The White Wolf

: The Grey Fairy Book

Once upon a time there was a king who had three daughters; they

were all beautiful, but the youngest was the fairest of the

three. Now it happened that one day their father had to set out

for a tour in a distant part of his kingdom. Before he left, his

youngest daughter made him promise to bring her back a wreath of

wild flowers. When the king was ready to return to his palace, he

bethought himself that he would like t
take home presents to

each of his three daughters; so he went into a jeweller's shop

and bought a beautiful necklace for the eldest princess; then he

went to a rich merchant's and bought a dress embroidered in gold

and silver thread for the second princess, but in none of the

flower shops nor in the market could he find the wreath of wild

flowers that his youngest daughter had set her heart on. So he

had to set out on his homeward way without it. Now his journey

led him through a thick forest. While he was still about four

miles distant from his palace, he noticed a white wolf squatting

on the roadside, and, behold! on the head of the wolf, there was

a wreath of wild flowers.

Then the king called to the coachman, and ordered him to get down

from his seat and fetch him the wreath from the wolf's head. But

the wolf heard the order and said: 'My lord and king, I will let

you have the wreath, but I must have something in return.'

'What do you want?' answered the king. 'I will gladly give you

rich treasure in exchange for it.'

'I do not want rich treasure,' replied the wolf. 'Only promise to

give me the first thing that meets you on your way to your

castle. In three days I shall come and fetch it.'

And the king thought to himself: 'I am still a good long way from

home, I am sure to meet a wild animal or a bird on the road, it

will be quite safe to promise.' So he consented, and carried the

wreath away with him. But all along the road he met no living

creature till he turned into the palace gates, where his youngest

daughter was waiting to welcome him home.

That evening the king was very sad, remembering his promise; and

when he told the queen what had happened, she too shed bitter

tears. And the youngest princess asked them why they both looked

so sad, and why they wept. Then her father told her what a price

he would have to pay for the wreath of wild flowers he had

brought home to her, for in three days a white wolf would come

and claim her and carry her away, and they would never see her

again. But the queen thought and thought, and at last she hit

upon a plan.

There was in the palace a servant maid the same age and the same

height as the princess, and the queen dressed her up in a

beautiful dress belonging to her daughter, and determined to give

her to the white wolf, who would never know the difference.

On the third day the wolf strode into the palace yard and up the

great stairs, to the room where the king and queen were seated.

'I have come to claim your promise,' he said. 'Give me your

youngest daughter.'

Then they led the servant maid up to him, and he said to her:

'You must mount on my back, and I will take you to my castle.'

And with these words he swung her on to his back and left the


When they reached the place where he had met the king and given

him the wreath of wild flowers, he stopped, and told her to

dismount that they might rest a little.

So they sat down by the roadside.

'I wonder,' said the wolf, 'what your father would do if this

forest belonged to him?'

And the girl answered: 'My father is a poor man, so he would cut

down the trees, and saw them into planks, and he would sell the

planks, and we should never be poor again; but would always have

enough to eat.'

Then the wolf knew that he had not got the real princess, and he

swung the servant-maid on to his back and carried her to the

castle. And he strode angrily into the king's chamber, and spoke.

'Give me the real princess at once. If you deceive me again I

will cause such a storm to burst over your palace that the walls

will fall in, and you will all be buried in the ruins.'

Then the king and the queen wept, but they saw there was no

escape. So they sent for their youngest daughter, and the king

said to her: 'Dearest child, you must go with the white wolf, for

I promised you to him, and I must keep my word.'

So the princess got ready to leave her home; but first she went

to her room to fetch her wreath of wild flowers, which she took

with her. Then the white wolf swung her on his back and bore her

away. But when they came to the place where he had rested with

the servant-maid, he told her to dismount that they might rest

for a little at the roadside. Then he turned to her and said: 'I

wonder what your father would do if this forest belonged to him?'

And the princess answered: 'My father would cut down the trees

and turn it into a beautiful park and gardens, and he and his

courtiers would come and wander among the glades in the summer


'This is the real princess,' said the wolf to himself. But aloud

he said: 'Mount once more on my back, and I will bear you to my


And when she was seated on his back he set out through the woods,

and he ran, and ran, and ran, till at last he stopped in front of

a stately courtyard, with massive gates.

'This is a beautiful castle,' said the princess, as the gates

swung back and she stepped inside. 'If only I were not so far

away from my father and my mother!'

But the wolf answered: 'At the end of a year we will pay a visit

to your father and mother.'

And at these words the white furry skin slipped from his back,

and the princess saw that he was not a wolf at all, but a

beautiful youth, tall and stately; and he gave her his hand, and

led her up the castle stairs.

One day, at the end of half a year, he came into her room and

said: 'My dear one, you must get ready for a wedding. Your eldest

sister is going to be married, and I will take you to your

father's palace. When the wedding is over, I shall come and fetch

you home. I will whistle outside the gate, and when you hear me,

pay no heed to what your father or mother say, leave your dancing

and feasting, and come to me at once; for if I have to leave

without you, you will never find your way back alone through the


When the princess was ready to start, she found that he had put

on his white fur skin, and was changed back into the wolf; and he

swung her on to his back, and set out with her to her father's

palace, where he left her, while he himself returned home alone.

But, in the evening, he went back to fetch her, and, standing

outside the palace gate, he gave a long, loud whistle. In the

midst of her dancing the princess heard the sound, and at once

she went to him, and he swung her on his back and bore her away

to his castle.

Again, at the end of half a year, the prince came into her room,

as the white wolf, and said: 'Dear heart, you must prepare for

the wedding of your second sister. I will take you to your

father's palace to-day, and we will remain there together till

to-morrow morning.'

So they went together to the wedding. In the evening, when the

two were alone together, he dropped his fur skin, and, ceasing to

be a wolf, became a prince again. Now they did not know that the

princess's mother was hidden in the room. When she saw the white

skin lying on the floor, she crept out of the room, and sent a

servant to fetch the skin and to burn it in the kitchen fire. The

moment the flames touched the skin there was a fearful clap of

thunder heard, and the prince disappeared out of the palace gate

in a whirlwind, and returned to his palace alone.

But the princess was heart-broken, and spent the night weeping

bitterly. Next morning she set out to find her way back to the

castle, but she wandered through the woods and forests, and she

could find no path or track to guide her. For fourteen days she

roamed in the forest, sleeping under the trees, and living upon

wild berries and roots, and at last she reached a little house.

She opened the door and went in, and found the wind seated in the

room all by himself, and she spoke to the wind and said: 'Wind,

have you seen the white wolf?'

And the wind answered: 'All day and all night I have been blowing

round the world, and I have only just come home; but I have not

seen him.'

But he gave her a pair of shoes, in which, he told her, she would

be able to walk a hundred miles with every step. Then she walked

through the air till she reached a star, and she said: 'Tell me,

star, have you seen the white wolf?'

And the star answered: 'I have been shining all night, and I have

not seen him.'

But the star gave her a pair of shoes, and told her that if she

put them on she would be able to walk two hundred miles at a

stride. So she drew them on, and she walked to the moon, and she

said: 'Dear moon, have you not seen the white wolf?'

But the moon answered, 'All night long I have been sailing

through the heavens, and I have only just come home; but I did

not see him.'

But he gave her a pair of shoes, in which she would be able to

cover four hundred miles with every stride. So she went to the

sun, and said: 'Dear sun, have you seen the white wolf?'

And the sun answered, 'Yes, I have seen him, and he has chosen

another bride, for he thought you had left him, and would never

return, and he is preparing for the wedding. But I will help you.

Here are a pair of shoes. If you put these on you will be able to

walk on glass or ice, and to climb the steepest places. And here

is a spinning-wheel, with which you will be able to spin moss

into silk. When you leave me you will reach a glass mountain. Put

on the shoes that I have given you and with them you will be able

to climb it quite easily. At the summit you will find the palace

of the white wolf.'

Then the princess set out, and before long she reached the glass

mountain, and at the summit she found the white wolf's palace, as

the sun had said.

But no one recognised her, as she had disguised herself as an old

woman, and had wound a shawl round her head. Great preparations

were going on in the palace for the wedding, which was to take

place next day. Then the princess, still disguised as an old

woman, took out her spinning-wheel, and began to spin moss into

silk. And as she spun the new bride passed by, and seeing the

moss turn into silk, she said to the old woman: 'Little mother, I

wish you would give me that spinning-wheel.'

And the princess answered, 'I will give it to you if you will

allow me to sleep to-night on the mat outside the prince's door.'

And the bride replied, 'Yes, you may sleep on the mat outside the


So the princess gave her the spinning-wheel. And that night,

winding the shawl all round her, so that no one could recognise

her, she lay down on the mat outside the white wolf's door. And

when everyone in the palace was asleep she began to tell the

whole of her story. She told how she had been one of three

sisters, and that she had been the youngest and the fairest of

the three, and that her father had betrothed her to a white wolf.

And she told how she had gone first to the wedding of one sister,

and then with her husband to the wedding of the other sister, and

how her mother had ordered the servant to throw the white fur

skin into the kitchen fire. And then she told of her wanderings

through the forest; and of how she had sought the white wolf

weeping; and how the wind and star and moon and sun had

befriended her, and had helped her to reach his palace. And when

the white wolf heard all the story, he knew that it was his first

wife, who had sought him, and had found him, after such great

dangers and difficulties.

But he said nothing, for he waited till the next day, when many

guests--kings and princes from far countries --were coming to his

wedding. Then, when all the guests were assembled in the

banqueting hall, he spoke to them and said: 'Hearken to me, ye

kings and princes, for I have something to tell you. I had lost

the key of my treasure casket, so I ordered a new one to be made;

but I have since found the old one. Now, which of these keys is

the better?'

Then all the kings and royal guests answered: 'Certainly the old

key is better than the new one.'

'Then,' said the wolf, 'if that is so, my former bride is better

than my new one.'

And he sent for the new bride, and he gave her in marriage to one

of the princes who was present, and then he turned to his guests,

and said: 'And here is my former bride'--and the beautiful

princess was led into the room and seated beside him on his

throne. 'I thought she had forgotten me, and that she would never

return. But she has sought me everywhere, and now we are together

once more we shall never part again.'