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The Three Princes And Their Beasts

from The Violet Fairy Book





(LITHUANIAN FAIRY TALE)

Once on a time there were three princes, who had a step-sister.
One day they all set out hunting together. When they had gone
some way through a thick wood they came on a great grey wolf with
three cubs. Just as they were going to shoot, the wolf spoke and
said, 'Do not shoot me, and I will give each of you one of my
young ones. It will be a faithful friend to you.'

So the princes went on their way, and a little wolf followed each
of them.

Soon after they came on a lioness with three cubs. And she too
begged them not to shoot her, and she would give each of them a
cub. And so it happened with a fox, a hare, a boar, and a bear,
till each prince had quite a following of young beasts padding
along behind him.

Towards evening they came to a clearing in the wood, where three
birches grew at the crossing of three roads. The eldest prince
took an arrow, and shot it into the trunk of one of the birch
trees. Turning to his brothers he said:

'Let each of us mark one of these trees before we part on
different ways. When any one of us comes back to this place, he
must walk round the trees of the other two, and if he sees blood
flowing from the mark in the tree he will know that that brother
is dead, but if milk flows he will know that his brother is
alive.'

So each of the princes did as the eldest brother had said, and
when the three birches were marked by their arrows they turned to
their step-sister and asked her with which of them she meant to
live.

'With the eldest,' she answered. Then the brothers separated
from each other, and each of them set out down a different road,
followed by their beasts. And the step-sister went with the
eldest prince.

After they had gone a little way along the road they came into a
forest, and in one of the deepest glades they suddenly found
themselves opposite a castle in which there lived a band of
robbers. The prince walked up to the door and knocked. The
moment it was opened the beasts rushed in, and each seized on a
robber, killed him, and dragged the body down to the cellar.
Now, one of the robbers was not really killed, only badly
wounded, but he lay quite still and pretended to be dead like the
others. Then the prince and his step-sister entered the castle
and took up their abode in it.

The next morning the prince went out hunting. Before leaving he
told his step-sister that she might go into every room in the
house except into the cave where the dead robbers lay. But as
soon as his back was turned she forgot what he had said, and
having wandered through all the other rooms she went down to the
cellar and opened the door. As soon as she looked in the robber
who had only pretended to be dead sat up and said to her:

'Don't be afraid. Do what I tell you, and I will be your friend.

If you marry me you will be much happier with me than with your
brother. But you must first go into the sitting-room and look in
the cupboard. There you will find three bottles. In one of them
there is a healing ointment which you must put on my chin to heal
the wound; then if I drink the contents of the second bottle it
will make me well, and the third bottle will make me stronger
than I ever was before. Then, when your brother comes back from
the wood with his beasts you must go to him and say, "Brother,
you are very strong. If I were to fasten your thumbs behind your
back with a stout silk cord, could you wrench yourself free?"
And when you see that he cannot do it, call me.'

When the brother came home, the step-sister did as the robber had
told her, and fastened her brother's thumbs behind his back. But
with one wrench he set himself free, and said to her, 'Sister,
that cord is not strong enough for me.'

The next day he went back to the wood with his beasts, and the
robber told her that she must take a much stouter cord to bind
his thumbs with. But again he freed himself, though not so
easily as the first time, and he said to his sister:

'Even that cord is not strong enough.'

The third day, on his return from the wood he consented to have
his strength tested for the last time. So she took a very strong
cord of silk, which she had prepared by the robber's advice, and
this time, though the prince pulled and tugged with all his
might, he could not break the cord. So he called to her and
said: 'Sister, this time the cord is so strong I cannot break
it. Come and unfasten it for me.'

But instead of coming she called to the robber, who rushed into
the room brandishing a knife, with which he prepared to attack
the prince.

But the prince spoke and said:

'Have patience for one minute. I would like before I die to blow
three blasts on my hunting horn--one in this room, one on the
stairs, and one in the courtyard.'

So the robber consented, and the prince blew the horn. At the
first blast, the fox, which was asleep in the cage in the
courtyard, awoke, and knew that his master needed help. So he
awoke the wolf by flicking him across the eyes with his brush.
Then they awoke the lion, who sprang against the door of the cage
with might and main, so that it fell in splinters on the ground,
and the beasts were free. Rushing through the court to their
master's aid, the fox gnawed the cord in two that bound the
prince's thumbs behind his back, and the lion flung himself on
the robber, and when he had killed him and torn him in pieces
each of the beasts carried off a bone.

Then the prince turned to the step-sister and said:

'I will not kill you, but I will leave you here to repent.' And
he fastened her with a chain to the wall, and put a great bowl in
front of her and said, 'I will not see you again till you have
filled this bowl with your tears.'

So saying, he called his beasts, and set out on his travels.
When he had gone a little way he came to an inn. Everyone in the
inn seemed so sad that he asked them what was the matter.

'Ah,' replied they, 'to-day our king's daughter is to die. She
is to be handed over to a dreadful nine-headed dragon.'

Then the prince said: 'Why should she die? I am very strong, I
will save her.'

And he set out to the sea-shore, where the dragon was to meet the
princess. And as he waited with his beasts round him a great
procession came along, accompanying the unfortunate princess:
and when the shore was reached all the people left her, and
returned sadly to their houses. But the prince remained, and
soon he saw a movement in the water a long way off. As it came
nearer, he knew what it was, for skimming swiftly along the
waters came a monster dragon with nine heads. Then the prince
took counsel with his beasts, and as the dragon approached the
shore the fox drew his brush through the water and blinded the
dragon by scattering the salt water in his eyes, while the bear
and the lion threw up more water with their paws, so that the
monster was bewildered and could see nothing. Then the prince
rushed forward with his sword and killed the dragon, and the
beasts tore the body in pieces.

Then the princess turned to the prince and thanked him for
delivering her from the dragon, and she said to him:

'Step into this carriage with me, and we will drive back to my
father's palace.' And she gave him a ring and half of her
handkerchief. But on the way back the coachman and footman spoke
to one another and said:

'Why should we drive this stranger back to the palace? Let us
kill him, and then we can say to the king that we slew the dragon
and saved the princess, and one of us shall marry her.'

So they killed the prince, and left him dead on the roadside.
And the faithful beasts came round the dead body and wept, and
wondered what they should do. Then suddenly the wolf had an
idea, and he started off into the wood, where he found an ox,
which he straightway killed. Then he called the fox, and told
him to mount guard over the dead ox, and if a bird came past and
tried to peck at the flesh he was to catch it and bring it to the
lion. Soon after a crow flew past, and began to peck at the dead
ox. In a moment the fox had caught it and brought it to the
lion. Then the lion said to the crow:

'We will not kill you if you will promise to fly to the town
where there are three wells of healing and to bring back water
from them in your beak to make this dead man alive.'

So the crow flew away, and she filled her beak at the well of
healing, the well of strength, and the well of swiftness, and she
flew back to the dead prince and dropped the water from her beak
upon his lips, and he was healed, and could sit up and walk.

Then he set out for the town, accompanied by his faithful beasts.

And when they reached the king's palace they found that
preparations for a great feast were being made, for the princess
was to marry the coachman.

So the prince walked into the palace, and went straight up to the
coachman and said: 'What token have you got that you killed the
dragon and won the hand of the princess? I have her token
here--this ring and half her handkerchief.'

And when the king saw these tokens he knew that the prince was
speaking the truth. So the coachman was bound in chains and
thrown into prison, and the prince was married to the princess
and rewarded with half the kingdom.

One day, soon after his marriage, the prince was walking through
the woods in the evening, followed by his faithful beasts.
Darkness came on, and he lost his way, and wandered about among
the trees looking for the path that would lead him back to the
palace. As he walked he saw the light of a fire, and making his
way to it he found an old woman raking sticks and dried leaves
together, and burning them in a glade of the wood.

As he was very tired, and the night was very dark, the prince
determined not to wander further. So he asked the old woman if
he might spend the night beside her fire.

'Of course you may,' she answered. 'But I am afraid of your
beasts. Let me hit them with my rod, and then I shall not be
afraid of them.'

'Very well,' said the prince, 'I don't mind'; and she stretched
out her rod and hit the beasts, and in one moment they were
turned into stone, and so was the prince.

Now soon after this the prince's youngest brother came to the
cross-roads with the three birches, where the brothers had parted
from each other when they set out on their wanderings.
Remembering what they had agreed to do, he walked round the two
trees, and when he saw that blood oozed from the cut in the
eldest prince's tree he knew that his brother must be dead. So
he set out, followed by his beasts, and came to the town over
which his brother had ruled, and where the princess he had
married lived. And when he came into the town all the people
were in great sorrow because their prince had disappeared.

But when they saw his youngest brother, and the beasts following
him, they thought it was their own prince, and they rejoiced
greatly, and told him how they had sought him everywhere. Then
they led him to the king, and he too thought that it was his
son-in-law. But the princess knew that he was not her husband,
and she begged him to go out into the woods with his beasts, and
to look for his brother till he found him.

So the youngest prince set out to look for his brother, and he
too lost his way in the wood and night overtook him. Then he
came to the clearing among the trees, where the fire was burning
and where the old woman was raking sticks and leaves into the
flames. And he asked her if he might spend the night beside her
fire, as it was too late and too dark to go back to the town.

And she answered: 'Certainly you may. But I am afraid of your
beasts. May I give them a stroke with my rod, then I shall not
be afraid of them.'

And he said she might, for he did not know that she was a witch.
So she stretched out her rod, and in a moment the beasts and
their master were turned into stone.

It happened soon after that the second brother returned from his
wanderings and came to the cross-roads where the three birches
grew. As he went round the trees he saw that blood poured from
the cuts in the bark of two of the trees. Then he wept and said:

'Alas! both my brothers are dead.' And he too set out towards
the town in which his brother had ruled, and his faithful beasts
followed him. When he entered the town, all the people thought
it was their own prince come back to them, and they gathered
round him, as they had gathered round his youngest brother, and
asked him where he had been and why he had not returned. And
they led him to the king's palace, but the princess knew that he
was not her husband. So when they were alone together she
besought him to go and seek for his brother and bring him home.
Calling his beasts round him, he set out and wandered through the
woods. And he put his ear down to the earth, to listen if he
could hear the sound of his brother's beasts. And it seemed to
him as if he heard a faint sound far off, but he did not know
from what direction it came. So he blew on his hunting horn and
listened again. And again he heard the sound, and this time it
seemed to come from the direction of a fire burning in the wood.
So he went towards the fire, and there the old woman was raking
sticks and leaves into the embers. And he asked her if he might
spend the night beside her fire. But she told him she was afraid
of his beasts, and he must first allow her to give each of them a
stroke with her rod.

But he answered her:

'Certainly not. I am their master, and no one shall strike them
but I myself. Give me the rod'; and he touched the fox with it,
and in a moment it was turned into stone. Then he knew that the
old woman was a witch, and he turned to her and said:

'Unless you restore my brothers and their beasts back to life at
once, my lion will tear you in pieces.'

Then the witch was terrified, and taking a young oak tree she
burnt it into white ashes, and sprinkled the ashes on the stones
that stood around. And in a moment the two princes stood before
their brother, and their beasts stood round them.

Then the three princes set off together to the town. And the
king did not know which was his son-in-law, but the princess knew
which was her husband, and there were great rejoicings throughout
the land.





Next: The Goat's Ears Of The Emperor Trojan

Previous: Schippeitaro



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