The Grateful Prince

The Grateful Prince

The Grateful Prince is an Estonian fairy tale, collected by Dr. Friedrich Kreutzwald in "Eestirahwa Ennemuistesed jutud". W. F. Kirby included in "The Hero of Esthonia". Andrew Lang included it in "The Violet Fairy Book"; he listed his source as "Ehstnische Märchen", which was the German translation of Kreutzwald's work, by F. Löwe.


A king got lost in a forest. An old man offered to show him the way out for the first thing that came out of his house. He did not want to give up a dog, and so tried to escape again; then he agreed. At home, the first thing was his newborn son, in his nurse's arms. To deceive the old man, he gave his son to a peasant and raised the peasant's daughter as a princess. A year later, the stranger came and took the girl, but the king did not dare claim his son, for fear it would be heard.

The prince grew up as a peasant, but while his foster parents, being rewarded, were content, the prince himself had learned of the girl and was grieved at the thought he would be king at her price. So he took a sack of peas and went into the same forest. The old man found him. He claimed to be carrying the peas for his aunt's funeral, to give to the watchers. The stranger offered to hire him, and the prince agreed. The stranger sang and spun like a top with pleasure, and never noticed the prince dropping peas along the way.

The stranger led him into a cave where there was a silent countryside, filled with silent animals. A sound like a troop of horses was identified by the stranger as the boiling kettle, and that like a saw-mill, as his grandmother's snoring. He had the prince hide in a kennel, because his grandmother could not stand new faces. The prince did not like that, but he came back and brought him inside, to see a beautiful woman.

The old man ate ravenously and told the woman to give him the scraps. He told the prince he could rest two days, and on the third he would put him to work, and forbade him to speak. The maid showed him a room; he guessed she was the girl exchanged for him. The next day he drew water and hewed wood for her; then he wandered the farmstead and saw the animals, including a black cow and a white-faced calf, and a white horse that had the stable alone.

The third day, the man set the prince to scythe enough grass for the horse and clean its stall. The maid told him, in whispers, to make a strong plait of the rushes and a peg, and threaten to bind its mouth and peg it so it could not eat or scatter its food. He obeyed, and the horse stopped eating and did not foul its stall.

Then the old man set him to milk the cow. The maid told him to heat a pair of tongs and threaten to use them if the cow did not give all the milk he wanted. He obeyed, and the old man was unable to get any more milk from the cow.

Then the old man set him to bring in a hay rick. The maid told him to tie the horse to the rick and count. He did so, and when the horse asked why, he said he was counting packs of wolves in the forest. The horse pulled it all back, and quickly.

Then the old man set him to bring a white-faced calf to the pasture, but the maid advised him to tie himself to the calf with a silk thread, and it could not get away from him.

Then the old man said he had no more work, but the prince must come to his bed and offer him his hand when he woke. The maid told him that the man meant to eat him, but the prince must offer him a red-hot shovel instead. The prince obeyed, and the old man refused to shake it.

Then the old man said he would marry the prince and the maid, and the maid said he had found her out. The prince cut off the calf's head at her direction and brought her a red ball from it. She brought a tiny ball of shining light and they fled. She told him that she had overheard that she was a king's daughter.

In the morning, the old man at first though they were not eager to marry, but then he searched for them and realized they had fled. He sent a stall of his goblins after them. The ball moved in the maid's hands, and she had it change her into a brook and the prince into a fish. The goblins went back and said there had been nothing but a brook with a fish. The old man went to the next stall and sent those goblins after them, telling them to drink the brook and catch the fish. The maid turned herself into a rose tree and the prince into a rose. The goblins went back and said there had been nothing but a rose tree with a rose. The old men went to the next stall and sent his mightiest goblins after them, to tear up the rose tree. The prince and the maid were resting in the woods, and the maid turned herself into a breeze and the prince into the midge. Then, when the goblins were gone, she said the old man would know them under any form; she rolled the ball and it led them to the door.

She said they must each go to their own home. The prince said they must keep together and marry. At home, he found that time had passed, and his father the king had died, confessing about the maid and the prince. The prince mourned him but proclaimed what had happened, and all his people agreed that he should marry her and make her his queen.

ee also

*The Mermaid and the Boy
*Nix Nought Nothing
*King Kojata
*The Battle of the Birds
*The White Dove
*The Nixie of the Mill-Pond
*The Prince Who Wanted to See the World

*The Master Maid
*The Flower Queen's Daughter

External links

* [ "The Grateful Prince"] as included by W. F. Kirby
* [ "The Grateful Prince"] as included by Andrew Lang

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