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The Death Of The Sun-hero

from The Yellow Fairy Book





From the Bukowinaer Tales and Legends. Von Wliolocki.

Many, many thousand years ago there lived a mighty King whom
heaven had blessed with a clever and beautiful son. When he was
only ten years old the boy was cleverer than all the King's
counsellors put together, and when he was twenty he was the
greatest hero in the whole kingdom. His father could not make
enough of his son, and always had him clothed in golden garments
which shone and sparkled like the sun; and his mother gave him a
white horse, which never slept, and which flew like the wind.
All the people in the land loved him dearly, and called him the
Sun-Hero, for they did not think his like existed under the sun.
Now it happened one night that both his parents had the same
extraordinary dream. They dreamt that a girl all dressed in red
had come to them and said: 'If you wish that your son should
really become the Sun-Hero in deed and not only in name, let him
go out into the world and search for the Tree of the Sun, and
when he has found it, let him pluck a golden apple from it and
bring it home.'

When the King and Queen had each related their dreams to the
other, they were much amazed that they should both have dreamt
exactly the same about their son, and the King said to his wife,
'This is clearly a sign from heaven that we should send our son
out into the world in order that he may come home the great
Sun-Hero, as the Red Girl said, not only in name but in deed.'

The Queen consented with many tears, and the King at once bade
his son set forth in search of the Tree of the Sun, from which he
was to pluck a golden apple. The Prince was delighted at the
prospect, and set out on his travels that very day.

For a long time he wandered all through the world, and it was not
till the ninety-ninth day after he started that he found an old
man who was able to tell him where the Tree of the Sun grew. He
followed his directions, and rode on his way, and after another
ninety-nine days he arrived at a golden castle, which stood in
the middle of a vast wilderness. He knocked at the door, which
was opened noiselessly and by invisible hands. Finding no one
about, the Prince rode on, and came to a great meadow, where the
Sun-Tree grew. When he reached the tree he put out his hand to
pick a golden apple; but all of a sudden the tree grew higher, so
that he could not reach its fruit. Then he heard some one behind
him laughing. Turning round, he saw the girl in red walking
towards him, who addressed him in these words:

'Do you really imagine, brave son of the earth, that you can
pluck an apple so easily from the Tree of the Sun? Before you
can do that, you have a difficult task before you. You must
guard the tree for nine days and nine nights from the ravages of
two wild black wolves, who will try to harm it. Do you think you
can undertake this?'

'Yes,' answered the Sun-Hero, 'I will guard the Tree of the Sun
nine days and nine nights.'

Then the girl continued: 'Remember, though, if you do not succeed
the Sun will kill you. Now begin your watch.'

With these words the Red Girl went back into the golden castle.
She had hardly left him when the two black wolves appeared: but
the Sun-Hero beat them off with his sword, and they retired,
only, however, to reappear in a very short time. The Sun-Hero
chased them away once more, but he had hardly sat down to rest
when the two black wolves were on the scene again. This went on
for seven days and nights, when the white horse, who had never
done such a thing before, turned to the Sun-Hero and said in a
human voice: 'Listen to what I am going to say. A Fairy gave me
to your mother in order that I might be of service to you; so let
me tell you, that if you go to sleep and let the wolves harm the
tree, the Sun will surely kill you. The Fairy, foreseeing this,
put everyone in the world under a spell, which prevents their
obeying the Sun's command to take your life. But all the same,
she has forgotten one person, who will certainly kill you if you
fall asleep and let the wolves damage the tree. So watch and
keep the wolves away.'

Then the Sun-Hero strove with all his might and kept the black
wolves at bay, and conquered his desire to sleep; but on the
eighth night his strength failed him, and he fell fast asleep.
When he awoke a woman in black stood beside him, who said: 'You
have fulfilled your task very badly, for you have let the two
black wolves damage the Tree of the Sun. I am the mother of the
Sun, and I command you to ride away from here at once, and I
pronounce sentence of death upon you, for you proudly let
yourself be called the Sun-Hero without having done anything to
deserve the name.'

The youth mounted his horse sadly, and rode home. The people all
thronged round him on his return, anxious to hear his adventures,
but he told them nothing, and only to his mother did he confide
what had befallen him. But the old Queen laughed, and said to
her son: 'Don't worry, my child; you see, the Fairy has protected
you so far, and the Sun has found no one to kill you. So cheer
up and be happy.'

After a time the Prince forgot all about his adventure, and
married a beautiful Princess, with whom he lived very happily for
some time. But one day when he was out hunting he felt very
thirsty, and coming to a stream he stooped down to drink from it,
and this caused his death, for a crab came swimming up, and with
its claws tore out his tongue. He was carried home in a dying
condition, and as he lay on his death-bed the black woman
appeared and said: 'So the Sun has, after all, found someone, who
was not under the Fairy's spell, who has caused your death. And
a similar fate will overtake everyone under the Sun who
wrongfully assumes a title to which he has no right.'





Next: The Witch

Previous: The Story Of King Frost



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