The Silent Princess

: The Olive Fairy Book

Once upon a time there lived in Turkey a pasha who had only one son,

and so dearly did he love this boy that he let him spend the whole day

amusing himself, instead of learning how to be useful like his


Now the boy's favourite toy was a golden ball, and with this he would

play from morning till night, without troubling anybody. One day, as

he was sitting in the summer-house in the garden, making
is ball run

all along the walls and catching it again, he noticed an old woman

with an earthen pitcher coming to draw water from a well which stood

in a corner of the garden. In a moment he had caught his ball and

flung it straight at the pitcher, which fell to the ground in a

thousand pieces. The old woman started with surprise, but said

nothing; only turned round to fetch another pitcher, and as soon as

she had disappeared, the boy hurried out to pick up his ball.

Scarcely was he back in the summer-house when he beheld the old woman

a second time, approaching the well with the pitcher on her shoulder.

She had just taken hold of the handle to lower it into the water,

when--crash! And the pitcher lay in fragments at her feet. Of course

she felt very angry, but for fear of the pasha she still held her

peace, and spent her last pence in buying a fresh pitcher. But when

this also was broken by a blow from the ball, her wrath burst forth,

and shaking her fist towards the summer-house where the boy was

hiding, she cried:

'I wish you may be punished by falling in love with the silent

princess.' And having said this she vanished.

For some time the boy paid no heed to her words--indeed he forgot

them altogether; but as years went by, and he began to think more

about things, the remembrance of the old woman's wish came back to his


'Who is the silent princess? And why should it be a punishment to fall

in love with her?' he asked himself, and received no answer. However,

that did not prevent him from putting the question again and again,

till at length he grew so weak and ill that he could eat nothing, and

in the end was forced to lie in bed altogether. His father the pasha

became so frightened by this strange disease, that he sent for every

physician in the kingdom to cure him, but no one was able to find a


'How did your illness first begin, my son?' asked the pasha one day.

'Perhaps, if we knew that, we should also know better what to do for


Then the youth told him what had happened all those years before, when

he was a little boy, and what the old woman had said to him.

'Give me, I pray you,' he cried, when his tale was finished, 'give me,

I pray you, leave to go into the world in search of the princess, and

perhaps this evil state may cease.' And, sore though his heart was to

part from his only son, the pasha felt that the young man would

certainly die if he remained at home any longer.

'Go, and peace be with you,' he answered; and went out to call his

trusted steward, whom he ordered to accompany his young master.

Their preparations were soon made, and early one morning the two set

out. But neither old man nor young had the slightest idea where they

were going, or what they were undertaking. First they lost their way

in a dense forest, and from that they at length emerged in a

wilderness where they wandered for six months, not seeing a living

creature and finding scarcely anything to eat or drink, till they

became nothing but skin and bone, while their garments hung in

tatters about them. They had forgotten all about the princess, and

their only wish was to find themselves back in the palace again, when,

one day, they discovered that they were standing on the shoulder of a

mountain. The stones beneath them shone as brightly as diamonds, and

both their hearts beat with joy at beholding a tiny old man

approaching them. The sight awoke all manner of recollections; the

numb feeling that had taken possession of them fell away as if by

magic, and it was with glad voices that they greeted the new-comer.

'Where are we, my friend?' asked they; and the old man told them that

this was the mountain where the sultan's daughter sat, covered by

seven veils, and the shining of the stones was only the reflection of

her own brilliance.

On hearing this news all the dangers and difficulties of their past

wandering vanished from their minds.

'How can I reach her soonest?' asked the youth eagerly. But the old

man only answered:

'Have patience, my son, yet awhile. Another six months must go by

before you arrive at the palace where she dwells with the rest of the

women. And, even so, think well, when you can, as should you fail to

make her speak, you will have to pay forfeit with your life, as others

have done. So beware!'

But the prince only laughed at this counsel--as others had also done.

* * * * *

After three months they found themselves on the top of another

mountain, and the prince saw with surprise that its sides were

coloured a beautiful red. Perched on some cliffs, not far off, was a

small village, and the prince proposed to his friend that they should

go and rest there. The villagers, on their part, welcomed them gladly,

and gave them food to eat and beds to sleep on, and thankful indeed

were the two travellers to repose their weary limbs.

The next morning they asked their host if he could tell them whether

they were still many days' journey from the princess, and whether he

knew why the mountain was so much redder than other mountains.

'For three and a half more months you must still pursue your way,'

answered he, 'and by that time you will find yourselves at the gate of

the princess's palace. As for the colour of the mountain, that comes

from the soft hue of her cheeks and mouth, which shines through the

seven veils which cover her. But none have ever beheld her face, for

she sits there, uttering no word, though one hears whispers of many

having lost their lives for her sake.'

The prince, however, would listen no further; and thanking the man for

his kindness, he jumped up and, with the steward, set out to climb the


On and on and on they went, sleeping under the trees or in caves, and

living upon berries and any fish they could catch in the rivers. But

at length, when their clothes were nearly in rags and their legs so

tired that they could hardly walk any further, they saw on the top of

the next mountain a palace of yellow marble.

'There it is, at last,' cried the prince; and fresh blood seemed to

spring in his veins. But as he and his companion began to climb

towards the top they paused in horror, for the ground was white with

dead men's skulls. It was the prince who first recovered his voice,

and he said to his friend, as carelessly as he could:

'These must be the skulls of the men who tried to make the princess

speak and failed. Well, if we fail too, our bones will strew the

ground likewise.'

'Oh! turn back now, my prince, while there is yet time,' entreated his

companion. 'Your father gave you into my charge; but when we set out I

did not know that certain death lay before us.'

'Take heart, O Lala, take heart!' answered the prince. 'A man can but

die once. And, besides, the princess will have to speak some day,

you know.'

So they went on again, past skulls and dead men's bones in all

degrees of whiteness. And by-and-by they reached another village,

where they determined to rest for a little while, so that their wits

might be fresh and bright for the task that lay before them. But this

time, though the people were kind and friendly, their faces were

gloomy, and every now and then woeful cries would rend the air.

'Oh! my brother, have I lost you?' 'Oh! my son, shall I see you no

more?' And then, as the prince and his companion asked the meaning of

these laments--which, indeed, was plain enough--the answer was given:

'Ah, you also have come hither to die! This town belongs to the father

of the princess, and when any rash man seeks to move the princess to

speech he must first obtain leave of the sultan. If that is granted

him he is then led into the presence of the princess. What happens

afterwards, perhaps the sight of these bones may help you to guess.'

The young man bowed his head in token of thanks, and stood thoughtful

for a short time. Then, turning to the Lala, he said:

'Well, our destiny will soon be decided! Meanwhile we will find out

all we can, and do nothing rashly.'

For two or three days they wandered about the bazaars, keeping their

eyes and ears open, when, one morning, they met a man carrying a

nightingale in a cage. The bird was singing so joyously that the

prince stopped to listen, and at once offered to buy him from his


'Oh, why cumber yourself with such a useless thing,' cried the Lala in

disgust; 'have you not enough to occupy your hands and mind, without

taking an extra burden?' But the prince, who liked having his own way,

paid no heed to him, and paying the high price asked by the man, he

carried the bird back to the inn, and hung him up in his chamber. That

evening, as he was sitting alone, trying to think of something that

would make the princess talk, and failing altogether, the nightingale

pecked open her cage door, which was lightly fastened by a stick, and,

perching on his shoulder, murmured softly in his ear:

'What makes you so sad, my prince?' The young man started. In his

native country birds did not talk, and, like many people, he was

always rather afraid of what he did not understand. But in a moment he

felt ashamed of his folly, and explained that he had travelled for

more than a year, and over thousands of miles, to win the hand of the

sultan's daughter. And now that he had reached his goal he could think

of no plan to force her to speak.

'Oh! do not trouble your head about that,' replied the bird, 'it is

quite easy! Go this evening to the women's apartments, and take me

with you, and when you enter the princess's private chamber hide me

under the pedestal which supports the great golden candlestick. The

princess herself will be wrapped so thickly in her seven veils that

she can see nothing, neither can her face be seen by anyone. Then

inquire after her health, but she will remain quite silent; and next

say that you are sorry to have disturbed her, and that you will have a

little talk with the pedestal of the candlestick. When you speak I

will answer.'

The prince threw his mantle over the bird, and started for the palace,

where he begged an audience of the sultan. This was soon granted him,

and leaving the nightingale hidden by the mantle, in a dark corner

outside the door, he walked up to the throne on which his highness was

sitting, and bowed low before him.

'What is your request?' asked the sultan, looking closely at the young

man, who was tall and handsome; but when he heard the tale he shook

his head pityingly.

'If you can make her speak she shall be your wife,' answered he; 'but

if not--did you mark the skulls that strewed the mountain side?'

'Some day a man is bound to break the spell, O sultan,' replied the

youth boldly; 'and why should not I be he as well as another? At any

rate, my word is pledged, and I cannot draw back now.'

'Well, go if you must,' said the sultan. And he bade his attendants

lead the way to the chamber of the princess, but to allow the young

man to enter alone.

Catching up, unseen, his mantle and the cage as they passed into the

dark corridor--for by this time night was coming on--the youth found

himself standing in a room bare except for a pile of silken cushions,

and one tall golden candlestick. His heart beat high as he looked at

the cushions, and knew that, shrouded within the shining veils that

covered them, lay the much longed-for princess. Then, fearful that

after all other eyes might be watching him, he hastily placed the

nightingale under the open pedestal on which the candlestick was

resting, and turning again he steadied his voice, and besought the

princess to tell him of her well-being.

Not by even a movement of her hand did the princess show that she had

heard, and the young man, who of course expected this, went on to

speak of his travels and of the strange countries he had passed

through; but not a sound broke the silence.

* * * * *

'I see clearly that you are interested in none of these things,' said

he at last, 'and as I have been forced to hold my peace for so many

months, I feel that now I really must talk to somebody, so I shall

go and address my conversation to the candlestick.' And with that he

crossed the room behind the princess, and cried: 'O fairest of

candlesticks, how are you?'

'Very well indeed, my lord,' answered the nightingale; 'but I wonder

how many years have gone by since any one has spoken with me. And, now

that you have come, rest, I pray you, awhile, and listen to my story.'

'Willingly,' replied the youth, curling himself up on the floor, for

there was no cushion for him to sit on.

'Once upon a time,' began the nightingale, 'there lived a pasha whose

daughter was the most beautiful maiden in the whole kingdom. Suitors

she had in plenty, but she was not easy to please, and at length there

were only three whom she felt she could even think of marrying. Not

knowing which of the three she liked best, she took counsel with her

father, who summoned the young men into his presence, and then told

them that they must each of them learn some trade, and whichever of

them proved the cleverest at the end of six months should become the

husband of the princess.

'Though the three suitors may have been secretly disappointed, they

could not help feeling that this test was quite fair, and left the

palace together, talking as they went of what handicrafts they might

set themselves to follow. The day was hot, and when they reached a

spring that gushed out of the side of the mountain, they stopped to

drink and rest, and then one of them said:

'"It will be best that we should each seek our fortunes alone; so let

us put our rings under this stone, and go our separate ways. And the

first one who returns hither will take his ring, and the others will

take theirs. Thus we shall know whether we have all fulfilled the

commands of the pasha, or if some accident has befallen any of us."

'"Good," replied the other two. And three rings were placed in a

little hole, and carefully covered again by the stone.

'Then they parted, and for six months they knew naught of each other,

till, on the day appointed, they met at the spring. Right glad they

all were, and eagerly they talked of what they had done, and how the

time had been spent.

'"I think I shall win the princess," said the eldest, with a laugh,

"for it is not everybody that is able to accomplish a whole year's

journey in an hour!"

'"That is very clever, certainly," answered his friend; "but if you

are to govern a kingdom it may be still more useful to have the power

of seeing what is happening at a distance; and that is what I have

learnt," replied the second.

'"No, no, my dear comrades," cried the third, "your trades are all

very well; but when the pasha hears that I can bring back the dead to

life he will know which of us three is to be his son-in-law. But come,

there only remain a few hours of the six months he granted us. It is

time that we hastened back to the palace."

'"Stop a moment," said the second, "it would be well to know what is

going on in the palace." And plucking some small leaves from a tree

near by, he muttered some words and made some signs, and laid them on

his eyes. In an instant he turned pale, and uttered a cry.

'"What is it? What is it?" exclaimed the others; and, with a shaking

voice, he gasped:

'"The princess is lying on her bed, and has barely a few minutes to

live. Oh! can no one save her?"

'"I can," answered the third, taking a small box from his turban;

"this ointment will cure any illness. But how to reach her in time?"

'"Give it to me," said the first. And he wished himself by the bedside

of the princess, which was surrounded by the sultan and his weeping

courtiers. Clearly there was not a second to lose, for the princess

had grown unconscious, and her face cold. Plunging his finger into the

ointment he touched her eyes, mouth and ears with the paste, and with

beating heart awaited the result.

'It was swifter than he supposed. As he looked the colour came back

into her cheeks, and she smiled up at her father. The sultan, almost

speechless with joy at this sudden change, embraced his daughter

tenderly, and then turned to the young man to whom he owed her life:

'"Are you not one of those three whom I sent forth to learn a trade

six months ago?" asked he. And the young man answered yes, and that

the other two were even now on their way to the palace, so that the

sultan might judge between them.'

At this point in his story the nightingale stopped, and asked the

prince which of the three he thought had the best right to the


'The one who had learned how to prepare the ointment,' replied he.

'But if it had not been for the man who could see what was happening

at a distance they would never have known that the princess was ill,'

said the nightingale. 'I would give it to him.' And the strife

between them waxed hot, till, suddenly, the listening princess

started up from her cushions and cried:

'Oh, you fools! cannot you understand that if it had not been for him

who had power to reach the palace in time the ointment itself would

have been useless, for death would have claimed her? It is he and no

other who ought to have the princess!'

At the first sound of the princess's voice, a slave, who was standing

at the door, ran at full speed to tell the sultan of the miracle which

had taken place, and the delighted father hastened to the spot. But by

this time the princess perceived that she had fallen into a trap which

had been cunningly laid for her, and would not utter another word. All

she could be prevailed on to do was to make signs to her father that

the man who wished to be her husband must induce her to speak three

times. And she smiled to herself beneath her seven veils as she

thought of the impossibility of that.

When the sultan told the prince that though he had succeeded once, he

would have twice to pass through the same test, the young man's face

clouded over. It did not seem to him fair play, but he dared not

object, so he only bowed low, and contrived to step back close to the

spot where the nightingale was hidden. As it was now quite dark he

tucked unseen the little cage under his cloak, and left the palace.

'Why are you so gloomy?' asked the nightingale, as soon as they were

safely outside. 'Everything has gone exactly right! Of course the

princess was very angry with herself for having spoken. And did you

see that, at her first words, the veils that covered her began to

rend? Take me back to-morrow evening, and place me on the pillar by

the lattice. Fear nothing, you have only to trust to me!'

The next evening, towards sunset, the prince left the cage behind him,

and with the bird in the folds of his garment slipped into the palace

and made his way straight to the princess's apartments. He was at

once admitted by the slaves who guarded the door, and took care to

pass near the window so that the nightingale hopped unseen to the top

of a pillar. Then he turned and bowed low to the princess, and asked

her several questions; but, as before, she answered nothing, and,

indeed, gave no sign that she heard. After a few minutes the young man

bowed again, and crossing over to the window, he said:

'Oh, pillar! it is no use speaking to the princess, she will not utter

one word; and as I must talk to somebody, I have come to you. Tell me

how you have been all this long while?'

'I thank you,' replied a voice from the pillar, 'I am feeling very

well. And it is lucky for me that the princess is silent, or else you

would not have wanted to speak to me. To reward you, I will relate to

you an interesting tale that I lately overheard, and about which I

should like to have your opinion.'

'That will be charming,' answered the prince, 'so pray begin at once.'

'Once upon a time,' said the nightingale, 'there lived a woman who was

so beautiful that every man who saw her fell in love with her. But she

was very hard to please, and refused to wed any of them, though she

managed to keep friends with all. Years passed away in this manner,

almost without her noticing them, and one by one the young men grew

tired of waiting, and sought wives who may have been less handsome,

but were also less proud, and at length only three of her former

wooers remained--Baldschi, Jagdschi, and Firedschi. Still she held

herself apart, thought herself better and lovelier than other women,

when, on a certain evening, her eyes were opened at last to the truth.

She was sitting before her mirror, combing her curls, when amongst her

raven locks she found a long white hair!

'At this dreadful sight her heart gave a jump, and then stood still.

'"I am growing old," she said to herself, "and if I do not choose a

husband soon, I shall never get one! I know that either of those men

would gladly marry me to-morrow, but I cannot decide between them. I

must invent some way to find out which of them is the best, and lose

no time about it."

'So instead of going to sleep, she thought all night long of different

plans, and in the morning she arose and dressed herself.

'"That will have to do," she muttered as she pulled out the white hair

which had cost her so much trouble. "It is not very good, but I can

think of nothing better; and--well, they are none of them clever, and

I dare say they will easily fall into the trap." Then she called her

slave and bade her let Jagdschi know that she would be ready to

receive him in an hour's time. After that she went into the garden and

dug a grave under a tree, by which she laid a white shroud.

'Jagdschi was delighted to get the gracious message; and, putting on

his newest garments, he hastened to the lady's house, but great was

his dismay at finding her stretched on her cushions, weeping bitterly.

'"What is the matter, O Fair One?" he asked, bowing low before her.

'"A terrible thing has happened," said she, her voice choked with

sobs. "My father died two nights ago, and I buried him in my garden.

But now I find that he was a wizard, and was not dead at all, for his

grave is empty and he is wandering about somewhere in the world."

'"That is evil news indeed," answered Jagdschi; "but can I do nothing

to comfort you?"

'"There is one thing you can do," replied she, "and that is to wrap

yourself in the shroud and lay yourself in the grave. If he should not

return till after three hours have elapsed he will have lost his power

over me, and be forced to go and wander elsewhere."

'Now Jagdschi was proud of the trust reposed in him, and wrapping

himself in the shroud, he stretched himself at full length in the

grave. After some time Baldschi arrived in his turn, and found the

lady groaning and lamenting. She told him that her father had been a

wizard, and that in case, as was very likely, he should wish to leave

his grave and come to work her evil, Baldschi was to take a stone and

be ready to crush in his head, if he showed signs of moving.

'Baldschi, enchanted at being able to do his lady a service, picked up

a stone, and seated himself by the side of the grave wherein lay


'Meanwhile the hour arrived in which Firedschi was accustomed to pay

his respects, and, as in the case of the other two, he discovered the

lady overcome with grief. To him she said that a wizard who was an

enemy of her father's had thrown the dead man out of his grave, and

had taken his place. "But," she added, "if you can bring the wizard

into my presence, all his power will go from him; if not, then I am


'"Ah, lady, what is there that I would not do for you!" cried

Firedschi; and running down to the grave, he seized the astonished

Jagdschi by the waist, and flinging the body over his shoulder, he

hastened with him into the house. At the first moment Baldschi was so

surprised at this turn of affairs, for which the lady had not prepared

him, that he sat still and did nothing. But by-and-by he sprang up and

hurled the stone after the two flying figures, hoping that it might

kill them both. Fortunately it touched neither, and soon all three

were in the presence of the lady. Then Jagdschi, thinking that he had

delivered her from the power of the wizard, slid off the back of

Firedschi, and threw the shroud from him.'

'Tell me, my prince,' said the nightingale, when he had finished his

story, 'which of the three men deserved to win the lady? I myself

should choose Firedschi.'

'No, no,' answered the prince, who understood the wink the bird had

given him; 'it was Baldschi who took the most trouble, and it was

certainly he who deserved the lady.'

But the nightingale would not agree; and they began to quarrel, till a

third voice broke in:

'How can you talk such nonsense?' cried the princess--and as she spoke

a sound of tearing was heard. 'Why, you have never even thought of

Jagdschi, who lay for three hours in the grave, with a stone held over

his head! Of course it was he whom the lady chose for her husband!'

* * * * *

It was not many minutes before the news reached the sultan; but even

now he would not consent to the marriage till his daughter had spoken

a third time. On hearing this, the young man took counsel with the

nightingale how best to accomplish this, and the bird told him that as

the princess, in her fury at having fallen into the snare laid for

her, had ordered the pillar to be broken in pieces, he must be hidden

in the folds of a curtain that hung by the door.

The following evening the prince entered the palace, and walked boldly

up to the princess's apartments. As he entered the nightingale flew

from under his arm and perched himself on top of the door, where he

was entirely concealed by the folds of the dark curtain. The young man

talked as usual to the princess without obtaining a single word in

reply, and at length he left her lying under the heap of shining

veils--now rent in many places--and crossed the room towards the door,

from which came a voice that gladly answered him.

For a while the two talked together: then the nightingale asked if the

prince was fond of stories, as he had lately heard one which

interested and perplexed him greatly. In reply, the prince begged that

he might hear it at once, and without further delay the nightingale


'Once upon a time, a carpenter, a tailor, and a student set out

together to see the world. After wandering about for some months they

grew tired of travelling, and resolved to stay and rest in a small

town that took their fancy. So they hired a little house, and looked

about for work to do, returning at sunset to smoke their pipes and

talk over the events of the day.

'One night in the middle of summer it was hotter than usual, and the

carpenter found himself unable to sleep. Instead of tossing about on

his cushions, making himself more uncomfortable than he was already,

the man wisely got up and drank some coffee and lit his long pipe.

Suddenly his eye fell on some pieces of wood in a corner and, being

very clever with his fingers, he had soon set up a perfect statue of a

girl about fourteen years old. This so pleased and quieted him that he

grew quite drowsy, and going back to bed fell fast asleep.

'But the carpenter was not the only person who lay awake that night.

Thunder was in the air, and the tailor became so restless that he

thought he would go downstairs and cool his feet in the little

fountain outside the garden door. To reach the door he had to pass

through the room where the carpenter had sat and smoked, and against

the wall he beheld standing a beautiful girl. He stood speechless for

an instant before he ventured to touch her hand, when, to his

amazement, he found that she was fashioned out of wood.

'"Ah! I can make you more beautiful still," said he. And fetching from

a shelf a roll of yellow silk which he had bought that day from a

merchant, he cut and draped and stitched, till at length a lovely robe

clothed the slender figure. When this was finished, the restlessness

had departed from him, and he went back to bed.

'As dawn approached the student arose and prepared to go to the mosque

with the first ray of sunlight. But, when he saw the maiden standing

there, he fell on his knees and lifted his hands in ecstasy.

'"Oh, thou art fairer than the evening air, clad in the beauty of ten

thousand stars," he murmured to himself. "Surely a form so rare was

never meant to live without a soul." And forthwith he prayed with all

his might that life should be breathed into it.

'And his prayer was heard, and the beautiful statue became a living

girl, and the three men all fell in love with her, and each desired to

have her to wife.

'Now,' said the nightingale, 'to which of them did the maiden really

belong? It seems to me that the carpenter had the best right to her.'

'Oh, but the student would never have thought of praying that she

might be given a soul had not the tailor drawn attention to her

loveliness by the robe which he put upon her,' answered the prince,

who guessed what he was expected to say: and they soon set up quite a

pretty quarrel. Suddenly the princess, furious that neither of them

alluded to the part played by the student, quite forgot her vow of

silence and cried loudly:

'Idiots that you are! how could she belong to any one but the student?

If it had not been for him, all that the others did would have gone

for nothing! Of course it was he who married the maiden!' And as she

spoke the seven veils fell from her, and she stood up, the fairest

princess that the world has ever seen.

'You have won me,' she said smiling, holding out her hand to the


And so they were married: and after the wedding-feast was over they

sent for the old woman whose pitcher the prince had broken so long

ago, and she dwelt in the palace, and became nurse to their children,

and lived happily till she died.

(Adapted from Tuerkische Volksmaerchen aus Stambul gesammelt, uebersetzt

und eingeleitet von Dr. Ignaz Kuenos. Brill, Leiden.)