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folks might already be searching for him, so, instead of waiting to see
what took place at the castle, he ran off to the forest as fast as he
could, taking the sword with him. He found the others still asleep, so
he woke them up, and they again set out on their journey. Of the night's
adventures he said not a word, and when they asked where he got the
sword, he only pointed in the direction of the castle, and said, 'Over
that way.' They thought he had found it, and asked no more questions.

When Niels left the castle, he shut the door behind him, and it closed
with such a bang that the porter woke up. He could scarcely believe
his eyes when he saw the three headless giants lying in a heap in the
courtyard, and could not imagine what had taken place. The whole castle
was soon aroused, and then everybody wondered at the affair: it was soon
seen that the bodies were those of the king's great enemies, but how
they came to be there and in that condition was a perfect mystery. Then
it was noticed that the drinking-horn was empty and the sword gone,
while the princess reported that half of her handkerchief and one of her
slippers had been taken away. How the giants had been killed seemed a
little clearer now, but who had done it was as great a puzzle as before.
The old knight who had charge of the castle said that in his opinion
it must have been some young knight, who had immediately set off to the
king to claim the hand of the princess. This sounded likely, but the
messenger who was sent to the Court returned with the news that no one
there knew anything about the matter.

'We must find him, however,' said the princess; 'for if he is willing to
marry me I cannot in honour refuse him, after what my father put on the
horn.' She took council with her father's wisest men as to what ought to
be done, and among other things they advised her to build a house beside
the highway, and put over the door this inscription: - 'Whoever will tell
the story of his life, may stay here three nights for nothing.' This was
done, and many strange tales were told to the princess, but none of the
travellers said a word about the three giants.

In the meantime Niels and the others tramped on towards Rome. Autumn
passed, and winter was just beginning when they came to the foot of
a great range of mountains, towering up to the sky. 'Must we go over
these?' said they. 'We shall be frozen to death or buried in the snow.'

'Here comes a man,' said Niels; 'let us ask him the way to Rome.' They
did so, and were told that there was no other way.

'And is it far yet?' said the old people, who were beginning to be worn
out by the long journey. The man held up his foot so that they could see
the sole of his shoe; it was worn as thin as paper, and there was a hole
in the middle of it.

'These shoes were quite new when I left Rome,' he said, 'and look at
them now; that will tell you whether you are far from it or not.'

This discouraged the old people so much that they gave up all thought of
finishing the journey, and only wished to get back to Denmark as quickly
as they could. What with the winter and bad roads they took longer to
return than they had taken to go, but in the end they found themselves
in sight of the forest where they had slept before.

'What's this?' said Rasmus. 'Here's a big house built since we passed
this way before.'

'So it is,' said Peter; 'let's stay all night in it.'

'No, we can't afford that,' said the old people; 'it will be too dear
for the like of us.'

However, when they saw what was written above the door, they were
all well pleased to get a night's lodging for nothing. They were well
received, and had so much attention given to them, that the old people
were quite put out by it. After they had got time to rest themselves,
the princess's steward came to hear their story.

'You saw what was written above the door,' he said to the father. 'Tell
me who you are and what your history has been.'

'Dear me, I have nothing of any importance to tell you,' said the old
man, 'and I am sure we should never have made so bold as to trouble you
at all if it hadn't been for the youngest of our two sons here.'

'Never mind that,' said the steward; 'you are very welcome if you will
only tell me the story of your life.'

'Well, well, I will,' said he, 'but there is nothing to tell about it.
I and my wife have lived all our days on a moor in North Jutland, until
this last year, when she took a fancy to go to Rome. We set out with our
two sons but turned back long before we got there, and are now on our
way home again. That's all my own story, and our two sons have lived
with us all their days, so there is nothing more to be told about them
either.'

'Yes there is,' said Rasmus; 'when we were on our way south, we slept in
the wood near here one night, and I shot a stag.'

The steward was so much accustomed to hearing stories of no importance
that he thought there was no use going further with this, but reported
to the princess that the newcomers had nothing to tell.

'Did you question them all?' she said.

'Well, no; not directly,' said he; 'but the father said that none of
them could tell me any more than he had done.'

'You are getting careless,' said the princess; 'I shall go and talk to
them myself.'

Niels knew the princess again as soon as she entered the room, and was
greatly alarmed, for he immediately supposed that all this was a device
to discover the person who had run away with the sword, the slipper and
the half of the handkerchief, and that it would fare badly with him if
he were discovered. So he told his story much the same as the others did
(Niels was not very particular), and thought he had escaped all further
trouble, when Rasmus put in his word. 'You've forgotten something,
Niels,' he said; 'you remember you found a sword near here that night I
shot the stag.'

'Where is the sword?' said the princess.

'I know,' said the steward, 'I saw where he laid it down when they came
in;' and off he went to fetch it, while Niels wondered whether he
could make his escape in the meantime. Before he had made up his
mind, however, the steward was back with the sword, which the princess
recognised at once.

'Where did you get this?' she said to Niels.

Niels was silent, and wondered what the usual penalty was for a poor
sheep-farmer's son who was so unfortunate as to deliver a princess and
carry off things from her bed-room.

'See what else he has about him,' said the princess to the steward,
and Niels had to submit to be searched: out of one pocket came a
gold-embroidered slipper, and out of another the half of a gold-hemmed
handkerchief.

'That is enough,' said the princess; 'now we needn't ask any more
questions. Send for my father the king at once.'

'Please let me go,' said Niels; 'I did you as much good as harm, at any
rate.'

'Why, who said anything about doing harm?' said the princess. 'You must
stay here till my father comes.'

The way in which the princess smiled when she said this gave Niels some
hope that things might not be bad for him after all, and he was yet more
encouraged when he thought of the words engraver on the horn, though the
last line still seemed too good to be true. However, the arrival of the
king soon settled the matter: the princess was willing and so was Niels,
and in a few days the wedding bells were ringing. Niels was made an earl
by that time, and looked as handsome as any of them when dressed in all
his robes. Before long the old king died, and Niels reigned after him;
but whether his father and mother stayed with him, or went back to
the moor in Jutland, or were sent to Rome in a carriage and four,
is something that all the historians of his reign have forgotten to
mention.




Shepherd Paul

Once upon a time a shepherd was taking his flock out to pasture, when he
found a little baby lying in a meadow, left there by some wicked person,
who thought it was too much trouble to look after it. The shepherd was
fond of children, so he took the baby home with him and gave it plenty
of milk, and by the time the boy was fourteen he could tear up oaks
as if they were weeds. Then Paul, as the shepherd had called him, grew
tired of living at home, and went out into the world to try his luck.

He walked on for many miles, seeing nothing that surprised him, but in
an open space of the wood he was astonished at finding a man combing
trees as another man would comb flax.

'Good morning, friend,' said Paul; 'upon my word, you must be a strong
man!'

The man stopped his work and laughed. 'I am Tree Comber,' he answered
proudly; 'and the greatest wish of my life is to wrestle with Shepherd
Paul.'

'May all your wishes be fulfilled as easily, for I am Shepherd Paul,
and can wrestle with you at once,' replied the lad; and he seized Tree
Comber and flung him with such force to the ground that he sank up
to his knees in the earth. However, in a moment he was up again, and
catching hold of Paul, threw him so that he sank up to his waist; but
then it was Paul's turn again, and this time the man was buried up to
his neck. 'That is enough,' cried he; 'I see you are a smart fellow, let
us become friends.'

'Very good,' answered Paul, and they continued their journey together.

By-and-by they reached a man who was grinding stones to powder in his
hands, as if they had been nuts.

'Good morning,' said Paul politely; 'upon my word, you must be a strong
fellow!'

'I am Stone Crusher,' answered the man, and the greatest wish of my life
is to wrestle with Shepherd Paul.'

'May all your wishes be as easily fulfilled, for I am Shepherd Paul, and
will wrestle with you at once,' and the sport began. After a short time
the man declared himself beaten, and begged leave to go with them; so
they all three travelled together.

A little further on they came upon a man who was kneading iron as if
it had been dough. 'Good morning,' said Paul, 'you must be a strong
fellow.'

'I am Iron Kneader, and should like to fight Shepherd Paul,' answered
he.

'Let us begin at once then,' replied Paul; and on this occasion also,
Paul got the better of his foe, and they all four continued their
journey.

At midday they entered a forest, and Paul stopped suddenly. 'We three
will go and look for game,' he said, 'and you, Tree Comber, will stay
behind and prepare a good supper for us.' So Tree Comber set to work to
boil and roast, and when dinner was nearly ready, a little dwarf with
a pointed beard strolled up to the place. 'What are you cooking?' asked
he, 'give me some of it.'

'I'll give you some on your back, if you like,' answered Tree Comber
rudely. The dwarf took no notice, but waited patiently till the dinner
was cooked, then suddenly throwing Tree Comber on the ground, he ate
up the contents of the saucepan and vanished. Tree Comber felt rather
ashamed of himself, and set about boiling some more vegetables, but
they were still very hard when the hunters returned, and though they
complained of his bad cooking, he did not tell them about the dwarf.

Next day Stone Crusher was left behind, and after him Iron Kneader, and
each time the dwarf appeared, and they fared no better than Tree Comber
had done. The fourth day Paul said to them: 'My friends, there must be
some reason why your cooking has always been so bad, now you shall go
and hunt and I will stay behind.' So they went off, amusing themselves
by thinking what was in store for Paul.

He set to work at once, and had just got all his vegetables simmering in
the pot when the dwarf appeared as before, and asked to have some of the
stew. 'Be off,' cried Paul, snatching up the saucepan as he spoke. The
dwarf tried to get hold of his collar, but Paul seized him by the
beard, and tied him to a big tree so that he could not stir, and went
on quietly with his cooking. The hunters came back early, longing to see
how Paul had got on, and, to their surprise, dinner was quite ready for
them.

'You are great useless creatures,' said he, 'who couldn't even outwit
that little dwarf. When we have finished supper I will show you what I
have done with him!' But when they reached the place where Paul had left
the dwarf, neither he nor the tree was to be seen, for the little fellow
had pulled it up by the roots and run away, dragging it after him. The
four friends followed the track of the tree and found that it ended in
a deep hole. 'He must have gone down here,' said Paul, 'and I will go
after him. See! there is a basket that will do for me to sit in, and a
cord to lower me with. But when I pull the cord again, lose no time in
drawing the basket up.'

And he stepped into the basket, which was lowered by his friends.

At last it touched the ground and he jumped out and looked about him. He
was in a beautiful valley, full of meadows and streams, with a splendid
castle standing by. As the door was open he walked in, but a lovely
maiden met him and implored him to go back, for the owner of the castle
was a dragon with six heads, who had stolen her from her home and
brought her down to this underground spot. But Paul refused to listen to
all her entreaties, and declared that he was not afraid of the dragon,
and did not care how many heads he had; and he sat down calmly to wait
for him.

In a little while the dragon came in, and all the long teeth in his six
heads chattered with anger at the sight of the stranger.

'I am Shepherd Paul,' said the young man, 'and I have come to fight you,
and as I am in a hurry we had better begin at once.'

'Very good,' answered the dragon. 'I am sure of my supper, but let us
have a mouthful of something first, just to give us an appetite.'

Whereupon he began to eat some huge boulders as if they had been cakes,
and when he had quite finished, he offered Paul one. Paul was not fond
of boulders, but he took a wooden knife and cut one in two, then
he snatched up both halves in his hands and threw them with all his
strength at the dragon, so that two out of the six heads were smashed
in. At this the dragon, with a mighty roar, rushed upon Paul, but he
sprang on one side, and with a swinging blow cut off two of the other
heads. Then, seizing the monster by the neck, he dashed the remaining
heads against the rock.

When the maiden heard that the dragon was dead, she thanked her
deliverer with tears in her eyes, but told him that her two younger
sisters were in the power of dragons still fiercer and more horrible
than this one. He vowed that his sword should never rest in its sheath
till they were set free, and bade the girl come with him, and show him
the way.

The maiden gladly consented to go with him, but first she gave him a
golden rod, and bade him strike the castle with it. He did so, and it
instantly changed into a golden apple, which he put in his pocket. After
that, they started on their search.

They had not gone far before they reached the castle where the second
girl was confined by the power of the dragon with twelve heads, who had
stolen her from her home. She was overjoyed at the sight of her sister
and of Paul, and brought him a shirt belonging to the dragon, which made
every one who wore it twice as strong as they were before. Scarcely had
he put it on when the dragon came back, and the fight began. Long and
hard was the struggle, but Paul's sword and his shirt helped him, and
the twelve heads lay dead upon the ground.

Then Paul changed the castle into an apple, which he put into his
pocket, and set out with the two girls in search of the third castle.

It was not long before they found it, and within the walls was the third
sister, who was younger and prettier than either of the other two. Her
husband had eighteen heads, but when he quitted the lower regions for
the surface of the earth, he left them all at home except one, which he
changed for the head of a little dwarf, with a pointed beard.

The moment that Paul knew that this terrible dragon was no other than
the dwarf whom he had tied to the tree, he longed more than ever to fly
at his throat. But the thought of the eighteen heads warned him to be
careful, and the third sister brought him a silk shirt which would make
him ten times stronger than he was before.

He had scarcely put it on, when the whole castle began to shake
violently, and the dragon flew up the steps into the hall.

'Well, my friend, so we meet once more! Have you forgotten me? I am
Shepherd Paul, and I have come to wrestle with you, and to free your
wife from your clutches.'

'Ah, I am glad to see you again,' said the dragon. 'Those were my two
brothers whom you killed, and now your blood shall pay for them.' And he
went into his room to look for his shirt and to drink some magic wine,
but the shirt was on Paul's back, and as for the wine, the girl had
given a cupful to Paul and then had allowed the rest to run out of the
cask.

At this the dragon grew rather frightened, but in a moment had
recollected his eighteen heads, and was bold again.

'Come on,' he cried, rearing himself up and preparing to dart all his
heads at once at Paul. But Paul jumped underneath, and gave an upward
cut so that six of the heads went rolling down. They were the best heads
too, and very soon the other twelve lay beside them. Then Paul changed
the castle into an apple, and put it in his pocket. Afterwards he and
the three girls set off for the opening which led upwards to the earth.

The basket was still there, dangling from the rope, but it was only big
enough to hold the three girls, so Paul sent them up, and told them to
be sure and let down the basket for him. Unluckily, at the sight of the
maidens' beauty, so far beyond anything they had ever seen, the friends
forgot all about Paul, and carried the girls straight away into a far
country, so that they were not much better off than before. Meanwhile
Paul, mad with rage at the ingratitude of the three sisters, vowed he
would be revenged upon them, and set about finding some way of getting
back to earth. But it was not very easy, and for months, and months, and
months, he wandered about underground, and, at the end, seemed no nearer
to fulfilling his purpose than he was at the beginning.

At length, one day, he happened to pass the nest of a huge griffin,
who had left her young ones all alone. Just as Paul came along a cloud
containing fire instead of rain burst overhead, and all the little
griffins would certainly have been killed had not Paul spread his cloak
over the nest and saved them. When their father returned the young ones
told him what Paul had done, and he lost no time in flying after Paul,
and asking how he could reward him for his goodness.

'By carrying me up to the earth,' answered Paul; and the griffin agreed,
but first went to get some food to eat on the way, as it was a long
journey.

'Now get on my back,' he said to Paul, 'and when I turn my head to the
right, cut a slice off the bullock that hangs on that side, and put it
in my mouth, and when I turn my head to the left, draw a cupful of wine
from the cask that hangs on that side, and pour it down my throat.'

For three days and three nights Paul and the griffin flew upwards, and
on the fourth morning it touched the ground just outside the city where
Paul's friends had gone to live. Then Paul thanked him and bade him
farewell, and he returned home again.

At first Paul was too tired to do anything but sleep, but as soon as
he was rested he started off in search of the three faithless ones, who
almost died from fright at the sight of him, for they had thought he
would never come back to reproach them for their wickedness.

'You know what to expect,' Paul said to them quietly. 'You shall never
see me again. Off with you!' He next took the three apples out of his
pocket and placed them all in the prettiest places he could find; after
which he tapped them with his golden rod, and they became castles again.
He gave two of the castles to the eldest sisters, and kept the other
for himself and the youngest, whom he married, and there they are living
still.

[From Ungarische Mahrchen.]




How The Wicked Tanuki Was Punished

The hunters had hunted the wood for so many years that no wild animal
was any more to be found in it. You might walk from one end to the other
without ever seeing a hare, or a deer, or a boar, or hearing the cooing
of the doves in their nest. If they were not dead, they had flown
elsewhere. Only three creatures remained alive, and they had hidden
themselves in the thickest part of the forest, high up the mountain.
These were a grey-furred, long-tailed tanuki, his wife the fox, who was
one of his own family, and their little son.

The fox and the tanuki were very clever, prudent beasts, and they also
were skilled in magic, and by this means had escaped the fate of their
unfortunate friends. If they heard the twang of an arrow or saw the
glitter of a spear, ever so far off, they lay very still, and were
not to be tempted from their hiding-place, if their hunger was ever so
great, or the game ever so delicious. 'We are not so foolish as to risk
our lives,' they said to each other proudly. But at length there came
a day when, in spite of their prudence, they seemed likely to die of
starvation, for no more food was to be had. Something had to be done,
but they did not know what.

Suddenly a bright thought struck the tanuki. 'I have got a plan,' he
cried joyfully to his wife. 'I will pretend to be dead, and you must
change yourself into a man, and take me to the village for sale. It will
be easy to find a buyer, tanukis' skins are always wanted; then buy
some food with the money and come home again. I will manage to escape
somehow, so do not worry about me.'

The fox laughed with delight, and rubbed her paws together with
satisfaction. 'Well, next time I will go,' she said, 'and you can sell
me.' And then she changed herself into a man, and picking up the stiff
body of the tanuki, set off towards the village. She found him rather
heavy, but it would never have done to let him walk through the wood and
risk his being seen by somebody.

As the tanaki had foretold, buyers were many, and the fox handed him
over to the person who offered the largest price, and hurried to get
some food with the money. The buyer took the tanuki back to his house,
and throwing him into a corner went out. Directly the tanaki found he
was alone, he crept cautiously through a chink of the window, thinking,
as he did so, how lucky it was that he was not a fox, and was able to
climb. Once outside, he hid himself in a ditch till it grew dusk, and
then galloped away into the forest.

While the food lasted they were all three as happy as kings; but there
soon arrived a day when the larder was as empty as ever. 'It is my turn
now to pretend to be dead,' cried the fox. So the tanuki changed himself
into a peasant, and started for the village, with his wife's body
hanging over his shoulder. A buyer was not long in coming forward, and
while they were making the bargain a wicked thought darted into the
tanuki's head, that if he got rid of the fox there would be more food
for him and his son. So as he put the money in his pocket he whispered
softly to the buyer that the fox was not really dead, and that if he did
not take care she might run away from him. The man did not need twice
telling. He gave the poor fox a blow on the head, which put an end to
her, and the wicked tanuki went smiling to the nearest shop.

In former times he had been very fond of his little son; but since he
had betrayed his wife he seemed to have changed all in a moment, for he
would not give him as much as a bite, and the poor little fellow would
have starved had he not found some nuts and berries to eat, and he
waited on, always hoping that his mother would come back.

At length some notion of the truth began to dawn on him; but he was
careful to let the old tanuki see nothing, though in his own mind he
turned over plans from morning till night, wondering how best he might
avenge his mother.

One morning, as the little tanuki was sitting with his father, he
remembered, with a start, that his mother had taught him all she knew of
magic, and that he could work spells as well as his father, or perhaps
better. 'I am as good a wizard as you,' he said suddenly, and a cold
chill ran through the tanuki as he heard him, though he laughed, and
pretended to think it a joke. But the little tanaki stuck to his point,
and at last the father proposed they should have a wager.

'Change yourself into any shape you like,' said he, 'and I will
undertake to know you. I will go and wait on the bridge which leads over


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Online LibraryAndrew LangThe Crimson Fairy Book → online text (page 17 of 21)