从前，有对夫妇，他们本来有钱的时候却没有小孩，后来变穷了，却生了个小男孩。 他们太穷了，没有人愿意当孩子的教父，于是孩子他爹说要到别处去看看，是否可找一个来。 在路上，他遇到了一个穷人，这人问他去哪儿，他回答说想去给孩子找个教父，因为太穷了，没人愿意给孩子当教父。 那人听了说："哦，你穷，我也穷，我给孩子做教父吧！我也太穷了，没有什么礼物给孩子。回去叫接生婆把孩子带到教堂来吧。"
孩子长到了七岁，长得百般伶俐。 一天，他同小伙伴们一起玩耍，孩子们都夸耀自己从教父那里得到了许多东西，比任何人都多 ，只有这孩子什么都不说。 孩子很是烦恼，哭着回去问他爹，"难道教父什么都没给我？""哦。是的，你只得了把钥匙，要是荒原上有座宫殿，你就拿去打开它吧。"孩子拿着钥匙去了，可荒原上压根儿就没有什么宫殿，甚至没听人说过有宫殿。
又过了七年，孩子十四岁了，他又来到了荒原上。 这回，真有一座宫殿耸立在那儿。 他打开了门，发现里面什么都没有，除了一匹白马。 孩子得到了这白马，满心欢喜，于是骑了上去，回到家中去见他爹。 他说："现在我有一匹白马了，我要旅行去。"于是他动身了。 途中，他看到有支写字的笔，起初他想拾起来，但转念一想："还是随它去吧，如果要用笔，我还可以找到的。"他便打算继续赶路了，突然，背后有个声音喊道："忠实的费迪南，捡起那支笔吧！"他回头一看没有见到任何人，于是又折回去拾起那支笔。 他骑在马上又走了一会儿，来到了一个湖边，沙滩上正躺着条鱼，已奄奄一息。 孩子说："等等，亲爱的鱼儿，让我来帮帮你。"说着，他提起了鱼尾，把它放回到水里。 鱼儿从水里探出了头，说："你从污泥里救出了我，我就送你一支笛子吧！如果遇到什么危难，只要一吹笛子，我就会来帮你。还有，如果你掉进什么水里，只要你一吹，我就会来把你捞上来。"孩子又上路了，迎面碰见一个人，那人问他上哪儿去。 "哦，就到那边去。""那你叫什么名字？""叫忠实的费迪南。""啊，咱俩的名字差点儿相同了，我叫不忠实的费迪南。"于是他们俩一同往前赶，来到了邻近一家客栈。
不幸的是，这位不忠实的费迪南会各种各样的邪术，能知道别人所想的一切和准备做的一切。 就在这个客栈里住着个很不错的姑娘，她容貌端庄，举止优雅。 而忠实的费迪南又长得非常英俊，于是他们坠入了爱河。 姑娘问忠实的费迪南要往哪去，他说："哦，我只想到处旅行。"姑娘劝他留下来，说本地的国王需要一名侍者或骑着马的开路人，他应该去试试。 他说他不好意思到国王那儿去毛遂自荐。 姑娘听了说："哦，这事我来替你办。"说完就去见国王，说她认识一个帅小伙，可当他的仆人。 国王很高兴，召见了忠实的费迪南，并收他做了自己的仆人。 可忠实的费迪南更愿做一名开路骑士，因为他要和自己的马儿在一块。 国王答应了，让他做了名开路骑士。 这事让不忠实的费迪南知道了，他问姑娘："怎么？你只帮他不帮我？""哦，我当然也会帮你。"姑娘嘴里这么说，心里却想道："这家伙靠不住，我得留个心眼。"姑娘又把他推荐给国王当仆人，国王也答应了。
忠实的费迪南走进了马厩，对着白马哀叹道："哎，我是多么的不幸啊！"突然背后有人叫道："忠实的费迪南，你哭什么？"他回过头一看，没见人影。 他接着又哭道："哎，我亲爱的小白马，现在我得离开你，我就要死了。"突然又听见有人叫："忠实的费迪南，你哭什么？"他这才发现原来是他的小白马在问他。 "是你在说话吗，我的小白马？你能说话吗？"然后，他对小白马说："国王命令我到某处去接他的心上人，如果接不到就要杀掉我，我不知道该怎么办？"小白马回答说："去告诉国王，如果他能给你所需要的东西，你就能替他把她接来。假若他给你一满船肉，一满船面包，就定能成功。那湖上有巨人，如果你不给他们吃肉，他们就要撕碎你；另外还有些大鸟，如果你不给他们吃面包，它们就会啄掉你的眼睛。"于是国王下令全国所有的屠夫和面包匠都行动起来，船很快就装满了。 这时小白马对忠实的费迪南说："现在骑我到船上去，如果巨人来了，你就说：
它们不会对你怎么样的，到了宫殿时，巨人还会来帮你。 你就带两个巨人进去，公主会在那里睡觉，只是你可不能叫醒她，让巨人连床把她抬上船。 "果然一切就照小白马说的发生了，忠实的费迪南把带去的东西给了巨人和大鸟，因此巨人也心甘情愿地把公主连床抬到了国王那里。可是公主说，如果拿不到留在宫里的文件她就活不了。于是，在不忠实的费迪南再次怂恿下，国王又一次派忠实的费迪南去宫里取回那东西，不然他就得死。忠实的费迪南又一次走进马厩，哭道："我亲爱的小白马，我现在还得去一次，我该怎么办呢？ "白马说他们得再把船装满。于是和上次一样，巨人和鸟吃饱了，都变得温和起来。到了宫殿后，白马说他可以进去了，那文件果然放在公主的卧室的桌子上。于是，忠实的费迪南顺利地取回了文件。可他在回来的路上把笔掉进了水中，白马说："现在我可没法帮你了。 "不过他突然想起那支笛子，便吹起来，他一吹，鱼儿游了过来，口里衔着那支笔。他把文件送回了皇宫，于是国王和公主便举行了婚礼。
但是王后并不爱国王，因为国王没有鼻子，她倒是喜欢上了忠实的费迪南。 一次，当朝中所有大臣都在一块时，王后说她懂法术，能把一个人的脑袋砍下来再安上，要谁来试试。 但是没有一个人肯做第一个。 仍是在不忠实的费迪南的怂恿下，忠实的费迪南奉命来做了试验。 王后砍下了他的头，然后又给他接上，伤口立刻合好，只是脖子上留下了一道红圈。 于是国王问王后："我的宝贝儿，你在哪里学到了这一手？"王后说："我懂法术。你可想试试吗？""那好吧！"国王同意了。 皇后砍下了他的头，却假装安不上去了，好像它在上面怎么也连不上似的。 国王被埋葬了，不久她也就嫁给了忠实的费迪南。
Once on a time lived a man and a woman who so long as they were rich had no children, but when they were poor they had a little boy. They could, however, find no godfather for him, so the man said he would just go to another place to see if he could get one there. As he went, a poor man met him, who asked him where he was going. He said he was going to see if he could get a godfather, that he was poor, so no one would stand as godfather for him. "Oh," said the poor man, "you are poor, and I am poor; I will be godfather for you, but I am so ill off I can give the child nothing. Go home and tell the nurse that she is to come to the church with the child."
When they all got to the church together, the beggar was already there, and he gave the child the name of Ferdinand the Faithful.
When he was going out of the church, the beggar said, "Now go home, I can give you nothing, and you likewise ought to give me nothing." But he gave a key to the nurse, and told her when she got home she was to give it to the father, who was to take care of it until the child was fourteen years old, and then he was to go on the heath where there was a castle which the key would fit, and that all which was therein should belong to him. Now when the child was seven years old and had grown very big, he once went to play with some other boys, and each of them boasted that he had got more from his godfather than the other; but the child could say nothing, and was vexed, and went home and said to his father, "Did I get nothing at all, then, from my godfather?" - "Oh, yes," said the father, "thou hadst a key if there is a castle standing on the heath, just go to it and open it." Then the boy went thither, but no castle was to be seen, or heard of.
After seven years more, when he was fourteen years old, he again went thither, and there stood the castle. When he had opened it, there was nothing within but a horse, a white one. Then the boy was so full of joy because he had a horse, that he mounted on it and galloped back to his father. "Now I have a white horse, and I will travel," said he. So he set out, and as he was on his way, a pen was lying on the road. At first he thought he would pick it up, but then again he thought to himself, "Thou shouldst leave it lying there; thou wilt easily find a pen where thou art going, if thou hast need of one." As he was thus riding away, a voice called after him, "Ferdinand the Faithful, take it with thee." He looked around, but saw no one, then he went back again and picked it up. When he had ridden a little way farther, he passed by a lake, and a fish was lying on the bank, gasping and panting for breath, so he said, "Wait, my dear fish, I will help thee get into the water," and he took hold of it by the tail, and threw it into the lake. Then the fish put its head out of the water and said, "As thou hast helped me out of the mud I will give thee a flute; when thou art in any need, play on it, and then I will help thee, and if ever thou lettest anything fall in the water, just play and I will reach it out to thee." Then he rode away, and there came to him a man who asked him where he was going. "Oh, to the next place." Then what his name was? "Ferdinand the Faithful." - "So! then we have got almost the same name, I am called Ferdinand the Unfaithful." And they both set out to the inn in the nearest place.
Now it was unfortunate that Ferdinand the Unfaithful knew everything that the other had ever thought and everything he was about to do; he knew it by means of all kinds of wicked arts. There was, however, in the inn an honest girl, who had a bright face and behaved very prettily. She fell in love with Ferdinand the Faithful because he was a handsome man, and she asked him whither he was going. "Oh, I am just travelling round about," said he. Then she said he ought to stay there, for the King of that country wanted an attendant or an outrider, and he ought to enter his service. He answered he could not very well go to any one like that and offer himself. Then said the maiden, "Oh, but I will soon do that for you." And so she went straight to the King, and told him that she knew of an excellent servant for him. He was well pleased with that, and had Ferdinand the Faithful brought to him, and wanted to make him his servant. He, however, liked better to be an outrider, for where his horse was, there he also wanted to be, so the King made him an outrider. When Ferdinand the Unfaithful learnt that, he said to the girl, "What! Dost thou help him and not me?" - "Oh," said the girl, "I will help thee too." She thought, "I must keep friends with that man, for he is not to be trusted." She went to the King, and offered him as a servant, and the King was willing.
Now when the King met his lords in the morning, he always lamented and said, "Oh, if I had but my love with me." Ferdinand the Unfaithful was, however, always hostile to Ferdinand the Faithful. So once, when the King was complaining thus, he said, "You have the outrider, send him away to get her, and if he does not do it, his head must be struck off." Then the King sent for Ferdinand the Faithful, and told him that there was, in this place or in that place, a girl he loved, and that he was to bring her to him, and if he did not do it he should die.
Ferdinand the Faithful went into the stable to his white horse, and complained and lamented, "Oh, what an unhappy man I am!" Then someone behind him cried, "Ferdinand the Faithful, why weepest thou?" He looked round but saw no one, and went on lamenting; "Oh, my dear little white horse, now must I leave thee; now must I die." Then some one cried once more, "Ferdinand the Faithful, why weepest thou?" Then for the first time he was aware that it was his little white horse who was putting that question. "Dost thou speak, my little white horse; canst thou do that?" And again, he said, "I am to go to this place and to that, and am to bring the bride; canst thou tell me how I am to set about it?" Then answered the little white horse, "Go thou to the King, and say if he will give thou what thou must have, thou wilt get her for him. If he will give thee a ship full of meat, and a ship full of bread, it will succeed. Great giants dwell on the lake, and if thou takest no meat with thee for them, they will tear thee to pieces, and there are the large birds which would pick the eyes out of thy head if thou hadst no bread for them." Then the King made all the butchers in the land kill, and all the bakers bake, that the ships might be filled. When they were full, the little white horse said to Ferdinand the Faithful, "Now mount me, and go with me into the ship, and then when the giants come, say,
"Peace, peace, my dear little giants,
I have had thought of ye,
Something I have brought for ye;"
and when the birds come, thou shalt again say,
"Peace, peace, my dear little birds,
I have had thought of ye,
Something I have brought for ye;"
then they will do nothing to thee, and when thou comest to the castle, the giants will help thee. Then go up to the castle, and take a couple of giants with thee. There the princess lies sleeping; thou must, however, not awaken her, but the giants must lift her up, and carry her in her bed to the ship." And now everything took place as the little white horse had said, and Ferdinand the Faithful gave the giants and the birds what he had brought with him for them, and that made the giants willing, and they carried the princess in her bed to the King. And when she came to the King, she said she could not live, she must have her writings, they had been left in her castle. Then by the instigation of Ferdinand the Unfaithful, Ferdinand the Faithful was called, and the King told him he must fetch the writings from the castle, or he should die. Then he went once more into the stable, and bemoaned himself and said, "Oh, my dear little white horse, now I am to go away again, how am I to do it?" Then the little white horse said he was just to load the ships full again. So it happened again as it had happened before, and the giants and the birds were satisfied, and made gentle by the meat. When they came to the castle, the white horse told Ferdinand the Faithful that he must go in, and that on the table in the princess's bed-room lay the writings. And Ferdinand the Faithful went in, and fetched them. When they were on the lake, he let his pen fall into the water; then said the white horse, "Now I cannot help thee at all." But he remembered his flute, and began to play on it, and the fish came with the pen in its mouth, and gave it to him. So he took the writings to the castle, where the wedding was celebrated.
The Queen, however, did not love the King because he had no nose, but she would have much liked to love Ferdinand the Faithful. Once, therefore, when all the lords of the court were together, the Queen said she could do feats of magic, that she could cut off any one's head and put it on again, and that one of them ought just to try it. But none of them would be the first, so Ferdinand the Faithful, again at the instigation of Ferdinand the Unfaithful, undertook it and she hewed off his head, and put it on again for him, and it healed together directly, so that it looked as if he had a red thread round his throat. Then the King said to her, "My child, and where hast thou learnt that?" - "Yes," she said, "I understand the art; shall I just try it on thee also?" - "Oh, yes," said he. But she cut off his head, and did not put it on again; but pretended that she could not get it on, and that it would not keep fixed. Then the King was buried, but she married Ferdinand the Faithful.
He, however, always rode on his white horse, and once when he was seated on it, it told him that he was to go on to the heath which he knew, and gallop three times round it. And when he had done that, the white horse stood up on its hind legs, and was changed into a King's son.