THE TWELVE HUNTSMEN
THERE was once a King's son who was betrothed to a maiden whom he loved
very much. And when he was sitting beside her and very happy, news came
that his father lay sick unto death, and desired to see him once again
before his end. Then he said to his beloved, "I must now go and leave
thee, I give thee a ring as a remembrance of me. When I am King, I will
return and fetch thee." 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 thee once again before my end, promise me
to marry as I wish," and he named a certain King's daughter who was to
be his wife. The son was in such trouble that he did not think what
he was doing, and said, "Yes, dear father, your will shall be done,"
and thereupon the King shut his eyes, and died.
When therefore the son had been proclaimed King, and the time of
mourning was over, he was forced to keep the promise which he had given
his father, and caused the King's daughter to be asked in marriage,
and she was promised to him. His first betrothed heard of this, and
fretted so much about his faithlessness that she nearly died. Then her
father said to her, "Dearest child, why art thou so sad? Thou shalt have
whatsoever thou wilt." 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, thy desire shall be fulfilled,"
and he caused a search to be made in his whole kingdom, until eleven
young maidens were found who exactly resembled his daughter in face,
figure, and size.
When they came to the King's daughter, she had twelve suits of huntsmen's
clothes made, all alike, and the eleven maidens had to put on the
huntsmen's clothes, and she herself put on the twelfth suit. Thereupon she
took leave of her father, and rode away with them, and rode to the court
of her former betrothed, whom she loved so dearly. Then she inquired if
he required any huntsmen, and if he would take the whole of them into
his service. The King looked at her and did not 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's twelve huntsmen.
The King, however, had a lion which was a wondrous animal, for he knew all
concealed and secret things. It came to pass that one evening he said to
the King, "Thou thinkest thou hast twelve huntsmen?" "Yes," said the King,
"they are twelve huntsmen." The lion continued, "Thou art mistaken, they
are twelve girls." The King said, "That cannot be true! How wilt thou
prove that to me?" "Oh, just let some peas be strewn in thy
ante-  chamber," answered the lion, "and then thou wilt soon see it. Men have a firm step,
and when they walk over the 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 be strewn.
There was, however, a servant of the King's who favored the huntsmen,
and when he heard that they were going to be put to this test he went
to them and repeated everything, and said, "The lion wants to make the
King believe that you are girls." Then the King's daughter thanked him,
and said to her maidens, "Put on some strength, and step firmly on the
peas." So next morning when the King had the twelve huntsmen called
before him, and they came into the ante-chamber where the peas were
lying, they stepped so firmly on them, and had such a strong, sure walk,
that not one of the peas either rolled or stirred. Then they went away
again, and the King said to the lion, "Thou hast lied to me, they walk
just like men." The lion said, "They have got to know that they were
going to be put to the test, and have assumed some strength. Just let
twelve spinning-wheels be brought into the ante-chamber some day, and
they will go to them and be pleased with them, and that is what no man
would do." The King liked the advice, and had the spinning-wheels placed
in the ante-chamber.
But the servant, who was well disposed to the huntsmen, went to them,
and disclosed the project. Then when they were alone the King's daughter
said to her eleven girls, "Put some constraint on yourselves, and do not
look round at the spinning-wheels." And next morning when the King had his
twelve huntsmen summoned, they went through the ante-chamber, and never
once looked at the spinning wheels. Then the King again said to the lion,
"Thou hast deceived me, they are men, for they have not looked at the
spinning-wheels." The lion replied, "They have learnt that they were
going to be put to the test, and have restrained themselves." The King,
however, would no longer believe the lion.
The twelve huntsmen always followed the King to the chase, and his
liking for them continually increased. Now it came to pass that once
when they were out
 hunting, news came that the King's betrothed was
approaching. When the true bride heard that, it hurt her so much that
her heart was almost broken, and she fell fainting to the ground. The
King thought something had happened to his dear huntsman, ran up to
him, wanted to help him, and drew his glove off. Then he saw the ring
which he had given to his first bride, and when he looked in her face
he recognized her. Then his heart was so touched that he kissed her,
and when she opened her eyes he said, "Thou art mine, and I am thine,
and no one in the world can alter that." He sent a messenger to the other
bride, and entreated her to return to her own kingdom, for he had a wife
already, and a man who had just found an old dish did not require a new
one. Thereupon the wedding was celebrated, and the lion was again taken
into favour, because, after all, he had told the truth.
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