The Three Dogs

: The Green Fairy Book

There was once upon a time a shepherd who had two children, a son

and a daughter. When he was on his death-bed he turned to them and

said, 'I have nothing to leave you but three sheep and a small

house; divide them between you, as you like, but don't quarrel

over them whatever you do.'

When the shepherd was dead, the brother asked his sister which she

would like best, the sheep or the little house; and wh
n she had

chosen the house he said, 'Then I'll take the sheep and go out to

seek my fortune in the wide world. I don't see why I shouldn't be

as lucky as many another who has set out on the same search, and

it wasn't for nothing that I was born on a Sunday.'

And so he started on his travels, driving his three sheep in front

of him, and for a long time it seemed as if fortune didn't mean to

favour him at all. One day he was sitting disconsolately at a

cross road, when a man suddenly appeared before him with three

black dogs, each one bigger than the other.

'Hullo, my fine fellow,' said the man, 'I see you have three fat

sheep. I'll tell you what; if you'll give them to me, I'll give

you my three dogs.'

In spite of his sadness, the youth smiled and replied, 'What would

I do with your dogs? My sheep at least feed themselves, but I

should have to find food for the dogs.'

'My dogs are not like other dogs,' said the stranger; 'they will

feed you instead of you them, and will make your fortune. The

smallest one is called "Salt," and will bring you food whenever

you wish; the second is called "Pepper," and will tear anyone to

pieces who offers to hurt you; and the great big strong one is

called "Mustard," and is so powerful that it will break iron or

steel with its teeth.'

The shepherd at last let himself be persuaded, and gave the

stranger his sheep. In order to test the truth of his statement

about the dogs, he said at once, 'Salt, I am hungry,' and before

the words were out of his mouth the dog had disappeared, and

returned in a few minutes with a large basket full of the most

delicious food. Then the youth congratulated himself on the

bargain he had made, and continued his journey in the best of


One day he met a carriage and pair, all draped in black; even the

horses were covered with black trappings, and the coachman was

clothed in crape from top to toe. Inside the carriage sat a

beautiful girl in a black dress crying bitterly. The horses

advanced slowly and mournfully, with their heads bent on the


'Coachman, what's the meaning of all this grief?' asked the


At first the coachman wouldn't say anything, but when the youth

pressed him he told him that a huge dragon dwelt in the

neighbourhood, and required yearly the sacrifice of a beautiful

maiden. This year the lot had fallen on the King's daughter, and

the whole country was filled with woe and lamentation in


The shepherd felt very sorry for the lovely maiden, and determined

to follow the carriage. In a little it halted at the foot of a

high mountain. The girl got out, and walked slowly and sadly to

meet her terrible fate. The coachman perceived that the shepherd

wished to follow her, and warned him not to do so if he valued his

life; but the shepherd wouldn't listen to his advice. When they

had climbed about half-way up the hill they saw a terrible-looking

monster with the body of a snake, and with huge wings and claws,

coming towards them, breathing forth flames of fire, and preparing

to seize its victim. Then the shepherd called, 'Pepper, come to

the rescue,' and the second dog set upon the dragon, and after a

fierce struggle bit it so sharply in the neck that the monster

rolled over, and in a few moments breathed its last. Then the dog

ate up the body, all except its two front teeth, which the

shepherd picked up and put in his pocket.

The Princess was quite overcome with terror and joy, and fell

fainting at the feet of her deliverer. When she recovered her

consciousness she begged the shepherd to return with her to her

father, who would reward him richly. But the youth answered that

he wanted to see something of the world, and that he would return

again in three years, and nothing would make him change this

resolve. The Princess seated herself once more in her carriage,

and, bidding each other farewell, she and the shepherd separated,

she to return home, and he to see the world.

But while the Princess was driving over a bridge the carriage

suddenly stood still, and the coachman turned round to her and

said, 'Your deliverer has gone, and doesn't thank you for your

gratitude. It would be nice of you to make a poor fellow happy;

therefore you may tell your father that it was I who slew the

dragon, and if you refuse to, I will throw you into the river, and

no one will be any the wiser, for they will think the dragon has

devoured you.'

The maiden was in a dreadful state when she heard these words; but

there was nothing for her to do but to swear that she would give

out the coachman as her deliverer, and not to divulge the secret

to anyone. So they returned to the capital, and everyone was

delighted when they saw the Princess had returned unharmed; the

black flags were taken down from all the palace towers, and gay-

coloured ones put up in their place, and the King embraced his

daughter and her supposed rescuer with tears of joy, and, turning

to the coachman, he said, 'You have not only saved the life of my

child, but you have also freed the country from a terrible

scourge; therefore, it is only fitting that you should be richly

rewarded. Take, therefore, my daughter for your wife; but as she

is still so young, do not let the marriage be celebrated for

another year.'

The coachman thanked the King for his graciousness, and was then

led away to be richly dressed and instructed in all the arts and

graces that befitted his new position. But the poor Princess wept

bitterly, though she did not dare to confide her grief to anyone.

When the year was over, she begged so hard for another year's

respite that it was granted to her. But this year passed also, and

she threw herself at her father's feet, and begged so piteously

for one more year that the King's heart was melted, and he yielded

to her request, much to the Princess's joy, for she knew that her

real deliverer would appear at the end of the third year. And so

the year passed away like the other two, and the wedding-day was

fixed, and all the people were prepared to feast and make merry.

But on the wedding-day it happened that a stranger came to the

town with three black dogs. He asked what the meaning of all the

feasting and fuss was, and they told him that the King's daughter

was just going to be married to the man who had slain the terrible

dragon. The stranger at once denounced the coachman as a liar; but

no one would listen to him, and he was seized and thrown into a

cell with iron doors.

While he was lying on his straw pallet, pondering mournfully on

his fate, he thought he heard the low whining of his dogs outside;

then an idea dawned on him, and he called out as loudly as he

could, 'Mustard, come to my help,' and in a second he saw the paws

of his biggest dog at the window of his cell, and before he could

count two the creature had bitten through the iron bars and stood

beside him. Then they both let themselves out of the prison by the

window, and the poor youth was free once more, though he felt very

sad when he thought that another was to enjoy the reward that

rightfully belonged to him. He felt hungry too, so he called his

dog 'Salt,' and asked him to bring home some food. The faithful

creature trotted off, and soon returned with a table-napkin full

of the most delicious food, and the napkin itself was embroidered

with a kingly crown.

The King had just seated himself at the wedding-feast with all his

Court, when the dog appeared and licked the Princess's hand in an

appealing manner. With a joyful start she recognised the beast,

and bound her own table-napkin round his neck. Then she plucked up

her courage and told her father the whole story. The King at once

sent a servant to follow the dog, and in a short time the stranger

was led into the Kings presence. The former coachman grew as white

as a sheet when he saw the shepherd, and, falling on his knees,

begged for mercy and pardon. The Princess recognized her deliverer

at once, and did not need the proof of the two dragon's teeth

which he drew from his pocket. The coachman was thrown into a dark

dungeon, and the shepherd took his place at the Princess's side,

and this time, you may be sure, she did not beg for the wedding to

be put off.

The young couple lived for some time in great peace and happiness,

when suddenly one day the former shepherd bethought himself of his

poor sister and expressed a wish to see her again, and to let her

share in his good fortune. So they sent a carriage to fetch her,

and soon she arrived at the court, and found herself once more in

her brother's arms. Then one of the dogs spoke and said, 'Our task

is done; you have no more need of us. We only waited to see that

you did not forget your sister in your prosperity.' And with these

words the three dogs became three birds and flew away into the