Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Frog Maiden

An old couple was childless, and the husband and the wife longed for a child. So when the wife found that she was with child, they were overjoyed; but to their great disappointment, the wife gave birth not to a human child, but to a little she-frog. However, as the little frog spoke and behaved as a human child, not only the parents but also the neighbors came to love her and called her affectionately "Little Miss Frog."

Some years later the woman died, and the man decided to marry again. The woman he chose was a widow with two ugly daughters, and they were very jealous of Little Miss Frog's popularity with the neighbors. All three took a delight in ill-treating Little Miss Frog.

One day the youngest of the king's four sons announced that he would perform the hair-washing ceremony on a certain date, and he invited all young ladies to join in the ceremony, as he would choose at the end of the ceremony one of them to be his princess.

On the morning of the appointed day the two ugly sisters dressed themselves in fine raiment, and with great hopes of being chosen by the prince they started for the palace.

Little Miss Frog ran after them, and pleaded, "Sisters, please let me come with you."

The sisters laughed and said mockingly, "What, the little frog wants to come? The invitation is to young ladies and not to young frogs."

Little Miss Frog walked along with them towards the palace, pleading for permission to come. But the sisters were adamant, and so at the palace gates she was left behind. However, she spoke so sweetly to the guards that they allowed her to go in. Little Miss Frog found hundreds of young ladies gathered round the pool full of lilies in the palace grounds. And she took her place among them and waited for the prince.

The prince now appeared, and washed his hair in the pool. The ladies also let down their hair and joined in the ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, the prince declared that as the ladies were all beautiful, he did not know whom to choose and so he would throw a posy of jasmines into the air; and the lady on whose head the posy fell would be his princess. The prince then threw the posy into the air, and all the ladies present looked up expectantly.

The posy, however, fell on Little Miss Frog's head, to the great annoyance of the ladies, especially the two stepsisters. The prince also was disappointed, but he felt that he should keep his word. So Little Miss Frog was married to the prince, and she became Little Princess Frog.

Some time later, the old king called his four sons to him and said, "My sons, I am now too old to rule the country, and I want to retire to the forest and become a hermit. So I must appoint one of you as my successor. As I love you all alike, I will give you a task to perform, and he who performs it successfully shall be king in my place. The task is, bring me a golden deer at sunrise on the seventh day from now."

The youngest prince went home to Little Princess Frog and told her about the task.

"What, only a golden deer!" exclaimed Princess Frog. "Eat as usual my prince, and on the appointed day I will give you the golden deer."

So the youngest prince stayed at home, while the three elder princes went into the forest in search of the deer.

On the seventh day before sunrise, Little Princess Frog woke up her husband and said, "Go to the palace, prince, and here is your golden deer."

The young prince looked, then rubbed his eyes, and looked again. There was no mistake about it; the deer which Little Princess Frog was holding by a lead was really of pure gold. So he went to the palace, and to the great annoyance of the elder princes who brought ordinary deers, he was declared to be the heir by the king.

The elder princes, however, pleaded for a second chance, and the king reluctantly agreed.

"Then perform this second task," said the king. "On the seventh day from now at sunrise, you must bring me the rice that never becomes stale, and meat that is ever fresh."

The youngest prince went home and told Princess Frog about the new task.

"Don't you worry, sweet prince," said Princess Frog. "Eat as usual, sleep as usual, and on the appointed day I will give you the rice and meat."

So the youngest prince stayed at home, while the three elder princes went in search of the rice and meat.

On the seventh day at sunrise, Little Princess Frog woke up her husband and said, "My lord, go to the palace now, and here is your rice and meat."

The youngest prince took the rice and meat, and went to the palace, and to the great annoyance of the elder princes who brought only well-cooked rice and meat, he was again declared to be the heir.

But the two elder princes again pleaded for one more chance, and the king said, "This is positively the last task. On the seventh day from now at sunrise, bring me the most beautiful woman on this earth."

"Ho, ho!" said the three elder princes to themselves in great joy. "Our wives are very beautiful, and we will bring them. One of us is sure to be declared heir, and our good-for-nothing brother will be nowhere this time."

The youngest prince overheard their remark, and felt sad, for his wife was a frog and ugly.

When he reached home, he said to his wife, "Dear princess, I must go and look for the most beautiful woman on this earth. My brothers will bring their wives, for they are really beautiful, but I will find someone who is more beautiful."

"Don't you fret, my prince," replied Princess Frog. "Eat as usual, sleep as usual, and you can take me to the palace on the appointed day. Surely I shall be declared to be the most beautiful woman."

The youngest prince looked at the princess in surprise; but he did not want to hurt her feelings, and he said gently, "All right, princess, I will take you with me on the appointed day."

On the seventh day at dawn, Little Princess Frog woke up the prince and said, "My lord, I must make myself beautiful. So please wait outside and call me when it is nearly time to go."

The prince left the room as requested. After some moments, the prince shouted from outside, "Princess, we must go now."

"All right, my lord," replied the princess. "Please open the door for me."

The prince thought to himself, "Perhaps, just as she was able to obtain the golden deer and the wonderful rice and meat, she is able to make herself beautiful," and he expectantly opened the door. But he was disappointed to see Little Princess Frog still a frog and as ugly as ever.

However, so as not to hurt her feelings, the prince said nothing and took her along to the palace. When the prince entered the audience chamber with his frog princess the three elder princes with their wives were already there.

The king looked at the prince in surprise and said, "Where is your beautiful maiden?"

"I will answer for the prince, my king," said the frog princess. "I am his beautiful maiden."

She then took off her frog skin and stood a beautiful maiden dressed in silk and satin. The king declared her to be the most beautiful maiden in the world, and selected the prince as his successor on the throne. The prince asked his princess never to put on the ugly frog skin again, and the frog princess, to accede to his request, threw the skin on the fire.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Summer and Winter Garden

A merchant was planning to go to a fair, so he asked his three daughters what he should bring back for them.

The oldest one said, "A beautiful dress."

The second, "A pair of pretty shoes."

The third, "A rose."

To find a rose would be difficult, for it was the middle of winter, but because the youngest daughter was the most beautiful, and because she took great pleasure in flowers, the father said that he would do his best to find her one.

The merchant was now on his homeward trip. He had a splendid dress for the oldest daughter, a pair of beautiful shoes for the second one, but he had not been able to get a rose for the third one. Whenever he had entered a garden looking for roses, the people just laughed at him, asking him if he believed that roses grew in the snow. He was very sad about this, and as he was thinking about what he might bring his dearest child, he came to a castle. It had an adjoining garden where it was half summer and half winter. On the one side the most beautiful flowers were blossoming -- large and small. On the other side everything was bare and covered with deep snow.

The man climbed from his horse. He was overjoyed to see an entire hedge full of roses on the summer side. He approached it, picked one of them, and then rode off.

He had already ridden some distance when he heard something running and panting behind him. Turning around, he saw a large black beast, that called out, "Give me back my rose, or I'll kill you! Give me back my rose, or I'll kill you!"

The man said, "Please let me have the rose. I am supposed to bring one home for my daughter, the most beautiful daughter in the world."

"For all I care, but then give me your beautiful daughter for a wife!"

In order to get rid of the beast, the man said yes, thinking that he would not come to claim her.

However, the beast shouted back to him, "In eight days I will come and get my bride."

So the merchant brought each daughter what she had wanted, and each one was delighted, especially the youngest with her rose.

Eight days later the three sisters were sitting together at the table when something came stepping heavily up the stairs to the door. "Open up! Open up!" it shouted.

They opened the door, and were terrified when a large black beast stepped inside. "Because my bride did not come to me, and the time is up, I will fetch her myself." With that he went to the youngest daughter and grabbed hold of her. She began to scream, but it did not help. She had to go away with him. And when the father came home, his dearest child had been taken away.

The black beast carried the beautiful maiden to his castle where everything was beautiful and wonderful. Musicians were playing there, and below there was the garden, half summer and half winter, and the beast did everything to make her happy, fulfilling even her unspoken desires. They ate together, and she had to scoop up his food for him, for otherwise he would not have eaten. She was dear to the beast, and finally she grew very fond of him.

One day she said to him, "I am afraid, and don't know why. It seems to me that my father or one of my sisters is sick. Couldn't I see them just once?"

So the beast led her to a mirror and said, "Look inside."

She looked into the mirror, and it was as though she were at home. She saw her living room and her father. He really was sick, from a broken heart, because he held himself guilty that his dearest child had been taken away by a wild beast and surely had been eaten up. If he could know how well off she was, then he would not be so sad. She also saw her two sisters sitting on the bed and crying.

Her heart was heavy because of all this, and she asked the beast to allow her to go home for a few days. The beast refused for a long time, but she grieved so much that he finally had pity on her and said, "Go to your father, but promise me that you will be back here in eight days."

She promised, and as she was leaving, he called out again, "Do not stay longer than eight days."

When she arrived home her father was overjoyed to see her once again, but sickness and grief had already eaten away at his heart so much that he could not regain his health, and within a few days he died.

Because of her sadness, she could think of nothing else. Her father was buried, and she went to the funeral. The sisters cried together, and consoled one another, and when her thoughts finally turned to her dear beast, the eight days were long past.

She became frightened, and it seemed to her that he too was sick. She set forth immediately and returned to his castle. When she arrived there everything was still and sad inside. The musicians were not playing. Black cloth hung everywhere. The garden was entirely in winter and covered with snow. She looked for the beast, but he was not there. She looked everywhere, but could not find him.

Then she was doubly sad, and did not know how to console herself. She sadly went into the garden where she saw a pile of cabbage heads. They were old and rotten, and she pushed them aside. After turning over a few of them she saw her dear beast. He was lying beneath them and was dead.

She quickly fetched some water and poured it over him without stopping.

Then he jumped up and was instantly transformed into a handsome prince. They got married, and the musicians began to play again, and the summer side of the garden appeared in its splendor, and the black cloth was all ripped down, and together they lived happily ever after.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Singing Rose

A king had three daughters. They were more beautiful than the young women of today, and each had passed her sixteenth year of life. The king thought about making one of his daughters queen, but he did not know which one he should select over the other two.

One day he summoned all three and said to them, "My dear children, I am now old and frail, and every day is a gift. Before I die, I would like to bring everything in my realm into order and name one of you as the heir to my kingdom. Now go out into the wide world, and the one of you who brings back a singing rose shall inherit my throne, and she shall be queen over the entire land."

When the three daughters had heard this, they tearfully took leave of their old father, then -- trusting their luck -- set forth for foreign lands, each taking a different path.

It happened that the youngest and most beautiful of them had to go through a dark pine forest. All kinds of birds were singing at the same time. It was wonderful to listen to them. It began to get dark, the birds flew to their nests, and after a while it became quiet as a mouse. Then suddenly a bright, beautiful, loud tone sounded forth, such as the princess had never heard before, neither from birds nor from humans, and she immediately thought, "That can only be the singing rose."

She hurried on in the direction that the marvelous sounds seemed to be coming from. She had not walked long before she saw a large, old-fashioned castle on a cliff. She eagerly climbed up to the castle and pulled several times on the latch. Finally the gate opened with a creaking sound, and an old man with a long, ice-gray beard looked out.

"What is your wish?" he grumpily asked the startled maiden.

"I would like a singing rose," she answered. "Do you have such a thing in your garden?"

"Yes indeed," answered the old man.

"What will you take for it, if I could get it from you?"

"You need give me nothing for the singing rose. You can have it today, but as payment, I will come to you in seven years and bring you back with me to this, my castle."

"Just bring me quickly the valuable flower," shouted the maiden joyfully, for she was thinking only about the singing rose and the kingdom, but not about what would happen after seven years.

The old man went back into the castle, and returned soon with a full, glowing rose. It was singing so beautifully that the maiden's heart jumped for joy. She eagerly reached out her hand for it, and as soon as she had the flower in her hands she ran down the mountain like a deer.

The old man called after her with a serious voice, "I will see you in seven years!"

The maiden wandered the entire night through the dark woods with her rose. Her pleasure in the singing flower and the inherited kingdom caused her to forget all fear. The rose sang without pause the entire way; and the louder and more beautifully it sang, the faster the princess hurried on toward her homeland.

She arrived home and told her father everything that had happened to her, and the rose sang beautifully. Immeasurable joy ruled in the castle, and the king gave one celebration after the other. Soon the two older sisters returned. They had found nothing, and had had to return home empty handed. And now the youngest daughter, who had brought back the rose, became queen, although the old father continued to rule. The royal family lived beautiful, joyful days. Day after day and year after year slipped by.

Finally the seventh year came to an end, and on the first day of the eighth year the old man from the castle appeared before the king and demanded from him the one of his daughter who had brought home the singing rose. The king presented to him his oldest daughter, but the old man rejected her, shaking his head and growling, "She is not the right one."

When the king saw that he could not get away with deception, he -- with a bleeding heart -- turned over the youngest and dearest of his children.

The princess now had to go with the grumbling graybeard to his castle, from which she had once obtained the singing rose. The beautiful maiden was very sad, for she had no one there except for her old master. Day after day she sorrowfully thought about her father and her sisters.

In the castle there were other pleasures in abundance, but they did not comfort her, for she did not have the company of her loved ones. Her thoughts were always in her homeland. Further, all the doors and chests in the castle were locked, and the old man did not let her have access to a single key.

One day she learned -- God knows from where! -- that her oldest sister was to marry a neighboring prince, and that the wedding would take place in a few days. Disquieted, she went to the old man and asked him for permission to attend her sister's wedding.

"Just go!" growled the old man. "But I am telling you in advance, do not laugh once during the entire wedding day. If you disobey my order, I will tear you into a thousand pieces. I myself will continually be by your side, and if you as much as open your mouth to laugh, it will be over with you. Take notice!"

The princess thought that this would be easy to follow, and on the announced day she appeared with the old graybeard at her sister's wedding. Joy ruled in the king's castle when they saw the long missing queen returning. She was very happy and took advantage of the day, but she did not forget the old man's order, and she did not once open her mouth to laugh. That evening she had to take leave from her loved ones, and she sadly returned to the lonely castle with her companion. Her time of monotony began once again, and the poor princess was always glad when a day finally ended.

Then the rumor came to her ears that the other sister would marry soon. This disquieted her again, and she asked the old man if she could not attend her second sister's wedding.

"Just go!" growled the old man." But this time you are not allowed to speak a single word the entire day. I will go with you again and observe you vigilantly.

The princess thought that this would be easy to follow, and on the announced day she appeared with the old graybeard at her sister's wedding. Joy ruled in the king's castle when they saw the long missing queen returning. Everyone ran out to meet her. They greeted her and welcomed her and asked her about everything. But she pretended that she could not talk, and did not allow a single sound to escape from her beautiful lips. But this time she did not keep up her courage as well as she had the last time, and that evening when everyone was talking together until it was humming like a beehive, a little word slipped out. The old man quickly jumped up, took her by the hand, and led her out of the hall and back to his lonely castle.

Here the princess had other things in great abundance, but she greatly missed the company of her loved ones, and everything seemed terribly monotonous to her.

One day when she was sadly walking through the garden where the rose had previously blossomed and sung, the old man came to her and said with a serious expression, "Your majesty, if tomorrow while it is striking twelve you will cut off my head in three blows, then everything that you find in the castle will be yours, and you will be free forever!"

The princess took heart from the old man's speech and decided to attempt the risky deed.

The next day -- it was Saturday -- the old man appeared a little before twelve o'clock and uncovered his neck. She drew the sword that she had hung about her waist, and as the castle clock struck one she swung the sword once, then quickly again two more times. The old man's head rolled away on the floor. But behold! Instead of blood, a key fell from the head. It opened all the chests and doors in the entire castle. There the princess found many, many precious things, and she was rich and free forever.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Mouse Maiden

There are a king and a queen of a certain city, and there is a daughter of the queen.

They asked permission to summon the daughter to go in marriage to the prince of another city. The king said, "Ha," so they came from that city to summon the king's princess. After coming, they told the bride to come out of her chamber in order to eat the rice of the wedding feast.

The queen said, "She is eating cooked rice in the house."

Then they told her to come out in order to dress her in the robes sent by the bridegroom. The queen said, "She is putting on robes in her chamber."

Then they told her to come out in order to go to the bridegroom's city. So the queen told two persons to come, and, having put a female mouseling in an incense box, brought it, and gave it into the hands of the two persons, and said, "Take this, and until seven days have gone by, do not open the mouth of the box."

Having taken it to the city, when they opened the mouth of the box after seven days, a mouse sprang out, and hid itself among the cooking pots.

There was also a servant girl at the prince's house. The girl apportioned and gave cooked rice and vegetable curry to the prince, and covered up the cooking pots containing the rest of the food. Then the mouseling came and, having taken and eaten some of the cooked rice and vegetables, covered up the cooking pots, and went again among the pots.

On the following day the same thing occurred. The prince said to the girl, "Does the mouseling eat the cooked rice? Look and come back."

The girl, having gone and looked, came back and said, "She has eaten the cooked rice, and covered the cooking pots, and has gone."

The prince said, "Go also, and eat rice, and come back." So the girl went and ate rice, and returned.

Next day the prince said, "I am going to cut paddy (growing rice). Remain at the house, and in the evening place the articles for cooking near the hearth." Then the prince went. Afterwards, in the evening, the girl placed the things for cooking near the hearth, and went out of the way.

The mouseling came, and cooked, and placed the food ready, and again went behind the pots. After evening had come, that girl apportioned and gave the rice to the prince. The prince ate, and told the girl, "Go also, and eat rice, and come back." So the girl went and ate rice, and, having covered the cooking pots, came to the place where the prince was.

Then the mouseling came and ate rice, and covered up the pots. After that, she said to the other mice, "Let us go and cut the paddy," and, collecting a great number of mice, cut all the paddy, and again returned to the house, and stayed among the pots. Next day when the prince went to the rice field to cut the paddy, all had been cut.

Afterwards the prince came back, and, saying "Let us go and collect and stack the paddy," collected the men, and stacked it, and threshed it by trampling it with buffaloes. Then they went and called the women, and, having got rid of the chaff in the wind, brought the paddy home.

After they had brought it, the prince went near the place where the cooking pots were stored, at which the mouseling was hidden, and said, "Having pounded this paddy to remove the husk, and cooked rice, let us go to your village to present it to your parents as the first-fruits."

The mouseling said, "I will not. You go."

So the prince told the girl to pound the paddy and cook rice, and having done this she gave it to the prince.

The prince took the package of cooked rice, and went to the mouseling's village, and gave it to the mouseling's mother.

The queen asked at the hand of the prince, "Where is the girl?"

The prince said, "She refused to come."

The queen said, "Go back to the city, and, having placed the articles for cooking near the hearth, get hid, and stay in the house."

After the prince returned to the city, he did as she had told him. The mouseling, having come out, took off her mouse jacket, and, assuming her shape as a girl, put on other clothes. While she was preparing to cook, the prince took the mouse jacket and burnt it.

Afterwards, when the girl went to the place where the mouse jacket had been, and looked for it, it was not there. Then she looked in the hearth, and saw that there was one sleeve in it. While she was there weeping and weeping, the prince came forward and said, "Your mother told me to burn the mouse jacket."

So the mouseling became the princess again, and the prince and princess remained there.