Andrew Lang.

The Crimson Fairy Book online

. (page 13 of 21)
Online LibraryAndrew LangThe Crimson Fairy Book → online text (page 13 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


voyage, and in six days they reached the land, and at once set out for
the capital, a messenger being sent on first by the minister to inform
the king of what had happened.

When his Majesty's eyes fell on the two beautiful women, clad in dresses
of gold and silver, he forgot his sorrows and ordered preparations for
the wedding to be made without delay. In his joy he never remembered to
inquire in what kind of country the future queen had been found. In fact
his head was so turned by the beauty of the two ladies that when the
invitations were sent by his orders to all the great people in the
kingdom, he did not even recollect his two children, who remained shut
up in their own house!

After the marriage the king ceased to have any will of his own and
did nothing without consulting his wife. She was present at all his
councils, and her opinion was asked before making peace or war. But when
a few months had passed the king began to have doubts as to whether the
minister's choice had really been a wise one, and he noticed that his
children lived more and more in their palace and never came near their
stepmother.

It always happens that if a person's eyes are once opened they see a
great deal more than they ever expected; and soon it struck the king
that the members of his court had a way of disappearing one after the
other without any reason. At first he had not paid much attention to the
fact, but merely appointed some fresh person to the vacant place. As,
however, man after man vanished without leaving any trace, he began to
grow uncomfortable and to wonder if the queen could have anything to do
with it.

Things were in this state when, one day, his wife said to him that it
was time for him to make a progress through his kingdom and see that his
governors were not cheating him of the money that was his due. 'And
you need not be anxious about going,' she added, 'for I will rule the
country while you are away as carefully as you could yourself.'

The king had no great desire to undertake this journey, but the queen's
will was stronger than his, and he was too lazy to make a fight for it.
So he said nothing and set about his preparations, ordering his finest
ship to be ready to carry him round the coast. Still his heart was
heavy, and he felt uneasy, though he could not have told why; and the
night before he was to start he went to the children's palace to take
leave of his son and daughter.

He had not seen them for some time, and they gave him a warm welcome,
for they loved him dearly and he had always been kind to them. They
had much to tell him, but after a while he checked their merry talk and
said:

'If I should never come back from this journey I fear that it may not
be safe for you to stay here; so directly there are no more hopes of my
return go instantly and take the road eastwards till you reach a high
mountain, which you must cross. Once over the mountain keep along by the
side of a little bay till you come to two trees, one green and the other
red, standing in a thicket, and so far back from the road that without
looking for them you would never see them. Hide each in the trunk of one
of the trees and there you will be safe from all your enemies.'

With these words the king bade them farewell and entered sadly into
his ship. For a few days the wind was fair, and everything seemed going
smoothly; then, suddenly, a gale sprang up, and a fearful storm of
thunder and lightning, such as had never happened within the memory of
man. In spite of the efforts of the frightened sailors the vessel was
driven on the rocks, and not a man on board was saved.

That very night Prince Sigurd had a dream, in which he thought his
father appeared to him in dripping clothes, and, taking the crown from
his head, laid it at his son's feet, leaving the room as silently as he
had entered it.

Hastily the prince awoke his sister Lineik, and they agreed that their
father must be dead, and that they must lose no time in obeying his
orders and putting themselves in safety. So they collected their jewels
and a few clothes and left the house without being observed by anyone.


They hurried on till they arrived at the mountain without once looking
back. Then Sigurd glanced round and saw that their stepmother was
following them, with an expression on her face which made her uglier
than the ugliest old witch. Between her and them lay a thick wood, and
Sigurd stopped for a moment to set it on fire; then he and his sister
hastened on more swiftly than before, till they reached the grove with
the red and green trees, into which they jumped, and felt that at last
they were safe.

Now, at that time there reigned over Greece a king who was very rich
and powerful, although his name has somehow been forgotten. He had two
children, a son and a daughter, who were more beautiful and accomplished
than any Greeks had been before, and they were the pride of their
father's heart.

The prince had no sooner grown out of boyhood than he prevailed on his
father to make war during the summer months on a neighbouring nation,
so as to give him a chance of making himself famous. In winter, however,
when it was difficult to get food and horses in that wild country, the
army was dispersed, and the prince returned home.

During one of these wars he had heard reports of the Princess Lineik's
beauty, and he resolved to seek her out, and to ask for her hand in
marriage. All this Blauvor, the queen, found out by means of her black
arts, and when the prince drew near the capital she put a splendid dress
on her own daughter and then went to meet her guest.

She bade him welcome to her palace, and when they had finished supper
she told him of the loss of her husband, and how there was no one left
to govern the kingdom but herself.

'But where is the Princess Lineik?' asked the prince when she had ended
her tale.

'Here,' answered the queen, bringing forward the girl, whom she had
hitherto kept in the background.

The prince looked at her and was rather disappointed. The maiden was
pretty enough, but not much out of the common.

'Oh, you must not wonder at her pale face and heavy eyes,' said the
queen hastily, for she saw what was passing in his mind. 'She has never
got over the loss of both father and mother.'

'That shows a good heart,' thought the prince; 'and when she is happy
her beauty will soon come back.' And without any further delay he begged
the queen to consent to their betrothal, for the marriage must take
place in his own country.

The queen was enchanted. She had hardly expected to succeed so soon, and
she at once set about her preparations. Indeed she wished to travel with
the young couple, to make sure that nothing should go wrong; but here
the prince was firm, that he would take no one with him but Laufer, whom
he thought was Lineik.

They soon took leave of the queen, and set sail in a splendid ship; but
in a short time a dense fog came on, and in the dark the captain steered
out of his course, and they found themselves in a bay which was quite
strange to all the crew. The prince ordered a boat to be lowered, and
went on shore to look about him, and it was not long before he noticed
the two beautiful trees, quite different from any that grew in Greece.
Calling one of the sailors, he bade him cut them down, and carry them on
board the ship. This was done, and as the sky was now clear they put out
to sea, and arrived in Greece without any more adventures.

The news that the prince had brought home a bride had gone before them,
and they were greeted with flowery arches and crowns of coloured lights.
The king and queen met them on the steps of the palace, and conducted
the girl to the women's house, where she would have to remain until her
marriage. The prince then went to his own rooms and ordered that the
trees should be brought in to him.

The next morning the prince bade his attendants bring his future bride
to his own apartments, and when she came he gave her silk which she was
to weave into three robes - one red, one green, and one blue - and these
must all be ready before the wedding. The blue one was to be done first
and the green last, and this was to be the most splendid of all, 'for I
will wear it at our marriage,' said he.

Left alone, Laufer sat and stared at the heap of shining silk before
her. She did not know how to weave, and burst into tears as she thought
that everything would be discovered, for Lineik's skill in weaving was
as famous as her beauty. As she sat with her face hidden and her body
shaken by sobs, Sigurd in his tree heard her and was moved to pity.
'Lineik, my sister,' he called, softly, 'Laufer is weeping; help her, I
pray you.'

'Have you forgotten the wrongs her mother did to us' answered Lineik,
'and that it is owing to her that we are banished from home?'

But she was not really unforgiving, and very soon she slid quietly out
of her hiding-place, and taking the silk from Laufer's hands began to
weave it. So quick and clever was she that the blue dress was not only
woven but embroidered, and Lineik was safe back in her tree before the
prince returned.

'It is the most beautiful work I have ever seen,' said he, taking up a
bit. 'And I am sure that the red one will be still better, because the
stuff is richer,' and with a low bow he left the room.

Laufer had hoped secretly that when the prince had seen the blue dress
finished he would have let her off the other two; but when she found she
was expected to fulfil the whole task, her heart sank and she began to
cry loudly. Again Sigurd heard her, and begged Lineik to come to her
help, and Lineik, feeling sorry for her distress, wove and embroidered
the second dress as she had done the first, mixing gold thread and
precious stones till you could hardly see the red of the stuff. When it
was done she glided into her tree just as the prince came in.

'You are as quick as you are clever,' said he, admiringly. 'This looks
as if it had been embroidered by the fairies! But as the green robe must
outshine the other two I will give you three days in which to finish it.
After it is ready we will be married at once.'

Now, as he spoke, there rose up in Laufer's mind all the unkind things
that she and her mother had done to Lineik. Could she hope that they
would be forgotten, and that Lineik would come to her rescue for the
third time? And perhaps Lineik, who had not forgotten the past either,
might have left her alone, to get on as best she could, had not Sigurd,
her brother, implored her to help just once more. So Lineik again slid
out of her tree, and, to Laufer's great relief, set herself to work.
When the shining green silk was ready she caught the sun's rays and the
moon's beams on the point of her needle and wove them into a pattern
such as no man had ever seen. But it took a long time, and on the third
morning, just as she was putting the last stitches into the last flower
the prince came in.

Lineik jumped up quickly, and tried to get past him back to her tree;
but the folds of the silk were wrapped round her, and she would have
fallen had not the prince caught her.

'I have thought for some time that all was not quite straight here,'
said he. 'Tell me who you are, and where you come from?'

Lineik then told her name and her story. When she had ended the prince
turned angrily to Laufer, and declared that, as a punishment for her
wicked lies, she deserved to die a shameful death.

But Laufer fell at his feet and begged for mercy. It was her mother's
fault, she said: 'It was she, and not I, who passed me off as the
Princess Lineik. The only lie I have ever told you was about the robes,
and I do not deserve death for that.'

She was still on her knees when Prince Sigurd entered the room.
He prayed the Prince of Greece to forgive Laufer, which he did,
on condition that Lineik would consent to marry him. 'Not till my
stepmother is dead,' answered she, 'for she has brought misery to all
that came near her.' Then Laufer told them that Blauvor was not the wife
of a king, but an ogress who had stolen her from a neighbouring palace
and had brought her up as her daughter. And besides being an ogress she
was also a witch, and by her black arts had sunk the ship in which the
father of Sigurd and Lineik had set sail. It was she who had caused
the disappearance of the courtiers, for which no one could account, by
eating them during the night, and she hoped to get rid of all the people
in the country, and then to fill the land with ogres and ogresses like
herself.

So Prince Sigurd and the Prince of Greece collected an army swiftly,
and marched upon the town where Blauvor had her palace. They came so
suddenly that no one knew of it, and if they had, Blauvor had eaten most
of the strong men; and others, fearful of something they could not tell
what, had secretly left the place. Therefore she was easily captured,
and the next day was beheaded in the market-place. Afterwards the two
princes marched back to Greece.

Lineik had no longer any reason for putting off her wedding, and married
the Prince of Greece at the same time that Sigurd married the princess.
And Laufer remained with Lineik as her friend and sister, till they
found a husband for her in a great nobleman; and all three couples lived
happily until they died.

[From Islandische Muhrchen Poestion Wien.]





The Six Hungry Beasts

Once upon a time there lived a man who dwelt with his wife in a little
hut, far away from any neighbours. But they did not mind being alone,
and would have been quite happy, if it had not been for a marten, who
came every night to their poultry yard, and carried off one of their
fowls. The man laid all sorts of traps to catch the thief, but instead
of capturing the foe, it happened that one day he got caught himself,
and falling down, struck his head against a stone, and was killed.

Not long after the marten came by on the look out for his supper. Seeing
the dead man lying there, he said to himself: 'That is a prize, this
time I have done well'; and dragging the body with great difficulty to
the sledge which was waiting for him, drove off with his booty. He
had not driven far when he met a squirrel, who bowed and said:
'Good-morning, godfather! what have you got behind you?'

The marten laughed and answered: 'Did you ever hear anything so strange?
The old man that you see here set traps about his hen-house, thinking
to catch me but he fell into his own trap, and broke his own neck. He is
very heavy; I wish you would help me to draw the sledge.' The squirrel
did as he was asked, and the sledge moved slowly along.

By-and-by a hare came running across a field, but stopped to see what
wonderful thing was coming. 'What have you got there?' she asked, and
the marten told his story and begged the hare to help them pull.

The hare pulled her hardest, and after a while they were joined by a
fox, and then by a wolf, and at length a bear was added to the company,
and he was of more use than all the other five beasts put together.
Besides, when the whole six had supped off the man he was not so heavy
to draw.

The worst of it was that they soon began to get hungry again, and the
wolf, who was the hungriest of all, said to the rest:

'What shall we eat now, my friends, as there is no more man?'

'I suppose we shall have to eat the smallest of us,' replied the bear,
and the marten turned round to seize the squirrel who was much smaller
than any of the rest. But the squirrel ran up a tree like lightning,
and the marten remembering, just in time, that he was the next in size,
slipped quick as thought into a hole in the rocks.

'What shall we eat now?' asked the wolf again, when he had recovered
from his surprise.

'We must eat the smallest of us,' repeated the bear, stretching out
a paw towards the hare; but the hare was not a hare for nothing, and
before the paw had touched her, she had darted deep into the wood.

Now that the squirrel, the marten, and the hare had all gone, the fox
was the smallest of the three who were left, and the wolf and the bear
explained that they were very sorry, but they would have to eat him.
Michael, the fox, did not run away as the others had done, but smiled
in a friendly manner, and remarked: 'Things taste so stale in a valley;
one's appetite is so much better up on a mountain.' The wolf and the
bear agreed, and they turned out of the hollow where they had been
walking, and chose a path that led up the mountain side. The fox trotted
cheerfully by his two big companions, but on the way he managed to
whisper to the wolf: 'Tell me, Peter, when I am eaten, what will you
have for your next dinner?'

This simple question seemed to put out the wolf very much. What would
they have for their next dinner, and, what was more important still, who
would there be to eat it? They had made a rule always to dine off the
smallest of the party, and when the fox was gone, why of course, he was
smaller than the bear.

These thoughts flashed quickly through his head, and he said hastily:

'Dear brothers, would it not be better for us to live together as
comrades, and everyone to hunt for the common dinner? Is not my plan a
good one?'

'It is the best thing I have ever heard,' answered the fox; and as they
were two to one the bear had to be content, though in his heart he would
much have preferred a good dinner at once to any friendship.

For a few days all went well; there was plenty of game in the forest,
and even the wolf had as much to eat as he could wish. One morning the
fox as usual was going his rounds when he noticed a tall, slender
tree, with a magpie's nest in one of the top branches. Now the fox was
particularly fond of young magpies, and he set about making a plan by
which he could have one for dinner. At last he hit upon something which
he thought would do, and accordingly he sat down near the tree and began
to stare hard at it.

'What are you looking at, Michael?' asked the magpie, who was watching
him from a bough.

'I'm looking at this tree. It has just struck me what a good tree it
would be to cut my new snow-shoes out of.' But at this answer the magpie
screeched loudly, and exclaimed: 'Oh, not this tree, dear brother, I
implore you! I have built my nest on it, and my young ones are not yet
old enough to fly.'

'It will not be easy to find another tree that would make such good
snow-shoes,' answered the fox, cocking his head on one side, and gazing
at the tree thoughtfully; 'but I do not like to be ill-natured, so
if you will give me one of your young ones I will seek my snow-shoes
elsewhere.'

Not knowing what to do the poor magpie had to agree, and flying back,
with a heavy heart, he threw one of his young ones out of the nest. The
fox seized it in his mouth and ran off in triumph, while the magpie,
though deeply grieved for the loss of his little one, found some comfort
in the thought that only a bird of extraordinary wisdom would have
dreamed of saving the rest by the sacrifice of the one. But what do you
think happened? Why, a few days later, Michael the fox might have been
seen sitting under the very same tree, and a dreadful pang shot through
the heart of the magpie as he peeped at him from a hole in the nest.

'What are you looking at?' he asked in a trembling voice.

'At this tree. I was just thinking what good snowshoes it would make,'
answered the fox in an absent voice, as if he was not thinking of what
he was saying.

'Oh, my brother, my dear little brother, don't do that,' cried the
magpie, hopping about in his anguish. 'You know you promised only a few
days ago that you would get your snow-shoes elsewhere.'

'So I did; but though I have searched through the whole forest, there
is not a single tree that is as good as this. I am very sorry to put you
out, but really it is not my fault. The only thing I can do for you is
to offer to give up my snow-shoes altogether if you will throw me down
one of your young ones in exchange.'

And the poor magpie, in spite of his wisdom, was obliged to throw
another of his little ones out of the nest; and this time he was not
able to console himself with the thought that he had been much cleverer
than other people.

He sat on the edge of his nest, his head drooping and his feathers all
ruffled, looking the picture of misery. Indeed he was so different from
the gay, jaunty magpie whom every creature in the forest knew, that a
crow who was flying past, stopped to inquire what was the matter. 'Where
are the two young ones who are not in the nest?' asked he.

'I had to give them to the fox,' replied the magpie in a quivering
voice; 'he has been here twice in the last week, and wanted to cut down
my tree for the purpose of making snow-shoes out of it, and the only way
I could buy him off was by giving him two of my young ones.'

Oh, you fool,' cried the crow, 'the fox was only trying to frighten you.
He could not have cut down the tree, for he has neither axe nor knife.
Dear me, to think that you have sacrificed your young ones for nothing!
Dear, dear! how could you be so very foolish!' And the crow flew away,
leaving the magpie overcome with shame and sorrow.

The next morning the fox came to his usual place in front of the tree,
for he was hungry, and a nice young magpie would have suited him very
well for dinner. But this time there was no cowering, timid magpie to do
his bidding, but a bird with his head erect and a determined voice.

'My good fox,' said the magpie putting his head on one side and looking
very wise - 'my good fox, if you take my advice, you will go home as fast
as you can. There is no use your talking about making snow-shoes out of
this tree, when you have neither knife nor axe to cut it down with!'

'Who has been teaching you wisdom?' asked the fox, forgetting his
manners in his surprise at this new turn of affairs.

'The crow, who paid me a visit yesterday,' answered the magpie.

'The crow was it?' said the fox, 'well, the crow had better not meet me
for the future, or it may be the worse for him.'

As Michael, the cunning beast, had no desire to continue the
conversation, he left the forest; but when he came to the high road he
laid himself at full length on the ground, stretching himself out, just
as if he was dead. Very soon he noticed, out of the corner of his eye,
that the crow was flying towards him, and he kept stiller and stiffer
than ever, with his tongue hanging out of his mouth. The crow, who
wanted her supper very badly, hopped quickly towards him, and was
stooping forward to peck at his tongue when the fox gave a snap, and
caught him by the wing. The crow knew that it was of no use struggling,
so he said:

'Ah, brother, if you are really going to eat me, do it, I beg of you, in
good style. Throw me first over this precipice, so that my feathers may
be strewn here and there, and that all who see them may know that your
cunning is greater than mine.' This idea pleased the fox, for he had
not yet forgiven the crow for depriving him of the young magpies, so
he carried the crow to the edge of the precipice and threw him over,
intending to go round by a path he knew and pick him up at the bottom.
But no sooner had the fox let the crow go than he soared up into the
air, and hovering just out of teach of his enemy's jaws, he cried with a
laugh: 'Ah, fox! you know well how to catch, but you cannot keep.'

With his tail between his legs, the fox slunk into the forest. He did
not know where to look for a dinner, as he guessed that the crow would
have flown back before him, and put every one on their guard. The
notion of going to bed supperless was very unpleasant to him, and he was
wondering what in the world he should do, when he chanced to meet with
his old friend the bear.

This poor animal had just lost his wife, and was going to get some one
to mourn over her, for he felt her loss greatly. He had hardly left his
comfortable cave when he had come across the wolf, who inquired where he
was going. 'I am going to find a mourner,' answered the bear, and told
his story.

'Oh, let me mourn for you,' cried the wolf.

'Do you understand how to howl?' said the bear.

'Oh, certainly, godfather, certainly,' replied the wolf; but the bear
said he should like to have a specimen of his howling, to make sure that
he knew his business. So the wolf broke forth in his song of lament:
'Hu, hu, hu, hum, hoh,' he shouted, and he made such a noise that the
bear put up his paws to his ears, and begged him to stop.

'You have no idea how it is done. Be off with you,' said he angrily.

A little further down the road the hare was resting in a ditch, but when


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryAndrew LangThe Crimson Fairy Book → online text (page 13 of 21)