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Fairy Tale: The Sun Princess And Her Deliver

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The Sun Princess And Her Deliver

Long, long ago, beyond the nine mountains and the nine forests, there lived a King and Queen. A son was born to them, and they loved him to distraction, When he grew up, the Prince had plenty of puffs and cream to eat, and he wore clothing spun of silver and gold. At his bidding, as if out of thin air, servants in braided coats and grooms in bright caftans appeared, and snow-white wolf-hounds followed him devotedly about and never took their eyes off him. And as for his father and mother, they would have caught the sun itself and brought it to him in a sieve if only they could. But the young Prince was always gloomy. He would chase away his servants and his dogs, stroll sadly about in the palace garden and complain of his lot.

"I have no sister and no brother," he would say, "no one to'play with, no one to talk to. Tell me. Mother why am I all alone?"

To this the Queen would make no reply, but only drop her eyes, and, clapping her hands, order the court ladies to play on their golden cymbals and amuse the Prince. But the Prince's heart was heavy, and all their gay songs and music could not cheer him. Now, near the palace was a courtyard surrounded by a stone wall eighty feet high. The wall was gilded and furnished with razor-sharp diamond spikes so that if anyone were to try to climb it he would be cut in two. The Prince was warned never so much as to come near the wall, and, of course, this only served to make him all the more anxious to learn what there was behind it. But though he showered the Queen and her courtiers with questions, they would not answer him.

One day a black raven perched on the top of the wall. The Prince took aim with his bow and was about to let fly his arrow when the raven said in a human voice:

"Do not kill me, Prince. I shall tell you a great secret. Behind this wall is a garden bursting with roses and lilies, and in the garden is a palace where your three sisters are kept under lock and key. If you want to see them, look for a little golden key which lies under a flowerpot in the Queen's bedroom. And remember: once you are in the garden, open the window of your sisters' chamber and let them breathe the fresh air."

The raven flapped his wings and flew away, and the Prince stood there as if frozen to the spot, not knowing whether or not it had all been a dream.

That night, when everyone was asleep, he rose quietly, fondled his dogs to keep them from barking, and, stealing into the Queen's bedroom, found the flowerpot and, under,it, the golden key.

He felt the wall with his hands, discovered a secret door, unlocked it, went into the garden and opened the window of his sisters' chamber. And his three sisters stretched out their hands to him and they kissed him and thanked him again and again for letting them breathe the fresh air, smell the lovely, fragrant flowers and admire the beauty of the stars.

All of a sudden the earth quaked and trembled, and a black column of dust rose up into the air like smoke from a chimney. The three sisters were caught up by the whirlwind and swept out of the window. The Prince was afraid that he had brought this about, and he began to weep bitter tears, to call his sisters by the tenderest names and to curse himself for his foolish curiosity. But his tears helped not at all. The sisters were gone, their chamber was dark and empty, and only the stars twinkled overhead as before.

In the morning the Queen got up and prepared to take some food to her daughters. She looked for the key, but it was gone. She ran to the palace where they lived, but, alas, there was no one there!

"Oh, my poor daughters! I will never see them again!" the Queen cried, sobbing and wringing her hands. "The dragon has eaten them up!"

The old King flew into a temper, he raged and stormed and his voice rang like thunder through the palace. His servants and courtiers shook with fear. Some ran and hid themselves, while others brought out their crystal balls and gazed into them to see what the future held, but none could say who had let out the princesses or where to seek them.

Learning that his father's servants were dragging innocent people to the palace just like so many geese being hauled to the kill, the Prince hurried to the King, and, trembling with fear, said:

"It is I who am to blame for what happened to my sisters, Father, so you must punish me for it."

Darker than a storm-cloud grew the King's face and he shouted wrathfully:

"Before you were born the wise men who read the stars warned me that your sisters would be carried off by a dragon. That was why I built a wall eighty feet high and kept them locked up in a palace. But you disobeyed me and defied my orders. So, worthless youth that you are, leave my kingdom and do not return until you have brought back your sisters."

And the King opened the gate with his own hands and commanded the Prince to go where he would. The Queen burst into tears, but she just managed to embrace her son and thrust a pie in his hands before the gate shut behind him.

The Prince set off along the road, not knowing what to do or where to go. On and on he walked over hills and dales, across swamps and meadows, and when night came he climbed a tree and tied himself to a bough so as not to fall off in his sleep and be eaten up by wild animals.

He journeyed thus for many days, following many roads and trails and, where there were none, laying his own, till he came to a strange land. Footsore and weary, he stopped by a crumbling old hut, knocked at the door and asked to be let in for the night. An old woman came out, and, standing on the threshold, asked where he was going and what he was seeking. The Prince told her about his sisters, and the old woman said:

"You won't find them soon, my lad. The way that lies before you is far and dangerous, your hands are weak and unaccustomed to work, and your heart is timid and untried. Stay with me for three years, learn to earn your own living, and then, perhaps, I shall help you."

So the Prince stayed with the old woman. He uprooted tree stumps, ploughed fields, ground grain and made shoes of bast. It was hard work, all of it, for he was not used to it, but he would not give up, so strong was his wish to save his sisters. Three years flew by like one day. The old woman called the Prince to her side and said:

"Tomorrow you can set out to seek your sisters. Here is a ball of yarn for you. Wherever it rolls, there you must go. And here is a slice of bread. Whenever you are hungry eat your fill of it. It will last you a long time."

The Prince took leave of the old woman and set off on his journey again. The ball of yarn rolled and bounced along ahead of him and showed him the way, the slice of bread in his bag grew no smaller no matter how much of it he ate, the streams and brooks gave him water to drink, and the birds cheered his heart with their songs.

By and by he came to a copper mountain grown with a copper forest. He climbed a tree and began breaking off a branch to make a staff for himself when all of a sudden, as if out of thin air, a four-eyed witch came flying up, making a great racket as she flew. She stuck out her tongue, forked like the sting of a serpent, and hissed:

"Who is breaking off branches in my forest?"

The Prince threw his ball of yarn at her, and she rushed to catch it and knocked her forehead against a tree so hard that the sparks flew. And as she stood there swaying on her feet and trying to get back her breath, the Prince climbed the copper mountain. At its very summit he saw a copper palace, and sitting at a spinning wheel by a palace window, his elder sister. She knew her brother at once and welcomed him lovingly, and there was no end to the nice things she gave him to eat or to the questions she asked him. But. when evening came she began to fret and to worry and she hid the Prince in a painted chest behind a green, figured curtain.

The trees in the forest hummed and droned, the copper leaves rang and jangled, and a Falcon came flying up. He cast off his feathers at the door and turned into a tall and handsome young man. Seeing the staff the Prince had lopped off for himself in the forest, he asked his wife who had dared to touch his tree. She tried to put him off at first and to tell him this and that, but then asked:

"What would you do if my brother were to come to visit me?"

"I should be glad to see him and I'd thank him for delivering you from captivity."

So she let out the Prince, and the Falcon welcomed him warmly and complained of his lot: for six more years he was to be a falcon and to wear feathers. An evil sorceress had bewitched him, and only the Sun Princess could remove the spell. But though he flew round the earth thrice every day he had not been able to find her.

"I shall do it in your stead," the Prince offered.

"You'll only be killed, brother. Many brave men tried to get into the palace of the Sun Princess, but none came back," his sister warned him.

But the Prince paid her no heed. The Falcon gave him a kerchief as a parting gift and said:

"If ever you are in trouble, spread out this kerchief and you shall see what you shall see."

The Prince thanked the Falcon, but though he felt very much at home in his sister's house, he longed to be off and on his way to see his other sisters. So he bade the Falcon and his wife goodbye, and, hiding the kerchief in his coat, set off again after the old woman's ball of yarn.

By and by he came to a silver mountain grown with a thick silver forest. He began breaking off a silver branch for a staff when all of a sudden, as if out of thin air, two witches who guarded the forest came flying up, whistling as they flew. The Prince threw his ball of yarn at them, they rushed to catch it, bumped their foreheads, and fell to the ground with a thump, like two toads. The Prince at once climbed the silver mountain and at its top he saw a silver palace, and, sitting at a palace window, working busily on a piece of embroidery, his middle sister. The Prince came inside and found himself in a silver chamber with plate glass windows and marble floors. He told his sister who he was, but she would not believe him at first and only after he had told her of his long journey and of their elder sister's copper palace did she make him welcome. She set food and drink before him and smiled happily, but when he had had his fill, she became sad and woebegone.

"It's a pity you can't Stay with me longer, brother," she said, "but my husband the Bear might come in the evening and claw you to death."

"Don't be afraid, sister, I'll hide from him."

Evening arrived, the earth began to quake and to tremble, the silver trees to creak and to moan, and lo!the Bear came running. As soon as he was inside the palace he cast off his skin and turned into a tall and handsome young man. Seeing the silver staff, he asked of his wife:

"Who has been here?"

"My brother. He came to pay me a visit and he left his staff."

"Why didn't he wait for me?"

"I was afraid you'd claw him to death and so I let him go. But that can be put right, for I think I can catch up with him."

She went out onto the porch and called to the Prince who at once came out of his hiding-place. He and his brother-in-law exchanged greetings and began telling each other of their troubles. The brother-in-law said that through the wiles of an evil magician he turned into a bear every day at the stroke of midnight, that he would remain under his spell for four more years, and that only the Sun Princess could give him back his proper shape before then.

"I shall go to the Sun Princess and ask her to help you," said the Prince.

"It will not be easy," sighed the Bear, "but there's no harm in trying. And as for me, I shall do what I can for you. Here is a pot of magic porridge. You have only to put some of it wherever you like, and anyone who touches it will be stuck fast to the spot."

The Prince said goodbye to his middle sister and to the Bear her husband and set off again across the wide world to seek his youngest sister.

The ball of yarn rolled over hills and dales, it rolled across fields and forests and at last it reached the side of the sea. There was an island in the middle of the sea, and on it the Prince saw a golden palace. Fearful sea monsters thrust their heads up out of the water and gnashed their teeth, but this did not daunt the Prince who jumped into the seething waves after the ball of yarn and swam to the island. He reached it in no time at all and found a golden forest there. But the ground under the golden trees was boggy and swarmed with hideous-looking witches. The Prince climbed one of the golden trees and smeared some of his magic porridge over its trunk. Smelling a strange smell, the witches rushed to the tree. They sniffed at it, trying to find out who was sitting in its top, and their noses at once got stuck to the trunk. Now the Prince could make his way into the golden palace with none to stop him.

There was no one in the first chamber, nor in the second, and only in the third chamber did he come upon his youngest sister. There she sat, rolling a golden apple about on a plate, and how pleased she and the Prince were to see one another again! They began telling each other all about everything, and the hours passed swiftly, but after a while the sister's sweet face clouded.

"My husband the sharp-toothed Pike will be back soon',* she said. "He mighi eat you up."

So the Prince promised to hide and not show himself to his brother-in-law.

The golden palace shook and trembled, great waves struck against the windows, and a huge Pike leapt up out of the water. He dropped his scales at the door, turned into a tall and handsome young man and demanded of his wife who it was that had been to see them. Learning that it had been the Prince, he began, to scold his wife for having let him leave so soon.

The wife then called to her brother, who at once appeared. They sat down at .the table, and, oh, what nice things they had to eat and how much to talk about! ? But their good spirits did not last long. The Pike grew sad and crestfallen, and he said to the Prince:

"I am sorry, brother, but you and I must now part. It is almost midnight, and I shall lose my proper shape and turn into a pike again. An evil witch has cast this terrible spell on me, and it will not be broken for three more years. Only the Sun Princess can help me, for sh& alone can break it now."

Said the Prince:

"Come what may, I shall go to the Sun Princess. Surely I can persuade her to help my brothers-in-law!"

"No one who went to the Sun Princess has ever come back," the Pike replied. "But I won't try to stop you. . Here is a golden casket. Open it if ever you are in trouble."

So the Prince set off again after the ball of yarn to seek the kingdom of the Sun Princess.

No one can say whether the way was long or short, but a long time passed by before he reached the palace of the Sun Princess.

On either side of the gate stood a pillar of fire, and no one could pass through and remain alive. Sensing a stranger's approach, the pillars would draw together and burn him to a cinder.

The Prince let his ball of yarn roll ahead of him between the pillars, they drew together, and lo!only a thin wisp of smoke rose where the ball had been. Almost at once the pillars rolled apart again, and the Prince seized the moment and slipped past them, but even so the hair on his temples was singed. Suddenly he heard a voice saying:

"Who are you looking for, my lad?"

"The Sun Princess."

"What is it you want of her?"

"I shall tell that to her when I see her."

"You have not, by any chance, come to woo the Princess?"

"What if I have!"

In reply there came a laugh, but who it was that laughed he could not tell.

"Take the young man to the guest chamber," the same voice said.

A whirlwind arose and it hurled the Prince to the doorstep of a hut made of unhewn logs. Its thrice-nine doors of iron opened, and the Prince found himself in a dark dungeon with a single tiny, heart-shaped window high in the wall, close to the ceiling. This was the only source of light, and the Prince could not at once tell where he was. When his eyes had got used to the dark he saw that he was not alone and that there were twenty-eight old men there. Some were sitting on the floor, their backs against the wall, others were stretched out beside them with their heads pillowed on stones. Their long grey beards were matted and uncombed, and their bodies bent with age and as lean and dry as sticks.

"Who are you and what are you doing here?" the Prince asked them.

"You can see for yourself what we look like now, but we used to be as young and strong as you," one of them replied. "We came here from all the corners of the earth to woo the Sun Princess, and this is what has become of us. I have been here for a hundred and twenty-five years, and that man yonder, who is the oldest one among us, for almost six hundred years. Our sufferings are without end, and there is nothing left us but to await death."

"Do not grieve," said the Prince. "We shall find a way out. There are twenty-nine of us, and we are brave men all, so surely we can think of something."

But the old men only shook their beards and let their heads sink back again on to their chests. At that moment someone rapped at the window and (^ threw a bagful of oats into the dungeon. The old men jumped up and rushed to pick up the oats from the floor , with their mouths.

"You must eat too," said they, "for oats are our only food and water is our only drink."

"That is not to be," the Prince rejoined. "I am not a goose to peck at oats."

"Once you get hungry enough, you'll learn to peck like the rest of us/' the old men mumbled, stuffing their mouths with the oats.

Someone's hand now thrust a jug of water into the dungeon, and the Prince snatched up the jug and poured the water out of the window.

"What have you done!" the old men moaned. "Now we shan't have any water to drink till tomorrow, and if the Sun Princess is angry enough, why, she'll not give us any, and we'll die of thirst."

"Don't be afraid .'And throw these oats at her so that she stops mocking you."

And the Prince snatched up a handful of oats and flung them out of the window.

The old men gasped, they clasped their heads with their hands, and, falling to their knees, crawled about the floor and picked up the scattered oats grain by grain. Then the Prince got out the silken kerchief the Falcon had given him, and at once, as if out of thin air, the most dainty dishes and the rarest of drinks appeared before him. The old men fell to and ate as if they could never have their fill. They drank the heady mead happily, thanked the Prince for the feast and called him their deliverer.

Now the Sun Princess's lady-in-waitmg peeked in at the window to see why the captives had thrown out the oats, and her eye lighted on that wonder of wonders, the Falcon's magic kerchief. Without waiting to learn anything else, she hurried to tell the Sun Princess about it.

"I must have that kerchief. Promise the stranger whatever he asks for it," the Sun Princess ordered.

The lady-in-waiting returned to the hut and announced the Sun Princess's will.

"Do not give her your kerchief," the old men begged of the Prince. "If you do, it'll be the end of us, and of you, too, for you'll not have anything to eat but oats to your dying day."

But the Prince would not listen to them. Said he to the Sun Princess's lady-in-waiting:

"Come in and take the kerchief."

Bright Dawn, for it was she, did as the Prince told her. She came into the dungeon smiling and rosy-cheeked, and so radiant was her beauty that the old men were dazzled. They rushed to hide in dark corners so as not to be blinded, and the Prince said:

"Tell the Sun Princess that the kerchief is hers and that I wish her good health and want her to be happy always and think of me sometimes."

Bright Dawn went back to the Sun Princess with the Prince's gift and his message.

The Sun Princess took the Prince's gift eagerly but his message only made her laugh. She spread out the kerchief, tried some of the dainty dishes, had a sip of the mead, and said gaily:

"Now the stranger will have nothing but oats to nibble, like the rest."

But on the following day the Prince again threw the oats out of the window, and the Sun, Princess sent another of her ladies-in-waiting, Evening Star, to learn what it could mean. Evening Star peeked into the dungeon and she saw that the old men were drinking wine and polishing off all kinds of dainties, while merry sounds came from the golden casket, the psaltery ringing so loudly and the fiddles playing so gaily that the walls trembled. When the old men had had their fill, they began to dance, clapping their hands and cutting the wildest capers.

Said Evening Star, and her voice came to them through the heart-shaped window in the wall:

"The Sun Princess commands you to sell her your casket."

"Come in and sit with us for a time, and you shall have it," the Prince replied.

The thrice-nine doors opened, and Evening Star came in, and she was every whit as lovely as her name betokened.

The old men fell at the Prince's feet and implored him not to give up the magic casket, for, said they, they had tasted wine again and meat and could not bear the thought of fasting any longer.

But the Prince refused to listen to them. He bade Evening Star sit on a stone and he regaled her with his sweet mead and with the daintiest of the many savoury dishes set before them. Evening Star feasted and drank, but when the time came for her to go back to the Sun Princess, she found that she could not rise from her seat! But perhaps you think that the heady mead had gone to her head or that the sweet-sounding music had enthralled her heart? If you do, you are wrong. For the truth of the matter is that the Prince had smeared some of his magic porridge over the stone Evening Star was sitting on, and she was stuck fast to it! And though she threshed about wildly in an effort to get free, though she pleaded with the Prince and wept bitter tears, he would not let her go. And as for the old men, they were as pleased as pleased could be that she who had given them nothing but oats to eat for so many years was at last getting her due.

Now, the Sun Princess heard the singing and the music, but she could not understand why there was such merriment in the dungeon or why Evening Star had not returned. So she decided to see for herself what had happened to her. She came into the dungeon, and so dazzling was her beauty that the old men covered their eyes with their hands for fear of being blinded, and the Prince's heart went thump-thump-thump!

"Leave this place at once!" commanded the Sun Princess, addressing Evening Star in imperial tones.

"I'm quite happy where I am!" Evening Star returned with a giggle. She had evidently had more mead than was good for her.

"I'll not have such goings-on!" the Sun Princess exclaimed. "I wish to buy this golden casket of you, stranger. It is the cause of this unseemly noise. How much do you want for it?"

"O loveliest of queens! Your beauty has enthralled my heart. Take whatever you desire the mostmy casket. Evening Star, or myself, your servant."

"I'll have all three," the Sun Princess decided after a moment's thought, and she held out her hand to the Prince. She led him to her palace, seated him on the throne and said: .

"I am the Sun Princess, and you shall be my husband. Here are forty keys to all the rooms in my palace. You are free to go everywhere and to unlock thirty-nine of the doors, but if you want to be happy and to have me always beside you, do not open the fortieth door."

The Prince married the Sun Princess and made his home in her palace. He had not a worry in the world and was very happy. In fact, so happy was he that he forgot all about his sisters' troubles. But he did free the Sun Princess's twenty-eight captives and they crawled out of the dungeon and fell to kissing the earth under his feet. Then he went round the palace to see what there was to see. In one of the chambers the strangest of sea fish were kept, in another, birds that sang in nine voices, in a third, fearful beasts that clawed at the ground, in a fourth, winter with her fingers of ice and her hoary breath, in the fifth, carefree, chirruping grasshoppers and bright-winged butterflies. The palace of the Sun Princess sparkled and played, hummed and droned, for in it were gathered all the colours, sounds and smells born of light and warmth.

The Prince marvelled at the beauty of his wife's kingdom, but not for a minute could he forget about the mysterious fortieth door. The Sun Princess, thought he, must have been jesting when she forbade him to open it, for surely nothing on earth could come between them and their love!

So one day the Prince unlocked the heavy iron door. It opened with a sinister creak,

The Prince entered cautiously, but there was not a living soul in the room and only a moss-grown pillar rose in the centre of the floor with chains stretching from it to the room's four corners. The Prince touched the pillar with one finger and turned to go when all of a sudden it spoke up in a human voice.

"Have mercy on me, my good youth!" it said. "There is a tub of water in the corner. Scoop up some and let me have a drink and I shall reward you for your kindness."

The Prince turned and saw a tub with a large ladle beside it. Picking it up, he scooped up some water and gave it to the pillar. The pillar drank it all and asked for another drink, and when the Prince brought it, swallowed it at a gulp. Then it shook itself, jangled its chains and asked for a third drink. This it drank as quickly as the first two, and lo!down fell the chains to the floor and off dropped the moss, the pillar straightened up, and the Prince saw that it was not a pillar at all but a hideous giant.

"Many thanks to you, my good youth!" roared the Giant. "Now the Sun Princess will be mine!"

And rising as swiftly as a whirlwind, he soared to the ceiling, rushed out of his prison, caught up the Sun Princess and made off with her across the sky! For several moments the fiery tresses of the Sun Princess flamed over the dark forest and then they, too, vanished and only a far-off glow showed where the Giant had gone.

The skies darkened, and it grew suddenly very cold. Light, warmth and colour disappeared from the face of the earth. The crows hid under the burdocks and the flowers drooped and withered. Terror and fear settled in the thick of the forests, in the deep of the seas and in people's homes where coal-black, horrid-looking creatures stretched out their long, grasping hands from beneath benches and from behind stoves and clutched at children's clothing, making them whimper and cling to their mothers.

But no one's heart was darker than the Prince's, for had he not sealed the doom of his dear wife who had given warmth, life and fertility to the earth? What was he to do? How was he to save the Sun Princess?

He thought and thought, and, choosing the best horse in the royal stables, rode off at a gallop in pursuit of the one who had stolen his love and, with her, all his happiness.

On and on rode the Prince for two long days, and on the third day he reached the Giant's castle. He found the Giant asleep and snoring loudly and a three-eyed goat keeping watch over the Sun Princess.

The Prince decided to try and put the goat to sleep, so down he sat and began singing a lullaby.

"Close your eye, goat,

Close your other eye, dear one!" he sang.

But he forgot all about the third eye. The goat closed two of his eyes, but he saw everything with the third one. No sooner had the

Prince carried the Sun Princess over the high log wall and put her on his horse than the goat bleated: "Old man, old man, they are stealing your treasure!"

And this he repeated three times till at last the Giant woke up.

"We have plenty of time," he muttered. "We'll dig some potatoes first and then go after them."

The Prince and the Sun Princess had gone off a good way when the Giant, having dug a sackful of potatoes, got on the back of his three-eyed goat. Up to the clouds he flew and then dropped down again and seized the runaways.

"I shall not kill you, for you gave me water to drink and brought me back to life," said he to the Prince. "But never let me set eyes on you again or you'll fa're badly, I promise you."

And with a loud whistle the Giant caught up the Sun Princess and rushed off with her on his goat before she had had time to do anything but throw a magic ball of yarn to her husband.

Disasters now swept the earth. A rainstorm broke out that seemed to have no end, and the winds that blew were so fierce that they tore the roofs off houses, bent trees to the ground and swept baby birds out of their nests.

The Prince again tried to carry off his wife, but, as ill luck would have it, this time, too, he forgot about the goat's third eye. He had put the Sun Princess on his horse and the horse had just galloped off, barely brushing the earth with its hoofs, when the goat woke the Giant, crying:

"Old man, old man, they are stealing your treasure!"

The Giant opened his eyes which were as large as millstones and said:

"Never mind. We'll bake the potatoes we have dug and still have time to overtake that young scamp."

The Prince and his wife had just reached her palace when suddenly an icy wind blew and their way was barred by the Giant astride his goat. The Giant struck the Prince on the head with his cudgel, and, seizing the Sun Princess who was more dead than alive, carried her off to his kingdom before she had had time to do anything but throw the Prince her magic kerchief.

Once again evil times arrived, and confusion reigned throughout. Houses were buried to the roofs in snow, fires went out in the stoves, and cold and hunger brought the plague in their wake.

The Prince lay dead where the Giant had left him. Black ravens dropped down from the sky, perched on him and were about to peck out his eyes when, lo and behold!the Falcon came flying. He drove away the ravens, and, bringing in his beak some living water from the palace of the Sun Princess, poured it in the Prince's mouth. The Prince came back to life at once and began looking for his wife.

Said the Falcon:

"You'll never free the Sun Princess, not while you ride an ordinary horse. Go to Laume the Witch and get her to take you on as her herdsman. And listen carefully to everything her cat whispers in your ear. The Giant keeps his strength in the egg of a wild duck that lives by the side of the sea. You must ride the witch's horse there, catch the duck and take the egg away from it. As soon as you crack it, the Giant will breathe his last. And now it is time to set outthe ball of yarn will guide you to Laume's landand may good fortune attend you. Fear nothing. If ever you are in trouble, take out your kerchief, and we, your brothers-in-law, will hasten to your aid."

The Prince cast down the ball of yarn and let it roll freely wherever it would. The ball of yarn rolled down the road, it rolled on and on, and on the third day it stopped by a hut that lay half in ruins and was hung with cobwebs. Only rats and scraggy, hungry-looking dogs prowled about near it. The Prince was met at the door by Laume, a toothless old witch.

"Where are you going, my lad?" she asked him.

"To seek work."

"Stay with me and herd my twelve mares for thres days. If you bring them safely home each evening you can have anything I have that suits your fancy, but if one is missing it'll be the end of you. And now come and have some supper."

While the Prince was eating, a green-eyed cat jumped on his knees, and, purring and snuggling up against him, said:

"Give me a nice bit of the meat you are eating, Prince, and I'll help you all I can." ,

The Prince threw a few of the better bits under the bench, and the cat ate them and said:

"All the mares are Laume's daughters. I'll go now and try to learn what trick they mean to play on you tomorrow." .

The cat stole away but was soon back. She told the Prince that the witch had commanded her daughters to turn into tiny fishes and hide amid the weeds in a deep pool of water.

On the next morning Laume woke her new herdsman, gave him a slice of cheese to take with him for his midday meal and ordered him to drive the mares to pasture.

The Prince pastured the mares in forests, in meadows and on river banks, and they nibbled the grass, obeyed his every word and did not try to run away. But after a while the Prince became very hungry, he ate the cheese Laume had given him, and, feeling full and satisfied, fell asleep. While he lay there sleeping, the mares waded into the river and turned into tiny fishes. The Prince woke up, he looked, but not one of the mares did he see! He began calling to them and whistling, but not a sound did he hear in reply.

The time came to drive the mares home, but they did not reappear, and the Prince began to fear that the witch would make him pay with his life for having lost them. Not knowing what to do, he took out his kerchief, and lo! the Pike appeared. "What has Laume turned her daughters into?" he asked. "Fishes," the Prince replied.

The Pike then turned into a crayfish and went after the witch's daughters. He caught one tiny fish, then a second, and a third, and he cut each of them in two with his claws. So there was nothing the witch's daughters could do but turn back into mares again! The Prince drove them home, and they stumbled wearily along, with hanging heads. Laume met them by the house and set to thrashing and beating them.

"Take that for not having listened to the herdsman!" she cried. "All you did was prance about amid the bushes."

And all the while she fairly seethed with rage that not one of her daughters had been able to hide properly and that the Prince had brought them all home.

"We'll see about this!" said she to herself. "Not a single herdsman has ever got away from me alive, and this one won't, either!"

All evening the witch scolded and beat her daughters and then commanded them to turn into woodpeckers on the morrow and to hide in the hollows of trees. The cat heard her and told the Prince all about it, and the Prince became sad and woebegone, for he did not know how he was to catch the woodpeckers.

On the following day he ate the witch's cheese again and fell asleep, and the mares turned into woodpeckers and hid in tree hollows. The Prince woke up and began calling them, but not one appeared. He lost heart then and waved his kerchief, and lo!the Falcon came flying. Learning what had happened, he turned into a hawk, and, catching the woodpeckers, began tearing them to shreds. After that they could do nothing but turn into mares again, and the Prince drove them home. Laume met them at the gate, she snatched the whip out of the Prince's hands and set to beating the mares over their heads and eyes. And all the while she was trembling with rage at their not having been able to hide themselves better.

"Who knows what that scamp might ask of us!" she fumed. "You worthless so-and-so's, you've disgraced our whole witches' family! If you don't manage to hide from the Prince tomorrow, you'll pay with your lives for it! Tomorrow you'll turn into grubs and hide in the bark of trees."

The cat heard her and he passed it on to his friend the Prince who was so troubled that he could not sleep. For how was he to find those grubs?

But he need not have worried. The Falcon came flying, he turned into a woodpecker, pecked at the bark and gouged out the grubs. For the third and last time the Prince drove the mares, who kept whinnying pite-ously, home to their mother. Laume met them and she was in such a rage that she foamed at the mouth. She set to lashing and whipping her daughters and she called curses down upon their heads. Then she said to the Prince in a voice that dripped honey:

"Go and have a sleep, and tomorrow you can choose from my possessions whatever you set your heart on."

"I do not want either your rats or your scraggy dogs. All I want is the smallest of your fillies," the Prince declared.

"The smallest of my fillies? Why, she's on her last legs. Just look at her. There she lies and she cannot even move."

And, true enough, in a corner of the yard there lay a filly not much bigger than a cat. She lay without stirring and looked half-dead.

"What good is a jade like that to you!" Laume said. "She's sure to drop dead before ever you get home, and all of your labours will have been in vain."

But the Prince would not listen to her and lifted the filly in his arms. Laume began to shake as in a fever and to tear out whole locks of her hair. For the filly, it seemed, was no other than her favourite grandchild and as strong as twelve ordinary mares.

The Prince walked away with the filly in his arms, and she became heavier at every step and grew with miraculous speed. After he had walked a mile the Prince was able to get on her back, and when he had ridden her for eight miles the filly spoke up in a human voice.

"Tell me where it is you want to go," she said.

"I have got to get to the side of the sea, to catch a duck there and to take away her egg."

"Very well," the filly replied, and, soaring up to the sky so fast that her hoofs struck sparks from the c.louds, away she flew faster than the wind.

By and by they dropped down to earth again, and now the sea lay at their feet, and the waves flung pink shells and honey-coloured pieces of amber on to the beach. .

Far out at sea was a speckled duck dipping in and out of the water. The Prince had neither bow nor crossbow with him, and he could not very well catch the duck with his bare hands. He sat down on the white sands and began to weep bitterly. Just then the Pike thrust his head up out of the deep and said:

"Do not weep, Prince, I shall catch the duck for you."

And though the duck screeched and cried and threshed the water, it could not get away from the Pike who dragged it to the Prince. The Prince seized the duck, tore it in two and took out the egg in which the Giant's strength was kept. Thrusting the egg in his coat, he jumped on his filly's back and galloped to where he could see a fire glowing and where, he knew, the lovely Sun Princess was languishing in captivity.

He was soon there and pounding away at the gate of the Giant's castle.

"Ho there. Giant, you hideous monster!" called he. "I have come to free my wife!"

A cold wind began to blow, and the Giant, his hair matted and uncombed, strode out of the gate, waving his cudgel.

"Out of my sight, worthless youth!" he roared. "If you don't go away at once I'll kill you and burn your body and cast the ashes to the winds."

"That you will never do!" the Prince replied. "For I hold your strength and your very life in the palm of my hand."

And he dashed the egg to the ground. The egg broke, and the same instant the Giant dropped dead without having had time to put in another spiteful word.

The Sun Princess came running and she fell onto the Prince's breast and threw her arms round him. At once the whole of the earth brightened, and all the flowers lifted their heads.

Then the Sun Princess flung her marriage belt, a rainbow, across the skies, and a feast was held in honour of her delivery. At this feast her gay laughter cheered all hearts and she recounted wonderful tales about true and faithful love. As for the Prince, he spoke of his sisters and brothers-in-law and of his parents too, who, he said, were wasting away in their grief at there being no news of him for so long. Then the Sun Princess, who was very kind and good, turned the Falcon, the Bear and the Pike back into men again, and, putting the Prince and his family in five chariots, rode off with them to visit the Prince's mother and father.

Now, you must be wondering who it was that rode in the fifth chariot. Well, if you really want to know, it was no other than New Moon, son of the Prince and the Sun Princess, who had been born to them after their happy reunion.

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