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The Three Oranges

Source: The Folk-tales Of The Magyars

There was once, I don't know where, a king, who had three sons. They had
reached a marriageable age, but could not find any one who suited them,
or who pleased their father. "Go, my sons, and look round in the world,"
said the king, "and try to find wives somewhere else." The three sons
went away, and at bed-time they came to a small cottage, in which a
very, very old woman lived. She asked them about the object of their
journey, which the princes readily communicated to her. The old woman
provided them with the necessaries for the journey as well as she could,
and before taking leave of her guests, gave them an orange each, with
instructions to cut them open only in the neighbourhood of water, else
they would suffer great, very great damage. The three princes started on
their way again, and the eldest not being able to restrain his curiosity
as to what sort of fruit it could be, or to conceive what harm could
possibly happen if he cut it open in a place where there was no water
near: cut into the orange; and lo! a beautiful girl, such as he had
never seen before, came out of it, and exclaimed, "Water! let me have
some water, or I shall die on the spot." The prince ran in every
direction to get water, but could not find any, and the beautiful girl
died in a short time, as the old woman had said. The princes went on,
and now the younger one began to be inquisitive as to what could be in
his orange.

They had just sat down to luncheon on a plain, under a tall, leafy tree,
when it appeared to them that they could see a lake not very far off.
"Supposing there is a girl in the fruit, I can fulfil her wish," he
thought to himself, and not being able to restrain his curiosity any
longer, as to what sort of girl there could be inside, he cut his
orange; and lo! a girl, very much more beautiful than the first, stepped
out of it, and called out for water, in order to save her life. He had
previously sent his brother to what he thought was a lake; and, as he
could not wait for his return with the water, he ran off himself, quite
out of breath, but the further he ran the further the lake appeared to
be off, because it was only a mirage. He rushed back to the tree nearly
beside himself, in order to see whether the girl was yet alive, but only
found her body lifeless, and quite cold.

The two elder brothers, seeing that they had lost what they had been
searching for, and having given up all hope of finding a prettier one,
returned in great sorrow to their father's house, and the youngest
continued his journey alone. He wandered about until, after much
fatigue, he came to the neighbourhood of some town, where he found a
well. He had no doubt that there was a girl in his orange also, so he
took courage, and cut it; and, indeed, a girl, who was a hundred times
prettier than the first two, came out of it. She called out for water,
and the prince gave her some at once, and death had no power over her.
The prince now hurried into the town to purchase rich dresses for his
love; and that no harm might happen to her during his absence, he made
her sit up in a tree with dense foliage, the boughs of which overhung
the well.

As soon as the prince left, a gipsy woman came to the well for water.
She looked into the well, and saw in the water the beautiful face of
the girl in the tree. At first she fancied that she saw the image of her
own face, and felt very much flattered; but soon found out her mistake,
and looking about discovered the pretty girl in the tree. "What are you
waiting for, my pretty maid?" inquired the gipsy woman with a cunning
face. The girl told her her story, whereupon the gipsy woman, shamming
kindness, climbed up the tree, and pushed the pretty girl into the well,
taking her place in the tree, when the pretty girl sank. The next moment
a beautiful little gold fish appeared swimming in the water; the gipsy
woman recognised it as the girl, and, being afraid that it might be
dangerous to her, tried to catch it, when suddenly the prince appeared
with the costly dresses, so she at once laid her plans to deceive him:
the prince immediately noticed the difference between her and the girl
he had left; but she succeeded in making him believe that for a time
after having left the fairy world, she had to lose her beauty, but that
she would recover it the sooner the more he loved her: so the prince was
satisfied and went home to his father's house with the woman he found,
and actually loved her in hopes of her regaining her former beauty. The
good food and happy life, and also the pretty dresses, improved the
sunburnt woman's looks a little: the prince imagining that his wife's
prediction was going to be fulfilled, felt still more attached to her,
and was anxious to carry out all her wishes.

The woman, however, could not forget the little gold fish, and therefore
feigned illness, saying that she would not get better till she had eaten
of the liver of a gold fish, which was to be found in such and such a
well: the prince had the fish caught at once, and the princess having
partaken of the liver, got better, and felt more cheerful than before.
It happened, however, that one scale of the fish had been cast out in
the courtyard with the water, and from it a beautiful tree began to
grow; the princess noticed it and found out the reason, how the tree
got there, and again fell ill, and said that she could not get better
until they burnt the tree, and cooked her something by the flames. This
wish also was fulfilled, and she got better; it happened, however that
one of the woodcutters took a square piece of the timber home to his
wife, who used it as a lid for a milk jug: these people lived not very
far from the royal palace, and were poor, the woman herself keeping the
house, and doing all servants' work.

One day she left her house very early, without having put anything in
order, and without having done her usual household work; when she came
home in the evening, she found all clean, and in the best order; she was
very much astonished, and could not imagine how it came to pass; and it
happened thus on several days, whenever she had not put her house in
order before going out. In order to find out how these things were
accomplished, one day she purposely left her home in disorder, but did
not go far, but remained outside peeping through the keyhole, to see
what would happen. As soon as everything became quiet in the house, the
woman saw that the lid of the milk jug which was standing in the window,
began to move with gentle noise, and in a few moments a beautiful fairy
stepped out of it, who first combed her golden tresses, and performed
her toilet, and afterwards put the whole house in order. The woman, in
order to trap the fairy before she had time to retransform herself,
opened the door abruptly. They both seemed astonished, but the kind and
encouraging words of the woman soon dispelled the girl's fear, and now
she related her whole story, how she came into the world, how she became
a gold fish, and then a tree, and how she used to walk out of the wooden
lid of the milk jug to tidy the house; she also enlightened the woman as
to who the present queen was. The woman listened to all in great
astonishment, and in order to prevent the girl from slipping back into
the lid, she had previously picked it up, when she entered, and now
threw it into the fire. She at once went to the prince, and told him
the whole story.

The prince had already grown suspicious about his wife's beauty, which
had been very long in returning, and now he was quite sure that she was
a cheat: he sent for the girl and recognised her at once as the pretty
fairy whom he had left in the tree. The gipsy woman was put into the
pillory, and the prince married the pretty girl, and they lived ever
after in happiness.

Next: The Youngest Prince And The Youngest Princess

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