The king's son who feared nothing


Kongesønnen, som ikke var bange for noget

There was once a King's son, who was no longer content to stay at home in his father's house, and as he had no fear of anything, he thought, "I will go forth into the wide world, there the time will not seem long to me, and I shall see wonders enough." So he took leave of his parents, and went forth, and on and on from morning till night, and whichever way his path led it was the same to him. It came to pass that he got to the house of a giant, and as he was so tired he sat down by the door and rested. And as he let his eyes roam here and there, he saw the giant's playthings lying in the yard. These were a couple of enormous balls, and nine-pins as tall as a man. After a while he had a fancy to set the nine-pins up and then rolled the balls at them, and screamed and cried out when the nine-pins fell, and had a merry time of it. The giant heard the noise, stretched his head out of the window, and saw a man who was not taller than other men, and yet played with his nine-pins. "Little worm," cried he, "why art thou playing with my balls? Who gave thee strength to do it?" The King's son looked up, saw the giant, and said, "Oh, thou blockhead, thou thinkest indeed that thou only hast strong arms, I can do everything I want to do." The giant came down and watched the bowling with great admiration, and said, "Child of man, if thou art one of that kind, go and bring me an apple of the tree of life." - "What dost thou want with it?" said the King's son. "I do not want the apple for myself," answered the giant, "but I have a betrothed bride who wishes for it. I have travelled far about the world and cannot find the tree." - "I will soon find it," said the King's son, "and I do not know what is to prevent me from getting the apple down." The giant said, "Thou really believest it to be so easy! The garden in which the tree stands is surrounded by an iron railing, and in front of the railing lie wild beasts, each close to the other, and they keep watch and let no man go in." - "They will be sure to let me in," said the King's son. "Yes, but even if thou dost get into the garden, and seest the apple hanging to the tree, it is still not thine; a ring hangs in front of it, through which any one who wants to reach the apple and break it off, must put his hand, and no one has yet had the luck to do it." - "That luck will be mine," said the King's son.
Then he took leave of the giant, and went forth over mountain and valley, and through plains and forests, until at length he came to the wondrous garden.

The beasts lay round about it, but they had put their heads down and were asleep. Moreover, they did not awake when he went up to them, so he stepped over them, climbed the fence, and got safely into the garden. There, in the very middle of it, stood the tree of life, and the red apples were shining upon the branches. He climbed up the trunk to the top, and as he was about to reach out for an apple, he saw a ring hanging before it; but he thrust his hand through that without any difficulty, and gathered the apple. The ring closed tightly on his arm, and all at once he felt a prodigious strength flowing through his veins. When he had come down again from the tree with the apple, he would not climb over the fence, but grasped the great gate, and had no need to shake it more than once before it sprang open with a loud crash. Then he went out, and the lion which had been lying down before, was awake and sprang after him, not in rage and fierceness, but following him humbly as its master.

The King's son took the giant the apple he had promised him, and said, "Seest thou, I have brought it without difficulty." The giant was glad that his desire had been so soon satisfied, hastened to his bride, and gave her the apple for which she had wished. She was a beautiful and wise maiden, and as she did not see the ring on his arm, she said, "I shall never believe that thou hast brought the apple, until I see the ring on thine arm." The giant said, "I have nothing to do but go home and fetch it," and thought it would be easy to take away by force from the weak man, what he would not give of his own free will. He therefore demanded the ring from him, but the King's son refused it. "Where the apple is, the ring must be also," said the giant; "if thou wilt not give it of thine own accord, thou must fight with me for it."

They wrestled with each other for a long time, but the giant could not get the better of the King's son, who was strengthened by the magical power of the ring. Then the giant thought of a stratagem, and said, "I have got warm with fighting, and so hast thou. We will bathe in the river, and cool ourselves before we begin again." The King's son, who knew nothing of falsehood, went with him to the water, and pulled off with his clothes the ring also from his arm, and sprang into the river. The giant instantly snatched the ring, and ran away with it, but the lion, which had observed the theft, pursued the giant, tore the ring out of his hand, and brought it back to its master. Then the giant placed himself behind an oak-tree, and while the King's son was busy putting on his clothes again, surprised him, and put both his eyes out.

And now the unhappy King's son stood there, and was blind and knew not how to help himself. Then the giant came back to him, took him by the hand as if he were someone who wanted to guide him, and led him to the top of a high rock. There he left him standing, and thought, "Just two steps more, and he will fall down and kill himself, and I can take the ring from him." But the faithful lion had not deserted its master; it held him fast by the clothes, and drew him gradually back again. When the giant came and wanted to rob the dead man, he saw that his cunning had been in vain. "Is there no way, then, of destroying a weak child of man like that?" said he angrily to himself, and seized the King's son and led him back again to the precipice by another way, but the lion which saw his evil design, helped its master out of danger here also. When they had got close to the edge, the giant let the blind man's hand drop, and was going to leave him behind alone, but the lion pushed the giant so that he was thrown down and fell, dashed to pieces, on the ground.

The faithful animal again drew its master back from the precipice, and guided him to a tree by which flowed a clear brook. The King's son sat down there, but the lion lay down, and sprinkled the water in his face with its paws. Scarcely had a couple of drops wetted the sockets of his eyes, than he was once more able to see something, and remarked a little bird flying quite close by, which wounded itself against the trunk of a tree. On this it went down to the water and bathed itself therein, and then it soared upwards and swept between the trees without touching them, as if it had recovered its sight again. Then the King's son recognized a sign from God and stooped down to the water, and washed and bathed his face in it. And when he arose he had his eyes once more, brighter and clearer than they had ever been.

The King's son thanked God for his great mercy, and travelled with his lion onwards through the world. And it came to pass that he arrived before a castle which was enchanted. In the gateway stood a maiden of beautiful form and fine face, but she was quite black. She spoke to him and said, "Ah, if thou couldst but deliver me from the evil spell which is thrown over me." - "What shall I do?" said the King's son. The maiden answered, "Thou must pass three nights in the great hall of this enchanted castle, but thou must let no fear enter thy heart. When they are doing their worst to torment thee, if thou bearest it without letting a sound escape thee, I shall be free. Thy life they dare not take." Then said the King's son, "I have no fear; with God's help I will try it." So he went gaily into the castle, and when it grew dark he seated himself in the large hall and waited. Everything was quiet, however, till midnight, when all at once a great tumult began, and out of every hole and corner came little devils. They behaved as if they did not see him, seated themselves in the middle of the room, lighted a fire, and began to gamble. When one of them lost, he said, "It is not right; some one is here who does not belong to us; it is his fault that I am losing." - "Wait, you fellow behind the stove, I am coming," said another. The screaming became still louder, so that no one could have heard it without terror. The King's son stayed sitting quite quietly, and was not afraid; but at last the devils jumped up from the ground, and fell on him, and there were so many of them that he could not defend himself from them. They dragged him about on the floor, pinched him, pricked him, beat him, and tormented him, but no sound escaped from him. Towards morning they disappeared, and he was so exhausted that he could scarcely move his limbs, but when day dawned the black maiden came to him. She bore in her hand a little bottle wherein was the water of life wherewith she washed him, and he at once felt all pain depart and new strength flow through his veins. She said, "Thou hast held out successfully for one night, but two more lie before thee." Then she went away again, and as she was going, he observed that her feet had become white. The next night the devils came and began their gambols anew. They fell on the King's son, and beat him much more severely than the night before, until his body was covered with wounds. But as he bore all quietly, they were forced to leave him, and when dawn appeared, the maiden came and healed him with the water of life. And when she went away, he saw with joy that she had already become white to the tips of her fingers. And now he had only one night more to go through, but it was the worst. The hob-goblins came again: "Art thou there still?" cried they, "thou shalt be tormented till thy breath stops." They pricked him and beat him, and threw him here and there, and pulled him by the arms and legs as if they wanted to tear him to pieces, but he bore everything, and never uttered a cry. At last the devils vanished, but he lay fainting there, and did not stir, nor could he raise his eyes to look at the maiden who came in, and sprinkled and bathed him with the water of life. But suddenly he was freed from all pain, and felt fresh and healthy as if he had awakened from sleep, and when he opened his eyes he saw the maiden standing by him, snow-white, and fair as day. "Rise," said she, "and swing thy sword three times over the stairs, and then all will be delivered." And when he had done that, the whole castle was released from enchantment, and the maiden was a rich King's daughter. The servants came and said that the table was already set in the great hall, and dinner served up. Then they sat down and ate and drank together, and in the evening the wedding was solemnized with great rejoicings.
Engang var der en kongesøn, som aldrig havde været bange for noget. Han havde imidlertid ikke lyst til at blive hjemme hos sin far, og tænkte: "Jeg vil drage ud i den vide verden. Der vil tiden sikkert ikke falde mig lang, og jeg vil opleve mange mærkværdige eventyr." Han sagde farvel til sine forældre og drog af sted. Han gik fra morgen til aften, lige ud ad landevejen. En dag kom han til en kæmpes hus, og da han var træt, satte han sig ned udenfor og hvilede sig. Mens han sad der og så sig om, fik han øje på kæmpens legetøj, som lå ude i gården. Det var nogle vældige kegler og kugler, omtrent så store som et menneske. Han fik lyst til at spille med dem, stillede keglerne op og kastede kuglen efter dem. Han var i rigtig godt humør og skreg og råbte højt, når han traf. Kæmpen hørte støjen, stak hovedet ud af vinduet og fik øje på en fyr, som ikke var større end almindelige mennesker, og alligevel spillede med hans kegler. "Hvortørdu røre mine kegler, din orm," råbte han, "hvor kan du have kræfter nok til det." Kongesønnen så op, fik øje på kæmpen og sagde: "Du tror vel, at du er den eneste, som har kræfter, din store klods. Jeg kan alt, hvad jeg har lyst til." Kæmpen kom ud, så forundret på keglerne og sagde: "Hvis du er sådan et mærkeligt menneske, gå så hen og hent mig et æble fra livets træ." - "Hvad vil du med det?" spurgte kongesønnen. "Det er ikke til mig selv," svarede kæmpen, "men jeg har en brud, som gerne vil have det. Jeg har vandret omkring i den vide verden, men jeg har ikke kunnet finde træet." - "Det skal jeg nok finde," sagde kongesønnen, "og så ved jeg ikke, hvad der skulle forhindre mig i at plukke et æble." - "Du tror nok, det er en let sag," sagde kæmpen, "haven hvor træet står, er omgivet af et jerngitter. Udenfor ligger vilde dyr, det ene ved siden af det andet, de holder vagt, så intet menneske slipper ind." - "Jeg skal nok komme ind." - "Ja, men selv om du virkelig slipper derind, har du alligevel ikke æblet," sagde kæmpen, "der hænger en ring foran, den må du stikke hånden igennem, når du vil plukke det, og det er der endnu ingen, der har kunnet." - "Jamen jeg kan," sagde prinsen.

Han sagde nu farvel til kæmpen og gik af sted over bjerg og dal, gennem mark og skov, til han fandt den vidunderlige have. De vilde dyr lå udenom, men de havde bøjet hovedet og sov. De vågnede heller ikke, da han kom, og han gik hen over dem, klatrede over gitteret og slap ind i haven. Der stod livets træ, og de røde æbler skinnede mellem bladene. Han klatrede op i det, og stak uden spor af besvær hånden igennem ringen og plukkede æblet. Ringen sluttede fast om hans arm, og han mærkede, at han havde fået kæmpekræfter. Han klatrede nu ned igen, men ville ikke kravle over gitteret. Han gik hen til den store port og behøvede kun at støde ganske let til den, så sprang den op med et brag, og så gik han ud. Løven, som havde ligget udenfor/var vågnet og sprang op, da han kom. Men den for ikke rasende imod ham, men fulgte ham ydmygt, som sin herre.

Kongesønnen bragte æblet til kæmpen og sagde: "Der kan du se, jeg kunne sagtens få fat på det." Kæmpen blev meget glad og skyndte sig at bringe sin brud det æble, som hun havde forlangt. Hun var en smuk og klog pige, og da hun så, at han ikke havde ringen, sagde hun: "Jeg tror ikke, at du har hentet æblet, førend jeg ser ringen på din arn." - "Jeg kan jo bare gå hjem og hente den," sagde kæmpen, for han mente, det ville være en let sag at tage den med magt fra sådan et lille menneske, hvis han ikke ville give den godvillig. Han forlangte altså ringen, men kongesønnen sagde nej. "Hvor æblet er, må ringen også være," sagde kæmpen, "og giver du den ikke med det gode, skal vi slås om den."

De kæmpede nu længe, men på grund af ringens trolddomskraft kunne kæmpen ikke få bugt med kongesønnen. Han fandt da på en list og sagde: "Vi er begge to blevet så varme af at slås. Lad os afkøle os ved et bad i floden, før vi tager fat igen." Kongesønnen anede ikke uråd, gik med ned til floden, tog sine klæder og ringen af og sprang i vandet. Straks greb kæmpen ringen og løb sin vej, men løven havde set det, sprang af sted og rev ringen fra ham og bragte den tilbage til sin herre. Kæmpen skjulte sig nu bagved et egetræ, og da kongesønnen var ved at klæde sig på, sprang han frem og stak hans øjne ud.

Nu var den stakkels kongesøn blind og vidste slet ikke, hvad han skulle gøre. Kæmpen kom så igen, tog ham i hånden, som om han ville føre ham, og ledte ham op på toppen af et højt bjerg. Der lod han ham stå og tænkte: "Hvis han går et par skridt til siden, falder han ned og slår sig ihjel, og så kan jeg tage ringen." Men den tro løve havde ikke forladt sin herre, den tog fat i hans klæder og trak ham hele tiden tilbage. Da kæmpen kom og ville tage ringen fra den blinde, så han, at hans onde planer var strandede. "Kan man da ikke få bugt med sådan et usselt menneske," sagde han rasende, og førte ad en anden vej prinsen til afgrunden. Men løven skærmede også her sin herre. Da de var kommet hen til randen af afgrunden, slap kæmpen den blinde og ville lade ham blive her, men løven gav kæmpen et puf, så han styrtede ned og blev knust.

Det trofaste dyr førte igen sin herre tilbage fra afgrunden og ledte ham hen til et træ, hvor der løb en klar, lille bæk forbi. Kongesønnen satte sig ned, og løven sprøjtede ham et par dråber vand i ansigtet. Da vandet fugtede hans øjenhuler kunne han skimte en lille smule, og han fik nu øje på en fugl, som fløj forbi lige ved siden af, men stødte mod et træ. Den dukkede sig så helt ned i vandet, og fløj derpå ind mellem træerne uden at røre dem, ganske som om den havde fået sit syn tilbage. Kongesønnen forstod nu, hvad han skulle gøre, bøjede sig ned over vandet og badede sit ansigt. Og da han rejste sig op, var hans øjne ligeså gode og klare, som de nogensinde havde været.

Han takkede Gud og drog videre med sin løve. Noget efter kom han til et fortryllet slot. I porten stod der en jomfru, dejlig var hun at se på, men hun var helt sort. "Gid du dog kunne løse mig fra trolddommen," sagde hun til prinsen, og han spurgte, hvad han skulle gøre. "Du skal våge tre nætter i den store sal inde i det fortryllede slot," sagde hun, "men du må ikke et øjeblik være bange. Hvis du finder dig i at blive pint og plaget, uden at give en lyd fra dig, så er jeg frelst, og de tør ikke slå dig ihjel." - "Jeg er aldrig bange," sagde kongesønnen, "og med Guds hjælp vil jeg prøve det." Han gik frisk og frejdig ind i slottet, og da det blev mørkt, satte han sig i den store sal og ventede. Der var ganske stille lige til midnat, så blev der på en gang et vældigt spektakel, og fra alle kroge myldrede små djævle frem. De lod, som de ikke så ham, tændte et bål og satte sig midt i stuen, og gav sig til at spille. Når en af dem tabte, sagde han: "Det går ikke rigtigt til. Der er en herinde, som ikke hører til os, og det er hans skyld, at jeg taber." - "Vent bare, du derhenne, jeg skal nok komme efter dig," sagde en af de andre. De skreg højere og højere så man skulle tro, at alle, der hørte det, måtte få en ordentlig skræk i livet. Men kongesønnen blev ganske roligt siddende, uden at være en smule bange. Til sidst sprang djævlene op og styrtede sig over ham, og der var så mange, at han ikke kunne stå sig imod dem. Henimod morgen forsvandt de, og han var så udmattet, at han ikke kunne røre et lem. Ved daggry trådte den sorte jomfru ind. I hånden havde hun en lille flaske med livsens vand, deri badede hun ham, og straks forsvandt alle smerter, og han rejste sig op med fornyede kræfter. "Nu har du lykkelig og vel overstået en nat," sagde hun, "men du har to tilbage endnu." Hun gik igen sin vej, og da han så på hende, opdagede han, at hendes fødder var blevet hvide. Næste nat kom djævlene igen og tog fat på ny. De styrtede sig over kongesønnen og slog ham mange gange hårdere end forrige gang, så hans krop var fuld af sår. Men han fandt sig roligt i det altsammen, og de måtte så give slip på ham igen. Da solen brød frem, kom jomfruen med livsens vand, og til sin store glæde så han, at hun var hvid lige til fingerspidserne. Der var nu kun en nat tilbage, men det var den værste. Djævlene kom igen og råbte: "Er du her endnu? Vi skal nok pine sjælen ud af livet på dig." De stak ham og slog ham, kastede ham frem og tilbage og trak ham i arme og ben, som om de ville sønderrive ham, men han fandt sig i det altsammen uden at give en lyd fra sig. Til sidst forsvandt djævlene, men så lå han også afmægtig uden at røre sig, han kunne ikke engang åbne øjnene, da jomfruen kom med livets vand. Men så forsvandt alle hans smerter, og han var frisk og rask, som om han var vågnet af en søvn. Da han slog øjnene op, så han jomfruen stå ved siden af sig, helt hvid og smuk som den klare dag. "Rejs dig," sagde hun, "sving dit sværd tre gange over dørtærskelen, så er trolddommen brudt." Da han havde gjort det, var hele slottet frelst, og jomfruen fortalte ham, at hun var en rig kongedatter. Tjeneren kom og meldte, at taflet stod dækket i den store sal, og de satte sig så til bords, spiste og drak, og om aftenen blev brylluppet fejret med glans og pragt.

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