The Three Feathers
There was once upon a time a king who had three sons, of whom two
were clever and wise, but the third did not speak much, and was simple, and was called the
simpleton. When the king had become old and weak, and was thinking of his end, he did not
know which of his sons should inherit the kingdom after him. Then he said to them, go
forth, and he who brings me the most beautiful carpet shall be king after my death.
And that there should be no dispute amongst them, he took them
outside his castle, blew three feathers in the air, and said, you shall go as they fly.
One feather flew to the east, the other to the west, but the third flew straight up and
did not fly far, but soon fell to the ground.
And now one brother went to the right, and the other to the left,
and they mocked simpleton, who was forced to stay where the third feather had fallen. He
sat down and was sad. Then all at once he saw that there was a trap-door close by the
feather. He raised it up, found some steps, and went down them. Then he came to another
door, knocked at it, and heard somebody inside calling - little green waiting-maid,
waiting-maid with the limping leg, little dog of the limping leg, hop hither and thither,
and quickly see who is without.
The door opened, and he saw a great, fat toad sitting, and round
about her a crowd of little toads. The fat toad asked what he wanted. He answered, I
should like to have the prettiest and finest carpet in the world. Then she called a young
one and said - little green waiting-maid, waiting-maid with the limping leg, little dog of
the limping leg, hop hither and thither, and bring me the great box.
The young toad brought the box, and the fat toad opened it, and gave
simpleton a carpet out of it, so beautiful and so fine, that on the earth above, none
could have been woven like it. Then he thanked her, and climbed out again.
The two others, however, had looked on their youngest brother as so
stupid that they believed he would find and bring nothing at all. Why should we give
ourselves a great deal of trouble searching, said they, and got some coarse handkerchiefs
from the first shepherds' wives whom they met, and carried them home to the king.
At the same time simpleton also came back, and brought his beautiful
carpet, and when the king saw it he was astonished, and said, if justice be done, the
kingdom belongs to the youngest. But the two others let their father have no peace, and
said that it was impossible that simpleton, who in everything lacked understanding, should
be king, and entreated him to make a new agreement with them. Then the father said, he who
brings me the most beautiful ring shall inherit the kingdom, and led the three brothers
out, and blew into the air three feathers, which they were to follow. Those of the two
eldest again went east and west, and simpleton's feather flew straight up, and fell down
near the door into the earth.
Then he went down again to the fat toad, and told her that he wanted
the most beautiful ring. She at once ordered her big box to be brought, and gave him a
ring out of it, which sparkled with jewels, and was so beautiful that no goldsmith on
earth would have been able to make it.
The two eldest laughed at simpleton for going to seek a golden ring.
They gave themselves no trouble, but knocked the nails out of an old carriage-ring, and
took it to the king, but when simpleton produced his golden ring, his father again said,
the kingdom belongs to him. The two eldest did not cease from tormenting the king until he
made a third condition, and declared that the one who brought the most beautiful woman
home, should have the kingdom. He again blew the three feathers into the air, and they
flew as before.
Then simpleton without more ado went down to the fat toad, and said,
I am to take home the most beautiful woman. Oh, answered the toad, the most beautiful
woman. She is not at hand at the moment, but still you shall have her. She gave him a
yellow turnip which had been hollowed out, to which six mice were harnessed. Then
simpleton said quite mournfully, what am I to do with that. The toad answered, just put
one of my little toads into it. Then he seized one at random out of the circle, and put
her into the yellow coach, but hardly was she seated inside it than she turned into a
wonderfully beautiful maiden, and the turnip into a coach, and the six mice into horses.
So he kissed her, and drove off quickly with the horses, and took her to the king.
His brothers, who came afterwards, had given themselves no trouble
at all looking for beautiful girls, but had brought with them the first peasant women they
chanced to meet. When the king saw them he said, after my death the kingdom belongs to my
youngest son. But the two eldest deafened the king's ears afresh with their clamor, we
cannot consent to simpleton's being king, and demanded that the one whose wife could leap
through a ring which hung in the centre of the hall should have the preference. They
thought, the peasant women can do that easily, they are strong enough, but the delicate
maiden will jump herself to death.
The aged king agreed likewise to this. Then the two peasant women
jumped, and jumped through the ring, but were so clumsy that they fell, and their coarse
arms and legs broke in two. And then the pretty maiden whom simpleton had brought with
him, sprang, and sprang through as lightly as a deer, and all opposition had to cease. So
he received the crown, and has ruled wisely for a length of time.