The Twelve Lost Princesses And The Wizard King
Source: Fairy Tales From All Nations
Once upon a time there lived a king who had twelve daughters, whom he
loved so tenderly that he could not bear that they should be out of
his presence, except when he was sleeping in the afternoon, and then
they always took a walk. On one occasion, it happened that whilst the
king was enjoying his afternoon's nap, the princesses went out as
usual, but they did not return home. This threw all the inhabitants of
the country into the greatest trouble and affliction, but the king was
still more grieved than any of his subjects. He sent messengers to
every corner of his kingdom, and into all the foreign lands he had
ever heard mentioned, causing search to be made for his daughters; but
no tidings could he get of them.
So, after a time, it became quite clear to everybody that they had
been carried off by some wizard. The report of this soon spread from
city to city, and from country to country, till at last it reached the
ears of another king, who lived far, far away, and this king happened
to have twelve sons. When the twelve princes heard the marvellous tale
about the twelve princesses, they begged their father to permit them
to travel in search of the missing royal maidens. The old king,
however, for a long time would not hear of any such thing, for he
feared that he might never see his sons again; but they threw
themselves at his feet, and besought him so long and earnestly that at
last he yielded, and gave them leave to set out on their travels. He
caused a vessel to be equipped for them, and gave the charge of it to
one of his courtiers, called Commander Rod. Long, long did they sail,
and whenever they touched on the coast of any country, they made every
inquiry about the princesses, but could not discover the least trace
They had nearly completed the seventh year since they first set sail,
when a violent storm arose. It blew such a gale that they thought they
never should reach the shore; but on the third day the tempest
subsided, and suddenly it became quite calm. All on board were now so
fatigued by the hard work they had done during the tempest that they
all went to sleep at once, excepting only the youngest prince, who
became very restless, and could not sleep at all. Now whilst he was
pacing the deck, the vessel neared an island, and on the shore was a
little dog running backwards and forwards, and howling and barking
towards the ship as if it wanted to be taken on board. The king's son
whistled to it, and tried to entice it to him, but it seemed afraid to
leave the shore, and only barked and howled louder still. The prince
thought it would be a sin to leave the poor dog to perish, for he
supposed it had escaped there from some ship that had foundered during
the storm. He therefore set to work to lower the boat, and after
having rowed to the shore, he went towards the little dog, but
whenever he was about to lay hold of it, it sprang from him, and so
lured him onward, till at last he found himself unexpectedly in the
court of a great and magnificent castle, when the little dog suddenly
changed into a beautiful princess.
The prince then noticed, sitting on the beach, a man so gigantic and
frightful that he was quite alarmed. "You have no cause for
uneasiness," said the man; but when the prince heard his voice he was
more frightened still.
"I know very well what you want; you are one of the twelve princes who
are in search of the twelve lost princesses. I know also where they
are. They are beside my master, each sitting on her own chair, and
combing the hair of one of his heads, for he has twelve. You have now
been sailing about for seven years, and you have to sail for seven
years more before you will find them. As to what concerns yourself,
individually, you should be welcome to remain here and marry my
daughter, but you must first kill my master, for he is very harsh to
us, and we have long been quite tired of him: and when he is dead I
shall be king in his place. Try now if you can wield this sword," said
the wizard, for such he was.
The prince tried to grasp a rusty sword which hung against the wall,
but could not stir it from the spot.
"Well, then you must take a draught out of this flask," said the
The prince did so, and was then able to unhang the sword from the
wall; after a second draught he could raise it, and the third enabled
him to wield it with as much ease as his own.
"When you return on board the vessel," said the wizard prince, "you
must conceal the sword in your hammock, so that Commander Rod may not
see it. He cannot wield it, I know, but he will hate you on that
account, and try to kill you. When seven more years all but three days
shall have passed away," he continued, "the same that has befallen you
now will again occur: a violent gale will arise, with storm and hail,
and when it is over, all will be again fatigued, and lie down in their
hammocks. You must then take the sword, and row to land. You will
arrive at a castle guarded by wolves, bears, and lions, but you need
not fear them; they will crawl at your feet. As soon as you enter the
castle, you will see the giant sitting in a splendidly adorned
chamber, and a princess will be seated on her own chair, beside one of
his twelve heads. As soon as you see him you must with all speed cut
off one head after the other, before he awakes, for should he do that,
he will eat you alive."
The prince returned to the ship with the sword, and did not forget
what the wizard had told him. The others were still lying sound
asleep, so he concealed the sword in his hammock without Commander Rod
or any of the others perceiving it. A breeze now sprang up, and the
prince awakened the crew, and told them that with such a fair wind
they must no longer lie sleeping there. Time wore on, and the prince
was for ever thinking of the adventure that awaited him, and much
doubted that it would have a fortunate issue.
At last, when seven years all but three days were over, everything
happened just as the wizard had foretold. A fierce tempest arose, and
lasted three days, and when it was over the whole crew were fatigued,
and lay down to sleep in their hammocks. The youngest prince, however,
then rowed to the shore, and there he found the castle, guarded by
wolves, bears, and lions, who all crawled at his feet, so that he
entered without opposition. In one of the apartments sat the king,
asleep, and the twelve princesses sat each on her chair, employed as
the wizard had said. The prince made signs to them that they should
retire; they however pointed to the wizard, and signed to him in
return that he had better quickly withdraw. But he tried to make them
understand, by looks and gestures, that he was come to deliver them,
and when, at length, they understood his design, they stole softly
away one after the other. Then the prince rushed on the wizard king,
and cut off his heads, so that the blood flowed like a great river,
and when he had convinced himself that the wizard was dead, he rowed
back to the vessel, and again concealed the sword. He thought he had
now done enough unaided, and as he could not carry the giant's corpse
out of the castle without assistance, he resolved that the others
should help him. He therefore awakened them, and told them it was a
shame that they should lie sleeping there, whilst he had found the
princesses, and delivered them out of the wizard's power. They all
laughed at him, and said he must have been asleep too, and had only
dreamt that he had become such a hero; for it was far more likely that
one of themselves should deliver the princesses than such a youth as
Then the prince told them all that had happened, so they consented to
row to the land, and when they beheld the river of blood, and the
wizard's castle, and his twelve heads lying there, and saw also the
twelve princesses, they were convinced that he had spoken the truth,
and so assisted him in throwing the heads and the corpse of the wizard
into the sea. They were now all right merry and pleased, but none were
better pleased than the princesses to be delivered from the task of
sitting all day beside the giant, combing his twelve heads.
The princes and princesses, after they had collected as much of the
gold and silver, and as many of the costly articles in the castle as
they could carry, returned to the vessel, and again set sail. They had
not gone far, however, when the princesses recollected that, in their
joy, they had omitted to bring away with them their golden crowns,
which were in a great chest, and these they very much desired to have
with them. As no one else seemed inclined to go back for them, the
youngest of the king's sons said: "Since I have already dared to do so
much, I may as well also fetch the golden crowns, if you will take in
the sails and wait my return."
Yes, they were willing to do that; they would lower the sails and wait
till he returned. But the prince was no sooner out of sight of the
vessel than Commander Rod, who wished to play the principal part, and
to marry the youngest princess, said: "It was no use for us to stay
here waiting for the prince, who, we may be sure, will not come back;
besides," added he, "you know full well that the king has given to me
full power to sail when and where I think proper;" then he insisted
further that they should all say that it was he who had set the
princesses free: and if any one of them should dare to say otherwise
it should cost him his life. The princes were afraid to contradict
him, so they sailed away. Meanwhile the younger prince had rowed to
the shore, and soon found in the castle the chest containing the
golden crowns, and after a great deal of trouble and fatigue, for it
was very heavy, he succeeded in heaving it into the boat. But when he
got out into the open sea, the ship was no longer in sight. He looked
north, south, east, and west, but no trace could he discover of it,
and he quickly guessed what had occurred. He knew that to row after it
would be quite useless, so he had only to turn back and row again to
the shore. It is true that he was rather alarmed at the idea of
passing the night all alone in the castle, but there was no avoiding
it; so he screwed up his courage as well as he could, locked all the
gates and doors, and lay down to sleep in a bed which he found ready
prepared in one of the apartments. But he felt very uneasy, and became
much more terrified, on presently hearing in the roof over his head,
and along the walls, a creaking and cracking, as if the castle were
about to split asunder; and then came a great rustling close to his
bed, like a whole haystack falling down. However, he was in some
degree comforted when he immediately after the noise heard a voice
bidding him not to be alarmed.
"Fear not, fear not, thy friend I am;
I am the wondrous bird called Dam.
When thou'rt in trouble call on me:
I shall be near to succour thee,"
said the voice, and then added: "As soon as you wake to-morrow
morning, you must go directly to the Stabur, and fetch me four
bushels of rye for my breakfast; I must have a good meal, otherwise I
can do nothing for you."
[Footnote 4: A building used as a kind of store-room or larder, and
supported on short pillars or posts, so as not to allow it to touch
When the prince awoke in the morning, he saw by his bed-side a
terribly large bird, who had a feather at the back of his head as long
as a half-grown fir tree. The prince immediately went to the Stabur
and brought thence four bushels of rye, as the wondrous bird Dam had
commanded, who, as soon as he had taken his breakfast, desired the
prince to hang the chest containing the golden crowns on one side of
his neck, and as much gold and silver as would balance it on the
other, and then to get upon his back and hold fast by the long
feather. The prince obeyed and off they went, whizzing through the air
at such a rate, that in a very short time they found themselves
exactly above the ship. The prince then wished to go on board, that he
might get the sword which the wizard had given him.
But the wondrous bird Dam told him that he must not do so: "Commander
Rod," added he, "will not discover it; but if you go on board he will
try to kill you, for he very much wishes to marry the youngest
princess; but make yourself easy about her, for every night she places
a drawn sword on the bed by her side."
At last they reached the castle of the wizard prince, who gave the
young prince a hearty welcome. He seemed as if he could not make
enough of him, for having killed his sovereign, in whose stead he was
now king. He would willingly have given his daughter and half his
kingdom to the young prince, but that the latter was so much in love
with the youngest of the twelve princesses, that he could think of no
one but her, and he was all impatience to be off again.
The wizard, however, besought him to have a little patience, and told
him that the princesses were doomed to sail about still for twice
seven years before they could return home. As to the youngest
princess, the wizard said exactly the same as the wondrous bird Dam:
"You may be quite at ease concerning her," said he, "for she always
carries a drawn sword to bed with her. And if you do not believe me,
you may go on board when they next sail past this place, to convince
yourself; and, at the same time, bring me the sword I lent you, for I
must positively have it back."
Now after seven years' more wandering, the princes and princesses were
again sailing past the island; a terrible storm came on as before, and
after it was over the king's son went on board and found them all fast
asleep as on the former occasions; but by each of the princes a
princess also lay asleep. Only the youngest princess slept alone, with
a naked sword beside her; and on the floor, in front of the bed, lay
Commander Rod, also sound asleep. The king's son took the sword from
his hammock, and rowed to the island, without any one having perceived
that he had been on board.
The prince, however, grew more and more impatient, always wishing to
set out again.
At length, when the second seven years were completed all but three
weeks, the wizard said to him: "Now you may prepare for your voyage,
since you are determined not to remain with us. I will lend you an
iron boat that will go of itself on the water, by your merely saying
to it: 'Boat, go forwards.' In the boat you will find a boat-hook,
which you must lift up a little when you see the ship right before
you. Such a fresh breeze will then spring up, that the ship's crew
will forget to look after you. As soon as you get near the ship, raise
the boat-hook a little higher, and then a storm will arise that will
give them other work to do than spying after you. When you shall have
passed the ship, raise the boat-hook for the third time, but you must
be careful each time to lay it down again, else there will be such a
tempest, that you, as well as the others, will perish. On reaching the
shore, you need take no further trouble about the boat than to turn it
upside down, shove it into the sea, and say: 'Boat, go home again.'"
When the prince was departing, he received from the wizard so much
gold and silver, together with other treasures, and clothes and linen
which the princess had made for him during his long stay in the
island, that he was a great deal richer than any of his brothers.
He had no sooner seated himself in the boat and said, "Boat, go
forwards," than on it went, and when he came in sight of the ship, he
raised the boat-hook, and a breeze sprang up, so that the crew forgot
to look after him; and on nearing the vessel he did the same, when
such a storm and gale arose, that the ship was covered with the white
spray, and the waves broke over the deck, so that the crew had no
leisure to remark him. At last when he had passed the ship, he raised
the boat-hook the third time, and the crew found enough to do to make
them quite forget him. He reached the land long before the ship, and,
after taking his property out of the boat, he turned it over, shoved
it into the sea, saying, "Boat, go home," and away it went.
He now disguised himself as a sailor, and went to the wretched hovel
of an old woman, to whom he said he was a poor shipwrecked sailor, the
only one of the crew who had escaped drowning; and he begged shelter
in her hut for himself and the things he had saved from the wreck.
"Ah, heaven help me," replied the woman, "I can give no one shelter. I
have not even a bed for myself, let alone any one else."
Oh! that did not signify, said the sailor, so that he had but a roof
over his head, it was all one to him what he lay upon; therefore she
would not surely refuse him the shelter of her roof, since he was
content to take things as he found them.
In the evening, he brought his things to the cottage, and the old
woman, who did not at all dislike to have something new to talk about,
began inquiring who he was, where he had been, and whither he was
going; what were the things he had brought with him; on what business
he was travelling, and whether he had heard anything of the twelve
princesses who had disappeared so many years ago, with so many other
questions, that it would be tiresome to repeat them.
But the sailor replied that he felt so ill, and had such a terrible
headache from the fatigues he had undergone during the storm, that he
could not accurately recollect anything that had passed; but that
after he should have had a few days repose, and recovered from his
labours, she should hear all.
The next day, however, the old woman renewed her questions, but the
sailor pretended still to have such a terrible headache, that he could
not rightly remember anything; though he did let a word or two drop,
as by accident, which showed that he did know something about the
Off ran the old woman to tell this news to all the gossips in the
neighbourhood, who hurried one after the other to the hut, to hear all
about the princesses; and to ask whether the sailor had seen them, if
they were soon coming, and a hundred other questions.
Still the sailor had such a terrible headache, that he could not
answer their questions. Thus much, however, he did say: that if the
princesses were not wrecked during that fierce storm, they would
certainly arrive in fourteen days, or even sooner. He had certainly
seen them alive, but they might have since perished.
One of the gossips went forthwith to the royal residence, and related
all that she had heard; and when the king heard it, he desired that
the sailor should be brought to him.
The sailor replied, "I have no clothes in which I can appear before
But he was told that he must go, for the king must and would see him,
whatever appearance he might make, for he was the first person who had
ever brought any news of the princesses. So he entered the king's
presence, when he was asked if he had really seen the princesses.
"Yes," said the sailor, "but I know not if they still live, for when
I saw them, it was during such a fierce storm, that we were wrecked.
But if they did not then go to the bottom, they may be here in about
fourteen days, or perhaps sooner."
When the king heard this, he was almost frantic with joy, and at the
appointed time for the arrival of the princesses, he went down to the
shore in state to meet them; and great was the rejoicing through the
land, when at last the ship sailed into port, with the princes, and
princesses, and Commander Rod. The eleven elder princesses were in
high spirits and good humour; but the youngest, whom Commander Rod was
anxious to marry, was very sad and wept incessantly, for which the
king chid her, and asked her why she was not happy and cheerful, like
her sisters. She had no cause, thought he, to be sad, now she was
delivered from the wizard, and had such a fine man as Commander Rod
for her lover. The Princess however durst not tell the truth, for
Commander Rod had told the king that it was himself who had liberated
the princesses, and had threatened to kill any one who should say
Now, one day while the princesses were making their wedding clothes, a
man in a coarse sailor's jacket, with a pedlar's pack on his back,
came and asked them if they would not like to buy some fine things for
their wedding, for he had some costly articles of gold and silver.
"Yes," said they, "very possibly they might," and they looked very
attentively at the ornaments, and still more so at him, for they could
not help fancying that they had seen both him and the goods before.
At last the youngest princess said, that he who had such costly
articles, might perhaps have others still more suitable to them.
"Very possibly," returned the pedlar.
But her sisters bade her be quiet, and remember Commander Rod's
Shortly after, when the princesses were sitting at the window, the
king's son came again in his coarse sailor jacket, carrying the chest
with the golden crowns.
On entering the hall, he opened the chest, and now when the princesses
recognised each her own golden crown, the youngest princess said:--"To
me it seems only fair and just, that he who suffers for us, should
receive the reward to which he is entitled; our deliverer is not
Commander Rod, but he who has now brought us our golden crowns, is
also he who destroyed the wizard."
Then the king's son threw off his jacket, and stood there far more
splendidly attired than any of the rest.
The king now caused Commander Rod to be put to death for his perfidy,
and gave his daughter in marriage to the young prince.
The rejoicings in the royal residence were very great, and each prince
took his princess away to a different realm, so that the tale was told
and talked about in no less than twelve distinct kingdoms.
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