There was once a king's son who was betrothed to a maiden whom he loved very much. And when he was sitting beside her and very happy, news came that his father lay sick to death, and desired to see him once again before his end. Then he said to his beloved, "I must now go and leave you, I give you a ring as a remembrance of me. When I am King, I will return and fetch you."
So he rode away, and when he reached his father, the latter was dangerously ill, and near his death. He said to him, "Dear son, I wished to see you once again before my end, promise me to marry as I wish," and he named a certain King's daughter who was to be his wife. The son was in such trouble that he did not think what he was doing, and said, "Yes, dear father, your will shall be done," and thereupon the king shut his eyes, and died.
When therefore the son had been proclaimed king, and the time of mourning was over, he was forced to keep the promise which he had given his father, and caused the king's daughter to be asked in marriage, and she was promised to him. His first betrothed heard of this, and fretted so much about his faithlessness that she nearly died. Then her father said to her, "Dearest child, why are you so sad? You shall have whatever you will."
She thought for a moment and said, "Dear father, I wish for eleven girls exactly like myself in face, figure, and size." The father said, "If it be possible, your desire shall be fulfilled," and he caused a search to be made in his whole kingdom, till eleven young maidens were found who exactly resembled his daughter in face, figure, and size.
When they came to the king's daughter, she had twelve suits of huntsmen's clothes made, all alike, and the eleven maidens had to put on the huntsmen's clothes, and she herself put on the twelfth suit. Thereupon she took leave of her father, and rode away with them, and rode to the court of her former betrothed, whom she loved so dearly. Then she inquired if he required any huntsmen, and if he would take the whole of them into his service. The king looked at her and did not know her, but as they were such handsome fellows, he said, "Yes," and that he would willingly take them, and now they were the king's twelve huntsmen.
The king, however, had a lion which was a wondrous animal, for he knew all concealed and secret things. It came to pass that one evening he said to the king, "You thinkest you have twelve huntsmen?"
"Yes," said the king, "they are twelve huntsmen."
The lion went on, "You are mistaken, they are twelve girls." The king said, "That cannot be true! How will you prove that to me?"
"Oh, just let some peas be strewn in your ante-chamber," answered the lion, "and then you will soon see it. Men have a firm step, and when they walk over the peas none of them stir, but girls trip and skip, and drag their feet, and the peas roll about." The king was well pleased with the counsel, and caused the peas to be strewn.
There was, however, a servant of the king's who favored the huntsmen, and when he heard that they were going to be put to this test he went to them and repeated everything, and said, "The lion wants to make the king believe that you are girls."
Then the king's daughter thanked him, and said to her maidens, "Put on some strength, and step firmly on the peas."
So next morning when the king had the twelve huntsmen called before him, and they came into the ante-chamber where the peas were lying, they stepped so firmly on them, and had such a strong, sure walk, that not one of the peas either rolled or stirred. Then they went away again, and the king said to the lion, "You have lied to me, they walk just like men."
The lion said, "They have got to know that they were going to be put to the test, and have assumed some strength. Just let twelve spinning-wheels be brought into the ante-chamber some day, and they will go to them and be pleased with them, and that is what no man would do."
The king liked the advice, and had the spinning-wheels placed in the ante-chamber.
But the servant, who was well disposed to the huntsmen, went to them, and disclosed the project. Then when they were alone the king's daughter said to her eleven girls, "Put some constraint on yourselves, and do not look round at the spinning-wheels."
And next morning when the king had his twelve huntsmen summoned, they went through the ante-chamber, and never once looked at the spinning wheels. Then the king again said to the lion, "You have deceived me, they are men, for they have not looked at the spinning-wheels."
The lion answered, "They have learnt that they were going to be put to the test, and have restrained themselves."
The king, however, would no longer believe the lion.
The twelve huntsmen always followed the king to the chase, and his liking for them continually increased. Now it came to pass that once when they were out hunting, news came that the king's betrothed was approaching. When the true bride heard that, it hurt her so much that her heart was almost broken, and she fell fainting to the ground. The king thought something had happened to his dear huntsman, ran up to him, wanted to help him, and drew his glove off. Then he saw the ring which he had given to his first bride, and when he looked in her face he recognized her. Then his heart was so touched that he kissed her, and when she opened her eyes he said, "You are mine, and I am your, and no one in the world can alter that."
He sent a messenger to the other bride, and entreated her to return to her own kingdom, for he had a wife already, and a man who had just found an old dish did not require a new one. Thereupon the wedding was celebrated, and the lion was again taken into favour, because, after all, he had told the truth.
Hans wished to put his son to learn a trade, so he went into the church and prayed to our Lord God to know which would be most advantageous for him. Then the clerk got behind the altar, and said, "Thieving, thieving."
On this Hans goes back to his son, and tells him he is to learn thieving, and that the Lord God had said so. So he goes with his son to seek a man who is acquainted with thieving. They walk a long time and come into a great forest, where stands a little house with an old woman in it. Hans says, "Do you know of a man who is acquainted with thieving?"
"You can learn that here quite well," says the woman, "my son is a master of it."
So he speaks with the son, and asks if he knows thieving really well? The master-thief says, "I will teach him well. Come back when a year is over, and then if you recognize your son, I will take no payment at all for teaching him; but if you don't know him, you must give me two hundred thalers."
The father goes home again, and the son learns witchcraft and thieving, thoroughly. When the year is out, the father is full of anxiety to know how he is to contrive to recognize his son. As he is thus going about in his trouble, he meets a little dwarf, who says, "Man, what ails you, that you are always in such trouble?"
"Oh," says Hans, "a year ago I placed my son with a master-thief who told me I was to come back when the year was out, and that if I then did not know my son when I saw him, I was to pay two hundred thalers; but if I did know him I was to pay nothing, and now I am afraid of not knowing him and can't tell where I am to get the money."
Then the dwarf tells him to take a small basket of bread with him, and to stand beneath the chimney.
"There on the cross-beam is a basket, out of which a little bird is peeping, and that is your son."
Hans goes there, and throws a little basket full of black bread in front of the basket with the bird in it, and the little bird comes out, and looks up.
"Hollo, my son, are you here?" says the father, and the son is delighted to see his father, but the master-thief says, "The devil must have prompted you, or how could you have known your son?"
"Father, let us go," said the youth.
Then the father and son set out homeward. On the way a carriage comes driving by. Hereupon the son says to his father, "I will change myself into a large greyhound, and then you can earn a great deal of money by me."
Then the gentleman calls from the carriage, "My man, will you sell your dog?"
"Yes," says the father.
"How much do you want for it?"
"Eh, man, that is a great deal, but as it is such a very fine dog I will have it."
The gentleman takes it into his carriage, but when they have driven a little farther the dog springs out of the carriage through the window, and goes back to his father, and is no longer a greyhound.
They go home together. Next day there is a fair in the neighbouring town, so the youth says to his father, "I will now change myself into a beautiful horse, and you can sell me; but when you have sold me, you must take off my bridle, or I cannot become a man again."
Then the father goes with the horse to the fair, and the master-thief comes and buys the horse for a hundred thalers, but the father forgets, and does not take off the bridle. So the man goes home with the horse, and puts it in the stable. When the maid crosses the threshold, the horse says, "Take off my bridle, take off my bridle."
Then the maid stands still, and says, "What, can you speak?" So she goes and takes the bridle off, and the horse becomes a sparrow, and flies out at the door, and the wizard becomes a sparrow also, and flies after him. Then they come together and cast lots, but the master loses, and betakes himself to the water and is a fish. Then the youth also becomes a fish, and they cast lots again, and the master loses. So the master changes himself into a cock, and the youth becomes a fox, and bites the master's head off, and he died and has remained dead to this day.