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Anthony R. (Anthony Reubens) Montalba.

Fairy tales from all nations online

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palace. The dragon bowed before him with the greatest reverence, and
begged him, as the owner from thenceforth of the palace and its
treasures, graciously to accept his homage, promising at the same time
that he would guard all with the utmost vigilance, and endeavour to
deserve his approbation.

Pista was not a little astonished at this address, but as all the
events which had befallen him within the last few days, appeared to
him to be nothing less than natural, he accepted the dragon's homage,
and played the part of master as well as he could. Having nodded
approbation to his new servitor, he left the castle with proud
gravity. The portals closed of themselves after him with thundering
noise; he then carefully locked all the gates with his key, and
returned to seek his swine.

It was not long before he met the whole herd in the best order. The
sun was already glowing in the west, and the shadows of the mountains
stretched across the plains. It seemed time to turn homewards; he
whistled; the herd put itself in motion; and before the evening star
shone in the heavens, they were all at home again in their sheds.

Pista had no sooner housed his charge, than the king's daughters came
running towards him with the most unusual friendliness. The youngest
had seen from afar the rose in his cap, and as she could not resist
the desire to possess it, she begged from him the lovely flower. The
swineherd instantly presented it to the princess, and thought himself
highly honoured when he saw his gift placed in the bosom of the most
charming of the royal maidens.

The king, meanwhile, deeply amazed at the no less punctual than safe
return of his herdsman, sent for him into his presence, and inquired
particularly about all that had occurred to him on the heath. But
Pista carefully avoided satisfying his curiosity; gave very brief
answers to his questions; and said nothing that could betray his
fortunate adventure.

"This rose," said he, "which I found already plucked, and lying on the
stem of a tree, is all that I saw on my way. I stuck it in my hat that
it might not fade quite unenjoyed."

The king again expressed his entire satisfaction and favour; and
promised for the future days the same rich reward he had already
enjoyed.

The herdsman thanked his patron and returned to his swine, in order to
pass the night near them on his bed of straw.

Just about midnight the friendly boar awakened him as on the
preceding night, and said, "Pista must provide himself with bread and
wine for the coming day also, as he would have to do with a still
larger dragon than the former."

He advised him to double the measure of provisions, and told him he
would have nothing to fear if he encountered the monster as
courageously as he did that of the day before.

Before day-break Pista supplied himself with two loaves and two flasks
of wine, and went as usual with the swine to the heath. Arrived there,
the boar again approached him and said: -

"Up and mount me without fear,
Swift on my back I will thee bear;
This day thou must higher go,
And still higher fortune know."

The youth obeyed the boar, and sooner than if on a racer's back he
found himself by an inclosure, considerably beyond the place where he
stopped the day before. The boar again deposited him under an oak,
repeated several times what he had before enforced, and left him to
his destiny.

Pista had not long to wait; he soon heard a terrible rustling
descending from the tops of the trees. By degrees it grew darker
around him, and at once a monstrous dragon, much larger than the
first, came sailing through the air, whose out-spread wings shaded,
like a thunder-cloud, the district beneath, as with furious haste he
seemed descending on the herdsman. But Pista lost no time in offering
him the two loaves and the two flasks, which so fortunately appeased
the monster that he immediately stretched himself on the grass, and,
much at his ease, swallowed the provisions, and then fell asleep and
snored like thunder. Pista again seized the favourable moment and cut
the dragon's throat, from whose jaws fell a silver key, which he put
at once into his pocket.

Then he went, as on the preceding day, into the interior of the
forest, and soon saw a palace built entirely of silver, which dazzled
his eyes from afar by its brilliancy. All that he saw and did in the
Copper Palace, he saw and did here; only the magnificence of the one
far exceeded that of the other, and caused him to linger here much
longer. After a very obsequious dragon had shown him all the
treasures, and at last led him into the garden, he plucked there a
silver rose, of which there were great numbers, and stuck it in his
cap. He then locked the gates of his beautiful palace with the silver
key, returned to his herd, and as the day was declining, drove them
quietly home.

As before, the king's daughters came familiarly to meet him, and the
youngest snatched the silver rose from him, and ran playfully with it
to her father. The king sent for him as before, questioned him of all
that had occurred, and having received satisfactory answers, expressed
his entire approbation.

The same adventure occurred on the third day, with the sole difference
that the herdsman this time entered a Golden Palace, and brought from
the garden a golden rose, which the fair princess appropriated as
before.

It happened that a festival which the king had long resolved to give
to the suitors of his daughters, was just about to be held. He caused
three golden apples of the same size to be made, on each of which he
had inscribed the name of one of the princesses. These he ordered to
be suspended by golden threads in the front court of his castle, as
the prize of a trial of skill, for which the victor was to receive the
hand of one of the princesses. Whoever, at full gallop, should succeed
in striking down with his lance one of these apples, was to receive
the golden fruit and the princess whose name it bore. As the three
sisters were no less extraordinarily beautiful than rich, it may
easily be guessed that the number of their suitors was not small. A
countless number of princes from far and near were assembled in the
royal city, and the king's brother was also present with his nine
daughters. The whole kingdom took a lively interest in this festival,
and young and old rejoiced at its commencement. Whatever the royal
treasures could produce was exhibited there, and all the rich and
noble flocked thither to contribute their share towards enhancing the
pomp of the long looked for feast.

As it was to be supposed that Pista would not willingly be absent from
such a grand sight, the youngest princess, out of gratitude for her
three roses, invited him to witness it; advising him not to stay away
if he had any curiosity to see all the most precious of her father's
possessions, in horses, clothes, and jewels. But to the no small
surprise of the princess, the herdsman thanked her for her invitation,
but said he preferred remaining with his equals, and would tend the
swine as usual.

The morning arrived, and all within and around the city was in motion.
The streets swarmed with countless people: even the most helpless
cripples dragged themselves along, anxious to see the show. Pista
alone drove forth his swine with the utmost indifference, and did not
evince the slightest curiosity.

Who could have guessed, however, what the homely youth had secretly
determined, and what a trick he had resolved to play on all the
princely suitors? He no sooner reached the heath than he hastened to
the forest where his late adventures had occurred. He went to the
Copper Palace, entered the hall, and with a stroke of the golden wand
commanded the serviceable dragon to provide for him the most
magnificent attire and the finest courser. The dragon rapidly obeyed
his master's order, dressed him as expeditiously and handily as the
most experienced valet could have done, and then as quickly cantered
up a splendidly caparisoned steed, who seemed to breathe fire as he
neighed with desire for the combat.

Pista mounted his horse, and the courts of the castle thundered
beneath his tramp. He flew, as if borne on the lightning's wing, over
the heath and road, and suddenly appeared in the lists of the royal
disputants. The brilliancy of his attire, the swiftness and strength
of his horse, and the costly jewels that adorned him, dazzled all
eyes, and it could not have occurred to any one that in him they
beheld the swineherd. The king himself thought he must be his equal
in dignity, and offered him the honour of precedence. But Pista
declined this distinction, and requested, on the contrary, to be
allowed to be the last on the list of suitors.

At last the signal was given. All pressed to the lists, and the race
began. Riders and horses flew emulously towards the prize, but not one
succeeded in even touching either of the apples with his lance.

Suddenly the unknown guest darted over the course like an arrow, and
hit the first of the three apples so dexterously, that it, together
with the golden thread to which it was fastened, remained hanging on
his lance. The gaze of all was fixed upon him; but without vouchsafing
a look on any, he flew with his prize straight across the lists and
disappeared.

This unexpected circumstance created universal embarrassment amongst
the disconcerted suitors, and determined the king to postpone the
remainder of the festival until the following day. Meanwhile he sent
some of his swiftest riders in search of the strange fugitive, in
order to discover, if possible, whence he came. But before these were
ready to start, our knight had already become invisible, and, in his
herdsman's dress, had again rejoined his swine.

In the evening, as usual, he brought them home, and attended to them
in the customary manner. But before he retired to rest, the youngest
of the princesses descried him, and hastening to him, related in great
agitation the untoward event which had that day deprived her of the
apple destined to her, and at the same time of him who should have
been her bridegroom. The herdsman expressed his great sympathy, and
tried to console her, by saying that no one could tell whether the
misfortune that had happened might not in the end turn out to her
advantage.

The next day, before the ceremonies recommenced, Pista was again on
the heath with his herd. This day he went to the Silver Palace,
attired himself still more splendidly, and mounted a yet finer horse.
Swift as the wind, and resplendent in gold and jewels, he again sprang
to the lists. All were astonished at this second apparition. All
inclined themselves before him, and no one recognised in him the same
guest who had so distinguished himself on the preceding day.

But, as yesterday, all eyes were riveted on him; he set spurs to his
horse, and sprang with hanging bridle to the prize, then flew like an
arrow, bearing the second apple across the lists, and disappeared
from the sight of the astonished multitude.

The king and his illustrious guests now began to apprehend that some
supernatural power influenced these events, and they had nearly
determined not to renew the trial of skill till the following year.
But as already two of the golden apples were lost, they could not
resist their curiosity respecting the third and last. The king
therefore appointed the conclusion of the festival for the next
morning, and in the meantime endeavoured to tranquillise himself as
well as he could.

As before, so was it on this third occasion. The herdsman had gone
early to the heath, and now appeared in an attire, and mounted on a
horse, this time procured from the Golden Palace, both of which
infinitely surpassed the two former. He carried off the third apple,
and fled, to the wonder of all, swift as the wind, far out of sight.

The festival was now over; the assembly separated; the suitors
returned to their homes, and the king lamented the fate of his beloved
daughters. The daughters shed many tears, and mourned over their fate
as an appointment of Heaven, forbidding them ever to have a
bridegroom.

As the very first of these occurrences had caused the king entirely
to forget to pay the herdsman his daily wages, the latter had now
three days' hire due to him. Pista therefore availed himself of the
pretext of demanding his wages as a good opportunity to learn what
impression his three adventures had made at court. That same evening,
when he brought home his herd, he presented himself before the king,
but apprehending that, if he left his three apples in the stall, they
might be purloined, he concealed them in his hat, which he retained on
his head, although in presence of his monarch.

The king perceived this disrespectful conduct of his herdsman not
without surprise; but, as he was exceedingly well disposed towards
him, on account of his great services, he indulgently asked him what
he required. Pista had scarcely prepared himself to make his request,
when the youngest, and now exceedingly discontented princess entered,
and with an air of highly offended pride, snatched his hat off his
head.

The golden apples fell out of it, and rolled to the monarch's feet.

What was the astonishment of the whole court! The princesses
recognised their names, and could not express their delight at finding
their apples. The king pressed the youth in the most gracious terms
to explain how he had come by them.

Pista replied, with the utmost frankness, that he was the winner of
the three apples, and therefore thought he had a full right to one of
the princesses for his bride.

Now, as the king, mindful of the unexampled splendour, as also the
extraordinary good fortune by which the stranger had distinguished
himself in the lists, anticipated some still greater advantage behind
the darkness of this mysterious occurrence, he admitted the herdsman's
claim with very little hesitation.

The youngest of the princesses felt herself suddenly cheered, and so
powerfully attracted to the metamorphosed swineherd, that in spite of
his peasant's dress she threw her arms around his neck. The king
immediately decided that he should become her husband, and the
following morning the wedding was celebrated with the utmost
magnificence, in presence of the whole court, at the Golden Palace in
the forest, which Pista immediately selected for his residence.

When the banquet was over, the bridegroom commanded his faithful
dragon, who had already the day before provided a numerous
establishment of domestics of his own winged race, immediately to
bring hither his eleven brothers, whose respective names he had
furnished him with, and had described their persons as accurately as
he could.

Before the sun went down the eleven brothers were seen coming at full
gallop to the Golden Palace. By the care of the ever active dragon
they were all splendidly dressed, and they rejoiced and wondered not a
little at the unexpected change in their destiny.

Two of them married the sisters of their royal sister-in-law, and the
rest married the nine daughters of the other king. They soon conquered
for themselves as many kingdoms, and lived happily together till their
dying day.




THE LUCKY DAYS.

[Italian.]


At Casena, in Romagna, lived a poor widow, a very worthy, industrious
woman, by name Lucietta. She unfortunately had an only son, who, for
stupidity and laziness, had yet to find his equal. He would lie in bed
till noon, and when he did resolve to rise, he took a full hour to rub
his eyes, and then he would be nearly as long stretching his arms and
legs; in short, he behaved like the veriest sluggard upon earth.

This grieved his mother very much, for she had once hoped that he
would some day become the support of her old age; and she never ceased
to urge and advise him, in order to make him a little more active and
industrious.

"My son," she often said to him, "he who would see good days in this
world must exert himself, be industrious, and rise at break of day;
for good fortune favours the industrious and the vigilant, but never
comes to the lazy and sluggardly. Therefore, my son, if you will
believe my counsel, and follow it, then you shall see good days, and
all will fall out to your heart's content."

Lucilio - that was the young man's name - the silliest of the silly,
unquestionably heard what his mother said, but he did not understand
the meaning of her words. He got up as if he were waking out of a deep
and heavy sleep, and sauntered along the road before the city gate,
where he stretched himself, in order to finish his nap, right across
the pathway, so that all entering or leaving the city could not avoid
stumbling over him.

It so happened that the very night before, three inhabitants of the
city had gone out to bury a treasure which they had accidentally
discovered. They had succeeded in finding it again, and were in the
act of carrying it home, when they came upon Lucilio, who still lay
across the road, but no longer sleeping. He had just waked up, and was
looking round him for one of the good days his mother had prophesied
to him.

"Heaven send you a good day, friend," said the first of the three men,
as he walked over him.

"Heaven be praised!" said Lucilio, when he heard the words. "Now I
shall have a good day!"

The man who had buried the treasure, conscious of his fault, fancied
directly that these words bore reference to him, and that the secret
had been betrayed. This was quite natural; for whoever has a bad
conscience, always interprets the most indifferent words as an
allusion to himself.

The second man then stumbled over Lucilio, likewise wishing him, as
his predecessor had done, a good day. Whereupon Lucilio, still
dwelling on the good days, said to himself, but half loud, "Now I have
two of them!"

The third followed and saluted him as the two others had done, also
wishing that Heaven might send him a good day. Up started Lucilio,
overjoyed, and exclaiming, "Oh! delightful! Now I have got all three
of them! I am fortunate!"

He alluded only to three lucky days; but the buriers of the treasure
thought he meant them; and as they feared he might go and give
information of them to the magistrate, they took him aside, told him
the whole affair, and, to bribe him into silence, gave him the fourth
part of the treasure.

Well pleased, Lucilio took his portion, carried it home to his mother,
and said, "Dear mother, Heaven's blessing has been with me; for, as I
did as you desired, so I have found the good days. Take this money,
and buy with it all we require."

The mother was not a little pleased at the fortunate occurrence, and
urged her son to go on exerting himself that he might find more such
good days.




THE FEAST OF THE DWARFS.

[Icelandish.]


Not very far from Drontheim, in Norway, dwelt a powerful man, blessed
with all the gifts of fortune. A considerable portion of the land
around belonged to him; numerous herds grazed in his pastures, and a
numerous establishment of domestics contributed to the grandeur of his
dwelling. He had an only daughter called Aslog, whose beauty was
celebrated far and near. The most illustrious of her countrymen sought
to obtain her hand, but without success; and those who arrived gay and
full of hope, rode away in silence and with heavy hearts. Her father,
who thought that his daughter's rejection of so many suitors proceeded
from her anxiety to make a prudent choice, did not interfere, and
rejoiced to think that she was so discreet. At length, however, when
he perceived that the noblest and the most wealthy of the land were
rejected equally with all others, he grew angry, and thus addressed
her: -

"Hitherto I have left you at full liberty to make your own selection;
but, as I observe that you reject all indiscriminately, and that the
most eligible suitors are yet in your opinion not good enough for you,
I shall no longer permit such conduct. Is my race, then, to be
extinguished, and are my possessions to fall into the hands of
strangers? I am resolved to bend your stubborn will. I give you time
for consideration until the great winter nights' festival; if you
shall not then have made your election, be prepared to accept him whom
I determine upon for you."

Aslog loved a handsome, brave, and noble youth, whose name was Orm.
She loved him with her whole soul, and would have preferred death to
giving her hand to any one but him. But Orm was poor, and his poverty
compelled him to take service in her father's house. Aslog's love for
him was therefore kept secret, for her haughty father would never have
consented to an alliance with a man in so subordinate a position. When
Aslog beheld his stern aspect and heard his angry words, she became
deathly pale, for she knew his disposition, and was well aware that he
would put his threat in execution. Without offering a word in reply,
she withdrew to her chamber, there to consider how to escape the storm
that menaced her.

The great festival drew near, and her anxiety increased daily.

At length the lovers resolved to fly. "I know a hiding place," said
Orm, "where we can remain undiscovered till we find an opportunity of
quitting the country."

During the night, whilst all were asleep, Orm conducted the trembling
Aslog across the snow and fields of ice to the mountains. The moon and
stars, which always seem brightest in the cold winter's night, lighted
them on their way. They had brought with them some clothes and furs,
but that was all they could carry.

They climbed the mountains the whole night long, till they arrived at
a solitary spot completely encircled by rock. Here Orm led the weary
Aslog into a cave, the dark and narrow entrance to which was scarcely
perceptible; it soon widened, however, into a spacious chamber that
penetrated far into the mountain. Orm kindled a fire, and they sat
beside it, leaning against the rock, shut out from the rest of the
world.

Orm was the first who had discovered this cavern, which is now shown
as a curiosity; and, as at that time no one knew of its existence,
they were secure from the pursuit of Aslog's father. Here they passed
the winter. Orm went out to chase the wild animals of the lonely
region, and Aslog remained in the cave, attended to the fire, and
prepared their necessary food. She frequently climbed to the summit of
the rock, but, far as her eye could reach, it beheld only the
sparkling snow-fields.

Spring arrived, the woods became green, the fields arrayed themselves
in bright colours, and Aslog dared now only seldom, and with great
precaution, to emerge from her cavern.

One evening Orm returned home bringing news that he had recognised, at
a distance, her father's people, and that they had no doubt also
descried him, as they could see as clearly as himself. "They will
surround this place," continued he, "and not rest till they have found
us; we must therefore instantly be off."

They immediately descended the mountain on the other side, and reached
the sea-shore, where they fortunately found a boat. Orm pushed off,
and the boat was driven into the open sea. They had, it is true,
escaped their pursuers, but they were now exposed to perils of another
kind. Whither should they turn? They dared not land, for Aslog's
father was lord of the whole coast, and they would so fall into his
hands. Nothing remained, therefore, for them, but to commit the boat
to the winds and waves, which pursued its way all night, so that at
day-break the coast had disappeared, and they saw only sky and water;
they had not brought any provisions with them, and hunger and thirst
began to torture them. Thus they drove on for three days, and Aslog,
weak and exhausted, foresaw their certain destruction.

At length, on the evening of the third day, they beheld an island of
considerable size, surrounded by a multitude of lesser islets. Orm
immediately steered towards it, but, as they approached it, a gale
arose and the waves swelled higher and higher; he turned the boat in
hopes to be able to land on some other side, but equally without
success. Whenever the bark approached the island, it was driven back
as if by some invisible force.

Orm, gazing on the unhappy Aslog, who seemed dying from exhaustion,
crossed himself, and uttered an exclamation, which had scarcely passed
his lips, when the storm ceased, the waves sank, and the little bark
landed without further obstruction. He then sprang on shore, and a few
mussels which he collected, so revived and strengthened the exhausted
Aslog, that in a short time she also was able to quit the boat.


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Online LibraryAnthony R. (Anthony Reubens) MontalbaFairy tales from all nations → online text (page 14 of 19)