The Golden Bird

: Grimms' Fairy Tales

A certain king had a beautiful garden, and in the garden stood a tree

which bore golden apples. These apples were always counted, and about

the time when they began to grow ripe it was found that every night one

of them was gone. The king became very angry at this, and ordered the

gardener to keep watch all night under the tree. The gardener set his

eldest son to watch; but about twelve o'clock he fell asleep, and in

e morning another of the apples was missing. Then the second son was

ordered to watch; and at midnight he too fell asleep, and in the morning

another apple was gone. Then the third son offered to keep watch; but

the gardener at first would not let him, for fear some harm should come

to him: however, at last he consented, and the young man laid himself

under the tree to watch. As the clock struck twelve he heard a rustling

noise in the air, and a bird came flying that was of pure gold; and as

it was snapping at one of the apples with its beak, the gardener's son

jumped up and shot an arrow at it. But the arrow did the bird no harm;

only it dropped a golden feather from its tail, and then flew away.

The golden feather was brought to the king in the morning, and all the

council was called together. Everyone agreed that it was worth more than

all the wealth of the kingdom: but the king said, 'One feather is of no

use to me, I must have the whole bird.'

Then the gardener's eldest son set out and thought to find the golden

bird very easily; and when he had gone but a little way, he came to a

wood, and by the side of the wood he saw a fox sitting; so he took his

bow and made ready to shoot at it. Then the fox said, 'Do not shoot me,

for I will give you good counsel; I know what your business is, and

that you want to find the golden bird. You will reach a village in the

evening; and when you get there, you will see two inns opposite to each

other, one of which is very pleasant and beautiful to look at: go not in

there, but rest for the night in the other, though it may appear to you

to be very poor and mean.' But the son thought to himself, 'What can

such a beast as this know about the matter?' So he shot his arrow at

the fox; but he missed it, and it set up its tail above its back and

ran into the wood. Then he went his way, and in the evening came to

the village where the two inns were; and in one of these were people

singing, and dancing, and feasting; but the other looked very dirty,

and poor. 'I should be very silly,' said he, 'if I went to that shabby

house, and left this charming place'; so he went into the smart house,

and ate and drank at his ease, and forgot the bird, and his country too.

Time passed on; and as the eldest son did not come back, and no tidings

were heard of him, the second son set out, and the same thing happened

to him. He met the fox, who gave him the good advice: but when he came

to the two inns, his eldest brother was standing at the window where

the merrymaking was, and called to him to come in; and he could not

withstand the temptation, but went in, and forgot the golden bird and

his country in the same manner.

Time passed on again, and the youngest son too wished to set out into

the wide world to seek for the golden bird; but his father would not

listen to it for a long while, for he was very fond of his son, and

was afraid that some ill luck might happen to him also, and prevent his

coming back. However, at last it was agreed he should go, for he would

not rest at home; and as he came to the wood, he met the fox, and heard

the same good counsel. But he was thankful to the fox, and did not

attempt his life as his brothers had done; so the fox said, 'Sit upon my

tail, and you will travel faster.' So he sat down, and the fox began to

run, and away they went over stock and stone so quick that their hair

whistled in the wind.

When they came to the village, the son followed the fox's counsel, and

without looking about him went to the shabby inn and rested there all

night at his ease. In the morning came the fox again and met him as he

was beginning his journey, and said, 'Go straight forward, till you come

to a castle, before which lie a whole troop of soldiers fast asleep and

snoring: take no notice of them, but go into the castle and pass on and

on till you come to a room, where the golden bird sits in a wooden cage;

close by it stands a beautiful golden cage; but do not try to take the

bird out of the shabby cage and put it into the handsome one, otherwise

you will repent it.' Then the fox stretched out his tail again, and the

young man sat himself down, and away they went over stock and stone till

their hair whistled in the wind.

Before the castle gate all was as the fox had said: so the son went in

and found the chamber where the golden bird hung in a wooden cage, and

below stood the golden cage, and the three golden apples that had been

lost were lying close by it. Then thought he to himself, 'It will be a

very droll thing to bring away such a fine bird in this shabby cage'; so

he opened the door and took hold of it and put it into the golden cage.

But the bird set up such a loud scream that all the soldiers awoke, and

they took him prisoner and carried him before the king. The next morning

the court sat to judge him; and when all was heard, it sentenced him to

die, unless he should bring the king the golden horse which could run as

swiftly as the wind; and if he did this, he was to have the golden bird

given him for his own.

So he set out once more on his journey, sighing, and in great despair,

when on a sudden his friend the fox met him, and said, 'You see now

what has happened on account of your not listening to my counsel. I will

still, however, tell you how to find the golden horse, if you will do as

I bid you. You must go straight on till you come to the castle where the

horse stands in his stall: by his side will lie the groom fast asleep

and snoring: take away the horse quietly, but be sure to put the old

leathern saddle upon him, and not the golden one that is close by it.'

Then the son sat down on the fox's tail, and away they went over stock

and stone till their hair whistled in the wind.

All went right, and the groom lay snoring with his hand upon the golden

saddle. But when the son looked at the horse, he thought it a great pity

to put the leathern saddle upon it. 'I will give him the good one,'

said he; 'I am sure he deserves it.' As he took up the golden saddle the

groom awoke and cried out so loud, that all the guards ran in and took

him prisoner, and in the morning he was again brought before the court

to be judged, and was sentenced to die. But it was agreed, that, if he

could bring thither the beautiful princess, he should live, and have the

bird and the horse given him for his own.

Then he went his way very sorrowful; but the old fox came and said, 'Why

did not you listen to me? If you had, you would have carried away

both the bird and the horse; yet will I once more give you counsel. Go

straight on, and in the evening you will arrive at a castle. At twelve

o'clock at night the princess goes to the bathing-house: go up to her

and give her a kiss, and she will let you lead her away; but take care

you do not suffer her to go and take leave of her father and mother.'

Then the fox stretched out his tail, and so away they went over stock

and stone till their hair whistled again.

As they came to the castle, all was as the fox had said, and at twelve

o'clock the young man met the princes going to the bath and gave her the

kiss, and she agreed to run away with him, but begged with many tears

that he would let her take leave of her father. At first he refused,

but she wept still more and more, and fell at his feet, till at last

he consented; but the moment she came to her father's house the guards

awoke and he was taken prisoner again.

Then he was brought before the king, and the king said, 'You shall never

have my daughter unless in eight days you dig away the hill that stops

the view from my window.' Now this hill was so big that the whole world

could not take it away: and when he had worked for seven days, and had

done very little, the fox came and said. 'Lie down and go to sleep; I

will work for you.' And in the morning he awoke and the hill was gone;

so he went merrily to the king, and told him that now that it was

removed he must give him the princess.

Then the king was obliged to keep his word, and away went the young man

and the princess; and the fox came and said to him, 'We will have all

three, the princess, the horse, and the bird.' 'Ah!' said the young man,

'that would be a great thing, but how can you contrive it?'

'If you will only listen,' said the fox, 'it can be done. When you come

to the king, and he asks for the beautiful princess, you must say, "Here

she is!" Then he will be very joyful; and you will mount the golden

horse that they are to give you, and put out your hand to take leave of

them; but shake hands with the princess last. Then lift her quickly on

to the horse behind you; clap your spurs to his side, and gallop away as

fast as you can.'

All went right: then the fox said, 'When you come to the castle where

the bird is, I will stay with the princess at the door, and you will

ride in and speak to the king; and when he sees that it is the right

horse, he will bring out the bird; but you must sit still, and say that

you want to look at it, to see whether it is the true golden bird; and

when you get it into your hand, ride away.'

This, too, happened as the fox said; they carried off the bird, the

princess mounted again, and they rode on to a great wood. Then the fox

came, and said, 'Pray kill me, and cut off my head and my feet.' But the

young man refused to do it: so the fox said, 'I will at any rate give

you good counsel: beware of two things; ransom no one from the gallows,

and sit down by the side of no river.' Then away he went. 'Well,'

thought the young man, 'it is no hard matter to keep that advice.'

He rode on with the princess, till at last he came to the village where

he had left his two brothers. And there he heard a great noise and

uproar; and when he asked what was the matter, the people said, 'Two men

are going to be hanged.' As he came nearer, he saw that the two men were

his brothers, who had turned robbers; so he said, 'Cannot they in any

way be saved?' But the people said 'No,' unless he would bestow all his

money upon the rascals and buy their liberty. Then he did not stay to

think about the matter, but paid what was asked, and his brothers were

given up, and went on with him towards their home.

And as they came to the wood where the fox first met them, it was so

cool and pleasant that the two brothers said, 'Let us sit down by the

side of the river, and rest a while, to eat and drink.' So he said,

'Yes,' and forgot the fox's counsel, and sat down on the side of the

river; and while he suspected nothing, they came behind, and threw him

down the bank, and took the princess, the horse, and the bird, and went

home to the king their master, and said. 'All this have we won by our

labour.' Then there was great rejoicing made; but the horse would not

eat, the bird would not sing, and the princess wept.

The youngest son fell to the bottom of the river's bed: luckily it was

nearly dry, but his bones were almost broken, and the bank was so steep

that he could find no way to get out. Then the old fox came once more,

and scolded him for not following his advice; otherwise no evil would

have befallen him: 'Yet,' said he, 'I cannot leave you here, so lay hold

of my tail and hold fast.' Then he pulled him out of the river, and said

to him, as he got upon the bank, 'Your brothers have set watch to kill

you, if they find you in the kingdom.' So he dressed himself as a poor

man, and came secretly to the king's court, and was scarcely within the

doors when the horse began to eat, and the bird to sing, and princess

left off weeping. Then he went to the king, and told him all his

brothers' roguery; and they were seized and punished, and he had the

princess given to him again; and after the king's death he was heir to

his kingdom.

A long while after, he went to walk one day in the wood, and the old fox

met him, and besought him with tears in his eyes to kill him, and cut

off his head and feet. And at last he did so, and in a moment the

fox was changed into a man, and turned out to be the brother of the

princess, who had been lost a great many many years.