The Two Kings' Children
There was once upon a time a king who had a little boy in whose
stars it had been foretold that he should be killed by a stag when he was sixteen years of
age, and when he had reached that age the huntsmen once went hunting with him. In the
forest, the king's son was separated from the others, and all at once he saw a great stag
which he wanted to shoot, but could not hit. At length he chased the stag so far that they
were quite out of the forest, and then suddenly a great tall man was standing there
instead of the stag, and said, "It is well that I have you. I have already ruined six
pairs of glass skates with running after you, and have not been able to reach you."
Then he took the king's son with him, and dragged him through a
great lake to a great palace, and he had to sit down to table with him and eat something.
When they had eaten something together the king said, "I have three daughters, you
must keep watch over the eldest for one night, from nine in the evening till six in the
morning, and every time the clock strikes, I will come myself and call, and if you then
give me no answer, to-morrow morning you shall be put to death, but if you always give me
an answer, you shall have her to wife."
When the young folks went to the bedroom there stood a stone image
of St. Christopher, and the king's daughter said to it, "My father will come at nine
o'clock, and every hour till it strikes three, when he calls, give him an answer instead
of the king's son." Then the stone image of St. Christopher nodded its head quite
quickly, and then more and more slowly till at last it again stood still. The next morning
the king said to him, "You have done the business well, but I cannot give my daughter
away. You must now watch a night by my second daughter, and then I will consider with
myself, whether you can have my eldest daughter to wife, but I shall come every hour
myself, and when I call you, answer me, and if I call you and you do not reply, your blood
Then they both went into the sleeping-room, and there stood a still
larger stone image of St. Christopher, and the king's daughter said to it, "If my
father calls, answer him." Then the great stone image of St. Christopher again nodded
its head quite quickly and then more and more slowly, until at last it stood still again.
And the king's son lay down on the threshold, put his hand under his head and slept. The
next morning the king said to him, "You have done the business really well, but I
cannot give my daughter away, you must now watch a night by the youngest princess, and
then I will consider with myself whether you can have my second daughter to wife. But I
shall come every hour myself, and when I call you answer me, and if I call you and you
answer not, your blood shall flow for me."
Then they once more went to the sleeping-room together, and there
was a much greater and much taller image of St. Christopher than the two first had been.
The king's daughter said to it, "When my father calls, answer." Then the great
tall stone image of St. Christopher nodded quite half an hour with its head, until at
length the head stood still again. And the king's son laid himself down on the threshold
of the door and slept. The next morning the king said, "You have indeed watched well,
but I cannot give you my daughter now, I have a great forest, if you cut it down for me
between six o'clock this morning and six at night, I will think about it."
Then he gave him a glass axe, a glass wedge, and a glass mallet.
When he got into the wood, he began at once to cut, but the axe broke in two. Then he took
the wedge, and struck it once with the mallet, and it became as short and as small as
sand. Then he was much troubled and believed he would have to die, and sat down and wept.
Now when it was noon the king said, "One of you girls must take
him something to eat." "No," said the two eldest, "we will not take it
to him, the one by whom he last watched, can take him something." Then the youngest
was forced to go and take him something to eat. When she got into the forest, she asked
him how he was getting on. "Oh," said he, "I am getting on very
badly." Then she said he was to come and just eat a little. "Nay," said he,
"I cannot do that, I have to die anyway, so I will eat no more." Then she spoke
so kindly to him and begged him just to try, that he came and ate something. When he had
eaten something she said, "I will pick your lice a while, and then you will feel
So she loused him, and he became weary and fell asleep, and then she
took her handkerchief and made a knot in it, and struck it three times on the earth, and
said, "Earth-workers, come forth." In a moment, numbers of little earth-men came
forth, and asked what the king's daughter commanded. Then said she, "In three hours,
time the great forest must be cut down, and all the wood laid in heaps." So the
little earth-men went about and got together the whole of their kindred to help them with
the work. They began at once, and when the three hours were over, all was done, and they
came back to the king's daughter and told her so. Then she took her white handkerchief
again and said, "Earth-workers, go home." At this they all disappeared.
When the king's son awoke, he was delighted, and she said,
"Come home when it has struck six o'clock." He did as she told him, and then the
king asked, "Have you made away with the forest?" "Yes," said the
king's son. When they were sitting at table, the king said, "I cannot yet give you my
daughter to wife, you must still do something more for her sake." So he asked what it
was to be. "I have a great fish-pond," said the king. "You must go to it
to-morrow morning and clear it of all mud until it is as bright as a mirror, and fill it
with every kind of fish."
The next morning the king gave him a glass shovel and said,
"The fish-pond must be done by six o'clock." So he went away, and when he came
to the fish-pond he stuck his shovel in the mud and it broke in two. Then he stuck his hoe
in the mud, and it broke also. Then he was much troubled. At noon the youngest daughter
brought him something to eat, and asked him how he was getting on. So the king's son said
everything was going very ill with him, and he would certainly have to lose his head.
"My tools have broken to pieces again." "Oh," said she, "you must
just come and eat something, and then you will be in another frame of mind."
"No," said he, "I cannot eat, I am far too unhappy for that." Then she
gave him many good words until at last he came and ate something.
Then she loused him again, and he fell asleep, so once more she took
her handkerchief, tied a knot in it, and struck the ground thrice with the knot, and said,
"Earth-workers, come forth." In a moment a great many little earth-men came and
asked what she desired, and she told them that in three hours, time, they must have the
fish-pond entirely cleaned out, and it must be so clear that people could see themselves
reflected in it, and every kind of fish must be in it. The little earth-men went away and
summoned all their kindred to help them, and in two hours it was done. Then they returned
to her and said, "We have done as you have commanded." The king's daughter took
the handkerchief and once more struck thrice on the ground with it, and said,
"earth-workers, go home again." Then they all went away.
When the king's son awoke the fish-pond was done. Then the king's
daughter went away also, and told him that when it was six he was to come to the house.
When he arrived at the house the king asked, "Have you got the fish-pond done?"
"Yes," said the king's son. That was very good.
When they were again sitting at table the king said, "You have
certainly done the fish-pond, but I cannot give you my daughter yet, you must just do one
thing more." "What is that, then?" asked the king's son. The king said he
had a great mountain on which there was nothing but briars which must all be cut down, and
at the top of it the youth must build a great castle, which must be as strong as could be
conceived, and all the furniture and fittings belonging to a castle must be inside it.
And when he arose next morning the king gave him a glass axe and a
glass gimlet, and he was to have all done by six o'clock. As he was cutting down the first
briar with the axe, it broke off short, and so small that the pieces flew all round about,
and he could not use the gimlet either. Then he was quite miserable, and waited for his
dearest to see if she would not come and help him in his need. When it was mid-day she
came and brought him something to eat. He went to meet her and told her all, and ate
something, and let her louse him and fell asleep.
Then she once more took the knot and struck the earth with it, and
said, "Earth-workers, come forth." Then came once again numbers of earth-men,
and asked what her desire was. Then said she, "In the space of three hours you must
cut down the whole of the briars, and a castle must be built on the top of the mountain
that must be as strong as any one could conceive, and all the furniture that pertains to a
castle must be inside it." They went away, and summoned their kindred to help them
and when the time was come, all was ready. Then they came to the king's daughter and told
her so, and the king's daughter took her handkerchief and struck thrice on the earth with
it, and said, "Earth-workers, go home, on which they all disappeared." When
therefore the king's son awoke and saw everything done, he was as happy as a bird in air.
When it had struck six, they went home together. Then said the king,
"Is the castle ready?" "Yes," said the king's son. When they sat down
to table, the king said, "I cannot give away my youngest daughter until the two
eldest are married." Then the king's son and the king's daughter were quite troubled,
and the king's son had no idea what to do. But he went by night to the king's daughter and
ran away with her. When they had got a little distance away, the king's daughter peeped
round and saw her father behind her. "Oh," said she, "what are we to do? My
father is behind us, and will take us back with him. I will at once change you into a
briar, and myself into a rose, and I will shelter myself in the midst of the bush."
When the father reached the place, there stood a briar with one rose
on it, and he was about to gather the rose, when the thorn pricked his finger so that he
was forced to go home again. His wife asked why he had not brought their daughter back
with him. So he said he had nearly got up to her, but that all at once he had lost sight
of her, and a briar with one rose was growing on the spot. Then said the queen, "If
you had but gathered the rose, the briar would have been forced to come too." So he
went back again to fetch the rose, but in the meantime the two were already far over the
plain, and the king ran after them. Then the daughter once more looked round and saw her
father coming, and said, "Oh, what shall we do now? I will instantly change you into
a church and myself into a priest, and I will stand up in the pulpit, and preach."
When the king got to the place, there stood a church, and in the pulpit was a priest
preaching. So he listened to the sermon, and then went home again.
Then the queen asked why he had not brought their daughter with him,
and he said, "Nay, I ran a long time after her, and just as I thought I should soon
overtake her, a church was standing there and a priest was in the pulpit preaching."
"You should just have brought the priest," said his wife, "and then the
church would soon have come. It is no use to send you, I must go there myself." When
she had walked for some time, and could see the two in the distance, the king's daughter
peeped round and saw her mother coming, and said, "Now we are undone, for my mother
is coming herself, I will immediately change you into a fish-pond and myself into a
When the mother came to the place, there was a large fish-pond, and
in the midst of it a fish was leaping about and peeping out of the water, and it was quite
merry. She wanted to catch the fish, but she could not. Then she was very angry, and drank
up the whole pond in order to catch the fish, but it made her so ill that she was forced
to vomit, and vomited the whole pond out again. Then she cried, "I see very well that
nothing can be done now, and asked them to come back to her." Then the king's
daughter went back again, and the queen gave her daughter three walnuts, and said,
"With these you can help yourself when you are in your greatest need."
So the young folks once more went away together. And when they had
walked quite ten miles, they arrived at the castle from whence the king's son came, and
near it was a village. When they reached it, the king's son said, "Stay here, my
dearest, I will just go to the castle, and then will I come with a carriage and with
attendants to fetch you."
When he got to the castle they all rejoiced greatly at having the
king's son back again, and he told them he had a bride who was now in the village, and
they must go with the carriage to fetch her. Then they harnessed the horses at once, and
many attendants seated themselves outside the carriage. When the king's son was about to
get in, his mother gave him a kiss, and he forgot everything which had happened, and also
what he was about to do. At this his mother ordered the horses to be taken out of the
carriage again, and everyone went back into the house. But the maiden sat in the village
and watched and watched, and thought he would come and fetch her, but no one came. Then
the king's daughter took service in the mill which belonged to the castle, and was obliged
to sit by the pond every afternoon and clean the tubs.
And the queen came one day on foot from the castle, and went walking
by the pond, and saw the well-grown maiden sitting there, and said, "What a fine
strong girl that is. She pleases me well." Then she and all with her looked at the
maid, but no one knew her. So a long time passed by during which the maiden served the
miller honorably and faithfully. In the meantime, the queen had sought a wife for her son,
who came from quite a distant part of the world. When the bride came, they were at once to
be married. And many people hurried together, all of whom wanted to see everything. Then
the girl said to the miller that he might be so good as to give her leave to go also. So
the miller said, "Yes, do go there." When she was about to go, she opened one of
the three walnuts, and a beautiful dress lay inside it. She put it on, and went into the
church and stood by the altar. Suddenly came the bride and bridegroom, and seated
themselves before the altar, and when the priest was just going to bless them, the bride
peeped half round and saw the maiden standing there. Then she stood up again, and said she
would not be given away until she also had as beautiful a dress as that lady there.
So they went back to the house again, and sent to ask the lady if
she would sell that dress. No, she would not sell it, but the bride might perhaps earn it.
Then the bride asked her how she was to do this. Then the maiden said if she might sleep
one night outside the king's son's door, the bride might have what she wanted. So the
bride said, "Yes," she was willing to do that. But the servants were ordered to
give the king's son a sleeping draught, and then the maiden laid herself down on the
threshold and lamented all night long. She had had the forest cut down for him, she had
had the fish-pond cleaned out for him, she had had the castle built for him, she had
changed him into a briar, and then into a church, and at last into a fish-pond, and yet he
had forgotten her so quickly.
The king's son did not hear one word of it, but the servants had
been awakened, and had listened to it, and had not known what it could mean. The next
morning when they were all up, the bride put on the dress, and went away to the church
with the bridegroom. In the meantime the maiden opened the second walnut, and a still more
beautiful dress was inside it. She put it on, and went and stood by the altar in the
church, and everything happened as it had happened the time before. And the maiden again
lay all night on the threshold which led to the chamber of the king's son, and the servant
was once more to give him a sleeping draught. The servant, however, went to him and gave
him something to keep him awake, and then the king's son went to bed, and the miller's
maiden bemoaned herself as before on the threshold of the door, and told of all that she
had done. All this the king's son heard, and was sore troubled, and what was past came
back to him. Then he wanted to go to her, but his mother had locked the door.
The next morning, however, he went at once to his beloved, and told
her everything which had happened to him, and prayed her not to be angry with him for
having forgotten her. Then the king's daughter opened the third walnut, and within it was
a still more magnificent dress, which she put on, and went with her bridegroom to church,
and numbers of children came who gave them flowers, and offered them gay ribbons to bind
about their feet, and they were blessed by the priest, and had a merry wedding. But the
false mother and the bride had to depart. And the mouth of the person who last told all
this is still warm.