There was once on a time a King who had a great forest near his palace, full of all kinds of wild animals. One day he sent out a huntsman to shoot him a roe, but he did not come back. "Perhaps some accident has befallen him," said the King, and the next day he sent out two more huntsmen who were to search for him, but they too stayed away. Then on the third day, he sent for all his huntsmen, and said, "Scour the whole forest through, and do not give up until ye have found all three." But of these also, none came home again, and of the pack of hounds which they had taken with them, none were seen more. From that time forth, no one would any longer venture into the forest, and it lay there in deep stillness and solitude, and nothing was seen of it, but sometimes an eagle or a hawk flying over it. This lasted for many years, when a strange huntsman announced himself to the King as seeking a situation, and offered to go into the dangerous forest. The King, however, would not give his consent, and said, "It is not safe in there; I fear it would fare with thee no better than with the others, and thou wouldst never come out again." The huntsman replied, "Lord, I will venture it at my own risk, of fear I know nothing."
The huntsman therefore betook himself with his dog to the forest. It was not long before the dog fell in with some game on the way, and wanted to pursue it; but hardly had the dog run two steps when it stood before a deep pool, could go no farther, and a naked arm stretched itself out of the water, seized it, and drew it under, When the huntsman saw that, he went back and fetched three men to come with buckets and bale out the water. When they could see to the bottom there lay a wild man whose body was brown like rusty iron, and whose hair hung over his face down to his knees. They bound him with cords, and led him away to the castle. There was great astonishment over the wild man; the King, however, had him put in an iron cage in his court-yard, and forbade the door to be opened on pain of death, and the Queen herself was to take the key into her keeping. And from this time forth every one could again go into the forest with safety.
The King had a son of eight years, who was once playing in the court-yard, and while he was playing, his golden ball fell into the cage. The boy ran thither and said, "Give me my ball out." - "Not till thou hast opened the door for me," answered the man. "No," said the boy, "I will not do that; the King has forbidden it," and ran away. The next day he again went and asked for his ball; the wild man said, "Open my door," but the boy would not. On the third day the King had ridden out hunting, and the boy went once more and said, "I cannot open the door even if I wished, for I have not the key." Then the wild man said, "It lies under thy mother's pillow, thou canst get it there." The boy, who wanted to have his ball back, cast all thought to the winds, and brought the key. The door opened with difficulty, and the boy pinched his fingers. When it was open the wild man stepped out, gave him the golden ball, and hurried away. The boy had become afraid; he called and cried after him, "Oh, wild man, do not go away, or I shall be beaten!" The wild man turned back, took him up, set him on his shoulder, and went with hasty steps into the forest. When the King came home, he observed the empty cage, and asked the Queen how that had happened? She knew nothing about it, and sought the key, but it was gone. She called the boy, but no one answered. The King sent out people to seek for him in the fields, but they did not find him. Then he could easily guess what had happened, and much grief reigned in the royal court.
When the wild man had once more reached the dark forest, he took the boy down from his shoulder, and said to him, "Thou wilt never see thy father and mother again, but I will keep thee with me, for thou hast set me free, and I have compassion on thee. If thou dost all I bid thee, thou shalt fare well. Of treasure and gold have I enough, and more than anyone in the world." He made a bed of moss for the boy on which he slept, and the next morning the man took him to a well, and said, "Behold, the gold well is as bright and clear as crystal, thou shalt sit beside it, and take care that nothing falls into it, or it will be polluted. I will come every evening to see if thou hast obeyed my order." The boy placed himself by the margin of the well, and often saw a golden fish or a golden snake show itself therein, and took care that nothing fell in. As he was thus sitting, his finger hurt him so violently that he involuntarily put it in the water. He drew it quickly out again, but saw that it was quite gilded, and whatsoever pains he took to wash the gold off again, all was to no purpose. In the evening Iron John came back, looked at the boy, and said, "What has happened to the well?" - "Nothing, nothing," he answered, and held his finger behind his back, that the man might not see it. But he said, "Thou hast dipped thy finger into the water, this time it may pass, but take care thou dost not again let anything go in." By daybreak the boy was already sitting by the well and watching it. His finger hurt him again and he passed it over his head, and then unhappily a hair fell down into the well. He took it quickly out, but it was already quite gilded. Iron John came, and already knew what had happened. "Thou hast let a hair fall into the well," said he. "I will allow thee to watch by it once more, but if this happens for the third time then the well is polluted, and thou canst no longer remain with me."
On the third day, the boy sat by the well, and did not stir his finger, however much it hurt him. But the time was long to him, and he looked at the reflection of his face on the surface of the water. And as he still bent down more and more while he was doing so, and trying to look straight into the eyes, his long hair fell down from his shoulders into the water. He raised himself up quickly, but the whole of the hair of his head was already golden and shone like the sun. You may imagine how terrified the poor boy was! He took his pocket-handkerchief and tied it round his head, in order that the man might not see it. When he came he already knew everything, and said, "Take the handkerchief off." Then the golden hair streamed forth, and let the boy excuse himself as he might, it was of no use. "Thou hast not stood the trial, and canst stay here no longer. Go forth into the world, there thou wilt learn what poverty is. But as thou hast not a bad heart, and as I mean well by thee, there is one thing I will grant thee; if thou fallest into any difficulty, come to the forest and cry, "Iron John," and then I will come and help thee. My power is great, greater than thou thinkest, and I have gold and silver in abundance."
Then the King's son left the forest, and walked by beaten and unbeaten paths ever onwards until at length he reached a great city. There he looked for work, but could find none, and he had learnt nothing by which he could help himself. At length he went to the palace, and asked if they would take him in. The people about court did not at all know what use they could make of him, but they liked him, and told him to stay. At length the cook took him into his service, and said he might carry wood and water, and rake the cinders together. Once when it so happened that no one else was at hand, the cook ordered him to carry the food to the royal table, but as he did not like to let his golden hair be seen, he kept his little cap on. Such a thing as that had never yet come under the King's notice, and he said, "When thou comest to the royal table thou must take thy hat off." He answered, "Ah, Lord, I cannot; I have a bad sore place on my head." Then the King had the cook called before him and scolded him, and asked how he could take such a boy as that into his service; and that he was to turn him off at once. The cook, however, had pity on him, and exchanged him for the gardener's boy.
And now the boy had to plant and water the garden, hoe and dig, and bear the wind and bad weather. Once in summer when he was working alone in the garden, the day was so warm he took his little cap off that the air might cool him. As the sun shone on his hair it glittered and flashed so that the rays fell into the bed-room of the King's daughter, and up she sprang to see what that could be. Then she saw the boy, and cried to him, "Boy, bring me a wreath of flowers." He put his cap on with all haste, and gathered wild field-flowers and bound them together. When he was ascending the stairs with them, the gardener met him, and said, "How canst thou take the King's daughter a garland of such common flowers? Go quickly, and get another, and seek out the prettiest and rarest." - "Oh, no," replied the boy, "the wild ones have more scent, and will please her better." When he got into the room, the King's daughter said, "Take thy cap off, it is not seemly to keep it on in my presence." He again said, "I may not, I have a sore head." She, however, caught at his cap and pulled it off, and then his golden hair rolled down on his shoulders, and it was splendid to behold. He wanted to run out, but she held him by the arm, and gave him a handful of ducats. With these he departed, but he cared nothing for the gold pieces. He took them to the gardener, and said, "I present them to thy children, they can play with them." The following day the King's daughter again called to him that he was to bring her a wreath of field-flowers, and when he went in with it, she instantly snatched at his cap, and wanted to take it away from him, but he held it fast with both hands. She again gave him a handful of ducats, but he would not keep them, and gave them to the gardener for playthings for his children. On the third day things went just the same; she could not get his cap away from him, and he would not have her money.
Not long afterwards, the country was overrun by war. The King gathered together his people, and did not know whether or not he could offer any opposition to the enemy, who was superior in strength and had a mighty army. Then said the gardener's boy, "I am grown up, and will go to the wars also, only give me a horse." The others laughed, and said, "Seek one for thyself when we are gone, we will leave one behind us in the stable for thee." When they had gone forth, he went into the stable, and got the horse out; it was lame of one foot, and limped hobblety jig, hobblety jig; nevertheless he mounted it, and rode away to the dark forest. When he came to the outskirts, he called "Iron John," three times so loudly that it echoed through the trees. Thereupon the wild man appeared immediately, and said, "What dost thou desire?" - "I want a strong steed, for I am going to the wars." - "That thou shalt have, and still more than thou askest for." Then the wild man went back into the forest, and it was not long before a stable-boy came out of it, who led a horse that snorted with its nostrils, and could hardly be restrained, and behind them followed a great troop of soldiers entirely equipped in iron, and their swords flashed in the sun. The youth made over his three-legged horse to the stable-boy, mounted the other, and rode at the head of the soldiers. When he got near the battle-field a great part of the King's men had already fallen, and little was wanting to make the rest give way. Then the youth galloped thither with his iron soldiers, broke like a hurricane over the enemy, and beat down all who opposed him. They began to fly, but the youth pursued, and never stopped, until there was not a single man left. Instead, however, of returning to the King, he conducted his troop by bye-ways back to the forest, and called forth Iron John. "What dost thou desire?" asked the wild man. "Take back thy horse and thy troops, and give me my three-legged horse again." All that he asked was done, and soon he was riding on his three-legged horse. When the King returned to his palace, his daughter went to meet him, and wished him joy of his victory. "I am not the one who carried away the victory," said he, "but a stranger knight who came to my assistance with his soldiers." The daughter wanted to hear who the strange knight was, but the King did not know, and said, "He followed the enemy, and I did not see him again." She inquired of the gardener where his boy was, but he smiled, and said, "He has just come home on his three-legged horse, and the others have been mocking him, and crying, "Here comes our hobblety jig back again!" They asked, too, "Under what hedge hast thou been lying sleeping all the time?" He, however, said, "I did the best of all, and it would have gone badly without me." And then he was still more ridiculed."
The King said to his daughter, "I will proclaim a great feast that shall last for three days, and thou shalt throw a golden apple. Perhaps the unknown will come to it." When the feast was announced, the youth went out to the forest, and called Iron John. "What dost thou desire?" asked he. "That I may catch the King's daughter's golden apple." - "It is as safe as if thou hadst it already," said Iron John. "Thou shalt likewise have a suit of red armour for the occasion, and ride on a spirited chestnut-horse." When the day came, the youth galloped to the spot, took his place amongst the knights, and was recognized by no one. The King's daughter came forward, and threw a golden apple to the knights, but none of them caught it but he, only as soon as he had it he galloped away.
On the second day Iron John equipped him as a white knight, and gave him a white horse. Again he was the only one who caught the apple, and he did not linger an instant, but galloped off with it. The King grew angry, and said, "That is not allowed; he must appear before me and tell his name." He gave the order that if the knight who caught the apple, should go away again they should pursue him, and if he would not come back willingly, they were to cut him down and stab him.
On the third day, he received from Iron John a suit of black armour and a black horse, and again he caught the apple. But when he was riding off with it, the King's attendants pursued him, and one of them got so near him that he wounded the youth's leg with the point of his sword. The youth nevertheless escaped from them, but his horse leapt so violently that the helmet fell from the youth's head, and they could see that he had golden hair. They rode back and announced this to the King.
The following day the King's daughter asked the gardener about his boy. "He is at work in the garden; the queer creature has been at the festival too, and only came home yesterday evening; he has likewise shown my children three golden apples which he has won."
The King had him summoned into his presence, and he came and again had his little cap on his head. But the King's daughter went up to him and took it off, and then his golden hair fell down over his shoulders, and he was so handsome that all were amazed. "Art thou the knight who came every day to the festival, always in different colours, and who caught the three golden apples?" asked the King. "Yes," answered he, "and here the apples are," and he took them out of his pocket, and returned them to the King. "If you desire further proof, you may see the wound which your people gave me when they followed me. But I am likewise the knight who helped you to your victory over your enemies." - "If thou canst perform such deeds as that, thou art no gardener's boy; tell me, who is thy father?" - "My father is a mighty King, and gold have I in plenty as great as I require." - "I well see," said the King, "that I owe thanks to thee; can I do anything to please thee?" - "Yes," answered he, "that indeed you can. Give me your daughter to wife." The maiden laughed, and said, "He does not stand much on ceremony, but I have already seen by his golden hair that he was no gardener's boy," and then she went and kissed him. His father and mother came to the wedding, and were in great delight, for they had given up all hope of ever seeing their dear son again. And as they were sitting at the marriage-feast, the music suddenly stopped, the doors opened, and a stately King came in with a great retinue. He went up to the youth, embraced him and said, "I am Iron John, and was by enchantment a wild man, but thou hast set me free; all the treasures which I possess, shall be thy property."
从前有一个国王，他的宫殿附近有一座大森林，森林里有野兽出没。 有一次，他派了一个猎人出去，叫他去打一只鹿，结果一去就不复返了。 国王想："一定是出了什么事。"第二天他又派了两个猎人出去，让他们去找他，但他们也是一去不回。 第三天，国王下令集合全体猎手，对他们说："你们去搜遍森林，一定要找到他们。"然而，这些人也没有一个回来，就连他们带去的一群猎狗也杳无踪影了。 打那以后，再也没有人敢冒然进入森林了，那片林地也从此死寂，只是偶儿还可看到一只老鹰在上面飞过。 这样过了很多年，有个异乡的猎人，到国王那里说他，想找到一个位置，并且自告奋勇地要到那座危险的森林里去。 但是国王不允许，说："那里面不安全，我怕你和别人一样，再不得出来。"猎人答道：
于是猎人带着他的狗到森林里去了。 没过多久，狗寻着一个野兽的足印，要去追它，但刚跑了几步，就在一处深深的泥潭边站住，不能前进了。 突然，从泥水中伸出来一条光光的手臂，一把抓住狗，把它拖进了水里。 猎人见此情景，回去带来三个汉子，让他们舀水。 水干见底后，他发现那儿躺着个野人，浑身像铁锈一般呈褐色，头发长得盖过了脸，一直拖到了膝头。 他们用绳子绑住了他，把他拖回宫里。 全国上下对这个野人大感惊讶，国王下令把他关进了院子里的一只铁笼子里，禁止开笼门，违者处以死刑，并且把钥匙交给了王后亲自保管。 从此以后，谁都可以放心大胆地去森林里了。
国王有个八岁的孩子，有一次在院子里游戏时，把他的金球落到了笼子里。 男孩跑去，说："把我的球递给我。"那人说："你不先给我把门打开，我不给。"男孩说："不 ，我不干，那是国王的禁令。 "于是跑开了。第二天他又来要他的球，那野人说："打开我的门。 "但那男孩还是不肯。第三天，国王骑马去打猎，男孩又来了，说："就是我愿意，我也不能开门，我可没有钥匙。 "于是野人说："他就在你母亲的枕头下，你可以去拿来。 "男孩太想要他的球啦，于是就不顾一切地拿出了那把钥匙。门很沉重，开门时那男孩的指头给压住了。当门开了时，野人跑了出来，把金球给了他，便赶紧逃跑了。男孩害怕起来，他在他的后面喊道："啊呀，野人，你别跑，不然我会挨打的。 "野人一听转过了身，把他举起来放在肩上飞快地跑进了森林。国王回家，看到了那个空笼子，便问王后是怎么回事？她说不知道，她去找那钥匙，却发现它不在那儿了。她于是喊那男孩，也没有人应。国王马上派人出去，叫他们在野外四处寻找，但是他们没能找到。于是他们很快就猜出发生了什么事，宫中出现了一片悲哀声。
那野人回到了幽暗的森林里，把孩子从肩上放了下来，对他说："你再见不着你的爹妈了，可我愿意收养你，因为你放了我，我也可怜你。只要我说什么你做什么，你会过得挺好的。我叫铁汉斯，我可有好多好多的金银财宝，世界上没有谁能和我相比。"野人用苔藓为男孩铺了张床，小家伙在上面睡着了。 第二天早上醒来，野人带他到一口井边，对他说："你瞧，这金井明亮得像水晶一样，我派你坐在这儿守着，别让任何东西掉下去。每天晚上我会来看你是否在执行我的命令。"男孩坐在井边上，看见井里一会儿游出一条金鱼，一会儿游出一条金蛇，注意着没让任何东西掉进去。 他就这么坐着，突然手指头痛得厉害，便情不自禁地把手伸进了水中。 当他抽回指头时，发现它已完全变成金的了，任他怎么使劲地洗都洗不掉。 傍晚，铁汉斯来了，望着男孩问："这井出了什么事了吗？""没有，没有。"他回答，同时把指头藏在背后不叫野人看见。 谁知野人说："你把指头浸在水里了，不过这次就算了，可你得小心，别再让任何东西掉进去。"第二天一大早，男孩又坐在井边看守它。 他那手指又痛起来了，忍不住，他放在头上擦了一下，不幸一根头发掉进了井里。 他赶紧捞出头发，可是已完全变成了金的了。 野人铁汉斯回来了，已知道发生了什么事。 "你掉了根头发在井里，"他说，"我愿意再原谅你一次，可要是再发生这样的事情，井就被玷污了，我就不能把你留在这里了。"
第三天，男孩坐在井边，不管指头有多痛也不敢动一动。 可是他觉得坐得无聊，不禁看了看映在水中的面孔。 为了看得更清楚些，他身子越伏越低，长发于是从肩上滑下来，掉进了井水中。 他赶紧坐直身子，但满头的头发已变成了金子，像太阳般闪闪发光。 现在可以想象出这可怜的小家伙有多害怕。 他赶紧掏出手帕来包在头上，想不让铁汉斯瞧见。 铁汉斯回来已知道了一切，对他说："解下手帕！"于是满头的金发都露了出来了。 铁汉斯说："你没有经受住考验，不能再留在这里。到世界上去吧，去体会贫穷是什么滋味儿。不过你心地倒还不坏，我也希望你好，所以也答应你一件事，你要是有什么难处，可以到森林里来喊：'铁汉斯！'我就会来帮你。我的势力很大，大得超出你的想象，金子我有的是！"
于是小王子离开森林，一直在有路没路的地方走着，最后来到了一座大城市，想在那里找活干，但总是找不着 ，而且他原来就没有学什么可以自谋生计的本事。 最后他到了宫里，问他们是否能留他。 宫里的人们不知用他做什么，但是他们喜欢他，便叫他留下了。 最后厨子收了他做事，说可以让他挑柴担水，把灰扫成一堆。 有一次，恰巧有别人在跟前，厨子叫他端饭食到国王的餐桌上，因为他不想让人看见他的金发，所以戴着他的小帽子。 国王还没有遇见过这样的事，他说："如果你到国王餐桌跟前来，就应该脱下你的帽子。"他回答说："啊呀，国王，我不能够，我头上有毒瘤。"于是国王叫人喊来厨子，骂他，问他怎么可以用这样的少年给他做事，叫他马上把他打发走，但厨子对他很同情，又叫他去当花匠。
现在那少年只得在园子里插苗浇水，锄草挖沟，忍受风吹雨打。 夏天里有一回他独个在园子里干活，因为天气酷热难当，他忍不住揭下帽子想凉快凉快。 这时太阳照着他的金发，反射出明亮耀眼的光芒，光芒射到了公主卧室里面，她跳起来看这是怎么回事，一眼就看见了男孩，就唤他："小伙子，给我送一束花来。"他赶忙戴上小帽，采摘了些野花把它们扎成一束。 他拿着花正要上楼去时，老花匠碰见了他，喝道："你怎么能送这么差的花给公主？快，去换些最漂亮最珍稀的来！""唉，不用换，"他回答说，"野花更香，公主会更喜欢。"他走进公主的卧室，她说："摘下你的帽子，戴着帽子来见我可不合礼仪。"小伙子答道："我不能，我是个癞头。"可公主却伸手一下摘下了他的帽子，看见他满头金发立刻垂到肩上，看上去漂亮极了。 他正要溜走，公主却抓住了他的胳膊，给了他一把金币。 他并不在意这些金币，而是拿去给了花匠，说："我送给你的孩子，他们可以拿去玩。"第二天，公主又叫住他，让他再给她送一束野花去。 他拿着花刚跨进了门，公主马上来抓他的帽子，想摘掉它；他却用两只手死死按住不放。 公主又给了他一把金币，他仍旧不想留着，又送给花匠孩子们玩。 第三天情况还是一样，公主没能摘掉他的小帽，他也不想要她的金币。
不久，这个国家有外族入侵。 国王召集他的臣民，问是否能够抵抗敌人，因为敌人的势力太强大了。 那少年说："我长大了，我要一同打仗去，请给我一匹马。"别人都笑他："如果我们走了，你可以找一匹马玩，我们给你留一匹在栏里。"当他们出发后，他到栏里牵了那匹马出来，发现那马有一只脚是瘸的，走起来颠颠簸簸。 但是他仍然骑它到黑森林去了。 他来到林边，喊了三声"铁汉斯"，声音很大，穿过了树林。 那野人马上来说："你要什么？""我要一匹壮马，因为我要去打仗。""那你可以得到，而且比你要的还要好些。"于是野人回到树林里，没多久便从树林里走出来一位马夫，牵着一匹骏马，它的鼻孔正在喘气，人几乎制伏不住；后面还跟着一大群战士，全穿着盔甲，他们的剑在太阳中发光。 少年把他那匹三只腿的马交给马夫，骑上那匹骏马，走在了队伍的前面。 当他走进战场的时候，国王的大部分士兵都战死了，剩下的差不多都在退却了。 少年带着他的马群赶来，像狂风暴雨般攻打敌人，把敢抵抗的全给杀了。 他们要逃，但少年紧紧咬住不放，最后杀得一个不留。 但是他没有回到国王那里，却引着他的队伍绕到森林前，又去喊铁汉斯的名字。 野人出来了，问他，"你要什么？""把你的马和你的兵收回去，把我的三条腿的马还给我。"他所要求的一切，都照办了，于是他骑着三只腿的马回家了。 当国王回到他的宫里时，他的女儿迎着他走上前去祝福他打了胜仗。 他说："那打胜仗的不是我，却是一个不相识的骑士，他带着他的队伍来帮我。"女孩要知道那不相识的骑士是谁，但是国王说不知道："他去追敌人，我就没再见他。"国王向他的女儿说："我要下令向全国宣告，一连举行三天盛大庆祝会，安排会上抛金苹果。那陌生骑士没准儿会来的。"举行庆祝会的公告发出后，小伙子又去叫铁汉斯。 "你想要什么？"野人问。 他说："我希望接住那个金苹果。""没问题，你肯定会接着。"铁汉斯说："我还要给你一套红色的铠甲，让你骑在一匹威武的枣红马上。"到了那天，一个身披红铠甲的小伙子纵马奔进了骑士中间，没被任何人认出来。 公主走到高台边上，向骑士们抛下了一个金苹果，可接着它的不是别人，正是这小伙子，然而他一得到苹果就立刻跑开了。 第二天，铁汉斯给他换了身白铠甲，让他骑上一匹白色的骏马，又是他接着了金苹果，而且他又拿着金苹果不停片刻就跑。 国王因此很生气，说："真是岂有此理！他无论如何该来见见我，说出他的名字。"他下了命令：如果那骑士又来接了苹果就跑，士兵们要紧紧追赶他；如果他不好好回来，就格杀勿论。 第三天，小伙子从铁汉斯处得到了一套黑铠甲和一匹黑马，又接到了金苹果。 可是，正当他拿着要跑时，国王的卫兵已赶来，其中的一个冲到了他身边，用剑刺伤了他的腿。 尽管如此，他仍摆脱了追赶，只是马跑得太快，抖落了他的头盔，卫兵看清了他满脑袋的金发，回去向国王一一做了禀报。