Fairy Tales From H. C. Andersen, Illustrated by Dugald Stewart Walker, 1914

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Andersen & Walker

I was pleasantly surprised recently to discover an edition of fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen that I had not previously known, illustrated by an artist that was also not previously known to me, named Dugald Stewart Walker. For me, something like this is like Christmas. I tracked down an online version at Archive.org that had reasonably good scans. The first ones I’d run into were on the Wikimedia commons, and were not as good as those on Archive.org.

This edition was published in 1914, during the Golden Age of Illustration, and Walker’s style reflects all the wonderful Art Nouveau flavor that I dearly love, and I’m sure you will as well.

I immediately set out to enhance and repair the scans, and because the selected stories all had a really cool header image done, I felt they were just perfect for the way I display stories on my site. Because of that, I decided to present the stories in this edition along with Walker’s illustrations, in a series,  just as they appear in the book, whether or not I have presented the story elsewhere. The only differences are my enhancements of the images, and the lack of the frontispiece color plate illustration, because I have not, to date, been able to find a copy that was even good enough to enhance.

Each story will have, by way of introduction, some information about the artist or the story. On this introductory page I am including the book cover, the title page, and the table of contents. I hope you enjoy this presentation.







 Charles-Perrault-Bluebeard-Les-Contes-de-Perrault-Gustave-Dore-1-1867-EcruIf you were to open the door, I should be very angry

Once upon a time there was a man who owned splendid town and country houses, gold and silver plate, tapestries and coaches gilt all over. But the poor fellow had a blue beard, and this made him so ugly and frightful that there was not a woman or girl who did not run away at sight of him. Amongst his neighbors was a lady of high degree who had two surpassingly beautiful daughters. He asked for the hand of one of these in marriage, leaving it to their mother to choose which should be bestowed upon him. Both girls, however, raised objections, and his offer was bandied from one to the other, neither being able to bring herself to accept a man with a blue beard. Another reason for their distaste was the fact that he had already married several wives, and no one knew what had become of them.

In order that they might become better acquainted, Blue Beard invited the two girls, with their mother and three or four of their best friends, to meet a party of young men from the neighborhood at one of his country houses. Here they spent eight whole days, and throughout their stay there was a constant round of picnics, hunting and fishing expeditions, dances, dinners, and luncheons; and they never slept at all, through spending all the night in playing merry pranks upon each other. In short, everything went so gaily that the younger daughter began to think the master of the house had not so very blue a beard after all, and that he was an exceedingly agreeable man. As soon as the party returned to town their marriage took place.


Charles-Perrault-Bluebeard-Les-Contes-de-Perrault-Gustave-Dore-2-1867-EcruHer friends were eager to see the splendors of her house

At the end of a month Blue Beard informed his wife that important business obliged him to make a journey into a distant part of the country, which would occupy at least six weeks. He begged her to amuse herself well during his absence, and suggested that she should invite some of her friends and take them, if she liked, to the country. He was particularly anxious that she should enjoy herself thoroughly.

“Here,” he said, “are the keys of the two large storerooms, and here is the one that locks up the gold and silver plate which is not in everyday use. This key belongs to the strongboxes where my gold and silver is kept, this to the caskets containing my jewels; while here you have the master key which gives admittance to all the apartments. As regards this little key, it is the key of the small room at the end of the long passage on the lower floor. You may open everything, you may go everywhere, but I forbid you to enter this little room. And I forbid you so seriously that if you were indeed to open the door, I should be so angry that I might do anything.”

She promised to follow out these instructions exactly, and after embracing her, Blue Beard stepped into his coach and was off upon his journey.

Her neighbors and friends did not wait to be invited before coming to call upon the young bride, so great was their eagerness to see the splendors of her house. They had not dared to venture while her husband was there, for his blue beard frightened them. But in less than no time there they were, running in and out of the rooms, the closets, and the wardrobes, each of which was finer than the last. Presently they went upstairs to the storerooms, and there they could not admire enough the profusion and magnificence of the tapestries, beds, sofas, cabinets, tables, and stands. There were mirrors in which they could view themselves from top to toe, some with frames of plate glass, others with frames of silver and gilt lacquer, that were the most superb and beautiful things that had ever been seen. They were loud and persistent in their envy of their friend’s good fortune. She, on the other hand, derived little amusement from the sight of all these riches, the reason being that she was impatient to go and inspect the little room on the lower floor.

So overcome with curiosity was she that, without reflecting upon the discourtesy of leaving her guests, she ran down a private staircase, so precipitately that twice or thrice she nearly broke her neck, and so reached the door of the little room. There she paused for a while, thinking of the prohibition which her husband had made, and reflecting that harm might come to her as a result of disobedience. But the temptation was so great that she could not conquer it. Taking the little key, with a trembling hand she opened the door of the room.

At first she saw nothing, for the windows were closed, but after a few moments she perceived dimly that the floor was entirely covered with clotted blood, and that in this were reflected the dead bodies of several women that hung along the walls. These were all the wives of Blue Beard, whose throats he had cut, one after another.

She thought to die of terror, and the key of the room, which she had just withdrawn from the lock, fell from her hand.

When she had somewhat regained her senses, she picked up the key, closed the door, and went up to her chamber to compose herself a little. But this she could not do, for her nerves were too shaken. Noticing that the key of the little room was stained with blood, she wiped it two or three times. But the blood did not go. She washed it well, and even rubbed it with sand and grit. Always the blood remained. For the key was bewitched, and there was no means of cleaning it completely. When the blood was removed from one side, it reappeared on the other.

Blue Beard returned from his journey that very evening. He had received some letters on the way, he said, from which he learned that the business upon which he had set forth had just been concluded to his satisfaction. His wife did everything she could to make it appear that she was delighted by his speedy return.

On the morrow he demanded the keys. She gave them to him, but with so trembling a hand that he guessed at once what had happened.

‘‘How comes,” he said to her, “that the key of the little room is not with the others?”

“I must have left it upstairs upon my table,” she said. “Do not fail to bring it to me presently,” said Blue Beard. After several delays the key had to be brought. Blue Beard examined it, and addressed his wife.

“Why is there blood on this key?”

“I do not know at all,” replied the poor woman, paler than death.

“You do not know at all?” exclaimed Blue Beard; “I know well enough. You wanted to enter the little room! Well, madam, enter it you shall—you shall go and take your place among the ladies you have seen there.”

She threw herself at her husband’s feet, asking his pardon with tears, and with all the signs of a true repentance for her disobedience. She would have softened a rock, in her beauty and distress, but Blue Beard had a heart harder than any stone.

“You must die, madam,” he said; “and at once.”

“Since I must die,” she replied, gazing at him with eyes that were wet with tears, “give me a little time to say my prayers.”

“I give you one quarter of an hour,” replied Blue Beard, ‘‘but not a moment longer.”

When the poor girl was alone, she called her sister to her and said:

“Sister Anne “—for that was her name—” go up, I implore you, to the top of the tower, and see if my brothers are not approaching. They promised that they would come and visit me today. If you see them, make signs to them to hasten.”

Sister Anne went up to the top of the tower, and the poor unhappy girl cried out to her from time to time:

“Anne, Sister Anne, do you see nothing coming?” And Sister Anne replied:

“I see nought, but dust in the sun and the green grass growing.”


Charles-Perrault-Bluebeard-Les-Contes-de-Perrault-Gustave-Dore-3-1867-EcruHeaven be praised, they are my brothers

Presently Blue Beard, grasping a great cutlass, cried out at the top of his voice:

“Come down quickly, or I shall come upstairs myself”

“Oh please, one moment more,” called out his wife.

And at the same moment she cried in a whisper:

“Anne, Sister Anne, do you see nothing coming?”

“I see nought but dust in the sun and the green grass growing.”

“Come down at once, I say,” shouted Blue Beard, “or I will come upstairs myself”

“I am coming,” replied his wife. Then she called:

“Anne, Sister Anne, do you see nothing coming?”

“I see,” replied Sister Anne, “a great cloud of dust which comes this way.”

“Is it my brothers?”

“Alas, sister, no; it is but a flock of sheep.”

“Do you refuse to come down?” roared Blue Beard.

“One little moment more,” exclaimed his wife.

Once more she cried:

“Anne, Sister Anne, do you see nothing coming?”

“I see,” replied her sister, “two horsemen who come this way, but they are as yet a long way off…. Heaven be praised,” she exclaimed a moment later, “they are my brothers. . .

“I am signaling to them all I can to hasten.”

Blue Beard let forth so mighty a shout that the whole house shook. The poor wife went down and cast herself at his feet, all disheveled and in tears.

“That avails you nothing,” said Blue Beard; “you must die.”

Charles-Perrault-Bluebeard-Les-Contes-de-Perrault-Gustave-Dore-4-1867-EcruThey plunged their swords through his body

Seizing her by the hair with one hand, and with the other brandishing the cutlass aloft, he made as if to cut off her head. The poor woman, turning towards him and fixing a dying gaze upon him, begged for a brief moment in which to collect her thoughts.

“No! no!” he cried; “commend your soul to Heaven.” And raising his arm

At this very moment there came so loud a knocking at the gate that Blue Beard stopped short. The gate was opened, and two horsemen dashed in, who drew their swords and rode straight at Blue Beard. The latter recognized them as the brothers of his wife—one of them a dragoon, and the other a musketeer—and fled instantly in an effort to escape. But the two brothers were so close upon him that they caught him ere he could gain the first flight of steps. They plunged their swords through his body and left him dead. The poor woman was nearly as dead as her husband, and had not the strength to rise and embrace her brothers.

It was found that Blue Beard had no heirs, and that consequently his wife became mistress of all his wealth. She devoted a portion to arranging a marriage between her sister Anne and a young gentleman with whom the latter had been for some time in love, while another portion purchased a captain’s commission for each of her brothers. The rest formed a dowry for her own marriage with a very worthy man, who banished from her mind all memory of the evil days she had spent with Blue Beard.


Ladies, you should never pry,—
You’ll repent it by and by!
‘Tis the silliest of sins;
Trouble in a trice begins.
There are, surely—more’s the woe
Lots of things you need not know.
Come, forswear it now and here—
Joy so brief that costs so dear!

Another Moral

You can tell this tale is old
By the very way it’s told.
Those were days of derring-do;
Man was lord, and master too.
Then the husband ruled as king.
Now it’s quite a different thing;
Be his beard what hue it may—
Madam has a word to say!

The Black Bull of Norroway recorded by Joseph Jacobs

The Black Bull of Norroway was first recorded by Joseph Jacobs, a famous folklorist, literary critic and historian, in his book More English Fairy Tales. In the Aarne-Thompson Tale Type Index. The Black Bull of Norroway is an Aarne-Thompson type 425A, a search for a missing husband. The tale is claimed by a number of cultures, including Celtic and Scottish.

The use of the word “Norroway” may point to the fact that many of the people who settled in Scotland were also from Scandinavia—Norway. However, the content of the story is typical of Scottish, not Scandinavian, folktales.

J.R.R Tolkein, author of The Lord of the Rings, cited the ending of The Black Bull of Norroway as an example of a eucasthrophe in his essay On Fairy-Stories.  Tolkein coined the word himself to mean a sudden turn of events at the end of a story which ensure that the protagonist does not meet some terrible, impending and very plausible doom.



The Ox of the Wonderful Horns – Kaffir Folk Tale

George Mccall Theal, Kaffir Folk-Lore, London: S. Sonnenschein, Le Bas & Lowrey, 1886.

George Mccall Theal, Kaffir Folk-Lore, London: S. Sonnenschein, Le Bas & Lowrey, 1886.

This story comes from:

Theal, Georg McCall. Kaffir Folk-Lore. London: S. Sonnenschein, Le Bas & Lowrey, 1886.
Buy the book on Amazon.


There was once a boy whose mother that bore him was dead, and he was ill-treated by his other mothers. On this account he determined to go away from his father’s place. One morning he went, riding on an ox which was given to him by his father. As he was travelling, he came to a herd of cattle with a bull.

His ox said: “I will fight and overcome that bull.”

The boy got off his ox’s back. The fight took place, and the bull was defeated. The boy then mounted his ox again.

About midday, feeling hungry, he struck the right horn of his ox, and food came out. After satisfying his hunger, he struck the left horn, and the rest of the food went in again.

The boy saw another herd of dun-coloured cattle. His ox said: “I will fight and die there. You must break off my horns and take them with you. When you are hungry, speak to them, and they will supply you with food.”

In the fight the ox was killed, as he had said. The boy took his horns, and went on walking till he came to a village where he found the people cooking a weed [called tyutu], having no other food to eat.

He entered one of the houses. He spoke to his horn, and food came out, enough to satisfy the owner of the house and himself. After they had eaten, they both fell asleep. The owner of the house got up and took away the horns. He concealed them, and put two others in their place.

The boy started next morning with the horns, thinking they were the right ones. When he felt hungry, he spoke to the horns, but nothing came out. He therefore went back to the place where he had slept the night before. As he drew near, he heard the owner of the place speaking to the horns, but without getting anything out of them.

The boy took his horns from the thief, and went on his way. He came to a house, and asked to be entertained. The owner refused, and sent him away, because his clothes were in tatters, and his body soiled with travel.

After that he came to a river and sat down on the bank. He spoke to his horns, and a new mantle and handsome ornaments came out. He dressed himself, and went on. He came to a house where there was a very beautiful girl. He was received by the girl’s father, and stayed there. His horns provided food and clothing food for them all.

After a time he married the girl. He then returned home with his wife, and was welcomed by his father. He spoke to his horns, and a fine house came out, in which he lived with his wife.

Charles Perrault

Many people think Charles Perrault is the actual “author” of Cinderella. It is true that his version is the first to have the elements we consider today as the Cinderella story, the closest to the version produced by Walt Disney in 1950. His Cendrillon, or The Little Glass Slipper, was written in 1697, in French.




CInderella slipping her foot into the glass slipper, illustration by Charles Geraud, 1865

Cinderella by Charles Perrault

Cover for Les Contes Des Fees: En Prose En En Vers

Cover for Les Contes Des Fees:
En Prose Et En Vers

This version of Cinderella is included in my upcoming book, “Cinderella Through the Ages.” Join my mailing list to get the Kindle version for FREE!. (NOTE: If you use a different format for your eReader, download the Kindle version anyway, and send me message with the version you want, and I will send it to you.)

Many people think Charles Perrault is the actual “author” of Cinderella (at least those who don’t think it was Walt Disney.) It is true that his version is the first to have the elements we consider today as the Cinderella story, the closest to the version produced by Walt Disney in 1950, and the one that Disney DID use for his interpretation. But Perrault’s Cendrillon, or The Little Glass Slipper, was written in 1697, in French.

In 1921, a reprint of an 1888 version that recreated the French as closely as possible to the original French of Perrault was published, with a very long introduction and commentary, in English, by Andrew Lang, who collected and edited all the “Color” Fairy Books and who can be considered an expert Folklorist. I have included passages from Lang’s commentary on Cinderella by way of introduction to the story which follows, in which, three years before the published study by Marion Roalfe Cox that identified no less than “Three Hundred and Forty-Five Variants of Cinderella,” and many years before the development of an official classification system, Lang summarizes his own list of variants. A new facsimile of the 1921 book is available on Amazon, as well as online in text format courtesy of The Project Gutenburg. My remarks are in brackets [ ]; tooltips are bolded.

Do bear in mind that this was written almost 130 years ago, and beyond that, Lang makes use of several languages on his discussion. Nevertheless, his analysis is well worth reading for anyone interested in the folklore or historical aspects of the Cinderella story. Other readers may skip the discussion, and head right for the story.

From the Introduction by Andrew Lang

The stories of Charles Perrault are usually called ‘Fairy Tales,’ and they deserve the name more than most contes.  The Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, as will be discussed below, takes the part usually given, in traditional versions, to a cow, a sheep, or a dead mother who has some mystic connection with the beast.

The story of Cinderella (Cendrillon, Cucendron, Cendreusette, Sainte Rosette) is one of the most curious in the history of Märchen. Here we can distinctly see how the taste and judgment of Perrault altered an old and barbarous detail, and there, perhaps, we find the remains of a very ancient custom.

The Fairy-Godmother vs. the Friendly Beast

There are two points in Cinderella, and her cousin Peau d’Ane, [Donkey Skin,] particularly worth notice. First, there is the process by which the agency of a Fairy Godmother has been substituted for that of a friendly beast, usually a connection by blood-kindred of the hero or heroine. Secondly, there is the favouritism shown, in many versions, to the youngest child, and the custom which allots to this child a place by the hearth or in the cinders (Cucendron).

Taking the first incident, the appearance in Perrault of a Fairy Godmother in place of a friendly beast, we may remark that this kind of change is always characteristic of the promotion of a story. Just as Indian ‘aboriginal’ tribes cashier their beast-ancestors (‘Totems’) in favour of a human ancestor of a similar name, when they rise in civilisation, so the rôles which are filled by beasts in savage Märchen come to be assigned to men and women in the contes of more cultivated people. In Cinderella, however, the friendly beast holds its own more or less in nearly all European versions, except in those actually derived from Perrault. In every shape of the story known to us, the beast is a domesticated animal. Thus it will not be surprising if no native version is found in America, where animals, except dogs, were scarcely domesticated at all before the arrival of Europeans.

In examining the incident of the friendly and protecting beast, it may be well to begin with a remote and barbarous version, that of the Kaffirs. [The word kaffir is a derogatory term that was used in South Africa to refer to a black person. The word is derived from the Arabic term kafir, (meaning “disbeliever”), which originally had the meaning “one without (the Islam) religion”] Here, as in other cases, we may find one situation in a familiar story divorced from those which, as a general rule, are in its company. Theorists may argue either that the Kaffirs borrowed from Europeans one or two incidents out of a popular form of Cinderella, or that they happen to make use of an opinion common to most early peoples, the belief, namely, in the superhuman powers of friendly beast-protectors. As to borrowing, Europeans and Kaffirs have been in contact, though not very closely, for two hundred years. Among the neighbouring Zulus, Dr. Callaway found that Märchen were the special property of the most conservative class,—the old women. “It is not common to meet with a man who is willing to speak of them in any other way than as something which he has some dim recollection of having heard his grandmother relate[70].” Whether the traditional lore of savage grandmothers is likely to have been borrowed from Dutch or English settlers is a question that may be left to the reader.

The tale in which the friendly beast of European folklore occurs among the Kaffirs is The Wonderful Horns. As among the Santals (an ‘aboriginal’ hilltribe of India) we have a hero, not a heroine. “There was once a boy whose mother that bore him was dead, and who was ill-treated by his other mothers,” the Kaffirs being polygamous. He rode off on an ox given him by his father. The ox fought a bull and won. Food was supplied out of his right horn, and the ‘leavings’ (as in the Black Bull o’Norroway) were put into the left horn. In another fight the ox was killed, but his horns continued to be a magical source of supplies. A new mantle and handsome ornaments came out of them, and by virtue of this fairy splendour he won and wedded a very beautiful girl.

Here, it may be said, there is nothing of Cendrillon, except that rich garments, miraculously furnished, help to make a marriage; and that the person thus aided was the victim of a stepmother. No doubt this is not much, but we might sum up Cendrillon thus. The victim of a stepmother makes a great marriage by dint of goodly garments supernaturally provided.

In Cendrillon the recognition makes a great part of the interest. There is no recognition in the Kaffir legend, which is very short, being either truncated or undeveloped.

Let us now turn to the Santals, a remote and shy non-Aryan hill-tribe of India. Here we find the recognition, but in a form not only disappointing but almost cynical.

In the Santal story we have the cruel Stepmother, the hero,—not a heroine, but a boy,—the protecting and friendly Cow, the attempt to kill the Cow, the Flight, the great good-fortune of the hero, the Princess who falls in love with a lock of his hair, which is to play the part of Cinderella’s glass slipper in the ἀναγνὠρισις, and, finally, a cynically devised accident, by which the beauty of the hair is destroyed, and the hero’s chance of pleasing the princess perishes. It will be noticed that the use of a lock of hair floating down a river, to be fallen in love with and help the dénouement, is found, first, in the Egyptian conte of the Two Brothers, written down in the reign of Ramses II., fourteen hundred years before our era.

In that story, too, the hero has a friendly cow, which warns him when he is in danger of being murdered. But the Egyptian story has no other connection with Cendrillon[73]. The device of a floating lock of hair is not uncommon in Bengali Märchen.

From the Santals let us turn to another race, not so remote, but still non-Aryan, the Finns. That the Santals borrow Märchen from their Hinduised aboriginal neighbours is not certain, but is perfectly possible and even probable. Though some theorists have denied that races borrow nursery tales from each other, it is certain that Lönnrot, writing to Schiefner in 1855, mentions a Finnish fisher who, meeting Russian and Swedish fishers, ‘swopped stories’ with them when stormy weather made it impossible to put to sea. No doubt similar borrowings have always been going on when the peasantry on the frontiers met their neighbours, and where Kaffirs have taken Hottentot wives, or Sidonians have carried off Greek children as captives, in fact, all through the national and tribal meetings of the world.

The Wonderful Birch (Emmy Schreck, ix.) is a form of Cinderella from Russian Carelia. The story has a singularly dramatic and original opening. A man and his wife had but one daughter, and one Sheep. The Sheep wandered away, the woman sought him in the woods, and she met a witchwife. The witchwife turned the woman into the semblance of the Sheep, and herself took the semblance of the woman. She went to the woman’s house, where the husband thought he was welcoming his own wife and the sheep that was lost. The new and strange stepmother demanded the death of the Sheep, which was the real mother of the heroine. Warned by the Sheep, a black sheep, the daughter did not taste of her flesh, but gathered and buried the bones and fragments. Thence grew a beautiful birch tree. The man and the witchwife went to court, the witchwife leaving the girl to accomplish impossible tasks. The voice of the dead mother from the grave below the birch bade the girl break a twig from the tree, and therewith accomplish the tasks. Then out of the earth came beautiful raiment (as in Peau d’Ane), and the girl dressed, and went to court. The Prince falls in love with her, and detects her by means of her ring, which takes the part of the slipper. Then comes in the frequent formula of a false bride substituted by the witchwife, a number of trials, and the punishment of the witch.

Here, then, the friendly beast is but the Mother surviving in two shapes, first as a sheep, then as a tree, exactly the idea of the ancient Egyptian story of the Two Brothers, where Bitiou first becomes a bull, and then a persea tree[77]. In Finnish the Cinderella plot is fully developed. A similar tale, still with the beast in place of the Fairy Godmother, is quoted by Mr. Ralston from the Servian (Vuk Karajich, No. 32). Three maidens were spinning near a cleft in the ground, when an old man warned them not to let their spindles fall into the cleft, or their mother would be changed into a cow. Mara’s spindle fell in, and the mother instantly shared the fate of Io. Mara tended the cow that had been her mother lovingly, but the father married again, and the new wife drove Mara to dwell among the cinders (pepel), hence she was called Pepelluga, cinderwench[78]. The cruel Servian stepmother had the cow slain, but not before it had warned Mara to eat none of the kindred flesh [79], and to bury the bones in the ashes of the hearth. From these bones sprang two white doves, which supplied Mara with splendid raiment, and, finally, won for her the hand of the prince, after the usual incidents of the lost slipper, the attempt to substitute the stepmother’s ugly daughter, and the warning of the fowls, ‘Ki erike, the right maiden is under the trough.’

In a modern Greek variant (Hahn, ii.), the Mother (not in vaccine form) is eaten by her daughters, except the youngest, who refuses the hideous meal. The dead woman magically aids the youngest from her tomb, and the rest follows as usual, the slipper playing its accustomed part.

In Gaelic a persecuted stepdaughter is aided by a Ram. The Ram is killed, his bones are buried by his protégée, he comes to life again, but is lame, for his bones were not all collected, and he plays the part of Fairy Godmother[80].

Turning from the Gaelic to the Lowland Scotch, we find Rashin Coatie as a name under which either Peau d’Ane or Cendrillon may be narrated. We discovered Cendrillon as Rashin Coatie, in Morayshire[81]. Here a Queen does not become a cow, indeed, but dies, and leaves to her daughter a Red Calf, which aids her, till it is slain by a cruel stepmother.

The dead calfy said

Tak me up, bane by bane And pit me aneth yon grey stane,

and whatever you want, come and seek it frae me, and I will give you it.

The usual adventures of Cinderella ensue, the birds denouncing the False Bride, whose foot is pinched to make it fit the ‘beautiful satin slipper’ of the heroine.

In most of these versions the heroine is aided by a beast, and even when that beast is dead, it continues helpful, in one case actually coming to life again, like the ox in the South African Märchen.

In all these thoroughly popular and traditional tales, the supernatural machinery varies much from that of Perrault, who found Peau d’Ane ‘difficile à croire’ [hard to believe.]. But, in all the wilder tales, the machinery is exactly what we note in the myths and actual beliefs of the lower races. They do not shrink from the conception of a mother who becomes a cow (like Io), nor of a cow (as in the case of Heitsi Eibib among the Hottentots), who becomes the mother of human progeny. It is not unlikely that the Scotch mother, in Rashin Coatie, who bequeathes to her daughter a wonder-working calf (a cow in Sicily, Pitré, 41), is a modification of an idea like that of the cannibal Servian variant[83]. Then the Mouton of Madame d’Aulnoy seems like a courtly survival of the Celtic Sharp Grey Sheep mixed with the donnée of Beauty and the Beast[84]. The notion of helpful animals makes all the ‘Manitou’ element in Red Indian religion, and is common in Australia. The helpful calf, or sheep, bequeathed by the dying mother, reminds one of the equally helpful, but golden Ram, which aids Phrixus and Helle against their stepmother, after the death or deposition of their mother Nephele. This Ram also could speak,—

ἀλλἀ καὶ αὐδὴν

ἀνδρομέην προέηκε κακὸν τέρας [85].

This recalls not only the Celtic Sharp Grey Sheep, but also Madame d’Aulnoy and her princess, ‘je vous avoue que je ne suis pas accoutumée à vivre avec les moutons qui parlent.’

The older rural and popular forms of Cinderella, then, are full of machinery not only supernatural, but supernatural in a wild way: women become beasts, mothers are devoured by daughters (a thing that even Zulu fancy boggles at), life of beast or man is a separable thing, capable of continuing in lower forms. Thus we may conjecture that the ass’s skin worn by Peau d’Ane was originally the hide of a beast helpful to her, even connected, maybe, with her dead mother, and that the ass, like the cow, the calf, the sheep, and the doves of Märchen, befriended her, and clothed her in wondrous raiment.

For all these antique marvels Perrault, or the comparatively civilised tradition which Perrault followed, substituted, in Peau d’Ane, as in Cendrillon, the Christian conception of a Fairy Godmother. This substitute for more ancient and less speciosa miracula is confined to Perrault’s tales, and occurs nowhere in purely traditional Märchen. In these as in the widely diffused ballad of the Re-arisen Mother

‘Twas late in the night and the bairns grat, The Mother below the mouls heard that,—

the idea of a Mother’s love surviving her death inspires the legend, and, despite savage details, produces a touching effect (Ralston, Nineteenth Century, Nov. 1879, p. 839).

Another notable point in Cinderella is the preference shown, as usual, to the youngest child. Cinderella, to be sure, is a stepchild, and therefore interesting; but it is no great stretch of conjecture to infer that she may have originally been only the youngest child of the house. The nickname which connects her with the fireside and the ashes is also given, in one form or another, to the youngest son (Sir George Dasent, for some reason, calls him ‘Boots’) in Scandinavian tales. Cinderella, like the youngest son, is taunted with sitting in the ashes of the hearth. This notion declares itself in the names Cucendron, Aschenpüttel, Ventafochs, Pepelluga, Cernushka[86], all of them titles implying blackness, chiefly from contact with cinders. It has frequently been suggested that the success of the youngest child in fairy tales is a trace of the ideas which prevailed when Jüngsten-Recht, ‘Junior-Right’ or Borough English, was a prevalent custom of inheritance[87]. The invisible Bridegroom, of the Zulu Märchen, is in hiding under a snake’s skin, because he was the youngest, and his jealous brethren meant to kill him, for he would be the heir. It was therefore the purpose of his brethren to slay the young child in the traditional Zulu way, that is, to avoid the shedding of ‘kindred blood’ by putting a clod of earth in his mouth. Bishop Callaway gives the parallel Hawaian case of Waikelenuiaiku. The Polynesian case of Hatupati is also adduced. In Grimm’s Golden Bird the jealousy is provoked, not by the legal rights of the youngest, but by his skill and luck. The idea of fraternal jealousy, with the ‘nice opening for a young man,’ which it discovered (like Joseph’s brethren) in a pit, occurs in Peruvian myth as reported by Cieza de Leon (Chronicles of the Yncas, Second Part). The diffusion of Jüngsten-Recht, or Maineté, the inheritance by the youngest, has been found by Mr. Elton among Ugrians, in Hungary, in Slavonic communities, in Central Asia, on the confines of China, in the mountains of Arracan, in Friesland, in Germany, in Celtic countries. In Scandinavia Liebrecht adduces the Edda, ‘der jüngste Sohn Jarl’s der erste König ist.’ Albericus Trium Fontium mentions Prester John, ‘qui cum fratrum suorum minimus esset, omnibus praepositus est.’ In Hesiod we meet droit de juveignerie, as he makes Zeus the youngest of the Cronidae, while Homer, making Zeus the eldest, is all for primogeniture (Elton, Origins of English History, ch. viii. Liebrecht, Zur Volkskunde).

The authorities quoted raise a presumption that Jüngsten-Recht, an old and widely diffused law, might have left a trace on myth and Märchen. If Jüngsten-Recht were yielding place to primogeniture, if the elders were using their natural influence to secure advantages, then the youngest child, still heir by waning custom, would doubtless suffer a good deal of persecution. It may have been in this condition of affairs that the myths of the brilliant triumph of the rightful but despised heir, Cinderella, or Boots, were developed.

On the other hand, it is obvious that the necessities of fiction demand examples of failure in the adventures, to heighten the effect of the final success. Now the failures might have begun with the youngest, and the eldest might be the successful hero. But that would have reversed the natural law by which the eldest goes first out into danger. Moreover, the nursery audience of a conte de nourrice is not prejudiced in favour of the Big but of the Little Brother.

These simple facts of everyday life, rather than some ancient custom of inheritance, may be the cause of the favouritism always shown to the youngest son or daughter. (Compare Ralston, Russian Folk Tales, p. 81. The idea of jealousy of the youngest brother, mixed up with a miscellaneous assortment of motifs of folk tales, occurs in Katha-sarit-sagara, ch. xxxix.)

Against the notion that the successful youngest son or daughter of the contes is a descendant of the youngest child who is heir by droit de juveignerie, it has been urged that the hero, if the heir, would ‘not start from the dust-bin and the coal-hole.’ But if his heirship were slipping from him, as has been suggested, the ashes of the hearth are just what he would start from. The ‘coal-hole,’ of course, is a modern innovation. The hearth is the recognised legal position of the youngest child in Gavel-kind. ‘Et la mesuage seit autreci entre eux departi, mes le Astre demorra al puné (ou al punée)[88].’ In short, ‘the Hearth-place shall belong to the youngest,’ and as far as forty feet round it. After that the eldest has the first choice, and the others in succession according to age. The Custumal of Kent of the thirteenth century is the authority.

These rules of inheritance show, at least (and perhaps at most), a curious coincidence between the tales which describe the youngest child as always busy with the hearth, and the custom which bequeaths the hearth (astre) to the youngest child. To prove anything it would be desirable to show that this rule of Gavel-kind once prevailed in all the countries where the name of the heroine corresponds in meaning to Cendrillon.

The attention of mythologists has long been fixed on the slipper of Cinderella. There seems no great mystery in the Prince’s proposal to marry the woman who could wear the tiny mule. It corresponds to the advantages which, when the hero is a man, attend him who can bend the bow, lift the stone, draw the sword, or the like. In a woman’s case it is beauty, in a man’s strength, that is to be tested. Whether the slipper were of verre or of vair is a matter of no moment. The slipper is of red satin in Madame d’Aulnoy’s Finette Cendron, and of satin in Rashin Coatie. The Egyptian king, in Strabo and Ælian, merely concluded that the loser of the slipper must be a pretty woman, because she certainly had a pretty foot. The test of fitting the owner recurs in Peau d’Ane, where a ring, not a slipper, is the object, as in the Finnish Wonderful Birch tree.

M. de Gubernatis takes a different view of Cinderella’s slipper. The Dawn, it appears, in the Rig Veda is said to leave no footsteps behind her (apad). This naturally identifies her with Cinderella, who not only leaves footsteps, probably, but one of her slippers. M. de Gubernatis reasons that apad ‘may mean, not only she who has no feet, but also she who has no footsteps … or again, she who has no slippers, the aurora having, as it appears, lost them…. The legend of the lost slipper … seems to me to repose entirely upon the double meaning of the word apad, i.e. who has no foot, or what is the measure of the foot, which may be either the footstep or the slipper….’ (Zoolog. Myth. i. 31). M. de Gubernatis adds that ‘Cinderella, when she loses the slipper, is overtaken by the prince bridegroom.’ The point of the whole story lies in this, of course, that she is not overtaken. Had she been overtaken, there would have been no need for the trial with the slipper (op. cit. i. 161). M. de Gubernatis, in this passage, makes the overtaking of Cinderella serve his purpose as proof; on p. 31 he derives part of his proof from the statement (correct this time) that Cinderella is not overtaken, ‘because a chariot bears her away.’ Another argument is that the dusky Cinderella is only brilliantly clad ‘in the Prince’s ball-room, or in church, in candle-light, and near the Prince,—the aurora is beautiful only when the sun is near.’ Is the sun the candle-light, and is the Prince also the sun? If a lady is only belle à la chandelle, what has the Dawn to do with that?

M. André Lefèvre calls M. de Gubernatis’s theory quelque peu aventureuse (Les Contes de Charles Perrault, p. lxxiv), and this cannot be thought a severe criticism. If we supposed the story to have arisen out of an epithet of Dawn, in Sanskrit, the other incidents of the tale, and their combination into a fairly definite plot, and the wide diffusion of that plot among peoples whose ancestors assuredly never spoke Sanskrit, would all need explanation.

In Perrault’s Cinderella, we have not the adventure of the False or Substituted Bride, which usually swells out this and many other contes, and which, indeed, is apparently brought in by popular conteurs, whenever the tale is a little short. Thus it frequently winds up the story which Perrault gives so briefly as Les Fées. Among the Zulus[89], the Birds of the Thorn country warn the bridegroom that he has the wrong girl,—she is a beast (mbulu) in Zululand. The birds give the warning in Rashin Coatie[90], and birds take the same part in Swedish, Russian, German, but a dog plays the rôle in Breton (Reinhold Köhler, op. cit. p. 373). In a song of Fauriel’s Chansons Romaiques the birds warn the girl that she is riding with a corpse. Birds give the warning in Gaelic (Campbell, No. 14).

Perrault did more than suppress the formula of the False Bride. By an artistic use of his Fairy Godmother he gave Cinderella her excellent reason for leaving the ball, not because cupit ipsa videri, but in obedience to the fairy dame. He made Cinderella forgive her stepsisters, and get them good marriages, in place of punishing them, as even Psyche does so treacherously in Apuleius, and as the wild justice of folk tales usually determines their doom. An Italian Cinderella breaks her stepmother’s neck with the lid of a chest. But Cendrillon ‘douce et bonne au début reste jusqu’à la fin douce et bonne’ (Deulin, Contes de Ma Mère l’Oye, p. 286). These are examples of Perrault’s refined way of treating the old tales. But in his own country there survives a version of Cendrillon in which a Blue Bull, not a Fairy Godmother, helps the heroine. From the ear of the Bull, as from his horn in Kaffir lore, the heroine draws her supplies. She is Jaquette de Bois, and reminds us of Katie Wooden cloak. Her mother is dead, but the Bull is not said to have been the mother in bestial form. (Sébillot, Contes Pop. de la Haute Bretagne, Charpentier, Paris, 1880, p. 15). In these versions the formula of Cendrillon shifts into that of The Black Bull o’ Norroway.


The version presented here is the translation by A. E. Johnson, which many consider to come the closest to the nuances of Perrault, himself. This one comes from Old-Time Stories, published in 1921, but the first release with his translations was much earlier. The images are by illustrator, Gustave Doré, one of the most acclaimed illustrators of the time. I have left the spelling, which is English rather than American, as it was, as well as most of the punctuation, changing only single quotes for speech to double quotes.

Cendrillon, by Charles Perrault

Once upon a time there was a worthy man who married for his second wife the haughtiest, proudest woman that had ever been seen. She had two daughters, who possessed their mother’s temper and resembled her in everything. Her husband, on the other hand, had a young daughter, who was of an exceptionally sweet and gentle nature. She got this from her mother, who had been the nicest person in the world.

The wedding was no sooner over than the stepmother began to display her bad temper. She could not endure the excellent qualities of this young girl, for they made her own daughters appear more hateful than ever. She thrust upon her all the meanest tasks about the house. It was she who had to clean the plates and the stairs, and sweep out the rooms of the mistress of the house and her daughters. She slept on a wretched mattress in a garret at the top of the house, while the sisters had rooms with parquet flooring, and beds of the most fashionable style, with mirrors in which they could see themselves from top to toe.

The poor girl endured everything patiently, not daring to complain to her father. The latter would have scolded her, because he was entirely ruled by his wife. When she had finished her work she used to sit amongst the cinders in the corner of the chimney, and it was from this habit that she came to be commonly known as Cinder-slut. The younger of the two sisters, who was not quite so spiteful as the elder, called her Cinderella. But her wretched clothes did not prevent Cinderella from being a hundred times more beautiful than her sisters, for all their resplendent garments.

It happened that the king’s son gave a ball, and he invited all persons of high degree. The two young ladies were invited amongst others, for they cut a considerable figure in the country. Not a little pleased were they, and the question of what clothes and what mode of dressing the hair would become them best took up all their time. And all this meant fresh trouble for Cinderella, for it was she who went over her sisters’ linen and ironed their ruffles. They could talk of nothing else but the fashions in clothes.

“For my part,” said the elder, “I shall wear my dress of red velvet, with the Honiton lace.”

“I have only my everyday petticoat,” said the younger, “but to make up for it I shall wear my cloak with the golden flowers and my necklace of diamonds, which are not so bad.”

They sent for a good hairdresser to arrange their double-frilled caps, and bought patches at the best shop.
They summoned Cinderella and asked her advice, for she had good taste. Cinderella gave them the best possible suggestions, and even offered to dress their hair, to which they gladly agreed.

While she was thus occupied they said:
“Cinderella, would you not like to go to the ball?”

“Ah, but you fine young ladies are laughing at me. It would be no place for me.”
‘That is very true, people would laugh to see a cinder-slut in the ballroom.”

Any one else but Cinderella would have done their hair amiss, but she was good-natured, and she finished them off to perfection. They were so excited in their glee that for nearly two days they ate nothing. They broke more than a dozen laces through drawing their stays tight in order to make their waists more slender, and they were perpetually in front of a mirror.

At last the happy day arrived. Away they went, Cinderella watching them as long as she could keep them in sight. When she could no longer see them she began to cry. Her godmother found her in tears, and asked what was troubling her.
“I should like—I should like——”

She was crying so bitterly that she could not finish the sentence.

Said her godmother, who was a fairy:

“You would like to go to the ball, would you not?”

“Ah, yes,” said Cinderella, sighing.

“Well, well,” said her godmother, “promise to be a good girl and I will arrange for you to go.”

She took Cinderella into her room and said:

“Go into the garden and bring me a pumpkin.”

Cinderella went at once and gathered the finest that she could find. This she brought to her godmother, wondering how a pumpkin could help in taking her to the ball.

Her godmother scooped it out, and when only the rind was left, struck it with her wand. Instantly the pumpkin was changed into a beautiful coach, gilded all over.
Then she went and looked in the mouse-trap, where she found six mice all alive. She told Cinderella to lift the door of the mouse-trap a little, and as each mouse came out she gave it a tap with her wand, whereupon it was transformed into a fine horse. So that here was a fine team of six dappled mouse-grey horses.

But she was puzzled to know how to provide a coachman.

“I will go and see,” said Cinderella, “if there is not a rat in the rat-trap. We could make a coachman of him.”

“Quite right,” said her godmother, “go and see.”

Cinderella brought in the rat-trap, which contained three big rats. The fairy chose one specially on account of his elegant whiskers.

As soon as she had touched him he turned into a fat coachman with the finest moustachios that ever were seen.

“Now go into the garden and bring me the six lizards which you will find behind the water-butt.”

No sooner had they been brought than the godmother turned them into six lackeys, who at once climbed up behind the coach in their braided liveries, and hung on there as if they had never done anything else all their lives.

Then said the fairy godmother:

“Well, there you have the means of going to the ball. Are you satisfied?”

“Oh, yes, but am I to go like this in my ugly clothes?”

Her godmother merely touched her with her wand, and on the instant her clothes were changed into garments of gold and silver cloth, bedecked with jewels. After that her godmother gave her a pair of glass slippers, the prettiest in the world.

Thus altered, she entered the coach. Her godmother bade her not to stay beyond midnight whatever happened, warning her that if she remained at the ball a moment longer, her coach would again become a pumpkin, her horses mice, and her lackeys lizards, while her old clothes would reappear upon her once more.

She promised her godmother that she would not fail to leave the ball before midnight, and away she went, beside herself with delight.

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The king’s son, when he was told of the arrival of a great princess whom nobody knew, went forth to receive her. He handed her down from the coach, and led her into the hall where the company was assembled. At once there fell a great silence. The dancers stopped, the violins played no more, so rapt was the attention which everybody bestowed upon the superb beauty of the unknown guest. Everywhere could be heard in confused whispers:

“Oh, how beautiful she is!”

The king, old man as he was, could not take his eyes off her, and whispered to the queen that it was many a long day since he had seen any one so beautiful and charming.

All the ladies were eager to scrutinise her clothes and the dressing of her hair, being determined to copy them on the morrow, provided they could find materials so fine, and tailors so clever.

The king’s son placed her in the seat of honour, and at once begged the privilege of being her partner in a dance. Such was the grace with which she danced that the admiration of all was increased.

A magnificent supper was served, but the young prince could eat nothing, so taken up was he with watching her. She went and sat beside her sisters, and bestowed numberless attentions upon them. She made them share with her the oranges and lemons which the king had given her—greatly to their astonishment, for they did not recognise her.

While they were talking, Cinderella heard the clock strike a quarter to twelve. She at once made a profound curtsey to the company, and departed as quickly as she could.

As soon as she was home again she sought out her godmother, and having thanked her, declared that she wished to go upon the morrow once more to the ball, because the king’s son had invited her.

While she was busy telling her godmother all that had happened at the ball, her two sisters knocked at the door. Cinderella let them in.
“What a long time you have been in coming!” she declared, rubbing her eyes and stretching herself as if she had only just awakened. In real truth she had not for a moment wished to sleep since they had left.

“If you had been at the ball,” said one of the sisters, “you would not be feeling weary. There came a most beautiful princess, the most beautiful that has ever been seen, and she bestowed numberless attentions upon us, and gave us her oranges and lemons.”
Cinderella was overjoyed. She asked them the name of the princess, but they replied that no one knew it, and that the king’s son was so distressed that he would give anything in the world to know who she was.

Cinderella smiled, and said she must have been beautiful indeed.

“Oh, how lucky you are. Could I not manage to see her? Oh, please, Javotte, lend me the yellow dress which you wear every day.”
“Indeed!” said Javotte, “that is a fine idea. Lend my dress to a grubby cinder-slut like you—you must think me mad!”

Cinderella had expected this refusal. She was in no way upset, for she would have been very greatly embarrassed had her sister been willing to lend the dress.The next day the two sisters went to the ball, and so did Cinderella, even more splendidly attired than the first time.
The king’s son was always at her elbow, and paid her endless compliments.

The young girl enjoyed herself so much that she forgot her godmother’s bidding completely, and when the first stroke of midnight fell upon her ears, she thought it was no more than eleven o’clock.

She rose and fled as nimbly as a fawn. The prince followed her, but could not catch her. She let fall one of her glass slippers, however, and this the prince picked up with tender care.

When Cinderella reached home she was out of breath, without coach, without lackeys, and in her shabby clothes. Nothing remained of all her splendid clothes save one of the little slippers, the fellow to the one which she had let fall.

Inquiries were made of the palace doorkeepers as to whether they had seen a princess go out, but they declared they had seen no one leave except a young girl, very ill-clad, who looked more like a peasant than a young lady.

When her two sisters returned from the ball, Cinderella asked them if they had again enjoyed themselves, and if the beautiful lady had been there. They told her that she was present, but had fled away when midnight sounded, and in such haste that she had let fall one of her little glass slippers, the prettiest thing in the world. They added that the king’s son, who picked it up, had done nothing but gaze at it for the rest of the ball, from which it was plain that he was deeply in love with its beautiful owner.

They spoke the truth. A few days later, the king’s son caused a proclamation to be made by trumpeters, that he would take for wife the owner of the foot which the slipper would fit.

They tried it first on the princesses, then on the duchesses and the whole of the Court, but in vain. Presently they brought it to the home of the two sisters, who did all they could to squeeze a foot into the slipper. This, however, they could not manage.

Cinderella was looking on and recognised her slipper:

“Let me see,” she cried, laughingly, “if it will not fit me.”

Her sisters burst out laughing, and began to gibe at her, but the equerry who was trying on the slipper looked closely at Cinderella. Observing that she was very beautiful he declared that the claim was quite a fair one, and that his orders were to try the slipper on every maiden. He bade Cinderella sit down, and on putting the slipper to her little foot he perceived that the latter slid in without trouble, and was moulded to its shape like wax.
Great was the astonishment of the two sisters at this, and greater still when Cinderella drew from her pocket the other little slipper. This she likewise drew on.
At that very moment her godmother appeared on the scene. She gave a tap with her wand to Cinderella’s clothes, and transformed them into a dress even more magnificent than her previous ones.
The two sisters recognised her for the beautiful person whom they had seen at the ball, and threw themselves at her feet, begging her pardon for all the ill-treatment she had suffered at their hands.

Cinderella raised them, and declaring as she embraced them that she pardoned them with all her heart, bade them to love her well in future.
She was taken to the palace of the young prince in all her new array. He found her more beautiful than ever, and was married to her a few days afterwards.
Cinderella was as good as she was beautiful. She set aside apartments in the palace for her two sisters, and married them the very same day to two gentlemen of high rank about the Court.

Moral: Beauty in a woman is a rare treasure that will always be admired. Graciousness, however, is priceless and of even greater value. This is what Cinderella’s godmother gave to her when she taught her to behave like a queen. Young women, in the winning of a heart, graciousness is more important than a beautiful hairdo. It is a true gift of the fairies. Without it nothing is possible; with it, one can do anything.

Another moral: Without doubt it is a great advantage to have intelligence, courage, good breeding, and common sense. These, and similar talents come only from heaven, and it is good to have them. However, even these may fail to bring you success, without the blessing of a godfather or a godmother.


Cinderella Retold by C. S. Evans, Illustrated by Arthur Rackham, 1919

Once upon a time, there was a nobleman who was married to a sweet and beautiful lady. They had one child, a little girl named Ella, and they lived in a big house in the country. Ella had a wonderful big nursery room for all of her toys and books, and a glorious garden to romp about in.  When the weather was fine, she hunted beetles and worms and gathered flowers. When she wanted company, there was always her mother. The two of them lay in the grass, Ella watching the clouds go by as her mother told her stories.

Her life continued in this delightful way, until one day, her mother did not get out of bed. She had taken a fever, and lay shivering beneath the comforter. The doctors came, looking grim and leaving their bitter powders for her mother. And then, one morning when Ella came downstairs, she found her father sitting in the big arm-chair with his head buried in his hands. He did not say anything to her for a long time, and then he came over and put his hand upon her head and stroked her hair.

“We are all alone now, dear,” he said. And Ella knew, without any more telling, that her mother was dead. The day passed as though she were in a terrible dream, from which she could not wake up. And that night, a strange thing happened; for as Ella stood there, with the tears which she could not restrain rolling down her cheeks, she thought she saw the figure of an old woman among the bushes on the edge of the lawn. Through the dim light, Ella thought that she looked like she was dressed in a long black cloak and a queer, pointed hat, and to be leaning on a stick. Then the clouds shifted, and the sky darkened, and the woman could be seen no more. The death of Ella’s mother brought another unexpected change: her father announced that she would be sent to boarding school. Ella had always done her lessons at home and begged to continue this pattern, but her father was firm. Besides, he told her gently, it was her mother who had given her the lessons, and she was not there to do it anymore. And so Ella packed her trunk, and her father drove her to the train station, and she went to school. It was not so very bad as she had feared.

She spent two years there and learned to dance wonderfully, as well as to embroider, to speak French, and to act with the manners of a young lady. The time until her father returned for her seemed to fly by.  And there he was again, at the train station, and the two of them set out for home. But soon her father cleared his throat.  He told Ella now that “There has been a change while you have been away. Somebody has come to live with us while you have been away — somebody who will, I hope, take a mother’s place to you. A lady has — ahem— done me the honour to accept my hand.  That is to say, child, I am married again, and my wife has two daughters who will also live with us for the future. You must try to like them for my sake.”  He went on to say that the daughters were grown, and that they did not seem to be the type who enjoy playing games. He further admitted that, since they were prone to long sessions of bickering with their mother, he himself spent little time at home anymore.

When Ella got home, the first thing she did was run up to her room. And then she stopped in her tracks, because someone else had moved into it. She saw a queerly shaped, flat table, with a sort of well in it, and in the well were little pots of white powder and some soft stuff that looked like cream, and sticks of red paint. There was also a small porcelain box containing little patches cut out of black plaster, which Ella knew ladies stuck on their cheeks when they were going out visiting or to a ball. Besides these, there was a hare’s foot for dabbing powder on, and an assortment of brushes and combs.  As Ella soon found out, her room had been taken over by Miss Euphronia, her elder stepsister. The nursery where her toys and books had been, and where she had spent so many delightful hours with her mother, was now occupied by her younger stepsister, Miss Charlotte.

This was not the only change in the household.  Within a month, Ella had been assigned the lion’s share of the household chores and dear old Belinda, the cook, had been let go.  Ella’s father travelled most of the time.  When he was home, he stayed alone in his library.  Before she knew it, Euphronia and Charlotte had taken her mother’s clothes and sold hers! Ella was left in rags before a year was out.  One day, when Euphronia and Charlotte were sniping with each other, and in a particularly nasty mood, Euphronia turned to Ella.  She was busy sweeping the cinders out of the fireplace, her stepsister said to her, ” I have found a new name for you.  In future I shall call you Cinderslut because of your nasty habit of sitting among the cinders.  Come, Cinderslut, and hold this skein of wool for me.”

Now Charlotte, “who was never quite so unkind to her as the other, said, “No, no, sister, let us call her Cinder-Ella, that sounds much better.” And Cinderella it was from that time forward.

The years passed, and Cinderella was now sixteen years old. It happened one day that an invitation came from the King.  The Prince had reached the age of twenty-one, and there was to be a series of balls in his honor.  Euphronia and Charlotte were invited; so too should Ella have been.  Instead, she was put to work preparing her selfish sisters.  “I think I shall wear my red velvet gown with the English point lace trimmings,” said Euphronia. “That is so dignified and stately, and it suits me so admirably.”

Charlotte announced that she would wear “my purple petticoat and my green cloak that is brocaded in gold.  Purple, you know is the royal color, and it is therefore most appropriate for a royal ball.”

And so these young ladies attired themselves, and Cinderella dressed their hair.  At last, the night of the first ball was here, and Ella’s stepsisters and stepmother clambered into their carriage, and were off. Cinderella flopped down by the hearth, miserable and feeling left behind.  That’s when she heard a sound. “Who are you?’ asked Cinderella in a quavering voice.

“Don’t be afraid,” said the woman. “I have not come to do you any harm.  You have seen me before, once upon a time, when you were even more unhappy than you are tonight.  Look at me well, and see if you do not remember.”

The strange old woman stepped into the light.  She was very, very old; so old that her face was a maze of lines, like a wrinkled apple.  She was dressed in a very full red petticoat and a black-laced bodice, and on her head was a queerly shaped hat, with a high pointed crown and a wide rim. When she smiled, it was as though a ray of sunshine lit up the shadows of that gloomy place.  And Cinderella remembered seeing this ancient on the night her mother had died. Now the woman explained that she was Cinderella’s godmother, and that she knew “all that [Ella] has endured through the malice of [her] stepmother and stepsisters” and that she kept watch over the girl every night, as she slept in the garret.

Now Cinderella explained why she had been crying tonight, and her godmother, who was really a fairy, said, “Well, if you will be a good girl and do what I tell you, and don’t ask any questions, you shall go. Have you a pumpkin bed in the garden?”

Cinderella said that they did, so she went a picked a large one. Then she brought a knife, with which her godmother cut off the top of the pumpkin and scooped out the pulp until there was nothing left but the rind. This she took outside into the courtyard and touched it with her stick, when the pumpkin immediately changed into a most magnificent coach, all glass above and gilded panels below!

Next the old woman asked for “a mouse or two”, and when Cinderella found six of them in the trap, they were turned into a fine team.  Six lizards soon became footmen: Cinderella watched in fascination as their feet stretched forward, they stood upright on their skinny legs, and their tails stretched into gray woolen jackets.  But what about Ella’s rags?

“Bless my soul! I forgot all about the dress!’ cried the old woman.” In  a twinkling the rags became a dress of white silk, embroidered with butterflies and flowers of a delicate blue. On her feet were a pair of glass shoes, the prettiest that ever were seen.” One word of warning did the fairy give the girl: if she was not home by midnight, pumpkin, mice, rat, lizard, dress and shoes would all revert to their true states.

The promise was made, and Cinderella stepped into the coach and was transported to the palace. Arriving at the ball in her gilded carriage made quite a stir. All eyes were upon her, even those of the king. The great hall was lit by a thousand candles set in chandeliers of cut glass that shimmered and sparkled with all the hues of the rainbow. The prince asked her to dance immediately, and she accepted, of course. She spotted her stepmother and sisters, but they did not see her. Because she could see that her sisters had no one to dance with, though they had tried so hard to appear beautiful, Ella asked the prince if he couldn’t find them partners.  So he knew her as not only a lovely girl, but a kind one as well.

All too soon the clock began to strike. Cinderella rose immediately, and making a deep curtsy of farewell said a quick goodbye. She only just made it home before her sisters. Quickly, she thanked her godmother, and asked if she might go again the following night. The fairy gave her permission, and returned the following evening.

The second night of the ball, Cinderella found that the prince was anxiously awaiting her arrival. All the evening, he never left her side, and he whispered a thousand tender things to her as they sat beneath the palms on the terrace. Though he called her “the lady of my heart” and begged to know her name, she would not reveal it. Suddenly, the was horrified to hear the big clock on the tower strike the first note of twelve. This time she had not even time for a goodbye, she simply ran. She was racing across the palace lawn when she heard the final bell peal. It was midnight, and she was once more among her rags.

Again she slipped into the kitchen moments before her sisters. Oh, those two were full of gossip of the evening! How the prince had danced with the mysterious princess, and how that lady had fled, leaving a shoe behind. The prince was in love with her, claimed Euphronia, and soon would undertake a search to discover who she really was. The very next day, the prince directed that every lady should come to court and try on the slipper that the girl had left behind. First of all came the princesses, and then the duchesses, and the countesses, and so on, to the plain gentlewomen and finally, even the servants. But the slipper did not fit anyone.

Now the prince sent out a proclamation decreeing that every single female, of high born or low born status, must come and try on the shoe. Of course Euphronia and Charlotte were mad with the frenzy of it all. But when the elder stretched out her long and bony foot, it was clear that she could not insert it into the shoe. And Charlotte tried again and again, until it was evident that she could never succeed in getting the slipper on, even if she tried for years. So the servant asked their mother if there were not any other young ladies in the house? The young girl who opened the door? Who was she, and why had she not been given a chance?

“What, do you mean Cinderslut?” asked the elder girl, and “This is really infamous!” declared the younger.

But the servant insisted, and so Cinderella was brought. “Even in her ragged working dress she looked so lovely that the courtier opened his eyes and at the very first trial, the slipper glided on to Cinderella’s dainty foot with the greatest ease. Now Cinderella calmly took the other shoe from her pocket and put it on the other foot. These were the pair of them, gleaming and flashing so that her feet seemed shod with light.

And just as her two stepsisters began to mutter and complain of Cinderella’s deceitfulness, someone else was suddenly in the room. It was the fairy and she lifted her stick and touched the girl lightly on her shoulder. Cinderella’s rags dropped away, and she appeared dressed in the beautiful gown of white silk in which she had first gone to the ball. Now the fairy spoke, and her voice was very stern and hard. “Proud and cruel girls,” she said, “look upon the sister whom you have despised and have used so spitefully. She is the daughter of the house, but you robbed her of all the joy that should have been hers. Now she shall be the greatest lady in the land, and you shall creep to her for forgiveness.”

And that is just what the stepsisters did, weeping and crying for pardon; but Cinderella, whose kind heart felt pity for their discomfiture, raised them with a kiss. A week later, the prince married Cinderella with great pomp and ceremony. The rejoicings lasted a full week and all the town made holiday. And Cinderella and the prince lived very happily together for the rest of their lives.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

“The Emperor’s New Clothes” (Danish: Kejserens nye Klæder) is a short tale by Hans Christian Andersen about two weavers who promise an Emperor a new suit of clothes that is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that he doesn’t see any suit of clothes until a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!” The tale has been translated into over a hundred languages.

“The Emperor’s New Clothes” was first published with “The Little Mermaid” in Copenhagen by C. A. Reitzel on 7 April 1837 as the third and final installment of Andersen’s Fairy Tales Told for Children. The tale has been adapted to various media, including the musical stage and animated film.

Andersen’s tale is based on a story from the Libro de los ejemplos (or El Conde Lucanor, 1335), a medieval Spanish collection of fifty-one cautionary tales with various sources such as Aesop and other classical writers and Persian folktales, by Juan Manuel, Prince of Villena (1282–1348). Andersen did not know the Spanish original but read the tale in a German translation titled “So ist der Lauf der Welt”. In the source tale, a king is hoodwinked by weavers who claim to make a suit of clothes invisible to any man not the son of his presumed father; whereas Andersen altered the source tale to direct the focus on courtly pride and intellectual vanity rather than adulterous paternity.

Andersen’s manuscript was at the printer’s when he was suddenly inspired to change the original climax of the tale from the emperor’s subjects admiring his invisible clothes to that of the child’s cry. There are many theories about why he made this change. Most scholars agree that from his earliest years in Copenhagen, Andersen presented himself to the Danish bourgeoisie as the naïvely precocious child not usually admitted to the adult salon. “The Emperor’s New Clothes” became his expose of the hypocrisy and snobbery he found there when he finally gained admission.

Andersen’s decision to change the ending may have occurred after he read the manuscript tale to a child, or had its source in a childhood incident similar to that in the tale. He later recalled standing in a crowd with his mother waiting to see King Frederick VI. When the king made his appearance, Andersen cried out, “Oh, he’s nothing more than a human being!” His mother tried to silence him by crying, “Have you gone mad, child?”. Whatever the reason, Andersen thought the change would prove more satirical.

“The Emperor’s New Clothes” was first published with “The Little Mermaid” on 7 April 1837 by C.A. Reitzel in Copenhagen as the third and final installment of the first collection of Andersen’s Fairy Tales Told for Children. The first two booklets of the collection were published in May and December 1835 and met with little critical enthusiasm. Andersen waited a year before publishing the third installment of the collection.

Traditional Danish tales as well as German and French folktales were regarded as a form of exotica in nineteenth century Denmark and were read aloud to select gatherings by celebrated actors of the day. Andersen’s tales eventually became a part of the repertoire and readings of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” became a specialty of and a big hit for the popular Danish actor Ludvig Phister.

On 1 July 1844, the Hereditary Grand Duke Carl Alexander held a literary soiree at Ettersburg in honor of Andersen. Tired by speaking various foreign languages and on the verge of vomiting after days of feasting, the author managed to control his body and read aloud “The Princess and the Pea”, “Little Ida’s Flowers”, and “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.

The phrase “emperor’s new clothes” has become an idiom about logical fallacies. The story may be explained by pluralistic ignorance. The story is about a situation where “no one believes, but everyone believes that everyone else believes. Or alternatively, everyone is ignorant to whether the Emperor has clothes on or not, but believes that everyone else is not ignorant.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

 New Clothes" image 1 Vilhelm Pedersen, artist

Hans-Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes”
From “Eventyr,” 1850, Vilhelm Pedersen, Artist
From a gallery on Katrinahaney.com.

Many years ago there was an Emperor so exceedingly fond of new clothes that he spent all his money on being well dressed. He cared nothing about reviewing his soldiers, going to the theatre, or going for a ride in his carriage, except to show off his new clothes. He had a coat for every hour of the day, and instead of saying, as one might, about any other ruler, “The King’s in council,” here they always said. “The Emperor’s in his dressing room.”

In the great city where he lived, life was always gay. Every day many strangers came to town, and among them one day came two swindlers. They let it be known they were weavers, and they said they could weave the most magnificent fabrics imaginable. Not only were their colors and patterns uncommonly fine, but clothes made of this cloth had a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who was unusually stupid.

“Those would be just the clothes for me,” thought the Emperor. “If I wore them I would be able to discover which men in my empire are unfit for their posts. And I could tell the wise men from the fools. Yes, I certainly must get some of the stuff woven for me right away.” He paid the two swindlers a large sum of money to start work at once.

They set up two looms and pretended to weave, though there was nothing on the looms. All the finest silk and the purest old thread which they demanded went into their traveling bags, while they worked the empty looms far into the night.

“I’d like to know how those weavers are getting on with the cloth,” the Emperor thought, but he felt slightly uncomfortable when he remembered that those who were unfit for their position would not be able to see the fabric. It couldn’t have been that he doubted himself, yet he thought he’d rather send someone else to see how things were going. The whole town knew about the cloth’s peculiar power, and all were impatient to find out how stupid their neighbors were.

“I’ll send my honest old minister to the weavers,” the Emperor decided. “He’ll be the best one to tell me how the material looks, for he’s a sensible man and no one does his duty better.”

So the honest old minister went to the room where the two swindlers sat working away at their empty looms.

“Heaven help me,” he thought as his eyes flew wide open, “I can’t see anything at all”. But he did not say so.

Both the swindlers begged him to be so kind as to come near to approve the excellent pattern, the beautiful colors. They pointed to the empty looms, and the poor old minister stared as hard as he dared. He couldn’t see anything, because there was nothing to see. “Heaven have mercy,” he thought. “Can it be that I’m a fool? I’d have never guessed it, and not a soul must know. Am I unfit to be the minister? It would never do to let on that I can’t see the cloth.”

“Don’t hesitate to tell us what you think of it,” said one of the weavers.

“Oh, it’s beautiful -it’s enchanting.” The old minister peered through his spectacles. “Such a pattern, what colors!” I’ll be sure to tell the Emperor how delighted I am with it.”

“We’re pleased to hear that,” the swindlers said. They proceeded to name all the colors and to explain the intricate pattern. The old minister paid the closest attention, so that he could tell it all to the Emperor. And so he did.

The swindlers at once asked for more money, more silk and gold thread, to get on with the weaving. But it all went into their pockets. Not a thread went into the looms, though they worked at their weaving as hard as ever.

The Emperor presently sent another trustworthy official to see how the work progressed and how soon it would be ready. The same thing happened to him that had happened to the minister. He looked and he looked, but as there was nothing to see in the looms he couldn’t see anything.

“Isn’t it a beautiful piece of goods?” the swindlers asked him, as they displayed and described their imaginary pattern.

“I know I’m not stupid,” the man thought, “so it must be that I’m unworthy of my good office. That’s strange. I mustn’t let anyone find it out, though.” So he praised the material he did not see. He declared he was delighted with the beautiful colors and the exquisite pattern. To the Emperor he said, “It held me spellbound.”

All the town was talking of this splendid cloth, and the Emperor wanted to see it for himself while it was still in the looms. Attended by a band of chosen men, among whom were his two old trusted officials-the ones who had been to the weavers-he set out to see the two swindlers. He found them weaving with might and main, but without a thread in their looms.

“Magnificent,” said the two officials already duped. “Just look, Your Majesty, what colors! What a design!” They pointed to the empty looms, each supposing that the others could see the stuff.

“What’s this?” thought the Emperor. “I can’t see anything. This is terrible!

Am I a fool? Am I unfit to be the Emperor? What a thing to happen to me of all people! – Oh! It’s very pretty,” he said. “It has my highest approval.” And he nodded approbation at the empty loom. Nothing could make him say that he couldn’t see anything.

His whole retinue stared and stared. One saw no more than another, but they all joined the Emperor in exclaiming, “Oh! It’s very pretty,” and they advised him to wear clothes made of this wonderful cloth especially for the great procession he was soon to lead. “Magnificent! Excellent! Unsurpassed!” were bandied from mouth to mouth, and everyone did his best to seem well pleased. The Emperor gave each of the swindlers a cross to wear in his buttonhole, and the title of “Sir Weaver.”

Before the procession the swindlers sat up all night and burned more than six candles, to show how busy they were finishing the Emperor’s new clothes. They pretended to take the cloth off the loom. They made cuts in the air with huge scissors. And at last they said, “Now the Emperor’s new clothes are ready for him.”

Then the Emperor himself came with his noblest noblemen, and the swindlers each raised an arm as if they were holding something. They said, “These are the trousers, here’s the coat, and this is the mantle,” naming each garment. “All of them are as light as a spider web. One would almost think he had nothing on, but that’s what makes them so fine.”

“Exactly,” all the noblemen agreed, though they could see nothing, for there was nothing to see.

“If Your Imperial Majesty will condescend to take your clothes off,” said the swindlers, “we will help you on with your new ones here in front of the long mirror.”

Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes" image 2 Vilhelm Pedersen, artist

Hans-Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes”
From “Eventyr,” 1850, Vilhelm Pedersen, Artist
From a gallery on Katrinahaney.com.

The Emperor undressed, and the swindlers pretended to put his new clothes on him, one garment after another. They took him around the waist and seemed to be fastening something – that was his train-as the Emperor turned round and round before the looking glass.

“How well Your Majesty’s new clothes look. Aren’t they becoming!” He heard on all sides, “That pattern, so perfect! Those colors, so suitable! It is a magnificent outfit.”

Then the minister of public processions announced: “Your Majesty’s canopy is waiting outside.”

“Well, I’m supposed to be ready,” the Emperor said, and turned again for one last look in the mirror. “It is a remarkable fit, isn’t it?” He seemed to regard his costume with the greatest interest.

The noblemen who were to carry his train stooped low and reached for the floor as if they were picking up his mantle. Then they pretended to lift and hold it high. They didn’t dare admit they had nothing to hold.

So off went the Emperor in procession under his splendid canopy. Everyone in the streets and the windows said, “Oh, how fine are the Emperor’s new clothes! Don’t they fit him to perfection? And see his long train!” Nobody would confess that he couldn’t see anything, for that would prove him either unfit for his position, or a fool. No costume the Emperor had worn before was ever such a complete success.

“But he hasn’t got anything on,” a little child said.

“Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?” said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, “He hasn’t anything on. A child says he hasn’t anything on.”

“But he hasn’t got anything on!” the whole town cried out at last.

The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, “This procession has got to go on.” So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.


Cultural References

Various adaptations of the tale have appeared since its first publication, including a 1919 Russian film directed by Yuri Zhelyabuzhsky, a 1987 musical starring Sid Caesar, and numerous short stories, plays, spoofs, and animated films.

In 1972, Rankin/Bass Productions adapted the tale as the first and only musical episode of the series “The Enchanted World of Danny Kaye” for the ABC network, featuring Danny Kaye, Cyril Ritchard, Imogene Coca, Allen Swift and Bob McFadden. The television special features eight songs with music by Maury Laws and lyrics by Jules Bass, and combines live action filmed in Aarhus, Denmark, animation, special effects and the stop motion animation process “Animagic” made in Japan.

In 1980, computer scientist C.A.R. Hoare used a parody tale, The Emperor’s Old Clothes, to advocate simplification over embellishment, for clothing or computer sorting algorithms.

In 1985, Jack Herer published the first edition of “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”. This book uncovers the history of industrial hemp through civilization, culminating to a propaganda campaign in the U.S. in the early 20th century. The book is now in its 11th edition.

The 1987 Japanese war documentary film The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On, by director Kazuo Hara, centers on 62-year-old Kenzo Okuzaki, veteran of Japan’s Second World War campaign in New Guinea, and follows him around as he searches out those responsible for the unexplained deaths of two soldiers in his old unit.

In 2010, Chicago Shakespeare Theater commissioned a new family musical version written by Alan Schmuckler and Dave Holstein.

 Harry Clark’s Illustrations of The Emperor’s New Clothes

  • Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothers" image 1 from "Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen"- 1910, Harry Clark, Illustrator.

    Hans Christian Andersen's "The The Emperor's New Clothers Families"
    From "Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen," 1910
    Harry Clark, Illustrator
    From a gallery on Katrinahaney.com.

  • Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothers" image 2 from "Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen"- 1910, Harry Clark, Illustrator.

    Hans Christian Andersen's "The The Emperor's New Clothers Families"
    From "Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen," 1910
    Harry Clark, Illustrator
    From a gallery on Katrinahaney.com.

This Fairy Tales page was created by Katrina Haney, author, creative writer, ghost writer and all-around content writer. Illustrations by Walter Crane from the Fairy Tales and Other Stories, 1874. Please feel free to save, print or share this post with your friends or social communities. For more Fairy Tales posts , as well as other awesome information about books, words, writing and reading, please visit Katrina’s website at www.katrinahaney.com.

The Little Mermaid

Far out in the ocean the water is as blue as the petals of the loveliest cornflower, and as clear as the purest glass. But it is very deep too. It goes down deeper than any anchor rope will go, and many, many steeples would have to be stacked one on top of another to reach from the bottom to the surface of the sea. It is down there that the sea folk live.

Now don’t suppose that there are only bare white sands at the bottom of the sea. No indeed! The most marvelous trees and flowers grow down there, with such pliant stalks and leaves that the least stir in the water makes them move about as though they were alive. All sorts of fish, large and small, dart among the branches, just as birds flit through the trees up here. From the deepest spot in the ocean rises the palace of the sea king. Its walls are made of coral and its high pointed windows of the clearest amber, but the roof is made of mussel shells that open and shut with the tide. This is a wonderful sight to see, for every shell holds glistening pearls, any one of which would be the pride of a queen’s crown.

The sea king down there had been a widower for years, and his old mother kept house for him. She was a clever woman, but very proud of her noble birth. Therefore she flaunted twelve oysters on her tail while the other ladies of the court were only allowed to wear six. Except for this she was an altogether praiseworthy person, particularly so because she was extremely fond of her granddaughters, the little sea princesses. They were six lovely girls, but the youngest was the most beautiful of them all. Her skin was as soft and tender as a rose petal, and her eyes were as blue as the deep sea, but like all the others she had no feet. Her body ended in a fish tail.

The whole day long they used to play in the palace, down in the great halls where live flowers grew on the walls. Whenever the high amber windows were thrown open the fish would swim in, just as swallows dart into our rooms when we open the windows. But these fish, now, would swim right up to the little princesses to eat out of their hands and let themselves be petted.

Outside the palace was a big garden, with flaming red and deep-blue trees. Their fruit glittered like gold, and their blossoms flamed like fire on their constantly waving stalks. The soil was very fine sand indeed, but as blue as burning brimstone. A strange blue veil lay over everything down there. You would have thought yourself aloft in the air with only the blue sky above and beneath you, rather than down at the bottom of the sea. When there was a dead calm, you could just see the sun, like a scarlet flower with light streaming from its calyx.

Each little princess had her own small garden plot, where she could dig and plant whatever she liked. One of them made her little flower bed in the shape of a whale, another thought it neater to shape hers like a little mermaid, but the youngest of them made hers as round as the sun, and there she grew only flowers which were as red as the sun itself. She was an unusual child, quiet and wistful, and when her sisters decorated their gardens with all kinds of odd things they had found in sunken ships, she would allow nothing in hers except flowers as red as the sun, and a pretty marble statue. This figure of a handsome boy, carved in pure white marble, had sunk down to the bottom of the sea from some ship that was wrecked. Beside the statue she planted a rose-colored weeping willow tree, which thrived so well that its graceful branches shaded the statue and hung down to the blue sand, where their shadows took on a violet tint, and swayed as the branches swayed. It looked as if the roots and the tips of the branches were kissing each other in play.

Nothing gave the youngest princess such pleasure as to hear about the world of human beings up above them. Her old grandmother had to tell her all she knew about ships and cities, and of people and animals. What seemed nicest of all to her was that up on land the flowers were fragrant, for those at the bottom of the sea had no scent. And she thought it was nice that the woods were green, and that the fish you saw among their branches could sing so loud and sweet that it was delightful to hear them. Her grandmother had to call the little birds “fish,” or the princess would not have known what she was talking about, for she had never seen a bird.

“When you get to be fifteen,” her grandmother said, “you will be allowed to rise up out of the ocean and sit on the rocks in the moonlight, to watch the great ships sailing by. You will see woods and towns, too.”

Next year one of her sisters would be fifteen, but the others – well, since each was a whole year older than the next the youngest still had five long years to wait until she could rise up from the water and see what our world was like. But each sister promised to tell the others about all that she saw, and what she found most marvelous on her first day. Their grandmother had not told them half enough, and there were so many thing that they longed to know about.

The most eager of them all was the youngest, the very one who was so quiet and wistful. Many a night she stood by her open window and looked up through the dark blue water where the fish waved their fins and tails. She could just see the moon and stars. To be sure, their light was quite dim, but looked at through the water they seemed much bigger than they appear to us. Whenever a cloud-like shadow swept across them, she knew that it was either a whale swimming overhead, or a ship with many human beings aboard it. Little did they dream that a pretty young mermaid was down below, stretching her white arms up toward the keel of their ship.

The eldest princess had her fifteenth birthday, so now she received permission to rise up out of the water. When she got back she had a hundred things to tell her sisters about, but the most marvelous thing of all, she said, was to lie on a sand bar in the moonlight, when the sea was calm, and to gaze at the large city on the shore, where the lights twinkled like hundreds of stars; to listen to music; to hear the chatter and clamor of carriages and people; to see so many church towers and spires; and to hear the ringing bells. Because she could not enter the city, that was just what she most dearly longed to do.

Oh, how intently the youngest sister listened. After this, whenever she stood at her open window at night and looked up through the dark blue waters, she thought of that great city with all of its clatter and clamor, and even fancied that in these depths she could hear the church bells ring.

The next year, her second sister had permission to rise up to the surface and swim wherever she pleased. She came up just at sunset, and she said that this spectacle was the most marvelous sight she had ever seen. The heavens had a golden glow, and as for the clouds – she could not find words to describe their beauty. Splashed with red and tinted with violet, they sailed over her head. But much faster than the sailing clouds were wild swans in a flock. Like a long white veil trailing above the sea, they flew toward the setting sun. She too swam toward it, but down it went, and all the rose-colored glow faded from the sea and sky.

The following year, her third sister ascended, and as she was the boldest of them all she swam up a broad river that flowed into the ocean. She saw gloriously green, vine-colored hills. Palaces and manor houses could be glimpsed through the splendid woods. She heard all the birds sing, and the sun shone so brightly that often she had to dive under the water to cool her burning face. In a small cove she found a whole school of mortal children, paddling about in the water quite naked. She wanted to play with them, but they took fright and ran away. Then along came a little black animal – it was a dog, but she had never seen a dog before. It barked at her so ferociously that she took fright herself, and fled to the open sea. But never could she forget the splendid woods, the green hills, and the nice children who could swim in the water although they didn’t wear fish tails.

The fourth sister was not so venturesome. She stayed far out among the rough waves, which she said was a marvelous place. You could see all around you for miles and miles, and the heavens up above you were like a vast dome of glass. She had seen ships, but they were so far away that they looked like sea gulls. Playful dolphins had turned somersaults, and monstrous whales had spouted water through their nostrils so that it looked as if hundreds of fountains were playing all around them.

Now the fifth sister had her turn. Her birthday came in the wintertime, so she saw things that none of the others had seen. The sea was a deep green color, and enormous icebergs drifted about. Each one glistened like a pearl, she said, but they were more lofty than any church steeple built by man. They assumed the most fantastic shapes, and sparkled like diamonds. She had seated herself on the largest one, and all the ships that came sailing by sped away as soon as the frightened sailors saw her there with her long hair blowing in the wind.

In the late evening clouds filled the sky. Thunder cracked and lightning darted across the heavens. Black waves lifted those great bergs of ice on high, where they flashed when the lightning struck.

On all the ships the sails were reefed and there was fear and trembling. But quietly she sat there, upon her drifting iceberg, and watched the blue forked lightning strike the sea.

Each of the sisters took delight in the lovely new sights when she first rose up to the surface of the sea. But when they became grown-up girls, who were allowed to go wherever they liked, they became indifferent to it. They would become homesick, and in a month they said that there was no place like the bottom of the sea, where they felt so completely at home.

On many an evening the older sisters would rise to the surface, arm in arm, all five in a row. They had beautiful voices, more charming than those of any mortal beings. When a storm was brewing, and they anticipated a shipwreck, they would swim before the ship and sing most seductively of how beautiful it was at the bottom of the ocean, trying to overcome the prejudice that the sailors had against coming down to them. But people could not understand their song, and mistook it for the voice of the storm. Nor was it for them to see the glories of the deep. When their ship went down they were drowned, and it was as dead men that they reached the sea king’s palace.

On the evenings when the mermaids rose through the water like this, arm in arm, their youngest sister stayed behind all alone, looking after them and wanting to weep. But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more.

“Oh, how I do wish I were fifteen!” she said. “I know I shall love that world up there and all the people who live in it.”

And at last she too came to be fifteen.

“Now I’ll have you off my hands,” said her grandmother, the old queen dowager. “Come, let me adorn you like your sisters.” In the little maid’s hair she put a wreath of white lilies, each petal of which was formed from half of a pearl. And the old queen let eight big oysters fasten themselves to the princess’s tail, as a sign of her high rank.

“But that hurts!” said the little mermaid.

“You must put up with a good deal to keep up appearances,” her grandmother told her.

Oh, how gladly she would have shaken off all these decorations, and laid aside the cumbersome wreath! The red flowers in her garden were much more becoming to her, but she didn’t dare to make any changes. “Good-by,” she said, and up she went through the water, as light and as sparkling as a bubble.

The sun had just gone down when her head rose above the surface, but the clouds still shone like gold and roses, and in the delicately tinted sky sparkled the clear gleam of the evening star. The air was mild and fresh and the sea unruffled. A great three-master lay in view with only one of all its sails set, for there was not even the whisper of a breeze, and the sailors idled about in the rigging and on the yards. There was music and singing on the ship, and as night came on they lighted hundreds of such brightly colored lanterns that one might have thought the flags of all nations were swinging in the air.

The little mermaid swam right up to the window of the main cabin, and each time she rose with the swell she could peep in through the clear glass panes at the crowd of brilliantly dressed people within. The handsomest of them all was a young Prince with big dark eyes. He could not be more than sixteen years old. It was his birthday and that was the reason for all the celebration. Up on deck the sailors were dancing, and when the Prince appeared among them a hundred or more rockets flew through the air, making it as bright as day. These startled the little mermaid so badly that she ducked under the water. But she soon peeped up again, and then it seemed as if all the stars in the sky were falling around her. Never had she seen such fireworks. Great suns spun around, splendid fire-fish floated through the blue air, and all these things were mirrored in the crystal clear sea. It was so brilliantly bright that you could see every little rope of the ship, and the people could be seen distinctly. Oh, how handsome the young Prince was! He laughed, and he smiled and shook people by the hand, while the music rang out in the perfect evening.

It got very late, but the little mermaid could not take her eyes off the ship and the handsome Prince. The brightly colored lanterns were put out, no more rockets flew through the air, and no more cannon boomed. But there was a mutter and rumble deep down in the sea, and the swell kept bouncing her up so high that she could look into the cabin.

Now the ship began to sail. Canvas after canvas was spread in the wind, the waves rose high, great clouds gathered, and lightning flashed in the distance. Ah, they were in for a terrible storm, and the mariners made haste to reef the sails. The tall ship pitched and rolled as it sped through the angry sea. The waves rose up like towering black mountains, as if they would break over the masthead, but the swan-like ship plunged into the valleys between such waves, and emerged to ride their lofty heights. To the little mermaid this seemed good sport, but to the sailors it was nothing of the sort. The ship creaked and labored, thick timbers gave way under the heavy blows, waves broke over the ship, the mainmast snapped in two like a reed, the ship listed over on its side, and water burst into the hold.

Now the little mermaid saw that people were in peril, and that she herself must take care to avoid the beams and wreckage tossed about by the sea. One moment it would be black as pitch, and she couldn’t see a thing. Next moment the lightning would flash so brightly that she could distinguish every soul on board. Everyone was looking out for himself as best he could. She watched closely for the young Prince, and when the ship split in two she saw him sink down in the sea. At first she was overjoyed that he would be with her, but then she recalled that human people could not live under the water, and he could only visit her father’s palace as a dead man. No, he should not die! So she swam in among all the floating planks and beams, completely forgetting that they might crush her. She dived through the waves and rode their crests, until at length she reached the young Prince, who was no longer able to swim in that raging sea. His arms and legs were exhausted, his beautiful eyes were closing, and he would have died if the little mermaid had not come to help him. She held his head above water, and let the waves take them wherever the waves went.

At daybreak, when the storm was over, not a trace of the ship was in view. The sun rose out of the waters, red and bright, and its beams seemed to bring the glow of life back to the cheeks of the Prince, but his eyes remained closed. The mermaid kissed his high and shapely forehead. As she stroked his wet hair in place, it seemed to her that he looked like that marble statue in her little garden. She kissed him again and hoped that he would live.

She saw dry land rise before her in high blue mountains, topped with snow as glistening white as if a flock of swans were resting there. Down by the shore were splendid green woods, and in the foreground stood a church, or perhaps a convent; she didn’t know which, but anyway it was a building. Orange and lemon trees grew in its garden, and tall palm trees grew beside the gateway. Here the sea formed a little harbor, quite calm and very deep. Fine white sand had been washed up below the cliffs. She swam there with the handsome Prince, and stretched him out on the sand, taking special care to pillow his head up high in the warm sunlight.

The bells began to ring in the great white building, and a number of young girls came out into the garden. The little mermaid swam away behind some tall rocks that stuck out of the water. She covered her hair and her shoulders with foam so that no one could see her tiny face, and then she watched to see who would find the poor Prince.

In a little while one of the young girls came upon him. She seemed frightened, but only for a minute; then she called more people. The mermaid watched the Prince regain consciousness, and smile at everyone around him. But he did not smile at her, for he did not even know that she had saved him. She felt very unhappy, and when they led him away to the big building she dived sadly down into the water and returned to her father’s palace.

She had always been quiet and wistful, and now she became much more so. Her sisters asked her what she had seen on her first visit up to the surface, but she would not tell them a thing.

Many evenings and many mornings she revisited the spot where she had left the Prince. She saw the fruit in the garden ripened and harvested, and she saw the snow on the high mountain melted away, but she did not see the Prince, so each time she came home sadder than she had left. It was her one consolation to sit in her little garden and throw her arms about the beautiful marble statue that looked so much like the Prince. But she took no care of her flowers now. They overgrew the paths until the place was a wilderness, and their long stalks and leaves became so entangled in the branches of the tree that it cast a gloomy shade.

Finally she couldn’t bear it any longer. She told her secret to one of her sisters. Immediately all the other sisters heard about it. No one else knew, except a few more mermaids who told no one – except their most intimate friends. One of these friends knew who the Prince was. She too had seen the birthday celebration on the ship. She knew where he came from and where his kingdom was.

“Come, little sister!” said the other princesses. Arm in arm, they rose from the water in a long row, right in front of where they knew the Prince’s palace stood. It was built of pale, glistening, golden stone with great marble staircases, one of which led down to the sea. Magnificent gilt domes rose above the roof, and between the pillars all around the building were marble statues that looked most lifelike. Through the clear glass of the lofty windows one could see into the splendid halls, with their costly silk hangings and tapestries, and walls covered with paintings that were delightful to behold. In the center of the main hall a large fountain played its columns of spray up to the glass-domed roof, through which the sun shone down on the water and upon the lovely plants that grew in the big basin.

Now that she knew where he lived, many an evening and many a night she spent there in the sea. She swam much closer to shore than any of her sisters would dare venture, and she even went far up a narrow stream, under the splendid marble balcony that cast its long shadow in the water. Here she used to sit and watch the young Prince when he thought himself quite alone in the bright moonlight.

On many evenings she saw him sail out in his fine boat, with music playing and flags a-flutter. She would peep out through the green rushes, and if the wind blew her long silver veil, anyone who saw it mistook it for a swan spreading its wings.

On many nights she saw the fishermen come out to sea with their torches, and heard them tell about how kind the young Prince was. This made her proud to think that it was she who had saved his life when he was buffeted about, half dead among the waves. And she thought of how softly his head had rested on her breast, and how tenderly she had kissed him, though he knew nothing of all this nor could he even dream of it.

Increasingly she grew to like human beings, and more and more she longed to live among them. Their world seemed so much wider than her own, for they could skim over the sea in ships, and mount up into the lofty peaks high over the clouds, and their lands stretched out in woods and fields farther than the eye could see. There was so much she wanted to know. Her sisters could not answer all her questions, so she asked her old grandmother, who knew about the “upper world,” which was what she said was the right name for the countries above the sea.

“If men aren’t drowned,” the little mermaid asked, “do they live on forever? Don’t they die, as we do down here in the sea?”

“Yes,” the old lady said, “they too must die, and their lifetimes are even shorter than ours. We can live to be three hundred years old, but when we perish we turn into mere foam on the sea, and haven’t even a grave down here among our dear ones. We have no immortal soul, no life hereafter. We are like the green seaweed – once cut down, it never grows again. Human beings, on the contrary, have a soul which lives forever, long after their bodies have turned to clay. It rises through thin air, up to the shining stars. Just as we rise through the water to see the lands on earth, so men rise up to beautiful places unknown, which we shall never see.”

“Why weren’t we given an immortal soul?” the little mermaid sadly asked. “I would gladly give up my three hundred years if I could be a human being only for a day, and later share in that heavenly realm.”

“You must not think about that,” said the old lady. “We fare much more happily and are much better off than the folk up there.”

“Then I must also die and float as foam upon the sea, not hearing the music of the waves, and seeing neither the beautiful flowers nor the red sun! Can’t I do anything at all to win an immortal soul?”

“No,” her grandmother answered, “not unless a human being loved you so much that you meant more to him than his father and mother. If his every thought and his whole heart cleaved to you so that he would let a priest join his right hand to yours and would promise to be faithful here and throughout all eternity, then his soul would dwell in your body, and you would share in the happiness of mankind. He would give you a soul and yet keep his own. But that can never come to pass. The very thing that is your greatest beauty here in the sea – your fish tail – would be considered ugly on land. They have such poor taste that to be thought beautiful there you have to have two awkward props which they call legs.”

The little mermaid sighed and looked unhappily at her fish tail.

“Come, let us be gay!” the old lady said. “Let us leap and bound throughout the three hundred years that we have to live. Surely that is time and to spare, and afterwards we shall be glad enough to rest in our graves. – We are holding a court ball this evening.”

This was a much more glorious affair than is ever to be seen on earth. The walls and the ceiling of the great ballroom were made of massive but transparent glass. Many hundreds of huge rose-red and grass-green shells stood on each side in rows, with the blue flames that burned in each shell illuminating the whole room and shining through the walls so clearly that it was quite bright in the sea outside. You could see the countless fish, great and small, swimming toward the glass walls. On some of them the scales gleamed purplish-red, while others were silver and gold. Across the floor of the hall ran a wide stream of water, and upon this the mermaids and mermen danced to their own entrancing songs. Such beautiful voices are not to be heard among the people who live on land. The little mermaid sang more sweetly than anyone else, and everyone applauded her. For a moment her heart was happy, because she knew she had the loveliest voice of all, in the sea or on the land. But her thoughts soon strayed to the world up above. She could not forget the charming Prince, nor her sorrow that she did not have an immortal soul like his. Therefore she stole out of her father’s palace and, while everything there was song and gladness, she sat sadly in her own little garden.

Then she heard a bugle call through the water, and she thought, “That must mean he is sailing up there, he whom I love more than my father or mother, he of whom I am always thinking, and in whose hands I would so willingly trust my lifelong happiness. I dare do anything to win him and to gain an immortal soul. While my sisters are dancing here, in my father’s palace, I shall visit the sea witch of whom I have always been so afraid. Perhaps she will be able to advise me and help me.”

The little mermaid set out from her garden toward the whirlpools that raged in front of the witch’s dwelling. She had never gone that way before. No flowers grew there, nor any seaweed. Bare and gray, the sands extended to the whirlpools, where like roaring mill wheels the waters whirled and snatched everything within their reach down to the bottom of the sea. Between these tumultuous whirlpools she had to thread her way to reach the witch’s waters, and then for a long stretch the only trail lay through a hot seething mire, which the witch called her peat marsh. Beyond it her house lay in the middle of a weird forest, where all the trees and shrubs were polyps, half animal and half plant. They looked like hundred-headed snakes growing out of the soil. All their branches were long, slimy arms, with fingers like wriggling worms. They squirmed, joint by joint, from their roots to their outermost tentacles, and whatever they could lay hold of they twined around and never let go. The little mermaid was terrified, and stopped at the edge of the forest. Her heart thumped with fear and she nearly turned back, but then she remembered the Prince and the souls that men have, and she summoned her courage. She bound her long flowing locks closely about her head so that the polyps could not catch hold of them, folded her arms across her breast, and darted through the water like a fish, in among the slimy polyps that stretched out their writhing arms and fingers to seize her. She saw that every one of them held something that it had caught with its hundreds of little tentacles, and to which it clung as with strong hoops of steel. The white bones of men who had perished at sea and sunk to these depths could be seen in the polyps’ arms. Ships’ rudders, and seamen’s chests, and the skeletons of land animals had also fallen into their clutches, but the most ghastly sight of all was a little mermaid whom they had caught and strangled.

She reached a large muddy clearing in the forest, where big fat water snakes slithered about, showing their foul yellowish bellies. In the middle of this clearing was a house built of the bones of shipwrecked men, and there sat the sea witch, letting a toad eat out of her mouth just as we might feed sugar to a little canary bird. She called the ugly fat water snakes her little chickabiddies, and let them crawl and sprawl about on her spongy bosom.

“I know exactly what you want,” said the sea witch. “It is very foolish of you, but just the same you shall have your way, for it will bring you to grief, my proud princess. You want to get rid of your fish tail and have two props instead, so that you can walk about like a human creature, and have the young Prince fall in love with you, and win him and an immortal soul besides.” At this, the witch gave such a loud cackling laugh that the toad and the snakes were shaken to the ground, where they lay writhing.

“You are just in time,” said the witch. “After the sun comes up tomorrow, a whole year would have to go by before I could be of any help to you. J shall compound you a draught, and before sunrise you must swim to the shore with it, seat yourself on dry land, and drink the draught down. Then your tail will divide and shrink until it becomes what the people on earth call a pair of shapely legs. But it will hurt; it will feel as if a sharp sword slashed through you. Everyone who sees you will say that you are the most graceful human being they have ever laid eyes on, for you will keep your gliding movement and no dancer will be able to tread as lightly as you. But every step you take will feel as if you were treading upon knife blades so sharp that blood must flow. I am willing to help you, but are you willing to suffer all this?”

“Yes,” the little mermaid said in a trembling voice, as she thought of the Prince and of gaining a human soul.

“Remember!” said the witch. “Once you have taken a human form, you can never be a mermaid again. You can never come back through the waters to your sisters, or to your father’s palace. And if you do not win the love of the Prince so completely that for your sake he forgets his father and mother, cleaves to you with his every thought and his whole heart, and lets the priest join your hands in marriage, then you will win no immortal soul. If he marries someone else, your heart will break on the very next morning, and you will become foam of the sea.”

“I shall take that risk,” said the little mermaid, but she turned as pale as death.

“Also, you will have to pay me,” said the witch, “and it is no trifling price that I’m asking. You have the sweetest voice of anyone down here at the bottom of the sea, and while I don’t doubt that you would like to captivate the Prince with it, you must give this voice to me. I will take the very best thing that you have, in return for my sovereign draught. I must pour my own blood in it to make the drink as sharp as a two-edged sword.”

“But if you take my voice,” said the little mermaid, “what will be left to me?”

“Your lovely form,” the witch told her, “your gliding movements, and your eloquent eyes. With these you can easily enchant a human heart. Well, have you lost your courage? Stick out your little tongue and I shall cut it off. I’ll have my price, and you shall have the potent draught.”

“Go ahead,” said the little mermaid.

The witch hung her caldron over the flames, to brew the draught. “Cleanliness is a good thing,” she said, as she tied her snakes in a knot and scoured out the pot with them. Then she pricked herself in the chest and let her black blood splash into the caldron. Steam swirled up from it, in such ghastly shapes that anyone would have been terrified by them. The witch constantly threw new ingredients into the caldron, and it started to boil with a sound like that of a crocodile shedding tears. When the draught was ready at last, it looked as clear as the purest water.

“There’s your draught,” said the witch. And she cut off the tongue of the little mermaid, who now was dumb and could neither sing nor talk.

“If the polyps should pounce on you when you walk back through my wood,” the witch said, “just spill a drop of this brew upon them and their tentacles will break in a thousand pieces.” But there was no need of that, for the polyps curled up in terror as soon as they saw the bright draught. It glittered in the little mermaid’s hand as if it were a shining star. So she soon traversed the forest, the marsh, and the place of raging whirlpools.

She could see her father’s palace. The lights had been snuffed out in the great ballroom, and doubtless everyone in the palace was asleep, but she dared not go near them, now that she was stricken dumb and was leaving her home forever. Her heart felt as if it would break with grief. She tip-toed into the garden, took one flower from each of her sisters’ little plots, blew a thousand kisses toward the palace, and then mounted up through the dark blue sea.

The sun had not yet risen when she saw the Prince’s palace. As she climbed his splendid marble staircase, the moon was shining clear. The little mermaid swallowed the bitter, fiery draught, and it was as if a two-edged sword struck through her frail body. She swooned away, and lay there as if she were dead. When the sun rose over the sea she awoke and felt a flash of pain, but directly in front of her stood the handsome young Prince, gazing at her with his coal-black eyes. Lowering her gaze, she saw that her fish tail was gone, and that she had the loveliest pair of white legs any young maid could hope to have. But she was naked, so she clothed herself in her own long hair.

The Prince asked who she was, and how she came to be there. Her deep blue eyes looked at him tenderly but very sadly, for she could not speak. Then he took her hand and led her into his palace. Every footstep felt as if she were walking on the blades and points of sharp knives, just as the witch had foretold, but she gladly endured it. She moved as lightly as a bubble as she walked beside the Prince. He and all who saw her marveled at the grace of her gliding walk.

Once clad in the rich silk and muslin garments that were provided for her, she was the loveliest person in all the palace, though she was dumb and could neither sing nor speak. Beautiful slaves, attired in silk and cloth of gold, came to sing before the Prince and his royal parents. One of them sang more sweetly than all the others, and when the Prince smiled at her and clapped his hands, the little mermaid felt very unhappy, for she knew that she herself used to sing much more sweetly.

“Oh,” she thought, “if he only knew that I parted with my voice forever so that I could be near him.”

Graceful slaves now began to dance to the most wonderful music. Then the little mermaid lifted her shapely white arms, rose up on the tips of her toes, and skimmed over the floor. No one had ever danced so well. Each movement set off her beauty to better and better advantage, and her eyes spoke more directly to the heart than any of the singing slaves could do.

She charmed everyone, and especially the Prince, who called her his dear little foundling. She danced time and again, though every time she touched the floor she felt as if she were treading on sharp-edged steel. The Prince said he would keep her with him always, and that she was to have a velvet pillow to sleep on outside his door.

He had a page’s suit made for her, so that she could go with him on horseback. They would ride through the sweet scented woods, where the green boughs brushed her shoulders, and where the little birds sang among the fluttering leaves.

She climbed up high mountains with the Prince, and though her tender feet bled so that all could see it, she only laughed and followed him on until they could see the clouds driving far below, like a flock of birds in flight to distant lands.

At home in the Prince’s palace, while the others slept at night, she would go down the broad marble steps to cool her burning feet in the cold sea water, and then she would recall those who lived beneath the sea. One night her sisters came by, arm in arm, singing sadly as they breasted the waves. When she held out her hands toward them, they knew who she was, and told her how unhappy she had made them all. They came to see her every night after that, and once far, far out to sea, she saw her old grandmother, who had not been up to the surface this many a year. With her was the sea king, with his crown upon his head. They stretched out their hands to her, but they did not venture so near the land as her sisters had.

Day after day she became more dear to the Prince, who loved her as one would love a good little child, but he never thought of making her his Queen. Yet she had to be his wife or she would never have an immortal soul, and on the morning after his wedding she would turn into foam on the waves.

“Don’t you love me best of all?” the little mermaid’s eyes seemed to question him, when he took her in his arms and kissed her lovely forehead.

“Yes, you are most dear to me,” said the Prince, “for you have the kindest heart. You love me more than anyone else does, and you look so much like a young girl I once saw but never shall find again. I was on a ship that was wrecked, and the waves cast me ashore near a holy temple, where many young girls performed the rituals. The youngest of them found me beside the sea and saved my life. Though I saw her no more than twice, she is the only person in all the world whom I could love. But you are so much like her that you almost replace the memory of her in my heart. She belongs to that holy temple, therefore it is my good fortune that I have you. We shall never part.”

“Alas, he doesn’t know it was I who saved his life,” the little mermaid thought. “I carried him over the sea to the garden where the temple stands. I hid behind the foam and watched to see if anyone would come. I saw the pretty maid he loves better than me.” A sigh was the only sign of her deep distress, for a mermaid cannot cry. “He says that the other maid belongs to the holy temple. She will never come out into the world, so they will never see each other again. It is I who will care for him, love him, and give all my life to him.”

Now rumors arose that the Prince was to wed the beautiful daughter of a neighboring King, and that it was for this reason he was having such a superb ship made ready to sail. The rumor ran that the Prince’s real interest in visiting the neighboring kingdom was to see the King’s daughter, and that he was to travel with a lordly retinue. The little mermaid shook her head and smiled, for she knew the Prince’s thoughts far better than anyone else did.

“I am forced to make this journey,” he told her. “I must visit the beautiful Princess, for this is my parents’ wish, but they would not have me bring her home as my bride against my own will, and I can never love her. She does not resemble the lovely maiden in the temple, as you do, and if I were to choose a bride, I would sooner choose you, my dear mute foundling with those telling eyes of yours.” And he kissed her on the mouth, fingered her long hair, and laid his head against her heart so that she came to dream of mortal happiness and an immortal soul.

“I trust you aren’t afraid of the sea, my silent child ‘ he said, as they went on board the magnificent vessel that was to carry them to the land of the neighboring King. And he told her stories of storms, of ships becalmed, of strange deep-sea fish, and of the wonders that divers have seen. She smiled at such stories, for no one knew about the bottom of the sea as well as she did.

In the clear moonlight, when everyone except the man at the helm was asleep, she sat on the side of the ship gazing down through the transparent water, and fancied she could catch glimpses of her father’s palace. On the topmost tower stood her old grandmother, wearing her silver crown and looking up at the keel of the ship through the rushing waves. Then her sisters rose to the surface, looked at her sadly, and wrung their white hands. She smiled and waved, trying to let them know that all went well and that she was happy. But along came the cabin boy, and her sisters dived out of sight so quickly that the boy supposed the flash of white he had seen was merely foam on the sea.

Next morning the ship came in to the harbor of the neighboring King’s glorious city. All the church bells chimed, and trumpets were sounded from all the high towers, while the soldiers lined up with flying banners and glittering bayonets. Every day had a new festivity, as one ball or levee followed another, but the Princess was still to appear. They said she was being brought up in some far-away sacred temple, where she was learning every royal virtue. But she came at last.

The little mermaid was curious to see how beautiful this Princess was, and she had to grant that a more exquisite figure she had never seen. The Princess’s skin was clear and fair, and behind the long, dark lashes her deep blue eyes were smiling and devoted.

“It was you!” the Prince cried. “You are the one who saved me when I lay like a dead man beside the sea.” He clasped the blushing bride of his choice in his arms. “Oh, I am happier than a man should be!” he told his little mermaid. “My fondest dream – that which I never dared to hope – has come true. You will share in my great joy, for you love me more than anyone does.”

The little mermaid kissed his hand and felt that her heart was beginning to break. For the morning after his wedding day would see her dead and turned to watery foam.

All the church bells rang out, and heralds rode through the streets to announce the wedding. Upon every altar sweet-scented oils were burned in costly silver lamps. The priests swung their censers, the bride and the bridegroom joined their hands, and the bishop blessed their marriage. The little mermaid, clothed in silk and cloth of gold, held the bride’s train, but she was deaf to the wedding march and blind to the holy ritual. Her thought turned on her last night upon earth, and on all she had lost in this world.

That same evening, the bride and bridegroom went aboard the ship. Cannon thundered and banners waved. On the deck of the ship a royal pavilion of purple and gold was set up, and furnished with luxurious cushions. Here the wedded couple were to sleep on that calm, clear night. The sails swelled in the breeze, and the ship glided so lightly that it scarcely seemed to move over the quiet sea. All nightfall brightly colored lanterns were lighted, and the mariners merrily danced on the deck. The little mermaid could not forget that first time she rose from the depths of the sea and looked on at such pomp and happiness. Light as a swallow pursued by his enemies, she joined in the whirling dance. Everyone cheered her, for never had she danced so wonderfully. Her tender feet felt as if they were pierced by daggers, but she did not feel it. Her heart suffered far greater pain. She knew that this was the last evening that she ever would see him for whom she had forsaken her home and family, for whom she had sacrificed her lovely voice and suffered such constant torment, while he knew nothing of all these things. It was the last night that she would breathe the same air with him, or look upon deep waters or the star fields of the blue sky. A never-ending night, without thought and without dreams, awaited her who had no soul and could not get one. The merrymaking lasted long after midnight, yet she laughed and danced on despite the thought of death she carried in her heart. The Prince kissed his beautiful bride and she toyed with his coal-black hair. Hand in hand, they went to rest in the magnificent pavilion.

A hush came over the ship. Only the helmsman remained on deck as the little mermaid leaned her white arms on the bulwarks and looked to the east to see the first red hint of daybreak, for she knew that the first flash of the sun would strike her dead. Then she saw her sisters rise up among the waves. They were as pale as she, and there was no sign of their lovely long hair that the breezes used to blow. It had all been cut off.

‘We have given our hair to the witch,” they said, “so that she would send you help, and save you from death tonight. She gave us a knife. Here it is. See the sharp blade! Before the sun rises, you must strike it into the Prince’s heart, and when his warm blood bathes your feet they will grow together and become a fish tail. Then you will be a mermaid again, able to come back to us in the sea, and live out your three hundred years before you die and turn into dead salt sea foam. Make haste! He or you must die before sunrise. Our old grandmother is so grief-stricken that her white hair is falling fast, just as ours did under the witch’s scissors. Kill the Prince and come back to us. Hurry! Hurry! See that red glow in the heavens! In a few minutes the sun will rise and you must die.” So saying, they gave a strange deep sigh and sank beneath the waves.

The little mermaid parted the purple curtains of the tent and saw the beautiful bride asleep with her head on the Prince’s breast. The mermaid bent down and kissed his shapely forehead. She looked at the sky, fast reddening for the break of day. She looked at the sharp knife and again turned her eyes toward the Prince, who in his sleep murmured the name of his bride. His thoughts were all for her, and the knife blade trembled in the mermaid’s hand. But then she flung it from her, far out over the waves. Where it fell the waves were red, as if bubbles of blood seethed in the water. With eyes already glazing she looked once more at the Prince, hurled herself over the bulwarks into the sea, and felt her body dissolve in foam.

The sun rose up from the waters. Its beams fell, warm and kindly, upon the chill sea foam, and the little mermaid did not feel the hand of death. In the bright sunlight overhead,she saw hundreds of fair ethereal beings. They were so transparent that through them she could see the ship’s white sails and the red clouds in the sky. Their voices were sheer music, but so spirit-like that no human ear could detect the sound, just as no eye on earth could see their forms. Without wings, they floated as light as the air itself. The little mermaid discovered that she was shaped like them, and that she was gradually rising up out of the foam.

‘Who are you, toward whom I rise?” she asked, and her voice sounded like those above her, so spiritual that no music on earth could match it.

“We are the daughters of the air,” they answered. “A mermaid has no immortal soul, and can never get one unless she wins the love of a human being. Her eternal life must depend upon a power outside herself. The daughters of the air do not have an immortal soul either, but they can earn one by their good deeds. We fly to the south, where the hot poisonous air kills human beings unless we bring cool breezes. We carry the scent of flowers through the air, bringing freshness and healing balm wherever we go. When for three hundred years we have tried to do all the good that we can, we are given an immortal soul and a share in mankind’s eternal bliss. You, poor little mermaid, have tried with your whole heart to do this too. Your suffering and your loyalty have raised you up into the realm of airy spirits, and now in the course of three hundred years you may earn by your good deeds a soul that will never die.”

The little mermaid lifted her clear bright eyes toward God’s sun, and for the first time her eyes were wet with tears.

On board the ship all was astir and lively again. She saw the Prince and his fair bride in search of her. Then they gazed sadly into the seething foam, as if they knew she had hurled herself into the waves. Unseen by them, she kissed the bride’s forehead, smiled upon the Prince, and rose up with the other daughters of the air to the rose-red clouds that sailed on high.

“This is the way that we shall rise to the kingdom of God, after three hundred years have passed.”

“We may get there even sooner,” one spirit whispered. “Unseen, we fly into the homes of men, where there are children, and for every day on which we find a good child who pleases his parents and deserves their love, God shortens our days of trial. The child does not know when we float through his room, but when we smile at him in approval one year is taken from our three hundred. But if we see a naughty, mischievous child we must shed tears of sorrow, and each tear adds a day to the time of our trial.”

The Traveling Companion

Poor john was greatly troubled, because his father was very ill and could not recover. Except for these two, there was no one in their small room. The lamp on the table had almost burned out, for it was quite late at night.

You have been a good son, John,” his dying father said, “and the Lord will help you along in the world.” He looked at his son with earnest, gentle eyes, sighed deeply, and fell dead as if he were falling asleep.

John cried bitterly, for now he had no one in all the world, neither father nor mother, sister nor brother. Poor John! He knelt at the bedside, and kissed his dead father’s hand. He cried many salty tears, until at last his eyes closed, and he fell asleep with his head resting against the hard bed-stead.

Then he had a strange dream. He saw the sun and the moon bow down to him. He saw his father well again and strong, and heard him laughing as he always laughed when he was happy. A beautiful girl, with a crown of gold on her lovely long hair, stretched out her hand to John, and his father said, “See what a bride you have won. She is the loveliest girl in the world.” Then he awoke, and all these fine things were gone. His father lay cold and dead on the bed, and there was no one with them. Poor John!

The following week the dead man was buried. John walked close behind the coffin; he could no longer see his kind father, who had loved him so. He heard how they threw the earth down upon the coffin, and watched the last corner of it until a shovel of earth hid even that. He was so sad that he felt as if his heart were breaking in pieces. Then those around him sang a psalm which sounded so lovely that tears came to his eyes. He cried, and that did him good in his grief. The sun shone in its splendor down on the green trees, as if to say, “John, you must not be so unhappy. Look up and see how fair and blue the sky is. Your father is there, praying to the good Lord that things will always go well with you.”

“I’ll always be good,” John said. “Then I shall go to join my father in heaven. How happy we shall be to see each other again! How much I shall have to tell him, and how much he will have to show me and to teach me about the joys of heaven, just as he used to teach me here on earth. Oh, what joy that will be!”

He could see it all so clearly that he smiled, even though tears were rolling down his cheeks. The little birds up in the chestnut trees twittered, “Chirp, chirp! Chirp, chirp!” They were so happy and gay, for although they had attended a funeral they knew very well that the dead man had gone to heaven, where he now wore wings even larger and lovelier than theirs. They knew that he was happy now, because here on earth he had been a good man, and this made them glad.

John saw them fly from the green trees far out into the world, and he felt a great desire to follow them. But first he carved a large wooden cross to mark his father’s grave. When he took it there in the evening he found the grave neatly covered with sand and flowers. Strangers had done this, for they had loved the good man who now was dead.

Early the next morning, John packed his little bundle and tucked his whole inheritance into a money belt. All that he had was fifty dollars and a few pieces of silver, but with this he meant to set off into the world. But first he went to the churchyard, where he knelt and repeated the Lord’s Prayer over his father’s grave. Then he said, “Farewell, father dear! Ill always be good, so you may safely pray to our Lord that things will go well with me.”

The fields through which he passed were full of lovely flowers that flourished in the sunshine and nodded in the breeze, as if to say, “Welcome to the green pastures! Isn’t it nice here?” But John turned round for one more look at the old church where as a baby he had been baptised, and where he had gone with his father every Sunday to sing the hymns. High up, in one of the belfry windows, he saw the little church goblin with his pointed red cap, raising one arm to keep the sun out of his eyes. John nodded good-by to him, and the little goblin waved his red cap, put his hand on his heart, and kissed his finger tips to him again and again, to show that he wished John well and hoped that he would have a good journey.

As John thought of all the splendid things he would see in the fine big world ahead of him, he walked on and on – farther away than he had ever gone before. He did not even know the towns through which he passed, nor the people whom he met. He was far away among strangers.

The first night he slept under a haystack in the fields, for he had no other bed. But he thought it very comfortable, and the king himself could have no better. The whole field, the brook, the haystack, and the blue sky overhead, made a glorious bedroom. The green grass patterned with red and white flowers was his carpet. The elder bushes and hedges of wild roses were bouquets of flowers, and for his wash bowl he had the whole brook full of clear fresh water. The reeds nodded their heads to wish him both “Good night,” and “Good morning.” The moon was really a huge night lamp, high up in the blue ceiling where there was no danger of its setting fire to the bed curtains. John could sleep peacefully, and sleep he did, never once waking until the sun rose and all the little birds around him began singing, “Good morning! Good morning! Aren’t you up yet?”

The church bells rang, for it was Sunday. People went to hear the preacher, and John went with them. As he sang a hymn and listened to God’s Word, he felt just as if he were in the same old church where he had been baptised, and where he had sung the hymns with his father.

There were many, many graves in the churchyard, and some were overgrown with high grass. Then John thought of his own father’s grave and of how it too would come to look like these, now that he could no longer weed and tend it. So he knelt down to weed out the high grass. He straightened the wooden crosses that had fallen, and replaced the wreaths that the wind had blown from the graves. “Perhaps,” he thought, “someone will do the same for my fathers grave, now that I cannot take care of it.”

Outside the churchyard gate stood an old beggar, leaning on his crutch and John gave him the few pieces of silver that he had. Happy and high-spirited, John went farther on – out into the wide world. Toward nightfall the weather turned dreadfully stormy. John hurried along as – fast as he could to find shelter, but it soon grew dark. At last he came to a little church which stood very lonely upon a hill. Fortunately the door was ajar, and he slipped inside to stay until the storm abated.

“I’ll sit down here in the corner,” he said, “for I am very tired and need a little rest.” So he sat down, put his hands together, and said his evening prayer. Before he knew it he was fast asleep and dreaming, while it thundered and lightened outside.

When he woke up it was midnight. The storm had passed, and the moon shone upon him through the window. In the middle of the church stood an open coffin and in it lay a dead man, awaiting burial. John was not at all frightened. His conscience was clear, and he was sure that the dead do not harm anyone. It is the living who do harm, and two such harmful living men stood beside the dead one, who had been put here in the church until he could be buried. They had a vile scheme to keep him from resting quietly in his coffin. They intended to throw his body out of the church – the helpless dead man’s body.

Why do you want to do such a thing?” John asked. “It is a sin and a shame. In Heaven’s name, let the man rest.”

“Stuff and nonsense!” the two evil men exclaimed. “He cheated us. He owed us money which he could not pay, and now that he has cheated us by dying we shall not get a penny of it. So we intend to revenge ourselves. Like a dog he shall lie outside the church door.”

“I have only fifty dollars,” John cried. “It is my whole inheritance, but I’ll give it to you gladly if you will solemnly promise to let the poor dead man rest in peace. I can do without the money. I have my healthy, strong arms, and Heaven will always help me.”

“Why certainly,” the villainous fellows agreed. “If you are willing to pay his debt, we won’t lay a hand on him, you can count on that.”

They took the money he gave them and went away roaring with laughter at his simplicity. John laid the body straight again in its coffin, folded its hands, and took his leave. He went away through the great forest, very well pleased.

All around him, wherever moonlight fell between the trees, he saw little elves playing merrily. They weren’t disturbed when he came along because they knew he was a good and innocent fellow. It is only the wicked people who never are allowed to see the elves. Some of the elves were no taller than your finger, and their long yellow hair was done up with golden combs. Two by two, they seesawed on the big raindrops, which lay thick on the leaves and tall grass. Sometimes the drops rolled from under them, and then they tumbled down between the grass blades. The little manikins would laugh and made a great to-do about it, for it was a very funny sight. They sang, and John knew all their pretty little songs, which had been taught him when he was a small boy.

Big spotted spiders, wearing silver crowns, were kept busy spinning long bridges and palaces from one bush to another, and as the tiny dewdrops formed on these webs they sparkled like glass in the moonlight. All this went on until sunrise, when the little elves hid in the buds of flowers. Then the wind struck the bridges and palaces, which were swept away like cobwebs.

John had just come out of the forest, when behind him a man’s strong voice called out, “Ho there, comrade! Where are you bound?

“I’m bound for the wide world,” John told him. “I have neither father nor mother. I am a poor boy, but I am sure the Lord will look after me.”

“I am off to the wide world, too,” the stranger said. “Shall we keep each other company?”

“Yes indeed,” John replied. So they strode along together.

They got to like each other very much, for both of them were kindly. But John soon found that he was not nearly so wise as the stranger, who had seen most of the world, and knew how to tell about almost everything.

The sun was high in the heavens when they sat down under a big tree to eat their breakfast. Just then an old woman came hobbling along. Oh! she was so old that she bent almost double and walked with a crutch. On her back was a load of firewood she had gotten from the forest. Her apron was tied up and John could see these big bunches of fern fronds and willow switches sticking out. As she came near the two travelers, her foot slipped. She fell down, and screamed aloud, for the poor old woman had broken her leg.

John suggested that they carry the woman to her home right away, but the stranger opened up his knapsack and took out a little jar of salve, which he said would mend her leg completely and at once, so that she could walk straight home as well as if her leg had never been broken. But in return he asked for the three bunches of switches that she carried in her apron.

“That’s a very high price!” The old woman dubiously nodded her head. She did not want to give up the switches, but it was not very pleasant to lie there with a broken leg, so she let him have the three bunches. No sooner had he rubbed her with the salve than the old woman got to her feet and walked off much better than she had come – all this the salve could do. Obviously it was not the sort of thing you can buy from the apothecary.

“What on earth do you want with those bunches of switches?” John asked his companion.

“Oh, they are three nice bundles of herbs,” he said. “They just happened to strike my fancy, because I’m an odd sort of fellow.”

When they had gone on for quite a distance, John remarked, “See how dark the sky has grown. Those are dreadfully dense clouds.”

“No,” his comrade said, “those are not clouds. They are mountains – splendid high mountains, where you can get clear above the clouds into perfectly fresh air. It is glorious, believe me. Tomorrow we shall certainly be far up in the world.”

But they were not so near as they seemed to be. It took a whole day to reach the mountains, where the dark forests rose right up to the skies, and where the boulders were almost as large as a whole town. To climb over all of them would be heavy going indeed, so John and his companion went to an inn to rest and strengthen themselves for tomorrow’s journey.

Down in the big tap-room at the inn were many people, because a showman was there with a puppet-show. He had just set up his little theatre, and the people sat there waiting to see the play. Down in front, a burly old butcher had taken a seat, the very best one too, and his big bulldog – how vicious it looked – sat beside him, with his eyes popping as wide as everyone else’s.

Then the play started. It was a very pleasant play, all about a king and a queen who sat on a velvet throne. They wore gold crowns on their heads and long trains to their costumes, all of which they could very well afford. The prettiest little wooden dolls, with glass eyes and big mustaches, stood by to open and shut all the doors so that fresh air might come into the room. It was a very pleasant play, it wasn’t sad at all. But just as the queen rose and swept across the stage – heaven only knows what possessed the big bulldog to do it – as the fat butcher was not holding him, the dog made a jump right on to the stage, snatched up the queen by her slender waist, and crunched her until she cracked in pieces. It was quite tragic!

The poor showman was badly frightened, and quite upset about the queen; for she was his prettiest little puppet, and the ugly bulldog had bitten off her head. But after a while, when the audience had gone, the stranger who had come with John said that he could soon mend her. He produced his little jar, and rubbed the puppet with some of the ointment that had cured the poor old woman who had broken her leg. The moment the salve was applied to the puppet, she was as good as new – nay, better. She could even move by herself, and there was no longer any need to pull her strings. Except hat she could not speak, the puppet was just like a live woman. The showman was delighted that he didn’t have to pull strings for this puppet, who could dance by herself. None of the others could do that.

In the night, after everyone in the inn had gone to bed, someone was heard sighing so terribly, and the sighs went on for so long, that everybody got up to see who it could be. The showman went straight to his little theatre, because the sighs seemed to come from there. All the wooden puppets were in a heap, with the king and his attendants mixed all together, and it was they who sighed so profoundly. They looked so pleading with their big glass eyes, and all of them wanted to be rubbed a little, just as the queen had been, so that they too would be able to move by themselves. The queen went down on her knees and held out her lovely golden crown as if to say: “Take even this from me, if you will only rub my king and his courtiers.”

The poor showman felt so sorry for them that he could not keep back his tears. Immediately he promised the traveling companion to give him all the money he would take in at the next performance, if only he would anoint four or five of the nicest puppets. But the traveling companion said he would not take any payment, except the big sword that hung at the showman’s side. On receiving it he anointed six of the puppets, who began to dance so well that all the girls, the real live girls who were watching, began to dance too. The coachman danced with the cook, and the waiter with the chambermaid. All the guests joined the dance, and the shovel and tongs did too, but these fell down as soon as they took their first step. It was a lively night indeed!

Next morning, John and his companion set off up the lofty mountainside and through the vast pine forests. They climbed so high that at last the church towers down below looked like little red berries among all that greenery. They could see in the distance, many and many a mile away, places where neither of them had ever been. Never before had John seen so many of the glories of this lovely world at once. The sun shone bright in the clear blue air, and along the mountainside he could also hear the hunters sounding their horns. It was all so fair and sweet that tears came into his eyes, and he could not help crying out, “Almighty God, I could kiss your footsteps in thankfulness for all the splendors that you have given us in this world.”

His traveling companion also folded his hands and looked out over the woods and towns that lay before them in the warm sunlight. Just then they heard a wonderful sound overhead. They looked up, and saw a large white swan sweeping above them and singing as they had never before heard any bird sing. But the song became fainter and fainter, until the bird bowed his head and dropped slowly down dead at their feet – the lovely bird!

“Two such glorious wings!” said the traveling companion. “Wings so large and white as these are worth a good deal of money. I’ll take them with me. You can see now what a good thing it was that I got a sword.” With one stroke he cut off both wings of the dead swan, for he wanted to keep them.

They journeyed many and many a mile over the mountains, until at last they saw a great town rise before them, with more than a hundred towers that shone like silver in the sun. In the midst of the town there was a magnificent marble palace, with a roof of red gold. That was where the King lived.

John and his companion did not want to enter the town at once. They stopped at a wayside inn outside the town to put on fresh clothes, for they wanted to look presentable when they walked through the streets. The innkeeper told them what the King was a good man who never harmed anyone. But as for his daughter – Heaven help us – she was a bad Princess.

She was pretty enough. No one could be more lovely or more entertaining than she – but what good did that do? She was a wicked witch, who was responsible for many handsome Princes’ losing their lives. She had decreed that any man might come to woo her. Anybody might come, whether he were Prince or beggar, it made no difference to her, but he must guess the answer to three questions that she asked him. If he knew the answers, she would marry him and he would be King over all the land when her father died. But if he could not guess the right answers, she either had him hanged or had his head chopped off. That was how bad and wicked the beautiful Princess was.

The old King, her father, was terribly distressed about it, but he could not keep her from being so wicked, because he had once told her that he would never concern himself with her suitors – she could do as she liked with them. Whenever a Prince had come to win the Princess’s hand by making three guesses, he had failed. Then he was either hanged or beheaded, for each suitor was warned beforehand, when he was still free to abandon his courtship. The old King was so distressed by all this trouble and grief that for one entire day every year he and all his soldiers went down on their knees to pray that the Princess might reform; but she never would. As a sign of mourning, old women who drank schnapps would dye it black before they quaffed it – so deeply – did they mourn – and more than that they couldn’t do.

“That abominable Princess,” John said, “ought to be flogged. It would be just the thing for her, and if I were the old King I’d have her whipped till her blood ran.”

“Hurrah!” they heard people shout outside the inn. The Princess was passing by, and she was so very beautiful that everyone who saw her forgot how wicked she was, and everyone shouted “Hurrah.” Twelve lovely maidens, all dressed in white silk and carrying golden tulips, rode beside her on twelve coal-black horses. The Princess herself rode a snow-white horse, decorated with diamonds and rubies. Her riding costume was of pure gold, and the whip that she carried looked like a ray of sunlight. The gold crown on her head twinkled like the stars of heaven, and her cloak was made from thousands of bright butterfly wings. But she herself it; was far lovelier than all these things.

When John first set eyes on her, his face turned red – as red as blood – and he could hardly speak a single word. The Princess was the living image of the lovely girl with the golden crown, of whom he had dreamed on the night when his father died. He found the Princess so fair that he could not help falling in love with her.

“Surely,” he thought, “it can’t be true that she is a wicked witch who has people hanged or beheaded when they can’t guess what she asks them. Anyone at all may ask for her hand, even though he is the poorest beggar, so I really will go to the palace, for I cannot help doing it!

Everyone told him he ought not to try it, lest he meet with the same fate that had befallen the others. His traveling companion also tried to persuade him not to go, but John felt sure he would succeed. He brushed his shoes and his coat, washed his face and his hands, and combed his handsome blond hair. Then, all alone, he went through the town to the palace.

“Come in,” the old King said when John came knocking at his door. As John opened it the old King advanced to meet him, wearing a dressing gown and a pair of embroidered slippers. He had his crown on his head, his sceptre in one hand, and his orb in the other. “Just a minute,” he said, tucking the orb under his arm so that he could offer a hand to John. But the moment he heard that John had come as a suitor, he fell to sobbing so hard that both the orb and sceptre dropped to the floor, and he had to use his dressing gown to wipe his eyes. The poor old King!

“Don’t try it!” he said. “You will fare badly like all the others. Come, let me show them to you.”

Then he led John into the Princess’s pleasure garden, where he saw a fearful thing. From every tree hung three or four Kings’ sons who had been suitors of the Princess but had not been able to answer the questions she put to them. The skeletons rattled so in every breeze that they terrified the little birds, who never dared come to the garden. All the flowers were tied to human bones, and human skulls grinned up from every flower pot. What a charming garden for a Princess!

“There!” said the old King, “you see. It will happen to you as it happened to all these you see here. Please don’t try it. You would make me awfully unhappy, for I take these things deeply to heart.

John kissed the good old King’s hand, and said he was sure everything would go well; for he was infatuated with the Princess’s beauty. Just then the Princess and all of her ladies rode into the palace yard, so they went over to wish her good morning. She was lovely to look at, and when she held out her hand to John he fell in love more deeply than ever. How could she be such a wicked witch as all the people called her?

The whole party went to the palace hall, where little pages served them jam and gingerbread. But the old King was so miserable that he couldn’t eat anything at all. Besides, the gingerbread was too hard for his teeth.

It was arranged that John was to visit the palace again the following morning, when the judges and the full council would be assembled to hear how he made out with his answer. If he made out well he would have to come back two more times, but as yet no one had ever answered the first question, so they had forfeited their lives in the first attempt.

However, John was not at all afraid of his trial. Far from it! he was jubilant, and thought only of how lovely the Princess was. He felt sure that help would come to him, though he didn’t know how it would come, and he preferred not to think about it. He fairly danced along the road when he returned to the inn, where his comrade awaited him. John could not stop telling him how nicely the Princess had treated him, and how lovely she was. He said that he could hardly wait for tomorrow to come, when he would go to the palace and try his luck in guessing. But his comrade shook his head, and was very sad.

“I am so fond of you,” he said, “and we might have been comrades together for a long while to come, but now I am apt to lose you soon, poor, dear John! I feel like crying, but I won’t spoil your happiness this evening, which is perhaps the last one we shall ever spend together. We shall be as merry as merry can be, and tomorrow, when you are gone, I’ll have time enough for my tears.”

Everyone in the town had heard at once that the Princess had a new suitor, and therefore everyone grieved. The theatre was closed; the women who sold cakes tied crape around their sugar pigs; the King and the preachers knelt in the churches; and there was widespread lamentation. For they were all sure that John’s fate would be no better than that of all those others.

Late that evening, the traveling companion made a large bowl of punch, and said to John, “Now we must be merry and drink to the health of the Princess.” But when John had drunk two glasses of the punch he felt so sleepy that he couldn’t hold his eyes open, and he fell sound asleep. His comrade quietly lifted him from the chair and put him to bed. As soon as it was entirely dark he took the two large wings he had cut off the swan, and fastened them to his own shoulders. Then he put into his pocket the biggest bunch of switches that had been given him by the old woman who had: fallen and broken her leg. He opened the window and flew straight over the house tops to the palace, where he sat down in a corner under the window which looked into the Princess’s bedroom.

All was quiet in the town until the clock struck a quarter to twelve. Then the window opened and the Princess flew out of it, cloaked in white and wearing long black wings. She soared over the town to a high mountain, but the traveling companion had made himself invisible, so that she could not see him as he flew after her and lashed her so hard with his switch that he drew blood wherever he struck. Ah, how she fled through the air! The wind caught her cloak, which billowed out from her like a sail, and the moonlight shone through it.

“How it hails! how it hails!” the Princess cried at each blow, but it was no more than she deserved.

At last she came to the mountain and knocked on it. With a thunderous rumbling, the mountainside opened and the Princess went in. No one saw the traveling companion go in after her, for he had made himself completely invisible. They went down a big, long passage where the walls were lighted in a peculiar fashion. Thousands of glittering spiders ran along he walls and gave off a fiery glow. Then they entered a vast hall, built of silver and gold. Red and blue blossoms the size of sunflowers covered the walls, but no one could pick them, for the stems were ugly poisonous snakes, and the flowers were flames darting out between their fangs. The ceiling was alive with glittering glow-worms, and sky-blue bats that zapped their transparent wings. The place looked really terrible! A throne in the center of the floor was held up by four horse skeletons in a harness of fiery red spiders. The throne itself was of milk-colored glass, and its cushions consisted of little black mice biting each other’s tails. The canopy above it was made of rose-red spider webs, speckled with charming little green flies that sparkled like emeralds.

On the throne sat an old sorcerer, with a crown on his hideous head and a sceptre in his hand. He kissed the Princess on her forehead, and made her sit with him on the costly throne as the music struck up. Big black grasshoppers played upon mouth-harps, and the owl beat upon his own stomach, because he had no drum. It was a most fantastic concert! Many tiny goblins, with will-o’-the-wisps stuck in their little caps, capered around the hall. Nobody could see the traveling companion, who had placed himself behind the throne, where he could see and hear everything. The courtiers who now appeared seemed imposing and stately enough, but any-one with an observing eye could soon see what it all meant. They were mere cabbage heads stuck upon broomsticks, which the sorcerer had dressed in embroidered clothes and conjured into liveliness. But that didn’t matter, for they were only needed to keep up appearances.

After the dance had gone on for a while, the Princess told the sorcerer that she had a new suitor, and she asked what question she should put to him when he came to the palace tomorrow.

“Listen to me,” said the sorcerer, “I’ll tell you what; you must think of something commonplace and then he will never guess what it is. Think of one of your shoes. He won’t guess that. Then off with his head, and when you come tomorrow night remember to fetch me his eyes, so that I may eat them.”

The Princess made a low curtsey, and promised not to forget about the eyes. The sorcerer opened the mountain for her, and she flew homeward. But the traveling companion flew behind her and thrashed her so hard with his switch that she bitterly complained of the fearful hailstorm, and made all the haste she could to get back through the open window of her bedroom. The traveling companion flew back to the inn, where John was still asleep. Taking off the wings he tumbled into bed, for he had good reason to feel tired.

It was very early the next morning when John awoke. When his comrade arose he told John of a very strange dream he had had about the Princess and one of her shoes. He begged him to ask the Princess if she didn’t have one of her shoes in mind. This, of course, was what he had overheard the sorcerer say in the mountain, but he didn’t tell John about that. He merely told him to be sure to guess that the Princess had her shoe in mind.

“I may as well ask about that as anything else,” John agreed. “Maybe your dream was true, for I have always thought that God would look after me. However, I’ll be saying good-by, because if I guess wrong I shall never see you again.”

They embraced, and John went straight through the town and up to the palace. The whole hall was packed with people. The judges sat in their armchairs, with eiderdown pillows behind their heads because they had so much to think about, and the old King stood there wiping his eyes with a white handkerchief. Then the Princess entered. She was even lovelier than she was the day before, and she bowed to everyone in the most agreeable fashion. To John she held out her hand and wished him, “Good morning to you.”

John was required to guess what she had in mind. She looked at him most charmingly until she heard him say the one word “shoe.” Her face turned chalk-white and she trembled from head to foot. But there was nothing she could do about it. His guess was right.

Merciful Heavens! How glad the old King was. He turned heels over head for joy, and everyone applauded both his performance and that of John, who had guessed rightly the first time.

The traveling companion beamed with delight when he heard how well things had gone. But John clasped his hands together and thanked God, who he was sure would help him through the two remaining trials. The following day he was to guess again.

That evening went by just like the previous one. As soon as John was asleep, his comrade flew behind the Princess to the mountain and thrashed her even harder than before, for this time he had taken two scourges of switches. No one saw him, but he heard all that was said. The Princess was to think of her glove, and he told this to John as if he had dreamed it.

Naturally, John had no trouble in guessing correctly, and there was unbounded rejoicing in the palace. The whole court turned heels over head as they had seen the King do on the first occasion. But the Princess lay on her sofa, without a word to say. Now everything depended on John’s answer to the third question. If it was right, he would get the lovely Princess and inherit the whole kingdom after the old King died. But if he guessed wrong, he would forfeit his life, and the wizard would eat his beautiful blue eyes.

That evening John said his prayers, went to bed early, and fell serenely asleep. But his comrade tied the wings to his back, buckled the sword to his side, took all three scourges of switches, and flew off to the palace.

The night was pitch black. A gale blew so hard that it swept tiles from the roofs. In the garden where the skeletons dangled, the trees bent before the blast like reeds. Lightning flashed every moment, and thunder kept up one unbroken roar the whole night through. The window was flung open, and out flew the Princess. She was deathly pale, but she laughed at the weather and thought it was not bad enough. Her white cloak lashed about in the wind like the sail of a ship, and the traveling companion thrashed her with his three switches until blood dripped to the ground. She could scarcely fly any farther, but at last she came to the mountain.

“How it hails and blows!” she said. “I have never been out in such weather.”

“One may get too much of a good thing,” the sorcerer agreed.

Now she told him how John had guessed right a second time, and if he succeeded again tomorrow, then he won, and never again could she come out to him in the mountains. Never again could she perform such tricks of magic as before, and therefore she felt very badly about it.

“He won’t guess it this time,” said the sorcerer. “I shall hit upon something that he will never guess unless he’s a greater magician than I am. But first let’s have our fun.

He took the Princess by both hands, and they danced around with all the little goblins and will-o’-the-wisps that were in the hall. The red spiders spun merrily up and down the walls, the fiery flowers seemed to throw off sparks, the owl beat the drum, the crickets piped, and the black grasshoppers played on mouth organs. It was an extremely lively ball.

After they had danced a while the Princess had to start home, for fear that she might be missed at the castle. The sorcerer said he would go with her, to enjoy that much more of her company.

Away they flew through the storm, and the traveling companion wore out all three scourges on their backs. Never had the sorcerer felt such a hailstorm. As he said good-by to the Princess outside the palace, he whispered to her, “Think of my head.”

But the traveling companion overheard it, and just at the moment when the Princess slipped in through her window and the sorcerer was turning around, he caught him by his long black beard, and with the sword he cut the sorcerer’s ugly head off, right at the shoulders, so that the sorcerer himself didn’t even see it. He threw the body into the sea for the fishes to eat, but the head he only dipped in the water, wrapped it in his silk handkerchief, and took it back to the inn, where he lay down to sleep.

Next morning he gave John the handkerchief but told him not to open it until the Princess asked him to guess what she had thought about.

The hall was so full of people that they were packed together as closely as radishes tied together in a bundle. The judges sat in their chairs with the soft pillows. The old King had put on his new clothes, and his crown and sceptre had been polished to look their best. But the Princess was deathly pale, and she wore black, as if she were attending a funeral.

“Of what have I thought?” she asked John. He at once untied the handkerchief, and was quite frightened himself when he saw the sorcerer’s hideous head roll out of it. Everyone there shuddered at this terrible sight, but the Princess sat like stone, without a word to say. Finally she got up and gave John her hand, for his guess was good. She looked no one in the face, but sighed and said:

“You are my master now. Our wedding will be held this evening.”

“I like that!” the old King shouted. “This is as things should be.”

All the people shouted “Hurrah!” The military band played in the streets, the bells rang out, and the cake women took the crape off their sugar pigs, now that everyone was celebrating. Three entire oxen stuffed with ducks and chickens were roasted whole in the center of the market square, and everyone could cut himself a piece of them. The fountains spurted up the best of wine. Whoever bought a penny bun at the bakery got six large buns thrown in for good measure, and all the buns had raisins in them.

That evening the entire town was illuminated. The soldiers fired their cannon, and the boys set off firecrackers. At the palace there was eating and drinking, dancing and the clinking of glasses. All the lordly gentlemen and all the lovely ladies danced together. For a long way off you could hear them sing:

“Here are many pretty girls, and don’t they love to dance!
See them hop and swing around whenever they’ve a chance.
Dance! my pretty maid, anew, till the sole flies of your shoe.

But the Princess was still a witch, and she had no love for John at all. His comrade kept this in mind, and gave him three feathers from the swan’s wings, and a little bottle with a few drops of liquid in it. He said that John must put a large tub of water beside the Princess’s bed, and just as she was about to get in bed he must give her a little push, so that she would tumble into the tub. There he must dip her three times, after he had thrown the feathers and the drops of liquid into the water. That would free her from the spell of sorcery, and make her love him dearly.

John did everything his companion had advised him to do, though the Princess shrieked as he dipped her into the water, and struggled as he held her in the shape of a large black swan with flashing eyes. The second time, she came out of the water as a swan entirely white except for a black ring around its neck. John prayed hard, and as he forced the bird under the water once more it changed into the beautiful Princess. She was fairer than ever, and she thanked him with tears in her beautiful eyes for having set her free from the sorcerer’s spell.

In the morning the old King came with all his court, and congratulations lasted all through the day. Last of all came John’s traveling companion; he had his stick in his hand and the knapsack on his back. John embraced him time and again, and said that he must not leave-them. He must stay here with John, who owed all his happiness to him. But the traveling companion shook his head. Gently and kindly he said:

“No, my time is now up. I have done no more than pay my debt to you. Do you remember the dead man whom the wicked men wanted to harm? You gave all that you had so that he might have rest in his grave. I am that dead man.” And at once he disappeared.

The wedding celebration lasted a whole month. John and his Princess loved each other dearly, and the old King lived on for many a happy day to let their little children ride astride his knee and play with his sceptre. But it was John who was King over all the land.