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The Prince And Princess In The Forest

from The Olive Fairy Book

There were, once upon a time, a king and queen of Denmark who had an
only son, a handsome and clever lad. When he was eighteen, his father,
the old king, fell very ill, and there was no hope that he would ever
get well again. The queen and the prince were very unhappy, for they
loved him dearly; but though they did all they could, he only grew
worse and worse, and, one day, when the summer had come and the birds
were singing, he raised his head and, taking a long look out of the
window, fell back dead.

During many weeks the queen could hardly eat or sleep, so sorely did
she grieve for him, and the prince feared that she would die also if
she went on weeping; so he begged her to go with him to a beautiful
place that he knew of on the other side of the forest, and after some
time she consented. The prince was overjoyed, and arranged that they
should set off early next morning.

They travelled all day, only stopping now and then to rest, and
already the queen began to be better and to take a little interest in
the things she saw. Just as the evening was coming on they entered the
forest. Here it was quite dark, for the trees grew so close together
that the sun could not shine through them, and very soon they lost the
path, and wandered helplessly about wondering what they should do.

'If we sleep in this dreadful place,' said the queen, who was tired
and frightened, 'the wild beasts will eat us.' And she began to cry.

'Cheer up, mother,' answered her son, 'I have a feeling that luck is
coming to us.' And at the next turning they came to a little house, in
the window of which a light was burning.

'Didn't I tell you so?' cried the prince. 'Stay here a moment and I
will go and see if I can get food and shelter for the night.' And away
he ran as fast as he could go, for by this time they were very hungry,
as they had brought very little food with them and had eaten up every
scrap! When one takes a long journey on foot one does not like to have
too much to carry.

The prince entered the house and looked about him, going from one room
to the other, but seeing nobody and finding nothing to eat. At last,
as he was going sorrowfully away, he caught sight of a sword and shirt
of mail hanging on the wall in an inner room, with a piece of paper
fastened under them. On the paper was some writing, which said that
whoever wore the coat and carried the sword would be safe from all

The prince was so delighted at the sight that he forgot how hungry he
was, and instantly slipped on the coat of chain armour under his
tunic, and hid the sword under his cloak, for he did not mean to say
anything about what he had found. Then he went back to his mother, who
was waiting impatiently for him.

'What have you been doing all this time?' she asked angrily. 'I
thought you had been killed by robbers!'

'Oh, just looking round,' he answered; 'but though I searched
everywhere I could find nothing to eat.'

'I am very much afraid that it is a robbers' den,' said the queen. 'We
had better go on, hungry though we are.'

'No, it isn't; but still, we had better not stay here,' replied the
prince, 'especially as there is nothing to eat. Perhaps we shall find
another house.'

They went on for some time, until, sure enough, they came to another
house, which also had a light in the window.

'We'll go in here,' said the prince.

'No, no; I am afraid!' cried the queen. 'We shall be attacked and
killed! It is a robbers' den: I am sure it is!'

'Yes, it looks like it; but we can't help that,' said her son. 'We
have had nothing to eat for hours, and I'm nearly as tired as you.'

The poor queen was, indeed, quite worn out; she could hardly stand for
fatigue, and in spite of her terror was half anxious to be persuaded.

'And there's going to be a storm,' added the prince; who feared
nothing now that he had the sword.

So they went into the house, where they found nobody. In the first
room stood a table laid for a meal, with all sorts of good things to
eat and drink, though some of the dishes were empty.

'Well, this looks nice,' said the prince, sitting down and helping
himself to some delicious strawberries piled on a golden dish, and
some iced lemonade. Never had anything tasted so nice; but, all the
same, it was a robbers' den they had come to, and the robbers, who
had only just dined, had gone out into the forest to see whom they
could rob.

When the queen and the prince could eat no more they remembered that
they were very tired, and the prince looked about till he discovered a
comfortable bed, with silken sheets, standing in the next room.

'You get into bed, mother,' he said, 'and I'll lie down by the side.
Don't be alarmed; you can sleep quite safely till the morning.' And he
lay down with his sword in his hand, and kept watch until the day
began to break; then the queen woke up and said she was quite rested
and ready to start again.

'First I'll go out into the forest and see if I can find our road,'
said the prince. 'And while I'm gone you light the fire and make some
coffee. We must eat a good breakfast before we start.'

And he ran off into the wood.

After he had gone the queen lit the fire, and then thought she would
like to see what was in the other rooms; so she went from one to
another, and presently came to one that was very prettily furnished,
with lovely pictures on the walls, and pale blue curtains and soft
yellow cushions and comfortable easy chairs. As she was looking at all
these things, suddenly a trap-door opened in the floor, and the
robber-chief came out of the hole and seized her ankles. The queen
almost died of fright, and shrieked loudly, then fell on her knees and
begged him to spare her life.

'Yes, if you will promise me two things,' he replied; 'first that you
will take me home to your country and let me be crowned king instead
of your son; and secondly, that you will kill him in case he should
try to take the throne from me--if you will not agree to this I shall
kill you.'

'Kill my own son!' gasped the queen, staring at him in horror.

'You need not do that exactly,' said the robber. 'When he returns,
just lie on the bed and say that you have been taken ill, and add that
you have dreamed that in a forest, a mile away, there are some
beautiful apples. If you could only get some of these you would be
well again, but if not you will die.'

The queen shuddered as she listened. She was fond of her son, but she
was a terrible coward; and so in the end she agreed, hoping that
something would occur to save the prince. She had hardly given her
promise when a step was heard, and the robber hastily hid himself.

'Well, mother,' cried the prince as he entered, 'I have been through
the forest and found the road, so we will start directly we have had
some breakfast.'

'Oh, I feel so ill!' said the queen. 'I could not walk a single step;
and there is only one thing that will cure me.'

'What is that?' asked the prince.

'I dreamed,' answered the queen, in a faint voice, 'that, a mile
away, there is a forest where the most beautiful apples grow, and if I
could have some of them I should soon be well again.'

'Oh! but dreams don't mean anything,' said the prince. 'There is a
magician who lives near here. I'll go to him and ask for a spell to
cure you.'

'My dreams always mean something,' said the queen, shaking her head.
'If I don't get any apples I shall die.' She did not know why the
robber wanted to send the prince to this particular forest, but as a
matter of fact it was full of wild animals who would tear to pieces
any traveller who entered it.

'Well, I'll go,' answered the prince. 'But I really must have some
breakfast first; I shall walk all the faster.'

'If you do not hurry you will find me dead when you come back,'
murmured the queen fretfully. She thought her son was not nearly
anxious enough about her, and by this time she had begun to believe
that she really was as ill as she had said.

* * * * *

When the prince had eaten and drunk, he set off, and soon came to a
forest, and sure enough it was full of lions and tigers, and bears and
wolves, who came rushing towards him; but instead of springing on him
and tearing him to pieces, they lay down on the ground and licked his
hands. He speedily found the tree with the apples which his mother
wanted, but the branches were so high he could not reach them, and
there was no way of climbing up the smooth trunk.

'It is no use after all, I can't get up there,' he said to himself.
'What am I to do now?'

But, as he turned away, his sword chanced to touch the tree, and
immediately two apples fell down. He picked them up joyfully, and was
going away when a little dog came out of a hill close by, and running
up to him, began tugging at his clothes and whining.

'What do you want, little dog?' asked the prince, stooping down to
pat his soft black head.

The dog ran to a hole that was in the hill and sat there looking out,
as much as to say: 'Come along in with me.'

'I may as well go and see what is in there,' thought the prince, and
he went over to the hill. But the hole was so small that he could not
get through it, so he thrust his sword into it, and immediately it
became larger.

'Ha, ha!' he chuckled; 'it's worth something to have a sword like
that.' And he bent down and crept through the hole.

The first thing he beheld, when he entered a room at the very end of a
dark passage, was a beautiful princess, who was bound by an iron chain
to an iron pillar.

'What evil fate brought you here?' he asked in surprise: and the lady

'It isn't much use for me to tell you lest my lot becomes yours.'

'I am not afraid of that. Tell me who you are and what has brought you
here,' begged the prince.

'My story is not long,' she said, smiling sadly. 'I am a princess from
Arabia, and twelve robbers who dwell in this place are fighting among
themselves as to which shall have me to wife.'

'Shall I save you?' asked the prince. And she answered:

'Yes; but you can't do it. To begin with, how could you break the
chain I am bound with?'

'Oh, that's easy enough,' said he, taking out his sword; and directly
it touched the chain the links fell apart and the princess was free.

'Come!' said the prince, taking her hand. But she drew back.

'No, I dare not!' she cried. 'If we should meet the robbers in the
passage they would kill us both.'

'Not they!' said the prince, brandishing his sword. 'But how long
have you been here?' he added quickly.

'About twenty years, I think,' said the princess, reckoning with her

'Twenty years!' exclaimed the prince. 'Then you had better shut your
eyes, for when you have been sitting there so long it might hurt you
to go too suddenly into the daylight. So you are the Princess of
Arabia, whose beauty is famous throughout all the world! I, too, am a

'Will you not come back to Arabia and marry me, now you have saved my
life?' asked the princess. 'Even if my father is living still, he must
be old, and after his death you can be king.'

'No,' replied the prince, 'I cannot do that--I must live and die in my
own country. But at the end of a year I will follow you and marry
you.' And that was all he would say.

Then the princess took a heavy ring from her finger and put it on his.
Her father's and her mother's names were engraved in it, as well as
her own, and she asked him to keep it as a reminder of his promise.

'I will die before I part from it,' said the prince. 'And if at the
end of a year I am still living, I will come. I believe I have heard
that at the other side of this forest there is a port from which ships
sail to Arabia. Let us hasten there at once.'

Hand in hand they set off through the forest, and when they came to
the port they found a ship just ready to sail. The princess said
good-bye to the prince, and went on board the vessel, and when she
reached her own country there were great rejoicings, for her parents
had never expected to see her again. She told them how a prince had
saved her from the robbers, and was coming in a year's time to marry
her, and they were greatly pleased.

'All the same,' said the king, 'I wish he were here now. A year is a
long time.'

When the princess was no longer before his eyes, the prince
recollected why he had entered the forest, and made all the haste he
could back to the robbers' home.

The robber-chief could smell the apples from afar, for he had a nose
like an ogre, and he said to the queen:

'That is a strange fellow! If he had gone into the forest the wild
beasts must have eaten him unless he has a powerful charm to protect
him. If that is so we must get it away from him.'

'No, he has nothing,' answered the queen, who was quite fascinated by
the robber.

But the robber did not believe her.

'We must think of a way to get it,' he said. 'When he comes in say you
are well again, and have some food ready for him. Then, whilst he is
eating, tell him you dreamed that he was attacked by wild beasts, and
ask him how he managed to escape from them. After he has told you I
can easily find a way to take his charm from him.'

Shortly after the prince came in.

'How are you, mother!' he said gaily. 'Here are your apples. Now you
will soon be well again, and ready to come away with me.'

'Oh, I am better already,' she said. 'And see, your dinner is all hot
for you, eat it up, and then we will start.'

Whilst he was eating she said to him: 'I had a horrible dream while
you were away. I saw you in a forest full of wild animals, and they
were running round you and growling fiercely. How did you manage to
escape from them?'

'Oh, it was only a dream!' laughed the prince.

'But my dreams are always true,' said his mother. 'Tell me how it

The prince wondered for some time whether he should tell her or not,
but at last he decided to let her into the secret.

'One should tell one's mother everything,' he thought. And he told

'See, mother, here are a sword and a mail shirt which I found in the
first house we entered in the forest, and as long as I carry them
nothing can hurt me. That is what saved me from the wild beasts.'

'How can I be thankful enough!' exclaimed the queen. And directly the
prince's back was turned, she hurried to tell the robber.

* * * * *

The robber, as soon as he heard the news, made a sleeping-draught, and
bade the queen give it to her son before he went to bed that night.

Accordingly, as soon as the prince began to get sleepy, the queen
handed him the cup containing the draught.

'Drink this, to please me,' she said. 'It will do you good after all
you've gone through, and make you sleep well.'

'What an odd taste it has!' murmured the prince as he drank it.

Immediately he fell asleep; and the robber came in and took away his
sword and shirt of mail.

'These things belong to my brother,' he said. After he had got them
both in his hand the robber woke him.

'I am the master now,' said he. 'Choose one of two things--either you
must die, or your eyes will be put out, and you will be sent back to
the forest.'

The prince's blood grew cold at these words. Then a thought struck
him, and he turned to his mother: 'Is this your doing?' he asked
sternly. And though she burst into tears and denied it, the prince
knew she was not telling the truth.

'Well,' said he, '"whilst there is life there is hope." I will go back
to the forest.'

Then the robber put out his eyes, gave him a stick, and some food and
drink, and drove him into the forest, hoping that the wild beasts
would kill him, as he no longer had the sword and shirt to protect

'Now,' he said to the queen, 'we will return to your country.'

The next day they set sail, and as soon as they reached home, they
were married, and the robber became king.

Meanwhile the poor prince was wandering about in the forest, hoping to
find someone who would help him, and perhaps take him into service,
for now he had no money and no home. It so happened that there had
been a great hunt in the forest, and the wild beasts had all fled
before the hunters and were hiding, so nothing did him any harm. At
last one day, just when his food was all gone and he had made up his
mind that he must surely die of hunger, he came to the port whence the
ships sailed for Arabia. One vessel was just ready to start, and the
captain was going on board when he saw the prince.

'Why, here is a poor blind fellow!' he said. 'No doubt that is the
work of the robbers. Let us take him to Arabia with us. Would you like
to come, my good man?' he asked the prince.

Oh, how glad he was to hear someone speak kindly to him again! And he
answered that he would, and the sailors helped him to climb up the
side of the ship. When they got to Arabia the captain took him to the
public baths, and ordered one of the slaves to wash him. Whilst he was
being washed the princess's ring slipped off his finger and was
afterwards found by the slave who cleaned out the bath. The man showed
it to a friend of his who lived at the palace.

'Why, it is the princess's ring!' he said. 'Where did it come from?'

'It fell off a blind man's finger,' said the slave. 'He must have
stolen it; but I dare say you will be able to return it to the

So that evening the man took the ring to the palace and gave it to
his daughter, who was the princess's favourite slave, and the girl
gave it to her mistress. When the princess saw it she uttered a cry of

'It is the ring I gave my betrothed!' she said. 'Take me to him at

The bath-keeper thought it strange that the princess should be
betrothed to a blind beggar, but he did as she bade him, and when she
saw the prince she cried:

'At last you have come! The year is over, and I thought you were dead.
Now we will be married immediately.' And she went home and told the
king that he was to send an escort to bring her betrothed to the
palace. Naturally the king was rather surprised at the sudden arrival
of the prince; but when he heard that he was blind he was very much

'I cannot have a blind person to succeed me,' he said. 'It is
perfectly absurd!'

But the princess had had her own way all her life, and in the end the
king gave way as he had always done. The prince was taken to the
palace with much ceremony and splendour; but in spite of this the king
was not contented. Still, it could not be helped, and really it was
time the princess was married, though she looked as young as ever.
There had been hundreds of knights and princes who had begged her to
bestow her hand upon them, but she would have nothing to do with
anyone; and now she had taken it into her head to marry this blind
prince, and nobody else would she have.

* * * * *

One evening, as it was fine, the prince and princess went into the
garden, and sat down under a tree.

Two ravens were perched on a bush near by, and the prince, who could
understand bird language, heard one of them say: 'Do you know that it
is Midsummer-eve to-night?'

'Yes,' said the other.

'And do you know that part of the garden which is known as the
Queen's Bed?'


'Well, perhaps you don't know this, that whoever has bad eyes, or no
eyes at all, should bathe his eye-sockets in the dew that falls there
to-night, because then he will get his sight back. Only he must do it
between twelve and one o'clock.'

That was good news for the prince and princess to hear, and the young
man begged the princess to lead him to the place called the Queen's
Bed, which was the little plot of grass where the queen used often to
lie down and take her midday nap. Then, between twelve and one
o'clock, he bathed his eyes with the dew that was falling there, and
found he could see again as well as ever.

'I can see you!' he said to the princess, gazing at her as if he had
never seen anything before.

'I don't believe it,' she answered.

'Well, go and hang your handkerchief on a bush, and if I find it at
once you must believe me,' he said.

And so she did, and he went straight up to the handkerchief.

'Yes, indeed, you can see,' cried the princess. 'To think that my
mother's bed has really given back your sight!' and she went to the
bank and sat down again; and by-and-by, as the day was hot, the
princess fell asleep. As the prince watched her he suddenly saw
something shining on her neck. It was a little golden lamp that gave
out a bright light, and it hung from a golden chain. The prince
thought he would like to examine it more closely, so he unfastened the
chain, but as he did so the lamp fell to the ground. Before he could
pick it up a hawk flew in, snatched up the little lamp and flew away
again with it. The prince set off in pursuit, and ran on and on
without being able to catch the bird, until at length he had lost his
way. Trying to find it, he wandered on, up and down, until he came to
the forest where he had found the princess.

Meantime, the princess woke up, and finding herself alone she set out
to look for him. In the end she also lost her way, and as she was
walking about, not knowing what to do, the robbers captured her and
took her back to the cave from which the prince had rescued her. So
there they were after all their trouble--no better off than before!

The prince wandered on, trying to find his way back to Arabia, until
he chanced one day to meet twelve youths, walking gaily through the
forest, singing and laughing. 'Where are you going?' he asked. And
they told him they were looking for work.

'I'll join you, if I may,' said the prince. And they answered: 'The
more the merrier.'

Then the prince went with them, and they all journeyed on until they
met an old troll.

'Where are you going, my masters?' asked the troll.

'To seek service,' they told him.

'Then come and serve me,' he said; 'there will be plenty to eat and
drink, and not much work to do, and if, at the end of a year, you can
answer three questions, I'll give you each a sack of gold. Otherwise
you must be turned into beasts.'

The youths thought this sounded easy enough, so they went home with
the troll to his castle.

'You will find all that you want here,' he said; 'and all you need do
is to take care of the house, for I am going away, and shall only
return when the year is over.'

Then he went away, and the young men, left to themselves, had a fine
time of it; for they did no work, and only amused themselves with
singing and drinking. Every day they found the table laid with good
things to eat and drink, and when they had finished, the plates and
dishes were cleared away by invisible hands. Only the prince, who was
sad for his lost princess, ate and drank sparingly, and worked hard
keeping the house in order.

One day, as he sat in his own room, he heard the voice of the old
troll beneath his window talking to another troll.

'To-morrow,' said he, 'the year is up.'

'And what questions will you ask?' inquired the other.

'First I shall ask how long they have been here--they don't know, the
young fools! Secondly I shall ask what shines on the roof of the

'And what is that?'

'The lamp that was stolen by me from the princess as she slept in the

'And what is the third question?'

'I shall ask where the food and drink they consume every day come
from. I steal it from the king's table; but they don't know that.'

* * * * *

The day after, the troll entered.

'Now I shall ask my questions,' said he. 'To begin with: How long have
you been here?'

The young men had been so busy drinking and making merry that they had
forgotten all about the agreement, so they remained silent.

'One week,' said one, at last.

'Two months,' guessed another. But the prince answered, 'One year.'

'Right,' replied the troll. But the second question was more

'What is it that shines on the roof?'

The young men guessed and guessed. 'The sun--the moon.' But none of
them really knew.

'May I answer?' asked the prince.

'Yes, certainly,' replied the troll; and the prince spoke.

'The lamp that you stole from the princess whilst she was asleep in
the garden.' And again the troll nodded.

The third question was harder still.

'Where does the meat and drink you have had here come from?'

None of the young men could guess.

'May I say?' asked the prince.

'Yes, if you can,' replied the troll.

'It comes from the king's table,' said the prince.

And that was all. Now they might take the sacks of gold and go, and
the young men went off in such a hurry that the prince was left
behind. Presently, they met an old man who asked for money.

'No, we haven't any,' they answered.

So they hurried on, and by-and-by up came the prince.

'Has your lordship a piece of money for a poor man?' asked the old

'Yes,' said the prince, and gave him his whole sackful.

'I don't want it,' said the old man, who was really the troll they had
just left in disguise. 'But since you're so generous, here is the
princess's lamp, and the princess herself is in the cave where you
found her; but how you're going to save her again without the magic
sword I don't know.'

When he heard that, the prince knew where she was; and that was the
beginning of her rescue. So he disguised himself to look like a
peddler and travelled on until he reached his own city, where his
mother, the queen, and the robber-chief were living. Then he went in
to a goldsmith's shop and ordered a great number of kitchen pots to be
made out of pure gold. That was not an order the goldsmith had every
day, but the things were ready at last, saucepans and kettles and
gridirons all of pure gold. Then the prince put them in his basket and
went up to the palace, and asked to see the queen.

Directly she heard about the wonderful gold pots and pans she came out
at once, and began unpacking the basket and admiring the things. She
was so absorbed in them that the prince soon found an opportunity to
steal into the bedroom and take the sword and shirt which were hung
there, and go back again without his mother having noticed his

'The things are all beautiful!' she said. 'How much would you take for

'Name your own price, your majesty,' answered the prince.

'I really don't know what to say,' said the queen. 'Wait till my
husband comes back--men understand such things better; and then, as
you are a stranger, he would like to chat with you a little.' The
prince bowed, and waited silently in a corner.

* * * * *

Soon after the robber returned.

'Come and see all these lovely gold saucepans!' cried the queen.

But, as the robber entered the room, the prince touched him with the
magic sword, and he fell to the ground.

'Perhaps, now you know me, mother,' the prince said, taking off his
disguise, 'you had better repent for all the wrong you have done me,
or your life will be short.'

'Oh, have mercy!' she cried, 'I could not help it. I was so

The prince had mercy. He ordered the wicked king to be stripped of his
fine clothes, and to be driven into the forest, where the wild beasts
tore him to pieces. The queen he sent to her own country. Then he set
off for the cave where the princess was sitting chained as before, and
with the help of the magic sword he rescued her again without any
difficulty. They soon reached the port and set sail for Arabia, where
they were married; and till they died, a long while after, they
reigned happily over both countries.

(From Eventyr fra Gylbauck samlede og optegnede af Evald Tang
Kristensen. Translated from the Danish by Mrs. Skovgaard-Pedersen.)

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