The Twelve Lost Princesses And The Wizard King

: Italian
: 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 coun
ry 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

of them.

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[4], 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

the ground.]

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

the king."

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.