There was once a pretty princess. She was proud of her beauty and would marry only the handsomest prince of them all. Many princes came to ask her to marry them. However, she kept thinking there might be a better suitor out there, and that he might come if only she waited long enough. And therefore she drove the other suitors out of the city. Her parents despaired over it, for there was hardly any young prince left that she had not turned down.
One day one more visitor came. The princess sat with her mother in a nook when he was announced.
"Ah!" said the queen, "How I wish he may be one you dream of!"
A servant came and told this suitor demanded to see the princess at once. Such a demand irritated her a lot, but the queen persuaded her to get into in a hollow pillar in the great reception-hall. Through a little peephole among the decorations of it she might take a look at the suitor unknown to him.
The princess was dazzled with how well he looked, so when she met with her mother a little while later, she said:
"I think he might do."
The queen was glad to marry her off. As soon as the festivities were over, he seated his bride into a yellow coach and drove off with her. Many servants were following them on horseback. Away they rode for many days until they came to his palace. Inside it there was one high door that the prince never opened.
After some time the prince had to go on a lengthy journey. Before he left he gave his wife the keys of all the rooms in the palace, but not a key to the high door he never opened. She ventured to ask why she did not get any key to that door.
"Because no one passes through that door but myself," he said sternly.
This only whetted her curiosity. So when he was gone, she was trying the keys she had got. Then she saw there was no need of any key, for the door was unlocked and pushed open when she pushed it. Behind the door was the entrance to a long underground passage. From the opening at the far end of it there came some light..
The princess went into the passage and found out it was a way to a very warm place under the ground.
"It has to be hell," she said to herself and rushed upstairs to her own room and sat down to think how she could escape her husband. "My handsome husband must be a disguised devil," she thought. At that moment two pigeons in a cage reminded her what she could do, for her father had made her bring them with her, so now she could write him a note and tell what she had seen, and ask him to come and free her. She tied the note to one of the pigeons and let them fly away.
Her husband came back and looked as handsome as before. Meanwhile the pigeons speedily brought the note home to her parents' castle. The king and queen were having dinner on the terrace. With them sat a young stranger, Berthold. He was too sad to taste the food before him, for he was one of those the princess had rejected without wanting to see. The pigeons landed on the table before the king. They had lost many feathers. The young stranger's eye discovered that one of the pigeons carried a note. It was quickly opened and read.
"Oh, help! What can I do?" exclaimed the king.
"May I be of service?" asked Berthold.
"Yes, and she will be yours to marry if you can to save her.
"That must be her own decision, in case."
" Good wishes to you!" exclaimed the king and offered the stranger armed men and money to help him.
But young Berthold set out on foot all alone, for he did not know what castle the princess had been taken to, or what her husband might do to those who came to her rescue. He trusted his own good sense would guide him.
As he passed out of the castle enclosure he caught sight of white pigeon feathers. "The carrier-pigeons left a trail of lost feathers!" Three or more feathers have to show where to go, for they should have come here by a straight route. He searched for white feathers and in a little while had found four. They showed he had to go over steep precipices and wild forests. He carried on without losing courage. As he went on, he thought deeply about how he could fight her husband, who either lived above a volcano or hell.
When Berthold passed through a desolate, stony place, he saw a man crouching by the wayside, his ear close against the rock.
"What are you doing?" asked Berthold.
"I am listening to what is going on in a castle far away, where there is a sad princess," answered the man, "for my sense of hearing is so fine, it carries so far."
"Then come with me," said Berthold; "I will find work for you, and you will be well repaid."
So the man came with him.
A little farther on, Berthold met a man sitting on a ledge of the precipice. The man was sitting with his back to the road and gazed out into the far distance.
"What are you staring at?" asked Berthold.
"I am gazing into a castle far away. There is a princess in it. She wrings her hands so often," said the man. "My sight is so sharp that it carries as far as that."
"Then come along with me, and you will be well paid." said Berthold.
So the man joined the other two. After then had walked further, they saw a man who was amusing himself with lifting great boulders.
Berthold said to him:
"Come with me. I will pay you well."
The man joined him at once.
After some time they were at the edge of a steep hill, and Berthold was at a loss which way to go.
"See!" said the man with the sharp sight, "The castle lies down this steep and along that valley over there, and over that high mountain! But I fear it will take us three months to pass through that valley."
This was bad news, but Berthold was determined try to find a way somehow.
While they were looking about to find a path to descend by, they saw a great eagle soaring and uttering plaintive cries.
"I'll tell you why she does this," said the man with the sharp hearing. " I can hear the heart of an eaglet beating through the shell it is inside, but the egg has fallen down this ledge and it is too narrow for the mother eagle to get it out.
"Eagle," said Berthold, "if I take out your egg and give it to you, will you do something for me?"
"Yes, if I reasonably can!" said the eagle.
"Well, that is a hot, sunny ledge," said the prince; "your egg may not get hurt there till we come back – So will you take us on your back and fly us over the valley and mountain over there?" He pointed. "And when we have landed, will you wait some minutes for us until we come back, and then fly us all back to this place? Then I'll take your egg out of the fissure for you."
"Granted!" said the eagle; "Jump up, all of you."
They all got on the eagle's back, and it took only two or three hours to reach the castle. By that time night was falling on.
The man with the keen sight said:
"I see in the faint light of the glittering crystals in one room that he husband lies asleep there, and his wife sits on a stool by his side and weeps."
The man who heard well, said:
"I hear snoring and weeping.
Berthold asked the man who was great at lifting weights: "Do you think you can you lift that great door off its hinges without being heard?" He pointed at it.
"Done," answered the man a minute later. He had done it so quietly that Berthold was even not aware he had moved from the spot.
Berthold asked him again:
"Can you go up into that room and bring the lady down without the least noise? If you show her this token from her father, she will come with you."
The sharp-eyed man told the strong man just how he would have to go inside the house. But just as the nimble, strong man was about to start, the man with the sharp ears said:
"Stop! The husband turns in his bed!" So they all stood still in great fear that he would come at them, but after a while he was sleeping and snoring in bed again. Then the strong man went his way so skilfully that no one heard him go.
"Get up on the eagle's back," said Berthold to the other two, "so we are ready to start at once." The men took their places. They had hardly done so when the nimble, strong man came back carrying the princess. At a sign from Berthold he sprang with her on to the eagle's neck. The prince got up behind.
The eagle flew away with them while her husband was still sleeping and snoring. They could find their way in the light of the full moon that had risen. By daybreak they reached the spot where the eagle's egg had fallen. Berthold managed to get her egg up from the crevice it had fallen into and give it back to her. She was so grateful that she offered to fly them home too.
They gladly accepted, and reach home just as the king and queen were sitting down to breakfast.
There was a great rejoiced in the whole castle. The princess gladly married Berthold without any papers of divorce, and all his three helpers were given high offices at court.
The eagle was offered a gold cage and two attendants to wait on her, but she preferred to live on her own high mountain where she could stretch her wings. She did not really want any reward, she said, but accepted a lamb to carry home to her young.
When the husband in the castle far away woke up and found his wife missing, he would not look for her, for she had cried so much, and besides he did not want it to be known that a wife just could walk out on him from their bedroom. It was sort of humiliating.
"We will just keep quiet about it," he told his servants.
Those who want to heat up the fire must also endure the smoke. (Proverb from Trentino)