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He Whom God Helps No One Can Harm

Source: Hero Tales And Legends Of The Serbians

Once upon a time there lived a man and his wife, and they were
blessed with three sons. The youngest son was the most handsome,
and he possessed a better heart than his brothers, who thought him
a fool. When the three brothers had arrived at the man's estate,
they came together to their father, each of them asking permission to
marry. The father was embarrassed with this sudden wish of his sons,
and said he would first take counsel with his wife as to his answer.

The First Quest

A few days later the man called his sons together and told them to
go to the neighbouring town and seek for employment. "He who brings
me the finest rug will obtain my permission to marry first," he said.

The brothers started off to the neighbouring town together. On the
way the two elder brothers began to make fun of the youngest, mocking
his simplicity, and finally they forced him to take a different road.

Abandoned by his malicious brothers, the young man prayed God to
grant him good fortune. At length he came to a lake, on the further
shore of which was a magnificent castle. The castle belonged to the
daughter of a tyrannous and cruel prince who had died long ago. The
young princess was uncommonly beautiful, and many a suitor had come
there to ask for her hand. The suitors were always made very welcome,
but when they went to their rooms at night the late master of the
castle would invariably come as a vampire and suffocate them.

As the youngest brother stood upon the shore wondering how to cross
the lake, the princess noticed him from her window and at once gave an
order to the servants to take a boat and bring the young man before
her. When he appeared he was a little confused, but the noble maiden
reassured him with some kind words--for he had, indeed, made a good
impression upon her and she liked him at first sight. She asked him
whence he came and where he intended to go, and the young man told
her all about his father's command.

When the princess heard that, she said to the young man: "You will
remain here for the night, and to-morrow morning we will see what we
can do about your rug."

After they had supped, the princess conducted her guest to a green
room, and bidding him "good-night," said: "This is your room. Do
not be alarmed if during the night anything unusual should appear to
disturb you."

Being a simple youth, he could not even close his eyes, so deep was
the impression made by the beautiful things which surrounded him, when
suddenly, toward midnight, there was a great noise. In the midst of
the commotion he heard distinctly a mysterious voice whisper: "This
youth will inherit the princely crown, no one can do him harm!" The
young man took refuge in earnest prayer, and, when day dawned, he
arose safe and sound.

When the princess awoke, she sent a servant to summon the young man
to her presence, and he was greatly astonished to find the young man
alive; so also was the princess and every one in the castle.

After breakfast the princess gave her guest a rich rug, saying:
"Take this rug to your father, and if he desires aught else you have
only to come back." The young man thanked his fair hostess and with
a deep bow took his leave of her.

When he arrived home he found his two brothers already there; they
were showing their father the rugs they had brought. When the youngest
exhibited his they were astounded, and exclaimed: "How did you get
hold of such a costly rug? You must have stolen it!"

The Second Quest

At length the father, in order to quieten them, said: "Go once more
into the world, and he who brings back a chain long enough to encircle
our house nine times shall have my permission to marry first!" Thus
the father succeeded in pacifying his sons. The two elder brothers
went their way, and the youngest hurried back to the princess. When
he appeared she asked him: "What has your father ordered you to do
now?" And he answered: "That each of us should bring a chain long
enough to encircle our house nine times." The princess again made
him welcome and, after supper, she showed him into a yellow room,
saying: "Somebody will come again to frighten you during the night,
but you must not pay any attention to him, and to-morrow we will see
what we can do about your chain."

And sure enough, about midnight there came many ghosts dancing round
his bed and making fearful noises, but he followed the advice of
the princess and remained calm and quiet. Next morning a servant
came once more to conduct him to the princess, and, after breakfast,
she gave him a fine box, saying: "Take this to your father, and if he
should desire anything more, you have but to come to me." The young
man thanked her, and took his leave.

Again he found that his brothers had reached home first with their
chains, but these were not long enough to encircle the house even
once, and they were greatly astonished when their youngest brother
produced from the box the princess had given an enormous gold chain
of the required length. Filled with envy, they exclaimed: "You will
ruin the reputation of our house, for you must have stolen this chain!"

The Third Quest

At length the father, tired of their jangling, sent them away, saying:
"Go; bring each of you his sweetheart, and I will give you permission
to marry." Thereupon the two elder brothers went joyfully to fetch
the girls they loved, and the youngest hurried away to the princess
to tell her what was now his father's desire. When she heard, the
princess said: "You must pass a third night here, and then we shall
see what we can do."

So, after supping together, she took him into a red room. During the
night he heard again a blood-curdling noise, and from the darkness a
mysterious voice said: "This young man is about to take possession
of my estates and crown!" He was assaulted by ghosts and vampires,
and was dragged from his bed; but through all the young man strove
earnestly in prayer, and God saved him.

Next morning when he appeared before the princess, she congratulated
him on his bravery, and declared that he had won her love. The young
man was overwhelmed with happiness, for although he would never have
dared to reveal the secret of his heart, he also loved the princess. A
barber was now summoned to attend upon the young man, and a tailor
to dress him like a prince. This done, the couple went together to
the castle chapel and were wedded.

A few days later they drove to the young man's village, and as they
stopped outside his home they heard great rejoicing and music, whereat
they understood that his two elder brothers were celebrating their
marriage feasts. The youngest brother knocked on the gate, and when
his father came he did not recognize his son in the richly attired
prince who stood before him. He was surprised that such distinguished
guests should pay him a visit, and still more so when the prince said:
"Good man, will you give us your hospitality for to-night?" The father
answered: "Most gladly, but we are having festivities in our house, and
I fear that these common people will disturb you with their singing and
music." To this the young prince said: "Oh, no; it would please me to
see the peasants feasting, and my wife would like it even more than I."

They now entered the house, and as the hostess curtsied deeply before
them the prince congratulated her, saying: "How happy you must be to
see your two sons wedded on the same day!" The woman sighed. "Ah,"
said she, "on one hand I have joy and on the other mourning: I had
a third son, who went out in the world, and who knows what ill fate
may have befallen him?"

After a time the young prince found an opportunity to step into his
old room, and put on one of his old suits over his costly attire. He
then returned to the room where the feast was spread and stood behind
the door. Soon his two brothers saw him, and they called out: "Come
here, father, and see your much-praised son, who went and stole like
a thief!" The father turned, and seeing the young man, he exclaimed:
"Where have you been for so long, and where is your sweetheart?"

Then the youngest son said: "Do not reproach me; all is well with
me and with you!" As he spake he took off his old garments and stood
revealed in his princely dress. Then he told his story and introduced
his wife to his parents.

The brothers now expressed contrition for their conduct, and received
the prince's pardon, after which they all embraced; the feasting was
renewed, and the festivities went on for several days. Finally the
young prince distributed amongst his father and brothers large portions
of his new lands, and they all lived long and happily together.

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