The Three Princes And Their Beasts

: The Violet Fairy Book


Once on a time there were three princes, who had a step-sister.

One day they all set out hunting together. When they had gone

some way through a thick wood they came on a great grey wolf with

three cubs. Just as they were going to shoot, the wolf spoke and

said, 'Do not shoot me, and I will give each of you one of my

young ones. It will be a faithful friend to you.'

So the princes went on their way, and a little wolf followed each

of them.

Soon after they came on a lioness with three cubs. And she too

begged them not to shoot her, and she would give each of them a

cub. And so it happened with a fox, a hare, a boar, and a bear,

till each prince had quite a following of young beasts padding

along behind him.

Towards evening they came to a clearing in the wood, where three

birches grew at the crossing of three roads. The eldest prince

took an arrow, and shot it into the trunk of one of the birch

trees. Turning to his brothers he said:

'Let each of us mark one of these trees before we part on

different ways. When any one of us comes back to this place, he

must walk round the trees of the other two, and if he sees blood

flowing from the mark in the tree he will know that that brother

is dead, but if milk flows he will know that his brother is


So each of the princes did as the eldest brother had said, and

when the three birches were marked by their arrows they turned to

their step-sister and asked her with which of them she meant to


'With the eldest,' she answered. Then the brothers separated

from each other, and each of them set out down a different road,

followed by their beasts. And the step-sister went with the

eldest prince.

After they had gone a little way along the road they came into a

forest, and in one of the deepest glades they suddenly found

themselves opposite a castle in which there lived a band of

robbers. The prince walked up to the door and knocked. The

moment it was opened the beasts rushed in, and each seized on a

robber, killed him, and dragged the body down to the cellar.

Now, one of the robbers was not really killed, only badly

wounded, but he lay quite still and pretended to be dead like the

others. Then the prince and his step-sister entered the castle

and took up their abode in it.

The next morning the prince went out hunting. Before leaving he

told his step-sister that she might go into every room in the

house except into the cave where the dead robbers lay. But as

soon as his back was turned she forgot what he had said, and

having wandered through all the other rooms she went down to the

cellar and opened the door. As soon as she looked in the robber

who had only pretended to be dead sat up and said to her:

'Don't be afraid. Do what I tell you, and I will be your friend.

If you marry me you will be much happier with me than with your

brother. But you must first go into the sitting-room and look in

the cupboard. There you will find three bottles. In one of them

there is a healing ointment which you must put on my chin to heal

the wound; then if I drink the contents of the second bottle it

will make me well, and the third bottle will make me stronger

than I ever was before. Then, when your brother comes back from

the wood with his beasts you must go to him and say, "Brother,

you are very strong. If I were to fasten your thumbs behind your

back with a stout silk cord, could you wrench yourself free?"

And when you see that he cannot do it, call me.'

When the brother came home, the step-sister did as the robber had

told her, and fastened her brother's thumbs behind his back. But

with one wrench he set himself free, and said to her, 'Sister,

that cord is not strong enough for me.'

The next day he went back to the wood with his beasts, and the

robber told her that she must take a much stouter cord to bind

his thumbs with. But again he freed himself, though not so

easily as the first time, and he said to his sister:

'Even that cord is not strong enough.'

The third day, on his return from the wood he consented to have

his strength tested for the last time. So she took a very strong

cord of silk, which she had prepared by the robber's advice, and

this time, though the prince pulled and tugged with all his

might, he could not break the cord. So he called to her and

said: 'Sister, this time the cord is so strong I cannot break

it. Come and unfasten it for me.'

But instead of coming she called to the robber, who rushed into

the room brandishing a knife, with which he prepared to attack

the prince.

But the prince spoke and said:

'Have patience for one minute. I would like before I die to blow

three blasts on my hunting horn--one in this room, one on the

stairs, and one in the courtyard.'

So the robber consented, and the prince blew the horn. At the

first blast, the fox, which was asleep in the cage in the

courtyard, awoke, and knew that his master needed help. So he

awoke the wolf by flicking him across the eyes with his brush.

Then they awoke the lion, who sprang against the door of the cage

with might and main, so that it fell in splinters on the ground,

and the beasts were free. Rushing through the court to their

master's aid, the fox gnawed the cord in two that bound the

prince's thumbs behind his back, and the lion flung himself on

the robber, and when he had killed him and torn him in pieces

each of the beasts carried off a bone.

Then the prince turned to the step-sister and said:

'I will not kill you, but I will leave you here to repent.' And

he fastened her with a chain to the wall, and put a great bowl in

front of her and said, 'I will not see you again till you have

filled this bowl with your tears.'

So saying, he called his beasts, and set out on his travels.

When he had gone a little way he came to an inn. Everyone in the

inn seemed so sad that he asked them what was the matter.

'Ah,' replied they, 'to-day our king's daughter is to die. She

is to be handed over to a dreadful nine-headed dragon.'

Then the prince said: 'Why should she die? I am very strong, I

will save her.'

And he set out to the sea-shore, where the dragon was to meet the

princess. And as he waited with his beasts round him a great

procession came along, accompanying the unfortunate princess:

and when the shore was reached all the people left her, and

returned sadly to their houses. But the prince remained, and

soon he saw a movement in the water a long way off. As it came

nearer, he knew what it was, for skimming swiftly along the

waters came a monster dragon with nine heads. Then the prince

took counsel with his beasts, and as the dragon approached the

shore the fox drew his brush through the water and blinded the

dragon by scattering the salt water in his eyes, while the bear

and the lion threw up more water with their paws, so that the

monster was bewildered and could see nothing. Then the prince

rushed forward with his sword and killed the dragon, and the

beasts tore the body in pieces.

Then the princess turned to the prince and thanked him for

delivering her from the dragon, and she said to him:

'Step into this carriage with me, and we will drive back to my

father's palace.' And she gave him a ring and half of her

handkerchief. But on the way back the coachman and footman spoke

to one another and said:

'Why should we drive this stranger back to the palace? Let us

kill him, and then we can say to the king that we slew the dragon

and saved the princess, and one of us shall marry her.'

So they killed the prince, and left him dead on the roadside.

And the faithful beasts came round the dead body and wept, and

wondered what they should do. Then suddenly the wolf had an

idea, and he started off into the wood, where he found an ox,

which he straightway killed. Then he called the fox, and told

him to mount guard over the dead ox, and if a bird came past and

tried to peck at the flesh he was to catch it and bring it to the

lion. Soon after a crow flew past, and began to peck at the dead

ox. In a moment the fox had caught it and brought it to the

lion. Then the lion said to the crow:

'We will not kill you if you will promise to fly to the town

where there are three wells of healing and to bring back water

from them in your beak to make this dead man alive.'

So the crow flew away, and she filled her beak at the well of

healing, the well of strength, and the well of swiftness, and she

flew back to the dead prince and dropped the water from her beak

upon his lips, and he was healed, and could sit up and walk.

Then he set out for the town, accompanied by his faithful beasts.

And when they reached the king's palace they found that

preparations for a great feast were being made, for the princess

was to marry the coachman.

So the prince walked into the palace, and went straight up to the

coachman and said: 'What token have you got that you killed the

dragon and won the hand of the princess? I have her token

here--this ring and half her handkerchief.'

And when the king saw these tokens he knew that the prince was

speaking the truth. So the coachman was bound in chains and

thrown into prison, and the prince was married to the princess

and rewarded with half the kingdom.

One day, soon after his marriage, the prince was walking through

the woods in the evening, followed by his faithful beasts.

Darkness came on, and he lost his way, and wandered about among

the trees looking for the path that would lead him back to the

palace. As he walked he saw the light of a fire, and making his

way to it he found an old woman raking sticks and dried leaves

together, and burning them in a glade of the wood.

As he was very tired, and the night was very dark, the prince

determined not to wander further. So he asked the old woman if

he might spend the night beside her fire.

'Of course you may,' she answered. 'But I am afraid of your

beasts. Let me hit them with my rod, and then I shall not be

afraid of them.'

'Very well,' said the prince, 'I don't mind'; and she stretched

out her rod and hit the beasts, and in one moment they were

turned into stone, and so was the prince.

Now soon after this the prince's youngest brother came to the

cross-roads with the three birches, where the brothers had parted

from each other when they set out on their wanderings.

Remembering what they had agreed to do, he walked round the two

trees, and when he saw that blood oozed from the cut in the

eldest prince's tree he knew that his brother must be dead. So

he set out, followed by his beasts, and came to the town over

which his brother had ruled, and where the princess he had

married lived. And when he came into the town all the people

were in great sorrow because their prince had disappeared.

But when they saw his youngest brother, and the beasts following

him, they thought it was their own prince, and they rejoiced

greatly, and told him how they had sought him everywhere. Then

they led him to the king, and he too thought that it was his

son-in-law. But the princess knew that he was not her husband,

and she begged him to go out into the woods with his beasts, and

to look for his brother till he found him.

So the youngest prince set out to look for his brother, and he

too lost his way in the wood and night overtook him. Then he

came to the clearing among the trees, where the fire was burning

and where the old woman was raking sticks and leaves into the

flames. And he asked her if he might spend the night beside her

fire, as it was too late and too dark to go back to the town.

And she answered: 'Certainly you may. But I am afraid of your

beasts. May I give them a stroke with my rod, then I shall not

be afraid of them.'

And he said she might, for he did not know that she was a witch.

So she stretched out her rod, and in a moment the beasts and

their master were turned into stone.

It happened soon after that the second brother returned from his

wanderings and came to the cross-roads where the three birches

grew. As he went round the trees he saw that blood poured from

the cuts in the bark of two of the trees. Then he wept and said:

'Alas! both my brothers are dead.' And he too set out towards

the town in which his brother had ruled, and his faithful beasts

followed him. When he entered the town, all the people thought

it was their own prince come back to them, and they gathered

round him, as they had gathered round his youngest brother, and

asked him where he had been and why he had not returned. And

they led him to the king's palace, but the princess knew that he

was not her husband. So when they were alone together she

besought him to go and seek for his brother and bring him home.

Calling his beasts round him, he set out and wandered through the

woods. And he put his ear down to the earth, to listen if he

could hear the sound of his brother's beasts. And it seemed to

him as if he heard a faint sound far off, but he did not know

from what direction it came. So he blew on his hunting horn and

listened again. And again he heard the sound, and this time it

seemed to come from the direction of a fire burning in the wood.

So he went towards the fire, and there the old woman was raking

sticks and leaves into the embers. And he asked her if he might

spend the night beside her fire. But she told him she was afraid

of his beasts, and he must first allow her to give each of them a

stroke with her rod.

But he answered her:

'Certainly not. I am their master, and no one shall strike them

but I myself. Give me the rod'; and he touched the fox with it,

and in a moment it was turned into stone. Then he knew that the

old woman was a witch, and he turned to her and said:

'Unless you restore my brothers and their beasts back to life at

once, my lion will tear you in pieces.'

Then the witch was terrified, and taking a young oak tree she

burnt it into white ashes, and sprinkled the ashes on the stones

that stood around. And in a moment the two princes stood before

their brother, and their beasts stood round them.

Then the three princes set off together to the town. And the

king did not know which was his son-in-law, but the princess knew

which was her husband, and there were great rejoicings throughout

the land.