Andrew Lang.

The Crimson Fairy Book online

. (page 3 of 21)
Online LibraryAndrew LangThe Crimson Fairy Book → online text (page 3 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


build you quite a simple boat - one, two, three, and it's done! But my
plain little home-made ship is not grand enough for a king. Where other
ships take a year, mine makes the voyage in a day, and where they would
require ten years mine will do the distance in a week.'

'Good,' said the king again; 'and what has Simon the fourth learnt?'

'My trade, O king, is really of no importance. Should my brother build
you a ship, then let me embark in it. If we should be pursued by an
enemy I can seize our boat by the prow and sink it to the bottom of the
sea. When the enemy has sailed off, I can draw it up to the top again.'

'That is very clever of you,' answered the king; 'and what does Simon
the fifth do?'

'My work, your Majesty, is mere smith's work. Order me to build a smithy
and I will make you a cross-bow, but from which neither the eagle in the
sky nor the wild beast in the forest is safe. The bolt hits whatever the
eye sees.'

'That sounds very useful,' said the king. 'And now, Simon the sixth,
tell me your trade.'

'Sire, it is so simple I am almost ashamed to mention it. If my brother
hits any creature I catch it quicker than any dog can. If it falls into
the water I pick it up out of the greatest depths, and if it is in a
dark forest I can find it even at midnight.'

The king was much pleased with the trades and talk of the six brothers,
and said: 'Thank you, good people; your father did well to teach you all
these things. Now follow me to the town, as I want to see what you can
do. I need such people as you about me; but when harvest time comes I
will send you home with royal presents.'

The brothers bowed and said: 'As the king wills.' Suddenly the king
remembered that he had not questioned the seventh Simon, so he turned to
him and said: 'Why are you silent? What is your handicraft?'

And the seventh Simon answered: 'I have no handicraft, O king; I have
learnt nothing. I could not manage it. And if I do know how to do
anything it is not what might properly be called a real trade - it is
rather a sort of performance; but it is one which no one - not the king
himself - must watch me doing, and I doubt whether this performance of
mine would please your Majesty.'

'Come, come,' cried the king; 'I will have no excuses, what is this
trade?'

'First, sire, give me your royal word that you will not kill me when I
have told you. Then you shall hear.'

'So be it, then; I give you my royal word.'

Then the seventh Simon stepped back a little, cleared his throat, and
said: 'My trade, King Archidej, is of such a kind that the man who
follows it in your kingdom generally loses his life and has no hopes of
pardon. There is only one thing I can do really well, and that is - to
steal, and to hide the smallest scrap of anything I have stolen. Not
the deepest vault, even if its lock were enchanted, could prevent my
stealing anything out of it that I wished to have.'

When the king heard this he fell into a passion. 'I will not pardon
you, you rascal,' he cried; 'I will shut you up in my deepest dungeon on
bread and water till you have forgotten such a trade. Indeed, it would
be better to put you to death at once, and I've a good mind to do so.'

'Don't kill me, O king! I am really not as bad as you think. Why, had I
chosen, I could have robbed the royal treasury, have bribed your judges
to let me off, and built a white marble palace with what was left.
But though I know how to steal I don't do it. You yourself asked me my
trade. If you kill me you will break your royal word.'

'Very well,' said the king, 'I will not kill you. I pardon you. But from
this hour you shall be shut up in a dark dungeon. Here, guards! away
with him to the prison. But you six Simons follow me and be assured of
my royal favour.'

So the six Simons followed the king. The seventh Simon was seized by the
guards, who put him in chains and threw him in prison with only bread
and water for food. Next day the king gave the first Simon carpenters,
masons, smiths and labourers, with great stores of iron, mortar, and the
like, and Simon began to build. And he built his great white pillar
far, far up into the clouds, as high as the nearest stars; but the other
stars were higher still.

Then the second Simon climbed up the pillar and saw and heard all that
was going on through the whole world. When he came down he had all sorts
of wonderful things to tell. How one king was marching in battle against
another, and which was likely to be the victor. How, in another place,
great rejoicings were going on, while in a third people were dying of
famine. In fact there was not the smallest event going on over the earth
that was hidden from him.

Next the third Simon began. He stretched out his arms, once, twice,
thrice, and the wonder-ship was ready. At a sign from the king it was
launched, and floated proudly and safely like a bird on the waves.
Instead of ropes it had wires for rigging, and musicians played on them
with fiddle bows and made lovely music. As the ship swam about, the
fourth Simon seized the prow with his strong hand, and in a moment it
was gone - sunk to the bottom of the sea. An hour passed, and then the
ship floated again, drawn up by Simon's left hand, while in his right he
brought a gigantic fish from the depth of the ocean for the royal table.

Whilst this was going on the fifth Simon had built his forge and
hammered out his iron, and when the king returned from the harbour the
magic cross-bow was made.

His Majesty went out into an open field at once, looked up into the sky
and saw, far, far away, an eagle flying up towards the sun and looking
like a little speck.

'Now,' said the king, 'if you can shoot that bird I will reward you.'

Simon only smiled; he lifted his cross-bow, took aim, fired, and the
eagle fell. As it was falling the sixth Simon ran with a dish, caught
the bird before it fell to earth and brought it to the king.

'Many thanks, my brave lads,' said the king; 'I see that each of you is
indeed a master of his trade. You shall be richly rewarded. But now rest
and have your dinner.'

The six Simons bowed and went to dinner. But they had hardly begun
before a messenger came to say that the king wanted to see them. They
obeyed at once and found him surrounded by all his court and men of
state.

'Listen, my good fellows,' cried the king, as soon as he saw them. 'Hear
what my wise counsellors have thought of. As you, Simon the second,
can see the whole world from the top of the great pillar, I want you to
climb up and to see and hear. For I am told that, far away, across many
seas, is the great kingdom of the Island of Busan, and that the daughter
of the king is the beautiful Princess Helena.'

Off ran the second Simon and clambered quickly up the pillar. He gazed
around, listened on all sides, and then slid down to report to the king.

'Sire, I have obeyed your orders. Far away I saw the Island of Busan.
The king is a mighty monarch, but full of pride, harsh and cruel. He
sits on his throne and declares that no prince or king on earth is good
enough for his lovely daughter, that he will give her to none, and
that if any king asks for her hand he will declare war against him and
destroy his kingdom.'

'Has the king of Busan a great army?' asked King Archidej; 'is his
country far off?'

'As far as I could judge,' replied Simon, 'it would take you nearly ten
years in fair weather to sail there. But if the weather were stormy
we might say twelve. I saw the army being reviewed. It is not so very
large - a hundred thousand men at arms and a hundred thousand knights.
Besides these, he has a strong bodyguard and a good many cross-bowmen.
Altogether you may say another hundred thousand, and there is a picked
body of heroes who reserve themselves for great occasions requiring
particular courage.'

The king sat for some time lost in thought. At last he said to the
nobles and courtiers standing round: 'I am determined to marry the
Princess Helena, but how shall I do it?'

The nobles, courtiers and counsellors said nothing, but tried to hide
behind each other. Then the third Simon said:

'Pardon me, your Majesty, if I offer my advice. You wish to go to the
Island of Busan? What can be easier? In my ship you will get there in a
week instead of in ten years. But ask your council to advise you what
to do when you arrive - in one word, whether you will win the princess
peacefully or by war?'

But the wise men were as silent as ever.

The king frowned, and was about to say something sharp, when the Court
Fool pushed his way to the front and said: 'Dear me, what are all you
clever people so puzzled about? The matter is quite clear. As it seems
it will not take long to reach the island why not send the seventh
Simon? He will steal the fair maiden fast enough, and then the king,
her father, may consider how he is going to bring his army over here - it
will take him ten years to do it! - -no less! What do you think of my
plan?'

'What do I think? Why, that your idea is capital, and you shall be
rewarded for it. Come, guards, hurry as fast as you can and bring the
seventh Simon before me.'

Not many minutes later, Simon the seventh stood before the king, who
explained to him what he wished done, and also that to steal for the
benefit of his king and country was by no means a wrong thing, though it
was very wrong to steal for his own advantage.

The youngest Simon, who looked very pale and hungry, only nodded his
head.

'Come,' said the king, 'tell me truly. Do you think you could steal the
Princess Helena?'

'Why should I not steal her, sire? The thing is easy enough. Let my
brother's ship be laden with rich stuffs, brocades, Persian carpets,
pearls and jewels. Send me in the ship. Give me my four middle brothers
as companions, and keep the two others as hostages.'

When the king heard these words his heart became filled with longing,
and he ordered all to be done as Simon wished. Every one ran about to do
his bidding; and in next to no time the wonder-ship was laden and ready
to start.

The five Simons took leave of the king, went on board, and had no sooner
set sail than they were almost out of sight. The ship cut through the
waters like a falcon through the air, and just a week after starting
sighted the Island of Busan. The coast appeared to be strongly guarded,
and from afar the watchman on a high tower called out: 'Halt and anchor!
Who are you? Where do you come from, and what do you want?'

The seventh Simon answered from the ship: 'We are peaceful people. We
come from the country of the great and good King Archidej, and we bring
foreign wares - rich brocades, carpets, and costly jewels, which we wish
to show to your king and the princess. We desire to trade - to sell, to
buy, and to exchange.'

The brothers launched a small boat, took some of their valuable goods
with them, rowed to shore and went up to the palace. The princess sat
in a rose-red room, and when she saw the brothers coming near she called
her nurse and other women, and told them to inquire who and what these
people were, and what they wanted.

The seventh Simon answered the nurse: 'We come from the country of the
wise and good King Archidej,' said he, 'and we have brought all sorts
of goods for sale. We trust the king of this country may condescend
to welcome us, and to let his servants take charge of our wares. If he
considers them worthy to adorn his followers we shall be content.'

This speech was repeated to the princess, who ordered the brothers to
be brought to the red-room at once. They bowed respectfully to her and
displayed some splendid velvets and brocades, and opened cases of pearls
and precious stones. Such beautiful things had never been seen in the
island, and the nurse and waiting women stood bewildered by all the
magnificence. They whispered together that they had never beheld
anything like it. The princess too saw and wondered, and her eyes could
not weary of looking at the lovely things, or her fingers of stroking
the rich soft stuffs, and of holding up the sparkling jewels to the
light.

'Fairest of princesses,' said Simon. 'Be pleased to order your
waiting-maids to accept the silks and velvets, and let your women trim
their head-dresses with the jewels; these are no special treasures.
But permit me to say that they are as nothing to the many coloured
tapestries, the gorgeous stones and ropes of pearls in our ship. We did
not like to bring more with us, not knowing what your royal taste might
be; but if it seems good to you to honour our ship with a visit, you
might condescend to choose such things as were pleasing in your eyes.'

This polite speech pleased the princess very much. She went to the
king and said: 'Dear father, some merchants have arrived with the most
splendid wares. Pray allow me to go to their ship and choose out what I
like.'

The king thought and thought, frowned hard and rubbed his ear. At last
he gave consent, and ordered out his royal yacht, with 100 cross-bows,
100 knights, and 1,000 soldiers, to escort the Princess Helena.

Off sailed the yacht with the princess and her escort. The brothers
Simon came on board to conduct the princess to their ship, and, led by
the brothers and followed by her nurse and other women, she crossed the
crystal plank from one vessel to another.

The seventh Simon spread out his goods, and had so many curious
and interesting tales to tell about them, that the princess forgot
everything else in looking and listening, so that she did not know that
the fourth Simon had seized the prow of the ship, and that all of a
sudden it had vanished from sight, and was racing along in the depths of
the sea.

The crew of the royal yacht shouted aloud, the knights stood still with
terror, the soldiers were struck dumb and hung their heads. There was
nothing to be done but to sail back and tell the king of his loss.

How he wept and stormed! 'Oh, light of my eyes,' he sobbed; 'I am indeed
punished for my pride. I thought no one good enough to be your husband,
and now you are lost in the depths of the sea, and have left me alone!
As for all of you who saw this thing - away with you! Let them be put in
irons and lock them up in prison, whilst I think how I can best put them
to death!'

Whilst the King of Busan was raging and lamenting in this fashion,
Simon's ship was swimming like any fish under the sea, and when the
island was well out of sight he brought it up to the surface again. At
that moment the princess recollected herself. 'Nurse,' said she, 'we
have been gazing at these wonders only too long. I hope my father won't
be vexed at our delay.'

She tore herself away and stepped on deck. Neither the yacht nor the
island was in sight! Helena wrung her hands and beat her breast. Then
she changed herself into a white swan and flew off. But the fifth Simon
seized his bow and shot the swan, and the sixth Simon did not let it
fall into the water but caught it in the ship, and the swan turned into
a silver fish, but Simon lost no time and caught the fish, when, quick
as thought, the fish turned into a black mouse and ran about the ship.
It darted towards a hole, but before it could reach it Simon sprang upon
it more swiftly than any cat, and then the little mouse turned once more
into the beautiful Princess Helena.

Early one morning King Archidej sat thoughtfully at his window gazing
out to sea. His heart was sad and he would neither eat nor drink. His
thoughts were full of the Princess Helena, who was as lovely as a dream.
Is that a white gull he sees flying towards the shore, or is it a sail?
No, it is no gull, it is the wonder-ship flying along with billowing
sails. Its flags wave, the fiddlers play on the wire rigging, the anchor
is thrown out and the crystal plank laid from the ship to the pier. The
lovely Helena steps across the plank. She shines like the sun, and the
stars of heaven seem to sparkle in her eyes.

Up sprang King Archidej in haste: 'Hurry, hurry,' he cried. 'Let us
hasten to meet her! Let the bugles sound and the joy bells be rung!'

And the whole Court swarmed with courtiers and servants. Golden carpets
were laid down and the great gates thrown open to welcome the princess.

King Archidej went out himself, took her by the hand and led her into
the royal apartments.

'Madam,' said he, 'the fame of your beauty had reached me, but I had not
dared to expect such loveliness. Still I will not keep you here against
your will. If you wish it, the wonder-ship shall take you back to your
father and your own country; but if you will consent to stay here, then
reign over me and my country as our queen.'

What more is there to tell? It is not hard to guess that the princess
listened to the king's wooing, and their betrothal took place with great
pomp and rejoicings.

The brothers Simon were sent again to the Island of Busan with a letter
to the king from his daughter to invite him to their wedding. And the
wonder-ship arrived at the Island of Busan just as all the knights and
soldiers who had escorted the princess were being led out to execution.

Then the seventh Simon cried out from the ship: 'Stop! stop! I bring a
letter from the Princess Helena!'

The King of Busan read the letter over and over again, and ordered the
knights and soldiers to be set free. He entertained King Archidej's
ambassadors hospitably, and sent his blessing to his daughter, but he
could not be brought to attend the wedding.

When the wonder-ship got home King Archidej and Princess Helena were
enchanted with the news it brought.

The king sent for the seven Simons. 'A thousand thanks to you, my brave
fellows,' he cried. 'Take what gold, silver, and precious stones you
will out of my treasury. Tell me if there is anything else you wish for
and I will give it you, my good friends. Do you wish to be made nobles,
or to govern towns? Only speak.'

Then the eldest Simon bowed and said: 'We are plain folk, your Majesty,
and understand simple things best. What figures should we cut as nobles
or governors? Nor do we desire gold. We have our fields which give us
food, and as much money as we need. If you wish to reward us then grant
that our land may be free of taxes, and of your goodness pardon the
seventh Simon. He is not the first who has been a thief by trade and he
will certainly not be the last.'

'So be it,' said the king; 'your land shall be free of all taxes, and
Simon the seventh is pardoned.'

Then the king gave each brother a goblet of wine and invited them to the
wedding feast. And what a feast that was!

[From Ungarischen Mahrchen.]




The Language of Beasts

Once upon a time a man had a shepherd who served him many years
faithfully and honestly. One day, whilst herding his flock, this
shepherd heard a hissing sound, coming out of the forest near by, which
he could not account for. So he went into the wood in the direction of
the noise to try to discover the cause. When he approached the place
he found that the dry grass and leaves were on fire, and on a tree,
surrounded by flames, a snake was coiled, hissing with terror.

The shepherd stood wondering how the poor snake could escape, for
the wind was blowing the flames that way, and soon that tree would be
burning like the rest. Suddenly the snake cried: 'O shepherd! for the
love of heaven save me from this fire!'

Then the shepherd stretched his staff out over the flames and the snake
wound itself round the staff and up to his hand, and from his hand
it crept up his arm, and twined itself about his neck. The shepherd
trembled with fright, expecting every instant to be stung to death, and
said: 'What an unlucky man I am! Did I rescue you only to be destroyed
myself?' But the snake answered: 'Have no fear; only carry me home to my
father who is the King of the Snakes.' The shepherd, however, was much
too frightened to listen, and said that he could not go away and leave
his flock alone; but the snake said: 'You need not be afraid to leave
your flock, no evil shall befall them; but make all the haste you can.'

So he set off through the wood carrying the snake, and after a time he
came to a great gateway, made entirely of snakes intertwined one with
another. The shepherd stood still with surprise, but the snake round his
neck whistled, and immediately all the arch unwound itself.

'When we are come to my father's house,' said his own snake to him, 'he
will reward you with anything you like to ask - silver, gold, jewels,
or whatever on this earth is most precious; but take none of all these
things, ask rather to understand the language of beasts. He will refuse
it to you a long time, but in the end he will grant it to you.'

Soon after that they arrived at the house of the King of the Snakes, who
burst into tears of joy at the sight of his daughter, as he had given
her up for dead. 'Where have you been all this time?' he asked, directly
he could speak, and she told him that she had been caught in a forest
fire, and had been rescued from the flames by the shepherd. The King of
the Snakes, then turning to the shepherd, said to him: 'What reward will
you choose for saving my child?'

'Make me to know the language of beasts,' answered the shepherd, 'that
is all I desire.'

The king replied: 'Such knowledge would be of no benefit to you, for if
I granted it to you and you told any one of it, you would immediately
die; ask me rather for whatever else you would most like to possess, and
it shall be yours.'

But the shepherd answered him: 'Sir, if you wish to reward me for saving
your daughter, grant me, I pray you, to know the language of beasts. I
desire nothing else'; and he turned as if to depart.

Then the king called him back, saying: 'If nothing else will satisfy
you, open your mouth.' The man obeyed, and the king spat into it, and
said: 'Now spit into my mouth.' The shepherd did as he was told, then
the King of the Snakes spat again into the shepherd's mouth. When they
had spat into each other's mouths three times, the king said:

'Now you know the language of beasts, go in peace; but, if you value
your life, beware lest you tell any one of it, else you will immediately
die.'

So the shepherd set out for home, and on his way through the wood he
heard and understood all that was said by the birds, and by every living
creature. When he got back to his sheep he found the flock grazing
peacefully, and as he was very tired he laid himself down by them to
rest a little. Hardly had he done so when two ravens flew down and
perched on a tree near by, and began to talk to each other in their own
language: 'If that shepherd only knew that there is a vault full of gold
and silver beneath where that lamb is lying, what would he not do?' When
the shepherd heard these words he went straight to his master and told
him, and the master at once took a waggon, and broke open the door of
the vault, and they carried off the treasure. But instead of keeping it
for himself, the master, who was an honourable man, gave it all up to
the shepherd, saying: 'Take it, it is yours. The gods have given it to
you.' So the shepherd took the treasure and built himself a house. He
married a wife, and they lived in great peace and happiness, and he was
acknowledged to be the richest man, not only of his native village, but
of all the country-side. He had flocks of sheep, and cattle, and horses
without end, as well as beautiful clothes and jewels.

One day, just before Christmas, he said to his wife: 'Prepare everything
for a great feast, to-morrow we will take things with us to the farm
that the shepherds there may make merry.' The wife obeyed, and all was
prepared as he desired. Next day they both went to the farm, and in the
evening the master said to the shepherds: 'Now come, all of you, eat,
drink, and make merry. I will watch the flocks myself to-night in your
stead.' Then he went out to spend the night with the flocks.

When midnight struck the wolves howled and the dogs barked, and the
wolves spoke in their own tongue, saying:

'Shall we come in and work havoc, and you too shall eat flesh?' And
the dogs answered in their tongue: 'Come in, and for once we shall have
enough to eat.'

Now amongst the dogs there was one so old that he had only two teeth
left in his head, and he spoke to the wolves, saying: 'So long as I have
my two teeth still in my head, I will let no harm be done to my master.'

All this the master heard and understood, and as soon as morning dawned
he ordered all the dogs to be killed excepting the old dog. The farm
servants wondered at this order, and exclaimed: 'But surely, sir, that


1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryAndrew LangThe Crimson Fairy Book → online text (page 3 of 21)