The skilful huntsman


El hábil cazador

There was once a young fellow who had learnt the trade of locksmith, and told his father he would now go out into the world and seek his fortune. "Very well," said the father, "I am quite content with that," and gave him some money for his journey. So he travelled about and looked for work. After a time he resolved not to follow the trade of locksmith any more, for he no longer liked it, but he took a fancy for hunting. Then there met him in his rambles a huntsman dressed in green, who asked whence he came and whither he was going? The youth said he was a locksmith's apprentice, but that the trade no longer pleased him, and he had a liking for huntsmanship, would he teach it to him? "Oh, yes," said the huntsman, "if thou wilt go with me." Then the young fellow went with him, bound himself to him for some years, and learnt the art of hunting. After this he wished to try his luck elsewhere, and the huntsman gave him nothing in the way of payment but an air-gun, which had, however, this property, that it hit its mark without fail whenever he shot with it. Then he set out and found himself in a very large forest, which he could not get to the end of in one day. When evening came he seated himself in a high tree in order to escape from the wild beasts. Towards midnight, it seemed to him as if a tiny little light glimmered in the distance. Then he looked down through the branches towards it, and kept well in his mind where it was. But in the first place he took off his hat and threw it down in the direction of the light, so that he might go to the hat as a mark when he had descended. Then he got down and went to his hat, put it on again and went straight forwards. The farther he went, the larger the light grew, and when he got close to it he saw that it was an enormous fire, and that three giants were sitting by it, who had an ox on the spit, and were roasting it. Presently one of them said, "I must just taste if the meat will soon be fit to eat," and pulled a piece off, and was about to put it in his mouth when the huntsman shot it out of his hand. "Well, really," said the giant, "if the wind has not blown the bit out of my hand!" and helped himself to another. But when he was just about to bite into it, the huntsman again shot it away from him. On this the giant gave the one who was sitting next him a box on the ear, and cried angrily, Why art thou snatching my piece away from me?" - "I have not snatched it away," said the other, "a sharpshooter must have shot it away from thee." The giant took another piece, but could not, however, keep it in his hand, for the huntsman shot it out. Then the giant said, "That must be a good shot to shoot the bit out of one's very mouth, such an one would be useful to us." And he cried aloud, "Come here, thou sharpshooter, seat thyself at the fire beside us and eat thy fill, we will not hurt thee; but if thou wilt not come, and we have to bring thee by force, thou art a lost man!" On this the youth went up to them and told them he was a skilled huntsman, and that whatever he aimed at with his gun, he was certain to hit. Then they said if he would go with them he should be well treated, and they told him that outside the forest there was a great lake, behind which stood a tower, and in the tower was imprisoned a lovely princess, whom they wished very much to carry off. "Yes," said he, "I will soon get her for you." Then they added, "But there is still something else, there is a tiny little dog, which begins to bark directly any one goes near, and as soon as it barks every one in the royal palace wakens up, and for this reason we cannot get there; canst thou undertake to shoot it dead?" - "Yes," said he, "that will be a little bit of fun for me." After this he got into a boat and rowed over the lake, and as soon as he landed, the little dog came running out, and was about to bark, but the huntsman took his air-gun and shot it dead. When the giants saw that, they rejoiced, and thought they already had the King's daughter safe, but the huntsman wished first to see how matters stood, and told them that they must stay outside until he called them. Then he went into the castle, and all was perfectly quiet within, and every one was asleep. When he opened the door of the first room, a sword was hanging on the wall which was made of pure silver, and there was a golden star on it, and the name of the King, and on a table near it lay a sealed letter which he broke open, and inside it was written that whosoever had the sword could kill everything which opposed him. So he took the sword from the wall, hung it at his side and went onwards: then he entered the room where the King's daughter was lying sleeping, and she was so beautiful that he stood still and, holding his breath, looked at her. He thought to himself, "How can I give an innocent maiden into the power of the wild giants, who have evil in their minds?" He looked about further, and under the bed stood a pair of slippers, on the right one was her father's name with a star, and on the left her own name with a star. She wore also a great neck-kerchief of silk embroidered with gold, and on the right side was her father's name, and on the left her own, all in golden letters. Then the huntsman took a pair of scissors and cut the right corner off, and put it in his knapsack, and then he also took the right slipper with the King's name, and thrust that in. Now the maiden still lay sleeping, and she was quite sewn into her night-dress, and he cut a morsel from this also, and thrust it in with the rest, but he did all without touching her. Then he went forth and left her lying asleep undisturbed, and when he came to the gate again, the giants were still standing outside waiting for him, and expecting that he was bringing the princess. But he cried to them that they were to come in, for the maiden was already in their power, that he could not open the gate to them, but there was a hole through which they must creep. Then the first approached, and the huntsman wound the giant's hair round his hand, pulled the head in, and cut it off at one stroke with his sword, and then drew the rest of him in. He called to the second and cut his head off likewise, and then he killed the third also, and he was well pleased that he had freed the beautiful maiden from her enemies, and he cut out their tongues and put them in his knapsack. Then thought he, "I will go home to my father and let him see what I have already done, and afterwards I will travel about the world; the luck which God is pleased to grant me will easily find me."
But when the King in the castle awoke, he saw the three giants lying there dead. So he went into the sleeping-room of his daughter, awoke her, and asked who could have killed the giants? Then said she, "Dear father, I know not, I have been asleep." But when she arose and would have put on her slippers, the right one was gone, and when she looked at her neck-kerchief it was cut, and the right corner was missing, and when she looked at her night-dress a piece was cut out of it. The King summoned his whole court together, soldiers and every one else who was there, and asked who had set his daughter at liberty, and killed the giants? Now it happened that he had a captain, who was one-eyed and a hideous man, and he said that he had done it. Then the old King said that as he had accomplished this, he should marry his daughter. But the maiden said, "Rather than marry him, dear father, I will go away into the world as far as my legs can carry me." But the King said that if she would not marry him she should take off her royal garments and wear peasant's clothing, and go forth, and that she should go to a potter, and begin a trade in earthen vessels. So she put off her royal apparel, and went to a potter and borrowed crockery enough for a stall, and she promised him also that if she had sold it by the evening, she would pay for it. Then the King said she was to seat herself in a corner with it and sell it, and he arranged with some peasants to drive over it with their carts, so that everything should be broken into a thousand pieces. When therefore the King's daughter had placed her stall in the street, by came the carts, and broke all she had into tiny fragments. She began to weep and said, "Alas, how shall I ever pay for the pots now?" The King had, however, wished by this to force her to marry the captain; but instead of that, she again went to the potter, and asked him if he would lend to her once more. He said, "No," she must first pay for the things she had already had. Then she went to her father and cried and lamented, and said she would go forth into the world. Then said he, "I will have a little hut built for thee in the forest outside, and in it thou shalt stay all thy life long and cook for every one, but thou shalt take no money for it." When the hut was ready, a sign was hung on the door whereon was written, "To-day given, to-morrow sold." There she remained a long time, and it was rumored about the world that a maiden was there who cooked without asking for payment, and that this was set forth on a sign outside her door. The huntsman heard it likewise, and thought to himself, "That would suit thee. Thou art poor, and hast no money." So he took his air-gun and his knapsack, wherein all the things which he had formerly carried away with him from the castle as tokens of his truthfulness were still lying, and went into the forest, and found the hut with the sign, "To-day given, to-morrow sold." He had put on the sword with which he had cut off the heads of the three giants, and thus entered the hut, and ordered something to eat to be given to him. He was charmed with the beautiful maiden, who was indeed as lovely as any picture. She asked him whence he came and whither he was going, and he said, "I am roaming about the world." Then she asked him where he had got the sword, for that truly her father's name was on it. He asked her if she were the King's daughter. "Yes," answered she. "With this sword," said he, "did I cut off the heads of three giants." And he took their tongues out of his knapsack in proof. Then he also showed her the slipper, and the corner of the neck-kerchief, and the bit of the night-dress. Hereupon she was overjoyed, and said that he was the one who had delivered her. On this they went together tothe old King, and fetched him to the hut, and she led him into her room, and told him that the huntsman was the man who had really set her free from the giants. And when the aged King saw all the proofs of this, he could no longer doubt, and said that he was very glad he knew how everything had happened, and that the huntsman should have her to wife, on which the maiden was glad at heart. Then she dressed the huntsman as if he were a foreign lord, and the King ordered a feast to be prepared. When they went to table, the captain sat on the left side of the King's daughter, but the huntsman was on the right, and the captain thought he was a foreign lord who had come on a visit. When they had eaten and drunk, the old King said to the captain that he would set before him something which he must guess. "Supposing any one said that he had killed the three giants and he were asked where the giants' tongues were, and he were forced to go and look, and there were none in their heads, how could that happen?" The captain said, "Then they cannot have had any." - "Not so," said the King. "Every animal has a tongue," and then he likewise asked what any one would deserve who made such an answer? The captain replied, "He ought to be torn in pieces." Then the King said he had pronounced his own sentence, and the captain was put in prison and then torn in four pieces; but the King's daughter was married to the huntsman. After this he brought his father and mother, and they lived with their son in happiness, and after the death of the old King he received the kingdom.
Érase una vez un muchacho que había aprendido el oficio de cerrajero. Un día dijo a su padre que deseaba correr mundo y buscar fortuna.
- Muy bien -respondióle el padre-; no tengo inconveniente -. Y le dio un poco de dinero para el viaje. Y el chico se marchó a buscar trabajo. Al cabo de un tiempo se cansó de su profesión, y la abandonó para hacerse cazador. En el curso de sus andanzas encontróse con un cazador, vestido de verde, que le preguntó de dónde venía y adónde se dirigía. El mozo le contó que era cerrajero, pero que no le gustaba el oficio, y sí, en cambio, el de cazador, por lo cual le rogaba que lo tomase de aprendiz.
- De mil amores, con tal que te vengas conmigo -dijo el hombre. Y el muchacho se pasó varios años a su lado aprendiendo el arte de la montería. Luego quiso seguir por su cuenta y su maestro, por todo salario, le dio una escopeta, la cual, empero, tenía la virtud de no errar nunca la puntería. Marchóse, pues, el mozo y llegó a un bosque inmenso, que no podía recorrerse en un día. Al anochecer encaramóse a un alto árbol para ponerse a resguardo de las fieras; hacia medianoche parecióle ver brillar a lo lejos una lucecita a través de las ramas, y se fijó bien en ella para no desorientarse. Para asegurarse, se quitó el se quitó el sombrero y lo lanzó en dirección del lugar donde aparecía la luz, con objeto de que le sirviese de señal cuando hubiese bajado del árbol. Ya en tierra, encaminóse hacia el sombrero y siguió avanzando en línea recta. A medida que caminaba, la luz era más fuerte, y al estar cerca de ella vio que se trataba de una gran hoguera, y que tres gigantes sentados junto a ella se ocupaban en asar un buey que tenían sobre un asador. Decía uno:
- Voy a probar cómo está -. Arrancó un trozo, y ya se disponía a llevárselo a la boca cuando, de un disparo, el cazador se lo hizo volar de la mano.
- ¡Caramba! -exclamó el gigante-, el viento se me lo ha llevado -, y cogió otro pedazo; pero al ir a morderlo, otra vez se lo quitó el cazador de la boca. Entonces el gigante, propinando un bofetón al que estaba junto a él, le dijo airado:
- ¿Por qué me quitas la carne?
- Yo no te la he quitado -replicó el otro-; habrá sido algún buen tirador.
El gigante cogió un tercer pedazo; pero tan pronto como lo tuvo en la mano, el cazador lo hizo volar también. Dijeron entonces los gigantes:
- Muy buen tirador ha de ser el que es capaz de quitar el bocado de la boca. ¡Cuánto favor nos haría un tipo así! -y gritaron-: Acércate, tirador; ven a sentarte junto al fuego con nosotros y hártate, nosotros y hártate, que no te haremos daño. Pero si no vienes y te pescamos, estás perdido.
Acercóse el cazador y les explicó que era del oficio, y que dondequiera que disparase con su escopeta estaba seguro de acertar el blanco. Propusiéronle que se uniese a ellos, diciéndole que saldría ganando, y luego le explicaron que a la salida del bosque había un gran río, y en su orilla opuesta se levantaba una torre donde moraba una bella princesa, que ellos proyectaban raptar.
- De acuerdo -respondió él-. No será empresa difícil.
Pero los gigantes agregaron:
- Hay una circunstancia que debe ser tenida en cuenta: vigila allí un perrillo que, en cuanto alguien se acerca, se pone a ladrar y despierta a toda la Corte; por culpa de él no podemos aproximarnos. ¿Te las arreglarías para matar el perro?
- Sí -replicó el cazador-; para mí, esto es un juego de niños.
Subióse a un barco y, navegando por el río, pronto llegó a la margen opuesta. En cuanto desembarcó, salióle el perrito al encuentro; pero antes de que pudiera ladrar, lo derribó de un tiro. Al verlo los gigantes se alegraron, dando ya por suya la princesa. Pero el cazador quería antes ver cómo estaban las cosas, y les dijo que se quedaran fuera hasta que él los llamase. Entró en el palacio, donde reinaba un silencio absoluto, pues todo el mundo dormía. Al abrir la puerta de la primera sala vio, colgando en vio, colgando en la pared, un sable de plata maciza que tenía grabados una estrella de oro y el nombre del Rey; a su lado, sobre una mesa, había una carta lacrada. Abrióla y leyó en ella que quien dispusiera de aquel sable podría quitar la vida a todo el que se pusiese a su alcance. Descolgando el arma, se la ciñó y prosiguió avanzando. Llegó luego a la habitación donde dormía la princesa, la cual era tan hermosa que él se quedó contemplándola, como petrificado. Pensó entonces: "¡Cómo voy a permitir que esta inocente doncella caiga en manos de unos desalmados gigantes, que tan malas intenciones llevan!." Mirando a su alrededor, descubrió, al pie de la cama, un par de zapatillas; la derecha tenía bordado el nombre del Rey y una estrella; y la izquierda, el de la princesa, asimismo con una estrella. También llevaba la doncella una gran bufanda de seda, y, bordados en oro, los nombres del Rey y el suyo, a derecha e izquierda respectivamente. Tomando el cazador unas tijeras, cortó el borde derecho y se lo metió en el morral, y luego guardóse en él la zapatilla derecha, la que llevaba el nombre del Rey. La princesa seguía durmiendo, envuelta en su camisa; el hombre cortó también un trocito de ella y lo puso con los otros objetos; y todo lo hizo sin tocar a la muchacha. Salió luego, cuidando de no despertarla, y, al llegar a al llegar a la puerta, encontró a los gigantes que lo aguardaban, seguros de que traería a la princesa. Gritóles él que entrasen, que la princesa se hallaba ya en su poder. Pero como no podía abrir la puerta, debían introducirse por un agujero. Al asomar el primero, lo agarró el cazador por el cabello, le cortó la cabeza de un sablazo y luego tiró el cuerpo hasta que lo tuvo en el interior. Llamó luego al segundo y repitió la operación. Hizo lo mismo con el tercero, y quedó contentísimo de haber podido salvar a la princesa de sus enemigos. Finalmente, cortó las lenguas de las tres cabezas y se las guardó en el morral. "Volveré a casa y enseñaré a mi padre lo que he hecho -pensó-. Luego reanudaré mis correrías. No me faltará la protección de Dios."
Al despertarse el Rey en el palacio, vio los cuerpos de los tres gigantes decapitados. Entró luego en la habitación de su hija, la despertó y le preguntó quién podía haber dado muerte a aquellos monstruos.
- No lo sé, padre mío -respondió ella-. He dormido toda la noche.
Saltó de la cama, y, al ir a calzarse las zapatillas, notó que había desaparecido la del pie derecho; y entonces se dio cuenta también de que le habían cortado el extremo derecho de la bufanda y un trocito de la camisa. Mandó el Rey que se reuniese toda la Corte, con todos los soldados todos los soldados de palacio, y preguntó quién había salvado a su hija y dado muerte a los gigantes. Y adelantándose un capitán, hombre muy feo y, además, tuerto afirmó que él era el autor de la hazaña. Díjole entonces el anciano rey que, en pago de su heroicidad, se casaría con la princesa; pero ésta dijo:
- Padre mío, antes que casarme con este hombre prefiero marcharme a vagar por el mundo hasta donde puedan llevarme las piernas.
A lo cual respondió el Rey que si se negaba a aceptar al capitán por marido, se despojase de los vestidos de princesa, se vistiera de campesina y abandonase el palacio. Iría a un alfarero y abriría un comercio de cacharrería. Quitóse la doncella sus lujosos vestidos, se fue a casa de un alfarero y le pidió a crédito un surtido de objetos de barro, prometiéndole pagárselos aquella misma noche si había logrado venderlos. Dispuso el Rey que instalase su puesto en una esquina, y luego mandó a unos campesinos que pasasen con sus carros por encima de su mercancía y la redujesen a pedazos. Y, así, cuando la princesa tuvo expuesto su género en la calle, llegaron los carros e hicieron trizas de todo. Prorrumpió a llorar la muchacha, exclamando:
- ¡Dios mío, cómo pagaré ahora al alfarero!
El Rey había hecho aquello para obligar a su hija a aceptar al capitán. Mas ella se fue a ver al propietario de la mercancía y le mercancía y le pidió que le fiase otra partida. El hombre se negó: antes tenía que pagarle la primera. Acudió la princesa a su padre y, entre lágrimas y gemidos, le dijo que quería irse por el mundo. Contestó el Rey:
- Mandaré construirte una casita en el bosque, y en ella te pasarás la vida cocinando para todos los viandantes, pero sin aceptar dinero de nadie.
Cuando ya la casita estuvo terminada, colgaron en la puerta un rótulo que decía: "Hoy, gratis; mañana, pagando." Y allí se pasó la princesa largo tiempo, y pronto corrió la voz de que habitaba allí una doncella que cocinaba gratis, según anunciaba un rótulo colgado de la puerta. Llegó la noticia a oídos de nuestro cazador, el cual pensó:
"Esto me convendría, pues soy pobre y no tengo blanca," y, cargando con su escopeta y su mochila, donde seguía guardando lo que se había llevado del palacio, fuese al bosque. No tardó en descubrir la casita con el letrero: "Hoy, gratis; mañana, pagando." Llevaba al cinto el sable con que cortara la cabeza a los gigantes, y así entró en la casa y pidió de comer. Encantóle el aspecto de la muchacha, pues era bellísima, y al preguntarle ella de dónde venía y adónde se dirigía, díjole el cazador:
- Voy errante por el mundo.
Preguntóle ella a continuación de dónde había sacado aquel sable que llevaba grabado el nombre de su padre, y el cazador, a su cazador, a su vez, quiso saber si era la hija del Rey.
- Sí -contestó la princesa.
- Pues con este sable -dijo entonces el cazador- corté la cabeza a los tres gigantes -y, en prueba de su afirmación, sacó de la mochila las tres lenguas, mostrándole a continuación la zapatilla, el borde del pañuelo y el trocito de la camisa. Ella, loca de alegría, comprendió que se hallaba en presencia de su salvador. Dirigiéndose juntos a palacio y, llamando la princesa al anciano rey, llevólo a su aposento donde le dijo que el cazador era el hombre que la había salvado de los gigantes. Al ver el Rey las pruebas, no pudiendo ya dudar por más tiempo, quiso saber cómo había ocurrido el hecho, y le dijo que le otorgaba la mano de su hija, por lo cual se puso muy contenta la muchacha. Vistiéronlo como si fuese un noble extranjero, y el Rey organizó un banquete. En la mesa colocóse el capitán a la izquierda de la princesa y el cazador a la derecha, suponiendo aquél que se trataba de algún príncipe forastero.
Cuando hubieron comido y bebido, dijo el anciano rey al capitán, que quería plantearle un enigma: Si un individuo que afirmaba haber dado muerte a tres gigantes hubiese de declarar dónde estaban las lenguas de sus víctimas, ¿qué diría, al comprobar que no estaban en las respectivas bocas? Respondió el capitán:
- Pues que no tenían lengua.
- No es posible esto - es posible esto -replicó el Rey-, ya que todos los animales tienen lengua.
A continuación le preguntó qué merecía el que tratase de engañarlo. A lo que respondió el capitán:
- Merece ser descuartizado.
Replicóle entonces el Rey que acababa de pronunciar él mismo su sentencia, y, así, el hombre fue detenido y luego descuartizado, mientras la princesa se casaba con el cazador. Éste mandó a buscar a sus padres, los cuales vivieron felices al lado de su hijo, y, a la muerte del Rey, el joven heredó la corona.

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