The six servants



In former times there lived an aged Queen who was a sorceress, and her daughter was the most beautiful maiden under the sun. The old woman, however, had no other thought than how to lure mankind to destruction, and when a wooer appeared, she said that whosoever wished to have her daughter, must first perform a task, or die. Many had been dazzled by the daughter's beauty, and had actually risked this, but they never could accomplish what the old woman enjoined them to do, and then no mercy was shown; they had to kneel down, and their heads were struck off. A certain King's son who had also heard of the maiden's beauty, said to his father, "Let me go there, I want to demand her in marriage." - "Never," answered the King; "if you were to go, it would be going to your death." On this the son lay down and was sick unto death, and for seven years he lay there, and no physician could heal him. When the father perceived that all hope was over, with a heavy heart he said to him, "Go thither, and try your luck, for I know no other means of curing you." When the son heard that, he rose from his bed and was well again, and joyfully set out on his way.

And it came to pass that as he was riding across a heath, he saw from afar something like a great heap of hay lying on the ground, and when he drew nearer, he could see that it was the stomach of a man, who had laid himself down there, but the stomach looked like a small mountain. When the fat man saw the traveller, he stood up and said, "If you are in need of any one, take me into your service." The prince answered, "What can I do with such a great big man?" - "Oh," said the Stout One, "this is nothing, when I stretch myself out well, I am three thousand times fatter." - "If that's the case," said the prince, "I can make use of thee, come with me." So the Stout One followed the prince, and after a while they found another man who was lying on the ground with his ear laid to the turf. "What art thou doing there?" asked the King's son. "I am listening," replied the man. "What art thou listening to so attentively?" - "I am listening to what is just going on in the world, for nothing escapes my ears; I even hear the grass growing." - "Tell me," said the prince, "what thou hearest at the court of the old Queen who has the beautiful daughter." Then he answered, "I hear the whizzing of the sword that is striking off a wooer's head." The King's son said, "I can make use of thee, come with me." They went onwards, and then saw a pair of feet lying and part of a pair of legs, but could not see the rest of the body. When they had walked on for a great distance, they came to the body, and at last to the head also. "Why," said the prince, "what a tall rascal thou art!" - "Oh," replied the Tall One, "that is nothing at all yet; when I really stretch out my limbs, I am three thousand times as tall, and taller than the highest mountain on earth. I will gladly enter your service, if you will take me." - "Come with me," said the prince, "I can make use of thee." They went onwards and found a man sitting by the road who had bound up his eyes. The prince said to him, "Hast thou weak eyes, that thou canst not look at the light?" - "No," replied the man, "but I must not remove the bandage, for whatsoever I look at with my eyes, splits to pieces, my glance is so powerful. If you can use that, I shall be glad to serve you." - "Come with me," replied the King's son, "I can make use of thee." They journeyed onwards and found a man who was lying in the hot sunshine, trembling and shivering all over his body, so that not a limb was still. "How canst thou shiver when the sun is shining so warm?" said the King's son. "Alack," replied the man, "I am of quite a different nature. The hotter it is, the colder I am, and the frost pierces through all my bones; and the colder it is, the hotter I am. In the midst of ice, I cannot endure the heat, nor in the midst of fire, the cold." - "Thou art a strange fellow," said the prince, "but if thou wilt enter my service, follow me." They travelled onwards, and saw a man standing who made a long neck and looked about him, and could see over all the mountains. "What art thou looking at so eagerly?" said the King's son. The man replied, "I have such sharp eyes that I can see into every forest and field, and hill and valley, all over the world." The prince said, "Come with me if thou wilt, for I am still in want of such an one."

And now the King's son and his six servants came to the town where the aged Queen dwelt. He did not tell her who he was, but said, "If you will give me your beautiful daughter, I will perform any task you set me." The sorceress was delighted to get such a handsome youth as this into her net, and said, "I will set thee three tasks, and if thou art able to perform them all, thou shalt be husband and master of my daughter." - "What is the first to be?" - "Thou shalt fetch me my ring which I have dropped into the Red Sea." So the King's son went home to his servants and said, "The first task is not easy. A ring is to be got out of the Red Sea. Come, find some way of doing it." Then the man with the sharp sight said, "I will see where it is lying," and looked down into the water and said, "It is sticking there, on a pointed stone." The Tall One carried them thither, and said, "I would soon get it out, if I could only see it." - "Oh, is that all!" cried the Stout One, and lay down and put his mouth to the water, on which all the waves fell into it just as if it had been a whirlpool, and he drank up the whole sea till it was as dry as a meadow. The Tall One stooped down a little, and brought out the ring with his hand. Then the King's son rejoiced when he had the ring, and took it to the old Queen. She was astonished, and said, "Yes, it is the right ring. Thou hast safely performed the first task, but now comes the second. Dost thou see the meadow in front of my palace? Three hundred fat oxen are feeding there, and these must thou eat, skin, hair, bones, horns and all, and down below in my cellar lie three hundred casks of wine, and these thou must drink up as well, and if one hair of the oxen, or one little drop of the wine is left, thy life will be forfeited to me." - "May I invite no guests to this repast?" inquired the prince, "no dinner is good without some company." The old woman laughed maliciously, and replied, "Thou mayst invite one for the sake of companionship, but no more."

The King's son went to his servants and said to the Stout One, "Thou shalt be my guest to-day, and shalt eat thy fill." Hereupon the Stout One stretched himself out and ate the three hundred oxen without leaving one single hair, and then he asked if he was to have nothing but his breakfast. He drank the wine straight from the casks without feeling any need of a glass, and he licked the last drop from his finger-nails. When the meal was over, the prince went to the old woman, and told her that the second task also was performed. She wondered at this and said, "No one has ever done so much before, but one task still remains," and she thought to herself, "Thou shalt not escape me, and wilt not keep thy head on thy shoulders! This night," said she, "I will bring my daughter to thee in thy chamber, and thou shalt put thine arms round her, but when you are sitting there together, beware of falling asleep. When twelve o'clock is striking, I will come, and if she is then no longer in thine arms, thou art lost." The prince thought, "The task is easy, I will most certainly keep my eyes open." Nevertheless he called his servants, told them what the old woman had said, and remarked, "Who knows what treachery lurks behind this? Foresight is a good thing keep watch, and take care that the maiden does not go out of my room again." When night fell, the old woman came with her daughter, and gave her into the princes's arms, and then the Tall One wound himself round the two in a circle, and the Stout One placed himself by the door, so that no living creature could enter. There the two sat, and the maiden spake never a word, but the moon shone through the window on her face, and the prince could behold her wondrous beauty. He did nothing but gaze at her, and was filled with love and happiness, and his eyes never felt weary. This lasted until eleven o'clock, when the old woman cast such a spell over all of them that they fell asleep, and at the self-same moment the maiden was carried away.

Then they all slept soundly until a quarter to twelve, when the magic lost its power, and all awoke again. "Oh, misery and misfortune!" cried the prince, "now I am lost!" The faithful servants also began to lament, but the Listener said, "Be quiet, I want to listen." Then he listened for an instant and said, "She is on a rock, three hundred leagues from hence, bewailing her fate. Thou alone, Tall One, canst help her; if thou wilt stand up, thou wilt be there in a couple of steps."

"Yes," answered the Tall One, "but the one with the sharp eyes must go with me, that we may destroy the rock." Then the Tall One took the one with bandaged eyes on his back, and in the twinkling of an eye they were on the enchanted rock. The Tall One immediately took the bandage from the other's eyes, and he did but look round, and the rock shivered into a thousand pieces. Then the Tall One took the maiden in his arms, carried her back in a second, then fetched his companion with the same rapidity, and before it struck twelve they were all sitting as they had sat before, quite merrily and happily. When twelve struck, the aged sorceress came stealing in with a malicious face, which seemed to say, "Now he is mine!" for she believed that her daughter was on the rock three hundred leagues off." But when she saw her in the prince's arms, she was alarmed, and said, "Here is one who knows more than I do!" She dared not make any opposition, and was forced to give him her daughter. But she whispered in her ear, "It is a disgrace to thee to have to obey common people, and that thou art not allowed to choose a husband to thine own liking."

On this the proud heart of the maiden was filled with anger, and she meditated revenge. Next morning she caused three hundred great bundles of wood to be got together, and said to the prince that though the three tasks were performed, she would still not be his wife until some one was ready to seat himself in the midst of the wood, and bear the fire. She thought that none of his servants would let themselves be burnt for him, and that out of love for her, he himself would place himself upon it, and then she would be free. But the servants said, "Every one of us has done something except the Frosty One, he must set to work," and they put him in the middle of the pile, and set fire to it. Then the fire began to burn, and burnt for three days until all the wood was consumed, and when the flames had burnt out, the Frosty One was standing amid the ashes, trembling like an aspen leaf, and saying, "I never felt such a frost during the whole course of my life; if it had lasted much longer, I should have been benumbed!"

As no other pretext was to be found, the beautiful maiden was now forced to take the unknown youth as a husband. But when they drove away to church, the old woman said, "I cannot endure the disgrace," and sent her warriors after them with orders to cut down all who opposed them, and bring back her daughter. But the Listener had sharpened his ears, and heard the secret discourse of the old woman. "What shall we do?" said he to the Stout One. But he knew what to do, and spat out once or twice behind the carriage some of the sea-water which he had drunk, and a great sea arose in which the warriors were caught and drowned. When the sorceress perceived that, she sent her mailed knights; but the Listener heard the rattling of their armour, and undid the bandage from one eye of Sharp-eyes, who looked for a while rather fixedly at the enemy's troops, on which they all sprang to pieces like glass. Then the youth and the maiden went on their way undisturbed, and when the two had been blessed in church, the six servants took leave, and said to their master, "Your wishes are now satisfied, you need us no longer, we will go our way and seek our fortunes."

Half a league from the palace of the prince's father was a village near which a swineherd tended his herd, and when they came thither the prince said to his wife, "Do you know who I really am? I am no prince, but a herder of swine, and the man who is there with that herd, is my father. We two shall have to set to work also, and help him." Then he alighted with her at the inn, and secretly told the innkeepers to take away her royal apparel during the night. So when she awoke in the morning, she had nothing to put on, and the innkeeper's wife gave her an old gown and a pair of worsted stockings, and at the same time seemed to consider it a great present, and said, "If it were not for the sake of your husband I should have given you nothing at all!" Then the princess believed that he really was a swineherd, and tended the herd with him, and thought to herself, "I have deserved this for my haughtiness and pride." This lasted for a week, and then she could endure it no longer, for she had sores on her feet. And now came a couple of people who asked if she knew who her husband was. "Yes," she answered, "he is a swineherd, and has just gone out with cords and ropes to try to drive a little bargain." But they said, "Just come with us, and we will take you to him," and they took her up to the palace, and when she entered the hall, there stood her husband in kingly raiment. But she did not recognize him until he took her in his arms, kissed her, and said, "I suffered much for thee and now thou, too, hast had to suffer for me." And then the wedding was celebrated, and he who has told you all this, wishes that he, too, had been present at it.
古时候,有一位女王,是一个巫婆,可她的女儿却是世界上最美丽的姑娘。 老太婆总想着坑害人,每当来了一个求婚者,她总说谁要想娶她女儿,必须先解一道难题,解不出就要他的性命。 许多人迷恋姑娘的美貌,壮着胆子来求婚,却完不成老太婆交给的任务,结果呢,只得跪在地上,被毫不留情地砍去了头。
说完,王子走了,胖子跟在后面。 走了一会儿,他看见草地上躺着另一个人,把耳朵紧贴在地上。
走了一会儿,远远地看见地上横着一双脚,却怎么也望不到身体的其余部分。 他们走啊走,走了好长一段路,才看见身子和脑袋。
接着,他们继续往前走,看见一个人坐在路边上,用布扎住了眼睛。 王子问他眼睛是不是有毛病,不能见亮光。 "没有,"那人回答说,"我的目光太厉害了,所以我不能取下罩布,否则我眼睛望着什么,什么就会裂得粉碎。要是这本事对您有什么用,就把我带上吧。"
"这么大的太阳,你怎么还发抖呀?"王子问。 "唉,"那人回答说,"天生我的体质就跟别人的不一样。天越热,我越冷,就越抖得厉害。天冷了,我就热得受不了。坐在冰上,我准会热得受不了;可坐在火炉里面呢,我又冷得受不了。"
不久,王子便领着自己六个非同寻常的仆人,来到了老女巫生活的城市。 他没有自我介绍,只是告诉女王说,她要是肯把美丽的女儿嫁给他,他就会完成交给他的任何事情。
"要是就这么点事儿,我来。"大胖子嚷嚷着说。 他趴下身子,把嘴凑近海水。 只见海浪就像跌落深涧似地涌进他嘴里,一会儿他就把大海喝干了。 高个子微微弯下腰,用一只手拾起了戒指。 王子拿到了戒指,非常高兴,把它呈给了老巫婆。 老婆子很惊讶,说:"不错,是原来那只,算你幸运,解决了第一个难题,可马上还有第二个。你瞧我宫前的草地上,那儿放牧着三百头肥牛,你得连皮带毛,连骨带角把它们通通吃掉;还有在下边地窖里存放着三百桶酒,你也得喝光它们。要是有一根牛毛和一小滴酒剩下来,我就要你的命!""我不可以请些客人吗?"王子问,"没人陪着,吃喝无味啊。"老婆子冷笑一声,回答说:"我准你请一个客人,让你有个伴,可多了不行。"
王子回到他的仆人那儿,对大胖子说:"今天你做我的客人,好好饱餐一顿。"胖子于是放大肚皮,吃掉了三百头肥牛,一根毫毛也没剩下,吃完后问早餐是否就这么点儿东西。 那酒呢,他干脆抱着桶喝,根本用不着酒杯什么的,并且连最后一滴也用指甲刮起来吮干净了。 吃完后,王子去见老巫婆,对她讲,第二个难题也已解决。 巫婆大吃一惊,说:"从来还没谁做到这一步哩。不过还剩一个难题,"她心里嘀咕,"你逃不出我的手心,一定保不住你的脑袋!"她接着说,"今天晚上,我把我女儿领到你房里,你要用胳臂搂住她。你俩这么坐在一块儿,当心可别睡着啦!打十二点时我来察看,那会儿要是她已不在你的怀抱里,你就完了。"王子想:"这事儿容易,我把眼睛睁得大大的就行。"尽管如此,他仍旧叫来仆人,告诉他们老太婆讲了什么,并且说:"谁知道这后边捣的什么鬼呢!小心总是好的,你们要守着,别让那姑娘再出我的房间。"夜晚到了,老婆子果然领来自己女儿,把她送到王子怀抱里。 接着,高个子卷曲起身子,把他俩团团围住;大胖子朝门口一站,叫任何活人别想再挤进来。 他俩就这么坐着,姑娘不说一句话。 这时月光透过窗户照着她的脸庞,让王子看清了她那仙子一般的美貌。 他无所事事地一直望着她,心中充满了爱慕和喜悦。 这样望着望着,他的眼睛慢慢疲倦起来了。 快到十一点的时候,老婆子突然施出魔法,让他们全都睡着了,就在这一瞬间,姑娘逃了出去。
他们一直沉睡到十二点差一刻,这时魔法失去效力,他们又全醒过来了。 "呵,真糟糕!真倒霉!"王子叫道,"这下我完啦!"忠心的仆人们开始抱怨,那耳朵特灵的一位却说:"别吵,我想听听。"他倾听了一会儿,然后讲:"公主坐在一个离这儿三百小时路程的岩洞里,正为自己的不幸哭泣呢。只有你一个人能帮助她,高个子。你只要伸直腿,几步就到了那儿。""好,"高个子回答,"只是目光异常厉害的老兄得一块儿去,好使岩石崩开。"说着,高个子背起那个带着眼罩的人,一翻掌之间就到了被施过魔法的岩洞前。 高个子帮伙伴解下了遮眼布,这位只用目光一扫,山岩便崩裂成了无数小块。 高个子抱起姑娘,一眨眼送回了王子房里,随后以同样的速度把他的伙伴也接了回来。 不等钟敲十二点,大伙儿又像先前一样坐好了,个个精神振作,情绪高昂。 钟敲十二点时,老巫婆偷偷来了,她面带讥讽,好像想说:"这下他可是我的啦!"一心以为她女儿已坐在三百小时路程之外的岩洞中。 可当她看见女儿仍然搂在王子怀里时,才吓坏了,说:"这是一个比我能耐更大的人呵!"她再没什么可挑剔,只得把女儿许配给了王子。 临了她还咬着女儿的耳朵说:"你不能按自己心愿挑选一位丈夫,必须受一个普通老百姓支配,真丢人!"
这一来,姑娘骄傲的心中充满了怨恨,想方设法要报复。 第二天早上,她叫人用车运来三百担柴,对王子说,母亲的三个难题虽然解决了,但要她做他妻子,还得先有一个人自愿坐在大柴堆中,忍受烈火的焚烧。 她心想,他的仆人没谁为了他愿意被烧死。 他在爱情的驱使下,会自己坐在柴堆里去,这样她不就自由了吗? 谁知仆人们却说:"我们全都出过点力了,只有这位怕冷的老兄还什么没干,现在该看他的啦!"说着便把他抬到了柴堆上,点着了火。 大火熊熊燃烧,烧了整整三天,才烧光所有的柴,火渐渐熄灭了。 这时却见在灰烬中间,那老兄站在那儿,冻得深身哆嗦得像白杨树叶儿一样,嘴里还说什么:"我一辈子也没忍受过这样的严寒,再延长一会儿,不冻硬我才怪!"
再没什么办法了,美丽的姑娘只好接受陌生青年做丈夫。 可在他们乘车去教堂时,老婆子说:"我受不了这种羞辱!"于是派她的军队去追赶,下令见人都杀掉,一定要抢回她的女儿来。 谁料听觉灵敏的仆人竖起耳朵,听见了她在背后说的话。 "咱们怎么办?"他问大胖子。 大胖子自有办法,他只是往车后吐了一两口口水,他喝下去的大海的一部分便吐出来了,变成了一片大湖,老巫婆的军队全部困在湖中,作了淹死鬼。 巫婆听见报告,又派来铁甲骑兵。 然而耳朵灵敏的仆人听见他们身上盔甲的撞击声,立刻解下他那个伙计的遮眼布。 这位呢只是狠狠瞪了敌人两眼,他们的铁盔铁甲都像玻璃一般粉碎了。 王子一行这下才不受干扰地往前走去。 等两位新人在教堂里举行了结婚仪式,六个仆人便向他告别说:"您的心愿已得到满足,不再需要我们。我们打算继续漫游,碰一碰自己的运气。"
在离王子的宫殿半小时路程的地方,有一座村子,村外正好有个牧人在放一群猪。 到了村中,新郎便对新娘说:"你真知道我是谁吗?我不是什么王子,而是一个牧猪人。那儿放猪那位是我父亲,咱俩也必须干这个,必须当他的帮手。"随后,他带她住进旅店,并悄悄吩咐店主,在夜里拿走他们王室的华丽衣服。 第二天早上公主醒来,不再有衣服穿。 这当儿老板娘送来一件旧长袍和几双旧羊毛袜,还做出一付慷慨施舍的样子,说:"不是看在你男人份上,我才不给你呐!"这一来,她真相信丈夫是个牧猪人了,只好和他一起放牧猪群,心里想:"我以前太傲慢自大,真是活该!"这样过了八天,她再也受不了啦,因为双脚已经磨伤。 这时走来几个人,问她知不知道她丈夫是谁。 "知道,"她回答,"他是个猪倌呗,刚刚出门做带子丝线的小买卖去了。"那几个人却讲:"跟我走吧,我们领你见他去。"说罢带她进了王宫。 她一跨进大厅,便见她的丈夫浑身华服地出现在面前,她却没认出来,直到他搂住她,吻她,对她说:"我为你受了许多苦,所以也让你体会体会苦的滋味。"这时候,才举行了隆重的婚礼。 那位讲这个童话的先生,自称也是婚礼的佳宾。

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