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The Red Fairy Book

Part 8 out of 8

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wished him `Good-morning,' and said: `Do give me a piece of that
cake you have got in your pocket, and let me have a draught of
your wine--I am so hungry and thirsty.'

But this clever son replied: `If I give you my cake and wine I
shall have none left for myself; you just go your own way;' and
he left the little man standing there and went further on into the
forest. There he began to cut down a tree, but before long he made
a false stroke with his axe, and cut his own arm so badly that he
was obliged to go home and have it bound up.

Then the second son went to the forest, and his mother gave
him a good cake and a bottle of wine as she had to his elder brother.
He too met the little old grey man, who begged him for a morsel of
cake and a draught of wine.

But the second son spoke most sensibly too, and said:
`Whatever I give to you I deprive myself of. Just go your own way, will
you?' Not long after his punishment overtook him, for no sooner
had he struck a couple of blows on a tree with his axe, than he cut
his leg so badly that he had to be carried home.

So then Dullhead said: `Father, let me go out and cut wood.'

But his father answered: `Both your brothers have injured
themselves. You had better leave it alone; you know nothing
about it.'

But Dullhead begged so hard to be allowed to go that at last
his father said: `Very well, then--go. Perhaps when you have hurt
yourself, you may learn to know better.' His mother only gave
him a very plain cake made with water and baked in the cinders,
and a bottle of sour beer.

When he got to the forest, he too met the little grey old man,
who greeted him and said: `Give me a piece of your cake and a
draught from your bottle; I am so hungry and thirsty.'

And Dullhead replied: `I've only got a cinder-cake and some
sour beer, but if you care to have that, let us sit down and eat.'

So they sat down, and when Dullhead brought out his cake he
found it had turned into a fine rich cake, and the sour beer into
excellent wine. Then they ate and drank, and when they had
finished the little man said: `Now I will bring you luck, because
you have a kind heart and are willing to share what you have with
others. There stands an old tree; cut it down, and amongst its
roots you'll find something.' With that the little man took leave.

Then Dullhead fell to at once to hew down the tree, and when
it fell he found amongst its roots a goose, whose feathers were all
of pure gold. He lifted it out, carried it off, and took it with him
to an inn where he meant to spend the night.

Now the landlord of the inn had three daughters, and when
they saw the goose they were filled with curiosity as to what this
wonderful bird could be, and each longed to have one of its golden

The eldest thought to herself: `No doubt I shall soon find a good
opportunity to pluck out one of its feathers,' and the first time
Dullhead happened to leave the room she caught hold of the goose
by its wing. But, lo and behold! her fingers seemed to stick fast
to the goose, and she could not take her hand away.

Soon after the second daughter came in, and thought to pluck a
golden feather for herself too; but hardly had she touched her
sister than she stuck fast as well. At last the third sister came
with the same intentions, but the other two cried out: `Keep off!
for Heaven's sake, keep off!'

The younger sister could not imagine why she was to keep off,
and thought to herself: `If they are both there, why should not I be
there too?'

So she sprang to them; but no sooner had she touched one of
them than she stuck fast to her. So they all three had to spend the
night with the goose.

Next morning Dullhead tucked the goose under his arm and
went off, without in the least troubling himself about the three girls
who were hanging on to it. They just had to run after him right
or left as best they could. In the middle of a field they met the
parson, and when he saw this procession he cried: `For shame,
you bold girls! What do you mean by running after a young fellow
through the fields like that? Do you call that proper behaviour?'
And with that he caught the youngest girl by the hand to try and
draw her away. But directly he touched her he hung on himself,
and had to run along with the rest of them.

Not long after the clerk came that way, and was much surprised
to see the parson following the footsteps of three girls. `Why, where
is your reverence going so fast?' cried he; `don't forget there is
to be a christening to-day;' and he ran after him, caught him by
the sleeve, and hung on to it himself: As the five of them trotted
along in this fashion one after the other, two peasants were coming
from their work with their hoes. On seeing them the parson called
out and begged them to come and rescue him and the clerk. But
no sooner did they touch the clerk than they stuck on too, and so
there were seven of them running after Dullhead and his goose.

After a time they all came to a town where a King reigned whose
daughter was so serious and solemn that no one could ever manage
to make her laugh. So the King had decreed that whoever should
succeed in making her laugh should marry her.

When Dullhead heard this he marched before the Princess with
his goose and its appendages, and as soon as she saw these seven
people continually running after each other she burst out laughing,
and could not stop herself. Then Dullhead claimed her as his
bride, but the King, who did not much fancy him as a son-in-law,
made all sorts of objections, and told him he must first find a man
who could drink up a whole cellarful of wine.

Dullhead bethought him of the little grey man, who could, he
felt sure, help him; so he went off to the forest, and on the very
spot where he had cut down the tree he saw a man sitting with a
most dismal expression of face.

Dullhead asked him what he was taking so much to heart, and
the man answered: `I don't know how I am ever to quench this
terrible thirst I am suffering from. Cold water doesn't suit me at
all. To be sure I've emptied a whole barrel of wine, but what is one
drop on a hot stone?'

`I think I can help you,' said Dullhead. `Come with me, and
you shall drink to your heart's content.' So he took him to the
King's cellar, and the man sat down before the huge casks and
drank and drank till he drank up the whole contents of the cellar
before the day closed.

Then Dullhead asked once more for his bride, but the King felt
vexed at the idea of a stupid fellow whom people called `Dullhead'
carrying off his daughter, and he began to make fresh conditions.
He required Dullhead to find a man who could eat a mountain of
bread. Dullhead did not wait to consider long but went straight off
to the forest, and there on the same spot sat a man who was drawing
in a strap as tight as he could round his body, and making a most
woeful face the while. Said he: `I've eaten up a whole oven full of
loaves, but what's the good of that to anyone who is as hungry as
I am? I declare my stomach feels quite empty, and I must draw
my belt tight if I'm not to die of starvation.'

Dullhead was delighted, and said: `Get up and come with me,
and you shall have plenty to eat,' and he brought him to the King's

Now the King had given orders to have all the flour in his
kingdom brought together, and to have a huge mountain baked of
it. But the man from the wood just took up his stand before the
mountain and began to eat, and in one day it had all vanished.

For the third time Dullhead asked for his bride, but again the
King tried to make some evasion, and demanded a ship `which could
sail on land or water! When you come sailing in such a ship,' said
he, `you shall have my daughter without further delay.'

Again Dullhead started off to the forest, and there he found the
little old grey man with whom he had shared his cake, and who
said: `I have eaten and I have drunk for you, and now I will give
you the ship. I have done all this for you because you were kind
and merciful to me.'

Then he gave Dullhead a ship which could sail on land or water,
and when the King saw it he felt he could no longer refuse him
his daughter.

So they celebrated the wedding with great rejoicings; and after
the King's death Dullhead succeeded to the kingdom, and lived
happily with his wife for many years after.[30]

[30] Grimm.


THERE was once upon a time a couple of poor folks who lived in
a wretched hut, far away from everyone else, in a wood. They
only just managed to live from hand to mouth, and had great difficulty
in doing even so much as that, but they had three sons, and
the youngest of them was called Cinderlad, for he did nothing else
but lie and poke about among the ashes.

One day the eldest lad said that he would go out to earn his living;
he soon got leave to do that, and set out on his way into the world.
He walked on and on for the whole day, and when night was beginning
to fall he came to a royal palace. The King was standing
outside on the steps, and asked where he was going.

`Oh, I am going about seeking a place, my father,' said the youth.

`Wilt thou serve me, and watch my seven foals?' asked the
King. `If thou canst watch them for a whole day and tell me at
night what they eat and drink, thou shalt have the Princess and
half my kingdom, but if thou canst not, I will cut three red stripes
on thy back.'

The youth thought that it was very easy work to watch the
foals, and that he could do it well enough.

Next morning, when day was beginning to dawn, the King's
Master of the Horse let out the seven foals; and they ran away,
and the youth after them just as it chanced, over hill and dale, through
woods end bogs. When the youth had run thus for a long time he
began to be tired, and when he had held on a little longer he was
heartily weary of watching at all, and at the same moment he came
to a cleft in a rock where an old woman was sitting spinning with
her distaff in her hand.

As soon as she caught sight of the youth, who was running after
the foals till the perspiration streamed down his face, she cried:

`Come hither, come hither, my handsome son, and let me comb
your hair for you.'

The lad was willing enough, so he sat down in the cleft of the
rock beside the old hag, and laid his head on her knees, and she
combed his hair all day while he lay there and gave himself up to

When evening was drawing near, the youth wanted to go.

`I may just as well go straight home again,' said he, `for it is
no use to go to the King's palace.'

`Wait till it is dusk,' said the old hag, `and then the King's
foals will pass by this place again, and you can run home with
them; no one will ever know that you have been lying here all day
instead of watching the foals.'

So when they came she gave the lad a bottle of water and a bit
of moss, and told him to show these to the King and say that this
was what his seven foals ate and drank.

`Hast thou watched faithfully and well the whole day long?'
said the King, when the lad came into his presence in the evening.

`Yes, that I have!' said the youth.

`Then you are able to tell me what it is that my seven foals eat
and drink,' said the King.

So the youth produced the bottle of water and the bit of moss
which he had got from the old woman, saying:

`Here you see their meat, and here you see their drink.'

Then the King knew how his watching had been done, and fell
into such a rage that he ordered his people to chase the youth back
to his own home at once; but first they were to cut three red
stripes in his back, and rub salt into them.

When the youth reached home again, anyone can imagine what
a state of mind he was in. He had gone out once to seek a place,
he said, but never would he do such a thing again.

Next day the second son said that he would now go out into the
world to seek his fortune. His father and mother said `No,' and
bade him look at his brother's back, but the youth would not give
up his design, and stuck to it, and after a long, long time he got
leave to go, and set forth on his way. When he had walked all day
he too came to the King's palace, and the King was standing outside
on the steps, and asked where he was going; and when the youth
replied that he was going about in search of a place, the King said
that he might enter into his service and watch his seven foals. Then
the King promised him the same punishment and the same reward
that he had promised his brother.

The youth at once consented to this and entered into the King's
service, for he thought he could easily watch the foals and inform
the King what they ate and drank.

In the grey light of dawn the Master of the Horse let out the
seven foals, and off they went again over hill and dale, and off went
the lad after them. But all went with him as it had gone with his
brother. When he had run after the foals for a long, long time and
was hot and tired, he passed by a cleft in the rock where an old
woman was sitting spinning with a distaff, and she called to him:

`Come hither, come hither, my handsome son, and let me comb
your hair.'

The youth liked the thought of this, let the foals run where
they chose, and seated himself in the cleft of the rock by the side
of the old hag. So there he sat with his head on her lap, taking his
ease the livelong day.

The foals came back in the evening, and then he too got a bit of
moss and a bottle of water from the old hag, which things he was to
show to the King. But when the King asked the youth: `Canst
thou tell me what my seven foals eat and drink?' and the youth
showed him the bit of moss and the bottle of water, and said: `Yes
here may you behold their meat, and here their drink,' the King
once more became wroth, and commanded that three red stripes
should be cut on the lad's back, that salt should be strewn upon
them, and that he should then be instantly chased back to his own
home. So when the youth got home again he too related all
that had happened to him, and he too said that he had gone out in
search of a place once, but that never would he do it again.

On the third day Cinderlad wanted to set out. He had a fancy
to try to watch the seven foals himself, he said.

The two others laughed at him, and mocked him. `What I
when all went so ill with us, do you suppose that you are going to
succeed? You look like succeeding--you who have never done
anything else but lie and poke about among the ashes!' said they.

`Yes, I will go too,' said Cinderlad, `for I have taken it into my

The two brothers laughed at him, and his father and mother
begged him not to go, but all to no purpose, and Cinderlad set out
on his way. So when he had walked the whole day, he too came
to the King's palace as darkness began to fall.

There stood the King outside on the steps, and he asked whither
he was bound.

`I am walking about in search of a place,' said Cinderlad.

`From whence do you come, then?' inquired the King, for by
this time he wanted to know a little more about the men before he
took any of them into his service.

So Cinderlad told him whence he came, and that he was brother
to the two who had watched the seven foals for the King, and then
he inquired if he might be allowed to try to watch them on the
following day.

`Oh, shame on them!' said the King, for it enraged him even to
think of them. `If thou art brother to those two, thou too art not
good for much. I have had enough of such fellows.'

`Well, but as I have come here, you might just give me leave
to make the attempt,' said Cinderlad.

`Oh, very well, if thou art absolutely determined to have thy
back flayed, thou may'st have thine own way if thou wilt,' said the

`I would much rather have the Princess,' said Cinderlad.

Next morning, in the grey light of dawn, the Master of the Horse
let out the seven foals again, and off they set over hill and dale,
through woods and bogs, and off went Cinderlad after them. When
he had run thus for a long time, he too came to the cleft in the rock.
There the old hag was once more sitting spinning from her distaff,
and she cried to Cinderlad;

`Come hither, come hither, my handsome son, and let me comb
your hair for you.'

`Come to me, then; come to me!' said Cinderlad, as he passed
by jumping and running, and keeping tight hold of one of the foals'

When he had got safely past the cleft in the rock, the youngest
foal said:

`Get on my back, for we have still a long way to go.' So the
lad did this.

And thus they journeyed onwards a long, long way.

`Dost thou see anything now?' said the Foal.

`No,' said Cinderlad.

So they journeyed onwards a good bit farther.

`Dost thou see anything now?' asked the Foal.

`Oh, no,' said the lad.

When they had gone thus for a long, long way, the Foal again

`Dost thou see anything now?'

`Yes, now I see something that is white,' said Cinderlad. `It
looks like the trunk of a great thick birch tree.'

`Yes, that is where we are to go in,' said the Foal.

When they got to the trunk, the eldest foal broke it down on
one side, and then they saw a door where the trunk had been
standing, and inside this there was a small room, and in the room
there was scarcely anything but a small fire-place and a couple of
benches, but behind the door hung a great rusty sword and a small

`Canst thou wield that sword?' asked the Foal.

Cinderlad tried, but could not do it; so he had to take a draught
from the pitcher, and then one more, and after that still another,
and then he was able to wield the sword with perfect ease.

`Good,' said the Foal; `and now thou must take the sword away
with thee, and with it shalt thou cut off the heads of all seven of us
on thy wedding-day, and then we shall become princes again as we
were before. For we are brothers of the Princess whom thou art
to have when thou canst tell the King what we eat and drink, but
there is a mighty Troll who has cast a spell over us. When thou
hast cut off our heads, thou must take the greatest care to lay each
head at the tail of the body to which it belonged before, and then
the spell which the Troll has cast upon us will lose all its power.'

Cinderlad promised to do this, and then they went on farther,

When they had travelled a long, long way, the Foal said:

`Dost thou see anything?'

`No,' said Cinderlad.

So they went on a great distance farther.

`And now?' inquired the Foal, `seest thou nothing now?'

`Alas! no,' said Cinderlad.

So they travelled onwards again, for many and many a mile,
over hill and dale.

`Now, then,' said the Foal, `dost thou not see anything now?'

`Yes,' said Cinderlad; `now I see something like a bluish streak,
far, far away.'

`That is a river,' said the Foal, `and we have to cross it.'

There was a long, handsome bridge over the river, and when
they had got to the other side of it they again travelled on a long,
long way, and then once more the Foal inquired if Cinderlad saw
anything. Yes, this time he saw something that looked black, far,
far away, and was rather like a church tower.

`Yes,' said the Foal, `we shall go into that.'

When the Foals got into the churchyard they turned into men
and looked like the sons of a king, and their clothes were so
magnificent that they shone with splendour, and they went into
the church and received bread and wine from the priest, who was
standing before the altar, and Cinderlad went in too. But when the
priest had laid his hands on the princes and read the blessing, they
went out of the church again, and Cinderlad went out too, but he
took with him a flask of wine and some consecrated bread. No
sooner had the seven princes come out into the churchyard than they
became foals again, and Cinderlad got upon the back of the youngest,
and they returned by the way they had come, only they went much,
much faster.

First they went over the bridge, and then past the trunk of the
birch tree, and then past the old hag who sat in the cleft of the rock
spinning, and they went by so fast that Cinderlad could not hear
what the old hag screeched after him, but just heard enough to
understand that she was terribly enraged.

It was all but dark when they got back to the King at nightfall,
and he himself was standing in the courtyard waiting for them.

`Hast thou watched well and faithfully the whole day?' said the
King to Cinderlad.

`I have done my best,' replied Cinderlad.

`Then thou canst tell me what my seven foals eat and drink?'
asked the King.

So Cinderlad pulled out the consecrated bread and the flask of
wine, and showed them to the King. `Here may you behold their
meat, and here their drink,' said he.

`Yes, diligently and faithfully hast thou watched,' said the King,
`and thou shalt have the Princess and half the kingdom.'

So all was made ready for the wedding, and the King said that
it was to be so stately and magnificent that everyone should hear
of it, and everyone inquire about it.

But when they sat down to the marriage-feast, the bridegroom
arose and went down to the stable, for he said that he had forgotten
something which he must go and look to. When he got there, he
did what the foals had bidden him, and cut off the heads of all
the seven. First the eldest, and then the second, and so on according
to their age, and he was extremely careful to lay each head at
the tail of the foal to which it had belonged, and when that was
done, all the foals became princes again. When he returned to the
marriage-feast with the seven princes, the King was so joyful that
he both kissed Cinderlad and clapped him on the back, and his bride
was still more delighted with him than she had been before.

`Half my kingdom is thine already,' said the King, `and the
other half shall be thine after my death, for my sons can get
countries and kingdoms for themselves now that they have become
princes again.'

Therefore, as all may well believe, there was joy and merriment
at that wedding.[31]

[31] From J. Moe.


THERE was once upon a time a marvellous musician. One day
he was wandering through a wood all by himself, thinking now
of one thing, now of another, till there was nothing else left to think
about. Then he said to himself:

`Time hangs very heavily on my hands when I'm all alone in
the wood. I must try and find a pleasant companion.'

So he took his fiddle out, and fiddled till he woke the echoes
round. After a time a wolf came through the thicket and trotted
up to the musician.

`Oh! it's a Wolf, is it?' said he. `I've not the smallest wish
for his society.'

But the Wolf approached him and said:

`Oh, my dear musician, how beautifully you play! I wish you'd
teach me how it's done.'

`That's easily learned,' answered the fiddler; `you must only do
exactly as I tell you.'

`Of course I will,' replied the Wolf. `I can promise that you
will find me a most apt pupil.'

So they joined company and went on their way together, and
after a time they came to an old oak tree, which was hollow and
had a crack in the middle of the trunk.

`Now,' said the Musician, `if you want to learn to fiddle, here's
your chance. Lay your front paws in this crack.'

The Wolf did as he was told, and the Musician quickly seized a
stone, and wedged both his fore paws so firmly into the crack that
he was held there, a fast prisoner.

`Wait there till I return,' said the Fiddler, and he went on his

After a time he said to himself again:

`Time hangs very heavily on my hands when I'm all alone in
the wood; I must try and find a companion.'

So he drew out his fiddle, and fiddled away lustily. Presently
a fox slunk through the trees.

`Aha I what have we here?' said the Musician. `A fox; well,
I haven't the smallest desire for his company.'

The Fox came straight up to him and said:

`My dear friend, how beautifully you play the fiddle; I would
like to learn how you do it.'

`Nothing easier,' said the Musician. `if you'll promise to do
exactly as I tell you.'

`Certainly,' answered the Fox, `you have only to say the word.'

`Well, then, follow me,' replied the Fiddler.

When they had gone a bi of the way, they came to a path with
high trees on each side. Here the Musician halted, bent a stout
hazel bough down to the ground from one side of the path, and put
his foot on the end of it to keep it down. Then he bent a branch
down from the other side and said:

`Give me your left front paw, my little Fox, if you really wish to
learn how it's done.'

The Fox did as he was told, and the Musician tied his front paw
to the end of one of the branches.

`Now, my friend,' he said, `give me your right paw.'

This he bound to the other branch, and having carefully seen
that his knots were all secure, he stepped off the ends of the branches,
and they sprang back, leaving the poor Fox suspended in mid-air.

`Just you wait where you are till I return,' said the Musician,
and he went on his way again.

Once more he said to himself:

`Time hangs heavily on my hands when I'm all alone in the
wood; I must try and find another companion.'

So he took out his fiddle and played as merrily as before. This
time a little hare came running up at the sound.

`Oh! here comes a hare,' said the Musician; `I've not the
smallest desire for his company.'

`How beautifully you play, dear Mr. Fiddler,' said the little Hare.
`I wish I could learn how you do it.'

`It's easily learnt,' answered the Musician; `just do exactly as I
tell you.'

`That I will,' said the Hare, `you will find me a most attentive

They went on a bit together, till they came to a thin part of the
wood, where they found an aspen tree growing. The Musician bound
a long cord round the little Hare's neck, the other end of which he
fastened to the tree.

`Now, my merry little friend,' said the Musician, `run twenty
times round the tree.'

The little Hare obeyed, and when it had run twenty times round
the tree, the cord had twisted itself twenty times round the trunk,
so that the poor little beast was held a fast prisoner, and it might
bite and tear as much as it liked, it couldn't free itself, and the cord
only cut its tender neck.

`Wait there till I return,' said the Musician, and went on his

In the meantime the Wolf had pulled and bitten and scratched
at the stone, till at last he succeeded in getting his paws out. Full
of anger, he hurried after the Musician, determined when he met
him to tear him to pieces. When the Fox saw him running by, he
called out as loud as he could:

`Brother Wolf, come to my rescue, the Musician has deceived
me too.'

The Wolf pulled the branches down, bit the cord in two, and set
the Fox free. So they went on their way together, both vowing
vengeance on the Musician. They found the poor imprisoned little
Hare, and having set him free also, they all set out to look for their

During this time the Musician had once more played his fiddle,
and had been more fortunate in the result. The sounds pierced to
the ears of a poor woodman, who instantly left his work, and with
his hatchet under his arm came to listen to the music.

`At last I've got a proper sort of companion,' said the Musician,
`for it was a human being I wanted all along, and not a wild animal.'

And he began playing so enchantingly that the poor man stood
there as if bewitched, and his heart leapt for joy as he listened.

And as he stood thus, the Wolf and Fox and little Hare came
up, and the woodman saw at once that they meant mischief. He
lifted his glittering axe and placed himself in front of the Musician,
as much as to say: `If you touch a hair of his head, beware, for you
will have to answer for it to me.'

Then the beasts were frightened, and they all three ran back into
the wood, and the Musician played the woodman one of his best
tunes, by way of thanks, and then continued his way.[32]

[32] Grimm.


[This is a very old story: the Danes who used to fight with the English in King
Alfred's time knew this story. They have carved on the rocks pictures of
some of the things that happen in the tale, and those carvings may still be
seen. Because it is so old and so beautiful the story is told here again,
but it has a sad ending--indeed it is all sad, and all about fighting and
killing, as might be expected from the Danes.]

ONCE upon a time there was a King in the North who had won
many wars, but now he was old. Yet he took a new wife, and
then another Prince, who wanted to have married her, came up
against him with a great army. The old King went out and fought
bravely, but at last his sword broke, and he was wounded and his men
fled. But in the night, when the battle was over, his young wife came
out and searched for him among the slain, and at last she found
him, and asked whether he might be healed. But he said `No,' his
luck was gone, his sword was broken, and he must die. And he
told her that she would have a son, and that son would be a great
warrior, and would avenge him on the other King, his enemy. And
he bade her keep the broken pieces of the sword, to make a new sword
for his son, and that blade should be called Gram.

Then he died. And his wife called her maid to her and said,
`Let us change clothes, and you shall be called by my name, and I
by yours, lest the enemy finds us.'

So this was done, and they hid in a wood, but there some strangers
met them and carried them off in a ship to Denmark. And when
they were brought before the King, he thought the maid looked like
a Queen, and the Queen like a maid. So he asked the Queen, `How
do you know in the dark of night whether the hours are wearing to
the morning?'

And she said:

`I know because, when I was younger, I used to have to rise
and light the fires, and still I waken at the same time.'

`A strange Queen to light the fires,' thought the King.

Then he asked the Queen, who was dressed like a maid, `How
do you know in the dark of night whether the hours are wearing
near the dawn?'

`My father gave me a gold ring,' said she, `and always, ere the
dawning, it grows cold on my finger.'

`A rich house where the maids wore gold,' said the King. `Truly
you are no maid, but a King's daughter.'

So he treated her royally, and as time went on she had a son
called Sigurd, a beautiful boy and very strong. He had a tutor to
be with him, and once the tutor bade him go to the King and ask
for a horse.

`Choose a horse for yourself,' said the King; and Sigurd went to
the wood, and there he met an old man with a white beard, and
said, `Come! help me in horse-choosing.'

Then the old man said, `Drive all the horses into the river, and
choose the one that swims across.'

So Sigurd drove them, and only one swam across. Sigurd chose
him: his name was Grani, and he came of Sleipnir's breed, and was
the best horse in the world. For Sleipnir was the horse of Odin, the
God of the North, and was as swift as the wind.

But a day or two later his tutor said to Sigurd, `There is a great
treasure of gold hidden not far from here, and it would become you
to win it.'

But Sigurd answered, `I have heard stories of that treasure, and
I know that the dragon Fafnir guards it, and he is so huge and
wicked that no man dares to go near him.'

`He is no bigger than other dragons,' said the tutor, `and if you
were as brave as your father you would not fear him.'

`I am no coward,' says Sigurd; `why do you want me to fight
with this dragon?'

Then his tutor, whose name was Regin, told him that all this
great hoard of red gold had once belonged to his own father. And
his father had three sons--the first was Fafnir, the Dragon; the next
was Otter, who could put on the shape of an otter when he liked;
and the next was himself, Regin, and he was a great smith and
maker of swords.

Now there was at that time a dwarf called Andvari, who lived in
a pool beneath a waterfall, and there he had hidden a great hoard of
gold. And one day Otter had been fishing there, and had killed a
salmon and eaten it, and was sleeping, like an otter, on a stone.
Then someone came by, and threw a stone at the otter and killed it,
and flayed off the skin, and took it to the house of Otter's father.
Then he knew his son was dead, and to punish the person who had
killed him he said he must have the Otter's skin filled with gold,
and covered all over with red gold, or it should go worse with him.
Then the person who had killed Otter went down and caught the
Dwarf who owned all the treasure and took it from him.

Only one ring was left, which the Dwarf wore, and even that
was taken from him.

Then the poor Dwarf was very angry, and he prayed that the
gold might never bring any but bad luck to all the men who might
own it, for ever.

Then the otter skin was filled with gold and covered with gold,
all but one hair, and that was covered with the poor Dwarf's last

But it brought good luck to nobody. First Fafnir, the Dragon,
killed his own father, and then he went and wallowed on the
gold, and would let his brother have none, and no man dared go
near it.

When Sigurd heard the story he said to Regin:

`Make me a good sword that I may kill this Dragon.'

So Regin made a sword, and Sigurd tried it with a blow on a
lump of iron, and the sword broke.

Another sword he made, and Sigurd broke that too.

Then Sigurd went to his mother, and asked for the broken pieces
of his father's blade, and gave them to Regin. And he hammered
and wrought them into a new sword, so sharp that fire seemed to
burn along its edges.

Sigurd tried this blade on the lump of iron, and it did not break,
but split the iron in two. Then he threw a lock of wool into the
river, and when it floated down against the sword it was cut into
two pieces. So Sigurd said that sword would do. But before he
went against the Dragon he led an army to fight the men who had
killed his father, and he slew their King, and took all his wealth,
and went home.

When he had been at home a few days, he rode out with Regin
one morning to the heath where the Dragon used to lie. Then he
saw the track which the Dragon made when he went to a cliff to
drink, and the track was as if a great river had rolled along and
left a deep valley.

Then Sigurd went down into that deep place, and dug many pits
in it, and in one of the pits he lay hidden with his sword drawn.
There he waited, and presently the earth began to shake with the
weight of the Dragon as he crawled to the water. And a cloud of
venom flew before him as he snorted and roared, so that it would
have been death to stand before him.

But Sigurd waited till half of him had crawled over the pit, and
then he thrust the sword Gram right into his very heart.

Then the Dragon lashed with his tail till stones broke and trees
crashed about him.

Then he spoke, as he died, and said:

`Whoever thou art that hast slain me this gold shall be thy ruin,
and the ruin of all who own it.'

Sigurd said:

`I would touch none of it if by losing it I should never die. But
all men die, and no brave man lets death frighten him from his
desire. Die thou, Fafnir,' and then Fafnir died.

And after that Sigurd was called Fafnir's Bane, and Dragonslayer.

Then Sigurd rode back, and met Regin, and Regin asked him to
roast Fafnir's heart and let him taste of it.

So Sigurd put the heart of Fafnir on a stake, and roasted it. But
it chanced that he touched it with his finger, and it burned him. Then
he put his finger in his mouth, and so tasted the heart of Fafnir.

Then immediately he understood the language of birds, and he
heard the Woodpeckers say:

`There is Sigurd roasting Fafnir's heart for another, when he
should taste of it himself and learn all wisdom.'

The next bird said:

`There lies Regin, ready to betray Sigurd, who trusts him.'

The third bird said:

`Let him cut off Regin's head, and keep all the gold to himself.'

The fourth bird said:

`That let him do, and then ride over Hindfell, to the place where
Brynhild sleeps.'

When Sigurd heard all this, and how Regin was plotting to
betray him, he cut off Regin's head with one blow of the sword

Then all 'he birds broke out singing:

`We know a fair maid,
A fair maiden sleeping;
Sigurd, be not afraid,
Sigurd, win thou the maid
Fortune is keeping.

`High over Hindfell
Red fire is flaming,
There doth the maiden dwell
She that should love thee well,
Meet for thy taming.

`There must she sleep till thou
Comest for her waking
Rise up and ride, for now
Sure she will swear the vow
Fearless of breaking.'

Then Sigurd remembered how the story went that somewhere,
far away, there was a beautiful lady enchanted. She was under a
spell, so that she must always sleep in a castle surrounded by flaming
fire; there she must sleep for ever till there came a knight who
would ride through the fire and waken her. There he determined
to go, but first he rode right down the horrible trail of Fafnir. And
Fafnir had lived in a cave with iron doors, a cave dug deep down
in the earth, and full of gold bracelets, and crowns, and rings; and
there, too, Sigurd found the Helm of Dread, a golden helmet, and
whoever wears it is invisible. All these he piled on the back of the
good horse Grani, and then he rode south to Hindfell.

Now it was night, and on the crest of the hill Sigurd saw a red
fire blazing up into the sky, and within the flame a castle, and a
banner on the topmost tower. Then he set the horse Grani at the
fire, and he leaped through it lightly, as if it had been through the
heather. So Sigurd went within the castle door, and there he saw
someone sleeping, clad all in armour. Then he took the helmet off
the head of the sleeper, and behold, she was a most beautiful lady.
And she wakened and said, `Ah! is it Sigurd, Sigmund's son, who
has broken the curse, and comes here to waken me at last?'

This curse came upon her when the thorn of the tree of sleep
ran into her hand long ago as a punishment because she had
displeased Odin the God. Long ago, too, she had vowed never to
marry a man who knew fear, and dared not ride through the fence
of flaming fire. For she was a warrior maid herself, and went
armed into the battle like a man. But now she and Sigurd loved
each other, and promised to be true to each other, and he gave her
a ring, and it was the last ring taken from the dwarf Andvari.
Then Sigurd rode away, and he came to the house of a King who
had a fair daughter. Her name was Gudrun, and her mother was a
witch. Now Gudrun fell in love with Sigurd, but he was always
talking of Brynhild, how beautiful she was and how dear. So one
day Gudrun's witch mother put poppy and forgetful drugs in a
magical cup, and bade Sigurd drink to her health, and he drank, and
instantly he forgot poor Brynhild and he loved Gudrun, and they
were married with great rejoicings.

Now the witch, the mother of Gudrun, wanted her son Gunnar
to marry Brynhild, and she bade him ride out with Sigurd and go
and woo her. So forth they rode to her father's house, for Brynhild
had quite gone out of Sigurd's mind by reason of the witch's wine,
but she remembered him and loved him still. Then Brynhild's
father told Gunnar that she would marry none but him who could
ride the flame in front of her enchanted tower, and thither they rode,
and Gunnar set his horse at the flame, but he would not face it.
Then Gunnar tried Sigurd's horse Grani, but he would not move
with Gunnar on his back. Then Gunnar remembered witchcraft
that his mother had taught him, and by his magic he made Sigurd
look exactly like himself, and he looked exactly like Gunnar. Then
Sigurd, in the shape of Gunnar and in his mail, mounted on Grani,
and Grani leaped the fence of fire, and Sigurd went in and found
Brynhild, but he did not remember her yet, because of the forgetful
medicine in the cup of the witch's wine.

Now Brynhild had no help but to promise she would be his wife,
the wife of Gunnar as she supposed, for Sigurd wore Gunnar's shape,
and she had sworn to wed whoever should ride the flames. And he
gave her a ring, and she gave him back the ring he had given her
before in his own shape as Sigurd, and it was the last ring of that
poor dwarf Andvari. Then he rode out again, and he and Gunnar
changed shapes, and each was himself again, and they went
home to the witch Queen's, and Sigurd gave the dwarf's ring to
his wife, Gudrun. And Brynhild went to her father, and said
that a King had come called Gunnar, and had ridden the fire,
and she must marry him. `Yet I thought,' she said, `that no
man could have done this deed but Sigurd, Fafnir's bane, who was
my true love. But he has forgotten me, and my promise I must

So Gunnar and Brynhild were married, though it was not Gunnar
but Sigurd in Gunnar's shape, that had ridden the fire.

And when the wedding was over and all the feast, then the magic
of the witch's wine went out of Sigurd's brain, and he remembered
all. He remembered how he had freed Brynhild from the spell,
and how she was his own true love, and how he had forgotten and
had married another woman, and won Brynhild to be the wife of
another man.

But he was brave, and he spoke not a word of it to the others to
make them unhappy. Still he could not keep away the curse which
was to come on every one who owned the treasure of the dwarf
Andvari, and his fatal golden ring.

And the curse soon came upon all of them. For one day, when
Brynhild and Gudrun were bathing, Brynhild waded farthest out
into the river, and said she did that to show she was Guirun's
superior. For her husband, she said, had ridden through the flame
when no other man dared face it.

Then Gudrun was very angry, and said that it was Sigurd, not
Gunnar, who had ridden the flame, and had received from Brynhild
that fatal ring, the ring of the dwarf Andvari.

Then Brynhild saw the ring which Sigard had given to Gudrun,
and she knew it and knew all, and she turned as pale as a dead
woman, and went home. All that evening she never spoke. Next
day she told Gunnar, her husband, that he was a coward and a liar,
for he had never ridden the flame, but had sent Sigurd to do it for
him, and pretended that he had done it himself. And she said he
would never see her glad in his hall, never drinking wine, never
playing chess, never embroidering with the golden thread, never
speaking words of kindness. Then she rent all her needlework
asunder and wept aloud, so that everyone in the house heard her.
For her heart was broken, and her pride was broken in the same
hour. She had lost her true love, Sigurd, the slayer of Fafnir, and
she was married to a man who was a liar.

Then Sigurd came and tried to comfort her, but she would not
listen, and said she wished the sword stood fast in his heart.

`Not long to wait,' he said, `till the bitter sword stands fast in
my heart, and thou will not live long when I am dead. But, dear
Brynhild, live and be comforted, and love Gunnar thy husband, and
I will give thee all the gold, the treasure of the dragon Fafnir.'

Brynhild said:

`It is too late.'

Then Sigurd was so grieved and his heart so swelled in his breast
that it burst the steel rings of his shirt of mail.

Sigurd went out and Brynhild determined to slay him. She
mixed serpent's venom and wolf's flesh, and gave them in one dish
to her husband's younger brother, and when he had tasted them he
was mad, and he went into Sigurd's chamber while he slept and
pinned him to the bed with a sword. But Sigurd woke, and caught
the sword Gram into his hand, and threw it at the man as he fled,
and the sword cut him in twain. Thus died Sigurd, Fafnir's bane,
whom no ten men could have slain in fair fight. Then Gudrun
wakened and saw him dead, and she moaned aloud, and Brynhild
heard her and laughed; but the kind horse Grani lay down and died
of very grief. And then Brynhild fell a-weeping till her heart broke.
So they attired Sigurd in all his golden armour, and built a great
pile of wood on board his ship, and at night laid on it the dead Sigurd
and the dead Brynhild, and the good horse, Grani, and set fire to it,
and launched the ship. And the wind bore it blazing out to sea,
flaming into the dark. So there were Sigurd and Brynhild burned
together, and the curse of the dwarf Andvari was fulfilled.[33]

[33] The Volsunga Saga.

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