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The Three Princes

Source: The Folk-tales Of The Magyars

There was once, I don't know where, beyond seven times seven countries,
and at a cock's crow even beyond them--an immense, tall, quivering
poplar tree. This tree had seven times seventy-seven branches; on each
branch there were seven times seventy-seven crow-nests, and in each nest
seven times seventy-seven young crows. May those who don't listen
attentively to my tale, or who doze, have their eyes pecked out by all
those young crows; and those who listen with attention to my tale will
never behold the land of the Lord! There was once, I don't know where, a
king who had three sons who were so much like each other that not even
their mother could distinguish them from each other. The king sent his
three sons wandering; the three princes went, and went, and, on the
third day, they arrived at a vast forest, where they first met a
she-wolf with three whelps. "What are you doing here, princes, where not
even the birds ever come?" asked the wolf, "you can go no further,
because I and my whelps will tear you in pieces." "Don't harm us, wolf!"
said the princes, "but rather, let's have your whelps to go as our
servants." "I will tear you to pieces," howled the wolf, and attacked
them; but the princes overcame the wolf, and took the three whelps with
them. They went and went further into the vast forest and met a bear
with three cubs, the next day. "What are you doing here, princes, where
not even a bird comes?" asked the bear; "you can go no further, because
I and my cubs will tear you in pieces." "Don't harm us, bear," said the
princes, "but rather let's have your three cubs to come as our
servants." "I will tear you in pieces," roared the bear, and attacked
them, but the princes overcame the bear, and took the three cubs with
them. Again they went into the vast forest, and met a lioness and her
three cubs, on the third day. "What are you doing here, princes, where
not even a bird comes? you can go no further, because I and my cubs will
tear you in pieces." "Don't harm us, lioness," said the princes, "but
let's have your three cubs to come as our servants." "I will tear you
in pieces," roared the lioness, and attacked them, but the princes
overcame the lioness, and took the three cubs as their servants: and
thus each prince had three servants, a lion, a bear, and a wolf. At last
they reached the outskirts of the vast forest, where the road divided
into three, under a tree, and here the eldest said, "Let us stick our
knives into the tree, and each start in a different direction; in a
year hence we will be back again, and whosoever's knife is covered with
blood, he is in danger, and the others must go in search of him."
"Agreed," said the others, and, sticking their knives into the tree,
started off in different directions.

After long wanderings the eldest came to a town which was wholly covered
with black cloth, and here he took lodgings with an old woman. "Why is
this town hung with black?" asked the prince. "Alas, we live in great
danger here!" said the old woman, "in the lake near the town lives the
dragon with seven heads, who vomits fire, and to him we have to give a
virgin every week, and to-morrow it is the king's daughter's turn, and
she has to go, and this is the reason why our town is covered with
black." "And is there no man who can help?" inquired the prince. "We
have not found one yet," said the old woman, "although our king has
promised his daughter, and after his death his realm, to the one who
kills the dragon." The prince did not say another word, but took a rest
and, afterwards, went towards the lake, and as he passed the royal
palace he saw the princess in the window weeping. The royal princess was
so beautiful that even the sun stopped before the window, in his course,
to admire her beauty. At last he reached the lake, and could already
hear, even at a distance, the dragon with seven heads roaring, so loudly
that the ground trembled. "How dare you approach me? You must die, even
had you seven souls!" roared the dragon, but instead of an answer the
prince threw his mace at him, with such force that it smashed one of his
heads on the spot, thereupon he attacked him with his sword, and also
set his dogs at him, and while he cut the dragon's heads off one by one,
his servants bit him to pieces, and thus killed the dragon, whose blood
formed a brook seven miles long. After this he drew a tooth out of each
head of the dragon and put them into his sabretache, and, as he was very
tired, he lay down amongst the bulrushes and went fast asleep with his
dogs. The Red Knight was watching the whole light from amongst the
bulrushes, and, seeing that the prince was asleep, he crept to him and
killed him, and quartered him, so that he might not revive, and, picking
up the dragon's seven heads, went off towards the town. As soon as the
Red Knight had gone the three dogs woke, and, seeing that their master
had been murdered, began to howl in their sorrow. "If we only had a
rope, so that we could tie him together. I know of a weed which would
bring him to life again," said the wolf. "If we only knew how to tie him
together, I would soon get a rope," said the lion. "I would tie him
together if I had a rope," said the bear; whereupon the lion ran to the
town, the wolf went in search of the weed, and the bear remained behind
to guard his master's body. The lion rushed into a ropemaker's and
roared, "Give me a rope, or I will tear you in pieces." The ropemaker,
in his fright, produced all the rope he had, and the lion rushed off
with a coil. In the meantime the wolf also returned with the weed, and
the bear tied the prince's body together, and the wolf anointed him.
When, all at once, the prince woke, and, rubbing his eyes, stood up.
"Well, I have slept a long time," said the prince, and as he saw that
the sun was setting he returned to the town with his servants, and, as
he again passed in front of the royal palace, he saw the princess once
more, who looked at him, smiling this time. The prince again took his
night's lodging with the old woman, and, as he got up next morning, the
whole town was covered with red cloth. "Why is the whole town covered
with red, now?" asked the prince. "Because the Red Knight killed the
dragon, and saved the royal princess, and he is to be married to her
to-day," replied the old woman. The prince thereupon went into the
palace, into which crowds of people were streaming. The king was just
leading the Red Knight to his daughter, and said, "Here, my daughter,
this is the hero who killed the dragon, and only the hoe and the spade
will separate him from you from this day." "My royal father," said the
princess, "that isn't the man that killed the dragon, and therefore I
cannot be his wife." "He did kill him," shouted the king, "and, in proof
of it, he brought the dragon's seven heads with him, and therefore you
have to be his wife, according to my promise." And there was a great
feast after this, but the princess sat crying at the table, and the
prince went home very downcast. "Give me some food, master, I'm hungry,"
said the wolf, when his master came home. "Go to the king and get some
food from his table," and the wolf went. The Red Knight sat on seven red
pillows, between the king and his daughter, but when he saw the wolf
enter, in his fright a pillow dropped from under him, and the wolf took
a full dish, and went away, and told his master what had happened. "Give
me some food, master. I'm hungry too," said the bear; and his master
sent him also to the palace, and as he entered the Red Knight in his
fright again dropped a pillow from under him. When the bear arrived at
home with the food, he told this to his master. And as the lion got
hungry too, he had to go for his food; and this time the Red Knight
dropped a third pillow, and could hardly be seen above the table. Now
the prince went to the palace himself, and as he entered every one of
the pillows dropped from under the Red Knight in his fright. "Majesty,"
said the prince, "do you believe that the Red Knight has killed the
dragon with seven heads?" "Yes," answered the king, "and he brought the
seven heads with him, they are here." "But look, majesty, whether there
is anything missing out of every head." The king examined the dragon's
heads, and exclaimed in astonishment: "Upon my word there is a tooth
missing from every head." "Quite so," said the prince, "and the seven
dragon teeth are here," and, taking them from his sabretache, he handed
the teeth to the king. "Your Majesty, if the Red Knight has killed the
dragon, how could I have obtained the teeth?" "What's the meaning of
this?" inquired the king, in anger, of the Red Knight; "who killed the
dragon?" "Pardon!" implored the knight. In his fear he confessed all,
and the king had him horsewhipped out of the palace, and sent the dogs
after him.

He bade the prince sit down at once by the side of his daughter, as her
bridegroom; and in joyful commemoration of the event they celebrated
such a wedding that the yellow juice flowed from Henczida to Bonczida.
And the prince and princess lived happily afterwards as man and wife.

However, it happened once that as the prince went hunting with his three
servants, and after a long walk strolled into the wood, he became tired
and hungry; so he made a fire under a tree, and sat down at it, and
fried some bacon; when suddenly he heard some one call out with a
trembling voice in the tree: "Oh! how cold I am." The prince looked up,
and saw an old woman on the top of the tree shivering. "Come down, old
mother," said he. But the old woman said, still shivering with cold,
"I'm afraid to come down, because your dogs will kill me; but if you
will strike them with this rod, which I throw down to you, they will not
touch me." And the good prince, never thinking that the old woman was a
witch, struck his servants with the rod, who, without him noticing it,
turned into stone. Seeing this, the old woman came down from the tree,
and, having prepared a branch as a spit, she caught a toad. She drew it
on the spit, and held it to the fire, close to the bacon; and when the
prince remonstrated and tried to drive the old woman away, she threw the
toad into his face, whereupon the prince fainted. As his servants could
not assist him, the witch killed him, cut him up in pieces, salted him,
and put him into a cask. The princess was waiting for her husband in
great sorrow; but days passed, and still he did not come, and the poor
princess bewailed him day and night.

In the meantime, the second prince returned to the tree in which they
had stuck their knives; and, finding that his elder brother's knife was
covered with blood, started in search of him. When he came to the town,
it was again covered with black. He also took lodgings for the night
with the old woman, and on inquiring she told him the whole story of
the first prince, and also informed him that the town was draped in
black because the prince was lost while hunting. The second prince at
once came to the conclusion that it could be no one else but his elder
brother, and went to the palace. The princess, mistaking him for her
husband in her joy, threw her arms round his neck. "Charming princess, I
am not your husband," said the prince, "but your husband's younger
brother." The princess, however, would not believe him, as she could not
imagine how one man could so resemble another; therefore she chatted
with him the whole day, as if with her husband, and, night having set
in, he had to get into the same bed with her. The prince, however,
placed his unsheathed sword between himself and his sister-in-law,
saying: "If you touch me, this sword will at once cut off your hand."
The princess was very sorry on hearing this, but, in order to try, she
threw her handkerchief over the prince, and the sword cut it in two at
once, whereupon the princess burst out crying, and cried the whole
night. Next morning the prince went out in search of his brother, and
went out hunting in the same wood where he had heard his brother was
lost. But, unfortunately, he met the witch, and was treated in the same
way as his brother. She killed and salted him also.

After this the youngest prince returned to the tree in which the knives
were, and, finding both his brothers' knives covered with blood, went in
the direction in which his eldest brother had gone. He came to the town,
which was still draped in black, and learned all from the old woman; he
went to the palace, where the princess mistook him too for her husband.
He had to sleep with her, but, like his brother, placed a sword between
them, and, to the great sorrow of the princess, he, too, went out
hunting the next morning. Having become tired, he made a fire, and began
to fry some bacon, when the witch threw him the rod; but the prince
luckily discovered in the thicket the six petrified dogs, and instead of
touching his own dogs with the rod, he touched those which had been
turned into stone, and all six came to life again. The witch was not
aware of this and came down from the tree, and the brutes seized her on
the spot, and compelled her to bring their masters to life again. Then
the two princes came to life again. In their joy all three embraced each
other, and their servants tore the witch in pieces. Whereupon they went
home, and now the joy of the princess was full, because her husband and
her brothers-in-law had all returned, and she had no longer any fear
that the sword would be placed in the bed. On account of the joyful
event the town was again draped in red cloth. The eldest prince lived
happily with his wife for a long time, and later on became king. His two
brothers went home safely.

Next: The Three Dreams

Previous: Fairy Elizabeth

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