Brothers Grimm, Andersen Fairy tales and Russian Fairy Tales
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Table of Contents
Hansel and Gretel
The Emperor’s new clothes
The Frog Prince
The Ugly duckling
Red riding hood
The little Mermaid
Vasilissa the Fair
In former times, a rich man and his wife were the parents of a beautiful little daughter; but before she had arrived at womanhood, her dear mother fell sick, and seeing that death was near, she called her little 6child to her, and thus addressed her: “My child, always be good, and bear everything that occurs to you with patience; then, whatever toil and troubles you may suffer during life, happiness will be your lot in the end.”
After uttering these words the poor lady died, and her daughter was overwhelmed with grief at the loss of so good and kind a mother.
The father, too, was very unhappy; but he sought to get rid of his sorrow by marrying another wife; and he looked for some amiable lady who might be a second mother to his child, and a companion to himself. Unfortunately, his choice fell on a widow lady, of a proud and overbearing temper, who had two daughters by a former marriage, both as haughty and bad-tempered as herself.
Before marriage this woman had the cunning to conceal her bad qualities so well that she appeared to be very amiable; but the marriage was scarcely over when her real character showed itself. She could not endure her amiable step-daughter, with all her charming qualifications; for they only made her own daughters appear more hateful. She gave her the most degrading occupations, and compelled her to wash the dishes and clean the stairs, and to sweep her own rooms and those of her sisters-in-law. When the poor girl had finished her work, she used to sit in the chimney-corner amongst the cinders, which made her sisters give her the name of “Cinderella.” However, in her shabby clothes Cinderella was ten times handsomer than her sisters, let them be ever so magnificently dressed.
The poor girl slept in the garret, upon a wretched straw mattress, whilst the bed-chambers of her sisters were furnished with every luxury and elegance, and provided with mirrors, in which they could survey themselves from head to foot. The amiable creature bore this ill treatment with patience, and did not venture to complain to her father, who was so completely governed by his wife that he would only have scolded her.
It happened that the king’s son sent invitations to a ball, which was to last two nights, and to which all the great people of the land were invited, the two sisters among the rest. This delighted them extremely, and their thoughts were entirely occupied in selecting their most becoming dresses for the important occasion. Poor Cinderella had now 9more work to do than ever, as it was her business to iron their linen, and starch their ruffles. The sisters talked of nothing but preparations for the ball. The eldest said, “I shall wear my crimson-velvet dress, and point-lace;” and the younger, “I shall put on my usual dress-petticoat, a mantle embroidered with gold flowers, and a tiara of diamonds.“ They sent to engage the services of the most fashionable hairdresser. They also called Cinderella to their aid; for she had very good taste, and she offered, in the most amiable manner, to arrange their heads herself; of which offer they were only too happy to avail themselves. Whilst so occupied, the eldest said, “Cinderella, should you like to go to the ball?”
“Alas!” said she, “you are ridiculing me. I am not likely to go to the ball.”
“You are right,” replied the sister; “people would be amused to see a Cinderella there.”
If Cinderella had been at all unamiable she might have dressed their heads all awry, for such unkindness; but she returned good for evil, and did it in the best possible style.
The sisters were in such spirits they could scarcely eat for two days. All their time was spent before the looking-glass, and more than a dozen laces were broken in attempts to tighten their waists into elegant shapes.
At length the long-wished-for evening arrived, and these proud misses 11stepped into their carriage, and drove away to the palace.
Cinderella looked after the coach as far as she could see, and then returned to the kitchen in tears, where, for the first time, she bewailed her hard and cruel lot, little dreaming that a kind fairy was at the same moment watching over her. She continued sobbing in the chimney-corner until a rap at the door aroused her, and she got up to see what had caused it. She found a little old woman, hobbling on crutches, who besought her to give her some food.
“I have only part of my own supper for you, Goody, which is no better than a dry crust. But if you will step in and warm yourself by the fire, you can do so, and welcome.”
“Thank you, my dear,” said the old woman, in a feeble, croaking voice; and when she had hobbled in, and taken her seat by the fire, she continued, “Hey! dearee me! what are all these tears about, my child?”
And then Cinderella told her of all her griefs,—how her sisters had gone to the ball, and how she should like to have gone also.
“But you shall go,„ exclaimed her visitor, who was suddenly transformed into a beautiful fairy, “or I am not queen of the fairies, or your godmother. Dry up your tears, my dear goddaughter, and do as I bid you, and you shall have clothes and horses finer than any one.”
As Cinderella had often heard her father talk of her godmother, and tell her that she was one of those kind fairies who protect good children, her spirits revived, and she wiped away her tears.
The fairy took Cinderella by the hand, and said, “Now, my dear, go into the garden, and fetch me a pumpkin.”
Cinderella went immediately to gather the best she could find, and carried it to her godmother, though she could not guess how this pumpkin could make her go to the ball. Her godmother took the pumpkin and hollowed it out, leaving only the rind; she then struck it with her wand, and the pumpkin was immediately changed into a beautiful gilt coach. She next sent Cinderella for the mouse-trap, wherein were found six mice alive. She directed Cinderella to raise the door of the trap, and as each mouse came out she struck it with her wand, and it was immediately changed into a beautiful horse; so that she had now six splendid grays for her gilt coach.
The fairy was perplexed how to find a coachman, but Cinderella said, “I will go and see if there is a rat in the rat-trap; if there is, he will make a capital coachman.”
“You are right,” said the godmother; “go and see.” Cinderella brought the rat-trap, in which there were three large rats. The fairy selected one, on account of its beautiful whiskers, and, having touched it, it was changed into a fat coachman, with the finest pair of whiskers that ever were seen. She then said, “You must now go into the garden, where you will find six lizards, behind the watering-pot; bring them to me.” These were no sooner brought than the godmother changed them into six tall footmen, in handsome liveries, with cocked hats and gold-headed canes, who jumped up behind the coach just as if they had been accustomed to it all their lives.
The coachman and postilion having likewise taken their places, the fairy said to Cinderella, “Well, my dear girl, is not this as fine an equipage as you could desire, to go to the ball with? Tell me, now, are you pleased with it?”
“O yes, dear godmother,” replied Cinderella; and then, with a good deal of hesitation, she added, “but how can I make my appearance among so many finely-dressed people in these shabby clothes?”
“Give yourself no uneasiness about that, my dear. The most difficult part of our task is already accomplished, and it will be hard if I cannot make your dress correspond with your coach and servants.”
On saying this, the fairy touched Cinderella with her magic wand, and her clothes were instantly changed into a most magnificent ball-dress, ornamented with the most costly jewels. The fairy now took from her pocket a beautiful pair of elastic glass slippers, which she caused Cinderella to put on; and when she had thus completed her work, and Cinderella stood before her, arrayed in her beautiful clothes, the fairy was much pleased, and desired her to get into the carriage with all expedition, as the ball had already commenced. Two of the footmen then sprang and opened the carriage-door, and assisted Cinderella into it. Her godmother, however, before she took leave, strictly charged her on no account whatever to stay at the ball after the clock had struck the hour of midnight; and then added that if she stopped but a single moment beyond that time her fine coach would again become a gourd, her horses mice, her footmen lizards, and her old clothes resume their former appearance.
Cinderella promised faithfully to attend to everything that the fairy had mentioned; and then, quite overjoyed, gave the direction to the footman, who bawled out, in a loud voice, to the coachman, “To the royal palace!”
The coachman touched his prancing horses lightly with his whip, and swiftly the carriage started off, and in a short time reached the palace.
The arrival of so splendid an equipage as Cinderella’s could not fail to attract general notice at the palace gates, and as it drove up to the marble portico the servants, in great numbers, came out to see it.
The king’s son, to whom it was announced that an unknown princess had arrived, hastened to receive her. He handed her out of the carriage, and led her to the ball-room. Immediately she entered the dancing ceased, and the violins stopped playing; so much was every one struck with the extreme beauty of the unknown princess; and the only sound heard was that of admiration. The king, old as he was, could not take his eyes off her, and said, in a low voice to the queen, that he had not seen such a beautiful person for many years. All the ladies began examining her dress, that they might have similar ones the next evening, if it was possible to obtain equally rich stuffs, and work-people skilled enough to make them. The king’s son conducted her to the most distinguished place, and invited her to dance. She danced with such grace that everybody was in raptures with her; and when supper was served the prince could partake of nothing, so much was he occupied in contemplating the beauty of the fair stranger.
Seated close to her sisters, Cinderella showed them marked attention, and divided with them the oranges and citrons which the prince had given her; all of which surprised them greatly, as they did not recognize her.
When Cinderella saw that it wanted but a quarter of an hour of midnight she left as quickly as possible, making a low courtesy to all the company.
On reaching home she found her godmother there, thanked her for the delightful evening she had spent, and begged permission to go to the ball the following night, as the prince had desired her company. The fairy kindly granted her request, on condition that she would return before twelve. She then caused her clothes to resume their usual plainness, that her sisters might not know of her adventure.
Whilst Cinderella was occupied in relating all that had passed at the ball to her godmother, the two sisters knocked at the door, and as she went to open it for them the fairy disappeared. “O, how late you are in coming home,” said Cinderella, rubbing her eyes, as if just awakened.
“If you had been at the ball,” said one of the sisters, “you would not have been tired; for there was there the most beautiful princess that ever was seen, who paid us much attention, and gave us oranges and citrons.”
Cinderella could scarcely contain herself for joy. She asked the name of the princess, but they said it was not known, and that the king’s son was therefore much distressed, and would give anything he had to know who she could be.
Cinderella smiled, and said, “Was she, then, so very beautiful? Could not I see her? O, Javotte, do lend me your yellow dress, that you wear every day, that I may go to the ball, and have a peep at this wonderful princess!”
“Indeed,” said Javotte, “I am not so silly as to lend my dress to a wretched Cinderella like you.”
Cinderella expected this refusal, and was very glad of it; for she would have been greatly embarrassed if her sister had lent her the dress.
The next evening the sisters again went to the ball, and Cinderella soon made her appearance, more magnificently dressed than before. The king’s son was constantly at her side, saying the most agreeable things; so that Cinderella did not notice how the time passed, and had quite forgot her godmother’s injunctions. While she therefore thought it was scarcely eleven o’clock, she was startled by the first stroke of midnight. She rose very hastily, and fled as lightly as a fawn, the prince following, though he could not overtake her. In her flight she let one of her glass slippers fall, which the prince picked up with the greatest care.
Cinderella arrived at home out of breath, without carriage or servants, in her shabby clothes, and had nothing remaining of all her former magnificence except one of her little glass slippers,—the fellow of that she had lost.
Upon inquiry being made of the guards, at the palace gates, as to whether the princess25 had gone out, they replied that they had seen no one go out but a young girl, very poorly dressed, who looked more like a peasant than a fine lady.
When the two sisters returned from the ball Cinderella asked if they had enjoyed themselves, and if the beautiful lady had again been there. They told her that she had been there, but that when the clock struck twelve she had started off so quickly that she let one of her pretty glass slippers fall off; that the prince, who quickly followed her, had picked it up, and had done nothing but look at it all the rest of the evening; and that he was evidently very much in love with the beautiful creature to whom it belonged, and would spare no pains to find her.
This was indeed the case; for, a few days after, the prince caused it to be published, with the sound of trumpets, that he would marry the lady whose foot would exactly fit the slipper.26
So the slipper was first tried on by all the princesses, then by all the duchesses, and next by all the ladies belonging to the court; but in vain. It was then taken to the two sisters, who tried every possible way of getting their foot into it, but without success.
Cinderella, who was looking at them, and now recognized her slipper, said, laughingly, “Let me see if it will fit me.”
The sisters immediately began to laugh, and to ridicule her; but the gentleman who had been appointed to try on the slipper, having looked attentively at Cinderella, and finding her very pretty, said she was quite right in her request; for he was ordered to try it on to everybody.
He desired her to sit down, and at once found that the slipper would go on her foot, without any trouble, and, indeed, fitted her like wax.
The astonishment of the sisters was very great, but still greater when Cinderella drew from her pocket the fellow-slipper, and, to the great delight of the gentleman, placed it upon her other foot.
Her godmother now made her appearance, and, having touched Cinderella with her wand, she made her look even more magnificent than on either of the former occasions.
The sisters now recognized in Cinderella the beautiful person they had seen at the ball, and threw themselves at her feet, to implore forgiveness for all the ill-treatment they had shown her. Cinderella raised them up, and, embracing them, said she forgave them, with all her heart, their unkindness to her, and hoped that for the future they would be more kind in their behavior to every one about them. She told them she had never forgotten the last words of her mother, on her death-bed:—“My child, always be good, and bear with patience everything that occurs to you; then, whatever toils and troubles you may suffer during life, happiness will be your lot in the end.”
These words now proved to be true; for, having borne unkindness and cruelty with patience ever since her father’s second marriage, she was now going to be the wife of the king’s son.
Cinderella then explained the visit of her godmother, the queen of the fairies; and how her magic wand had furnished her with dresses, carriages, and attendants; and how, by forgetting the good fairy’s orders, she was obliged to quit the ball-room so suddenly; and how, in her haste, she lost her little glass slipper, and, for her disobedience, was deprived of all her fine clothes.
Cinderella being now betrothed to the prince, she was taken to the palace, dressed in all her splendor; and, being as amiable as she was beautiful, invited her sisters to live in the palace with her, where they were soon married to two great lords belonging to the court.
The prince thought Cinderella more beautiful than ever, and in a few days married her. She was most happy in the love of her husband, the esteem of the court, and the good-will of all who knew her.
A king and queen once upon a time reigned in a country a great way off, where there were in those days fairies. Now this king and queen had plenty of money, and plenty of fine clothes to wear, and plenty of good things to eat and drink, and a coach to ride out in every day: but though they had been married many years they had no children, and this grieved them very much indeed. But one day as the queen was walking by the side of the river, at the bottom of the garden, she saw a poor little fish, that had thrown itself out of the water, and lay gasping and nearly dead on the bank. Then the queen took pity on the little fish, and threw it back again into the river; and before it swam away it lifted its head out of the water and said, ‘I know what your wish is, and it shall be fulfilled, in return for your kindness to me—you will soon have a daughter.’ What the little fish had foretold soon came to pass; and the queen had a little girl, so very beautiful that the king could not cease looking on it for joy, and said he would hold a great feast and make merry, and show the child to all the land. So he asked his kinsmen, and nobles, and friends, and neighbours. But the queen said, ‘I will have the fairies also, that they might be kind and good to our little daughter.’ Now there were thirteen fairies in the kingdom; but as the king and queen had only twelve golden dishes for them to eat out of, they were forced to leave one of the fairies without asking her. So twelve fairies came, each with a high red cap on her head, and red shoes with high heels on her feet, and a long white wand in her hand: and after the feast was over they gathered round in a ring and gave all their best gifts to the little princess. One gave her goodness, another beauty, another riches, and so on till she had all that was good in the world.
Just as eleven of them had done blessing her, a great noise was heard in the courtyard, and word was brought that the thirteenth fairy was come, with a black cap on her head, and black shoes on her feet, and a broomstick in her hand: and presently up she came into the dining-hall. Now, as she had not been asked to the feast she was very angry, and scolded the king and queen very much, and set to work to take her revenge. So she cried out, ‘The king’s daughter shall, in her fifteenth year, be wounded by a spindle, and fall down dead.’ Then the twelfth of the friendly fairies, who had not yet given her gift, came forward, and said that the evil wish must be fulfilled, but that she could soften its mischief; so her gift was, that the king’s daughter, when the spindle wounded her, should not really die, but should only fall asleep for a hundred years.
However, the king hoped still to save his dear child altogether from the threatened evil; so he ordered that all the spindles in the kingdom should be bought up and burnt. But all the gifts of the first eleven fairies were in the meantime fulfilled; for the princess was so beautiful, and well behaved, and good, and wise, that everyone who knew her loved her.
It happened that, on the very day she was fifteen years old, the king and queen were not at home, and she was left alone in the palace. So she roved about by herself, and looked at all the rooms and chambers, till at last she came to an old tower, to which there was a narrow staircase ending with a little door. In the door there was a golden key, and when she turned it the door sprang open, and there sat an old lady spinning away very busily. ‘Why, how now, good mother,’ said the princess; ‘what are you doing there?’ ‘Spinning,’ said the old lady, and nodded her head, humming a tune, while buzz! went the wheel. ‘How prettily that little thing turns round!’ said the princess, and took the spindle and began to try and spin. But scarcely had she touched it, before the fairy’s prophecy was fulfilled; the spindle wounded her, and she fell down lifeless on the ground.
However, she was not dead, but had only fallen into a deep sleep; and the king and the queen, who had just come home, and all their court, fell asleep too; and the horses slept in the stables, and the dogs in the court, the pigeons on the house-top, and the very flies slept upon the walls. Even the fire on the hearth left off blazing, and went to sleep; the jack stopped, and the spit that was turning about with a goose upon it for the king’s dinner stood still; and the cook, who was at that moment pulling the kitchen-boy by the hair to give him a box on the ear for something he had done amiss, let him go, and both fell asleep; the butler, who was slyly tasting the ale, fell asleep with the jug at his lips: and thus everything stood still, and slept soundly.
A large hedge of thorns soon grew round the palace, and every year it became higher and thicker; till at last the old palace was surrounded and hidden, so that not even the roof or the chimneys could be seen. But there went a report through all the land of the beautiful sleeping Briar Rose (for so the king’s daughter was called): so that, from time to time, several kings’ sons came, and tried to break through the thicket into the palace. This, however, none of them could ever do; for the thorns and bushes laid hold of them, as it were with hands; and there they stuck fast, and died wretchedly.
After many, many years there came a king’s son into that land: and an old man told him the story of the thicket of thorns; and how a beautiful palace stood behind it, and how a wonderful princess, called Briar Rose, lay in it asleep, with all her court. He told, too, how he had heard from his grandfather that many, many princes had come, and had tried to break through the thicket, but that they had all stuck fast in it, and died. Then the young prince said, ‘All this shall not frighten me; I will go and see this Briar Rose.’ The old man tried to hinder him, but he was bent upon going.
Now that very day the hundred years were ended; and as the prince came to the thicket he saw nothing but beautiful flowering shrubs, through which he went with ease, and they shut in after him as thick as ever. Then he came at last to the palace, and there in the court lay the dogs asleep; and the horses were standing in the stables; and on the roof sat the pigeons fast asleep, with their heads under their wings. And when he came into the palace, the flies were sleeping on the walls; the spit was standing still; the butler had the jug of ale at his lips, going to drink a draught; the maid sat with a fowl in her lap ready to be plucked; and the cook in the kitchen was still holding up her hand, as if she was going to beat the boy.
Then he went on still farther, and all was so still that he could hear every breath he drew; till at last he came to the old tower, and opened the door of the little room in which Briar Rose was; and there she lay, fast asleep on a couch by the window. She looked so beautiful that he could not take his eyes off her, so he stooped down and gave her a kiss. But the moment he kissed her she opened her eyes and awoke, and smiled upon him; and they went out together; and soon the king and queen also awoke, and all the court, and gazed on each other with great wonder. And the horses shook themselves, and the dogs jumped up and barked; the pigeons took their heads from under their wings, and looked about and flew into the fields; the flies on the walls buzzed again; the fire in the kitchen blazed up; round went the jack, and round went the spit, with the goose for the king’s dinner upon it; the butler finished his draught of ale; the maid went on plucking the fowl; and the cook gave the boy the box on his ear.
And then the prince and Briar Rose were married, and the wedding feast was given; and they lived happily together all their lives long.
Hansel and Gretel
Hard by a great forest dwelt a poor wood-cutter with his wife and his two children. The boy was called Hansel and the girl Gretel. He had little to bite and to break, and once when great dearth fell on the land, he could no longer procure even daily bread. Now when he thought over this by night in his bed, and tossed about in his anxiety, he groaned and said to his wife: ‘What is to become of us? How are we to feed our poor children, when we no longer have anything even for ourselves?’ ‘I’ll tell you what, husband,’ answered the woman, ‘early tomorrow morning we will take the children out into the forest to where it is the thickest; there we will light a fire for them, and give each of them one more piece of bread, and then we will go to our work and leave them alone. They will not find the way home again, and we shall be rid of them.’ ‘No, wife,’ said the man, ‘I will not do that; how can I bear to leave my children alone in the forest?—the wild animals would soon come and tear them to pieces.’ ‘O, you fool!’ said she, ‘then we must all four die of hunger, you may as well plane the planks for our coffins,’ and she left him no peace until he consented. ‘But I feel very sorry for the poor children, all the same,’ said the man.
The two children had also not been able to sleep for hunger, and had heard what their stepmother had said to their father. Gretel wept bitter tears, and said to Hansel: ‘Now all is over with us.’ ‘Be quiet, Gretel,’ said Hansel, ‘do not distress yourself, I will soon find a way to help us.’ And when the old folks had fallen asleep, he got up, put on his little coat, opened the door below, and crept outside. The moon shone brightly, and the white pebbles which lay in front of the house glittered like real silver pennies. Hansel stooped and stuffed the little pocket of his coat with as many as he could get in. Then he went back and said to Gretel: ‘Be comforted, dear little sister, and sleep in peace, God will not forsake us,’ and he lay down again in his bed. When day dawned, but before the sun had risen, the woman came and awoke the two children, saying: ‘Get up, you sluggards! we are going into the forest to fetch wood.’ She gave each a little piece of bread, and said: ‘There is something for your dinner, but do not eat it up before then, for you will get nothing else.’ Gretel took the bread under her apron, as Hansel had the pebbles in his pocket. Then they all set out together on the way to the forest. When they had walked a short time, Hansel stood still and peeped back at the house, and did so again and again. His father said: ‘Hansel, what are you looking at there and staying behind for? Pay attention, and do not forget how to use your legs.’ ‘Ah, father,’ said Hansel, ‘I am looking at my little white cat, which is sitting up on the roof, and wants to say goodbye to me.’ The wife said: ‘Fool, that is not your little cat, that is the morning sun which is shining on the chimneys.’ Hansel, however, had not been looking back at the cat, but had been constantly throwing one of the white pebble-stones out of his pocket on the road.
When they had reached the middle of the forest, the father said: ‘Now, children, pile up some wood, and I will light a fire that you may not be cold.’ Hansel and Gretel gathered brushwood together, as high as a little hill. The brushwood was lighted, and when the flames were burning very high, the woman said: ‘Now, children, lay yourselves down by the fire and rest, we will go into the forest and cut some wood. When we have done, we will come back and fetch you away.’
Hansel and Gretel sat by the fire, and when noon came, each ate a little piece of bread, and as they heard the strokes of the wood-axe they believed that their father was near. It was not the axe, however, but a branch which he had fastened to a withered tree which the wind was blowing backwards and forwards. And as they had been sitting such a long time, their eyes closed with fatigue, and they fell fast asleep. When at last they awoke, it was already dark night. Gretel began to cry and said: ‘How are we to get out of the forest now?’ But Hansel comforted her and said: ‘Just wait a little, until the moon has risen, and then we will soon find the way.’ And when the full moon had risen, Hansel took his little sister by the hand, and followed the pebbles which shone like newly-coined silver pieces, and showed them the way.
They walked the whole night long, and by break of day came once more to their father’s house. They knocked at the door, and when the woman opened it and saw that it was Hansel and Gretel, she said: ‘You naughty children, why have you slept so long in the forest?—we thought you were never coming back at all!’ The father, however, rejoiced, for it had cut him to the heart to leave them behind alone.
Not long afterwards, there was once more great dearth throughout the land, and the children heard their mother saying at night to their father: ‘Everything is eaten again, we have one half loaf left, and that is the end. The children must go, we will take them farther into the wood, so that they will not find their way out again; there is no other means of saving ourselves!’ The man’s heart was heavy, and he thought: ‘It would be better for you to share the last mouthful with your children.’ The woman, however, would listen to nothing that he had to say, but scolded and reproached him. He who says A must say B, likewise, and as he had yielded the first time, he had to do so a second time also.
The children, however, were still awake and had heard the conversation. When the old folks were asleep, Hansel again got up, and wanted to go out and pick up pebbles as he had done before, but the woman had locked the door, and Hansel could not get out. Nevertheless he comforted his little sister, and said: ‘Do not cry, Gretel, go to sleep quietly, the good God will help us.’
Early in the morning came the woman, and took the children out of their beds. Their piece of bread was given to them, but it was still smaller than the time before. On the way into the forest Hansel crumbled his in his pocket, and often stood still and threw a morsel on the ground. ‘Hansel, why do you stop and look round?’ said the father, ‘go on.’ ‘I am looking back at my little pigeon which is sitting on the roof, and wants to say goodbye to me,’ answered Hansel. ‘Fool!’ said the woman, ‘that is not your little pigeon, that is the morning sun that is shining on the chimney.’ Hansel, however little by little, threw all the crumbs on the path.
The woman led the children still deeper into the forest, where they had never in their lives been before. Then a great fire was again made, and the mother said: ‘Just sit there, you children, and when you are tired you may sleep a little; we are going into the forest to cut wood, and in the evening when we are done, we will come and fetch you away.’ When it was noon, Gretel shared her piece of bread with Hansel, who had scattered his by the way. Then they fell asleep and evening passed, but no one came to the poor children. They did not awake until it was dark night, and Hansel comforted his little sister and said: ‘Just wait, Gretel, until the moon rises, and then we shall see the crumbs of bread which I have strewn about, they will show us our way home again.’ When the moon came they set out, but they found no crumbs, for the many thousands of birds which fly about in the woods and fields had picked them all up. Hansel said to Gretel: ‘We shall soon find the way,’ but they did not find it. They walked the whole night and all the next day too from morning till evening, but they did not get out of the forest, and were very hungry, for they had nothing to eat but two or three berries, which grew on the ground. And as they were so weary that their legs would carry them no longer, they lay down beneath a tree and fell asleep.
It was now three mornings since they had left their father’s house. They began to walk again, but they always came deeper into the forest, and if help did not come soon, they must die of hunger and weariness. When it was mid-day, they saw a beautiful snow-white bird sitting on a bough, which sang so delightfully that they stood still and listened to it. And when its song was over, it spread its wings and flew away before them, and they followed it until they reached a little house, on the roof of which it alighted; and when they approached the little house they saw that it was built of bread and covered with cakes, but that the windows were of clear sugar. ‘We will set to work on that,’ said Hansel, ‘and have a good meal. I will eat a bit of the roof, and you Gretel, can eat some of the window, it will taste sweet.’ Hansel reached up above, and broke off a little of the roof to try how it tasted, and Gretel leant against the window and nibbled at the panes. Then a soft voice cried from the parlour:
'Nibble, nibble, gnaw,
Who is nibbling at my little house?'
The children answered:
'The wind, the wind,
The heaven-born wind,'
and went on eating without disturbing themselves. Hansel, who liked the taste of the roof, tore down a great piece of it, and Gretel pushed out the whole of one round window-pane, sat down, and enjoyed herself with it. Suddenly the door opened, and a woman as old as the hills, who supported herself on crutches, came creeping out. Hansel and Gretel were so terribly frightened that they let fall what they had in their hands. The old woman, however, nodded her head, and said: ‘Oh, you dear children, who has brought you here? do come in, and stay with me. No harm shall happen to you.’ She took them both by the hand, and led them into her little house. Then good food was set before them, milk and pancakes, with sugar, apples, and nuts. Afterwards two pretty little beds were covered with clean white linen, and Hansel and Gretel lay down in them, and thought they were in heaven.
The old woman had only pretended to be so kind; she was in reality a wicked witch, who lay in wait for children, and had only built the little house of bread in order to entice them there. When a child fell into her power, she killed it, cooked and ate it, and that was a feast day with her. Witches have red eyes, and cannot see far, but they have a keen scent like the beasts, and are aware when human beings draw near. When Hansel and Gretel came into her neighbourhood, she laughed with malice, and said mockingly: ‘I have them, they shall not escape me again!’ Early in the morning before the children were awake, she was already up, and when she saw both of them sleeping and looking so pretty, with their plump and rosy cheeks she muttered to herself: ‘That will be a dainty mouthful!’ Then she seized Hansel with her shrivelled hand, carried him into a little stable, and locked him in behind a grated door. Scream as he might, it would not help him. Then she went to Gretel, shook her till she awoke, and cried: ‘Get up, lazy thing, fetch some water, and cook something good for your brother, he is in the stable outside, and is to be made fat. When he is fat, I will eat him.’ Gretel began to weep bitterly, but it was all in vain, for she was forced to do what the wicked witch commanded.
And now the best food was cooked for poor Hansel, but Gretel got nothing but crab-shells. Every morning the woman crept to the little stable, and cried: ‘Hansel, stretch out your finger that I may feel if you will soon be fat.’ Hansel, however, stretched out a little bone to her, and the old woman, who had dim eyes, could not see it, and thought it was Hansel’s finger, and was astonished that there was no way of fattening him. When four weeks had gone by, and Hansel still remained thin, she was seized with impatience and would not wait any longer. ‘Now, then, Gretel,’ she cried to the girl, ‘stir yourself, and bring some water. Let Hansel be fat or lean, tomorrow I will kill him, and cook him.’ Ah, how the poor little sister did lament when she had to fetch the water, and how her tears did flow down her cheeks! ‘Dear God, do help us,’ she cried. ‘If the wild beasts in the forest had but devoured us, we should at any rate have died together.’ ‘Just keep your noise to yourself,’ said the old woman, ‘it won’t help you at all.’
Early in the morning, Gretel had to go out and hang up the cauldron with the water, and light the fire. ‘We will bake first,’ said the old woman, ‘I have already heated the oven, and kneaded the dough.’ She pushed poor Gretel out to the oven, from which flames of fire were already darting. ‘Creep in,’ said the witch, ‘and see if it is properly heated, so that we can put the bread in.’ And once Gretel was inside, she intended to shut the oven and let her bake in it, and then she would eat her, too. But Gretel saw what she had in mind, and said: ‘I do not know how I am to do it; how do I get in?’ ‘Silly goose,’ said the old woman. ‘The door is big enough; just look, I can get in myself!’ and she crept up and thrust her head into the oven. Then Gretel gave her a push that drove her far into it, and shut the iron door, and fastened the bolt. Oh! then she began to howl quite horribly, but Gretel ran away and the godless witch was miserably burnt to death.
Gretel, however, ran like lightning to Hansel, opened his little stable, and cried: ‘Hansel, we are saved! The old witch is dead!’ Then Hansel sprang like a bird from its cage when the door is opened. How they did rejoice and embrace each other, and dance about and kiss each other! And as they had no longer any need to fear her, they went into the witch’s house, and in every corner there stood chests full of pearls and jewels. ‘These are far better than pebbles!’ said Hansel, and thrust into his pockets whatever could be got in, and Gretel said: ‘I, too, will take something home with me,’ and filled her pinafore full. ‘But now we must be off,’ said Hansel, ‘that we may get out of the witch’s forest.’
When they had walked for two hours, they came to a great stretch of water. ‘We cannot cross,’ said Hansel, ‘I see no foot-plank, and no bridge.’ ‘And there is also no ferry,’ answered Gretel, ‘but a white duck is swimming there: if I ask her, she will help us over.’ Then she cried:
'Little duck, little duck, dost thou see,
Hansel and Gretel are waiting for thee?
There's never a plank, or bridge in sight,
Take us across on thy back so white.'
The duck came to them, and Hansel seated himself on its back, and told his sister to sit by him. ‘No,’ replied Gretel, ‘that will be too heavy for the little duck; she shall take us across, one after the other.’ The good little duck did so, and when they were once safely across and had walked for a short time, the forest seemed to be more and more familiar to them, and at length they saw from afar their father’s house. Then they began to run, rushed into the parlour, and threw themselves round their father’s neck. The man had not known one happy hour since he had left the children in the forest; the woman, however, was dead. Gretel emptied her pinafore until pearls and precious stones ran about the room, and Hansel threw one handful after another out of his pocket to add to them. Then all anxiety was at an end, and they lived together in perfect happiness. My tale is done, there runs a mouse; whosoever catches it, may make himself a big fur cap out of it.
Once upon a time there was a king who had a great forest near his castle, full of all kinds of wild animals. One day he sent out a huntsman to shoot a deer, but the huntsman did not come back again.
“Perhaps he has had an accident,” said the king, and the following day he sent out two other huntsmen who were to search for him, but they did not return either. Then on the third day, he summoned all his huntsmen, and said, “Search through the whole forest, and do not give up until you have found all three.”
But none of these came home again either, nor were any of the hounds from the pack that they had taken with them ever seen again.
From that time on, no one dared to go into these woods, and they lay there in deep quiet and solitude, and all that one saw from there was an occasional eagle or hawk flying overhead.
This lasted for many years, when an unknown huntsman presented himself to the king seeking a position, and he volunteered to go into the dangerous woods.
The king, however, did not want to give his permission, and said, “It is haunted in there. I am afraid that you will do no better than did the others, and that you will never come out again.”
The huntsman answered, “Sir, I will proceed at my own risk. I know nothing of fear.”
The huntsman therefore set forth with his dog into the woods. It was not long before the dog picked up a scent and wanted to follow it, but the dog had run only a few steps when it came to a deep pool, and could go no further. Then a naked arm reached out of the water, seized the dog, and pulled it under.
When the huntsman saw that, he went back and got three men. They returned with buckets and baled out the water. When they could see to the bottom, there was a wild man lying there. His body was brown like rusty iron, and his hair hung over his face down to his knees. They bound him with cords and led him away to the castle.
Everyone was greatly astonished at the wild man. The king had him put into an iron cage in his courtyard, forbidding, on pain of death, that the cage door be opened. The queen herself was to safeguard the key.
From this time forth everyone could once again go safely into the woods.
The king had a son of eight years. One day he was playing in the courtyard, and during his game his golden ball fell into the cage.
The boy ran to the cage and said, “Give me my ball.”
“Not until you have opened the door for me,” answered the man.
“No,” said the boy, “I will not do that. The king has forbidden it,” and he ran away.
The next day he came again and demanded his ball.
The wild man said, “Open my door,” but the boy would not do so.
On the third day the king had ridden out hunting, and the boy went once more and said, “Even if I wanted to, I could not open the door. I do not have the key.”
Then the wild man said, “It is under your mother’s pillow. You can get it there.”
The boy, who wanted to have his ball back, threw all caution to the wind, and got the key. The door opened with difficulty, and the boy pinched his finger. When it was open, the wild man stepped out, gave him the golden ball, and hurried away.
The boy became afraid. He cried out and called after him, “Oh, wild man, do not go away, or I shall get a beating.”
The wild man turned around, picked him up, set him on his shoulders, and ran into the woods.
When the king came home he noticed the empty cage and asked the queen how it had happened. She knew nothing about it, and looked for the key, but it was gone. She called the boy, but no one answered.
The king sent out people to look for him in the field, but they did not find him. Then he could easily guess what had happened, and great sorrow ruled at the royal court.
After the wild man had once more reached the dark woods, he set the boy down from his shoulders, and said to him, “You will never again see your father and mother, but I will keep you with me, for you have set me free, and I have compassion for you. If you do what I tell you, it will go well with you. I have enough treasures and gold, more than anyone in the world.”
He made a bed of moss for the boy, upon which he fell asleep. The next morning the man took him to a spring and said, “Look, this golden spring is as bright and clear as crystal. You shall sit beside it, and take care that nothing falls into it, otherwise it will be polluted. I shall come every evening to see if you have obeyed my order.”
The boy sat down at the edge of the spring, and saw how sometimes a golden fish and sometimes a golden snake appeared from within, and took care that nothing fell into it. As he was thus sitting there, his finger hurt him so fiercely that he involuntarily put it into the water. He quickly pulled it out again, but saw that it was completely covered with gold. However hard he tried to wipe the gold off again, it was to no avail.
That evening Iron Hans came back, looked at the boy, and said, “What has happened to the spring?”
“Nothing, nothing,” he answered, holding his finger behind his back, so the man would not be able to see it.
But the man said, “You have dipped your finger into the water. This time I will let it go, but be careful that you do not again let anything else fall in.”
Very early the next morning the boy was already sitting by the spring and keeping watch. His finger hurt him again, and he rubbed it across his head. Then unfortunately a hair fell down into the spring. He quickly pulled it out, but it was already completely covered with gold.
Iron Hans came, and already knew what had happened. “You have let a hair fall into the spring,” he said. “I will overlook this once more, but if it happens a third time then the spring will be polluted, and you will no longer be able to stay with me.”
On the third day the boy sat by the spring and did not move his finger, however much it hurt him. But time passed slowly for him, and he looked at the reflection of his face in the water. While doing this he bent down lower and lower, wanting to look straight into his eyes, when his long hair fell from his shoulders down into the water. He quickly straightened himself up, but all the hair on his head was already covered with gold, and glistened like the sun. You can imagine how frightened the poor boy was. He took his handkerchief and tied it around his head, so that the man would not be able to see his hair.
When the man came, he already knew everything, and said, “Untie the handkerchief.”
The golden hair streamed forth, and no excuse that the boy could offer was of any use.
“You have failed the test, and you can stay here no longer. Go out into the world. There you will learn what poverty is. But because you are not bad at heart, and because I mean well by you, I will grant you one thing: If you are ever in need, go into the woods and cry out, ‘Iron Hans,’ and then I will come and help you. My power is great, greater than you think, and I have more than enough gold and silver.”
Then the prince left the woods, and walked by beaten and unbeaten paths on and on until at last he reached a great city. There he looked for work, but he was not able to find any, because he had not learned a trade by which he could make a living. Finally he went to the castle and asked if they would take him in.
The people at court did not at all know how they would be able to use him, but they took a liking to him, and told him to stay. Finally the cook took him into service, saying that he could carry wood and water, and rake up the ashes.
Once when no one else was at hand, the cook ordered him to carry the food to the royal table. Because he did not want them to see his golden hair, he kept his cap on. Nothing like this had ever before happened to the king, and he said, “When you approach the royal table you must take your hat off.”
“Oh, sir,” he answered, “I cannot. I have an ugly scab on my head.”
Then the king summoned the cook and scolded him, asking him how he could take such a boy into his service. The cook was to send him away at once. However, the cook had pity on him, and let him trade places with gardener’s boy.
Now the boy had to plant and water the garden, hoe and dig, and put up with the wind and bad weather.
Once in summer when he was working alone in the garden, the day was so hot that he took his hat off so that the air would cool him. As the sun shone on his hair it glistened and sparkled. The rays fell into the princess’s bedroom, and she jumped up to see what it was.
She saw the boy and called out to him, “Boy, bring me a bouquet of flowers.”
He quickly put on his cap, picked some wildflowers, and tied them together.
As he was climbing the steps with them, the gardener met him and said, “How can you take the princess a bouquet of such common flowers? Quick! Go and get some other ones, and choose only the most beautiful and the rarest ones.”
“Oh, no,” replied the boy, the wild ones have a stronger scent, and she will like them better.”
When he got into the room, the princess said, “Take your cap off. It is not polite to keep it on in my presence.”
He again responded, “I cannot do that. I have a scabby head.”
She, however, took hold of his cap and pulled it off. His golden hair rolled down onto his shoulders, and it was a magnificent sight. He wanted to run away, but she held him by his arm, and gave him a handful of ducats. He went away with them, but he did not care about the gold.
He took the gold pieces to the gardener, saying, “I am giving these things to your children for them to play with.”
The next day the princess called to him again, asking him to bring her a bouquet of wildflowers. When he went in with it, she immediately grabbed at his cap, and wanted to take it away from him, but he held it firmly with both hands. She again gave him a handful of ducats. He did not want to keep them, giving them instead to the gardener for his children to play with. On the third day it was no different. She was not able to take his cap away from him, and he did not want her gold.
Not long afterwards, the country was overrun by war. The king gathered together his people, not knowing whether or not fight back against the enemy, who was more powerful and had a large army.
Then the gardener’s boy said, “I am grown up, and I want to go to war as well. Just give me a horse.”
The others laughed and said, “After we have left, then look for one by yourself. We will leave one behind for you in the stable.”
After they had left, he went into the stable, and led the horse out. It had a lame foot, and it limped higgledy-hop, higgledy-hop.
Nevertheless he mounted it, and rode away into the dark woods. When he came to the edge of the woods, he called “Iron Hans” three times so loudly that it sounded through the trees.
The wild man appeared immediately, and said, “What do you need?”
“I need a strong steed, for I am going to war.”
“That you shall have, and even more than you are asking for.”
Then the wild man went back into the woods, and before long a stable-boy came out of the woods leading a horse. It was snorting with its nostrils, and could hardly be restrained. Behind them followed a large army of warriors, outfitted with iron armor, and with their swords flashing in the sun.
The youth left his three-legged horse with the stable-boy, mounted the other horse, and rode at the head of the army. When he approached the battlefield, a large number of the king’s men had already fallen, and before long the others would have to retreat. Then the youth galloped up with his iron army and attacked the enemies like a storm, beating down all who opposed him. They tried to flee, but the youth was right behind them, and did not stop, until not a single man was left.
However, instead of returning to the king, he led his army on a roundabout way back into the woods, and then called for Iron Hans.
“What do you need?” asked the wild man.
“Take back your steed and your army, and give me my three-legged horse again.”
It all happened just as he had requested, and he rode home on his three-legged horse.
When the king returned to his castle, his daughter went to meet him, and congratulated him for his victory.
“I am not the one who earned the victory,” he said, “but a strange knight who came to my aid with his army.”
The daughter wanted to hear who the strange knight was, but the king did not know, and said, “He pursued the enemy, and I did not see him again.”
She asked the gardener where his boy was, but he laughed and said, “He has just come home on his three-legged horse. The others have been making fun of him and shouting, ‘Here comes our higgledy-hop back again.’ They also asked him, ‘Under what hedge have you been lying asleep all this time?’ But he said, ‘I did better than anyone else. Without me it would have gone badly.’ And then they laughed at him all the more.”
The king said to his daughter, “I will proclaim a great festival. It shall last for three days, and you shall throw a golden apple. Perhaps the unknown knight will come.”
When the festival was announced, the youth went out into the woods and called Iron Hans.
“What do you need?” he asked.
“To catch the princess’s golden apple.”
“It is as good as done,” said Iron Hans. “And further, you shall have a suit of red armor and ride on a spirited chestnut horse.”
When the day came, the youth galloped up, took his place among the knights, and was recognized by no one. The princess came forward and threw a golden apple to the knights. He was the only one who caught it, and as soon as he had it, he galloped away.
On the second day Iron Hans had outfitted him as a white knight, and had given him a white horse. Again he was the only one who caught the apple. Without lingering an instant, he galloped away with it.
The king grew angry and said, “That is not allowed. He must appear before me and tell me his name.”
He gave the order that if the knight who caught the apple, were to go away again, they should pursue him, and if he would not come back willingly, they were to strike and stab at him.
On the third day, he received from Iron Hans a suit of black armor and a black horse, and he caught the apple again. But when he was galloping away with it, the king’s men pursued him, and one of them got so close to him that he wounded the youth’s leg with the point of his sword. In spite of this he escaped from them, but his horse jumped so violently that his helmet fell from his head, and they could see that he had golden hair. They rode back and reported everything to the king.
The next day the princess asked the gardener about his boy.
“He is at work in the garden. The strange fellow has been at the festival too. He came home only yesterday evening. And furthermore, he showed my children three golden apples that he had won.”
The king had him summoned, and he appeared, again with his cap on his head. But the princess went up to him and took it off. His golden hair fell down over his shoulders, and he was so handsome that everyone was amazed.
“Are you the knight who came to the festival every day, each time in a different color, and who caught the three golden apples?” asked the king.
“Yes,” he answered, “and here are the apples,” taking them out of his pocket, and returning them to the king. “If you need more proof, you can see the wound that your men gave me when they were chasing me. But I am also the knight who helped you to your victory over your enemies.”
“If you can perform deeds like these then you are not a gardener’s boy. Tell me, who is your father?”
“My father is a powerful king, and I have as much gold as I might need.”
“I can see,” said the king, “that I owe you thanks. Can I do anything for you?”
“Yes,” he answered. “You can indeed. Give me your daughter for my wife.”
The maiden laughed and said, “He does not care much for ceremony, but I already had seen from his golden hair that he was not a gardener’s boy,” and then she went and kissed him.
His father and mother came to the wedding, and were filled with joy, for they had given up all hope of ever seeing their dear son again.
While they sitting at the wedding feast, the music suddenly stopped, the doors opened, and a proud king came in with a great retinue. He walked up to the youth, embraced him, and said, “I am Iron Hans. I had been transformed into a wild man by a magic spell, but you have broken the spell. All the treasures that I possess shall belong to you.”
The Emperors New Clothes
Many years ago there was an Emperor, who was so excessively fond of new clothes that he spent all his money on them. He cared nothing about his soldiers, nor for the theatre, nor for driving in the woods except for the sake of showing off his new clothes. He had a costume for every hour in the day, and instead of saying, as one does about any other king or emperor, ‘He is in his council chamber,’ here one always said, ‘The Emperor is in his dressing-room.’
Life was very gay in the great town where he lived; hosts of strangers came to visit it every day, and among them one day two swindlers. They gave themselves out as weavers, and said that they knew how to weave the most beautiful stuffs imaginable. Not only were the colours and patterns unusually fine, but the clothes that were made of the stuffs had the peculiar quality of becoming invisible to every person who was not fit for the office he held, or if he was impossibly dull.
‘Those must be splendid clothes,’ thought the Emperor. ‘By wearing them I should be able to discover which men in my kingdom are unfitted for their posts. I shall distinguish the wise men from the fools. Yes, I certainly must order some of that stuff to be woven for me.’
He paid the two swindlers a lot of money in advance so that they might begin their work at once.
They did put up two looms and pretended to weave, but they had nothing whatever upon their shuttles. At the outset they asked for a quantity of the finest silk and the purest gold thread, all of which they put into their own bags, while they worked away at the empty looms far into the night.
‘I should like to know how those weavers are getting on with the stuff,’ thought the Emperor; but he felt a little queer when he reflected that any one who was stupid or unfit for his post would not be able to see it. He certainly thought that he need have no fears for himself, but still he thought he would send somebody else first to see how it was getting on. Everybody in the town knew what wonderful power the stuff possessed, and every one was anxious to see how stupid his neighbour was.
‘I will send my faithful old minister to the weavers,’ thought the Emperor. ‘He will be best able to see how the stuff looks, for he is a clever man, and no one fulfils his duties better than he does!’
So the good old minister went into the room where the two swindlers sat working at the empty loom.
‘Heaven preserve us!’ thought the old minister, opening his eyes very wide. ‘Why, I can’t see a thing!’ But he took care not to say so.
Both the swindlers begged him to be good enough to step a little nearer, and asked if he did not think it a good pattern and beautiful colouring. They pointed to the empty loom, and the poor old minister stared as hard as he could, but he could not see anything, for of course there was nothing to see.
‘Good heavens!’ thought he, ‘is it possible that I am a fool. I have never thought so, and nobody must know it. Am I not fit for my post? It will never do to say that I cannot see the stuffs.’
‘Well, sir, you don’t say anything about the stuff,’ said the one who was pretending to weave.
‘Oh, it is beautiful! quite charming!’ said the old minister, looking through his spectacles; ‘this pattern and these colours! I will certainly tell the Emperor that the stuff pleases me very much.’
‘We are delighted to hear you say so,’ said the swindlers, and then they named all the colours and described the peculiar pattern. The old minister paid great attention to what they said, so as to be able to repeat it when he got home to the Emperor.
They pointed to the empty loom, and the poor old minister stared as hard as he could, but he could not see anything, for of course there was nothing to see.
Then the swindlers went on to demand more money, more silk, and more gold, to be able to proceed with the weaving; but they put it all into their own pockets—not a single strand was ever put into the loom, but they went on as before weaving at the empty loom.
The Emperor soon sent another faithful official to see how the stuff was getting on, and if it would soon be ready. The same thing happened to him as to the minister; he looked and looked, but as there was only the empty loom, he could see nothing at all.
‘Is not this a beautiful piece of stuff?’ said both the swindlers, showing and explaining the beautiful pattern and colours which were not there to be seen.
‘I know I am not a fool!’ thought the man, ‘so it must be that I am unfit for my good post! It is very strange, though! However, one must not let it appear!’ So he praised the stuff he did not see, and assured them of his delight in the beautiful colours and the originality of the design. ‘It is absolutely charming!’ he said to the Emperor. Everybody in the town was talking about this splendid stuff.
Now the Emperor thought he would like to see it while it was still on the loom. So, accompanied by a number of selected courtiers, among whom were the two faithful officials who had already seen the imaginary stuff, he went to visit the crafty impostors, who were working away as hard as ever they could at the empty loom.
‘It is magnificent!’ said both the honest officials. ‘Only see, your Majesty, what a design! What colours!’ And they pointed to the empty loom, for they thought no doubt the others could see the stuff.
‘What!’ thought the Emperor; ‘I see nothing at all! This is terrible! Am I a fool? Am I not fit to be Emperor? Why, nothing worse could happen to me!’
‘Oh, it is beautiful!’ said the Emperor. ‘It has my highest approval!’ and he nodded his satisfaction as he gazed at the empty loom. Nothing would induce him to say that he could not see anything.
The whole suite gazed and gazed, but saw nothing more than all the others. However, they all exclaimed with his Majesty, ‘It is very beautiful!’ and they advised him to wear a suit made of this wonderful cloth on the occasion of a great procession which was just about to take place. ‘It is magnificent! gorgeous! excellent!’ went from mouth to mouth; they were all equally delighted with it. The Emperor gave each of the rogues an order of knighthood to be worn in their buttonholes and the title of ‘Gentlemen weavers.’
Then the emperor walked along in the procession under the gorgeous canopy, and everybody in the streets and at the windows exclaimed, ‘How beautiful the Emperor’s new clothes are!’
The swindlers sat up the whole night, before the day on which the procession was to take place, burning sixteen candles; so that people might see how anxious they were to get the Emperor’s new clothes ready. They pretended to take the stuff off the loom. They cut it out in the air with a huge pair of scissors, and they stitched away with needles without any thread in them. At last they said: ‘Now the Emperor’s new clothes are ready!’
The Emperor, with his grandest courtiers, went to them himself, and both the swindlers raised one arm in the air, as if they were holding something, and said: ‘See, these are the trousers, this is the coat, here is the mantle!’ and so on. ‘It is as light as a spider’s web. One might think one had nothing on, but that is the very beauty of it!’
‘Yes!’ said all the courtiers, but they could not see anything, for there was nothing to see.
‘Will your imperial majesty be graciously pleased to take off your clothes,’ said, the impostors, ‘so that we may put on the new ones, along here before the great mirror?’
The Emperor took off all his clothes, and the impostors pretended to give him one article of dress after the other of the new ones which they had pretended to make. They pretended to fasten something round his waist and to tie on something; this was the train, and the Emperor turned round and round in front of the mirror.
‘How well his majesty looks in the new clothes! How becoming they are!’ cried all the people round. ‘What a design, and what colours! They are most gorgeous robes!’
‘The canopy is waiting outside which is to be carried over your majesty in the procession,’ said the master of the ceremonies.
‘Well, I am quite ready,’ said the Emperor. ‘Don’t the clothes fit well?’ and then he turned round again in front of the mirror, so that he should seem to be looking at his grand things.
The chamberlains who were to carry the train stooped and pretended to lift it from the ground with both hands, and they walked along with their hands in the air. They dared not let it appear that they could not see anything.
Then the Emperor walked along in the procession under the gorgeous canopy, and everybody in the streets and at the windows exclaimed, ‘How beautiful the Emperor’s new clothes are! What a splendid train! And they fit to perfection!’ Nobody would let it appear that he could see nothing, for then he would not be fit for his post, or else he was a fool.
None of the Emperor’s clothes had been so successful before.
‘But he has got nothing on,’ said a little child.
‘Oh, listen to the innocent,’ said its father; and one person whispered to the other what the child had said. ‘He has nothing on; a child says he has nothing on!’
‘But he has nothing on!’ at last cried all the people.
The Emperor writhed, for he knew it was true, but he thought ‘the procession must go on now,’ so held himself stiffer than ever, and the chamberlains held up the invisible train.
By the side of a wood, in a country a long way off, ran a fine stream of water; and upon the stream there stood a mill. The miller’s house was close by, and the miller, you must know, had a very beautiful daughter. She was, moreover, very shrewd and clever; and the miller was so proud of her, that he one day told the king of the land, who used to come and hunt in the wood, that his daughter could spin gold out of straw. Now this king was very fond of money; and when he heard the miller’s boast his greediness was raised, and he sent for the girl to be brought before him. Then he led her to a chamber in his palace where there was a great heap of straw, and gave her a spinning-wheel, and said, ‘All this must be spun into gold before morning, as you love your life.’ It was in vain that the poor maiden said that it was only a silly boast of her father, for that she could do no such thing as spin straw into gold: the chamber door was locked, and she was left alone.
She sat down in one corner of the room, and began to bewail her hard fate; when on a sudden the door opened, and a droll-looking little man hobbled in, and said, ‘Good morrow to you, my good lass; what are you weeping for?’ ‘Alas!’ said she, ‘I must spin this straw into gold, and I know not how.’ ‘What will you give me,’ said the hobgoblin, ‘to do it for you?’ ‘My necklace,’ replied the maiden. He took her at her word, and sat himself down to the wheel, and whistled and sang:
'Round about, round about,
Lo and behold!
Reel away, reel away,
Straw into gold!'
And round about the wheel went merrily; the work was quickly done, and the straw was all spun into gold.
When the king came and saw this, he was greatly astonished and pleased; but his heart grew still more greedy of gain, and he shut up the poor miller’s daughter again with a fresh task. Then she knew not what to do, and sat down once more to weep; but the dwarf soon opened the door, and said, ‘What will you give me to do your task?’ ‘The ring on my finger,’ said she. So her little friend took the ring, and began to work at the wheel again, and whistled and sang:
'Round about, round about,
Lo and behold!
Reel away, reel away,
Straw into gold!'
till, long before morning, all was done again.
The king was greatly delighted to see all this glittering treasure; but still he had not enough: so he took the miller’s daughter to a yet larger heap, and said, ‘All this must be spun tonight; and if it is, you shall be my queen.’ As soon as she was alone that dwarf came in, and said, ‘What will you give me to spin gold for you this third time?’ ‘I have nothing left,’ said she. ‘Then say you will give me,’ said the little man, ‘the first little child that you may have when you are queen.’ ‘That may never be,’ thought the miller’s daughter: and as she knew no other way to get her task done, she said she would do what he asked. Round went the wheel again to the old song, and the manikin once more spun the heap into gold. The king came in the morning, and, finding all he wanted, was forced to keep his word; so he married the miller’s daughter, and she really became queen.
At the birth of her first little child she was very glad, and forgot the dwarf, and what she had said. But one day he came into her room, where she was sitting playing with her baby, and put her in mind of it. Then she grieved sorely at her misfortune, and said she would give him all the wealth of the kingdom if he would let her off, but in vain; till at last her tears softened him, and he said, ‘I will give you three days’ grace, and if during that time you tell me my name, you shall keep your child.’
Now the queen lay awake all night, thinking of all the odd names that she had ever heard; and she sent messengers all over the land to find out new ones. The next day the little man came, and she began with TIMOTHY, ICHABOD, BENJAMIN, JEREMIAH, and all the names she could remember; but to all and each of them he said, ‘Madam, that is not my name.’
The second day she began with all the comical names she could hear of, BANDY-LEGS, HUNCHBACK, CROOK-SHANKS, and so on; but the little gentleman still said to every one of them, ‘Madam, that is not my name.’
The third day one of the messengers came back, and said, ‘I have travelled two days without hearing of any other names; but yesterday, as I was climbing a high hill, among the trees of the forest where the fox and the hare bid each other good night, I saw a little hut; and before the hut burnt a fire; and round about the fire a funny little dwarf was dancing upon one leg, and singing:
'"Merrily the feast I'll make.
Today I'll brew, tomorrow bake;
Merrily I'll dance and sing,
For next day will a stranger bring.
Little does my lady dream
Rumpelstiltskin is my name!"'
When the queen heard this she jumped for joy, and as soon as her little friend came she sat down upon her throne, and called all her court round to enjoy the fun; and the nurse stood by her side with the baby in her arms, as if it was quite ready to be given up. Then the little man began to chuckle at the thought of having the poor child, to take home with him to his hut in the woods; and he cried out, ‘Now, lady, what is my name?’ ‘Is it JOHN?’ asked she. ‘No, madam!’ ‘Is it TOM?’ ‘No, madam!’ ‘Is it JEMMY?’ ‘It is not.’ ‘Can your name be RUMPELSTILTSKIN?’ said the lady slyly. ‘Some witch told you that!—some witch told you that!’ cried the little man, and dashed his right foot in a rage so deep into the floor, that he was forced to lay hold of it with both hands to pull it out.
Then he made the best of his way off, while the nurse laughed and the baby crowed; and all the court jeered at him for having had so much trouble for nothing, and said, ‘We wish you a very good morning, and a merry feast, Mr RUMPLESTILTSKIN!’
A poor woodman sat in his cottage one night, smoking his pipe by the fireside, while his wife sat by his side spinning. ‘How lonely it is, wife,’ said he, as he puffed out a long curl of smoke, ‘for you and me to sit here by ourselves, without any children to play about and amuse us while other people seem so happy and merry with their children!’ ‘What you say is very true,’ said the wife, sighing, and turning round her wheel; ‘how happy should I be if I had but one child! If it were ever so small—nay, if it were no bigger than my thumb—I should be very happy, and love it dearly.’ Now—odd as you may think it—it came to pass that this good woman’s wish was fulfilled, just in the very way she had wished it; for, not long afterwards, she had a little boy, who was quite healthy and strong, but was not much bigger than my thumb. So they said, ‘Well, we cannot say we have not got what we wished for, and, little as he is, we will love him dearly.’ And they called him Thomas Thumb.
They gave him plenty of food, yet for all they could do he never grew bigger, but kept just the same size as he had been when he was born. Still, his eyes were sharp and sparkling, and he soon showed himself to be a clever little fellow, who always knew well what he was about.
One day, as the woodman was getting ready to go into the wood to cut fuel, he said, ‘I wish I had someone to bring the cart after me, for I want to make haste.’ ‘Oh, father,’ cried Tom, ‘I will take care of that; the cart shall be in the wood by the time you want it.’ Then the woodman laughed, and said, ‘How can that be? you cannot reach up to the horse’s bridle.’ ‘Never mind that, father,’ said Tom; ‘if my mother will only harness the horse, I will get into his ear and tell him which way to go.’ ‘Well,’ said the father, ‘we will try for once.’
When the time came the mother harnessed the horse to the cart, and put Tom into his ear; and as he sat there the little man told the beast how to go, crying out, ‘Go on!’ and ‘Stop!’ as he wanted: and thus the horse went on just as well as if the woodman had driven it himself into the wood. It happened that as the horse was going a little too fast, and Tom was calling out, ‘Gently! gently!’ two strangers came up. ‘What an odd thing that is!’ said one: ‘there is a cart going along, and I hear a carter talking to the horse, but yet I can see no one.’ ‘That is queer, indeed,’ said the other; ‘let us follow the cart, and see where it goes.’ So they went on into the wood, till at last they came to the place where the woodman was. Then Tom Thumb, seeing his father, cried out, ‘See, father, here I am with the cart, all right and safe! now take me down!’ So his father took hold of the horse with one hand, and with the other took his son out of the horse’s ear, and put him down upon a straw, where he sat as merry as you please.
The two strangers were all this time looking on, and did not know what to say for wonder. At last one took the other aside, and said, ‘That little urchin will make our fortune, if we can get him, and carry him about from town to town as a show; we must buy him.’ So they went up to the woodman, and asked him what he would take for the little man. ‘He will be better off,’ said they, ‘with us than with you.’ ‘I won’t sell him at all,’ said the father; ‘my own flesh and blood is dearer to me than all the silver and gold in the world.’ But Tom, hearing of the bargain they wanted to make, crept up his father’s coat to his shoulder and whispered in his ear, ‘Take the money, father, and let them have me; I’ll soon come back to you.’
So the woodman at last said he would sell Tom to the strangers for a large piece of gold, and they paid the price. ‘Where would you like to sit?’ said one of them. ‘Oh, put me on the rim of your hat; that will be a nice gallery for me; I can walk about there and see the country as we go along.’ So they did as he wished; and when Tom had taken leave of his father they took him away with them.
They journeyed on till it began to be dusky, and then the little man said, ‘Let me get down, I’m tired.’ So the man took off his hat, and put him down on a clod of earth, in a ploughed field by the side of the road. But Tom ran about amongst the furrows, and at last slipped into an old mouse-hole. ‘Good night, my masters!’ said he, ‘I’m off! mind and look sharp after me the next time.’ Then they ran at once to the place, and poked the ends of their sticks into the mouse-hole, but all in vain; Tom only crawled farther and farther in; and at last it became quite dark, so that they were forced to go their way without their prize, as sulky as could be.
When Tom found they were gone, he came out of his hiding-place. ‘What dangerous walking it is,’ said he, ‘in this ploughed field! If I were to fall from one of these great clods, I should undoubtedly break my neck.’ At last, by good luck, he found a large empty snail-shell. ‘This is lucky,’ said he, ‘I can sleep here very well’; and in he crept.
Just as he was falling asleep, he heard two men passing by, chatting together; and one said to the other, ‘How can we rob that rich parson’s house of his silver and gold?’ ‘I’ll tell you!’ cried Tom. ‘What noise was that?’ said the thief, frightened; ‘I’m sure I heard someone speak.’ They stood still listening, and Tom said, ‘Take me with you, and I’ll soon show you how to get the parson’s money.’ ‘But where are you?’ said they. ‘Look about on the ground,’ answered he, ‘and listen where the sound comes from.’ At last the thieves found him out, and lifted him up in their hands. ‘You little urchin!’ they said, ‘what can you do for us?’ ‘Why, I can get between the iron window-bars of the parson’s house, and throw you out whatever you want.’ ‘That’s a good thought,’ said the thieves; ‘come along, we shall see what you can do.’
When they came to the parson’s house, Tom slipped through the window-bars into the room, and then called out as loud as he could bawl, ‘Will you have all that is here?’ At this the thieves were frightened, and said, ‘Softly, softly! Speak low, that you may not awaken anybody.’ But Tom seemed as if he did not understand them, and bawled out again, ‘How much will you have? Shall I throw it all out?’ Now the cook lay in the next room; and hearing a noise she raised herself up in her bed and listened. Meantime the thieves were frightened, and ran off a little way; but at last they plucked up their hearts, and said, ‘The little urchin is only trying to make fools of us.’ So they came back and whispered softly to him, saying, ‘Now let us have no more of your roguish jokes; but throw us out some of the money.’ Then Tom called out as loud as he could, ‘Very well! hold your hands! here it comes.’
The cook heard this quite plain, so she sprang out of bed, and ran to open the door. The thieves ran off as if a wolf was at their tails: and the maid, having groped about and found nothing, went away for a light. By the time she came back, Tom had slipped off into the barn; and when she had looked about and searched every hole and corner, and found nobody, she went to bed, thinking she must have been dreaming with her eyes open.
The little man crawled about in the hay-loft, and at last found a snug place to finish his night’s rest in; so he laid himself down, meaning to sleep till daylight, and then find his way home to his father and mother. But alas! how woefully he was undone! what crosses and sorrows happen to us all in this world! The cook got up early, before daybreak, to feed the cows; and going straight to the hay-loft, carried away a large bundle of hay, with the little man in the middle of it, fast asleep. He still, however, slept on, and did not awake till he found himself in the mouth of the cow; for the cook had put the hay into the cow’s rick, and the cow had taken Tom up in a mouthful of it. ‘Good lack-a-day!’ said he, ‘how came I to tumble into the mill?’ But he soon found out where he really was; and was forced to have all his wits about him, that he might not get between the cow’s teeth, and so be crushed to death. At last down he went into her stomach. ‘It is rather dark,’ said he; ‘they forgot to build windows in this room to let the sun in; a candle would be no bad thing.’
Though he made the best of his bad luck, he did not like his quarters at all; and the worst of it was, that more and more hay was always coming down, and the space left for him became smaller and smaller. At last he cried out as loud as he could, ‘Don’t bring me any more hay! Don’t bring me any more hay!’
The maid happened to be just then milking the cow; and hearing someone speak, but seeing nobody, and yet being quite sure it was the same voice that she had heard in the night, she was so frightened that she fell off her stool, and overset the milk-pail. As soon as she could pick herself up out of the dirt, she ran off as fast as she could to her master the parson, and said, ‘Sir, sir, the cow is talking!’ But the parson said, ‘Woman, thou art surely mad!’ However, he went with her into the cow-house, to try and see what was the matter.
Scarcely had they set foot on the threshold, when Tom called out, ‘Don’t bring me any more hay!’ Then the parson himself was frightened; and thinking the cow was surely bewitched, told his man to kill her on the spot. So the cow was killed, and cut up; and the stomach, in which Tom lay, was thrown out upon a dunghill.
Tom soon set himself to work to get out, which was not a very easy task; but at last, just as he had made room to get his head out, fresh ill-luck befell him. A hungry wolf sprang out, and swallowed up the whole stomach, with Tom in it, at one gulp, and ran away.
Tom, however, was still not disheartened; and thinking the wolf would not dislike having some chat with him as he was going along, he called out, ‘My good friend, I can show you a famous treat.’ ‘Where’s that?’ said the wolf. ‘In such and such a house,’ said Tom, describing his own father’s house. ‘You can crawl through the drain into the kitchen and then into the pantry, and there you will find cakes, ham, beef, cold chicken, roast pig, apple-dumplings, and everything that your heart can wish.’
The wolf did not want to be asked twice; so that very night he went to the house and crawled through the drain into the kitchen, and then into the pantry, and ate and drank there to his heart’s content. As soon as he had had enough he wanted to get away; but he had eaten so much that he could not go out by the same way he came in.
This was just what Tom had reckoned upon; and now he began to set up a great shout, making all the noise he could. ‘Will you be easy?’ said the wolf; ‘you’ll awaken everybody in the house if you make such a clatter.’ ‘What’s that to me?’ said the little man; ‘you have had your frolic, now I’ve a mind to be merry myself’; and he began, singing and shouting as loud as he could.
The woodman and his wife, being awakened by the noise, peeped through a crack in the door; but when they saw a wolf was there, you may well suppose that they were sadly frightened; and the woodman ran for his axe, and gave his wife a scythe. ‘Do you stay behind,’ said the woodman, ‘and when I have knocked him on the head you must rip him up with the scythe.’ Tom heard all this, and cried out, ‘Father, father! I am here, the wolf has swallowed me.’ And his father said, ‘Heaven be praised! we have found our dear child again’; and he told his wife not to use the scythe for fear she should hurt him. Then he aimed a great blow, and struck the wolf on the head, and killed him on the spot! and when he was dead they cut open his body, and set Tommy free. ‘Ah!’ said the father, ‘what fears we have had for you!’ ‘Yes, father,’ answered he; ‘I have travelled all over the world, I think, in one way or other, since we parted; and now I am very glad to come home and get fresh air again.’ ‘Why, where have you been?’ said his father. ‘I have been in a mouse-hole—and in a snail-shell—and down a cow’s throat—and in the wolf’s belly; and yet here I am again, safe and sound.’
‘Well,’ said they, ‘you are come back, and we will not sell you again for all the riches in the world.’
Then they hugged and kissed their dear little son, and gave him plenty to eat and drink, for he was very hungry; and then they fetched new clothes for him, for his old ones had been quite spoiled on his journey. So Master Thumb stayed at home with his father and mother, in peace; for though he had been so great a traveller, and had done and seen so many fine things, and was fond enough of telling the whole story, he always agreed that, after all, there’s no place like HOME!
There were once a man and a woman who had long in vain wished for a child. At length the woman hoped that God was about to grant her desire. These people had a little window at the back of their house from which a splendid garden could be seen, which was full of the most beautiful flowers and herbs. It was, however, surrounded by a high wall, and no one dared to go into it because it belonged to an enchantress, who had great power and was dreaded by all the world. One day the woman was standing by this window and looking down into the garden, when she saw a bed which was planted with the most beautiful rampion (rapunzel), and it looked so fresh and green that she longed for it, she quite pined away, and began to look pale and miserable. Then her husband was alarmed, and asked: ‘What ails you, dear wife?’ ‘Ah,’ she replied, ‘if I can’t eat some of the rampion, which is in the garden behind our house, I shall die.’ The man, who loved her, thought: ‘Sooner than let your wife die, bring her some of the rampion yourself, let it cost what it will.’ At twilight, he clambered down over the wall into the garden of the enchantress, hastily clutched a handful of rampion, and took it to his wife. She at once made herself a salad of it, and ate it greedily. It tasted so good to her—so very good, that the next day she longed for it three times as much as before. If he was to have any rest, her husband must once more descend into the garden. In the gloom of evening therefore, he let himself down again; but when he had clambered down the wall he was terribly afraid, for he saw the enchantress standing before him. ‘How can you dare,’ said she with angry look, ‘descend into my garden and steal my rampion like a thief? You shall suffer for it!’ ‘Ah,’ answered he, ‘let mercy take the place of justice, I only made up my mind to do it out of necessity. My wife saw your rampion from the window, and felt such a longing for it that she would have died if she had not got some to eat.’ Then the enchantress allowed her anger to be softened, and said to him: ‘If the case be as you say, I will allow you to take away with you as much rampion as you will, only I make one condition, you must give me the child which your wife will bring into the world; it shall be well treated, and I will care for it like a mother.’ The man in his terror consented to everything, and when the woman was brought to bed, the enchantress appeared at once, gave the child the name of Rapunzel, and took it away with her.
Rapunzel grew into the most beautiful child under the sun. When she was twelve years old, the enchantress shut her into a tower, which lay in a forest, and had neither stairs nor door, but quite at the top was a little window. When the enchantress wanted to go in, she placed herself beneath it and cried:
Let down your hair to me.'
Rapunzel had magnificent long hair, fine as spun gold, and when she heard the voice of the enchantress she unfastened her braided tresses, wound them round one of the hooks of the window above, and then the hair fell twenty ells down, and the enchantress climbed up by it.
After a year or two, it came to pass that the king’s son rode through the forest and passed by the tower. Then he heard a song, which was so charming that he stood still and listened. This was Rapunzel, who in her solitude passed her time in letting her sweet voice resound. The king’s son wanted to climb up to her, and looked for the door of the tower, but none was to be found. He rode home, but the singing had so deeply touched his heart, that every day he went out into the forest and listened to it. Once when he was thus standing behind a tree, he saw that an enchantress came there, and he heard how she cried:
Let down your hair to me.'
Then Rapunzel let down the braids of her hair, and the enchantress climbed up to her. ‘If that is the ladder by which one mounts, I too will try my fortune,’ said he, and the next day when it began to grow dark, he went to the tower and cried:
Let down your hair to me.'
Immediately the hair fell down and the king’s son climbed up.
At first Rapunzel was terribly frightened when a man, such as her eyes had never yet beheld, came to her; but the king’s son began to talk to her quite like a friend, and told her that his heart had been so stirred that it had let him have no rest, and he had been forced to see her. Then Rapunzel lost her fear, and when he asked her if she would take him for her husband, and she saw that he was young and handsome, she thought: ‘He will love me more than old Dame Gothel does’; and she said yes, and laid her hand in his. She said: ‘I will willingly go away with you, but I do not know how to get down. Bring with you a skein of silk every time that you come, and I will weave a ladder with it, and when that is ready I will descend, and you will take me on your horse.’ They agreed that until that time he should come to her every evening, for the old woman came by day. The enchantress remarked nothing of this, until once Rapunzel said to her: ‘Tell me, Dame Gothel, how it happens that you are so much heavier for me to draw up than the young king’s son—he is with me in a moment.’ ‘Ah! you wicked child,’ cried the enchantress. ‘What do I hear you say! I thought I had separated you from all the world, and yet you have deceived me!’ In her anger she clutched Rapunzel’s beautiful tresses, wrapped them twice round her left hand, seized a pair of scissors with the right, and snip, snap, they were cut off, and the lovely braids lay on the ground. And she was so pitiless that she took poor Rapunzel into a desert where she had to live in great grief and misery.
On the same day that she cast out Rapunzel, however, the enchantress fastened the braids of hair, which she had cut off, to the hook of the window, and when the king’s son came and cried:
Let down your hair to me.'
she let the hair down. The king’s son ascended, but instead of finding his dearest Rapunzel, he found the enchantress, who gazed at him with wicked and venomous looks. ‘Aha!’ she cried mockingly, ‘you would fetch your dearest, but the beautiful bird sits no longer singing in the nest; the cat has got it, and will scratch out your eyes as well. Rapunzel is lost to you; you will never see her again.’ The king’s son was beside himself with pain, and in his despair he leapt down from the tower. He escaped with his life, but the thorns into which he fell pierced his eyes. Then he wandered quite blind about the forest, ate nothing but roots and berries, and did naught but lament and weep over the loss of his dearest wife. Thus he roamed about in misery for some years, and at length came to the desert where Rapunzel, with the twins to which she had given birth, a boy and a girl, lived in wretchedness. He heard a voice, and it seemed so familiar to him that he went towards it, and when he approached, Rapunzel knew him and fell on his neck and wept. Two of her tears wetted his eyes and they grew clear again, and he could see with them as before. He led her to his kingdom where he was joyfully received, and they lived for a long time afterwards, happy and contented.
The Frog Prince
One fine evening a young princess put on her bonnet and clogs, and went out to take a walk by herself in a wood; and when she came to a cool spring of water, that rose in the midst of it, she sat herself down to rest a while. Now she had a golden ball in her hand, which was her favourite plaything; and she was always tossing it up into the air, and catching it again as it fell. After a time she threw it up so high that she missed catching it as it fell; and the ball bounded away, and rolled along upon the ground, till at last it fell down into the spring. The princess looked into the spring after her ball, but it was very deep, so deep that she could not see the bottom of it. Then she began to bewail her loss, and said, ‘Alas! if I could only get my ball again, I would give all my fine clothes and jewels, and everything that I have in the world.’
Whilst she was speaking, a frog put its head out of the water, and said, ‘Princess, why do you weep so bitterly?’ ‘Alas!’ said she, ‘what can you do for me, you nasty frog? My golden ball has fallen into the spring.’ The frog said, ‘I want not your pearls, and jewels, and fine clothes; but if you will love me, and let me live with you and eat from off your golden plate, and sleep upon your bed, I will bring you your ball again.’ ‘What nonsense,’ thought the princess, ‘this silly frog is talking! He can never even get out of the spring to visit me, though he may be able to get my ball for me, and therefore I will tell him he shall have what he asks.’ So she said to the frog, ‘Well, if you will bring me my ball, I will do all you ask.’ Then the frog put his head down, and dived deep under the water; and after a little while he came up again, with the ball in his mouth, and threw it on the edge of the spring. As soon as the young princess saw her ball, she ran to pick it up; and she was so overjoyed to have it in her hand again, that she never thought of the frog, but ran home with it as fast as she could. The frog called after her, ‘Stay, princess, and take me with you as you said,’ But she did not stop to hear a word.
The next day, just as the princess had sat down to dinner, she heard a strange noise—tap, tap—plash, plash—as if something was coming up the marble staircase: and soon afterwards there was a gentle knock at the door, and a little voice cried out and said:
'Open the door, my princess dear,
Open the door to thy true love here!
And mind the words that thou and I said
By the fountain cool, in the greenwood shade.'
Then the princess ran to the door and opened it, and there she saw the frog, whom she had quite forgotten. At this sight she was sadly frightened, and shutting the door as fast as she could came back to her seat. The king, her father, seeing that something had frightened her, asked her what was the matter. ‘There is a nasty frog,’ said she, ‘at the door, that lifted my ball for me out of the spring this morning: I told him that he should live with me here, thinking that he could never get out of the spring; but there he is at the door, and he wants to come in.’
While she was speaking the frog knocked again at the door, and said:
'Open the door, my princess dear,
Open the door to thy true love here!
And mind the words that thou and I said
By the fountain cool, in the greenwood shade.'
Then the king said to the young princess, ‘As you have given your word you must keep it; so go and let him in.’ She did so, and the frog hopped into the room, and then straight on—tap, tap—plash, plash—from the bottom of the room to the top, till he came up close to the table where the princess sat. ‘Pray lift me upon chair,’ said he to the princess, ‘and let me sit next to you.’ As soon as she had done this, the frog said, ‘Put your plate nearer to me, that I may eat out of it.’ This she did, and when he had eaten as much as he could, he said, ‘Now I am tired; carry me upstairs, and put me into your bed.’ And the princess, though very unwilling, took him up in her hand, and put him upon the pillow of her own bed, where he slept all night long. As soon as it was light he jumped up, hopped downstairs, and went out of the house. ‘Now, then,’ thought the princess, ‘at last he is gone, and I shall be troubled with him no more.’
But she was mistaken; for when night came again she heard the same tapping at the door; and the frog came once more, and said:
'Open the door, my princess dear,
Open the door to thy true love here!
And mind the words that thou and I said
By the fountain cool, in the greenwood shade.'
And when the princess opened the door the frog came in, and slept upon her pillow as before, till the morning broke. And the third night he did the same. But when the princess awoke on the following morning she was astonished to see, instead of the frog, a handsome prince, gazing on her with the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen, and standing at the head of her bed.
He told her that he had been enchanted by a spiteful fairy, who had changed him into a frog; and that he had been fated so to abide till some princess should take him out of the spring, and let him eat from her plate, and sleep upon her bed for three nights. ‘You,’ said the prince, ‘have broken his cruel charm, and now I have nothing to wish for but that you should go with me into my father’s kingdom, where I will marry you, and love you as long as you live.’
The young princess, you may be sure, was not long in saying ‘Yes’ to all this; and as they spoke a gay coach drove up, with eight beautiful horses, decked with plumes of feathers and a golden harness; and behind the coach rode the prince’s servant, faithful Heinrich, who had bewailed the misfortunes of his dear master during his enchantment so long and so bitterly, that his heart had well-nigh burst.
They then took leave of the king, and got into the coach with eight horses, and all set out, full of joy and merriment, for the prince’s kingdom, which they reached safely; and there they lived happily a great many years.
The Ugly Duckling
IT was so beautiful in the country. It was the summer time. The wheat fields were golden, the oats were green, and the hay stood in great stacks in the green meadows. The stork paraded about among them on his long red legs, chattering away in Egyptian, the language he had learned from his lady mother.
All around the meadows and cornfields grew thick woods, and in the midst of the forest was a deep lake. Yes, it was beautiful, it was delightful in the country.
In a sunny spot stood a pleasant old farmhouse circled all about with deep canals; and from the walls down to the water’s edge grew great burdocks, so high that under the tallest of them a little child might stand upright. The spot was as wild as if it had been in the very center of the thick wood.
In this snug retreat sat a duck upon her nest, watching for her young brood to hatch; but the pleasure she had felt at first was almost gone; she had begun to think it a wearisome task, for the little ones were so long coming out of their shells, and she seldom had visitors. The other ducks liked much better to swim about in the canals than to climb the slippery banks and sit under the burdock leaves to have a gossip with her. It was a long time to stay so much by herself.
At length, however, one shell cracked, and soon another, and from each came a living creature that lifted its head and cried “Peep, peep.”
“Quack, quack!” said the mother; and then they all tried to say it, too, as well as they could, while they looked all about them on every side at the tall green leaves. Their mother allowed them to look about as much as they liked, because green is good for the eyes.
“What a great world it is, to be sure,” said the little ones, when they found how much more room they had than when they were in the eggshell.
“Is this all the world, do you imagine?” said the mother. “Wait till you have seen the garden. Far beyond that it stretches down to the pastor’s field, though I have never ventured to such a distance. Are you all out?” she continued, rising to look. “No, not all; the largest egg lies there yet, I declare. I wonder how long this business is to last. I’m really beginning to be tired of it;” but for all that she sat down again.
“Well, and how are you to-day?” quacked an old duck who came to pay her a visit.
“There’s one egg that takes a deal of hatching. The shell is hard and will not break,” said the fond mother, who sat still upon her nest. “But just look at the others. Have I not a pretty family? Are they not the prettiest little ducklings you ever saw? They are the image of their father—the good for naught! He never comes to see me.”
“Let me see the egg that will not break,” said the old duck. “I’ve no doubt it’s a Guinea fowl’s egg. The same thing happened to me once, and a deal of trouble it gave me, for the young ones are afraid of the water. I quacked and clucked, but all to no purpose. Let me take a look at it. Yes, I am right; it’s a Guinea fowl, upon my word; so take my advice and leave it where it is. Come to the water and teach the other children to swim.”
“I think I will sit a little while longer,” said the mother. “I have sat so long, a day or two more won’t matter.”
“Very well, please yourself,” said the old duck, rising; and she went away.
At last the great egg broke, and the latest bird cried “Peep, peep,” as he crept forth from the shell. How big and ugly he was! The mother duck stared at him and did not know what to think. “Really,” she said, “this is an enormous duckling, and it is not at all like any of the others. I wonder if he will turn out to be a Guinea fowl. Well, we shall see when we get to the water—for into the water he must go, even if I have to push him in myself.”
On the next day the weather was delightful. The sun shone brightly on the green burdock leaves, and the mother duck took her whole family down to the water and jumped in with a splash. “Quack, quack!” cried she, and one after another the little ducklings jumped in. The water closed over their heads, but they came up again in an instant and swam about quite prettily, with their legs paddling under them as easily as possible; their legs went of their own accord; and the ugly gray-coat was also in the water, swimming with them.
“Oh,” said the mother, “that is not a Guinea fowl. See how well he uses his legs, and how erect he holds himself! He is my own child, and he is not so very ugly after all, if you look at him properly. Quack, quack! come with me now. I will take you into grand society and introduce you to the farmyard, but you must keep close to me or you may be trodden upon; and, above all, beware of the cat.”
When they reached the farmyard, there was a wretched riot going on; two families were fighting for an eel’s head, which, after all, was carried off by the cat. “See, children, that is the way of the world,” said the mother duck, whetting her beak, for she would have liked the eel’s head herself. “Come, now, use your legs, and let me see how well you can behave. You must bow your heads prettily to that old duck yonder; she is the highest born of them all and has Spanish blood; therefore she is well off. Don’t you see she has a red rag tied to her leg, which is something very grand and a great honor for a duck; it shows that everyone is anxious not to lose her, and that she is to be noticed by both man and beast. Come, now, don’t turn in your toes; a well-bred duckling spreads his feet wide apart, just like his father and mother, in this way; now bend your necks and say ‘Quack!'”
The ducklings did as they were bade, but the other ducks stared, and said, “Look, here comes another brood—as if there were not enough of us already! And bless me, what a queer-looking object one of them is; we don’t want him here”; and then one flew out and bit him in the neck.
“Let him alone,” said the mother; “he is not doing any harm.”
“Yes, but he is so big and ugly. He’s a perfect fright,” said the spiteful duck, “and therefore he must be turned out. A little biting will do him good.”
“The others are very pretty children,” said the old duck with the rag on her leg, “all but that one. I wish his mother could smooth him up a bit; he is really ill-favored.”
“That is impossible, your grace,” replied the mother. “He is not pretty, but he has a very good disposition and swims as well as the others or even better. I think he will grow up pretty, and perhaps be smaller. He has remained too long in the egg, and therefore his figure is not properly formed;” and then she stroked his neck and smoothed the feathers, saying: “It is a drake, and therefore not of so much consequence. I think he will grow up strong and able to take care of himself.”
“The other ducklings are graceful enough,” said the old duck. “Now make yourself at home, and if you find an eel’s head you can bring it to me.”
And so they made themselves comfortable; but the poor duckling who had crept out of his shell last of all and looked so ugly was bitten and pushed and made fun of, not only by the ducks but by all the poultry.
“He is too big,” they all said; and the turkey cock, who had been born into the world with spurs and fancied himself really an emperor, puffed himself out like a vessel in full sail and flew at the duckling. He became quite red in the head with passion, so that the poor little thing did not know where to go, and was quite miserable because he was so ugly as to be laughed at by the whole farmyard.
So it went on from day to day; it got worse and worse. The poor duckling was driven about by every one; even his brothers and sisters were unkind to him and would say, “Ah, you ugly creature, I wish the cat would get you” and his mother had been heard to say she wished he had never been born. The ducks pecked him, the chickens beat him, and the girl who fed the poultry pushed him with her feet. So at last he ran away, frightening the little birds in the hedge as he flew over the palings. “They are afraid because I am so ugly,” he said. So he flew still farther, until he came out on a large moor inhabited by wild ducks. Here he remained the whole night, feeling very sorrowful.
In the morning, when the wild ducks rose in the air, they stared at their new comrade. “What sort of a duck are you?” they all said, coming round him.
He bowed to them and was as polite as he could be, but he did not reply to their question. “You are exceedingly ugly,” said the wild ducks; “but that will not matter if you do not want to marry one of our family.”
Poor thing! he had no thoughts of marriage; all he wanted was permission to lie among the rushes and drink some of the water on the moor. After he had been on the moor two days, there came two wild geese, or rather goslings, for they had not been out of the egg long, which accounts for their impertinence. “Listen, friend,” said one of them to the duckling; “you are so ugly that we like you very well. Will you go with us and become a bird of passage? Not far from here is another moor, in which there are some wild geese, all of them unmarried. It is a chance for you to get a wife. You may make your fortune, ugly as you are.”
“Bang, bang,” sounded in the air, and the two wild geese fell dead among the rushes, and the water was tinged with blood. “Bang, bang,” echoed far and wide in the distance, and whole flocks of wild geese rose up from the rushes.
The sound continued from every direction, for the sportsmen surrounded the moor, and some were even seated on branches of trees, overlooking the rushes. The blue smoke from the guns rose like clouds over the dark trees, and as it floated away across the water, a number of sporting dogs bounded in among the rushes, which bent beneath them wherever they went. How they terrified the poor duckling! He turned away his head to hide it under his wing, and at the same moment a large, terrible dog passed quite near him. His jaws were open, his tongue hung from his mouth, and his eyes glared fearfully. He thrust his nose close to the duckling, showing his sharp teeth, and then “splash, splash,” he went into the water, without touching him.
“Oh,” sighed the duckling, “how thankful I am for being so ugly; even a dog will not bite me.”
And so he lay quite still, while the shot rattled through the rushes, and gun after gun was fired over him. It was late in the day before all became quiet, but even then the poor young thing did not dare to move. He waited quietly for several hours and then, after looking carefully around him, hastened away from the moor as fast as he could. He ran over field and meadow till a storm arose, and he could hardly struggle against it.
Towards evening he reached a poor little cottage that seemed ready to fall, and only seemed to remain standing because it could not decide on which side to fall first. The storm continued so violent that the duckling could go no farther. He sat down by the cottage, and then he noticed that the door was not quite closed, in consequence of one of the hinges having given way. There was, therefore, a narrow opening near the bottom large enough for him to slip through, which he did very quietly, and got a shelter for the night. Here, in this cottage, lived a woman, a cat, and a hen. The cat, whom his mistress called “My little son,” was a great favorite; he could raise his back, and purr, and could even throw out sparks from his fur if it were stroked the wrong way. The hen had very short legs, so she was called “Chickie Short-legs.” She laid good eggs, and her mistress loved her as if she had been her own child. In the morning the strange visitor was discovered; the cat began to purr and the hen to cluck.
“What is that noise about?” said the old woman, looking around the room. But her sight was not very good; therefore when she saw the duckling she thought it must be a fat duck that had strayed from home. “Oh, what a prize!” she exclaimed. “I hope it is not a drake, for then I shall have some ducks’ eggs. I must wait and see.”
So the duckling was allowed to remain on trial for three weeks; but there were no eggs.
Now the cat was the master of the house, and the hen was the mistress; and they always said, “We and the world,” for they believed themselves to be half the world, and by far the better half, too. The duckling thought that others might hold a different opinion on the subject, but the hen would not listen to such doubts.
“Can you lay eggs?” she asked. “No.” “Then have the goodness to cease talking.” “Can you raise your back, or purr, or throw out sparks?” said the cat. “No.” “Then you have no right to express an opinion when sensible people are speaking.” So the duckling sat in a corner, feeling very low-spirited; but when the sunshine and the fresh air came into the room through the open door, he began to feel such a great longing for a swim that he could not help speaking of it.
“What an absurd idea!” said the hen. “You have nothing else to do; therefore you have foolish fancies. If you could purr or lay eggs, they would pass away.”
“But it is so delightful to swim about on the water,” said the duckling, “and so refreshing to feel it close over your head while you dive down to the bottom.”
“Delightful, indeed! it must be a queer sort of pleasure,” said the hen. “Why, you must be crazy! Ask the cat—he is the cleverest animal I know; ask him how he would like to swim about on the water, or to dive under it, for I will not speak of my own opinion. Ask our mistress, the old woman; there is no one in the world more clever than she is. Do you think she would relish swimming and letting the water close over her head?”
“I see you don’t understand me,” said the duckling.
“We don’t understand you? Who can understand you, I wonder? Do you consider yourself more clever than the cat or the old woman?—I will say nothing of myself. Don’t imagine such nonsense, child, and thank your good fortune that you have been so well received here. Are you not in a warm room and in society from which you may learn something? But you are a chatterer, and your company is not very agreeable. Believe me, I speak only for your good. I may tell you unpleasant truths, but that is a proof of my friendship. I advise you, therefore, to lay eggs and learn to purr as quickly as possible.”
“I believe I must go out into the world again,” said the duckling.
“Yes, do,” said the hen. So the duckling left the cottage and soon found water on which it could swim and dive, but he was avoided by all other animals because of his ugly appearance.
Autumn came, and the leaves in the forest turned to orange and gold; then, as winter approached, the wind caught them as they fell and whirled them into the cold air. The clouds, heavy with hail and snowflakes, hung low in the sky, and the raven stood among the reeds, crying, “Croak, croak.” It made one shiver with cold to look at him. All this was very sad for the poor little duckling.
One evening, just as the sun was setting amid radiant clouds, there came a large flock of beautiful birds out of the bushes. The duckling had never seen any like them before. They were swans; and they curved their graceful necks, while their soft plumage shone with dazzling whiteness. They uttered a singular cry as they spread their glorious wings and flew away from those cold regions to warmer countries across the sea. They mounted higher and higher in the air, and the ugly little duckling had a strange sensation as he watched them. He whirled himself in the water like a wheel, stretched out his neck towards them, and uttered a cry so strange that it frightened even himself. Could he ever forget those beautiful, happy birds! And when at last they were out of his sight, he dived under the water and rose again almost beside himself with excitement. He knew not the names of these birds nor where they had flown, but he felt towards them as he had never felt towards any other bird in the world.
He was not envious of these beautiful creatures; it never occurred to him to wish to be as lovely as they. Poor ugly creature, how gladly he would have lived even with the ducks, had they only treated him kindly and given him encouragement.
The winter grew colder and colder; he was obliged to swim about on the water to keep it from freezing, but every night the space on which he swam became smaller and smaller. At length it froze so hard that the ice in the water crackled as he moved, and the duckling had to paddle with his legs as well as he could, to keep the space from closing up. He became exhausted at last and lay still and helpless, frozen fast in the ice.
Early in the morning a peasant who was passing by saw what had happened. He broke the ice in pieces with his wooden shoe and carried the duckling home to his wife. The warmth revived the poor little creature; but when the children wanted to play with him, the duckling thought they would do him some harm, so he started up in terror, fluttered into the milk pan, and splashed the milk about the room. Then the woman clapped her hands, which frightened him still more. He flew first into the butter cask, then into the meal tub and out again. What a condition he was in! The woman screamed and struck at him with the tongs; the children laughed and screamed and tumbled over each other in their efforts to catch him, but luckily he escaped. The door stood open; the poor creature could just manage to slip out among the bushes and lie down quite exhausted in the newly fallen snow.
It would be very sad were I to relate all the misery and privations which the poor little duckling endured during the hard winter; but when it had passed he found himself lying one morning in a moor, amongst the rushes. He felt the warm sun shining and heard the lark singing and saw that all around was beautiful spring.
Then the young bird felt that his wings were strong, as he flapped them against his sides and rose high into the air. They bore him onwards until, before he well knew how it had happened, he found himself in a large garden. The apple trees were in full blossom, and the fragrant elders bent their long green branches down to the stream, which wound round a smooth lawn. Everything looked beautiful in the freshness of early spring. From a thicket close by came three beautiful white swans, rustling their feathers and swimming lightly over the smooth water. The duckling saw these lovely birds and felt more strangely unhappy than ever.
“I will fly to these royal birds,” he exclaimed, “and they will kill me because, ugly as I am, I dare to approach them. But it does not matter; better be killed by them than pecked by the ducks, beaten by the hens, pushed about by the maiden who feeds the poultry, or starved with hunger in the winter.”
Then he flew to the water and swam towards the beautiful swans. The moment they espied the stranger they rushed to meet him with outstretched wings.
“Kill me,” said the poor bird and he bent his head down to the surface of the water and awaited death.
But what did he see in the clear stream below? His own image—no longer a dark-gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a graceful and beautiful swan.
To be born in a duck’s nest in a farmyard is of no consequence to a bird if it is hatched from a swan’s egg. He now felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him; for the great swans swam round the newcomer and stroked his neck with their beaks, as a welcome.
Into the garden presently came some little children and threw bread and cake into the water.
“See,” cried the youngest, “there is a new one;” and the rest were delighted, and ran to their father and mother, dancing and clapping their hands and shouting joyously, “There is another swan come; a new one has arrived.”
Then they threw more bread and cake into the water and said, “The new one is the most beautiful of all, he is so young and pretty.” And the old swans bowed their heads before him.
Then he felt quite ashamed and hid his head under his wing, for he did not know what to do, he was so happy—yet he was not at all proud. He had been persecuted and despised for his ugliness, and now he heard them say he was the most beautiful of all the birds. Even the elder tree bent down its boughs into the water before him, and the sun shone warm and bright. Then he rustled his feathers, curved his slender neck, and cried joyfully, from the depths of his heart, “I never dreamed of such happiness as this while I was the despised ugly duckling.”
Red riding hood
Once upon a time there was a dear little girl who was loved by everyone who looked at her, but most of all by her grandmother, and there was nothing that she would not have given to the child. Once she gave her a little cap of red velvet, which suited her so well that she would never wear anything else; so she was always called ‘Little Red-Cap.’
One day her mother said to her: ‘Come, Little Red-Cap, here is a piece of cake and a bottle of wine; take them to your grandmother, she is ill and weak, and they will do her good. Set out before it gets hot, and when you are going, walk nicely and quietly and do not run off the path, or you may fall and break the bottle, and then your grandmother will get nothing; and when you go into her room, don’t forget to say, “Good morning”, and don’t peep into every corner before you do it.’
‘I will take great care,’ said Little Red-Cap to her mother, and gave her hand on it.
The grandmother lived out in the wood, half a league from the village, and just as Little Red-Cap entered the wood, a wolf met her. Red-Cap did not know what a wicked creature he was, and was not at all afraid of him.
‘Good day, Little Red-Cap,’ said he.
‘Thank you kindly, wolf.’
‘Whither away so early, Little Red-Cap?’
‘To my grandmother’s.’
‘What have you got in your apron?’
‘Cake and wine; yesterday was baking-day, so poor sick grandmother is to have something good, to make her stronger.’
‘Where does your grandmother live, Little Red-Cap?’
‘A good quarter of a league farther on in the wood; her house stands under the three large oak-trees, the nut-trees are just below; you surely must know it,’ replied Little Red-Cap.
The wolf thought to himself: ‘What a tender young creature! what a nice plump mouthful—she will be better to eat than the old woman. I must act craftily, so as to catch both.’ So he walked for a short time by the side of Little Red-Cap, and then he said: ‘See, Little Red-Cap, how pretty the flowers are about here—why do you not look round? I believe, too, that you do not hear how sweetly the little birds are singing; you walk gravely along as if you were going to school, while everything else out here in the wood is merry.’
Little Red-Cap raised her eyes, and when she saw the sunbeams dancing here and there through the trees, and pretty flowers growing everywhere, she thought: ‘Suppose I take grandmother a fresh nosegay; that would please her too. It is so early in the day that I shall still get there in good time’; and so she ran from the path into the wood to look for flowers. And whenever she had picked one, she fancied that she saw a still prettier one farther on, and ran after it, and so got deeper and deeper into the wood.
Meanwhile the wolf ran straight to the grandmother’s house and knocked at the door.
‘Who is there?’
‘Little Red-Cap,’ replied the wolf. ‘She is bringing cake and wine; open the door.’
‘Lift the latch,’ called out the grandmother, ‘I am too weak, and cannot get up.’
The wolf lifted the latch, the door sprang open, and without saying a word he went straight to the grandmother’s bed, and devoured her. Then he put on her clothes, dressed himself in her cap laid himself in bed and drew the curtains.
Little Red-Cap, however, had been running about picking flowers, and when she had gathered so many that she could carry no more, she remembered her grandmother, and set out on the way to her.
She was surprised to find the cottage-door standing open, and when she went into the room, she had such a strange feeling that she said to herself: ‘Oh dear! how uneasy I feel today, and at other times I like being with grandmother so much.’ She called out: ‘Good morning,’ but received no answer; so she went to the bed and drew back the curtains. There lay her grandmother with her cap pulled far over her face, and looking very strange.
‘Oh! grandmother,’ she said, ‘what big ears you have!’
‘The better to hear you with, my child,’ was the reply.
‘But, grandmother, what big eyes you have!’ she said.
‘The better to see you with, my dear.’
‘But, grandmother, what large hands you have!’
‘The better to hug you with.’
‘Oh! but, grandmother, what a terrible big mouth you have!’
‘The better to eat you with!’
And scarcely had the wolf said this, than with one bound he was out of bed and swallowed up Red-Cap.
When the wolf had appeased his appetite, he lay down again in the bed, fell asleep and began to snore very loud. The huntsman was just passing the house, and thought to himself: ‘How the old woman is snoring! I must just see if she wants anything.’ So he went into the room, and when he came to the bed, he saw that the wolf was lying in it. ‘Do I find you here, you old sinner!’ said he. ‘I have long sought you!’ Then just as he was going to fire at him, it occurred to him that the wolf might have devoured the grandmother, and that she might still be saved, so he did not fire, but took a pair of scissors, and began to cut open the stomach of the sleeping wolf. When he had made two snips, he saw the little Red-Cap shining, and then he made two snips more, and the little girl sprang out, crying: ‘Ah, how frightened I have been! How dark it was inside the wolf’; and after that the aged grandmother came out alive also, but scarcely able to breathe. Red-Cap, however, quickly fetched great stones with which they filled the wolf’s belly, and when he awoke, he wanted to run away, but the stones were so heavy that he collapsed at once, and fell dead.
Then all three were delighted. The huntsman drew off the wolf’s skin and went home with it; the grandmother ate the cake and drank the wine which Red-Cap had brought, and revived, but Red-Cap thought to herself: ‘As long as I live, I will never by myself leave the path, to run into the wood, when my mother has forbidden me to do so.’
It also related that once when Red-Cap was again taking cakes to the old grandmother, another wolf spoke to her, and tried to entice her from the path. Red-Cap, however, was on her guard, and went straight forward on her way, and told her grandmother that she had met the wolf, and that he had said ‘good morning’ to her, but with such a wicked look in his eyes, that if they had not been on the public road she was certain he would have eaten her up. ‘Well,’ said the grandmother, ‘we will shut the door, that he may not come in.’ Soon afterwards the wolf knocked, and cried: ‘Open the door, grandmother, I am Little Red-Cap, and am bringing you some cakes.’ But they did not speak, or open the door, so the grey-beard stole twice or thrice round the house, and at last jumped on the roof, intending to wait until Red-Cap went home in the evening, and then to steal after her and devour her in the darkness. But the grandmother saw what was in his thoughts. In front of the house was a great stone trough, so she said to the child: ‘Take the pail, Red-Cap; I made some sausages yesterday, so carry the water in which I boiled them to the trough.’ Red-Cap carried until the great trough was quite full. Then the smell of the sausages reached the wolf, and he sniffed and peeped down, and at last stretched out his neck so far that he could no longer keep his footing and began to slip, and slipped down from the roof straight into the great trough, and was drowned. But Red-Cap went joyously home, and no one ever did anything to harm her again.
The Little Mermaid
Far out in the ocean, where the water is as blue as the prettiest cornflower, and as clear as crystal, it is very, very deep; so deep, indeed, that no cable could fathom it: many church steeples, piled one upon another, would not reach from the ground beneath to the surface of the water above. There dwell the Sea King and his subjects. We must not imagine that there is nothing at the bottom of the sea but bare yellow sand. No, indeed; the most singular flowers and plants grow there; the leaves and stems of which are so pliant, that the slightest agitation of the water causes them to stir as if they had life. Fishes, both large and small, glide between the branches, as birds fly among the trees here upon land. In the deepest spot of all, stands the castle of the Sea King. Its walls are built of coral, and the long, gothic windows are of the clearest amber. The roof is formed of shells, that open and close as the water flows over them. Their appearance is very beautiful, for in each lies a glittering pearl, which would be fit for the diadem of a queen.
The Sea King had been a widower for many years, and his aged mother kept house for him. She was a very wise woman, and exceedingly proud of her high birth; on that account she wore twelve oysters on her tail; while others, also of high rank, were only allowed to wear six. She was, however, deserving of very great praise, especially for her care of the little sea-princesses, her grand-daughters. They were six beautiful children; but the youngest was the prettiest of them all; her skin was as clear and delicate as a rose-leaf, and her eyes as blue as the deepest sea; but, like all the others, she had no feet, and her body ended in a fish’s tail. All day long they played in the great halls of the castle, or among the living flowers that grew out of the walls. The large amber windows were open, and the fish swam in, just as the swallows fly into our houses when we open the windows, excepting that the fishes swam up to the princesses, ate out of their hands, and allowed themselves to be stroked. Outside the castle there was a beautiful garden, in which grew bright red and dark blue flowers, and blossoms like flames of fire; the fruit glittered like gold, and the leaves and stems waved to and fro continually. The earth itself was the finest sand, but blue as the flame of burning sulphur. Over everything lay a peculiar blue radiance, as if it were surrounded by the air from above, through which the blue sky shone, instead of the dark depths of the sea. In calm weather the sun could be seen, looking like a purple flower, with the light streaming from the calyx. Each of the young princesses had a little plot of ground in the garden, where she might dig and plant as she pleased. One arranged her flower-bed into the form of a whale; another thought it better to make hers like the figure of a little mermaid; but that of the youngest was round like the sun, and contained flowers as red as his rays at sunset. She was a strange child, quiet and thoughtful; and while her sisters would be delighted with the wonderful things which they obtained from the wrecks of vessels, she cared for nothing but her pretty red flowers, like the sun, excepting a beautiful marble statue. It was the representation of a handsome boy, carved out of pure white stone, which had fallen to the bottom of the sea from a wreck. She planted by the statue a rose-colored weeping willow. It grew splendidly, and very soon hung its fresh branches over the statue, almost down to the blue sands. The shadow had a violet tint, and waved to and fro like the branches; it seemed as if the crown of the tree and the root were at play, and trying to kiss each other. Nothing gave her so much pleasure as to hear about the world above the sea. She made her old grandmother tell her all she knew of the ships and of the towns, the people and the animals. To her it seemed most wonderful and beautiful to hear that the flowers of the land should have fragrance, and not those below the sea; that the trees of the forest should be green; and that the fishes among the trees could sing so sweetly, that it was quite a pleasure to hear them. Her grandmother called the little birds fishes, or she would not have understood her; for she had never seen birds.
“When you have reached your fifteenth year,” said the grand-mother, “you will have permission to rise up out of the sea, to sit on the rocks in the moonlight, while the great ships are sailing by; and then you will see both forests and towns.”
In the following year, one of the sisters would be fifteen: but as each was a year younger than the other, the youngest would have to wait five years before her turn came to rise up from the bottom of the ocean, and see the earth as we do. However, each promised to tell the others what she saw on her first visit, and what she thought the most beautiful; for their grandmother could not tell them enough; there were so many things on which they wanted information. None of them longed so much for her turn to come as the youngest, she who had the longest time to wait, and who was so quiet and thoughtful. Many nights she stood by the open window, looking up through the dark blue water, and watching the fish as they splashed about with their fins and tails. She could see the moon and stars shining faintly; but through the water they looked larger than they do to our eyes. When something like a black cloud passed between her and them, she knew that it was either a whale swimming over her head, or a ship full of human beings, who never imagined that a pretty little mermaid was standing beneath them, holding out her white hands towards the keel of their ship.
As soon as the eldest was fifteen, she was allowed to rise to the surface of the ocean. When she came back, she had hundreds of things to talk about; but the most beautiful, she said, was to lie in the moonlight, on a sandbank, in the quiet sea, near the coast, and to gaze on a large town nearby, where the lights were twinkling like hundreds of stars; to listen to the sounds of the music, the noise of carriages, and the voices of human beings, and then to hear the merry bells peal out from the church steeples; and because she could not go near to all those wonderful things, she longed for them more than ever. Oh, did not the youngest sister listen eagerly to all these descriptions? and afterwards, when she stood at the open window looking up through the dark blue water, she thought of the great city, with all its bustle and noise, and even fancied she could hear the sound of the church bells, down in the depths of the sea.
In another year the second sister received permission to rise to the surface of the water, and to swim about where she pleased. She rose just as the sun was setting, and this, she said, was the most beautiful sight of all. The whole sky looked like gold, while violet and rose-colored clouds, which she could not describe, floated over her; and, still more rapidly than the clouds, flew a large flock of wild swans towards the setting sun, looking like a long white veil across the sea. She also swam towards the sun; but it sunk into the waves, and the rosy tints faded from the clouds and from the sea.
The third sister’s turn followed; she was the boldest of them all, and she swam up a broad river that emptied itself into the sea. On the banks she saw green hills covered with beautiful vines; palaces and castles peeped out from amid the proud trees of the forest; she heard the birds singing, and the rays of the sun were so powerful that she was obliged often to dive down under the water to cool her burning face. In a narrow creek she found a whole troop of little human children, quite naked, and sporting about in the water; she wanted to play with them, but they fled in a great fright; and then a little black animal came to the water; it was a dog, but she did not know that, for she had never before seen one. This animal barked at her so terribly that she became frightened, and rushed back to the open sea. But she said she should never forget the beautiful forest, the green hills, and the pretty little children who could swim in the water, although they had not fish’s tails.
The fourth sister was more timid; she remained in the midst of the sea, but she said it was quite as beautiful there as nearer the land. She could see for so many miles around her, and the sky above looked like a bell of glass. She had seen the ships, but at such a great distance that they looked like sea-gulls. The dolphins sported in the waves, and the great whales spouted water from their nostrils till it seemed as if a hundred fountains were playing in every direction.
The fifth sister’s birthday occurred in the winter; so when her turn came, she saw what the others had not seen the first time they went up. The sea looked quite green, and large icebergs were floating about, each like a pearl, she said, but larger and loftier than the churches built by men. They were of the most singular shapes, and glittered like diamonds. She had seated herself upon one of the largest, and let the wind play with her long hair, and she remarked that all the ships sailed by rapidly, and steered as far away as they could from the iceberg, as if they were afraid of it. Towards evening, as the sun went down, dark clouds covered the sky, the thunder rolled and the lightning flashed, and the red light glowed on the icebergs as they rocked and tossed on the heaving sea. On all the ships the sails were reefed with fear and trembling, while she sat calmly on the floating iceberg, watching the blue lightning, as it darted its forked flashes into the sea.
When first the sisters had permission to rise to the surface, they were each delighted with the new and beautiful sights they saw; but now, as grown-up girls, they could go when they pleased, and they had become indifferent about it. They wished themselves back again in the water, and after a month had passed they said it was much more beautiful down below, and pleasanter to be at home. Yet often, in the evening hours, the five sisters would twine their arms round each other, and rise to the surface, in a row. They had more beautiful voices than any human being could have; and before the approach of a storm, and when they expected a ship would be lost, they swam before the vessel, and sang sweetly of the delights to be found in the depths of the sea, and begging the sailors not to fear if they sank to the bottom. But the sailors could not understand the song, they took it for the howling of the storm. And these things were never to be beautiful for them; for if the ship sank, the men were drowned, and their dead bodies alone reached the palace of the Sea King.
When the sisters rose, arm-in-arm, through the water in this way, their youngest sister would stand quite alone, looking after them, ready to cry, only that the mermaids have no tears, and therefore they suffer more. “Oh, were I but fifteen years old,” said she: “I know that I shall love the world up there, and all the people who live in it.”
At last she reached her fifteenth year. “Well, now, you are grown up,” said the old dowager, her grandmother; “so you must let me adorn you like your other sisters;” and she placed a wreath of white lilies in her hair, and every flower leaf was half a pearl. Then the old lady ordered eight great oysters to attach themselves to the tail of the princess to show her high rank.
“But they hurt me so,” said the little mermaid.
“Pride must suffer pain,” replied the old lady. Oh, how gladly she would have shaken off all this grandeur, and laid aside the heavy wreath! The red flowers in her own garden would have suited her much better, but she could not help herself: so she said, “Farewell,” and rose as lightly as a bubble to the surface of the water. The sun had just set as she raised her head above the waves; but the clouds were tinted with crimson and gold, and through the glimmering twilight beamed the evening star in all its beauty. The sea was calm, and the air mild and fresh. A large ship, with three masts, lay becalmed on the water, with only one sail set; for not a breeze stiffed, and the sailors sat idle on deck or amongst the rigging. There was music and song on board; and, as darkness came on, a hundred colored lanterns were lighted, as if the flags of all nations waved in the air. The little mermaid swam close to the cabin windows; and now and then, as the waves lifted her up, she could look in through clear glass window-panes, and see a number of well-dressed people within. Among them was a young prince, the most beautiful of all, with large black eyes; he was sixteen years of age, and his birthday was being kept with much rejoicing. The sailors were dancing on deck, but when the prince came out of the cabin, more than a hundred rockets rose in the air, making it as bright as day. The little mermaid was so startled that she dived under water; and when she again stretched out her head, it appeared as if all the stars of heaven were falling around her, she had never seen such fireworks before. Great suns spurted fire about, splendid fireflies flew into the blue air, and everything was reflected in the clear, calm sea beneath. The ship itself was so brightly illuminated that all the people, and even the smallest rope, could be distinctly and plainly seen. And how handsome the young prince looked, as he pressed the hands of all present and smiled at them, while the music resounded through the clear night air.
It was very late; yet the little mermaid could not take her eyes from the ship, or from the beautiful prince. The colored lanterns had been extinguished, no more rockets rose in the air, and the cannon had ceased firing; but the sea became restless, and a moaning, grumbling sound could be heard beneath the waves: still the little mermaid remained by the cabin window, rocking up and down on the water, which enabled her to look in. After a while, the sails were quickly unfurled, and the noble ship continued her passage; but soon the waves rose higher, heavy clouds darkened the sky, and lightning appeared in the distance. A dreadful storm was approaching; once more the sails were reefed, and the great ship pursued her flying course over the raging sea. The waves rose mountains high, as if they would have overtopped the mast; but the ship dived like a swan between them, and then rose again on their lofty, foaming crests. To the little mermaid this appeared pleasant sport; not so to the sailors. At length the ship groaned and creaked; the thick planks gave way under the lashing of the sea as it broke over the deck; the mainmast snapped asunder like a reed; the ship lay over on her side; and the water rushed in. The little mermaid now perceived that the crew were in danger; even she herself was obliged to be careful to avoid the beams and planks of the wreck which lay scattered on the water. At one moment it was so pitch dark that she could not see a single object, but a flash of lightning revealed the whole scene; she could see every one who had been on board excepting the prince; when the ship parted, she had seen him sink into the deep waves, and she was glad, for she thought he would now be with her; and then she remembered that human beings could not live in the water, so that when he got down to her father’s palace he would be quite dead. But he must not die. So she swam about among the beams and planks which strewed the surface of the sea, forgetting that they could crush her to pieces. Then she dived deeply under the dark waters, rising and falling with the waves, till at length she managed to reach the young prince, who was fast losing the power of swimming in that stormy sea. His limbs were failing him, his beautiful eyes were closed, and he would have died had not the little mermaid come to his assistance. She held his head above the water, and let the waves drift them where they would.
In the morning the storm had ceased; but of the ship not a single fragment could be seen. The sun rose up red and glowing from the water, and its beams brought back the hue of health to the prince’s cheeks; but his eyes remained closed. The mermaid kissed his high, smooth forehead, and stroked back his wet hair; he seemed to her like the marble statue in her little garden, and she kissed him again, and wished that he might live. Presently they came in sight of land; she saw lofty blue mountains, on which the white snow rested as if a flock of swans were lying upon them. Near the coast were beautiful green forests, and close by stood a large building, whether a church or a convent she could not tell. Orange and citron trees grew in the garden, and before the door stood lofty palms. The sea here formed a little bay, in which the water was quite still, but very deep; so she swam with the handsome prince to the beach, which was covered with fine, white sand, and there she laid him in the warm sunshine, taking care to raise his head higher than his body. Then bells sounded in the large white building, and a number of young girls came into the garden. The little mermaid swam out farther from the shore and placed herself between some high rocks that rose out of the water; then she covered her head and neck with the foam of the sea so that her little face might not be seen, and watched to see what would become of the poor prince. She did not wait long before she saw a young girl approach the spot where he lay. She seemed frightened at first, but only for a moment; then she fetched a number of people, and the mermaid saw that the prince came to life again, and smiled upon those who stood round him. But to her he sent no smile; he knew not that she had saved him. This made her very unhappy, and when he was led away into the great building, she dived down sorrowfully into the water, and returned to her father’s castle. She had always been silent and thoughtful, and now she was more so than ever. Her sisters asked her what she had seen during her first visit to the surface of the water; but she would tell them nothing. Many an evening and morning did she rise to the place where she had left the prince. She saw the fruits in the garden ripen till they were gathered, the snow on the tops of the mountains melt away; but she never saw the prince, and therefore she returned home, always more sorrowful than before. It was her only comfort to sit in her own little garden, and fling her arm round the beautiful marble statue which was like the prince; but she gave up tending her flowers, and they grew in wild confusion over the paths, twining their long leaves and stems round the branches of the trees, so that the whole place became dark and gloomy. At length she could bear it no longer, and told one of her sisters all about it. Then the others heard the secret, and very soon it became known to two mermaids whose intimate friend happened to know who the prince was. She had also seen the festival on board ship, and she told them where the prince came from, and where his palace stood.
“Come, little sister,” said the other princesses; then they entwined their arms and rose up in a long row to the surface of the water, close by the spot where they knew the prince’s palace stood. It was built of bright yellow shining stone, with long flights of marble steps, one of which reached quite down to the sea. Splendid gilded cupolas rose over the roof, and between the pillars that surrounded the whole building stood life-like statues of marble. Through the clear crystal of the lofty windows could be seen noble rooms, with costly silk curtains and hangings of tapestry; while the walls were covered with beautiful paintings which were a pleasure to look at. In the centre of the largest saloon a fountain threw its sparkling jets high up into the glass cupola of the ceiling, through which the sun shone down upon the water and upon the beautiful plants growing round the basin of the fountain. Now that she knew where he lived, she spent many an evening and many a night on the water near the palace. She would swim much nearer the shore than any of the others ventured to do; indeed once she went quite up the narrow channel under the marble balcony, which threw a broad shadow on the water. Here she would sit and watch the young prince, who thought himself quite alone in the bright moonlight. She saw him many times of an evening sailing in a pleasant boat, with music playing and flags waving. She peeped out from among the green rushes, and if the wind caught her long silvery-white veil, those who saw it believed it to be a swan, spreading out its wings. On many a night, too, when the fishermen, with their torches, were out at sea, she heard them relate so many good things about the doings of the young prince, that she was glad she had saved his life when he had been tossed about half-dead on the waves. And she remembered that his head had rested on her bosom, and how heartily she had kissed him; but he knew nothing of all this, and could not even dream of her. She grew more and more fond of human beings, and wished more and more to be able to wander about with those whose world seemed to be so much larger than her own. They could fly over the sea in ships, and mount the high hills which were far above the clouds; and the lands they possessed, their woods and their fields, stretched far away beyond the reach of her sight. There was so much that she wished to know, and her sisters were unable to answer all her questions. Then she applied to her old grandmother, who knew all about the upper world, which she very rightly called the lands above the sea.
“If human beings are not drowned,” asked the little mermaid, “can they live forever? do they never die as we do here in the sea?”
“Yes,” replied the old lady, “they must also die, and their term of life is even shorter than ours. We sometimes live to three hundred years, but when we cease to exist here we only become the foam on the surface of the water, and we have not even a grave down here of those we love. We have not immortal souls, we shall never live again; but, like the green sea-weed, when once it has been cut off, we can never flourish more. Human beings, on the contrary, have a soul which lives forever, lives after the body has been turned to dust. It rises up through the clear, pure air beyond the glittering stars. As we rise out of the water, and behold all the land of the earth, so do they rise to unknown and glorious regions which we shall never see.”
“Why have not we an immortal soul?” asked the little mermaid mournfully; “I would give gladly all the hundreds of years that I have to live, to be a human being only for one day, and to have the hope of knowing the happiness of that glorious world above the stars.”
“You must not think of that,” said the old woman; “we feel ourselves to be much happier and much better off than human beings.”
“So I shall die,” said the little mermaid, “and as the foam of the sea I shall be driven about never again to hear the music of the waves, or to see the pretty flowers nor the red sun. Is there anything I can do to win an immortal soul?”
“No,” said the old woman, “unless a man were to love you so much that you were more to him than his father or mother; and if all his thoughts and all his love were fixed upon you, and the priest placed his right hand in yours, and he promised to be true to you here and hereafter, then his soul would glide into your body and you would obtain a share in the future happiness of mankind. He would give a soul to you and retain his own as well; but this can never happen. Your fish’s tail, which amongst us is considered so beautiful, is thought on earth to be quite ugly; they do not know any better, and they think it necessary to have two stout props, which they call legs, in order to be handsome.”
Then the little mermaid sighed, and looked sorrowfully at her fish’s tail. “Let us be happy,” said the old lady, “and dart and spring about during the three hundred years that we have to live, which is really quite long enough; after that we can rest ourselves all the better. This evening we are going to have a court ball.”
It is one of those splendid sights which we can never see on earth. The walls and the ceiling of the large ball-room were of thick, but transparent crystal. May hundreds of colossal shells, some of a deep red, others of a grass green, stood on each side in rows, with blue fire in them, which lighted up the whole saloon, and shone through the walls, so that the sea was also illuminated. Innumerable fishes, great and small, swam past the crystal walls; on some of them the scales glowed with a purple brilliancy, and on others they shone like silver and gold. Through the halls flowed a broad stream, and in it danced the mermen and the mermaids to the music of their own sweet singing. No one on earth has such a lovely voice as theirs. The little mermaid sang more sweetly than them all. The whole court applauded her with hands and tails; and for a moment her heart felt quite gay, for she knew she had the loveliest voice of any on earth or in the sea. But she soon thought again of the world above her, for she could not forget the charming prince, nor her sorrow that she had not an immortal soul like his; therefore she crept away silently out of her father’s palace, and while everything within was gladness and song, she sat in her own little garden sorrowful and alone. Then she heard the bugle sounding through the water, and thought—”He is certainly sailing above, he on whom my wishes depend, and in whose hands I should like to place the happiness of my life. I will venture all for him, and to win an immortal soul, while my sisters are dancing in my father’s palace, I will go to the sea witch, of whom I have always been so much afraid, but she can give me counsel and help.”
And then the little mermaid went out from her garden, and took the road to the foaming whirlpools, behind which the sorceress lived. She had never been that way before: neither flowers nor grass grew there; nothing but bare, gray, sandy ground stretched out to the whirlpool, where the water, like foaming mill-wheels, whirled round everything that it seized, and cast it into the fathomless deep. Through the midst of these crushing whirlpools the little mermaid was obliged to pass, to reach the dominions of the sea witch; and also for a long distance the only road lay right across a quantity of warm, bubbling mire, called by the witch her turfmoor. Beyond this stood her house, in the centre of a strange forest, in which all the trees and flowers were polypi, half animals and half plants; they looked like serpents with a hundred heads growing out of the ground. The branches were long slimy arms, with fingers like flexible worms, moving limb after limb from the root to the top. All that could be reached in the sea they seized upon, and held fast, so that it never escaped from their clutches. The little mermaid was so alarmed at what she saw, that she stood still, and her heart beat with fear, and she was very nearly turning back; but she thought of the prince, and of the human soul for which she longed, and her courage returned. She fastened her long flowing hair round her head, so that the polypi might not seize hold of it. She laid her hands together across her bosom, and then she darted forward as a fish shoots through the water, between the supple arms and fingers of the ugly polypi, which were stretched out on each side of her. She saw that each held in its grasp something it had seized with its numerous little arms, as if they were iron bands. The white skeletons of human beings who had perished at sea, and had sunk down into the deep waters, skeletons of land animals, oars, rudders, and chests of ships were lying tightly grasped by their clinging arms; even a little mermaid, whom they had caught and strangled; and this seemed the most shocking of all to the little princess.
She now came to a space of marshy ground in the wood, where large, fat water-snakes were rolling in the mire, and showing their ugly, drab-colored bodies. In the midst of this spot stood a house, built with the bones of shipwrecked human beings. There sat the sea witch, allowing a toad to eat from her mouth, just as people sometimes feed a canary with a piece of sugar. She called the ugly water-snakes her little chickens, and allowed them to crawl all over her bosom.
“I know what you want,” said the sea witch; “it is very stupid of you, but you shall have your way, and it will bring you to sorrow, my pretty princess. You want to get rid of your fish’s tail, and to have two supports instead of it, like human beings on earth, so that the young prince may fall in love with you, and that you may have an immortal soul.” And then the witch laughed so loud and disgustingly, that the toad and the snakes fell to the ground, and lay there wriggling about. “You are but just in time,” said the witch; “for after sunrise to-morrow I should not be able to help you till the end of another year. I will prepare a draught for you, with which you must swim to land tomorrow before sunrise, and sit down on the shore and drink it. Your tail will then disappear, and shrink up into what mankind calls legs, and you will feel great pain, as if a sword were passing through you. But all who see you will say that you are the prettiest little human being they ever saw. You will still have the same floating gracefulness of movement, and no dancer will ever tread so lightly; but at every step you take it will feel as if you were treading upon sharp knives, and that the blood must flow. If you will bear all this, I will help you.”
“Yes, I will,” said the little princess in a trembling voice, as she thought of the prince and the immortal soul.
“But think again,” said the witch; “for when once your shape has become like a human being, you can no more be a mermaid. You will never return through the water to your sisters, or to your father’s palace again; and if you do not win the love of the prince, so that he is willing to forget his father and mother for your sake, and to love you with his whole soul, and allow the priest to join your hands that you may be man and wife, then you will never have an immortal soul. The first morning after he marries another your heart will break, and you will become foam on the crest of the waves.”
“I will do it,” said the little mermaid, and she became pale as death.
“But I must be paid also,” said the witch, “and it is not a trifle that I ask. You have the sweetest voice of any who dwell here in the depths of the sea, and you believe that you will be able to charm the prince with it also, but this voice you must give to me; the best thing you possess will I have for the price of my draught. My own blood must be mixed with it, that it may be as sharp as a two-edged sword.”
“But if you take away my voice,” said the little mermaid, “what is left for me?”
“Your beautiful form, your graceful walk, and your expressive eyes; surely with these you can enchain a man’s heart. Well, have you lost your courage? Put out your little tongue that I may cut it off as my payment; then you shall have the powerful draught.”
“It shall be,” said the little mermaid.
Then the witch placed her cauldron on the fire, to prepare the magic draught.
“Cleanliness is a good thing,” said she, scouring the vessel with snakes, which she had tied together in a large knot; then she pricked herself in the breast, and let the black blood drop into it. The steam that rose formed itself into such horrible shapes that no one could look at them without fear. Every moment the witch threw something else into the vessel, and when it began to boil, the sound was like the weeping of a crocodile. When at last the magic draught was ready, it looked like the clearest water. “There it is for you,” said the witch. Then she cut off the mermaid’s tongue, so that she became dumb, and would never again speak or sing. “If the polypi should seize hold of you as you return through the wood,” said the witch, “throw over them a few drops of the potion, and their fingers will be torn into a thousand pieces.” But the little mermaid had no occasion to do this, for the polypi sprang back in terror when they caught sight of the glittering draught, which shone in her hand like a twinkling star.
So she passed quickly through the wood and the marsh, and between the rushing whirlpools. She saw that in her father’s palace the torches in the ballroom were extinguished, and all within asleep; but she did not venture to go in to them, for now she was dumb and going to leave them forever, she felt as if her heart would break. She stole into the garden, took a flower from the flower-beds of each of her sisters, kissed her hand a thousand times towards the palace, and then rose up through the dark blue waters. The sun had not risen when she came in sight of the prince’s palace, and approached the beautiful marble steps, but the moon shone clear and bright. Then the little mermaid drank the magic draught, and it seemed as if a two-edged sword went through her delicate body: she fell into a swoon, and lay like one dead. When the sun arose and shone over the sea, she recovered, and felt a sharp pain; but just before her stood the handsome young prince. He fixed his coal-black eyes upon her so earnestly that she cast down her own, and then became aware that her fish’s tail was gone, and that she had as pretty a pair of white legs and tiny feet as any little maiden could have; but she had no clothes, so she wrapped herself in her long, thick hair. The prince asked her who she was, and where she came from, and she looked at him mildly and sorrowfully with her deep blue eyes; but she could not speak. Every step she took was as the witch had said it would be, she felt as if treading upon the points of needles or sharp knives; but she bore it willingly, and stepped as lightly by the prince’s side as a soap-bubble, so that he and all who saw her wondered at her graceful-swaying movements. She was very soon arrayed in costly robes of silk and muslin, and was the most beautiful creature in the palace; but she was dumb, and could neither speak nor sing.
Beautiful female slaves, dressed in silk and gold, stepped forward and sang before the prince and his royal parents: one sang better than all the others, and the prince clapped his hands and smiled at her. This was great sorrow to the little mermaid; she knew how much more sweetly she herself could sing once, and she thought, “Oh if he could only know that! I have given away my voice forever, to be with him.”
The slaves next performed some pretty fairy-like dances, to the sound of beautiful music. Then the little mermaid raised her lovely white arms, stood on the tips of her toes, and glided over the floor, and danced as no one yet had been able to dance. At each moment her beauty became more revealed, and her expressive eyes appealed more directly to the heart than the songs of the slaves. Every one was enchanted, especially the prince, who called her his little foundling; and she danced again quite readily, to please him, though each time her foot touched the floor it seemed as if she trod on sharp knives.
The prince said she should remain with him always, and she received permission to sleep at his door, on a velvet cushion. He had a page’s dress made for her, that she might accompany him on horseback. They rode together through the sweet-scented woods, where the green boughs touched their shoulders, and the little birds sang among the fresh leaves. She climbed with the prince to the tops of high mountains; and although her tender feet bled so that even her steps were marked, she only laughed, and followed him till they could see the clouds beneath them looking like a flock of birds travelling to distant lands. While at the prince’s palace, and when all the household were asleep, she would go and sit on the broad marble steps; for it eased her burning feet to bathe them in the cold sea-water; and then she thought of all those below in the deep.
Once during the night her sisters came up arm-in-arm, singing sorrowfully, as they floated on the water. She beckoned to them, and then they recognized her, and told her how she had grieved them. After that, they came to the same place every night; and once she saw in the distance her old grandmother, who had not been to the surface of the sea for many years, and the old Sea King, her father, with his crown on his head. They stretched out their hands towards her, but they did not venture so near the land as her sisters did.
As the days passed, she loved the prince more fondly, and he loved her as he would love a little child, but it never came into his head to make her his wife; yet, unless he married her, she could not receive an immortal soul; and, on the morning after his marriage with another, she would dissolve into the foam of the sea.
“Do you not love me the best of them all?” the eyes of the little mermaid seemed to say, when he took her in his arms, and kissed her fair forehead.
“Yes, you are dear to me,” said the prince; “for you have the best heart, and you are the most devoted to me; you are like a young maiden whom I once saw, but whom I shall never meet again. I was in a ship that was wrecked, and the waves cast me ashore near a holy temple, where several young maidens performed the service. The youngest of them found me on the shore, and saved my life. I saw her but twice, and she is the only one in the world whom I could love; but you are like her, and you have almost driven her image out of my mind. She belongs to the holy temple, and my good fortune has sent you to me instead of her; and we will never part.”
“Ah, he knows not that it was I who saved his life,” thought the little mermaid. “I carried him over the sea to the wood where the temple stands: I sat beneath the foam, and watched till the human beings came to help him. I saw the pretty maiden that he loves better than he loves me;” and the mermaid sighed deeply, but she could not shed tears. “He says the maiden belongs to the holy temple, therefore she will never return to the world. They will meet no more: while I am by his side, and see him every day. I will take care of him, and love him, and give up my life for his sake.”
Very soon it was said that the prince must marry, and that the beautiful daughter of a neighboring king would be his wife, for a fine ship was being fitted out. Although the prince gave out that he merely intended to pay a visit to the king, it was generally supposed that he really went to see his daughter. A great company were to go with him. The little mermaid smiled, and shook her head. She knew the prince’s thoughts better than any of the others.
“I must travel,” he had said to her; “I must see this beautiful princess; my parents desire it; but they will not oblige me to bring her home as my bride. I cannot love her; she is not like the beautiful maiden in the temple, whom you resemble. If I were forced to choose a bride, I would rather choose you, my dumb foundling, with those expressive eyes.” And then he kissed her rosy mouth, played with her long waving hair, and laid his head on her heart, while she dreamed of human happiness and an immortal soul. “You are not afraid of the sea, my dumb child,” said he, as they stood on the deck of the noble ship which was to carry them to the country of the neighboring king. And then he told her of storm and of calm, of strange fishes in the deep beneath them, and of what the divers had seen there; and she smiled at his descriptions, for she knew better than any one what wonders were at the bottom of the sea.
In the moonlight, when all on board were asleep, excepting the man at the helm, who was steering, she sat on the deck, gazing down through the clear water. She thought she could distinguish her father’s castle, and upon it her aged grandmother, with the silver crown on her head, looking through the rushing tide at the keel of the vessel. Then her sisters came up on the waves, and gazed at her mournfully, wringing their white hands. She beckoned to them, and smiled, and wanted to tell them how happy and well off she was; but the cabin-boy approached, and when her sisters dived down he thought it was only the foam of the sea which he saw.
The next morning the ship sailed into the harbor of a beautiful town belonging to the king whom the prince was going to visit. The church bells were ringing, and from the high towers sounded a flourish of trumpets; and soldiers, with flying colors and glittering bayonets, lined the rocks through which they passed. Every day was a festival; balls and entertainments followed one another.
But the princess had not yet appeared. People said that she was being brought up and educated in a religious house, where she was learning every royal virtue. At last she came. Then the little mermaid, who was very anxious to see whether she was really beautiful, was obliged to acknowledge that she had never seen a more perfect vision of beauty. Her skin was delicately fair, and beneath her long dark eye-lashes her laughing blue eyes shone with truth and purity.
“It was you,” said the prince, “who saved my life when I lay dead on the beach,” and he folded his blushing bride in his arms. “Oh, I am too happy,” said he to the little mermaid; “my fondest hopes are all fulfilled. You will rejoice at my happiness; for your devotion to me is great and sincere.”
The little mermaid kissed his hand, and felt as if her heart were already broken. His wedding morning would bring death to her, and she would change into the foam of the sea. All the church bells rung, and the heralds rode about the town proclaiming the betrothal. Perfumed oil was burning in costly silver lamps on every altar. The priests waved the censers, while the bride and bridegroom joined their hands and received the blessing of the bishop. The little mermaid, dressed in silk and gold, held up the bride’s train; but her ears heard nothing of the festive music, and her eyes saw not the holy ceremony; she thought of the night of death which was coming to her, and of all she had lost in the world. On the same evening the bride and bridegroom went on board ship; cannons were roaring, flags waving, and in the centre of the ship a costly tent of purple and gold had been erected. It contained elegant couches, for the reception of the bridal pair during the night. The ship, with swelling sails and a favorable wind, glided away smoothly and lightly over the calm sea. When it grew dark a number of colored lamps were lit, and the sailors danced merrily on the deck. The little mermaid could not help thinking of her first rising out of the sea, when she had seen similar festivities and joys; and she joined in the dance, poised herself in the air as a swallow when he pursues his prey, and all present cheered her with wonder. She had never danced so elegantly before. Her tender feet felt as if cut with sharp knives, but she cared not for it; a sharper pang had pierced through her heart. She knew this was the last evening she should ever see the prince, for whom she had forsaken her kindred and her home; she had given up her beautiful voice, and suffered unheard-of pain daily for him, while he knew nothing of it. This was the last evening that she would breathe the same air with him, or gaze on the starry sky and the deep sea; an eternal night, without a thought or a dream, awaited her: she had no soul and now she could never win one. All was joy and gayety on board ship till long after midnight; she laughed and danced with the rest, while the thoughts of death were in her heart. The prince kissed his beautiful bride, while she played with his raven hair, till they went arm-in-arm to rest in the splendid tent. Then all became still on board the ship; the helmsman, alone awake, stood at the helm. The little mermaid leaned her white arms on the edge of the vessel, and looked towards the east for the first blush of morning, for that first ray of dawn that would bring her death. She saw her sisters rising out of the flood: they were as pale as herself; but their long beautiful hair waved no more in the wind, and had been cut off.
“We have given our hair to the witch,” said they, “to obtain help for you, that you may not die to-night. She has given us a knife: here it is, see it is very sharp. Before the sun rises you must plunge it into the heart of the prince; when the warm blood falls upon your feet they will grow together again, and form into a fish’s tail, and you will be once more a mermaid, and return to us to live out your three hundred years before you die and change into the salt sea foam. Haste, then; he or you must die before sunrise. Our old grandmother moans so for you, that her white hair is falling off from sorrow, as ours fell under the witch’s scissors. Kill the prince and come back; hasten: do you not see the first red streaks in the sky? In a few minutes the sun will rise, and you must die.” And then they sighed deeply and mournfully, and sank down beneath the waves.
The little mermaid drew back the crimson curtain of the tent, and beheld the fair bride with her head resting on the prince’s breast. She bent down and kissed his fair brow, then looked at the sky on which the rosy dawn grew brighter and brighter; then she glanced at the sharp knife, and again fixed her eyes on the prince, who whispered the name of his bride in his dreams. She was in his thoughts, and the knife trembled in the hand of the little mermaid: then she flung it far away from her into the waves; the water turned red where it fell, and the drops that spurted up looked like blood. She cast one more lingering, half-fainting glance at the prince, and then threw herself from the ship into the sea, and thought her body was dissolving into foam. The sun rose above the waves, and his warm rays fell on the cold foam of the little mermaid, who did not feel as if she were dying. She saw the bright sun, and all around her floated hundreds of transparent beautiful beings; she could see through them the white sails of the ship, and the red clouds in the sky; their speech was melodious, but too ethereal to be heard by mortal ears, as they were also unseen by mortal eyes. The little mermaid perceived that she had a body like theirs, and that she continued to rise higher and higher out of the foam. “Where am I?” asked she, and her voice sounded ethereal, as the voice of those who were with her; no earthly music could imitate it.
“Among the daughters of the air,” answered one of them. “A mermaid has not an immortal soul, nor can she obtain one unless she wins the love of a human being. On the power of another hangs her eternal destiny. But the daughters of the air, although they do not possess an immortal soul, can, by their good deeds, procure one for themselves. We fly to warm countries, and cool the sultry air that destroys mankind with the pestilence. We carry the perfume of the flowers to spread health and restoration. After we have striven for three hundred years to all the good in our power, we receive an immortal soul and take part in the happiness of mankind. You, poor little mermaid, have tried with your whole heart to do as we are doing; you have suffered and endured and raised yourself to the spirit-world by your good deeds; and now, by striving for three hundred years in the same way, you may obtain an immortal soul.”
The little mermaid lifted her glorified eyes towards the sun, and felt them, for the first time, filling with tears. On the ship, in which she had left the prince, there were life and noise; she saw him and his beautiful bride searching for her; sorrowfully they gazed at the pearly foam, as if they knew she had thrown herself into the waves. Unseen she kissed the forehead of her bride, and fanned the prince, and then mounted with the other children of the air to a rosy cloud that floated through the aether.
“After three hundred years, thus shall we float into the kingdom of heaven,” said she. “And we may even get there sooner,” whispered one of her companions. “Unseen we can enter the houses of men, where there are children, and for every day on which we find a good child, who is the joy of his parents and deserves their love, our time of probation is shortened. The child does not know, when we fly through the room, that we smile with joy at his good conduct, for we can count one year less of our three hundred years. But when we see a naughty or a wicked child, we shed tears of sorrow, and for every tear a day is added to our time of trial!”
Once upon a time there was an old couple. The husband lost his wife and married again. But he had a daughter by the first marriage, a young girl, and she found no favor in the eyes of her evil stepmother, who used to beat her, and consider how she could get her killed outright. One day the father went away somewhere or other, so the stepmother said to the girl, “Go to your aunt, my sister, and ask her for a needle and thread to make you a shift.”
Now that aunt was a Baba Yaga. Well, the girl was no fool, so she went to a real aunt of hers first, and says she:
“Good morning, auntie!”
“Good morning, my dear! what have you come for?”
“Mother has sent me to her sister, to ask for a needle and thread to make me a shift.”
Then her aunt instructed her what to do. “There is a birch-tree there, niece, which would hit you in the eye—you must tie a ribbon round it; there are doors which would creak and bang—you must pour oil on their hinges; there are dogs which would tear you in pieces—you must throw them these rolls; there is a cat which would scratch your eyes out—you must give it a piece of bacon.”
So the girl went away, and walked and walked, till she came to the place. There stood a hut, and in it sat weaving the Baba Yaga, the Bony-shanks.
“Good morning, auntie,” says the girl.
“Good morning, my dear,” replies the Baba Yaga.
“Mother has sent me to ask you for a needle and thread to make me a shift.”
“Very well; sit down and weave a little in the meantime.”
So the girl sat down behind the loom, and the Baba Yaga went outside, and said to her servant-maid:
“Go and heat the bath, and get my niece washed; and mind you look sharp after her. I want to breakfast off her.”
Well, the girl sat there in such a fright that she was as much dead as alive. Presently she spoke imploringly to the servant-maid, saying:
“Kinswoman dear, do please wet the firewood instead of making it burn; and fetch the water for the bath in a sieve.” And she made her a present of a handkerchief.
The Baba Yaga waited awhile; then she came to the window and asked:
“Are you weaving, niece? are you weaving, my dear?”
“Oh yes, dear aunt, I’m weaving.” So the Baba Yaga went away again, and the girl gave the Cat a piece of bacon, and asked:
“Is there no way of escaping from here?”
“Here’s a comb for you and a towel,” said the Cat; “take them, and be off. The Baba Yaga will pursue you, but you must lay your ear on the ground, and when you hear that she is close at hand, first of all throw down the towel. It will become a wide, wide river. And if the Baba Yaga gets across the river, and tries to catch you, then you must lay your ear on the ground again, and when you hear that she is close at hand, throw down the comb. It will become a dense, dense forest; through that she won’t be able to force her way anyhow.”
The girl took the towel and the comb and fled. The dogs would have rent her, but she threw them the rolls, and they let her go by; the doors would have begun to bang, but she poured oil on their hinges, and they let her pass through; the birch-tree would have poked her eyes out, but she tied the ribbon around it, and it let her pass on. And the Cat sat down to the loom, and worked away; muddled everything about, if it didn’t do much weaving. Up came the Baba Yaga to the window, and asked:
“Are you weaving, niece? are you weaving, my dear?”
“I’m weaving, dear aunt, I’m weaving,” gruffly replied the Cat.
The Baba Yaga rushed into the hut, saw that the girl was gone, and took to beating the Cat, and abusing it for not having scratched the girl’s eyes out. “Long as I’ve served you,” said the Cat, “you’ve never given me so much as a bone; but she gave me bacon.” Then the Baba Yaga pounced upon the dogs, on the doors, on the birch-tree, and on the servant-maid, and set to work to abuse them all, and to knock them about. Then the dogs said to her, “Long as we’ve served you, you’ve never so much as pitched us a burnt crust; but she gave us rolls to eat.” And the doors said, “Long as we’ve served you, you’ve never poured even a drop of water on our hinges; but she poured oil on us.” The birch-tree said, “Long as I’ve served you, you’ve never tied a single thread round me; but she fastened a ribbon around me.” And the servant-maid said, “Long as I’ve served you, you’ve never given me so much as a rag; but she gave me a handkerchief.”
The Baba Yaga, bony of limb, quickly jumped into her mortar, sent it flying along with the pestle, sweeping away the while all traces of its flight with a broom, and set off in pursuit of the girl. Then the girl put her ear to the ground, and when she heard that the Baba Yaga was chasing her, and was now close at hand, she flung down the towel. And it became a wide, such a wide river! Up came the Baba Yaga to the river, and gnashed her teeth with spite; then she went home for her oxen, and drove them to the river. The oxen drank up every drop of the river, and then the Baba Yaga began the pursuit anew. But the girl put her ear to the ground again, and when she heard that the Baba Yaga was near, she flung down the comb, and instantly a forest sprang up, such an awfully thick one! The Baba Yaga began gnawing away at it, but however hard she worked, she couldn’t gnaw her way through it, so she had to go back again.
But by this time the girl’s father had returned home, and he asked:
“Where’s my daughter?”
“She’s gone to her aunt’s,” replied her stepmother.
Soon afterwards the girl herself came running home.
“Where have you been?” asked her father.
“Ah, father!” she said, “mother sent me to aunt’s to ask for a needle and thread to make me a shift. But aunt’s a Baba Yaga, and she wanted to eat me!”
“And how did you get away, daughter?”
“Why like this,” said the girl, and explained the whole matter. As soon as her father had heard all about it, he became wroth with his wife, and shot her. But he and his daughter lived on and flourished, and everything went well with them.
VASILISSA THE FAIR
In a certain kingdom there lived a merchant. Twelve years did he live as a married man, but he had only one child, Vasilissa the Fair. When her mother died, the girl was eight years old. And on her deathbed the merchant’s wife called her little daughter to her, took out from under the bed-clothes a doll, gave it to her, and said, “Listen, Vasilissa, dear; remember and obey these last words of mine. I am going to die. And now, together with my parental blessing, I bequeath to you this doll. Keep it always by you, and never show it to anybody; and whenever any misfortune comes upon you, give the doll food, and ask its advice. When it has fed, it will tell you a cure for your troubles.” Then the mother kissed her child and died.
After his wife’s death, the merchant mourned for her a befitting time, and then began to consider about marrying again. He was a man of means. It wasn’t a question with him of girls (with dowries); more than all others, a certain widow took his fancy. She was middle-aged, and had a couple of daughters of her own just about the same age as Vasilissa. She must needs be both a good housekeeper and an experienced mother.
Well, the merchant married the widow, but he had deceived himself, for he did not find in her a kind mother for his Vasilissa. Vasilissa was the prettiest girl in all the village; but her stepmother and stepsisters were jealous of her beauty, and tormented her with every possible sort of toil, in order that she might grow thin from over-work, and be tanned by the sun and the wind. Her life was made a burden to her! Vasilissa bore everything with resignation, and every day grew plumper and prettier, while the stepmother and her daughters lost flesh and fell off in appearance from the effects of their own spite, notwithstanding that they always sat with folded hands like fine ladies.
But how did that come about? Why, it was her doll that helped Vasilissa. If it hadn’t been for it, however could the girl have got through all her work? And therefore it was that Vasilissa would never eat all her share of a meal, but always kept the most delicate morsel for her doll; and at night, when all were at rest, she would shut herself up in the narrow chamber[ in which she slept, and feast her doll, saying the while:
“There, dolly, feed; help me in my need! I live in my father’s house, but never know what pleasure is; my evil stepmother tries to drive me out of the white world; teach me how to keep alive, and what I ought to do.”
Then the doll would eat, and afterwards give her advice, and comfort her in her sorrow, and next day it would do all Vasilissa’s work for her. She had only to take her ease in a shady place and pluck flowers, and yet all her work was done in good time; the beds were weeded, and the pails were filled, and the cabbages were watered, and the stove was heated. Moreover, the doll showed Vasilissa herbs which prevented her from getting sunburnt. Happily did she and her doll live together.
Several years went by. Vasilissa grew up and became old enough to be married. All the marriageable young men in the town sent to make an offer to Vasilissa; at her stepmother’s daughters not a soul would so much as look. Her stepmother grew even more savage than before, and replied to every suitor—
“We won’t let the younger marry before her elders.”
And after the suitors had been packed off, she used to beat Vasilissa by way of wreaking her spite.
Well, it happened one day that the merchant had to go away from home on business for a long time. Thereupon the stepmother went to live in another house; and near that house was a dense forest, and in a clearing in that forest there stood a hut, and in the hut there lived a Baba Yaga. She never let any one come near her dwelling, and she ate up people like so many chickens.
Having moved into the new abode, the merchant’s wife kept sending her hated Vasilissa into the forest on one pretence or another. But the girl always got home safe and sound; the doll used to show her the way, and never let her go near the Baba Yaga’s dwelling.
The autumn season arrived. One evening the stepmother gave out their work to the three girls; one she set to lace-making, another to knitting socks, and the third, Vasilissa, to weaving; and each of them had her allotted amount to do. She put out the lights in the house, leaving only one candle alight where the girls were working, and then she went to bed. The girls worked and worked. Presently the candle wanted snuffing; one of the stepdaughters took the snuffers, as if she were going to clear the wick, but instead of doing so, in obedience to her mother’s orders, she snuffed the candle out, pretending to do so by accident.
“What shall we do now?” said the girls. “There isn’t a spark of fire in the house, and our tasks are not yet done. We must go to the Baba Yaga’s for a light!”
“My pins give me light enough,” said the one who was making lace. “I shan’t go.”
“And I shan’t go, either,” said the one who was knitting socks. “My knitting-needles give me light enough.”
“Vasilissa, you must go for the light,” they both cried out together; “be off to the Baba Yaga’s!”
And they pushed Vasilissa out of the room.
Vasilissa went into her little closet, set before the doll a supper which she had provided beforehand, and said:
“Now, dolly, feed, and listen to my need! I’m sent to the Baba Yaga’s for a light. The Baba Yaga will eat me!”
The doll fed, and its eyes began to glow just like a couple of candles.
“Never fear, Vasilissa dear!” it said. “Go where you’re sent. Only take care to keep me always by you. As long as I’m with you, no harm will come to you at the Baba Yaga’s.”
So Vasilissa got ready, put her doll in her pocket, crossed herself, and went out into the thick forest.
As she walks she trembles. Suddenly a horseman gallops by. He is white, and he is dressed in white, under him is a white horse, and the trappings of the horse are white—and the day begins to break.
She goes a little further, and a second rider gallops by. He is red, dressed in red, and sitting on a red horse—and the sun rises.
Vasilissa went on walking all night and all next day. It was only towards the evening that she reached the clearing on which stood the dwelling of the Baba Yaga. The fence around it was made of dead men’s bones; on the top of the fence were stuck human skulls with eyes in them; instead of uprights at the gates were men’s legs; instead of bolts were arms; instead of a lock was a mouth with sharp teeth.
Vasilissa was frightened out of her wits, and stood still as if rooted to the ground.
Suddenly there rode past another horseman. He was black, dressed all in black, and on a black horse. He galloped up to the Baba Yaga’s gate and disappeared, just as if he had sunk through the ground—and night fell. But the darkness did not last long. The eyes of all the skulls on the fence began to shine and the whole clearing became as bright as if it had been midday. Vasilissa shuddered with fear, but stopped where she was, not knowing which way to run.
Soon there was heard in the forest a terrible roar. The trees cracked, the dry leaves rustled; out of the forest came the Baba Yaga, riding in a mortar, urging it on with a pestle, sweeping away her traces with a broom. Up she drove to the gate, stopped short, and, snuffing the air around her, cried:—
“Faugh! Faugh! I smell Russian flesh! Who’s there?”
Vasilissa went up to the hag in a terrible fright, bowed low before her, and said:—
“It’s me, granny. My stepsisters have sent me to you for a light.”
“Very good,” said the Baba Yaga; “I know them. If you’ll stop awhile with me first, and do some work for me, I’ll give you a light. But if you won’t, I’ll eat you!”
Then she turned to the gates, and cried:—
“Ho, thou firm fence of mine, be thou divided! And ye, wide gates of mine, do ye fly open!”
The gates opened, and the Baba Yaga drove in, whistling as she went, and after her followed Vasilissa; and then everything shut to again. When they entered the sitting-room, the Baba Yaga stretched herself out at full length, and said to Vasilissa:
“Fetch out what there is in the oven; I’m hungry.”
Vasilissa lighted a splinter at one of the skulls which were on the fence, and began fetching meat from the oven and setting it before the Baba Yaga; and meat enough had been provided for a dozen people. Then she fetched from the cellar kvass, mead, beer, and wine. The hag ate up everything, drank up everything. All she left for Vasilissa was a few scraps—a crust of bread and a morsel of sucking-pig. Then the Baba Yaga lay down to sleep, saying:—
“When I go out to-morrow morning, mind you cleanse the courtyard, sweep the room, cook the dinner, and get the linen ready. Then go to the corn-bin, take out four quarters of wheat, and clear it of other seed. And mind you have it all done—if you don’t, I shall eat you!”
After giving these orders the Baba Yaga began to snore. But Vasilissa set the remnants of the hag’s supper before her doll, burst into tears, and said:—
“Now, dolly, feed, listen to my need! The Baba Yaga has set me a heavy task, and threatens to eat me if I don’t do it all. Do help me!”
The doll replied:
“Never fear, Vasilissa the Fair! Sup, say your prayers, and go to bed. The morning is wiser than the evening!”
Vasilissa awoke very early, but the Baba Yaga was already up. She looked out of the window. The light in the skull’s eyes was going out. All of a sudden there appeared the white horseman, and all was light. The Baba Yaga went out into the courtyard and whistled—before her appeared a mortar with a pestle and a broom. The red horseman appeared—the sun rose. The Baba Yaga seated herself in the mortar, and drove out of the courtyard, shooting herself along with the pestle, sweeping away her traces with the broom.
Vasilissa was left alone, so she examined the Baba Yaga’s house, wondered at the abundance there was in everything, and remained lost in thought as to which work she ought to take to first. She looked up; all her work was done already. The doll had cleared the wheat to the very last grain.
“Ah, my preserver!” cried Vasilissa, “you’ve saved me from danger!”
“All you’ve got to do now is to cook the dinner,” answered the doll, slipping into Vasilissa’s pocket. “Cook away, in God’s name, and then take some rest for your health’s sake!”
Towards evening Vasilissa got the table ready, and awaited the Baba Yaga. It began to grow dusky; the black rider appeared for a moment at the gate, and all grew dark. Only the eyes of the skulls sent forth their light. The trees began to crack, the leaves began to rustle, up drove the Baba Yaga. Vasilissa went out to meet her.
“Is everything done?” asks the Yaga.
“Please to look for yourself, granny!” says Vasilissa.
The Baba Yaga examined everything, was vexed that there was nothing to be angry about, and said:
“Well, well! very good!”
Afterwards she cried:
“My trusty servants, zealous friends, grind this my wheat!”
There appeared three pairs of hands, which gathered up the wheat, and carried it out of sight. The Baba Yaga supped, went to bed, and again gave her orders to Vasilissa:
“Do just the same to-morrow as to-day; only besides that take out of the bin the poppy seed that is there, and clean the earth off it grain by grain. Some one or other, you see, has mixed a lot of earth with it out of spite.” Having said this, the hag turned to the wall and began to snore, and Vasilissa took to feeding her doll. The doll fed, and then said to her what it had said the day before:
“Pray to God, and go to sleep. The morning is wiser than the evening. All shall be done, Vasilissa dear!”
The next morning the Baba Yaga again drove out of the courtyard in her mortar, and Vasilissa and her doll immediately did all the work. The hag returned, looked at everything, and cried, “My trusty servants, zealous friends, press forth oil from the poppy seed!”
Three pairs of hands appeared, gathered up the poppy seed, and bore it out of sight. The Baba Yaga sat down to dinner. She ate, but Vasilissa stood silently by.
“Why don’t you speak to me?” said the Baba Yaga; “there you stand like a dumb creature!”
“I didn’t dare,” answered Vasilissa; “but if you give me leave, I should like to ask you about something.”
“Ask away; only it isn’t every question that brings good. ‘Get much to know, and old soon you’ll grow.’”
“I only want to ask you, granny, about something I saw. As I was coming here, I was passed by one riding on a white horse; he was white himself, and dressed in white. Who was he?”
“That was my bright Day!” answered the Baba Yaga.
“Afterwards there passed me another rider, on a red horse; red himself, and all in red clothes. Who was he?”
“That was my red Sun!” answered the Baba Yaga.
“And who may be the black rider, granny, who passed by me just at your gate?”
“That was my dark Night; they are all trusty servants of mine.”
Vasilissa thought of the three pairs of hands, but held her peace.
“Why don’t you go on asking?” said the Baba Yaga.
“That’s enough for me, granny. You said yourself, ‘Get too much to know, old you’ll grow!’”
“It’s just as well,” said the Baba Yaga, “that you’ve only asked about what you saw out of doors, not indoors! In my house I hate having dirt carried out of doors; and as to over-inquisitive people—well, I eat them. Now I’ll ask you something. How is it you manage to do the work I set you to do?”
“My mother’s blessing assists me,” replied Vasilissa.
“Eh! eh! what’s that? Get along out of my house, you bless’d daughter. I don’t want bless’d people.”
She dragged Vasilissa out of the room, pushed her outside the gates, took one of the skulls with blazing eyes from the fence, stuck it on a stick, gave it to her and said:
“Lay hold of that. It’s a light you can take to your stepsisters. That’s what they sent you here for, I believe.”
Home went Vasilissa at a run, lit by the skull, which went out only at the approach of the dawn; and at last, on the evening of the second day, she reached home. When she came to the gate, she was going to throw away the skull.
“Surely,” thinks she, “they can’t be still in want of a light at home.” But suddenly a hollow voice issued from the skull, saying:
“Throw me not away. Carry me to your stepmother!”
She looked at her stepmother’s house, and not seeing a light in a single window, she determined to take the skull in there with her. For the first time in her life she was cordially received by her stepmother and stepsisters, who told her that from the moment she went away they hadn’t had a spark of fire in the house. They couldn’t strike a light themselves anyhow, and whenever they brought one in from a neighbor’s, it went out as soon as it came into the room.
“Perhaps your light will keep in!” said the stepmother. So they carried the skull into the sitting-room. But the eyes of the skull so glared at the stepmother and her daughters—shot forth such flames! They would fain have hidden themselves, but run where they would, everywhere did the eyes follow after them. By the morning they were utterly burnt to cinders. Only Vasilissa was none the worse.
[Next morning Vasilissa “buried the skull,” locked up the house and took up her quarters in a neighboring town. After a time she began to work. Her doll made her a glorious loom, and by the end of the winter she had weaved a quantity of linen so fine that it might be passed like thread through the eye of a needle. In the spring, after it had been bleached, Vasilissa made a present of it to the old woman with whom she lodged. The crone presented it to the king, who ordered it to be made into shirts. But no seamstress could be found to make them up, until the linen was entrusted to Vasilissa. When a dozen shirts were ready, Vasilissa sent them to the king, and as soon as her carrier had started, “she washed herself, and combed her hair, and dressed herself, and sat down at the window.” Before long there arrived a messenger demanding her instant appearance at court. And “when she appeared before the royal eyes,” the king fell desperately in love with her.
“No; my beauty!” said he, “never will I part with thee; thou shalt be my wife.” So he married her; and by-and-by her father returned, and took up his abode with her. “And Vasilissa took the old woman into her service, and as for the doll—to the end of her life she always carried it in her pocket.”]
It was a great day when the Prince was born. The King was delighted, and the Queen nearly went mad with joy. The courtiers, though they hardly dared dance a Trepâk in the palace, could not keep their heels still; while the guards, the attendants, the little pages and pretty kitchen maids, drank tea and coffee, glass after glass, till the following morning, when they all had supper, and then crept off on tip-toe to bed. The people clapped their hands and sang and danced in the squares and streets, till those who danced the longest got sore throats, and those who sang the loudest got footsore. The whole city could not sleep for joy. The young Prince was the first-born, and would one day sit upon the throne: was this a thing to put under the pillow? On with the dance! Another song! Drink deep to the young Prince!
The doctors smiled, and stroked the smile down to the tips of their grey beards as they nodded to one another amiably. The child was strong and healthy, and would live; and besides, they all agreed upon the point that he was a Prince, and had his father’s nose. But alas! doctors are not everybody. After the revel a wise man from Persia, who was staying in the city at the time, awoke from his slumbers and dressed himself, and went to see the King. Sunk in a deep sleep, he had missed the celebrations, but he had found a vision of the future; and he was now hastening to see the King about it, for, as you must understand, when a wise man knows the worst he can never keep it to himself.
When he came before the King, he had scarcely the heart to tell him what would befall his first-born; but the King bade him speak out, and he obeyed.
‘Sire,’ he said humbly, ‘I come not to tell thee bad news, but rather to warn thee in time, lest a vision that came to me in the night should perchance come true.’
The King looked a little anxious, for he had heard tales, strange but true, about this wise man from Persia and his wonderful powers.
‘Speak on, Ferdâsan,’ he said.
‘Sire,’ replied the seer, ‘the dream that came to me was a deep-sleep vision. Doubt not that it is a warning entrusted to me to lay before you. O King, this is the substance of it. Fifteen years came and went before my inner eyes, and the son that has been born to you from heaven grew more beautiful year by year. But at the close of the fifteenth year he—flew away!’
‘Flew away!’ cried the King, startled. ‘And what was the manner of his flight, O Ferdâsan?’
‘Sire, in the midst of the palace gardens, Hausa, the Bird of the Sun, came to seek him or to be sought by him. He mounted on the back of this bird; and then, as the twilight fell, it carried him away westward.’
‘With what purpose, Ferdâsan?’
‘That, sire, I can reveal to you only in words that hide my thoughts, and——’
‘Nay, nay; tell me all, I command you.’
‘His fate stands thus. He is destined to marry the Maiden of the Dawn, and, in quest of her, he will fly westward in his fifteenth year, unless——’
‘Yes, unless what, man?’
‘Unless you yourself, sire, keep watch and ward and so prevent him.’
The King stared at the seer. How could he believe this thing?
‘It seems that you have come to disturb my peace,’ he said angrily. ‘What proof have I that you speak truly? If your wisdom has brought me this warning, then your wisdom can avert the evil fate. You will remain in this palace until the die is cast. That is my command.’
‘Sire,’ replied Ferdâsan humbly, ‘my work is done, and I must return to my cave in the mountains.’
‘What!’ cried the King in a rage, ‘you defy me? I will compel you.’
‘You cannot,’ replied Ferdâsan. ‘Seers stand before kings—and that is true in two ways.
‘We shall see.’ The King clapped his hands fiercely. Then, as two guards came running in answer to the summons, he cried, ‘Take that man and place him in a dungeon!’
The guards turned upon Ferdâsan, who stood calm and unmoved, looking at the King. Then, as they were about to seize him, a strange thing happened. They clutched at the empty air and staggered against one another, amazed. For a moment the Throne-room seemed to echo a sweet music from far away; for a moment it was filled with the faint fragrance of mountain lilies; then the King saw a thin grey mist slowly issuing through one of the windows, to dissolve in the sunlight.
And then he knew.
From that time forward, the King regarded the seer’s prediction with great anxiety. He watched the young Prince continually in his first years, and, when, as was often the case, he saw him gazing wistfully towards the west when the sun had set, he felt sure that the coming event had cast its shadow before.
Accordingly, as soon as the young Prince entered his fifteenth year, the King had him imprisoned in a lofty tower situated in the palace gardens, and placed a guard about it, for he was determined to take no risk whatever.
But, while he kept the Prince a close prisoner, he surrounded him with every luxury, for he loved him dearly. He even promised him that, on his fifteenth birthday, a great festival would be held in his honour, though he himself would only be allowed to watch the festivities from the high window of the tower.
The Prince implored his father to let him wander in the gardens on his birthday; but the King was so afraid that, by some means or other, he would be spirited away, that he refused. In addition to this, he double-locked and barred the topmost room of the tower in which the Prince was imprisoned.
On the day of the festival, the sun rose bright. As the Prince watched it from his high window, his heart rose with it. At noon he had fully decided to disobey his father and escape from his prison. He brooded till sunset; then, as the twilight gathered, he went to the window again and listened to the sounds of festivity in the city all around. Presently, he leaned out over the window-sill and looked down. It was a long way to the ground, but the gardens were beautiful, and he was determined to reach them and roam free among the trees and flowers. Was not this his birthday, and was not the city holding high festival in his honour? It seemed hard that he should be a prisoner, when even the guards of his prison had stolen away to join the merry throng. The city without was a blaze of light and a chorus of revel, but the gardens below seemed to be deserted: now was his opportunity.
Turning back into the apartment, he swept his eyes round for anything that would serve as a rope. There were heavy hangings falling from the high ceiling: he could not pull these down. There was the carpet; yes, he could make a rope of that.
He quickly secured a knife, and ripped from the edge of the carpet many long threads. When he had a sufficient number, he set to work to plait a rope, splicing fresh threads in at intervals until it was nearly a hundred feet long. Then he tied one end of it securely to one of the pillars supporting the roof, and let the free length of it down from the window. By the light of the full moon sailing overhead, he could see that the end of the rope reached as far as the branches of a tree growing at the foot of the tower.
It was now past midnight, and the garden below was just as silent as the city outside was loud with merriment. As the Prince climbed over the window-sill and let himself down the rope, he took no thought as to how he might get back again; it was quite enough to get away from the lonely, stifling place of his imprisonment.
At last his feet touched the topmost bough of the tree, but there was rope to spare; and he went on until, at the end of it, he was able to grasp a bough thick enough to bear his weight; and by this means he climbed along to the trunk, and so to the ground.
There was no one about. The guards were all away merrymaking in the Prince’s honour. Although he was still a prisoner within the garden walls, he was enjoying his adventure and the sense of freedom to wander, even in the gardens.
He took his way along pathways where the moonbeams strayed. He drank in the cool night air, and paused ever and again to pluck a sweet-smelling night-flower. Wandering on, he came at length to a bank at the end of the garden, beyond which he knew was a steep cliff overlooking a valley. Before his father had shut him up in the tower, he had always been forbidden to approach that end of the garden, and he had never done so; but now his curiosity led him on, and he advanced cautiously along an avenue of overarching trees. But it soon grew so dense and dark, that he was about to turn back, when suddenly he espied a misty light beginning to grow brighter and brighter at the far end of the avenue.
Eager to find out where this light came from, and seeing his way more clearly now, he hastened on, and soon arrived at the mouth of a large cave, which, inside, was as bright as day. He ventured farther forward and peered round a buttress of rock; and there, in the centre of the cave, a strange sight met his eyes. A gigantic bird was standing there, getting ready to fly through the farther opening overlooking the valley. It was stretching its neck and flapping its wings; and, from every feather of these, flashed rays and sparkles of light, illuminating the whole place.
In the centre of the cavern floor was a crystal pool into which, from a ledge high up on the wall, fell a broad cascade almost like a flowing veil, and the strong light shed by the giant bird shone through this on to the rock behind it. And there the Prince saw the most beautiful thing he had ever set eyes on.
It was an oval picture, framed in crystal, and hanging behind the transparent cascade—a picture of a beautiful Princess. And, as he looked, her eyes met his.
Immediately the young Prince was filled with a great longing to find the original of this portrait, but it seemed that his only way of doing so was through the help of the great bird, which was now attracting his attention by strange signs. First it looked at him with a kindly eye; then it craned its neck towards the farther opening of the cave, and, flapping its wings as if about to fly, ran a step or two and then stopped and looked back at him. After doing this two or three times it crouched down and turned its head sideways, looking straight at him, as much as to say, ‘Don’t you want to ride in the air?’
The Prince saw the bird’s meaning, but, to signify that he wanted to find the Princess, he pointed to the picture. At this the bird spread its wings right out until the tips brushed against each side of the cave, the feathers quivering intensely and throwing out a bright light which almost blinded the Prince.
Then the bird drew in its wings and made a sign to him to mount between them. At this the Prince, feeling sure that the giant bird meant to take him to the Princess, climbed up and seated himself between the great wings.
In another moment the bird had launched itself from the farther opening of the cave, and they were soon sailing high over the valley. Some revellers in the city looked up and saw what they took to be a meteor flashing across the sky; but it was really the Fire Bird bearing the Prince swiftly to the far-off palace of the Princess.
How many thousands of miles they flew between the darkest hour and dawn, the Prince could not tell. Nestling warm and comfortable among the soft feathers, he heard the roar of the great creature’s wings, and knew they were travelling at a tremendous pace. And at last the Fire Bird craned its neck downwards, and, as they began to descend in a slanting direction, the Prince could see something sparkling on the horizon in the first rosy light of dawn.
Nearer and nearer they came, and now he could distinguish the great gates and towers of what seemed to be a palace of pure crystal, surrounded by beautiful gardens.
Swiftly they swooped downwards, and the Fire Bird alighted on the edge of a broad balcony, and crouched down for the Prince to dismount.
The journey had not been in vain. There, on a mossy bank among the beautiful flowers in the garden, he found the Princess asleep; and, as he looked down at her, he saw that her face was the face he had seen in the portrait.
He tried to wake her, but her sleep was sound: she did not stir. He breathed on her eyelids and whispered in her ear, but still she slept on.
Seeing this, the Bird grew restless, and craning its neck forward, seized the Prince with its beak and placed him again between its wings. Then it sprang upwards and soared swiftly into the sky.
Soon they were back in the cave, and the Prince, dreading to return to the prison tower, spent the hours of daylight in his warm nest between the Fire Bird’s wings.
The following night, as the hours were drawing on towards dawn, the Bird set forth again. But again the Prince was unable to wake the sleeping Princess, so they returned once more. But, on the third night, when they reached the Princess, the light of dawn was in the sky, and, as it grew every moment rosier and rosier, the Princess awoke of her own accord to find the young Prince sitting among the flowers by her side. She had only just time to see the Fire Bird pluck a feather from its wing with its beak, and let it fall at her feet, before it soared away. She picked up the feather and placed it in her bosom. Then she looked at the Prince.
There is love, and there is love; but such love as sprang up at the same moment in two hearts can never be described. It was as if she had been dreaming about him all her life, and now she had awakened to find him. It was as if his journey had been to Paradise. She raised her arms to him, and he enfolded her and kissed her. Then they wandered among the flowers and trees, and all the birds understood: they sang so divinely.
Towards evening, as the shadows began to fall, the Princess’s sister, who was a wicked Sorceress, came into the garden and stood behind a tree watching the lovers.
‘I’ll soon put an end to this,’ she said, clenching her hands in jealous rage. She went away and performed spells, and, by her wicked arts, she summoned the image of the Prince before her, so that his life went out of his body, and he remained in the Princess’s arms like one dead.
Terrified and distracted with grief, the Princess carried the lifeless body of her lover into the palace and laid it on a couch in her own apartment. There, exhausted with the effort, she fell upon it, weeping bitterly. She called his name, but he did not answer. His ears were deaf, his eyes were closed, his pale lips did not respond to her kisses.
But the Prince was not dead: he was bewitched. The Sorceress, by means of his image, had torn his heart from his breast and had taken it far away. Yet, all the time, that heart was still beating with life, and with love for the Princess.
Forlorn and sorrowful the Princess sat by the couch, when suddenly she started up with clenched hands.
‘I know! I know!’ she cried. Then she bent down and kissed the Prince’s lips. She felt them tremble against hers, and, though she could not call him back, she knew that he was not dead. ‘Oh! my wicked sister! This is your work. You have bewitched my love! Never again! This is the end!’
She ran everywhere, in and about the palace, in search of her sister, her hands clenched, her eyes blazing, her teeth set. But she could not find her. At last a page, terrified to death at her aspect, confessed that her sister had fled from the palace alone, mounted on the fleetest steed of the stables.
The Princess at once resolved to follow her and force her to restore the Prince to life and health. But, at the very outset, there was a terrible difficulty to be surmounted. The Princess herself had never been beyond the walls that encircled the vast grounds of the palace. She knew that there were twelve gates, and that only one of these was left unlocked from sunset till sunrise, and that none could tell which one it might be. Now the law of the palace permitted her to try one gate each night, and one gate only.
She sat down and thought, and then decided to try the same gate each night until it happened to be the right one. For twelve nights she tried, but each time she found the gate locked and barred.
Then she suddenly remembered that, when the Fire Bird had brought the Prince to her, it had plucked a bright feather from its wing and let it fall at her feet. She had preserved it in a golden casket. Could it be that this feather had magic powers? She ran with all haste to her apartment, and took it from the casket. As she did so, it sparkled and quivered. As she held it up she was more than ever convinced that it held magic powers.
She looked at the feather, and she thought of the Fire Bird itself, and wished that it could only come and advise her what to do.
Scarcely had she conceived the wish, when a faint sound from far away struck upon her ears. As she listened, it grew louder and louder, and nearer and nearer, until at last she knew it was the roar of the Fire Bird’s wings. She ran out onto the balcony, and there she saw it, like a meteor in the sky, every moment growing bigger.
At last, with a glad, shrill cry, it swooped down, and its giant wings fluttered and vibrated a moment before it alighted on the edge of the balcony, its fiery golden light sparkling on the crystal pillars and shimmering in the air all around.
The Princess held up the feather, and the Fire Bird bowed its head slowly three times. Then it suddenly turned round as if to fly away, but looked back at her, and raised its wings, and fluffed out the soft, glistening feathers in the hollow of its back. Arching its head round, it began to act as if it were preparing a nest for her between its wings, and the Princess saw plainly that it was only waiting for her to seat herself there before flying away. The Bird knew what she wanted; she was sure of that. So she mounted between the wings, and nestled down on a soft feather bed of dazzling golden light, warm and comfortable. Then, with a long, jubilant cry the Bird rose in the air, and, craning its neck westward, flashed through space at a terrific rate.
Very soon they overtook the setting sun, passed it, and left it sinking on the horizon as they went on into the purlieus of the Land of Night and Silence, which lies beyond the great round shoulder of the world. And here the Fire Bird blazed along, leaving a trail of light in its wake and throwing a radiance on the hills and forests over which it passed; until it came, by way of the Valley-which-has-no-Borders, to the Forest-without-an-End.
Here the Bird swooped downwards and alighted before a black-mouthed cave. He crouched while the Princess dismounted. As she did so, the Bird plucked two fresh feathers from its wing with its beak and held them out to her. They shed a brilliant light, and she, seeing at once that they would serve as lamps, took them, one in each hand, and advanced into the gloomy cave.
She had not gone far when she heard a voice crooning a witch song, and, peering round the edge of a rock, she espied her sister seated beside a cauldron, beneath which was a freezing fire fed with blocks of frozen brine.
From the witch song her sister was singing, the Princess learned that her lover’s heart was in the cauldron. She listened while the Sorceress sang:
‘Seethe! Seethe! Heart of her lover,
Beating in tune with mine.
Never the two their love can recover,
Never their arms entwine.
Freeze! Freeze! Heart in this cauldron,
Seared by the frozen brine!’
With a scream the Princess rushed forward, and, before her wicked sister could prevent her, she had upset the cauldron with a crash. Some of the icy fire of brine splashed up in the face of the Sorceress, and with a loud, grating shriek, she fell to the ground senseless—dead!
The Princess snatched up her lover’s heart, and placed it in her bosom against her own, where she could feel it still beating. Then, without waiting another moment, she ran back to the Fire Bird, and sprang upon its back with a cry of joy, patting its neck and stroking its feathers.
Up in the sky they soared again, and away over the world towards the palace in the Home of the Dawn. And, as they neared their destination, the Princess suddenly missed something. Quickly she felt in her bosom to see if the heart of her lover was safe; but lo, it was gone! It seemed to have grown warm and melted right away.
Distressed at this, she urged the Fire Bird to still greater speed, until his track through the sky was like that of a shooting star. At length they swooped down and alighted on the balcony of the palace. The roaring of the Fire Bird’s wings was stilled, but the hum of its feathers continued—a throbbing pulsation of musical sound.
As the Princess alighted, the Prince himself came running to her. Then, with a mingled cry of delight, the lovers leapt to greet each other, and, when they were enfolded in each other’s arms, the Fire Bird discreetly turned his head away and preened his tail feathers.
The Princess did not trouble about her lover’s heart which she had taken from the Sorceress and missed on the way. She now felt it beating against her own, and knew that it was in its right place. The Prince was free from the wicked spell at last.
The Fire Bird’s work was done. Without a word he sprang into the air, and was soon lost to sight. And the lovers did not hear him go, for, by some mysterious power, he hushed his wings and went secretly, for, as you must have seen, he was really a very old bird.
The Prince and the Princess were married very soon, and, during the celebrations, the Fire Bird was seen to circle thrice every night round the palace, but he never settled.
As King and Queen of the People of the Dawn, they reigned for long years, and the Fire Bird was always their friend. On every anniversary of their wedding day, they awoke to the sound of his roaring wings. He always brought a present; and do you know what it was? Just a single feather of his shining wing, so that they might obtain whatever joy they wished for.
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