The water of life


Livsens vand

There was once a King who had an illness, and no one believed that he would come out of it with his life. He had three sons who were much distressed about it, and went down into the palace-garden and wept. There they met an old man who inquired as to the cause of their grief. They told him that their father was so ill that he would most certainly die, for nothing seemed to cure him. Then the old man said, "I know of one more remedy, and that is the water of life; if he drinks of it he will become well again; but it is hard to find." The eldest said, "I will manage to find it," and went to the sick King, and begged to be allowed to go forth in search of the water of life, for that alone could save him. "No," said the King, "the danger of it is too great. I would rather die." But he begged so long that the King consented. The prince thought in his heart, "If I bring the water, then I shall be best beloved of my father, and shall inherit the kingdom." So he set out, and when he had ridden forth a little distance, a dwarf stood there in the road who called to him and said, "Whither away so fast?" - "Silly shrimp," said the prince, very haughtily, "it is nothing to do with you," and rode on. But the little dwarf had grown angry, and had wished an evil wish. Soon after this the prince entered a ravine, and the further he rode the closer the mountains drew together, and at last the road became so narrow that he could not advance a step further; it was impossible either to turn his horse or to dismount from the saddle, and he was shut in there as if in prison. The sick King waited long for him, but he came not. Then the second son said, "Father, let me go forth to seek the water," and thought to himself, "If my brother is dead, then the kingdom will fall to me." At first the King would not allow him to go either, but at last he yielded, so the prince set out on the same road that his brother had taken, and he too met the dwarf, who stopped him to ask, whither he was going in such haste? "Little shrimp," said the prince, "that is nothing to thee," and rode on without giving him another look. But the dwarf bewitched him, and he, like the other, rode into a ravine, and could neither go forwards nor backwards. So fare haughty people.
As the second son also remained away, the youngest begged to be allowed to go forth to fetch the water, and at last the King was obliged to let him go. When he met the dwarf and the latter asked him whither he was going in such haste, he stopped, gave him an explanation, and said, "I am seeking the water of life, for my father is sick unto death." - "Dost thou know, then, where that is to be found?" - "No," said the prince. "As thou hast borne thyself as is seemly, and not haughtily like thy false brothers, I will give thee the information and tell thee how thou mayst obtain the water of life. It springs from a fountain in the courtyard of an enchanted castle, but thou wilt not be able to make thy way to it, if I do not give thee an iron wand and two small loaves of bread. Strike thrice with the wand on the iron door of the castle and it will spring open: inside lie two lions with gaping jaws, but if thou throwest a loaf to each of them, they will be quieted. Then hasten to fetch some of the water of life before the clock strikes twelve, else the door will shut again, and thou wilt be imprisoned." The prince thanked him, took the wand and the bread, and set out on his way. When he arrived, everything was as the dwarf had said. The door sprang open at the third stroke of the wand, and when he had appeased the lions with the bread, he entered the castle, and came to a large and splendid hall, wherein sat some enchanted princes whose rings he drew off their fingers. A sword and a loaf of bread were lying there, which he carried away. After this, he entered a chamber, in which was a beautiful maiden who rejoiced when she saw him, kissed him, and told him that he had delivered her, and should have the whole of her kingdom, and that if he would return in a year their wedding should be celebrated; likewise she told him where the spring of the water of life was, and that he was to hasten and draw some of it before the clock struck twelve. Then he went onwards, and at last entered a room where there was a beautiful newly-made bed, and as he was very weary, he felt inclined to rest a little. So he lay down and fell asleep. When he awoke, it was striking a quarter to twelve. He sprang up in a fright, ran to the spring, drew some water in a cup which stood near, and hastened away. But just as he was passing through the iron door, the clock struck twelve, and the door fell to with such violence that it carried away a piece of his heel. He, however, rejoicing at having obtained the water of life, went homewards, and again passed the dwarf. When the latter saw the sword and the loaf, he said, "With these thou hast won great wealth; with the sword thou canst slay whole armies, and the bread will never come to an end." But the prince would not go home to his father without his brothers, and said, "Dear dwarf, canst thou not tell me where my two brothers are? They went out before I did in search of the water of life, and have not returned." - "They are imprisoned between two mountains," said the dwarf. "I have condemned them to stay there, because they were so haughty." Then the prince begged until the dwarf released them; but he warned him, however, and said, "Beware of them, for they have bad hearts." When his brothers came, he rejoiced, and told them how things had gone with him, that he had found the water of life and had brought a cupful away with him, and had rescued a beautiful princess, who was willing to wait a year for him, and then their wedding was to be celebrated and he would obtain a great kingdom. After that they rode on together, and chanced upon a land where war and famine reigned, and the King already thought he must perish, for the scarcity was so great. Then the prince went to him and gave him the loaf, wherewith he fed and satisfied the whole of his kingdom, and then the prince gave him the sword also wherewith he slew the hosts of his enemies, and could now live in rest and peace. The prince then took back his loaf and his sword, and the three brothers rode on. But after this they entered two more countries where war and famine reigned and each time the prince gave his loaf and his sword to the Kings, and had now delivered three kingdoms, and after that they went on board a ship and sailed over the sea. During the passage, the two eldest conversed apart and said, "The youngest has found the water of life and not we, for that our father will give him the kingdom the kingdom which belongs to us, and he will rob us of all our fortune." They then began to seek revenge, and plotted with each other to destroy him. They waited until they found him fast asleep, then they poured the water of life out of the cup, and took it for themselves, but into the cup they poured salt sea-water. Now therefore, when they arrived home, the youngest took his cup to the sick King in order that he might drink out of it, and be cured. But scarcely had he drunk a very little of the salt sea-water than he became still worse than before. And as he was lamenting over this, the two eldest brothers came, and accused the youngest of having intended to poison him, and said that they had brought him the true water of life, and handed it to him. He had scarcely tasted it, when he felt his sickness departing, and became strong and healthy as in the days of his youth. After that they both went to the youngest, mocked him, and said, "You certainly found the water of life, but you have had the pain, and we the gain; you should have been sharper, and should have kept your eyes open. We took it from you whilst you were asleep at sea, and when a year is over, one of us will go and fetch the beautiful princess. But beware that you do not disclose aught of this to our father; indeed he does not trust you, and if you say a single word, you shall lose your life into the bargain, but if you keep silent, you shall have it as a gift."

The old King was angry with his youngest son, and thought he had plotted against his life. So he summoned the court together and had sentence pronounced upon his son, that he should be secretly shot. And once when the prince was riding forth to the chase, suspecting no evil, the King's huntsman had to go with him, and when they were quite alone in the forest, the huntsman looked so sorrowful that the prince said to him, "Dear huntsman, what ails you?" The huntsman said, "I cannot tell you, and yet I ought." Then the prince said, "Say openly what it is, I will pardon you." - "Alas!" said the huntsman, "I am to shoot you dead, the King has ordered me to do it." Then the prince was shocked, and said, "Dear huntsman, let me live; there, I give you my royal garments; give me your common ones in their stead." The huntsman said, "I will willingly do that, indeed I should not have been able to shoot you." Then they exchanged clothes, and the huntsman returned home; the prince, however, went further into the forest. After a time three waggons of gold and precious stones came to the King for his youngest son, which were sent by the three Kings who had slain their enemies with the prince's sword, and maintained their people with his bread, and who wished to show their gratitude for it. The old King then thought, "Can my son have been innocent?" and said to his people, "Would that he were still alive, how it grieves me that I have suffered him to be killed!" - "He still lives," said the huntsman, "I could not find it in my heart to carry out your command," and told the King how it had happened. Then a stone fell from the King's heart, and he had it proclaimed in every country that his son might return and be taken into favour again.

The princess, however, had a road made up to her palace which was quite bright and golden, and told her people that whosoever came riding straight along it to her, would be the right wooer and was to be admitted, and whoever rode by the side of it, was not the right one, and was not to be admitted. As the time was now close at hand, the eldest thought he would hasten to go to the King's daughter, and give himself out as her deliverer, and thus win her for his bride, and the kingdom to boot. Therefore he rode forth, and when he arrived in front of the palace, and saw the splendid golden road, he thought, it would be a sin and a shame if he were to ride over that, and turned aside, and rode on the right side of it. But when he came to the door, the servants told him that he was not the right man, and was to go away again. Soon after this the second prince set out, and when he came to the golden road, and his horse had put one foot on it, he thought, it would be a sin and a shame to tread a piece of it off, and he turned aside and rode on the left side of it, and when he reached the door, the attendants told him he was not the right one, and he was to go away again. When at last the year had entirely expired, the third son likewise wished to ride out of the forest to his beloved, and with her forget his sorrows. So he set out and thought of her so incessantly, and wished to be with her so much, that he never noticed the golden road at all. So his horse rode onwards up the middle of it, and when he came to the door, it was opened and the princess received him with joy, and said he was her deliverer, and lord of the kingdom, and their wedding was celebrated with great rejoicing. When it was over she told him that his father invited him to come to him, and had forgiven him. So he rode thither, and told him everything; how his brothers had betrayed him, and how he had nevertheless kept silence. The old King wished to punish them, but they had put to sea, and never came back as long as they lived.
Der var engang en konge, som var så syg, at alle mennesker troede, han skulle dø, og hans tre sønner gik bedrøvede ud i haven og græd. Der mødte de en gammel mand, som spurgte, hvad der var i vejen, og de fortalte ham, at deres far var så syg, at han nok døde, og de vidste slet ikke, hvordan de skulle hjælpe ham. "Jeg ved, hvad der kan hjælpe ham," sagde den gamle mand, "det kan livsens vand. Når han drikker det, bliver han rask, men det er meget vanskeligt at få fat på." - "Jeg skal hente det," sagde den ældste, gik op og bad kongen, om han måtte drage ud for at hente livsens vand, for det var det eneste, der kunne hjælpe. Kongen ville ikke have det. "Det er altfor farligt," sagde han, "lad mig så hellere dø." Men prinsen blev ved at plage, til han fik lov. Og ved sig selv tænkte han: "Hvis jeg bringer vandet, holder min far mest af mig, og så arver jeg riget."

Han drog nu af sted, og da han havde redet i nogen tid, mødte han en dværg, der råbte: "Hvor skal du hen i sådan en fart." - "Det behøver du ikke at vide, din dumme dværg," svarede prinsen hovmodig. Da blev den lille mand vred og ønskede ondt over hans hovede. Prinsen red lidt efter ind på en bjergvej, og jo længere han red, jo tættere stod bjergene, og til sidst blev vejen så snæver, at han ikke kunne komme et skridt videre, og det var umuligt at vende hesten eller komme ned, han var helt indespærret. Den syge konge ventede længe på ham, men han kom ikke. "Lad mig nu drage ud og søge efter vandet," sagde den næstældste søn og tænkte: "Hvis min bror er død, tilfalder riget mig." Kongen ville først ikke vide af det, men gav til sidst efter. Prinsen red samme vej som sin bror og mødte også den lille dværg, der spurgte, hvor han skulle hen i den fart. "Hvad kommer det dig ved," svarede prinsen og red af sted uden at se sig om. Da forbandede dværgen ham, og han kom ind på den samme bjergvej og blev også siddende fast uden at kunne komme hverken frem eller tilbage. Sådan går det de hovmodige.

Da den anden søn heller ikke kom hjem, bad den yngste prins, om han måtte drage ud efter vandet, og kongen måtte til sidst give ham lov. Da han mødte dværgen, og denne spurgte, hvor han skulle hen så hurtigt, standsede han og svarede: "Jeg skal ud og søge efter livsens vand, for min far er dødssyg." - "Ved du, hvor det er?" spurgte dværgen, og det vidste prinsen jo ikke. "Fordi du har båret dig pænt ad og ikke været hovmodig som dine onde brødre, skal jeg sige dig, hvordan du skal få det," sagde dværgen. "Det strømmer i en brønd, der ligger i en fortryllet slotsgård, men der kommer du ikke ind, hvis jeg ikke giver dig et jernris og to brød. Med riset skal du slå tre slag på slottets jernport, så springer den op. Indenfor ligger to løver med opspærret gab, men når du giver dem brødet, bliver de stille. Skynd dig så at tage vandet, inden klokken slår tolv, for så smækker porten i." Prinsen takkede ham, tog riset og brødet og begav sig på vej. Da han kom til slottet, fandt han alt, som dværgen havde sagt. Ved det tredie slag sprang porten op, og da han havde kastet brødet til løverne, gik han ind i slottet. Han kom ind i en stor sal, hvor der sad fortryllede prinser. De havde ringe på fingrene, og dem tog han af, og da han så, at der lå et sværd og et brød, tog han også det med sig. Han gik videre og kom ind i et værelse, hvor der stod en dejlig pige. Hun blev meget glad, da hun så ham, kyssede ham og sagde, at han skulle have hele riget, og når han kom tilbage om et år, skulle deres bryllup fejres. Hun fortalte ham, hvor brønden var, og sagde, at han måtte skynde sig at hente noget af det, inden klokken slog tolv. Han kom så ind i et værelse, hvor der stod en lækker opredt seng, og han var så træt, at han lagde sig der for at hvile sig lidt. Men han faldt i søvn og vågnede først, da klokken slog tre kvarter til tolv. Forskrækket sprang han op, løb ud til brønden og øste vand i et bæger, der stod ved siden af, og skyndte sig af sted. I det øjeblik, han løb ud, slog klokken netop tolv og porten smækkede så voldsomt i, at et stykke af hans hæl blev siddende i klemme. Han begav sig nu på hjemvejen, glad over at han havde vandet og mødte igen dværgen. "Det er store skatte, du har vundet der, sagde han, da han så sværdet og brødet, "med det våben kan du overvinde hele hære, og brødet bliver aldrig spist op." Prinsen ville ikke komme hjem uden sine brødre og sagde: "Kan du ikke sige mig, hvor mine brødre er. De drog ud før jeg for at søge livsens vand og er ikke kommet hjem igen." - "De sidder klemt inde mellem to bjerge," svarede dværgen, "jeg har forbandet dem, fordi de var så hovmodige." Prinsen bad så længe, til dværgen slap dem løs igen, men han advarede ham og sagde: "Tag dig i agt for dem, de har et ondt hjerte."

Da hans brødre kom, glædede han sig og fortalte dem, at han havde et bæger fuldt af livsens vand med hjem, og havde frelst en dejlig prinsesse, som ville vente på ham et år, så skulle brylluppet fejres, og han blev konge over et stort rige. De red nu videre sammen og kom til et land, hvor der var hungersnød og krig, og kongen troede, at riget helt skulle gå til grunde, så stor var nøden. Prinsen gav ham nu brødet, og hele folket kunne spise sig mæt, sværdet fik han også, og slog fjenderne på flugt, så at der igen blev ro og fred i landet. Prinsen fik så brødet og sværdet igen, og de drog videre. De kom endnu til to lande, hvor der var krig og hungersnød, og prinsen reddede også dem med sværdet og brødet. De gik så ombord på et skib og sejlede over havet. Undervejs sagde den ældste til den næstældste: "Far vil naturligvis give riget til vores yngste bror, fordi han har hentet vandet, og det tilkommer jo i grunden os." De var så misundelige, at de aftalte, de ville gøre det af med ham. Og engang, da han sov, hældte de livsens vand af hans bæger over i et andet og tog det, og kom salt havvand i hans.

Da de kom hjem, bragte den yngste prins sit bæger til den syge konge, for at han skulle drikke vandet og blive rask. Men da han havde sunket det salte havvand, blev han endnu mere syg. Han jamrede og klagede, og da kom de to ældste sønner, anklagede den yngste for at have villet forgive ham og sagde, at de bragte ham det rette livsens vand. Næppe havde han drukket deraf, før alle smerter svandt, og han blev stærk og rask som i sine unge dage. De to onde prinser lo ad deres bror og sagde spottende: "Du har ganske vist fundet livsens vand, men nu høster vi lønnen af din møje. Du skulle have været klogere og have passet bedre på. Mens du lå og sov ude på havet, tog vi vandet fra dig, og om et år henter en af os den smukke prinsesse. Men tag dig i agt for at sige det til nogen. Far tror dig for resten heller ikke, og hvis du siger et eneste ord, skal du komme til at bøde med dit liv, men tier du, skal du få lov til at beholde det."

Den gamle konge var vred på sin yngste søn og troede, han havde stræbt ham efter livet. Han lod hele hoffet samle for at de skulle dømme ham, og de blev enige om, at han i al hemmelighed skulle skydes. En dag, da prinsen red på jagt uden at ane noget ondt, fik kongens jæger befaling til at gå med. Da de kom ud i skoven, så prinsen, hvor bedrøvet jægeren så ud og spurgte hvad der var i vejen. "Jeg kan ikke sige det, men jeg må dog gøre det," svarede jægeren. "Sig det kun," sagde prinsen, "jeg skal ikke blive vred på dig." - "Kongen har befalet mig at skyde eder ned," sagde jægeren. Prinsen blev meget forskrækket. "Å, lad mig leve," bad han, "jeg giver dig mine kongelige klæder, så kan du give mig dine." - "Det vil jeg gerne," svarede jægeren, "jeg havde dog ikke kunnet bringe over mit hjerte at dræbe eder." De byttede nu klæder, jægeren gik hjem og prinsen gik dybere ind i skoven.

Nogen tid efter kom der sendende tre vogne med guld og ædelstene til den yngste prins. De var en takkegave fra de tre konger, som med prinsens sværd havde overvundet deres fjender og med hans brød mættet det sultne folk. "Mon min søn skulle være uskyldig," tænkte kongen og sagde til sine folk: "Bare min søn dog levede endnu. Det gør mig så ondt, at jeg har ladet ham slå ihjel." - "Han lever," råbte jægeren, "jeg kunne ikke få mig til at opfylde eders befaling." Der faldt en sten fra kongens hjerte, og han lod bekendtgøre i hele riget, at hans søn måtte komme tilbage, han skulle blive modtaget med glæde.

Kongedatteren lod imidlertid foran sit slot lave en vej af strålende guld og lod gøre bekendt, at den, der kom ridende midt ned ad vejen, var hendes rette brudgom og ham skulle de lade komme ind, men hvis nogen red ved siden af måtte de ikke lukke op for ham. Da året omtrent var forløbet, ville den ældste prins skynde sig til prinsessen og udgive sig for hendes befrier og få både hende og hendes rige. Han red altså af sted og kom til slottet, men da han så den smukke, gyldne vej, tænkte han: "Det er synd at ride på den," og red over på højre side. Da han kom til porten, sagde folkene, at han skulle drage bort igen, han var ikke den rette. Kort tid efter begav den anden prins sig af sted, og da han kom til den gyldne vej, og hesten havde sat foden derpå, tænkte han: "Det ville være synd at træde den itu," og red hen ved venstre side. Da han kom hen til porten, sagde folkene også til ham, at han skulle drage bort, han var ikke den rette. Da året var omme, besluttede den yngste prins at ride hen til sin elskede og glemme sin sorg hos hende. Hele tiden tænkte han på hende og ønskede, at han var hos hende, så han lagde slet ikke mærke til den gyldne vej. Hesten travede midt henover den, porten blev åbnet for ham, og kongedatteren modtog ham med glæde og sagde, at han var hendes redningsmand og rigets herre, og brylluppet blev fejret med stor pragt. Hun fortalte ham nu, at hans far havde tilgivet ham og ladet ham kalde hjem. Prinsen vendte så tilbage og fortalte ham, hvordan brødrene havde bedraget ham. Den gamle konge ville straffe dem, men de var sejlet af sted over havet og kom aldrig mere igen.

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