There was once a Queen and she had a little daughter, who was as yet a babe in arms; and once the child was so restless that the mother could get no peace, do what she would; so she lost patience, and seeing a flight of ravens passing over the castle, she opened the window and said to her child,
“Oh, that you were a raven and could fly away, that I might be at peace.”
No sooner had she uttered the words, than the child was indeed changed into a raven, and fluttered from her arms out of the window. And she flew into a dark wood and stayed there a long time, and her parents knew nothing of her. Once a man was passing through the wood, and he heard the raven cry, and he followed the voice; and when he came near it said,
“I was born a King’s daughter, and have been bewitched, but you can set me free.”
“What shall I do?” asked the man.
“Go deeper into the wood,” said she, “and you shall find a house and an old woman sitting in it: she will offer you meat and drink, but you must take none; if you eat or drink you fall into a deep sleep, and cannot set me free at all. In the garden behind the house is a big heap of tan, stand upon that and wait for me. Three days, at about the middle of the day, shall I come to you in a car drawn by four white horses the first time, by four red ones the second time, and lastly by four black ones; and if you art not waking but sleeping, you fail to set me free.”
The man promised to do all she said.
“But ah!” cried she, “I know quite well I shall not be set free of you; something you will surely take from the old woman.”
But the man promised yet once more that certainly he would not touch the meat or the drink. But when he came to the house the old woman came up to him.
“My poor man,” said she to him, “you are quite tired out, come and be refreshed, and eat and drink.”
“No,” said the man, “I will eat and drink nothing.”
But she left him no peace, saying,
“Even if you eat nothing, take a draught out of this cup once and away.”
So he was over-persuaded, and he drank.
In the afternoon, about two o’clock, he went out into the garden to stand upon the tan-heap and wait for the raven. As he stood there he felt all at once so tired, that he could bear it no longer, and laid himself down for a little; but not to sleep. But no sooner was he stretched at length than his eyes closed of themselves, and he fell asleep, and slept so sound, as if nothing in the world could awaken him.
At two o’clock came the raven in the car drawn by four white horses, but she was sad, knowing already that the man would be asleep, and so, when she came into the garden, there he lay sure enough. And she got out of the car and shook him and called to him, but he did not wake. The next day at noon the old woman came and brought him meat and drink, but he would take none. But she left him no peace, and persuaded him until he took a draught out of the cup. About two o’clock he went into the garden to stand upon the tan-heap, and to wait for the raven, but he was overcome with so great a weariness that his limbs would no longer hold him up; and whether he would or no he had to lie down, and he fell into a deep sleep. And when the raven came up with her four red horses, she was sad, knowing already that the man would be asleep. And she went up to him, and there he lay, and nothing would wake him.
The next day the old woman came and asked what was the matter with him, and if he wanted to die, that he would neither eat nor drink; but he answered,
“I neither can nor will eat and drink.”
But she brought the dishes of food and the cup of wine, and placed them before him, and when the smell came in his nostrils he could not refrain, but took a deep draught. When the hour drew near, he went into the garden and stood on the tan-heap to wait for the king’s daughter; as time went on he grew more and more weary, and at last he laid himself down and slept like a stone. At two o’clock came the raven with four black horses, and the car and all was black; and she was sad, knowing already that he was sleeping, and would not be able to set her free; and when she came up to him, there he lay and slept. She shook him and called to him, but she could not wake him. Then she laid a loaf by his side and some meat, and a flask of wine, for now, however much he ate and drank, it could not matter. And she took a ring of gold from her finger, and put it on his finger, and her name was engraven on it. And lastly she laid by him a letter, in which was set down what she had given him, and that all was of no use, and further also it said,
“I see that here you canst not save me, but if your mind is to the thing, come to the golden castle of Stromberg: I know well that if you will you can.” And when all this was done, she got again into her car, and went to the golden castle of Stromberg.
When the man woke up and perceived that he had been to sleep, he was sad at heart to think that she had been, and gone, and that he had not set her free. Then, catching sight of what lay beside him, he read the letter that told him all. And he rose up and set off at once to go to the golden castle of Stromberg, though he knew not where it was. And when he had wandered about in the world for a long time, he came to a dark wood, and there spent a fortnight trying to find the way out, and not being able. At the end of this time, it being towards evening, he was so tired that he laid himself down under a clump of bushes and went to sleep. The next day he went on again, and in the evening, when he was going to lie down again to rest, he heard howlings and lamentations, so that he could not sleep. And about the hour when lamps are lighted, he looked up and saw a light glimmer in the forest; and he got up and followed it, and he found that it came from a house that looked very small indeed, because there stood a giant before it. And the man thought to himself that if he were to try to enter and the giant were to see him, it would go hard but he should lose his life. At last he made up his mind, and walked in. And the giant saw him.
“I am glad you are here,” said he; “it is now a long time since I have had anything to eat; I shall make a good supper of you.”
“That may be,” said the man, “but I shall not relish it; besides, if you desire to eat, I have somewhat here that may satisfy you.”
“If that is true,” answered the giant, “you may make your mind easy; it was only for want of something better that I wished to devour you.”
Then they went in and placed themselves at the table, and the man brought out bread, meat, and wine in plenty.
“This pleases me well,” said the giant, and he ate to his heart’s content. After a while the man asked him if he could tell him where the golden castle of Stromberg was.
“I will look on my land-chart,” said the giant, “for on it all towns and villages and houses are marked.”
So he fetched the land-chart which was in his room, and sought for the castle, but it was not to be found.
“Never mind,” said he, “I have up-stairs in the cupboard much bigger maps than this; we will have a look at them.” And so they did, but in vain.
And now the man wanted to pursue his journey, but the giant begged him to stay a few days longer, until his brother, who had gone to get in a store of provisions, should return. When the brother came, they asked him about the golden castle of Stromberg.
“When I have had time to eat a meal and be satisfied, I will look at the map.”
That being done, he went into his room with them, and they looked at his maps, but could find nothing: then he fetched other old maps, and they never left off searching until they found the golden castle of Stromberg, but it was many thousand miles away.
“How shall I ever get there?” said the man.
“I have a couple of hours to spare,” said the giant, “and I will set you on your way, but I shall have to come back and look after the child that we have in the house with us.”
Then the giant bore the man until within about a hundred hours’ journey from the castle, and saying,
“You can manage the rest of the way by yourself,” he departed; and the man went on day and night, until at last he came to the golden castle of Stromberg. It stood on a mountain of glass, and he could see the enchanted Princess driving round it, and then passing inside the gates. He was rejoiced when he saw her, and began at once to climb the mountain to get to her; but it was so slippery, as fast as he went he fell back again. And when he saw this he felt he should never reach her, and he was full of grief, and resolved at least to stay at the foot of the mountain and wait for her. So he built himself a hut, and sat there and waited a whole year; and every day he saw the Princess drive round and pass in, and was never able to reach her.
One day he looked out of his hut and saw three robbers fighting, and he called out, “Mercy on us!” Hearing a voice, they stopped for a moment, but went on again beating one another in a dreadful manner. And he cried out again, “Mercy on us!” They stopped and listened, and looked about them, and then went on again. And he cried out a third time, “Mercy on us!” and then, thinking he would go and see what was the matter, he went out and asked them what they were fighting for. One of them told him he had found a stick which would open any door only by knocking at it; the second said he had found a cloak which, if he put it on, made him invisible; the third said he was possessed of a horse that would ride over everything, even the glass mountain. Now they had fought because they could not agree whether they should enjoy these things in common or separately.
“Suppose we make a bargain,” said the man; “it is true I have no money, but I have other things yet more valuable to exchange for these; I must, however, make trial of them beforehand, to see if you have spoken truth concerning them.”
So they let him mount the horse, and put the cloak round him, and they gave him the stick into his hand, and as soon as he had all this he was no longer to be seen; but laying about him well, he gave them all a sound thrashing, crying out,
“Now, you good-for-nothing fellows, you have got what you deserve; perhaps you will be satisfied now!”
Then he rode up the glass mountain, and when he reached the castle gates he found them locked; but he beat with his stick upon the door and it opened at once. And he walked in, and up the stairs to the great room where sat the Princess with a golden cup and wine before her: she could not see him so long as the cloak was on him, but drawing near to her he pulled off the ring she had given him, and threw it into the cup with a clang.
“This is my ring,” she cried, “and the man who is to set me free must be here too!”
But though she sought through the whole castle she found him not; he had gone outside, seated himself on his horse, and thrown off the cloak. And when she came to look out at the door, she saw him and shrieked out for joy; and he dismounted and took her in his arms, and she kissed him, saying,
“Now have you set me free from my enchantment, and to-morrow we will be married.”