There was once a lad who went to look for a place. As he went along he met a man, who asked him where he was going. He told him his errand, and the stranger said, "Then you can serve me; I am just in want of a lad like you, and I will give you good wages – a bushel of money the first year, two the second year, and three the third year, for you must serve me three years, and obey me in everything, however strange it seems to you. You need not be afraid of taking service with me, for there is no danger in it if you only know how to obey."
The bargain was made, and the lad went home with the man to whom he had engaged himself. It was a strange place indeed, for he lived in a bank in the middle of the wild forest, and the lad saw there no other person than his master. The latter was a great troll, and had marvellous power over both men and beasts.
Next day the lad had to begin his service. The first thing that the troll set him to was to feed all the wild animals from the forest. These the troll had tied up, and there were both wolves and bears, deer and hares, which the troll had gathered in the stalls and folds in his stable down beneath the ground, and that stable was a mile long. The boy, however, accomplished all this work on that day, and the troll praised him and said that it was very well done.
Next morning the troll said to him, "Today the animals are not to be fed; they don't get the like of that every day. You shall have leave to play about for a little, until they are to be fed again."
Then the troll said some words to him which he did not understand, and with that the lad turned into a hare, and ran out into the wood. He got plenty to run for, too, for all the hunters aimed at him, and tried to shoot him, and the dogs barked and ran after him wherever they got wind of him. He was the only animal that was left in the wood now, for the troll had tied up all the others, and every hunter in the whole country was eager to knock him over. But in this they met with no success; there was no dog that could overtake him, and no marksman that could hit him. They shot and shot at him, and he ran and ran. It was an unquiet life, but in the long run he got used to it, when he saw that there was no danger in it, and it even amused him to befool all the hunters and dogs that were so eager after him.
Thus a whole year passed, and when it was over the troll called him home, for he was now in his power like all the other animals. The troll then said some words to him which he did not understand, and the hare immediately became a human being again. "Well, how do you like to serve me?" said the troll, "and how do you like being a hare?"
The lad replied that he liked it very well; he had never been able to go over the ground so quickly before. The troll then showed him the bushel of money that he had already earned, and the lad was well pleased to serve him for another year.
The first day of the second year the boy had the same work to do as on the previous one – namely, to feed all the wild animals in the troll's stable. When he had done this the troll again said some words to him, and with that he became a raven, and flew high up into the air. This was delightful, the lad thought; he could go even faster now than when he was a hare, and the dogs could not come after him here. This was a great delight to him, but he soon found out that he was not to be left quite at peace, for all the marksmen and hunters who saw him aimed at him and fired away, for they had no other birds to shoot at than himself, as the troll had tied up all the others.
This, however, he also got used to, when he saw that they could never hit him, and in this way he flew about all that year, until the troll called him home again, said some strange words to him, and gave him his human shape again. "Well, how did you like being a raven?" said the troll.
"I liked it very well," said the lad, "for never in all my days have I been able to rise so high." The troll then showed him the two bushels of money which he had earned that year, and the lad was well content to remain in his service for another year.
Next day he got his old task of feeding all the wild beasts. When this was done the troll again said some words to him, and at these he turned into a fish, and sprang into the river. He swam up and he swam down, and thought it was pleasant to let himself drive with the stream. In this way he came right out into the sea, and swam further and further out. At last he came to a glass palace, which stood at the bottom of the sea. He could see into all the rooms and halls, where everything was very grand; all the furniture was of white ivory, inlaid with gold and pearl. There were soft rugs and cushions of all the colours of the rainbow, and beautiful carpets that looked like the finest moss, and flowers and trees with curiously crooked branches, both green and yellow, white and red, and there were also little fountains which sprang up from the most beautiful snail-shells, and fell into bright mussel-shells, and at the same time made a most delightful music, which filled the whole palace.
The most beautiful thing of all, however, was a young girl who went about there, all alone. She went about from one room to another, but did not seem to be happy with all the grandeur she had about her. She walked in solitude and melancholy, and never even thought of looking at her own image in the polished glass walls that were on every side of her, although she was the prettiest creature anyone could wish to see. The lad thought so too while he swam round the palace and peeped in from every side.
"Here, indeed, it would be better to be a man than such a poor dumb fish as I am now," said he to himself; "if I could only remember the words that the troll says when he changes my shape, then perhaps I could help myself to become a man again." He swam and he pondered and he thought over this until he remembered the sound of what the troll said, and then he tried to say it himself. In a moment he stood in human form at the bottom of the sea.
He made haste then to enter the glass palace, and went up to the young girl and spoke to her.
At first he nearly frightened the life out of her, but he talked to her so kindly and explained how he had come down there that she soon recovered from her alarm, and was very pleased to have some company to relieve the terrible solitude that she lived in. Time passed so quickly for both of them that the youth (for now he was quite a young man, and no more a lad) forgot altogether how long he had been there.
One day the girl said to him that now it was close on the time when he must become a fish again – the troll would soon call him home, and he would have to go, but before that he must put on the shape of the fish, otherwise he could not pass through the sea alive. Before this, while he was staying down there, she had told him that she was a daughter of the same troll whom the youth served, and he had shut her up there to keep her away from everyone. She had now devised a plan by which they could perhaps succeed in getting to see each other again, and spending the rest of their lives together. But there was much to attend to, and he must give careful heed to all that she told him.
She told him then that all the kings in the country round about were in debt to her father the troll, and the king of a certain kingdom, the name of which she told him, was the first who had to pay, and if he could not do so at the time appointed he would lose his head. "And he cannot pay," said she; "I know that for certain. Now you must, first of all, give up your service with my father; the three years are past, and you are at liberty to go. You will go off with your six bushels of money, to the kingdom that I have told you of, and there enter the service of the king. When the time comes near for his debt becoming due you will be able to notice by his manner that he is ill at ease. You shall then say to him that you know well enough what it is that is weighing on him – that it is the debt which he owes to the troll and cannot pay, but that you can lend him the money. The amount is six bushels – just what you have. You shall, however, only lend them to him on condition that you may accompany him when he goes to make the payment, and that you then have permission to run before him as a fool. When you arrive at the troll's abode, you must perform all kinds of foolish tricks, and see that you break a whole lot of his windows, and do all other damage that you can. My father will then get very angry, and as the king must answer for what his fool does he will sentence him, even although he has paid his debt, either to answer three questions or to lose his life. The first question my father will ask will be, "Where is my daughter?" Then you shall step forward and answer "she is at the bottom of the sea." He will then ask you whether you can recognise her, and to this you will answer "Yes." Then he will bring forward a whole troop of women, and cause them to pass before you, in order that you may pick out the one that you take for his daughter. You will not be able to recognise me at all, and therefore I will catch hold of you as I go past, so that you can notice it, and you must then make haste to catch me and hold me fast. You have then answered his first question. His next question will be, "Where is my heart?" You shall then step forward again and answer, "It is in a fish." "Do you know that fish?" he will say, and you will again answer "Yes." He will then cause all kinds of fish to come before you, and you shall choose between them. I shall take good care to keep by your side, and when the right fish comes I will give you a little push, and with that you will seize the fish and cut it up. Then all will be over with the troll; he will ask no more questions, and we shall be free to wed."
When the youth had got all these directions as to what he had to do when he got ashore again the next thing was to remember the words which the troll said when he changed him from a human being to an animal; but these he had forgotten, and the girl did not know them either. He went about all day in despair, and thought and thought, but he could not remember what they sounded like. During the night he could not sleep, until towards morning he fell into a slumber, and all at once it flashed on him what the troll used to say. He made haste to repeat the words, and at the same moment he became a fish again and slipped out into the sea. Immediately after this he was called on, and swam through the sea up the river to where the troll stood on the bank and restored him to human shape with the same words as before.
"Well, how do you like to be a fish?" asked the troll.
It was what he had liked best of all, said the youth, and that was no lie, as everybody can guess.
The troll then showed him the three bushels of money which he had earned during the past year; they stood beside the other three, and all the six now belonged to him.
"Perhaps you will serve me for another year yet," said the troll, "and you will get six bushels of money for it; that m&kes twelve in all, and that is a pretty penny."
"No," said the youth; he thought he had done enough, and was anxious to go to some other place to serve, and learn other people's ways; but he would, perhaps, come back to the troll some other time.
The troll said that he would always be welcome; he had served him faithfully for the three years they had agreed on, and he could make no objections to his leaving now.
The youth then got his six bushels of money, and with these he betook himself straight to the kingdom which his sweetheart had told him of. He got his money buried in a lonely spot close to the king's palace, and then went in there and asked to be taken into service. He obtained his request, and was taken on as stableman, to tend the king's horses.
Some time passed, and he noticed how the king always went about sorrowing and grieving, and was never glad or happy. One day the king came into the stable, where there was no one present except the youth, who said straight out to him that, with his majesty's permission, he wished to ask him why he was so sorrowful.
"It's of no use speaking about that," said the king; "you cannot help me, at any rate."
"You don't know about that," said the youth; "I know well enough what it is that lies so heavy on your mind, and I know also of a plan to get the money paid."
This was quite another case, and the king had more talk with the stableman, who said that he could easily lend the king the six bushels of money, but would only do it on condition that he should be allowed to accompany the king when he went to pay the debt, and that he should then be dressed like the king's court fool, and run before him. He would cause some trouble, for which the king would be severely spoken to, but he would answer for it that no harm would befall him.
The king gladly agreed to all that the youth proposed, and it was now high time for them to set out.
When they came to the troll's dwelling it was no longer in the bank, but on the top of this there stood a large castle which the youth had never seen before. The troll could, in fact, make it visible or invisible, just as he pleased, and, knowing as much as he did of the troll's magic arts, the youth was not at all surprised at this.
When they came near to this castle, which looked as if it was of pure glass, the youth ran on in front as the king's fool. Heran sometimes facing forwards, sometimes backwards, stood sometimes on his head, and sometimes on his feet, and he dashed in pieces so many of the troll's big glass windows and doors that it was something awful to see, and overturned everything he could, and made a fearful disturbance.
The troll came rushing out, and was so angry and furious, and abused the king with all his might for bringing such a wretched fool with him, as he was sure that he could not pay the least bit of all the damage that had been done when he could not even pay off his old debt.
The fool, however, spoke up, and said that he could do so quite easily, and the king then came forward with the six bushels of money which the youth had lent him. They were measured and found to be correct. This the troll had not reckoned on, but he could make no objection against it. The old debt was honestly paid, and the king got his bond back again.
But there still remained all the damage that had been done that day, and the king had nothing with which to pay for this. The troll, therefore, sentenced the king, either to answer three questions that he would put to him, or have his head taken off, as was agreed on in the old bond.
There was nothing else to be done than to try to answer the troll's riddles. The fool then stationed himself just by the king's side while the troll came forward with his questions. He first asked, "Where is my daughter?"
The fool spoke up and said, "She is at the bottom of the sea."
"How do you know that?" said the troll.
"The little fish saw it," said the fool.
"Would you know her?" said the troll.
"Yes, bring her forward," said the fool.
The troll made a whole crowd of women go past them, one after the other, but all these were nothing but shadows and deceptions. Amongst the very last was the troll's real daughter, who pinched the fool as she went past him to make him aware of her presence. He thereupon caught her round the waist and held her fast, and the troll had to admit that his first riddle was solved.
Then the troll asked again: "Where is my heart?"
"It is in a fish," said the fool.
"Would you know that fish?" said the troll.
"Yes, bring it forward," said the fool.
Then all the fishes came swimming past them, and meanwhile the troll's daughter stood just by the youth's side. When at last the right fish came swimming along she gave him a nudge, and he seized it at once, drove his knife into it, and split it up, took the heart out of it, and cut it through the middle.
At the same moment the troll fell dead and turned into pieces of flint. With that a,ll the bonds that the troll had bound were broken; all the wild beasts and birds which he had caught and hid under the ground were free now, and dispersed themselves in the woods and in the air.
The youth and his sweetheart entered the castle, which was now theirs, and held their wedding; and all the kings roundabout, who had been in the troll's debt, and were now out of it, came to the wedding, and saluted the youth as their emperor, and he ruled over them all, and kept peace between them, and lived in his castle with his beautiful empress in great joy and magnificence. And if they have not died since they are living there to this day.
There was a farmhand who rode past a mound which they called Henningshøj, it lies south of Hornslet. There he saw many little people dancing and hopping outside the mound. So he stopped and watched what was going on.
Then one came over and offered him a gold drinking horn and invited him to drink it up. He took it but threw the drink behind him. Three drops landed on the back of the horse and it took both the hair and skin off the horse's back.
Now the farmhand rode as fast as he could along the road. The little people came after him with the mound hag out in front. He saw that he could not hold his own with her along the road, so he set off across the plowed field. She couldn't run over that, for she had to run around each furrow. She saw that she could neither catch him nor hit him, and yelled out:
"You should not ride on the ploughed fields!"
"Oh yes," he said to himself.
Meanwhile she took a clump of dirt and threw it at him and turned. The clump became a mound on the field they call Vendingshøj, the Mound of Turning, because she turned there.
Since the farmhand had gotten away from her so luckily, he used the golden drinking horn to build Horns church. That is how it got its name.
Once there lived a king and queen who had an only daughter, a charming and beautiful girl, dearer to them than anything else in the world. When the princess was twelve years old the queen fell sick, and nothing that could be done for her was of any use. All the doctors in the kingdom did their best to cure her, but in spite of their efforts she grew worse and worse. As she was about to die, she sent for the king and said to him:
"Promise me that whatever our daughter asks, you will do, no matter whether you wish to or not."
The king at first hesitated, but as she added:
"Unless you promise this I cannot die in peace," he at length did as she desired, and gave the promise, after which she became quite happy and died.
It happened that near the king's palace lived a noble lady, whose little girl was of about the same age as the princess, and the two children were always together. After the queen's death .the princess begged that this lady should come to live with her in the palace. The king was not quite pleased with this arrangement, for he distrusted the lady; but the princess wished so much for it that he did not like to refuse.
"I am lonely, father," she said, "and all the beautiful presents you give me cannot make up to me for the loss of my mother. If this lady comes to live here I shall almost feel as if the queen had come back to me."
So a magnificent suite of rooms was prepared and set aside for the new-comers and the little princess was wild with joy at the thought of having her friends so near her. The lady and her daughter arrived, and for a long time all went well. They were very kind to the motherless princess, and she almost began to forget how dull she had been before they came. Then, one day, as she and the other girl were playing together in the gardens of the palace, the lady came to them, dressed for a journey, and kissed the princess tenderly, saying:
"Farewell, my child; my daughter and I must leave you and go far away."
The poor princess began to cry bitterly. "Oh! you must not leave me!" she sobbed. "What shall I do without you? Please, oh! please stay."
The lady shook her head.
"It almost breaks my heart to go, dear child," she said, "but, alas! it must be."
"Is there nothing that can keep you here?" asked the princess.
"Only one thing," answered the lady, "and as that is impossible, we will not speak of it."
"Nothing is impossible," persisted the princess. "Tell me what it is, and it shall be done."
So at last her friend told her.
"If the king, your father, "would make me his queen I would stay," she said; "but that he would never do."
"Oh, yes! that is easy enough!" cried the princess, delighted to think that, after all, they need not be parted. And she ran off to find her father, and beg him to marry the lady at once. He had done everything she asked, and she was quite certain he would do it.
"What is it, my daughter?" he asked, when he saw her. "You have been crying – are you not happy?"
"Father," she said, "I have come to ask you to marry the countess' – (for that was the lady's real title) – "if you do not she will leave us, and then I shall be as lonely as before. You have never refused me what I have asked before, do not refuse me now."
The king turned quite pale when he heard this. He did not like the countess, and so, of course, he did not wish to marry her; besides, he still loved his dead wife.
"No that I cannot do, my child," he said at last.
At these words the princess began to cry once more, and the tears ran down her cheeks so fast, and she sobbed so bitterly, that her father felt quite miserable too. He remembered the promise he had given always to do what his daughter asked him, and in the end he gave way, and promised to marry the countess. The princess at once was all smiles, and ran away to tell the good news.
Soon after, the wedding was celebrated with great festivities, and the countess became queen; but, in spite of all the joy and merriment that filled the palace, the king looked pale and sad, for he was certain that ill would come of the marriage. Sure enough, in a very short time the queen's manner towards the princess began to change. She was jealous of her because she, instead of her own daughter, was heir to the throne, and very soon she could no longer hide her thoughts. Instead of speaking kindly and lovingly as before, her words became rough and cruel, and once or twice she even slapped the princess's face.
The king was very unhappy at seeing his dearly loved daughter suffer, and at last she became so wretched that he could no longer bear it. Calling her to him one day he said:
"My daughter, you are no longer merry as you should be, and I fear that it is the fault of your step-mother. It will be better for you to live with her no longer; therefore I have built you a castle on the island in the lake, and that is to be your home in future. There you can do just as you like, and your step-mother will never enter it."
The princess was delighted to hear this, and still more pleased when she saw the castle, which was full of beautiful things, and had a great number of windows looking out on the lovely blue water. There was a boat in which she might row herself about, and a garden where she could walk whenever she wished without fear of meeting the unkind queen; and the king promised to visit her every day.
For a long time she dwelt in peace, and grew more and more beautiful every day. Everyone who saw her said "The princess is the loveliest lady in the land." And this was told to the queen, who hated her step-daughter still more because her own daughter was ugly and stupid.
One day it was announced that a great meeting of knights and nobles was to be held in a neighbouring kingdom distant about two days' journey. There were to be all kinds of festivities, and a tournament was to be fought and a banquet held, in honour of the coming of age of the prince of the country.
The princess's father was amongst those invited, but before he set out he went to take leave of his daughter. Although she had such a beautiful home, and was no longer scolded by the queen, the poor princess was dreadfully lonely, and she told her father that it would be better if she were dead. He did his best to comfort her and promised that he would soon return. Was there anything he could do to help her?
"Yes," she said. "You may greet the Green Knight from me."
Now the king wondered a little at these words, for he had never heard of the Green Knight; but there was no time to ask questions, therefore he gave the promise, and rode off on his journey. When he came to the palace where the festivities were to take place, the first thing he did was to ask:
"Can anyone tell me where I may find the Green Knight?"
No, they were very sorry; but none had ever heard of such a person either – certainly he was not to be found there. At this the king grew troubled, and not even the banquet or the tournament could make him feel happier.
He inquired of everyone he saw, "Do you know the Green Knight?" but the only answer he got was:
"No, your majesty, we have never heard of him."
At length he began to believe that the princess was mistaken, and that there was no such person; and he started on his homeward journey sorrowfully enough, for this was the first time for many months that the princess had asked him to do anything for her and he could not do it. He thought so much about it that he did not notice the direction his horse was taking, and presently he found himself in the midst of a dense forest where he had never been before. He rode on and on, looking for the path, but as the sun began to set he realised that he was lost. At last, to his delight, he saw a man driving some pigs, and riding up to him, he said:
"I have lost my way. Can you tell me where I am?"
"You are in the Green Knight's forest," answered the man, "and these are his pigs."
At that the king's heart grew light. "Where does the Green Knight live?" he asked.
"It is a very long way from here," said the swineherd; "but I will show you the path." So he went a little farther with the king and put him on the right road, and the king bade him farewell.
Presently he came to a second forest, and there he met another swineherd driving pigs.
"Whose beasts are those, my man?" he asked.
"They are the Green Knight's," said the man.
"And where does he live?" inquired the king.
"Oh, not far from here," was the reply.
Then the king rode on, and about midday he reached a beautiful castle standing in the midst of the loveliest garden you can possibly imagine, where fountains played in marble basins, and peacocks walked on the smooth lawns. On the edge of a marble basin sat a young and handsome man, who was dressed from head to foot in a suit of green armour, and was feeding the goldfish which swam in the clear water.
"This must be the Green Knight," thought the king; and going up to the young man he said courteously:
"I have come, sir, to give you my daughter's greeting. But I have wandered far, and lost my way in your forest."
The knight looked at him for a moment as though puzzled.
"I have never met either you or your daughter," he said at last; "but you are very welcome all the same." And he waved his hand towards the castle. However, the king took no notice, and told him that his daughter had sent a message to the Green Knight, and as he was the only Green Knight in the kingdom this message must be for him.
"You must pass the night with me here," said the knight; and as the sun was already set, the king was thankful to accept the invitation. They sat down in the castle hail to a magnificent banquet, and although he had travelled much and visited many monarchs in their palaces, the king had never fared better than at the table of the Green Knight, while his host himself was so clever and agreeable, that he was delighted, and thought "what a charming son-in-law this knight would make!"
Next morning, when he was about to set forth on his journey home, the Green Knight put into his hand a jewelled casket, saying:
"Will your highness graciously condescend to carry this gift to the princess, your daughter? It contains my portrait, that when I come she may know me; for I feel certain that she is the lady I have seen night after night in a dream, and I must win her for my bride."
The king gave the knight his blessing, and promised to take the gift to his daughter. With that he set off, and ere long reached his own country.
The princess was awaiting him anxiously when he arrived, and ran to his arms in her joy at seeing her dear father again.
"And did you see the Green Knight?" she asked.
"Yes," answered the king, drawing out the casket the knight had sent, "and he begged me to give you this that you may know him when he arrives and not mistake him for somebody else."
When the princess saw the portrait she was delighted, and exclaimed: "It is indeed the man whom I have seen in my dreams! Now I shall be happy, for he and no other shall be my husband."
Very soon after the Green Knight arrived, and he looked so handsome in his green armour, with a long green plume in his helmet, that the princess fell still more in love with him than before, and when he saw her, and recognised her as the lady whom he had so often dreamt of, he immediately asked her to be his bride. The princess looked down and smiled as she answered him:
"We must keep the secret from my step-mother till the wedding-day," said she, "for otherwise she will find a way to do us some evil."
"As you please," replied the prince; "but I must visit you daily, for I can live no longer without you! I will come early in the morning and not leave till it is dark; thus the queen will not see me row across the lake."
For a long time, the Green Knight visited the princess every day, and spent many hours wandering with her through the beautiful gardens where they knew the queen could not see them. But secrets, as you know, are dangerous things, and at last, one morning, a girl who was in service at the palace happened to be walking by the lake early in the morning and beheld a wonderfully handsome young man, in a beautiful suit of green satin, come down to the, edge of the lake. Not guessing that he was watched, he got into a little boat that lay moored to the bank, and rowed himself over to the island where the princess's castle stood. The girl went home wondering who the knight could be; and as she was brushing the queen's hair, she said to her:
"Does your majesty know that the princess has a suitor?"
"Nonsense!" replied the queen crossly. But she was dreadfully vexed at the mere idea, as her own daughter was still unmarried, and was likely to remain so, because she was so ill-tempered and stupid that no one wanted her.
"It is true," persisted the girl. "He is dressed all in green, and is very handsome. I saw him myself, though he did not see me, and he got into a boat and rowed over to the island, and the princess was waiting for him at the castle door."
"I must find out what this means," thought the queen. But she bade her maid of honour cease chattering and mind her own business.
Early next morning the queen got up and went down to the shore of the lake, where she hid herself behind a tree. Sure enough there came a handsome knight dressed in green, just as the maid of honour had said, and he got into a boat and rowed over to the island where the princess awaited him. The angry queen remained by the lake all day, but it was not till the evening that the knight returned, and leaping on shore, he tied the boat to its moorings and went away through the forest.
"I have caught my step-daughter nicely," thought the queen. "But she shall not be married before my own sweet girl. I must find a way to put a stop to this."
Accordingly she took a poisoned nail and stuck it in the handle of the oar in such a way that the knight would be sure to scratch his hand when he picked up the oar. Then she went home laughing, very much pleased with her cleverness.
The next day the Green Knight went to visit the princess as usual; but directly he took up the oars to row over to the island he felt a sharp scratch on his hand.
"Oof! he said, dropping the oars from pain, "what can have scratched so?" But, look as he might, only a tiny mark was to be seen.
"Well, it's strange how a nail could have come here since yesterday," he thought. "Still, it is not very serious, though it hurts a good deal." And, indeed, it seemed such a little thing that he did not mention it to the princess. However, when he reached home in the evening, he felt so ill he was obliged to go to bed, with no one to attend on him except his old nurse. But of this, of course, the princess knew nothing; and the poor girl, fearing lest some evil should have befallen him, or some other maiden more beautiful than she should have stolen his heart from her, grew almost sick with waiting. Lonely indeed she was, for her father, who would have helped her, was travelling in a foreign country, and she knew not how to obtain news of her lover.
In this manner time passed away, and one day, as she sat by the open window crying and feeling very sad, a little bird came and perched on the branch of a tree that stood just underneath. It began to sing, and so beautifully that the princess was obliged to stop crying and listen to it, and very soon she found out that the bird was trying to attract her attention.
"Tu-whit, tu-whit! your lover is sick!" it sang.
"Alas!" cried the princess. "What can I do?"
"Tu-whit, tu-whit! you must go to your father's palace!"
"And what shall I do there?" she asked.
"Tu-whit! there you will find a snake with nine young ones."
"Ugh!" answered the princess with a shiver, for she did not like snakes. But the little bird paid no heed.
"Put them in a basket and go to the Green Knight's palace," said she.
"And what am I to do with them when I get there?" she cried, blushing all over, though there was no one to see her but the bird.
"Dress yourself as a kitchen-maid and ask for a place. Tu-whit! Then you must make soup out of the snakes. Give it three times to the knight and he will be cured. Tu-whit!"
"But what has made him ill?" asked the princess. The bird, however, had flown away, and there was nothing for it but to go to her father's palace and look for the snakes. When she came there she found the mother snake with the nine little snakes all curled up so that you could hardly tell their heads from their tails. The princess did not like having to touch them, but when the old snake had wriggled out of the nest to bask a little in the sun, she picked up the young ones and put them in a basket as the bird had told her, and ran off to find the Green Knight's castle. All day she walked along, sometimes stopping to pick the wild berries, or to gather a nosegay; but though she rested now and then, she would not lie down to sleep before she reached the castle. At last she came in sight of it, and just then she met a girl driving a flock of geese.
"Good day!" said the princess; "can you tell me if this is the castle of the Green Knight?"
"Yes, that it is," answered the goose-girl, "for I am driving his geese. But the Green Knight is very ill, and they say that unless he can be cured within three days be will surely die."
At this news the princess grew as white as death. The ground seemed to spin round, and she closed her hand tight on a bush that was standing beside her. By – and - by, with a great effort, she recovered herself and said to the goose-girl:
"Would you like to have a fine silk dress to wear?"
The goose-girl's eyes glistened.
"Yes, that I would!" answered she.
"Then take off your dress and give it to me, and I will give you mine," said the princess.
The girl could scarcely believe her ears, but the princess was already unfastening her beautiful silk dress, and taking off her silk stockings and pretty red shoes; and the goose-girl lost no time in slipping out of her rough linen skirt and tunic. Then the princess put on the other's rags and let down her hair, and went to the kitchen to ask for a place.
"Do you want a kitchen-maid?" she said.
"Yes, we do," answered the cook, who was too busy to ask the new-corner many questions.
The following day, after a good night's rest, the princess set about her new duties. The other servants were speaking of their master, and saying to each other how ill he was, and that unless he could be cured within three days he would surely die.
The princess thought of the snakes, and the bird's advice, and lifting her head from the pots and pans she was scouring, she said: "I know how to make a soup that has such a wonderful power that whoever tastes it is sure to be cured, whatever his illness may be. As the doctors cannot cure your master shall I try?"
At first they all laughed at her.
"What! a scullion cure the knight when the best physicians in the kingdom have failed?"
But at last, just because all the physicians had failed, they decided that it would do no harm to try; and she ran off joyfully to fetch her basket of snakes and make them into broth. When this was ready she carried some to the knight's room and entered it boldly, pushing aside all the learned doctors who stood beside his bed. The poor knight was too ill to know her, besides, she was so ragged and dirty that he would not have been likely to do so had he been well; but when he had taken the soup be was so much better that he was able to sit up.
The next day he had some more, and then he was able to dress himself.
"That is certainly wonderful soup!" said the cook.
The third day, after he had eaten his soup, the knight was quite well again.
"Who are you?" he asked the girl; "was it you who made this soup that has cured me?"
"Yes," answered the princess.
"Choose, then, whatever you wish as a reward," said the knight, "and you shall have it."
"I would be your bride!" said the princess.
The knight frowned in surprise at such boldness, and shook his head.
"That is the one thing I cannot grant," he said, "for I am pledged to marry the most beautiful princess in the world. Choose again."
Then the princess ran away and washed herself and mended her rags, and when she returned the Green Knight recognised her at once.
You can think what a joyful meeting that was!
Soon after, they were married with great splendour. All the knights and princes in the kingdom were summoned to the wedding, and the princess wore a dress that shone like the sun, so that no one had ever beheld a more gorgeous sight. The princess's father, of course, was present, but the wicked queen and her daughter were driven out of the country, and as nobody has seen them since, very likely they were eaten by wild beasts in the forest. But the bride and bridegroom were so happy that they forgot all about them, and they lived with the. old king till he died, when they succeeded him.
[From "Eventyr fra Jylland," samlede og optegnede of Evald Tang Kristensen. Translated from the Danish by Mrs. Skovgaard-Pedersen.]