The Giant with the Three Golden Hairs
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THERE was once a poor man who had an only son born to him.
The child was born under a lucky star; and those who told his fortune said that in his fourteenth year he would marry the king's daughter.
It so happened that the king of that land soon after the child's birth passed through the village in disguise, and asked whether there was any news.
‘Yes,’ said the people, ‘a child has just been born, that they say is to be a lucky one, and when he is fourteen years old, he is fated to marry the king's daughter.’
This did not please the king; so he went to the poor child's parents and asked them whether they would sell him their son?
‘No,’ said they; but the stranger begged very hard and offered a great deal of money, and they had scarcely bread to eat, so at last they consented, thinking to themselves, he is a luck's child, he can come to no harm.
The king took the child, put it into a box, and rode away; but when he came to a deep stream, he threw it into the current, and said to himself, ‘That young gentleman will never be my daughter's husband.’
The box however floated down the stream; some kind spirit watched over it so that no water reached the child, and at last about two miles from the king's capital it stopt at the clam of a mill.
The miller soon saw it, and took a long pole, and drew it towards the shore, and finding it heavy, thought there was gold inside; but when he opened it, he found a pretty little boy, that smiled upon him merrily.
Now the miller and his wife had no children, and therefore rejoiced to see their prize, saying, ‘Heaven has sent it to us;’ so they treated it very kindly, and brought it up with such care that every one admired and loved it.
About thirteen years passed over their heads, when the king came by accident to the mill, and asked the miller if that was his son.
‘No,’ said he, ‘I found him when a babe in a box in the mill-dam.’
‘How long ago?’
asked the king.
‘Some thirteen years,’ replied the miller.
‘He is a fine fellow,’ said the king, ‘can you spare him to carry a letter to the queen?
it will please me very much, and I will give him two pieces of gold for his trouble.’
‘As your majesty pleases,’ answered the miller.
Now the king had soon guessed that this was the child whom he had tried to drown; and he wrote a letter by him to the queen, saying, ‘As soon as the bearer of this arrives let him be killed and immediately buried, so that.
all may be over before I return.’
The young man set out with this letter, but missed his way, and came in the evening to a dark wood.
Through the gloom he perceived a light at a distance, towards which he directed his course, and found that it proceeded from a little cottage.
There was no one within except an old woman, who was frightened at seeing him, and said, ‘Why do you come hither, and whither are you going?’
‘I am going to the queen, to whom I was to have delivered a letter; but I have lost my way, and shall be glad if you will give me a night's rest.’
‘You are very unlucky,’ said she, ‘for this is a robbers’ hut, and if the band returns while you are here it may be worse for you.’
‘l am so tired, however, replied he, ‘that I must take my chance, for I can go no farther;’ so he laid the letter on the table, stretched himself out upon a bench, and fell asleep.
When the robbers came home and saw him, they asked the old woman who the strange lad was.
‘I have given him shelter for charity,’ said she; ‘he had a letter to carry to the queen, and lost his way.’
The robbers took up the letter, broke it open and read the directions which it contained to murder the bearer.
Then their leader tore it, and wrote a fresh one desiring the queen, as soon as the young man arrived, to marry him to the king's daughter.
Meantime they let him sleep on till morning broke, and then showed him the right way to the queen's palace; where, as soon as she had read the letter, she had all possible preparations made for the wedding; and as the young man was very beautiful, the princess took him willingly for her husband.
After a while the king returned; and when he saw the prediction fulfilled, and that this child of fortune was, not withstanding all his cunning, married to his daughter, he inquired eagerly how this had happened, and what were the orders which be had given.
‘Dear husband,’ said the queen, ‘here is your letter, read it for yourself.’
The king took it, and seeing that an exchange had been made, asked his son in-law what be had done with the letter which he had given him to carry.
‘I know nothing of it,’ answered he; ‘it must have been taken away in the night while l slept.’
Then the king was very wroth, and said, ‘No man shall have, my daughter who does not descend into the wonderful cave and bring me three golden hairs from the head of the giant king who reigns there; do this and you shall have my consent.’
‘I will soon manage that," said the youth; - so he took leave of his wife and set out on his journey.
At the first city that he came to, the guard of the gate stopt him, and asked what trade he followed and what he knew.
‘I know everything,’ said he.
‘If that be so,’ replied they, ‘you are just the man we want;.
be so good as to tell us why our fountain in the market-place is dry and will give no water; find out the cause of that, and we will give you two asses loaded with gold.’
‘With all my heart,’ said he, ‘when I come back.’
Then he journeyed on and came to another city, and there the guard also asked him what trade he followed, and what he understood.
‘I know everything,’ answered he.
‘Then pray do us a piece of service,’ said they, ‘tell us why a tree which used to bear us golden apples, now does not even produce a leaf.’
‘Most willingly,’ answered he, ‘as I come back.’
At last his way led him to the side of a great lake of water over which he must pass.
The ferryman soon began to ask, as the others had done, what was his trade, and what he knew.
‘Everything,’ said he.
Then,’ said the other, ‘pray inform me why I am bound for ever to ferry over this water, and have never been able to get my liberty; I will reward you handsomely.’
‘I will tell you all about it,’ said the young man, ‘as I come home.’
When he had passed the water, he came to the wonderful cave, which looked terribly black and gloomy.
But the wizard king was not at home, and his grandmother sat at the door in her easy chair.
‘What do you seek?’
‘Three golden hairs from the giant's head,’ answered he.
‘You run a great risk,’ said she, ‘when he returns home; yet I will try what I can do for you.’
Then she changed him into an ant, and told him to hide himself in the folds of her cloak.
‘Very well,’ said he: ‘but I want also to know why the city fountain is dry, why the tree that bore golden apples is now leafless, and what it is that binds the ferry-man td his post.’
‘Those are three puzzling questions,’ said the old dame; ‘but lie quiet and listen to what the giant says when I pull the golden hairs.’
Presently night set in and the old gentleman returned home.
As soon as he entered he began to snuff up the air, and cried, ‘All is not right here: I smell man's flesh.’
Then be searched all round-in vain, and the old dame scolded, and said, ‘Why should you turn every thing topsy-turvy?
I have just set all in order.’
Upon this he laid his head in her lap and soon fell asleep.
As soon as be began to snore, she seized one of the golden hairs and pulled it out.
cried be, starting up, ‘what are you about?’
‘I had a dream that disturbed me,’ said she, ‘and in my trouble I seized your hair: I dreamt that the fountain in the market-place of the city was become dry and would give no water; what can be the cause?’
‘Ah! if they could find that out, they would be glad,’ said the giant: ‘under a stone in the fountain sits a toad; when they kill him, it will flow again.’
This said, he fell asleep, and the old lady pulled out another hair.
‘What would you be at?’
cried he in a rage.
‘Don't be angry,’ said she, ‘I did it in my sleep; I dreamt that in a great kingdom there was a beautiful tree that used to bear golden apples, and now has not even a leaf upon it; what is the reason of that?’
said the giant, ‘they would like very well to know that secret: at the root of the tree a mouse is gnawing; if they were to kill him, the tree would bear golden apples again; if not, it will soon die.
Now let me sleep in peace; if you wake me again, you shall rue it.’
Then he fell once more asleep; and when she beard him snore she pulled out the third golden hair, and the giant jumped up and threatened her sorely; but she soothed him, and said, ‘It was a strange dream: methought I saw a ferryman who was fated to ply backwards and forwards over a lake, and could never be set at liberty; what is the charm that binds him?’
‘A silly fool!’
said the giant; ‘if he were to give the rudder into the hand of any passenger, he would find himself at liberty, and the other would be obliged to take’ his place.
Now let me sleep.’
In the morning the giant arose and went outs and the old woman gave the young man the three golden hairs, reminded him of the answers to his three questions, and sent him on his way.
He soon came to the ferryman, who knew him again, and asked for the answer which he had promised him.
‘Ferry me over first,’ said he, ‘and then I will tell you.’
When the boat arrived, on the other side, he told him to give the rudder to any of his passengers, and then be might run away as soon as he pleased.
The next place he came to was the city where the barren tree stood: ‘Kill the mouse,’ said, he, ‘that gnaws the root, and you will have golden apples again.’
They gave him a rich present, and he journeyed on to the city where the fountain had dried up, and the guard demanded his answer to their question.
So he told them how to cure the mischief, and they thanked him and gave him the two asses laden with gold.
And now at last this child of fortune reached home, and his wife rejoiced greatly to see him, and to hear how well everything bad gone with him.
He gave the three golden hairs to the king, who could no longer raise any objection to him, and when he saw all the treasure, cried out in a transport of joy, ‘Dear son, where did you find all this gold?’
‘By the side of a lake,’ said the youth, ‘where there is plenty more to be had.’
‘Pray, tell me,’ said the king, ‘that I may go and get some too.’
‘As much as you please,’ replied the other; ‘you will see the ferryman on the lake, let him carry you across, and there you will see gold as plentiful as sand upon the shore.’
Away went the greedy king; and when he came to the lake, he beckoned to the ferryman, who took him into his boat, and as soon as he was there gave the rudder into his band, and sprung ashore, leaving the old king to ferry away as a reward for his sins.
‘And is his majesty plying there to this day?’
You may be sure of that, for nobody will trouble himself to take the rudder out of his hands.