The Three Princesses

: The Folk-tales Of The Magyars

There was once, I shan't tell you where, it is enough if I tell you that

there was somewhere a tumble-down oven, which was in first-rate

condition barring the sides, and there were some cakes baking in it;

this person (the narrator points to some one present) has eaten some of

them. Well then, on the mountains of Komarom, on the glass bridges, on

the beautiful golden chandelier, there was once a Debreczen cloak which

d ninety-nine tucks, and in the ninety-ninth I found the following


There was once a king with three daughters, but the king was so poor

that he could hardly keep his family; his wife, who was the girls'

stepmother, therefore told her husband one night, that in the morning

she would take the girls into the wood and leave them in the thicket so

that they might not find again their way home. The youngest overheard

this, and as soon as the king and queen fell asleep she hurried off to

her godmother, who was a magic woman, to ask her advice: her

godmother's little pony (tatos) was waiting at the front gate, and

taking her on its back ran straight to the magic woman. She knew well

what the girl needed and gave her at once a reel of cotton which she

could unwind in the wood and so find her way back, but she gave it to

her on the condition that she would not take her two elder sisters home

with her, because they were very bad and proud. As arranged next morning

the girls were led out by their stepmother into the wood to gather chips

as she said, and, having wandered about a long time, she told them to

rest; so they sat down under a tree and soon all three went to sleep;

seeing this, the stepmother hurried home.

On waking up, two of the girls, not being able to find their mother,

began to cry, but the youngest was quiet, saying that she knew her way

home, and that she would go, but could not take them with her; whereupon

the two elder girls began to flatter her, and implored her so much that

she gave in at last. Arriving at home their father received them with

open arms; their stepmother feigned delight. Next night she again told

the king that she would lead them deeper still into the wood: the

youngest again overheard the conversation, and, as on the night before,

went on her little pony to her godmother, who scolded her for having

taken home her bad sisters, and on condition that this time she would

not do so, she gave her a bag full of ashes, which she had to strew over

the road as they went on, in order to know her way back; so the girls

were led into the wood again and left there, but the youngest again took

her sisters home, finding her way by the ashes, having been talked over

by many promises and implorings. At home, they were received, as on the

first occasion; on the third night their stepmother once more undertook

to lead them away; the youngest overheard them as before, but this time,

she had not courage to go to her godmother, moreover she thought that

she could help herself, and for this purpose she took a bag full of peas

with her, which she strewed about as they went. Left by their mother,

the two again began to cry, whereas the youngest said laughing, that she

was able to go home on this occasion also; and having again yielded to

her sisters she started on her way back, but to her astonishment could

not find a single pea, as the birds had eaten them all. Now there was a

general cry, and the three outcasts wandered about the whole day in the

wood, and did not find a spring till sunset, to quench their thirst;

they also found an acorn under an oak under which they had lain down to

rest; they set the acorn, and carried water in their mouths to water it;

by next morning it had grown into a tree as tall as a tower, and the

youngest climbed up it to see whether she could not discover some

habitation in the neighbourhood; not being able to see anything, they

spent the whole day crying and wandering about. The following morning,

the tree was as big as two towers, but on this occasion too the youngest

girl looked in vain from its summit: but at last, by the end of the

third day, the tree was as tall as three towers, and this time the

youngest girl was more successful, because she discovered far away a

lighted window, and, having come down, she led her sisters in the

direction of the light. Her sisters, however, treated her most

shamefully, they took away all her best clothes, which she thoughtfully

had brought with her, tied up in a bundle, and she had to be satisfied

with the shabbiest; whenever she dared to contradict them they at once

began to beat her; they gave her orders that wherever they came she had

to represent them as daughters of rich people, she being their servant.

Thus, they went on for three days and three nights until at last they

came to an immense, beautiful castle.

They felt now in safety, and entered the beautiful palace with great

hopes, but how frightened were they when they discovered a giantess

inside who was as tall as a tower, and who had an eye in the middle of

her forehead as big as a dish, and who gnashed her teeth, which were a

span long. "Welcome, girls!" thus spoke the giantess, "What a splendid

roast you will make!" They all three were terrified at these words, but

the youngest shewed herself amiable, and promised the giantess that they

would make all kind of beautiful millinery for her if she did them no

harm; the woman with the big teeth listened, and agreed, and hid the

girls in a cupboard so that her husband might not see them when he came

home; the giant, who was even taller than his wife, however, at once

began to sniff about, and demanded human flesh of his wife, threatening

to swallow her if she did not produce it. The girls were fetched out,

but were again spared, having promised to cook very savoury food for the

grumbling husband.

The chief reason of their life having been spared, however, was because

the husband wanted to eat them himself during the absence of his wife,

and the woman had a similar plan in her mind. The girls now commenced to

bake and roast, the two eldest kneaded the dough, the youngest making

the fire in the oven, which was as big as hell, and when it got red hot,

the cunning young girl called the giant, and having placed a pot full of

lard into the oven, asked him to taste it with his tongue to see whether

the lard was hot enough, and if the oven had reached its proper heat.

The tower of flesh tried it, but the moment he put his head inside the

oven, the girl gave him a push and he was a dead man in the fiery oven;

seeing this, the giantess got in a rage, and was about to swallow them

up, but, before doing so, the youngest induced her to let herself be

beautified, to which she consented; a ladder was brought, so that the

young girl might get on to her head to comb the monster's hair; instead

of combing, however, the nimble little girl knocked the giantess on the

head with the huge iron comb, so that she dropped down dead on the spot.

The girls had the bodies carted away with twenty-four pair of oxen, and

became the sole owners of the immense castle. Next Sunday, the two

eldest dressed up in their best, and went for a walk, and to a dance in

the royal town.

After their departure their youngest sister, who remained at home to do

servants' work, examined all the rooms, passages, and closets in the

castle. During her search she accidentally found something shining in a

flue. She knocked it off with a stone, and found that it was a most

beautiful golden key. She tried it in every door and cupboard, but only

succeeded, after a long search, in opening a small wardrobe with it;

and, how great was her surprise to find that it was full of ladies'

dresses and millinery, and that every thing seemed made to fit her. She

put on a silver dress in great haste, and went to the dance. The

well-known little pony was outside waiting for her, and galloped away

with her like a hurricane. The moment she entered the dancing hall all

eyes were fixed on her, and the men and youths of the highest dignity

vied with each other as to who should dance with her. Her sisters who,

till her arrival, were the heroines of the evening and the belles of the

ball, were quite set aside now. After a few hours' enjoyment the young

lady suddenly disappeared; and, later on, received her sisters on their

return in her servant's clothes. They told her that they had enjoyed

themselves very well at first, but that later on some impudent female

put them in the back-ground. The little girl laughed and said,

"Supposing that I was that lady;" and she was beaten by her sisters, and

called some not very polite names for her remark. Next Sunday the same

thing happened again, only this time the young girl was dressed in gold.

Everything happened the same, and she was again beaten at home.

The third Sunday the little girl appeared in a diamond dress. At the

dance, again, she was the soul of the evening; but this time the young

men wanted her to stay to the end of the ball, and watched her very

closely, so that she might not escape. When, therefore, she tried to get

away, she was in such a hurry that she had no time to pick up a shoe she

accidentally dropped in the corridor; she was just in time to receive

her sisters. The shoe came into the possession of the prince, who hid

it carefully. After a few days the prince fell very ill, and the best

physicians could not find a cure for him; his father was very nearly in

despair about his only son's health, when a foreign doctor maintained

that the patient could only be cured by marrying, because he was

love-sick. His father, therefore, implored him to make him a full

confession of his love, and, whoever the person whom he wished might be,

he should have her. The prince produced the shoe, and declared that he

wanted the young lady to whom the shoe belonged. So it was announced

throughout the whole realm, that all the ladies of the country should

appear next Sunday to try on the shoe, and whosoever's foot it fitted

she should become the prince's wife. On Sunday the ladies swarmed in

crowds to the capital. Nor were the two eldest of the three sisters

missing, who had had their feet previously scraped with a knife by their

youngest sister, so that they might be smaller. The youngest sister also

got ready after their departure, and, having wrapped the mate of the

lost shoe in a handkerchief, she jumped on the pony's back in her best

dress, and rode to the appointed place. She overtook her sisters on the

road, and, jumping the pony into a puddle, splashed them all over with

mud. The moment she was seen approaching 100 cannons were fired off, and

all the bells were rung; but she wouldn't acknowledge the shoe as her

own without a trial, and, therefore, tried it on. The shoe fitted her

exactly, and when she produced its mate, 300 cannons greeted her as the

future queen. She accepted the honour upon one condition, namely, that

the king should restore her father's conquered realm. Her wish was

granted, and she became the prince's wife. Her sisters were conducted

back to their royal father, who was now rich and powerful once more;

where they live still, if they have not died since.