The White Dove
: The Pink Fairy Book
From the Danish.
A king had two sons. They were a pair of reckless fellows, who always
had something foolish to do. One day they rowed out alone on the sea in
a little boat. It was beautiful weather when they set out, but as soon
as they had got some distance from the shore there arose a terrific
storm. The oars went overboard at once, and the little boat was tossed
about on the rolling bill
ws like a nut-shell. The princes had to hold
fast by the seats to keep from being thrown out of the boat.
In the midst of all this they met a wonderful vessel--it was a
dough-trough, in which there sat an old woman. She called to them, and
said that they could still get to shore alive if they would promise her
the son that was next to come to their mother the queen.
'We can't do that,' shouted the princes; 'he doesn't belong to us so we
can't give him away.'
'Then you can rot at the bottom of the sea, both of you,' said the old
woman; 'and perhaps it may be the case that your mother would rather
keep the two sons she has than the one she hasn't got yet.'
Then she rowed away in her dough-trough, while the storm howled still
louder than before, and the water dashed over their boat until it was
almost sinking. Then the princes thought that there was something in
what the old woman had said about their mother, and being, of course,
eager to save their lives, they shouted to her, and promised that she
should have their brother if she would deliver them from this danger. As
soon as they had done so the storm ceased and the waves fell. The boat
drove ashore below their father's castle, and both princes were received
with open arms by their father and mother, who had suffered great
anxiety for them.
The two brothers said nothing about what they had promised, neither at
that time nor later on when the queen's third son came, a beautiful boy,
whom she loved more than anything else in the world. He was brought up
and educated in his father's house until he was full grown, and still
his brothers had never seen or heard anything about the witch to whom
they had promised him before he was born.
It happened one evening that there arose a raging storm, with mist and
darkness. It howled and roared around the king's palace, and in the
midst of it there came a loud knock on the door of the hall where the
youngest prince was. He went to the door and found there an old woman
with a dough- trough on her back, who said to him that he must go with
her at once; his brothers had promised him to her if she would save
'Yes,' said he; 'if you saved my brothers' lives, and they promised me
to you, then I will go with you.'
They therefore went down to the beach together, where he had to take his
seat in the trough, along with the witch, who sailed away with him, over
the sea, home to her dwelling.
The prince was now in the witch's power, and in her service. The first
thing she set him to was to pick feathers. 'The heap of feathers that
you see here,' said she, 'you must get finished before I come home in
the evening, otherwise you shall be set to harder work.' He started
to the feathers, and picked and picked until there was only a single
feather left that had not passed through his hands. But then there came
a whirlwind and sent all the feathers flying, and swept them along the
floor into a heap, where they lay as if they were trampled together.
He had now to begin all his work over again, but by this time it only
wanted an hour of evening, when the witch was to be expected home, and
he easily saw that it was impossible for him to be finished by that
Then he heard something tapping at the window pane, and a thin voice
said, 'Let me in, and I will help you.' It was a white dove, which sat
outside the window, and was pecking at it with its beak. He opened the
window, and the dove came in and set to work at once, and picked all
the feathers out of the heap with its beak. Before the hour was past the
feathers were all nicely arranged: the dove flew out at the window, and
at, the same moment the witch came in at the door.
'Well, well,' said she, 'it was more than I would have expected of you
to get all the feathers put in order so nicely. However, such a prince
might be expected to have neat fingers.'
Next morning the witch said to the prince, 'To-day you shall have some
easy work to do. Outside the door I have some firewood lying; you must
split that for me into little bits that I can kindle the fire with. That
will soon be done, but you must be finished before I come home.'
The prince got a little axe and set to work at once. He split and clove
away, and thought that he was getting on fast; but the day wore on until
it was long past midday, and he was still very far from having finished.
He thought, in fact, that the pile of wood rather grew bigger than
smaller, in spite of what he took off it; so he let his hands fall by
his side, and dried the sweat from his forehead, and was ill at ease,
for he knew that it would be bad for him if he was not finished with the
work before the witch came home.
Then the white dove came flying and settled down on the pile of wood,
and cooed and said, 'Shall I help you?'
'Yes,' said the prince, 'many thanks for your help yesterday, and for
what you offer to-day.' Thereupon the little dove seized one piece of
wood after another and split it with its beak. The prince could not take
away the wood as quickly as the dove could split it, and in a short time
it was all cleft into little sticks.
The dove then flew up on his shoulder and sat there and the prince
thanked it, and stroked and caressed its white feathers, and kissed
its little red beak. With that it was a dove no longer, but a beautiful
young maiden, who stood by his side. She told him then that she was a
princess whom the witch had stolen, and had changed to this shape,
but with his kiss she had got her human form again; and if he would be
faithful to her, and take her to wife, she could free them both from the
The prince was quite captivated by the beautiful princess, and was quite
willing to do anything whatsoever to get her for himself.
She then said to him, 'When the witch comes home you must ask her to
grant you a wish, when you have accomplished so well all that she has
demanded of you. When she agrees to this you must ask her straight out
for the princess that she has flying about as a white dove. But just now
you must take a red silk thread and tie it round my little finger, so
that you may be able to recognise me again, into whatever shape she
The prince made haste to get the silk thread tied round her little white
finger; at the same moment the princess became a dove again and flew
away, and immediately after that the old witch came home with her
dough-trough on he back.
'Well,' said she, 'I must say that you are clever at your work, and it
is something, too, that such princely hands are not accustomed to.'
'Since you are so well pleased with my work, said the prince, 'you
will, no doubt, be willing to give me a little pleasure too, and give me
something that I have taken a fancy to.'
'Oh yes, indeed,' said the old woman; 'what is it that you want?'
'I want the princess here who is in the shape of a white dove,' said the
'What nonsense!' said the witch. 'Why should you imagine that there are
princesses here flying about in the shape of white doves? But if you
will have a princess, you can get one such as we have them.' She then
came to him, dragging a shaggy little grey ass with long ears. 'Will you
have this?' said she; 'you can't get any other princess!'
The prince used his eyes and saw the red silk thread on one of the ass's
hoofs, so he said, 'Yes, just let me have it.'
'What will you do with it?' asked the witch.
'I will ride on it,' said the prince; but with that the witch dragged
it away again, and came back with an old, wrinkled, toothless hag, whose
hands trembled with age. 'You can have no other princess,' said she.
'Will you have her?'
'Yes, I will,' said the prince, for he saw the red silk thread on the
old woman's finger.
At this the witch became so furious that she danced about and knocked
everything to pieces that she could lay her hands upon, so that the
splinters flew about the ears of the prince and princess, who now stood
there in her own beautiful shape.
Then their marriage had to be celebrated, for the witch had to stick
to what she had promised, and he must get the princess whatever might
The princess now said to him, 'At the marriage feast you may eat what
you please, but you must not drink anything whatever, for if you do that
you will forget me.'
This, however, the prince forgot on the wedding day, and stretched out
his hand and took a cup of wine; but the princess was keeping watch over
him, and gave him a push with her elbow, so that the wine flew over the
Then the witch got up and laid about her among the plates and dishes, so
that the pieces flew about their ears, just as she had done when she was
cheated the first time.
They were then taken to the bridal chamber, and the door was shut. Then
the princess said, 'Now the witch has kept her promise, but she will do
no more if she can help it, so we must fly immediately. I shall lay two
pieces of wood in the bed to answer for us when the witch speaks to us.
You can take the flower-pot and the glass of water that stands in the
window, and we must slip out by that and get away.'
No sooner said than done. They hurried off out into the dark night, the
princess leading, because she knew the way, having spied it out while
she flew about as a dove.
At midnight the witch came to the door of the room and called in to
them, and the two pieces of wood answered her, so that she believed they
were there, and went away again. Before daybreak she was at the door
again and called to them, and again the pieces of wood answered for
them. She thus thought that she had them, and when the sun rose the
bridal night was past: she had then kept her promise, and could vent her
anger and revenge on both of them. With the first sunbeam she broke into
the room, but there she found no prince and no princess--nothing but the
two pieces of firewood, which lay in the bed, and stared, and spoke not
a word. These she threw on the floor, so that they were splintered into
a thousand pieces, and off she hastened after the fugitives.
With the first sunbeam the princess said to the prince, 'Look round; do
you see anything behind us?'
'Yes, I see a dark cloud, far away,' said he.
'Then throw the flower-pot over your head,' said she. When this was done
there was a large thick forest behind them.
When the witch came to the forest she could not get through it until she
went home and brought her axe to cut a path.
A little after this the princess said again to the prince, 'Look round;
do you see anything behind us?'
'Yes,' said the prince, 'the big black cloud is there again.'
'Then throw the glass of water over your head,' said she.
When he had done this there was a great lake behind them, and this
the witch could not cross until she ran home again and brought her
Meanwhile the fugitives had reached the castle which was the prince's
home. They climbed over the garden wall, ran across the garden, and
crept in at an open window. By this time the witch was just at their
heels, but the princess stood in the window and blew upon the witch;
hundreds of white doves flew out of her mouth, fluttered and flapped
around the witch's head until she grew so angry that she turned into
flint, and there she stands to this day, in the shape of a large flint
stone, outside the window.
Within the castle there was great rejoicing over the prince and his
bride. His two elder brothers came and knelt before him and confessed
what they had done, and said that he alone should inherit the kingdom,
and they would always be his faithful subjects.