten a boat
which lies moored there, and throw the chips into the water.
When the serpent rears up its body you will cut off its three
heads with one blow of your sword. Then take the tip of each
tongue and go with it to-morrow morning into the king's kitchen.
If the king himself should enter, just say to him: "Here are
three gifts I offer you in return for the services you demanded
of me!" and throw the tips of the serpent's tongues at him, and
hasten to the ship as fast as your legs will carry you. But be
sure you take great care never to look behind you.'
The young man did exactly what the princess had told him. The
three chips which he flung into the river became a boat, and, as
he steered across the stream, the serpent put up its head and
hissed loudly. The youth had his sword ready, and in another
second the three heads were bobbing on the water. Guiding his
boat till he was beside them, he stooped down and snipped off the
ends of the tongues, and then rowed back to the other bank. Next
morning he carried them into the royal kitchen, and when the king
entered, as was his custom, to see what he was going to have for
dinner, the bridegroom flung them in his face, saying: 'Here is a
gift for you in return for the services you asked of me.' And,
opening the kitchen door, he fled to the ship. Unluckily he
missed the way, and in his excitement ran backwards and forwards,
without knowing whither he was going. At last, in despair, he
looked round, and saw to his amazement that both the city and
palace had vanished completely. Then he turned his eyes in the
other direction, and, far, far away, he caught sight of the ship
with her sails spread, and a fair wind behind her.
This dreadful spectacle seemed to take away his senses, and all
day long he wandered about, without knowing where he was going,
till, in the evening, he noticed some smoke from a little hut of
turf near by. He went straight up to it and cried: 'O mother,
let me come in for pity's sake!' The old woman who lived in the
hut beckoned to him to enter, and hardly was he inside when he
cried again: 'O mother, can you tell me anything of the Sister of
But the woman only shook her head. 'No, I know nothing of her,'
The young man turned to leave the hut, but the old woman stopped
him, and, giving him a letter, begged him to carry it to her next
eldest sister, saying: 'If you should get tired on the way, take
out the letter and rustle the paper.'
This advice surprised the young man a good deal, as he did not
see how it could help him; but he did not answer, and went down
the road without knowing where he was going. At length he grew
so tired he could walk no more; then he remembered what the old
woman had said. After he had rustled the leaves only once all
fatigue disappeared, and he strode over the grass till he came to
another little turf hut.
'Let me in, I pray you, dear mother,' cried he. And the door
opened in front of him. 'Your sister has sent you this letter,'
he said, and added quickly: 'O mother! can you tell me anything
of the Sister of the Sun?'
'No, I know nothing of her,' answered she. But as he turned
hopelessly away, she stopped him.
'If you happen to pass my eldest sister's house, will you give
her this letter?' said she. 'And if you should get tired on the
road, just take it out of your pocket and rustle the paper.'
So the young man put the letter in his pocket, and walked all day
over the hills till he reached a little turf hut, exactly like
the other two.
'Let me in, I pray you, dear mother,' cried he. And as he
entered he added: 'Here is a letter from your sister and--can you
tell me anything of the Sister of the Sun?'
'Yes, I can,' answered the old woman. 'She lives in the castle
on the Banka. Her father lost a battle only a few days ago
because you had stolen his sword from him, and the Sister of the
Sun herself is almost dead of grief. But, when you see her,
stick a pin into the palm of her hand, and suck the drops of
blood that flow. Then she will grow calmer, and will know you
again. Only, beware; for before you reach the castle on the
Banka fearful things will happen.'
He thanked the old woman with tears of gladness for the good news
she had given him, and continued his journey. But he had not
gone very far when, at a turn of the road, he met with two
brothers, who were quarrelling over a piece of cloth.
'My good men, what are you fighting about?' said he. 'That cloth
does not look worth much!'
'Oh, it is ragged enough,' answered they, 'but it was left us by
our father, and if any man wraps it round him no one can see him;
and we each want it for our own.'
'Let me put it round me for a moment,' said the youth, 'and then
I will tell you whose it ought to be!'
The brothers were pleased with this idea, and gave him the stuff;
but the moment he had thrown it over his shoulder he disappeared
as completely as if he had never been there at all.
Meanwhile the young man walked briskly along, till he came up
with two other men, who were disputing over a table-cloth.
'What is the matter?' asked he, stopping in front of them.
'If this cloth is spread on a table,' answered they, 'the table
is instantly covered with the most delicious food; and we each
want to have it.'
'Let me try the table-cloth,' said the youth, 'and I will tell
you whose it ought to be.'
The two men were quite pleased with this idea, and handed him the
cloth. He then hastily threw the first piece of stuff round his
shoulders and vanished from sight, leaving the two men grieving
over their own folly.
The young man had not walked far before he saw two more men
standing by the road-side, both grasping the same stout staff,
and sometimes one seemed on the point of getting it, and
sometimes the other.
'What are you quarrelling about? You could cut a dozen sticks
from the wood each just as good as that!' said the young man.
And as he spoke the fighters both stopped and looked at him.
'Ah! you may think so,' said one, 'but a blow from one end of
this stick will kill a man, while a touch from the other end will
bring him back to life. You won't easily find another stick like
'No; that is true,' answered the young man. 'Let me just look at
it, and I will tell you whose it ought to be.'
The men were pleased with the idea, and handed him the staff.
'It is very curious, certainly,' said he; 'but which end is it
that restores people to life? After all, anyone can be killed by
a blow from a stick if it is only hard enough!' But when he was
shown the end he threw the stuff over his shoulders and vanished.
At last he saw another set of men, who were struggling for the
possession of a pair of shoes.
'Why can't you leave that pair of old shoes alone?' said he.
'Why, you could not walk a yard in them!'
'Yes, they are old enough,' answered they; 'but whoever puts them
on and wishes himself at a particular place, gets there without
'That sounds very clever,' said the youth. 'Let me try them, and
then I shall be able to tell you whose they ought to be.'
The idea pleased the men, and they handed him the shoes; but the
moment they were on his feet he cried:
'I wish to be in the castle on the Banka!' And before he knew it,
he was there, and found the Sister of the Sun dying of grief. He
knelt down by her side, and pulling a pin he stuck it into the
palm of her hand, so that a drop of blood gushed out. This he
sucked, as he had been told to do by the old woman, and
immediately the princess came to herself, and flung her arms
round his neck. Then she told him all her story, and what had
happened since the ship had sailed away without him. 'But the
worst misfortune of all,' she added, 'was a battle which my
father lost because you had vanished with his magic sword; and
out of his whole army hardly one man was left.'
'Show me the battle-field,' said he. And she took him to a wild
heath, where the dead were lying as they fell, waiting for
burial. One by one he touched them with the end of his staff,
till at length they all stood before him. Throughout the kingdom
there was nothing but joy; and THIS time the wedding was REALLY
celebrated. And the bridal pair lived happily in the castle on
the Banka till they died.
The Prince and the Three Fates
Once upon a time a little boy was born to a king who ruled over a
great country through which ran a wide river. The king was
nearly beside himself with joy, for he had always longed for a
son to inherit his crown, and he sent messages to beg all the
most powerful fairies to come and see this wonderful baby. In an
hour or two, so many were gathered round the cradle, that the
child seemed in danger of being smothered; but the king, who was
watching the fairies eagerly, was disturbed to see them looking
grave. 'Is there anything the matter?' he asked anxiously.
The fairies looked at him, and all shook their heads at once.
'He is a beautiful boy, and it is a great pity; but what IS to
happen WILL happen,' said they. 'It is written in the books of
fate that he must die, either by a crocodile, or a serpent, or by
a dog. If we could save him we would; but that is beyond our
And so saying they vanished.
For a time the king stood where he was, horror-stricken at what
he had heard; but, being of a hopeful nature, he began at once to
invent plans to save the prince from the dreadful doom that
awaited him. He instantly sent for his master builder, and bade
him construct a strong castle on the top of a mountain, which
should be fitted with the most precious things from the king's
own palace, and every kind of toy a child could wish to play
with. And, besides, he gave the strictest orders that a guard
should walk round the castle night and day.
For four or five years the baby lived in the castle alone with
his nurses, taking his airings on the broad terraces, which were
surrounded by walls, with a moat beneath them, and only a
drawbridge to connect them with the outer world.
One day, when the prince was old enough to run quite fast by
himself, he looked from the terrace across the moat, and saw a
little soft fluffy ball of a dog jumping and playing on the other
side. Now, of course, all dogs had been kept from him for fear
that the fairies' prophecy should come true, and he had never
even beheld one before. So he turned to the page who was walking
behind him, and said:
'What is that funny little thing which is running so fast over
'That is a dog, prince,' answered the page.
'Well, bring me one like it, and we will see which can run the
faster.' And he watched the dog till it had disappeared round
The page was much puzzled to know what to do. He had strict
orders to refuse the prince nothing; yet he remembered the
prophecy, and felt that this was a serious matter. At last he
thought he had better tell the king the whole story, and let him
decide the question.
'Oh, get him a dog if he wants one,' said the king, 'he will only
cry his heart out if he does not have it.' So a puppy was found,
exactly like the other; they might have been twins, and perhaps
Years went by, and the boy and the dog played together till the
boy grew tall and strong. The time came at last when he sent a
message to his father, saying:
'Why do you keep me shut up here, doing nothing? I know all
about the prophecy that was made at my birth, but I would far
rather be killed at once than live an idle, useless life here.
So give me arms, and let me go, I pray you; me and my dog too.'
And again the king listened to his wishes, and he and his dog
were carried in a ship to the other side of the river, which was
so broad here it might almost have been the sea. A black horse
was waiting for him, tied to a tree, and he mounted and rode away
wherever his fancy took him, the dog always at his heels. Never
was any prince so happy as he, and he rode and rode till at
length he came to a king's palace.
The king who lived in it did not care about looking after his
country, and seeing that his people lived cheerful and contented
lives. He spent his whole time in making riddles, and inventing
plans which he had much better have let alone. At the period
when the young prince reached the kingdom he had just completed a
wonderful house for his only child, a daughter. It had seventy
windows, each seventy feet from the ground, and he had sent the
royal herald round the borders of the neighbouring kingdoms to
proclaim that whoever could climb up the walls to the window of
the princess should win her for his wife.
The fame of the princess's beauty had spread far and wide, and
there was no lack of princes who wished to try their fortune.
Very funny the palace must have looked each morning, with the
dabs of different colour on the white marble as the princes were
climbing up the walls. But though some managed to get further
than others, nobody was anywhere near the top.
They had already been spending several days in this manner when
the young prince arrived, and as he was pleasant to look upon,
and civil to talk to, they welcomed him to the house, which had
been given to them, and saw that his bath was properly perfumed
after his long journey. 'Where do you come from?' they said at
last. 'And whose son are you?'
But the young prince had reasons for keeping his own secret, and
'My father was master of the horse to the king of my country, and
after my mother died he married another wife. At first all went
well, but as soon as she had babies of her own she hated me, and
I fled, lest she should do me harm.'
The hearts of the other young men were touched as soon as they
heard this story, and they did everything they could think of to
make him forget his past sorrows.
'What are you doing here?' said the youth, one day.
'We spend our whole time climbing up the walls of the palace,
trying to reach the windows of the princess,' answered the young
men; 'but, as yet, no one has reached within ten feet of them.'
'Oh, let me try too,' cried the prince; 'but to-morrow I will
wait and see what you do before I begin.
So the next day he stood where he could watch the young men go
up, and he noted the places on the wall that seemed most
difficult, and made up his mind that when his turn came he would
go up some other way.
Day after day he was to be seen watching the wooers, till, one
morning, he felt that he knew the plan of the walls by heart, and
took his place by the side of the others. Thanks to what he had
learned from the failure of the rest, he managed to grasp one
little rough projection after another, till at last, to the envy
of his friends, he stood on the sill of the princess's window.
Looking up from below, they saw a white hand stretched forth to
draw him in.
Then one of the young men ran straight to the king's palace, and
said: 'The wall has been climbed, and the prize is won!'
'By whom?' cried the king, starting up from his throne; 'which of
the princes may I claim as my son-in-law?'
'The youth who succeeded in climbing to the princess's window is
not a prince at all,' answered the young man. 'He is the son of
the master of the horse to the great king who dwells across the
river, and he fled from his own country to escape from the hatred
of his stepmother.'
At this news the king was very angry, for it had never entered
his head that anyone BUT a prince would seek to woo his daughter.
'Let him go back to the land whence he came,' he shouted in
wrath; 'does he expect me to give my daughter to an exile?' And
he began to smash the drinking vessels in his fury; indeed, he
quite frightened the young man, who ran hastily home to his
friends, and told the youth what the king had said.
Now the princess, who was leaning from her window, heard his
words and bade the messenger go back to the king her father and
tell him that she had sworn a vow never to eat or drink again if
the youth was taken from her. The king was more angry than ever
when he received this message, and ordered his guards to go at
once to the palace and put the successful wooer to death; but the
princess threw herself between him and his murderers.
'Lay a finger on him, and I shall be dead before sunset,' said
she; and as they saw that she meant it, they left the palace, and
carried the tale to her father.
By this time the king's anger was dying away, and he began to
consider what his people would think of him if he broke the
promise he had publicly given. So he ordered the princess to be
brought before him, and the young man also, and when they entered
the throne room he was so pleased with the noble air of the
victor that his wrath quite melted away, and he ran to him and
'Tell me who you are?' he asked, when he had recovered himself a
little, 'for I will never believe that you have not royal blood
in your veins.'
But the prince still had his reasons for being silent, and only
told the same story. However, the king had taken such a fancy to
the youth that he said no more, and the marriage took place the
following day, and great herds of cattle and a large estate were
given to the young couple.
After a little while the prince said to his wife: 'My life is in
the hands of three creatures--a crocodile, a serpent, and a dog.'
'Ah, how rash you are!' cried the princess, throwing her arms
round his neck. 'If you know that, how can you have that horrid
beast about you? I will give orders to have him killed at once.'
But the prince would not listen to her.
'Kill my dear little dog, who had been my playfellow since he was
a puppy?' exclaimed he. 'Oh, never would I allow that.' And all
that the princess could get from him was that he would always
wear a sword, and have somebody with him when he left the palace.
When the prince and princess had been married a few months, the
prince heard that his stepmother was dead, and his father was old
and ill, and longing to have his eldest son by his side again.
The young man could not remain deaf to such a message, and he
took a tender farewell of his wife, and set out on his journey
home. It was a long way, and he was forced to rest often on the
road, and so it happened that, one night, when he was sleeping in
a city on the banks of the great river, a huge crocodile came
silently up and made its way along a passage to the prince's
room. Fortunately one of his guards woke up as it was trying to
steal past them, and shut the crocodile up in a large hall, where
a giant watched over it, never leaving the spot except during the
night, when the crocodile slept. And this went on for more than
Now, when the prince found that he was not likely to leave his
father's kingdom again, he sent for his wife, and bade the
messenger tell her that he would await her coming in the town on
the banks of the great river. This was the reason why he delayed
his journey so long, and narrowly escaped being eaten by the
crocodile. During the weeks that followed the prince amused
himself as best he could, though he counted the minutes to the
arrival of the princess, and when she did come, he at once
prepared to start for the court. That very night, however, while
he was asleep, the princess noticed something strange in one of
the corners of the room. It was a dark patch, and seemed, as she
looked, to grow longer and longer, and to be moving slowly
towards the cushions on which the prince was lying. She shrank
in terror, but, slight as was the noise, the thing heard it, and
raised its head to listen. Then she saw it was the long flat
head of a serpent, and the recollection of the prophecy rushed
into her mind. Without waking her husband, she glided out of
bed, and taking up a heavy bowl of milk which stood on a table,
laid it on the floor in the path of the serpent--for she knew
that no serpent in the world can resist milk. She held her
breath as the snake drew near, and watched it throw up its head
again as if it was smelling something nice, while its forky
tongue darted out greedily. At length its eyes fell upon the
milk, and in an instant it was lapping it so fast that it was a
wonder the creature did not choke, for it never took its head
from the bowl as long as a drop was left in it. After that it
dropped on the ground and slept heavily. This was what the
princess had been waiting for, and catching up her husband's
sword, she severed the snake's head from its body.
The morning after this adventure the prince and princess set out
for the king's palace, but found when they reached it, that he
was already dead. They gave him a magnificent burial, and then
the prince had to examine the new laws which had been made in his
absence, and do a great deal of business besides, till he grew
quite ill from fatigue, and was obliged to go away to one of his
palaces on the banks of the river, in order to rest. Here he
soon got better, and began to hunt, and to shoot wild duck with
his bow; and wherever he went, his dog, now grown very old, went
One morning the prince and his dog were out as usual, and in
chasing their game they drew near the bank of the river. The
prince was running at full speed after his dog when he almost
fell over something that looked like a log of wood, which was
lying in his path. To his surprise a voice spoke to him, and he
saw that the thing which he had taken for a branch was really a
'You cannot escape from me,' it was saying, when he had gathered
his senses again. 'I am your fate, and wherever you go, and
whatever you do, you will always find me before you. There is
only one means of shaking off my power. If you can dig a pit in
the dry sand which will remain full of water, my spell will be
broken. If not death will come to you speedily. I give you this
one chance. Now go.'
The young man walked sadly away, and when he reached the palace
he shut himself into his room, and for the rest of the day
refused to see anyone, not even his wife. At sunset, however, as
no sound could be heard through the door, the princess grew quite
frightened, and made such a noise that the prince was forced to
draw back the bolt and let her come in. 'How pale you look,' she
cried, 'has anything hurt you? Tell me, I pray you, what is the
matter, for perhaps I can help!'
So the prince told her the whole story, and of the impossible
task given him by the crocodile.
'How can a sand hole remain full of water?' asked he. 'Of
course, it will all run through. The crocodile called it a
"chance"; but he might as well have dragged me into the river at
once. He said truly that I cannot escape him.'
'Oh, if that is all,' cried the princess, 'I can set you free
myself, for my fairy godmother taught me to know the use of
plants and in the desert not far from here there grows a little
four-leaved herb which will keep the water in the pit for a whole
year. I will go in search of it at dawn, and you can begin to
dig the hole as soon as you like.
To comfort her husband, the princess had spoken lightly and
gaily; but she knew very well she had no light task before her.
Still, she was full of courage and energy, and determined that,
one way or another, her husband should be saved.
It was still starlight when she left the palace on a snow-white
donkey, and rode away from the river straight to the west. For
some time she could see nothing before her but a flat waste of
sand, which became hotter and hotter as the sun rose higher and
higher. Then a dreadful thirst seized her and the donkey, but
there was no stream to quench it, and if there had been she would
hardly have had time to stop, for she still had far to go, and
must be back before evening, or else the crocodile might declare
that the prince had not fulfilled his conditions. So she spoke
cheering words to her donkey, who brayed in reply, and the two
pushed steadily on.
Oh! how glad they both were when they caught sight of a tall rock
in the distance. They forgot that they were thirsty, and that
the sun was hot; and the ground seemed to fly under their feet,
till the donkey stopped of its own accord in the cool shadow.
But though the donkey might rest the princess could not, for the
plant, as she knew, grew on the very top of the rock, and a wide
chasm ran round the foot of it. Luckily she had brought a rope
with her, and making a noose at one end, she flung it across with
all her might. The first time it slid back slowly into the
ditch, and she had to draw it up, and throw it again, but at
length the noose caught on something, the princess could not see
what, and had to trust her whole weight to this little bridge,
which might snap and let her fall deep down among the rocks. And
in that case her death was as certain as that of the prince.
But nothing so dreadful happened. The princess got safely to the
other side, and then became the worst part of her task. As fast
as she put her foot on a ledge of the rock the stone broke away
from under her, and left her in the same place as before.
Meanwhile the hours were passing, and it was nearly noon.
The heart of the poor princess was filled with despair, but she
would not give up the struggle. She looked round till she saw a
small stone above her which seemed rather stronger than the rest,
and by only poising her foot lightly on those that lay between,
she managed by a great effort to reach it. In this way, with
torn and bleeding hands, she gained the top; but here such a
violent wind was blowing that she was almost blinded with dust,
and was obliged to throw herself on the ground, and feel about
after the precious herb.
For a few terrible moments she thought that the rock was bare,
and that her journey had been to no purpose. Feel where she
would, there was nothing but grit and stones, when, suddenly, her
fingers touched something soft in a crevice. It was a plant,
that was clear; but was it the right one? See she could not, for
the wind was blowing more fiercely than ever, so she lay where
she was and counted the leaves. One, two, three--yes! yes! there
were four! And plucking a leaf she held it safe in her hand while
she turned, almost stunned by the wind, to go down the rock.
When once she was safely over the side all became still in a
moment, and she slid down the rock so fast that it was only a
wonder that she did not land in the chasm. However, by good
luck, she stopped quite close to her rope bridge and was soon
across it. The donkey brayed joyfully at the sight of her, and
set off home at his best speed, never seeming to know that the
earth under his feet was nearly as hot as the sun above him.
On the bank of the great river he halted, and the princess rushed
up to where the prince was standing by the pit he had digged in
the dry sand, with a huge water pot beside it. A little way off
the crocodile lay blinking in the sun, with his sharp teeth and
whity-yellow jaws wide open.
At a signal from the princess the prince poured the water in the
hole, and the moment it reached the brim the princess flung in
the four-leaved plant. Would the charm work, or would the water
trickle away slowly through the sand, and the prince fall a
victim to that horrible monster? For half an hour they stood
with their eyes rooted to the spot, but the hole remained as full
as at the beginning, with the little green leaf floating on the
top. Then the prince turned with a shout of triumph, and the
crocodile sulkily plunged into the river.
The prince had escape for ever the second of his three fates!
He stood there looking after the crocodile, and rejoicing that he
was free, when he was startled by a wild duck which flew past
them, seeking shelter among the rushes that bordered the edge of
the stream. In another instant his dog dashed by in hot pursuit,
and knocked heavily against his master's legs. The prince
staggered, lost his balance and fell backwards into the river,
where the mud and the rushes caught him and held him fast. He
shrieked for help to his wife, who came running; and luckily
brought her rope with her. The poor old dog was drowned, but the
prince was pulled to shore. 'My wife,' he said, 'has been
stronger than my fate.'
[Adapted from Les Contes Populaires de l'Egypte Ancienne.]
The Fox and the Lapp
Once upon a time a fox lay peeping out of his hole, watching the
road that ran by at a little distance, and hoping to see
something that might amuse him, for he was feeling very dull and
rather cross. For a long while he watched in vain; everything
seemed asleep, and not even a bird stirred overhead. The fox
grew crosser than ever, and he was just turning away in disgust
from his place when he heard the sound of feet coming over the
snow. He crouched eagerly down at the edge of the road and said
to himself: 'I wonder what would happen if I were to pretend to
be dead! This is a man driving a reindeer sledge, I know the
tinkling of the harness. And at any rate I shall have an
adventure, and that is always something!'
So he stretched himself out by the side of the road, carefully
choosing a spot where the driver could not help seeing him, yet
where the reindeer would not tread on him; and all fell out just
as he had expected. The sledge-driver pulled up sharply, as his
eyes lighted on the beautiful animal lying stiffly beside him,
and jumping out he threw the fox into the bottom of the sledge,
where the goods he was carrying were bound tightly together by
ropes. The fox did not move a muscle though his bones were sore
from the fall, and the driver got back to his seat again and
drove on merrily.
But before they had gone very far, the fox, who was near the
edge, contrived to slip over, and when the Laplander saw him
stretched out on the snow he pulled up his reindeer and put the
fox into one of the other sledges that was fastened behind, for
it was market-day at the nearest town, and the man had much to
They drove on a little further, when some noise in the forest
made the man turn his head, just in time to see the fox fall with
a heavy thump on to the frozen snow. 'That beast is bewitched!'
he said to himself, and then he threw the fox into the last
sledge of all, which had a cargo of fishes. This was exactly
what the cunning creature wanted, and he wriggled gently to the
front and bit the cord which tied the sledge to the one before it
so that it remained standing in the middle of the road.
Now there were so many sledges that the Lapp did not notice for a
long while that one was missing; indeed, he would have entered
the town without knowing if snow had not suddenly begun to fall.
Then he got down to secure more firmly the cloths that kept his
goods dry, and going to the end of the long row, discovered that
the sledge containing the fish and the fox was missing. He
quickly unharnessed one of his reindeer and rode back along the
way he had come, to find the sledge standing safe in the middle
of the road; but as the fox had bitten off the cord close to the
noose there was no means of moving it away.
The fox meanwhile was enjoying himself mightily. As soon as he
had loosened the sledge, he had taken his favourite fish from
among the piles neatly arranged for sale, and had trotted off to
the forest with it in his mouth. By-and-by he met a bear, who
stopped and said: 'Where did you find that fish, Mr. Fox?'
'Oh, not far off,' answered he; 'I just stuck my tail in the
stream close by the place where the elves dwell, and the fish
hung on to it of itself.'
'Dear me,' snarled the bear, who was hungry and not in a good
temper, 'if the fish hung on to your tail, I suppose he will hang
on to mine.'
'Yes, certainly, grandfather,' replied the fox, 'if you have
patience to suffer what I suffered.'
'Of course I can,' replied the bear, 'what nonsense you talk!
Show me the way.'
So the fox led him to the bank of a stream, which, being in a
warm place, had only lightly frozen in places, and was at this
moment glittering in the spring sunshine.
'The elves bathe here,' he said, 'and if you put in your tail the
fish will catch hold of it. But it is no use being in a hurry,
or you will spoil everything.'
Then he trotted off, but only went out of sight of the bear, who
stood still on the bank with his tail deep in the water. Soon
the sun set and it grew very cold and the ice formed rapidly, and
the bear's tail was fixed as tight as if a vice had held it; and
when the fox saw that everything had happened just as he had
planned it, he called out loudly:
'Be quick, good people, and come with your bows and spears. A
bear has been fishing in your brook!'
And in a moment the whole place was full of little creatures each
one with a tiny bow and a spear hardly big enough for a baby; but
both arrows and spears could sting, as the bear knew very well,
and in his fright he gave such a tug to his tail that it broke
short off, and he rolled away into the forest as fast as his legs
could carry him. At this sight the fox held his sides for
laughing, and then scampered away in another direction. By-and-
by he came to a fir tree, and crept into a hole under the root.
After that he did something very strange.
Taking one of his hind feet between his two front paws, he said
'What would you do, my foot, if someone was to betray me?'
'I would run so quickly that he should not catch you.'
'What would you do, mine ear, if someone was to betray me?'
'I would listen so hard that I should hear all his plans.'
'What would you do, my nose, if someone was to betray me?'
'I would smell so sharply that I should know from afar that he
'What would you do, my tail, if someone was to betray me?'
'I would steer you so straight a course that you would soon be
beyond his reach. Let us be off; I feel as if danger was near.'
But the fox was comfortable where he was, and did not hurry
himself to take his tail's advice. And before very long he found
he was too late, for the bear had come round by another path, and
guessing where his enemy was began to scratch at the roots of the
tree. The fox made himself as small as he could, but a scrap of
his tail peeped out, and the bear seized it and held it tight.
Then the fox dug his claws into the ground, but he was not strong
enough to pull against the bear, and slowly he was dragged forth
and his body flung over the bear's neck. In this manner they set
out down the road, the fox's tail being always in the bear's
After they had gone some way, they passed a tree-stump, on which
a bright coloured woodpecker was tapping.
'Ah! those were better times when I used to paint all the birds
such gay colours,' sighed the fox.
'What are you saying, old fellow?' asked the bear.
'I? Oh, I was saying nothing,' answered the fox drearily. 'Just
carry me to your cave and eat me up as quick as you can.'
The bear was silent, and thought of his supper; and the two
continued their journey till they reached another tree with a
woodpecker tapping on it.
'Ah! those were better times when I used to paint all the birds
such gay colours,' said the fox again to himself.
'Couldn't you paint me too?' asked the bear suddenly.
But the fox shook his head; for he was always acting, even if no
one was there to see him do it.
'You bear pain so badly,' he replied, in a thoughtful voice, 'and
you are impatient besides, and could never put up with all that
is necessary. Why, you would first have to dig a pit, and then
twist ropes of willow, and drive in posts and fill the hole with
pitch, and, last of all, set it on fire. Oh, no; you would never
be able to do all that.'
'It does not matter a straw how hard the work is,' answered the
bear eagerly, 'I will do it every bit.' And as he spoke he began
tearing up the earth so fast that soon a deep pit was ready, deep
enough to hold him.
'That is all right,' said the fox at last, 'I see I was mistaken
in you. Now sit here, and I will bind you.' So the bear sat
down on the edge of the pit, and the fox sprang on his back,
which he crossed with the willow ropes, and then set fire to the
pitch. It burnt up in an instant, and caught the bands of willow
and the bear's rough hair; but he did not stir, for he thought
that the fox was rubbing the bright colours into his skin, and
that he would soon be as beautiful as a whole meadow of flowers.
But when the fire grew hotter still he moved uneasily from one
foot to the other, saying, imploringly: 'It is getting rather
warm, old man.' But all the answer he got was: 'I thought you
would never be able to suffer pain like those little birds.'
The bear did not like being told that he was not as brave as a
bird, so he set his teeth and resolved to endure anything sooner
than speak again; but by this time the last willow band had
burned through, and with a push the fox sent his victim tumbling
into the grass, and ran off to hide himself in the forest. After
a while he stole cautiously and found, as he expected, nothing
left but a few charred bones. These he picked up and put in a
bag, which he slung over his back.
By-and-by he met a Lapp driving his team of reindeer along the
road, and as he drew near, the fox rattled the bones gaily.
'That sounds like silver or gold,' thought the man to himself.
And he said politely to the fox:
'Good-day, friend! What have you got in your bag that makes such
a strange sound?'
'All the wealth my father left me,' answered the fox. 'Do you
feel inclined to bargain?'
'Well, I don't mind,' replied the Lapp, who was a prudent man,
and did not wish the fox to think him too eager; 'but show me
first what money you have got.'
'Ah, but I can't do that,' answered the fox, 'my bag is sealed
up. But if you will give me those three reindeer, you shall take
it as it is, with all its contents.'
The Lapp did not quite like it, but the fox spoke with such an
air that his doubts melted away. He nodded, and stretched out
his hand; the fox put the bag into it, and unharnassed the
reindeer he had chosen.
'Oh, I forgot!' he exclaimed, turning round, as he was about to
drive them in the opposite direction, 'you must be sure not to
open the bag until you have gone at least five miles, right on
the other side of those hills out there. If you do, you will
find that all the gold and silver has changed into a parcel of
charred bones.' Then he whipped up his reindeer, and was soon
out of sight.
For some time the Lapp was satisfied with hearing the bones
rattle, and thinking to himself what a good bargain he had made,
and of all the things he would buy with the money. But, after a
bit, this amusement ceased to content him, and besides, what was
the use of planning when you did not know for certain how rich
you were? Perhaps there might be a great deal of silver and only
a little gold in the bag; or a great deal of gold, and only a
little silver. Who could tell? He would not, of course, take
the money out to count it, for that might bring him bad luck.
But there could be no harm in just one peep! So he slowly broke
the seal, and untied the strings, and, behold, a heap of burnt
bones lay before him! In a minute he knew he had been tricked,
and flinging the bag to the ground in a rage, he ran after the
fox as fast as his snow-shoes would carry him.
Now the fox had guessed exactly what would happen, and was on the
look out. Directly he saw the little speck coming towards him,
he wished that the man's snow-shoes might break, and that very
instant the Lapp's shoes snapped in two. The Lapp did now know
that this was the fox's work, but he had to stop and fetch one of
his other reindeer, which he mounted, and set off again in
pursuit of his enemy. The fox soon heard him coming, and this
time he wished that the reindeer might fall and break its leg.
And so it did; and the man felt it was a hopeless chase, and that
he was no match for the fox.
So the fox drove on in peace till he reached the cave where all
his stores were kept, and then he began to wonder whom he could
get to help him kill his reindeer, for though he could steal
reindeer he was too small to kill them. 'After all, it will be
quite easy,' thought he, and he bade a squirrel, who was watching
him on a tree close by, take a message to all the robber beasts
of the forest, and in less than half an hour a great crashing of
branches was heard, and bears, wolves, snakes, mice, frogs, and
other creatures came pressing up to the cave.
When they heard why they had been summoned, they declared
themselves ready each one to do his part. The bear took his
crossbow from his neck and shot the reindeer in the chin; and,
from that day to this, every reindeer has a mark in that same
spot, which is always known as the bear's arrow. The wolf shot
him in the thigh, and the sign of his arrow still remains; and so
with the mouse and the viper and all the rest, even the frog; and
at the last the reindeer all died. And the fox did nothing, but
'I really must go down to the brook and wash myself,' said he
(though he was perfectly clean), and he went under the bank and
hid himself behind a stone. From there he set up the most
frightful shrieks, so that the animals fled away in all
directions. Only the mouse and the ermine remained where they
were, for they thought that they were much too small to be
The fox continued his shrieks till he felt sure that the animals
must have got to a safe distance; then he crawled out of his
hiding-place and went to the bodies of the reindeer, which he now
had all to himself. He gathered a bundle of sticks for a fire,
and was just preparing to cook a steak, when his enemy, the Lapp,
came up, panting with haste and excitement.
'What are you doing there?' cried he; 'why did you palm off those
bones on me? And why, when you had got the reindeer, did you
'Dear brother,' answered the fox with a sob, 'do not blame me for
this misfortune. It is my comrades who have slain them in spite
of my prayers.'
The man made no reply, for the white fur of the ermine, who was
crouching with the mouse behind some stones, had just caught his
eye. He hastily seized the iron hook which hung over the fire
and flung it at the little creature; but the ermine was too quick
for him, and the hook only touched the top of its tail, and that
has remained black to this day. As for the mouse, the Lapp threw
a half-burnt stick after him, and though it was not enough to
hurt him, his beautiful white skin was smeared all over with it,
and all the washing in the world would not make him clean again.
And the man would have been wiser if he had let the ermine and
the mouse alone, for when he turned round again he found he was
Directly the fox noticed that his enemy's attention had wandered
from himself he watched his chance, and stole softly away till he
had reached a clump of thick bushes, when he ran as fast as he
could, till he reached a river, where a man was mending his boat.
'Oh, I wish, I wish, I had a boat to mend too!' he cried, sitting
up on his hind-legs and looking into the man's face.
'Stop your silly chatter!' answered the man crossly, 'or I will
give you a bath in the river.'
'Oh, I wish, I do wish, I had a boat to mend,' cried the fox
again, as if he had not heard. And the man grew angry and seized
him by the tail, and threw him far out in the stream close to the
edge of an island; which was just what the fox wanted. He easily
scrambled up, and sitting on the top, he called: 'Hasten, hasten,
O fishes, and carry me to the other side!' And the fishes left
the stones where they had been sleeping, and the pools where they
had been feeding, and hurried to see who could get to the island
'I have won,' shouted the pike. 'Jump on my back, dear fox, and
you will find yourself in a trice on the opposite shore.'
'No, thank you,' answered the fox, 'your back is much too weak
for me. I should break it.'
'Try mine,' said the eel, who had wriggled to the front.
'No, thank you,' replied the fox again, 'I should slip over your
head and be drowned.'
'You won't slip on MY back,' said the perch, coming forward.
'No; but you are really TOO rough,' returned the fox.
'Well, you can have no fault to find with ME,' put in the trout.
'Good gracious! are YOU here?' exclaimed the fox. 'But I'm
afraid to trust myself to you either.'
At this moment a fine salmon swam slowly up.
'Ah, yes, you are the person I want,' said the fox; 'but come
near, so that I may get on your back, without wetting my feet.'
So the salmon swam close under the island, and when he was
touching it the fox seized him in his claws and drew him out of
the water, and put him on a spit, while he kindled a fire to cook
him by. When everything was ready, and the water in the pot was
getting hot, he popped him in, and waited till he thought the
salmon was nearly boiled. But as he stooped down the water gave
a sudden fizzle, and splashed into the fox's eyes, blinding him.
He started backwards with a cry of pain, and sat still for some
minutes, rocking himself to and fro. When he was a little better
he rose and walked down a road till he met a grouse, who stopped
and asked what was the matter.
'Have you a pair of eyes anywhere about you?' asked the fox
'No, I am afraid I haven't,' answered the grouse, and passed on.
A little while after the fox heard the buzzing of an early bee,
whom a gleam of sun had tempted out.
'Do you happen to have an extra pair of eyes anywhere?' asked the
'I am sorry to say I have only those I am using,' replied the
bee. And the fox went on till he nearly fell over an asp who was
gliding across the road.
'I should be SO glad if you would tell me where I could get a
pair of eyes,' said the fox. 'I suppose you don't happen to have
any you could lend me?'
'Well, if you only want them for a short time, perhaps I could
manage,' answered the asp; 'but I can't do without them for
'Oh, it is only for a very short time that I need them,' said the
fox; 'I have a pair of my own just behind that hill, and when I
find them I will bring yours back to you. Perhaps you will keep
these till them.' So he took the eyes out of his own head and
popped them into the head of the asp, and put the asp's eyes in
their place. As he was running off he cried over his shoulder:
'As long as the world lasts the asps' eyes will go down in the
heads of foxes from generation to generation.'
And so it has been; and if you look at the eyes of an asp you
will see that they are all burnt; and though thousands and
thousands of years have gone by since the fox was going about
playing tricks upon everybody he met, the asp still bears the
traces of the day when the sly creature cooked the salmon.
Kisa the Cat
Once upon a time there lived a queen who had a beautiful cat, the
colour of smoke, with china-blue eyes, which she was very fond
of. The cat was constantly with her, and ran after her wherever
she went, and even sat up proudly by her side when she drove out
in her fine glass coach.
'Oh, pussy,' said the queen one day, 'you are happier than I am!
For you have a dear kitten just like yourself, and I have nobody
to play with but you.'
'Don't cry,' answered the cat, laying her paw on her mistress's
arm. 'Crying never does any good. I will see what can be done.'
The cat was as good as her word. As soon as she returned from
her drive she trotted off to the forest to consult a fairy who
dwelt there, and very soon after the queen had a little girl, who
seemed made out of snow and sunbeams. The queen was delighted,
and soon the baby began to take notice of the kitten as she
jumped about the room, and would not go to sleep at all unless
the kitten lay curled up beside her.
Two or three months went by, and though the baby was still a
baby, the kitten was fast becoming a cat, and one evening when,
as usual, the nurse came to look for her, to put her in the
baby's cot, she was nowhere to be found. What a hunt there was
for that kitten, to be sure! The servants, each anxious to find
her, as the queen was certain to reward the lucky man, searched
in the most impossible places. Boxes were opened that would
hardly have held the kitten's paw; books were taken from
bookshelves, lest the kitten should have got behind them, drawers
were pulled out, for perhaps the kitten might have got shut in.
But it was all no use. The kitten had plainly run away, and
nobody could tell if it would ever choose to come back.
Years passed away, and one day, when the princess was playing
ball in the garden, she happened to throw her ball farther than
usual, and it fell into a clump of rose-bushes. The princess of
course ran after it at once, and she was stooping down to feel if
it was hidden in the long grass, when she heard a voice calling
her: 'Ingibjorg! Ingibjorg!' it said, 'have you forgotten me? I
am Kisa, your sister!'
'But I never HAD a sister,' answered Ingibjorg, very much
puzzled; for she knew nothing of what had taken place so long
'Don't you remember how I always slept in your cot beside you,
and how you cried till I came? But girls have no memories at
all! Why, I could find my way straight up to that cot this
moment, if I was once inside the palace.'
'Why did you go away then?' asked the princess. But before Kisa
could answer, Ingibjorg's attendants arrived breathless on the
scene, and were so horrified at the sight of a strange cat, that
Kisa plunged into the bushes and went back to the forest.
The princess was very much vexed with her ladies-in-waiting for
frightening away her old playfellow, and told the queen who came
to her room every evening to bid her good-night.
'Yes, it is quite true what Kisa said,' answered the queen; 'I
should have liked to see her again. Perhaps, some day, she will
return, and then you must bring her to me.'
Next morning it was very hot, and the princess declared that she
must go and play in the forest, where it was always cool, under
the big shady trees. As usual, her attendants let her do
anything she pleased, and sitting down on a mossy bank where a
little stream tinkled by, soon fell sound asleep. The princess
saw with delight that they would pay no heed to her, and wandered
on and on, expecting every moment to see some fairies dancing
round a ring, or some little brown elves peeping at her from
behind a tree. But, alas! she met none of these; instead, a
horrible giant came out of his cave and ordered her to follow
him. The princess felt much afraid, as he was so big and ugly,
and began to be sorry that she had not stayed within reach of
help; but as there was no use in disobeying the giant, she walked
They went a long way, and Ingibjorg grew very tired, and at
length began to cry.
'I don't like girls who make horrid noises,' said the giant,
turning round. 'But if you WANT to cry, I will give you
something to cry for.' And drawing an axe from his belt, he cut
off both her feet, which he picked up and put in his pocket.
Then he went away.
Poor Ingibjorg lay on the grass in terrible pain, and wondering
if she should stay there till she died, as no one would know
where to look for her. How long it was since she had set out in
the morning she could not tell--it seemed years to her, of
course; but the sun was still high in the heavens when she heard
the sound of wheels, and then, with a great effort, for her
throat was parched with fright and pain, she gave a shout.
'I am coming!' was the answer; and in another moment a cart made
its way through the trees, driven by Kisa, who used her tail as a
whip to urge the horse to go faster. Directly Kisa saw Ingibjorg
lying there, she jumped quickly down, and lifting the girl
carefully in her two front paws, laid her upon some soft hay, and
drove back to her own little hut.
In the corner of the room was a pile of cushions, and these Kisa
arranged as a bed. Ingibjorg, who by this time was nearly
fainting from all she had gone through, drank greedily some milk,
and then sank back on the cushions while Kisa fetched some dried
herbs from a cupboard, soaked them in warm water and tied them on
the bleeding legs. The pain vanished at once, and Ingibjorg
looked up and smiled at Kisa.
'You will go to sleep now,' said the cat, 'and you will not mind
if I leave you for a little while. I will lock the door, and no
one can hurt you.' But before she had finished the princess was
asleep. Then Kisa got into the cart, which was standing at the
door, and catching up the reins, drove straight to the giant's
Leaving her cart behind some trees, Kisa crept gently up to the
open door, and, crouching down, listened to what the giant was
telling his wife, who was at supper with him.
'The first day that I can spare I shall just go back and kill
her,' he said; 'it would never do for people in the forest to
know that a mere girl can defy me!' And he and his wife were so
busy calling Ingibjorg all sorts of names for her bad behaviour,
that they never noticed Kisa stealing into a dark corner, and
upsetting a whole bag of salt into the great pot before the fire.
'Dear me, how thirsty I am!' cried the giant by-and-by.
'So am I,' answered the wife. 'I do wish I had not taken that
last spoonful of broth; I am sure something was wrong with it.'
'If I don't get some water I shall die,' went on the giant. And
rushing out of the cave, followed by his wife, he ran down the
path which led to the river.
Then Kisa entered the hut, and lost no time in searching every
hole till she came upon some grass, under which Ingibjorg's feet
were hidden, and putting them in her cart, drove back again to
her own hut.
Ingibjorg was thankful to see her, for she had lain, too
frightened to sleep, trembling at every noise.
'Oh, is it you?' she cried joyfully, as Kisa turned the key. And
the cat came in, holding up the two neat little feet in their
'In two minutes they shall be as tight as they ever were!' said
Kisa. And taking some strings of the magic grass which the giant
had carelessly heaped on them, she bound the feet on to the legs
'Of course you won't be able to walk for some time; you must not
expect THAT,' she continued. 'But if you are very good, perhaps,
in about a week, I may carry you home again.'
And so she did; and when the cat drove the cart up to the palace
gate, lashing the horse furiously with her tail, and the king and
queen saw their lost daughter sitting beside her, they declared
that no reward could be too great for the person who had brought
her out of the giant's hands.
'We will talk about that by-and-by,' said the cat, as she made
her best bow, and turned her horse's head.
The princess was very unhappy when Kisa left her without even
bidding her farewell. She would neither eat nor drink, nor take
any notice of all the beautiful dresses her parents bought for
'She will die, unless we can make her laugh,' one whispered to
the other. 'Is there anything in the world that we have left
'Nothing except marriage,' answered the king. And he invited all
the handsomest young men he could think of to the palace, and
bade the princess choose a husband from among them.
It took her some time to decide which she admired the most, but
at last she fixed upon a young prince, whose eyes were like the
pools in the forest, and his hair of bright gold. The king and
the queen were greatly pleased, as the young man was the son of a
neighbouring king, and they gave orders that a splendid feast
should be got ready.
When the marriage was over, Kisa suddenly stood before them, and
Ingibjorg rushed forward and clasped her in her arms.
'I have come to claim my reward,' said the cat. 'Let me sleep
for this night at the foot of your bed.'
'Is that ALL?' asked Ingibjorg, much disappointed.
'It is enough,' answered the cat. And when the morning dawned,
it was no cat that lay upon the bed, but a beautiful princess.
'My mother and I were both enchanted by a spiteful fairy,' said
she, 'we could not free ourselves till we had done some kindly
deed that had never been wrought before. My mother died without
ever finding a chance of doing anything new, but I took advantage
of the evil act of the giant to make you as whole as ever.'
Then they were all more delighted than before, and the princess
lived in the court until she, too, married, and went away to
govern one of her own.
[Adapted from Neuislandischen Volksmarchen.]
The Lion and the Cat
Far away on the other side of the world there lived, long ago, a
lion and his younger brother, the wild cat, who were so fond of
each other that they shared the same hut. The lion was much the
bigger and stronger of the two--indeed, he was much bigger and
stronger than any of the beasts that dwelt in the forest; and,
besides, he could jump father and run faster than all the rest.
If strength and swiftness could gain him a dinner he was sure
never to be without one, but when it came to cunning, both the
grizzly bear and the serpent could get the better of him, and he
was forced to call in the help of the wild cat.
Now the young wild cat had a lovely golden ball, so beautiful
that you could hardly look at it except through a piece of smoked
glass, and he kept it hidden in the thick fur muff that went
round his neck. A very large old animal, since dead, had given
it to him when he was hardly more than a baby, and had told him
never to part with it, for as long as he kept it no harm could
ever come near him.
In general the wild cat did not need to use his ball, for the
lion was fond of hunting, and could kill all the food that they
needed; but now and then his life would have been in danger had
it not been for the golden ball.
One day the two brothers started to hunt at daybreak, but as the
cat could not run nearly as fast as the lion, he had quite a long
start. At least he THOUGHT it was a long one, but in a very few
bounds and springs the lion reached his side.
'There is a bear sitting on that tree,' he whispered softly. 'He
is only waiting for us to pass, to drop down on my back.'
'Ah, you are so big that he does not see I am behind you,'
answered the wild cat. And, touching the ball, he just said:
'Bear, die!' And the bear tumbled dead out of the tree, and
rolled over just in front of them.
For some time they trotted on without any adventures, till just
as they were about to cross a strip of long grass on the edge of
the forest, the lion's quick ears detected a faint rustling
'That is a snake,' he cried, stopping short, for he was much more
afraid of snakes than of bears.
'Oh, it is all right,' answered the cat. 'Snake, die!' And the
snake died, and the two brothers skinned it. They then folded
the skin up into a very small parcel, and the cat tucked it into
his mane, for snakes' skins can do all sorts of wonderful things,
if you are lucky enough to have one of them.
All this time they had had no dinner, for the snake's flesh was
not nice, and the lion did not like eating bear--perhaps because
he never felt sure that the bear was REALLY dead, and would not
jump up alive when his enemy went near him. Most people are
afraid of SOME thing, and bears and serpents were the only
creatures that caused the lion's heart to tremble. So the two
brothers set off again and soon reached the side of a hill where
some fine deer were grazing.
'Kill one of those deer for your own dinner,' said the boy-
brother, 'but catch me another alive. I want him.'
The lion at once sprang towards them with a loud roar, but the
deer bounded away, and they were all three soon lost to sight.
The cat waited for a long while, but finding that the lion did
not return, went back to the house where they lived.
It was quite dark when the lion came home, where his brother was
sitting curled up in one corner.
'Did you catch the deer for me?' asked the boy-brother, springing
'Well, no,' replied the man-brother. 'The fact is, that I did
not get up to them till we had run half way across the world and
left the wind far behind us. Think what a trouble it would have
been to drag it here! So--I just ate them both.'
The cat said nothing, but he did not feel that he loved his big
brother. He had thought a great deal about that deer, and had
meant to get on his back to ride him as a horse, and go to see
all the wonderful places the lion talked to him about when he was
in a good temper. The more he thought of it the more sulky he
grew, and in the morning, when the lion said that it was time for
them to start to hunt, the cat told him that he might kill the
bear and snake by himself, as HE had a headache, and would rather
stay at home. The little fellow knew quite well that the lion
would not dare to go out without him and his ball for fear of
meeting a bear or a snake.
The quarrel went on, and for many days neither of the brothers
spoke to each other, and what made them still more cross was,
that they could get very little to eat, and we know that people
are often cross when they are hungry. At last it occurred to the
lion that if he could only steal the magic ball he could kill
bears and snakes for himself, and then the cat might be as sulky
as he liked for anything that it would matter. But how was the
stealing to be done? The cat had the ball hung round his neck
day and night, and he was such a light sleeper that it was
useless to think of taking it while he slept. No! the only thing
was to get him to lend it of his own accord, and after some days
the lion (who was not at all clever) hit upon a plan that he
thought would do.
'Dear me, how dull it is here!' said the lion one afternoon, when
the rain was pouring down in such torrents that, however sharp
your eyes or your nose might be, you could not spy a single bird
or beast among the bushes. 'Dear me, how dull, how dreadfully
dull I am. Couldn't we have a game of catch with that golden
ball of yours?'
'I don't care about playing catch, it does not amuse me,'
answered the cat, who was as cross as ever; for no cat, even to
this day, ever forgets an injury done to him.
'Well, then, lend me the ball for a little, and I will play by
myself,' replied the lion, stretching out a paw as he spoke.
'You can't play in the rain, and if you did, you would only lose
it in the bushes,' said the cat.
'Oh, no, I won't; I will play in here. Don't be so ill-natured.'
And with a very bad grace the cat untied the string and threw the