There was once a poor woman who gave birth to a little son; and as he came into the world with a caul on, it was predicted that in his fourteenth year he would have the King's daughter for his wife.
It happened that soon afterwards the King came into the village, and no one knew that he was the King, and when he asked the people what news there was, they answered, "A child has just been born with a caul on; whatever any one so born undertakes turns out well. It is prophesied, too, that in his fourteenth year he will have the King's daughter for his wife."
The King, who had a bad heart, and was angry about the prophecy, went to the parents, and, seeming quite friendly, said, "You poor people, let me have your child, and I will take care of it." At first they refused, but when the stranger offered them a large amount of gold for it, and they thought, "It is a luck-child, and everything must turn out well for it," they at last consented, and gave him the child.
The King put it in a box and rode away with it until he came to a deep piece of water; then he threw the box into it and thought, "I have freed my daughter from her unlooked-for suitor."
The box, however, did not sink, but floated like a boat, and not a drop of water made its way into it. And it floated to within two miles of the King's chief city, where there was a mill, and it came to a stand-still at the mill-dam. A miller's boy, who by good luck was standing there, noticed it and pulled it out with a hook, thinking that he had found a great treasure, but when he opened it there lay a pretty boy inside, quite fresh and lively. He took him to the miller and his wife, and as they had no children they were glad, and said, "God has given him to us." They took great care of the foundling, and he grew up in all goodness.
It happened that once in a storm, the King went into the mill, and he asked the mill-folk if the tall youth was their son. "No," answered they, "he's a foundling. Fourteen years ago he floated down to the mill-dam in a box, and the mill-boy pulled him out of the water." Then the King knew that it was none other than the luck-child which he had thrown into the water, and he said, "My good people, could not the youth take a letter to the Queen; I will give him two gold pieces as a reward?" - "Just as the King commands," answered they, and they told the boy to hold himself in readiness. Then the King wrote a letter to the Queen, wherein he said, "As soon as the boy arrives with this letter, let him be killed and buried, and all must be done before I come home."
The boy set out with this letter; but he lost his way, and in the evening came to a large forest. In the darkness he saw a small light; he went towards it and reached a cottage. When he went in, an old woman was sitting by the fire quite alone. She started when she saw the boy, and said, "Whence do you come, and whither are you going?" - "I come from the mill," he answered, "and wish to go to the Queen, to whom I am taking a letter; but as I have lost my way in the forest I should like to stay here over night." - "You poor boy," said the woman, "you have come into a den of thieves, and when they come home they will kill you." - "Let them come," said the boy, "I am not afraid; but I am so tired that I cannot go any farther:" and he stretched himself upon a bench and fell asleep.
Soon afterwards the robbers came, and angrily asked what strange boy was lying there? "Ah," said the old woman, "it is an innocent child who has lost himself in the forest, and out of pity I have let him come in; he has to take a letter to the Queen." The robbers opened the letter and read it, and in it was written that the boy as soon as he arrived should be put to death. Then the hard-hearted robbers felt pity, and their leader tore up the letter and wrote another, saying, that as soon as the boy came, he should be married at once to the King's daughter. Then they let him lie quietly on the bench until the next morning, and when he awoke they gave him the letter, and showed him the right way.
And the Queen, when she had received the letter and read it, did as was written in it, and had a splendid wedding-feast prepared, and the King's daughter was married to the luck-child, and as the youth was handsome and agreeable she lived with him in joy and contentment.
After some time the King returned to his palace and saw that the prophecy was fulfilled, and the luck-child married to his daughter. "How has that come to pass?" said he; "I gave quite another order in my letter." So the Queen gave him the letter, and said that he might see for himself what was written in it. The King read the letter and saw quite well that it had been exchanged for the other. He asked the youth what had become of the letter entrusted to him, and why he had brought another instead of it. "I know nothing about it," answered he; "it must have been changed in the night, when I slept in the forest."
The King said in a passion, "You shall not have everything quite so much your own way; whosoever marries my daughter must fetch me from hell three golden hairs from the head of the devil; bring me what I want, and you shall keep my daughter." In this way the King hoped to be rid of him for ever. But the luck-child answered, "I will fetch the golden hairs, I am not afraid of the Devil."
Thereupon he took leave of them and began his journey. The road led him to a large town, where the watchman by the gates asked him what his trade was, and what he knew. "I know everything," answered the luck-child. "Then you can do us a favour," said the watchman, "if you will tell us why our market-fountain, which once flowed with wine has become dry, and no longer gives even water?" - "That you shall know," answered he; "only wait until I come back." Then he went farther and came to another town, and there also the gatekeeper asked him what was his trade, and what he knew. "I know everything," answered he. "Then you can do us a favour and tell us why a tree in our town which once bore golden apples now does not even put forth leaves?" - "You shall know that," answered he; "only wait until I come back." Then he went on and came to a wide river over which he must go. The ferryman asked him what his trade was, and what he knew. "I know everything," answered he. "Then you can do me a favour," said the ferryman, "and tell me why I must always be rowing backwards and forwards, and am never set free?" - "You shall know that," answered he; "only wait until I come back."
When he had crossed the water he found the entrance to Hell. It was black and sooty within, and the Devil was not at home, but his grandmother was sitting in a large arm-chair. "What do you want?" said she to him, but she did not look so very wicked. "I should like to have three golden hairs from the devil's head," answered he, "else I cannot keep my wife." - "That is a good deal to ask for," said she; "if the devil comes home and finds you, it will cost you your life; but as I pity you, I will see if I cannot help you." She changed him into an ant and said, "Creep into the folds of my dress, you will be safe there." - "Yes," answered he, "so far, so good; but there are three things besides that I want to know: why a fountain which once flowed with wine has become dry, and no longer gives even water; why a tree which once bore golden apples does not even put forth leaves; and why a ferry-man must always be going backwards and forwards, and is never set free?" - "Those are difficult questions," answered she, "but only be silent and quiet and pay attention to what the devil says when I pull out the three golden hairs."
As the evening came on, the devil returned home. No sooner had he entered than he noticed that the air was not pure. "I smell man's flesh," said he; "all is not right here." Then he pried into every corner, and searched, but could not find anything. His grandmother scolded him. "It has just been swept," said she, "and everything put in order, and now you are upsetting it again; you have always got man's flesh in your nose. Sit down and eat your supper." When he had eaten and drunk he was tired, and laid his head in his grandmother's lap, and before long he was fast asleep, snoring and breathing heavily. Then the old woman took hold of a golden hair, pulled it out, and laid it down near her. "Oh!" cried the devil, "what are you doing?"
"I have had a bad dream," answered the grandmother, "so I seized hold of your hair." - "What did you dream then?" said the devil. "I dreamed that a fountain in a market-place from which wine once flowed was dried up, and not even water would flow out of it; what is the cause of it?" - "Oh, ho! if they did but know it," answered the devil; "there is a toad sitting under a stone in the well; if they killed it, the wine would flow again."
He went to sleep again and snored until the windows shook. Then she pulled the second hair out. "Ha! what are you doing?" cried the devil angrily. "Do not take it ill," said she, "I did it in a dream." - "What have you dreamt this time?" asked he. "I dreamt that in a certain kingdom there stood an apple-tree which had once borne golden apples, but now would not even bear leaves. What, think you, was the reason?"
"Oh! if they did but know," answered the devil. "A mouse is gnawing at the root; if they killed this they would have golden apples again, but if it gnaws much longer the tree will wither altogether. But leave me alone with your dreams: if you disturb me in my sleep again you will get a box on the ear." The grandmother spoke gently to him until he fell asleep again and snored. Then she took hold of the third golden hair and pulled it out. The devil jumped up, roared out, and would have treated her ill if she had not quieted him once more and said, "Who can help bad dreams?"
"What was the dream, then?" asked he, and was quite curious. "I dreamt of a ferry-man who complained that he must always ferry from one side to the other, and was never released. What is the cause of it?" - "Ah! the fool," answered the devil; "when any one comes and wants to go across he must put the oar in his hand, and the other man will have to ferry and he will be free." As the grandmother had plucked out the three golden hairs, and the three questions were answered, she let the old serpent alone, and he slept until daybreak. When the devil had gone out again the old woman took the ant out of the folds of her dress, and gave the luck-child his human shape again.
"There are the three golden hairs for you," said she. "What the Devil said to your three questions, I suppose you heard?" - "Yes," answered he, "I heard, and will take care to remember." - "You have what you want," said she, "and now you can go your way." He thanked the old woman for helping him in his need, and left hell well content that everything had turned out so fortunately. When he came to the ferry-man he was expected to give the promised answer. "Ferry me across first," said the luck-child, "and then I will tell you how you can be set free," and when he reached the opposite shore he gave him the devil's advice: "Next time any one comes, who wants to be ferried over, just put the oar in his hand."
He went on and came to the town wherein stood the unfruitful tree, and there too the watchman wanted an answer. So he told him what he had heard from the devil: "Kill the mouse which is gnawing at its root, and it will again bear golden apples." Then the watchman thanked him, and gave him as a reward two asses laden with gold, which followed him. At last he came to the town whose well was dry. He told the watchman what the devil had said: "A toad is in the well beneath a stone; you must find it and kill it, and the well will again give wine in plenty." The watchman thanked him, and also gave him two asses laden with gold.
At last the luck-child got home to his wife, who was heartily glad to see him again, and to hear how well he had prospered in everything. To the King he took what he had asked for, the devil's three golden hairs, and when the King saw the four asses laden with gold he was quite content, and said, "Now all the conditions are fulfilled, and you can keep my daughter. But tell me, dear son-in-law, where did all that gold come from? this is tremendous wealth!" - "I was rowed across a river," answered he, "and got it there; it lies on the shore instead of sand." - "Can I too fetch some of it?" said the King; and he was quite eager about it. "As much as you like," answered he. "There is a ferry-man on the river; let him ferry you over, and you can fill your sacks on the other side."
The greedy King set out in all haste, and when he came to the river he beckoned to the ferry-man to put him across. The ferry-man came and bade him get in, and when they got to the other shore he put the oar in his hand and sprang out. But from this time forth the King had to ferry, as a punishment for his sins. Perhaps he is ferrying still? If he is, it is because no one has taken the oar from him.
从前，有一个穷人，他只生了一个儿子。 儿子在出生时，天上吉星高照，看见的人都说他这个儿子有红运，在十四岁的时候会和国王的女儿结婚。 正巧，这个王国的国王在孩子出生后不久微服私访，他从这个村庄经过时，询问这儿是不是有什么新闻话题。 有个人说："有的，这儿刚出生了一个孩子，人们都说这是一个很幸运的孩子，还说他在十四岁的时候，命中注定要和国王的女儿结婚。"国王听了很不高兴，于是找到这个孩子的父母亲，问他们是否愿意把他们的儿子卖给他。 他们很坚决地说："不卖！"但这个陌生人百般请求，又拿出一大笔钱。 由于他们穷得几乎连面包也没有吃的了，所以他们最后同意了。 他们想这孩子既然是一个幸运的孩子，他一定会安全回来的。
国王抱着这个孩子，把他放进一个箱子里面，然后骑着马带走了。 当他走到一条很深的小河边时，他把箱子扔进了水流中，自言自语地说："这个小绅士永远也不会做我女儿的丈夫了。"然而，神灵保佑着这个孩子，箱子并没有沉到水里去，而是漂浮在水面上，并且没有一滴水漏进箱子里。 最后，这只箱子漂到离国王两里远的地方，停在了一座磨坊的的拦水坝上。 不久，磨坊的主人看到这只箱子，便拿来一根长竿子，把箱子打捞到岸边。 他发现箱子很沉，以为里面会有金子，打开箱子一看，发现里面竟是一个漂亮的小男孩。 孩子对他露出了快乐的笑容，像看到了亲人一样。 因为他和他妻子正好没有小孩，所以他们非常高兴，很自豪地说："这是上帝送给我们的。"他们非常细心地哺养小孩，又耐心地培养他。
十三年转眼就过去了。 有一次，国王偶然来到磨坊，他看见这个可爱的孩子，就问磨坊主，这个少年是不是他们的儿子 ，磨坊主回答说："不是的，我是在他还是一个婴儿时，在一只漂在拦河坝上的箱子里面发现的。"国王一听连忙问道："有多久了？"磨坊主回答说道："大约有十三年了。"国王马上明白这少年正是他装到箱子里面，又扔到河里的那个孩子。 回想起以前的传言，他不甘心，又想出了个主意，他说道："他是个多可爱的小伙子，能要他帮我送一封信给王后吗？要是乐意的话，我会给两块金元宝作为他的辛苦费。"磨坊主回答说："谨遵陛下的吩咐。"
少年人带着信出发了，可他却在路上迷失了方向，晚上竟撞进了一座大森林，他不得不在黑暗中摸索着寻找出路。 透过黑夜，他看到不远处有灯火晃动，循着火光，他来到了一座小村舍。 房屋里有一个老太婆，老太婆看到他后很害怕，说道："你怎么到这儿来了？你要去哪里呀？""我要去见王后，给她送一封信，但我迷路了，很想在这儿过夜休息一下。""你太不幸运了，竞撞进这个强盗窝，要是那帮强盗回来看到你在这儿，他们会杀死你的。"他回答说："我太疲倦了，管它哩，我已经走不动了，先休息再说。"说完，把信放在桌子上，躺在一条长凳子上，自个儿睡着了。
强盗们回来看到他，便问老太婆这个陌生的少年是谁。 她回答说："他是给王后送信的人，中途迷路了才走到这儿的。"强盗们拿起信，拆开一看，里面写的是要王后杀掉送信者。 不知是出于同情这个少年 ，还是想和国王作对，强盗头将信撕了，另外写了一封信，信中要王后在这个少年到达后，马上让他和公主结婚。 他们没有惊动他，一直到第二天早晨他起来后，才由老太婆指给他去王宫的正确道路。
少年到了王宫，将信交给王后。 王后看过信，马上为婚礼作了尽可能周到的准备。 看到少年如此英俊，公主非常愿意嫁给他作妻子。 过了一段时间，国王回宫了。 当他看到预言成为现实，这个幸运的孩子不仅没有在他的奸计中丧生，而且和他的女儿结了婚，很想知道事情怎么会变化成现在这个样子的，他发出的命令完全不是这样的啊！ 王后说："我亲爱的，你的信在这儿，你自己看看吧！"国王看过信，知道信已经被调换了，就问这位女婿他拿着自己要他传送的信干了些什么事情。 他回答说："我什么事也没干，一定是晚间我睡觉的时候，信被人做了手脚。"国王听了，气得暴跳如雷，叫道："任何要娶我女儿的人都必须下到地狱去，把魔王头上的三根金头发给我取来。只有这样，我才同意他做我的女婿。"少年说道："我一定很快就会办到。"于是，他告别妻子，踏上了冒险之路。
最后，他来到一个大湖边，他必须横渡过去。 年青人找到一只渡船后，摆渡的船夫不久就开始问他是干什么的，懂得什么事情。 他说："我什么事都懂！"船夫说道："那么 ，请指教我，为什么我总是在这水上摆渡，始终不能脱开身子去干其它的行当。 你要是能告诉我，我将重重地谢你。 "年青人说："当我返回时，我会告诉你有关方法的。 "
渡过湖后，他来到了地狱。 地狱看起来既阴森又恐怖，但魔王此刻不在家里，他的奶奶正坐在安乐椅上。 看到他后，她问道："你来找什么呀？"他回答道："魔王头上的三根金头发。"接着，他把自己的遭遇告诉了她。 "你真是敢冒奇险啦！"她很同情，又很赞赏这个年青人，决定帮助他，就说道："我会尽我所能来帮助你的。"说罢，他把年轻人变成了一只蚂蚁，要他躲藏在她外衣的褶皱里。 他很感激地说："太好了，不过我还想知道，为什么那个城里的喷泉干枯了？为什么结金苹果的树，现在连叶子也不生了？是什么原因使船夫老在那儿摆渡？"老奶奶听了说道："那的确是三个令人费解的问题，但你在我给魔王拔金头发时，静静地趴着别动。千万留神听魔王所说的话。"
天黑不久，魔王回家来了。 他一进来就开始用鼻子不停地嗅空气，大叫道："这儿不对头，我闻到了人肉的气味。"到处翻弄察看之后，他什么也没找着，老奶奶责骂说："我刚刚才收拾整齐，你为什么又把屋子搞得乱七八糟呢？"经过这一阵折腾之后，他也累了，就把头枕在奶奶的膝上，很快睡着了，不久就发出了鼾声。 这时，老奶奶抓住他头上的一根金头发拔了出来。 魔王"哎哟！"叫喊一声惊跳起来，"你在干什么呀？"她回答说："我做了一个恶梦，情急之中，抓了一下你的头发。我梦见有个城市的集市上有一口喷泉干枯了，没有水流出来，不知道是什么原因？"魔王说道："嗨！要是他们能够知道，他们一定会欢呼的。其实，那只是喷泉里面的一块石头下蹲着一只癞蛤蟆，只要把癞蛤蟆打死，泉水又会流出来的。"
说完这话，他又睡着了。 老奶奶趁机又拔了他一根头发，他惊醒后气冲冲地叫道："你到底要干什么？"她说道："别发火，我刚刚睡觉时梦见在一个大王国里，有一棵美丽的树 ，这棵树过去是结金苹果的，但现在树上却一片叶子也不生了，这是什么原因呢？ "魔王说道："嗨！ 要是他们知道这个秘密，一定高兴得不得了。 在那棵树的根部，有只老鼠在不停地啃咬树根，他们必须把它打死，那棵树才能重新结出金苹果。 如果不这样做，那树它很快就要死去。 现在让我安稳地睡觉吧，要是你再把我弄醒，你会后悔的。 "
到第二天早上，魔王起来之后出去了。 老奶奶将蚂蚁变回成年青人原样后，把三根金发给了他，叮嘱他要记住那三个问题的答案。 年青人在真诚道谢之后，步上了回家的旅程。
不久，他回到渡口。 船夫看到他回来了，询问他应允自己的问题的答案，年青人说："你先把我渡过去，我再告诉你脱身的办法。"当船到达对岸后 ，他告诉船夫，只要把手中的船篙塞到其他渡客手中，他就可以脱开身任意去留了。 接着，他到了那棵不结金苹果树所在的城市，他告诉他们说："只要把那只啃咬树根的老鼠打死，你们又会收获金苹果了。"他们把很多财宝作为礼物送给了他。 最后，他回到喷泉枯竭了的城市，卫兵请求他给他们答案，他告诉他们必须杀死石头下的癞蛤蟆，水才会流出来。 他们很感激他，给了他两头驮满金子的驴子。
终于，这个幸运儿回到了家里，妻子看到他，又听到他把所有的事都办妥了，高兴极了。 年青人把三根金头发交给了国王，国王再也不能反对他跟自己女儿的婚事了。 当他看到所有的金银财宝时，激动万分地说道："我亲爱的女婿，你是在哪儿找到这些金子的？"年青人说道："在一个湖边，那儿有好多好多的金银财宝。"国王连忙问道："请告诉我，我也可以去那儿得到一些吗？"年青人回答说："随便你要多少。你在那个湖上会看见一个船夫，让他把你载过湖去，你就会看到岸上的金子像沙子一样多。"
贪财的国王急急忙忙地起程去了。 当他来到湖边时，他唤过船夫说要过湖去，船夫便要他坐上船来。 他刚一上船，船夫马上把船篙塞到他手中，然后跳上岸走了，留下老国王在那儿摆渡。 这就是对他罪孽的报应。