Part 4 out of 7
Then a plan came into his head, and he determined to go at once to
the Court tailor and coachbuilder.
He ordered the tailor to make him a mantle and vest of blue velvet
embroidered with pearls, and the coachbuilder to make him a golden
coach like the coach of the Princess Ludovine. If the tailor and
the coachbuilder were quick he promised to pay them double.
A few days later the little soldier was driven through the city in
his coach drawn by six white horses, and with four lacqueys richly
dressed standing behind. Inside sat John, clad in blue velvet,
with a bouquet of immortelles in his hand and a scarf bound round
his arm. He drove twice round the city, throwing money to the
right and left, and the third time, as he passed under the palace
windows, he saw Ludovine lift a corner of the curtain and peep
The next day no one talked of anything but the rich lord who had
distributed money as he drove along. The talk even reached the
Court, and the Queen, who was very curious, had a great desire to
see the wonderful Prince.
'Very well,' said the King; 'let him be asked to come and play
cards with me.'
This time the Kinglet was not late for his appointment.
The King sent for the cards and they sat down to play. They had
six games, and John always lost. The stake was fifty crowns, and
each time he emptied his purse, which was full the next instant.
The sixth time the King exclaimed, 'It is amazing!'
The Queen cried, 'It is astonishing!'
The Princess said, 'It is bewildering!'
'Not so bewildering,' replied the little soldier, 'as your change
into a serpent.'
'Hush!' interrupted the King, who did not like the subject.
'I only spoke of it,' said John, 'because you see in me the man
who delivered the Princess from the goblins and whom she promised
'Is that true?' asked the King of the Princess.
'Quite true,' answered Ludovine. 'But I told my deliverer to be
ready to go with me when I passed by with my coach. I passed three
times, but he slept so soundly that no one could wake him.'
'What is your name?' said the King, 'and who are you?'
'My name is John. I am a soldier, and my father is a boatman.'
'You are not a fit husband for my daughter. Still, if you will
give us your purse, you shall have her for your wife.'
'My purse does not belong to me, and I cannot give it away.'
'But you can lend it to me till our wedding-day,' said the
Princess with one of those glances the little soldier never could
'And when will that be?'
'At Easter,' said the monarch.
'Or in a blue moon!' murmured the Princess; but the Kinglet did
not hear her and let her take his purse.
Next evening he presented himself at the palace to play picquet
with the King and to make his court to the Princess. But he was
told that the King had gone into the country to receive his rents.
He returned the following day, and had the same answer. Then he
asked to see the Queen, but she had a headache. When this had
happened five or six times, he began to understand that they were
making fun of him.
'That is not the way for a King to behave,' thought John. 'Old
scoundrel!' and then suddenly he remembered his red cloak.
'Ah, what an idiot I am!' said he. 'Of course I can get in
whenever I like with the help of this.'
That evening he was in front of the palace, wrapped in his red
On the first story one window was lighted, and John saw on the
curtains the shadow of the Princess.
'I wish myself in the room of the Princess Ludovine,' said he, and
in a second he was there.
The King's daughter was sitting before a table counting the money
that she emptied from the inexhaustible purse.
'Eight hundred and fifty, nine hundred, nine hundred and fifty--'
'A thousand,' finished John. 'Good evening everybody!'
The Princess jumped and gave a little cry. 'You here! What
business have you to do it? Leave at once, or I shall call--'
'I have come,' said the Kinglet, 'to remind you of your promise.
The day after to-morrow is Easter Day, and it is high time to
think of our marriage.'
Ludovine burst out into a fit of laughter. 'Our marriage! Have you
really been foolish enough to believe that the daughter of the
King of the Low Countries would ever marry the son of a boatman?'
'Then give me back the purse,' said John.
'Never,' said the Princess, and put it calmly in her pocket.
'As you like,' said the little soldier. 'He laughs best who laughs
the last;' and he took the Princess in his arms. 'I wish,' he
cried, 'that we were at the ends of the earth;' and in one second
he was there, still clasping the Princess tightly in his arms.
'Ouf,' said John, laying her gently at the foot of a tree. 'I
never took such a long journey before. What do you say, madam?'
The Princess understood that it was no time for jesting, and did
not answer. Besides she was still feeling giddy from her rapid
flight, and had not yet collected her senses.
The King of the Low Countries was not a very scrupulous person,
and his daughter took after him. This was why she had been changed
into a serpent. It had been prophesied that she should be
delivered by a little soldier, and that she must marry him, unless
he failed to appear at the meeting-place three times running. The
cunning Princess then laid her plans accordingly.
The wine that she had given to John in the castle of the goblins,
the bouquet of immortelles, and the scarf, all had the power of
producing sleep like death. And we know how they had acted on
However, even in this critical moment, Ludovine did not lose her
'I thought you were simply a street vagabond,' said she, in her
most coaxing voice; 'and I find you are more powerful than any
king. Here is your purse. Have you got my scarf and my bouquet?'
'Here they are,' said the Kinglet, delighted with this change of
tone, and he drew them from his bosom. Ludovine fastened one in
his buttonhole and the other round his arm. 'Now,' she said, 'you
are my lord and master, and I will marry you at your good
'You are kinder than I thought,' said John; 'and you shall never
be unhappy, for I love you.'
'Then, my little husband, tell me how you managed to carry me so
quickly to the ends of the world.'
The little soldier scratched his head. 'Does she really mean to
marry me,' he thought to himself, 'or is she only trying to
deceive me again?'
But Ludovine repeated, 'Won't you tell me?' in such a tender voice
he did not know how to resist her.
'After all,' he said to himself, 'what does it matter telling her
the secret, as long as I don't give her the cloak.'
And he told her the virtue of the red mantle.
'Oh dear, how tired I am!' sighed Ludovine. 'Don't you think we
had better take a nap? And then we can talk over our plans.'
She stretched herself on the grass, and the Kinglet did the same.
He laid his head on his left arm, round which the scarf was tied,
and was soon fast asleep.
Ludovine was watching him out of one eye, and no sooner did she
hear him snore than she unfastened the mantle, drew it gently from
under him and wrapped it round her, took the purse from his
pocket, and put it in hers, and said: 'I wish I was back in my own
room.' In another moment she was there.
Who felt foolish but John, when he awoke, twenty-four hours after,
and found himself without purse, without mantle, and without
Princess? He tore his hair, he beat his breast, he trampled on the
bouquet, and tore the scarf of the traitress to atoms.
Besides this he was very hungry, and he had nothing to eat.
He thought of all the wonderful things his grandmother had told
him when he was a child, but none of them helped him now. He was
in despair, when suddenly he looked up and saw that the tree under
which he had been sleeping was a superb plum, covered with fruit
as yellow as gold.
'Here goes for the plums,' he said to himself, 'all is fair in
He climbed the tree and began to eat steadily. But he had hardly
swallowed two plums when, to his horror, he felt as if something
was growing on his forehead. He put up his hand and found that he
had two horns!
He leapt down from the tree and rushed to a stream that flowed
close by. Alas! there was no escape: two charming little horns,
that would not have disgraced the head of a goat.
Then his courage failed him.
'As if it was not enough,' said he, 'that a woman should trick me,
but the devil must mix himself up in it and lend me his horns.
What a pretty figure I should cut if I went back into the world!'
But as he was still hungry, and the mischief was done, he climbed
boldly up another tree, and plucked two plums of a lovely green
colour. No sooner had he swallowed two than the horns disappeared.
The little soldier was enchanted, though greatly surprised, and
came to the conclusion that it was no good to despair too quickly.
When he had done eating an idea suddenly occurred to him.
'Perhaps,' thought he, 'these pretty little plums may help me to
recover my purse, my cloak, and my heart from the hands of this
wicked Princess. She has the eyes of a deer already; let her have
the horns of one. If I can manage to set her up with a pair, I
will bet any money that I shall cease to want her for my wife. A
horned maiden is by no means lovely to look at.' So he plaited a
basket out of the long willows, and placed in it carefully both
sorts of plums. Then he walked bravely on for many days, having no
food but the berries by the wayside, and was in great danger from
wild beasts and savage men. But he feared nothing, except that his
plums should decay, and this never happened.
At last he came to a civilised country, and with the sale of some
jewels that he had about him on the evening of his flight he took
passage on board a vessel for the Low Countries. So, at the end of
a year and a day, he arrived at the capital of the kingdom.
The next day he put on a false beard and the dress of a date
merchant, and, taking a little table, he placed himself before the
door of the church.
He spread carefully out on a fine white cloth his Mirabelle plums,
which looked for all the world as if they had been freshly
gathered, and when he saw the Princess coming out of church he
began to call out in a feigned voice: 'Fine plums! lovely plums!'
'How much are they?' said the Princess.
'Fifty crowns each.'
'Fifty crowns! But what is there so very precious about them? Do
they give one wit, or will they increase one's beauty?'
'They could not increase what is perfect already, fair Princess,
but still they might add something.'
Rolling stones gather no moss, but they sometimes gain polish; and
the months which John had spent in roaming about the world had not
been wasted. Such a neatly turned compliment flattered Ludovine.
'What will they add?' she smilingly asked.
'You will see, fair Princess, when you taste them. It will be a
surprise for you.'
Ludovine's curiosity was roused. She drew out the purse and shook
out as many little heaps of fifty crowns as there were plums in
the basket. The little soldier was seized with a wild desire to
snatch the purse from her and proclaim her a thief, but he managed
to control himself.
His plums all sold, he shut up shop, took off his disguise,
changed his inn, and kept quiet, waiting to see what would happen.
No sooner had she reached her room than the Princess exclaimed,
'Now let us see what these fine plums can add to my beauty,' and
throwing off her hood, she picked up a couple and ate them.
Imagine with what surprise and horror she felt all of a sudden
that something was growing out of her forehead. She flew to her
mirror and uttered a piercing cry.
'Horns! so that was what he promised me! Let someone find the
plum-seller at once and bring him to me! Let his nose and ears be
cut off! Let him be flayed alive, or burnt at a slow fire and his
ashes scattered to the winds! Oh, I shall die of shame and
Her women ran at the sound of her screams, and tried to wrench off
the horns, but it was of no use, and they only gave her a violent
The King then sent round a herald to proclaim that he would give
the hand of the Princess to anyone who would rid her of her
strange ornaments. So all the doctors and sorcerers and surgeons
in the Low Countries and the neighbouring kingdoms thronged to the
palace, each with a remedy of his own. But it was all no good, and
the Princess suffered so much from their remedies that the King
was obliged to send out a second proclamation that anyone who
undertook to cure the Princess, and who failed to do it, should be
hanged up to the nearest tree.
But the prize was too great for any proclamation to put a stop to
the efforts of the crowd of suitors, and that year the orchards of
the Low Countries all bore a harvest of dead men.
The King had given orders that they should seek high and low for
the plum-seller, but in spite of all their pains, he was nowhere
to be found.
When the little soldier discovered that their patience was worn
out, he pressed the juice of the green Queen Claude plums into a
small phial, bought a doctor's robe, put on a wig and spectacles,
and presented himself before the King of the Low Countries. He
gave himself out as a famous physician who had come from distant
lands, and he promised that he would cure the Princess if only he
might be left alone with her.
'Another madman determined to be hanged,' said the King. 'Very
well, do as he asks; one should refuse nothing to a man with a
rope round his neck.'
As soon as the little soldier was in the presence of the Princess
he poured some drops of the liquid into a glass. The Princess had
scarcely tasted it, when the tip of the horns disappeared.
'They would have disappeared completely,' said the pretended
doctor, 'if there did not exist something to counteract the
effect. It is only possible to cure people whose souls are as
clean as the palm of my hand. Are you sure you have not committed
some little sin? Examine yourself well.'
Ludovine had no need to think over it long, but she was torn in
pieces between the shame of a humiliating confession, and the
desire to be unhorned. At last she made answer with downcast eyes,
'I have stolen a leather purse from a little soldier.'
'Give it to me. The remedy will not act till I hold the purse in
It cost Ludovine a great pang to give up the purse, but she
remembered that riches would not benefit her if she was still to
keep the horns.
With a sigh, she handed the purse to the doctor, who poured more
of the liquid into the glass, and when the Princess had drunk it,
she found that the horns had diminished by one half.
'You must really have another little sin on your conscience. Did
you steal nothing from this soldier but his purse?'
'I also stole from him his cloak.'
'Give it me.'
'Here it is.'
This time Ludovine thought to herself that when once the horns had
departed, she would call her attendants and take the things from
the doctor by force.
She was greatly pleased with this idea, when suddenly the
pretended physician wrapped himself in the cloak, flung away the
wig and spectacles, and showed to the traitress the face of the
She stood before him dumb with fright.
'I might,' said John, 'have left you horned to the end of your
days, but I am a good fellow and I once loved you, and besides--
you are too like the devil to have any need of his horns.'
John had wished himself in the house of the Seagull. Now the
Seagull was seated at the window, mending her net, and from time
to time her eyes wandered to the sea as if she was expecting
someone. At the noise made by the little soldier, she looked up
'So it is you!' she said. 'How did you get here?' And then she
added in a low voice, 'And have you married your Princess?'
Then John told her all his adventures, and when he had finished,
he restored to her the purse and the mantle.
'What can I do with them?' said she. 'You have proved to me that
happiness does not lie in the possession of treasures.'
'It lies in work and in the love of an honest woman,' replied the
little soldier, who noticed for the first time what pretty eyes
she had. 'Dear Seagull, will you have me for a husband?' and he
held out his hand.
'Yes, I will,' answered the fisher maiden, blushing very red, 'but
only on condition that we seal up the purse and the mantle in the
copper vessel and throw them into the sea.'
And this they did.
THE MAGIC SWAN
There were once upon a time three brothers, of whom the eldest was
called Jacob, the second Frederick, and the youngest Peter. This
youngest brother was made a regular butt of by the other two, and
they treated him shamefully. If anything went wrong with their
affairs, Peter had to bear the blame and put things right for
them, and he had to endure all this ill-treatment because he was
weak and delicate and couldn't defend himself against his stronger
brothers. The poor creature had a most trying life of it in every
way, and day and night he pondered how he could make it better.
One day, when he was in the wood gathering sticks and crying
bitterly, a little old woman came up to him and asked him what was
the matter; and he told her all his troubles.
'Come, my good youth,' said the old dame, when he had finished his
tale of woe, 'isn't the world wide enough? Why don't you set out
and try your fortune somewhere else?'
Peter took her words to heart, and left his father's house early
one morning to try his fortune in the wide world, as the old woman
had advised him. But he felt very bitterly parting from the home
where he had been born, and where he had at least passed a short
but happy childhood, and sitting down on a hill he gazed once more
fondly on his native place.
Suddenly the little old woman stood before him, and, tapping him
on the shoulder, said, 'So far good, my boy; but what do you mean
to do now?'
Peter was at a loss what to answer, for so far he had always
thought that fortune would drop into his mouth like a ripe cherry.
The old woman, who guessed his thoughts, laughed kindly and said,
'I'll tell you what you must do, for I've taken a fancy to you,
and I'm sure you won't forget me when you've made your fortune.'
Peter promised faithfully he wouldn't, and the old woman
'This evening at sunset go to yonder pear-tree which you see
growing at the cross roads. Underneath it you will find a man
lying asleep, and a beautiful large swan will be fastened to the
tree close to him. You must be careful not to waken the man, but
you must unfasten the swan and take it away with you. You will
find that everyone will fall in love with its beautiful plumage,
and you must allow anyone who likes to pull out a feather. But as
soon as the swan feels as much as a finger on it, it will scream
out, and then you must say, "Swan, hold fast." Then the hand of
the person who has touched the bird will be held as in a vice, and
nothing will set it free, unless you touch it with this little
stick which I will make you a present of. When you have captured a
whole lot of people in this way, lead your train straight on with
you; you will come to a big town where a Princess lives who has
never been known to laugh. If you can only make her laugh your
fortune is made; then I beg you won't forget your old friend.'
Peter promised again that he wouldn't, and at sunset he went to
the tree the old woman had mentioned. The man lay there fast
asleep, and a large beautiful swan was fastened to the tree beside
him by a red cord. Peter loosed the bird, and led it away with him
without disturbing the bird's master.
He walked on with the swan for some time, and came at last to a
building-yard where some men were busily at work. They were all
lost in admiration of the bird's beautiful plumage, and one
forward youth, who was covered with clay from head to foot, called
out, 'Oh, if I'd only one of those feathers how happy I should
'Pull one out then,' said Peter kindly, and the youth seized one
from the bird's tail; instantly the swan screamed, and Peter
called out, 'Swan, hold fast,' and do what he could the poor youth
couldn't get his hand away. The more he howled the more the others
laughed, till a girl who had been washing clothes in the
neighbouring stream hurried up to see what was the matter. When
she saw the poor boy fastened to the swan she felt so sorry for
him that she stretched out her hand to free him. The bird
'Swan, hold fast,' called out Peter, and the girl was caught also.
When Peter had gone on for a bit with his captives, they met a
chimney sweep, who laughed loudly over the extraordinary troop,
and asked the girl what she was doing.
'Oh, dearest John,' replied the girl, 'give me your hand and set
me free from this cursed young man.'
'Most certainly I will, if that's all you want,' replied the
sweep, and gave the girl his hand. The bird screamed.
'Swan, hold fast,' said Peter, and the black man was added to
They soon came to a village where a fair was being held. A
travelling circus was giving a performance, and the clown was just
doing his tricks. He opened his eyes wide with amazement when he
saw the remarkable trio fastened on to the swan's tail.
'Have you gone raving mad, Blackie?' he asked as well as he could
'It's no laughing matter,' the sweep replied. 'This wench has got
so tight hold of me that I feel as if I were glued to her. Do set
me free, like a good clown, and I'll do you a good turn some day.'
Without a moment's hesitation the clown grasped the black
outstretched hand. The bird screamed.
'Swan, hold fast,' called out Peter, and the clown became the
fourth of the party.
Now in the front row of the spectators sat the respected and
popular Mayor of the village, who was much put out by what he
considered nothing but a foolish trick. So much annoyed was he
that he seized the clown by the hand and tried to tear him away,
in order to hand him over to the police.
Then the bird screamed, and Peter called out, 'Swan, hold fast,'
and the dignified Mayor shared the fate of his predecessors.
The Mayoress, a long thin stick of a woman, enraged at the insult
done to her husband, seized his free arm and tore at it with all
her might, with the only result that she too was forced to swell
the procession. After this no one else had any wish to join them.
Soon Peter saw the towers of the capital in front of him. Just
before entering it, a glittering carriage came out to meet him, in
which was seated a young lady as beautiful as the day, but with a
very solemn and serious expression. But no sooner had she
perceived the motley crowd fastened to the swan's tail than she
burst into a loud fit of laughter, in which she was joined by all
her servants and ladies in waiting.
'The Princess has laughed at last,' they all cried with joy.
She stepped out of her carriage to look more closely at the
wonderful sight, and laughed again over the capers the poor
captives cut. She ordered her carriage to be turned round and
drove slowly back into the town, never taking her eyes off Peter
and his procession.
When the King heard the news that his daughter had actually
laughed, he was more than delighted, and had Peter and his
marvellous train brought before him. He laughed himself when he
saw them till the tears rolled down his cheeks.
'My good friend,' he said to Peter, 'do you know what I promised
the person who succeeded in making the Princess laugh?'
'No, I don't,' said Peter.
'Then I'll tell you,' answered the King; 'a thousand gold crowns
or a piece of land. Which will you choose?'
Peter decided in favour of the land. Then he touched the youth,
the girl, the sweep, the clown, the Mayor, and the Mayoress with
his little stick, and they were all free again, and ran away home
as if a fire were burning behind them; and their flight, as you
may imagine, gave rise to renewed merriment.
Then the Princess felt moved to stroke the swan, at the same time
admiring its plumage. The bird screamed.
'Swan, hold fast,' called out Peter, and so he won the Princess
for his bride. But the swan flew up into the air, and vanished in
the blue horizon. Peter now received a duchy as a present, and
became a very great man indeed; but he did not forget the little
old woman who had been the cause of all his good fortune, and
appointed her as head housekeeper to him and his royal bride in
their magnificent castle.
THE DIRTY SHEPHERDESS
Once upon a time there lived a King who had two daughters, and he
loved them with all his heart. When they grew up, he was suddenly
seized with a wish to know if they, on their part, truly loved
him, and he made up his mind that he would give his kingdom to
whichever best proved her devotion.
So he called the elder Princess and said to her, 'How much do you
'As the apple of my eye!' answered she.
'Ah!' exclaimed the King, kissing her tenderly as he spoke, 'you
are indeed a good daughter.'
Then he sent for the younger, and asked her how much she loved
'I look upon you, my father,' she answered, 'as I look upon salt
in my food.'
But the King did not like her words, and ordered her to quit the
court, and never again to appear before him. The poor Princess
went sadly up to her room and began to cry, but when she was
reminded of her father's commands, she dried her eyes, and made a
bundle of her jewels and her best dresses and hurriedly left the
castle where she was born.
She walked straight along the road in front of her, without
knowing very well where she was going or what was to become of
her, for she had never been shown how to work, and all she had
learnt consisted of a few household rules, and receipts of dishes
which her mother had taught her long ago. And as she was afraid
that no housewife would want to engage a girl with such a pretty
face, she determined to make herself as ugly as she could.
She therefore took off the dress that she was wearing and put on
some horrible old rags belonging to a beggar, all torn and covered
with mud. After that she smeared mud all over her hands and face,
and shook her hair into a great tangle. Having thus changed her
appearance, she went about offering herself as a goose-girl or
shepherdess. But the farmers' wives would have nothing to say to
such a dirty maiden, and sent her away with a morsel of bread for
After walking for a great many days without being able to find any
work, she came to a large farm where they were in want of a
shepherdess, and engaged her gladly.
One day when she was keeping her sheep in a lonely tract of land,
she suddenly felt a wish to dress herself in her robes of
splendour. She washed herself carefully in the stream, and as she
always carried her bundle with her, it was easy to shake off her
rags, and transform herself in a few moments into a great lady.
The King's son, who had lost his way out hunting, perceived this
lovely damsel a long way off, and wished to look at her closer.
But as soon as the girl saw what he was at, she fled into the wood
as swiftly as a bird. The Prince ran after her, but as he was
running he caught his foot in the root of a tree and fell, and
when he got up again, she was nowhere to be seen.
When she was quite safe, she put on her rags again, and smeared
over her face and hands. However the young Prince, who was both
hot and thirsty, found his way to the farm, to ask for a drink of
cider, and he inquired the name of the beautiful lady that kept
the sheep. At this everyone began to laugh, for they said that the
shepherdess was one of the ugliest and dirtiest creatures under
The Prince thought some witchcraft must be at work, and he
hastened away before the return of the shepherdess, who became
that evening the butt of everybody's jests.
But the King's son thought often of the lovely maiden whom he had
only seen for a moment, though she seemed to him much more
fascinating than any lady of the Court. At last he dreamed of
nothing else, and grew thinner day by day till his parents
inquired what was the matter, promising to do all they could to
make him as happy as he once was. He dared not tell them the
truth, lest they should laugh at him, so he only said that he
should like some bread baked by the kitchen girl in the distant
Although the wish appeared rather odd, they hastened to fulfil it,
and the farmer was told the request of the King's son. The maiden
showed no surprise at receiving such an order, but merely asked
for some flour, salt, and water, and also that she might be left
alone in a little room adjoining the oven, where the kneading-
trough stood. Before beginning her work she washed herself
carefully, and even put on her rings; but, while she was baking,
one of her rings slid into the dough. When she had finished she
dirtied herself again, and let the lumps of the dough stick to her
fingers, so that she became as ugly as before.
The loaf, which was a very little one, was brought to the King's
son, who ate it with pleasure. But in cutting it he found the ring
of the Princess, and declared to his parents that he would marry
the girl whom that ring fitted.
So the King made a proclamation through his whole kingdom and
ladies came from afar to lay claim to the honour. But the ring was
so tiny that even those who had the smallest hands could only get
it on their little fingers. In a short time all the maidens of the
kingdom, including the peasant girls, had tried on the ring, and
the King was just about to announce that their efforts had been in
vain, when the Prince observed that he had not yet seen the
They sent to fetch her, and she arrived covered with rags, but
with her hands cleaner than usual, so that she could easily slip
on the ring. The King's son declared that he would fulfil his
promise, and when his parents mildly remarked that the girl was
only a keeper of sheep, and a very ugly one too, the maiden boldly
said that she was born a princess, and that, if they would only
give her some water and leave her alone in a room for a few
minutes, she would show that she could look as well as anyone in
They did what she asked, and when she entered in a magnificent
dress, she looked so beautiful that all saw she must be a princess
in disguise. The King's son recognized the charming damsel of whom
he had once caught a glimpse, and, flinging himself at her feet,
asked if she would marry him. The Princess then told her story,
and said that it would be necessary to send an ambassador to her
father to ask his consent and to invite him to the wedding.
The Princess's father, who had never ceased to repent his
harshness towards his daughter, had sought her through the land,
but as no one could tell him anything of her, he supposed her
dead. Therefore it was with great joy he heard that she was living
and that a king's son asked her in marriage, and he quitted his
kingdom with his elder daughter so as to be present at the
By the orders of the bride, they only served her father at the
wedding breakfast bread without salt, and meat without seasoning.
Seeing him make faces, and eat very little, his daughter, who sat
beside him, inquired if his dinner was not to his taste.
'No,' he replied, 'the dishes are carefully cooked and sent up,
but they are all so dreadfully tasteless.'
'Did not I tell you, my father, that salt was the best thing in
life? And yet, when I compared you to salt, to show how much I
loved you, you thought slightingly of me and you chased me from
The King embraced his daughter, and allowed that he had been wrong
to misinterpret her words. Then, for the rest of the wedding feast
they gave him bread made with salt, and dishes with seasoning, and
he said they were the very best he had ever eaten.
THE ENCHANTED SNAKE
There was once upon a time a poor woman who would have given all
she possessed for a child, but she hadn't one.
Now it happened one day that her husband went to the wood to
collect brushwood, and when he had brought it home, he discovered
a pretty little snake among the twigs.
When Sabatella, for that was the name of the peasant's wife, saw
the little beast, she sighed deeply and said, 'Even the snakes
have their brood; I alone am unfortunate and have no children.' No
sooner had she said these words than, to her intense surprise, the
little snake looked up into her face and spoke: 'Since you have no
children, be a mother to me instead, and I promise you will never
repent it, for I will love you as if I were your own son.'
At first Sabatella was frightened to death at hearing a snake
speak, but plucking up her courage, she replied, 'If it weren't
for any other reason than your kindly thought, I would agree to
what you say, and I will love you and look after you like a
So she gave the snake a little hole in the house for its bed, fed
it with all the nicest food she could think of, and seemed as if
she never could show it enough kindness. Day by day it grew bigger
and fatter, and at last one morning it said to Cola-Mattheo, the
peasant, whom it always regarded as its father, 'Dear papa, I am
now of a suitable age and wish to marry.'
'I'm quite agreeable,' answered Mattheo, 'and I'll do my best to
find another snake like yourself and arrange a match between you.'
'Why, if you do that,' replied the snake, 'we shall be no better
than the vipers and reptiles, and that's not what I want at all.
No; I'd much prefer to marry the King's daughter; therefore I pray
you go without further delay, and demand an audience of the King,
and tell him a snake wishes to marry his daughter.'
Cola-Mattheo, who was rather a simpleton, went as he was desired
to the King, and having obtained an audience, he said, 'Your
Majesty, I have often heard that people lose nothing by asking, so
I have come to inform you that a snake wants to marry your
daughter, and I'd be glad to know if you are willing to mate a
dove with a serpent?'
The King, who saw at once that the man was a fool, said, in order
to get quit of him, 'Go home and tell your friend the snake that
if he can turn this palace into ivory, inlaid with gold and
silver, before to-morrow at noon, I will let him marry my
daughter.' And with a hearty laugh he dismissed the peasant.
When Cola-Mattheo brought this answer back to the snake, the
little creature didn't seem the least put out, but said, 'To-
morrow morning, before sunrise, you must go to the wood and gather
a bunch of green herbs, and then rub the threshold of the palace
with them, and you'll see what will happen.'
Cola-Mattheo, who was, as I have said before, a great simpleton,
made no reply; but before sunrise next morning he went to the wood
and gathered a bunch of St. John's Wort, and rosemary, and
suchlike herbs, and rubbed them, as he had been told, on the floor
of the palace. Hardly had he done so than the walls immediately
turned into ivory, so richly inlaid with gold and silver that they
dazzled the eyes of all beholders. The King, when he rose and saw
the miracle that had been performed, was beside himself with
amazement, and didn't know what in the world he was to do.
But when Cola-Mattheo came next day, and, in the name of the
snake, demanded the hand of the Princess, the King replied, 'Don't
be in such a hurry; if the snake really wants to marry my
daughter, he must do some more things first, and one of these is
to turn all the paths and walls of my garden into pure gold before
When the snake was told of this new condition, he replied, 'To-
morrow morning, early, you must go and collect all the odds and
ends of rubbish you can find in the streets, and then take them
and throw them on the paths and walls of the garden, and you'll
see then if we won't be more than a match for the old King.'
So Cola-Mattheo rose at cock-crow, took a large basket under his
arm, and carefully collected all the broken fragments of pots and
pans, and jugs and lamps, and other trash of that sort. No sooner
had he scattered them over the paths and walls of the King's
garden than they became one blaze of glittering gold, so that
everyone's eyes were dazzled with the brilliancy, and everyone's
soul was filled with wonder. The King, too, was amazed at the
sight, but still he couldn't make up his mind to part with his
daughter, so when Cola-Mattheo came to remind him of his promise
he replied, 'I have still a third demand to make. If the snake can
turn all the trees and fruit of my garden into precious stones,
then I promise him my daughter in marriage.'
When the peasant informed the snake what the King had said, he
replied, 'To-morrow morning, early, you must go to the market and
buy all the fruit you see there, and then sow all the stones and
seeds in the palace garden, and, if I'm not mistaken, the King
will be satisfied with the result.'
Cola-Mattheo rose at dawn, and taking a basket on his arm, he went
to the market, and bought all the pomegranates, apricots,
cherries, and other fruit he could find there, and sowed the seeds
and stones in the palace garden. In one moment, the trees were all
ablaze with rubies, emeralds, diamonds, and every other precious
stone you can think of.
This time the King felt obliged to keep his promise, and calling
his daughter to him, he said, 'My dear Grannonia,' for that was
the Princess's name, 'more as a joke than anything else, I
demanded what seemed to me impossibilities from your bridegroom,
but now that he has done all I required, I am bound to stick to my
part of the bargain. Be a good child, and as you love me, do not
force me to break my word, but give yourself up with as good grace
as you can to a most unhappy fate.'
'Do with me what you like, my lord and father, for your will is my
law,' answered Grannonia.
When the King heard this, he told Cola-Mattheo to bring the snake
to the palace, and said that he was prepared to receive the
creature as his son-in-law.
The snake arrived at court in a carriage made of gold and drawn by
six white elephants; but wherever it appeared on the way, the
people fled in terror at the sight of the fearful reptile.
When the snake reached the palace, all the courtiers shook and
trembled with fear down to the very scullion, and the King and
Queen were in such a state of nervous collapse that they hid
themselves in a far-away turret. Grannonia alone kept her presence
of mind, and although both her father and mother implored her to
fly for her life, she wouldn't move a step, saying, 'I'm certainly
not going to fly from the man you have chosen for my husband.'
As soon as the snake saw Grannonia, it wound its tail round her
and kissed her. Then, leading her into a room, it shut the door,
and throwing off its skin, it changed into a beautiful young man
with golden locks, and flashing eyes, who embraced Grannonia
tenderly, and said all sorts of pretty things to her.
When the King saw the snake shut itself into a room with his
daughter, he said to his wife, 'Heaven be merciful to our child,
for I fear it is all over with her now. This cursed snake has most
likely swallowed her up.' Then they put their eyes to the keyhole
to see what had happened.
Their amazement knew no bounds when they saw a beautiful youth
standing before their daughter with the snake's skin lying on the
floor beside him. In their excitement they burst open the door,
and seizing the skin they threw it into the fire. But no sooner
had they done this than the young man called out, 'Oh, wretched
people! what have you done?' and before they had time to look
round he had changed himself into a dove, and dashing against the
window he broke a pane of glass, and flew away from their sight.
But Grannonia, who in one and the same moment saw herself merry
and sad, cheerful and despairing, rich and beggared, complained
bitterly over this robbery of her happiness, this poisoning of her
cup of joy, this unlucky stroke of fortune, and laid all the blame
on her parents, though they assured her that they had meant no
harm. But the Princess refused to be comforted, and at night, when
all the inhabitants of the palace were asleep, she stole out by a
back door, disguised as a peasant woman, determined to seek for
her lost happiness till she found it. When she got to the
outskirts of the town, led by the light of the moon, she met a
fox, who offered to accompany her, an offer which Grannonia gladly
accepted, saying 'You are most heartily welcome, for I don't know
my way at all about the neighbourhood.'
So they went on their way together, and came at last to a wood,
where, being tired with walking, they paused to rest under the
shade of a tree, where a spring of water sported with the tender
grass, refreshing it with its crystal spray.
They laid themselves down on the green carpet and soon fell fast
asleep, and did not waken again till the sun was high in the
heavens. They rose up and stood for some time listening to the
birds singing, because Grannonia delighted in their songs.
When the fox perceived this, he said: 'If you only understood, as
I do, what these little birds are saying, your pleasure would be
Provoked by his words--for we all know that curiosity is as deeply
inborn in every woman as even the love of talking--Grannonia
implored the fox to tell her what the birds had said.
At first the wily fox refused to tell her what he had gathered
from the conversation of the birds, but at last he gave way to her
entreaties, and told her that they had spoken of the misfortunes
of a beautiful young Prince, whom a wicked enchantress had turned
into a snake for the period of seven years. At the end of this
time he had fallen in love with a charming Princess, but that when
he had shut himself up into a room with her, and had thrown off
his snake's skin, her parents had forced their way into the room
and had burnt the skin, whereupon the Prince, changed into the
likeness of a dove, had broken a pane of glass in trying to fly
out of the window, and had wounded himself so badly that the
doctors despaired of his life.
Grannonia, when she learnt that they were talking of her lover,
asked at once whose son he was, and if there was any hope of his
recovery; to which the fox made answer that the birds had said he
was the son of the King of Vallone Grosso, and that the only thing
that could cure him was to rub the wounds on his head with the
blood of the very birds who had told the tale.
Then Grannonia knelt down before the fox, and begged him in her
sweetest way to catch the birds for her and procure their blood,
promising at the same time to reward him richly.
'All right,' said the fox, 'only don't be in such a hurry; let's
wait till night, when the little birds have gone to roost, then
I'll climb up and catch them all for you.'
So they passed the day, talking now of the beauty of the Prince,
now of the father of the Princess, and then of the misfortune that
had happened. At last the night arrived, and all the little birds
were asleep high up on the branches of a big tree. The fox climbed
up stealthily and caught the little creatures with his paws one
after the other; and when he had killed them all he put their
blood into a little bottle which he wore at his side and returned
with it to Grannonia, who was beside herself with joy at the
result of the fox's raid. But the fox said, 'My dear daughter,
your joy is in vain, because, let me tell you, this blood is of no
earthly use to you unless you add some of mine to it,' and with
these words he took to his heels.
Grannonia, who saw her hopes dashed to the ground in this cruel
way, had recourse to flattery and cunning, weapons which have
often stood the sex in good stead, and called out after the fox,
'Father Fox, you would be quite right to save your skin, if, in
the first place, I didn't feel I owed so much to you, and if, in
the second, there weren't other foxes in the world; but as you
know how grateful I feel to you, and as there are heaps of other
foxes about, you can trust yourself to me. Don't behave like the
cow that kicks the pail over after it has filled it with milk, but
continue your journey with me, and when we get to the capital you
can sell me to the King as a servant girl.'
It never entered the fox's head that even foxes can be outwitted,
so after a bit he consented to go with her; but he hadn't gone far
before the cunning girl seized a stick, and gave him such a blow
with it on the head, that he dropped down dead on the spot. Then
Grannonia took some of his blood and poured it into her little
bottle; and went on her way as fast as she could to Vallone
When she arrived there she went straight to the Royal palace, and
let the King be told she had come to cure the young Prince.
The King commanded her to be brought before him at once, and was
much astonished when he saw that it was a girl who undertook to do
what all the cleverest doctors of his kingdom had failed in. As an
attempt hurts no one, he willingly consented that she should do
what she could.
'All I ask,' said Grannonia, 'is that, should I succeed in what
you desire, you will give me your son in marriage.'
The King, who had given up all hopes of his son's recovery,
replied: 'Only restore him to life and health and he shall be
yours. It is only fair to give her a husband who gives me a son.'
And so they went into the Prince's room. The moment Grannonia had
rubbed the blood on his wounds the illness left him, and he was as
sound and well as ever. When the King saw his son thus
marvellously restored to life and health, he turned to him and
said: 'My dear son, I thought of you as dead, and now, to my great
joy and amazement, you are alive again. I promised this young
woman that if she should cure you, to bestow your hand and heart
on her, and seeing that Heaven has been gracious, you must fulfil
the promise I made her; for gratitude alone forces me to pay this
But the Prince answered: 'My lord and father, I would that my will
were as free as my love for you is great. But as I have plighted
my word to another maiden, you will see yourself, and so will this
young woman, that I cannot go back from my word, and be faithless
to her whom I love.'
When Grannonia heard these words, and saw how deeply rooted the
Prince's love for her was, she felt very happy, and blushing rosy
red, she said: 'But should I get the other lady to give up her
rights, would you then consent to marry me?'
'Far be it from me,' replied the Prince, 'to banish the beautiful
picture of my love from my heart. Whatever she may say, my heart
and desire will remain the same, and though I were to lose my life
for it, I couldn't consent to this exchange.'
Grannonia could keep silence no longer, and throwing off her
peasant's disguise, she discovered herself to the Prince, who was
nearly beside himself with joy when he recognised his fair lady-
love. He then told his father at once who she was, and what she
had done and suffered for his sake.
Then they invited the King and Queen of Starza-Longa to their
Court, and had a great wedding feast, and proved once more that
there is no better seasoning for the joys of true love than a few
pangs of grief.
THE BITER BIT
Once upon a time there lived a man called Simon, who was very
rich, but at the same time as stingy and miserly as he could be.
He had a housekeeper called Nina, a clever capable woman, and as
she did her work carefully and conscientiously, her master had the
greatest respect for her.
In his young days Simon had been one of the gayest and most active
youths of the neighbourhood, but as he grew old and stiff he found
it very difficult to walk, and his faithful servant urged him to
get a horse so as to save his poor old bones. At last Simon gave
way to the request and persuasive eloquence of his housekeeper,
and betook himself one day to the market where he had seen a mule,
which he thought would just suit him, and which he bought for
seven gold pieces.
Now it happened that there were three merry rascals hanging about
the market-place, who much preferred living on other people's
goods to working for their own living. As soon as they saw that
Simon had bought a mule, one of them said to his two boon
companions, 'My friends, this mule must be ours before we are many
'But how shall we manage it,' asked one of them.
'We must all three station ourselves at different intervals along
the old man's homeward way, and must each in his turn declare that
the mule he has bought is a donkey. If we only stick to it you'll
see the mule will soon be ours.' This proposal quite satisfied the
others, and they all separated as they had agreed.
Now when Simon came by, the first rogue said to him, 'God bless
you, my fine gentleman.'
'Thanks for your courtesy,' replied Simon.
'Where have you been?' asked the thief.
'To the market,' was the reply.
'And what did you buy there?' continued the rogue.
'The one I'm sitting upon, to be sure,' replied Simon.
'Are you in earnest, or only joking?'
'What do you mean?'
'Because it seems to me you've got hold of a donkey, and not of a
'A donkey? Rubbish!' screamed Simon, and without another word he
rode on his way. After a few hundred yards he met the second
confederate, who addressed him, 'Good day, dear sir, where are you
'From the market,' answered Simon.
'Did things go pretty cheap?' asked the other.
'I should just think so,' said Simon.
'And did you make any good bargain yourself?'
'I bought this mule on which you see me.'
'Is it possible that you really bought that beast for a mule?'
'But, good heavens, it's nothing but a donkey!'
'A donkey!' repeated Simon, 'you don't mean to say so; if a single
other person tells me that, I'll make him a present of the
With these words he continued his way, and very soon met the third
knave, who said to him, 'God bless you, sir; are you by any chance
coming from the market?'
'Yes, I am,' replied Simon.
'And what bargain did you drive there?' asked the cunning fellow.
'I bought this mule on which I am riding.'
'A mule! Are you speaking seriously, or do you wish to make a fool
'I'm speaking in sober earnest,' said Simon; 'it wouldn't occur to
me to make a joke of it.'
'Oh, my poor friend,' cried the rascal, 'don't you see that is a
donkey and not a mule? you have been taken in by some wretched
'You are the third person in the last two hours who has told me
the same thing,' said Simon, 'but I couldn't believe it,' and
dismounting from the mule he spoke: 'Keep the animal, I make you a
present of it.' The rascal took the beast, thanked him kindly, and
rode on to join his comrades, while Simon continued his journey on
As soon as the old man got home, he told his housekeeper that he
had bought a beast under the belief that it was a mule, but that
it had turned out to be a donkey--at least, so he had been assured
by several people he had met on the road, and that in disgust he
had at last given it away.
'Oh, you simpleton!' cried Nina; 'didn't you see that they were
only playing you a trick? Really, I thought you'd have had more
gumption than that; they wouldn't have taken me in in that way.'
'Never mind,' replied Simon, 'I'll play them one worth two of
that; for depend upon it they won't be contented with having got
the donkey out of me, but they'll try by some new dodge to get
something more, or I'm much mistaken.'
Now there lived in the village not far from Simon's house, a
peasant who had two goats, so alike in every respect that it was
impossible to distinguish one from the other. Simon bought them
both, paid as small a price as he could for them, and leading them
home with him, he told Nina to prepare a good meal, as he was
going to invite some friends to dinner. He ordered her to roast
some veal, and to boil a pair of chickens, and gave her some herbs
to make a good savoury, and told her to bake the best tart she
could make. Then he took one of the goats and tied it to a post in
the courtyard, and gave it some grass to eat; but he bound a cord
round the neck of the other goat and led it to the market.
Hardly had he arrived there, than the three gentlemen who had got
his mule perceived him, and coming up to him said: 'Welcome, Mr.
Simon, what brings you here; are you on the look out for a
'I've come to get some provisions,' he answered, 'because some
friends are coming to dine with me today, and it would give me
much pleasure if you were to honour me with your company also.'
The accomplices willingly accepted this invitation; and after
Simon had made all his purchases, he tied them on to the goat's
back, and said to it, in the presence of the three cheats, 'Go
home now, and tell Nina to roast the veal, and boil the chickens,
and tell her to prepare a savoury with herbs, and to bake the best
tart she can make. Have you followed me? Then go, and Heaven's
blessing go with you.'
As soon as it felt itself free, the laden goat trotted off as
quickly as it could, and to this day nobody knows what became of
it. But Simon, after wandering about the market for some time with
his three friends and some others he had picked up, returned home
to his house.
When he and his guests entered the courtyard, they noticed the
goat tied to the post quietly chewing the cud. They were not a
little astonished at this, for of course they thought it was the
same goat that Simon had sent home laden with provisions. As soon
as they reached the house Mr. Simon said to his housekeeper,
'Well, Nina, have you done what I told the goat to tell you to
do?' The artful woman, who at once understood her master,
answered, 'Certainly I have. The veal is roasted, and the chickens
'That's all right,' said Simon.
When the three rogues saw the cooked meats, and the tart in the
oven, and heard Nina's words, they were nearly beside themselves
with amazement, and began to consult at once how they were to get
the goat into their own possession. At last, towards the end of
the meal, having sought in vain for some cunning dodge to get the
goat away from Mr. Simon, one of them said to him, 'My worthy
host, you must sell your goat to us.'
Simon replied that he was most unwilling to part with the
creature, as no amount of money would make up to him for its loss;
still, if they were quite set on it, he would let them have the
goat for fifty gold pieces.
The knaves, who thought they were doing a capital piece of
business, paid down the fifty gold pieces at once, and left the
house quite happily, leading the goat with them. When they got
home they said to their wives, 'You needn't begin to cook the
dinner to-morrow till we send the provisions home.'
The following day they went to the market and bought chickens and
other eatables, and after they had packed them on the back of the
goat (which they had brought with them), they told it all the
dishes they wished their wives to prepare. As soon as the goat
felt itself free, it ran as quickly as it could, and was very soon
lost to sight, and, as far as I know, was never heard of again.
When the dinner hour approached all three went home and asked
their wives if the goat had returned with the necessary
provisions, and had told them what they wished prepared for their
'Oh, you fools and blockheads!' cried their wives, 'how could you
ever believe for a moment that a goat would do the work of a
servant-maid? You have been finely deceived for once in a way. Of
course, if you are always taking in other people, your turn to be
taken in comes too, and this time you've been made to look pretty
When the three comrades saw that Mr. Simon had got the better of
them, and done them out of fifty gold pieces, they flew into such
a rage that they made up their minds to kill him, and, seizing
their weapons for this purpose, went to his house.
But the sly old man, who was terrified for his life that the three
rogues might do him some harm, was on his guard, and said to his
housekeeper, 'Nina, take this bladder, which is filled with blood,
and hide it under your cloak; then when these thieves come I'll
lay all the blame on you, and will pretend to be so angry with you
that I will run at you with my knife, and pierce the bladder with
it; then you must fall on the ground as if you were dead, and
leave the rest to me.'
Hardly had Simon said these words when the three rogues appeared
and fell on him to kill him.
'My friends,' called out Simon to then, 'what do you accuse me of?
I am in no way to blame; perhaps my housekeeper has done you some
injury of which I know nothing.' And with these words, he turned
on Nina with his knife, and stuck it right into her, so that he
pierced the bladder filled with blood. Instantly the housekeeper
fell down as if she were dead, and the blood streamed all over the
Simon then pretended to be seized with remorse at the sight of
this dreadful catastrophe, and cried out in a loud voice, 'Unhappy
wretch that I am! What have I done? Like a madman I have killed
the woman who is the prop and stay of my old age. How could I ever
go on living without her?' Then he seized a pipe, and when he had
blown into it for some time Nina sprang up alive and well.
The rogues were more amazed than ever; they forgot their anger,
and buying the pipe for two hundred gold pieces, they went
Not long after this one of them quarrelled with his wife, and in
his rage he thrust his knife into her breast so that she fell dead
on the ground. Then he took Simon's pipe and blew into it with all
his might, in the hopes of calling his wife back to life. But he
blew in vain, for the poor soul was as dead as a door-nail.
When one of his comrades heard what had happened, he said, 'You
blockhead, you can't have done it properly; just let me have a
try,' and with these words he seized his wife by the roots of her
hair, cut her throat with a razor, and then took the pipe and blew
into it with all his might but he couldn't bring her back to life.
The same thing happened to the third rogue, so that they were now
all three without wives.
Full of wrath they ran to Simon's house, and, refusing to listen
to a word of explanation or excuse, they seized the old man and
put him into a sack, meaning to drown him in the neighbouring
river. On their way there, however, a sudden noise threw them into
such a panic that they dropped the sack with Simon in it and ran
for their lives.
Soon after this a shepherd happened to pass by with his flock, and
while he was slowly following the sheep, who paused here and there
by the wayside to browse on the tender grass, he heard a pitiful
voice wailing, 'They insist on my taking her, and I don't want
her, for I am too old, and I really can't have her.' The shepherd
was much startled, for he couldn't make out where these words,
which were repeated more than once, came from, and looked about
him to the right and left; at last he perceived the sack in which
Simon was hidden, and going up to it he opened it and discovered
Simon repeating his dismal complaint. The shepherd asked him why
he had been left there tied up in a sack.
Simon replied that the king of the country had insisted on giving
him one of his daughters as a wife, but that he had refused the
honour because he was too old and too frail. The simple-minded
shepherd, who believed his story implicitly, asked him, 'Do you
think the king of the country would give his daughter to me?'
'Yes, certainly, I know he would,' answered Simon, 'if you were
tied up in this sack instead of me.' Then getting out of the sack,
he tied the confiding shepherd up in it instead, and at his
request fastened it securely and drove the sheep on himself.
An hour had scarcely passed when the three rogues returned to the
place where they had left Simon in the sack, and without opening
it, one of them seized it and threw it into the river. And so the
poor shepherd was drowned instead of Mr. Simon!
The three rogues, having wreaked their vengeance, set out, for
home. On their way they noticed a flock of sheep grazing not far
from the road. They longed to steal a few of the lambs, and
approached the flock, and were more than startled to recognise Mr.
Simon, whom they had drowned in the river, as the shepherd who was
looking after the sheep. They asked him how he had managed to get
out of the river, to which he replied:
'Get along with you--you are no better than silly donkeys without
any sense; if you had only drowned me in deeper water I would have
returned with three times as many sheep.'
When the three rogues heard this, they said to him: 'Oh, dear Mr.
Simon, do us the favour to tie us up in sacks and throw us into
the river that we may give up our thieving ways and become the
owners of flocks.'
'I am ready,' answered Simon, 'to do what you please; there's
nothing in the world I wouldn't do for you.'
So he took three strong sacks and put a man in each of them, and
fastened them up so tightly that they couldn't get out, and then
he threw them all into the river; and that was the end of the
three rogues. But Mr. Simon returned home to his faithful Nina
rich in flocks and gold, and lived for many a year in health and
KING KOJATA (From the Russian)
There was once upon a time a king called Kojata, whose beard was
so long that it reached below his knees. Three years had passed
since his marriage, and he lived very happily with his wife, but
Heaven granted him no heir, which grieved the King greatly. One
day he set forth from his capital, in order to make a journey
through his kingdom. He travelled for nearly a year through the
different parts of his territory, and then, having seen all there
was to be seen, he set forth on his homeward way. As the day was
very hot and sultry he commanded his servants to pitch tents in
the open field, and there await the cool of the evening. Suddenly
a frightful thirst seized the King, and as he saw no water near,
he mounted his horse, and rode through the neighbourhood looking
for a spring. Before long he came to a well filled to the brim
with water clear as crystal, and on the bosom of which a golden
jug was floating. King Kojata at once tried to seize the vessel,
but though he endeavoured to grasp it with his right hand, and
then with his left, the wretched thing always eluded his efforts
and refused to let itself be caught. First with one hand, and then
with two, did the King try to seize it, but like a fish the goblet
always slipped through his fingers and bobbed to the ground only
to reappear at some other place, and mock the King.
'Plague on you!' said King Kojata. 'I can quench my thirst without
you,' and bending over the well he lapped up the water so greedily
that he plunged his face, beard and all, right into the crystal
mirror. But when he had satisfied his thirst, and wished to raise
himself up, he couldn't lift his head, because someone held his
beard fast in the water. 'Who's there? let me go!' cried King
Kojata, but there was no answer; only an awful face looked up from
the bottom of the well with two great green eyes, glowing like
emeralds, and a wide mouth reaching from ear to ear showing two
rows of gleaming white teeth, and the King's beard was held, not
by mortal hands, but by two claws. At last a hoarse voice sounded
from the depths. 'Your trouble is all in vain, King Kojata; I will
only let you go on condition that you give me something you know
nothing about, and which you will find on your return home.'
The King didn't pause to ponder long, 'for what,' thought he,
'could be in my palace without my knowing about it--the thing is
absurd;' so he answered quickly:
'Yes, I promise that you shall have it.'
The voice replied, 'Very well; but it will go ill with you if you
fail to keep your promise.' Then the claws relaxed their hold, and
the face disappeared in the depths. The King drew his chin out of
the water, and shook himself like a dog; then he mounted his horse
and rode thoughtfully home with his retinue. When they approached
the capital, all the people came out to meet them with great joy
and acclamation, and when the King reached his palace the Queen
met him on the threshold; beside her stood the Prime Minister,
holding a little cradle in his hands, in which lay a new-born
child as beautiful as the day. Then the whole thing dawned on the
King, and groaning deeply he muttered to himself 'So this is what
I did not know about,' and the tears rolled down his cheeks. All
the courtiers standing round were much amazed at the King's grief,
but no one dared to ask him the cause of it. He took the child in
his arms and kissed it tenderly; then laying it in its cradle, he
determined to control his emotion and began to reign again as
The secret of the King remained a secret, though his grave,
careworn expression escaped no one's notice. In the constant dread
that his child would be taken from him, poor Kojata knew no rest
night or day. However, time went on and nothing happened. Days and
months and years passed, and the Prince grew up into a beautiful
youth, and at last the King himself forgot all about the incident
that had happened so long ago.
One day the Prince went out hunting, and going in pursuit of a
wild boar he soon lost the other huntsmen, and found himself quite
alone in the middle of a dark wood. The trees grew so thick and
near together that it was almost impossible to see through them,
only straight in front of him lay a little patch of meadowland.
Overgrown with thistles and rank weeds, in the centre of which a
leafy lime tree reared itself. Suddenly a rustling sound was heard
in the hollow of the tree, and an extraordinary old man with green
eyes and chin crept out of it.
'A fine day, Prince Milan,' he said; 'you've kept me waiting a
good number of years; it was high time for you to come and pay me
'Who are you, in the name of wonder?' demanded the astonished
'You'll find out soon enough, but in the meantime do as I bid you.
Greet your father King Kojata from me, and don't forget to remind
him of his debt; the time has long passed since it was due, but
now he will have to pay it. Farewell for the present; we shall
With these words the old man disappeared into the tree, and the
Prince returned home rather startled, and told his father all that
he had seen and heard.
The King grew as white as a sheet when he heard the Prince's
story, and said, 'Woe is me, my son! The time has come when we
must part,' and with a heavy heart he told the Prince what had
happened at the time of his birth.
'Don't worry or distress yourself, dear father,' answered Prince
Milan. 'Things are never as bad as they look. Only give me a horse
for my journey, and I wager you'll soon see me back again.'
The King gave him a beautiful charger, with golden stirrups, and a
sword. The Queen hung a little cross round his neck, and after
much weeping and lamentation the Prince bade them all farewell and
set forth on his journey.
He rode straight on for two days, and on the third he came to a
lake as smooth as glass and as clear as crystal. Not a breath of
wind moved, not a leaf stirred, all was silent as the grave, only
on the still bosom of the lake thirty ducks, with brilliant
plumage, swam about in the water. Not far from the shore Prince
Milan noticed thirty little white garments lying on the grass, and
dismounting from his horse, he crept down under the high
bulrushes, took one of the garments and hid himself with it behind
the bushes which grew round the lake. The ducks swam about all
over the place, dived down into the depths and rose again and
glided through the waves. At last, tired of disporting themselves,
they swam to the shore, and twenty-nine of them put on their
little white garments and instantly turned into so many beautiful
maidens. Then they finished dressing and disappeared. Only the
thirtieth little duck couldn't come to the land; it swam about
close to the shore, and, giving out a piercing cry, it stretched
its neck up timidly, gazed wildly around, and then dived under
again. Prince Milan's heart was so moved with pity for the poor
little creature that he came out from behind the bulrushes, to see
if he could be of any help. As soon as the duck perceived him, it
cried in a human voice, 'Oh, dear Prince Milan, for the love of
Heaven give me back my garment, and I will be so grateful to you.'
The Prince lay the little garment on the bank beside her, and
stepped back into the bushes. In a few seconds a beautiful girl in
a white robe stood before him, so fair and sweet and young that no
pen could describe her. She gave the Prince her hand and spoke.
'Many thanks, Prince Milan, for your courtesy. I am the daughter
of a wicked magician, and my name is Hyacinthia. My father has
thirty young daughters, and is a mighty ruler in the underworld,
with many castles and great riches. He has been expecting you for
ages, but you need have no fear if you will only follow my advice.
As soon as you come into the presence of my father, throw yourself
at once on the ground and approach him on your knees. Don't mind
if he stamps furiously with his feet and curses and swears. I'll
attend to the rest, and in the meantime we had better be off.'
With these words the beautiful Hyacinthia stamped on the ground
with her little foot, and the earth opened and they both sank down
into the lower world.
The palace of the Magician was all hewn out of a single carbuncle,
lighting up the whole surrounding region, and Prince Milan walked
into it gaily.
The Magician sat on a throne, a sparkling crown on his head; his
eyes blazed like a green fire, and instead of hands he had claws.
As soon as Prince Milan entered he flung himself on his knees. The
Magician stamped loudly with his feet, glared frightfully out of
his green eyes, and cursed so loudly that the whole underworld
shook. But the Prince, mindful of the counsel he had been given,
wasn't the least afraid, and approached the throne still on his
knees. At last the Magician laughed aloud and said, 'You rogue,
you have been well advised to make me laugh; I won't be your enemy
any more. Welcome to the underworld! All the same, for your delay
in coming here, we must demand three services from you. For to-day
you may go, but to-morrow I shall have something more to say to
Then two servants led Prince Milan to a beautiful apartment, and
he lay down fearlessly on the soft bed that had been prepared for
him, and was soon fast asleep.
Early the next morning the Magician sent for him, and said, 'Let's
see now what you've learnt. In the first place you must build me a
palace to-night, the roof of purest gold, the walls of marble, and
the windows of crystal; all round you must lay out a beautiful
garden, with fish-ponds and artistic waterfalls. If you do all
this, I will reward you richly; but if you don't, you shall lose
'Oh, you wicked monster!' thought Prince Milan, 'you might as well
have put me to death at once.' Sadly he returned to his room, and
with bent head sat brooding over his cruel fate till evening. When
it grew dark, a little bee flew by, and knocking at the window, it
said, 'Open, and let me in.'
Milan opened the window quickly, and as soon as the bee had
entered, it changed into the beautiful Hyacinthia.
'Good evening, Prince Milan. Why are you so sad?'
'How can I help being sad? Your father threatens me with death,
and I see myself already without a head.'
'And what have you made up your mind to do?'
'There's nothing to be done, and after all I suppose one can only
'Now, don't be so foolish, my dear Prince; but keep up your
spirits, for there is no need to despair. Go to bed, and when you
wake up to-morrow morning the palace will be finished. Then you
must go all round it, giving a tap here and there on the walls to
look as if you had just finished it.'
And so it all turned out just as she had said. As soon as it was
daylight Prince Milan stepped out of his room, and found a palace
which was quite a work of art down to the very smallest detail.
The Magician himself was not a little astonished at its beauty,
and could hardly believe his eyes.
'Well, you certainly are a splendid workman,' he said to the
Prince. 'I see you are very clever with your hands, now I must see
if you are equally accomplished with your head. I have thirty
daughters in my house, all beautiful princesses. To-morrow I will
place the whole thirty in a row. You must walk past them three
times, and the third time you must show me which is my youngest
daughter Hyacinthia. If you don't guess rightly, you shall lose
'This time you've made a mistake,' thought Prince Milan, and going
to his room he sat down at the window. Just fancy my not
recognising the beautiful Hyacinthia! Why, that is the easiest
thing in the world.'
'Not so easy as you think,' cried the little bee, who was flying
past. 'If I weren't to help you, you'd never guess. We are thirty
sisters so exactly alike that our own father can hardly
distinguish us apart.'
'Then what am I to do?' asked Prince Milan.
'Listen,' answered Hyacinthia. 'You will recognise me by a tiny
fly I shall have on my left cheek, but be careful for you might
easily make a mistake.'
The next day the Magician again commanded Prince Milan to be led
before him. His daughters were all arranged in a straight row in
front of him, dressed exactly alike, and with their eyes bent on
'Now, you genius,' said the Magician, 'look at these beauties
three times, and then tell us which is the Princess Hyacinthia.'
Prince Milan went past them and looked at them closely. But they
were all so precisely alike that they looked like one face
reflected in thirty mirrors, and the fly was nowhere to be seen;
the second time he passed them he still saw nothing; but the third
time he perceived a little fly stealing down one cheek, causing it
to blush a faint pink. Then the Prince seized the girl's hand and
cried out, 'This is the Princess Hyacinthia!'
'You're right again,' said the Magician in amazement; 'but I've
still another task for you to do. Before this candle, which I
shall light, burns to the socket, you must have made me a pair of
boots reaching to my knees. If they aren't finished in that time,
off comes your head.'
The Prince returned to his room in despair; then the Princess
Hyacinthia came to him once more changed into the likeness of a
bee, and asked him, 'Why so sad, Prince Milan?'
'How can I help being sad? Your father has set me this time an
impossible task. Before a candle which he has lit burns to the
socket, I am to make a pair of boots. But what does a prince know
of shoemaking? If I can't do it, I lose my head.'
'And what do you mean to do?' asked Hyacinthia.
'Well, what is there to be done? What he demands I can't and won't
do, so he must just make an end of me.'
'Not so, dearest. I love you dearly, and you shall marry me, and
I'll either save your life or die with you. We must fly now as
quickly as we can, for there is no other way of escape.'
With these words she breathed on the window, and her breath froze
on the pane. Then she led Milan out of the room with her, shut the
door, and threw the key away. Hand in hand, they hurried to the
spot where they had descended into the lower world, and at last
reached the banks of the lake. Prince Milan's charger was still
grazing on the grass which grew near the water. The horse no
sooner recognized his master, than it neighed loudly with joy, and
springing towards him, it stood as if rooted to the ground, while
Prince Milan and Hyacinthia jumped on its back. Then it sped
onwards like an arrow from a bow.
In the meantime the Magician was waiting impatiently for the
Prince. Enraged by the delay, he sent his servants to fetch him,
for the appointed time was past.
The servants came to the door, and finding it locked, they
knocked; but the frozen breath on the window replied in Prince
Milan's voice, 'I am coming directly.' With this answer they
returned to the Magician. But when the Prince still did not
appear, after a time he sent his servants a second time to bring
him. The frozen breath always gave the same answer, but the Prince
never came. At last the Magician lost all patience, and commanded
the door to be burst open. But when his servants did so, they
found the room empty, and the frozen breath laughed aloud. Out of
his mind with rage, the Magician ordered the Prince to be pursued.
Then a wild chase began. 'I hear horses' hoofs behind us,' said
Hyacinthia to the Prince. Milan sprang from the saddle, put his
ear to the ground and listened. 'Yes,' he answered, 'they are
pursuing us, and are quite close.' 'Then no time must be lost,'
said Hyacinthia, and she immediately turned herself into a river,
Prince Milan into an iron bridge, and the charger into a
blackbird. Behind the bridge the road branched off into three
The Magician's servants hurried after the fresh tracks, but when
they came to the bridge, they stood, not knowing which road to
take, as the footprints stopped suddenly, and there were three
paths for them to choose from. In fear and trembling they returned
to tell the Magician what had happened. He flew into a dreadful
rage when he saw them, and screamed out, 'Oh, you fools! the river
and bridge were they! Go back and bring them to me at once, or it
will be the worse for you.'
Then the pursuit began afresh. 'I hear horses' hoofs,' sighed
Hyacinthia. The Prince dismounted and put his ear to the ground.
'They are hurrying after us, and are already quite near.' In a
moment the Princess Hyacinthia had changed herself, the Prince,
and his charger into a thick wood where a thousand paths and roads
crossed each other. Their pursuers entered the forest, but
searched in vain for Prince Milan and his bride. At last they
found themselves back at the same spot they had started from, and
in despair they returned once more with empty hands to the
'Then I'll go after the wretches myself,' he shouted. 'Bring a
horse at once; they shan't escape me.'
Once more the beautiful Hyacinthia murmured, 'I hear horses' hoofs
quite near.' And the Prince answered, 'They are pursuing us hotly
and are quite close.'
'We are lost now, for that is my father himself. But at the first
church we come to his power ceases; he may chase us no further.
Hand me your cross.'
Prince Milan loosened from his neck the little gold cross his
mother had given him, and as soon as Hyacinthia grasped it, she
had changed herself into a church, Milan into a monk, and the
horse into a belfry. They had hardly done this when the magician
and his servants rode up.
'Did you see no one pass by on horseback, reverend father?' he
asked the monk.
'Prince Milan and Princess Hyacinthia have just gone on this
minute; they stopped for a few minutes in the church to say their
prayers, and bade me light this wax candle for you, and give you
'I'd like to wring their necks,' said the magician, and made all
haste home, where he had every one of his servants beaten to
within an inch of their lives.
Prince Milan rode on slowly with his bride without fearing any
further pursuit. The sun was just setting, and its last rays lit
up a large city they were approaching. Prince Milan was suddenly
seized with an ardent desire to enter the town.
'Oh my beloved,' implored Hyacinthia, 'please don't go; for I am
frightened and fear some evil.'
'What are you afraid of?' asked the Prince. 'We'll only go and
look at what's to be seen in the town for about an hour, and then
we'll continue our journey to my father's kingdom.'
'The town is easy to get into, but more difficult to get out of,'
sighed Hyacinthia. 'But let it be as you wish. Go, and I will
await you here, but I will first change myself into a white
milestone; only I pray you be very careful. The King and Queen of
the town will come out to meet you, leading a little child with
them. Whatever you do, don't kiss the child, or you will forget me
and all that has happened to us. I will wait for you here for
The Prince hurried to the town, but Hyacinthia remained behind
disguised as a white milestone on the road. The first day passed,
and then the second, and at last the third also, but Prince Milan
did not return, for he had not taken Hyacinthia's advice. The King
and Queen came out to meet him as she had said, leading with them
a lovely fair-haired little girl, whose eyes shone like two clear
stars. The child at once caressed the Prince, who, carried away by
its beauty, bent down and kissed it on the cheek. From that moment
his memory became a blank, and he forgot all about the beautiful
When the Prince did not return, poor Hyacinthia wept bitterly and
changing herself from a milestone into a little blue field flower,
she said, 'I will grow here on the wayside till some passer-by
tramples me under foot.' And one of her tears remained as a
dewdrop and sparkled on the little blue flower.
Now it happened shortly after this that an old man passed by, and
seeing the flower, he was delighted with its beauty. He pulled it
up carefully by the roots and carried it home. Here he planted it
in a pot, and watered and tended the little plant carefully. And
now the most extraordinary thing happened, for from this moment
everything in the old man's house was changed. When he awoke in
the morning he always found his room tidied and put into such
beautiful order that not a speck of dust was to be found anywhere.
When he came home at midday, he found a table laid out with the
most dainty food, and he had only to sit down and enjoy himself to
his heart's content. At first he was so surprised he didn't know
what to think, but after a time he grew a little uncomfortable,
and went to an old witch to ask for advice.
The witch said, 'Get up before the cock crows, and watch carefully
till you see something move, and then throw this cloth quickly
over it, and you'll see what will happen.'
All night the old man never closed an eye. When the first ray of
light entered the room, he noticed that the little blue flower
began to tremble, and at last it rose out of the pot and flew
about the room, put everything in order, swept away the dust, and
lit the fire. In great haste the old man sprang from his bed, and
covered the flower with the cloth the old witch had given him, and
in a moment the beautiful Princess Hyacinthia stood before him.
'What have you done?' she cried. 'Why have you called me back to
life? For I have no desire to live since my bridegroom, the
beautiful Prince Milan, has deserted me.'
'Prince Milan is just going to be married,' replied the old man.
'Everything is being got ready for the feast, and all the invited
guests are flocking to the palace from all sides.'
The beautiful Hyacinthia cried bitterly when she heard this; then
she dried her tears, and went into the town dressed as a peasant
woman. She went straight to the King's kitchen, where the white-
aproned cooks were running about in great confusion. The Princess
went up to the head cook, and said, 'Dear cook, please listen to
my request, and let me make a wedding-cake for Prince Milan.'
The busy cook was just going to refuse her demand and order her
out of the kitchen, but the words died on his lips when he turned
and beheld the beautiful Hyacinthia, and he answered politely,
'You have just come in the nick of time, fair maiden. Bake your
cake, and I myself will lay it before Prince Milan.'
The cake was soon made. The invited guests were already thronging
round the table, when the head cook entered the room, bearing a
beautiful wedding cake on a silver dish, and laid it before Prince
Milan. The guests were all lost in admiration, for the cake was
quite a work of art. Prince Milan at once proceeded to cut it
open, when to his surprise two white doves sprang out of it, and
one of them said to the other: 'My dear mate, do not fly away and
leave me, and forget me as Prince Milan forgot his beloved
Milan sighed deeply when he heard what the little dove said. Then
he jumped up suddenly from the table and ran to the door, where he
found the beautiful Hyacinthia waiting for him. Outside stood his
faithful charger, pawing the ground. Without pausing for a moment,
Milan and Hyacinthia mounted him and galloped as fast as they
could into the country of King Kojata. The King and Queen received
them with such joy and gladness as had never been heard of before,
and they all lived happily for the rest of their lives.
PRINCE FICKLE AND FAIR HELENA (From the German)
There was once upon a time a beautiful girl called Helena. Her own
mother had died when she was quite a child, and her stepmother was
as cruel and unkind to her as she could be. Helena did all she
could to gain her love, and performed the heavy work given her to
do cheerfully and well; but her stepmother's heart wasn't in the
least touched, and the more the poor girl did the more she asked
her to do.
One day she gave Helena twelve pounds of mixed feathers and bade
her separate them all before evening, threatening her with heavy
punishment if she failed to do so.
The poor child sat down to her task with her eyes so full of tears
that she could hardly see to begin. And when she had made one
little heap of feathers, she sighed so deeply that they all blew
apart again. And so it went on, and the poor girl grew more and
more miserable. She bowed her head in her hands and cried, 'Is
there no one under heaven who will take pity on me?'
Suddenly a soft voice replied, 'Be comforted, my child: I have
come to help you.'
Terrified to death, Helena looked up and saw a Fairy standing in
front of her, who asked in the kindest way possible, 'Why are you
crying, my dear?'
Helena, who for long had heard no friendly voice, confided her sad
tale of woe to the Fairy, and told her what the new task she had
been given to do was, and how she despaired of ever accomplishing
'Don't worry yourself about it any more,' said the kind Fairy;
'lie down and go to sleep, and I'll see that your work is done all
right.' So Helena lay down, and when she awoke all the feathers
were sorted into little bundles; but when she turned to thank the
good Fairy she had vanished.
In the evening her stepmother returned and was much amazed to find
Helena sitting quietly with her work all finished before her.
She praised her diligence, but at the same time racked her brain
as to what harder task she could set her to do.
The next day she told Helena to empty a pond near the house with a
spoon which was full of holes. Helena set to work at once, but she
very soon found that what her stepmother had told her to do was an
impossibility. Full of despair and misery, she was in the act of
throwing the spoon away, when suddenly the kind Fairy stood before
her again, and asked her why she was so unhappy?
When Helena told her of her stepmother's new demand she said,
'Trust to me and I will do your task for you. Lie down and have a
sleep in the meantime.'
Helena was comforted and lay down, and before you would have
believed it possible the Fairy roused her gently and told her the
pond was empty. Full of joy and gratitude, Helena hurried to her
stepmother, hoping that now at last her heart would be softened
towards her. But the wicked woman was furious at the frustration
of her own evil designs, and only thought of what harder thing she
could set the girl to do.
Next morning she ordered her to build before evening a beautiful
castle, and to furnish it all from garret to basement. Helena sat
down on the rocks which had been pointed out to her as the site of
the castle, feeling very depressed, but at the same time with the
lurking hope that the kind Fairy would come once more to her aid.
And so it turned out. The Fairy appeared, promised to build the
castle, and told Helena to lie down and go to sleep in the
meantime. At the word of the Fairy the rocks and stones rose and
built themselves into a beautiful castle, and before sunset it was
all furnished inside, and left nothing to be desired. You may
think how grateful Helena was when she awoke and found her task
But her stepmother was anything but pleased, and went through the
whole castle from top to bottom, to see if she couldn't find some
fault for which she could punish Helena. At last she went down
into one of the cellars, but it was so dark that she fell down the
steep stairs and was killed on the spot.
So Helena was now mistress of the beautiful castle, and lived
there in peace and happiness. And soon the noise of her beauty
spread abroad, and many wooers came to try and gain her hand.
Among them came one Prince Fickle by name, who very quickly won
the love of fair Helena. One day, as they were sitting happily
together under a lime-tree in front of the castle, Prince Fickle
broke the sad news to Helena that he must return to his parents to
get their consent to his marriage. He promised faithfully to come
back to her as soon as he could and begged her to await his return
under the lime-tree where they had spent so many happy hours.
Helena kissed him tenderly at parting on his left cheek, and
begged him not to let anyone else kiss him there while they were
parted, and she promised to sit and wait for him under the lime-
tree, for she never doubted that the Prince would be faithful to
her and would return as quickly as he could.
And so she sat for three days and three nights under the tree
without moving. But when her lover never returned, she grew very
unhappy, and determined to set out to look for him. She took as
many of her jewels as she could carry, and three of her most
beautiful dresses, one embroidered with stars, one with moons, and
the third with suns, all of pure gold. Far and wide she wandered
through the world, but nowhere did she find any trace of her
bridegroom. At last she gave up the search in despair. She could
not bear to return to her own castle where she had been so happy
with her lover, but determined rather to endure her loneliness and
desolation in a strange land. She took a place as herd-girl with a
peasant, and buried her jewels and beautiful dresses in a safe and
Every day she drove the cattle to pasture, and all the time she
thought of nothing but her faithless bridegroom. She was very
devoted to a certain little calf in the herd, and made a great pet
of it, feeding it out of her own hands. She taught it to kneel