The World's Beautiful Woman

: The Folk-tales Of The Magyars

In the most beautiful land of Asia, where Adam and Eve may have lived,

where all animals, including cows, live wild, where the corn grows wild,

and even bread grows on trees, there lived a pretty girl, whose palace

was built on a low hill, which looked over a pretty, a very pretty

valley, from which one could see the whole world. In the same country

there lived a young king who decided not to get married till he

ed in finding the prettiest woman or girl in the world. The

pretty maid lived with her old father, and with only two servant girls.

The young king lived and enjoyed himself amongst the finest young

aristocrats. One day it struck the young king that it would be a good

thing to get married; so he instructed his aristocratic friends to go

all over his vast realm, and to search about till they found the

prettiest girl in the land: they had not to trouble whether she was poor

or rich; but she must be the prettiest. Each of them was to remain in

the town where he found the girl that he deemed was the prettiest and to

write and let the king know, so that he might go and have a look at all

of them and choose for himself the prettiest amongst all the beauties,

the one he liked best. After a year he received letters from every one

of his seventy-seven friends, and extraordinarily all the seventy-seven

letters arrived from the same town, where, on a low hill above a pretty

little valley, there stood a golden palace, in which there lived a young

lady with a nice old man and two maids, and from the four windows of

which palace the whole world could be seen. The young king started with

a large retinue of wedding guests to the place where the prettiest girl

in the world lived: he found there all his seventy-seven friends, who

were all fever-stricken with love, and were lying about on the pavement

of the palace, on hay which was of a very fine silk-like grass; there

they lay every one of them. The moment the young king saw the beautiful

girl he cried: "The Lord has created you expressly for me; you are mine

and I am yours! and it is my wish to find my rest in the same grave with


The young lady also fell very much in love with the handsome king; in

her fond passion she could not utter a word, but only took him round his

slender waist[1] and led him to her father. Her old father wept tears of

joy, that at last a man was found whom his daughter could love, as she

had thought every man ugly hitherto. The ceremony of betrothal and

wedding was very short; at his pretty wife's wish, the king came to

live on the beautiful spot, than which there was not a prettier one in

the whole world! By the side of the palace there was an earth-hut, in

which lived an old witch who knew all the young lady's secrets, and who

helped her with advice whenever she needed it. The old witch praised the

young lady's beauty to all she met, and it was she who had gathered the

seventy-seven young aristocrats into the palace. On the evening of the

wedding she called upon "the world's beautiful lady" and praised the

young king to her, his handsomeness and riches, and after she had

praised him for an hour or two she sighed heavily: the pretty young lady

asked her what troubled her, as she had this very moment spoken of her

husband as being a handsome, rich, and worthy man? "Because, my pretty

lady, my beautiful queen, if you two live sometime here, you will not

long be the prettiest woman in the world; you are very pretty now, and

your husband is the handsomest of all men; but should a daughter be born

to you, she will be more beautiful than you; she will be more beautiful

than the morning star--this is the reason of my sadness, my beautiful

lady." "You are quite right, good old woman, I will follow any advice;

if you tell me what to do, I will obey you. I will do anything to remain

the most beautiful woman in the world." This was what the old witch said

to the beautiful lady: "I will give you a handful of cotton wool; when

your husband sleeps with you, put this wool on your lips, but be careful

not to make it wet, because there will be poison on it. When your

husband arrives at home all in perspiration from the dance, he will come

to you and kiss you, and die a sudden death." The young lady did as the

witch told her, and the young king was found dead next morning; but the

poison was of such a nature that the physicians were not able to find

out what the king had died of.

The bride was left a widow, and again went to live with her maid and

her old father, and made a solemn vow that she would never marry again.

And she kept her word. As it happened, however, by some inexplicable

circumstance, or by some miracle, after a few months she discovered that

she was with child; so she ran to the old witch and asked her what to

do. The witch gave her a looking-glass and the following advice: "Every

morning you have to ask this mirror whether there is a more beautiful

woman than yourself in existence, and if it says that there is not,

there really won't be one for a long time, and your mind may be at ease;

but should it say that there is one, there will be one, and I will see

to that myself." The beautiful lady snatched the mirror from the witch

in great joy, and as soon as she reached her dressing-room she placed

the little mirror on the window ledge and questioned it thus: "Well, my

dear little mirror, is there a more beautiful woman in the world than

I?" The mirror replied: "Not yet, but there will be one soon, who will

be twice as handsome as you." The beautiful woman nearly lost her wits

in her sorrow, and informed the witch what the mirror had replied. "No

matter," said the old hag, "let her be born, and we shall soon put her

out of the way."

The beautiful lady was confined, and a pretty little daughter was born,

and it would have been a sin to look at her with an evil eye. The bad

woman did not even look at the pretty little creature, but fetched her

mirror and said: "Well, my dear little mirror, is there a more beautiful

creature than I?" and the looking-glass replied: "You are very

beautiful, but your little daughter is seven times prettier than you."

So as soon as she left her bed she sent for the old witch to ask her

advice, who, when she took the babe in her arms, exclaimed that she had

never seen such a beautiful creature in all her life. While she gazed at

the beautiful child she spat in her eyes and covered her face, telling

the beautiful woman to look at the child again in three hours, and when

she uncovered it she would be surprised to find what a monster it had

become. The beautiful lady felt very uneasy, and asked the witch whether

she was allowed to question the mirror again? "Certainly," replied the

witch, "for I know that at this moment you are the most beautiful woman

in existence." But the mirror replied, "You are beautiful, but your

daughter is seventy-seven times more beautiful than you." The beautiful

woman nearly died of rage, but the old witch only smiled, being

confident of her magic power.

The three hours passed, the little girl's face was uncovered, and the

old witch fainted away in her rage; for the little girl had become not

only seven times, but seventy-seven times more beautiful than ever from

the very same thing that usually disfigured other babies: when she

recovered she advised the beautiful lady to kill her baby, as not even

the devil himself had any power over it. The old father of the beautiful

woman had died suddenly, broken hearted by his daughter's shame! The

beautiful woman was nearly killed by sorrow over the loss of her father,

and in order to forget her troubles, she spared her daughter till she

was thirteen: the little girl grew more beautiful every day, so that the

woman could not bear her daughter's beauty any longer, and handed her to

the old witch to be killed. The witch was only too glad to avail herself

of the opportunity, and took her into a vast forest, where she tied the

girl's hands together with a wisp of straw, placed a wreath of straw on

her head, and a girdle of straw round her waist, so that by lighting

them she would burn to death the most beautiful masterpiece of the Lord.

But all of a sudden a loud shouting was heard in the forest, and twelve

robbers came running as swift as birds towards the place where the old

witch and the pretty girl were standing. One of the robbers seized the

girl, another knocked the old witch on the head, and gave her a sound

beating. The witch shammed death, and the robbers left the wicked old

wretch behind, carrying off the pretty girl (who had fainted in her

fright) with them. After half an hour the old witch got up, and rushed

to the castle where the beautiful woman lived, and said, "Well, my

queen, don't question your mirror any more, for you are now the most

beautiful creature in the world, your beautiful daughter lies under

ground." The beautiful lady jumped for joy, and kissed the ugly old


The pretty girl upon her recovery found herself in a nice little house,

in a clean bed, and guarded by twelve men, who praised her beauty in

whispers, which was such as no human eye had seen before. The innocent

little thing, not thinking of any harm, looked at the men with their

great beards, who stared at her with wide open eyes. She got up from her

soft bed, and thanked the good men for having delivered her from the

clutches of the awful old witch, and then inquired where she was, and

what they intended to do with her; if they meant to kill her, she begged

them do it at once, as she would die with pleasure, and was only afraid

of being killed by that horrible old witch, who was going to burn her to

death. None of the robbers could utter a word, their hearts were so

softened by her sweet words: such words as they had never before heard

from human lips, and her innocent look which would have tamed even a

wild bull. At last one of the robbers, who was splendidly dressed, said:

"You pretty creature of the Lord, you are in the midst of twelve

robbers, who are men of good hearts, but bad morals; we saved you from

the hands of the ugly old witch whom I knocked down, and killed I

believe; we would not kill you, for the whole world; but, on the

contrary, would fight the whole world for you! Be the ornament of our

house and the feast of our eyes! Whatsoever your eyes or your mouth may

desire, be it wherever man exists, we will bring it to you! be our

daughter, and we will be everything to you! your fathers! brothers!

guardians! and, if you need it, your soldiers!" The little girl smiled,

and was very pleased: she found more happiness among the robbers than

she ever did in her mother's palace; she shook hands with all, commended

herself to their protection, and at once looked after the cooking. The

chief of the robbers called three strong maidens, dressed in white,

from a cave, and ordered them to carry out without delay the orders of

their queen, and if he heard one word of complaint against any of them,

they should die the death of a pig. The young girl spoke kindly to the

three maids, and called them her companions.

The robbers then went out on to the highway in great joy--to continue

their plundering--singing and whistling with delight, because their home

and their band had the most beautiful queen in the world. The beautiful

woman, the girl's mother, one day felt weary, and listless, because she

had not heard any one praise her beauty for a very long time. So in her

ennui she took her mirror and said to it: "My dear, sweet little mirror,

is there a more beautiful creature in all the world, than I?" The little

mirror replied, "You are very beautiful, but your daughter is a thousand

times handsomer!" The woman nearly had a fit, in her rage, for she had

not even suspected that her hateful daughter was yet alive: she ran to

the old witch like one out of her mind, to tell what the mirror had

said. The witch at once disguised herself as a gipsy, and started on her

journey, and arrived at the fence of the place where the pretty girl

lived; the garden was planted with flowers and large rose bushes; among

the flower beds she could see the pretty girl sauntering in a dress fit

for a queen. The old witch's heart nearly broke when she saw the young

girl, for never, not even in her imagination, had she ever seen any one

so beautiful. She stole into the garden among the flower beds, and on

approaching saw that the young girl's fingers were covered with the most

precious diamond rings: she kissed the girl's beautiful hand, and begged

to be allowed to put on a ring more precious than any she had; the girl

consented, and even thanked her for it. When she entered the house, she

all at once dropped down as if dead; the witch rushed home, and brought

the good news to the beautiful queen, who at once questioned the mirror,

whether there was yet any one who was prettier than she, and the mirror

replied, that there was not.

The pretty woman was delighted, and nearly went mad with joy on hearing

that she was once more the most beautiful creature in existence, and

gave the witch a handful of gold.

At noon the robbers dropped in one after another from their plundering,

and were thunderstruck when they saw that the glory of their house and

the jewel of their band lay dead. They bewailed her with loud cries of

grief, and commanded the maidens with threats to tell them who had done

it, but they were even more stunned with grief, and bewailed the good

lady, and could not utter a single word, till one of them said that she

saw the pretty girl talking with a gipsy woman for a while, and that the

moment the woman left she suddenly dropped down dead. After much weeping

and wailing the robbers made preparations for the laying out of their

adored queen; they took off her shoes in order to put more beautiful

ones upon her pretty feet: they then took the rings off her fingers in

order to clean them, and as at the very last one of the robbers pulled

off the most precious ring from her little finger, the young girl sat up

and smiled, and informed them that she had slept very well, and had had

most beautiful dreams; and also that if they had not taken off that very

ring (which the gipsy woman had put on that day) from her little finger

she would never have waked again. The robbers smashed the murderous ring

to atoms with their hatchet-sticks, and begged their dear queen not to

speak to anyone, except themselves, as all others were wicked, and

envious of her on account of her beauty, while they adored her. Having

partaken of a good supper, the robbers again went out to their plunder

singing, and quite at rest in their minds, and for a couple of weeks

nothing happened to the young lady; but after a fortnight her mother

again felt ennui and questioned her mirror: "Is there any one living

being on this earth more beautiful than I?" The mirror replied: "You

are very beautiful, but your daughter is one thousand times more

beautiful." The beautiful lady began to tear her hair in rage, and went

to complain to the witch that her daughter was alive still, so the witch

again went off and found the young lady, as before, among the

flower-beds. The witch disguised herself as a Jewess this time, and

began to praise the gold and diamond pins with which the young lady's

shawl was fastened, which she admired very much, and begged the young

lady's leave to allow her to stick another pin amongst those which she

had already in her bosom, as a keepsake. Among all the pins the

prettiest one was the one which the witch disguised as a Jewess stuck in

the young lady's bosom. The young lady thanked her for it, and went

indoors to look after the cooking, but as soon as she arrived in the

house she gave a fearful scream and dropped down dead.

The joy of her mother was great when the witch arrived home in great

delight and the mirror again proved that the girl was dead. The robbers

were full of joy, in anticipation of the pleasure of seeing again their

pretty young girl, whose beauty was apparently increasing daily; but

when they heard the cries of sorrow of the three servant maids and saw

the beautiful corpse stretched out on the bier, they lost all their

cheerfulness and began to weep also. Three of the robbers carried in all

the necessaries for the funeral, while the others undressed and washed

the corpse, and as they were drawing out from her shawl the numerous

pins, they found one amongst them which sparkled most brilliantly,

whereupon two of them snatched it away, each being anxious to replace it

in the girl's bosom when redressing her for burial, when suddenly the

virgin queen sat up and informed them that her death was caused by a

Jewess this time. The robbers buried the pin five fathoms deep in the

ground, so that no evil spirit might get it. There is no more restless

being in the world than a woman; it is a misfortune if she is pretty,

and the same if she is not: if she be pretty she likes to be continually

told of it, if she be not she would like to be. The evil one again

tempted the beautiful lady, and she again questioned her mirror whether

any living being was prettier than she: the mirror replied that her

daughter was prettier.

Upon this she called the old witch all kinds of bad names in her rage,

and threatened her that if she did not kill her daughter outright she

would betray her to the world, and accuse her of having led her to all

her evil deeds; that it was she who induced her to kill her handsome

husband, and that she had given her the mysterious mirror, which was the

cause of her not being able to die in peace. The old hag made no reply,

but went off in a boisterous manner: she transformed herself into a

pretty girl and went straight into the house in which the young lady was

dressing herself and falsely told her that she had been engaged by the

robbers to wait always upon her while she dressed, because she had

already been killed twice, once by a gipsy woman, and another time by a

Jewess; and also that the robbers had ordered her not to do anything

else but to help her in her toilet. The innocent girl believed all that

the she-devil said. She allowed her to undo her hair and to comb it. The

witch did her hair in accordance with the latest fashion, and plaited it

and fastened it with all sorts of hair pins; while doing so she hid a

hair-pin which she had brought with her among the girl's hair, so that

it could not be noticed by anyone; having finished, the new lady's maid

asked permission to leave her mistress for a moment, but never returned,

and her young lady died, while all wept and sobbed most bitterly. The

men and the maids had again to attend with tears to their painful duty

of laying her out for her funeral; they took away all her rings,

breast-pins, and hair-pins; they even opened every one of the folds of

her dress, but still they did not succeed in bringing the young girl to

life again. Her mother was really delighted this time, because she kept

on questioning the mirror for three or four days, and it always replied

to her heart's content. The robbers wailed and cried, and did not even

enjoy their food; one of them proposed that they should not bury the

girl, but that they should come to pray by the side of their dear dead;

others again thought that it would be a pity to confide the pretty body

to the earth, where it would be destroyed; others spoke of the terrible

pang, and said that their hearts would break if they had to look at her

dead beauty for any length of time. So they ordered a splendid coffin

to be made of wrought gold. They wrapped her in purple and fine linen;

they caught an elk and placed the coffin between its antlers, so that

the precious body might not decompose underground: the elk quietly

carried the precious coffin about, and took the utmost care to prevent

it falling from its antlers or its back. This elk happened to graze in

Persia just as the son of the Persian king was out hunting all alone.

The prince was twenty-three years old; he noticed the elk and also the

splendid coffin between its antlers, whereupon he took a pound of sugar

from his bag and gave it to the elk to eat. Taking the coffin from

its back the Persian king's son opened the gold coffin with fear and

trembling, when, unfolding the fine linen, he discovered a corpse, the

like of which he had never seen before, not even in his dreams.

He began to shake it to wake her: to kiss her, and at last went down

upon his knees by her side to pray to God fervently to restore her to

life, but still she didn't move. "I will take her with me into my room,"

he said, sobbing. "Although it is a corpse that must have been dead for

some time, there is no smell. The girl is prettier in her death than all

the girls of Persia alive." It was late at night when the prince got

home, carrying the golden coffin under his cloak. He bewailed the dead

girl for a long time and then went to supper. The king looked anxiously

into his son's eyes, but did not dare to question him as to the cause of

his grief. Every night the prince locked himself up, and did not go to

sleep until he had, for a long time, bemoaned his dead sweetheart; and

whenever he awoke in the night he wept again.

The prince had three sisters, and they were very good girls, and very

fond of their brother. They watched him every night through the keyhole,

but could see nothing. They heard, however, their brother's sobbing and

were very much grieved by it. The Persian king had war declared against

him by the king of the neighbouring country. The king, being very

advanced in age, asked his son to go in his place to fight the enemy.

The good son promised this willingly, although he was tortured by the

thought of being obliged to leave his beautiful dead girl behind. As,

however, he was aware that he would again be able to see and weep over

his dear one when once the war was over, he locked himself in his room

for two hours, weeping all the time, and kissing his sweetheart. Having

finished, he locked his room and put the key in his sabretache. The

good-hearted princesses impatiently waited till their brother crossed

the border with his army, and so soon as they knew that he had left the

country they went to the locksmith of the castle and took away every key

he had, and with these tried to unlock their brother's room, till at

last one of the keys did fit. They ordered every servant away from the

floor on which the room was situated and all three entered. They looked

all round, and in all the cupboards, and even took the bed to pieces,

and as they were taking out the planks of the bed they suddenly

discovered the glittering gold coffin, and in all haste placed it on the

table, and having opened it found the sleeping angel. All three kissed

her; but when they saw that they were unable to restore life, they wept

most bitterly. They rubbed her and held balsam under her nose, but

without avail. Then they examined her dress, which was very far superior

to their own. They moved her rings and breast-pins, and dressed her up

like a pretty doll. The youngest princess brought combs and perfumed

hair-oils in order to do the hair of the dear dead. They pulled out the

hair-pins and arranged them in nice order, so as to be able to replace

them as before. They parted her golden hair, and began to comb it,

adorning each lock with a hair-pin. As they were combing the hair at the

nape of the neck the comb stuck fast, so they looked at once for the

cause of it, when they saw that a golden hair-pin was entangled in the

hair, which the eldest princess moved with the greatest care. Whereupon

the beautiful girl opened her eyes and her lips formed themselves into a

smile; and, as if awakening from a long, long dream, she slightly

stretched herself, and stepped from the coffin. The girls were not

afraid at all, as she, who was so beautiful in her death, was still more

beautiful in life. The youngest girl ran to the old king and told him

what they had done, and that they had found out the cause of their

brother's grief, and how happy they were now. The old king wept for joy

and hastened after his daughter, and on seeing the beautiful child

exclaimed: "You shall be my son's wife, the mother of my grandchildren!"

And thereupon he embraced and kissed her, and took her into his room

with his daughters. He sent for singing birds so that they might amuse

his dear little new daughter. The old king inquired how she made his

son's acquaintance and where she first met him. But the pretty princess

knew nothing about it, but simply told him what she knew, namely, that

she had two enemies who sooner or later would kill and destroy her; and

she also told him that she had been living among robbers, to whom she

had been handed over by an old witch who would always persecute her till

the last moment of her life. The old king encouraged her, and bade her

not to fear anyone, but to rest in peace, as neither her mother nor the

old witch could get at her, the Persian wise men being quite able to

distinguish evil souls from good ones. The girl settled down and partook

of meat and drink with the king's daughters, and also inquired after the

young prince, asking whether he was handsome or ugly; although, she

said, it did not matter to her whether he was handsome or ugly; if he

was willing to have her, she would marry him. The princesses brought

down the painted portrait of the prince and the young girl fell so

deeply in love with it that she continually carried it with her kissing

it. One morning the news spread over all the country that the young king

had conquered his enemy and was hurrying home to his residential city.

The news turned out to be true, and clouds of dust could be seen in the

distance as the horsemen approached. The princesses requested their

pretty new sister to go with them into the room which adjoined their

brother's, where her coffin was kept under the bed.

The moment the prince arrived, he jumped off his horse, and, not even

taking time to greet his father, he unlocked his room and began to sob

most violently, dragging out the coffin gently from under the bed,

placing it on the bed with great care, and then opening the lid with

tears; but he could only find a hair-pin. He rushed out of the room like

a madman, leaving the coffin and the door open, crying aloud, and

demanding what sacrilegious hand had robbed his angel from him. But his

angel, over whom he had shed so many tears, stood smiling before him.

The youth seized her and covered her with as many kisses as there was

room for. He took his betrothed, whom Providence had given to him, to

his father and told him how he had found the pretty corpse on the back

of an elk; and the girl also told the whole story of her life; and the

princesses confessed how they had broken into their brother's room, and

how they restored his sweetheart to life again. The old king was

intoxicated with joy, and the same day sent for a priest, and a great

wedding feast was celebrated. The young folks whom Providence had

brought together lived very happily, when one day the young queen, who

was as beautiful as a fairy, informed her husband that she was being

persecuted, and that while her mother lived she could never have any

peace. "Don't fear, angel of my heart," said the young king, "as no

human or diabolic power can harm you while you are here. Providence is

very kind to us. You seem to be a favourite and will be protected from

all evil." The young queen was of a pious turn of mind and believed the

true words of her husband, as he had only spoken out her own thoughts.

About half a year had passed by and the beautiful woman of the world was

still happy. Her mirror was covered with dust, as she never dreamt for a

moment that her daughter was yet alive; but being one day desirous to

repeat her former amusement she dusted her mirror, and, pressing it to

her bosom, said: "Is there a prettier living creature in the world than

myself?" The mirror replied: "You are very pretty, but your daughter is

seventy-seven thousand times more beautiful than you." The beautiful

woman, on hearing the mirror's reply, fainted away, and they had to

sprinkle cold water over her for two hours before she came round. Off

she set, very ill, to the old witch and begged her, by everything that

was holy, to save her from that hateful girl, else she would have to go

and commit suicide. The old witch cheered her, and promised that she

would do all that lay in her power.

After eight months had elapsed the young prince had to go to war again;

and, with a heavy heart, took leave of his dear pretty wife, as--if one

is obliged to tell it--she was enceinte. But the prince had to go, and

he went, consoling his wife, who wept bitterly, that he would return

soon. The young king left orders that as soon as his wife was confined a

confidential messenger was to be sent without delay to inform him of the

event. Soon after his departure two beautiful boys with golden hair were

born and there was great joy in the royal household. The old king danced

about, like a young child, with delight. The princesses wrapped the

babies in purple and silk, and showed them to everybody as miracles of


The old king wrote down the joyful news and sent the letter by a

faithful soldier, instructing him that he was not to put up anywhere

under any pretence whatever. The old soldier staked his moustache not to

call anywhere till he reached the young king.

While angels were rejoicing, devils were racking their brains and

planning mischief!

The old witch hid a flask full of spirits under her apron and hurried

off on the same road as the soldier, in order to meet him with his

letter. She pitched a small tent on the road-side using some dirty

sheets she had brought with her, and, placing her flask of spirits in

front of her, waited for the passers-by. She waited long, but no one

came; when all of a sudden a huge cloud gathered in the sky, and the old

witch was delighted. A fearful storm set in. As the rain poured down,

the old witch saw the soldier running to escape the rain. As he ran past

her tent, the wicked old soul shouted to him to come in and sit down in

her tent till the rain was over. The soldier, being afraid of the

thunder, accepted her invitation, and sat musingly in the tent, when the

old woman placed a good dose of spirits in front of him, which the

soldier drank; she gave him another drop, and he drank that too. Now

there was a sleeping-draft in it, and so the soldier fell fast asleep,

and slept like a fur cloak. The old woman then looked in his bag for

the letter, and, imitating the old king's hand-writing to great

perfection, informed the young prince that a great sorrow had fallen

upon his house, inasmuch as his wife had been delivered of two puppies.

She sealed the letter and woke the soldier, who began to run again and

did not stop until he reached the camp. The young prince was very much

upset by his father's letter, but wrote in reply that no matter what

sort of children his wife had borne they were not to touch but to treat

them as his own children until he returned. He ordered the messenger to

hurry back with his reply, and not to stop anywhere; but the old soldier

could not forget the good glass of spirits he had, and so went into the

tent again and had some more. The witch again mixed it with a

sleeping-draught and searched the bag while the soldier slept. She stole

the letter, and, imitating the young prince's hand-writing, wrote back

to the old king that he was to have his wife and the young babes killed,

because he held a woman who had puppies must be a bad person. The old

king was very much surprised at his son's reply but said nothing to

anyone. At night he secretly called the old soldier to him and had his

daughter-in-law placed in a black carriage. The old soldier sat on the

box and had orders to take the woman and her two children into the

middle of the forest and brain them there. The carriage stopped in the

middle of the forest, the old soldier got down and opened the door,

weeping bitterly. He pulled out a big stick from under his seat and

requested the young queen to alight. She obeyed his orders and descended

holding her babes in her arms.

The old soldier tried three times to raise the stick, but could not do

so; he was too much overcome by grief. The young queen implored him not

to kill her, and told him she was willing to go away and never see

anyone again. The old soldier let her go, and she took her two babes and

sheltered in a hollow tree in the forest: there she passed her time

living on roots and wild fruit.

The soldier returned home, and was questioned by the old king as to

whether he had killed the young queen, as he didn't like to disappoint

his son, who was to return from the camp next day. The old soldier

declared on his oath that he had killed her and her babes too, and that

he had thrown their bodies into the water. The young king arrived at

home in great sorrow, and was afraid to catch sight of his unfortunate

wife and her ugly babes.

The old king had left his son's letter upon his desk by mistake; the

prince picked it up, and was enraged at its contents: "This looks very

like my writing," he said, "but I did not write it; it must be the work

of some devil." He then produced his father's letter from his pocket,

and handed it to him. The old king was horrified at the awful lie which

some devil had written in his hand. "No, my dear son," said the old

father, weeping, "this is not what I wrote to you; what I really did

write was, that two sons with golden hair had been born to you." "And

I," replied the young king, "said that whatsoever my wife's offspring

was, no harm was to happen to them till I returned. Where is my wife?

where are my golden-haired children?" "My son," said the old king, "I

have carried out your orders; I sent them to the wood and had them

killed, and the corporal belonging to the royal household had their

bodies cast into the water." The old soldier listened, through a crack

in the door, to the conversation of the two kings, who both wept

bitterly. He entered the room without being summoned, and said: "I could

not carry out your orders, my lord and king; I had not the heart to

destroy the most beautiful creature in the world; so I let her go free

in the forest, and she left, weeping. If they have not been devoured by

wild beasts, they are alive still." The young king never touched a bit

of supper, but had his horse saddled at once, and ordered his whole

body-guard out. For three days and three nights they searched the wood

in every direction, without intermission: on the fourth night, at

midnight, the young king thought he heard, issuing from a hollow tree, a

baby's cry, which seemed as harmonious to him as the song of a

nightingale. He sprang off his horse, and found his beautiful wife, who

was more beautiful than ever, and his children, who were joyfully

prattling in their mother's arms. He took his recovered family home,

amidst the joyous strains of the band, and, indeed, a high festival was

celebrated throughout the whole realm.

The young woman again expressed her fears with trembling, that, while

her mother and that she-devil were alive, she could not live in peace.

The young king issued a warrant for the capture of the old witch; and

the old soldier came, leading behind him, tied to a long rope, an awful

creature, whose body was covered all over with frightful prickles, and

who had an immense horn in the middle of her forehead. The young queen

at once recognised her as the old witch, who had been captured in the

act of searching the wood in order to find her, and slay her and her two

babes. The young queen had the old witch led into a secret room, where

she questioned her as to why she had persecuted her all her life.

"Because," said the old witch, "I am the daughter of your grandfather,

and the sister of your mother! When I was yet but a suckling babe, your

grandmother gave orders that I was to be thrown into the water; a devil

coming along the road took me and educated me. I humoured your mother's

folly because I thought she would go mad in her sorrow that a prettier

creature than herself existed; but the Lord has preserved you, and your

mother did not go mad till I covered her with small-pox, and her face

became all pitted and scarred. Her mirror was always mocking her, and

she became a wandering lunatic, roaming about over the face of the land,

and the children pelting her with stones. She continually bewails you."

The young queen informed her husband of all this, and he had the old

witch strangled, strung up in a tree, and a fire made of brimstone

lighted under her. When her soul (para-animal soul) left her wicked

body, a horse was tied to each of her hands and feet, and her body torn

into four, one quarter of her body being sent to each of the points of

the compass, so that the other witches might receive a warning as to

their fate.

The "most beautiful woman in the world" was now very ugly, and happened

by chance to reach the palace where the pretty queen lived. Her daughter

wept over her, and had her kept in a beautiful room, every day showing

her through a glass door her beautiful children. The poor lunatic wept

and tortured herself till one day she jumped out of the window and broke

her neck. The young king loved his beautiful wife as a dove does its

mate; he obeyed her slightest wish, and guarded her from every danger.

The two little sons with the golden hair became powerful and valiant

heroes, and when the old king died he was carried to his vault by his

two golden-haired grandchildren.

The young couple, who had gone through so many sad trials, are alive

still, if they have not died since.

[1] The great pride of the Hungarian youth is to have a slender waist.