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 arrived at 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 are you playing with my
balls? Who gave you strength to do it?' The king's son looked up,
saw the giant, and said, 'Oh, you blockhead, you think indeed that
you only have 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 you are one of that kind, go and bring me an
apple of the tree of life.' 'What do you 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
traveled 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, 'You really believe
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
you do get into the garden, and see the apple hanging to the tree, it
is still not yours. 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 picked 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 in front of the gate, 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, 'You see, 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 you have brought the
apple, until I see the ring on your 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 you will not give it of your own accord, you must
fight me for it.'
They wrestled with each other for a long time, but the giant could
not harm the king's son, who was strengthened by the magical power of
the ring. Then the giant thought of a ruse, and said, 'I have got
warm with fighting, and so have you. 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
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 come 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
noticed a little bird flying quite close by, which hit itself against
the trunk of a tree. So 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. 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 traveled 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 you could but deliver me from the evil spell
which is thrown over me.' 'What shall I do?' said the king's son.
The maiden answered, 'You must pass three nights in the great hall of
this enchanted castle, but you must let no fear enter your heart.
When they are doing their worst to torment you, if you bear it
without letting a sound escape you, I shall be free. Your 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 calmly, 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, 'You have
held out successfully for one night, but two more lie before you.'
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 gambling 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 devils came again, 'Are you still
there?' cried they. 'You shall be tormented till your 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 your 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 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.