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Produced by J.C. Byers


By Various

Edited by Andrew Lang


Each Fairy Book demands a preface from the Editor, and these
introductions are inevitably both monotonous and unavailing. A sense
of literary honesty compels the Editor to keep repeating that he is the
Editor, and not the author of the Fairy Tales, just as a distinguished
man of science is only the Editor, not the Author of Nature. Like
nature, popular tales are too vast to be the creation of a single modern
mind. The Editor's business is to hunt for collections of these
stories told by peasant or savage grandmothers in many climes, from New
Caledonia to Zululand; from the frozen snows of the Polar regions to
Greece, or Spain, or Italy, or far Lochaber. When the tales are found
they are adapted to the needs of British children by various hands,
the Editor doing little beyond guarding the interests of propriety,
and toning down to mild reproofs the tortures inflicted on wicked
stepmothers, and other naughty characters.

These explanations have frequently been offered already; but, as far
as ladies and children are concerned, to no purpose. They still ask the
Editor how he can invent so many stories - more than Shakespeare, Dumas,
and Charles Dickens could have invented in a century. And the Editor
still avers, in Prefaces, that he did not invent one of the stories;
that nobody knows, as a rule, who invented them, or where, or when. It
is only plain that, perhaps a hundred thousand years ago, some
savage grandmother told a tale to a savage granddaughter; that the
granddaughter told it in her turn; that various tellers made changes to
suit their taste, adding or omitting features and incidents; that, as
the world grew civilised, other alterations were made, and that, at
last, Homer composed the 'Odyssey,' and somebody else composed the Story
of Jason and the Fleece of Gold, and the enchantress Medea, out of a
set of wandering popular tales, which are still told among Samoyeds and
Samoans, Hindoos and Japanese.

All this has been known to the wise and learned for centuries, and
especially since the brothers Grimm wrote in the early years of the
Nineteenth Century. But children remain unaware of the facts, and so do
their dear mothers; whence the Editor infers that they do not read his
prefaces, and are not members of the Folk Lore Society, or students of
Herr Kohler and M. Cosquin, and M. Henri Guidoz and Professor Child,
and Mr. Max Muller. Though these explanations are not attended to by
the Editor's customers, he makes them once more, for the relief of his
conscience. Many tales in this book are translated, or adapted, from
those told by mothers and nurses in Hungary; others are familiar to
Russian nurseries; the Servians are responsible for some; a rather
peculiarly fanciful set of stories are adapted from the Roumanians;
others are from the Baltic shores; others from sunny Sicily; a few are
from Finland, and Iceland, and Japan, and Tunis, and Portugal. No doubt
many children will like to look out these places on the map, and study
their mountains, rivers, soil, products, and fiscal policies, in the
geography books. The peoples who tell the stories differ in colour;
language, religion, and almost everything else; but they all love a
nursery tale. The stories have mainly been adapted or translated by Mrs.
Lang, a few by Miss Lang and Miss Blackley.


Lovely Ilonka
Lucky Luck
The Hairy Man
To your Good Health!
The Story of the Seven Simons
The Language of Beasts
The Boy who could keep a Secret
The Prince and the Dragon
Little Wildrose
Tiidu the Piper
The Gifts of the Magician
The Strong Prince
The Treasure Seeker
The Cottager and his Cat
The Prince who would seek Immortality
The Stone-cutter
The Gold-bearded Man
Tritill, Litill, and the Birds
The Three Robes
The Six Hungry Beasts
How the Beggar Boy turned into Count Piro
The Rogue and the Herdsman
The Death of Abu Nowas and of his Wife
Niels and the Giants
Shepherd Paul
How the wicked Tanuki was punished
The Crab and the Monkey
The Horse Gullfaxi and the Sword Gunnfoder
The Story of the Sham Prince, or the Ambitious Tailor
The Colony of Cats
How to find out a True Friend
Clever Maria
The Magic Kettle

Lovely Ilonka

There was once a king's son who told his father that he wished to marry.

'No, no!' said the king; 'you must not be in such a hurry. Wait till you
have done some great deed. My father did not let me marry till I had won
the golden sword you see me wear.'

The prince was much disappointed, but he never dreamed of disobeying his
father, and he began to think with all his might what he could do. It
was no use staying at home, so one day he wandered out into the world to
try his luck, and as he walked along he came to a little hut in which he
found an old woman crouching over the fire.

'Good evening, mother. I see you have lived long in this world; do you
know anything about the three bulrushes?'

'Yes, indeed, I've lived long and been much about in the world, but I
have never seen or heard anything of what you ask. Still, if you will
wait till to-morrow I may be able to tell you something.'

Well, he waited till the morning, and quite early the old woman appeared
and took out a little pipe and blew in it, and in a moment all the crows
in the world were flying about her. Not one was missing. Then she asked
if they knew anything about the three bulrushes, but not one of them

The prince went on his way, and a little further on he found another hut
in which lived an old man. On being questioned the old man said he knew
nothing, but begged the prince to stay overnight, and the next morning
the old man called all the ravens together, but they too had nothing to

The prince bade him farewell and set out. He wandered so far that he
crossed seven kingdoms, and at last, one evening, he came to a little
house in which was an old woman.

'Good evening, dear mother,' said he politely.

'Good evening to you, my dear son,' answered the old woman. 'It is
lucky for you that you spoke to me or you would have met with a horrible
death. But may I ask where are you going?'

'I am seeking the three bulrushes. Do you know anything about them?'

'I don't know anything myself, but wait till to-morrow. Perhaps I can
tell you then.' So the next morning she blew on her pipe, and lo!
and behold every magpie in the world flew up. That is to say, all the
magpies except one who had broken a leg and a wing. The old woman sent
after it at once, and when she questioned the magpies the crippled one
was the only one who knew where the three bulrushes were.

Then the prince started off with the lame magpie. They went on and on
till they reached a great stone wall, many, many feet high.

'Now, prince,' said the magpie, 'the three bulrushes are behind that

The prince wasted no time. He set his horse at the wall and leaped over
it. Then he looked about for the three bulrushes, pulled them up and
set off with them on his way home. As he rode along one of the bulrushes
happened to knock against something. It split open and, only think! out
sprang a lovely girl, who said: 'My heart's love, you are mine and I am
yours; do give me a glass of water.'

But how could the prince give it her when there was no water at hand?
So the lovely maiden flew away. He split the second bulrush as an
experiment and just the same thing happened.

How careful he was of the third bulrush! He waited till he came to a
well, and there he split it open, and out sprang a maiden seven times
lovelier than either of the others, and she too said: 'My heart's love,
I am yours and you are mine; do give me a glass of water.'

This time the water was ready and the girl did not fly away, but she
and the prince promised to love each other always. Then they set out for

They soon reached the prince's country, and as he wished to bring his
promised bride back in a fine coach he went on to the town to fetch one.
In the field where the well was, the king's swineherds and cowherds were
feeding their droves, and the prince left Ilonka (for that was her name)
in their care.

Unluckily the chief swineherd had an ugly old daughter, and whilst the
prince was away he dressed her up in fine clothes, and threw Ilonka into
the well.

The prince returned before long, bringing with him his father and mother
and a great train of courtiers to escort Ilonka home. But how they all
stared when they saw the swineherd's ugly daughter! However, there was
nothing for it but to take her home; and, two days later, the prince
married her, and his father gave up the crown to him.

But he had no peace! He knew very well he had been cheated, though he
could not think how. Once he desired to have some water brought him from
the well into which Ilonka had been thrown. The coachman went for it
and, in the bucket he pulled up, a pretty little duck was swimming.
He looked wonderingly at it, and all of a sudden it disappeared and he
found a dirty looking girl standing near him. The girl returned with him
and managed to get a place as housemaid in the palace.

Of course she was very busy all day long, but whenever she had a little
spare time she sat down to spin. Her distaff turned of itself and her
spindle span by itself and the flax wound itself off; and however much
she might use there was always plenty left.

When the queen - or, rather, the swineherd's daughter - heard of this,
she very much wished to have the distaff, but the girl flatly refused
to give it to her. However, at last she consented on condition that she
might sleep one night in the king's room. The queen was very angry, and
scolded her well; but as she longed to have the distaff she consented,
though she gave the king a sleeping draught at supper.

Then the girl went to the king's room looking seven times lovelier than
ever. She bent over the sleeper and said: 'My heart's love, I am yours
and you are mine. Speak to me but once; I am your Ilonka.' But the king
was so sound asleep he neither heard nor spoke, and Ilonka left the
room, sadly thinking he was ashamed to own her.

Soon after the queen again sent to say that she wanted to buy the
spindle. The girl agreed to let her have it on the same conditions as
before; but this time, also, the queen took care to give the king a
sleeping draught. And once more Ilonka went to the king's room and spoke
to him; whisper as sweetly as she might she could get no answer.

Now some of the king's servants had taken note of the matter, and warned
their master not to eat and drink anything that the queen offered him,
as for two nights running she had given him a sleeping draught. The
queen had no idea that her doings had been discovered; and when, a few
days later, she wanted the flax, and had to pay the same price for it,
she felt no fears at all.

At supper that night the queen offered the king all sorts of nice things
to eat and drink, but he declared he was not hungry, and went early to

The queen repented bitterly her promise to the girl, but it was too late
to recall it; for Ilonka had already entered the king's room, where he
lay anxiously waiting for something, he knew not what. All of a sudden
he saw a lovely maiden who bent over him and said: 'My dearest love, I
am yours and you are mine. Speak to me, for I am your Ilonka.'

At these words the king's heart bounded within him. He sprang up and
embraced and kissed her, and she told him all her adventures since the
moment he had left her. And when he heard all that Ilonka had suffered,
and how he had been deceived, he vowed he would be revenged; so he gave
orders that the swineherd, his wife and daughter should all be hanged;
and so they were.

The next day the king was married, with great rejoicings, to the fair
Ilonka; and if they are not yet dead - why, they are still living.

[From Ungarische Mahrehen.]

Lucky Luck

Once upon a time there was a king who had an only son. When the lad was
about eighteen years old his father had to go to fight in a war against
a neighbouring country, and the king led his troops in person. He bade
his son act as Regent in his absence, but ordered him on no account to
marry till his return.

Time went by. The prince ruled the country and never even thought of
marrying. But when he reached his twenty-fifth birthday he began to
think that it might be rather nice to have a wife, and he thought so
much that at last he got quite eager about it. He remembered, however,
what his father had said, and waited some time longer, till at last it
was ten years since the king went out to war. Then the prince called his
courtiers about him and set off with a great retinue to seek a bride. He
hardly knew which way to go, so he wandered about for twenty days, when,
suddenly, he found himself in his father's camp.

The king was delighted to see his son, and had a great many questions
to ask and answer; but when he heard that instead of quietly waiting
for him at home the prince was starting off to seek a wife he was very
angry, and said: 'You may go where you please but I will not leave any
of my people with you.'

Only one faithful servant stayed with the prince and refused to part
from him. They journeyed over hill and dale till they came to a place
called Goldtown. The King of Goldtown had a lovely daughter, and the
prince, who soon heard about her beauty, could not rest till he saw her.

He was very kindly received, for he was extremely good-looking and had
charming manners, so he lost no time in asking for her hand and her
parents gave her to him with joy. The wedding took place at once, and
the feasting and rejoicings went on for a whole month. At the end of
the month they set off for home, but as the journey was a long one they
spent the first evening at an inn. Everyone in the house slept, and only
the faithful servant kept watch. About midnight he heard three crows,
who had flown to the roof, talking together.

'That's a handsome couple which arrived here tonight. It seems quite a
pity they should lose their lives so soon.'

'Truly,' said the second crow; 'for to-morrow, when midday strikes, the
bridge over the Gold Stream will break just as they are driving over
it. But, listen! whoever overhears and tells what we have said will be
turned to stone up to his knees.'

The crows had hardly done speaking when away they flew. And close upon
them followed three pigeons.

'Even if the prince and princess get safe over the bridge they will
perish,' said they; 'for the king is going to send a carriage to meet
them which looks as new as paint. But when they are seated in it a
raging wind will rise and whirl the carriage away into the clouds. Then
it will fall suddenly to earth, and they will be killed. But anyone who
hears and betrays what we have said will be turned to stone up to his

With that the pigeons flew off and three eagles took their places, and
this is what they said:

'If the young couple does manage to escape the dangers of the bridge
and the carriage, the king means to send them each a splendid gold
embroidered robe. When they put these on they will be burnt up at once.
But whoever hears and repeats this will turn to stone from head to

Early next morning the travellers got up and breakfasted. They began to
tell each other their dreams. At last the servant said:

'Gracious prince, I dreamt that if your Royal Highness would grant all
I asked we should get home safe and sound; but if you did not we should
certainly be lost. My dreams never deceive me, so I entreat you to
follow my advice during the rest of the journey.'

'Don't make such a fuss about a dream,' said the prince; 'dreams are but
clouds. Still, to prevent your being anxious I will promise to do as you

With that they set out on their journey.

At midday they reached the Gold Stream. When they got to the bridge the
servant said: 'Let us leave the carriage here, my prince, and walk
a little way. The town is not far off and we can easily get another
carriage there, for the wheels of this one are bad and will not hold out
much longer.'

The prince looked well at the carriage. He did not think it looked so
unsafe as his servant said; but he had given his word and he held to it.

They got down and loaded the horses with the luggage. The prince and
his bride walked over the bridge, but the servant said he would ride the
horses through the stream so as to water and bathe them.

They reached the other side without harm, and bought a new carriage in
the town, which was quite near, and set off once more on their travels;
but they had not gone far when they met a messenger from the king who
said to the prince: 'His Majesty has sent your Royal Highness this
beautiful carriage so that you may make a fitting entry into your own
country and amongst your own people.'

The prince was so delighted that he could not speak. But the servant
said: 'My lord, let me examine this carriage first and then you can get
in if I find it is all right; otherwise we had better stay in our own.'

The prince made no objections, and after looking the carriage well
over the servant said: 'It is as bad as it is smart'; and with that
he knocked it all to pieces, and they went on in the one that they had

At last they reached the frontier; there another messenger was waiting
for them, who said that the king had sent two splendid robes for the
prince and his bride, and begged that they would wear them for their
state entry. But the servant implored the prince to have nothing to do
with them, and never gave him any peace till he had obtained leave to
destroy the robes.

The old king was furious when he found that all his arts had failed;
that his son still lived and that he would have to give up the crown to
him now he was married, for that was the law of the land. He longed to
know how the prince had escaped, and said: 'My dear son, I do indeed
rejoice to have you safely back, but I cannot imagine why the beautiful
carriage and the splendid robes I sent did not please you; why you had
them destroyed.'

'Indeed, sire,' said the prince, 'I was myself much annoyed at their
destruction; but my servant had begged to direct everything on the
journey and I had promised him that he should do so. He declared that we
could not possibly get home safely unless I did as he told me.'

The old king fell into a tremendous rage. He called his Council together
and condemned the servant to death.

The gallows was put up in the square in front of the palace. The servant
was led out and his sentence read to him.

The rope was being placed round his neck, when he begged to be allowed
a few last words. 'On our journey home,' he said, 'we spent the first
night at an inn. I did not sleep but kept watch all night.' And then he
went on to tell what the crows had said, and as he spoke he turned to
stone up to his knees. The prince called to him to say no more as he had
proved his innocence. But the servant paid no heed to him, and by the
time his story was done he had turned to stone from head to foot.

Oh! how grieved the prince was to lose his faithful servant! And what
pained him most was the thought that he was lost through his very
faithfulness, and he determined to travel all over the world and never
rest till he found some means of restoring him to life.

Now there lived at Court an old woman who had been the prince's nurse.
To her he confided all his plans, and left his wife, the princess, in
her care. 'You have a long way before you, my son,' said the old woman;
'you must never return till you have met with Lucky Luck. If he cannot
help you no one on earth can.'

So the prince set off to try to find Lucky Luck. He walked and walked
till he got beyond his own country, and he wandered through a wood for
three days but did not meet a living being in it. At the end of the
third day he came to a river near which stood a large mill. Here he
spent the night. When he was leaving next morning the miller asked him:
'My gracious lord, where are you going all alone?'

And the prince told him.

'Then I beg your Highness to ask Lucky Luck this question: Why is it
that though I have an excellent mill, with all its machinery complete,
and get plenty of grain to grind, I am so poor that I hardly know how to
live from one day to another?'

The prince promised to inquire, and went on his way. He wandered about
for three days more, and at the end of the third day saw a little town.
It was quite late when he reached it, but he could discover no light
anywhere, and walked almost right through it without finding a house
where he could turn in. But far away at the end of the town he saw a
light in a window. He went straight to it and in the house were three
girls playing a game together. The prince asked for a night's lodging
and they took him in, gave him some supper and got a room ready for him,
where he slept.

Next morning when he was leaving they asked where he was going and he
told them his story. 'Gracious prince,' said the maidens, 'do ask Lucky
Luck how it happens that here we are over thirty years old and no lover
has come to woo us, though we are good, pretty, and very industrious.'

The prince promised to inquire, and went on his way.

Then he came to a great forest and wandered about in it from morning to
night and from night to morning before he got near the other end. Here
he found a pretty stream which was different from other streams as,
instead of flowing, it stood still and began to talk: 'Sir prince, tell
me what brings you into these wilds? I must have been flowing here a
hundred years and more and no one has ever yet come by.'

'I will tell you,' answered the prince, 'if you will divide yourself so
that I may walk through.'

The stream parted at once, and the prince walked through without wetting
his feet; and directly he got to the other side he told his story as he
had promised.

'Oh, do ask Lucky Luck,' cried the brook, 'why, though I am such a
clear, bright, rapid stream I never have a fish or any other living
creature in my waters.'

The prince said he would do so, and continued his journey.

When he got quite clear of the forest he walked on through a lovely
valley till he reached a little house thatched with rushes, and he went
in to rest for he was very tired.

Everything in the house was beautifully clean and tidy, and a cheerful
honest-looking old woman was sitting by the fire.

'Good-morning, mother,' said the prince.

'May Luck be with you, my son. What brings you into these parts?'

'I am looking for Lucky Luck,' replied the prince.

'Then you have come to the right place, my son, for I am his mother. He
is not at home just now, he is out digging in the vineyard. Do you go
too. Here are two spades. When you find him begin to dig, but don't
speak a word to him. It is now eleven o'clock. When he sits down to
eat his dinner sit beside him and eat with him. After dinner he will
question you, and then tell him all your troubles freely. He will answer
whatever you may ask.'

With that she showed him the way, and the prince went and did just as
she had told him. After dinner they lay down to rest.

All of a sudden Lucky Luck began to speak and said: 'Tell me, what sort
of man are you, for since you came here you have not spoken a word?'

'I am not dumb,' replied the young man, 'but I am that unhappy prince
whose faithful servant has been turned to stone, and I want to know how
to help him.'

'And you do well, for he deserves everything. Go back, and when you
get home your wife will just have had a little boy. Take three drops of
blood from the child's little finger, rub them on your servant's wrists
with a blade of grass and he will return to life.'

'I have another thing to ask,' said the prince, when he had thanked him.
'In the forest near here is a fine stream but not a fish or other living
creature in it. Why is this?'

'Because no one has ever been drowned in the stream. But take care, in
crossing, to get as near the other side as you can before you say so, or
you may be the first victim yourself.'

'Another question, please, before I go. On my way here I lodged
one night in the house of three maidens. All were well-mannered,
hard-working, and pretty, and yet none has had a wooer. Why was this?'

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