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The Twelve Huntsmen

There was once a king’s son who had a bride whom he loved very much.And when he was sitting beside her and very happy,...

The Twelve Huntsmen

There was once a king’s son who had a bride whom he loved very much.And when he was sitting beside her and very happy, news came that hisfather lay sick unto death, and desired to see him once again beforehis end. Then he said to his beloved: «I must now go and leave you, Igive you a ring as a remembrance of me. When I am king, I will returnand fetch you.» So he rode away, and when he reached his father,the latter was dangerously ill, and near his death. He said to him:«Dear son, I wished to see you once again before my end, promise me tomarry as I wish,» and he named a certain king’s daughter who was to behis wife. The son was in such trouble that he did not think what he wasdoing, and said: «Yes, dear father, your will shall be done,» andthereupon the king shut his eyes, and died.

When therefore the son had been proclaimed king, and the time ofmourning was over, he was forced to keep the promise which he had givenhis father, and caused the king’s daughter to be asked in marriage,and she was promised to him. His first betrothed heard of this, andfretted so much about his faithfulness that she nearly died. Then herfather said to her: «Dearest child, why are you so sad? You shall havewhatsoever you will.» She thought for a moment and said: «Dear father,I wish for eleven girls exactly like myself in face, figure, and size.’The father said: «If it be possible, your desire shall be fulfilled,’and he caused a search to be made in his whole kingdom, untileleven young maidens were found who exactly resembled his daughter inface, figure, and size.

When they came to the king’s daughter, she had twelve suits ofhuntsmen’s clothes made, all alike, and the eleven maidens had toput on the huntsmen’s clothes, and she herself put on the twelfthsuit. Thereupon she took her leave of her father, and rode away withthem, and rode to the court of her former betrothed, whom she loved sodearly. Then she asked if he required any huntsmen, and if he wouldtake all of them into his service. The king looked at her and didnot know her, but as they were such handsome fellows, he said: «Yes,’and that he would willingly take them, and now they were the king’stwelve huntsmen.

The king, however, had a lion which was a wondrous animal, for he knewall concealed and secret things. It came to pass that one evening hesaid to the king: «You think you have twelve huntsmen?» «Yes,» saidthe king, «they are twelve huntsmen.» The lion continued: «You aremistaken, they are twelve girls.» The king said: «That cannot be true!How will you prove that to me?» «Oh, just let some peas be strewnin the ante-chamber,» answered the lion, «and then you will soon see.Men have a firm step, and when they walk over peas none of them stir,but girls trip and skip, and drag their feet, and the peas roll about.’The king was well pleased with the counsel, and caused the peas to bestrewn.

There was, however, a servant of the king’s who favoured the huntsmen,and when he heard that they were going to be put to this test he went tothem and repeated everything, and said: «The lion wants to makethe king believe that you are girls.» Then the king’s daughterthanked him, and said to her maidens: «Show some strength, and stepfirmly on the peas.» So next morning when the king had the twelvehuntsmen called before him, and they came into the ante-chamber wherethe peas were lying, they stepped so firmly on them, and had such astrong, sure walk, that not one of the peas either rolled or stirred.Then they went away again, and the king said to the lion: «You havelied to me, they walk just like men.» The lion said: «They have beeninformed that they were going to be put to the test, and have assumedsome strength. Just let twelve spinning-wheels be brought into theante-chamber, and they will go to them and be pleased with them, andthat is what no man would do.» The king liked the advice, and had thespinning-wheels placed in the ante-chamber.

But the servant, who was well disposed to the huntsmen, went to them,and disclosed the project. So when they were alone the king’s daughtersaid to her eleven girls: «Show some constraint, and do not lookround at the spinning-wheels.» And next morning when the king had histwelve huntsmen summoned, they went through the ante-chamber, and neveronce looked at the spinning-wheels. Then the king again said to thelion: «You have deceived me, they are men, for they have not lookedat the spinning-wheels.» The lion replied: «They have restrainedthemselves.» The king, however, would no longer believe the lion.

The twelve huntsmen always followed the king to the chase, and hisliking for them continually increased. Now it came to pass that oncewhen they were out hunting, news came that the king’s bride wasapproaching. When the true bride heard that, it hurt her so much thather heart was almost broken, and she fell fainting to the ground. Theking thought something had happened to his dear huntsman, ran up tohim, wanted to help him, and drew his glove off. Then he saw the ringwhich he had given to his first bride, and when he looked in her facehe recognized her. Then his heart was so touched that he kissed her,and when she opened her eyes he said: «You are mine, and I am yours,and no one in the world can alter that.» He sent a messenger to theother bride, and entreated her to return to her own kingdom, for hehad a wife already, and someone who had just found an old key did notrequire a new one. Thereupon the wedding was celebrated, and the lionwas again taken into favour, because, after all, he had told the truth.

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