Subject:FICTION Scarica il testo

The Giant with the Three Golden Hairs

THERE was once a poor man who had an only son born to him. The child was born under a lucky star; and those who told his fortune said that in his fourteenth year he would marry the king’s daughter. It so happened that the king of that land soon after the child’s birth passed through the village in disguise, and asked whether there was any news. ‘Yes,’ said the people, ‘a child has just been born, that they say is to be a lucky one, and when he is fourteen years old, he is fated to marry the king’s daughter.’ This did not please the king; so he went to the poor child’s parents and asked them whether they would sell him their son? ‘No,’ said they; but the stranger begged very hard and offered a great deal of money, and they had scarcely bread to eat, so at last they consented, thinking to themselves, he is a luck’s child, he can come to no harm. The king took the child, put it into a box, and rode away; but when he came to a deep stream, he threw it into the current, and said to himself, ‘That young gentleman will never be my daughter’s husband.’ The box however floated down the stream; some kind spirit watched over it so that no water reached the child, and at last about two miles from the king’s capital it stopt at the clam of a mill. The miller soon saw it, and took a long pole, and drew it towards the shore, and finding it heavy, thought there was gold inside; but when he opened it, he found a pretty little boy, that smiled upon him merrily. Now the miller and his wife had no children, and therefore rejoiced to see their prize, saying, ‘Heaven has sent it to us;’ so they treated it very kindly, and brought it up with such care that every one admired and loved it. About thirteen years passed over their heads, when the king came by accident to the mill, and asked the miller if that was his son. ‘No,’ said he, ‘I found him when a babe in a box in the mill-dam.’ ‘How long ago?’ asked the king. ‘Some thirteen years,’ replied the miller. ‘He is a fine fellow,’ said the king, ‘can you spare him to carry a letter to the queen? it will please me very much, and I will give him two pieces of gold for his trouble.’ ‘As your majesty pleases,’ answered the miller. Now the king had soon guessed that this was the child whom he had tried to drown; and he wrote a letter by him to the queen, saying, ‘As soon as the bearer of this arrives let him be killed and immediately buried, so that. all may be over before I return.’ The young man set out with this letter, but missed his way, and came in the evening to a dark wood. Through the gloom he perceived a light at a distance, towards which he directed his course, and found that it proceeded from a little cottage. There was no one within except an old woman, who was frightened at seeing him, and said, ‘Why do you come hither, and whither are you going?’ ‘I am going to the queen, to whom I was to have delivered a letter; but I have lost my way, and shall be glad if you will give me a night’s rest.’ ‘You are very unlucky,’ said she, ‘for this is a robbers’ hut, and if the band returns while you are here it may be worse for you.’ ‘l am so tired, however, replied he, ‘that I must take my chance, for I can go no farther;’ so he laid the letter on the table, stretched himself out upon a bench, and fell asleep. When the robbers came home and saw him, they asked the old woman who the strange lad was. ‘I have given him shelter for charity,’ said she; ‘he had a letter to carry to the queen, and lost his way.’ The robbers took up the letter, broke it open and read the directions which it contained to murder the bearer. Then their leader tore it, and wrote a fresh one desiring the queen, as soon as the young man arrived, to marry him to the king’s daughter. Meantime they let him sleep on till morning broke, and then showed him the right way to the queen’s palace; where, as soon as she had read the letter, she had all possible preparations made for the wedding; and as the young man was very beautiful, the princess took him willingly for her husband. After a while the king returned; and when he saw the prediction fulfilled, and that this child of fortune was, not withstanding all his cunning, married to his daughter, he inquired eagerly how this had happened, and what were the orders which be had given. ‘Dear husband,’ said the queen, ‘here is your letter, read it for yourself.’ The king took it, and seeing that an exchange had been made, asked his son in-law what be had done with the letter which he had given him to carry. ‘I know nothing of it,’ answered he; ‘it must have been taken away in the night while l slept.’ Then the king was very wroth, and said, ‘No man shall have, my daughter who does not descend into the wonderful cave and bring me three golden hairs from the head of the giant king who reigns there; do this and you shall have my consent.’ ‘I will soon manage that," said the youth; - so he took leave of his wife and set out on his journey. At the first city that he came to, the guard of the gate stopt him, and asked what trade he followed and what he knew. ‘I know everything,’ said he. ‘If that be so,’ replied they, ‘you are just the man we want;. be so good as to tell us why our fountain in the market-place is dry and will give no water; find out the cause of that, and we will give you two asses loaded with gold.’ ‘With all my heart,’ said he, ‘when I come back.’ Then he journeyed on and came to another city, and there the guard also asked him what trade he followed, and what he understood. ‘I know everything,’ answered he. ‘Then pray do us a piece of service,’ said they, ‘tell us why a tree which used to bear us golden apples, now does not even produce a leaf.’ ‘Most willingly,’ answered he, ‘as I come back.’ At last his way led him to the side of a great lake of water over which he must pass. The ferryman soon began to ask, as the others had done, what was his trade, and what he knew. ‘Everything,’ said he. Then,’ said the other, ‘pray inform me why I am bound for ever to ferry over this water, and have never been able to get my liberty; I will reward you handsomely.’ ‘I will tell you all about it,’ said the young man, ‘as I come home.’ When he had passed the water, he came to the wonderful cave, which looked terribly black and gloomy. But the wizard king was not at home, and his grandmother sat at the door in her easy chair. ‘What do you seek?’ said she. ‘Three golden hairs from the giant’s head,’ answered he. ‘You run a great risk,’ said she, ‘when he returns home; yet I will try what I can do for you.’ Then she changed him into an ant, and told him to hide himself in the folds of her cloak. ‘Very well,’ said he: ‘but I want also to know why the city fountain is dry, why the tree that bore golden apples is now leafless, and what it is that binds the ferry-man td his post.’ ‘Those are three puzzling questions,’ said the old dame; ‘but lie quiet and listen to what the giant says when I pull the golden hairs.’ Presently night set in and the old gentleman returned home. As soon as he entered he began to snuff up the air, and cried, ‘All is not right here: I smell man’s flesh.’ Then be searched all round-in vain, and the old dame scolded, and said, ‘Why should you turn every thing topsy-turvy? I have just set all in order.’ Upon this he laid his head in her lap and soon fell asleep. As soon as be ...