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the river to the village, and you shall transform yourself into anything
you please, but I will know you through any disguise.' The little tanuki
agreed, and went down the road which his father had pointed out. But
instead of transforming himself into a different shape, he just hid
himself in a corner of the bridge, where he could see without being

He had not been there long when his father arrived and took up his place
near the middle of the bridge, and soon after the king came by, followed
by a troop of guards and all his court.

'Ah! he thinks that now he has changed himself into a king I shall
not know him,' thought the old tanuki, and as the king passed in his
splendid carriage, borne by his servants, he jumped upon it crying: 'I
have won my wager; you cannot deceive me.' But in reality it was he who
had deceived himself. The soldiers, conceiving that their king was being
attacked, seized the tanuki by the legs and flung him over into the
river, and the water closed over him.

And the little tanoki saw it all, and rejoiced that his mother's death
had been avenged. Then he went back to the forest, and if he has not
found it too lonely, he is probably living there still.

[From Japanische Mahrchen.]

The Crab And The Monkey

There was once a crab who lived in a hole on the shady side of a
mountain. She was a very good housewife, and so careful and industrious
that there was no creature in the whole country whose hole was so neat
and clean as hers, and she took great pride in it.

One day she saw lying near the mouth of her hole a handful of cooked
rice which some pilgrim must have let fall when he was stopping to eat
his dinner. Delighted at this discovery, she hastened to the spot, and
was carrying the rice back to her hole when a monkey, who lived in some
trees near by, came down to see what the crab was doing. His eyes shone
at the sight of the rice, for it was his favourite food, and like the
sly fellow he was, he proposed a bargain to the crab. She was to give
him half the rice in exchange for the kernel of a sweet red kaki fruit
which he had just eaten. He half expected that the crab would laugh in
his face at this impudent proposal, but instead of doing so she only
looked at him for a moment with her head on one side and then said that
she would agree to the exchange. So the monkey went off with his rice,
and the crab returned to her hole with the kernel.

For some time the crab saw no more of the monkey, who had gone to pay a
visit on the sunny side of the mountain; but one morning he happened to
pass by her hole, and found her sitting under the shadow of a beautiful
kaki tree.

'Good day,' he said politely, 'you have some very fine fruit there! I am
very hungry, could you spare me one or two?'

'Oh, certainly,' replied the crab, 'but you must forgive me if I cannot
get them for you myself. I am no tree-climber.'

'Pray do not apologise,' answered the monkey. 'Now that I have your
permission I can get them myself quite easily.' And the crab consented
to let him go up, merely saying that he must throw her down half the

In another moment he was swinging himself from branch to branch, eating
all the ripest kakis and filling his pockets with the rest, and the poor
crab saw to her disgust that the few he threw down to her were either
not ripe at all or else quite rotten.

'You are a shocking rogue,' she called in a rage; but the monkey took no
notice, and went on eating as fast as he could. The crab understood that
it was no use her scolding, so she resolved to try what cunning would

'Sir Monkey,' she said, 'you are certainly a very good climber, but now
that you have eaten so much, I am quite sure you would never be able
to turn one of your somersaults.' The monkey prided himself on turning
better somersaults than any of his family, so he instantly went head
over heels three times on the bough on which he was sitting, and all the
beautiful kakis that he had in his pockets rolled to the ground. Quick
as lightning the crab picked them up and carried a quantity of them into
her house, but when she came up for another the monkey sprang on her,
and treated her so badly that he left her for dead. When he had beaten
her till his arm ached he went his way.

It was a lucky thing for the poor crab that she had some friends to come
to her help or she certainly would have died then and there. The wasp
flew to her, and took her back to bed and looked after her, and then he
consulted with a rice-mortar and an egg which had fallen out of a nest
near by, and they agreed that when the monkey returned, as he was
sure to do, to steal the rest of the fruit, that they would punish him
severely for the manner in which he had behaved to the crab. So the
mortar climbed up to the beam over the front door, and the egg lay
quite still on the ground, while the wasp set down the water-bucket in a
corner. Then the crab dug itself a deep hole in the ground, so that not
even the tip of her claws might be seen.

Soon after everything was ready the monkey jumped down from his tree,
and creeping to the door began a long hypocritical speech, asking pardon
for all he had done. He waited for an answer of some sort, but none
came. He listened, but all was still; then he peeped, and saw no one;
then he went in. He peered about for the crab, but in vain; however, his
eyes fell on the egg, which he snatched up and set on the fire. But in
a moment the egg had burst into a thousand pieces, and its sharp shell
struck him in the face and scratched him horribly. Smarting with pain he
ran to the bucket and stooped down to throw some water over his head. As
he stretched out his hand up started the wasp and stung him on the nose.
The monkey shrieked and ran to the door, but as he passed through down
fell the mortar and struck him dead. 'After that the crab lived happily
for many years, and at length died in peace under her own kaki tree.

[From Japanische Mahrchen.]

The Horse Gullfaxi And The Sword Gunnfoder

Many many years ago there lived a king and queen who had one only son,
called Sigurd. When the little boy was only ten years old the queen, his
mother, fell ill and died, and the king, who loved her dearly, built a
splendid monument to his wife's memory, and day after day he sat by it
and bewailed his sad loss.

One morning, as he sat by the grave, he noticed a richly dressed lady
close to him. He asked her name and she answered that it was Ingiborg,
and seemed surprised to see the king there all alone. Then he told her
how he had lost his queen, and how he came daily to weep at her grave.
In return, the lady informed him that she had lately lost her husband,
and suggested that they might both find it a comfort if they made

This pleased the king so much that he invited her to his palace, where
they saw each other often; and after a time he married her.

After the wedding was over he soon regained his good spirits, and used
to ride out hunting as in old days; but Sigurd, who was very fond of his
stepmother, always stayed at home with her.

One evening Ingiborg said to Sigurd: 'To-morrow your father is going out
hunting, and you must go with him.' But Sigurd said he would much rather
stay at home, and the next day when the king rode off Sigurd refused to
accompany him. The stepmother was very angry, but he would not listen,
and at last she assured him that he would be sorry for his disobedience,
and that in future he had better do as he was told.

After the hunting party had started she hid Sigurd under her bed, and
bade him be sure to lie there till she called him.

Sigurd lay very still for a long while, and was just thinking it was no
good staying there any more, when he felt the floor shake under him as
if there were an earthquake, and peeping out he saw a great giantess
wading along ankle deep through the ground and ploughing it up as she

'Good morning, Sister Ingiborg,' cried she as she entered the room, 'is
Prince Sigurd at home?'

'No,' said Ingiborg; 'he rode off to the forest with his father this
morning.' And she laid the table for her sister and set food before her.
After they had both done eating the giantess said: 'Thank you, sister,
for your good dinner - the best lamb, the best can of beer and the best
drink I have ever had; but - is not Prince Sigurd at home?'

Ingiborg again said 'No'; and the giantess took leave of her and went
away. When she was quite out of sight Ingiborg told Sigurd to come out
of his hiding-place.

The king returned home at night, but his wife told him nothing of what
had happened, and the next morning she again begged the prince to go
out hunting with his father. Sigurd, however, replied as before, that he
would much rather stay at home.

So once more the king rode off alone. This time Ingiborg hid Sigurd
under the table, and scolded him well for not doing as she bade him.
For some time he lay quite still, and then suddenly the floor began to
shake, and a giantess came along wading half way to her knees through
the ground.

As she entered the house she asked, as the first one had done: 'Well,
Sister Ingiborg, is Prince Sigurd at home?'

'No,' answered Ingiborg,' he rode off hunting with his father this
morning'; and going to the cupboard she laid the table for her sister.
When they had finished their meal the giantess rose and said: 'Thank you
for all these nice dishes, and for the best lamb, the best can of beer
and the nicest drink I have ever had; but - is Prince Sigurd really not
at home?'

'No, certainly not!' replied Ingiborg; and with that they took leave of
each other.

When she was well out of sight Sigurd crept from under the table, and
his stepmother declared that it was most important that he should not
stay at home next day; but he said he did not see what harm could come
of it, and he did not mean to go out hunting, and the next morning, when
the king prepared to start, Ingiborg implored Sigurd to accompany his
father. But it was all no use, he was quite obstinate and would not
listen to a word she said. 'You will have to hide me again,' said he,
so no sooner had the king gone than Ingiborg hid Sigurd between the wall
and the panelling, and by-and-by there was heard once more a sound like
an earthquake, as a great giantess, wading knee deep through the ground,
came in at the door.

'Good day, Sister Ingiborg!' she cried, in a voice like thunder; 'is
Prince Sigurd at home?'

'Oh, no,' answered Ingiborg, 'he is enjoying himself out there in the
forest. I expect it will be quite dark before he comes back again.'

'That's a lie!' shouted the giantess. And they squabbled about it till
they were tired, after which Ingiborg laid the table; and when the
giantess had done eating she said: 'Well, I must thank you for all these
good things, and for the best lamb, the best can of beer and the best
drink I have had for a long time; but - are you quite sure Prince Sigurd
is not at home?'

'Quite,' said Ingiborg. 'I've told you already that he rode off with his
father this morning to hunt in the forest.'

At this the giantess roared out with a terrible voice: 'If he is near
enough to hear my words, I lay this spell on him: Let him be half
scorched and half withered; and may he have neither rest nor peace till
he finds me.' And with these words she stalked off.

For a moment Ingiborg stood as if turned to stone, then she fetched
Sigurd from his hiding-place, and, to her horror, there he was, half
scorched and half withered.

'Now you see what has happened through your own obstinacy,' said she;
'but we must lose no time, for your father will soon be coming home.'

Going quickly into the next room she opened a chest and took out a ball
of string and three gold rings, and gave them to Sigurd, saying: 'If you
throw this ball on the ground it will roll along till it reaches some
high cliffs. There you will see a giantess looking out over the rocks.
She will call down to you and say: "Ah, this is just what I wanted!
Here is Prince Sigurd. He shall go into the pot to-night"; but don't be
frightened by her. She will draw you up with a long boat-hook, and you
must greet her from me, and give her the smallest ring as a present.
This will please her, and she will ask you to wrestle with her. When you
are exhausted, she will offer you a horn to drink out of, and though she
does not know it, the wine will make you so strong that you will easily
be able to conquer her. After that she will let you stay there all
night. The same thing will happen with my two other sisters. But, above
all, remember this: should my little dog come to you and lay his paws on
you, with tears running down his face, then hurry home, for my life will
be in danger. Now, good-bye, and don't forget your stepmother.'

Then Ingiborg dropped the ball on the ground, and Sigurd bade her

That same evening the ball stopped rolling at the foot of some high
rocks, and on glancing up, Sigurd saw the giantess looking out at the

'Ah, just what I wanted!' she cried out when she saw him; 'here is
Prince Sigurd. He shall go into the pot to-night. Come up, my friend,
and wrestle with me.'

With these words she reached out a long boat hook and hauled him up the
cliff. At first Sigurd was rather frightened, but he remembered what
Ingiborg had said, and gave the giantess her sister's message and the

The giantess was delighted, and challenged him to wrestle with her.
Sigurd was fond of all games, and began to wrestle with joy; but he was
no match for the giantess, and as she noticed that he was getting faint
she gave him a horn to drink out of, which was very foolish on her part,
as it made Sigurd so strong that he soon overthrew her.

'You may stay here to-night,' said she; and he was glad of the rest.

Next morning Sigurd threw down the ball again and away it rolled for
some time, till it stopped at the foot of another high rock. Then he
looked up and saw another giantess, even bigger and uglier than the
first one, who called out to him: 'Ah, this is just what I wanted! Here
is Prince Sigurd. He shall go into the pot to-night. Come up quickly and
wrestle with me.' And she lost no time in hauling him up.

The prince gave her his stepmother's message and the second largest
ring. The giantess was greatly pleased when she saw the ring, and at
once challenged Sigurd to wrestle with her.

They struggled for a long time, till at last Sigurd grew faint; so she
handed him a horn to drink from, and when he had drunk he became so
strong that he threw her down with one hand.

On the third morning Sigurd once more laid down his ball, and it rolled
far away, till at last it stopped under a very high rock indeed, over
the top of which the most hideous giantess that ever was seen looked

When she saw who was there she cried out: 'Ah, this is just what I
wanted! Here comes Prince Sigurd. Into the pot he goes this very night.
Come up here, my friend, and wrestle with me.' And she hauled him up
just as her sisters had done.

Sigurd then gave her his stepmother's message and the last and largest
ring. The sight of the red gold delighted the giantess, and she
challenged Sigurd to a wrestling match. This time the fight was fierce
and long, but when at length Sigurd's strength was failing the giantess
gave him something to drink, and after he had drunk it he soon brought
her to her knees. 'You have beaten me,' she gasped, so now, listen to
me. 'Not far from here is a lake. Go there; you will find a little girl
playing with a boat. Try to make friends with her, and give her this
little gold ring. You are stronger than ever you were, and I wish you
good luck.'

With these words they took leave of each other, and Sigurd wandered on
till he reached the lake, where he found the little girl playing with
a boat, just as he had been told. He went up to her and asked what her
name was.

She was called Helga, she answered, and she lived near by.

So Sigurd gave her the little gold ring, and proposed that they should
have a game. The little girl was delighted, for she had no brothers or
sisters, and they played together all the rest of the day.

When evening came Sigurd asked leave to go home with her, but Helga at
first forbade him, as no stranger had ever managed to enter their house
without being found out by her father, who was a very fierce giant.

However, Sigurd persisted, and at length she gave way; but when they
came near the door she held her glove over him and Sigurd was at once
transformed into a bundle of wool. Helga tucked the bundle under her arm
and threw it on the bed in her room.

Almost at the same moment her father rushed in and hunted round in every
corner, crying out: 'This place smells of men. What's that you threw on
the bed, Helga?'

'A bundle of wool,' said she.

'Oh, well, perhaps it was that I smelt,' said the old man, and troubled
himself no more.

The following day Helga went out to play and took the bundle of wool
with her under her arm. When she reached the lake she held her glove
over it again and Sigurd resumed his own shape.

They played the whole day, and Sigurd taught Helga all sorts of games
she had never even heard of. As they walked home in the evening she
said: 'We shall be able to play better still to-morrow, for my father
will have to go to the town, so we can stay at home.'

When they were near the house Helga again held her glove over Sigurd,
and once more he was turned into a bundle of wool, and she carried him
in without his being seen.

Very early next morning Helga's father went to the town, and as soon
as he was well out of the way the girl held up her glove and Sigurd was
himself again. Then she took him all over the house to amuse him, and
opened every room, for her father had given her the keys before he left;
but when they came to the last room Sigurd noticed one key on the bunch
which had not been used and asked which room it belonged to.'

Helga grew red and did not answer.

'I suppose you don't mind my seeing the room which it opens?' asked
Sigurd, and as he spoke he saw a heavy iron door and begged Helga to
unlock it for him. But she told him she dared not do so, at least if she
did open the door it must only be a very tiny chink; and Sigurd declared
that would do quite well.

The door was so heavy, that it took Helga some time to open it, and
Sigurd grew so impatient that he pushed it wide open and walked in.
There he saw a splendid horse, all ready saddled, and just above it
hung a richly ornamented sword on the handle of which was engraved
these words: 'He who rides this horse and wears this sword will find

At the sight of the horse Sigurd was so filled with wonder that he was
not able to speak, but at last he gasped out: 'Oh, do let me mount him
and ride him round the house! Just once; I promise not to ask any more.'

'Ride him round the house!' cried Helga, growing pale at the mere idea.
'Ride Gullfaxi! Why father would never, never forgive me, if I let you
do that.'

'But it can't do him any harm,' argued Sigurd; 'you don't know how
careful I will be. I have ridden all sorts of horses at home, and have
never fallen off not once. Oh, Helga, do!'

'Well, perhaps, if you come back directly,' replied Helga, doubtfully;
'but you must be very quick, or father will find out!'

But, instead of mounting Gullfaxi, as she expected, Sigurd stood still.

'And the sword,' he said, looking fondly up to the place where it hung.
'My father is a king, but he has not got any sword so beautiful as that.
Why, the jewels in the scabbard are more splendid than the big ruby in
his crown! Has it got a name? Some swords have, you know.'

'It is called "Gunnfjoder," the "Battle Plume,"' answered Helga, 'and
"Gullfaxi" means "Golden Mane." I don't suppose, if you are to get on
the horse at all, it would matter your taking the sword too. And if you
take the sword you will have to carry the stick and the stone and the
twig as well.'

'They are easily carried,' said Sigurd, gazing at them with scorn; 'what
wretched dried-up things! Why in the world do you keep them?'

'Bather says that he would rather lose Gullfaxi than lose them,' replied
Helga, 'for if the man who rides the horse is pursued he has only to
throw the twig behind him and it will turn into a forest, so thick that
even a bird could hardly fly through. But if his enemy happens to know
magic, and can throw down the forest, the man has only to strike the
stone with the stick, and hailstones as large as pigeons' eggs will rain
down from the sky and will kill every one for twenty miles round.'

Having said all this she allowed Sigurd to ride 'just once' round the
house, taking the sword and other things with him. But when he had
ridden round, instead of dismounting, he suddenly turned the horse's
head and galloped away.

Soon after this Helga's father came home and found his daughter in
tears. He asked what was the matter, and when he heard all that had
happened, he rushed off as fast as he could to pursue Sigurd.

Now, as Sigurd happened to look behind him he saw the giant coming after
him with great strides, and in all haste he threw the twig behind him.
Immediately such a thick wood sprang up at once between him and his
enemy that the giant was obliged to run home for an axe with which to
cut his way through.

The next time Sigurd glanced round, the giant was so near that he almost
touched Gullfaxi's tail. In an agony of fear Sigurd turned quickly in
his saddle and hit the stone with the stick. No sooner had he done this
than a terrible hailstorm burst behind, and the giant was killed on the

But had Sigurd struck the stone without turning round, the hail would
have driven right into his face and killed him instead.

After the giant was dead Sigurd rode on towards his own home, and on the
way he suddenly met his stepmother's little dog, running to meet him,
with tears pouring down its face. He galloped on as hard as he could,
and on arriving found nine men-servants in the act of tying Queen
Ingiborg to a post in the courtyard of the palace, where they intended
to burn her.

Wild with anger Prince Sigurd sprang from his horse and, sword in hand,
fell on the men and killed them all. Then he released his stepmother,
and went in with her to see his father.

The king lay in bed sick with sorrow, and neither eating nor drinking,
for he thought that his son had been killed by the queen. He could
hardly believe his own eyes for joy when he saw the prince, and Sigurd
told him all his adventures.

After that Prince Sigurd rode back to fetch Helga, and a great feast was
made which lasted three days; and every one said no bride was ever seen
so beautiful as Helga, and they lived happily for many, many years, and
everybody loved them.

[From Islandische Mahrchen.]

The Story Of The Sham Prince, Or The Ambitious Tailor

Once upon a time there lived a respectable young tailor called Labakan,
who worked for a clever master in Alexandria. No one could call
Labakan either stupid or lazy, for he could work extremely well and
quickly - when he chose; but there was something not altogether right
about him. Sometimes he would stitch away as fast as if he had a red-hot
needle and a burning thread, and at other times he would sit lost in
thought, and with such a queer look about him that his fellow-workmen
used to say, 'Labakan has got on his aristocratic face today.'

On Fridays he would put on his fine robe which he had bought with the
money he had managed to save up, and go to the mosque. As he came back,
after prayers, if he met any friend who said 'Good-day,' or 'How are
you, friend Labakan?' he would wave his hand graciously or nod in a
condescending way; and if his master happened to say to him, as he
sometimes did, 'Really, Labakan, you look like a prince,' he was
delighted, and would answer, 'Have you noticed it too?' or 'Well, so I
have long thought.'

Things went on like this for some time, and the master put up with
Labakan's absurdities because he was, on the whole, a good fellow and a
clever workman.

One day, the sultan's brother happened to be passing through Alexandria,
and wanted to have one of his state robes altered, so he sent for the
master tailor, who handed the robe over to Labakan as his best workman.

In the evening, when every one had left the workshop and gone home, a
great longing drove Labakan back to the place where the royal robe hung.
He stood a long time gazing at it, admiring the rich material and the
splendid embroidery in it. At last he could hold out no longer. He felt

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Online LibraryAndrew LangThe Crimson Fairy Book → online text (page 18 of 21)