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Fabulous Fairy Tales for children and adults. From our vast collection of old traditional fairy tales and fables.

The Travelling Companion - Part 2

'What can you want with those three fern rods?' asked John
of his fellow-traveller.

'Oh, they will make capital brooms,' said he; 'and I like
them because I have strange whims sometimes.' Then they walked
on together for a long distance.

'How dark the sky is becoming,' said John; 'and look at
those thick, heavy clouds.'

'Those are not clouds,' replied his fellow-traveller;
'they are mountains- large lofty mountains- on the tops of
which we should be above the clouds, in the pure, free air.
Believe me, it is delightful to ascend so high, tomorrow we
shall be there.' But the mountains were not so near as they
appeared; they had to travel a whole day before they reached
them, and pass through black forests and piles of rock as
large as a town. The journey had been so fatiguing that John
and his fellow-traveller stopped to rest at a roadside inn, so
that they might gain strength for their journey on the morrow.
In the large public room of the inn a great many persons were
assembled to see a comedy performed by dolls. The showman had
just erected his little theatre, and the people were sitting
round the room to witness the performance. Right in front, in
the very best place, sat a stout butcher, with a great
bull-dog by his side who seemed very much inclined to bite. He
sat staring with all his eyes, and so indeed did every one
else in the room. And then the play began. It was a pretty
piece, with a king and a queen in it, who sat on a beautiful
throne, and had gold crowns on their heads. The trains to
their dresses were very long, according to the fashion; while
the prettiest of wooden dolls, with glass eyes and large
mustaches, stood at the doors, and opened and shut them, that
the fresh air might come into the room. It was a very pleasant
play, not at all mournful; but just as the queen stood up and
walked across the stage, the great bull-dog, who should have
been held back by his master, made a spring forward, and
caught the queen in the teeth by the slender wrist, so that it
snapped in two. This was a very dreadful disaster. The poor
man, who was exhibiting the dolls, was much annoyed, and quite
sad about his queen; she was the prettiest doll he had, and
the bull-dog had broken her head and shoulders off. But after
all the people were gone away, the stranger, who came with
John, said that he could soon set her to rights. And then he
brought out his box and rubbed the doll with some of the salve
with which he had cured the old woman when she broke her leg.
As soon as this was done the doll's back became quite right
again; her head and shoulders were fixed on, and she could
even move her limbs herself: there was now no occasion to pull
the wires, for the doll acted just like a living creature,
excepting that she could not speak. The man to whom the show
belonged was quite delighted at having a doll who could dance
of herself without being pulled by the wires; none of the
other dolls could do this.

During the night, when all the people at the inn were gone
to bed, some one was heard to sigh so deeply and painfully,
and the sighing continued for so long a time, that every one
got up to see what could be the matter. The showman went at
once to his little theatre and found that it proceeded from
the dolls, who all lay on the floor sighing piteously, and
staring with their glass eyes; they all wanted to be rubbed
with the ointment, so that, like the queen, they might be able
to move of themselves. The queen threw herself on her knees,
took off her beautiful crown, and, holding it in her hand,
cried, 'Take this from me, but do rub my husband and his
courtiers.'

The poor man who owned the theatre could scarcely refrain
from weeping; he was so sorry that he could not help them.
Then he immediately spoke to John's comrade, and promised him
all the money he might receive at the next evening's
performance, if he would only rub the ointment on four or five
of his dolls. But the fellow-traveller said he did not require
anything in return, excepting the sword which the showman wore
by his side. As soon as he received the sword he anointed six
of the dolls with the ointment, and they were able immediately
to dance so gracefully that all the living girls in the room
could not help joining in the dance. The coachman danced with
the cook, and the waiters with the chambermaids, and all the
strangers joined; even the tongs and the fire-shovel made an
attempt, but they fell down after the first jump. So after all
it was a very merry night. The next morning John and his
companion left the inn to continue their journey through the
great pine-forests and over the high mountains. They arrived
at last at such a great height that towns and villages lay
beneath them, and the church steeples looked like little
specks between the green trees. They could see for miles
round, far away to places they had never visited, and John saw
more of the beautiful world than he had ever known before. The
sun shone brightly in the blue firmament above, and through
the clear mountain air came the sound of the huntsman's horn,
and the soft, sweet notes brought tears into his eyes, and he
could not help exclaiming, 'How good and loving God is to give
us all this beauty and loveliness in the world to make us
happy!'

His fellow-traveller stood by with folded hands, gazing on
the dark wood and the towns bathed in the warm sunshine. At
this moment there sounded over their heads sweet music. They
looked up, and discovered a large white swan hovering in the
air, and singing as never bird sang before. But the song soon
became weaker and weaker, the bird's head drooped, and he sunk
slowly down, and lay dead at their feet.

'It is a beautiful bird,' said the traveller, 'and these
large white wings are worth a great deal of money. I will take
them with me. You see now that a sword will be very useful.'

So he cut off the wings of the dead swan with one blow,
and carried them away with him.

They now continued their journey over the mountains for
many miles, till they at length reached a large city,
containing hundreds of towers, that shone in the sunshine like
silver. In the midst of the city stood a splendid marble
palace, roofed with pure red gold, in which dwelt the king.
John and his companion would not go into the town immediately;
so they stopped at an inn outside the town, to change their
clothes; for they wished to appear respectable as they walked
through the streets. The landlord told them that the king was
a very good man, who never injured any one: but as to his
daughter, 'Heaven defend us!'

She was indeed a wicked princess. She possessed beauty
enough- nobody could be more elegant or prettier than she was;
but what of that? for she was a wicked witch; and in
consequence of her conduct many noble young princes had lost
their lives. Any one was at liberty to make her an offer; were
he a prince or a beggar, it mattered not to her. She would ask
him to guess three things which she had just thought of, and
if he succeed, he was to marry her, and be king over all the
land when her father died; but if he could not guess these
three things, then she ordered him to be hanged or to have his
head cut off. The old king, her father, was very much grieved
at her conduct, but he could not prevent her from being so
wicked, because he once said he would have nothing more to do
with her lovers; she might do as she pleased. Each prince who
came and tried the three guesses, so that he might marry the
princess, had been unable to find them out, and had been
hanged or beheaded. They had all been warned in time, and
might have left her alone, if they would. The old king became
at last so distressed at all these dreadful circumstances,
that for a whole day every year he and his soldiers knelt and
prayed that the princess might become good; but she continued
as wicked as ever. The old women who drank brandy would color
it quite black before they drank it, to show how they mourned;
and what more could they do?

'What a horrible princess!' said John; 'she ought to be
well flogged. If I were the old king, I would have her
punished in some way.'

Just then they heard the people outside shouting,
'Hurrah!' and, looking out, they saw the princess passing by;
and she was really so beautiful that everybody forgot her
wickedness, and shouted 'Hurrah!' Twelve lovely maidens in
white silk dresses, holding golden tulips in their hands, rode
by her side on coal-black horses. The princess herself had a
snow-white steed, decked with diamonds and rubies. Her dress
was of cloth of gold, and the whip she held in her hand looked
like a sunbeam. The golden crown on her head glittered like
the stars of heaven, and her mantle was formed of thousands of
butterflies' wings sewn together. Yet she herself was more
beautiful than all.

When John saw her, his face became as red as a drop of
blood, and he could scarcely utter a word. The princess looked
exactly like the beautiful lady with the golden crown, of whom
he had dreamed on the night his father died. She appeared to
him so lovely that he could not help loving her.

'It could not be true,' he thought, 'that she was really a
wicked witch, who ordered people to be hanged or beheaded, if
they could not guess her thoughts. Every one has permission to
go and ask her hand, even the poorest beggar. I shall pay a
visit to the palace,' he said; 'I must go, for I cannot help
myself.'

Then they all advised him not to attempt it; for he would
be sure to share the same fate as the rest. His
fellow-traveller also tried to persuade him against it; but
John seemed quite sure of success. He brushed his shoes and
his coat, washed his face and his hands, combed his soft
flaxen hair, and then went out alone into the town, and walked
to the palace.

'Come in,' said the king, as John knocked at the door.
John opened it, and the old king, in a dressing gown and
embroidered slippers, came towards him. He had the crown on
his head, carried his sceptre in one hand, and the orb in the
other. 'Wait a bit,' said he, and he placed the orb under his
arm, so that he could offer the other hand to John; but when
he found that John was another suitor, he began to weep so
violently, that both the sceptre and the orb fell to the
floor, and he was obliged to wipe his eyes with his dressing
gown. Poor old king! 'Let her alone,' he said; 'you will fare
as badly as all the others. Come, I will show you.' Then he
led him out into the princess's pleasure gardens, and there he
saw a frightful sight. On every tree hung three or four king's
sons who had wooed the princess, but had not been able to
guess the riddles she gave them. Their skeletons rattled in
every breeze, so that the terrified birds never dared to
venture into the garden. All the flowers were supported by
human bones instead of sticks, and human skulls in the
flower-pots grinned horribly. It was really a doleful garden
for a princess. 'Do you see all this?' said the old king;
'your fate will be the same as those who are here, therefore
do not attempt it. You really make me very unhappy,- I take
these things to heart so very much.'

John kissed the good old king's hand, and said he was sure
it would be all right, for he was quite enchanted with the
beautiful princess. Then the princess herself came riding into
the palace yard with all her ladies, and he wished her 'Good
morning.' She looked wonderfully fair and lovely when she
offered her hand to John, and he loved her more than ever. How
could she be a wicked witch, as all the people asserted? He
accompanied her into the hall, and the little pages offered
them gingerbread nuts and sweetmeats, but the old king was so
unhappy he could eat nothing, and besides, gingerbread nuts
were too hard for him. It was decided that John should come to
the palace the next day, when the judges and the whole of the
counsellors would be present, to try if he could guess the
first riddle. If he succeeded, he would have to come a second
time; but if not, he would lose his life,- and no one had ever
been able to guess even one. However, John was not at all
anxious about the result of his trial; on the contrary, he was
very merry. He thought only of the beautiful princess, and
believed that in some way he should have help, but how he knew
not, and did not like to think about it; so he danced along
the high-road as he went back to the inn, where he had left
his fellow-traveller waiting for him. John could not refrain
from telling him how gracious the princess had been, and how
beautiful she looked. He longed for the next day so much, that
he might go to the palace and try his luck at guessing the
riddles. But his comrade shook his head, and looked very
mournful. 'I do so wish you to do well,' said he; 'we might
have continued together much longer, and now I am likely to
lose you; you poor dear John! I could shed tears, but I will
not make you unhappy on the last night we may be together. We
will be merry, really merry this evening; to-morrow, after you
are gone, shall be able to weep undisturbed.'

It was very quickly known among the inhabitants of the
town that another suitor had arrived for the princess, and
there was great sorrow in consequence. The theatre remained
closed, the women who sold sweetmeats tied crape round the
sugar-sticks, and the king and the priests were on their knees
in the church. There was a great lamentation, for no one
expected John to succeed better than those who had been
suitors before.

In the evening John's comrade prepared a large bowl of
punch, and said, 'Now let us be merry, and drink to the health
of the princess.' But after drinking two glasses, John became
so sleepy, that he could not keep his eyes open, and fell fast
asleep. Then his fellow-traveller lifted him gently out of his
chair, and laid him on the bed; and as soon as it was quite
dark, he took the two large wings which he had cut from the
dead swan, and tied them firmly to his own shoulders. Then he
put into his pocket the largest of the three rods which he had
obtained from the old woman who had fallen and broken her leg.
After this he opened the window, and flew away over the town,
straight towards the palace, and seated himself in a corner,
under the window which looked into the bedroom of the
princess.

The town was perfectly still when the clocks struck a
quarter to twelve. Presently the window opened, and the
princess, who had large black wings to her shoulders, and a
long white mantle, flew away over the city towards a high
mountain. The fellow-traveller, who had made himself
invisible, so that she could not possibly see him, flew after
her through the air, and whipped the princess with his rod, so
that the blood came whenever he struck her. Ah, it was a
strange flight through the air! The wind caught her mantle, so
that it spread out on all sides, like the large sail of a
ship, and the moon shone through it. 'How it hails, to be
sure!' said the princess, at each blow she received from the
rod; and it served her right to be whipped.

At last she reached the side of the mountain, and knocked.
The mountain opened with a noise like the roll of thunder, and
the princess went in. The traveller followed her; no one could
see him, as he had made himself invisible. They went through a
long, wide passage. A thousand gleaming spiders ran here and
there on the walls, causing them to glitter as if they were
illuminated with fire. They next entered a large hall built of
silver and gold. Large red and blue flowers shone on the
walls, looking like sunflowers in size, but no one could dare
to pluck them, for the stems were hideous poisonous snakes,
and the flowers were flames of fire, darting out of their
jaws. Shining glow-worms covered the ceiling, and sky-blue
bats flapped their transparent wings. Altogether the place had
a frightful appearance. In the middle of the floor stood a
throne supported by four skeleton horses, whose harness had
been made by fiery-red spiders. The throne itself was made of
milk-white glass, and the cushions were little black mice,
each biting the other's tail. Over it hung a canopy of
rose-colored spider's webs, spotted with the prettiest little
green flies, which sparkled like precious stones. On the
throne sat an old magician with a crown on his ugly head, and
a sceptre in his hand. He kissed the princess on the forehead,
seated her by his side on the splendid throne, and then the
music commenced. Great black grasshoppers played the mouth
organ, and the owl struck herself on the body instead of a
drum. It was altogether a ridiculous concert. Little black
goblins with false lights in their caps danced about the hall;
but no one could see the traveller, and he had placed himself
just behind the throne where he could see and hear everything.
The courtiers who came in afterwards looked noble and grand;
but any one with common sense could see what they really were,
only broomsticks, with cabbages for heads. The magician had
given them life, and dressed them in embroidered robes. It
answered very well, as they were only wanted for show. After
there had been a little dancing, the princess told the
magician that she had a new suitor, and asked him what she
could think of for the suitor to guess when he came to the
castle the next morning.



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