: The Green Fairy Book
A King's son once had a great desire to travel through the world,
so he started off, taking no one with him but one trusty servant.
One day he came to a great forest, and as evening drew on he could
find no shelter, and could not think where to spend the night. All
of a sudden he saw a girl going towards a little house, and as he
drew nearer he remarked that she was both young and pretty. He
spoke to her, and said, 'De
r child, could I and my servant spend
the night in this house?'
'Oh yes,' said the girl in a sad tone, 'you can if you like, but I
should not advise you to do so. Better not go in.'
'Why not?' asked the King's son.
The girl sighed and answered, 'My stepmother deals in black arts,
and she is not very friendly to strangers.'
The Prince guessed easily that he had fallen on a witch's house,
but as by this time it was quite dark and he could go no further,
and as moreover he was not at all afraid, he stepped in.
An old woman sat in an armchair near the fire, and as the
strangers entered she turned her red eyes on them. 'Good evening,'
she muttered, and pretending to be quite friendly. 'Won't you sit
She blew up the fire on which she was cooking something in a
little pot, and her daughter secretly warned the travellers to be
very careful not to eat or drink anything, as the old woman's
brews were apt to be dangerous.
They went to bed, and slept soundly till morning. When they were
ready to start and the King's son had already mounted his horse
the old woman said: 'Wait a minute, I must give you a stirrup
cup.' Whilst she went to fetch it the King's son rode off, and the
servant who had waited to tighten his saddle-girths was alone when
the witch returned.
'Take that to your master,' she said; but as she spoke the glass
cracked and the poison spurted over the horse, and it was so
powerful that the poor creature sank down dead. The servant ran
after his master and told him what had happened, and then, not
wishing to lose the saddle as well as the horse, he went back to
fetch it. When he got to the spot he saw that a raven had perched
on the carcase and was pecking at it. 'Who knows whether we shall
get anything better to eat to-day!' said the servant, and he shot
the raven and carried it off.
Then they rode on all day through the forest without coming to the
end. At nightfall they reached an inn, which they entered, and the
servant gave the landlord the raven to dress for their supper.
Now, as it happened, this inn was a regular resort of a band of
murderers, and the old witch too was in the habit of frequenting
As soon as it was dark twelve murderers arrived, with the full
intention of killing and robbing the strangers. Before they set to
work, however, they sat down to table, and the landlord and the
old witch joined them, and they all ate some broth in which the
flesh of the raven had been stewed down. They had hardly taken a
couple of spoonfuls when they all fell down dead, for the poison
had passed from the horse to the raven and so into the broth. So
there was no one left belonging to the house but the landlord's
daughter, who was a good, well-meaning girl, and had taken no part
in all the evil doings.
She opened all the doors, and showed the strangers the treasures
the robbers had gathered together; but the Prince bade her keep
them all for herself, as he wanted none of them, and so he rode
further with his servant.
After travelling about for some length of time they reached a town
where lived a lovely but most arrogant Princess. She had given out
that anyone who asked her a riddle which she found herself unable
to guess should be her husband, but should she guess it he must
forfeit his head. She claimed three days in which to think over
the riddles, but she was so very clever that she invariably
guessed them in a much shorter time. Nine suitors had already lost
their lives when the King's son arrived, and, dazzled by her
beauty, determined to risk his life in hopes of winning her.
So he came before her and propounded his riddle. 'What is this?'
he asked. 'One slew none and yet killed twelve.'
She could not think what it was! She thought, and thought, and
looked through all her books of riddles and puzzles, but she found
nothing to help her, and could not guess; in fact, she was at her
wits' end. As she could think of no way to guess the riddle, she
ordered her maid to steal at night into the Prince's bedroom and
to listen, for she thought that he might perhaps talk aloud in his
dreams and so betray the secret. But the clever servant had taken
his master's place, and when the maid came he tore off the cloak
she had wrapped herself in and hunted her off with a whip.
On the second night the Princess sent her lady-in-waiting, hoping
that she might succeed better, but the servant took away her
mantle and chased her away also.
On the third night the King's son thought he really might feel
safe, so he went to bed. But in the middle of the night the
Princess came herself, all huddled up in a misty grey mantle, and
sat down near him. When she thought he was fast asleep, she spoke
to him, hoping he would answer in the midst of his dreams, as many
people do; but he was wide awake all the time, and heard and
understood everything very well.
Then she asked: 'One slew none--what is that?' and he answered: 'A
raven which fed on the carcase of a poisoned horse.'
She went on: 'And yet killed twelve--what is that?' 'Those are
twelve murderers who ate the raven and died of it.'
As soon as she knew the riddle she tried to slip away, but he held
her mantle so tightly that she was obliged to leave it behind.
Next morning the Princess announced that she had guessed the
riddle, and sent for the twelve judges, before whom she declared
it. But the young man begged to be heard, too, and said: 'She came
by night to question me, otherwise she never could have guessed
The judges said: 'Bring us some proof.' So the servant brought out
the three cloaks, and when the judges saw the grey one, which the
Princess was in the habit of wearing, they said: 'Let it be
embroidered with gold and silver; it shall be your wedding