The golden bird


O pássaro de ouro

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.
Houve, uma vez, um rei que possuía, atrás do castelo, um belíssimo parque, no qual havia uma macieira que dava maçãs de ouro. Quando as maçãs ficaram maduras, contaram-nas todas mas, logo na manhã seguinte, faltava uma. Avisaram o rei e ele ordenou que todas as noites ficasse um guarda vigiando debaixo da macieira.
O rei tinha três filhos: ao anoitecer, mandou o mais velho ficar no jardim, mas este, à meia-noite, não pôde resistir ao sono e, na manhã seguinte, faltou mais uma maçã. Na outra noite, foi a vez do segundo ficar de guarda, mas não teve melhor sorte: quando soou meia- noite, adormeceu e, pela manhã, faltava outra maçã. Chegara a vez do terceiro, mas o rei não confiava muito nele, pensando que faria ainda menos que os irmãos; contudo, acabou por consentir que ficasse vigiando. O jovem deitou-se sob a macieira e velou sem deixar-se vencer pelo sono. Quando bateu meia-noite, percebeu no ar um ruflar de asas e, à claridade da lua, viu chegar um pássaro voando, cujas penas cintilavam como ouro.
O pássaro pousou na árvore e tinha apenas desprendido uma maçã com o bico, quando o jovem lhe atirou uma seta. O pássaro fugiu, mas a seta atingira-lhe as penas de ouro, deixando cair uma no chão. O jovem apanhou-a e, na manhã seguinte, foi levá-la ao rei, narrando-lhe tudo o que ocorrera durante a noite.
O rei convocou o conselho, e os ministros todos afirmaram que uma pena dessas valia mais do que o reino todo.
- Se esta pena é tão preciosa, - disse o rei, - de que vale possuir uma só? Eu quero o pássaro inteiro e hei de consegui-lo.
O filho mais velho, pôs-se a caminho e, confiando na própria inteligência, ia com a certeza de encontrar o pássaro de ouro. Após ter caminhado bom trecho, avistou uma raposa à entrada da floresta; apontou sobre ele a espingarda para atirar, mas a raposa gritou:
- Não atires, eu te darei um bom conselho. Sei que vais em busca do pássaro de ouro; hoje, à noite, chegarás a uma aldeia onde há duas estalagens, uma em frente da outra. Uma delas é bem iluminada e oferece ambiente alegre, mas não entres nela, vai para a outra, embora tenha aspecto feio e pouco acolhedor.
"Como pode, um animal tão estúpido, dar conselhos acertados!" pensou o príncipe, e atirou mas errou o alvo. A raposa esticou o rabo e correu para a floresta. Ele prosseguiu caminho e, à noite, chegou à aldeia onde estavam as duas estalagens; numa cantavam e dançavam; a outra tinha aspecto pobre e tristonho. "Eu seria um grande louco, - pensou ele, - se fosse para aquela estalagem miserável, em vez de ir para esta outra bem melhor." Assim, entrou na que se apresentava alegre e festiva e lá, todo entregue aos prazeres, esqueceu-se do pássaro, do rei e de todos os bons preceitos.
Após certo tempo, vendo que o irmão mais velho não voltava, o segundo pôs-se a caminho à procura do pássaro de ouro. Tal como seu predecessor, encontrou a raposa, que lhe repetiu o bom conselho, mas ele não lhe deu atenção. Chegou ao local das duas estalagens e, daquela em festança, surgiu o irmão na janela chamando-o. Ele não pôde resistir, entrou e entregou-se aos divertimentos.
Decorrido mais algum tempo, o menor dos três irmãos quis, por sua vez, tentar a sorte, mas o pai não queria permitir, dizendo aos que o cercavam:
- É inútil. Se os irmãos não encontraram o pássaro de ouro, muito menos o encontrará este; além disso, se lhe acontecer alguma complicação, não saberá como sair-se dela; falta-lhe um "parafuso"!
Mas, por fim, para que o filho o deixasse em paz, deixou-o partir. À entrada da floresta estava a raposa, a qual lhe suplicou que lhe poupasse a vida e deu-lhe um bom conselho. O jovem príncipe era generoso e respondeu:
- Fica sossegada, raposinha, não te farei mal algum.
- E não te arrependerás, - respondeu a raposa; - se queres chegar mais depressa, monta na minha cauda.
Assim que o príncipe se instalou na cauda da raposa, ela deitou a correr desabaladamente, com os cabelos zunindo ao vento. Quando chegaram à aldeia, o jovem desmontou e seguiu o conselho dado; sem olhar para nenhum lado, entrou na estalagem indicada, onde pernoitou tranquilamente. Na manhã seguinte, quando chegou ao meio do campo, a raposa já estava lá e
- Vou ensinar-te o que deves fazer. Anda sempre direito para a frente, chegarás finalmente a um castelo, na frente do qual encontrarás um batalhão de soldados. Mas não receies nada, porque estarão todos dormindo e roncando; passa no meio deles, entra diretamente no castelo e atravessa todas as salas, até chegar àquela onde está dependurada uma gaiola de madeira com o pássaro de ouro dentro. Aí perto, bem à mostra, encontrarás uma gaiola de ouro vazia; não queiras tirar o pássaro da gaiola feia para pô-lo na outra preciosa: poderia ser-te fatal.
Tendo dito isso, a raposa esticou, novamente, a cauda e o príncipe montou nela; depois, com o vento zumbindo por entre os cabelos, desabalaram em carreira vertiginosa. Chegando ao castelo, o príncipe encontrou tudo, exatamente, como lhe havia dito a raposa. Entrou na sala onde estava o pássaro na sua gaiola de madeira, tendo ao lado a gaiola de ouro; viu as três maçãs de ouro espalhadas pelo chão. Então, achou que seria ridículo deixar aquele belo pássaro na gaiola tão feia; abriu a portinhola, pegou-o e colocou-o na outra de ouro. Imediatamente o pássaro soltou um berro agudo; os soldados acordaram, precipitaram-se dentro do castelo, prenderam o príncipe e o conduziram à prisão. Na manhã seguinte, foi julgado e, sendo réu confesso, condenado à morte.
O rei disse-lhe que o libertaria, com a condição, porém, de trazer-lhe o cavalo de ouro, que era mais veloz que o vento, e lhe daria ainda, como recompensa, o pássaro de ouro.
O príncipe saiu andando, suspirando tristemente: onde iria encontrar o cavalo de ouro? Nisso avistou a sua velha amiga raposa deitada na estrada.
- Viste, - disse ela, o que te aconteceu por me desobedeceres? Mas não te amofines, eu te ajudarei e te ensinarei o que tens a fazer. Deves andar sempre direito para a frente até chegar a um castelo e ali, na estrebaria, encontrarás o cavalo de ouro. Diante da estrebaria estarão deitados os cavalariços, dormindo e roncando sossegadamente; assim não te será difícil tirar o cavalo de ouro. Mas presta bem atenção: poe-lhe a sela feia de madeira e couro, não aquela de ouro dependurada perto; se não tudo te correrá mal.
Depois a raposa esticou a cauda, o príncipe montou nela e sairam em carreira desabalada, com os cabelos zumbindo ao vento. Tudo se processou conforme dissera a raposa: ele chegou à estrebaria onde estava o cavalo de ouro; mas, no momento de pôr-lhe a sela feia, pensou: "Um animal tão bonito faz uma figura ridícula se não lhe ponho a sela que lhe compete." Mal o tocou com a sela de ouro, o cavalo pôs-se a relinchar com toda a força. Os cavalariços acordaram, agarraram o jovem e o trancaram na prisão. Na manhã seguinte, o tribunal condenou-o à morte, mas o rei prometeu fazer-lhe mercê e dar-lhe, ainda por cima, o cavalo de ouro se conseguisse trazer-lhe a bela princesa do castelo de ouro.
O jovem pôs-se a caminho com o coração anuviado; felizmente não tardou a encontrar a fiel amiga raposa, que lhe disse:
- Eu deveria deixar-te na desventura, mas tenho pena de ti e, ainda desta vez, quero auxiliar-te. O caminho te conduzirá direto ao castelo de ouro, onde chegarás à tarde; durante a noite, quando tudo estiver silencioso, a bela princesa vai banhar-se no pavilhão. Quando ela entrar, agarra-a e dá-lhe um beijo: então ela te seguirá e poderás levá-la contigo. Mas não deixes que diga adeus aos pais, do contrário, tudo te correrá mal.
Depois a raposa esticou a cauda, o príncipe montou nela e, em carreira desabalada, saíram, com os cabelos zumbindo ao vento. Quando chegou ao castelo de ouro, encontrou exatamente o que lhe dissera a raposa. Ele aguardou até meia-noite. Então, fez-se silêncio, tudo dormia, e a bela princesa entrou no pavilhão para banhar-se; ele, num gesto rápido, agarrou-a e deu-lhe um beijo. Ela disse que o seguiria de bom grado, mas suplicou, chorando, que a deixasse dizer adeus aos pais. No começo, ele se opôs às suas súplicas mas, como ela chorava cada vez mais, prostrando-se aos seus pés, acabou por consentir. Assim que a princesa se aproximou do leito do pai, este despertou ao mesmo tempo que despertavam todos os que dormiam no castelo; prenderam o jovem e trancaram-no na prisão.
Na manhã seguinte, disse o rei:
- Tu mereces a morte; mas serás absolvido se conseguires arrasar a montanha que há defronte da minha janela e que me impede ver longe; terás de fazer isso dentro de oito dias. Se o conseguires, terás minha filha como recompensa.
O príncipe pôs-se a cavar, a cavar sem interrupção, mas, passados sete dias, vendo quão pouco havia feito e que todo o seu trabalho nada representava, abismou-se em profundo abatimento, perdendo todas as esperanças. Na noite do sétimo dia, porém, apareceu-lhe a raposa, dizendo:
- Não mereces que me preocupe contigo, mas podes ir dormir, eu farei o trabalho.
Na manhã seguinte, quando o príncipe acordou e olhou para fora da janela, a montanha havia desaparecido. Louco de alegria foi correndo levar a notícia ao rei; então o rei, querendo ou não, foi obrigado a cumprir a promessa e dar-lhe a filha.
Partiram os dois. A fiel raposa não tardou a alcançá-los e disse-lhe:
- É verdade que possuis o melhor, mas à princesa do castelo de ouro pertence, também, o cavalo de ouro.
- Que hei de fazer para obtê-lo? - perguntou o príncipe.
- Digo-te já, - respondeu a raposa. - Primeiro leva a bela princesa ao rei que te enviou ao castelo de ouro. Ficarão todos extasiados e de boa vontade te darão o cavalo. Monta-o depressa e despede-te de todos, estendendo-lhes a mão; por fim estende a mão à bela princesa, agarra-a, monta-a rapidamente no cavalo e sai correndo à rédea solta. Ninguém conseguirá apanhar-te, pois o cavalo corre mais que o vento.
Tudo correu perfeitamente bem e o príncipe levou consigo a bela princesa no cavalo de ouro, A raposa não se fez esperar muito e disse-lhe:
Agora te ajudarei a capturar, também, o pássaro de ouro. Perto do castelo onde se encontra o pássaro, a princesa apeará e eu tomarei conta dela. Tu, no cavalo de ouro, entra no pátio; quando te virem ficarão todos felizes e te darão o pássaro. Assim que tiveres na mão a gaiola, volta voando a buscar a princesa.
Tendo corrido tudo perfeitamente, o príncipe quis regressar a casa com todos os tesouros conseguidos, mas a raposa disse-lhe:
- Agora tens que me recompensar por todo o auxílio que te prestei.
- O que desejas? - perguntou o príncipe.
- Quando estivermos na floresta, tens que matar-me e cortar-me a cabeça e as patas.
- Que bela recompensa! - disse o príncipe; - não posso absolutamente atender ao teu pedido.
- Se não queres fazê-lo, - disse a raposa, - terei de abandonar-te; mas, antes disso, quero dar-te ainda um bom conselho. Livra-te de duas coisas: comprar carne destinada à forca e sentar-te à beira de um poço. - Dizendo isto, fugiu para a floresta.
O jovem pensou: "Que animal esquisito! Tem cada ideia extravagante! Quem jamais compraria carne destinada à forca? E vontade de sentar-me à beira de um poço também nunca tive." Continuou o caminho, levando a linda jovem. O caminho passava pela aldeia onde haviam ficado os irmãos; ao chegar lá, viu um grande aglomerado de gente e muita algazarra. Tendo perguntado o que se passava, responderam-lhe que iam enforcar dois facínoras. Aproximando-se do local, viu que eram seus dois irmãos, os quais, tendo cometido toda espécie de perversidade e tendo malbaratado todos os haveres, estavam condenados a morrer na forca. O jovem perguntou se não era possível libertá-los.
- Sim, - responderam-lhe, - se estás disposto a gastar todo o teu dinheiro para resgatá-los!
O jovem, sem hesitar, pagou tudo por eles; assim que ficaram livres viajaram em sua companhia.
Chegaram à floresta onde, da primeira vez, tinham encontrado a raposa. O sol queimava como fogo e, como o lugar aí fosse ameno e fresco, os dois irmãos disseram:
- Descansemos um pouco aí junto do poço e aproveitemos para comer e beber.
O jovem concordou e, entretido na conversa, sentou-se distraidamente na beirada do poço. Então os irmãos o fizeram cair de costas e o empurraram para dentro do poço; depois apoderaram-se da princesa, do cavalo e do pássaro e voltaram para a casa do pai.
- Não trazemos apenas o pássaro de ouro, - disseram, - conquistamos também o cavalo de ouro e a princesa do castelo de ouro.
Todos estavam perfeitamente felizes, menos o cavalo, que não comia, o pássaro, que não cantava, e a princesa, que não parava de chorar.
Mas o irmão menor não tinha morrido. Por felicidade, o poço estava seco e ele caiu sobre o musgo macio, sem sofrer o menor mal; não conseguia, porém, sair de lá. Também, nessa angustiosa emergência, a fiel raposa não o abandonou; pulou para junto dele e repreendeu-o, severamente, por ter-lhe esquecido o conselho.
- Contudo, não posso deixar de restituir-te à luz do sol.
Mandou que se agarrasse e segurasse bem na sua cauda e, assim, puxou-o para fora. Depois disse:
- Ainda não estás livre de todos os perigos, teus irmãos mandaram sentinelas cercar a floresta, com ordens para te matar se te virem.
O rapaz agradeceu e foi andando. Ao chegar a um atalho, viu um pobre maltrapilho sentado, muito triste, e pediu-lhe que trocassem as respectivas roupas; assim disfarçado, conseguiu chegar são e salvo ao castelo real. Ninguém o reconheceu, mas logo o pássaro se pôs a cantar, o cavalo a comer e a jovem parou de chorar. O rei muito admirado, perguntou:
- Que significa isso?
- Não sei explicar, - disse a jovem, - mas eu estava tão triste e eis que agora me sinto tão alegre! Como se tivesse chegado o meu verdadeiro noivo.
E contou ao rei tudo o que ocorrera, muito embora a houvessem, os dois irmãos, ameaçado de morte se revelasse qualquer coisa. Ouvindo isso, o rei ordenou que se apresentasse diante dele toda a gente do castelo; o jovem também compareceu, disfarçado em pobres andrajos. A princesa, porém, reconheceu-o imediatamente e correu a lançar-se-lhe ao pescoço.
Os perversos irmãos foram presos e condenados; enquanto que o menor casou com a bela princesa e foi nomeado herdeiro do trono.
E a raposa, que fim levou?
Muito tempo depois, o príncipe voltou à floresta e lá encontrou a raposa, que lhe disse:
- Tu agora tens tudo o que desejar se possa, mas a minha infelicidade nunca tem fim; entretanto, está em teu poder libertar-me.
E, novamente, suplicou-lhe que a matasse e lhe cortasse a cabeça e as garras. Ele obedeceu e, no mesmo instante, a raposa transformou-se num homem, o qual outro não era senão o irmão da bela princesa, libertado, finalmente, do encanto a que fora condenado.
Assim nada mais faltou para que fossem todos felizes até o resto da vida.

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