The Story Of Little King Loc

: The Olive Fairy Book

Two or three miles from the coast of France, anyone sailing in a ship

on a calm day can see deep, deep down, the trunks of great trees

standing up in the water. Many hundreds of years ago these trees

formed part of a large forest, full of all sorts of wild animals, and

beyond the forest was a fine city, guarded by a castle in which dwelt

the Dukes of Clarides. But little by little the sea drew nearer to the

town; the f
undations of the houses became undermined and fell in, and

at length a shining sea flowed over the land. However, all this

happened a long time after the story I am going to tell you.

The Dukes of Clarides had always lived in the midst of their people,

and protected them both in war and peace.

At the period when this tale begins the Duke Robert was dead, leaving

a young and beautiful duchess who ruled in his stead. Of course

everyone expected her to marry again, but she refused all suitors who

sought her hand, saying that, having only one soul she could have only

one husband, and that her baby daughter was quite enough for her.

* * * * *

One day, she was sitting in the tower, which looked out over a rocky

heath, covered in summer with purple and yellow flowers, when she

beheld a troop of horsemen riding towards the castle. In the midst,

seated on a white horse with black and silver trappings, was a lady

whom the duchess at once knew to be her friend the Countess of

Blanchelande, a young widow like herself, mother of a little boy two

years older than Abeille des Clarides. The duchess hailed her arrival

with delight, but her joy was soon turned into weeping when the

countess sank down beside her on a pile of cushions, and told the

reason of her visit.

'As you know,' she said, taking her friend's hand and pressing it

between her own, 'whenever a Countess of Blanchelande is about to die

she finds a white rose lying on her pillow. Last night I went to bed

feeling unusually happy, but this morning when I woke the rose was

resting against my cheek. I have no one to help me in the world but

you, and I have come to ask if you will take Youri my son, and let him

be a brother to Abeille?'

Tears choked the voice of the duchess, but she flung herself on the

countess's neck, and pressed her close. Silently the two women took

leave of each other, and silently the doomed lady mounted her horse

and rode home again. Then, giving her sleeping boy into the care of

Francoeur, her steward, she laid herself quietly on her bed, where,

the next morning, they found her dead and peaceful.

So Youri and Abeille grew up side by side, and the duchess faithfully

kept her promise, and was a mother to them both. As they got bigger

she often took them with her on her journeys through her duchy, and

taught them to know her people, and to pity and to aid them.

It was on one of these journeys that, after passing through meadows

covered with flowers, Youri caught sight of a great glittering expanse

lying beneath some distant mountains.

'What is that, godmother?' he asked, waving his hand. 'The shield of a

giant, I suppose.'

'No; a silver plate as big as the moon!' said Abeille, twisting

herself round on her pony.

'It is neither a silver plate nor a giant's shield,' replied the

duchess; 'but a beautiful lake. Still, in spite of its beauty, it is

dangerous to go near it, for in its depths dwell some Undines, or

water spirits, who lure all passers-by to their deaths.'

Nothing more was said about the lake, but the children did not forget

it, and one morning, after they had returned to the castle, Abeille

came up to Youri.

'The tower door is open,' whispered she; 'let us go up. Perhaps we

shall find some fairies.'

But they did not find any fairies; only, when they reached the roof,

the lake looked bluer and more enchanting than ever. Abeille gazed at

it for a moment, and then she said:

'Do you see? I mean to go there!'

'But you mustn't,' cried Youri. 'You heard what your mother said. And,

besides, it is so far; how could we get there?'

'You ought to know that,' answered Abeille scornfully. 'What is the

good of being a man, and learning all sorts of things, if you have to

ask me. However, there are plenty of other men in the world, and I

shall get one of them to tell me.'

Youri coloured; Abeille had never spoken like this before, and,

instead of being two years younger than himself, she suddenly seemed

many years older. She stood with her mocking eyes fixed on him, till

he grew angry at being outdone by a girl, and taking her hand he said


'Very well, we will both go to the lake.'

* * * * *

The next afternoon, when the duchess was working at her tapestry

surrounded by her maidens, the children went out, as usual, to play in

the garden. The moment they found themselves alone, Youri turned to

Abeille, and holding out his hand, said:


'Come where?' asked Abeille, opening her eyes very wide.

'To the lake, of course,' answered the boy.

Abeille was silent. It was one thing to pretend you meant to be

disobedient some day, a long time off, and quite another to start for

such a distant place without anyone knowing that you had left the

garden. 'And in satin shoes, too! How stupid boys were to be sure.'

'Stupid or not, I am going to the lake, and you are going with me!'

said Youri, who had not forgotten or forgiven the look she had cast on

him the day before. 'Unless,' added he, 'you are afraid, and in that

case I shall go alone.'

This was too much for Abeille. Bursting into tears, she flung herself

on Youri's neck, and declared that wherever he went she would go too.

So, peace having been made between them, they set out.

It was a hot day, and the townspeople were indoors waiting till the

sun was low in the sky before they set out either to work or play, so

the children passed through the streets unperceived, and crossed the

river by the bridge into the flowery meadows along the road by which

they had ridden with the duchess. By-and-by Abeille began to feel

thirsty, but the sun had drunk up all the water, and not a drop was

left for her. They walked on a little further, and by good luck found

a cherry-tree covered with ripe fruit, and after a rest and a

refreshing meal, they were sure that they were strong enough to reach

the lake in a few minutes. But soon Abeille began to limp and to say

that her foot hurt her, and Youri had to untie the ribbons that

fastened her shoe and see what was the matter. A stone had got in, so

this was easily set right, and for a while they skipped along the path

singing and chattering, till Abeille stopped again. This time her shoe

had come off, and turning to pick it up she caught sight of the towers

of the castle, looking such a long way off that her heart sank, and

she burst into tears.

'It is getting dark, and the wolves will eat us,' sobbed she. But

Youri put his arms round her and comforted her.

'Why we are close to the lake now. There is nothing to be afraid of!

We shall be home again to supper,' cried he. And Abeille dried her

eyes, and trotted on beside him.

Yes, the lake was there, blue and silvery with purple and gold irises

growing on its banks, and white water-lilies floated on its bosom. Not

a trace was there of a man, or of one of the great beasts so much

feared by Abeille, but only the marks of tiny forked feet on the sand.

The little girl at once pulled off her torn shoes and stockings and

let the water flow over her, while Youri looked about for some nuts or

strawberries. But none were to be found.

'I noticed, a little way back, a clump of blackberry bushes,' said he.

'Wait here for me, and I will go and gather some fruit, and after that

we will start home again.' And Abeille, leaning her head drowsily

against a cushion of soft moss, murmured something in reply, and soon

fell asleep. In her dream a crow, bearing the smallest man that ever

was seen, appeared hovering for a moment above her, and then vanished.

At the same instant Youri returned and placed by her side a large

leaf-full of strawberries.

'It is a pity to wake her just yet,' thought he, and wandered off

beyond a clump of silvery willows to a spot from which he could get a

view of the whole lake. In the moonlight, the light mist that hung

over the surface made it look like fairyland. Then gradually the

silver veil seemed to break up, and the shapes of fair women with

outstretched hands and long green locks floated towards him. Seized

with a sudden fright, the boy turned to fly. But it was too late.

Unconscious of the terrible doom that had befallen her

foster-brother, Abeille slept on, and did not awake even when a crowd

of little men with white beards down to their knees came and stood in

a circle round her.

'What shall we do with her?' asked Pic, who seemed older than any of

them, though they were all very old.

'Build a cage and put her into it,' answered Rug.

'No! No! What should such a beautiful princess do in a cage?' cried

Dig. And Tad, who was the kindest of them all, proposed to carry her

home to her parents. But the other gnomes were too pleased with their

new toy to listen to this for a moment.

'Look, she is waking,' whispered Pau. And as he spoke Abeille slowly

opened her eyes. At first she imagined she was still dreaming; but as

the little men did not move, it suddenly dawned upon her that they

were real, and starting to her feet, she called loudly:

'Youri! Youri! Where are you?'

At the sound of her voice the gnomes only pressed more closely round

her, and, trembling with fear, she hid her face in her hands. The

gnomes were at first much puzzled to know what to do; then Tad,

climbing on a branch of the willow tree that hung over her, stooped

down, and gently stroked her fingers. The child understood that he

meant to be kind, and letting her hands fall, gazed at her captors.

After an instant's pause she said:

'Little men, it is a great pity that you are so ugly. But, all the

same, I will love you if you will only give me something to eat, as I

am dying of hunger.'

A rustle was heard among the group as she spoke. Some were very angry

at being called ugly, and said she deserved no better fate than to be

left where she was. Others laughed, and declared that it did not

matter what a mere mortal thought about them; while Tad bade Bog,

their messenger, fetch her some milk and honey, and the finest white

bread that was made in their ovens under the earth. In less time than

Abeille would have taken to tie her shoe he was back again, mounted on

his crow. And by the time she had eaten the bread and honey and drunk

the milk, Abeille was not frightened any more, and felt quite ready to


'Little men,' she said, looking up with a smile, 'your supper was very

good, and I thank you for it. My name is Abeille, and my brother is

called Youri. Help me to find him, and tell me which is the path that

leads to the castle, for mother must think something dreadful has

happened to us!'

'But your feet are so sore that you cannot walk,' answered Dig. 'And

we may not cross the bounds into your country. The best we can do is

to make a litter of twigs and cover it with moss, and we will bear you

into the mountains, and present you to our king.'

Now, many a little girl would have been terrified at the thought of

being carried off alone, she did not know where. But Abeille, when she

had recovered from her first fright, was pleased at the notion of her

strange adventure.

'How much she would have to tell her mother and Youri on her return.

Probably they would never go inside a mountain, if they lived to be

a hundred.' So she curled herself comfortably on her nest of moss, and

waited to see what would happen.

Up, and up, and up they went; and by-and-by Abeille fell asleep again,

and did not wake till the sun was shining. Up, and up, and up, for the

little men could only walk very slowly, though they could spring over

rocks quicker than any mortal. Suddenly the light that streamed

through the branches of the litter began to change. It seemed hardly

less bright, but it was certainly different; then the litter was put

down, and the gnomes crowded round and helped Abeille to step out of


Before her stood a little man not half her size, but splendidly

dressed and full of dignity. On his head was a crown of such huge

diamonds that you wondered how his small body could support it. A

royal mantle fell from his shoulders, and in his hand he held a lance.

'King Loc,' said one of the forest gnomes, 'we found this beautiful

child asleep by the lake, and have brought her to you. She says that

her name is Abeille, and her mother is the Duchess des Clarides.'

'You have done well,' answered the king; 'she shall be one of us.' And

standing on tiptoe, so that he could kiss her hand, he told her that

they would all take care of her and make her happy, and that anything

she wished for she should have at once.

'I want a pair of shoes,' replied Abeille.

'Shoes!' commanded the king, striking the ground with his lance; and

immediately a lovely pair of silver shoes embroidered with pearls were

slipped on her feet by one of the gnomes.

'They are beautiful shoes,' said Abeille rather doubtfully; 'but do

you think they will carry me all the way back to my mother?'

'No, they are not meant for rough roads,' replied the king, 'but for

walking about the smooth paths of the mountain, for we have many

wonders to show you.'

'Little King Loc,' answered Abeille, 'take away these beautiful

slippers and give me a pair of wooden shoes instead, and let me go

back to my mother.' But King Loc only shook his head.

'Little King Loc,' said Abeille again--and this time her voice

trembled--'let me go back to my mother and Youri, and I will love you

with all my heart, nearly as well as I love them.'

'Who is Youri?' asked King Loc.

'Why--Youri--who has lived with us since I was a baby,' replied

Abeille; surprised that he did not know what everyone else was aware

of, and never guessing that by mentioning the boy she was sealing her

own fate. For King Loc had already thought what a good wife she would

make him in a few years' time, and he did not want Youri to come

between them. So he was silent, and Abeille, seeing he was not

pleased, burst into tears.

'Little King Loc,' she cried, taking hold of a corner of his mantle,

'think how unhappy my mother will be. She will fancy that wild beasts

have eaten me, or that I have got drowned in the lake.'

'Be comforted,' replied King Loc; 'I will send her a dream, so that

she shall know that you are safe.'

At this Abeille's sad face brightened. 'Little King Loc,' she said,

smiling, 'how clever you are! But you must send her a dream every

night, so that she shall see me--and me a dream, so that I may see


And this King Loc promised to do.

When Abeille grew accustomed to do without her mother and Youri, she

made herself happy enough in her new home. Everyone was kind to her,

and petted her, and then there were such quantities of new things for

her to see. The gnomes were always busy, and knew how to fashion

beautiful toys as well or better than the people who lived on the

earth; and now and then, wandering with Tad or Dig in the underground

passages, Abeille would catch a glimpse of blue sky through a rent in

the rocks, and this she loved best of all. In this manner six years

passed away.

'His Highness King Loc wishes to see you in his presence chamber,'

said Tad, one morning, to Abeille, who was singing to herself on a

golden lute; and Abeille, wondering why the king had grown so formal

all of a sudden, got up obediently. Directly she appeared, King Loc

opened a door in the wall which led into his treasure chamber. Abeille

had never been there before, and was amazed at the splendid things

heaped up before her. Gold, jewels, brocades, carpets, lay round the

walls, and she walked about examining one glittering object after

another, while King Loc mounted a throne of gold and ivory at one end

of the hall, and watched her. 'Choose whatever you wish,' he said at

last. A necklace of most lovely pearls was hanging from the wall, and

after hesitating for a moment between that and a circlet of diamonds

and sapphires, Abeille stretched up her hand towards it. But before

she touched it her eyes lighted on a tiny piece of sky visible through

a crack of the rock, and her hand dropped by her side. 'Little King

Loc, let me go up to the earth once again,' she said.

Then King Loc made a sign to the treasurer, who opened a coffer full

of nothing but precious stones, larger and more dazzling than were

worn by any earthly monarch. 'Choose what you will, Abeille,'

whispered King Loc.

But Abeille only shook her head.

'A drop of dew in the garden at Clarides is brighter to me than the

best of those diamonds,' she answered, 'and the bluest of the stones

are not as blue as the eyes of Youri.' And as she spoke a sharp pain

ran through the heart of King Loc. For an instant he said nothing,

then he lifted his head and looked at her. 'Only those who despise

riches should possess them. Take this crown, from henceforth you are

the Princess of the Gnomes.'

During thirty days no work was done in those underground regions, for

a feast was held in honour of the new princess. At the end of that

period, the king appeared before Abeille, clad in his most splendid

garments, and solemnly asked her to be his wife.

'Little King Loc,' answered the girl, 'I love you as you are, for your

goodness and kindness to me; but never, never can I love you as

anything else.'

The king sighed. It was only what he had expected; still, his

disappointment was great, though he tried bravely to hide it, and even

to smile as he said: 'Then, Abeille, will you promise me one thing? If

there should come a day when you find that there is somebody whom you

could love, will you tell me?'

And in her turn Abeille promised.

After this, in spite of the fact that everyone was just as kind to her

as before, Abeille was no longer the merry child who passed all her

days playing with the little gnomes. People who dwell under the earth

grow up much faster than those who live on its surface, and, at

thirteen, the girl was already a woman. Besides, King Loc's words had

set her thinking; she spent many hours by herself, and her face was no

longer round and rosy, but thin and pale. It was in vain that the

gnomes did their best to entice her into her old games, they had lost

their interest, and even her lute lay unnoticed on the ground.

But one morning a change seemed to come over her. Leaving the room

hung with beautiful silks, where she usually sat alone, she entered

the king's presence, and taking his hand she led him through long

corridors till they came to a place where a strip of blue sky was to

be seen.

'Little King Loc,' she said, turning her eyes upon him, 'let me behold

my mother again, or I shall surely die.' Her voice shook, and her

whole body trembled. Even an enemy might have pitied her; but the

king, who loved her, answered nothing. All day long Abeille stayed

there, watching the light fade, and the sky grow pale. By-and-by the

stars came out, but the girl never moved from her place. Suddenly a

hand touched her. She looked round with a start, and there was King

Loc, covered from head to foot in a dark mantle, holding another over

his arm. 'Put on this and follow me,' was all he said. But Abeille

somehow knew that she was going to see her mother.

On, and on, and on they went, through passages where Abeille had never

been before, and at length she was out in the world again. Oh! how

beautiful it all was! How fresh was the air, and how sweet was the

smell of the flowers! She felt as if she should die with joy, but at

that moment King Loc lifted her off the ground, and, tiny though he

was, carried her quite easily across the garden and through an open

door into the silent castle.

'Listen, Abeille,' he whispered softly. 'You have guessed where we are

going, and you know that every night I send your mother a vision of

you, and she talks to it in her dream, and smiles at it. To-night it

will be no vision she sees, but you yourself; only remember, that if

you touch her or speak to her my power is lost, and never more will

she behold either you or your image.'

By this time they had reached the room which Abeille knew so well, and

her heart beat violently as the gnome carried her over the threshold.

By the light of a lamp hanging over the bed Abeille could see her

mother, beautiful still, but with a face that had grown pale and sad.

As she gazed the sadness vanished, and a bright smile came in its

stead. Her mother's arms were stretched out towards her, and the girl,

her eyes filled with tears of joy, was stooping to meet them, when

King Loc hastily snatched her up, and bore her back to the realm of

the gnomes.

If the king imagined that by granting Abeille's request he would make

her happy, he soon found out his mistake, for all day long the girl

sat weeping, paving no heed to the efforts of her friends to comfort


'Tell me what is making you so unhappy?' said King Loc, at last. And

Abeille answered:

'Little King Loc, and all my friends here, you are so good and kind

that I know that you are miserable when I am in trouble. I would be

happy if I could, but it is stronger than I. I am weeping because I

shall never see again Youri de Blanchelande, whom I love with all my

heart. It is a worse grief than parting with my mother, for at least I

know where she is and what she is doing; while, as for Youri, I

cannot tell if he is dead or alive.'

The gnomes were all silent. Kind as they were, they were not mortals,

and had never felt either great joys or deep sorrows. Only King Loc

dimly guessed at something of both, and he went away to consult an

old, old gnome, who lived in the lowest depth of the mountain, and had

spectacles of every sort, that enabled him to see all that was

happening, not only on the earth, but under the sea.

Nur, for such was his name, tried many of these spectacles before he

could discover anything about Youri de Blanchelande.

'There he is!' he cried at last. 'He is sitting in the palace of the

Undines, under the great lake; but he does not like his prison, and

longs to be back in the world, doing great deeds.'

It was true. In the seven years that had passed since he had left the

castle of Clarides to go with Abeille to the blue lake, Youri in his

turn had become a man.

The older he grew the more weary he got of the petting and spoiling he

received at the hands of the green-haired maidens, till, one day, he

flung himself at the feet of the Undine queen, and implored permission

to return to his old home.

The queen stooped down and stroked his hair.

'We cannot spare you,' she murmured gently. 'Stay here, and you shall

be king, and marry me.'

'But it is Abeille I want to marry,' said the youth boldly. But he

might as well have talked to the winds, for at last the queen grew

angry, and ordered him to be put in a crystal cage which was built for

him round a pointed rock.

It was here that King Loc, aided by the spectacles of Nur, found him

after many weeks' journey. As we know, the gnomes walk slowly, and the

way was long and difficult. Luckily, before he started, he had taken

with him his magic ring, and the moment it touched the wall the

crystal cage split from top to bottom.

'Follow that path, and you will find yourself in the world again,' he

said to Youri; and without waiting to listen to the young man's

thanks, set out on the road he had come.

'Bog,' he cried, to the little man on the crow, who had ridden to meet

him. 'Hasten to the palace and inform the Princess Abeille that Youri

de Blanchelande, for seven years a captive in the kingdom of the

Undines, has now returned to the castle of Clarides.'

* * * * *

The first person whom Youri met as he came out of the mountain was the

tailor who had made all his clothes from the time that he came to live

at the castle. Of this old friend, who was nearly beside himself with

joy at the sight of the little master, lost for so many years, the

count begged for news of his foster-mother and Abeille.

'Alas! my lord, where can you have been that you do not know that the

Princess Abeille was carried off by the gnomes on the very day that

you disappeared yourself? At least, so we guess. Ah! that day has left

many a mark on our duchess! Yet she is not without a gleam of hope

that her daughter is living yet, for every night the poor mother is

visited by a dream which tells her all that the princess is doing.'

The good man went on to tell of all the changes that seven years had

brought about in the village, but Youri heard nothing that he said,

for his mind was busy with thoughts of Abeille.

At length he roused himself, and ashamed of his delay, he hastened to

the chamber of the duchess, who held him in her arms as if she would

never let him go. By-and-by, however, when she became calmer, he began

to question her about Abeille, and how best to deliver her from the

power of the gnomes. The duchess then told him that she had sent out

men in all directions to look for the children directly they were

found to be missing, and that one of them had noticed a troop of

little men far away on the mountains, evidently carrying a litter. He

was hastening after them, when, at his feet, he beheld a tiny satin

slipper, which he stooped to pick up. But as he did so a dozen of the

gnomes had swarmed upon him like flies, and beat him about the head

till he dropped the slipper, which they took away with them, leaving

the poor man dizzy with pain. When he recovered his senses the group

on the mountain had disappeared.

* * * * *

That night, when everyone was asleep, Youri and his old servant

Francoeur, stole softly down into the armoury, and dressed themselves

in light suits of chain armour, with helmets and short swords, all

complete. Then they mounted two horses that Francoeur had tied up in

the forest, and set forth for the kingdom of the gnomes. At the end of

an hour's hard riding, they came to the cavern which Francoeur had

heard from childhood led into the centre of the earth. Here they

dismounted, and entered cautiously, expecting to find darkness as

thick as what they had left outside. But they had only gone a few

steps when they were nearly blinded by a sudden blaze of light, which

seemed to proceed from a sort of portcullis door, which barred the way

in front of them.

'Who are you?' asked a voice. And the count answered:

'Youri de Blanchelande, who has come to rescue Abeille des Clarides.'

And at these words the gate slowly swung open, and closed behind the

two strangers.

Youri listened to the clang with a spasm of fear in his heart; then

the desperate position he was in gave him courage. There was no

retreat for him now, and in front was drawn up a large force of

gnomes, whose arrows were falling like hail about him. He raised his

shield to ward them off, and as he did so his eyes fell on a little

man standing on a rock above the rest, with a crown on his head and a

royal mantle on his shoulders. In an instant Youri had flung away his

shield and sprung forward, regardless of the arrows that still fell

about him.

'Oh, is it you, is it really you, my deliverer? And is it your

subjects who hold as a captive Abeille whom I love?'

'I am King Loc,' was the answer. And the figure with the long beard

bent his eyes kindly on the eager youth. 'If Abeille has lived with us

all these years, for many of them she was quite happy. But the gnomes,

of whom you think so little, are a just people, and they will not keep

her against her will. Beg the princess to be good enough to come

hither,' he added, turning to Rug.

Amidst a dead silence Abeille entered the vast space and looked around

her. At first she saw nothing but a vast host of gnomes perched on the

walls and crowding on the floor of the big hall. Then her eyes met

those of Youri, and with a cry that came from her heart she darted

towards him, and threw herself on his breast.

'Abeille,' said the king, when he had watched her for a moment, with a

look of pain on his face, 'is this the man that you wish to marry?'

'Yes, Little King Loc, this is he and nobody else! And see how I can

laugh now, and how happy I am!' And with that she began to cry.

'Hush, Abeille! there must be no tears to-day,' said Youri, gently

stroking her hair. 'Come, dry your eyes, and thank King Loc, who

rescued me from the cage in the realm of the Undines.'

As Youri spoke Abeille lifted her head, and a great light came into

her face. At last she understood.

'You did that for me?' she whispered. 'Ah, Little King Loc----!'

* * * * *

So, loaded with presents, and followed by regrets, Abeille went home.

In a few days the marriage took place; but however happy she was, and

however busy she might be, never a month passed by without a visit

from Abeille to her friends in the kingdom of the gnomes.

(Adapted and shortened from the story of Abeille, by M. Anatole