Der var engang en rig konge, som havde tre døtre, og de gik hver dag og spadserede i slotshaven. Kongen var en stor ynder af smukke træer, og der var især et, som han holdt så meget af, at han havde sagt, at han ville ønske den, som plukkede et æble af det, hundrede favne under jorden. Om efteråret blev æblerne på træet så røde som blod. De tre prinsesser gik hver dag hen til træet for at se, om vinden ikke havde blæst et æble ned, men de fandt aldrig noget, og dog var træet så fuldt, at det var lige ved at knække, og grenene hang helt ned til jorden. Den yngste prinsesse havde frygtelig lyst til et æble og sagde til sine søstre: "Far holder alt for meget af os til at ville ønske noget ondt over os. Det er vist kun for fremmede folks skyld, han har sagt det." I det samme plukkede hun et rigtigt stort æble, hoppede og sprang og sagde: "Smag dog engang, jeg har aldrig spist noget så dejligt." De to andre prinsesser tog nu også en bid af æblet, og de sank nu alle tre dybt, dybt ned i jorden, hvor hverken sol eller stjerner skinnede.
Ved middagstid kaldte kongen på dem for at de skulle komme til bords, men han kunne ikke finde dem, skønt han ledte i hele slottet og haven. Han blev meget bedrøvet og lod bekendtgøre, at den, der kunne bringe ham hans døtre igen, skulle få en af dem til kone. Mange unge mænd gik ud for at lede efter dem, for alle ville gerne have en af de tre prinsesser, som var så smukke og venlige. Blandt andre drog tre jægere af sted, og da de havde redet i otte dage, kom de til et slot. Der var mange smukke sale, og i den ene stod der et dækket bord med dejlig dampende mad. Men der var ikke et menneske at se i hele slottet. De ventede nu i en halv dag. Maden blev ved at være varm, og til sidst blev de så sultne, at de satte sig ned og spiste. De blev nu enige om, at de ville blive boende på slottet. De skulle trække lod om, hvem der skulle blive hjemme, og de to andre skulle drage ud og søge efter prinsesserne. Loddet traf den ældste, og han blev hjemme næste dag, mens de andre drog af sted. Ved middagstid kom der en lillebitte mand og bad om et stykke brød. Jægeren skar da en rundtenom af og ville give ham, men den lille mand lod det falde og sagde, at jægeren skulle give ham det igen. Men i samme øjeblik han bukkede sig ned, greb den lille mand ham ved hårene og gav sig til at slå løs på ham. Næste dag måtte den anden blive hjemme, og ham gik det ikke en smule bedre. Da de to andre kom hjem om aftenen, sagde den ældste: "Nå, hvordan er det gået?" - "Skidt," svarede den anden. De beklagede sig nu til hinanden, men sagde ikke noget til den yngste, for ham kunne de ikke lide, og kaldte ham altid dumme Hans, fordi han ikke havde nogen videre forstand på livet.
Han blev så hjemme den tredie dag, og den lille mand kom igen, bad om et stykke brød, lod det falde, og sagde til jægeren, at han skulle give ham det. "Tag det selv op," sagde jægeren, "når du ikke engang gider gøre dig så megen ulejlighed for dit daglige brød, fortjener du det såmænd heller ikke." Den lille mand blev meget vred og sagde, at han skulle gøre det, men jægeren snappede ham i en fart og bankede ham godt igennem. Manden skreg af fuld hals og råbte: "Hold op, hold op, så skal jeg sige dig, hvor prinsesserne er."
Da jægeren hørte det, holdt han op med at slå ham, og den lille mand fortalte da, at han var en af de underjordiske. Dem var der mange tusind af, og hvis han ville gå med ham, skulle han vise ham, hvor prinsesserne var. Han viste ham nu en stor brønd, hvori der ikke var noget vand. Han vidste godt, sagde han, at hans kammerater ikke mente det godt med ham, og derfor skulle han alene frelse prinsesserne. De andre ville også nok gerne finde dem, men de ville ikke udsætte sig for nogen videre fare og besvær for deres skyld. Han skulle nu tage en stor kurv og sætte sig på bunden af den med en jagtkniv og en klokke og lade sig hisse ned. Så kom han til tre værelser, og i hvert af dem sad der en prinsesse og lyskede en drage med mange hoveder, og dem skulle han hugge af. Da den lille mand havde sagt alt det, forsvandt han. Henimod aften kom de to andre tilbage og spurgte, hvordan det var gået. "Udmærket," svarede han. Han fortalte dem nu, at der ved middagstid var kommet en lille mand og havde bedt om et stykke brød, og da han havde givet ham det havde han først ladet det falde og sagt, han skulle tage det op igen, og da han ikke ville det, var manden begyndt at mukke. Så havde han misforstået ham og givet sig til at prygle ham, men så havde manden fortalt ham, hvor prinsesserne var. De andre blev gule og grønne af misundelse. Næste morgen fulgtes de ud til brønden og kastede lod om, hvem der først skulle sætte sig i kurven. Loddet traf igen den ældste, han kravlede derned og tog klokken med. "Når jeg ringer, må I hejse mig op i en fart," sagde han. Et øjeblik efter ringede han, og de trak ham op igen. Den anden satte sig da derned, og det gik ham ligesådan. Da kom turen til den yngste, og han lod sig hisse helt ned. Han steg så ud af kurven, tog sin kniv og gik hen til døren, lyttede, og hørte at dragen snorkede højt. Han lukkede døren op og så den ene kongedatter, som sad og lyskede en nihovedet drage. Han tog da sin kniv og huggede ni hoveder af. Kongedatteren sprang op, faldt ham om halsen og kyssede ham mange gange og gav ham sin halskæde, som var af det røde guld. Han gik nu til den anden prinsesse. Hun sad og lyskede en drage med syv hoveder, og hende befriede han også. Så gik han ind til den yngste, hvor der var en drage med fire hoveder, og dem huggede han også af. De var alle tre sjæleglade og kunne slet ikke holde op med at kysse og omfavne ham. Han ringede nu så stærkt, at de hørte det oppe på jorden. Han lod nu den ene efter den anden af prinsesserne hejse op, og da turen kom til ham kom han i tanker om, at den lille mand havde sagt, at de to andre mente det ikke godt med ham. Han lagde derfor en stor sten i kurven, og da den var kommet halvt op, skar de andre brødre snoren over og tænkte, at han var død. Så løb de deres vej med prinsesserne og tvang dem til at love, at de ville sige til deres far, at de havde frelst dem. Så gik de til kongen og forlangte to af døtrene til hustruer.
Imidlertid gik den yngste jæger bedrøvet rundt i de tre stuer og tænkte, at han nu måtte dø. Han fik da øje på en fløjte, der hang på væggen, og sagde: "Hvorfor hænger du der, her kan man dog ikke være lystig." Så kiggede han på dragehovederne: "I kan heller ikke hjælpe mig," sagde han. Han spadserede nu så mange gange frem og tilbage, at gulvet blev helt glat. Til sidst kom han på andre tanker, tog fløjten ned og blæste i den, og på en gang kom der en mængde underjordiske frem. Ved hver tone, han blæste, kom der flere, og han blæste nu så længe, til stuen var helt fuld. De spurgte nu, hvad han ønskede, og han sagde da, at han ville gerne op på jorden igen. De greb nu fat i hvert eneste hår, han havde på sit hovede, og fløj op på jorden med ham. Da han kom derop, gik han straks til slottet, hvor den ene kongedatters bryllup netop skulle fejres. Han gik nu ind i den stue, hvor kongen sad med sine døtre, og da de så ham, besvimede de alle tre. Kongen blev vred og lod ham kaste i fængsel, fordi han troede, han havde gjort hans døtre fortræd. Men da prinsesserne kom til sig selv igen, bad de om han måtte blive løsladt. Kongen spurgte hvorfor, men de sagde, at de turde ikke fortælle det, og han befalede dem da at fortælle det til ovnen. Så gik han udenfor og lyttede ved døren og hørte det hele. Han lod så begge de andre hænge, og gav jægeren sin yngste datter til kone. Jeg var med til brylluppet, og da jeg trak et par glassko på, stødte jeg mod en sten, og kling, klang, sprang de i tusinde stykker.
There was once upon a time a rich King who had three daughters, who daily went to walk in the palace garden, and the King was a great lover of all kinds of fine trees, but there was one for which he had such an affection, that if anyone gathered an apple from it he wished him a hundred fathoms underground. And when harvest time came, the apples on this tree were all as red as blood. The three daughters went every day beneath the tree, and looked to see if the wind had not blown down an apple, but they never by any chance found one, and the tree was so loaded with them that it was almost breaking, and the branches hung down to the ground. Then the King's youngest child had a great desire for an apple, and said to her sisters, "Our father loves us far too much to wish us underground, it is my belief that he would only do that to people who were strangers." And while she was speaking, the child plucked off quite a large apple, and ran to her sisters, saying, "Just taste, my dear little sisters, for never in my life have I tasted anything so delightful." Then the two other sisters also ate some of the apple, whereupon all three sank deep down into the earth, where they could hear no cock crow.
When mid-day came, the King wished to call them to come to dinner, but they were nowhere to be found. He sought them everywhere in the palace and garden, but could not find them. Then he was much troubled, and made known to the whole land that whosoever brought his daughters back again should have one of them to wife. Hereupon so many young men went about the country in search, that there was no counting them, for every one loved the three children because they were so kind to all, and so fair of face. Three young huntsmen also went out, and when they had travelled about for eight days, they arrived at a great castle, in which were beautiful apartments, and in one room a table was laid on which were delicate dishes which were still so warm that they were smoking, but in the whole of the castle no human being was either to be seen or heard. They waited there for half a day, and the food still remained warm and smoking, and at length they were so hungry that they sat down and ate, and agreed with each other that they would stay and live in that castle, and that one of them, who should be chosen by casting lots, should remain in the house, and the two others seek the King's daughters. They cast lots, and the lot fell on the eldest; so next day the two younger went out to seek, and the eldest had to stay home. At mid-day came a small, small mannikin and begged for a piece of bread, then the huntsman took the bread which he had found there, and cut a round off the loaf and was about to give it to him, but whilst he was giving it to the mannikin, the latter let it fall, and asked the huntsman to be so good as to give him that piece again. The huntsman was about to do so and stooped, on which the mannikin took a stick, seized him by the hair, and gave him a good beating. Next day, the second stayed at home, and he fared no better. When the two others returned in the evening, the eldest said, "Well, how have you got on?"
"Oh, very badly," said he, and then they lamented their misfortune together, but they said nothing about it to the youngest, for they did not like him at all, and always called him Stupid Hans, because he did not exactly belong to the forest. On the third day, the youngest stayed at home, and again the little mannikin came and begged for a piece of bread. When the youth gave it to him, the elf let it fall as before, and asked him to be so good as to give him that piece again. Then said Hans to the little mannikin, "What! canst thou not pick up that piece thyself? If thou wilt not take as much trouble as that for thy daily bread, thou dost not deserve to have it." Then the mannikin grew very angry and said he was to do it, but the huntsman would not, and took my dear mannikin, and gave him a thorough beating. Then the mannikin screamed terribly, and cried, "Stop, stop, and let me go, and I will tell thee where the King's daughters are." When Hans heard that, he left off beating him and the mannikin told him that he was an earth mannikin, and that there were more than a thousand like him, and that if he would go with him he would show him where the King's daughters were. Then he showed him a deep well, but there was no water in it. And the elf said that he knew well that the companions Hans had with him did not intend to deal honourably with him, therefore if he wished to deliver the King's children, he must do it alone. The two other brothers would also be very glad to recover the King's daughters, but they did not want to have any trouble or danger. Hans was therefore to take a large basket, and he must seat himself in it with his hanger and a bell, and be let down. Below were three rooms, and in each of them was a princess, with a many-headed dragon, whose heads she was to comb and trim, but he must cut them off. And having said all this, the elf vanished. When it was evening the two brothers came and asked how he had got on, and he said, "pretty well so far," and that he had seen no one except at mid-day when a little mannikin had come and begged for a piece of bread, that he had given some to him, but that the mannikin had let it fall and had asked him to pick it up again; but as he did not choose to do that, the elf had begun to lose his temper, and that he had done what he ought not, and had given the elf a beating, on which he had told him where the King's daughters were. Then the two were so angry at this that they grew green and yellow. Next morning they went to the well together, and drew lots who should first seat himself in the basket, and again the lot fell on the eldest, and he was to seat himself in it, and take the bell with him. Then he said, "If I ring, you must draw me up again immediately." When he had gone down for a short distance, he rang, and they at once drew him up again. Then the second seated himself in the basket, but he did just the same as the first, and then it was the turn of the youngest, but he let himself be lowered quite to the bottom. When he had got out of the basket, he took his hanger, and went and stood outside the first door and listened, and heard the dragon snoring quite loudly. He opened the door slowly, and one of the princesses was sitting there, and had nine dragon's heads lying upon her lap, and was combing them. Then he took his hanger and hewed at them, and the nine fell off. The princess sprang up, threw her arms round his neck, embraced and kissed him repeatedly, and took her stomacher, which was made of pure gold, and hung it round his neck. Then he went to the second princess, who had a dragon with five heads to comb, and delivered her also, and to the youngest, who had a dragon with four heads, he went likewise. And they all rejoiced, and embraced him and kissed him without stopping. Then he rang very loud, so that those above heard him, and he placed the princesses one after the other in the basket, and had them all drawn up, but when it came to his own turn he remembered the words of the elf, who had told him that his comrades did not mean well by him. So he took a great stone which was lying there, and placed it in the basket, and when it was about half way up, his false brothers above cut the rope, so that the basket with the stone fell to the ground, and they thought that he was dead, and ran away with the three princesses, making them promise to tell their father that it was they who had delivered them, and then they went to the King, and each demanded a princess in marriage.
In the meantime the youngest huntsman was wandering about the three chambers in great trouble, fully expecting to have to end his days there, when he saw, hanging on the wall, a flute; then said he, "Why dost thou hang there, no one can be merry here?" He looked at the dragons, heads likewise and said, "You too cannot help me now." He walked backwards and forwards for such a long time that he made the surface of the ground quite smooth. But at last other thoughts came to his mind, and he took the flute from the wall, and played a few notes on it, and suddenly a number of elves appeared, and with every note that he sounded one more came. Then he played until the room was entirely filled. They all asked what he desired, so he said he wished to get above ground back to daylight, on which they seized him by every hair that grew on his head, and thus they flew with him onto the earth again. When he was above ground, he at once went to the King's palace, just as the wedding of one princess was about to be celebrated, and he went to the room where the King and his three daughters were. When the princesses saw him they fainted. Hereupon the King was angry, and ordered him to be put in prison at once, because he thought he must have done some injury to the children. When the princesses came to themselves, however, they entreated the King to set him free again. The King asked why, and they said that they were not allowed to tell that, but their father said that they were to tell it to the stove. And he went out, listened at the door, and heard everything. Then he caused the two brothers to be hanged on the gallows, and to the third he gave his youngest daughter, and on that occasion I wore a pair of glass shoes, and I struck them against a stone, and they said, "Klink," and were broken.