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THERE was once a king's son who told his father that he wished to marry.
'No, no!' said the king ; 'you must not be in such a hurry. Wait till you have done some great deed. My father did not let me marry till I had won the golden sword you see me wear.'
The prince was much disappointed, but he never dreamed of disobeying his father, and he began to think with all his might what he could do. It was no use staying at home, so one day he wandered out into the world to try his luck, and as he walked along he came to a little hut in which he found an old woman crouching over the fire.
'Good evening, mother. I see you have lived long in this world ; do you know anything about the three bulrushes ?'
'Yes, indeed, I've lived long and been much about in the world, but I have never seen or heard anything of what you ask. Still, if you will wait till to-morrow I may be able to tell you something.'
Well, he waited till the morning, and quite early the old woman appeared and took out a little pipe and blew in it, and in a moment all the crows in the world were flying about her. Not one was missing. Then she asked if they knew anything about the three bulrushes, but not one of them did.
The prince went on his way, and a little further on he found another hut in which lived an old man. On being questioned the old man said he knew nothing, but begged the prince to stay overnight, and the next morning the old man called all the ravens together, but they too had nothing to tell.
The prince bade him farewell and set out. He wandered so far that he crossed seven kingdoms, and at last, one evening, he came to a little house in which was an old woman.
'Good evening, dear mother,' said he politely.
'Good evening to you, my dear son,' answered the old woman. 'It is lucky for you that you spoke to me or you would have met with a horrible death. But may I ask where are you going ?'
'I am seeking the three bulrushes. Do you know anything about them ?'
'I don't know anything myself, but wait till to-morrow. Perhaps I can tell you then.' So the next morning she blew on her pipe, and lo ! and behold every magpie in the world flew up. That is to say, all the magpies except one who had broken a leg and a wing. The old woman sent after it at once, and when she questioned the magpies the crippled one was the only one who knew where the three bulrushes were.
Then the prince started off with the lame magpie. They went on and on till they reached a great stone wall, many, many feet high.
'Now, prince,' said the magpie, 'the three bulrushes are behind that wall.'
The prince wasted no time. He set his horse at the wall and leaped over it. Then he looked about for the three bulrushes, pulled them up and set off with them on his way home. As he rode along one of the bulrushes happened to knock against something. It split open and, only think ! out sprang a lovely girl, who said : 'My heart's love, you are mine and I am yours ; do give me a glass of water.'
But how could the prince give it her when there was no water at hand ? So the lovely maiden flew away. He split the second bulrush as an experiment and just the same thing happened.
How careful he was of the third bulrush ! He waited till he came to a well, and there he split it open, and out sprang a maiden seven times lovelier than either of the others, and she too said : 'My heart's love, I am yours and you are mine; do give me a glass of water.'
This time the water was ready and the girl did not fly away, but she and the prince promised to love each other always. Then they set out for home.
They soon reached the prince's country, and as he wished to bring his promised bride back in a fine coach he went on to the town to fetch one. In the field where the well was, the king's swineherds and cowherds were feeding their droves, and the prince left Ilonka (for that was her name) in their care.
Unluckily the chief swineherd had an ugly old daughter, and whilst the prince was away he dressed her up in fine clothes, and threw Ilonka into the well.
The prince returned before long, bringing with him his father and mother and a great train of courtiers to escort Ilonka home. But how they all stared when they saw the swineherd's ugly daughter ! However, there was nothing for it but to take her home; and, two days later, the prince married her, and his father gave up the crown to him.
But he had no peace ! He knew very well he had been cheated, though he could not think how. Once he desired to have some water brought him from the well into which Ilonka had been thrown. The coachman went for it and, in the bucket he pulled up, a pretty little duck was swimming. He looked wonderingly at it, and all of a sudden it disappeared and he found a dirty looking girl standing near him. The girl returned with him and managed to get a place as housemaid in the palace.
Of course she was very busy all day long, but whenever she had a little spare time she sat down to spin, Her distaff turned of itself and her spindle span by itself and the flax wound itself off ; and however much she might use there was always plenty left.
When the queen—or, rather, the swineherd's daughter —heard of this, she very much wished to have the distaff, but the girl flatly refused to give it to her. However, at last she consented on condition that she might sleep one night in the king's room. The queen was very angry, and scolded her well; but as she longed to have the distaff she consented, though she gave the king a sleeping draught at supper.
Then the girl went to the king's room looking seven times lovelier than ever. She bent over the sleeper and said : 'My heart's love, I am yours and you are mine. Speak to me but once; I am your Ilonka.' But the king was so sound asleep he neither heard nor spoke, and Ilonka left the room, sadly thinking he was ashamed to own her.
Soon after the queen again sent to say that she wanted to buy the spindle. The girl agreed to let her have it on the same conditions as before; but this time, also, the queen took care to give the king a sleeping draught. And once more Ilonka went to the king's room and spoke to him ; whisper as sweetly as she might she could get no answer.
Now some of the king's servants had taken note of the matter, and warned their master not to eat and drink anything that the queen offered him, as for two nights running she had given him a sleeping draught. The queen had no idea that her doings had been discovered; and when, a few days later, she wanted the flax, and had to pay the same price for it, she felt no fears at all.
At supper that night the queen offered the king all sorts of nice things to eat and drink, but he declared he was not hungry, and went early to bed.
The queen repented bitterly her promise to the girl, but it was too late to recall it ; for Ilonka had already entered the king's room, where he lay anxiously waiting for something, he knew not what. All of a sudden he saw a lovely maiden who bent over him and said : 'My dearest love, I am yours and you are mine. Speak to me, for I am your Ilonka.'
At these words the king's heart bounded within him. He sprang up and embraced and kissed her, and she told him all her adventures since the moment he had left her. And when he heard all that Ilonka had suffered, and how he had been deceived, he vowed he would be revenged; so he gave orders that the swineherd, his wife and daughter should all be hanged ; and so they were.
The next day the king was married, with great rejoicings, to the fair Ilonka ; and if they are not yet dead—why, they are still living.
[From Ungarische Mährchen.]CHAPTER 2
ONCE upon a time there was a king who had an only son. When the lad was about eighteen years old his father had to go to fight in a war against a neighbouring country, and the king led his troops in person. He bade his son act as Regent in his absence, but ordered him on no account to marry till his return.
Time went by. The prince ruled the country and never even thought of marrying. But when he reached his twenty-fifth birthday he began to think that it might be rather nice to have a wife, and he thought so much that at last he got quite eager about it. He remembered, however, what his father had said, and waited some time longer, till at last it was ten years since the king went out to war. Then the prince called his courtiers about him and set off with a great retinue to seek a bride. He hardly knew which way to go, so he wandered about for twenty days, when, suddenly, he found himself in his father's camp.
The king was delighted to see his son, and had a great many questions to ask and answer; but when he heard that instead of quietly waiting for him at home the prince was starting off to seek a wife he was very angry, and said : 'You may go where you please but I will not leave any of my people with you.'
Only one faithful servant stayed with the prince and refused to part from him. They journeyed over hill and dale till they came to a place called Goldtown. The King of Goldtown had a lovely daughter, and the prince, who soon heard about her beauty, could not rest till he saw her.
He was very kindly received, for he was extremely good-looking and had charming manners, so he lost no time in asking for her hand and her parents gave her to him with joy. The wedding took place at once, and the feasting and rejoicings went on for a whole month. At the end of the month they set off for home, but as the journey was a long one they spent the first evening at an inn. Everyone in the house slept, and only the faithful servant kept watch. About midnight he heard three crows, who had flown to the roof, talking together.
'That's a handsome couple which arrived here to-night. It seems quite a pity they should lose their lives so soon.'
'Truly,' said the second crow ; 'for to-morrow, when midday strikes, the bridge over the Gold Stream will break just as they are driving over it. But, listen ! whoever overhears and tells what we have said will be turned to stone up to his knees.'
The crows had hardly done speaking when away they flew. And close upon them followed three pigeons.
'Even if the prince and princess get safe over the bridge they will perish,' said they ; 'for the king is going to send a carriage to meet them which looks as new as paint. But when they are seated in it a raging wind will rise and whirl the carriage away into the clouds. Then it will fall suddenly to earth, and they will be killed. But anyone who hears and betrays what we have said will be turned to stone up to his waist.'
With that the pigeons flew off and three eagles took their places, and this is what they said:
'If the young couple does manage to escape the dangers of the bridge and the carriage, the king means to send them each a splendid gold embroidered robe. When they put these on they will be burnt up at once. But whoever hears and repeats this will turn to stone from head to foot.'
Early next morning the travellers got up and breakfasted. They began to tell each other their dreams. At last the servant said :
'Gracious prince, I dreamt that if your Royal Highness would grant all I asked we should get home safe and sound ; but if you did not we should certainly be lost. My dreams never deceive me, so I entreat you to follow my advice during the rest of the journey.'
'Don't make such a fuss about a dream,' said the prince ; 'dreams are but clouds. Still, to prevent your being anxious I will promise to do as you wish.'
With that they set out on their journey.
At midday they reached the Gold Stream. When they got to the bridge the servant said : 'Let us leave the carriage here, my prince, and walk a little way. The town is not far off and we can easily get another carriage there, for the wheels of this one are bad and will not hold out much longer.'
The prince looked well at the carriage. He did not think it looked so unsafe as his servant said; but he had given his word and he held to it.
They got down and loaded the horses with the luggage. The prince and his bride walked over the bridge, but the servant said he would ride the horses through the stream so as to water and bathe them.
They reached the other side without harm, and bought a new carriage in the town, which was quite near, and set off once more on their travels ; but they had not gone far when they met a messenger from the king who said to the prince : 'His Majesty has sent your Royal Highness this beautiful carriage so that you may make a fitting entry into your own country and amongst your own people.'
The prince was so delighted that he could not speak. But the servant said : 'My lord, let me examine this carriage first and then you can get in if I find it is all right; otherwise we had better stay in our own.'
The prince made no objections, and after looking the carriage well over the servant said : 'It is as bad as it is smart' ; and with that he knocked it all to pieces, and they went on in the one that they had bought.
At last they reached the frontier ; there another messenger was waiting for them, who said that the king had sent two splendid robes for the prince and his bride, and begged that they would wear them for their state entry. But the servant implored the prince to have nothing to do with them, and never gave him any peace till he had obtained leave to destroy the robes.
The old king was furious when he found that all his arts had failed ; that his son still lived and that he would have to give up the crown to him now he was married, for that was the law of the land. He longed to know how the prince had escaped, and said : 'My dear son, I do indeed rejoice to have you safely back, but I cannot imagine why the beautiful carriage and the splendid robes I sent did not please you ; why you had them destroyed.'
'Indeed, sire,' said the prince, 'I was myself much annoyed at their destruction ; but my servant had begged to direct everything on the journey and I had promised him that he should do so. He declared that we could not possibly get home safely unless I did as he told me.'
The old king fell into a tremendous rage. He called his Council together and condemned the servant to death.
The gallows was put up in the square in front of the palace. The servant was led out and his sentence read to him.
The rope was being placed round his neck, when he begged to be allowed a few last words. 'On our journey home,' he said, 'we spent the first night at an inn. I did not sleep but kept watch all night.' And then he went on to tell what the crows had said, and as he spoke he turned to stone up to his knees. The prince called to him to say no more as he had proved his innocence. But the servant paid no heed to him, and by the time his story was done he had turned to stone from head to foot.
Oh! how grieved the prince was to lose his faithful servant! And what pained him most was the thought that he was lost through his very faithfulness, and he determined to travel all over the world and never rest till he found some means of restoring him to life.
Now there lived at Court an old woman who had been the prince's nurse. To her he confided all his plans, and left his wife, the princess, in her care. 'You have a long way before you, my son,' said the old woman ; 'you must never return till you have met with Lucky Luck. If he cannot help you no one on earth can.'
So the prince set off to try to find Lucky Luck. He walked and walked till he got beyond his own country, and he wandered through a wood for three days but did not meet a living being in it. At the end of the third day he came to a river near which stood a large mill. Here he spent the night. When he was leaving next morning the miller asked him : 'My gracious lord, where are you going all alone ?'
And the prince told him.
'Then I beg your Highness to ask Lucky Luck this question: Why is it that though I have an excellent mill, with all its machinery complete, and get plenty of grain to grind, I am so poor that I hardly know how to live from one day to another ?'
The prince promised to inquire, and went on his way. He wandered about for three days more, and at the end of the third day saw a little town. It was quite late when he reached it, but he could discover no light anywhere, and walked almost right through it without finding a house where he could turn in. But far away at the end of the town he saw a light in a window. He went straight to it and in the house were three girls playing a game together. The prince asked for a night's lodging and they took him in, gave him some supper and got a room ready for him, where he slept.
Next morning when he was leaving they asked where he was going and he told them his story. 'Gracious prince,' said the maidens, 'do ask Lucky Luck how it happens that here we are over thirty years old and no lover has come to woo us, though we are good, pretty, and very industrious.'
The prince promised to inquire, and went on his way.
Then he came to a great forest and wandered about in it from morning to night and from night to morning before he got near the other end. Here he found a pretty stream which was different from other streams as, instead of flowing, it stood still and began to talk : 'Sir prince, tell me what brings you into these wilds? I must have been flowing here a hundred years and more and no one has ever yet come by.'
Excerpted from THE CRIMSON FAIRY BOOK by Andrew Lang, H.J. Ford. Copyright © 1967 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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Posted June 14, 2007
I've read these 'color' fairy tale books out of order as a child, but that doesn't matter. In the end, the one who gains from it all is the reader since Andrew Lang had to do all of the hard work of collecting them into a readable and remarkable set of tales. Great learning for great children.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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