Two Grimm Tales
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There was once a poor woman who gave birth to a little son; and as he came into the world with a caul on, it was predicted that in his fourteenth year he would have the king's daughter for his wife.
It happened that soon afterwards the king came into the village, and no one knew that he was the king, and when he asked the people what news there was, they answered, "A child has just been born with a caul on; whatever anyone so born undertakes turns out well. It is prophesied, too, that in his fourteenth year he will have the king's daughter for his wife."
The king, who had a bad heart, and was angry about the prophecy, went to the parents, and, seeming quite friendly, said, "You poor people, let me have your child, and I will take care of it."
At first they refused, but when the stranger offered them a large amount of gold for it, and they thought, "It is a luck-child, and everything must turn out well for it," they at last consented, and gave him the child.
The king put it in a box and rode away with it till he came to a deep piece of water; then he threw the box into it and thought, "I have freed my daughter from her unlooked-for suitor."
The box, however, did not sink, but floated like a boat, and not a drop of water made its way into it. And it floated to within two miles of the king's chief city, where there was a mill, and it came to a stand-still at the mill-dam. A miller's boy, who by good luck was standing there, noticed it and pulled it out with a hook, thinking that he had found a great treasure, but when he opened it there lay a pretty boy inside, quite fresh and lively. He took him to the miller and his wife, and as they had no children they were glad, and said, "God has given him to us."
They took great care of the foundling, and he grew up in all goodness.
It happened that once in a storm, the king went into the mill, and he asked the mill-folk if the tall youth was their son.
"No," answered they, "he's a foundling. Fourteen years ago he floated down to the mill-dam in a box, and the mill-boy pulled him out of the water."
Then the king knew that it was none other than the luck-child which he had thrown into the water, and he said, "My good people, could not the youth take a letter to the queen; I will give him two gold pieces as a reward?"
"Just as the king commands," answered they, and they told the boy to hold himself in readiness. Then the king wrote a letter to the queen, wherein he said, "As soon as the boy arrives with this letter, let him be killed and buried, and all must be done before I come home."
The boy set out with this letter; but he lost his way, and in the evening came to a large forest. In the darkness he saw a small light; he went towards it and reached a cottage. When he went in, an old woman was sitting by the fire quite alone. She started when she saw the boy, and said, "Where do you come, and where are you going?"
"I come from the mill," he answered, "and wish to go to the queen, to whom I am taking a letter; but as I have lost my way in the forest I should like to stay here over night."
"You poor boy," said the woman, "you have come into a den of thieves, and when they come home they will kill you."
"Let them come," said the boy, "I am not afraid; but I am so tired that I cannot go any farther:" and he stretched himself on a bench and fell asleep.
Soon afterwards the robbers came, and angrily asked what strange boy was lying there? "Ah," said the old woman, "it is an innocent child who has lost himself in the forest, and out of pity I have let him come in; he has to take a letter to the queen."
The robbers opened the letter and read it, and in it was written that the boy as soon as he arrived should be put to death. Then the hard-hearted robbers felt pity, and their leader tore up the letter and wrote another, saying, that as soon as the boy came, he should be married at once to the king's daughter. Then they let him lie quietly on the bench till the next morning, and when he awoke they gave him the letter, and showed him the right way.
And the queen, when she had received the letter and read it, did as was written in it, and had a splendid wedding-feast prepared, and the king's daughter was married to the luck-child, and as the youth was handsome and agreeable she lived with him in joy and contentment.
After some time the king returned to his palace and saw that the prophecy was fulfilled, and the luck-child married to his daughter.
"How has that come to pass?" said he; "I gave quite another order in my letter."
So the queen gave him the letter, and said that he might see for himself what was written in it. The king read the letter and saw quite well that it had been exchanged for the other. He asked the youth what had become of the letter entrusted to him, and why he had brought another instead of it.
"I know nothing about it," answered he; "it must have been changed in the night, when I slept in the forest."
The king said in a passion, "You shall not have everything quite so much your own way; whoever marries my daughter must fetch me from hell three golden hairs from the head of the devil; bring me what I want, and you shall keep my daughter."
In this way the king hoped to be rid of him for ever. But the luck-child answered, "I will fetch the golden hairs, I am not afraid of the Devil;" thereupon he took leave of them and began his journey.
The road led him to a large town, where the watchman by the gates asked him what his trade was, and what he knew.
"I know everything," answered the luck-child.
"Then you can do us a favour," said the watchman, "if you will tell us why our market-fountain, which once flowed with wine has become dry, and no longer gives even water?"
"That you shall know," answered he; "only wait till I come back."
Then he went farther and came to another town, and there also the gatekeeper asked him what was his trade, and what he knew.
"I know everything," answered he.
"Then you can do us a favour and tell us why a tree in our town which once bore golden apples now does not even put forth leaves?"
"You shall know that," answered he; "only wait till I come back."
Then he went on and came to a wide river over which he must go. The ferryman asked him what his trade was, and what he knew.
"I know everything," answered he.
"Then you can do me a favour," said the ferryman, "and tell me why I must always be rowing backwards and forwards, and am never set free?"
"You shall know that," answered he; "only wait till I come back."
When he had crossed the water he found the entrance to Hell. It was black and sooty within, and the Devil was not at home, but his grandmother was sitting in a large arm-chair.
"What do you want?" said she to him, but she did not look so very wicked.
"I should like to have three golden hairs from the devil's head," answered he, "else I cannot keep my wife."
"That is a good deal to ask for," said she; "if the devil comes home and finds you, it will cost you your life; but as I pity you, I will see if I cannot help you."
She changed him into an ant and said, "Creep into the folds of my dress, you will be safe there."
"Yes," answered he, "so far, so good; but there are three things besides that I want to know: why a fountain which once flowed with wine has become dry, and no longer gives even water; why a tree which once bore golden apples does not even put forth leaves; and why a ferry-man must always be going backwards and forwards, and is never set free?"
"Those are difficult questions," answered she, "but only be silent and quiet and pay attention to what the devil says when I pull out the three golden hairs."
As the evening came on, the devil returned home. No sooner had he entered than he noticed that the air was not pure.
"I smell man's flesh," said he; "all is not right here."
Then he pried into every corner, and searched, but could not find anything. His grandmother scolded him.
"It has just been swept," said she, "and everything put in order, and now you are upsetting it again; you have always got man's flesh in your nose. Sit down and eat your supper."
When he had eaten and drunk he was tired, and laid his head in his grandmother's lap, and before long he was fast asleep, snoring and breathing heavily. Then the old woman took hold of a golden hair, pulled it out, and laid it down near her.
"Oh!" cried the devil, "what are you doing?"
"I have had a bad dream," answered the grandmother, "so I seized hold of your hair."
"What did you dream then?" said the devil.
"I dreamed that a fountain in a market-place from which wine once flowed was dried up, and not even water would flow out of it; what is the cause of it?"
"Oh, ho! if they did but know it," answered the devil; "there is a toad sitting under a stone in the well; if they killed it, the wine would flow again."
He went to sleep again and snored till the windows shook. Then she pulled the second hair out.
"Ha! what are you doing?" cried the devil angrily.
"Do not take it ill," said she, "I did it in a dream."
"What have you dreamt this time?" asked he. "I dreamt that in a certain kingdom there stood an apple-tree which had once borne golden apples, but now would not even bear leaves. What, think you, was the reason?"
"Oh! if they did but know," answered the devil.
"A mouse is gnawing at the root; if they killed this they would have golden apples again, but if it gnaws much longer the tree will wither altogether. But leave me alone with your dreams: if you disturb me in my sleep again you will get a box on the ear."
The grandmother spoke gently to him till he fell asleep again and snored. Then she took hold of the third golden hair and pulled it out. The devil jumped up, roared out, and would have treated her ill if she had not quieted him once more and said, "Who can help bad dreams?"
"What was the dream, then?" asked he, and was quite curious.
"I dreamt of a ferry-man who complained that he must always ferry from one side to the other, and was never released. What is the cause of it?"
"Ah! the fool," answered the devil; "when anyone comes and wants to go across he must put the oar in his hand, and the other man will have to ferry and he will be free."
As the grandmother had plucked out the three golden hairs, and the three questions were answered, she let the old serpent alone, and he slept till daybreak.
When the devil had gone out again the old woman took the ant out of the folds of her dress, and gave the luck-child his human shape again.
"There are the three golden hairs for you," said she.
"What the Devil said to your three questions, I suppose you heard?"
"Yes," answered he, "I heard, and will take care to remember."
"You have what you want," said she, "and now you can go your way."
He thanked the old woman for helping him in his need, and left hell well content that everything had turned out so fortunately.
When he came to the ferry-man he was expected to give the promised answer. "Ferry me across first," said the luck-child, "and then I will tell you how you can be set free," and when he reached the opposite shore he gave him the devil's advice: "Next time anyone comes, who wants to be ferried over, just put the oar in his hand."
He went on and came to the town wherein stood the unfruitful tree, and there too the watchman wanted an answer. So he told him what he had heard from the devil: "Kill the mouse which is gnawing at its root, and it will again bear golden apples."
Then the watchman thanked him, and gave him as a reward two asses laden with gold, which followed him.
At last he came to the town whose well was dry. He told the watchman what the devil had said: "A toad is in the well beneath a stone; you must find it and kill it, and the well will again give wine in plenty."
The watchman thanked him, and also gave him two asses laden with gold.
At last the luck-child got home to his wife, who was heartily glad to see him again, and to hear how well he had prospered in everything. To the king he took what he had asked for, the devil's three golden hairs, and when the king saw the four asses laden with gold he was quite content, and said, "Now all the conditions are fulfilled, and you can keep my daughter. But tell me, dear son-in-law, where did all that gold come from? this is tremendous wealth!"
"I was rowed across a river," answered he, "and got it there; it lies on the shore instead of sand."
"Can I too fetch some of it?" said the king; and he was quite eager about it.
"As much as you like," answered he. "There is a ferry-man on the river; let him ferry you over, and you can fill your sacks on the other side."
The greedy King set out in all haste, and when he came to the river he beckoned to the ferry-man to put him across. The ferry-man came and bade him get in, and when they got to the other shore he put the oar in his hand and sprang out. But from this time forth the king had to ferry, as a punishment for his sins. Perhaps he is ferrying still? If he is, it is because no one has taken the oar from him.
In the olden time there was a king, who had behind his palace a beautiful pleasure-garden in which there was a tree that bore golden apples. When the apples were getting ripe they were counted, but on the very next morning one was missing. This was told to the king, and he ordered that a watch should be kept every night beneath the tree.
The king had three sons, the eldest of whom he sent, as soon as night came on, into the garden; but when midnight came he could not keep himself from sleeping, and next morning again an apple was gone.
The following night the second son had to keep watch, it fared no better with him; as soon as twelve o'clock had struck he fell asleep, and in the morning an apple was gone.
Now it came to the turn of the third son to watch; and he was quite ready, but the king had not much trust in him, and thought that he would be of less use even than his brothers; but at last he let him go. The youth lay down beneath the tree, but kept awake, and did not let sleep master him. When it struck twelve, something rustled through the air, and in the moonlight he saw a bird coming whose feathers were all shining with gold. The bird alighted on the tree, and had just plucked off an apple, when the youth shot an arrow at him. The bird flew off, but the arrow had struck his plumage, and one of his golden feathers fell down. The youth picked it up, and the next morning took it to the king and told him what he had seen in the night. The king called his council together, and everyone declared that a feather like this was worth more than the whole kingdom.
"If the feather is so precious," declared the king, "one alone will not do for me; I must and will have the whole bird!"
The eldest son set out; he trusted to his cleverness, and thought that he would easily find the Golden Bird. When he had gone some distance he saw a Fox sitting at the edge of a wood, so he cocked his gun and took aim at him. The fox cried, "Do not shoot me! and in return I will give you some good counsel. You are on the way to the Golden Bird; and this evening you will come to a village in which stand two inns opposite to one another. One of them is lighted up brightly, and all goes on merrily within, but do not go into it; go rather into the other, even though it seems a bad one."
"How can such a silly beast give wise advice?" thought the king's son, and he pulled the trigger. But he missed the fox, who stretched out his tail and ran quickly into the wood.
So he pursued his way, and by evening came to the village where the two inns were; in one they were singing and dancing; the other had a poor, miserable look.
"I should be a fool, indeed," he thought, "if I were to go into the shabby tavern, and pass by the good one."
So he went into the cheerful one, lived there in riot and revel, and forgot the bird and his father, and all good counsels.
When some time had passed, and the eldest son for month after month did not come back home, the second set out, wishing to find the Golden Bird. The fox met him as he had met the eldest, and gave him the good advice of which he took no heed. He came to the two inns, and his brother was standing at the window of the one from which came the music, and called out to him. He could not resist, but went inside and lived only for pleasure.
Again some time passed, and then the king's youngest son wanted to set off and try his luck, but his father would not allow it.
"It is of no use," said he, "he will find the Golden Bird still less than his brothers, and if a mishap were to befall him he knows not how to help himself; he is a little wanting at the best."
But at last, as he had no peace, he let him go.
Again the fox was sitting outside the wood, and begged for his life, and offered his good advice. The youth was good-natured, and said, "Be easy, little Fox, I will do you no harm."
"You shall not repent it," answered the fox; "and that you may get on more quickly, get up behind on my tail."
And scarcely had he seated himself when the fox began to run, and away he went over stock and stone till his hair whistled in the wind. When they came to the village the youth got off; he followed the good advice, and without looking round turned into the little inn, where he spent the night quietly.
The next morning, as soon as he got into the open country, there sat the fox already, and said, "I will tell you further what you have to do. Go on quite straight, and at last you will come to a castle, in front of which a whole regiment of soldiers is lying, but do not trouble yourself about them, for they will all be asleep and snoring. Go through the midst of them straight into the castle, and go through all the rooms, till at last you will come to a chamber where a Golden Bird is hanging in a wooden cage. Close by, there stands an empty gold cage for show, but beware of taking the bird out of the common cage and putting it into the fine one, or it may go badly with you."
With these words the fox again stretched out his tail, and the king's son seated himself on it, and away he went over stock and stone till his hair whistled in the wind.
When he came to the castle he found everything as the fox had said. The king's son went into the chamber where the Golden Bird was shut up in a wooden cage, while a golden one stood hard by; and the three golden apples lay about the room.
"But," thought he, "it would be absurd if I were to leave the beautiful bird in the common and ugly cage," so he opened the door, laid hold of it, and put it into the golden cage. But at the same moment the bird uttered a shrill cry. The soldiers awoke, rushed in, and took him off to prison. The next morning he was taken before a court of justice, and as he confessed everything, was sentenced to death.
The king, however, said that he would grant him his life on one condition namely, if he brought him the Golden Horse which ran faster than the wind; and in that case he should receive, over and above, as a reward, the Golden Bird.
The king's son set off, but he sighed and was sorrowful, for how was he to find the Golden Horse? But all at once he saw his old friend the fox sitting on the road.
"Look you," said the fox, "this has happened because you did not give heed to me. However, be of good courage. I will give you my help, and tell you how to get to the Golden Horse. You must go straight on, and you will come to a castle, where in the stable stands the horse. The grooms will be lying in front of the stable; but they will be asleep and snoring, and you can quietly lead out the Golden Horse. But of one thing you must take heed; put on him the common saddle of wood and leather, and not the golden one, which hangs close by, else it will go ill with you."
Then the fox stretched out his tail, the king's son seated himself on it, and away he went over stock and stone till his hair whistled in the wind.
Everything happened just as the fox had said; the prince came to the stable in which the Golden Horse was standing, but just as he was going to put the common saddle on him, he thought, "It will be a shame to such a beautiful beast, if I do not give him the good saddle which belongs to him by right."
But scarcely had the golden saddle touched the horse than he began to neigh loudly. The grooms awoke, seized the youth, and threw him into prison. The next morning he was sentenced by the court to death; but the king promised to grant him his life, and the Golden Horse as well, if he could bring back the beautiful princess from the Golden Castle.
With a heavy heart the youth set out; yet luckily for him he soon found the trusty Fox.
"I ought only to leave you to your ill-luck," said the fox, "but I pity you, and will help you once more out of your trouble. This road takes you straight to the Golden Castle, you will reach it by eventide; and at night when everything is quiet the beautiful princess goes to the bathing-house to bathe. When she enters it, run up to her and give her a kiss, then she will follow you, and you can take her away with you; only do not allow her to take leave of her parents first, or it will go ill with you."
Then the fox stretched out his tail, the king's son seated himself on it, and away the fox went, over stock and stone, till his hair whistled in the wind.
When he reached the Golden Castle it was just as the fox had said. He waited till midnight, when everything lay in deep sleep, and the beautiful princess was going to the bathing-house. Then he sprang out and gave her a kiss. She said that she would like to go with him, but she asked him pitifully, and with tears, to allow her first to take leave of her parents. At first he withstood her prayer, but when she wept more and more, and fell at his feet, he at last gave in. But no sooner had the maiden reached the bedside of her father than he and all the rest in the castle awoke, and the youth was laid hold of and put into prison.
The next morning the king said to him, "Your life is forfeited, and you can only find mercy if you take away the hill which stands in front of my windows, and prevents my seeing beyond it; and you must finish it all within eight days. If you do that you shall have my daughter as your reward."
The king's son began, and dug and shovelled without leaving off, but when after seven days he saw how little he had done, and how all his work was as good as nothing, he fell into great sorrow and gave up all hope. But on the evening of the seventh day the fox appeared and said, 'You do not deserve that I should take any trouble about you; but just go away and lie down to sleep, and I will do the work for you."
The next morning when he awoke and looked out of the window the hill had gone. The youth ran, full of joy, to the king, and told him that the task was fulfilled, and whether he liked it or not, the king had to hold to his word and give him his daughter.
So the two set forth together, and it was not long before the trusty Fox came up with them.
"You have certainly got what is best," said he, "but the Golden Horse also belongs to the maiden of the Golden Castle."
"How shall I get it?" asked the youth.
"That I will tell you," answered the fox; "first take the beautiful maiden to the king who sent you to the Golden Castle. There will be unheard-of rejoicing; they will gladly give you the Golden Horse, and will bring it out to you. Mount it as soon as possible, and offer your hand to all in farewell; last of all to the beautiful maiden. And as soon as you have taken her hand swing her up on to the horse, and gallop away, and no one will be able to bring you back, for the horse runs faster than the wind."
All was carried out successfully, and the king's son carried off the beautiful princess on the Golden Horse.
The fox did not remain behind, and he said to the youth, "Now I will help you to get the Golden Bird. When you come near to the castle where the Golden Bird is to be found, let the maiden get down, and I will take her into my care. Then ride with the Golden Horse into the castle-yard; there will be great rejoicing at the sight, and they will bring out the Golden Bird for you. As soon as you have the cage in your hand gallop back to us, and take the maiden away again.
When the plan had succeeded, and the king's son was about to ride home with his treasures, the fox said, "Now you shall reward me for my help."
"What do you require for it?" asked the youth.
"When you get into the wood yonder, shoot me dead, and chop off my head and feet."
"That would be fine gratitude," said the king's son. "I cannot possibly do that for you."
The fox said, "If you will not do it I must leave you, but before I go away I will give you a piece of good advice. Be careful about two things. Buy no gallows'-flesh, and do not sit at the edge of any well." And then he ran into the wood.
The youth thought, "That is a wonderful beast, he has strange whims; who is going to buy gallows'-flesh? and the desire to sit at the edge of a well it has never yet seized me."
He rode on with the beautiful maiden, and his road took him again through the village in which his two brothers had remained. There was a great stir and noise, and, when he asked what was going on, he was told that two men were going to be hanged. As he came nearer to the place he saw that they were his brothers, who had been playing all kinds of wicked pranks, and had squandered all their wealth. He inquired whether they could not be set free.
"If you will pay for them," answered the people; "but why should you waste your money on wicked men, and buy them free."
He did not think twice about it, but paid for them, and when they were set free they all went on their way together.
They came to the wood where the fox had first met them, as it was cool and pleasant within it, the two brothers said, "Let us rest a little by the well, and eat and drink."
He agreed, and while they were talking he forgot himself, and sat down on the edge of the well without thinking of any evil. But the two brothers threw him backwards into the well, took the maiden, the Horse, and the Bird, and went home to their father.
"Here we bring you not only the Golden Bird," said they; "we have won the Golden Horse also, and the maiden from the Golden Castle."
Then was there great joy; but the Horse would not eat, the Bird would not sing, and the maiden sat and wept.
But the youngest brother was not dead. By good fortune the well was dry, and he fell on soft moss without being hurt, but he could not get out again. Even in this strait the faithful Fox did not leave him: it came and leapt down to him, and upbraided him for having forgotten its advice.
"But yet I cannot give it up so," he said; "I will help you up again into daylight."
He bade him grasp his tail and keep tight hold of it; and then he pulled him up.
"You are not out of all danger yet," said the fox. "Your brothers were not sure of your death, and have surrounded the wood with watchers, who are to kill you if you let yourself be seen."
But a poor man was sitting on the road, with whom the youth changed clothes, and in this way he got to the king's palace.
No one knew him, but the Bird began to sing, the Horse began to eat, and the beautiful maiden left off weeping. The king, astonished, asked, "What does this mean?" Then the maiden said, "I do not know, but I have been so sorrowful and now I am so happy! I feel as if my true bridegroom had come."
She told him all that had happened, although the other brothers had threatened her with death if she were to betray anything.
The king commanded that all people who were in his castle should be brought before him; and amongst them came the youth in his ragged clothes; but the maiden knew him at once and fell on his neck. The wicked brothers were seized and put to death, but he was married to the beautiful maiden and declared heir to the king.
But how did it fare with the poor Fox? Long afterwards the king's son was once again walking in the wood, when the fox met him and said, "You have everything now that you can wish for, but there is never an end to my misery, and yet it is in your power to free me," and again he asked him with tears to shoot him dead and chop off his head and feet. So he did it, and scarcely was it done when the fox was changed into a man, and was no other than the brother of the beautiful princess, who at last was freed from the magic charm which had been laid on him. And now nothing more was wanting to their happiness as long as they lived.
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