The golden bird



In times gone by there was a king who had at the back of his castle a beautiful pleasure-garden, in which stood a tree that bore golden apples. As the apples ripened they were counted, but one morning one was missing. Then the king was angry, and he ordered that watch should be kept about the tree every night.

Now the king had three sons, and he sent the eldest to spend the whole night in the garden; so he watched till midnight, and then he could keep off sleep no longer, and in the morning another apple was missing. The second son had to watch the following night; but it fared no better, for when twelve o'clock had struck he went to sleep, and in the morning another apple was missing. Now came the turn of the third son to watch, and he was ready to do so; but the king had less trust in him, and believed he would acquit himself still worse than his brothers, but in the end he consented to let him try. So the young man lay down under the tree to watch, and resolved that sleep should not be master.

When it struck twelve something came rushing through the air, and he saw in the moonlight a bird flying towards him, whose feathers glittered like gold. The bird perched upon the tree, and had already pecked off an apple, when the young man let fly an arrow at it. The bird flew away, but the arrow had struck its plumage, and one of its golden feathers fell to the ground: the young man picked it up, and taking it next morning to the king, told him what had happened in the night. The king called his council together, and all declared that such a feather was worth more than the whole kingdom. "Since the feather is so valuable," said the king, "one is not enough for me; I must and will have the whole bird."

So the eldest son set off, and relying on his own cleverness he thought he should soon find the golden bird. When he had gone some distance he saw a fox sitting at the edge of a wood, and he pointed his gun at him. The fox cried out, "Do not shoot me, and I will give you good counsel. You are on your way to find the golden bird, and this evening you will come to a village, in which two taverns stand facing each other. One will be brightly lighted up, and there will be plenty of merriment going on inside; do not mind about that, but go into the other one, although it will look to you very uninviting.''

"How can a silly beast give one any rational advice?" thought the king's son and let fly at the fox, but missed him, and he stretched out his tail and ran quick into the wood. Then the young man went on his way, and towards evening he came to the village, and there stood the two taverns; in one singing and dancing was going on, the other looked quite dull and wretched.

"I should be a fool," said he, "to go into that dismal place, while there is anything so good close by." So he went into the merry inn, and there lived in clover, quite forgetting the bird and his father, and all good counsel.

As time went on, and the eldest son never came home, the second son set out to seek the golden bird. He met with the fox, just as the eldest did, and received good advice from him without attending to it. And when he came to the two taverns, his brother was standing and calling to him at the window of one of them, out of which came sounds of merriment; so he could not resist, but went in and revelled to his heart's content.

And then, as time went on, the youngest son wished to go forth, and to try his luck, but his father would not consent.

"It would be useless," said he; "he is much less likely to find the bird than his brothers, and if any misfortune were to happen to him he would not know how to help himself; his wits are none of the best." But at last, as there was no peace to be had, he let him go.

By the side of the wood sat the fox, begged him to spare his life, and gave him good counsel. The young man was kind, and said, "Be easy, little fox, I will do you no harm."

"You shall not repent of it," answered the fox, "and that you may get there all the sooner, get up and sit on my tail." And no sooner had he done so than the fox began to run, and off they went over stock and stone, so that the wind whistled in their hair. When they reached the village the young man got down, and, following the fox's advice, went into the mean-looking tavern, without hesitating, and there he passed a quiet night.

The next morning, when he went out into the field, the fox, who was sitting there already, said, "I will tell you further what you have to do. Go straight on until you come to a castle, before which a great band of soldiers lie, but do not trouble yourself about them, for they will be all asleep and snoring; pass through them and forward into the castle, and go through all the rooms, until you come to one where there is a golden bird hanging in a wooden cage. Near at hand will stand empty a golden cage of state, but you must beware of taking the bird out of his ugly cage and putting him into the fine one; if you do so you will come to harm." After he had finished saying this the fox stretched out his tail again, and the king's son sat him down upon it; then away they went over stock and stone, so that the wind whistled through their hair.

And when the king's son reached the castle he found everything as the fox had said: and he at last entered the room where the golden bird was hanging in a wooden cage, while a golden one was standing by; the three golden apples too were in the room. Then, thinking it foolish to let the beautiful bird stay in that mean and ugly cage, he opened the door of it, took hold of it, and put it in the golden one. In the same moment the bird uttered a piercing cry. The soldiers awaked, rushed in, seized the king's son and put him in prison.

The next morning he was brought before a judge, and, as he confessed everything, condemned to death. But the king said he would spare his life on one condition, that he should bring him the golden horse whose paces were swifter than the wind, and that then he should also receive the golden bird as a reward.

So the king's son set off to find the golden horse, but he sighed, and was very sad, for how should it be accomplished? And then he saw his old friend the fox sitting by the roadside.
"Now, you see," said the fox, "ail this has happened, because you would not listen to me. But be of good courage, I will bring you through, and will tell you how you are to get the golden horse. You must go straight on until you come to a castle, where the horse stands in his stable; before the stable-door the grooms will be lying, but they will all be asleep and snoring; and you can go and quietly lead out the horse. But one thing you must mind - take care to put upon him the plain saddle of wood and leather, and not the golden one, which will hang close by; otherwise it will go badly with you."

Then the fox stretched out his tail, and the king's son seated himself upon it, and away they went over stock and stone until the wind whistled through their hair. And everything happened just as the fox had said, and he came to the stall where the golden horse was: and as he was about to put on him the plain saddle, he thought to himself, "Such a beautiful animal would be disgraced were I not to put on him the good saddle, which becomes him so well." However, no sooner did the horse feel the golden saddle touch him than he began to neigh. And the grooms all awoke, seized the king's son and threw him into prison. The next morning he was delivered up to justice and condemned to death, but the king promised him his life, and also to bestow upon him the golden horse, if he could convey thither the beautiful princess of the golden castle.

With a heavy heart the king's son set out, but by great good luck he soon met with the faithful fox. "I ought now to leave you to your own ill-luck," said the fox, "but I am sorry for you, and will once more help you in your need. Your way lies straight up to the golden castle: you will arrive there in the evening, and at night, when all is quiet, the beautiful princess goes to the bath. And as she is entering the bathing-house, go up to her and give her a kiss, then she will follow you, and you can lead her away; but do not suffer her first to go and take leave of her parents, or it will go ill with you." Then the fox stretched out his tail; the king's son seated himself upon it, and away they went over stock and stone, so that the wind whistled through their hair.

And when he came to the golden castle, all was as the fox had said. He waited until midnight, when all lay in deep sleep, and then as the beautiful princess went to the bathing-house he went up to her and gave her a kiss, and she willingly promised to go with him, but she begged him earnestly, and with tears, that he would let her first go and take leave of her parents. At first he denied her prayer, but as she wept so much the more, and fell at his feet, he gave in at last.

And no sooner had the princess reached her father's bedside than he, and all who were in the castle, waked up, and the young man was seized and thrown into prison. The next morning the king said to him, "Thy life is forfeit, but thou shalt find grace if thou canst level that mountain that lies before my windows, and over which I am not able to see: and if this is done within eight days thou shalt have my daughter for a reward." So the king's son set to work, and dug and shovelled away without ceasing, but when, on the seventh day, he saw how little he had accomplished, and that all his work was as nothing, be fell into great sadness, and gave up all hope.

But on the evening of the seventh day the fox appeared, and said, "You do not deserve that I should help you, but go now and lie down to sleep, and I will do the work for you." The next morning when he awoke, and looked out of the window, the mountain had disappeared. The young man hastened full of joy to the king, and told him that his behest was fulfilled, and, whether the king liked it or not, he had to keep to his word, and let his daughter go. So they both went away together, and it was not long before the faithful fox came up to them.

"Well, you have got the best first," said he; "but you must know the golden, horse belongs to the princess of the golden castle." - "But how shall I get it?" asked the young man. "I am going to tell you," answered the fox. "First, go to the king who sent you to the golden castle, and take to him the beautiful princess. There will then be very great rejoicing; he will willingly give you the golden horse, and they will lead him out to you; then mount him without delay, and stretch out your hand to each of them to take leave, and last of all to the princess, and when you have her by the hand swing her up on the horse behind you, and off you go! nobody will be able to overtake you, for that horse goes swifter than the wind."

And so it was all happily done, and the king's son carried off the beautiful princess on the golden horse. The fox did not stay behind, and he said to the young man, "Now, I will help you to get the golden bird. When you draw near the castle where the bird is, let the lady alight, and I will take her under my care; then you must ride the golden horse into the castle-yard, and there will be great rejoicing to see it, and they will bring out to you the golden bird; as soon as you have the cage in your hand, you must start off back to us, and then you shall carry the lady away." The plan was successfully carried out; and when the young man returned with the treasure, the fox said, "Now, what will you give me for my reward?" - "What would you like?" asked the young man. "When we are passing through the wood, I desire that you should slay me, and cut my head and feet off."

"That were a strange sign of gratitude," said the king's son, "and I could not possibly do such a thing." Then said the fox, "If you will not do it, I must leave you; but before I go let me give you some good advice. Beware of two things: buy no gallows-meat, and sit at no brook-side." With that the fox ran off into the wood.

The young man thought to himself, "That is a wonderful animal, with most singular ideas. How should any one buy gallows-meat? and I am sure I have no particular fancy for sitting by a brook-side." So he rode on with the beautiful princess, and their way led them through the village where his two brothers had stayed. There they heard great outcry and noise, and when he asked what it was all about, they told him that two people were going to be hanged. And when he drew near he saw that it was his two brothers, who had done all sorts of evil tricks, and had wasted all their goods. He asked if there were no means of setting them free.

"Oh yes! if you will buy them off," answered the people; "but why should you spend your money in redeeming such worthless men?" But he persisted in doing so; and when they were let go they all went on their journey together.

After a while they came to the wood where the fox had met them first, and there it seemed so cool and sheltered from the sun's burning rays that the two brothers said, "Let us rest here for a little by the brook, and eat and drink to refresh ourselves." The young man consented, quite forgetting the fox's warning, and he seated himself by the brook-side, suspecting no evil. But the two brothers thrust him backwards into the brook, seized the princess, the horse, and the bird, and went home to their father.

"Is not this the golden bird that we bring?" said they; "and we have also the golden horse, and the princess of the golden castle." Then there was great rejoicing in the royal castle, but the horse did not, feed, the bird did not chirp, and the princess sat still and wept.

The youngest brother, however, had not perished. The brook was, by good fortune, dry, and he fell on soft moss without receiving any hurt, but he could not get up again. But in his need the faithful fox was not lacking; he came up running, and reproached him for having forgotten his advice.

"But I cannot forsake you all the same," said he; "I will help you back again into daylight." So he told the young man to grasp his tail, and hold on to it fast, and so he drew him up again. "Still you are not quite out of all danger," said the fox; "your brothers, not being certain of your death, have surrounded the wood with sentinels, who are to put you to death if you let yourself be seen." A poor beggar-man was sitting by the path, and the young man changed clothes with him, and went clad in that wise into the king's courtyard. Nobody knew him, but the bird began to chirp, and the horse began to feed, and the beautiful princess ceased weeping.

"What does this mean?" said the king, astonished. The princess answered, "I cannot tell, except that I was sad, and now I am joyful; it is to me as if my rightful bridegroom had returned." Then she told him all that happened, although the two brothers had threatened to put her to death if she let out anything.

The king then ordered every person who was in the castle to be brought before him, and with the rest came the young man like a beggar in his wretched garments; but the princess knew him, and greeted him well, falling on his neck and kissing him. The wicked brothers were seized and put to death, and the youngest brother was married to the princess, and succeeded to the inheritance of his father.

But what became of the poor fox? Long afterwards the king's son was going through the wood, and the fox met him and said, "Now, you have everything that you can wish for, but my misfortunes never come to an end, and it lies in your power to free me from them." And once more he prayed the king's son earnestly to slay him, and cut off his head and feet. So, at last, he consented, and no sooner was it done than the fox was changed into a man, and was no other than the brother of the beautiful princess; and thus he was set free from a spell that had bound him for a long, long time. And now, indeed, there lacked nothing to their happiness as long as they lived.
For mange, mange år siden, levede der engang en konge, som havde en dejlig have, hvori der voksede et træ, som bar guldæbler. Da de var modne, blev der talt, hvor mange der var, men næste morgen manglede der et. Det blev meldt til kongen, og han besluttede, at der hver nat skulle holdes vagt ved træet. Den første nat sendte han den ældste af sine tre sønner derned. Han vågede tappert til at begynde med, men henimod midnat kunne han ikke holde sine øjne åbne længere og faldt i søvn, og næste morgen manglede der igen et æble. Den følgende nat måtte den anden søn holde vagt, men det gik ham ikke en smule bedre; da klokken slog tolv, sov han allerede, og om morgenen var der igen et æble forsvundet. Nu kom turen til den yngste søn. Kongen havde ikke videre tiltro til ham og tænkte, det ville gå ham ligesom brødrene, men han fik dog lov til at prøve. Om aftenen gik han ned og satte sig under træet og sled i det for ikke at falde i søvn. Da klokken slog tolv, hørte han en susen i luften, og i det klare månelys så han en fugl, der skinnede som guld, komme flyvende. Den satte sig i træet og hakkede et æble af, men lige i det samme sendte kongesønnen en pil efter den. Fuglen fløj bort, men pilen havde truffet dens vinge, og en af dens gyldne fjer faldt ned på jorden. Han tog den op, bragte den næste morgen til kongen og fortalte, hvad han havde set. Kongen samlede sit råd og viste dem fjeren, og de erklærede, at sådan en eneste fjer var mere værd end hele kongeriget. "Hvis det er tilfældet, kan jeg ikke nøjes med den," sagde kongen, "så må jeg have fat i hele fuglen."

Den ældste søn mente, at han var så klog, at han nok skulle finde fuglen, og begav sig på vej. Da han havde gået en lille tid, så han en ræv, der sad udenfor en skov, og lagde sin bøsse til kinden for at sigte på den. "Lad være med at skyde mig," råbte ræven, "så vil jeg til gengæld give dig et godt råd. Jeg ved nok, at du er ude for at lede efter guldfuglen. I aften kommer du til en landsby, hvor der ligger to kroer lige overfor hinanden. Den ene er klart oplyst, og der går det lystigt til, men du skal tage ind i den anden, selv om du synes, den ser lidt mindre tiltalende ud." - "Sådan et dumt dyr kan da umulig give mig råd," tænkte kongesønnen, fyrede løs, men ramte ikke ræven, der hurtig løb ind i skoven med halen i vejret. Han gik nu videre, og om aftenen kom han til landsbyen med de to kroer. Fra den ene lød sang og musik og vinduerne strålede af lys, men den anden så mørk og tarvelig ud. "Jeg måtte da være en god nar, hvis jeg ikke gik ind i det pæne værtshus," tænkte kongesønnen. Men derinde levede han i sus og dus og glemte snart både sin far og guldfuglen.

Da der var gået nogen tid uden at den ældste søn var kommet hjem, begav den næstældste sig på vej for at søge efter fuglen. Han mødte også ræven, der gav ham det samme gode råd, men han agtede ikke på det. Da han kom til landsbyen, stod hans bror i kroens vindue og kaldte på ham. Han kunne ikke modstå, men gik derind og svirede med de andre og glemte ganske, hvad han var draget ud for.

Efter nogen tids forløb ville også den yngste søn drage ud og prøve sin lykke, men faderen ville ikke give ham lov dertil. "Det kan jo dog ikke nytte," sagde han, "du vil såmænd endnu mindre end dine brødre finde guldfuglen, og hvis der skulle tilstøde dig noget, har du ikke forstand nok til at klare dig." Men sønnen blev ved at plage, og til sidst gav den gamle efter, og han drog af sted. Ved skoven mødte han ræven, der bad for sit liv, og gav ham de samme gode råd. "Vær bare rolig," svarede han, "jeg skal såmænd ikke gøre dig noget." - "Du skal ikke komme til at fortryde det," sagde ræven, "kom her, sæt dig op på min hale, så kommer du hurtigere af sted." Næppe havde han sat sig derop, før ræven for af sted over stok og sten, så vinden peb om ørerne på dem. Da de kom til landsbyen, tog kongesønnen ind i det mørke værtshus og sov roligt til den lyse morgen. Da han kom udenfor byen, mødte han igen ræven, som sagde: "Nu skal jeg sige dig, hvordan du skal bære dig ad. Sæt dig op, så rider vi til et stort slot, der er helt omringet af soldater. Du skal imidlertid ikke være bange for dem, de sover allesammen. Gå ind i slottet gennem alle værelser, til du kommer til en stue, hvor fuglen hænger i et træbur. Ved siden af står der et prægtigt guldbur, men du må ikke sætte fuglen derind, det vil komme dig dyrt til at stå." Derpå tog den kongesønnen op på halen, og nu gik det igen over stok og sten, til de nåede slottet. Alting var, som ræven havde sagt, og han kom til sidst ind i stuen, hvor fuglen hang i træburet. De tre guldæbler lå nede på gulvet. Han syntes det var meningsløst, at den smukke fugl skulle sidde i det grimme bur, lukkede døren op og puttede den ind i guldburet. I samme øjeblik udstødte fuglen et gennemtrængende skrig, så soldaterne vågnede og kom styrtende ind og greb ham og puttede ham i fængslet. Næste morgen blev han stillet for en domstol, gik straks til bekendelse og blev dømt til døden. Kongen ville dog på en betingelse skænke ham livet. Hvis han kunne skaffe ham guldhesten, der løb hurtigere end vinden, skulle han få lov til at drage af sted igen og oven i købet få guldfuglen med.

Kongesønnen begav sig bedrøvet på vej og vidste slet ikke, hvor han skulle gå hen. Pludselig fik han øje på sin gamle ven, ræven, der sad på en grøftekant. "Der kan du se, hvordan det gik, fordi du ikke fulgte mit råd," sagde den, "men lad nu bare være med at hænge med næbbet. Jeg skal nok sige dig, hvordan du skal få fat i hesten. Sæt dig nu op igen, så kommer du til et slot, hvor hesten står i stalden. Staldkarlene ligger udenfor og snorksover, så du kan ganske rolig trække hesten ud. Men en ting må du huske. Du skal give den en almindelig lædersaddel på og ikke den forgyldte, som hænger ved siden af, ellers vil du komme galt af sted." Kongesønnen satte sig nu op på rævens hale, og af sted gik det over stok og sten. Han fandt alt, som ræven havde sagt, men da han kom ind i stalden og så det smukke dyr, tænkte han: "Det er dog synd, at den ikke skal have den pæne saddel på." Men næppe havde han lagt guldsadlen på hestens ryg, før den begyndte at vrinske så højt, at staldkarlene vågnede. De kom straks styrtende ind, greb ham og satte ham i fængsel. Den næste morgen blev han dømt til døden, men kongen lovede dog at skænke ham livet og guldhesten oven i købet, hvis han kunne skaffe ham kongedatteren fra det gyldne slot.

Med tungt hjerte begav kongesønnen sig på vej, men heldigvis mødte han igen den trofaste ræv. "Du fortjente rigtignok, at jeg overlod dig til din skæbne," sagde den, "men jeg har ondt af dig og vil hjælpe dig endnu en gang. Denne vej fører lige til det gyldne slot. I aften når vi dertil, og i nat, når alt er stille, går den smukke kongedatter ind i badehuset for at bade. Når hun kommer forbi dig, skal du springe frem og give hende et kys, så følger hun med dig. Men du må på ingen måde give hende lov til at gå ind og sige farvel til sine forældre, det vil du komme til at fortryde bagefter." Kongesønnen satte sig op på halen, og af sted gik det over stok og sten. Om aftenen kom de til slottet, og ved midnatstid kom den smukke kongedatter gående ned mod badehuset. Kongesønnen sprang frem og gav hende et kys, og hun var straks villig til at følge med ham, men bad med tårer i øjnene, om hun måtte sige farvel til sine forældre. I begyndelsen var han standhaftig og sagde nej, men da hun grædende kastede sig på knæ for ham, gav han efter. I samme øjeblik, hun kom ind i sin fars sovekammer, vågnede han og hele slottet, og kongesønnen blev grebet og kastet i fængsel.

Den næste morgen lod kongen ham føre frem for sig og sagde: "Du har forbrudt dit liv, men jeg vil lade nåde gå for ret og give dig min datter til ægte, hvis du inden otte dage kan fjerne det bjerg, der ligger udenfor mit slot og spærrer udsigten." Kongesønnen begyndte at hakke og grave både dag og nat, men da han efter syv dages forløb så, hvor lidt han havde udrettet, opgav han alt håb og var meget bedrøvet. Om aftenen på den syvende dag stod pludselig ræven for ham. "Du fortjener aldeles ikke, at jeg hjælper dig," sagde den, "men gå nu bare i seng, så skal jeg nok sørge for resten." Da han vågnede næste morgen og kiggede ud af vinduet, så han, at bjerget var borte. Fuld af glæde skyndte han sig at fortælle kongen det, og enten denne så surt eller sødt, måtte han holde sit løfte og give ham sin datter til ægte.

Prinsen og prinsessen drog nu bort sammen, og da de havde gået et lille stykke, mødte de ræven. "Nu har du jo rigtignok det bedste," sagde den, "men når du har jomfruen fra det gyldne slot, skulle du også have guldhesten. "Jamen hvordan skal jeg få fat i den," spurgte kongesønnen. "Det skal jeg sige dig," svarede ræven, "først skal du bringe den konge, der har sendt dig af sted til det gyldne slot, den smukke kongedatter. Han vil blive ude af sig selv af glæde og straks føre guldhesten frem til dig. Sæt dig op på den og ræk dem alle hånden til afsked, men sidst den smukke jomfru. Sving så hende op foran dig og rid af sted. Ingen i hele verden vil kunne indhente jer, for hesten løber hurtigere end vinden."

Prinsen slap da også lykkelig og vel bort med guldhesten og den smukke kongedatter, og ræven sagde nu til ham: "Jeg vil også skaffe dig fat i guldfuglen. Når du kommer i nærheden af det slot, hvor den er, skal du lade prinsessen blive herude hos mig, jeg skal nok passe på hende. Når du kommer ind i slotsgården og kongen ser guldhesten, vil han bringe fuglen ud til dig. Når du så har fået buret i hånden, skal du sætte sporerne i hestens sider og skynde dig herud og hente din brud." Da kongesønnen lykkelig og vel kom tilbage med fuglen, sagde ræven: "Nu skulle jeg vel også have en belønning, fordi jeg har hjulpet dig så godt." - "Hvad vil du have," spurgte prinsen. "Når vi kommer derind i skoven, skal du skyde mig ned og hugge mit hoved og mine poter af." - "Det var en rar belønning," sagde kongesønnen, "det må du ikke forlange af mig." - "Ja, så må vi skilles," sagde ræven, "men først vil jeg give dig et par gode råd. Køb aldrig nogen fri for galgen og sæt dig aldrig ved randen af en brønd." Da den havde sagt det, løb den hurtig ind i skoven.

"Det er dog et underligt dyr," tænkte kongesønnen, "hvem i al verden har lyst til at købe nogen fri fra galgen og det er da endnu aldrig faldet mig ind at sætte mig ved en brønd." De red videre og kort efter kom de igennem den landsby, hvor hans to brødre var blevet tilbage. Der var stor ståhej, og da han spurgte, hvad der var i vejen, fik han at vide, at der var to forbrydere, som skulle hænges. Da han kom nærmere, så han, at det var hans brødre, der havde soldet alle deres penge op og gjort sig skyldig i forskellige skarnsstreger. "Kan de ikke slippe fri," spurgte han. "Jo, hvis I vil betale for det," lød svaret, "men de er såmænd ikke værd at spilde sine penge på." Men kongesønnen købte dem alligevel fri, og de fortsatte nu alle fire rejsen sammen.

Solen brændte hedt, og da de kom ind i den skov, hvor de første gang havde mødt ræven, sagde den ældste bror: "Her er køligt. Lad os hvile os lidt ved brønden og få noget at spise og drikke." De gjorde det, og i samtalens løb satte den yngste kongesøn sig på randen af brønden uden at tænke over det. Hans brødre gav ham da et stød, så han faldt baglæns ned i brønden, og red derpå hjem med kongedatteren, hesten og fuglen. "Se, vi har ikke blot fundet fuglen," sagde de, "men også guldhesten og kongedatteren fra det gyldne slot." Kongen blev meget glad. Men hesten ville ikke æde, fuglen sang ikke og jomfruen græd og græd.

Den yngste bror var imidlertid ikke død. Til alt held var brønden udtørret og han faldt ned på det bløde mos uden at tage skade, men kunne ikke komme op igen. Den tro ræv glemte ham ikke i hans nød, men kom springende og skændte dygtigt på ham, fordi han havde glemt dens råd. "Jeg kan alligevel ikke nænne at lade dig i stikken," sagde den, "nu skal jeg hjælpe dig op i dagens lys igen." Derpå lod den prinsen gribe fat i sin hale og trak ham på den måde op af brønden. "Du er ikke undsluppet faren endnu," sagde den, "dine brødre har ladet stille vagt rundt om skoven, fordi de ikke var sikre på, at du var død. Så snart nogen af dem får øje på dig, dræber de dig." I nærheden af dem sad der en fattig, gammel mand, og prinsen byttede i hast klæder med ham og gik op på slottet. Ingen kendte ham, men fuglen begyndte at synge, hesten at æde og den smukke jomfru græd ikke mere. "Hvor kan det dog være," spurgte kongen forundret, og prinsessen svarede: "Jeg ved det ikke selv. Før var jeg så bedrøvet, men nu er jeg glad igen. Jeg har en følelse som om min rette brudgom var kommet hjem." Hun fortalte ham nu alt, hvad der var sket, skønt brødrene havde truet med at dræbe hende, hvis hun røbede det. Kongen lod alle mennesker i hele slottet kalde frem for sig, og hans yngste søn kom også i sine pjalter. Kongedatteren kendte ham straks og faldt ham om halsen. De onde brødre blev nu henrettede og kongesønnens bryllup blev fejret med stor pragt, og kongen indsatte ham til sin arving.

Da kongesønnen en dag længe efter kom ud i skoven, mødte han sin gamle ven ræven. "Nu har du alt, hvad du kan ønske dig," sagde den, "men min ulykke er lige stor endnu, skønt det står i din magt at frelse mig." Den bad ham nu atter indtrægende om at slå den ihjel og hugge dens hoved og poter af. Langt om længe gav han efter for dens bønner, og næppe havde han gjort det, før ræven blev forvandlet til et menneske. Han fortalte ham nu, at han var en bror til den smukke kongedatter, og de levede alle lykkeligt sammen til deres død.

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