A merchant, who had three daughters, was once setting out upon a journey; and before he left he asked each daughter what he should bring back for her. The eldest wished for pearls; the second for jewels; the third only said, “Dear father, bring me a rose.” Now it was no easy task to find a rose, for it was the middle of winter; yet, as she was the kindest daughter, and very fond of flowers, her father said he would try. So he kissed all three and bid them good bye.
When the time came for his return, he had bought pearls and jewels for the eldest two, but he had sought in vain for the rose. Whenever he went into any garden and asked for such a thing, the people laughed at him and asked him whether he thought roses grew in snow. This grieved him very much; but as he rode home, thinking deeply on what he should bring her instead, he came to a fine castle. Around the castle was a garden, in half of which it appeared to be summer time, and in the other half winter. On one side the finest flowers were in full bloom, and on the other everything looked desolate and buried in snow. “A lucky hit!” cried he to his servant, and told hime to go to a beautiful bed of roses that was there and bring away one of the flowers.
This done, they were riding away well pleased, when a fierce lion sprung up, and roared out, “Whoever dares to steal my roses shall be eaten up alive.”
Then the man said, “ I knew not that the garden belonged to you; can nothing save my life?”
“No,” said the lion, “nothing, unless you promise to give me whatever meets you first on your return home. If you agree to this, I will give you your life, and the rose too.”
But the man was unwilling to do so, and said, “ It way be my youngest daughter, who loves me most, and always runs to meet me when I go home.”
Then the servant, who was greatly frightened, said, “It may perhaps be only a dog or a cat.” And at last the man yielded with a heavy heart, and took the rose; and promised the lion whatever should meet him first on his return.
As he came near home, it was indeed his youngest daughter that met him. She came running and kissed him and welcomed him home; and when she saw that he had brought her a rose, she rejoiced still more. But her father began to be very melancholy, and to weep, saying, “ Alas! My dearest child! I have bought this flower dear, for I have promised to give you to a wild lion in return.” And he told her all that had happened; and said that she should not go, never mind what would happen.
But she comforted him and said, “ Dear father, what you have promised must be fulfilled; I will go to the lion, and soothe him, that he may let me return again safe home.”
The next morning she asked the way she was to go, and took leave of her father and sisters, and went forth with a bold heart into the wood.
Now, in fact, the lion was a enchanted prince, and by day he and his court were lions, but in the evening they took their proper forms again. And when the lady came to the castle, that evening, he welcomed her so courteously that she consented to marry him. The wedding feast was held, and they lived happily together a long time. The prince was only to be seen as soon as evening came and then he held his court; but every morning he left his bride and went away by himself, she knew not wither, till night came again.
After some time he said to her, “ Tomorrow there will be a great feast in your fathers house for your eldest sister is to be married; if you wish to go to visit her, my lions shall lead you thither.” Then she rejoiced much at thoughts of seeing her father once more, and set out with the lions. Everyone was overjoyed to see her, for they had thought her dead long ago. But she told them how happy she was; and stayed till the feast was over, and then went back to the wood.
Her second sister was soon after married; and when she was invited to the wedding, she said to the prince, “I will not go alone this time, you must come with me.”
But he would not, and said that it would be a very hazardous thing, for if the least ray of a torch light should fall on him, his enchantment would become still worse, for he would be changed into a dove, and be obliged to wander about the world for seven long years. However, at last he agreed and they set out together. She chose a large hall with thick walls for him to sit in while the wedding torches were lighted; but unluckily no one observed that there was a crack in the door. Then the wedding was held with great pomp; and as the train left the church, passing with the torches before the hall, a very small ray of light fell upon the prince. In a moment he disappeared and when his wife came in, and sought him, she found only a white dove. The he said to her, “Seven years must I fly up and down over the face of the earth; but every now and then I will let fall a white feather, that shall show you the way I am going.”
This said, he flew out the door, and she followed; and every now and then a white feather fell, and showed her the way she was to journey. Thus she went roving through the wide world and saw many wonderful sights although took no rest for seven years. Then she begun to rejoice, and thought to herself that the time was soon coming when all her troubles would cease. Yet repose was still far off: for one day as she was travelling, she missed the white feather and when she lifted up her eyes she could not see the dove. “Now,” thought she to herself, “ no human aid can be of use to me.” So she went to the sun and said, “ Thou shinest everywhere, on the mountain’s top and the valley’s depth: hast thou seen a white dove?”
“No,” said the sun, “I have not seen it; but I will give thee a casket. Open it when thy hour of need comes.” So she thanked the sun and went on her way until eventide; and when the moon rose, she cried out to it, “ Thou shinest through all the night, over field and grove; hast thou seen a white dove?”
“No,” said the moon, “I cannot help thee; but I will give thee an egg. Break it when need comes.”
Then she thanked the moon and went on until the night wind blew; and she raised her voice to it and said, “ Thou blowest through every tree and under every leaf: hast though not seen the white dove?”
“No,” said the night wind, “But I will ask three other winds; perhaps they have seen it.”
Then the east wind and the west wind came and they too said they had not seen it; but the south wind said, “I have seen the white dove; he has fled to the Red Sea. And is changed once more into a lion, for the seven years are passed away. But there he is fighting with a dragon, and the dragon is an enchanted princess who seeks to separate him from you.”
Then the night wind said, “ I will give thee council: go to the Red Sea; on the right side stand many rods; number them, and when though comest to the eleventh, break it off and smite the dragon with it; then both the lion and the dragon will appear to you in their human forms. Instantly set out with thy beloved prince and journey home over land and sea.”
So our poor wanderer went forth and found all as the night wind had said; and she plucked the eleventh rod, and smote the dragon, and immediately the lion became a prince and the dragon a princess again. But she forgot the rest of the council which the night wind had given; and the restored princess watched her opportunity, and took the prince by the arm, and carried him away.
Thus the unfortunate traveller was again forsaken and forlorn. But she took courage and said, “As far as the the wind blows, and so long as the cock crows, I will journey on till I find him once again.”
She went on for a long way till at length she came to a castle wither the princess had carried the prince; and there she also found a feast was prepared and the wedding about to be held. “Heaven aid me now!” She cried; and she took the casket that the sun had given her, and found within it a dress as dazzling as the sun itself. So she put it on and went into the palace. All the people gazed upon her and the dress pleased the princess so much that she asked whether it was to be sold. “Not for gold or silver,” answered she, “but for flesh and blood.”
The princess asked what this meant; and she said, “Let me speak to the bridegroom this night in his chamber and I will give thee this dress.”
At last the princess agreed but she told her chamberlain to give the prince a sleeping-draught, that he might not hear or see her. When evening came and the prince had fallen asleep, she was led into his chamber and she set herself down at his feet and said, “I have followed thee seven years, I have been to the sun and the moon and the night wind, to seek thee; and at the last I have helped thee to overcome a dragon. Wilt thou then forget me quite?” But the prince slept so soundly that her voice only passed over him, and seemed like the murmuring of the wind among the fir trees.
Then she was led away and forced to give up the golden dress; and when she saw that there was no help for her, she went out into a meadow and sat herself down and wept. But as she sat she remembered the egg that the moon had given her; and when she broke it open, there ran out a hen and twelve chicks of pure gold. They played about and then nestled under the hen’s wings, so as to form the most beautiful sight in the world. She rose up and drove them before her till the bride saw them from her window, and was so pleased that she came forth, and asked her if she would sell the brood. “Not for gold or silver, but for flesh and blood: let me again this evening speak to the bridegroom in his chamber.”
Then the princess thought to betray her as before, and agreed to what she asked; but when the prince went to his chamber, he asked the chamberlain why the wind had murmured so in the night. The chamberlain told him all; how he had given him a sleeping-draught, and a poor maiden had come and spoken to him in his chamber, and was to come again that night. Then the prince took care to throw away the sleeping-draught; and when she came and began to again tell him all that she had undertaken for him, he knew his beloved wife’s voice and springing up, saying, “You have awaked me as from a dream; for the strange princess had thrown a spell around me, so that I had forgotten you.”
They secretly stole out of the palace that night (for they greatly feared the princess) and journeyed home; and there lived happily together to the end of their days.