Silverwhite And Lillwacker

: The Swedish Fairy Book

Once upon a time there was a king, who had a queen whom he loved with

a great love. But after a time the queen died, and all he had left was

an only daughter. And now that the king was a widower, his whole heart

went out to the little princess, whom he cherished as the apple of his

eye. And the king's young daughter grew up into the most lovely maiden

ever known.

When the princess had seen the snows of fi
teen winters, it happened

that a great war broke out, and that her father had to march against

the foe.

But there was no one to whom the king could entrust his daughter while

he was away at war; so he had a great tower built out in the forest,

provided it with a plenteous store of supplies, and in it shut up his

daughter and a maid. And he had it proclaimed that every man, no

matter who he might be, was forbidden to approach the tower in which

he had placed his daughter and the maid, under pain of death.

Now the king thought he had taken every precaution to protect his

daughter, and went off to war. In the meantime the princess and her

maid sat in the tower. But in the city there were a number of brave

young sons of kings, as well as other young men, who would have liked

to have talked to the beautiful maiden. And when they found that this

was forbidden them, they conceived a great hatred for the king. At

length they took counsel with an old woman who was wiser than most

folk, and told her to arrange matters in such wise that the king's

daughter and her maid might come into disrepute, without their having

anything to do with it. The old hag promised to help them, enchanted

some apples, laid them in a basket, and went to the lonely tower in

which the maidens lived.

When the king's daughter and her maid saw the old woman, who was

sitting beneath the window, they felt a great longing to try the

beautiful apples.

So they called out and asked how much she wanted for her precious

apples; but the old woman said they were not for sale. Yet as the

girls kept on pleading with her, the old woman said she would make

each of them a present of an apple; they only need let down a little

basket from the tower. The princess and her maid, in all innocence,

did as the troll-woman told them, and each received an apple. But the

enchanted fruit had a strange effect, for in due course of time heaven

sent them each a child. The king's daughter called her son

Silverwhite, and the son of her maid received the name of Lillwacker.

The two boys grew up larger and stronger than other children, and were

very handsome as well. They looked as much alike as one cherry-pit

does to another, and one could easily see that they were related.

Seven years had passed, and the king was expected home from the war.

Then both girls were terrified, and they took counsel together as to

how they might hide their children. When at length they could find no

other way out of the difficulty, they very sorrowfully bade their

children farewell, and let them down from the tower at night, to seek

their fortune in the wide, wide world. At parting the king's daughter

gave Silverwhite a costly knife; but the maid had nothing to give her


The two foster-brethren now wandered out into the world. After they

had gone a while, they came to a dark forest. And in this forest they

met a man, strange-looking and very tall. He wore two swords at his

side, and was accompanied by six great dogs. He gave them a friendly


"Good-day, little fellows, whence do you come and whither do you go?"

The boys told him they came from a high tower, and were going out into

the world to seek their fortune. The man replied:

"If such be the case, I know more about your origin than any one else.

And that you may have something by which to remember your father, I

will give each of you a sword and three dogs. But you must promise me

one thing, that you will never part from your dogs; but take them with

you wherever you go." The boys thanked the man for his kind gifts, and

promised to do as he had told them. Then they bade him farewell and

went their way.

When they had traveled for some time they reached a cross-road. Then

Silverwhite said:

"It seems to me that it would be the best for us to try our luck

singly, so let us part." Lillwacker answered: "Your advice is good;

but how am I to know whether or not you are doing well out in the


"I will give you a token by which you may tell," said Silverwhite, "so

long as the water runs clear in this spring you will know that I am

alive; but if it turns red and roiled, it will mean that I am dead."

Silverwhite then drew runes in the water of the spring, said farewell

to his brother, and each of them went on alone. Lillwacker soon came

to a king's court, and took service there; but every morning he would

go to the spring to see how his brother fared.

Silverwhite continued to wander over hill and dale, until he reached a

great city. But the whole city was in mourning, the houses were hung

in black, and all the inhabitants went about full of grief and care,

as though some great misfortune had occurred.

Silverwhite went though the city and inquired as to the cause of all

the unhappiness he saw. They answered: "You must have come from far

away, since you do not know that the king and queen were in danger of

being drowned at sea, and he had to promise to give up their three

daughters in order to escape. To-morrow morning the sea-troll is

coming to carry off the oldest princess." This news pleased

Silverwhite; for he saw a fine opportunity to wealth and fame, should

fortune favor him.

The next morning Silverwhite hung his sword at his side, called his

dogs to him, and wandered down to the sea-shore alone. And as he sat

on the strand he saw the king's daughter led out of the city, and with

her went a courtier, who had promised to rescue her. But the princess

was very sad and cried bitterly. Then Silverwhite stepped up to her

with a polite greeting. When the king's daughter and her escort saw

the fearless youth, they were much frightened, because they thought he

was the sea-troll. The courtier was so alarmed that he ran away and

took refuge in a tree. When Silverwhite saw how frightened the

princess was, he said: "Lovely maiden, do not fear me, for I will do

you no harm." The king's daughter answered:

"Are you the troll who is coming to carry me away?" "No," said

Silverwhite, "I have come to rescue you." Then the princess was glad

to think that such a brave hero was going to defend her, and they

had a long, friendly talk. At the same time Silverwhite begged the

king's daughter to comb his hair. She complied with his request, and

Silverwhite laid his head in her lap; but when he did so the princess

drew a golden ring from her finger and, unbeknown to him, wound it

into his locks.


Suddenly the sea-troll rose from the deeps, setting the waves whirling

and foaming far and near. When the troll saw Silverwhite, he grew

angry and said: "Why do you sit there beside my princess?" The youth

replied: "It seems to me that she is my princess, not yours." The

sea-troll answered: "Time enough to see which of us is right; but

first our dogs shall fight." Silverwhite was nothing loath, and set

his dogs at the dogs of the troll, and there was a fierce struggle.

But at last the youth's dogs got the upper hand and bit the dogs of

the sea-troll to death. Then Silverwhite drew his sword with a great

sweep, rushed upon the sea-troll, and gave him such a tremendous blow

that the monster's head rolled on the sand. The troll gave a fearsome

cry, and flung himself back into the sea, so that the water spurted to

the very skies. Thereupon the youth drew out his silver-mounted knife,

cut out the troll's eyes and put them in his pocket. Then he saluted

the lovely princess and went away.

Now when the battle was over and the youth had disappeared, the

courtier crawled down from his tree, and threatened to kill the

princess if she did not say before all the people that he, and none

other, had rescued her. The king's daughter did not dare refuse, since

she feared for her life. So she returned to her father's castle with

the courtier, where they were received with great distinction.

And joy reigned throughout the land when the news spread that the

oldest princess had been rescued from the troll.

On the following day everything repeated itself. Silverwhite went down

to the strand and met the second princess, just as she was to be

delivered to the troll.

And when the king's daughter and her escort saw him, they were very

much frightened, thinking he was the sea-troll. And the courtier

climbed a tree, just as he had before; but the princess granted the

youth's petition, combed his hair as her sister had done, and also

wound her gold ring into his long curls.

After a time there was a great tumult out at sea, and a sea-troll rose

from the waves. He had three heads and three dogs. But Silverwhite's

dogs overcame those of the troll, and the youth killed the troll

himself with his sword. Thereupon he took out his silver-mounted

knife, cut out the troll's eyes, and went his way. But the courtier

lost no time. He climbed down from his tree and forced the princess

to promise to say that he, and none other, had rescued her. Then they

returned to the castle, where the courtier was acclaimed as the

greatest of heroes.

On the third day Silverwhite hung his sword at his side, called his

three dogs to him, and again wandered down to the sea-shore. As he was

sitting by the strand, he saw the youngest princess led out of the

city, and with her the daring courtier who claimed to have rescued her

sisters. But the princess was very sad and cried bitterly. Then

Silverwhite stepped up and greeted the lovely maiden politely. Now

when the king's daughter and her escort saw the handsome youth, they

were very much frightened, for they believed him to be the sea-troll,

and the courtier ran away and hid in a high tree that grew near the

strand. When Silverwhite noticed the maiden's terror, he said:

"Lovely maiden, do not fear me, for I will do you no harm." The king's

daughter answered: "Are you the troll who is coming to carry me away?"

"No," said Silverwhite, "I have come to rescue you." Then the princess

was very glad to have such a brave hero fight for her, and they had a

long, friendly talk with each other. At the same time Silverwhite

begged the lovely maiden to do him a favor and comb his hair. This the

king's daughter was most willing to do, and Silverwhite laid his head

in her lap. But when the princess saw the gold rings her sisters had

wound in his locks, she was much surprised, and added her own to the


Suddenly the sea-troll came shooting up out of the deep with a

terrific noise, so that waves and foam spurted to the very skies. This

time the monster had six heads and nine dogs. When the troll saw

Silverwhite sitting with the king's daughter, he fell into a rage and

cried: "What are you doing with my princess?" The youth answered: "It

seems to me that she is my princess rather than yours." Thereupon the

troll said: "Time enough to see which of us is right; but first our

dogs shall fight each other." Silverwhite did not delay, but set his

dogs at the sea-dogs, and they had a battle royal. But in the end the

youth's dogs got the upper hand and bit all nine of the sea-dogs to

death. Finally Silverwhite drew out his bare sword, flung himself upon

the sea-troll, and stretched all six of his heads on the sand with a

single blow. The monster uttered a terrible cry, and rushed back into

the sea so that the water spurted to the heavens. Then the youth drew

his silver-mounted knife, cut out all twelve of the troll's eyes,

saluted the king's young daughter, and hastily went away.

Now that the battle was over, and the youth had disappeared, the

courtier climbed down from his tree, drew his sword and threatened to

kill the princess unless she promised to say that he had rescued her

from the troll, as he had her sisters.

The king's daughter did not dare refuse, since she feared for her

life. So they went back to the castle together, and when the king saw

that they had returned in safety, without so much as a scratch, he and

the whole court were full of joy, and they were accorded great honors.

And at court the courtier was quite another fellow from the one who

had hid away in the tree. The king had a splendid banquet prepared,

with amusements and games, and the sound of string music and dancing,

and bestowed the hand of his youngest daughter on the courtier in

reward for his bravey.

In the midst of the wedding festivities, when the king and his whole

court were seated at table, the door opened, and in came Silverwhite

with his dogs.

The youth stepped boldly into the hall of state and greeted the king.

And when the three princesses saw who it was, they were full of joy,

leaped up from their places, and ran over to him, much to the king's

surprise, who asked what it all meant. Then the youngest princess told

him all that had happened, from beginning to end, and that Silverwhite

had rescued them, while the courtier sat in a tree. To prove it beyond

any chance of doubt, each of the king's daughters showed her father

the ring she had wound in Silverwhite's locks. But the king still did

not know quite what to think of it all, until Silverwhite said: "My

lord king! In order that you need not doubt what your daughters have

told you, I will show you the eyes of the sea-trolls whom I slew."

Then the king and all the rest saw that the princesses had told the

truth. The traitorous courtier received his just punishment; but

Silverwhite was paid every honor, and was given the youngest daughter

and half of the kingdom with her.

After the wedding Silverwhite established himself with his young bride

in a large castle belonging to the king, and there they lived quietly

and happily.

One night, when all were sleeping, it chanced that he heard a knocking

at the window, and a voice which said: "Come, Silverwhite, I have to

talk to you!" The king, who did not want to wake his young wife, rose

hastily, girded on his sword, called his dogs and went out. When he

reached the open air, there stood a huge and savage-looking troll. The

troll said: "Silverwhite, you have slain my three brothers, and I have

come to bid you go down to the sea-shore with me, that we may fight

with one another." This proposal suited the youth, and he followed the

troll without protest. When they reached the sea-shore, there lay

three great dogs belonging to the troll. Silverwhite at once set his

dogs at the troll-dogs, and after a hard struggle the latter had to

give in. The young king drew his sword, bravely attacked the troll and

dealt him many a mighty blow. It was a tremendous battle. But when

the troll noticed he was getting the worst of it, he grew frightened,

quickly ran to a high tree, and clambered into it. Silverwhite and the

dogs ran after him, the dogs barking as loudly as they could. Then the

troll begged for his life and said: "Dear Silverwhite, I will take

wergild for my brothers, only bid your dogs be still, so that we may

talk." The king bade his dogs be still, but in vain, they only barked

the more loudly. Then the troll tore three hairs from his head, handed

them to Silverwhite and said: "Lay a hair on each of the dogs, and

then they will be as quiet as can be." The king did so and at once the

dogs fell silent, and lay motionless as though they had grown fast to

the ground. Now Silverwhite realized that he had been deceived; but it

was too late. The troll was already descending from the tree, and he

drew his sword and again began to fight. But they had exchanged no

more than a few blows, before Silverwhite received a mortal wound, and

lay on the earth in a pool of blood.

But now we must tell about Lillwacker. The next morning he went to the

spring by the cross-road and found it red with blood. Then he knew

that Silverwhite was dead. He called his dogs, hung his sword at his

side, and went on until he came to a great city. And the city was in

festal array, the streets were crowded with people, and the houses

were hung with scarlet cloths and splendid rugs. Lillwacker asked why

everybody was so happy, and they said: "You must hail from distant

parts, since you do not know that a famous hero has come here by the

name of Silverwhite, who has rescued our three princesses, and is now

the king's son-in-law." Lillwacker then inquired how it had all come

about, and then went his way, reaching the royal castle in which

Silverwhite dwelt with his beautiful queen in the evening.

When Lillwacker entered the castle gate, all greeted him as though he

had been the king. For he resembled his foster-brother so closely that

none could tell one from the other. When the youth came to the queen's

room, she also took him for Silverwhite. She went up to him and said:

"My lord king, where have you been so long? I have been awaiting you

with great anxiety." Lillwacker said little, and was very taciturn.

Then he lay down on a couch in a corner of the queen's room.

The young woman did not know what to think of his actions; for her

husband did not act queerly at other times. But she thought: "One

should not try to discover the secrets of others," and said nothing.

In the night, when all were sleeping, there was a knocking at the

window, and a voice cried: "Come, Lillwacker, I have to talk to you!"

The youth rose hastily, took his good sword, called his dogs and

went. When he reached the open air, there stood the same troll who had

slain Silverwhite. He said: "Come with me, Lillwacker, and then you

shall see your foster-brother!" To this Lillwacker at once agreed, and

the troll led the way. When they came to the sea-shore, there lay the

three great dogs whom the troll had brought with him. Somewhat further

away, where they had fought, lay Silverwhite in a pool of blood, and

beside him his dogs were stretched out on the ground as though they

had taken root in it. Then Lillwacker saw how everything had happened,

and thought that he would gladly venture his life, if he might in some

way call his brother back from the dead. He at once set his dogs at

the troll-dogs, and they had a hard struggle, in which Lillwacker's

dogs won the victory. Then the youth drew his sword, and attacked the

troll with mighty blows. But when the troll saw that he was getting

the worst of it, he took refuge in a lofty tree. Lillwacker and his

dogs ran after him and the dogs barked loudly.

Then the troll humbly begged for his life, and said: "Dear Lillwacker,

I will give you wergild for your brother, only bid your dogs be still,

so that we may talk." At the same time the troll handed him three

hairs from his head and added: "Lay one of these hairs on each of your

dogs, and then they will soon be quiet." But Lillwacker saw through

his cunning scheme, took the three hairs and laid them on the

troll-dogs, which at once fell on the ground and lay like dead.

When the troll saw that his attempt had failed, he was much alarmed

and said: "Dearest Lillwacker, I will give you wergild for your

brother, if you will only leave me alone." But the youth answered:

"What is there you can give me that will compensate for my brother's

life?" The troll replied: "Here are two flasks. In one is a liquid

which, if you anoint a dead man with it, it will restore him to life;

but as to the liquid in the other flask, if you moisten anything with

it, and some one touches the place you have moistened, he will be

unable to move from the spot. I think it would be hard to find

anything more precious than the liquid in these flasks." Lillwacker

said: "Your proposal suits me, and I will accept it. But there is

something else you must promise to do: that you will release my

brother's dogs." The troll agreed, climbed down from the tree,

breathed on the dogs and thus freed them. Then Lillwacker took the two

flasks and went away from the sea-shore with the troll. After they had

gone a while they came to a great flat stone, lying near the highway.

Lillwacker hastened on in advance and moistened it with liquid from

the second flask. Then, as he was going by, Lillwacker suddenly set

all six of his dogs at the troll, who stepped back and touched the

stone. There he stuck, and could move neither forward nor backward.

After a time the sun rose and shone on the stone. And when the troll

saw the sun he burst--and was as dead as a doornail!

Lillwacker now ran back to his brother and sprinkled him with the

liquid in the other flask, so that he came to life again, and they

were both very happy, as may well be imagined. The two foster-brothers

then returned to the castle, recounting the story of their experiences

and adventures on the way. Lillwacker told how he had been taken for

his brother. He even mentioned that he had lain down on a couch in a

corner of the queen's room, and that she had never suspected that he

was not her rightful husband. But when Silverwhite heard that, he

thought that Lillwacker had offended against the queen's dignity, and

he grew angry and fell into such a rage that he drew his sword, and

thrust it into his brother's breast. Lillwacker fell to earth dead,

and Silverwhite went home to the castle alone. But Lillwacker's dogs

would not leave their master, and lay around him, whining and licking

his wound.

In the evening, when the young king and his wife retired, the queen

asked him why he had been so taciturn and serious the evening before.

Then the queen said: "I am very curious to know what has befallen you

during the last few days, but what I would like to know most of all,

is why you lay down on a couch in a corner of my room the other

night?" Now it was clear to Silverwhite that the brother he had slain

was innocent of all offense, and he felt bitter regret at having

repaid his faithfulness so badly. So King Silverwhite at once rose and

went to the place where his brother was lying. He poured the water of

life from his flask and anointed his brother's wound, and in a moment

Lillwacker was alive again, and the two brother's went joyfully back

to the castle.

When they got there, Silverwhite told his queen how Lillwacker had

rescued him from death, and all the rest of their adventures, and all

were happy at the royal court, and they paid the youth the greatest

honors and compliments. After he had stayed there a time he sued for

the hand of the second princess and obtained it. Thereupon the wedding

was celebrated with great pomp, and Silverwhite divided his half of

the kingdom with his foster-brother. The two brothers continued to

live together in peace and unity, and if they have not died, they are

living still.


From a venerable Indo-Germanic source comes the widely

circulated story of "Silverwhite and Lillwacker," the faithful

brothers (Hylten-Cavallius and Stephens, Svenska Folkasagor

och Aefventyr, Stockholm, 1848, p. 58. From Vermland).