The Enchanted Crow





In a royal palace dwelt, once upon a time, three fair sisters, all

equally young and pretty; the youngest, however, although not at all

more beautiful than the two elder, was the best and most amiable of

them all.



About half a mile distant from the palace, stood another lordly

dwelling, but which had then fallen into decay, although it still

could boast of a beautiful garden. In this garden the youngest

princess took great pleasure to wander.



Once as she was walking up and down between the lime trees, a black

crow hopped from under a rose-bush. The poor bird was all mutilated

and bloody, and the princess was moved with compassion for him. The

crow no sooner perceived this than he broke out into the following

discourse:--



"No black crow am I by birth, but an unhappy prince, suffering under a

malediction, and doomed to pass my years in this miserable condition.

If thou wilt, oh youthful princess, thou canst rescue me. But to do

so, thou must resolve to be ever my companion, to forsake thy sisters,

and to live in this castle. There is a habitable chamber in it,

wherein stands a golden bed; in that chamber thou must live in

solitude. But forget not, that whatsoever thou mayest see and hear by

night, thou must let no cry of fear escape thee; for if thou shouldst

utter but one single moan my tortures will be doubled."



The kind-hearted princess did forsake her father and sisters, and

hastened to the castle; and there dwelt in the chamber which contained

the golden bed. She was so full of anxious thought that she could not

sleep. As midnight drew near she heard, to her no small terror, some

one creeping in. The door opened wide, and a whole band of evil

spirits entered the chamber. They kindled a great fire on the hearth,

and placed over it a large cauldron, full of boiling water. With great

noise and loud cries they approached the bed, tore from it the

trembling maiden, and dragged her to the cauldron.



She was almost dead from fear, but she uttered no sound. Then suddenly

the cock crew, and all vanished. The crow immediately appeared, and

hopped joyfully about the room, and thanked the princess for her

courageous behaviour, for the sufferings of the unhappy bird were

already lessened.



One of her elder sisters, who had much curiosity in her disposition,

having heard of this, came to visit the princess in her ruined castle.

She besought her so earnestly, that the kind-hearted maiden at length

permitted her to pass one night beside her, in the golden bed. When

the evil spirits appeared as usual about midnight, the elder sister

shrieked aloud from fear, and immediately the cry of a bird in pain

was heard.



The young sister from that time never received the visits of either of

her sisters. Thus did she live; solitary by day, and suffering by

night the most terrible alarm from the evil spirits; but the crow came

daily to her, and thanked her for her endurance, assuring her that his

dreadful sufferings were greatly mitigated.



Thus had passed two years, when the crow came to her, and thus

addressed her:--



"In one year more I shall be delivered from the punishment to which I

am condemned; for then seven years will have passed over my head. But

before I can re-assume my real form, and gain possession of my

treasures, thou must go out into the wide world, and become a

servant."



Obedient to the will of her betrothed, the young princess served for a

whole year as a maid, and notwithstanding her youth and beauty, she

escaped all the snares laid for her by the ill-disposed.



One evening while she was spinning flax, and her white hands were

wearied with work, she heard a rustling, and an exclamation of joy. A

handsome young man entered her presence, knelt before her, and kissed

the little weary white hands.



"It is I," cried he, "I am the prince, whom thou, by thy goodness,

whilst I wandered in the form of a black crow, didst deliver from the

most dreadful tortures. Return with me now to my castle, there will we

live together in happiness."



They went together to the castle where she had undergone so much

terror. The palace was, however, no longer recognisable, it was so

improved and adorned, and in it did they dwell together for a hundred

happy and joyous years.





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