The Story Of The Seven Simons
: The Crimson Fairy Book
Far, far away, beyond all sorts of countries, seas and rivers, there
stood a splendid city where lived King Archidej, who was as good as he
was rich and handsome. His great army was made up of men ready to obey
his slightest wish; he owned forty times forty cities, and in each city
he had ten palaces with silver doors, golden roofs, and crystal windows.
His council consisted of the twelve wisest men in the country, whose
long beards flowed down over their breasts, each of whom was as learned
as a whole college. This council always told the king the exact truth.
Now the king had everything to make him happy, but he did not enjoy
anything because he could not find a bride to his mind.
One day, as he sat in his palace looking out to sea, a great ship sailed
into the harbour and several merchants came on shore. Said the king to
himself: 'These people have travelled far and beheld many lands. I will
ask them if they have seen any princess who is as clever and as handsome
as I am.'
So he ordered the merchants to be brought before him, and when they came
he said: 'You have travelled much and visited many wonders. I wish to
ask you a question, and I beg you to answer truthfully.
'Have you anywhere seen or heard of the daughter of an emperor, king,
or a prince, who is as clever and as handsome as I am, and who would be
worthy to be my wife and the queen of my country?'
The merchants considered for some time. At last the eldest of them said:
'I have heard that across many seas, in the Island of Busan, there is a
mighty king, whose daughter, the Princess Helena, is so lovely that she
can certainly not be plainer than your Majesty, and so clever that the
wisest greybeard cannot guess her riddles.'
'Is the island far off, and which is the way to it?'
'It is not near,' was the answer. 'The journey would take ten years, and
we do not know the way. And even if we did, what use would that be? The
princess is no bride for you.'
'How dare you say so?' cried the king angrily.
'Your Majesty must pardon us; but just think for a moment. Should you
send an envoy to the island he will take ten years to get there and ten
more to return--twenty years in all. Will not the princess have grown
old in that time and have lost all her beauty?'
The king reflected gravely. Then he thanked the merchants, gave them
leave to trade in his country without paying any duties, and dismissed
After they were gone the king remained deep in thought. He felt puzzled
and anxious; so he decided to ride into the country to distract his
mind, and sent for his huntsmen and falconers. The huntsmen blew their
horns, the falconers took their hawks on their wrists, and off they all
set out across country till they came to a green hedge. On the other
side of the hedge stretched a great field of maize as far as the eye
could reach, and the yellow ears swayed to and fro in the gentle breeze
like a rippling sea of gold.
The king drew rein and admired the field. 'Upon my word,' said he,
'whoever dug and planted it must be good workmen. If all the fields in
my kingdom were as well cared for as this, there would be more bread
than my people could eat.' And he wished to know to whom the field
Off rushed all his followers at once to do his bidding, and found a
nice, tidy farmhouse, in front of which sat seven peasants, lunching
on rye bread and drinking water. They wore red shirts bound with gold
braid, and were so much alike that one could hardly tell one from
The messengers asked: 'Who owns this field of golden maize?' And the
seven brothers answered: 'The field is ours.'
'And who are you?'
'We are King Archidej's labourers.'
These answers were repeated to the king, who ordered the brothers to
be brought before him at once. On being asked who they were, the eldest
said, bowing low:
'We, King Archidej, are your labourers, children of one father and
mother, and we all have the same name, for each of us is called Simon.
Our father taught us to be true to our king, and to till the ground,
and to be kind to our neighbours. He also taught each of us a different
trade which he thought might be useful to us, and he bade us not neglect
our mother earth, which would be sure amply to repay our labour.'
The king was pleased with the honest peasant, and said: 'You have done
well, good people, in planting your field, and now you have a golden
harvest. But I should like each of you to tell me what special trades
your father taught you.'
'My trade, O king!' said the first Simon, 'is not an easy one. If you
will give me some workmen and materials I will build you a great white
pillar that shall reach far above the clouds.'
'Very good,' replied the king. 'And you, Simon the second, what is your
'Mine, your Majesty, needs no great cleverness. When my brother has
built the pillar I can mount it, and from the top, far above the clouds,
I can see what is happening: in every country under the sun.'
'Good,' said the king; 'and Simon the third?'
'My work is very simple, sire. You have many ships built by learned men,
with all sorts of new and clever improvements. If you wish it I will
build you quite a simple boat--one, two, three, and it's done! But my
plain little home-made ship is not grand enough for a king. Where other
ships take a year, mine makes the voyage in a day, and where they would
require ten years mine will do the distance in a week.'
'Good,' said the king again; 'and what has Simon the fourth learnt?'
'My trade, O king, is really of no importance. Should my brother build
you a ship, then let me embark in it. If we should be pursued by an
enemy I can seize our boat by the prow and sink it to the bottom of the
sea. When the enemy has sailed off, I can draw it up to the top again.'
'That is very clever of you,' answered the king; 'and what does Simon
the fifth do?'
'My work, your Majesty, is mere smith's work. Order me to build a smithy
and I will make you a cross-bow, but from which neither the eagle in the
sky nor the wild beast in the forest is safe. The bolt hits whatever the
'That sounds very useful,' said the king. 'And now, Simon the sixth,
tell me your trade.'
'Sire, it is so simple I am almost ashamed to mention it. If my brother
hits any creature I catch it quicker than any dog can. If it falls into
the water I pick it up out of the greatest depths, and if it is in a
dark forest I can find it even at midnight.'
The king was much pleased with the trades and talk of the six brothers,
and said: 'Thank you, good people; your father did well to teach you all
these things. Now follow me to the town, as I want to see what you can
do. I need such people as you about me; but when harvest time comes I
will send you home with royal presents.'
The brothers bowed and said: 'As the king wills.' Suddenly the king
remembered that he had not questioned the seventh Simon, so he turned to
him and said: 'Why are you silent? What is your handicraft?'
And the seventh Simon answered: 'I have no handicraft, O king; I have
learnt nothing. I could not manage it. And if I do know how to do
anything it is not what might properly be called a real trade--it is
rather a sort of performance; but it is one which no one--not the king
himself--must watch me doing, and I doubt whether this performance of
mine would please your Majesty.'
'Come, come,' cried the king; 'I will have no excuses, what is this
'First, sire, give me your royal word that you will not kill me when I
have told you. Then you shall hear.'
'So be it, then; I give you my royal word.'
Then the seventh Simon stepped back a little, cleared his throat, and
said: 'My trade, King Archidej, is of such a kind that the man who
follows it in your kingdom generally loses his life and has no hopes of
pardon. There is only one thing I can do really well, and that is--to
steal, and to hide the smallest scrap of anything I have stolen. Not
the deepest vault, even if its lock were enchanted, could prevent my
stealing anything out of it that I wished to have.'
When the king heard this he fell into a passion. 'I will not pardon
you, you rascal,' he cried; 'I will shut you up in my deepest dungeon on
bread and water till you have forgotten such a trade. Indeed, it would
be better to put you to death at once, and I've a good mind to do so.'
'Don't kill me, O king! I am really not as bad as you think. Why, had I
chosen, I could have robbed the royal treasury, have bribed your judges
to let me off, and built a white marble palace with what was left.
But though I know how to steal I don't do it. You yourself asked me my
trade. If you kill me you will break your royal word.'
'Very well,' said the king, 'I will not kill you. I pardon you. But from
this hour you shall be shut up in a dark dungeon. Here, guards! away
with him to the prison. But you six Simons follow me and be assured of
my royal favour.'
So the six Simons followed the king. The seventh Simon was seized by the
guards, who put him in chains and threw him in prison with only bread
and water for food. Next day the king gave the first Simon carpenters,
masons, smiths and labourers, with great stores of iron, mortar, and the
like, and Simon began to build. And he built his great white pillar
far, far up into the clouds, as high as the nearest stars; but the other
stars were higher still.
Then the second Simon climbed up the pillar and saw and heard all that
was going on through the whole world. When he came down he had all sorts
of wonderful things to tell. How one king was marching in battle against
another, and which was likely to be the victor. How, in another place,
great rejoicings were going on, while in a third people were dying of
famine. In fact there was not the smallest event going on over the earth
that was hidden from him.
Next the third Simon began. He stretched out his arms, once, twice,
thrice, and the wonder-ship was ready. At a sign from the king it was
launched, and floated proudly and safely like a bird on the waves.
Instead of ropes it had wires for rigging, and musicians played on them
with fiddle bows and made lovely music. As the ship swam about, the
fourth Simon seized the prow with his strong hand, and in a moment it
was gone--sunk to the bottom of the sea. An hour passed, and then the
ship floated again, drawn up by Simon's left hand, while in his right he
brought a gigantic fish from the depth of the ocean for the royal table.
Whilst this was going on the fifth Simon had built his forge and
hammered out his iron, and when the king returned from the harbour the
magic cross-bow was made.
His Majesty went out into an open field at once, looked up into the sky
and saw, far, far away, an eagle flying up towards the sun and looking
like a little speck.
'Now,' said the king, 'if you can shoot that bird I will reward you.'
Simon only smiled; he lifted his cross-bow, took aim, fired, and the
eagle fell. As it was falling the sixth Simon ran with a dish, caught
the bird before it fell to earth and brought it to the king.
'Many thanks, my brave lads,' said the king; 'I see that each of you is
indeed a master of his trade. You shall be richly rewarded. But now rest
and have your dinner.'
The six Simons bowed and went to dinner. But they had hardly begun
before a messenger came to say that the king wanted to see them. They
obeyed at once and found him surrounded by all his court and men of
'Listen, my good fellows,' cried the king, as soon as he saw them. 'Hear
what my wise counsellors have thought of. As you, Simon the second,
can see the whole world from the top of the great pillar, I want you to
climb up and to see and hear. For I am told that, far away, across many
seas, is the great kingdom of the Island of Busan, and that the daughter
of the king is the beautiful Princess Helena.'
Off ran the second Simon and clambered quickly up the pillar. He gazed
around, listened on all sides, and then slid down to report to the king.
'Sire, I have obeyed your orders. Far away I saw the Island of Busan.
The king is a mighty monarch, but full of pride, harsh and cruel. He
sits on his throne and declares that no prince or king on earth is good
enough for his lovely daughter, that he will give her to none, and
that if any king asks for her hand he will declare war against him and
destroy his kingdom.'
'Has the king of Busan a great army?' asked King Archidej; 'is his
country far off?'
'As far as I could judge,' replied Simon, 'it would take you nearly ten
years in fair weather to sail there. But if the weather were stormy
we might say twelve. I saw the army being reviewed. It is not so very
large--a hundred thousand men at arms and a hundred thousand knights.
Besides these, he has a strong bodyguard and a good many cross-bowmen.
Altogether you may say another hundred thousand, and there is a picked
body of heroes who reserve themselves for great occasions requiring
The king sat for some time lost in thought. At last he said to the
nobles and courtiers standing round: 'I am determined to marry the
Princess Helena, but how shall I do it?'
The nobles, courtiers and counsellors said nothing, but tried to hide
behind each other. Then the third Simon said:
'Pardon me, your Majesty, if I offer my advice. You wish to go to the
Island of Busan? What can be easier? In my ship you will get there in a
week instead of in ten years. But ask your council to advise you what
to do when you arrive--in one word, whether you will win the princess
peacefully or by war?'
But the wise men were as silent as ever.
The king frowned, and was about to say something sharp, when the Court
Fool pushed his way to the front and said: 'Dear me, what are all you
clever people so puzzled about? The matter is quite clear. As it seems
it will not take long to reach the island why not send the seventh
Simon? He will steal the fair maiden fast enough, and then the king,
her father, may consider how he is going to bring his army over here--it
will take him ten years to do it!---no less! What do you think of my
'What do I think? Why, that your idea is capital, and you shall be
rewarded for it. Come, guards, hurry as fast as you can and bring the
seventh Simon before me.'
Not many minutes later, Simon the seventh stood before the king, who
explained to him what he wished done, and also that to steal for the
benefit of his king and country was by no means a wrong thing, though it
was very wrong to steal for his own advantage.
The youngest Simon, who looked very pale and hungry, only nodded his
'Come,' said the king, 'tell me truly. Do you think you could steal the
'Why should I not steal her, sire? The thing is easy enough. Let my
brother's ship be laden with rich stuffs, brocades, Persian carpets,
pearls and jewels. Send me in the ship. Give me my four middle brothers
as companions, and keep the two others as hostages.'
When the king heard these words his heart became filled with longing,
and he ordered all to be done as Simon wished. Every one ran about to do
his bidding; and in next to no time the wonder-ship was laden and ready
The five Simons took leave of the king, went on board, and had no sooner
set sail than they were almost out of sight. The ship cut through the
waters like a falcon through the air, and just a week after starting
sighted the Island of Busan. The coast appeared to be strongly guarded,
and from afar the watchman on a high tower called out: 'Halt and anchor!
Who are you? Where do you come from, and what do you want?'
The seventh Simon answered from the ship: 'We are peaceful people. We
come from the country of the great and good King Archidej, and we bring
foreign wares--rich brocades, carpets, and costly jewels, which we wish
to show to your king and the princess. We desire to trade--to sell, to
buy, and to exchange.'
The brothers launched a small boat, took some of their valuable goods
with them, rowed to shore and went up to the palace. The princess sat
in a rose-red room, and when she saw the brothers coming near she called
her nurse and other women, and told them to inquire who and what these
people were, and what they wanted.
The seventh Simon answered the nurse: 'We come from the country of the
wise and good King Archidej,' said he, 'and we have brought all sorts
of goods for sale. We trust the king of this country may condescend
to welcome us, and to let his servants take charge of our wares. If he
considers them worthy to adorn his followers we shall be content.'
This speech was repeated to the princess, who ordered the brothers to
be brought to the red-room at once. They bowed respectfully to her and
displayed some splendid velvets and brocades, and opened cases of pearls
and precious stones. Such beautiful things had never been seen in the
island, and the nurse and waiting women stood bewildered by all the
magnificence. They whispered together that they had never beheld
anything like it. The princess too saw and wondered, and her eyes could
not weary of looking at the lovely things, or her fingers of stroking
the rich soft stuffs, and of holding up the sparkling jewels to the
'Fairest of princesses,' said Simon. 'Be pleased to order your
waiting-maids to accept the silks and velvets, and let your women trim
their head-dresses with the jewels; these are no special treasures.
But permit me to say that they are as nothing to the many coloured
tapestries, the gorgeous stones and ropes of pearls in our ship. We did
not like to bring more with us, not knowing what your royal taste might
be; but if it seems good to you to honour our ship with a visit, you
might condescend to choose such things as were pleasing in your eyes.'
This polite speech pleased the princess very much. She went to the
king and said: 'Dear father, some merchants have arrived with the most
splendid wares. Pray allow me to go to their ship and choose out what I
The king thought and thought, frowned hard and rubbed his ear. At last
he gave consent, and ordered out his royal yacht, with 100 cross-bows,
100 knights, and 1,000 soldiers, to escort the Princess Helena.
Off sailed the yacht with the princess and her escort. The brothers
Simon came on board to conduct the princess to their ship, and, led by
the brothers and followed by her nurse and other women, she crossed the
crystal plank from one vessel to another.
The seventh Simon spread out his goods, and had so many curious
and interesting tales to tell about them, that the princess forgot
everything else in looking and listening, so that she did not know that
the fourth Simon had seized the prow of the ship, and that all of a
sudden it had vanished from sight, and was racing along in the depths of
The crew of the royal yacht shouted aloud, the knights stood still with
terror, the soldiers were struck dumb and hung their heads. There was
nothing to be done but to sail back and tell the king of his loss.
How he wept and stormed! 'Oh, light of my eyes,' he sobbed; 'I am indeed
punished for my pride. I thought no one good enough to be your husband,
and now you are lost in the depths of the sea, and have left me alone!
As for all of you who saw this thing--away with you! Let them be put in
irons and lock them up in prison, whilst I think how I can best put them
Whilst the King of Busan was raging and lamenting in this fashion,
Simon's ship was swimming like any fish under the sea, and when the
island was well out of sight he brought it up to the surface again. At
that moment the princess recollected herself. 'Nurse,' said she, 'we
have been gazing at these wonders only too long. I hope my father won't
be vexed at our delay.'
She tore herself away and stepped on deck. Neither the yacht nor the
island was in sight! Helena wrung her hands and beat her breast. Then
she changed herself into a white swan and flew off. But the fifth Simon
seized his bow and shot the swan, and the sixth Simon did not let it
fall into the water but caught it in the ship, and the swan turned into
a silver fish, but Simon lost no time and caught the fish, when, quick
as thought, the fish turned into a black mouse and ran about the ship.
It darted towards a hole, but before it could reach it Simon sprang upon
it more swiftly than any cat, and then the little mouse turned once more
into the beautiful Princess Helena.
Early one morning King Archidej sat thoughtfully at his window gazing
out to sea. His heart was sad and he would neither eat nor drink. His
thoughts were full of the Princess Helena, who was as lovely as a dream.
Is that a white gull he sees flying towards the shore, or is it a sail?
No, it is no gull, it is the wonder-ship flying along with billowing
sails. Its flags wave, the fiddlers play on the wire rigging, the anchor
is thrown out and the crystal plank laid from the ship to the pier. The
lovely Helena steps across the plank. She shines like the sun, and the
stars of heaven seem to sparkle in her eyes.
Up sprang King Archidej in haste: 'Hurry, hurry,' he cried. 'Let us
hasten to meet her! Let the bugles sound and the joy bells be rung!'
And the whole Court swarmed with courtiers and servants. Golden carpets
were laid down and the great gates thrown open to welcome the princess.
King Archidej went out himself, took her by the hand and led her into
the royal apartments.
'Madam,' said he, 'the fame of your beauty had reached me, but I had not
dared to expect such loveliness. Still I will not keep you here against
your will. If you wish it, the wonder-ship shall take you back to your
father and your own country; but if you will consent to stay here, then
reign over me and my country as our queen.'
What more is there to tell? It is not hard to guess that the princess
listened to the king's wooing, and their betrothal took place with great
pomp and rejoicings.
The brothers Simon were sent again to the Island of Busan with a letter
to the king from his daughter to invite him to their wedding. And the
wonder-ship arrived at the Island of Busan just as all the knights and
soldiers who had escorted the princess were being led out to execution.
Then the seventh Simon cried out from the ship: 'Stop! stop! I bring a
letter from the Princess Helena!'
The King of Busan read the letter over and over again, and ordered the
knights and soldiers to be set free. He entertained King Archidej's
ambassadors hospitably, and sent his blessing to his daughter, but he
could not be brought to attend the wedding.
When the wonder-ship got home King Archidej and Princess Helena were
enchanted with the news it brought.
The king sent for the seven Simons. 'A thousand thanks to you, my brave
fellows,' he cried. 'Take what gold, silver, and precious stones you
will out of my treasury. Tell me if there is anything else you wish for
and I will give it you, my good friends. Do you wish to be made nobles,
or to govern towns? Only speak.'
Then the eldest Simon bowed and said: 'We are plain folk, your Majesty,
and understand simple things best. What figures should we cut as nobles
or governors? Nor do we desire gold. We have our fields which give us
food, and as much money as we need. If you wish to reward us then grant
that our land may be free of taxes, and of your goodness pardon the
seventh Simon. He is not the first who has been a thief by trade and he
will certainly not be the last.'
'So be it,' said the king; 'your land shall be free of all taxes, and
Simon the seventh is pardoned.'
Then the king gave each brother a goblet of wine and invited them to the
wedding feast. And what a feast that was!
[From Ungarischen Mahrchen.]