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Jack My Hedgehog

from The Green Fairy Book





There was once a farmer who lived in great comfort. He had both
lands and money, but, though he was so well off, one thing was
wanting to complete his happiness; he had no children. Many and
many a time, when he met other farmers at the nearest market town,
they would teaze him, asking how it came about that he was
childless. At length he grew so angry that he exclaimed: 'I must
and will have a child of some sort or kind, even should it only be
a hedgehog!'

Not long after this his wife gave birth to a child, but though the
lower half of the little creature was a fine boy, from the waist
upwards it was a hedgehog, so that when his mother first saw him
she was quite frightened, and said to her husband, 'There now, you
have cursed the child yourself.' The farmer said, 'What's the use
of making a fuss? I suppose the creature must be christened, but I
don't see how we are to ask anyone to be sponsor to him, and what
are we to call him?'

'There is nothing we can possibly call him but Jack my Hedgehog,'
replied the wife.

So they took him to be christened, and the parson said: 'You'll
never be able to put that child in a decent bed on account of his
prickles.' Which was true, but they shook down some straw for him
behind the stove, and there he lay for eight years. His father
grew very tired of him and often wished him dead, but he did not
die, but lay on there year after year.

Now one day there was a big fair at the market town to which the
farmer meant to go, so he asked his wife what he should bring her
from it. 'Some meat and a couple of big loaves for the house,'
said she. Then he asked the maid what she wanted, and she said a
pair of slippers and some stockings. Lastly he said, 'Well, Jack
my Hedgehog, and what shall I bring you?'

'Daddy,' said he, 'do bring me a bagpipe.' When the farmer came
home he gave his wife and the maid the things they had asked for,
and then he went behind the stove and gave Jack my Hedgehog the
bagpipes.

When Jack had got his bagpipes he said, 'Daddy, do go to the
smithy and have the house cock shod for me; then I'll ride off and
trouble you no more.' His father, who was delighted at the
prospect of getting rid of him, had the cock shod, and when it was
ready Jack my Hedgehog mounted on its back and rode off to the
forest, followed by all the pigs and asses which he had promised
to look after.

Having reached the forest he made the cock fly up to the top of a
very tall tree with him, and there he sat looking after his pigs
and donkeys, and he sat on and on for several years till he had
quite a big herd; but all this time his father knew nothing about
him.

As he sat up in his tree he played away on his pipes and drew the
loveliest music from them. As he was playing one day a King, who
had lost his way, happened to pass close by, and hearing the music
he was much surprised, and sent one of his servants to find out
where it came from. The man peered about, but he could see nothing
but a little creature which looked like a cock with a hedgehog
sitting on it, perched up in a tree. The King desired the servant
to ask the strange creature why it sat there, and if it knew the
shortest way to his kingdom.

On this Jack my Hedgehog stepped down from his tree and said he
would undertake to show the King his way home if the King on his
part would give him his written promise to let him have whatever
first met him on his return.

The King thought to himself, 'That's easy enough to promise. The
creature won't understand a word about it, so I can just write
what I choose.'

So he took pen and ink and wrote something, and when he had done
Jack my Hedgehog pointed out the way and the King got safely home.

Now when the King's daughter saw her father returning in the
distance she was so delighted that she ran to meet him and threw
herself into his arms. Then the King remembered Jack my Hedgehog,
and he told his daughter how he had been obliged to give a written
promise to bestow whatever he first met when he got home on an
extraordinary creature which had shown him the way. The creature,
said he, rode on a cock as though it had been a horse, and it made
lovely music, but as it certainly could not read he had just

written that he would not give it anything at all. At this
the Princess was quite pleased, and said how cleverly her father
had managed, for that of course nothing would induce her to have
gone off with Jack my Hedgehog.

Meantime Jack minded his asses and pigs, sat aloft in his tree,
played his bagpipes, and was always merry and cheery. After a time
it so happened that another King, having lost his way, passed by
with his servants and escort, wondering how he could find his way
home, for the forest was very vast. He too heard the music, and
told one of his men to find out whence it came. The man came under
the tree, and looking up to the top there he saw Jack my Hedgehog
astride on the cock.

The servant asked Jack what he was doing up there. 'I'm minding my
pigs and donkeys; but what do you want?' was the reply. Then the
servant told him they had lost their way, and wanted some one to
show it them. Down came Jack my Hedgehog with his cock, and told
the old King he would show him the right way if he would solemnly
promise to give him the first thing he met in front of his royal
castle.

The King said 'Yes,' and gave Jack a written promise to that
effect.

Then Jack rode on in front pointing out the way, and the King
reached his own country in safety.

Now he had an only daughter who was extremely beautiful, and who,
delighted at her father's return, ran to meet him, threw her arms
round his neck and kissed him heartily. Then she asked where he
had been wandering so long, and he told her how he had lost his
way and might never have reached home at all but for a strange
creature, half-man, half-hedgehog, which rode a cock and sat up in
a tree making lovely music, and which had shown him the right way.
He also told her how he had been obliged to pledge his word to
give the creature the first thing which met him outside his castle
gate, and he felt very sad at the thought that she had been the
first thing to meet him.

But the Princess comforted him, and said she should be quite
willing to go with Jack my Hedgehog whenever he came to fetch her,
because of the great love she bore to her dear old father.

Jack my Hedgehog continued to herd his pigs, and they increased in
number till there were so many that the forest seemed full of
them. So he made up his mind to live there no longer, and sent a
message to his father telling him to have all the stables and
outhouses in the village cleared, as he was going to bring such an
enormous herd that all who would might kill what they chose. His
father was much vexed at this news, for he thought Jack had died
long ago. Jack my Hedgehog mounted his cock, and driving his pigs
before him into the village, he let every one kill as many as they
chose, and such a hacking and hewing of pork went on as you might
have heard for miles off.

Then said Jack, 'Daddy, let the blacksmith shoe my cock once more;
then I'll ride off, and I promise you I'll never come back again
as long as I live.' So the father had the cock shod, and rejoiced
at the idea of getting rid of his son.

Then Jack my Hedgehog set off for the first kingdom, and there the
King had given strict orders that if anyone should be seen riding
a cock and carrying a bagpipe he was to be chased away and shot
at, and on no account to be allowed to enter the palace. So when
Jack my Hedgehog rode up the guards charged him with their
bayonets, but he put spurs to his cock, flew up over the gate
right to the King's windows, let himself down on the sill, and
called out that if he was not given what had been promised him,
both the King and his daughter should pay for it with their lives.
Then the King coaxed and entreated his daughter to go with Jack
and so save both their lives.

The Princess dressed herself all in white, and her father gave her
a coach with six horses and servants in gorgeous liveries and
quantities of money. She stepped into the coach, and Jack my
Hedgehog with his cock and pipes took his place beside her. They
both took leave, and the King fully expected never to set eyes on
them again. But matters turned out very differently from what he
had expected, for when they had got a certain distance from the
town Jack tore all the Princess's smart clothes off her, and
pricked her all over with his bristles, saying: 'That's what you
get for treachery. Now go back, I'll have no more to say to you.'
And with that he hunted her home, and she felt she had been
disgraced and put to shame till her life's end.

Then Jack my Hedgehog rode on with his cock and bagpipes to the
country of the second King to whom he had shown the way. Now this
King had given orders that, in the event of Jack's coming the
guards were to present arms, the people to cheer, and he was to be
conducted in triumph to the royal palace.

When the King's daughter saw Jack my Hedgehog, she was a good deal
startled, for he certainly was very peculiar looking; but after
all she considered that she had given her word and it couldn't be
helped. So she made Jack welcome and they were betrothed to each
other, and at dinner he sat next her at the royal table, and they
ate and drank together.

When they retired to rest the Princess feared lest Jack should
kiss her because of his prickles, but he told her not to be
alarmed as no harm should befall her. Then he begged the old King
to place a watch of four men just outside his bedroom door, and to
desire them to make a big fire. When he was about to lie down in
bed he would creep out of his hedgehog skin, and leave it lying at
the bedside; then the men must rush in, throw the skin into the
fire, and stand by till it was entirely burnt up.

And so it was, for when it struck eleven, Jack my Hedgehog went to
his room, took off his skin and left it at the foot of the bed.
The men rushed in, quickly seized the skin and threw it on the
fire, and directly it was all burnt Jack was released from his
enchantment and lay in his bed a man from head to foot, but quite
black as though he had been severely scorched.

The King sent off for his physician in ordinary, who washed Jack
all over with various essences and salves, so that he became white
and was a remarkably handsome young man. When the King's daughter
saw him she was greatly pleased, and next day the marriage
ceremony was performed, and the old King bestowed his kingdom on
Jack my Hedgehog.

After some years Jack and his wife went to visit his father, but
the farmer did not recognize him, and declared he had no son; he
had had one, but that one was born with bristles like a hedgehog,
and had gone off into the wide world. Then Jack told his story,
and his old father rejoiced and returned to live with him in his
kingdom.





Next: The Golden Lads

Previous: The Riddle



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