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The Three Languages

An aged count once lived in Switzerland, who had an only son, but hewas stupid, and could learn nothing. Then said the f...

The Three Languages

An aged count once lived in Switzerland, who had an only son, but hewas stupid, and could learn nothing. Then said the father: «Hark you, myson, try as I will I can get nothing into your head. You must go fromhence, I will give you into the care of a celebrated master, who shallsee what he can do with you.» The youth was sent into a strange town,and remained a whole year with the master. At the end of this time, hecame home again, and his father asked: «Now, my son, what have youlearnt?» «Father, I have learnt what the dogs say when they bark.’«Lord have mercy on us!» cried the father; «is that all you havelearnt?

I will send you into another town, to another master.» Theyouth was taken thither, and stayed a year with this master likewise.When he came back the father again asked: «My son, what have youlearnt?» He answered: «Father, I have learnt what the birds say.» Thenthe father fell into a rage and said: «Oh, you lost man, you have spentthe precious time and learnt nothing; are you not ashamed to appearbefore my eyes? I will send you to a third master, but if you learnnothing this time also, I will no longer be your father.» The youthremained a whole year with the third master also, and when he camehome again, and his father inquired: «My son, what have youlearnt?» he answered: «Dear father, I have this year learnt what thefrogs croak.» Then the father fell into the most furious anger,sprang up, called his people thither, and said: «This man is nolonger my son, I drive him forth, and command you to take him outinto the forest, and kill him.» They took him forth, but when theyshould have killed him, they could not do it for pity, and let him go,and they cut the eyes and tongue out of a deer that they might carrythem to the old man as a token.

The youth wandered on, and after some time came to a fortress wherehe begged for a night’s lodging. «Yes,» said the lord of the castle, «ifyou will pass the night down there in the old tower, go thither; but Iwarn you, it is at the peril of your life, for it is full of wild dogs,which bark and howl without stopping, and at certain hours a man has tobe given to them, whom they at once devour.» The whole district was insorrow and dismay because of them, and yet no one could do anything tostop this. The youth, however, was without fear, and said: «Just letme go down to the barking dogs, and give me something that I can throwto them; they will do nothing to harm me.» As he himself would have itso, they gave him some food for the wild animals, and led him down tothe tower. When he went inside, the dogs did not bark at him, butwagged their tails quite amicably around him, ate what he set beforethem, and did not hurt one hair of his head. Next morning, to theastonishment of everyone, he came out again safe and unharmed, and saidto the lord of the castle: «The dogs have revealed to me, in their ownlanguage, why they dwell there, and bring evil on the land. They arebewitched, and are obliged to watch over a great treasure which isbelow in the tower, and they can have no rest until it is taken away,and I have likewise learnt, from their discourse, how that is to bedone.» Then all who heard this rejoiced, and the lord of the castlesaid he would adopt him as a son if he accomplished itsuccessfully. He went down again, and as he knew what he had to do, hedid it thoroughly, and brought a chest full of gold out with him. Thehowling of the wild dogs was henceforth heard no more; they haddisappeared, and the country was freed from the trouble.

After some time he took it in his head that he would travel to Rome.On the way he passed by a marsh, in which a number of frogs weresitting croaking. He listened to them, and when he became aware of whatthey were saying, he grew very thoughtful and sad. At last he arrivedin Rome, where the Pope had just died, and there was great doubt amongthe cardinals as to whom they should appoint as his successor. They atlength agreed that the person should be chosen as pope who should bedistinguished by some divine and miraculous token. And just as thatwas decided on, the young count entered into the church, and suddenlytwo snow-white doves flew on his shoulders and remained sittingthere. The ecclesiastics recognized therein the token from above, andasked him on the spot if he would be pope. He was undecided, andknew not if he were worthy of this, but the doves counselled him todo it, and at length he said yes. Then was he anointed andconsecrated, and thus was fulfilled what he had heard from the frogson his way, which had so affected him, that he was to be hisHoliness the Pope. Then he had to sing a mass, and did not know oneword of it, but the two doves sat continually on his shoulders, and saidit all in his ear.

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