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HILE the king of a distant country was off at the wars,
his wife, the queen, gave birth to twin sons. There was
great rejoicing throughout the court and immediately
messengers were dispatched to the king to carry him news of
the happy event.
Both boys were well and vigorous and shot up like little
trees. The one who was about a moment the older was the
hardier of the two. Even as a toddling child he was forever
playing in the courtyard and struggling to climb on the back
of a horse that had been given him because it was just
his own age.
His brother, on the other hand, liked better to play indoors on
the soft carpets. He was always tagging after his mother and
never went outdoors except when he followed the queen into
the garden. For this reason the younger prince became the
The boys were seven years old before the king returned from
the wars. He looked at his sons with pride and joy and he
said to the queen:
 "But which is the older and which is the younger?"
The queen, thinking that the king was asking in order to
know which was the heir to the throne, slipped in her
favorite as the older. The king, of course did not question
his wife's word and so, thereafter, he always spoke of the
younger one as his heir.
When the boys had grown into handsome youths, the older one
wearied of life at home and of hearing his brother always
spoken of as the future king. He longed to go out into the
world and seek adventures of his own. One day as he was
pouring out his heart to the little horse that had been his
companion from infancy, much to his amazement the horse
spoke to him with a human voice and said:
When the Boys Had Grown into Handsome Youths
"Since you are not happy at home, go out into the world.
But do not go without your father's permission. I advise
you to take no one with you and to mount no horse but me.
This will bring you good luck."
The prince asked the horse how it happened that he could
talk like a human being.
"Don't ask me about that," the horse said, "for I can't tell
you. But I wish to be your friend and counselor and I will
be as long as you obey me."
The prince promised to do as the horse advised. He went at
once to his father to beg his leave to ride
 out into the
world. At first his father was unwilling to let him go but
his mother gave her permission at once. By dint of coaxing
he finally won his father's consent. Of course the king
wanted the prince to set forth in a manner befitting his
rank with a great company of men and horses. But the prince
insisted that he wished to go unattended.
"Why, my dear father, do I need any such retinue as you
suggest? Let me have some money for the journey and let me
ride off alone on my own little horse. This will give me more
freedom and less trouble."
Again he had to argue with his father for some time, but at
last he succeeded in arranging everything to his liking.
The day of parting came. The little horse stood saddled at
the castle gate. The prince bade farewell to his parents
and his brother. They all wept on his neck and at the last
moment the queen's heart misgave her for the deceit she had
practised and she made the prince solemnly promise that he
would return home within a year or at least send them word
of his whereabouts.
So the prince mounted his little horse and off they trotted.
The horse went at a surprising pace for an
 animal that was
seventeen years old, but of course you have guessed before
this that he was no ordinary horse. The years had not
touched him at all. His coat was as smooth as satin and his
legs were straight and sound. No matter how far he traveled
he was always as fresh as a fawn.
He carried the prince a great distance until they came in
sight of the towers of a beautiful city. Then the horse
left the beaten track and crossed a field to a big rock.
When they reached the rock, the horse kicked it with his
hoof three times and the rock opened. They rode inside and
the prince found himself in a comfortable stable.
"Now you will leave me here," the horse said, "and go on
alone to the nearby town. You must pretend you are dumb and
be careful never to betray yourself. Present yourself at
court and have the king take you into his service. When you
need anything, no matter what it is, come to the rock, knock
three times, and the rock will open to you."
The prince thought to himself: "My horse certainly knows
what he's about, so of course I'll do exactly as he says."
He disguised himself by bandaging one eye and
 making his face
look pale and sallow. Then he presented himself at court
and the king, pitying his youth and his affliction of
dumbness, took him into his service.
The prince was capable and quick at affairs and it wasn't
long before the king gave over to him the management of the
household. His advice was asked in matters of importance
and all day long he hurried about the castle going from one
thing to another. If the king needed a scribe, there wasn't
a cleverer one anywhere than the prince. Everybody liked
him and everybody was soon calling him Bayaya, because those
were the only sounds he made.
The king had three daughters, each more beautiful than the
other. The oldest was called Zdobena, the second Budinka,
and the youngest Slavena.
The prince loved to be with the three girls and as he was
supposed to be dumb and in his disguise was very ugly, the
king made no objection to his spending his days with them.
How could the king possibly think that there was any danger
of Bayaya's stealing the heart of one of the princesses?
They liked him, all three of them, and were always taking
him with them wherever they went. He wove garlands for
them, spun golden thread, picked them flowers, and drew them
 designs of birds and flowers for their embroidery. He liked
them all, but he liked the youngest one best. Everything he
did for her was done a little better than for the others.
The garlands he wove her were richer, the designs he drew
for her were more beautiful. The two older sisters noticed
this and laughed, and when they were alone they teased
Slavena. Slavena, who had a sweet and amiable disposition,
accepted their joking without retort.
Bayaya had been at the court some time when one morning
he found the king sitting sad and gloomy over his breakfast.
So by signs he asked him what was the matter.
The king looked at him and sighed. "Is it possible, my dear
boy," he said, "that you don't know what's the matter? Don't
you know the calamity that threatens us? Don't you know the
bitter three days that are at hand for me?"
Bayaya, alarmed by the seriousness of the king's manner,
shook his head.
"Then I'll tell you," said the king, "although you can be of
no help. Years ago three dragons came flying through the
air and alighted on a great rock near here. The first was
nine-headed, the second eighteen-headed, and the third
twenty-seven-headed. At once
 they laid waste the country,
devouring the cattle and killing the people. Soon the city was
in a state of siege. To keep them away we placed all the
food we had outside the gates and in a short time we
ourselves were starving. In desperation I had an old wise
woman called to court and asked her was there any way to
drive these monsters from the land. Alas for me, there was
a way and that way was to promise the awful creatures my
three beautiful daughters when they reached womanhood. At
that time my daughters were only small children and I
thought to myself many things might happen in the years
before they grew up. So, to relieve my stricken land, I
promised the dragons my daughters. The poor queen died at
once of grief, but my daughters grew up knowing nothing of
their fate. As soon as I made the monstrous bargain, the
dragons flew away and until yesterday were never again heard of.
Last night, a shepherd, beside himself with terror, brought
me the news that the dragons are again settled in their old
rock and are sending out fearful roars. Tomorrow I must
sacrifice to them my oldest child, the day after tomorrow my
second child, and the day after that my youngest. Then I
shall be left a poor lonely old man with nothing."
 The king strode up and down and tore his hair in grief.
In great distress Bayaya went to the princesses. He found
them dressed in black and looking ghastly pale. They were
sitting in a row and bewailing their fate most piteously.
Bayaya tried to comfort them, telling them by signs that surely
some one would
appear to rescue them. But they paid no heed to him and
kept on moaning and weeping.
Grief and confusion spread throughout the city, for every
one loved the royal family. Every house as well as the
palace was soon draped in black and the sound of mourning was
heard on every side.
Bayaya hurried secretly out of the city and across the field
to the rock where his magic horse was stabled. He knocked
three times, the rock opened, and he entered.
He stroked the horse's shining mane and kissed his muzzle in
"My dear horse," he said, "I have come to you for advice.
Help me and I shall be happy forever."
So he told the horse the story of the dragons.
"Oh, I know all about those dragons," the horse answered.
"In fact, it was that you might rescue the princesses that I
brought you here in the first place.
 Early tomorrow morning
come back and I will tell you what to do."
Bayaya returned to the castle with such joy shining in his
face that if any one had noticed him he would have been
severely rebuked. He spent the day with the princesses
trying to comfort and console them, but in spite of all he
could do they felt only more terrified as the hours went by.
The next day at the first streak of dawn he was at the rock.
The horse greeted him and said: "Lift up the stone under my
trough and take out what you find there."
Bayaya obeyed. He lifted the stone and under the stone he
found a large chest. Inside the chest he found three
beautiful suits of clothing, with caps and plumes to match,
a sword and a horse's bridle. The first suit was red
embroidered in silver and studded with diamonds, the second
was pure white embroidered in gold, and the third was light
blue richly embroidered with silver and studded with
diamonds and pearls.
For all three suits there was but one mighty sword. Its
blade was beautifully inlaid and its scabbard shone with
precious stones. The horse's bridle was also richly
 "All three suits are for you," the horse said. "For the
first day, put on the red one."
So Bayaya dressed himself in the red suit, buckled on his
sword, and threw the bridle over the horse's head.
"Have no fear," the horse said as they left the rock. "Cut
bravely into the monster, trusting to your sword. And
remember, do not dismount."
At the castle heart-broken farewells were being taken.
Zdobena parted from her father and her sisters, stepped into
a carriage, and accompanied by a great multitude of her
weeping subjects was slowly driven out of town to the
Dragon Rock. As they neared the fatal spot the princess
alighted. She took a few steps forward, then sank to the
earth in a faint.
At that moment the people saw galloping toward them a knight
with a red and white plume. In a voice of authority he
ordered them to stand back and leave him to deal alone with
the dragon. They were glad enough to lead the princess away
and they all went to a hill near by from which they could
watch the combat at a safe distance.
Now there was a deep rumbling noise, the earth shook, and
the Dragon Rock opened. A nine-headed monster crawled out.
He spat fire and poison from
 all his nine mouths and cast
about his nine heads, this way and that, looking for his
promised prey. When he saw the knight he let out a horrible
Bayaya rode straight at him and with one blow of his sword
cut off three of his heads. The dragon writhed and
enveloped Bayaya in flames and poisonous fumes. But the
prince, undaunted, struck at him again and again until he
had cut off all nine heads. The life that still remained in
the loathsome body, the horse finished with his hoofs.
When the dragon had perished the prince turned and galloped
back the way he had come.
Zdobena looked after him, wishing she might follow him to
thank him for her deliverance. But she remembered her poor
father sunk in grief at the castle and felt it was her duty
to hurry back to him as quickly as she could.
It would be impossible to describe in words the king's joy
when Zdobena appeared before him safe and uninjured. Her
sisters embraced her and wondered for the first time whether
a deliverer would rise up for them as well.
Bayaya capered happily about and assured them by signs that
he was certain they, too, would be saved. Although the
prospect of the morrow still terrified
 them, yet hope had
come to them and once or twice Bayaya succeeded in making
The next day Budinka was led out. As on the day before, the
unknown knight appeared, this time wearing a white plume.
He attacked the eighteen-headed dragon and, after valiant
conflict, despatched him. Then before any one could reach
him, he turned and rode away.
The princess returned to the castle, grieving that she had
not been able to speak to the knight and express her
"You, my sisters," Slavena said, "were backward not to speak
to him before he rode off. Tomorrow if he delivers me I
shall kneel before him and not get up until he consents to
return with me to the castle."
Just then Bayaya began laughing and chuckling and Slavena
asked him sharply what was the matter. He capered about and
made her understand that he, too, wanted to see the knight.
On the third day Slavena was taken out to the Dragon Rock.
This time the king also went. The heart of the poor girl
quaked with terror when she thought that if the unknown
knight failed to appear she would be handed over to the
A joyous shout from the people told her that the
 knight was
coming. Then she saw him, a gallant figure in blue with a
blue and white plume floating in the wind. As he had killed
the first dragon, and the second dragon, so he killed the
third although the struggle was longer and the little horse
had much to do to stand up against the poisonous fumes.
Instantly the dragon was slain, Slavena and the king rushed
up to the knight and begged him to return with them to the
castle. He scarcely knew how to refuse, especially when
Slavena, kneeling before him, grasped the edge of his tunic
and looked up at him so bewitchingly that his heart melted
and he was ready to do anything she asked.
But the little horse took matters into his own hands, reared
up suddenly, and galloped off before the knight had time to
So Slavena, too, was unable to bring the knight back to the
castle. The king and all the court were greatly
disappointed but their disappointment was swallowed up in
their joy that the princesses had been so miraculously saved.
Shortly after this another disaster threatened the king. A
neighboring king of great power declared war against him.
The king sent far and wide and summoned together all the
nobles of the land. They
 came, and the king when he had
laid before them his cause promised them the hands of his
three beautiful daughters in return for their support. This
was indeed an inducement and every young noble present swore
his allegiance and hurried home to gather his forces.
Troops poured in from all sides and soon the king was
ready to set forth.
He handed over the affairs of the castle to Bayaya and also
intrusted to him the safety of the three princesses. Bayaya
did his duty faithfully, looking after the castle and
planning diversions for the princesses to keep them happy
Then one day he complained of feeling sick, but instead of
consulting the court physician, he said he would go himself
to the fields and hunt some herbs. The princesses laughed
at his whim but let him go.
He hurried to the rock where his horse was stabled, knocked
three times, and entered.
"You have come in good time," the horse said. "The king's
forces are weakening and tomorrow will decide the battle.
Put on the white suit, take your sword, and let us be off."
Bayaya kissed his brave little horse and put on his white
 That night the king was awake planning the morrow's battle
and sending swift messengers to his daughters instructing
them what to do in case the day went against him.
The next morning as the battle joined an unknown knight
suddenly appeared among the king's forces. He was all in
white. He rode a little horse and he wielded a mighty
He struck right and left among the enemy and he caused such
havoc that the king's forces were instantly heartened.
Gathering around the white knight they fought so valiantly
that soon the enemy broke and scattered and the king won a
The knight himself was slightly wounded on the foot. When
the king saw this he jumped down from his horse, tore off a
piece of his own cape, and bound up the wound. He begged
the knight to dismount and come with him to a tent. But the
knight, thanking him, refused, spurred his horse, and was
The king nearly wept with disappointment that the unknown
knight to whom he was under one more obligation had again ridden
off without so much as leaving his name.
With great rejoicing the king's forces marched home carrying
vast stores of booty.
 "Well, steward," said the king to Bayaya, "how have the
affairs of the household gone in my absence?"
Bayaya nodded that everything had gone well, but the
princesses laughed at him and Slavena said:
"I must enter complaint against your steward, for he was
disobedient. He said he was sick but he would not consult
the court physician. He said he wanted to go himself and
get some herbs. He went and he was gone two whole days
and when he came back he was sicker than before."
The king looked at Bayaya to see if he was still sick.
Bayaya shook his head and capered about to show the king
that he was all right.
When the princesses heard that the unknown knight had again
appeared and saved the day they were unwilling to become at
once the brides of any of the nobles, for they thought the
knight might perhaps come demanding one of them.
Again the king was in a quandary. All the various nobles
had helped him valiantly and the question now arose to what
three of them would the princesses be awarded. After much
thought the king hit upon a plan which he hoped would decide
the matter to the satisfaction of them all. He called a
meeting of the nobles and said:
 "My dear comrades in arms, you remember that I promised the
hands of my daughters to those of you who would support me
in battle. All of you gave me valiant support. Each of you
deserves the hand of one of my daughters. But, alas, I have
only three daughters. To decide therefore which three of
you my daughters shall marry I make this suggestion: let all
of you stand in the garden in a row and let each of my
daughters throw down a golden apple from a balcony. Then
each princess must wed the man to whom her apple rolls. My
lords, do you all agree to this?"
The nobles all agreed and the king sent for his daughters.
The princesses, still thinking of the unknown knight, were
not enthusiastic over this arrangement, but not to shame
their father they, too, agreed.
So each of the girls, dressed in her loveliest, took a
golden apple in her hand and went up to a balcony.
Below in the garden the nobles stood in a row. Bayaya, as
though he were a spectator, took his place at the end of the
First Zdobena threw down her apple. It rolled straight to the
feet of Bayaya but he turned quickly aside and it rolled on
to a handsome youth who snatched it up with joy and stepped
from the line.
 Then Budinka threw her apple. It, too, rolled to Bayaya but
he cleverly kicked it on so that it seemed to roll straight
to the feet of a valiant lord who picked it up and then
looked with happy eyes at his lovely bride.
Last Slavena threw her apple. This time Bayaya did not step
aside but when the apple rolled to him he stooped and picked
it up. Then he ran to the balcony, knelt before the
princess, and kissed her hand.
Slavena snatched away her hand and ran to her chamber, where
she wept bitterly to think she would have to marry Bayaya
instead of the unknown knight.
The king was much disappointed and the nobles murmured. But
what was done was done, and could not be undone.
That night there was a great feast but Slavena remained in
her chamber refusing to appear among the guests.
It was moonlight and from the rock in the field the little
horse carried his master for the last time. When they
reached the castle Bayaya dismounted. Then he kissed his
faithful friend farewell, and the little horse vanished.
Slavena still sat in her chamber, sad and unhappy. When a
maidservant opened the door and said that
 Bayaya wished to
speak to her, the princess hid her face in the pillows.
Presently some one took her by the hand and when she raised
her head she saw standing before her the beautiful knight of
"Are you angry with your bridegroom that you hide from him?"
"Why do you ask me that?" Slavena whispered. "You are not
my bridegroom. Bayaya is my bridegroom."
"I am Bayaya. I am the dumb youth who wove you garlands. I
am the knight who saved you and your sisters from death and
who helped your father in battle. See, here is the piece of
your father's cape with which he bound up my wounded foot."
That this was so was joy indeed to Slavena. She led the
white knight into the banquet hall and presented him to the
king as her bridegroom. When all had been explained, the
king rejoiced, the guests marveled, and Zdobena and Budinka
looked sideways at each other with little gasps of envy.
After the wedding Bayaya rode away with Slavena to visit his
parents. When he reached his native town the first news he
got was of the death of his brother. He hurried to the
castle to comfort his parents. They
 were overjoyed at his
return, for they had long ago given him up for dead.
After a time Bayaya succeeded to the kingdom. He lived long
and prospered and he enjoyed unclouded happiness with his