There was once upon a time
a princess, who, high under the
in her castle, had an apartment with twelve windows,
which looked out in every possible direction, and when she climbed
up to it and looked around her, she could inspect her whole kingdom.
When she looked out of the first, her sight was more keen than that
of any other human
being, from the second she could see still
better, from the third more distinctly still, and so it went on,
until the twelfth, from which she saw everything above the earth
and under the earth, and nothing at all could be
kept secret from her. Moreover, as she was haughty, and would be
subject to no one, but wished to keep the dominion
alone, she caused it to be proclaimed that no one should ever be
her husband who could not conceal himself from her so effectively,
that it should be quite impossible for her to find him. He who
tried this, however, and was discovered by her, was to have his
head struck off, and stuck on a post
. Ninety-seven posts with the
heads of dead men were already standing before the castle, and no
one had come forward for a long time. The princess was delighted,
and thought to herself, "Now I shall be free as long as I live."
Then three brothers appeared before her, and announced to her
that they were desirous of trying their luck. The eldest believed
he would be quite safe if he crept into a lime-pit, but she saw
him from the first window, made him come out, and had his head
cut off. The second crept into the cellar of the palace, but she
perceived him also from the first window, and his fate was sealed.
His head was placed on the nine and ninetieth post. Then the
youngest came to her and entreated her to give him a day for
consideration, and also to be so gracious as to overlook it if she
should happen to discover him twice, but if he failed the third
time, he would look on his life as over. As he was so handsome,
and begged so earnestly, she said, "Yes, I shall grant you that, but
you will not succeed."
Next day he meditated for a long time how he should hide
himself, but all in vain. Then he seized his gun and went out
hunting. He saw a raven, took a good aim at him, and was just
going to fire, when the bird cried, "Don't shoot, I shall reward
you." He put his gun down, went on, and came to a lake where he
surprised a large fish which had come up from the depths below
to the surface of the water. When he had aimed at it, the fish
cried, "Don't shoot, and I shall reward you." He allowed it to dive
down again, went onwards, and met a fox which was lame. He
fired and missed it, and the fox cried, "You had much better come
here and draw the thorn out of my foot for me. He did this, but
when he wanted to kill the fox and skin it, the fox said, "Stop,
and I shall reward you." The youth let him go, and then as it
was evening, returned home.
Next day he was to hide himself, but no matter how he puzzled
his brains over it, he did not know where. He went into the
forest to the raven and said, "I let you live on, so now tell me
where I am to hide myself, so that the king's daughter will not
see me." The raven hung his head and thought it over for a long
time. At length he croaked, "I have it." He fetched an egg out of
his nest, cut it into two parts, and shut the youth inside it,
then made it whole again, and seated himself on it. When the
king's daughter went to the first window she could not discover
him, nor could she from the others, and she began to be uneasy,
but from the eleventh she saw him. She ordered the raven to be
shot, and the egg to be brought and broken, and the youth was
forced to come out. She said, "For once you are excused, but if
you do not better than this, you are lost."
Next day he went to
the lake, called the fish to him and said, "I suffered you to live,
now tell me where to hide myself so that the king's daughter
may not see me." The fish thought for a while, and at last
cried, "I have it, I shall shut you up in my stomach." He
swallowed him, and went down to the bottom of the lake. The
king's daughter looked through her windows, and even from the
eleventh did not see him, and was alarmed, but at length from
the twelfth she saw him. She ordered the fish to be caught and
killed, and then the youth appeared. It is easy to imagine the
state of mind he was in. She said, "Twice you are forgiven, but
be sure that your head will be set on the hundredth post."
On the last day, he went with a heavy heart into the country, and
met the fox. "You know how to find all kinds of hiding-places,"
said he, "I let you live, now advise me where I shall hide myself
the king's daughter shall not discover me."
"That's a hard task,"
answered the fox, looking very thoughtful. At length he cried,
"I have it," and went with him to a spring, dipped himself in it,
and came out as a stall-keeper in the market, and dealer in
animals. The youth had to dip himself in the water also, and
was changed into a small sea-hare. The merchant went into the
town, and showed the pretty little animal, and many persons
gathered together to see it.
At length the king's daughter
came likewise, and as she liked it very much, she bought it,
and gave the merchant a good deal of money for it. Before he
gave it over to her, he said to it, "When the king's daughter goes
to the window, creep quickly under the braids of her her hair."
And now the time arrived when she was to search for him. She
went to one window after another in turn, from the first to the
eleventh, and did not see him. When she did not see him from the
twelfth either, she was full of anxiety and anger, and shut it
down with such violence that the glass in every window shivered
into a thousand pieces, and the whole castle shook.
She went back and felt the sea-hare beneath the braids of her
hair. Then she seized it, and threw it on the ground exclaiming,
"Away with you, get out of my sight." It ran to the merchant, and
both of them hurried to the spring, wherein they plunged, and
received back their true forms. The youth thanked the fox, and
said, "The raven and the fish are idiots compared with you, you
know the right tune to play, there is no denying that."
The youth went straight to the palace. The princess was already
expecting him, and abandoned herself to her fate. The wedding
was solemnised, and now he was king, and lord of all the kingdom.
He never told her where he had concealed himself for the third
time, and who had helped him, so she believed that he had done
everything by his own skill, and she had a great respect for him,
for she thought to herself, "He is able to do more than I."