This is the debt I pay Just for one riotous day, Years of regret and grief. Sorrow without relief. Pay it I will to the end-- Until the grave, my friend, Gives me a true release-- Gives me the clasp of peace. Slight was the thing I ... Read more of The Debt at Martin Luther King.caInformational Site Network Informational
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Prince Lindworm

from East Of The Sun And West Of The Moon





Once upon a time, there was a fine young King who was married to the
loveliest of Queens. They were exceedingly happy, all but for one
thing--they had no children. And this often made them both sad,
because the Queen wanted a dear little child to play with, and the
King wanted an heir to the kingdom.

One day the Queen went out for a walk by herself, and she met an
ugly old woman. The old woman was just like a witch: but she was a
nice kind of witch, not the cantankerous sort. She said, "Why do you
look so doleful, pretty lady?" "It's no use my telling you," answered
the Queen, "nobody in the world can help me." "Oh, you never know,"
said the old woman. "Just you let me hear what your trouble is, and
maybe I can put things right."

"My dear woman, how can you?" said the Queen: and she told her, "The
King and I have no children: that's why I am so distressed." "Well,
you needn't be," said the old witch. "I can set that right in a
twinkling, if only you will do exactly as I tell you. Listen.
To-night, at sunset, take a little drinking-cup with two ears" (that
is, handles), "and put it bottom upwards on the ground in the
north-west corner of your garden. Then go and lift it up to-morrow
morning at sunrise, and you will find two roses underneath it, one red
and one white. If you eat the red rose, a little boy will be born to
you: if you eat the white rose, a little girl will be sent. But,
whatever you do, you mustn't eat both the roses, or you'll be
sorry,--that I warn you! Only one: remember that!" "Thank you a
thousand times," said the Queen, "this is good news indeed!" And she
wanted to give the old woman her gold ring; but the old woman wouldn't
take it.

So the Queen went home and did as she had been told: and next
morning at sunrise she stole out into the garden and lifted up the
little drinking-cup. She was surprised, for indeed she had hardly
expected to see anything. But there were the two roses underneath it,
one red and one white. And now she was dreadfully puzzled, for she did
not know which to choose. "If I choose the red one," she thought, "and
I have a little boy, he may grow up and go to the wars and get killed.
But if I choose the white one, and have a little girl, she will stay
at home awhile with us, but later on she will get married and go away
and leave us. So, whichever it is, we may be left with no child after
all."

However, at last she decided on the white rose, and she ate it. And it
tasted so sweet, that she took and ate the red one too: without ever
remembering the old woman's solemn warning.

Some time after this, the King went away to the wars: and while he
was still away, the Queen became the mother of twins. One was a
lovely baby-boy, and the other was a Lindworm, or Serpent. She was
terribly frightened when she saw the Lindworm, but he wriggled away
out of the room, and nobody seemed to have seen him but herself: so
that she thought it must have been a dream. The baby Prince was so
beautiful and so healthy, the Queen was full of joy: and likewise,
as you may suppose, was the King when he came home and found his son
and heir. Not a word was said by anyone about the Lindworm: only the
Queen thought about it now and then.

Many days and years passed by, and the baby grew up into a handsome
young Prince, and it was time that he got married. The King sent
him off to visit foreign kingdoms, in the Royal coach, with six white
horses, to look for a Princess grand enough to be his wife. But at the
very first cross-roads, the way was stopped by an enormous Lindworm,
enough to frighten the bravest. He lay in the middle of the road with
a great wide open mouth, and cried, "A bride for me before a bride for
you!" Then the Prince made the coach turn round and try another
road: but it was all no use. For, at the first cross-ways, there lay
the Lindworm again, crying out, "A bride for me before a bride for
you!" So the Prince had to turn back home again to the Castle, and
give up his visits to the foreign kingdoms. And his mother, the
Queen, had to confess that what the Lindworm said was true. For he
was really the eldest of her twins: and so he ought to have a wedding
first.

There seemed nothing for it but to find a bride for the Lindworm,
if his younger brother, the Prince, were to be married at all. So
the King wrote to a distant country, and asked for a Princess to
marry his son (but, of course, he didn't say which son), and presently
a Princess arrived. But she wasn't allowed to see her bridegroom until
he stood by her side in the great hall and was married to her, and
then, of course, it was too late for her to say she wouldn't have him.
But next morning the Princess had disappeared. The Lindworm lay
sleeping all alone: and it was quite plain that he had eaten her.

A little while after, the Prince decided that he might now go
journeying again in search of a Princess. And off he drove in the
Royal chariot with the six white horses. But at the first cross-ways,
there lay the Lindworm, crying with his great wide open mouth, "A
bride for me before a bride for you!" So the carriage tried another
road, and the same thing happened, and they had to turn back again
this time, just as formerly. And the King wrote to several foreign
countries, to know if anyone would marry his son. At last another
Princess arrived, this time from a very far distant land. And, of
course, she was not allowed to see her future husband before the
wedding took place,--and then, lo and behold! it was the Lindworm
who stood at her side. And next morning the Princess had disappeared:
and the Lindworm lay sleeping all alone; and it was quite clear that
he had eaten her.

By and by the Prince started on his quest for the third time: and at
the first cross-roads there lay the Lindworm with his great wide
open mouth, demanding a bride as before. And the Prince went
straight back to the castle, and told the King: "You must find
another bride for my elder brother."

"I don't know where I am to find her," said the King, "I have
already made enemies of two great Kings who sent their daughters here
as brides: and I have no notion how I can obtain a third lady. People
are beginning to say strange things, and I am sure no Princess will
dare to come."

Now, down in a little cottage near a wood, there lived the King's
shepherd, an old man with his only daughter. And the King came one
day and said to him, "Will you give me your daughter to marry my son
the Lindworm? And I will make you rich for the rest of your
life."--"No, sire," said the shepherd, "that I cannot do. She is my
only child, and I want her to take care of me when I am old. Besides,
if the Lindworm would not spare two beautiful Princesses, he won't
spare her either. He will just gobble her up: and she is much too good
for such a fate."

But the King wouldn't take "No" for an answer: and at last the old
man had to give in.

Well, when the old shepherd told his daughter that she was to be
Prince Lindworm's bride, she was utterly in despair. She went out
into the woods, crying and wringing her hands and bewailing her hard
fate. And while she wandered to and fro, an old witch-woman suddenly
appeared out of a big hollow oak-tree, and asked her, "Why do you look
so doleful, pretty lass?" The shepherd-girl said, "It's no use my
telling you, for nobody in the world can help me."--"Oh, you never
know," said the old woman. "Just you let me hear what your trouble is,
and maybe I can put things right."--"Ah, how can you?" said the girl,
"For I am to be married to the King's eldest son, who is a
Lindworm. He has already married two beautiful Princesses, and
devoured them: and he will eat me too! No wonder I am distressed."

"Well, you needn't be," said the witch-woman. "All that can be set
right in a twinkling: if only you will do exactly as I tell you." So
the girl said she would.

"Listen, then," said the old woman. "After the marriage ceremony is
over, and when it is time for you to retire to rest, you must ask to
be dressed in ten snow-white shifts. And you must then ask for a tub
full of lye," (that is, washing water prepared with wood-ashes) "and a
tub full of fresh milk, and as many whips as a boy can carry in his
arms,--and have all these brought into your bed-chamber. Then, when
the Lindworm tells you to shed a shift, do you bid him slough a
skin. And when all his skins are off, you must dip the whips in the
lye and whip him; next, you must wash him in the fresh milk; and,
lastly, you must take him and hold him in your arms, if it's only for
one moment."

"The last is the worst notion--ugh!" said the shepherd's daughter, and
she shuddered at the thought of holding the cold, slimy, scaly
Lindworm.

"Do just as I have said, and all will go well," said the old woman.
Then she disappeared again in the oak-tree.

When the wedding-day arrived, the girl was fetched in the Royal
chariot with the six white horses, and taken to the castle to be
decked as a bride. And she asked for ten snow-white shifts to be
brought her, and the tub of lye, and the tub of milk, and as many
whips as a boy could carry in his arms. The ladies and courtiers in
the castle thought, of course, that this was some bit of peasant
superstition, all rubbish and nonsense. But the King said, "Let her
have whatever she asks for." She was then arrayed in the most
wonderful robes, and looked the loveliest of brides. She was led to
the hall where the wedding ceremony was to take place, and she saw the
Lindworm for the first time as he came in and stood by her side. So
they were married, and a great wedding-feast was held, a banquet fit
for the son of a king.


stood by her side.]

When the feast was over, the bridegroom and bride were conducted to
their apartment, with music, and torches, and a great procession. As
soon as the door was shut, the Lindworm turned to her and said,
"Fair maiden, shed a shift!" The shepherd's daughter answered him,
"Prince Lindworm, slough a skin!"--"No one has ever dared tell me to
do that before!" said he.--"But I command you to do it now!" said she.
Then he began to moan and wriggle: and in a few minutes a long
snake-skin lay upon the floor beside him. The girl drew off her first
shift, and spread it on top of the skin.

The Lindworm said again to her, "Fair maiden, shed a shift."

The shepherd's daughter answered him, "Prince Lindworm, slough a
skin."

"No one has ever dared tell me to do that before," said he.--"But I
command you to do it now," said she. Then with groans and moans he
cast off the second skin: and she covered it with her second shift.
The Lindworm said for the third time, "Fair maiden, shed a shift."
The shepherd's daughter answered him again, "Prince Lindworm, slough
a skin."--"No one has ever dared tell me to do that before," said he,
and his little eyes rolled furiously. But the girl was not afraid, and
once more she commanded him to do as she bade.

And so this went on until nine Lindworm skins were lying on the
floor, each of them covered with a snow-white shift. And there was
nothing left of the Lindworm but a huge thick mass, most horrible to
see. Then the girl seized the whips, dipped them in the lye, and
whipped him as hard as ever she could. Next, she bathed him all over
in the fresh milk. Lastly, she dragged him on to the bed and put her
arms round him. And she fell fast asleep that very moment.

Next morning very early, the King and the courtiers came and peeped
in through the keyhole. They wanted to know what had become of the
girl, but none of them dared enter the room. However, in the end,
growing bolder, they opened the door a tiny bit. And there they saw
the girl, all fresh and rosy, and beside her lay--no Lindworm, but
the handsomest prince that any one could wish to see.

The King ran out and fetched the Queen: and after that, there were
such rejoicings in the castle as never were known before or since. The
wedding took place all over again, much finer than the first, with
festivals and banquets and merrymakings for days and weeks. No bride
was ever so beloved by a King and Queen as this peasant maid from the
shepherd's cottage. There was no end to their love and their kindness
towards her: because, by her sense and her calmness and her courage,
she had saved their son, Prince Lindworm.





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Previous: The Blue Belt



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