Faithful And Unfaithful

: The Swedish Fairy Book

Once upon a time there was a couple of humble cottagers who had no

children until, at last, the man's wife was blessed with a boy, which

made both of them very happy. They named him Faithful and when he was

christened a huldra came to the hut, seated herself beside the

child's cradle, and foretold that he would meet with good fortune.

"What is more," she said, "when he is fifteen years of age, I will

make him a present
of a horse with many rare qualities, a horse that

has the gift of speech!" And with that the huldra turned and went


The boy grew up and became strong and powerful. And when he had passed

his fifteenth year, a strange old man came up to their hut one day,

knocked, and said that the horse he was leading had been sent by his

queen, and that henceforward it was to belong to Faithful, as she had

promised. Then the ancient man departed; but the beautiful horse was

admired by all, and Faithful learned to love it more with every

passing day.

At length he grew weary of home. "I must away and try my fortune in

the world," said he, and his parents did not like to object; for there

was not much to wish for at home. So he led his dear horse from the

stable, swung himself into the saddle, and rode hurriedly into the

wood. He rode on and on, and had already covered a good bit of ground,

when he saw two lions engaged in a struggle with a tiger, and they

were well-nigh overcome. "Make haste to take your bow," said the

horse, "shoot the tiger and deliver the two lions!" "Yes, that's what

I will do," said the youth, fitted an arrow to the bow-string, and in

a moment the tiger lay prone on the ground. The two lions drew nearer,

nuzzled their preserver in a friendly and grateful manner, and then

hastened back to their cave.

Faithful now rode along for a long time among the great trees until he

suddenly spied two terrified white doves fleeing from a hawk who was

on the point of catching them. "Make haste to take your bow," said the

horse, "shoot the hawk and save the two doves!" "Yes, that's what I'll

do," said the youth. He fitted an arrow to the bow-string, and in a

moment the hawk lay prone on the ground. But the two doves flew

nearer, fluttered about their deliverer in a tame and grateful manner,

and then hurried back to their nest.

The youth pressed on through the wood and by now was far, far from

home. But his horse did not tire easily, and ran on with him until

they came to a great lake. There he saw a gull rise up from the water,

holding a pike in its claws. "Make haste to take your bow," said the

horse, "shoot the gull and save the pike!" "Yes, that's what I'll do,"

answered the youth, fitted an arrow to his bow-string, and in a moment

the gull was threshing the ground with its wings, mortally wounded.

But the pike who had been saved swam nearer, gave his deliverer a

friendly, grateful glance, and then dove down to join his fellows

beneath the waves.

Faithful rode on again, and before evening came to a great castle. He

at once had himself announced to the king, and begged that the latter

would take him into his service. "What kind of a place do you want?"

asked the king, who was inclined to look with favor on the bold


"I should like to be a groom," was Faithful's answer, "but first of

all I must have stable-room and fodder for my horse." "That you shall

have," said the king, and the youth was taken on as a groom, and

served so long and so well, that every one in the castle liked him,

and the king in particular praised him highly.

But among the other servitors was one named Unfaithful who was jealous

of Faithful, and did what he could to harm him; for he thought to


"Then I would be rid of him, and need not see him continue to rise in

my lord's favor." Now it happened that the king was very sad, for he

had lost his queen, whom a troll had stolen from the castle. It is

true that the queen had not taken pleasure in the king's society, and

that she did not love him. Still the king longed for her greatly, and

often spoke of it to Unfaithful his servant. So one day Unfaithful

said: "My lord need distress himself no longer, for Faithful has been

boasting to me that he could rescue your beautiful queen from the

hands of the troll." "If he has done so," replied the king, "then he

must keep his word."

He straightway ordered Faithful to be brought before him, and

threatened him with death if he did not at once hurry into the hill

and bring back the wife of whom he had been robbed. If he were

successful great honor should be his reward. In vain Faithful denied

what Unfaithful had said of him, the king stuck to his demand, and the

youth withdrew, convinced that he had not long to live. Then he went

to the stable to bid farewell to his beautiful horse, and stood beside

him and wept. "What grieves you so?" asked the horse. Then the youth

told him of all that had happened, and said that this was probably the

last time he would be able to visit him. "If it be no more than that,"

said the horse, "there is a way to help you. Up in the garret of the

castle there is an old fiddle, take it with you and play it when you

come to the place where the queen is kept. And fashion for yourself

armor of steel wire, and set knives into it everywhere, and then, when

you see the troll open his jaws, descend into his maw, and thus slay

him. But you must have no fear, and must trust me to show you the

way." These words filled the youth with fresh courage, he went to the

king and received permission to leave, secretly fashioned his steel

armor, took the old fiddle from the garret of the castle, led his dear

horse out of the stable, and without delay set forth for the troll's


Before long he saw it, and rode directly to the troll's abode. When he

came near, he saw the troll, who had crept out of his castle, lying

stretched out at the entrance to his cave, fast asleep, and snoring so

powerfully that the whole hill shook. But his mouth was wide open, and

his maw was so tremendous that it was easy for the youth to crawl into

it. He did so, for he was not afraid, and made his way into the

troll's inwards where he was so active that the troll was soon killed.

Then Faithful crept out again, laid aside his armor, and entered the

troll's castle. Within the great golden hall sat the captive queen,

fettered with seven strong chains of gold. Faithful could not break

the strong chains; but he took up his fiddle and played such tender

music on it, that the golden chains were moved, and one after

another, fell from the queen, until she was able to rise and was free

once more. She looked at the courageous youth with joy and gratitude,

and felt very kindly toward him, because he was so handsome and

courteous. And the queen was perfectly willing to return with him to

the king's castle.

The return of the queen gave rise to great joy, and Faithful received

the promised reward from the king. But now the queen treated her

husband with even less consideration than before. She would not

exchange a word with him, she did not laugh, and locked herself up in

her room with her gloomy thoughts. This greatly vexed the king, and

one day he asked the queen why she was so sad: "Well," said she, "I

cannot be happy unless I have the beautiful golden hall which I had in

the hill at the troll's; for a hall like that is to be found nowhere


"It will be no easy matter to obtain it for you," said the king, "and

I cannot promise you that anyone will be able to do it." But when he

complained of his difficulty to his servant Unfaithful, the latter

answered: "The chances of success are not so bad, for Faithful said he

could easily bring the troll's golden hall to the castle." Faithful

was at once sent for, and the king commanded him, as he loved his

life, to make good his word and bring the golden hall from the troll's

hill. It was in vain that Faithful denied Unfaithful's assertions: go

he must, and bring back the golden hall.

Inconsolable, he went to his beautiful horse, wept and wanted to say

farewell to him forever. "What troubles you?" asked the horse. And the

youth replied: "Unfaithful has again been telling lies about me, and

if I do not bring the troll's golden hall to the queen, my life will

be forfeited." "Is it nothing more serious than that?" said the horse.

"See that you obtain a great ship, take your fiddle with you and play

the golden hall out of the hill, then hitch the troll's horses before

it, and you will be able to bring the glistening hall here without


Then Faithful felt somewhat better, did as the horse had told him, and

was successful in reaching the great hill. And as he stood there

playing the fiddle, the golden hall heard him, and was drawn to the

sounding music, and it moved slowly, slowly, until it stood outside

the hill. It was built of virgin gold, like a house by itself, and

under it were many wheels. Then the youth took the troll's horses, put

them to the golden hall, and thus brought it aboard his ship. Soon he

had crossed the lake, and brought it along safely so that it reached

the castle without damage, to the great joy of the queen. Yet despite

the fact, she was as weary of everything as she had been before, never

spoke to her husband, the king, and no one ever saw her laugh.

Now the king grew even more vexed than he had been, and again asked

her why she seemed so sad. "Ah, how can I be happy unless I have the

two colts that used to belong to me, when I stayed at the troll's!

Such handsome steeds are to be seen nowhere else!" "It will be

anything but easy to obtain for you what you want," declared the king,

"for they were untamed, and long ago must have run far away into the

wild-wood." Then he left her, sadly, and did not know what to do. But

Unfaithful said: "Let my lord give himself no concern, for Faithful

has declared he could easily secure both of the troll's colts."

Faithful was at once sent for, and the king threatened him with death,

if he did not show his powers in the matter of the colts. But should

he succeed in catching them, then he would be rewarded.

Now Faithful knew quite well that he could not hope to catch the

troll's wild colts, and he once more turned to the stable in order to

bid farewell to the huldra's gift. "Why do you weep over such a

trifle?" said the horse. "Hurry to the wood, play your fiddle, and all

will be well!" Faithful did as he was told, and after a while the two

lions whom he had rescued came leaping toward him, listened to his

playing and asked him whether he was in distress. "Yes, indeed," said

Faithful, and told them what he had to do. They at once ran back into

the wood, one to one side and the other to the other, and returned

quickly, driving the two colts before them. Then Faithful played his

fiddle and the colts followed him, so that he soon reached the king's

castle in safety, and could deliver the steeds to the queen.

The king now expected that his wife would be gay and happy. But she

did not change, never addressed a word to him, and only seemed a

little less sad when she happened to speak to the daring youth.

Then the king asked her to tell him what she lacked, and why she was

so discontented. She answered: "I have secured the colts of the troll,

and I often sit in the glittering hall of gold; but I can open none of

the handsome chests that are filled to the brim with my valuables,

because I have no keys. And if I do not get the keys again, how can I

be happy?" "And where may the keys be?" asked the king. "In the lake

by the troll's hill," said the queen, "for that is where I threw them

when Faithful brought me here." "This is a ticklish affair, this

business of those keys you want!" said the king. "And I can scarcely

promise that you will ever see them again." In spite of this, however,

he was willing to make an attempt, and talked it over with his

servant Unfaithful. "Why, that is easily done," said the latter, "for

Faithful boasted to me that he could get the queen's keys without any

difficulty if he wished." "Then I shall compel him to keep his word,"

said the king. And he at once ordered Faithful, on pain of death, to

get the queen's keys out of the lake by the troll's hill without



This time the youth was not so depressed, for he thought to himself:

"My wise horse will be able to help me." And so he was, for he advised

him to go along playing his fiddle, and to wait for what might happen.

After the youth had played for a while, the pike he had saved thrust

his head out of the water, recognized him, and asked whether he could

be of any service to him. "Yes, indeed!" said the youth, and told him

what it was he wanted. The pike at once dived, quickly rose to the

surface of the water with the golden keys in his mouth, and gave them

to his deliverer. The latter hastened back with them, and now the

queen could open the great chests in the golden hall to her heart's


Notwithstanding, the king's wife was as sorrowful as ever, and when

the king complained about it to Unfaithful, the latter said: "No doubt

it is because she loves Faithful. I would therefore advise that my

lord have him beheaded. Then there will be a change." This advice

suited the king well, and he determined to carry it out shortly. But

one day Faithful's horse said to him: "The king is going to have your

head chopped off. So hurry to the wood, play your fiddle, and beg the

two doves to bring you a bottle of the water of life. Then go to the

queen and ask her to set your head on your body and to sprinkle you

with the water when you have been beheaded." Faithful did so. He went

to the wood that very day with his fiddle, and before long the two

doves were fluttering around him, and shortly after brought back the

bottle filled with the water of life. He took it back home with him

and gave it to the queen, so that she might sprinkle him with it after

he had been beheaded. She did so, and at once Faithful rose again, as

full of life as ever; but far better looking. The king was astonished

at what he had seen, and told the queen to cut off his own head and

then sprinkle him with the water. She at once seized the sword, and in

a moment the king's head rolled to the ground. But she sprinkled none

of the water of life upon it, and the king's body was quickly carried

out and buried. Then the queen and Faithful celebrated their wedding

with great pomp; but Unfaithful was banished from the land and went

away in disgrace. The wise horse dwelt contentedly in a wonderful

chamber, and the king and queen kept the magic fiddle, the golden

hall, and the troll's other valuables, and lived in peace and

happiness day after day.


"Faithful and Unfaithful" (From the Hylten-Cavallius mss.

collection), is a distant offshoot, and one complicated with

other motives, of a cycle in which even the Tristan legend is

represented, the fairy-tale of the golden-haired maiden and the

water of life and death. (Reinhold Koehler, Kleinere

Schriften, II, p. 328).