THE SHOES THAT WERE DANCED TO PIECES
HERE was once upon a time, a King who had twelve
daughters, each one more beautiful than the
other. They all slept together in one chamber,
in which their beds stood side by side.
Every night, when they were in them, the King
locked the door, and bolted it. But in the morning,
when he unlocked the door, he saw that their
shoes were worn out with dancing, and no one
could find out how that happened.
Then the King caused it to be proclaimed that
whosoever could discover where they danced
at night, should choose one of them for his
wife and be King after his death. But that
whosoever came forward and had not
discovered it within three days and nights,
should forfeit his life.
It was not long before a King's Son presented
himself, and offered to undertake the enterprise.
He was well received, and in the evening was
led into a room adjoining the Princesses'
sleeping-chamber. His bed was placed there,
and he was to watch where they went and
danced. And in order that they might do nothing
secretly or go away to some other place, the
door of their room was left open.
 But the eyelids of the Prince grew heavy as lead,
and he fell asleep.
When he awoke in the morning, all twelve had
been to the dance, for their shoes were
standing there with holes in the soles.
On the second and third nights it fell out just
the same, and then his head was struck off
without mercy. Many others came after this
and undertook the enterprise, but all
forfeited their lives.
Now, it came to pass that a poor soldier, who
had a wound, and could serve no longer, found
himself on the road to the town where the
King lived. There he met an Old Woman,
who asked him where he was going.
"I hardly know myself," answered he, and
added in jest, "I had half a mind to
discover where the Princesses danced
their shoes into holes, and thus become King."
"That is not so difficult," said the Old Woman,
"you must not drink the wine which will be
brought to you at night."
With that she gave him a little cloak, and said,
"If you put on that, you will be invisible,
and then you can steal after the twelve."
When the soldier had received this good
advice, he took heart, went to the King, and
announced himself as a suitor. He was as
well received as the others, and royal
garments were put upon him.
He was conducted that evening, at bedtime,
into the outer-chamber, and as he was
about to go to bed, the eldest came and
brought him a cup of wine.
He lay down, but did not drink the wine.
 The Twelve Princess, in their chamber,
laughed, and the eldest said, "He, too,
might as well have saved his life."
With that they got up, opened wardrobes,
presses, cupboards, and brought out
pretty dresses; dressed themselves
before the mirrors, sprang about, and
rejoiced at the prospect of the dance.
Only the youngest said, "I know not how
it is. You are very happy, but I feel strange.
Some misfortune is certainly about to
"You are a goose, who are always frightened,"
said the eldes. "Have you forgotten how many
King's Sons have already come here in vain?
I had hardly any need to give the soldier a
sleeping-draught. In any case, the clown
would not have awakened."
When they were all ready, the eldest then
went to her bed and tapped it.
It immediately sank into the earth; and one
after the other they descended through the
opening, the eldest going first.
The soldier, who had watched everything,
tarried no longer, put on his little cloak,
and went down last with the youngest.
Half-way down the steps, he just trod a little
on her dress.
She was terrified at that, and cried out,
"What is that? who is pulling at my dress?"
"Don't be so silly!" said the eldest, "you have
caught it on a nail."
Then they went all the way down, and
when they were at the bottom, they
were standing in a wonderfully pretty
avenue of trees, all the leaves of which
were of silver, and shone and glistened.
The soldier thought, "I must carry a
 with me," and broke off a twig from one
of them, on which the tree cracked with
a loud report.
The youngest cried again, "Something is
wrong, did you hear the crack?"
But the eldest said, "It is a gun fired for
joy, because we have got rid of our Prince
After that they came into an avenue where
all the leaves were of gold, and lastly
into a third where they were of bright
diamonds. He broke off a twig from each,
which made such a crack each time that
the youngest started back in terror, but the
eldest still declared that they were salutes.
They went on and came to a great lake
whereon stood twelve little boats, and in
every boat sat a handsome Prince, all of
whom were waiting for the Twelve
Princesses. Each took one of them with him,
but the soldier seated himself by the
Then her Prince said, "I can't tell why the
boat is so much heavier to-day. I shall
have to row with all my strength, if I am
to get it across."
"What should cause that," said the youngest,
"but the warm weather? I feel very warm too."
On the opposite side of the lake stood a
splendid, brightly-lit castle, from whence
resounded the joyous music of trumpets
and kettle-drums. They rowed thither,
entered, and each Prince danced with the
maiden he loved, but the soldier danced with
them unseen. And when one of them had a
cup of wine in her hand he drank it up, so that
the cup was empty when she carried it to
her mouth. The youngest was alarmed at this,
but the eldest always made her be silent.
 They danced there till three o'clock in the
morning, when all the shoes were danced
into holes, and they were forced to leave
off. The Princes rowed them back again, over
the lake, and this time the soldier seated himself
by the eldest. On the shore they took their
leave of their Princes, and promised to return
the following night.
When they reached the stairs, the soldier ran
on in front and lay down in his bed, and
when the Twelve Princesses had come up
slowly and wearily, he was already snoring so
loudly that they could all hear him, and they
said,"So far as he is concerned, we are
They took off their beautiful dresses, laid
them away, put the worn-out shoes under
the bed, and lay down. Next morning, the
soldier was resolved not to speak, but to
watch the wonderful goings on, and that
night again went with them. Then every-
thing was done just as it had been done the
first time, and they danced until their shoes
were worn to pieces. But the third time, he
took a cup away with him as a token.
When the hour had arrived for him to give
his answer, he took the three twigs and the
cup, and went to the King, but the Twelve
Princesses stood behind the door, and
listened for what he was going to say.
When the King put the question, "Where have
my Twelve Daughters danced their shoes to
pieces in the night?" he answered, "In an
underground castle with Twelve Princes,"
and related how it had come to pass, and
brought out the tokens.
The King then summoned his daughters, and
asked them if the soldier had told the truth, and
when they saw that they
 were betrayed, and that falsehood would be
of no avail, they were obliged to confess all.
Thereupon the King asked which of them he
would have for his wife?
He answered, "I am no longer young, so give me
Then the wedding was celebrated on the
self-same day, and the kingdom was promised
him after the King's death. But the Princes
were bewitched for as many days more as
they had danced nights with the Twelve.