从前有个王子，有个未婚妻，他非常爱她。 有一次，他正和姑娘高高兴兴在一起，传来国王病重的消息，并说国王想在死前再见王子一面。 于是他对姑娘说："我现在必须离开你。我给你一个戒指作纪念，等我当了国王就回来娶你。"他骑上马走了。 他来到父亲身边的时候，父亲已生命垂危，父亲对他说："最亲爱的儿子，在我死前，我想见你一面。请你答应我按照我的意愿结婚。"他还向他说明他应该娶某公主为妻。 儿子十分悲痛，不加思索地答应说："好的，亲爱的父亲，我一定照您的意志去做。"不一会儿，国王就闭上眼睛去世了。
王子就此继承了王位。 丧期过后，他按照对父亲的承诺，派人去向那位公主求婚，他的求婚被接受了。 当他的第一个未婚妻听到这消息后，对他的不忠感到十分难过，几乎要气死了。 父亲问她："我最亲爱的孩子，你怎么这么悲伤？你要什么我都会给你的。"她想了想说："亲爱的父亲，我要十一个和我的相貌、体态和身材都一模一样的姑娘。"父亲说："只要可能我就满足你的愿望。"于是派人到全国各地找，直到找回十一个相貌、体态和身材都和他女儿一样的姑娘。
他们来到国王的女儿跟前，她早已要人做了十二套相同的猎装，让那十一个姑娘穿上，然后自己穿上最后那套。 她告别父亲，和十一个姑娘骑着马来到她十分钟爱的未婚夫的宫殿前。 她问他那里是否需要猎人，是否能让她们十二个人都在他宫里供职。 国王没有认出来，看到他们都那么英俊，便说："行。"并表示他很愿意全部接纳他们。 从此他们便成了国王十二个猎人。
国王有只神奇的狮子，能识破所有伪装的人和事物。 有天晚上，狮子对国王说："你以为你雇佣了十二个猎人是吗？""是啊，他们的确是十二个猎人。"国王回答。 可狮子接着说："你错了，她们是十二个姑娘。""这怎么可能？你能证明吗？"狮子回答说："可以。只要你叫人在厅里撒些豌豆 ，你马上就可以看出来……男人脚步稳健，从豌豆上踩过去动都不会动；可女人脚步轻，一步一跳的，拖着步子，会踩得豆子到处乱滚。 "国王认为这办法不错，就让人去撒豌豆。
公主感谢他，然后对姑娘们说："你们要装出有力气的样子，重重地踏在豆子上。"第二天早上，国王叫十二个猎人来，于是她们来到撒了豌豆的前厅里。 她们迈着稳健有力的步子，坚定地踏在豆子上，所以豆子一颗都没乱滚。 她们走后，国王对狮子说："你骗了我，他们和男人一样地走。"狮子说："有人已经告诉她们你要试验，所以使足了力气。你让人拿些纺车摆在前厅里，她们准会十分高兴地走过去。这是男人们不会感兴趣的东西。"国王觉得这个建议很好，于是让人在前厅里摆了几部纺车。
但那个喜欢猎人们的仆人又将这一计划告诉了她们。 等只剩下她们时，公主对那十一个姑娘说："克制一点，不要回头看那些纺车。"第二天，国王召见十二个猎人。 她们走过前厅时，对纺车看都没看一眼。 国王又对狮子说："你又骗了我一次 ，他们是男人，因为他们连看都不看纺车。 "可狮子回答说："她们已经知道你要考验她们了，所以克制住自己。 "可国王不愿意再相信狮子的话了。
十二个猎人总是跟随国王外出打猎，国王越来越喜欢她们了。 有一次她们在外面打猎时听说国王的新娘要到了。 真正的新娘一听，难过得晕倒了。 国王以为他亲爱的猎人出了什么事，于是跑过来想拉她一把，结果把她的手套拉掉了。 他看到了自己给第一个未婚妻的戒指，于是仔细端详她的脸，终于认出了她。 他十分感动地吻了吻她。 她睁开眼睛便说："你是我的，我也是你的，世界上谁也别想改变这一点。"于是国王派人去告诉另一个新娘他已经有妻子了，请求她回自己国家去；还说一个人既然找到了旧钥匙，就没必要再配新的了。 他们当时就举行了婚礼，狮子也重新受到了宠爱，因为它说的毕竟是真话。
There was once a King's son who was betrothed to a maiden whom he loved very much. And when he was sitting beside her and very happy, news came that his father lay sick unto death, and desired to see him once again before his end. Then he said to his beloved, "I must now go and leave thee, I give thee a ring as a remembrance of me. When I am King, I will return and fetch thee." So he rode away, and when he reached his father, the latter was dangerously ill, and near his death. He said to him, "Dear son, I wished to see thee once again before my end, promise me to marry as I wish," and he named a certain King's daughter who was to be his wife. The son was in such trouble that he did not think what he was doing, and said, "Yes, dear father, your will shall be done," and thereupon the King shut his eyes, and died.
When therefore the son had been proclaimed King, and the time of mourning was over, he was forced to keep the promise which he had given his father, and caused the King's daughter to be asked in marriage, and she was promised to him. His first betrothed heard of this, and fretted so much about his faithlessness that she nearly died. Then her father said to her, "Dearest child, why art thou so sad? Thou shalt have whatsoever thou wilt." She thought for a moment and said, "Dear father, I wish for eleven girls exactly like myself in face, figure, and size." The father said, "If it be possible, thy desire shall be fulfilled," and he caused a search to be made in his whole kingdom, until eleven young maidens were found who exactly resembled his daughter in face, figure, and size.
When they came to the King's daughter, she had twelve suits of huntsmen's clothes made, all alike, and the eleven maidens had to put on the huntsmen's clothes, and she herself put on the twelfth suit. Thereupon she took leave of her father, and rode away with them, and rode to the court of her former betrothed, whom she loved so dearly. Then she inquired if he required any huntsmen, and if he would take the whole of them into his service. The King looked at her and did not know her, but as they were such handsome fellows, he said, "Yes," and that he would willingly take them, and now they were the King's twelve huntsmen.
The King, however, had a lion which was a wondrous animal, for he knew all concealed and secret things. It came to pass that one evening he said to the King, "Thou thinkest thou hast twelve huntsmen?" - "Yes," said the King, "they are twelve huntsmen." The lion continued, "Thou art mistaken, they are twelve girls." The King said, "That cannot be true! How wilt thou prove that to me?" - "Oh, just let some peas be strewn in thy ante-chamber," answered the lion, "and then thou wilt soon see it. Men have a firm step, and when they walk over the peas none of them stir, but girls trip and skip, and drag their feet, and the peas roll about." The King was well pleased with the counsel, and caused the peas to be strewn.
There was, however, a servant of the King's who favored the huntsmen, and when he heard that they were going to be put to this test he went to them and repeated everything, and said, "The lion wants to make the King believe that you are girls." Then the King's daughter thanked him, and said to her maidens, "Put on some strength, and step firmly on the peas." So next morning when the King had the twelve huntsmen called before him, and they came into the ante-chamber where the peas were lying, they stepped so firmly on them, and had such a strong, sure walk, that not one of the peas either rolled or stirred. Then they went away again, and the King said to the lion, "Thou hast lied to me, they walk just like men." The lion said, "They have got to know that they were going to be put to the test, and have assumed some strength. Just let twelve spinning-wheels be brought into the ante-chamber some day, and they will go to them and be pleased with them, and that is what no man would do." The King liked the advice, and had the spinning-wheels placed in the ante-chamber.
But the servant, who was well disposed to the huntsmen, went to them, and disclosed the project. Then when they were alone the King's daughter said to her eleven girls, "Put some constraint on yourselves, and do not look round at the spinning-wheels." And next morning when the King had his twelve huntsmen summoned, they went through the ante-chamber, and never once looked at the spinning wheels. Then the King again said to the lion, "Thou hast deceived me, they are men, for they have not looked at the spinning-wheels." The lion replied, "They have learnt that they were going to be put to the test, and have restrained themselves." The King, however, would no longer believe the lion.
The twelve huntsmen always followed the King to the chase, and his liking for them continually increased. Now it came to pass that once when they were out hunting, news came that the King's betrothed was approaching. When the true bride heard that, it hurt her so much that her heart was almost broken, and she fell fainting to the ground. The King thought something had happened to his dear huntsman, ran up to him, wanted to help him, and drew his glove off. Then he saw the ring which he had given to his first bride, and when he looked in her face he recognized her. Then his heart was so touched that he kissed her, and when she opened her eyes he said, "Thou art mine, and I am thine, and no one in the world can alter that." He sent a messenger to the other bride, and entreated her to return to her own kingdom, for he had a wife already, and a man who had just found an old dish did not require a new one. Thereupon the wedding was celebrated, and the lion was again taken into favour, because, after all, he had told the truth.