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The Golden Bird

A certain king had a beautiful garden, and in the garden stood atree which bore golden apples. These apples were always ...

The Golden Bird

A certain king had a beautiful garden, and in the garden stood atree which bore golden apples. These apples were always counted, andabout the time when they began to grow ripe it was found that everynight one of them was gone. The king became very angry at this,and ordered the gardener to keep watch all night under the tree.The gardener set his eldest son to watch; but about twelve o’clock hefell asleep, and in the morning another of the apples was missing. Thenthe second son was ordered to watch; and at midnight he too fellasleep, and in the morning another apple was gone. Then the third sonoffered to keep watch; but the gardener at first would not let him,for fear some harm should come to him: however, at last heconsented, and the young man laid himself under the tree to watch. Asthe clock struck twelve he heard a rustling noise in the air, and a birdcame flying that was of pure gold; and as it was snapping at one of theapples with its beak, the gardener’s son jumped up and shot an arrow atit. But the arrow did the bird no harm; only it dropped a goldenfeather from its tail, and then flew away. The golden feather wasbrought to the king in the morning, and all the council wascalled together. Everyone agreed that it was worth more than all thewealth of the kingdom: but the king said, «One feather is of no use to me, I must have the whole bird.»

Then the gardener’s eldest son set out and thought to find the goldenbird very easily; and when he had gone but a little way, he came to awood, and by the side of the wood he saw a fox sitting; so he took hisbow and made ready to shoot at it. Then the fox said, «Do not shoot me,for I will give you good counsel; I know what your business is, and thatyou want to find the golden bird. You will reach a village in theevening; and when you get there, you will see two inns opposite to eachother, one of which is very pleasant and beautiful to look at: go notin there, but rest for the night in the other, though it may appear toyou to be very poor and mean.» But the son thought to himself, «Whatcan such a beast as this know about the matter?» So he shot his arrowat the fox; but he missed it, and it set up its tail above its back andran into the wood. Then he went his way, and in the evening came tothe village where the two inns were; and in one of these were peoplesinging, and dancing, and feasting; but the other looked very dirty, andpoor. «I should be very silly,» said he, «if I went to that shabbyhouse, and left this charming place’; so he went into the smarthouse, and ate and drank at his ease, and forgot the bird, and hiscountry too.

Time passed on; and as the eldest son did not come back, and notidings were heard of him, the second son set out, and the same thinghappened to him. He met the fox, who gave him the good advice: but whenhe came to the two inns, his eldest brother was standing at thewindow where the merrymaking was, and called to him to come in; and hecould not withstand the temptation, but went in, and forgot the goldenbird and his country in the same manner.

Time passed on again, and the youngest son too wished to set out intothe wide world to seek for the golden bird; but his father would notlisten to it for a long while, for he was very fond of his son, and wasafraid that some ill luck might happen to him also, and preventhis coming back. However, at last it was agreed he should go, for hewould not rest at home; and as he came to the wood, he met the fox,and heard the same good counsel. But he was thankful to the fox, anddid not attempt his life as his brothers had done; so the fox said,«Sit upon my tail, and you will travel faster.» So he sat down, andthe fox began to run, and away they went over stock and stone so quickthat their hair whistled in the wind.

When they came to the village, the son followed the fox’s counsel,and without looking about him went to the shabby inn and restedthere all night at his ease. In the morning came the fox again and methim as he was beginning his journey, and said, «Go straight forward,till you come to a castle, before which lie a whole troop ofsoldiers fast asleep and snoring: take no notice of them, but go intothe castle and pass on and on till you come to a room, where thegolden bird sits in a wooden cage; close by it stands a beautifulgolden cage; but do not try to take the bird out of the shabby cageand put it into the handsome one, otherwise you will repent it.» Thenthe fox stretched out his tail again, and the young man sat himselfdown, and away they went over stock and stone till their hair whistledin the wind.

Before the castle gate all was as the fox had said: so the son went inand found the chamber where the golden bird hung in a wooden cage, andbelow stood the golden cage, and the three golden apples that had beenlost were lying close by it. Then thought he to himself, «It will be avery droll thing to bring away such a fine bird in this shabby cage’;so he opened the door and took hold of it and put it into the goldencage. But the bird set up such a loud scream that all the soldiersawoke, and they took him prisoner and carried him before the king. Thenext morning the court sat to judge him; and when all was heard, itsentenced him to die, unless he should bring the king the golden horsewhich could run as swiftly as the wind; and if he did this, he was tohave the golden bird given him for his own.

So he set out once more on his journey, sighing, and in greatdespair, when on a sudden his friend the fox met him, and said, «Yousee now what has happened on account of your not listening to mycounsel. I will still, however, tell you how to find the golden horse,if you will do as I bid you. You must go straight on till you come tothe castle where the horse stands in his stall: by his side willlie the groom fast asleep and snoring: take away the horse quietly,but be sure to put the old leathern saddle upon him, and not the goldenone that is close by it.» Then the son sat down on the fox’s tail, andaway they went over stock and stone till their hair whistled in thewind.

All went right, and the groom lay snoring with his hand upon thegolden saddle. But when the son looked at the horse, he thought it agreat pity to put the leathern saddle upon it. «I will give him thegood one,» said he; «I am sure he deserves it.» As he took up thegolden saddle the groom awoke and cried out so loud, that all theguards ran in and took him prisoner, and in the morning he was againbrought before the court to be judged, and was sentenced to die. Butit was agreed, that, if he could bring thither the beautifulprincess, he should live, and have the bird and the horse given himfor his own.

Then he went his way very sorrowful; but the old fox came and said,«Why did not you listen to me? If you had, you would have carried awayboth the bird and the horse; yet will I once more give you counsel. Gostraight on, and in the evening you will arrive at a castle. At twelveo’clock at night the princess goes to the bathing-house: go up to herand give her a kiss, and she will let you lead her away; but take careyou do not suffer her to go and take leave of her father and mother.’Then the fox stretched out his tail, and so away they went overstock and stone till their hair whistled again.

As they came to the castle, all was as the fox had said, and attwelve o’clock the young man met the princess going to the bath and gaveher the kiss, and she agreed to run away with him, but begged with manytears that he would let her take leave of her father. At first herefused, but she wept still more and more, and fell at his feet, tillat last he consented; but the moment she came to her father’s house theguards awoke and he was taken prisoner again.

Then he was brought before the king, and the king said, «You shallnever have my daughter unless in eight days you dig away the hill thatstops the view from my window.» Now this hill was so big that the wholeworld could not take it away: and when he had worked for seven days,and had done very little, the fox came and said. «Lie down and go tosleep; I will work for you.» And in the morning he awoke and thehill was gone; so he went merrily to the king, and told him thatnow that it was removed he must give him the princess.

Then the king was obliged to keep his word, and away went the youngman and the princess; and the fox came and said to him, «We willhave all three, the princess, the horse, and the bird.» «Ah!» said theyoung man, «that would be a great thing, but how can you contrive it?»

«If you will only listen,» said the fox, «it can be done. When you cometo the king, and he asks for the beautiful princess, you must say, “Hereshe is!” Then he will be very joyful; and you will mount the goldenhorse that they are to give you, and put out your hand to take leaveof them; but shake hands with the princess last. Then lift her quicklyon to the horse behind you; clap your spurs to his side, and gallopaway as fast as you can.»

All went right: then the fox said, «When you come to the castle wherethe bird is, I will stay with the princess at the door, and you willride in and speak to the king; and when he sees that it is the righthorse, he will bring out the bird; but you must sit still, and say thatyou want to look at it, to see whether it is the true golden bird; andwhen you get it into your hand, ride away.»

This, too, happened as the fox said; they carried off the bird,the princess mounted again, and they rode on to a great wood. Thenthe fox came, and said, «Pray kill me, and cut off my head and myfeet.» But the young man refused to do it: so the fox said, «I will atany rate give you good counsel: beware of two things; ransom no onefrom the gallows, and sit down by the side of no river.» Then away hewent. «Well,» thought the young man, «it is no hard matter to keep thatadvice.»

He rode on with the princess, till at last he came to the village wherehe had left his two brothers. And there he heard a great noise anduproar; and when he asked what was the matter, the people said, «Two menare going to be hanged.» As he came nearer, he saw that the twomen were his brothers, who had turned robbers; so he said, «Cannotthey in any way be saved?» But the people said «No,» unless he wouldbestow all his money upon the rascals and buy their liberty. Then hedid not stay to think about the matter, but paid what was asked, andhis brothers were given up, and went on with him towards their home.

And as they came to the wood where the fox first met them, it was socool and pleasant that the two brothers said, «Let us sit down by theside of the river, and rest a while, to eat and drink.» So he said,«Yes,» and forgot the fox’s counsel, and sat down on the side of theriver; and while he suspected nothing, they came behind, and threw himdown the bank, and took the princess, the horse, and the bird, andwent home to the king their master, and said. «All this have we wonby our labour.» Then there was great rejoicing made; but the horsewould not eat, the bird would not sing, and the princess wept.

The youngest son fell to the bottom of the river’s bed: luckily itwas nearly dry, but his bones were almost broken, and the bank was sosteep that he could find no way to get out. Then the old fox came oncemore, and scolded him for not following his advice; otherwise no evilwould have befallen him: «Yet,» said he, «I cannot leave you here, solay hold of my tail and hold fast.» Then he pulled him out of theriver, and said to him, as he got upon the bank, «Your brothers haveset watch to kill you, if they find you in the kingdom.» So hedressed himself as a poor man, and came secretly to the king’s court,and was scarcely within the doors when the horse began to eat, andthe bird to sing, and princess left off weeping. Then he went to theking, and told him all his brothers» roguery; and they were seized andpunished, and he had the princess given to him again; and after theking’s death he was heir to his kingdom.

A long while after, he went to walk one day in the wood, and the oldfox met him, and besought him with tears in his eyes to kill him, andcut off his head and feet. And at last he did so, and in a momentthe fox was changed into a man, and turned out to be the brother of theprincess, who had been lost a great many many years.

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