Trusty John

Today's classic tale is from the Blue Fairy Book, a collection of tales assembled and translated by Andrew Lang, published in 1889.

Once upon a time there was an old king who was so ill that he thought to himself, “I am most likely on my death-bed.” Then he said, “Send Trusty John to me.” Now Trusty John was his favorite servant, and was so called because all his life he had served him so faithfully. When he approached the bed the King spake to him: “Most trusty John, I feel my end is drawing near, and I could face it without a care were it not for my son. He is still too young to decide everything for himself, and unless you promise me to instruct him in all he should know, and to be to him as a father, I shall not close my eyes in peace.” Then Trusty John answered: “I will never desert him, and will serve him faithfully, even though it should cost me my life.” Then the old King said: “Now I die comforted and in peace”; and then he went on: “After my death you must show him the whole castle, all the rooms and apartments and vaults, and all the treasures that lie in them; but you must not show him the last room in the long passage, where the picture of the Princess of the Golden Roof is hidden. When he beholds that picture he will fall violently in love with it and go off into a dead faint, and for her sake he will encounter many dangers; you must guard him from this.” And when Trusty John had again given the King his hand upon it the old man became silent, laid his head on the pillow, and died.

When the old King had been carried to his grave Trusty John told the young King what he had promised his father on his death-bed, and added: “And I shall assuredly keep my word, and shall be faithful to you as I have been to him, even though it should cost me my life.”

Now when the time of mourning was over, Trusty John said to him: “It is time you should see your inheritance. I will show you your ancestral castle.” So he took him over everything, and let him see all the riches and splendid apartments, only the one room where the picture was he did not open. But the picture was placed so that if the door opened you gazed straight upon it, and it was so beautifully painted that you imagined it lived and moved, and that it was the most lovable and beautiful thing in the whole world. But the young King noticed that Trusty John always missed one door, and said: “Why do you never open this one for me?” “There is something inside that would appall you,” he answered. But the King replied: “I have seen the whole castle, and shall find out what is in there”; and with these words he approached the door and wanted to force it open. But Trusty John held him back, and said: “I promised your father before his death that you shouldn’t see what that room contains. It might bring both you and me to great grief.” “Ah! no,” answered the young King; “if I don’t get in, it will be my certain destruction; I should have no peace night or day till I had seen what was in the room with my own eyes. Now I don’t budge from the spot till you have opened the door.”

Then Trusty John saw there was no way out of it, so with a heavy heart and many sighs he took the key from the big bunch. When he had opened the door he stepped in first, and thought to cover the likeness so that the King might not perceive it; but it was hopeless: the King stood on tiptoe and looked over his shoulder. And when he saw the picture of the maid, so beautiful and glittering with gold and precious stones, he fell swooning to the ground. Trusty John lifted him up, carried him to bed, and thought sorrowfully: “The curse has come upon us; gracious heaven! what will be the end of it all?” Then he poured wine down his throat till he came to himself again. The first words he spoke were: “Oh! who is the original of the beautiful picture?” “She is the Princess of the Golden Roof,” answered Trusty John. Then the King continued: “My love for her is so great that if all the leaves on the trees had tongues they could not express it; my very life depends on my winning her. You are my most trusty John: you must stand by me.”

The faithful servant pondered long how they were to set about the matter, for it was said to be difficult even to get into the presence of the Princess. At length he hit upon a plan, and spoke to the King: “All the things she has about her—tables, chairs, dishes, goblets, bowls, and all her household furniture—are made of gold. You have in your treasure five tons of gold; let the goldsmiths of your kingdom manufacture them into all manner of vases and vessels, into all sorts of birds and game and wonderful beasts; that will please her. We shall go to her with them and try our luck.” The King summoned all his goldsmiths, and they had to work hard day and night, till at length the most magnificent things were completed. When a ship had been laden with them the faithful John disguised himself as a merchant, and the King had to do the same, so that they should be quite unrecognizable. And so they crossed the seas and journeyed till they reached the town where the Princess of the Golden Roof dwelt.

Trusty John made the King remain behind on the ship and await his return. “Perhaps,” he said, “I may bring the Princess back with me, so see that everything is in order; let the gold ornaments be arranged and the whole ship decorated.” Then he took a few of the gold things in his apron, went ashore, and proceeded straight to the palace. When he came to the courtyard he found a beautiful maiden standing at the well, drawing water with two golden pails. And as she was about to carry away the glittering water she turned round and saw the stranger, and asked him who he was. Then he replied: “I am a merchant,” and opening his apron, he let her peep in. “Oh! my,” she cried; “what beautiful gold wares!” she set down her pails, and examined one thing after the other. Then she said: “The Princess must see this, she has such a fancy for gold things that she will buy up all you have.” She took him by the hand and let him into the palace, for she was the lady’s maid.

When the Princess had seen the wares she was quite enchanted, and said: “They are all so beautifully made that I shall buy everything you have.” But Trusty John said: “I am only the servant of a rich merchant, what I have here is nothing compared to what my master has on his ship; his merchandise is more artistic and costly than anything that has ever been made in gold before.” She desired to have everything brought up to her, but he said: “There is such a quantity of things that it would take many days to bring them up, and they would take up so many rooms that you would have no space for them in your house.” Thus her desire and curiosity were excited to such an extent that at last she said: “Take me to your ship; I shall go there myself and view your master’s treasures.”

Then Trusty John was quite delighted, and brought her to the ship; and the King, when he beheld her, saw that she was even more beautiful than her picture, and thought every moment that his heart would burst. She stepped on to the ship, and the King led her inside. But Trusty John remained behind with the steersman, and ordered the ship to push off. “Spread all sail, that we may fly on the ocean like a bird in the air.” Meanwhile the King showed the Princess inside all his gold wares, every single bit of it—dishes, goblets, bowls, the birds and game, and all the wonderful beasts. Many hours passed thus, and she was so happy that she did not notice that the ship was sailing away. After she had seen the last thing she thanked the merchant and prepared to go home; but when she came to the ship’s side she saw that they were on the high seas, far from land, and that the ship was speeding on its way under full canvas. “Oh!” she cried in terror, “I am deceived, carried away and betrayed into the power of a merchant; I would rather have died!” But the King seized her hand and spake: “I am no merchant, but a king of as high birth as yourself; and it was my great love for you that made me carry you off by stratagem. The first time I saw your likeness I fell to the ground in a swoon.” When the Princess of the Golden Roof heard this she was comforted, and her heart went out to him, so that she willingly consented to become his wife.

Now it happened one day, while they were sailing on the high seas, that Trusty John, sitting on the forepart of the ship, fiddling away to himself, observed three ravens in the air flying toward him. He ceased playing, and listened to what they were saying, for he understood their language. The one croaked: “Ah, ha! so he’s bringing the Princess of the Golden Roof home.” “Yes,” answered the second, “but he’s not got her yet.” “Yes, he has,” spake the third, “for she’s sitting beside him on the ship.” Then number one began again and cried: “That’ll not help him! When they reach the land a chestnut horse will dash forward to greet them: the King will wish to mount it, and if he does it will gallop away with him, and disappear into the air, and he will never see his bride again.” “Is there no escape for him?” asked number two. “Oh! yes, if someone else mounts quickly and shoots the horse dead with the pistol that is sticking in the holster, then the young King is saved. But who’s to do that? And anyone who knows it and tells him will be turned into stone from his feet to his knees.” Then spake number two: “I know more than that: even if the horse is slain, the young King will still not keep his bride: when they enter the palace together they will find a ready-made wedding shirt in a cupboard, which looks as though it were woven of gold and silver, but is really made of nothing but sulphur and tar: when the King puts it on it will burn him to his marrow and bones.” Number three asked: “Is there no way of escape, then?” “Oh! yes,” answered number two: “If someone seizes the shirt with gloved hands and throws it into the fire, and lets it burn, then the young King is saved. But what’s the good? Anyone knowing this and telling it will have half his body turned into stone, from his knees to his heart.” Then number three spake: “I know yet more: though the bridal shirt too be burnt, the King hasn’t even then secured his bride: when the dance is held after the wedding, and the young Queen is dancing, she will suddenly grow deadly white, and drop down like one dead, and unless some one lifts her up and draws three drops of blood from her right side, and spits them out again, she will die. But if anyone who knows this betrays it, he will be turned into stone from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet.” When the ravens had thus conversed they fled onward, but Trusty John had taken it all in, and was sad and depressed from that time forward; for if he were silent to his master concerning what he had heard, he would involve him in misfortune; but if he took him into his confidence, then he himself would forfeit his life. At last he said: “I will stand by my master, though it should be my ruin.”

Now when they drew near the land it came to pass just as the ravens had predicted, and a splendid chestnut horse bounded forward. “Capital!” said the King; “this animal shall carry me to my palace,” and was about to mount, but Trusty John was too sharp for him, and, springing up quickly, seized the pistol out of the holster and shot the horse dead. Then the other servants of the King, who at no time looked favorably on Trusty John, cried out: “What a sin to kill the beautiful beast that was to bear the King to his palace!” But the King spake: “Silence! let him alone; he is ever my most trusty John. Who knows for what good end he may have done this thing?” So they went on their way and entered the palace, and there in the hall stood a cupboard in which lay the ready-made bridal shirt, looking for all the world as though it were made of gold and silver. The young King went toward it and was about to take hold of it, but Trusty John, pushing him aside, seized it with his gloved hands, threw it hastily into the fire, and let it burn The other servants commenced grumbling again, and said: “See, he’s actually burning the King’s bridal shirt.” But the young King spoke: “Who knows for what good purpose he does it? Let him alone, he is my most trusty John.” Then the wedding was celebrated, the dance began, and the bride joined in, but Trusty John watched her countenance carefully. Of a sudden she grew deadly white, and fell to the ground as if she were dead. He at once sprang hastily toward her, lifted her up, and bore her to a room, where he laid her down, and kneeling beside her he drew three drops of blood from her right side, and spat them out. She soon breathed again and came to herself; but the young King had watched the proceeding, and not knowing why Trusty John had acted as he did, he flew into a passion, and cried: “Throw him into prison.” On the following morning sentence was passed on Trusty John, and he was condemned to be hanged. As he stood on the gallows he said: “Every one doomed to death has the right to speak once before he dies; and I too have that privilege?” “Yes,” said the King, “it shall be granted to you.” So Trusty John spoke: “I am unjustly condemned, for I have always been faithful to you”; and he proceeded to relate how he had heard the ravens’ conversation on the sea, and how he had to do all he did in order to save his master. Then the King cried: “Oh! my most trusty John, pardon! pardon! Take him down.” But as he uttered the last word Trusty John had fallen lifeless to the ground, and was a stone.

The King and Queen were in despair, and the King spake: “Ah! how ill have I rewarded such great fidelity!” and made them lift up the stone image and place it in his bedroom near his bed. As often as he looked at it he wept and said: “Oh! if I could only restore you to life, my most trusty John!” After a time the Queen gave birth to twins, two small sons, who throve and grew, and were a constant joy to her. One day when the Queen was at church, and the two children sat and played with their father, he gazed again full of grief on the stone statue, and sighing, wailed: “Oh, if I could only restore you to life, my most trusty John!” Suddenly the stone began to speak, and said: “Yes, you can restore me to life again if you are prepared to sacrifice what you hold most dear.” And the King cried out: “All I have in the world will I give up for your sake.” The stone continued: “If you cut off with your own hand the heads of your two children, and smear me with their blood, I shall come back to life.” The King was aghast when he heard that he had himself to put his children to death; but when he thought of Trusty John’s fidelity, and how he had even died for him, he drew his sword, and with his own hand cut the heads off his children. And when he had smeared the stone with their blood, life came back, and Trusty John stood once more safe and sound before him. He spake to the King: “Your loyalty shall be rewarded,” and taking up the heads of the children, he placed them on their bodies, smeared the wounds with their blood, and in a minute they were all right again and jumping about as if nothing had happened. Then the King was full of joy, and when he saw the Queen coming, he hid Trusty John and the two children in a big cupboard. As she entered he said to her: “Did you pray in church?” “Yes,” she answered, “but my thoughts dwelt constantly on Trusty John, and of what he has suffered for us.” Then he spake: “Dear wife, we can restore him to life, but the price asked is our two little sons; we must sacrifice them.” The Queen grew white and her heart sank, but she replied: “We owe it to him on account of his great fidelity.” Then he rejoiced that she was of the same mind as he had been, and going forward he opened the cupboard, and fetched the two children and Trusty John out, saying: “God be praised! Trusty John is free once more, and we have our two small sons again.” Then he related to her all that had passed, and they lived together happily ever afterward.


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The Twelve Huntsmen

Today's classic tale is from the Green Fairy Book, a collection of tales assembled and translated by Andrew Lang, published in 1892.

Once upon a time there was a King’s son who was engaged to a Princess whom he dearly loved. One day as he sat by her side feeling very happy, he received news that his father was lying at the point of death, and desired to see him before his end. So he said to his love: ‘Alas! I must go off and leave you, but take this ring and wear it as a remembrance of me, and when I am King I will return and fetch you home.’

Then he rode off, and when he reached his father he found him mortally ill and very near death.

The King said: ‘Dearest son, I have desired to see you again before my end. Promise me, I beg of you, that you will marry according to my wishes’; and he then named the daughter of a neighbouring King who he was anxious should be his son’s wife. The Prince was so overwhelmed with grief that he could think of nothing but his father, and exclaimed: ‘Yes, yes, dear father, whatever you desire shall be done.’ Thereupon the King closed his eyes and died.

After the Prince had been proclaimed King, and the usual time of mourning had elapsed, he felt that he must keep the promise he had made to his father, so he sent to ask for the hand of the King’s daughter, which was granted to him at once.

Now, his first love heard of this, and the thought of her lover’s desertion grieved her so sadly that she pined away and nearly died. Her father said to her: ‘My dearest child, why are you so unhappy? If there is anything you wish for, say so, and you shall have it.’

His daughter reflected for a moment, and then said: ‘Dear father, I wish for eleven girls as nearly as possible of the same height, age, and appearance as myself.’

Said the King: ‘If the thing is possible your wish shall be fulfilled’; and he had his kingdom searched till he found eleven maidens of the same height, size, and appearance as his daughter.

Then the Princess desired twelve complete huntsmen’s suits to be made, all exactly alike, and the eleven maidens had to dress themselves in eleven of the suits, while she herself put on the twelfth. After this she took leave of her father, and rode off with her girls to the court of her former lover.

Here she enquired whether the King did not want some huntsmen, and if he would not take them all into his service. The King saw her but did not recognize her, and as he thought them very good-looking young people, he said, ‘Yes, he would gladly engage them all.’ So they became the twelve royal huntsmen.

Now, the King had a most remarkable Lion, for it knew every hidden or secret thing.

One evening the Lion said to the King: ‘So you think you have got twelve huntsmen, do you?’

‘Yes, certainly,’ said the King, ‘they are twelve huntsmen.’

‘There you are mistaken,’ said the Lion; ‘they are twelve maidens.’

‘That cannot possibly be,’ replied the King; ‘how do you mean to prove that?’

‘Just have a number of peas strewed over the floor of your ante-chamber,’ said the Lion, ‘and you will soon see. Men have a strong, firm tread, so that if they happen to walk over peas not one will stir, but girls trip, and slip, and slide, so that the peas roll all about.’

The King was pleased with the Lion’s advice, and ordered the peas to be strewn in his ante-room.

Fortunately one of the King’s servants had become very partial to the young huntsmen, and hearing of the trial they were to be put to, he went to them and said: ‘The Lion wants to persuade the King that you are only girls’; and then told them all the plot.

The King’s daughter thanked him for the hint, and after he was gone she said to her maidens: ‘Now make every effort to tread firmly on the peas.’

Next morning, when the King sent for his twelve huntsmen, and they passed through the ante-room which was plentifully strewn with peas, they trod so firmly and walked with such a steady, strong step that not a single pea rolled away or even so much as stirred. After they were gone the King said to the Lion: ‘There now—you have been telling lies—you see yourself they walk like men.’

‘Because they knew they were being put to the test,’ answered the Lion; ‘and so they made an effort; but just have a dozen spinning-wheels placed in the ante-room. When they pass through you’ll see how pleased they will be, quite unlike any man.’

The King was pleased with the advice, and desired twelve spinning-wheels to be placed in his ante-chamber.

But the good-natured servant went to the huntsmen and told them all about this fresh plot. Then, as soon as the King’s daughter was alone with her maidens, she exclaimed: ‘Now, pray make a great effort and don’t even look at those spinning-wheels.’

When the King sent for his twelve huntsmen next morning they walked through the ante-room without even casting a glance at the spinning-wheels.

Then the King said once more to the Lion: ‘You have deceived me again; they are men, for they never once looked at the spinning-wheels.’

The Lion replied: ‘They knew they were being tried, and they did violence to their feelings.’ But the King declined to believe in the Lion any longer.

So the twelve huntsmen continued to follow the King, and he grew daily fonder of them. One day whilst they were all out hunting it so happened that news was brought that the King’s intended bride was on her way and might soon be expected. When the true bride heard of this she felt as though a knife had pierced her heart, and she fell fainting to the ground. The King, fearing something had happened to his dear huntsman, ran up to help, and began drawing off his gloves. Then he saw the ring which he had given to his first love, and as he gazed into her face he knew her again, and his heart was so touched that he kissed her, and as she opened her eyes, he cried: ‘I am thine and thou art mine, and no power on earth can alter that.’

To the other Princess he despatched a messenger to beg her to return to her own kingdom with all speed. ‘For,’ said he, ‘I have got a wife, and he who finds an old key again does not require a new one.’

Thereupon the wedding was celebrated with great pomp, and the Lion was restored to the royal favour, for after all he had told the truth.


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Nennillo and Nennella

Today's classic tale was originally published in Il Pentamerone by Giambattista Basile in 1634, translated by John Edward Taylor in 1847.

There was once a good man named Jannuccio, who had two children, Nennillo and Nennella, whom he loved as much as his own life. But Death having, with the smooth file of Time, severed the prison-bars of his wife's soul, he took to himself a cruel woman, who had no sooner set foot in his house than she began to ride the high horse, saying, "Am I come here indeed to look after other folk's children? A pretty job I have undertaken, to have all this trouble and be for ever teased by a couple of squalling brats! Would that I had broken my neck ere I ever came to this place, to have bad food, worse drink, and get no sleep at night! Here's a life to lead! Forsooth I came as a wife, and not as a servant; but I must find some means of getting rid of these creatures, or it will cost me my life: better to blush once than to grow pale a hundred times; so I've done with them, for I am resolved to send them away, or to leave the house myself for ever."

The poor husband, who had some affection for this woman, said to her, "Softly, wife! Don't be angry, for sugar is dear; and to-morrow morning, before the cock crows, I will remove this annoyance in order to please you." So the next morning, ere the Dawn had hung out the red counterpane at the window of the East to air it, Jannuccio took the children, one by each hand, and with a good basketful of things to eat upon his arm, he led them to a wood, where an army of poplars and beech-trees were holding the shades besieged. Then Jannuccio said, "My little children, stay here in this wood, and eat and drink merrily; but if you want anything, follow this line of ashes which I have been strewing as we came along; this will be a clue to lead you out of the labyrinth and bring you straight home." Then giving them both a kiss, he returned weeping to his house.

But at the hour when all creatures, summoned by the constables of Night, pay to Nature the tax of needful repose, the two children began to feel afraid at remaining in that lonesome place, where the waters of a river, which was thrashing the impertinent stones for obstructing its course, would have frightened even a hero. So they went slowly along the path of ashes, and it was already midnight ere they reached their home. When Pascozza, their stepmother, saw the children, she acted not like a woman, but a perfect fury; crying aloud, wringing her hands, stamping with her feet, snorting like a frightened horse, and exclaiming, "What fine piece of work is this? Is there no way of ridding the house of these creatures? Is it possible, husband, that you are determined to keep them here to plague my very life out? Go, take them out of my sight! I'll not wait for the crowing of cocks and the cackling of hens; or else be assured that to-morrow morning I'll go off to my parents' house, for you do not deserve me. I have not brought you so many fine things, only to be made the slave of children who are not my own."

Poor Jannuccio, who saw that matters were growing rather too warm, immediately took the little ones and returned to the wood; where giving the children another basketful of food, he said to them, "You see, my dears, how this wife of mine—who is come to my house to be your ruin and a nail in my heart—hates you; therefore remain in this wood, where the trees, more compassionate, will give you shelter from the sun; where the river, more charitable, will give you drink without poison; and the earth, more kind, will give you a pillow of grass without danger. And when you want food, follow this little path of bran which I have made for you in a straight line, and you can come and seek what you require." So saying, he turned away his face, not to let himself be seen to weep and dishearten the poor little creatures.

When Nennillo and Nennella had eaten all that was in the basket, they wanted to return home; but alas! a jackass—the son of ill-luck—had eaten up all the bran that was strewn upon the ground; so they lost their way, and wandered about forlorn in the wood for several days, feeding on acorns and chestnuts which they found fallen on the ground. But as Heaven always extends its arm over the innocent, there came by chance a Prince to hunt in that wood. Then Nennillo, hearing the baying of the hounds, was so frightened that he crept into a hollow tree; and Nennella set off running at full speed, and ran until she came out of the wood, and found herself on the seashore. Now it happened that some pirates, who had landed there to get fuel, saw Nennella and carried her off; and their captain took her home with him where he and his wife, having just lost a little girl, took her as their daughter.

Meantime Nennillo, who had hidden himself in the tree, was surrounded by the dogs, which made such a furious barking that the Prince sent to find out the cause; and when he discovered the pretty little boy, who was so young that he could not tell who were his father and mother, he ordered one of the huntsmen to set him upon his saddle and take him to the royal palace. Then he had him brought up with great care, and instructed in various arts, and among others, he had him taught that of a carver; so that, before three or four years had passed, Nennillo became so expert in his art that he could carve a joint to a hair.

Now about this time it was discovered that the captain of the ship who had taken Nennella to his house was a sea-robber, and the people wished to take him prisoner; but getting timely notice from the clerks in the law-courts, who were his friends, and whom he kept in his pay, he fled with all his family. It was decreed, however, perhaps by the judgment of Heaven, that he who had committed his crimes upon the sea, upon the sea should suffer the punishment of them; for having embarked in a small boat, no sooner was he upon the open sea than there came such a storm of wind and tumult of the waves, that the boat was upset and all were drowned—all except Nennella, who having had no share in the corsair's robberies, like his wife and children, escaped the danger; for just then a large enchanted fish, which was swimming about the boat, opened its huge throat and swallowed her down.

The little girl now thought to herself that her days were surely at an end, when suddenly she found a thing to amaze her inside the fish,—beautiful fields and fine gardens, and a splendid mansion, with all that heart could desire, in which she lived like a Princess. Then she was carried quickly by the fish to a rock, where it chanced that the Prince had come to escape the burning heat of a summer, and to enjoy the cool sea-breezes. And whilst a great banquet was preparing, Nennillo had stepped out upon a balcony of the palace on the rock to sharpen some knives, priding himself greatly on acquiring honour from his office. When Nennella saw him through the fish's throat, she cried aloud,

"Brother, brother, your task is done,
The tables are laid out every one;
But here in the fish I must sit and sigh,
O brother, without you I soon shall die."

Nennillo at first paid no attention to the voice, but the Prince, who was standing on another balcony and had also heard it, turned in the direction whence the sound came, and saw the fish. And when he again heard the same words, he was beside himself with amazement, and ordered a number of servants to try whether by any means they could ensnare the fish and draw it to land. At last, hearing the words "Brother, brother!" continually repeated, he asked all his servants, one by one, whether any of them had lost a sister. And Nennillo replied, that he recollected, as a dream, having had a sister when the Prince found him in the wood, but that he had never since heard any tidings of her. Then the Prince told him to go nearer to the fish, and see what was the matter, for perhaps this adventure might concern him. As soon as Nennillo approached the fish, it raised up its head upon the rock, and opening its throat six palms wide, Nennella stepped out, so beautiful that she looked just like a nymph in some interlude, come forth from that animal at the incantation of a magician. And when the Prince asked her how it had all happened, she told him a part of her sad story, and the hatred of their stepmother; but not being able to recollect the name of their father nor of their home, the Prince caused a proclamation to be issued, commanding that whoever had lost two children, named Nennillo and Nennella, in a wood, should come to the royal palace, and he would there receive joyful news of them.

Jannuccio, who had all this time passed a sad and disconsolate life, believing that his children had been devoured by wolves, now hastened with the greatest joy to seek the Prince, and told him that he had lost the children. And when he had related the story, how he had been compelled to take them to the wood, the Prince gave him a good scolding, calling him a blockhead for allowing a woman to put her heel upon his neck till he was brought to send away two such jewels as his children. But after he had broken Jannuccio's head with these words, he applied to it the plaster of consolation, showing him the children, whom the father embraced and kissed for half an hour without being satisfied. Then the Prince made him pull off his jacket, and had him dressed like a lord; and sending for Jannuccio's wife, he showed her those two golden pippins, asked her what that person would deserve who should do them any harm, and even endanger their lives. And she replied, "For my part, I would put her into a closed cask, and send her rolling down a mountain."

"So it shall be done!" said the Prince. "The goat has butted at herself. Quick now! you have passed the sentence, and you must suffer it, for having borne these beautiful stepchildren such malice." So he gave orders that the sentence should be instantly executed. Then choosing a very rich lord among his vassals, he gave him Nennella to wife, and the daughter of another great lord to Nennillo; allowing them enough to live upon, with their father, so that they wanted for nothing in the world. But the stepmother, shut into the cask and shut out from life, kept on crying through the bunghole as long as she had breath—

"To him who mischief seeks, shall mischief fall;
There comes an hour that recompenses all."


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Blue Beard

Today's classic tale is from the Blue Fairy Book, a collection of tales assembled and translated by Andrew Lang, published in 1889.

There was a man who had fine houses, both in town and country, a deal of silver and gold plate, embroidered furniture, and coaches gilded all over with gold. But this man was so unlucky as to have a blue beard, which made him so frightfully ugly that all the women and girls ran away from him.

One of his neighbors, a lady of quality, had two daughters who were perfect beauties. He desired of her one of them in marriage, leaving to her choice which of the two she would bestow on him. They would neither of them have him, and sent him backward and forward from one another, not being able to bear the thoughts of marrying a man who had a blue beard, and what besides gave them disgust and aversion was his having already been married to several wives, and nobody ever knew what became of them.

Blue Beard, to engage their affection, took them, with the lady their mother and three or four ladies of their acquaintance, with other young people of the neighborhood, to one of his country seats, where they stayed a whole week.

There was nothing then to be seen but parties of pleasure, hunting, fishing, dancing, mirth, and feasting. Nobody went to bed, but all passed the night in rallying and joking with each other. In short, everything succeeded so well that the youngest daughter began to think the master of the house not to have a beard so very blue, and that he was a mighty civil gentleman.

As soon as they returned home, the marriage was concluded. About a month afterward, Blue Beard told his wife that he was obliged to take a country journey for six weeks at least, about affairs of very great consequence, desiring her to divert herself in his absence, to send for her friends and acquaintances, to carry them into the country, if she pleased, and to make good cheer wherever she was.

“Here,” said he, “are the keys of the two great wardrobes, wherein I have my best furniture; these are of my silver and gold plate, which is not every day in use; these open my strong boxes, which hold my money, both gold and silver; these my caskets of jewels; and this is the master-key to all my apartments. But for this little one here, it is the key of the closet at the end of the great gallery on the ground floor. Open them all; go into all and every one of them, except that little closet, which I forbid you, and forbid it in such a manner that, if you happen to open it, there’s nothing but what you may expect from my just anger and resentment.”

She promised to observe, very exactly, whatever he had ordered; when he, after having embraced her, got into his coach and proceeded on his journey.

Her neighbors and good friends did not stay to be sent for by the new married lady, so great was their impatience to see all the rich furniture of her house, not daring to come while her husband was there, because of his blue beard, which frightened them. They ran through all the rooms, closets, and wardrobes, which were all so fine and rich that they seemed to surpass one another.

After that they went up into the two great rooms, where was the best and richest furniture; they could not sufficiently admire the number and beauty of the tapestry, beds, couches, cabinets, stands, tables, and looking-glasses, in which you might see yourself from head to foot; some of them were framed with glass, others with silver, plain and gilded, the finest and most magnificent ever were seen.

They ceased not to extol and envy the happiness of their friend, who in the meantime in no way diverted herself in looking upon all these rich things, because of the impatience she had to go and open the closet on the ground floor. She was so much pressed by her curiosity that, without considering that it was very uncivil to leave her company, she went down a little back staircase, and with such excessive haste that she had twice or thrice like to have broken her neck.

Coming to the closet-door, she made a stop for some time, thinking upon her husband’s orders, and considering what unhappiness might attend her if she was disobedient; but the temptation was so strong she could not overcome it. She then took the little key, and opened it, trembling, but could not at first see anything plainly, because the windows were shut. After some moments she began to perceive that the floor was all covered over with clotted blood, on which lay the bodies of several dead women, ranged against the walls. (These were all the wives whom Blue Beard had married and murdered, one after another.) She thought she should have died for fear, and the key, which she pulled out of the lock, fell out of her hand.

After having somewhat recovered her surprise, she took up the key, locked the door, and went upstairs into her chamber to recover herself; but she could not, she was so much frightened. Having observed that the key of the closet was stained with blood, she tried two or three times to wipe it off, but the blood would not come out; in vain did she wash it, and even rub it with soap and sand; the blood still remained, for the key was magical and she could never make it quite clean; when the blood was gone off from one side, it came again on the other.

Blue Beard returned from his journey the same evening, and said he had received letters upon the road, informing him that the affair he went about was ended to his advantage. His wife did all she could to convince him she was extremely glad of his speedy return.

Next morning he asked her for the keys, which she gave him, but with such a trembling hand that he easily guessed what had happened.

“What!” said he, “is not the key of my closet among the rest?”

“I must certainly have left it above upon the table,” said she.

“Fail not to bring it to me presently,” said Blue Beard.

After several goings backward and forward she was forced to bring him the key. Blue Beard, having very attentively considered it, said to his wife,

“How comes this blood upon the key?”

“I do not know,” cried the poor woman, paler than death.

“You do not know!” replied Blue Beard. “I very well know. You were resolved to go into the closet, were you not? Mighty well, madam; you shall go in, and take your place among the ladies you saw there.”

Upon this she threw herself at her husband’s feet, and begged his pardon with all the signs of true repentance, vowing that she would never more be disobedient. She would have melted a rock, so beautiful and sorrowful was she; but Blue Beard had a heart harder than any rock!

“You must die, madam,” said he, “and that presently.”

“Since I must die,” answered she (looking upon him with her eyes all bathed in tears), “give me some little time to say my prayers.”

“I give you,” replied Blue Beard, “half a quarter of an hour, but not one moment more.”

When she was alone she called out to her sister, and said to her:

“Sister Anne” (for that was her name), “go up, I beg you, upon the top of the tower, and look if my brothers are not coming over; they promised me that they would come to-day, and if you see them, give them a sign to make haste.”

Her sister Anne went up upon the top of the tower, and the poor afflicted wife cried out from time to time:

“Anne, sister Anne, do you see anyone coming?”

And sister Anne said:

“I see nothing but the sun, which makes a dust, and the grass, which looks green.”

In the meanwhile Blue Beard, holding a great sabre in his hand, cried out as loud as he could bawl to his wife:

“Come down instantly, or I shall come up to you.”

“One moment longer, if you please,” said his wife, and then she cried out very softly, “Anne, sister Anne, dost thou see anybody coming?”

And sister Anne answered:

“I see nothing but the sun, which makes a dust, and the grass, which is green.”

“Come down quickly,” cried Blue Beard, “or I will come up to you.”

“I am coming,” answered his wife; and then she cried, “Anne, sister Anne, dost thou not see anyone coming?”

“I see,” replied sister Anne, “a great dust, which comes on this side here.”

“Are they my brothers?”

“Alas! no, my dear sister, I see a flock of sheep.”

“Will you not come down?” cried Blue Beard

“One moment longer,” said his wife, and then she cried out: “Anne, sister Anne, dost thou see nobody coming?”

“I see,” said she, “two horsemen, but they are yet a great way off.”

“God be praised,” replied the poor wife joyfully; “they are my brothers; I will make them a sign, as well as I can, for them to make haste.”

Then Blue Beard bawled out so loud that he made the whole house tremble. The distressed wife came down, and threw herself at his feet, all in tears, with her hair about her shoulders.

“This signifies nothing,” says Blue Beard; “you must die”; then, taking hold of her hair with one hand, and lifting up the sword with the other, he was going to take off her head. The poor lady, turning about to him, and looking at him with dying eyes, desired him to afford her one little moment to recollect herself.

“No, no,” said he, “recommend thyself to God,” and was just ready to strike...

At this very instant there was such a loud knocking at the gate that Blue Beard made a sudden stop. The gate was opened, and presently entered two horsemen, who, drawing their swords, ran directly to Blue Beard. He knew them to be his wife’s brothers, one a dragoon, the other a musketeer, so that he ran away immediately to save himself; but the two brothers pursued so close that they overtook him before he could get to the steps of the porch, when they ran their swords through his body and left him dead. The poor wife was almost as dead as her husband, and had not strength enough to rise and welcome her brothers.

Blue Beard had no heirs, and so his wife became mistress of all his estate. She made use of one part of it to marry her sister Anne to a young gentleman who had loved her a long while; another part to buy captains commissions for her brothers, and the rest to marry herself to a very worthy gentleman, who made her forget the ill time she had passed with Blue Beard.


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Allerleirauh; or The Many-Furred Creature

Today's classic tale is from the Green Fairy Book, a collection of tales assembled and translated by Andrew Lang, published in 1892.

There was once upon a time a King who had a wife with golden hair, and she was so beautiful that you couldn’t find anyone like her in the world. It happened that she fell ill, and when she felt that she must soon die, she sent for the King, and said, ‘If you want to marry after my death, make no one queen unless she is just as beautiful as I am, and has just such golden hair as I have. Promise me this.’ After the King had promised her this, she closed her eyes and died.

For a long time the King was not to be comforted, and he did not even think of taking a second wife. At last his councillors said, ‘The King must marry again, so that we may have a queen.’ So messengers were sent far and wide to seek for a bride equal to the late Queen in beauty. But there was no one in the wide world, and if there had been she could not have had such golden hair. Then the messengers came home again, not having been able to find a queen.

Now, the King had a daughter, who was just as beautiful as her dead mother, and had just such golden hair. One day when she had grown up, her father looked at her, and saw that she was exactly like her mother, so he said to his councillors, ‘I will marry my daughter to one of you, and she shall be queen, for she is exactly like her dead mother, and when I die her husband shall be king.’ But when the Princess heard of her father’s decision, she was not at all pleased, and said to him, ‘Before I do your bidding, I must have three dresses; one as golden as the sun, one as silver as the moon, and one as shining as the stars. Besides these, I want a cloak made of a thousand different kinds of skin; every animal in your kingdom must give a bit of his skin to it.’ But she thought to herself, ‘This will be quite impossible, and I shall not have to marry someone I do not care for.’ The King, however, was not to be turned from his purpose, and he commanded the most skilled maidens in his kingdom to weave the three dresses, one as golden as the sun, and one as silver as the moon, and one as shining as the stars; and he gave orders to all his huntsmen to catch one of every kind of beast in the kingdom, and to get a bit of its skin to make the cloak of a thousand pieces of fur. At last, when all was ready, the King commanded the cloak to be brought to him, and he spread it out before the Princess, and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be your wedding-day.’ When the Princess saw that there was no more hope of changing her father’s resolution, she determined to flee away. In the night, when everyone else was sleeping, she got up and took three things from her treasures, a gold ring, a little gold spinning-wheel, and a gold reel; she put the sun, moon, and star dresses in a nut-shell, drew on the cloak of many skins, and made her face and hands black with soot. Then she commended herself to God, and went out and travelled the whole night till she came to a large forest. And as she was very much tired she sat down inside a hollow tree and fell asleep.

The sun rose and she still slept on and on, although it was nearly noon. Now, it happened that the king to whom this wood belonged was hunting in it. When his dogs came to the tree, they sniffed, and ran round and round it, barking. The King said to the huntsmen, ‘See what sort of a wild beast is in there.’ The huntsmen went in, and then came back and said, ‘In the hollow tree there lies a wonderful animal that we don’t know, and we have never seen one like it; its skin is made of a thousand pieces of fur; but it is lying down asleep.’ The King said, ‘See if you can catch it alive, and then fasten it to the cart, and we will take it with us.’ When the huntsmen seized the maiden, she awoke and was frightened, and cried out to them, ‘I am a poor child, forsaken by father and mother; take pity on me, and let me go with you.’ Then they said to her, ‘Many-furred Creature, you can work in the kitchen; come with us and sweep the ashes together.’ So they put her in the cart and they went back to the palace. There they showed her a tiny room under the stairs, where no daylight came, and said to her, ‘Many-furred Creature, you can live and sleep here.’ Then she was sent into the kitchen, where she carried wood and water, poked the fire, washed vegetables, plucked fowls, swept up the ashes, and did all the dirty work.

So the Many-furred Creature lived for a long time in great poverty. Ah, beautiful King’s daughter, what is going to befall you now?

It happened once when a great feast was being held in the palace, that she said to the cook, ‘Can I go upstairs for a little bit and look on? I will stand outside the doors.’ The cook replied, ‘Yes, you can go up, but in half-an-hour you must be back here to sweep up the ashes.’ Then she took her little oil-lamp, and went into her little room, drew off her fur cloak, and washed off the soot from her face and hands, so that her beauty shone forth, and it was as if one sunbeam after another were coming out of a black cloud. Then she opened the nut, and took out the dress as golden as the sun. And when she had done this, she went up to the feast, and everyone stepped out of her way, for nobody knew her, and they thought she must be a King’s daughter. But the King came towards her and gave her his hand, and danced with her, thinking to himself, ‘My eyes have never beheld anyone so fair!’ When the dance was ended, she curtseyed to him, and when the King looked round she had disappeared, no one knew whither. The guards who were standing before the palace were called and questioned, but no one had seen her.

She had run to her little room and had quickly taken off her dress, made her face and hands black, put on the fur cloak, and was once more the Many-furred Creature. When she came into the kitchen and was setting about her work of sweeping the ashes together, the cook said to her, ‘Let that wait till to-morrow, and just cook the King’s soup for me; I want to have a little peep at the company upstairs; but be sure that you do not let a hair fall into it, otherwise you will get nothing to eat in future!’ So the cook went away, and the Many-furred Creature cooked the soup for the King. She made a bread-soup as well as she possibly could, and when it was done, she fetched her gold ring from her little room, and laid it in the tureen in which the soup was to be served up.

When the dance was ended, the King had his soup brought to him and ate it, and it was so good that he thought he had never tasted such soup in his life. But when he came to the bottom of the dish he saw a gold ring lying there, and he could not imagine how it got in. Then he commanded the cook to be brought before him. The cook was terrified when he heard the command, and said to the Many-furred Creature, ‘You must have let a hair fall into the soup, and if you have you deserve a good beating!’ When he came before the King, the King asked who had cooked the soup. The cook answered, ‘I cooked it.’ But the King said, ‘That’s not true, for it was quite different and much better soup than you have ever cooked.’ Then the cook said, ‘I must confess; I did not cook the soup; the Many-furred Creature did.’ ‘Let her be brought before me,’ said the King. When the Many-furred Creature came, the King asked her who she was. ‘I am a poor child without father or mother.’ Then he asked her, ‘What do you do in my palace?’ ‘I am of no use except to have boots thrown at my head.’ ‘How did you get the ring which was in the soup?’ he asked. ‘I know nothing at all about the ring,’ she answered. So the King could find out nothing, and was obliged to send her away.

After a time there was another feast, and the Many-furred Creature begged the cook as at the last one to let her go and look on. He answered, ‘Yes, but come back again in half-an-hour and cook the King the bread-soup that he likes so much.’ So she ran away to her little room, washed herself quickly, took out of the nut the dress as silver as the moon and put it on. Then she went upstairs looking just like a King’s daughter, and the King came towards her, delighted to see her again, and as the dance had just begun, they danced together. But when the dance was ended, she disappeared again so quickly that the King could not see which way she went. She ran to her little room and changed herself once more into the Many-furred Creature, and went into the kitchen to cook the bread-soup. When the cook was upstairs, she fetched the golden spinning-wheel and put it in the dish so that the soup was poured over it. It was brought to the King, who ate it, and liked it as much as the last time. He had the cook sent to him, and again he had to confess that the Many-furred Creature had cooked the soup. Then the Many-furred Creature came before the King, but she said again that she was of no use except to have boots thrown at her head, and that she knew nothing at all of the golden spinning-wheel.

When the King had a feast for the third time, things did not turn out quite the same as at the other two. The cook said, ‘You must be a witch, Many-furred Creature, for you always put something in the soup, so that it is much better and tastes nicer to the King than any that I cook.’ But because she begged hard, he let her go up for the usual time. Now she put on the dress as shining as the stars, and stepped into the hall in it.

The King danced again with the beautiful maiden, and thought she had never looked so beautiful. And while he was dancing, he put a gold ring on her finger without her seeing it, and he commanded that the dance should last longer than usual. When it was finished he wanted to keep her hands in his, but she broke from him, and sprang so quickly away among the people that she vanished from his sight. She ran as fast as she could to her little room under the stairs, but because she had stayed too long beyond the half-hour, she could not stop to take off the beautiful dress, but only threw the fur cloak over it, and in her haste she did not make herself quite black with the soot, one finger remaining white. The Many-furred Creature now ran into the kitchen, cooked the King’s bread-soup, and when the cook had gone, she laid the gold reel in the dish. When the King found the reel at the bottom, he had the Many-furred Creature brought to him, and then he saw the white finger, and the ring which he had put on her hand in the dance. Then he took her hand and held her tightly, and as she was trying to get away, she undid the fur-cloak a little bit and the star-dress shone out. The King seized the cloak and tore it off her. Her golden hair came down, and she stood there in her full splendour, and could not hide herself away any more. And when the soot and ashes had been washed from her face, she looked more beautiful than anyone in the world. But the King said, ‘You are my dear bride, and we will never be separated from one another.’ So the wedding was celebrated and they lived happily ever after.


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Sun, Moon and Talia

Today's classic tale was originally published in Il Pentamerone by Giambattista Basile in 1634, translated by John Edward Taylor in 1847.

There was once a great Lord, who, having a daughter born to him named Talia, commanded the seers and wise men of his kingdom to come and tell him her fortune; and after various counsellings they came to the conclusion, that a great peril awaited her from a piece of stalk in some flax. Thereupon he issued a command, prohibiting any flax or hemp, or such-like thing, to be brought into his house, hoping thus to avoid the danger.

When Talia was grown up, and was standing one day at the window, she saw an old woman pass by who was spinning. She had never seen a distaff or a spindle, and being vastly pleased with the twisting and twirling of the thread, her curiosity was so great that she made the old woman come upstairs. Then, taking the distaff in her hand, Talia began to draw out the thread, when, by mischance, a piece of stalk in the flax getting under her finger-nail, she fell dead upon the ground; at which sight the old woman hobbled downstairs as quickly as she could.

When the unhappy father heard of the disaster that had befallen Talia, after weeping bitterly, he placed her in that palace in the country, upon a velvet seat under a canopy of brocade; and fastening the doors, he quitted for ever the place which had been the cause of such misfortune to him, in order to drive all remembrance of it from his mind.

Now, a certain King happened to go one day to the chase, and a falcon escaping from him flew in at the window of that palace. When the King found that the bird did not return at his call, he ordered his attendants to knock at the door, thinking that the palace was inhabited; and after knocking for some time, the King ordered them to fetch a vine-dresser's ladder, wishing himself to scale the house and see what was inside. Then he mounted the ladder, and going through the whole palace, he stood aghast at not finding there any living person. At last he came to the room where Talia was lying, as if enchanted; and when the King saw her, he called to her, thinking that she was asleep, but in vain, for she still slept on, however loud he called. So, after admiring her beauty awhile, the King returned home to his kingdom, where for a long time he forgot all that had happened.

Meanwhile, two little twins, one a boy and the other a girl, who looked like two little jewels, wandered, from I know not where, into the palace and found Talia in a trance. At first they were afraid because they tried in vain to awaken her; but, becoming bolder, the girl gently took Talia's finger into her mouth, to bite it and wake her up by this means; and so it happened that the splinter of flax came out. Thereupon she seemed to awake as from a deep sleep; and when she saw those little jewels at her side, she took them to her heart, and loved them more than her life; but she wondered greatly at seeing herself quite alone in the palace with two children, and food and refreshment brought her by unseen hands.

After a time the King, calling Talia to mind, took occasion one day when he went to the chase to go and see her; and when he found her awakened, and with two beautiful little creatures by her side, he was struck dumb with rapture. Then the King told Talia who he was, and they formed a great league and friendship, and he remained there for several days, promising, as he took leave, to return and fetch her.

When the King went back to his own kingdom he was for ever repeating the names of Talia and the little ones, insomuch that, when he was eating he had Talia in his mouth, and Sun and Moon (for so he named the children); nay, even when he went to rest he did not leave off calling on them, first one and then the other.

Now the King's stepmother had grown suspicious at his long absence at the chase, and when she heard him calling thus on Talia, Sun, and Moon, she waxed wroth, and said to the King's secretary, "Hark ye, friend, you stand in great danger, between the axe and the block; tell me who it is that my stepson is enamoured of, and I will make you rich; but if you conceal the truth from me, I'll make you rue it."

The man, moved on the one side by fear, and on the other pricked by interest, which is a bandage to the eyes of honour, the blind of justice, and an old horse-shoe to trip up good faith, told the Queen the whole truth. Whereupon she sent the secretary in the King's name to Talia, saying that he wished to see the children. Then Talia sent them with great joy, but the Queen commanded the cook to kill them, and serve them up in various ways for her wretched stepson to eat.

Now the cook, who had a tender heart, seeing the two pretty little golden pippins, took compassion on them, and gave them to his wife, bidding her keep them concealed; then he killed and dressed two little kids in a hundred different ways. When the King came, the Queen quickly ordered the dishes served up; and the King fell to eating with great delight, exclaiming, "How good this is! Oh, how excellent, by the soul of my grandfather!" And the old Queen all the while kept saying, "Eat away, for you know what you eat." At first the King paid no attention to what she said; but at last, hearing the music continue, he replied, "Ay, I know well enough what I eat, for YOU brought nothing to the house." And at last, getting up in a rage, he went off to a villa at a little distance to cool his anger.

Meanwhile the Queen, not satisfied with what she had done, called the secretary again, and sent him to fetch Talia, pretending that the King wished to see her. At this summons Talia went that very instant, longing to see the light of her eyes, and not knowing that only the smoke awaited her. But when she came before the Queen, the latter said to her, with the face of a Nero, and full of poison as a viper, "Welcome, Madam Sly-cheat! Are you indeed the pretty mischief-maker? Are you the weed that has caught my son's eye and given me all this trouble."

When Talia heard this she began to excuse herself; but the Queen would not listen to a word; and having a large fire lighted in the courtyard, she commanded that Talia should be thrown into the flames. Poor Talia, seeing matters come to a bad pass, fell on her knees before the Queen, and besought her at least to grant her time to take the clothes from off her back. Whereupon the Queen, not so much out of pity for the unhappy girl, as to get possession of her dress, which was embroidered all over with gold and pearls, said to her, "Undress yourself—I allow you." Then Talia began to undress, and as she took off each garment she uttered an exclamation of grief; and when she had stripped off her cloak, her gown, and her jacket, and was proceeding to take off her petticoat, they seized her and were dragging her away. At that moment the King came up, and seeing the spectacle he demanded to know the whole truth; and when he asked also for the children, and heard that his stepmother had ordered them to be killed, the unhappy King gave himself up to despair.

He then ordered her to be thrown into the same fire which had been lighted for Talia, and the secretary with her, who was the handle of this cruel game and the weaver of this wicked web. Then he was going to do the same with the cook, thinking that he had killed the children; but the cook threw himself at the King's feet and said, "Truly, sir King, I would desire no other sinecure in return for the service I have done you than to be thrown into a furnace full of live coals; I would ask no other gratuity than the thrust of a spike; I would wish for no other amusement than to be roasted in the fire; I would desire no other privilege than to have the ashes of the cook mingled with those of a Queen. But I look for no such great reward for having saved the children, and brought them back to you in spite of that wicked creature who wished to kill them."

When the King heard these words he was quite beside himself; he appeared to dream, and could not believe what his ears had heard. Then he said to the cook, "If it is true that you have saved the children, be assured I will take you from turning the spit, and reward you so that you shall call yourself the happiest man in the world."

As the King was speaking these words, the wife of the cook, seeing the dilemma her husband was in, brought Sun and Moon before the King, who, playing at the game of three with Talia and the other children, went round and round kissing first one and then another. Then giving the cook a large reward, he made him his chamberlain; and he took Talia to wife, who enjoyed a long life with her husband and the children, acknowledging that—

"He who has luck may go to bed,
And bliss will rain upon his head."


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Prince Darling

Today's classic tale is from the Blue Fairy Book, a collection of tales assembled and translated by Andrew Lang, published in 1889.

ONCE upon a time there lived a king who was so just and kind that his subjects called him “the Good King.” It happened one day, when he was out hunting, that a little white rabbit, which his dogs were chasing, sprang into his arms for shelter. The King stroked it gently, and said to it:

“Well, bunny, as you have come to me for protection I will see that nobody hurts you.”

And he took it home to his palace and had it put in a pretty little house, with all sorts of nice things to eat.

That night, when he was alone in his room, a beautiful lady suddenly appeared before him; her long dress was as white as snow, and she had a crown of white roses upon her head. The good King was very much surprised to see her, for he knew his door had been tightly shut, and he could not think how she had got in. But she said to him:

“I am the Fairy Truth. I was passing through the wood when you were out hunting, and I wished to find out if you were really good, as everybody said you were, so I took the shape of a little rabbit and came to your arms for shelter, for I know that those who are merciful to animals will be still kinder to their fellow-men. If you had refused to help me I should have been certain that you were wicked. I thank you for the kindness you have shown me, which has made me your friend for ever. You have only to ask me for anything you want and I promise that I will give it to you.”

“Madam,” said the good King, “since you are a fairy you no doubt know all my wishes. I have but one son whom I love very dearly, that is why he is called Prince Darling. If you are really good enough to wish to do me a favor, I beg that you will become his friend.”

“With all my heart,” answered the Fairy. “I can make your son the handsomest prince in the world, or the richest, or the most powerful; choose whichever you like for him.”

“I do not ask either of these things for my son,” replied the good King; “but if you will make him the best of princes, I shall indeed be grateful to you. What good would it do him to be rich, or handsome, or to possess all the kingdoms of the world if he were wicked? You know well he would still be unhappy. Only a good man can be really contented.”

“You are quite right,” answered the Fairy; “but it is not in my power to make Prince Darling a good man unless he will help me; he must himself try hard to become good, I can only promise to give him good advice, to scold him for his faults, and to punish him if he will not correct and punish himself.”

The good King was quite satisfied with this promise; and very soon afterward he died.

Prince Darling was very sorry, for he loved his father with all his heart, and he would willingly have given all his kingdoms and all his treasures of gold and silver if they could have kept the good King with him.

Two days afterward, when the Prince had gone to bed, the Fairy suddenly appeared to him and said:

“I promised your father that I would be your friend, and to keep my word I have come to bring you a present.” At the same time she put a little gold ring upon his finger.

“Take great care of this ring,” she said: “it is more precious than diamonds; every time you do a bad deed it will prick your finger, but if, in spite of its pricking, you go on in your own evil way, you will lose my friendship, and I shall become your enemy.”

So saying, the Fairy disappeared, leaving Prince Darling very much astonished.

For some time he behaved so well that the ring never pricked him, and that made him so contented that his subjects called him Prince Darling the Happy.

One day, however, he went out hunting, but could get no sport, which put him in a very bad temper; it seemed to him as he rode along that his ring was pressing into his finger, but as it did not prick him he did not heed it. When he got home and went to his own room, his little dog Bibi ran to meet him, jumping round him with pleasure. “Get away!” said the Prince, quite gruffly. “I don’t want you, you are in the way.”

The poor little dog, who didn’t understand this at all, pulled at his coat to make him at least look at her, and this made Prince Darling so cross that he gave her quite a hard kick.

Instantly his ring pricked him sharply, as if it had been a pin. He was very much surprised, and sat down in a corner of his room feeling quite ashamed of himself.

“I believe the Fairy is laughing at me,” he thought. “Surely I can have done no great wrong in just kicking a tiresome animal! What is the good of my being ruler of a great kingdom if I am not even allowed to beat my own dog?”

“I am not making fun of you,” said a voice, answering Prince Darling’s thoughts. “You have committed three faults. First of all, you were out of temper because you could not have what you wanted, and you thought all men and animals were only made to do your pleasure; then you were really angry, which is very naughty indeed; and lastly, you were cruel to a poor little animal who did not in the least deserve to be ill-treated.

“I know you are far above a little dog, but if it were right and allowable that great people should ill-treat all who are beneath them, I might at this moment beat you, or kill you, for a fairy is greater than a man. The advantage of possessing a great empire is not to be able to do the evil that one desires, but to do all the good that one possibly can.”

The Prince saw how naughty he had been, and promised to try and do better in future, but he did not keep his word. The fact was he had been brought up by a foolish nurse, who had spoiled him when he was little. If he wanted anything he only had to cry and fret and stamp his feet and she would give him whatever he asked for, which had made him self-willed; also she had told him from morning to night that he would one day be a king, and that kings were very happy, because everyone was bound to obey and respect them, and no one could prevent them from doing just as they liked.

When the Prince grew old enough to understand, he soon learned that there could be nothing worse than to be proud, obstinate, and conceited, and he had really tried to cure himself of these defects, but by that time all his faults had become habits; and a bad habit is very hard to get rid of. Not that he was naturally of a bad disposition; he was truly sorry when he had been naughty, and said:

“I am very unhappy to have to struggle against my anger and pride every day; if I had been punished for them when I was little they would not be such a trouble to me now.”

His ring pricked him very often, and sometimes he left off what he was doing at once; but at other times he would not attend to it. Strangely enough, it gave him only a slight prick for a trifling fault, but when he was really naughty it made his finger actually bleed. At last he got tired of being constantly reminded, and wanted to be able to do as he liked, so he threw his ring aside, and thought himself the happiest of men to have got rid of its teasing pricks. He gave himself up to doing every foolish thing that occurred to him, until he became quite wicked and nobody could like him any longer.

One day, when the Prince was walking about, he saw a young girl who was so very pretty that he made up his mind at once that he would marry her. Her name was Celia, and she was as good as she was beautiful.

Prince Darling fancied that Celia would think herself only too happy if he offered to make her a great queen, but she said fearlessly:

“Sire, I am only a shepherdess, and a poor girl, but, nevertheless, I will not marry you.”

“Do you dislike me?” asked the Prince, who was very much vexed at this answer.

“No, my Prince,” replied Celia; “I cannot help thinking you very handsome; but what good would riches be to me, and all the grand dresses and splendid carriages that you would give me, if the bad deeds which I should see you do every day made me hate and despise you?”

The Prince was very angry at this speech, and commanded his officers to make Celia a prisoner and carry her off to his palace. All day long the remembrance of what she had said annoyed him, but as he loved her he could not make up his mind to have her punished.

One of the Prince’s favorite companions was his foster-brother, whom he trusted entirely; but he was not at all a good man, and gave Prince Darling very bad advice, and encouraged him in all his evil ways. When he saw the Prince so downcast he asked what was the matter, and when he explained that he could not bear Celia’s bad opinion of him, and was resolved to be a better man in order to please her, this evil adviser said to him:

“You are very kind to trouble yourself about this little girl; if I were you I would soon make her obey me. Remember that you are a king, and that it would be laughable to see you trying to please a shepherdess, who ought to be only too glad to be one of your slaves. Keep her in prison, and feed her on bread and water for a little while, and then, if she still says she will not marry you, have her head cut off, to teach other people that you mean to be obeyed. Why, if you cannot make a girl like that do as you wish, your subjects will soon forget that they are only put into this world for our pleasure.”

“But,” said Prince Darling, “would it not be a shame if I had an innocent girl put to death? For Celia has done nothing to deserve punishment.”

“If people will not do as you tell them they ought to suffer for it,” answered his foster-brother; “but even if it were unjust, you had better be accused of that by your subjects than that they should find out that they may insult and thwart you as often as they please.”

In saying this he was touching a weak point in his brother’s character; for the Prince’s fear of losing any of his power made him at once abandon his first idea of trying to be good, and resolve to try and frighten the shepherdess into consenting to marry him.

His foster-brother, who wanted him to keep this resolution, invited three young courtiers, as wicked as himself to sup with the Prince, and they persuaded him to drink a great deal of wine, and continued to excite his anger against Celia by telling him that she had laughed at his love for her; until at last, in quite a furious rage, he rushed off to find her, declaring that if she still refused to marry him she should be sold as a slave the very next day.

But when he reached the room in which Celia had been locked up, he was greatly surprised to find that she was not in it, though he had the key in his own pocket all the time. His anger was terrible, and he vowed vengeance against whoever had helped her to escape. His bad friends, when they heard him, resolved to turn his wrath upon an old nobleman who had formerly been his tutor; and who still dared sometimes to tell the Prince of his faults, for he loved him as if he had been his own son. At first Prince Darling had thanked him, but after a time he grew impatient and thought it must be just mere love of fault-finding that made his old tutor blame him when everyone else was praising and flattering him. So he ordered him to retire from his Court, though he still, from time to time, spoke of him as a worthy man whom he respected, even if he no longer loved him. His unworthy friends feared that he might some day take it into his head to recall his old tutor, so they thought they now had a good opportunity of getting him banished for ever.

They reported to the Prince that Suliman, for that was the tutor’s name, had boasted of having helped Celia to escape, and they bribed three men to say that Suliman himself had told them about it. The Prince, in great anger, sent his foster-brother with a number of soldiers to bring his tutor before him, in chains, like a criminal. After giving this order he went to his own room, but he had scarcely got into it when there was a clap of thunder which made the ground shake, and the Fairy Truth appeared suddenly before him.

“I promised your father,” said she sternly, “to give you good advice, and to punish you if you refused to follow it. You have despised my counsel, and have gone your own evil way until you are only outwardly a man; really you are a monster—the horror of everyone who knows you. It is time that I should fulfil my promise, and begin your punishment. I condemn you to resemble the animals whose ways you have imitated. You have made yourself like the lion by your anger, and like the wolf by your greediness. Like a snake, you have ungratefully turned upon one who was a second father to you; your churlishness has made you like a bull. Therefore, in your new form, take the appearance of all these animals.”

The Fairy had scarcely finished speaking when Prince Darling saw to his horror that her words were fulfilled. He had a lion’s head, a bull’s horns, a wolf’s feet, and a snake’s body. At the same instant he found himself in a great forest, beside a clear lake, in which he could see plainly the horrible creature he had become, and a voice said to him:

“Look carefully at the state to which your wickedness has brought you; believe me, your soul is a thousand times more hideous than your body.”

Prince Darling recognized the voice of the Fairy Truth and turned in a fury to catch her and eat her up if he possibly could; but he saw no one, and the same voice went on:

“I laugh at your powerlessness and anger, and I intend to punish your pride by letting you fall into the hands of your own subjects.”

The Prince began to think that the best thing he could do would be to get as far away from the lake as he could, then at least he would not be continually reminded of his terrible ugliness. So he ran toward the wood, but before he had gone many yards he fell into a deep pit which had been made to trap bears, and the hunters, who were hiding in a tree, leaped down, and secured him with several chains, and led him into the chief city of his own kingdom.

On the way, instead of recognizing that his own faults had brought this punishment upon him, he accused the Fairy of being the cause of all his misfortunes, and bit and tore at his chains furiously.

As they approached the town he saw that some great rejoicing was being held, and when the hunters asked what had happened they were told that the Prince, whose only pleasure it was to torment his people, had been found in his room, killed by a thunder-bolt (for that was what was supposed to have become of him). Four of his courtiers, those who had encouraged him in his wicked doings, had tried to seize the kingdom and divide it between them, but the people, who knew it was their bad counsels which had so changed the Prince, had cut off their heads, and had offered the crown to Suliman, whom the Prince had left in prison. This noble lord had just been crowned, and the deliverance of the kingdom was the cause of the rejoicing “For,” they said, “he is a good and just man, and we shall once more enjoy peace and prosperity.”

Prince Darling roared with anger when he heard this; but it was still worse for him when he reached the great square before his own palace. He saw Suliman seated upon a magnificent throne, and all the people crowded round, wishing him a long life that he might undo all the mischief done by his predecessor.

Presently Suliman made a sign with his hand that the people should be silent, and said: “I have accepted the crown you have offered me, but only that I may keep it for Prince Darling, who is not dead as you suppose; the Fairy has assured me that there is still hope that you may some day see him again, good and virtuous as he was when he first came to the throne. Alas!” he continued, “he was led away by flatterers. I knew his heart, and am certain that if it had not been for the bad influence of those who surrounded him he would have been a good king and a father to his people. We may hate his faults, but let us pity him and hope for his restoration. As for me, I would die gladly if that could bring back our Prince to reign justly and worthily once more.”

These words went to Prince Darling’s heart; he realized the true affection and faithfulness of his old tutor, and for the first time reproached himself for all his evil deeds; at the same instant he felt all his anger melting away, and he began quickly to think over his past life, and to admit that his punishment was not more than he had deserved. He left off tearing at the iron bars of the cage in which he was shut up, and became as gentle as a lamb.

The hunters who had caught him took him to a great menagerie, where he was chained up among all the other wild beasts, and he determined to show his sorrow for his past bad behavior by being gentle and obedient to the man who had to take care of him. Unfortunately, this man was very rough and unkind, and though the poor monster was quite quiet, he often beat him without rhyme or reason when he happened to be in a bad temper. One day when this keeper was asleep a tiger broke its chain, and flew at him to eat him up. Prince Darling, who saw what was going on, at first felt quite pleased to think that he should be delivered from his persecutor, but soon thought better of it and wished that he were free.

“I would return good for evil,” he said to himself, “and save the unhappy man’s life.” He had hardly wished this when his iron cage flew open, and he rushed to the side of the keeper, who was awake and was defending himself against the tiger. When he saw the monster had got out he gave himself up for lost, but his fear was soon changed into joy, for the kind monster threw itself upon the tiger and very soon killed it, and then came and crouched at the feet of the man it had saved.

Overcome with gratitude, the keeper stooped to caress the strange creature which had done him such a great service; but suddenly a voice said in his ear:

“A good action should never go unrewarded,” and at the same instant the monster disappeared, and he saw at his feet only a pretty little dog!

Prince Darling, delighted by the change, frisked about the keeper, showing his joy in every way he could, and the man, taking him up in his arms, carried him to the King, to whom he told the whole story.

The Queen said she would like to have this wonderful little dog, and the Prince would have been very happy in his new home if he could have forgotten that he was a man and a king. The Queen petted and took care of him, but she was so afraid that he would get too fat that she consulted the court physician, who said that he was to be fed only upon bread, and was not to have much even of that. So poor Prince Darling was terribly hungry all day long, but he was very patient about it.

One day, when they gave him his little loaf for breakfast, he thought he would like to eat it out in the garden; so he took it up in his mouth and trotted away toward a brook that he knew of a long way from the palace. But he was surprised to find that the brook was gone, and where it had been stood a great house that seemed to be built of gold and precious stones. Numbers of people splendidly dressed were going into it, and sounds of music and dancing and feasting could be heard from the windows.

But what seemed very strange was that those people who came out of the house were pale and thin, and their clothes were torn, and hanging in rags about them. Some fell down dead as they came out before they had time to get away; others crawled farther with great difficulty; while others again lay on the ground, fainting with hunger, and begged a morsel of bread from those who were going into the house, but they would not so much as look at the poor creatures.

Prince Darling went up to a young girl who was trying to eat a few blades of grass, she was so hungry. Touched with compassion, he said to himself:

“I am very hungry, but I shall not die of starvation before I get my dinner; if I give my breakfast to this poor creature perhaps I may save her life.”

So he laid his piece of bread in the girl’s hand, and saw her eat it up eagerly.

She soon seemed to be quite well again, and the Prince, delighted to have been able to help her, was thinking of going home to the palace, when he heard a great outcry, and, turning round, saw Celia, who was being carried against her will into the great house.

For the first time the Prince regretted that he was no longer the monster, then he would have been able to rescue Celia; now he could only bark feebly at the people who were carrying her off, and try to follow them, but they chased and kicked him away.

He determined not to quit the place till he knew what had become of Celia, and blamed himself for what had befallen her.

“Alas!” he said to himself, “I am furious with the people who are carrying Celia off, but isn’t that exactly what I did myself, and if I had not been prevented did I not intend to be still more cruel to her?”

Here he was interrupted by a noise above his head—someone was opening a window, and he saw with delight that it was Celia herself, who came forward and threw out a plate of most delicious-looking food, then the window was shut again, and Prince Darling, who had not had anything to eat all day, thought he might as well take the opportunity of getting something. He ran forward to begin, but the young girl to whom he had given his bread gave a cry of terror and took him up in her arms, saying:

“Don’t touch it, my poor little dog—that house is the palace of pleasure, and everything that comes out of it is poisoned!”

At the same moment a voice said:

“You see a good action always brings its reward,” and the Prince found himself changed into a beautiful white dove. He remembered that white was the favorite color of the Fairy Truth, and began to hope that he might at last win back her favor. But just now his first care was for Celia, and rising into the air he flew round and round the house, until he saw an open window; but he searched through every room in vain. No trace of Celia was to be seen, and the Prince, in despair, determined to search through the world till he found her. He flew on and on for several days, till he came to a great desert, where he saw a cavern, and, to his delight, there sat Celia, sharing the simple breakfast of an old hermit.

Overjoyed to have found her, Prince Darling perched upon her shoulder, trying to express by his caresses how glad he was to see her again, and Celia, surprised and delighted by the tameness of this pretty white dove, stroked it softly, and said, though she never thought of its understanding her:

“I accept the gift that you make me of yourself, and I will love you always.”

“Take care what you are saying, Celia,” said the old hermit; “are you prepared to keep that promise?”

“Indeed, I hope so, my sweet shepherdess,” cried the Prince, who was at that moment restored to his natural shape. “You promised to love me always; tell me that you really mean what you said, or I shall have to ask the Fairy to give me back the form of the dove which pleased you so much.”

“You need not be afraid that she will change her mind,” said the Fairy, throwing off the hermit’s robe in which she had been disguised and appearing before them.

“Celia has loved you ever since she first saw you, only she would not tell you while you were so obstinate and naughty. Now you have repented and mean to be good you deserve to be happy, and so she may love you as much as she likes.”

Celia and Prince Darling threw themselves at the Fairy’s feet, and the Prince was never tired of thanking her for her kindness. Celia was delighted to hear how sorry he was for all his past follies and misdeeds, and promised to love him as long as she lived.

“Rise, my children,” said the Fairy, “and I will transport you to the palace, and Prince Darling shall have back again the crown he forfeited by his bad behavior.”

While she was speaking, they found themselves in Suliman’s hall, and his delight was great at seeing his dear master once more. He gave up the throne joyfully to the Prince, and remained always the most faithful of his subjects.

Celia and Prince Darling reigned for many years, but he was so determined to govern worthily and to do his duty that his ring, which he took to wearing again, never once pricked him severely.


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Jorinde and Joringel

Today's classic tale is from the Green Fairy Book, a collection of tales assembled and translated by Andrew Lang, published in 1892.

There was once upon a time a castle in the middle of a thick wood where lived an old woman quite alone, for she was an enchantress. In the day-time she changed herself into a cat or a night-owl, but in the evening she became like an ordinary woman again. She could entice animals and birds to come to her, and then she would kill and cook them. If any youth came within a hundred paces of the castle, he was obliged to stand still, and could not stir from the spot till she set him free; but if a pretty girl came within this boundary, the old enchantress changed her into a bird, and shut her up in a wicker cage, which she put in one of the rooms in the castle. She had quite seven thousand of such cages in the castle with very rare birds in them.

Now, there was once a maiden called Jorinde, who was more beautiful than other maidens. She and a youth named Joringel, who was just as good-looking as she was, were betrothed to one another. Their greatest delight was to be together, and so that they might get a good long talk, they went one evening for a walk in the wood. ‘Take care,’ said Joringel, ‘not to come too close to the castle.’ It was a beautiful evening; the sun shone brightly between the stems of the trees among the dark green leaves of the forest, and the turtle-dove sang clearly on the old maybushes.

Jorinde wept from time to time, and she sat herself down in the sunshine and lamented, and Joringel lamented too. They felt as sad as if they had been condemned to die; they looked round and got quite confused, and did not remember which was their way home. Half the sun was still above the mountain and half was behind it when Joringel looked through the trees and saw the old wall of the castle quite near them. He was terrified and half dead with fright. Jorinde sang:

‘My little bird with throat so red Sings sorrow, sorrow, sorrow; He sings to the little dove that’s dead, Sings sorrow, sor—jug, jug, jug.’

Joringel looked up at Jorinde. She had been changed into a nightingale, who was singing ‘jug, jug.’ A night-owl with glowing eyes flew three times round her, and screeched three times ‘tu-whit, tu-whit, tu-whoo.’ Joringel could not stir; he stood there like a stone; he could not weep, or speak, or move hand or foot. Now the sun set; the owl flew into a bush, and immediately an old, bent woman came out of it; she was yellow-skinned and thin, and had large red eyes and a hooked nose, which met her chin. She muttered to herself, caught the nightingale, and carried her away in her hand. Joringel could say nothing; he could not move from the spot, and the nightingale was gone. At last the woman came back again, and said in a gruff voice, ‘Good evening, Zachiel; when the young moon shines in the basket, you are freed early, Zachiel.’ Then Joringel was free. He fell on his knees before the old woman and implored her to give him back his Jorinde, but she said he should never have her again, and then went away. He called after her, he wept and lamented, but all in vain. ‘What is to become of me!’ he thought. Then he went away, and came at last to a strange village, where he kept sheep for a long time. He often went round the castle while he was there, but never too close. At last he dreamt one night that he had found a blood-red flower, which had in its centre a beautiful large pearl. He plucked this flower and went with it to the castle; and there everything which he touched with the flower was freed from the enchantment, and he got his Jorinde back again through it. When he awoke in the morning he began to seek mountain and valley to find such a flower. He sought it for eight days, and on the ninth early in the morning he found the blood-red flower. In its centre was a large dew-drop, as big as the most lovely pearl. He travelled day and night with this flower till he arrived at the castle. When he came within a hundred paces of it he did not cease to be able to move, but he went on till he reached the gate. He was delighted at his success, touched the great gate with the flower, and it sprung open. He entered, passed through the courtyard, and then stopped to listen for the singing of the birds; at last he heard it. He went in and found the hall in which was the enchantress, and with her seven thousand birds in their wicker cages. When she saw Joringel she was furious, and breathed out poison and gall at him, but she could not move a step towards him. He took no notice of her, and went and looked over the cages of birds; but there were many hundred nightingales, and how was he to find his Jorinde from among them? Whilst he was considering, he observed the old witch take up a cage secretly and go with it towards the door. Instantly he sprang after her, touched the cage with the flower, and the old woman as well. Now she could no longer work enchantments, and there stood Jorinde before him, with her arms round his neck, and more beautiful than ever. Then he turned all the other birds again into maidens, and he went home with his Jorinde, and they lived a long and happy life.


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What was she running from?

The untold tale of Goldilocks...

Her story really isn't part of the original tales. In the classic tale of The Three Bears, it's all about the bears, and Goldilocks just comes in, starving and exhausted, then leaves, never to be seen again. This time...Roar tells her story.

Read an exclusive sneak peek below!

"So, does everyone understand their role in this attack?" Lord Vauquelin asked. He waited for the other men to nod before he continued, "Good. Be swift and silent, leave no survivors, and Berehaven will be ours by dawn. Ready your men. In an hour, we march."

Father's knights trooped out, leaving Bernard alone with him.

"Did you not hear me? I said get ready." Father waved his hand in dismissal.

"I still don't know what my role in all this is," Bernard began. As his father's brows descended, Bernard felt the childish urge to hide under the table from the blow he knew would be coming next. Childhood habits die hard. "I'm sorry, Father. I've never been in a battle before. The King…"

"The King is no longer your concern," Lord Vauquelin snapped. "He no longer wants you at court, and so you are no use to me there, either. So make yourself useful. Every man in my army is a skilled swordsman, and as a member of the King's court, you must have had plenty of training. In fact, I have the perfect task for a man of your talents." When Father grinned like that, Bernard often thought he looked like a wild beast about to devour his dinner alive.

Bernard shivered. "I am your obedient son, Father. Anything you command, if it is within my power to deliver it, then I shall."

Father grinned even more widely. "Your job is to make sure there is no one left alive in the maidens' tower when the sun rises. I'm sure you are man enough to defeat Baron Orson's defenceless daughters."

Bernard closed his eyes. In his imagination, he could already hear the girls' screams. But if the girls must die, better that they die on his sword, than that of some of Father's common soldiers. Anyone else would keep the girls alive as long as possible, and not kill them before dawn. He'd seen firsthand was soldiers could do. At least he would leave them their virtue, if not their lives. Bernard bowed his head. "Of course, Father. By dawn, I shall report to you that there is no one left alive in the maidens' tower."

"Good boy," Father said distractedly, already pulling on his armour.

Bernard had better do the same. The women he sought might not be fighters, but there would still be guards, and Bernard had no desire to die. There was no longer a place at court for him, but if he did well tonight, there might still be a place for him in his father's service. If he survived the night.

The allocated hour sped by, and in no time at all Lord Vauquelin sent his men marching into the valley where Berehaven lay.

Bernard wanted desperately to run, to head back to the court that he knew so well. There was no honour in this. To attack like robbers in the night, to slaughter them in their beds. The Baron of Berehaven and his family had every right to this valley, that no one had cared about until now. If he hadn't sent a message to his father about the envoy from King Siward, this backwater barony might have remained forgotten.

But Bernard was his father's son, and he'd learned a long time ago to be obedient to his father's wishes. So he'd written the letter, and he marched now. Marching into darkness and he did not know what, for who could see what awaited him in the dark?

The stories alone of this place were enough to terrify anyone.

"May heaven help us all," Bernard whispered to himself.

* * *

That was the scrape of a sword coming out of a metal scabbard, Ursula was certain of it. She'd heard the sound only on the rare occasions when her father had drawn his weapon. Ceremonial occasions, on feast days, when she was expected to stand in the great hall along with everyone else. No one should be drawing weapons in the castle tonight.

She crept over to the window, reaching up to unbolted the shutters, but the bolt was too high. Grumbling, she dragged a chair that had once been her father's over to the window so that she could reach the stubborn bolts.

Finally, she'd unfastened the shutters. She pushed them open a tiny bit.

From her room in the top of the tower, she could see the castle gates and clear across the valley, but what she saw threatened to stop her heart altogether. A river of men raced across the bridge, through the gate. Invading her home.

She wanted to scream at them that they would never take Berehaven, never, not while one of her people lived, but she had to warn her family, wake them up and get them out to safety.

Ursula fumbled in the dark for a gown, not daring to strike a light. She put on the first one she found, shoving her stockinged feet into boots before seizing a cloak.

She grabbed her dagger, wondering whether she'd need it.

The clomp of footsteps on the stairs told her she would.

Ursula whirled to face her visitor, trying not to let her hand shake too much as she pointed the dagger at the door.

The man who emerged was breathless from the climb, doubling over the moment he reached the room. Then he straightened, and Ursula saw it. The blue and gold blazon of Vauquelin across his chest.

"Get out," she hissed, brandishing the dagger.

Only then did he see her, his eyes widening inside his helm as he jerked back to avoid her blade. He snatched up her mother's chair just in time to avoid her second slash, which sliced open the fabric covering the precious chair, spilling out stuffing.

He threw the chair aside, knocking the knife out of her hand, and took a step toward her. His hand closed around the hilt of his sword.

Ursula swallowed, looking desperately around the room for another weapon she could use. Curse her stupidity for not thinking to keep a collection of swords up here. All she had was her father's chair – too hard to lift, let alone use as a weapon – and her own tiny stool.

She grabbed the stool by one leg, hefting it like a hammer, and whacked it against the man's sword arm.

"Ow!"

She laughed and advanced, whacking him with the stool when he got within reach to drive him out. What she'd do then, she didn't know – she could bar the door, but then how would she get out? She needed to get down the stairs, and this Vauquelin soldier was blocking the door.

She aimed her next blow at his head, but he ducked and the stool smashed against the wall, leaving her holding nothing but one leg. A leg that ended in a point. Wishing it were a dagger, she thrust it at the man's face and he jerked back. And kept going, down the stairs, until he hit the wall and was still.

Ursula paused, waiting for him to get up, but he didn't move. Surely with his leg bent at that angle, he should be screaming in pain. Unless the fall had killed him.

Serve him right if it had.

Cautiously, keeping to the inner curve of the staircase, she crept down to him. Even as she reached the steps where he lay, he didn't move. Dead, then. Which she would be, too, if he'd caught her, or if any of his fellows did.

She had to escape.

Ursula forced her feet to move down the stairs. The corridor was eerily empty when she reached it. Perhaps the invaders hadn't reached here yet, and the soldier she'd killed was a scout, or something. That was what they called the men who went ahead, wasn't it? Now she wished she'd listened to more of her brothers' talk of war, instead of drifting into her own daydreams.

Her brothers' room was first, the door already ajar.

She pushed the door open fully and whispered, "Gidie, Eudes! Quick, wake up, we must go!"

But the boys in their beds didn't stir. They always had been heavy sleepers.

She reached out and shook Gidie's shoulder. "Wake up!" she hissed, then wished she hadn't. Her hand came away sticky. Sticky and warm. Still, she shook Gidie again. Only then did she realise how boneless he felt, like she was shaking a rag doll instead of a boy.

Dead. He's dead. Her mind supplied the information, but she refused to believe it. She shook Eudes next, and felt the unmistakeable flow of blood over her hands. Someone had slit the boy's throat as he slept, and they'd probably done the same to Gidie, too. The boys had never felt a thing.

Her father would not go down without a fight, unlike his sleeping sons.

Ursula headed for the passage, and the door to the next room. A body lay across the threshold. She lifted her foot step over it, and a hand caught her ankle. Caught, and held.

"Invaders," the man coughed. "You have to get out."

"What do you think I'm doing?" she hissed, shaking her foot free. "I must see my father first."

"No, Ula, you have to get out. Go somewhere safe and hide. Father is dead."

Only her family called her Ula, which meant…

She stared at the man's face, blood bubbling over his lips like an obscene kind of carmine. "Geoffrey?"

"Father's dead, too. I tried to stop them, but I couldn't. You're Berehaven's only hope. Save yourself, Ula," he whispered, then slumped to the floor.

Dead, like her other brothers. And her father.

She stepped over Geoffrey's corpse, then took a deep breath and dared to look into Father's chamber. Short of the front door, her only way out lay through here.

And past Orson, Baron of Berehaven. Father had not had time to dress, but he had managed to seize a sword. That hadn't stopped his assassins, though, for she counted no less than half a dozen bloody slashes in the front of his nightgown, his flesh gleaming wetly beneath. He lay on the hearth, like his dogs did in the great hall below, but that's where the similarity ended. His blood pooled beneath him – some of those slashes had run him through before he could reach the secret passage she needed.

She wanted to fall to her knees beside him, begging his forgiveness for every uncharitable thought, every infraction, but she'd seen how many of Vauquelin's men entered the castle. One of them could return here at any moment, and she could not disobey Geoffrey's dying wish. Her father would want her safe.

Ursula found the fake panel beside the fireplace that opened onto the secret passage. She risked one glance back. "Forgive me, Father," she whispered as she closed the door, shutting out all light as she headed into the dark and the safety it held. Her future couldn't possibly be any darker than the slaughter she'd left behind.

* * *

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Three bears. Two enemies. One winter that will change everything.

Once upon a time...

Ursula thought her biggest worry was hiding her magic powers long enough to catch a husband, until Lord Vauquelin invades and slaughters her whole family. When she emerges from hiding, she finds she's snowed in with a wounded enemy soldier, in a valley full of bears.

Can a girl who can't even make porridge survive until spring?

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Would you like to read more fairytale retellings? Here’s all the ones I’ve released so far!

Reflect: Snow White Retold

A princess in danger. A heroic huntsman. A reflection revealing too much truth.

Once upon a time...

Princess Guinevere and her brother, Prince Xylander, flee the mad king's court in search of a marriage alliance with another kingdom.

But when Guinevere's new husband falls ill and his only heir goes missing, Guinevere and Xylander must save the suddenly hostile kingdom or face exile...and their father's wrath.

Mirror, mirror on the wall...whose will be the worst fate of all?

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Hunt: Red Riding Hood Retold

A witch’s vow. A knight’s quest. A wolf hunting to kill.

Once upon a time…

Six years ago, Rosa lost her family to a wolf attack during the coldest winter in living memory. But now the wolf is back, as bloodthirsty as ever, and she vows vengeance.

Work is hard to find in the dead of winter, and Sir Chase welcomes the chance to slay wolves if it means he’ll have a warm bed and food for the winter. He never counted on having to compete with a woman for his prize.

When the wolf proves more than one hunter alone can handle, can the unlikely pair join forces to defeat the menace?

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Kiss: Frog Prince Retold

A desert princess. A cursed prince. Can a kiss break the spell?

Once upon a time…

When Anahita picks up a pet frog on her way to marry a distant sheikh, she laughs at his claim to be a prince under a curse that can only be broken by a kiss.

Until he transforms into a man in her tent.

With one man in her bed as she’s preparing to marry another, what’s a desert princess to do?

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Spin: Rumpelstiltskin Retold

A miller’s daughter. A cursed knight. The power of a name.

Once upon a time…

Molina has one desire: to see her inventions spread throughout the kingdom. When Prince Lubos offers to take her to the capital as his bride, she jumps at the chance.

But impressing the king may take more than a simple spinning wheel. To marry Prince Lubos, she will need to work a miracle.

Molina enters into a desperate bargain with a mysterious man who turns all he touches into gold. A man with a tragic tale of his own, all tied up in his family name.

The future hangs in the balance, but will either of them live to see it?

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Melt: Snow Queen Retold

An enslaved enchantress. A magic mirror. Whose match will be made next?

Once upon a time…

When Queen Briska is accused of treason, she flees to the mountains, building an icy wall around her broken heart. But she cannot flee her punishment – she is forced to help other couples find love. A tough task, when the man she loves is dead.

Amani knew his life was over the moment he was enslaved to a magic lamp. But when a strange twist of fate frees him from the lamp just as he discovers the woman he loves still lives, Amani sets out to find her, and free her, too.

Will the power of love be enough to melt two frozen hearts?

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Enchant: Beauty and the Beast Retold (FREE)

A beastly prince. An enchanting beauty. Only love can break the spell.

Once upon a time…

The wicked King Thorn forced the enchantress Zuleika to cast a terrible curse. She fled his court to travel the world, helping those who need her magic most. Until a search for her merchant father’s lost ships leads her to an enchanted island, where Prince Vardan, the island’s ruler, is afflicted by the most powerful curse Zuleika has ever encountered. She’s not sure she can reverse the spell, but she’s determined to try. After all, a prince who fights pirates can’t be all bad…no matter how beastly his appearance.

Together, can the enchanting beauty and the beastly prince break the spell?

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Dance: Cinderella Retold

A dutiful daughter. A prince forced to find a bride. If the shoe fits…

Once upon a time…

When the Emperor’s army comes recruiting, Mai signs up, seeing it as the perfect escape from her stepmother and a lifetime of drudgery. Armed with her mother’s armour and a pair of magic shoes, Mai marches off to war…only to find herself sharing a tent with the General’s arrogant nephew, Prince Yi.

The best swordsman in the Empire, Prince Yi wants to make war, not love, but the Emperor insists this will be Yi’s last campaign before he must marry. Prince Yi has never met his match…until now.

Can one woman win the war and the prince’s heart?

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Fly: Goose Girl Retold

Two princesses. One prince. And the war has just begun.

Once upon a time…

Princess Ava was sent to a neighbouring kingdom as a lady-in-waiting to her sister, their future queen. Until a runaway horse, a case of amnesia and a cold-hearted king conspire to bring her to the prince’s attention.

Now the prince believes Ava is his bride, and her sister is just a serving maid. One thing is certain: the prince must marry one of the princesses, or there will be war.

But when all’s fair in love and war…who will win the battle for the prince’s heart?

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Revel: Twelve Dancing Princesses Retold

Twelve princesses. One wounded soldier. A mystery that must be solved.

Once upon a time…

Princess Bianca is sent with her sisters to the summer palace, a place no maiden has ever returned from. While her sisters seem perfectly happy, she has only one desire: escape.

Vasco, a wounded soldier on his way home from war, stumbles across the summer palace and sets out to solve the mystery no man has managed to yet. If only they let him live long enough…

Can the fair maiden and the wounded soldier uncover the sinister secret before it’s too late?

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Silence: Little Mermaid Retold

A little mermaid. A prince to save. Only silence can break the spell.

Once upon a time…

The mermaid Margareta saved Prince Erik from a shipwreck. Wanting to see the prince again, Margareta strikes a bargain with the Master of Beacon Isle. If she saves his sons from a terrible curse, he will reunite her with Prince Erik. All she has to do is stay silent until the curse is broken.

Silence is a virtue…until Prince Erik arrives early, searching for the mermaid who saved his life.

Can two hearts speak louder than words?

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Awaken: Sleeping Beauty Retold

A sleeping beauty. A kingdom frozen in time. Only one can save them all.

Once upon a time…

Lord Siward intended to go hunting, but when he stumbles upon a ruined castle and accidentally wakes the mysterious maiden sleeping inside, he knows his holiday is over.

With the kingdom in trouble, Siward should be protecting the realm, but every time Rosamond looks at him, he gets lost in the girl’s green eyes. Who is the mysterious beauty, and why does he feel she holds the key to the kingdom’s deliverance?

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Embellish: Brave Little Tailor Retold

A maiden dying for adventure. A prince on a perilous quest. Monsters that must be slain.

Once upon a time…

After losing a battle with a dragon, George is desperate to salvage his reputation. Only he can’t do it alone – he needs an assistant.

Royal tailor Melitta longs for adventure, so when she hears of a job opening for an apprentice hero, she jumps at the chance. Slaying monsters must be more exciting than sewing.

Can the unlikely pair still succeed at their quest – or will they fall for each other instead?

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Appease: Princess and the Pea Retold

A princess who refuses to be a prize. A prince’s promise. Perhaps dragons aren’t so bad after all.

Once upon a time…

Promised as a prize to any hero who can slay the dragon, Princess Sativa flees the palace in search of the prince she was betrothed to as a child. But there are many miles between her and the boy who has become a king.

Can a lone princess cross the sea and convince the king she’s the princess of his dreams?

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Blow: Three Little Pigs Retold

Three sisters. An absent prince who promised to protect them. And the wolf is at the door…

Once upon a time…

When war breaks out, Rudolf promises Portia and her sisters he will protect them. But his father falls in battle, and Rudolf is forced to return home to command his father’s armies.

Shifting alliances turn Portia and her family from friends to sworn enemies. To win the war, Rudolf must conquer her home, and risk losing her forever.

When the wolf is at the door, who will win – love or war?

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Return: Hansel and Gretel Retold

An unlikely duo. A wicked witch. Whatever it takes to find their way home.

Once upon a time…

Rhona is certain her stepmother wants to kill her and her sisters, and she’ll stop at nothing to do it. Leaving them in the woods alone, drugging their food and drink…is nothing safe?

Bitter at his brother’s betrothal, Grieve is banished to Rum Island as a squire to Rhona’s father. Grieve thought he had enough trouble with Rhona’s stepmother and the threat of war with Alba, until a witch takes Grieve and Rhona prisoner.

Can Rhona and Grieve survive long enough to find their happily ever after?

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Wish: Aladdin Retold

A sultan’s daughter. A pretend prince. Can a genie make all their wishes come true?

Once upon a time…

When Princess Maram and street rat Aladdin meet in the marketplace, sparks fly, and Aladdin swears to move heaven and earth in order to make the lovely courtesan his wife.

He steals a magic lamp with a genie inside, thinking all his troubles are over…only to find they have barely begun.

Can Aladdin win the princess’s hand without losing his head?

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The Golden Root

Today's classic tale was originally published in Il Pentamerone by Giambattista Basile in 1634, translated by John Edward Taylor in 1847.

There was once a gardener who was so very very poor that, however hard he worked, he could not manage to get bread for his family. So he gave three little pigs to his three daughters, that they might rear them, and thus get something for a little dowry. Then Pascuzza and Cice, who were the eldest, drove their little pigs to feed in a beautiful meadow; but they would not let Parmetella, who was the youngest daughter, go with them, and sent her away, telling her to go and feed her pig somewhere else. So Parmetella drove her little animal into a wood, where the Shades were holding out against the assaults of the Sun; and coming to a pasture—in the middle of which flowed a fountain, that, like the hostess of an inn where cold water is sold, was inviting the passers-by with its silver tongue—she found a certain tree with golden leaves. Then plucking one of them, she took it to her father, who with great joy sold it for more than twenty ducats, which served to stop up a hole in his affairs. And when he asked Parmetella where she had found it, she said, "Take it, sir, and ask no questions, unless you would spoil your good fortune." The next day she returned and did the same; and she went on plucking the leaves from the tree until it was entirely stript, as if it had been plundered by the winds of Autumn. Then she perceived that the tree had a large golden root, which she could not pull up with her hands; so she went home, and fetching an axe set to work to lay bare the root around the foot of the tree; and raising the trunk as well as she could, she found under it a beautiful porphyry staircase.

Parmetella, who was curious beyond measure, went down the stairs, and walking through a large and deep cavern, she came to a beautiful plain, on which was a splendid palace, where only gold and silver were trodden underfoot, and pearls and precious stones everywhere met the eye. And as Parmetella stood wondering at all these splendid things, not seeing any person moving among so many beautiful fixtures, she went into a chamber, in which were a number of pictures; and on them were seen painted various beautiful things—especially the ignorance of man esteemed wise, the injustice of him who held the scales, the injuries avenged by Heaven—things truly to amaze one. And in the same chamber also was a splendid table, set out with things to eat and to drink.

Seeing no one, Parmetella, who was very hungry, sat down at a table to eat like a fine count; but whilst she was in the midst of the feast, behold a handsome Slave entered, who said, "Stay! do not go away, for I will have you for my wife, and will make you the happiest woman in the world." In spite of her fear, Parmetella took heart at this good offer, and consenting to what the Slave proposed, a coach of diamonds was instantly given her, drawn by four golden steeds, with wings of emeralds and rubies, who carried her flying through the air to take an airing; and a number of apes, clad in cloth of gold, were given to attend on her person, who forthwith arrayed her from head to foot, and adorned her so that she looked just like a Queen.

When night was come, and the Sun—desiring to sleep on the banks of the river of India untroubled by gnats—had put out the light, the Slave said to Parmetella, "My dear, now go to rest in this bed; but remember first to put out the candle, and mind what I say, or ill will betide you." Then Parmetella did as he told her; but no sooner had she closed her eyes than the blackamoor, changing to a handsome youth, lay down to sleep. But the next morning, ere the Dawn went forth to seek fresh eggs in the fields of the sky the youth arose and took his other form again, leaving Parmetella full of wonder and curiosity.

And again the following night, when Parmetella went to rest, she put out the candle as she had done the night before, and the youth came as usual and lay down to sleep. But no sooner had he shut his eyes than Parmetella arose, took a steel which she had provided, and lighting the tinder applied a match; then taking the candle, she raised the coverlet, and beheld the ebony turned to ivory, and the coal to chalk. And whilst she stood gazing with open mouth, and contemplating the most beautiful pencilling that Nature had ever given upon the canvas of Wonder, the youth awoke, and began to reproach Parmetella, saying, "Ah, woe is me! for your prying curiosity I have to suffer another seven years this accursed punishment. But begone! Run, scamper off! Take yourself out of my sight! You know not what good fortune you lose." So saying, he vanished like quicksilver.

The poor girl left the palace, cold and stiff with affright, and with her head bowed to the ground. And when she had come out of the cavern she met a fairy, who said to her, "My child, how my heart grieves at your misfortune! Unhappy girl, you are going to the slaughter-house, where you will pass over the bridge no wider than a hair. Therefore, to provide against your peril, take these seven spindles with these seven figs, and a little jar of honey, and these seven pairs of iron shoes, and walk on and on without stopping, until they are worn out; then you will see seven women standing upon a balcony of a house, and spinning from above down to the ground, with the thread wound upon the bone of a dead person. Remain quite still and hidden, and when the thread comes down, take out the bone and put in its place a spindle besmeared with honey, with a fig in the place of the little button. Then as soon as the women draw up the spindles and taste the honey, they will say—

'He who has made my spindle sweet,
Shall in return with good fortune meet!'

And after repeating these words, they will say, one after another, 'O you who brought us these sweet things appear!' Then you must answer, Nay, for you will eat me.' And they will say, We swear by our spoon that we will not eat you!' But do not stir; and they will continue, We swear by our spit that we will not eat you!' But stand firm, as if rooted to the spot; and they will say, We swear by our broom that we will not eat you!' Still do not believe them; and when they say, We swear by our pail that we will not eat you!' shut your mouth, and say not a word, or it will cost you your life. At last they will say, We swear by Thunder-and-Lightning that we will not eat you!' Then take courage and mount up, for they will do you no harm."

When Parmetella heard this, she set off and walked over hill and dale, until at the end of seven years the iron shoes were worn out; and coming to a large house, with a projecting balcony, she saw the seven women spinning. So she did as the fairy had advised her; and after a thousand wiles and allurements, they swore by Thunder-and-Lightning, whereupon she showed herself and mounted up. Then they all seven said to her, "Traitress, you are the cause that our brother has lived twice seven long years in the cavern, far away from us, in the form of a blackamoor! But never mind; although you have been clever enough to stop our throat with the oath, you shall on the first opportunity pay off both the old and the new reckoning. But now hear what you must do. Hide yourself behind this trough, and when our mother comes, who would swallow you down at once, rise up and seize her behind her back; hold her fast, and do not let her go until she swears by Thunder-and-Lightning not to harm you."

Parmetella did as she was bid, and after the ogress had sworn by the fire-shovel, by the spinning-wheel, by the reel, by the sideboard, and by the peg, at last she swore by Thunder-and-Lightning; whereupon Parmetella let go her hold, and showed herself to the ogress, who said, "You have caught me this time; but take care, Traitress! for, at the first shower, I'll send you to the Lava."

One day the ogress, who was on the look-out for an opportunity to devour Parmetella, took twelve sacks of various seeds—peas, chick-peas, lentils, vetches, kidney-beans, beans, and lupins—and mixed them all together; then she said to her, "Traitress, take these seeds and sort them all, so that each kind may be separated from the rest; and if they are not all sorted by this evening, I'll swallow you like a penny tart."

Poor Parmetella sat down beside the sacks, weeping, and said, "O mother, mother, how will this golden root prove a root of woes to me! Now is my misery completed; by seeing a black face turned white, all has become black before my eyes. Alas! I am ruined and undone—there is no help for it. I already seem as if I were in the throat of that horrid ogress; there is no one to help me, there is no one to advise me, there is no one to comfort me!"

As she was lamenting thus, lo! Thunder-and-Lightning appeared like a flash, for the banishment laid upon him by the spell had just ended. Although he was angry with Parmetella, yet his blood could not turn to water, and seeing her grieving thus he said to her, "Traitress, what makes you weep so?" Then she told him of his mother's ill-treatment of her, and her wish to make an end of her, and eat her up. But Thunder-and-Lightning replied, "Calm yourself and take heart, for it shall not be as she said." And instantly scattering all the seeds on the ground he made a deluge of ants spring up, who forthwith set to work to heap up all the seeds separately, each kind by itself, and Parmetella filled the sacks with them.

When the ogress came home and found the task done, she was almost in despair, and cried, "That dog Thunder-and-Lightning has played me this trick; but you shall not escape thus! So take these pieces of bed-tick, which are enough for twelve mattresses, and mind that by this evening they are filled with feathers, or else I will make mincemeat of you."

The poor girl took the bed-ticks, and sitting down upon the ground began to weep and lament bitterly, making two fountains of her eyes. But presently Thunder-and-Lightning appeared, and said to her, "Do not weep, Traitress,—leave it to me, and I will bring you to port; so let down your hair, spread the bed-ticks upon the ground, and fall to weeping and wailing, and crying out that the king of the birds is dead, then you'll see what will happen."

Parmetella did as she was told, and behold a cloud of birds suddenly appeared that darkened the air; and flapping their wings they let fall their feathers by basketfuls, so that in less than an hour the mattresses were all filled. When the ogress came home and saw the task done, she swelled up with rage till she almost burst, saying, "Thunder-and-Lightning is determined to plague me, but may I be dragged at an ape's tail if I let her escape!" Then she said to Parmetella, "Run quickly to my sister's house, and tell her to send me the musical instruments; for I have resolved that Thunder-and-Lightning shall marry, and we will make a feast fit for a king." At the same time she sent to bid her sister, when the poor girl came to ask for the instruments, instantly to kill and cook her, and she would come and partake of the feast.

Parmetella, hearing herself ordered to perform an easier task, was in great joy, thinking that the weather had begun to grow milder. Alas, how crooked is human judgment! On the way she met Thunder-and-Lightning, who, seeing her walking at a quick pace, said to her, "Whither are you going, wretched girl? See you not that you are on the way to the slaughter; that you are forging your own fetters, and sharpening the knife and mixing the poison for yourself; that you are sent to the ogress for her to swallow you? But listen to me and fear not. Take this little loaf, this bundle of hay, and this stone; and when you come to the house of my aunt, you will find a bulldog, which will fly barking at you to bite you; but give him this little loaf, and it will stop his throat. And when you have passed the dog, you will meet a horse running loose, which will run up to kick and trample on you; but give him the hay, and you will clog his feet. At last you will come to a door, banging to and fro continually; put this stone before it, and you will stop its fury. Then mount upstairs and you find the ogress, with a little child in her arms, and the oven ready heated to bake you. Whereupon she will say to you, Hold this little creature, and wait here till I go and fetch the instruments.' But mind—she will only go to whet her tusks, in order to tear you in pieces. Then throw the little child into the oven without pity, take the instruments which stand behind the door, and hie off before the ogress returns, or else you are lost. The instruments are in a box, but beware of opening it, or you will repent."

Parmetella did all that Thunder-and-Lightning told her; but on her way back with the instruments she opened the box, and lo and behold! they all flew out and about—here a flute, there a flageolet, here a pipe, there a bagpipe, making a thousand different sounds in the air, whilst Parmetella stood looking on and tearing her hair in despair.

Meanwhile the ogress came downstairs, and not finding Parmetella, she went to the window, and called out to the door, "Crush that traitress!" But the door answered:

"I will not use the poor girl ill,
For she has made me at last stand still."

Then the ogress cried out to the horse, "Trample on the thief!" But the horse replied:

"Let the poor girl go her way,
For she has given me the hay."

And lastly, the ogress called to the dog, saying, "Bite the rogue!" But the dog answered:

"I'll not hurt a hair of her head,
For she it was who gave me the bread."

Now as Parmetella ran crying after the instruments, she met Thunder-and-Lightning, who scolded her well, saying, "Traitress, will you not learn at your cost that by your fatal curiosity you are brought to this plight?" Then he called back the instruments with a whistle, and shut them up again in the box, telling Parmetella to take them to his mother. But when the ogress saw her, she cried aloud, "O cruel fate! even my sister is against me, and refuses to give me this pleasure."

Meanwhile the new bride arrived—a hideous pest, a compound of ugliness, a harpy, an evil shade, a horror, a monster, a large tub, who with a hundred flowers and boughs about her looked like a newly opened inn. Then the ogress made a great banquet for her; and being full of gall and malice, she had the table placed close to a well, where she seated her seven daughters, each with a torch in one hand; but she gave two torches to Parmetella, and made her sit at the edge of the well, on purpose that, when she fell asleep, she might tumble to the bottom.

Now whilst the dishes were passing to and fro, and their blood began to get warm, Thunder-and-Lightning, who turned quite sick at the sight of the new bride, said to Parmetella, "Traitress, do you love me?" "Ay, to the top of the roof," she replied. And he answered, "If you love me, give me a kiss." "Nay," said Parmetella, "YOU indeed, who have such a pretty creature at your side! Heaven preserve her to you a hundred years in health and with plenty of sons!" Then the new bride answered, "It is very clear that you are a simpleton, and would remain so were you to live a hundred years, acting the prude as you do, and refusing to kiss so handsome a youth, whilst I let a herdsman kiss me for a couple of chestnuts."

At these words the bridegroom swelled with rage like a toad, so that his food remained sticking in his throat; however, he put a good face on the matter and swallowed the pill, intending to make the reckoning and settle the balance afterwards. But when the tables were removed, and the ogress and his sisters had gone away, Thunder-and-Lightning said to the new bride, "Wife, did you see this proud creature refuse me a kiss?" "She was a simpleton," replied the bride, "to refuse a kiss to such a handsome young man, whilst I let a herdsman kiss me for a couple of chestnuts."

Thunder-and-Lightning could contain himself no longer; the mustard got up into his nose, and with the flash of scorn and the thunder of action, he seized a knife and stabbed the bride, and digging a hole in the cellar he buried her. Then embracing Parmetella he said to her, "You are my jewel, the flower of women, the mirror of honour! Then turn those eyes upon me, give me that hand, put out those lips, draw near to me, my heart! for I will be yours as long as the world lasts."

The next morning, when the Sun aroused his fiery steeds from their watery stable, and drove them to pasture on the fields sown by the Dawn, the ogress came with fresh eggs for the newly married couple, that the young wife might be able to say, "Happy is she who marries and gets a mother-in-law!" But finding Parmetella in the arms of her son, and hearing what had passed, she ran to her sister, to concert some means of removing this thorn from her eyes without her son's being able to prevent it. But when she found that her sister, out of grief at the loss of her daughter, had crept into the oven herself and was burnt, her despair was so great, that from an ogress she became a ram, and butted her head against the wall under she broke her pate. Then Thunder-and-Lightning made peace between Parmetella and her sisters-in-law, and they all lived happy and content, finding the saying come true, that—

"Patience conquers all."


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