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THE GOLDEN BIRD
IN the olden time there was a king, who had behind his palace a beautiful
pleasure-garden in which there was a tree that bore golden apples. When
the apples were getting ripe they were counted, but on the very next
morning one was missing. This was told to the King, and he ordered that
a watch should be kept every night beneath the tree.
The King had three sons, the eldest of whom he sent, as soon as night
came on, into the garden; but when midnight came he could not keep
himself from sleeping, and next morning again an apple was gone.
 The following night the second son had to keep watch, it fared no better
with him; as soon as twelve o'clock had struck he fell asleep, and in
the morning an apple was gone.
Now it came to the turn of the third son to watch; and he was quite ready,
but the King had not much trust in him, and thought that he would be of
less use even than his brothers; but at last he let him go. The youth
lay down beneath the tree, but kept awake, and did not let sleep master
him. When it struck twelve, something rustled through the air, and in
the moonlight he saw a bird coming whose feathers were all shining with
gold. The bird alighted on the tree, and had just plucked off an apple,
when the youth shot an arrow at him. The bird flew off, but the arrow
had struck his plumage, and one of his golden feathers fell down. The
youth picked it up, and the next morning took it to the King and told
him what he had seen in the night. The King called his council together,
and everyone declared that a feather like this was worth more than
the whole kingdom. "If the feather is so precious," declared the King,
"one alone will not do for me; I must and will have the whole bird!"
The eldest son set out; he trusted to his cleverness, and thought that
he would easily find the Golden Bird. When he had gone some distance he
saw a Fox sitting at the edge of a wood, so he cocked his gun and took
aim at him. The Fox cried, "Do not shoot me! and in return I will give
you some good counsel. You are on the way to the Golden Bird; and this
evening you will come to a village in which stand two inns opposite to
one another. One of them is lighted up brightly, and all goes on merrily
within, but do not go into it; go rather into the other, even though it
seems a bad one." "How can such a silly beast give wise advice?" thought
the King's son, and he pulled the trigger. But he missed the Fox, who
stretched out his tail and ran quickly into the wood.
So he pursued his way, and by evening came to the village where the two
inns were; in one they were singing and dancing; the other had a poor,
 miserable look. "I should be a fool, indeed," he thought, "if I were to
go into the shabby tavern, and pass by the good one." So he went into
the cheerful one, lived there in riot and revel, and forgot the bird
and his father, and all good counsels.
When some time had passed, and the eldest son for month after month
did not come back home, the second set out, wishing to find the Golden
Bird. The Fox met him as he had met the eldest, and gave him the good
advice of which he took no heed. He came to the two inns, and his brother
was standing at the window of the one from which came the music, and
called out to him. He could not resist, but went inside and lived only
Again some time passed, and then the King's youngest son wanted to set off
and try his luck, but his father would not allow it. "It is of no use,"
said he, "he will find the Golden Bird still less than his brothers,
and if a mishap were to befall him he knows not how to help himself;
he is a little wanting at the best." But at last, as he had no peace,
he let him go.
Again the Fox was sitting outside the wood, and begged for his life,
and offered his good advice. The youth was good-natured, and said,
"Be easy, little Fox, I will do you no harm." "You shall not repent it,"
answered the Fox; "and that you may get on more quickly, get up behind
on my tail." And scarcely had he seated himself when the Fox began to
run, and away he went over stock and stone till his hair whistled in
the wind. When they came to the village the youth got off; he followed
the good advice, and without looking round turned into the little inn,
where he spent the night quietly.
The next morning, as soon as he got into the open country, there sat the
Fox already, and said, "I will tell you further what you have to do. Go
on quite straight, and at last you will come to a castle, in front of
which a whole regiment of soldiers is lying, but do not trouble yourself
about them, for they will all be asleep and snoring. Go through the
midst of them straight into the castle, and go through all the rooms,
till at last you
 will come to a chamber where a Golden Bird is hanging
in a wooden cage. Close by, there stands an empty gold cage for show,
but beware of taking the bird out of the common cage and putting it into
the fine one, or it may go badly with you." With these words the Fox
again stretched out his tail, and the King's son seated himself upon it,
and away he went over stock and stone till his hair whistled in the wind.
When he came to the castle he found everything as the Fox had said. The
King's son went into the chamber where the Golden Bird was shut up in
a wooden cage, whilst a golden one stood hard by; and the three golden
apples lay about the room. "But," thought he, "it would be absurd if
I were to leave the beautiful bird in the common and ugly cage," so he
opened the door, laid hold of it, and put it into the golden cage. But at
the same moment the bird uttered a shrill cry. The soldiers awoke, rushed
in, and took him off to prison. The next morning he was taken before a
court of justice, and as he confessed everything, was sentenced to death.
The King, however, said that he would grant him his life on one condition
namely, if he brought him the Golden Horse which ran faster than the
wind; and in that case he should receive, over and above, as a reward,
the Golden Bird.
The King's son set off, but he sighed and was sorrowful, for how was
he to find the Golden Horse? But all at once he saw his old friend the
Fox sitting on the road. "Look you," said the Fox, "this has happened
because you did not give heed to me. However, be of good courage. I
will give you my help, and tell you how to get to the Golden Horse. You
must go straight on, and you will come to a castle, where in the stable
stands the horse. The grooms will be lying in front of the stable;
but they will be asleep and snoring, and you can quietly lead out the
Golden Horse. But of one thing you must take heed; put on him the common
saddle of wood and leather, and not the golden one, which hangs close
by, else it will go ill with you." Then the Fox stretched out his tail,
the King's son seated
 himself upon it, and away he went over stock and
stone until his hair whistled in the wind.
Everything happened just as the Fox had said; the prince came to the
stable in which the Golden Horse was standing, but just as he was going to
put the common saddle upon him, he thought, "It will be a shame to such
a beautiful beast, if I do not give him the good saddle which belongs to
him by right." But scarcely had the golden saddle touched the horse than
he began to neigh loudly. The grooms awoke, seized the youth, and threw
him into prison. The next morning he was sentenced by the court to death;
but the King promised to grant him his life, and the Golden Horse as well,
if he could bring back the beautiful princess from the Golden Castle.
With a heavy heart the youth set out; yet luckily for him he soon
found the trusty Fox. "I ought only to leave you to your ill-luck,"
said the Fox, "but I pity you, and will help you once more out of your
trouble. This road takes you straight to the Golden Castle, you will
reach it by eventide; and at night when everything is quiet the beautiful
princess goes to the bathing-house to bathe. When she enters it, run up
to her and give her a kiss, then she will follow you, and you can take
her away with you; only do not allow her to take leave of her parents
first, or it will go ill with you."
Then the Fox stretched out his tail, the King's son seated himself upon
it, and away the Fox went, over stock and stone, till his hair whistled
in the wind.
When he reached the Golden Castle it was just as the Fox had said. He
waited until midnight, when everything lay in deep sleep, and the
beautiful princess was going to the bathing-house. Then he sprang out
and gave her a kiss. She said that she would like to go with him, but she
asked him pitifully, and with tears, to allow her first to take leave of
her parents. At first he withstood her prayer, but when she wept more
and more, and fell at his feet, he at last gave in. But no sooner had
the maiden reached the bedside of her father than he and all the rest
in the castle awoke, and the youth was laid hold of and put into prison.
 The next morning the King said to him, "Your life is forfeited, and you
can only find mercy if you take away the hill which stands in front
of my windows, and prevents my seeing beyond it; and you must finish
it all within eight days. If you do that you shall have my daughter as
The King's son began, and dug and shovelled without leaving off, but
when after seven days he saw how little he had done, and how all his
work was as good as nothing, he fell into great sorrow and gave up all
hope. But on the evening of the seventh day the Fox appeared and said,
"You do not deserve that I should take any trouble about you; but just
go away and lie down to sleep, and I will do the work for you."
The next morning when he awoke and looked out of the window the hill had
gone. The youth ran, full of joy, to the King, and told him that the task
was fulfilled, and whether he liked it or not, the King had to hold to
his word and give him his daughter.
So the two set forth together, and it was not long before the trusty Fox
came up with them. "You have certainly got what is best," said he, "but
the Golden Horse also belongs to the maiden of the Golden Castle." "How
shall I get it?" asked the youth. "That I will tell you," answered the
Fox; "first take the beautiful maiden to the King who sent you to the
Golden Castle. There will be unheard-of rejoicing; they will gladly give
you the Golden Horse, and will bring it out to you. Mount it as soon
as possible, and offer your hand to all in farewell; last of all to the
beautiful maiden. And as soon as you have taken her hand swing her up on
to the horse, and gallop away, and no one will be able to bring you back,
for the horse runs faster than the wind."
All was carried out successfully, and the King's son carried off the
beautiful princess on the Golden Horse.
The Fox did not remain behind, and he said to the youth, "Now I will
help you to get the Golden Bird. When you come near to the castle where
the Golden Bird is to be found, let the maiden get down, and I will take
her into my care. Then ride with the Golden Horse into the castle-yard;
there will be great rejoicing at the
 sight, and they will bring out the
Golden Bird for you. As soon as you have the cage in your hand gallop
back to us, and take the maiden away again."
When the plan had succeeded, and the King's son was about to ride
home with his treasures, the Fox said, "Now you shall reward me for my
help." "What do you require for it?" asked the youth. "When you get into
the wood yonder, shoot me dead, and chop off my head and feet."
"That would be fine gratitude," said the King's son. "I cannot possibly
do that for you."
The Fox said, "If you will not do it I must leave you, but before
I go away I will give you a piece of good advice. Be careful about
two things. Buy no gallows'-flesh, and do not sit at the edge of any
well." And then he ran into the wood.
The youth thought, "That is a wonderful beast, he has strange whims;
who is going to buy gallows'-flesh? and the desire to sit at the edge
of a well it has never yet seized me."
He rode on with the beautiful maiden, and his road took him again through
the village in which his two brothers had remained. There was a great
stir and noise, and, when he asked what was going on, he was told that
two men were going to be hanged. As he came nearer to the place he saw
that they were his brothers, who had been playing all kinds of wicked
pranks, and had squandered all their wealth. He inquired whether they
could not be set free. "If you will pay for them," answered the people;
"but why should you waste your money on wicked men, and buy them free." He
did not think twice about it, but paid for them, and when they were set
free they all went on their way together.
They came to the wood where the Fox had first met them, as it was cool
and pleasant within it, the two brothers said, "Let us rest a little by
the well, and eat and drink." He agreed, and whilst they were talking he
forgot himself, and sat down upon the edge of the well without thinking
of any evil. But the two brothers threw him backwards into the well, took
the maiden, the Horse, and the Bird, and went home
 to their father. "Here
we bring you not only the Golden Bird," said they; "we have won the
Golden Horse also, and the maiden from the Golden Castle." Then was
there great joy; but the Horse would not eat, the Bird would not sing,
and the maiden sat and wept.
But the youngest brother was not dead. By good fortune the well was
dry, and he fell upon soft moss without being hurt, but he could not
get out again. Even in this strait the faithful Fox did not leave him:
it came and leapt down to him, and upbraided him for having forgotten
its advice. "But yet I cannot give it up so," he said; "I will help you
up again into daylight." He bade him grasp his tail and keep tight hold
of it; and then he pulled him up.
"You are not out of all danger yet," said the Fox. "Your brothers were
not sure of your death, and have surrounded the wood with watchers,
who are to kill you if you let yourself be seen." But a poor man was
sitting upon the road, with whom the youth changed clothes, and in this
way he got to the King's palace.
No one knew him, but the Bird began to sing, the Horse began to eat,
and the beautiful maiden left off weeping. The King, astonished, asked,
"What does this mean?" Then the maiden said, "I do not know, but I have
been so sorrowful and now I am so happy! I feel as if my true bridegroom
had come." She told him all that had happened, although the other brothers
had threatened her with death if she were to betray anything.
The King commanded that all people who were in his castle should be
brought before him; and amongst them came the youth in his ragged
clothes; but the maiden knew him at once and fell upon his neck. The
wicked brothers were seized and put to death, but he was married to the
beautiful maiden and declared heir to the King.
But how did it fare with the poor Fox? Long afterwards the King's son
was once again walking in the wood, when the Fox met him and said, "You
have everything now that you can wish for, but there is never an end to
my misery, and yet it is in your power to free me," and again he asked
him with tears to shoot him dead and chop off his head and feet. So he
did it, and scarcely
 was it done when the Fox was changed into a man,
and was no other than the brother of the beautiful princess, who at
last was freed from the magic charm which had been laid upon him. And
now nothing more was wanting to their happiness as long as they lived.