The riddle



There was once a King's son who was seized with a desire to travel about the world, and took no one with him but a faithful servant. One day he came to a great forest, and when darkness overtook him he could find no shelter, and knew not where to pass the night. Then he saw a girl who was going towards a small house, and when he came nearer, he saw that the maiden was young and beautiful. He spoke to her, and said, "Dear child, can I and my servant find shelter for the night in the little house?" - "Oh, yes," said the girl in a sad voice, "that you certainly can, but I do not advise you to venture it. Do not go in." - "Why not?" asked the King's son. The maiden sighed and said, "My step-mother practises wicked arts; she is ill-disposed toward strangers." Then he saw very well that he had come to the house of a witch, but as it was dark, and he could not go farther, and also was not afraid, he entered. The old woman was sitting in an armchair by the fire, and looked at the stranger with her red eyes. "Good evening," growled she, and pretended to be quite friendly. "Take a seat and rest yourselves." She blew up the fire on which she was cooking something in a small pot. The daughter warned the two to be prudent, to eat nothing, and drink nothing, for the old woman brewed evil drinks. They slept quietly until early morning. When they were making ready for their departure, and the King's son was already seated on his horse, the old woman said, "Stop a moment, I will first hand you a parting draught." Whilst she fetched it, the King's son rode away, and the servant who had to buckle his saddle tight, was the only one present when the wicked witch came with the drink. "Take that to your master," said she. But at that instant the glass broke and the poison spirted on the horse, and it was so strong that the animal immediately fell down dead. The servant ran after his master and told him what had happened, but would not leave his saddle behind him, and ran back to fetch it. When, however, he came to the dead horse a raven was already sitting on it devouring it. "Who knows whether we shall find anything better to-day?" said the servant; so he killed the raven, and took it with him. And now they journeyed onwards into the forest the whole day, but could not get out of it. By nightfall they found an inn and entered it. The servant gave the raven to the innkeeper to make ready for supper. They had, however, stumbled on a den of murderers, and during the darkness twelve of these came, intending to kill the strangers and rob them. Before they set about this work, they sat down to supper, and the innkeeper and the witch sat down with them, and together they ate a dish of soup in which was cut up the flesh of the raven. Hardly, however, had they swallowed a couple of mouthfuls, before they all fell down dead, for the raven had communicated to them the poison from the horse-flesh. There was no no one else left in the house but the innkeeper's daughter, who was honest, and had taken no part in their godless deeds. She opened all doors to the stranger and showed him the heaped-up treasures. But the King's son said she might keep everything, he would have none of it, and rode onwards with his servant.
After they had traveled about for a long time, they came to a town in which was a beautiful but proud princess, who had caused it to be proclaimed that whosoever should set her a riddle which she could not guess, that man should be her husband; but if she guessed it, his head must be cut off. She had three days to guess it in, but was so clever that she always found the answer to the riddle given her, before the appointed time. Nine suitors had already perished in this manner, when the King's son arrived, and blinded by her great beauty, was willing to stake his life for it. Then he went to her and laid his riddle before her. "What is this?" said he, "One slew none, and yet slew twelve." She did not know what that was, she thought and thought, but she could not find out, she opened her riddle-books, but it was not in them -- in short, her wisdom was at an end. As she did not know how to help herself, she ordered her maid to creep into the lord's sleeping-chamber, and listen to his dreams, and thought that he would perhaps speak in his sleep and discover the riddle. But the clever servant had placed himself in the bed instead of his master, and when the maid came there, he tore off from her the mantle in which she had wrapped herself, and chased her out with rods. The second night the King's daughter sent her maid-in-waiting, who was to see if she could succeed better in listening, but the servant took her mantle also away from her, and hunted her out with rods. Now the master believed himself safe for the third night, and lay down in his own bed. Then came the princess herself, and she had put on a misty-grey mantle, and she seated herself near him. And when she thought that he was asleep and dreaming, she spoke to him, and hoped that he would answer in his sleep, as many do, but he was awake, and understood and heard everything quite well. Then she asked, "One slew none, what is that?" He replied, "A raven, which ate of a dead and poisoned horse, and died of it." She inquired further, "And yet slew twelve, what is that?" He answered, "That means twelve murderers, who ate the raven and died of it."

When she knew the answer to the riddle she wanted to steal away, but he held her mantle so fast that she was forced to leave it behind her. Next morning, the King's daughter announced that she had guessed the riddle, and sent for the twelve judges and expounded it before them. But the youth begged for a hearing, and said, "She stole into my room in the night and questioned me, otherwise she could not have discovered it." The judges said, "Bring us a proof of this." Then were the three mantles brought thither by the servant, and when the judges saw the misty-grey one which the King's daughter usually wore, they said, "Let the mantle be embroidered with gold and silver, and then it will be your wedding-mantle.
从前有位王子,一时兴起去周游世界,身边只带了一个忠实的仆人。 一天,他来到了一片大森林,天黑时,没有找到住处,不知道该在哪里过夜。 这时,他看到一个姑娘向一间小屋走去,便跑上前,结果发现这位姑娘既美丽又年轻。 他和她打招呼,说:"好姑娘,我和我的仆人可以在这小屋里过一夜吗?""唉,"姑娘哀伤地说,"可以是可以,但我劝你们最好还是别进去。""为什么?"王子问。 姑娘叹了口气说:"我的继母会巫术,她对陌生人不怀好意。"王子这才明白自己来到了巫婆的家,可是天已经黑了,他无法再往前走,再加上他胆子很大,便进了屋。 老巫婆坐在炉子旁的一张扶手椅上,红红的眼睛望着进来的陌生人。 "晚上好,"她用嘶哑的声音说,并且竭力装出一副友好的样子,"坐下来歇歇脚吧。"她把炉火扇旺一些,炉子上还有一只小锅子在煮着什么东西。 姑娘警告两位客人千万要小心,什么也不要吃,什么也不要喝,因为老巫婆熬的是魔汤。 他们安安静静地一直睡到天亮,然后便准备动身上路,王子这时已经骑到了马背上了,老巫婆却说:"等一等,我还想请你们喝杯饯行的酒呢。"趁她回去拿酒时,王子赶紧骑马走了。 所以当邪恶的老巫婆端着酒回来时,只有王子的仆人还在那里勒马鞍。 "把这杯酒带给你的主人,"她说,可就在这一刹那,杯子破了,毒酒溅在马身上,立刻把马毒死了。 仆人追上王子,把发生的事情告诉了他。 仆人舍不得那马鞍,便跑回去取。 可当他跑到死马那里时,竟见一只乌鸦蹲在马的身上,大口大口地吃着马肉。 "谁知道今天还能不能找到更好的东西呢。"仆人心想,便打死了乌鸦,带着它走了。 他们在森林里继续走了整整一天,可怎么也走不出去。 天黑时,他们看到一家旅店,便走了进去。 仆人把乌鸦给店老板,让他烧好了当晚饭。 可是,他们来到的是家黑店,黑暗中店里来了十二个杀人犯,打算杀死这两位陌生人,抢劫他们的钱财。 不过在动手之前,他们一起坐了下来吃用乌鸦肉炖的汤,店老板和那老巫婆也加了进来。 他们刚喝了几口汤便全倒在地上死了,因为乌鸦把死马身上的毒汁传给了他们。 旅店里现在只剩下了店老板的女儿,这是一个诚实的姑娘,没有参加那些罪恶的勾当。 她为这两位陌生人打开了所有的门,让他们看里面存放的金银财宝。 可是王子说那些东西现在全都属于她了,他自己什么也不要,然后,他就带着仆人继续上路了。
他们又走了很久,来到了一座城市,这座城里住着一位非常美丽但又非常高傲的公主,她遍告天下,谁要是能出一个她猜不出的谜语,她就嫁给谁;可她要是猜出来了,那个人就要被砍掉脑袋。 她有三天的时间思考,可她聪明极了,总能在规定的时间之前猜出来。 在王子到来之前,已经有九个人这样送掉了性命。 但王子被她的美貌迷住了,愿意拿自己的性命做赌注。 他来到公主那里,给她出谜语:"什么东西不杀任何人,却杀死了十二个人?"她不知道这是什么东西,想来想去怎么也猜不出。 她查遍了各种谜语书,可里面就是没有,一句话,她的智慧遇到了难题。 她不知道该怎么办才好,便派她的女仆溜进王子的房间,偷听他梦中说些什么,以为他或许在说梦话时会把谜底漏出来。 但是王子那聪明的仆人却睡到了主人的床上,女仆一溜进来他就扯掉了她的斗篷,用鞭子把她赶了出去。 第二天夜里,公主又派她的贴身女仆去碰碰运气,看她是否能打听出来,但王子的仆人也扯下了她的斗篷,用鞭子把她赶了出去。 第三天,王子觉得自己已经有了把握,便睡回到了自己的房间。 这次公主本人来了。 她披了件雾一般的灰色斗篷,坐在王子的身边。 她以为王子已经睡着,便跟他说话,希望他像许多人一样在梦中说出谜底来。 然而王子并没有睡着,心里清楚得很,把她的一举一动全听在了耳朵里。 她问:"什么东西不杀任何人?"他回答:"一只吃了被毒药毒死、自己又被毒死的乌鸦。"她又问:"那什么杀了十二个人呢?"他回答:"十二个吃了乌鸦的凶手也死了。"
公主得知了谜底后便想悄悄溜走,可王子紧紧扯住她的斗篷,逼得她只好把它留下。 第二天早晨,公主宣布说自己已经猜出了谜语,并且派人叫来十二个法官,当着他们的面说出了谜底。 然而王子请求大家听他说几句。 他说:"她在夜里偷偷溜进我的房间,从我这里问出了答案,否则她是不会知道谜底的。"法官们问:"拿出证据来。"王子的仆人拿来了三条斗篷,法官们看到那条雾一般的斗篷正是公主常常披在身上的,便齐声说:"给这件斗篷绣上金丝银线,它将成为你们的结婚礼服。"

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