The Golden Lads

: The Green Fairy Book

A poor man and his wife lived in a little cottage, where they

supported themselves by catching fish in the nearest river, and

got on as best they could, living from hand to mouth. One day it

happened that when the fisherman drew in his net he found in it a

remarkable fish, for it was entirely of gold. As he was inspecting

it with some surprise, the fish opened its mouth and said: 'Listen

to me, fisher; if you will just
throw me back into the water I'll

turn your poor little cottage into a splendid castle.'

The fisher replied: 'What good, pray, will a castle be to me if I

have nothing to eat in it?'

'Oh,' said the gold fish, 'I'll take care of that. There will be a

cupboard in the castle, in which you will find dishes of every

kind of food you can wish for most.'

'If that's the case,' said the man, 'I've no objection to oblige


'Yes,' observed the fish, 'but there is one condition attached to

my offer, and that is that you are not to reveal to a soul where

your good fortune comes from. If you say a word about it, it will

all vanish.'

The man threw the fish back into the water, and went home. But on

the spot where his cottage used to stand he found a spacious

castle. He opened his eyes wide, went in and found his wife

dressed out in smart clothes, sitting in a splendidly furnished

drawing-room. She was in high spirits, and cried out: 'Oh husband!

how can this all have happened? I am so pleased!'

'Yes,' said her husband, 'so am I pleased; but I'm uncommonly

hungry, and I want something to eat at once.'

Said his wife, 'I've got nothing, and I don't know where anything

is in this new house.'

'Never mind,' replied the man. 'I see a big cupboard there.

Suppose you unlock it.'

When the cupboard was opened they found meat, cakes, fruit, and

wine, all spread out in the most tempting fashions. The wife

clapped her hands with joy, and cried: 'Dear heart! what more can

one wish for?' and they sat down and ate and drank.

When they had finished the wife asked, 'But husband, where do all

these riches come from?'

'Ah!' said he, 'don't ask me. I dare not tell you. If I reveal the

secret to anyone, it will be all up with us.'

'Very well,' she replied, 'if I'm not to be told, of course I

don't want to know anything about it.'

But she was not really in earnest, for her curiosity never left

her a moment's peace by day or night, and she teazed and worried

her husband to such a pitch, that at length he quite lost patience

and blurted out that it all came from a wonderful golden fish

which he had caught and set free again. Hardly were the words well

out of his mouth, when castle, cupboard, and all vanished, and

there they were sitting in their poor little fishing hut once


The man had to betake himself to his former trade, and set to

fishing again. As luck would have it, he caught the golden fish a

second time.

'Now listen,' said the fish, 'if you'll throw me back into the

water, I'll give you back the castle and the cupboard with all its

good things; but now take care, and don't for your life betray

where you got them, or you'll just lose them again.'

'I'll be very careful,' promised the fisher, and threw the fish

back into the water. When he went home he found all their former

splendour restored, and his wife overjoyed at their good fortune.

But her curiosity still continued to torment her, and after

restraining it with a great effort for a couple of days, she began

questioning her husband again, as to what had happened, and how he

had managed.

The man kept silence for some time, but at last she irritated him

so much that he burst out with the secret, and in one moment the

castle was gone, and they sat once more in their wretched old hut.

'There!' exclaimed the man, 'you would have it--now we may

just go on short commons.'

'Ah!' said his wife, 'after all I'd rather not have all the riches

in the world if I can't know where they come from--I shall not

have a moment's peace.'

The man took to his fishing again, and one day fate brought the

gold fish into his net for the third time. 'Well,' said the fish,

'I see that I am evidently destined to fall into your hands. Now

take me home, and cut me into six pieces. Give two bits to your

wife to eat, two to your horse, and plant the remaining two in

your garden, and they will bring you a blessing.'

The man carried the fish home, and did exactly as he had been

told. After a time, it came to pass that from the two pieces he

had planted in the garden two golden lilies grew up, and that his

horse had two golden foals, whilst his wife gave birth to twin

boys who were all golden.

The children grew up both tall and handsome, and the foals and the

lilies grew with them.

One day the children came to their father and said, 'Father, we

want to mount on golden steeds, and ride forth to see the world.'

Their father answered sadly, 'How can I bear it if, when you are

far away, I know nothing about you?' and they said, 'The golden

lilies will tell you all about us if you look at them. If they

seem to droop, you will know we are ill, and if they fall down and

fade away, it will be a sign we are dead.'

So off they rode, and came to an inn where were a number of people

who, as soon as they saw the two golden lads, began to laugh and

jeer at them. When one of them heard this, his heart failed him,

and he thought he would go no further into the world, so he turned

back and rode home to his father, but his brother rode on till he

reached the outskirts of a huge forest. Here he was told, 'It will

never do for you to ride through the forest, it is full of

robbers, and you're sure to come to grief, especially when they

see that you and your horse are golden. They will certainly fall

on you and kill you.' However, he was not to be intimidated, but

said, 'I must and will ride on.'

So he procured some bears' skins, and covered himself and his

horse with them, so that not a particle of gold could be seen, and

then rode bravely on into the heart of the forest.

When he had got some way he heard a rustling through the bushes

and presently a sound of voices. Someone whispered on one side of

him: 'There goes someone,' and was answered from the other side:

'Oh, let him pass. He's only a bear-keeper, and as poor as any

church mouse.' So golden lad rode through the forest and no harm

befell him.

One day he came to a village, where he saw a girl who struck him

as being the loveliest creature in the whole world, and as he felt

a great love for her, he went up to her and said: 'I love you with

all my heart; will you be my wife?' And the girl liked him so much

that she put her hand in his and replied: 'Yes, I will be your

wife, and will be true to you as long as I live.'

So they were married, and in the middle of all the festivities and

rejoicings the bride's father came home and was not a little

surprised at finding his daughter celebrating her wedding. He

enquired: 'And who is the bridegroom?'

Then someone pointed out to him the golden lad, who was still

wrapped up in the bear's skin, and the father exclaimed angrily:

'Never shall a mere bear-keeper have my daughter,' and tried to

rush at him and kill him. But the bride did all she could to

pacify him, and begged hard, saying: 'After all he is my husband,

and I love him with all my heart,' so that at length he gave in.

However, he could not dismiss the thought from his mind, and next

morning he rose very early, for he felt he must go and look at his

daughter's husband and see whether he really was nothing better

than a mere ragged beggar. So he went to his son-in-law's room,

and who should he see lying in the bed but a splendid golden man,

and the rough bearskin thrown on the ground close by. Then he

slipped quietly away, and thought to himself, 'How lucky that I

managed to control my rage! I should certainly have committed a

great crime.'

Meantime the golden lad dreamt that he was out hunting and was

giving chase to a noble stag, and when he woke he said to his

bride: 'I must go off and hunt.' She felt very anxious, and begged

he would stay at home, adding: 'Some mishap might so easily befall

you,' but he answered, 'I must and will go.'

So he went off into the forest, and before long a fine stag, such

as he had seen in his dream, stopped just in front of him. He took

aim, and was about to fire when the stag bounded away. Then he

started off in pursuit, making his way through bushes and briars,

and never stopped all day; but in the evening the stag entirely

disappeared, and when golden lad came to look about him he found

himself just opposite a hut in which lived a witch. He knocked at

the door, which was opened by a little old woman who asked, 'What

do you want at this late hour in the midst of this great forest?'

He said, 'Haven't you seen a stag about here?'

'Yes,' said she, 'I know the stag well,' and as she spoke a little

dog ran out of the house and began barking and snapping at the


'Be quiet, you little toad,' he cried, 'or I'll shoot you dead.'

Then the witch flew into a great rage, and screamed out, 'What!

you'll kill my dog, will you?' and the next moment he was turned

to stone and lay there immovable, whilst his bride waited for him

in vain and thought to herself, 'Alas! no doubt the evil I feared,

and which has made my heart so heavy, has befallen him.'

Meantime, the other brother was standing near the golden lilies at

home, when suddenly one of them bent over and fell to the ground.

'Good heavens!' cried he, 'some great misfortune has befallen my

brother. I must set off at once; perhaps I may still be in time to

save him.'

His father entreated him, 'Stay at home. If I should lose you too,

what would become of me?'

But his son replied, 'I must and will go.'

Then he mounted his golden horse, and rode off till he reached the

forest where his brother lay transformed to stone. The old witch

came out of her house and called to him, for she would gladly have

cast her spells on him too, but he took care not to go near her,

and called out: 'Restore my brother to life at once, or I'll shoot

you down on the spot.'

Reluctantly she touched the stone with her finger, and in a moment

it resumed its human shape. The two golden lads fell into each

other's arms and kissed each other with joy, and then rode off

together to the edge of the forest, where they parted, one to

return to his old father, and the other to his bride.

When the former got home his father said, 'I knew you had

delivered your brother, for all of a sudden the golden lily reared

itself up and burst into blossom.'

Then they all lived happily to their lives' ends, and all things

went well with them.