C'era una volta un re potente e saggio che ogni giorno, a pranzo, quando la tavola era sparecchiata e non c'era più nessuno, si faceva portare ancora un piatto, coperto, da uno dei suoi servi più fedeli. Solamente lui ne mangiava, poi lo richiudeva, e nessuno sapeva che cosa vi fosse dentro. Un giorno avvenne che il servo, quando il re gli diede il piatto da portare via, non seppe resistere alla tentazione, lo portò nella propria camera, lo aprì e vi trovò dentro una serpe bianca. Vedendola gli venne una tale voglia di mangiarne che non pot‚ trattenersi: ne tagliò un pezzetto e se lo mangiò. Ma appena lo sfiorò con la lingua, udì con chiarezza ciò che si dicevano i passeri e gli altri uccelli davanti alla finestra e comprese così che capiva il linguaggio degli animali.
A long time ago there lived a king who was famed for his wisdom through all the land. Nothing was hidden from him, and it seemed as if news of the most secret things was brought to him through the air. But he had a strange custom; every day after dinner, when the table was cleared, and no one else was present, a trusty servant had to bring him one more dish. It was covered, however, and even the servant did not know what was in it, neither did anyone know, for the King never took off the cover to eat of it until he was quite alone. This had gone on for a long time, when one day the servant, who took away the dish, was overcome with such curiosity that he could not help carrying the dish into his room. When he had carefully locked the door, he lifted up the cover, and saw a white snake lying on the dish. But when he saw it he could not deny himself the pleasure of tasting it, so he cut off a little bit and put it into his mouth. No sooner had it touched his tongue than he heard a strange whispering of little voices outside his window. He went and listened, and then noticed that it was the sparrows who were chattering together, and telling one another of all kinds of things which they had seen in the fields and woods. Eating the snake had given him power of understanding the language of animals.
Ora avvenne che proprio quel giorno la regina smarrì uno dei suoi anelli più belli, e il sospetto cadde su quel servo. Il re lo rimproverò aspramente e minacciò di condannarlo come reo, se entro quel giorno non avesse indicato il malfattore. Allora il servo si spaventò e non sapeva cosa fare. Inquieto, scese in cortile: là, vicino a un ruscello, le anatre riposavano tranquille e si facevano le loro confidenze. Egli ne sentì una che diceva: "Che peso ho sullo stomaco! Nella fretta ho ingoiato un anello che era sotto la finestra della regina." Subito il servo l'afferrò per il collo, la portò al cuoco e disse: "Ammazza prima questa, è ben pasciuta." Il cuoco le tagliò il collo e quando fu sbuzzata le trovò nello stomaco l'anello della regina. Il servo lo portò al re che se ne rallegrò molto, e volendo riparare il proprio errore gli disse: "Chiedi ciò che vuoi, e di' quale carica desideri a corte."
Now it so happened that on this very day the Queen lost her most beautiful ring, and suspicion of having stolen it fell upon this trusty servant, who was allowed to go everywhere. The King ordered the man to be brought before him, and threatened with angry words that unless he could before the morrow point out the thief, he himself should be looked upon as guilty and executed. In vain he declared his innocence; he was dismissed with no better answer. In his trouble and fear he went down into the courtyard and took thought how to help himself out of his trouble. Now some ducks were sitting together quietly by a brook and taking their rest; and, whilst they were making their feathers smooth with their bills, they were having a confidential conversation together. The servant stood by and listened. They were telling one another of all the places where they had been waddling about all the morning, and what good food they had found, and one said in a pitiful tone, "Something lies heavy on my stomach; as I was eating in haste I swallowed a ring which lay under the Queen's window." The servant at once seized her by the neck, carried her to the kitchen, and said to the cook, "Here is a fine duck; pray, kill her." - "Yes," said the cook, and weighed her in his hand; "she has spared no trouble to fatten herself, and has been waiting to be roasted long enough." So he cut off her head, and as she was being dressed for the spit, the Queen's ring was found inside her. The servant could now easily prove his innocence; and the King, to make amends for the wrong, allowed him to ask a favour, and promised him the best place in the court that he could wish for.
Ma il servo rifiutò ogni cosa e chiese soltanto un cavallo e del denaro per il viaggio, poiché‚ desiderava girare per il mondo. Così se ne andò a cavallo e giunse a uno stagno dove tre pesci si erano impigliati nelle canne e boccheggiavano fuor d'acqua, lamentandosi di dover morire così miseramente. Egli capì le loro parole e ne ebbe pietà, così scese da cavallo e li rimise in acqua. Allora i pesci gridarono: "Ce ne ricorderemo e ti ricompenseremo!." Egli proseguì e poco dopo udì, ai suoi piedi, un re delle formiche che diceva: "Se l'uomo girasse al largo con la sua bestia! Mi calpesta tante di quelle formiche!" Egli guardò a terra e vide che il suo cavallo era entrato in un formicaio, allora deviò il cammino e il re delle formiche gridò: "Ce ne ricorderemo e ti ricompenseremo!" Proseguì e giunse in un bosco; là due corvi, padre e madre, gettavano i loro piccoli fuori dal nido e dicevano: "Siete grandi a sufficienza per mantenervi da soli, noi non possiamo più sfamarvi." I piccoli giacevano a terra, sbattevano le loro piccole alucce e gridavano: "Come possiamo mantenerci da soli! Non sappiamo ancora volare per procacciarci il cibo! Siamo costretti a morire di fame!" Egli scese a terra, uccise il suo cavallo con la spada e lo diede in pasto ai piccoli corvi. Questi si avvicinarono saltellando, si saziarono e dissero: "Ce ne ricorderemo e ti ricompenseremo!"
The servant refused everything, and only asked for a horse and some money for travelling, as he had a mind to see the world and go about a little. When his request was granted he set out on his way, and one day came to a pond, where he saw three fishes caught in the reeds and gasping for water. Now, though it is said that fishes are dumb, he heard them lamenting that they must perish so miserably, and, as he had a kind heart, he got off his horse and put the three prisoners back into the water. They quivered with delight, put out their heads, and cried to him, "We will remember you and repay you for saving us!" He rode on, and after a while it seemed to him that he heard a voice in the sand at his feet. He listened, and heard an ant-king complain, "Why cannot folks, with their clumsy beasts, keep off our bodies? That stupid horse, with his heavy hoofs, has been treading down my people without mercy!" So he turned on to a side path and the ant-king cried out to him, 'We will remember you - one good turn deserves another!" The path led him into a wood, and here he saw two old ravens standing by their nest, and throwing out their young ones. "Out with you, you idle, good-for-nothing creatures!" cried they; "we cannot find food for you any longer; you are big enough, and can provide for yourselves." But the poor young ravens lay upon the ground, flapping their wings, and crying, "Oh, what helpless chicks we are! We must shift for ourselves, and yet we cannot fly! What can we do, but lie here and starve?" So the good young fellow alighted and killed his horse with his sword, and gave it to them for food. Then they came hopping up to it, satisfied their hunger, and cried, "We will remember you - one good turn deserves another!"
Ora egli proseguì a piedi e, cammina cammina, giunse in una gran città. Un uomo a cavallo andava dicendo che colui che voleva diventare lo sposo della giovane principessa doveva eseguire un compito che ella gli avrebbe assegnato; ma se lo intraprendeva e non lo portava a termine, avrebbe perso la vita. Nessuno voleva presentarsi, perché‚ già tanti ci avevano rimesso la vita. Il giovane pensò: "Che ho da perdere? Tentiamo!" Così andò davanti al re e a sua figlia e si annunciò come pretendente.
And now he had to use his own legs, and when he had walked a long way, he came to a large city. There was a great noise and crowd in the streets, and a man rode up on horseback, crying aloud, "The King's daughter wants a husband; but whoever sues for her hand must perform a hard task, and if he does not succeed he will forfeit his life." Many had already made the attempt, but in vain; nevertheless when the youth saw the King's daughter he was so overcome by her great beauty that he forgot all danger, went before the King, and declared himself a suitor.
Allora lo condussero in riva al mare; gettarono un anello in acqua e gli ordinarono di ripescarlo. Gli dissero inoltre che se si tuffava e ritornava a galla senza l'anello, lo avrebbero ributtato giù per farlo morire. Poi fu lasciato solo, e mentre si trovava sulla riva e pensava che cosa mai potesse fare per prendere l'anello, vide avvicinarsi i tre pesci che egli aveva tratto dalle canne e rimesso in acqua. Quello di mezzo aveva in bocca una conchiglia, che depose sulla riva, ai piedi del giovane; e quando egli l'aprì ci trovò dentro l'anello. Pieno di gioia lo portò al re e chiese sua figlia in sposa. Ma questa, quando udì che egli non era un principe, non lo volle. Uscì in giardino, rovesciò dieci sacchi pieni di miglio sull'erba e disse: "Dovrà raccoglierlo per domattina, prima che sorga il sole; e non ne manchi neanche un granello!" Il giovane non sarebbe riuscito a portare a termine il compito se i fedeli animali non lo avessero aiutato. Di notte venne il re delle formiche e, con le sue mille e mille formiche raccolse tutto il miglio, lo ammucchiò nei sacchi e, prima che sorgesse il sole del mattino, aveva finito il lavoro senza che neanche un granello andasse perduto. Quando la principessa venne in giardino e vide tutto ciò, si meravigliò e disse: "Anche se ha eseguito pure questo compito, ed è giovane e bello, non lo sposerò se prima non mi avrà portato una mela dell'albero della vita." Ma i corvi che erano stati gettati dal nido e che egli aveva nutrito, erano cresciuti e avevano udito quello che voleva la principessa. Volarono via e ben presto uno di loro ritornò portando una mela nel becco e la lasciò cadere fra le mani del giovane. Quando questi la portò alla principessa ella lo accettò con gioia e divenne sua sposa. Alla morte del vecchio re, il principe ne ereditò la corona.
So he was led out to the sea, and a gold ring was thrown into it, in his sight; then the King ordered him to fetch this ring up from the bottom of the sea, and added, "If you come up again without it you will be thrown in again and again until you perish amid the waves." All the people grieved for the handsome youth; then they went away, leaving him alone by the sea. He stood on the shore and considered what he should do, when suddenly he saw three fishes come swimming towards him, and they were the very fishes whose lives he had saved. The one in the middle held a mussel in its mouth, which it laid on the shore at the youth's feet, and when he had taken it up and opened it, there lay the gold ring in the shell. Full of joy he took it to the King, and expected that he would grant him the promised reward. But when the proud princess perceived that he was not her equal in birth, she scorned him, and required him first to perform another task. She went down into the garden and strewed with her own hands ten sacks-full of millet-seed on the grass; then she said, "To-morrow morning before sunrise these must be picked up, and not a single grain be wanting." The youth sat down in the garden and considered how it might be possible to perform this task, but he could think of nothing, and there he sat sorrowfully awaiting the break of day, when he should be led to death. But as soon as the first rays of the sun shone into the garden he saw all the ten sacks standing side by side, quite full, and not a single grain was missing. The ant-king had come in the night with thousands and thousands of ants, and the grateful creatures had by great industry picked up all the millet-seed and gathered them into the sacks. Presently the King's daughter herself came down into the garden, and was amazed to see that the young man had done the task she had given him. But she could not yet conquer her proud heart, and said, "Although he has performed both the tasks, he shall not be my husband until he has brought me an apple from the Tree of Life." The youth did not know where the Tree of Life stood, but he set out, and would have gone on for ever, as long as his legs would carry him, though he had no hope of finding it. After he had wandered through three kingdoms, he came one evening to a wood, and lay down under a tree to sleep. But he heard a rustling in the branches, and a golden apple fell into his hand. At the same time three ravens flew down to him, perched themselves upon his knee, and said, "We are the three young ravens whom you saved from starving; when we had grown big, and heard that you were seeking the Golden Apple, we flew over the sea to the end of the world, where the Tree of Life stands, and have brought you the apple." The youth, full of joy, set out homewards, and took the Golden Apple to the King's beautiful daughter, who had no more excuses left to make. They cut the Apple of Life in two and ate it together; and then her heart became full of love for him, and they lived in undisturbed happiness to a great age.
Donations are welcomed & appreciated.
Thank you for your support.