King Grisly-beard

: Grimms' Fairy Tales

A great king of a land far away in the East had a daughter who was very

beautiful, but so proud, and haughty, and conceited, that none of the

princes who came to ask her in marriage was good enough for her, and she

only made sport of them.

Once upon a time the king held a great feast, and asked thither all

her suitors; and they all sat in a row, ranged according to their

rank--kings, and princes, and duke
, and earls, and counts, and barons,

and knights. Then the princess came in, and as she passed by them she

had something spiteful to say to every one. The first was too fat: 'He's

as round as a tub,' said she. The next was too tall: 'What a maypole!'

said she. The next was too short: 'What a dumpling!' said she. The

fourth was too pale, and she called him 'Wallface.' The fifth was too

red, so she called him 'Coxcomb.' The sixth was not straight enough;

so she said he was like a green stick, that had been laid to dry over

a baker's oven. And thus she had some joke to crack upon every one: but

she laughed more than all at a good king who was there. 'Look at

him,' said she; 'his beard is like an old mop; he shall be called

Grisly-beard.' So the king got the nickname of Grisly-beard.

But the old king was very angry when he saw how his daughter behaved,

and how she ill-treated all his guests; and he vowed that, willing or

unwilling, she should marry the first man, be he prince or beggar, that

came to the door.

Two days after there came by a travelling fiddler, who began to play

under the window and beg alms; and when the king heard him, he said,

'Let him come in.' So they brought in a dirty-looking fellow; and when

he had sung before the king and the princess, he begged a boon. Then the

king said, 'You have sung so well, that I will give you my daughter for

your wife.' The princess begged and prayed; but the king said, 'I have

sworn to give you to the first comer, and I will keep my word.' So words

and tears were of no avail; the parson was sent for, and she was married

to the fiddler. When this was over the king said, 'Now get ready to

go--you must not stay here--you must travel on with your husband.'

Then the fiddler went his way, and took her with him, and they soon came

to a great wood. 'Pray,' said she, 'whose is this wood?' 'It belongs

to King Grisly-beard,' answered he; 'hadst thou taken him, all had been

thine.' 'Ah! unlucky wretch that I am!' sighed she; 'would that I had

married King Grisly-beard!' Next they came to some fine meadows. 'Whose

are these beautiful green meadows?' said she. 'They belong to King

Grisly-beard, hadst thou taken him, they had all been thine.' 'Ah!

unlucky wretch that I am!' said she; 'would that I had married King


Then they came to a great city. 'Whose is this noble city?' said she.

'It belongs to King Grisly-beard; hadst thou taken him, it had all been

thine.' 'Ah! wretch that I am!' sighed she; 'why did I not marry King

Grisly-beard?' 'That is no business of mine,' said the fiddler: 'why

should you wish for another husband? Am not I good enough for you?'

At last they came to a small cottage. 'What a paltry place!' said she;

'to whom does that little dirty hole belong?' Then the fiddler said,

'That is your and my house, where we are to live.' 'Where are your

servants?' cried she. 'What do we want with servants?' said he; 'you

must do for yourself whatever is to be done. Now make the fire, and put

on water and cook my supper, for I am very tired.' But the princess knew

nothing of making fires and cooking, and the fiddler was forced to help

her. When they had eaten a very scanty meal they went to bed; but the

fiddler called her up very early in the morning to clean the house. Thus

they lived for two days: and when they had eaten up all there was in the

cottage, the man said, 'Wife, we can't go on thus, spending money and

earning nothing. You must learn to weave baskets.' Then he went out and

cut willows, and brought them home, and she began to weave; but it made

her fingers very sore. 'I see this work won't do,' said he: 'try and

spin; perhaps you will do that better.' So she sat down and tried to

spin; but the threads cut her tender fingers till the blood ran. 'See

now,' said the fiddler, 'you are good for nothing; you can do no work:

what a bargain I have got! However, I'll try and set up a trade in pots

and pans, and you shall stand in the market and sell them.' 'Alas!'

sighed she, 'if any of my father's court should pass by and see me

standing in the market, how they will laugh at me!'

But her husband did not care for that, and said she must work, if she

did not wish to die of hunger. At first the trade went well; for many

people, seeing such a beautiful woman, went to buy her wares, and paid

their money without thinking of taking away the goods. They lived on

this as long as it lasted; and then her husband bought a fresh lot of

ware, and she sat herself down with it in the corner of the market; but

a drunken soldier soon came by, and rode his horse against her stall,

and broke all her goods into a thousand pieces. Then she began to cry,

and knew not what to do. 'Ah! what will become of me?' said she; 'what

will my husband say?' So she ran home and told him all. 'Who would

have thought you would have been so silly,' said he, 'as to put an

earthenware stall in the corner of the market, where everybody passes?

but let us have no more crying; I see you are not fit for this sort of

work, so I have been to the king's palace, and asked if they did not

want a kitchen-maid; and they say they will take you, and there you will

have plenty to eat.'

Thus the princess became a kitchen-maid, and helped the cook to do all

the dirtiest work; but she was allowed to carry home some of the meat

that was left, and on this they lived.

She had not been there long before she heard that the king's eldest son

was passing by, going to be married; and she went to one of the windows

and looked out. Everything was ready, and all the pomp and brightness of

the court was there. Then she bitterly grieved for the pride and folly

which had brought her so low. And the servants gave her some of the rich

meats, which she put into her basket to take home.

All on a sudden, as she was going out, in came the king's son in golden

clothes; and when he saw a beautiful woman at the door, he took her

by the hand, and said she should be his partner in the dance; but she

trembled for fear, for she saw that it was King Grisly-beard, who was

making sport of her. However, he kept fast hold, and led her in; and the

cover of the basket came off, so that the meats in it fell about. Then

everybody laughed and jeered at her; and she was so abashed, that she

wished herself a thousand feet deep in the earth. She sprang to the

door to run away; but on the steps King Grisly-beard overtook her, and

brought her back and said, 'Fear me not! I am the fiddler who has lived

with you in the hut. I brought you there because I really loved you. I

am also the soldier that overset your stall. I have done all this only

to cure you of your silly pride, and to show you the folly of your

ill-treatment of me. Now all is over: you have learnt wisdom, and it is

time to hold our marriage feast.'

Then the chamberlains came and brought her the most beautiful robes; and

her father and his whole court were there already, and welcomed her home

on her marriage. Joy was in every face and every heart. The feast was

grand; they danced and sang; all were merry; and I only wish that you

and I had been of the party.