There were once three brothers who wished to marry. They said, "Let us each shoot an arrow, and each shall take his wife from the place where the arrow falls." They shot their arrows; those of the two elder brothers fell on noblemen's houses, while the youngest brother's arrow fell in a lake. The two elder brothers led home their noble wives, and the youngest went to the shore of the lake. He saw a frog creep out of the lake and sit down upon a stone. He took it up and carried it back to the house. All the brothers came home with what fate had given them; the elder brothers with the noble maidens, and the youngest with a frog.
The brothers went out to work. The wives prepared the dinner and attended to all their household duties. The frog sat by the fire croaking, and its eyes glittered. Thus they lived together a long time in love and harmony.
At last the sisters-in-law wearied of the sight of the frog. When they swept the house, they threw out the frog with the dust. If the youngest brother found it, he took it up in his hand; if not, the frog would leap back to its place by the fire and begin to croak. The noble sisters did not like this, and said to their husbands, "Drive this frog out, and get a real wife for your brother." Every day the brothers bothered the youngest.
He replied, saying, "This frog is certainly my fate. I am worthy of no better. I must be faithful to it." His sisters-in-law persisted in telling their husbands that the brother and his frog must be sent away, and at last they agreed.
The young brother was now left quite desolate. There was no one to make his food, no one to stand watching at the door. For a short time a neighboring woman came to wait upon him, but she had not time, so he was left alone. The man became very melancholy.
Once when he was thinking sadly of his loneliness, he went to work. When he had finished his day's labor, he went home. He looked into his house and was struck with amazement. The sideboard was well replenished; in one place was spread a cloth, and on the cloth were many different kinds of tempting dishes. He looked and saw the frog in its place croaking. He said to himself that his sisters-in-law must have done this for him, and went to his work again. He was out all day working, and when he came home he always found everything prepared for him.
Once he said to himself, "I will see for once who is this unseen benefactor, who comes to do good to me and look after me." That day he stayed at home; he seated himself on the roof of the house and watched. In a short time the frog leaped out of the fireplace, jumped over to the doors, and all around the room. Seeing no one there, it went back and took off the frog's skin, put it near the fire, and came forth a beautiful maiden, fair as the sun; so lovely was she that the man could not imagine anything prettier. In the twinkling of an eye she had tidied everything, prepared the food, and cooked it. When everything was ready, she went to the fire, put on the skin again, and began to croak. When the man saw this he was very much astonished; he rejoiced exceedingly that God had granted him such happiness. He descended from the roof, went in, caressed his frog tenderly, and then sat down to his tasty supper.
The next day the man hid himself in the place where he had been the day before. The frog, having satisfied itself that nobody was there, stripped off its skin and began its good work. This time the man stole silently into the house, seized the frog's skin in his hand and threw it into the fire. When the maiden saw this she entreated him, she wept, and she said, "Do not burn it, or you shall surely be destroyed," but the man had burned it in a moment. "Now, if your happiness be turned to misery, it is not my fault," said the sorrow-stricken woman.
In a very short time the whole countryside knew that the man who had a frog now possessed in its place a lovely woman, who had come to him from heaven.
The lord of the country heard of this, and wished to take her from him. He called the beautiful woman's husband to him and said, "Sow a barnful of wheat in a day, or give me your wife." When he had spoken thus, the man was obliged to consent, and he went home melancholy.
When he went in he told his wife what had taken place. She reproached him, saying, "I told you what would happen if you did burn the skin, and you did not heed me; but I will not blame you. Be not sad; go in the morning to the edge of the lake from which I came, and call out, 'Mother and Father! I pray you, lend me your swift bullocks.' Lead them away with you, and the bullocks will in one day plow the fields and sow the grain." The husband did this.
He went to the edge of the lake and called out, "Mother and Father! I entreat you, lend me your swift bullocks today." There came forth from the lake such a team of oxen as was never seen on sea or land.
The youth drove the bullocks away, came to his lord's field, and plowed and sowed them in one day.
His lord was very much surprised. He did not know if there was anything impossible to this man, whose wife he wanted. He called him a second time, and said, "Go and gather up the wheat you have sown, that not a grain may be wanting, and that the barn may be full. If you do not do this, your wife is mine."
"This is impossible," said the man to himself. He went home to his wife, who again reproached him, and then said, "Go to the lake's edge and ask for the jackdaws."
The husband went to the edge of the lake and called out, "Mother and Father! I beg you to lend me your jackdaws today." From the lake came forth flocks of jackdaws; they flew to the plowed ground, each gathered up a seed and put it into the barn.
The lord came and cried out, "There is one seed short; I know each one, and one is missing." At that moment a jackdaw's caw was heard; it came with the missing seed, but owing to a lame foot it was a little late.
The lord was very angry that even the impossible was possible to this man, and could not think what to give him to do.
He puzzled his brain until he thought of the following plan. He called the man and said to him, "My mother, who died in this village, took with her a ring. If you go to the other world and bring that ring back to me, it is well; if not, I shall take away your wife."
The man said to himself, "This is quite impossible." He went home and complained to his wife. She reproached him, and then said, "Go to the lake and ask for the ram."
The husband went to the lake and called out, "Mother and Father! Give me your ram today, I pray you." From the lake there came forth a ram with twisted horns; from its mouth issued a flame of fire. It said to the man, "Mount on my back!"
The man sat down, and, quick as lightning, the ram descended towards the lower regions. It went on and shot like an arrow through the earth.
They traveled on, and saw in one place a man and woman sitting on a bullock's skin, which was not big enough for them, and they were like to fall off. The man called out to them, "What can be the meaning of this, that this bullock skin is not big enough for two people?"
They said, "We have seen many pass by like you, but none has returned. When you come back we shall answer your question."
They went on their way and saw a man and woman sitting on an ax handle, and they were not afraid of falling. The man called out to them, "Are you not afraid of falling from the handle of an ax?"
They said to him, "We have seen many pass by like you, but none has returned. When you come back we shall answer your question."
They went on their way again, until they came to a place where they saw a priest feeding cattle. This priest had such a long beard that it spread over the ground, and the cattle, instead of eating grass, fed on the priest's beard, and he could not prevent it. The man called out, "Priest, what is the meaning of this? Why is your beard pasture for these cattle?"
The priest replied, "I have seen many pass by like you, but none has returned. When you come back I shall answer your question."
They journeyed on again until they came to a place where they saw nothing but boiling pitch, and a flame came forth from it -- and this was hell. The ram said, "Sit firmly on my back, for we must pass through this fire." The man held fast. The ram gave a leap, and they escaped through the fire unhurt.
There they saw a melancholy woman seated on a golden throne. She said; "What is it, my child? What troubles you? What has brought you here?" He told her everything that had happened to him. She said, "I must punish this very wicked child of mine, and you must take him a casket from me." She gave him a casket, and said, "Whatever you do, do not open this casket yourself. Take it with you, give it to your lord, and run quickly away from him."
The man took the casket and went away. He came to the place where the priest was feeding the cattle. The priest said, "I promised you an answer. Hearken unto my words: In life I loved nothing but myself; I cared for nothing else. My flocks I fed on other pastures than my own, and the neighboring cattle died of starvation. Now I am paying the penalty."
Then he went on to the place where the man and woman were sitting on the handle of the ax. They said, "We promised you an answer. Hearken unto our words: We loved each other too well on earth, and it is the same with us here."
Then he came to the two seated on the bullock skin, which was not big enough for them. They said, "We promised you an answer. Hearken unto our words: We despised each other in life, and we equally despise each other here."
At last the man came up on earth, descended from the ram, and went to his lord. He gave him the casket and quickly ran away. The lord opened the casket, and there came forth fire, which swallowed him up. Our brother was thus victorious over his enemy, and no one took his wife from him. They lived lovingly together, and blessed God as their deliverer.