The king's son who feared nothing


O príncipe sem medo

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.
Houve, uma vez, um príncipe que, cansado de viver no palácio de seu pai sem fazer nada, e sendo ele um rapaz que não tinha medo de coisa alguma, certo dia ocorreu-lhe uma ideia:
- Quero ir-me embora daqui e percorrer o mundo; assim deixarei de me aborrecer e, ao mesmo tempo, poderei ver muitas coisas interessantes.
Resolvido a partir, despediu-se dos pais e saiu. Meteu-se pelo caminho afora e foi andando sempre para a frente; andou um dia inteiro, desde manhã até à noite, indiferente ao rumo da estrada. Ora, aconteceu justamente que foi parar bom em frente à casa de um gigante. Como estava bastante cansado, sentou-se perto da porta a fim de repousar um pouco.
Estando aí sentado, deixou os olhos vaguearem de um lado para outro e nisso viu, largado no terreiro, o jogo predileto do gigante: um boliche composto de bolas enormes e os respectivos paulitos do tamanho de um homem. Não demorou muito e veio-lhe o desejo de jogar uma partida; então colocou de pé os paulitos e pôs-se a jogar as bolas. Sempre que conseguia derrubar um pau, fazia, porém, tal algazarra e soltava tais gritos de alegria que o barulho chegou aos ouvidos do gigante. Este saiu à janela e vendo um homem, não mais alto que o comum dos seres humanos, a jogar o seu boliche, gritou:
- Olá, seu vermiculo, como ousas jogar com as minhas bolas? Quem te deu forças suficientes para isso?
O príncipe ergueu os olhos e, vendo o gigante na janela, respondeu:
- Ora, seu pedante, então julgas ser o único que possui braços fortes e rijos? Fica sabendo que eu posso fazer tudo o que me vem à cabeça.
O gigante, estupefato, desceu ao terreiro e ficou a olhar para ele enquanto jogava. Daí a alguns momentos, disse-lhe:
- Escuta, simples ser humano, se realmente és tão corajoso, vai buscar-me uma das maçãs da árvore da vida.
- Que queres fazer com ela? - perguntou o príncipe.
- Quero-a, não para mim, mas para minha noiva, que, há muito, me vem pedindo essa tal maçã. Eu já percorri o mundo de um ponto a outro, contudo não consegui descobrir essa árvore.
- Pois bem, eu a encontrarei, - disse o príncipe, - e não há o que me possa impedir de colher a maçã.
- Pensas que é assim tão fácil? - disse o gigante.
- O jardim onde está a macieira é todo circundado por altíssimas grades de ferro e, à entrada dele, então sentadas, lado a lado, duas feras medonhas, que montam guarda, continuamente, e impedem a quem quer que seja aproximar-se ou penetrar naquele recinto.
- Eu tenho certeza que a mim deixarão entrar, - retorquiu o príncipe.
- Sim; mas, mesmo que chegues a entrar no jardim, até à macieira onde está a maçã, ainda assim ela não é tua; para consegui-la, terás de enfiar a mão através de um anel lá dependurado, coisa que até hoje ninguém o conseguiu.
- Mas eu o farei! - disse o príncipe.
Despediu-se do gigante e foi-se, atravessando montes
e vales, campos e bosques, até que avistou o jardim encantado.
Viu, em toda a volta dele, as feras deitadas, que estavam nesse momento dormindo com a cabeça entre as patas. E não despertaram nem mesmo com o ruído que fez ao chegar lá. O príncipe, então, saltou agilmente por cima delas e conseguiu entrar, sem maiores dificuldades, dentro do jardim. Bem no centro do jardim, estava a árvore da vida, da qual pendiam lindas maçãs vermelhinhas e reluzentes.
Mais que depressa ele trepou na árvore e tratou de apanhar uma maçã, mas deu com o anel dependurado diante da fruta, como a protegê-la; sem hesitar, ele enfiou a mão através do anel e colheu, facilmente, a maçã. Então o anel aderiu, estreitamento, ao seu braço e ele sentiu uma poderosa força penetrar-lhe nas veias.
Quando finalmente desceu da árvore, não quis saúdo jardim saltando a grade mas passou, diretamente, pelo grande portão que, a um simples impulso seu, logo se escancarou. Saiu tranquilamente, mas o leão que estava deitado lá na frente, despertou e pôs-se a correr-lhe atrás, não feroz e exasperado, mas humildemente, como se o príncipe fosse seu amo.
Depois de muito caminhar, o príncipe foi entregar ao gigante a maçã prometida, dizendo-lhe:
- Viste, colhi-a sem nenhuma dificuldade!
O gigante ficou felicíssimo por ver seu desejo realizado e correu à casa da noiva, entregando-lhe a maçã que ela tanto desejava. A noiva era uma jovem bonita e sagaz, por isso, não vendo o anel em seu poder, disse-lhe:
- Não acreditarei que foste tu que colheste a maçã, se não vir o anel no teu braço.
- Ora, é só ir buscá-lo em casa! - disse o gigante.
Disse isso pensando que lhe seria fácil apoderar-se
do anel, tirando-o à força daquele fraco indivíduo, se não lho desse espontaneamente.
Foi ter com o príncipe e pediu-lhe o anel, mas este recusou-se a entregá-lo.
- Onde estiver a maçã, - disse o gigante, - lá deve estar também o anel; se não mo entregas por bem, terás que lutar comigo!
O príncipe aceitou o desafio e lutaram longamente: o gigante, porém, não conseguia dominar o príncipe, cujas forças se haviam tornado invencíveis, graças ao poder mágico do anel que tinha no braço. Então o gigante es- cogitou num meio astucioso e disse:
- Esta luta provocou-me um grande calor e creio que a ti também; nademos um pouco no rio para nas refrescar, em seguida retornaremos à luta.
O príncipe, que desconhecia a falsidade, acompanhou-o até o rio; despiu toda a roupa e inclusive o anel. Deixando tudo na beira da água mergulhou tranquilamente. O gigante, mais que depressa, apoderou-se do anel e saiu correndo, mas o leão, que presenciara o furto, perseguiu-o e em breve, arrancou-lhe o anel da mão, entregando-o novamente a seu dono. Furibundo, o gigante ocultou-se atrás de um enorme carvalho e, quando o príncipe estava ocupado em vestir-se, atacou-o de surpresa e vazou-lhe os olhos.
Completamente cego, o desditoso príncipe agora não sabia como se arranjar. O desalmado gigante aproximou-se-lhe e, como se fosse alguém que piedosamente o viesse socorrer, tomou-o pela mão e conduziu-o ao alto de um penhasco onde o abandonou, pensando: "Se ele der dois passos, cairá no abismo onde morrerá e aí poderei tomar-lhe o anel!"
O fiel leão, porém, não se distanciava do rapaz. Vendo o perigo que corria, puxou-o pela roupa e levou-o longe dali. E o gigante ao voltar, certo de encontrar o príncipe morto no despenhadeiro, foi obrigado a constatar que sua astúcia fora inútil. "Será possível que não possa me livrar desse homúnculo!," murmurou raivosamente. Tornou a pegar o cego pela mão e conduziu-o outra vez à beira do abismo, mas o leão percebeu suas cruéis intenções e, de um salto, postou-se junto do príncipe, salvando-o ainda desta vez.
O gigante deixou passar um pouco do tempo, depois tornou a conduzir o cego ao lugar mais perigoso do penhasco, certo de que dessa vez rolaria sem remissão para o abismo. O leão, porém, investiu prontamente contra o gigante, dando-lhe tamanho empurrão, que este caiu pelo despenhadeiro, indo esfacelar-se lá em baixo.
Segurando o pobre cego pela roupa, o leão levou-o ao pé de uma árvore, perto da qual corria um regato de águas cintilantes. O príncipe sentou-se e o leão, com a pata, colhia água e borrifava-lhe o rosto. Algumas gotas caíram-lhe nas órbitas, banhando-as, e, no mesmo instante, o cego recuperou a vista, não totalmente, mas o bastante para ver um passarinho que passou voando e batendo de encontro às árvores sem as ver; depois caiu na água, banhou-se e, em seguida, alçou voo e livrou-se no espaço sem mais esbarrar nos galhos, como se tivesse recuperado a vista.
Isto foi como um aviso do céu para o príncipe, que se curvou sobre o regato e lavou bem o rosto. Ao levantar-se, possuía novamente belos olhos, límpidos, e de visão bem clara, como jamais os tivera.
Então, ajoelhou-se, agradeceu piedosamente a Deus aquele milagre e continuou a jornada pelo mundo afora, acompanhado pelo fiel leão.
Depois de muito andar, foi ter a um castelo encantado, à porta do qual estava linda jovem, de porte gentil e de rosto muito gracioso, mas completamente preta.
- Ah, - disse ela dirigindo-se ao príncipe, - se pudesses libertar-me do malefício que me deitaram!
- Que devo fazer, para isso? - perguntou o príncipe.
A jovem respondeu:
- Tens de passar três noites no salão do castelo encantado, mas não deves permitir que o medo invada teu coração. Se te torturarem atrozmente, deves resistir sem um lamento; se o conseguires, estarei salva. Ninguém aqui poderá tirar-te a vida.
- Está bem, - disse o príncipe. - Eu não tenho medo de nada; com a ajuda de Deus, tentarei a prova.
Entrou, alegremente, no castelo e, quando caiu a noite, ficando tudo escuro, foi sentar-se no salão a espera dos acontecimentos. Até meia-noite, tudo permaneceu quieto e tranquilo; depois começou, subitamente, infernal algazarra, e de toda parte surgiram terríveis diabinhos, os quais, fingindo não ver o jovem, se sentaram no meio do salão, acenderam uma fogueira e puseram-se a jogar baralho. Quando um deles perdia, punha-se a berrar:
- Não está certo; há alguém aqui que não é dos nossos, é culpa dele se perco!
- Eh, tu aí atrás do fogão, espera que já vou! - dizia outro.
Os gritos aumentavam, progressivamente, e ninguém poderia ouvi-los sem morrer de medo. Mas o príncipe manteve-se sossegado, sem sombra de medo; exasperados, os diabinhos arremeteram contra ele e eram tão numerosos que lhe parecia impossível resistir. Atiraram- no ao chão, arrastaram-no de cá e de lá, beliscaram-no, espetaram-no, deram-lhe um mundo de pancadas e torturaram-no horrivelmente; mas de sua boca não escapou um único lamento.
Ao amanhecer, quando a luz começou a penetrar no salão, os diabos desapareceram, deixando o rapaz tão extenuado e pisado, que não podia sequer mexer um dedo. Não tardou muito, porém, e ele viu chegar a linda pretinha, trazendo na mão um frasco cheio de água vital; com as mãozinhas ágeis lavou-o muito bem com essa água e, imediatamente, desapareceram as contusões e toda e qualquer dor, invadindo-lhe as veias nova força.

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