Once on a time on a fine summer's evening a young knight stopped at the door of an inn bordering on a wood. As he halted, a young girl came out of the house and asked him what he wished to have. He called for a goblet of cool wine, She quickly brought it, first tasted it with her ruddy lips, and then handed it to him. While he was drinking it, the hostess, an ugly old woman with a yellow face and withered with age, came to the inn-door. "Hello, hostess!" cried the knight, "you have a pretty daughter here!"
"She is not my daughter," answered the hostess, "but an orphan. She has no home except the one I have given her out of charity."
By now the knight had taken a fancy to the girl and wanted to hear somewhat of her history. He got off his horse and ordered a bath to be prepared for him and also a bed. Then he went into the house while the landlady bade the girl gather some rosemary, thyme and marjoram for the bath.
While she was busy gathering the herbs, a starling flew out of a bush close by and sang,
Oh, I'm so unhappy for you, girl! You should bathe the young man in the bath-tub you came here in.
The poor girl was frightened and saddened to hear the starling speak this and prepared the bath with tears running down her cheeks. Then she carried the small bath-tub to the room where the young knight was. When he saw her red eyes, he asked her what was the matter, since she did not look merry, did not try to entertain him, and brought him such a small tub to bathe in.
"How can I be merry?" she said, with a fresh burst of grief; "I weep because of something a starling told me while I was gathering herbs to scent your bath,
I'm so unhappy for you, girl! You should bathe the young man in the bath-tub you came here in.
While she said this, the young knight looked at the bath-tub and noticed the royal symbols of the king of Rheims on it. He wondered greatly and exclaimed, "That is my father's coat of arms! How did it get here?"
I'm so unhappy for you, foundling child! Don't you know your father or mother yet?
sang the starling at the window. The knight looked again at the maiden and caught sight of a mole on her neck. "Praise the Lord!" he exclaimed. "You are my sister! Your father was king of Rheims and your mother's name is Christine, and I am Conrad, your brother. Now I know why my heart beat so rapidly when I first saw you."
They embraced one another with tears of joy in their eyes, thanked the Lord and afterwards spent the rest of the night telling what had happened to them since they were parted.
The next morning, as soon as it was light, the old woman came downstairs, calling out with a loud harsh voice, "Get up, get up, girl, and sweep my room!"
Then the young knight answered in his clear voice, "She is no servant, and will not sweep your room again. Bring us a draught of wine yourself now!"
The landlady brought the wine as she was told and Conrad asked her, "Where did you get this noble maiden from? She is a princess and my sister!"
The old woman turned pale and fell on her knees. But she did not say a word, for sitting on the window-sill was the starling. He sang,
In a garden far away from here, on the green grass, sat a little child in a bath-tub. While her nurse went away for a minute, a wicked old gipsy woman came and carried off the child in the bath-tub.
The knight was so enraged at hearing this that he drew his sword and thrust it through the woman. Then he kissed his beautiful sister, and taking the bath-tub with him, led her by her hand out of the house and placed her before him on his horse, placing the bath-tub in her lap. The starling perched itself on her shoulder.
They rode to the castle of the king of Rheims, where the queen-mother still lived. As soon as the queen saw them coming, she went out to meet them and asked astonished, "Son, what servant have you got there? I see she brings a bath-tub with her as if she has come to nurse children."
"Oh, mother dear," answered the young prince, "she is no servant, but your daughter who was stolen away from you in this bath."
As soon as he had said this, the princess leapt from the saddle and her mother fell into her arms in a swoon of joy.
The starling sang,
Today it is eighteen years since the princess was stolen and carried away in the bath-tub, over the Rhine. And I dare say that the old woman will never steal children again.
The princess kept the starling with her afterwards, and was as grateful to the bird as can be for talking to them so that she no longer was kept beneath a wicked woman.
[Cf. AT 938* The tale stems from a folk song, and is retold by Bechstein and anew by - TK.]
A certain man got a son and had to go out to find someone who would the son's godfather. He met a youthful, very handsome man and begged him to come to the christening. The man came and left behind him a pretty white pony as a christening gift to the boy.
The lad, who had got the name of Henry from his godfather, grew up as the pride of his father and mother. When he was old enough to manage his own affairs, he would stop at home no longer, but decided to go in search of romance and adventure. So he took leave of his parents and mounted the pony that had been given him by his unknown godfather, and ignorant of what the pony was worth he rode gaily and gladly along in the wide world.
As he passed one day through a forest, he saw a very colourful, long feather from a pheasant's tail lying by the way-side. The feather shone brightly in the rays of the sun. The youth stopped his pony, intending to get off the pony and pick up the feather to place in his cap, but suddenly the pony said, "Ah, let that feather lie on the ground!"
The boy was astonished to hear his pony speak, and without taking the feather with him, he rode quietly onwards.
After a while he came to a little stream. On its green bank he saw a second feather lying, and it was much more beautiful than the other. He began to get off his pony, eager to adorn himself with it.
"Ah, let that feather be!" said his pony again.
Even more astonished than before, the boy jumped into his saddle without touching the feather and rode on.
Later he came to a high hill. A third feather was lying in the middle of the grass at its foot. Now this feather shone and glittered and looked so beautiful that he must have it.
Again the pony said, "Don't touch that feather."
But this time the boy ignored the pony's warning and jumped from his saddle, picked up the feather and placed it in his hat.
"Seeing this makes me grieve," cried his pony. "You have done a great injury to yourself and will repent it."
But the youth rode on till he came to a good and well-built city. There he saw a great many gaily-dressed people standing about before they marched towards him to the music of drums and trumpets and fifes. Young girls in the procession strewed flowers on all sides as they walked along and the prettiest one of them bore a golden crown on a cushion.
As soon as they met the young Henry they halted. The chief personages of the town came forward and offered him the crown, saying, "You shall be our king!" All the people cried," Hail to our king!"
Henry did not understand why and how all this happened to him. He knelt down when he felt the crown on his head, and wondered if he was dreaming.
The pony whispered in his ear, "Now I'll tell you why you should not have taken up any of these three feathers: If you had picked up the first feather, you would have become a count. The second would have made a duke of you. And if you had passed the third, you would have found another feather on the top of the mountain. Then I would have told you to pick up and become the owner of a lot more and better than a king – you would have become the emperor!"
The youth was quite content with his choice, however. And perhaps he was far happier than if he had become a mighty emperor instead of the good and just king that my grandfather says he was.
Many years ago there dwelt in a certain city a man of great worldly riches and possessions. But he was a wicked cheat and money-lender, one that people had to pay unfairly high rates of interest to. So people wondered why the earth did not open under his feet and swallow him up. He was also a city judge; but his decisions were so unrighteous that he was always spoken of as the "Unjust Judge."
One market-day, in the early part of the morning, this judge rode out to see a fine vineyard that he owned. As he was returning, Death, dressed as a rich man, met him on the way. The judge did not know who the stranger was that went up to him, and therefore asked his name and business.
"It would be better for you neither to know me nor my business with you," Death answered.
"Oh, oh!" exclaimed the judge, "I have to know it, or you are a lost man. I am a man of power in this place and there is none who will dare to dispute my authority. So if you will not tell me your name, I shall take your life and forfeit your property."
"If that is the case," said the other, smiling grimly, "I will tell you. I am Death!"
"Humph!" growled the judge. "Then, what is your business here?"
"To take whatever is given in real earnest to me this day."
"Very well," said the judge; "but I must be witness that you get neither more nor less than what is due to you."
"Do not ask to be near me when I take what is given me," answered Death in a warning voice.
The judge, however, took no heed of Death's words. "I must and will be witness," he said, and began to swear. So Death said nothing more, he just warned him again that he could not release himself from the bargain he now had made, however much he might wish.
The judge declared that he would not flinch from his word, and so both went to the market-place. The market was thronged with people and every now and then the judge and his companion were stopped and asked to share a bottle of wine. The judge always took a glass; but his companion knew well it was not offered in earnest, so he refused all that was held out to him.
By chance it happened that a woman was driving along a herd of swine. Like most pigs they would not go as she wanted them, but another way. "I wish Death had you all, skin and hair!" she cried at last in a rage.
"Do you hear that?" said the judge to his companion.
"Yes," answered Death; "but she does not mean what she says. She would become miserably poor if I took her swine. I only take what is given to me in earnest."
Soon afterwards they met a woman and her child. The child would not go any other way but his own. "You naughty boy," she exclaimed; "I could wish you were dead!"
"Do you hear that?" asked the judge again. "Take the child! Is it not given to you in earnest?"
"Oh, no, no; she would bitterly lament it, if I should take her at her word," answered Death.
In a little while they met a second woman. She was dragging along a child who struggled and cried lustily. "You good-for-nothing little tramp," she exclaimed; "it would be a happy thing for me to lose you altogether!"
"Now, what about this child?" said the judge.
"No," answered his companion; "for this woman would not really get rid her child, not even for fifty or a hundred pounds, and she would not even think of giving it to me."
Now they came to the thickest part of the crowd and soon they were wedged in, unable to go forward or backward. Just then a woman caught sight of the judge. She was old and poor and suffered under heavy misfortune. As soon as she saw him she cried out, "May pains and afflictions come your way, judge! Without cause you took from me the cow that was my only support! You did not mind. May you get your due! Oh, if Heaven would hear my prayer and send Death to take you from the world you have done so much injustice to!"
The judge said feebly, "Things are not always as they seem," but Death led him away in triumph, saying, "See now, judge! That was in earnest, and you must get through with it."
So in the middle of the crowd Death struck him down at the feet of the old woman he had so unjustly taken a cow from. People said,
[AT 1186 - Retold]
In a certain town there was a rich merchant. He had a large and beautiful garden behind his house, and a portion of it was sown with millet. One day early in spring, when the corn was beginning to look green and flourishing, he walked in his garden and saw to his great vexation that during the past night a portion of his young millet had been destroyed. Some wicked fellow must have been about, he thought.
Because he had always sown millet in this particular spot, he had a great affection for it. So he decided to catch the rascal and either to punish him on the spot or deliver him up to justice.
He called together his three sons, Michael, George and John, he said to them, "Last night a thief was in our garden and tore up some of my millet. The thief has to be caught and punished. You, sons, must watch in turns, night by night. Whoever catches the thief I will reward well."
The first night the eldest son, Michael, watched. He was armed with a brace of pistols and a sharp sabre. But he also brought with him good meat and drink, so when he lay wrapped in a warm cloak under a juniper-bush to enjoy himself on is watch, he fell sound asleep.
When he woke up it was broad daylight. A still larger piece of the millet was gone than on the former night. When the merchant came into the garden and saw this, he knew that his son had fallen asleep instead of watching for the thief, and said he wondered that the thief had not stolen him, sword, pistols and all.
The next night the second son, George, watched. He was armed with the same weapons as his brother had, and in addition a thick club and a strong rope. George, however, fell asleep as his brother had done. The next morning he found that the thief had done still more ravages on the millet. The father said sadly that if the third watcher should sleep too, there would be no more need for looking after the millet: it would be all gone.
Now it was John's turn. He would take no arms with him, but he brought with him a rope and also some thorns and thistles to keep himself awake with. When he went into the garden at night he placed these thorns in such a way in front of him that whenever he began to nod, they tickled his nose and made him open his eyes again.
When midnight came, he heard a tramping that came nearer and nearer. As soon as it had reached the millet, something began to pull at it.
"Look!" he thought to himself, "Here is the thief!" Softly pushing aside the thorns, he drew a rope from his pocket and made a lasso, and then made towards the place the noise came from, and found that the millet thief was a pretty little pony. The sight of the animal made John glad. With hardly any trouble he caught it. The animal followed him like a dog to the stable. There John locked him up for the night. That done, he went quietly to bed.
When his brothers got up in the morning, they had in mind go into the garden to see how their brother had fared, until they saw he was lying snugly in bed. They woke him up, laughing, for they thought he had been asleep in his bed all night long instead of watching.
John explained to them, "I will soon show you the thief." And then leading his father and brothers down to the stable, he showed them the wonderful little pony. Nobody knew anything about it, where it came from and who it belonged to. It was a dear little thing of an elegant form and quite silver-white. The merchant was very much pleased with it and gave the pony to John as his reward, and was so charmed with the animal that he called it "Millet-thief."
Soon after the brothers heard that a beautiful princess was enchanted in the castle that stood on the high glass hill that nobody could climb because it was so smooth and steep, people told. But it was also rumoured that whoever was fortunate enough to get up to the castle and ride three times around it, would rescue the princess and get her as his bride. Many had already tried and lost their lives by slipping back.
The three brothers took it into their head to try their luck in riding up to the castle and win the beautiful princess. Michael and George bought themselves strong young horses and caused their hoofs to be roughshod, while John just saddled his pony.
Then all three rode to the glass mountain to try their luck. The eldest tried first, but his horse stumbled as soon as it reached the hill. Down it fell and rolled with its rider to the bottom of the road.
The second brother shared the same fate; and so neither of them would make try again.
Then it was John's turn. He rode up on Millet-thief without a single stumble, and trot, trot, trot he rode three times round the castle too.
As Millet-thief and he stopped in front of the castle-door, it flew open. There was the princess, dressed in silk and gold and with her arms stretched out, ready to welcome John. He quickly got off from his horse and took the princess in his arms, and embraced her.
After a while the princess turned to the little pony that had carried John up the mountain. Hugging its head, she said to it, "Why did you run away from me so that I could no more enjoy the one gladdening hour which was granted me here, to ride down and up this high glass hill? Oh, never leave me again."
As she said this, John realised that his Millet-thief was the enchanted pony of the beautiful princess.
His brothers tried again after their fall to get up the mountain, but John saw them no more, for he lived happily, free from many worldly cares, with his freed princess in the castle on the top of the glass hill.