Once there was a king who had seven sons. He loved them so much that he could never bear to be without them all at once; one of them always had to be with him. When they were grown up, six were to set off to woo. But as for the youngest, his father kept him at home; the others were to bring back a princess for him to the castle.
The king gave the six the finest clothes you ever set eyes on, so fine that the light gleamed a long way off. Each had his horse and many, many hundred dollars, and so they set off.
When they had been to many castles, and seen many princesses, at last they came to a king who had six daughters. They were such lovely king's daughters they had never set eyes on. They fell to wooing them, each one. And when they had got them for sweethearts, they set off home again.
But they quite forgot that they were to bring back with them a sweetheart for their brother Boots who stayed at home. For they were over head and ears in love with their own sweethearts.
When they had gone a good bit on their way, they passed close by a steep hill-side that looked like a wall. Behind it, inside the rocks, was the house of a giant. Now, all at once the giant came out, set his eyes on them, and turned them all into stone, princes and princesses and all.
The old king waited and waited for his six sons, but it was all good for nothing. He began to feel greatly troubled, and said he should never know what it was to be glad again.
"If I didn't have you left," he said to Boots, "I wouldn't live any longer, I'm so full of sorrow for the loss of your brothers."
"Well, but now I've been thinking to ask your leave to set out and find them again; that's what I'm thinking of," said Boots.
"No, no!" said his father, "then you would stay away too."
But Boots had set his heart on it; go he would. He begged and prayed so long that the king had to let him go. However, the king had no other horse to give Boots but an old broken-down jade, for his six other sons and their train had carried off all the others horses he had. But Boots did not care a bit for that, he sprang up on his old steed.
"Bye, dad," he said sprightly; "I'll come back, never fear. And when I do I'll bring my six brothers back with me." With that he rode off.
When he had ridden a while, he came to a starved raven. It lay in the road and flapped its wings, and was unable to get out of the way. It was that starved.
"Hello, you," said the raven, "give me a little food, and I'll help you again when you need it the most."
"Oh dear, I haven't got much food," said the prince, "and I don't see how you'll ever be able to help me much. Anyway, I'll spare you a little. I can see you need it."
So he gave the raven some of the food he had brought with him.
When he had gone a little further, he came to a brook. In the brook lay a great salmon that had got on a dry place. Now it dashed itself about, and couldn't get into the water again.
"Oh, dear," said the salmon to the prince, "shove me out into the water again, and I'll help you again when you need it the most."
"Well," said the prince, "I hardly think the help you'll give me in return will be great, but it's a pity you should lie there and choke." Saying that he pushed the fish out into the stream again.
After that he went a long, long way. Then he met with a wolf. It was so famished that it lay and crawled along the road on its belly.
"Oh dear, let me have your horse," said the wolf. "I'm so hungry the wind whistles through my stomack and bones. I've had nothing to eat for two years."
"No," said Boots, "that won't do. First I came to a raven and I was forced to give him my food; next I came to a salmon and had to help into the water; and now you want my horse. It can't be done, it can't, for then I should have nothing to ride on."
"Just help me," said the wolf, "for you can ride on my back, and I'll help you again when you need it the most."
"Well! the help I'll be getting from you won't be great, I dare say," said the prince; "but you may take my horse, since you are in such giant need."
When the wolf had eaten the horse, Boots took the bit and put it into the wolf's jaw and laid the saddle on his back. And look, the wolf was so strong from what he had eaten that he set off with the prince like nothing. Boots had never ridden so fast before.
"When we have gone a bit farther," said the wolf, "I'll show you the giant's house."
After a while they came to that place.
"Look, here is the giant's house," said the wolf, "and look, here are your six brothers: The giant has turned them into stone. Look, here are their six brides. Over there is a door; you have to go into it in order to save them."
"No, I don't dare to go in," said the prince. "He'll kill me."
"No! no!" said the wolf; "when you get in you'll find a princess, and she'll tell you what to do to make an end of the giant. Mind that you do exactly as she bids you."
Boots went in, even though he was very much afraid. When he came in the giant was away, but in one of the rooms sat the princess, just as the wolf had said. So lovely a princess Boots had never yet set eyes on.
She said as she saw him, "Good heavens! Where do you come from? Coming in here will surely be your death. No one can make an end of the giant who lives here, for he has no heart at all, not in his body."
"Well, well!" said Boots; "but now that I am here, I may as well try what I can do with him. ; and I will see if I can't bring help to my brothers, who are standing turned to stone out of doors; and you, too, I will try to save. Yes, I will."
"Well, if you must, you must," said the princess; "Let's see if we can't hit on a plan. Creep under the bed over there, and listen carefully to what he and I talk about. But you have to lie as still as a mouse."
He crept under the bed, and he had hardly got well underneath it, before the giant came.
"Wow!" roared the giant, "what a smell of Christian blood there is in the house!"
"Yes, I know there is," said the princess, "for there came a magpie flying with a man's bone, and let it fall down the chimney. I made all the haste I could to get it out, but all one can do, the smell doesn't go off so soon."
The giant said no more about it. When night came, they went to bed. After they had lain a while, the princess said,
"There's one thing I'd be awfully glad to ask you about, if I only dared."
"What is that?" asked the giant.
"Only where you keep your heart, since you carry it about you," said the princess.
"Ah, that's a thing you have no business to ask about. But if you must know, it lies under the door-sill," said the giant.
"Ho, ho," said Boots to himself under the bed, "then we'll soon see if we can find it."
Next morning the giant got up very early and strode off to the wood. He was hardly out of the house before Boots and the princess set to work to look under the door-sill for his heart. But for all they dug, and looked, they were unable to find it.
"He has blocked us this time," said the princess, " but we'll try him once more."
Now she picked all the prettiest flowers she could find and strewed them over the door-sill, which they had laid in its right place again. Then, when the time came for the giant to come home again Boots crept under the bed. Just as he was well under, back came the giant.
"Snuff-snuff," went the giant's nose. "Fee faw fum - my eyes and limbs, what a smell of Christian blood there is in this," said he.
"I know," said the princess, "for a magpie came flying with a man's bone in his bill, and let it fall down the chimney. I threw out the bone as fast as I could, but I figure that is what you smell."
So the giant held his peace and said no more about it. A little while later he asked who had strewed flowers about the door-sill.
"Oh, I, of course," said the princess.
"What's the meaning of that?" said the giant.
"Ah," said the princess, "I'm so fond of you that I couldn't help strewing them when I knew that your heart lay under there."
"Well, I say," said the giant. "But after all it doesn't lie there at all."
When they went to bed again in the evening, the princess asked the giant again where his heart was, for she said she would like to know.
"Well," said the giant, "if you have to, it lies over there, in the cupboard against the wall."
"Is that a fact?" thought Boots and the princess. "We'll soon try to find it."
Next morning the giant was away early and strode off to the wood. As soon as he was gone Boots and the princess were in the cupboard hunting for his heart, but didn't find it this time either.
"Well," said the princess, "we'll just try him once again."
Now she decked out the cupboard with flowers and garlands. When the time came for the giant to come home, Boots crept under the bed again.
Then back came the giant.
"Snuff-snuff! Fee faw fum, my eyes and limbs, what a smell of Christian blood there is in here!"
"I know," said the princess; " for a little while ago a magpie came flying with a man's bone in his bill and let it fall down the chimney. I got it out of the house again; but maybe that's what you smell."
When the giant heard that, he said nothing more about it. A little while after, he saw how the cupboard was all decked out with flowers and garlands. This time too he asked who had done it. Who could it be but the princess?
"And what do you mean by all this tomfoolery? " the giant asked her.
"You see, I'm so fond of you, I couldn't help doing it when I knew that your heart lay there," the princess said.
"How can you be so silly as to believe any such thing?" said the giant.
"Look, how can I help believing it, when you say it?" said the princess.
"You're a goose," said the giant; "where my heart is, you will never come."
"Well," said the princess; "but for all that, 'it would be such a pleasure to know where it really lies!'
Then the poor giant could hold out no longer, but was forced to say:
"Far, far away in a lake lies an island. On that island stands a church. In that church is a well. In that well swims a duck. In that duck there's an egg, And in that egg lies my heart, little darling."
Early in the morning, while it was still pale dawn, the giant strode off to the wood.
"I must set off too," said Boots; "if I only knew how to find the way."
He took a long, long farewell of the princess.
When he got out of the giant's door, the wolf stood there waiting for him. Boots told him all that had happened inside the house and said now he wished to ride to the well in the church, if he only knew the way. The wolf bade him jump on his back, he would soon find the way, assuredly.
Away they went, till the wind whistled after them, over hedge and field, over hill and valley. After they had travelled many, many days, at last they came to the lake. Then the prince did not know how to get over it.
The wolf bade him only not be afraid, but stick on. Then he jumped into the lake with the prince on his back, and swam over to the island.
They came to the church; but the church keys hung high, high up on the top of the tower, and at first the prince did not know how to get them down.
"You can call on the raven," said the wolf.
The prince called on the raven. In a trice the raven came, and flew up and fetched the keys.
Now the prince got into the church. When he came to the well and found the duck there, it was swimming backwards and forwards as the giant had said. He coaxed and coaxed it till it came to him. Then he grasped it in his hand. But just as he lifted it up from the water, the duck dropped the egg into the well. Boots was beside himself to know how to get it out again.
"Why don't you call on the salmon?" said the wolf, and the king's son called on the salmon. The salmon came and fetched up the egg from the bottom of the well. The wolf told him to squeeze the egg, and as soon as he squeezed it the giant screamed out.
"Squeeze it again," said the wolf; and when the prince did so, the giant screamed still more. He begged and prayed so prettily to be spared, saying he egg would do all that the prince wished if he would only not squeeze his heart in two.
"Ask him to restore to life again your six brothers and their brides that he turned to stone," said the wolf,
The giant was ready to do that. He turned the six brothers into king's sons again, and their brides into king's daughters.
"Now, squeeze the egg in two," said the wolf, Boots squeezed the egg to pieces. The giant burst at once.
Now that he had made an end of the giant, Boots rode back again on the wolf to the giant's house, and there stood all his six brothers alive and merry, with their brides. Then Boots went into the hill-side after his bride. Next they all set off home again to their father's house.
You may fancy how glad the old king was when he saw all his seven sons come back, each with his bride. But the loveliest bride was the bride of Boots, after all," said the king.
So he called a great wedding-feast. The mirth was both loud and long. If they have not done feasting yet, they could still be at it.
ONCE ON a time there was a rich squire who owned a large farm, and had plenty of silver at the bottom of his chest and money in the bank besides; but he felt there was something wanting, for he was a widower.
One day the daughter of a neighbouring farmer was working for him in the hayfield. The squire saw her and liked her very much, and as she was the child of poor parents he thought if he only hinted that he wanted her she would be ready to marry him at once.
So he told her he had been thinking of getting married again.
"Aye! One may think of many things," said the girl, laughing slyly.
In her opinion the old fellow ought to be thinking of something that behoved him better than getting married.
"Well, you see, I thought that you should be my wife!"
"No, thank you all the same," said she, "that's not at all likely."
The squire was not accustomed to be gainsaid, and the more she refused him the more determined he was to get her.
But as he made no progress in her favour he sent for her father and told him that if he could arrange the matter with his daughter he would forgive him the money he had lent him, and he would also give him the piece of land that lay close to his meadow into the bargain.
"Yes, you may be sure I'll bring my daughter to her senses," said the father. "She is only a child, and she doesn't know what's best for her." But all his coaxing and talking did not help matters. She would not have the squire, she said, if he sat buried in gold up to his ears.
The squire waited day after day, but at last he became so angry and impatient that he told the father, if he expected him to stand by his promise, he would have to put his foot down and settle the matter now, for he would not wait any longer.
The man knew no other way out of it but to let the squire get everything ready for the wedding; and when the parson and the wedding guests had arrived the squire should send for the girl as if she were wanted for some work on the farm. When she arrived she would have to be married right away, so that she would have no time to think it over.
The squire thought this was well and good, and so he began brewing and baking and getting ready for the wedding in grand style. When the guests had arrived the squire called one of his farm lads and told him to run down to his neighbour and ask him to send him what he had promised.
"But if you are not back in a twinkling," he said, shaking his fist at him, "I'll -"
He did not say more, for the lad ran off as if he had been shot at.
"My master has sent me to ask for that which you promised him," said the lad, when he got to the neighbour, "but there is no time to be lost, for he is terribly busy today."
"Yes, yes! Run down into the meadow and take her with you. There she goes!" answered the neighbour.
The lad ran off and when he came to the meadow he found the daughter there raking the hay.
"I am to fetch what your father has promised my master," said the lad.
"Ah, ha!" thought she. "Is that what they are up to?"
"Ah, indeed!" she said. "I suppose it's that little bay mare of ours. You had better go and take her. She stands there tethered on the other side of the pea field," said the girl.
The boy jumped on the back of the bay mare and rode home at full gallop.
"Have you got her with you?" asked the squire.
"She is down at the door," said the lad.
"Take her up to the room my mother had," said the squire.
"But master, how can that be managed?" said the lad.
"You must just do as I tell you," said the squire. "If you can't manage her alone you must get the men to help you," for he thought the girl might turn unruly.
When the lad saw his master's face he knew it would be no use to gainsay him. So he went and got all the farm tenants who were there to help him. Some pulled at the head and the forelegs of the mare and others pushed from behind, and at last they got her up the stairs and into the room. There lay all the wedding finery ready.
"Now, that's done master!" said the lad; "but it was a terrible job. It was the worst I have ever had here on the farm.
"Never mind, you shall not have done it for nothing," said his master. "Now send the women up to dress her."
"But I say master -!" said the lad.
"None of your talk!" said the squire. "Tell them they must dress her and mind and not forget either wreath or crown.
The lad ran into the kitchen.
"Look here, lasses," he said; "you must go upstairs and dress up the bay mare as bride. I expect the master wants to give the guests a laugh."
The women dressed the bay mare in everything that was there, and then the lad went and told his master that now she was ready dressed, with wreath and crown and all.
"Very well, bring her down!" said the squire. "I will receive her myself at the door," he said.
There was a terrible clatter on the stairs; for that bride, you know, had no silken shoes on. And when the door was opened and the squire's bride entered the parlour you can imagine there was a good deal of grinning.
As for the squire you may be sure he had had enough of that bride. And they say he never went courting again.
Once on a time there was a queen who was out driving, when there had been a new fall of snow in the winter; but when she had gone a little way, she began to bleed at the nose, and had to get out of her sledge. And so, as she stood there, leaning against the fence, and saw the red blood on the white snow, she fell a-thinking how she had twelve sons and no daughter, and she said to herself:
"If I only had a daughter as white as snow and as red as blood, I shouldn't care what became of all my sons."
But the words were scarce out of her mouth before an old witch of the trolls came up to her.
"A daughter you shall have," she said, "and she shall be as white as snow, and as red as blood; and your sons shall be mine, but you may keep them till the babe is christened."
So when the time came the queen had a daughter, and she was as white as snow, and as red as blood, just as the troll had promised, and so they called her "Snow-white and Rosy-red." Well, there was great joy at the king's court, and the queen was as glad as glad could be; but when what she had promised to the old witch came into her mind, she sent for a silversmith, and bade him make twelve silver spoons, one for each prince, and after that she bade him make one more, and that she gave to Snow-white and Rosy-red. But as soon as ever the princess was christened, the princes were turned into twelve wild ducks, and flew away. They never saw them againaway they went, and away they stayed. So the princess grew up, and she was both tall and fair, but she was often so strange and sorrowful, and no one could understand what it was that failed her. But one evening the queen was also sorrowful, for she had many strange thoughts when she thought of her sons. She said to Snow-white and Rosy-red:
"Why are you so sorrowful, my daughter? Is there anything you want? If so, only say the word, and you shall have it."
"Oh, it seems so dull and lonely here," said Snow-white and Rosy-red; "every one else has brothers and sisters, but I am all alone; I have none; and that's why I'm so sorrowful."
"But you had brothers, my daughter," said the queen; "I had twelve sons who were your brothers, but I gave them all away to get you;" and so she told her the whole story.
So when the princess heard that, she had no rest; for, in spite of all the queen could say or do, and all she wept and prayed, the lassie would set off to seek her brothers, for she thought it was all her fault; and at last she got leave to go away from the palace. On and on she walked into the wide world, so far, you would never have thought a young lady could have strength to walk so far.
So, once, when she was walking through a great, great wood, one day she felt tired, and sat down on a mossy tuft and fell asleep. Then she dreamt that she went deeper and deeper into the wood, till she came to a little wooden hut, and there she found her brothers; just then she woke, and straight before her she saw a worn path in the green moss, and this path went deeper into the wood; so she followed it, and after a long time she came to just such a little wooden house as that she had seen in her dream.
Now, when she went into the room there was no one at home, but there stood twelve beds, and twelve chairs, and twelve spoonsa dozen of everything, in short. So when she saw that she was so glad, she hadn't been so glad for many a long year, for she could guess at once that her brothers lived here, and that they owned the beds, and chairs, and spoons. So she began to make up the fire, and sweep the room, and make the beds, and cook the dinner, and to make the house as tidy as she could; and when she had done all the cooking and work, she ate her own dinner, and crept under her youngest brother's bed, and lay down there, but she forgot her spoon on the table.
So she had scarcely laid herself down before she heard something flapping and whirring in the air, and so all the twelve wild ducks came sweeping in; but as soon as ever they crossed the threshold they became princes.
"Oh, how nice and warm it is in here," they said. "Heaven bless him who made up the fire, and cooked such a good dinner for us."
And so each took up his silver spoon and was going to eat. But when each had taken his own, there was one still left lying on the table, and it was so like the rest that they couldn't tell it from them.
"This is our sister's spoon," they said; "and if her spoon be here, she can't be very far off herself."
"If this be our sister's spoon, and she be here," said the eldest, "she shall be killed, for she is to blame for all the ill we suffer."
And this she lay under the bed and listened to.
"No," said the youngest " 'twere a shame to kill her for that. She has nothing to do with our suffering ill; for if any one's to blame, it's our own mother."
So they set to work hunting for her both high and low, and at last they looked under all the beds, and so when they came to the youngest prince's bed, they found her, and dragged her out. Then the eldest prince wished again to have her killed, but she begged and prayed so prettily for herself.
"Oh, gracious goodness! Don't kill me, for I've gone about seeking you these three years, and if I could only set you free, I'd willingly lose my life."
"Well!" said they, "if you will set us free, you may keep your life; for you can if you choose."
"Yes; only tell me," said the princess, "how it can be done, and I'll do it, whatever it be."
"You must pick thistle-down," said the princes, "and you must card it, and spin it, and weave it; and after you have done that, you must cut out and make twelve coats, and twelve shirts, and twelve neckerchiefs, one for each of us, and while you do that, you must neither talk, nor laugh, nor weep. If you can do that, we are free."
"But where shall I ever get thistle-down enough for so many neckerchiefs, and shirts, and coats?" asked Snow-white and Rosy-red.
"We'll soon show you," said the princes; and so they took her with them to a great wide moor, where there stood such a crop of thistles, all nodding and nodding in the breeze, and the down all floating and glistening like gossamers through the air in the sunbeams. The princess had never seen such a quantity of thistle-down in her life, and she began to pluck and gather it as fast and as well as she could; and when she got home at night she set to work carding and spinning yarn from the down. So she went on a long long time, picking and carding, and spinning and all the while keeping the princes' house, cooking, and making their beds. At evening home they came, flapping and whirring like wild ducks, and all night they were princes, but in the morning off they flew again, and were wild ducks the whole day.
But now it happened once, when she was out on the moor to pick thistle-downand if I don't mistake, it was the very last time she was to go thitherit happened that the young king who ruled that land was out hunting and came riding across the moor, and saw her. So he stopped there and wondered who the lovely lady could be that walked along the moor picking thistle-down, and he asked her her name, and when he could get no answer, he was still more astonished; and at last he liked her so much, that nothing would do but he must take her home to his castle and marry her. So he ordered his servants to take her and put her up on his horse. Snow-white and Rosy-red she wrung her hands, and made signs to them, and pointed to the bags in which her work was, and when the king saw she wished to have them with her, he told his men to take up the bags behind them. When they had done that the princess came to herself, little by little, for the king was both a wise man and a handsome man too, and he was as soft and kind to her as a doctor. But when they got home to the palace, and the old queen, who was his stepmother, set eyes on Snow-white and Rosy-red, she got so cross and jealous of her because she was so lovely, that she said to the king:
"Can't you see now, that this thing whom you have picked up, and whom you are going to marry, is a witch? Why, she can't either talk, or laugh, or weep!"
But the king, didn't care a pin for what she said, but held on with the wedding, and married Snow-white and Rosy-red, and they lived in great joy and glory; but she didn't forget to go on sewing at her shirts.
So when the year was almost out, Snow-white and Rosy-red brought a prince into the world; and then the old queen was more spiteful and jealous than ever, and at dead of night she stole in to Snow-white and Rosy-red, while she slept, and took away her babe, and threw it into a pit full of snakes. After that she cut Snow-white and Rosy-red in her finger, and smeared the blood over her mouth, and went straight to the king.
"Now come and see," she said, "what sort of a thing you have taken for your queen; here she has eaten up her own babe."
Then the king was so downcast, he almost burst into tears, and said:
"Yes, it must be true, since I see it with my own eyes; but she'll not do it again, I'm sure, and so this time I'll spare her life."
So before the next year was out she had another son, and the same thing happened. The king's stepmother got more and more jealous and spiteful. She stole into the young queen at night while she slept, took away the babe, and threw it into a pit full of snakes, cut the young queen's finger, and smeared the blood over her mouth, and then went and told the king she had eaten up her own child. Then the king was so sorrowful, you can't think how sorry he was, and he said:
"Yes, it must be true, since I see it with my own eyes, but she'll not do it again, I'm sure, and so this time too I'll spare her life."
Well, before the next year was out, Snow-white and Rosy-red brought a daughter into the world, and her, too, the old queen took and threw into the pit full of snakes, while the young queen slept. Then she cut her finger, smeared the blood over her mouth, and went again to the king and said:
"Now you may come and see if it isn't as I say; she's a wicked, wicked witch, for here she has gone and eaten up her third babe too."
Then the king was so sad, there was no end to it, for now he couldn't spare her any longer, but had to order her to be burnt alive on a pile of wood. But just when the pile was all ablaze, and they were going to put her on it, she made signs to them to take twelve boards and lay them round the pile, and on these she laid the neckerchiefs, and the shirts, and the coats for her brothers, but the youngest brother's shirt wanted its left arm, for she hadn't had time to finish it. And as soon as ever she had done that, they heard such a flapping and whirring in the air, and down came twelve wild ducks flying over the forest, and each of them snapped up his clothes in his bill and flew off with them.
"See now!" said the old queen to the king, "wasn't I right when I told you she was a witch; but make haste and burn her before the pile burns low."
"Oh!" said the king, "we've wood enough and to spare, and so I'll wait a bit, for I have a mind to see what the end of all this will be."
As he spoke, up came the twelve princes riding along as handsome well-grown lads as you'd wish to see; but the youngest prince had a wild duck's wing instead of his left arm.
"What's all this about?" asked the princes.
"My queen is to be burnt," said the king, "because she's a witch, and because she has eaten up her own babes."
"She hasn't eaten them at all," said the princes.
"Speak now, sister; you have set us free and saved us, now save yourself."
Then Snow-white and Rosy-red spoke, and told the whole story; how every time she was brought to bed, the old queen, the king's stepmother, had stolen into her at night, had taken her babes away, and cut her little finger, and smeared the blood over her mouth; and then the princes took the king, and showed him the snake-pit where three babes lay playing with adders and toads, and lovelier children you never saw.
So the king had them taken out at once, and went to his stepmother, and asked her what punishment she thought that woman deserved who could find it in her heart to betray a guiltless queen and three such blessed little babes.
"She deserves to be fast bound between twelve unbroken steeds, so that each may take his share of her," said the old queen.
"You have spoken your own doom," said the king, "and you shall suffer it at once."
So the wicked old queen was fast bound between twelve unbroken steeds, and each got his share of her. But the king took Snow-white and Rosy-red, and their three children, and the twelve princes; and so they all went home to their father and mother, and told all that had befallen them, and there was joy and gladness over the whole kingdom, because the princess was saved and set free, and because she had set free her twelve brothers.