从前，一个国王的美丽花园里长着一棵结金苹果的树，每当金苹果结果时，他每天都要去数一遍。 有一年，在金苹果成熟的时候，他发现每过一个晚上，金苹果都会少一个，国王非常恼怒，令园丁通宵达旦地在树下看守。 园丁先派了他的大儿子去看守。 到了午夜十二点钟，这个大儿子睡着了，第二天早晨发现又少了一个金苹果。 当晚，园丁又派了他的二儿子去看守，可到了半夜，二儿子也睡着了，早晨清点时发现还是少了一个。 于是第三个儿子请求去看守，园丁开始不想让他去，担心他去会有危险，但最后还是答应了儿子的请求。 晚上，这个年青人躺在树下小心看守着。 时钟敲过十二下后，他听到空中传来沙沙作响的声音，仔细一看，原来树上飞来一只纯金的鸟儿，正在用嘴猛啄着一个苹果。 园丁的儿子马上跳了起来，张弓搭箭向金鸟射去，箭并没有射中，只把金鸟尾巴上的金羽毛射落了一根，金鸟飞走了。 第二天早晨，金羽毛被送到了国王面前，国王马上召集群臣进行确认。 所有大臣都一致认为，这是一根价值连城的金羽毛，比王国里的所有财富都要值钱。 可国王却说："一根羽毛对我来说毫无用处，我要的是整只金鸟。"
园丁的大儿子听到后，认为这是一件很容易的事，于是他出发找金鸟去了。 走了不多远，他来到一片树林前，看见林边坐着一只狐狸，便马上取下弓箭准备射杀它。 可那狐狸竟开口说话了："不要射我，我将给你一个善意的忠告。我知道你此行的目的是什么，你一定是想去找那只金鸟。今天晚上，你将走到一个村庄，你到达那儿时，会看到两个门对着门的小旅店。其中一间非常热闹，看起来也很富丽堂皇，你千万不要进去。对面一间小旅店尽管门庭萧条简陋，但你应该到那里面去过夜。"园丁的大儿子想："这样一只野兽知道什么事情呢？"因此，他还是张弓搭箭向那只狐狸射去，但却没有射中它，狐狸夹起尾巴跑进了树林。 他收起弓箭又继续上路了。 晚上，他来到那个村庄，庄子里果然有两个小旅店。 其中的一间旅店里面，客人们在唱歌跳舞，尽情享受，而另一间小旅店看起来又脏又破旧。 看到这一情景，他说道："要是我住进这间破旧的房子，而不去那间可爱舒畅的旅店享受，我岂不是一个大傻瓜了。"所以，他毫不犹虑地走进了那间热闹非凡的房子，加入了又吃又喝的客人行列，最后还住了下来，花天酒地地过着堕落生活。 什么金鸟呀，家庭呀，早让他忘到九霄云外去了。
大儿子一直没有回来，也没有听到他的消息。 过了一些时候，园丁只好让二儿子出发去找金鸟。 和他哥哥一样，他也遇到了同样的事情：首先是看到那只狐狸，狐狸同样给了他忠告；接着他来到两间小旅店门口，看到他的哥哥正站在那间寻欢作乐的旅店窗口叫他进去，他经不住那种诱惑，也走进了那间旅店，最后，也和他哥哥一样把金鸟、家庭忘到九霄云外去了。
又过了好些时候，园丁的小儿子同样也想出去寻找金鸟，可父亲怎么也不答应，因为他非常喜爱这个儿子，担心他去了会遭不幸而回不了家。 可他的小儿子不想待在家里 ，在他软磨硬泡之下，父亲最终还是同意让他去了。 当他来到树林边时，他遇到了那只狐狸，聆听了狐狸对他的忠告。 他没有像他那两个哥哥一样用弓箭射它，而是对狐狸表示了谢意。 所以那只狐狸说道："坐在我的尾巴上来吧，这样你能就走得快一点。"他听从它的话坐了上去，狐狸马上跑了起来。 跨过树丛，越过乱石，速度之快，连他们的毛发也在风中嗖嗖作响。
当他们来到那个村庄时，年青人跳了下来。 他牢记狐狸的忠告，不加思索地就走进了那间普普通通的简陋旅店，在那里安心地过了一夜。 第二天早上，他正要上路，狐狸又来对他说："一直往前走，你将看到一座城堡。在城堡前，有一大队士兵躺在地上打鼾睡觉，你不要惊动他们，进城堡后一直向前走，你会找到一间房子。房子里有一只木鸟笼，笼子里关的正是那只金鸟，木笼旁边还有一只漂亮的金鸟笼，你千万不要将金鸟从那只普通鸟笼里转到漂亮的鸟笼去！否则你将后悔莫及的。"之后，狐狸又把尾巴伸了出来让年青人坐上去。 跨过树丛，越过乱石，他们的毛发又在风中嗖嗖作响。
来到城堡门前，一切都如狐狸所说那样。 这位园丁的儿子于是走进了城堡，找到了那间房子。 金鸟就关在悬挂在房子里的那只木鸟笼子里，木鸟笼的下面还放着一只金鸟笼，旁边放的正是丢失的三个金苹果。 他想：将如此漂亮的鸟装在这么一只普通的鸟笼里带走真是一件荒唐可笑的事。 所以他打开木鸟笼，将金鸟抓出来准备放在金鸟笼里。 就在这时，金鸟昂首大叫了一声，所有的士兵都醒了，他们立即把他抓住，把他带到他们的国王面前。 第二天早晨，法庭开庭审判了他，一切陈述完毕后，他被判了死刑，不过国王让他找到那匹跑起来如风驰电掣般的金马，要是他办到了，不仅可以免去他的死刑，而且还可以让他带走那只金鸟。
他再次上路了，一路上唉声叹气，显得非常绝望。 这时，他的好朋友狐狸又来了，它说："看看 ，你不听我的忠告，才发生了这些事情。 不过，如果你按我的吩咐去做的话，我将告诉你怎么去找那匹金马。 要找那匹马，你只要一直向前，就会走进一座城堡，那匹金马就站在城堡里的马厩里，马夫正睡在这马厩的旁边打着鼾。 你悄悄地把马牵走，将马厩旁那付旧皮制马鞍给马套上，千万不要套上那付金马鞍！ "说完，年青人坐在了狐狸的尾巴上。他们跨过树丛，越过乱石，毛发在风中嗖嗖作响。
一切都如狐狸说的一样，那马夫躺在那儿正鼾睡着，一只手还搭在金马鞍上。 当这位园丁的儿子看到金马后，他认为将那付皮制马鞍套在金马上也太委屈马了，心想："我将给金马配那付好的，这样配起来才相称。"当他拿动那付金马鞍时，马夫醒了，立即大声地叫了起来。 听到叫声，卫兵们马上冲进来把他抓住了。 第二天早晨，他再次被送上了法庭，审判结果是判处死刑，但如果他能带来一位远方的美丽公主，就可免去死刑，金马也归他所有，他只好同意了。
怀着沉痛的心情，他又上路了。 那只熟悉的狐狸再次出现在他面前，说道："你为什么不听我的话呢？如果你听了我的话，你现在就已经拥有金鸟和金马了。这样吧，我再给你一个忠告。一直往前走，到晚上你将到达一座城堡。晚上十二点钟，那位公主要去澡堂，你跳上前去，亲吻她一下，她就会让你带着她离开那里。但要注意，千万不要答应她去向她父母告别！"说完，狐狸伸出尾巴让他坐了上去。 跨过树丛，越过乱石，他们的毛发在风中嗖嗖作响。
当他来到那座城堡时，一切都如狐狸所说的那样。 晚上十二点钟，这位年青人等那位姑娘去洗澡时，跳上前去亲吻了她一下，她便马上说愿意跟他走 ，但却泪水涟涟地恳求他让她去向父亲告别。 开始他拒绝了，到后来看到她伤心的样子，还是答应了她。 当她来到父亲的房间时，卫兵们醒了，这样他又成了囚犯。
狐狸说道："只要你听我的吩咐，就能办到。当你去见那个国王时，他会问你要美丽的公主，你把公主给他，他肯定非常高兴。在骑上他给你的金马后 ，你伸手向他们告别，最后与公主握手，然后趁这个机会迅速把她拉上马来坐在你后面，再猛踢金马，全速飞驰离去。 "
一切都如狐狸吩咐的那样，他带着金鸟出了城堡，和公主会合后，他们策马来到了一片大树林，这时，狐狸对他说："请杀死我吧，砍下我的头和脚。"但年青人拒绝了，他认为这是忘恩负义之举。 狐狸又说："你不杀我就算了，但不管怎样，我还是将给你一个忠告：有两件事你要当心，千万不要从绞刑架上赎回任何人，千万不要坐在河岸边。"说完，狐狸就离去了。 年青人想："好吧！要做到这些也不是什么难事。"
他和公主骑着马往回家的路上走。 当他们来到两个哥哥居留的村庄时，听到了一片吵闹声和喧哗声，他向一个人打听发生了什么事，那人说："有两个人要被绞死了。"来到近前一看，那两个人竟是他的哥哥 ，他俩现在已经沦为强盗了。 他马上问："难道就没有办法能救他们了吗？"那人说："没有办法，除非有人肯为这两个恶棍拿出他全部的钱，才能买得他们的自由。"听到这句话，他不假思索地拿出了所要的赎金，将两个哥哥救了下来，然后与两个哥哥一起走上了回家的路。
当他们来到第一次遇到狐狸的树林时，那里很凉爽，两个哥哥高兴地说："我们到河边去坐坐，休息一会儿，吃点东西，喝几口水吧！"他马上说："好吧！"完全忘了狐狸的忠告，来到河边坐了下来，根本没有想到会有什么不幸的事情发生。 两个哥哥心怀鬼胎，悄悄地走到他后面，猛地把他推下了河岸，然后带着公主、金马和金鸟回家去了。 他们见到国王后，进言说："所有这些都是由我们辛勤拼搏争来的。"这一来，大家高兴极了。 但那匹马却不进食了，鸟也不肯唱歌了，公主整天整天地哭泣。
年青的小儿子落到河床上，幸运的是河床几乎是干的，可是他的骨头几乎都给摔断了，在河床上躺了很久才站起来。 河沿非常陡峭，他没能找到上岸的路。 狐狸再一次出现了，它责备他不听它的忠告，否则就不会有这场祸患。 最后狐狸又说："我不能让你留在这儿，我就再从危难中救你一次吧。来！抓住我的尾巴，牢牢地抓紧。"接着，将他拉上了河岸。 上岸之后，狐狸对他说："你的哥哥还在提防着你，只要你一露面，被他们发现了，他们就会杀了你。"他只好将自己打扮成一个穷人模样，悄悄地来到国王的院子里。 他刚一进门，马儿开始进食了，鸟儿也开始唱歌了，公主也不再哭泣。 当他见到国王后，将他哥哥的所有欺诈劣迹都告诉了他，国王马上派人将他们抓了起来，并惩办了他们。 公主又回到了他的身边，后来国王去世了，他便成了这个王国的继承人。
很久以后，有一天，他到那片树林去散步，又遇见了那只狐狸。 狐狸声泪俱下地恳求他把它杀死，切下它的头和脚 ，最后他不得不这样做了。 刚做完，狐狸马上变成了一个人，这人竟是公主失踪了多年的哥哥。
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.