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Agaliha
October 26th, 2008, 04:16 AM
The Sister of the Sun



A long time ago there lived a young prince whose favourite
playfellow was the son of the gardener who lived in the grounds
of the palace. The king would have preferred his choosing a
friend from the pages who were brought up at court; but the
prince would have nothing to say to them, and as he was a spoilt
child, and allowed his way in all things, and the gardener's boy
was quiet and well-behaved, he was suffered to be in the palace,
morning, noon, and night.

The game the children loved the best was a match at archery, for
the king had given them two bows exactly alike, and they would
spend whole days in trying to see which could shoot the highest.
This is always very dangerous, and it was a great wonder they did
not put their eyes out; but somehow or other they managed to
escape.

One morning, when the prince had done his lessons, he ran out to
call his friend, and they both hurried off to the lawn which was
their usual playground. They took their bows out of the little
hut where their toys were kept, and began to see which could
shoot the highest. At last they happened to let fly their arrows
both together, and when they fell to earth again the tail feather
of a golden hen was found sticking in one. Now the question
began to arise whose was the lucky arrow, for they were both
alike, and look as closely as you would you could see no
difference between them. The prince declared that the arrow was
his, and the gardener's boy was quite sure it was HIS--and on
this occasion he was perfectly right; but, as they could not
decide the matter, they went straight to the king.

When the king had heard the story, he decided that the feather
belonged to his son; but the other boy would not listen to this
and claimed the feather for himself. At length the king's
patience gave way, and he said angrily:

'Very well; if you are so sure that the feather is yours, yours
it shall be; only you will have to seek till you find a golden
hen with a feather missing from her tail. And if you fail to
find her your head will be the forfeit.'

The boy had need of all his courage to listen silently to the
king's words. He had no idea where the golden hen might be, or
even, if he discovered that, how he was to get to her. But there
was nothing for it but to do the king's bidding, and he felt that
the sooner he left the palace the better. So he went home and
put some food into a bag, and then set forth, hoping that some
accident might show him which path to take.

After walking for several hours he met a fox, who seemed inclined
to be friendly, and the boy was so glad to have anyone to talk to
that he sat down and entered into conversation.

'Where are you going?' asked the fox.

'I have got to find a golden hen who has lost a feather out of
her tail,' answered the boy; 'but I don't know where she lives or
how I shall catch her!'

'Oh, I can show you the way!' said the fox, who was really very
good-natured. 'Far towards the east, in that direction, lives a
beautiful maiden who is called "The Sister of the Sun." She has
three golden hens in her house. Perhaps the feather belongs to
one of them.'

The boy was delighted at this news, and they walked on all day
together, the fox in front, and the boy behind. When evening
came they lay down to sleep, and put the knapsack under their
heads for a pillow.

Suddenly, about midnight, the fox gave a low whine, and drew
nearer to his bedfellow. 'Cousin,' he whispered very low, 'there
is someone coming who will take the knapsack away from me. Look
over there!' And the boy, peeping through the bushes, saw a man.

'Oh, I don't think he will rob us!' said the boy; and when the
man drew near, he told them his story, which so much interested
the stranger that he asked leave to travel with them, as he might
be of some use. So when the sun rose they set out again, the fox
in front as before, the man and boy following.

After some hours they reached the castle of the Sister of the
Sun, who kept the golden hens among her treasures. They halted
before the gate and took counsel as to which of them should go in
and see the lady herself.

'I think it would be best for me to enter and steal the hens,'
said the fox; but this did not please the boy at all.

'No, it is my business, so it is right that I should go,'
answered he.

'You will find it a very difficult matter to get hold of the
hens,' replied the fox.

'Oh, nothing is likely to happen to me,' returned the boy.

'Well, go then,' said the fox, 'but be careful not to make any
mistake. Steal only the hen which has the feather missing from
her tail, and leave the others alone.'

The man listened, but did not interfere, and the boy entered the
court of the palace.

He soon spied the three hens strutting proudly about, though they
were really anxiously wondering if there were not some grains
lying on the ground that they might be glad to eat. And as the
last one passed by him, he saw she had one feather missing from
her tail.

At this sight the youth darted forward and seized the hen by the
neck so that she could not struggle. Then, tucking her
comfortably under his arm, he made straight for the gate.
Unluckily, just as he was about to go through it he looked back
and caught a glimpse of wonderful splendours from an open door of
the palace. 'After all, there is no hurry,' he said to himself;
'I may as well see something now I AM here,' and turned back,
forgetting all about the hen, which escaped from under his arm,
and ran to join her sisters.

He was so much fascinated by the sight of all the beautiful
things which peeped through the door that he scarcely noticed
that he had lost the prize he had won; and he did not remember
there was such a thing as a hen in the world when he beheld the
Sister of the Sun sleeping on a bed before him.

For some time he stood staring; then he came to himself with a
start, and feeling that he had no business there, softly stole
away, and was fortunate enough to recapture the hen, which he
took with him to the gate. On the threshold he stopped again.
'Why should I not look at the Sister of the Sun?' he thought to
himself; 'she is asleep, and will never know.' And he turned
back for the second time and entered the chamber, while the hen
wriggled herself free as before. When he had gazed his fill he
went out into the courtyard and picked up his hen who was seeking
for corn.

As he drew near the gate he paused. 'Why did I not give her a
kiss?' he said to himself; 'I shall never kiss any woman so
beautiful.' And he wrung his hands with regret, so that the hen
fell to the ground and ran away.

'But I can do it still!' he cried with delight, and he rushed
back to the chamber and kissed the sleeping maiden on the
forehead. But, alas! when he came out again he found that the
hen had grown so shy that she would not let him come near her.
And, worse than that, her sisters began to cluck so loud that the
Sister of the Sun was awakened by the noise. She jumped up in
haste from her bed, and going to the door she said to the boy:

'You shall never, never, have my hen till you bring me back my
sister who was carried off by a giant to his castle, which is a
long way off.'

Slowly and sadly the youth left the palace and told his story to
his friends, who were waiting outside the gate, how he had
actually held the hen three times in his arms and had lost her.

'I knew that we should not get off so easily,' said the fox,
shaking his head; 'but there is no more time to waste. Let us
set off at once in search of the sister. Luckily, I know the
way.'

They walked on for many days, till at length the fox, who, as
usual, was going first, stopped suddenly.

'The giant's castle is not far now,' he said, 'but when we reach
it you two must remain outside while I go and fetch the princess.
Directly I bring her out you must both catch hold of her tight,
and get away as fast as you can; while I return to the castle and
talk to the giants--for there are many of them--so that they may
not notice the escape of the princess.'

A few minutes later they arrived at the castle, and the fox, who
had often been there before, slipped in without difficulty.
There were several giants, both young and old, in the hall, and
they were all dancing round the princess. As soon as they saw
the fox they cried out: 'Come and dance too, old fox; it is a
long time since we have seen you.'

So the fox stood up, and did his steps with the best of them; but
after a while he stopped and said:

'I know a charming new dance that I should like to show you; but
it can only be done by two people. If the princess will honour
me for a few minutes, you will soon see how it is done.'

'Ah, that is delightful; we want something new,' answered they,
and placed the princess between the outstretched arms of the fox.
In one instant he had knocked over the great stand of lights that
lighted the hall, and in the darkness had borne the princess to
the gate. His comrades seized hold of her, as they had been
bidden, and the fox was back again in the hall before anyone had
missed him. He found the giants busy trying to kindle a fire and
get some light; but after a bit someone cried out:

'Where is the princess?'

'Here, in my arms,' replied the fox. 'Don't be afraid; she is
quite safe.' And he waited until he thought that his comrades
had gained a good start, and put at least five or six mountains
between themselves and the giants. Then he sprang through the
door, calling, as he went: 'The maiden is here; take her if you
can!'

At these words the giants understood that their prize had
escaped, and they ran after the fox as fast as their great legs
could carry them, thinking that they should soon come up with the
fox, who they supposed had the princess on his back. The fox, on
his side, was far too clever to choose the same path that his
friends had taken, but would in and out of the forest, till at
last even HE was tired out, and fell fast asleep under a tree.
Indeed, he was so exhausted with his day's work that he never
heard the approach of the giants, and their hands were already
stretched out to seize his tail when his eyes opened, and with a
tremendous bound he was once more beyond their reach. All the
rest of the night the fox ran and ran; but when bright red spread
over the east, he stopped and waited till the giants were close
upon him. Then he turned, and said quietly: 'Look, there is the
Sister of the Sun!'

The giants raised their eyes all at once, and were instantly
turned into pillars of stone. The fox then made each pillar a
low bow, and set off to join his friends.

He knew a great many short cuts across the hills, so it was not
long before he came up with them, and all four travelled night
and day till they reached the castle of the Sister of the Sun.
What joy and feasting there was throughout the palace at the
sight of the princess whom they had mourned as dead! and they
could not make enough of the boy who had gone through such
dangers in order to rescue her. The golden hen was given to him
at once, and, more than that, the Sister of the Sun told him
that, in a little time, when he was a few years older, she would
herself pay a visit to his home and become his wife. The boy
could hardly believe his ears when he heard what was in store for
him, for his was the most beautiful princess in all the world;
and however thick the darkness might be, it fled away at once
from the light of a star on her forehead.

So the boy set forth on his journey home, with his friends for
company; his heart full of gladness when he thought of the
promise of the princess. But, one by one, his comrades dropped
off at the places where they had first met him, and he was quite
alone when he reached his native town and the gates of the
palace. With the golden hen under his arm he presented himself
before the king, and told his adventures, and how he was going to
have for a wife a princess so wonderful and unlike all other
princesses, that the star on her forehead could turn night into
day. The king listened silently, and when the boy had done, he
said quietly: 'If I find that your story is not true I will have
you thrown into a cask of pitch.'

'It is true--every word of it,' answered the boy; and went on to
tell that the day and even the hour were fixed when his bride was
to come and seek him.

But as the time drew near, and nothing was heard of the princess,
the youth became anxious and uneasy, especially when it came to
his ears that the great cask was being filled with pitch, and
that sticks were laid underneath to make a fire to boil it with.
All day long the boy stood at the window, looking over the sea by
which the princess must travel; but there were no signs of her,
not even the tiniest white sail. And, as he stood, soldiers came
and laid hands on him, and led him up to the cask, where a big
fire was blazing, and the horrid black pitch boiling and bubbling
over the sides. He looked and shuddered, but there was no
escape; so he shut his eyes to avoid seeing.

The word was given for him to mount the steps which led to the
top of the cask, when, suddenly, some men were seen running with
all their might, crying as they went that a large ship with its
sails spread was making straight for the city. No one knew what
the ship was, or whence it came; but the king declared that he
would not have the boy burned before its arrival, there would
always be time enough for that.

At length the vessel was safe in port, and a whisper went through
the watching crowd that on board was the Sister of the Sun, who
had come to marry the young peasant as she had promised. In a
few moments more she had landed, and desired to be shown the way
to the cottage which her bridegroom had so often described to
her; and whither he had been led back by the king's order at the
first sign of the ship.

'Don't you know me?' asked the Sister of the Sun, bending over
him where he lay, almost driven out of his senses with terror.

'No, no; I don't know you,' answered the youth, without raising
his eyes.

'Kiss me,' said the Sister of the Sun; and the youth obeyed her,
but still without looking up.

'Don't you know me NOW?' asked she.

'No, I don't know you--I don't know you,' he replied, with the
manner of a man whom fear had driven mad.

At this the Sister of the Sun grew rather frightened, and
beginning at the beginning, she told him the story of his meeting
with her, and how she had come a long way in order to marry him.
And just as she had finished in walked the king, to see if what
the boy had said was really true. But hardly had he opened the
door of the cottage when he was almost blinded by the light that
filled it; and he remembered what he had been told about the star
on the forehead of the princess. He staggered back as if he had
been struck, then a curious feeling took hold of him, which he
had never felt before, and falling on his knees before the Sister
of the Sun, he implored her to give up all thought of the peasant
boy, and to share his throne. But she laughed, and said she had
a finer throne of her own, if she wanted to sit on it, and that
she was free to please herself, and would have no husband but the
boy whom she would never have seen except for the king himself.

'I shall marry him to-morrow,' ended she; and ordered the
preparations to be set on foot at once.

When the next day came, however, the bridegroom's father informed
the princess that, by the law of the land, the marriage must take
place in the presence of the king; but he hoped his majesty would
not long delay his arrival. An hour or two passed, and everyone
was waiting and watching, when at last the sound of trumpets was
heard and a grand procession was seen marching up the street. A
chair covered with velvet had been made ready for the king, and
he took his seat upon it, and, looking round upon the assembled
company, he said:

'I have no wish to forbid this marriage; but, before I can allow
it to be celebrated, the bridegroom must prove himself worthy of
such a bride by fulfilling three tasks. And the first is that in
a single day he must cut down every tree in an entire forest.

The youth stood aghast as the king's words. He had never cut
down a tree in his life, and had not the least idea how to begin.
And as for a whole forest--! But the princess saw what was
passing in his mind, and whispered to him:

'Don't be afraid. In my ship you will find an axe, which you
must carry off to the forest. When you have cut down one tree
with it just say: "So let the forest fall," and in an instant all
the trees will be on the ground. But pick up three chips of the
tree you felled, and put them in your pocket.'

And the young man did exactly as he was bid, and soon returned
with the three chips safe in his coat.

The following morning the princess declared that she had been
thinking about the matter, and that, as she was not a subject of
the king, she saw no reason why she should be bound by his laws;
and she meant to be married that very day. But the bridegroom's
father told her that it was all very well for her to talk like
that, but it was quite different for his son, who would pay with
his head for any disobedience to the king's commands. However,
in consideration of what the youth had done the day before, he
hoped his majesty's heart might be softened, especially as he had
sent a message that they might expect him at once. With this the
bridal pair had to be content, and be as patient as they could
till the king's arrival.

He did not keep them long, but they saw by his face that nothing
good awaited them.

'The marriage cannot take place,' he said shortly, 'till the
youth has joined to their roots all the trees he cut down
yesterday.'

This sounded much more difficult than what he had done before,
and he turned in despair to the Sister of the Sun.

'It is all right,' she whispered encouragingly. 'Take this water
and sprinkle it on one of the fallen trees, and say to it: "So
let all the trees of the forest stand upright," and in a moment
they will be erect again.'

And the young man did what he was told, and left the forest
looking exactly as it had done before.

Now, surely, thought the princess, there was no longer any need
to put off the wedding; and she gave orders that all should be
ready for the following day. But again the old man interfered,
and declared that without the king's permission no marriage could
take place. For the third time his majesty was sent for, and for
the third time he proclaimed that he could not give his consent
until the bridegroom should have slain a serpent which dwelt in a
broad river that flowed at the back of the castle. Everyone knew
stories of this terrible serpent, though no one had actually seen
it; but from time to time a child strayed from home and never
came back, and then mothers would forbid the other children to go
near the river, which had juicy fruits and lovely flowers growing
along its banks.

So no wonder the youth trembled and turned pale when he heard
what lay before him.

'You will succeed in this also,' whispered the Sister of the Sun,
pressing his hand, 'for in my ship is a magic sword which will
cut through everything. Go down to the river and unfasten a boat
which lies moored there, and throw the chips into the water.
When the serpent rears up its body you will cut off its three
heads with one blow of your sword. Then take the tip of each
tongue and go with it to-morrow morning into the king's kitchen.
If the king himself should enter, just say to him: "Here are
three gifts I offer you in return for the services you demanded
of me!" and throw the tips of the serpent's tongues at him, and
hasten to the ship as fast as your legs will carry you. But be
sure you take great care never to look behind you.'

The young man did exactly what the princess had told him. The
three chips which he flung into the river became a boat, and, as
he steered across the stream, the serpent put up its head and
hissed loudly. The youth had his sword ready, and in another
second the three heads were bobbing on the water. Guiding his
boat till he was beside them, he stooped down and snipped off the
ends of the tongues, and then rowed back to the other bank. Next
morning he carried them into the royal kitchen, and when the king
entered, as was his custom, to see what he was going to have for
dinner, the bridegroom flung them in his face, saying: 'Here is a
gift for you in return for the services you asked of me.' And,
opening the kitchen door, he fled to the ship. Unluckily he
missed the way, and in his excitement ran backwards and forwards,
without knowing whither he was going. At last, in despair, he
looked round, and saw to his amazement that both the city and
palace had vanished completely. Then he turned his eyes in the
other direction, and, far, far away, he caught sight of the ship
with her sails spread, and a fair wind behind her.

This dreadful spectacle seemed to take away his senses, and all
day long he wandered about, without knowing where he was going,
till, in the evening, he noticed some smoke from a little hut of
turf near by. He went straight up to it and cried: 'O mother,
let me come in for pity's sake!' The old woman who lived in the
hut beckoned to him to enter, and hardly was he inside when he
cried again: 'O mother, can you tell me anything of the Sister of
the Sun?'

But the woman only shook her head. 'No, I know nothing of her,'
said she.

The young man turned to leave the hut, but the old woman stopped
him, and, giving him a letter, begged him to carry it to her next
eldest sister, saying: 'If you should get tired on the way, take
out the letter and rustle the paper.'

This advice surprised the young man a good deal, as he did not
see how it could help him; but he did not answer, and went down
the road without knowing where he was going. At length he grew
so tired he could walk no more; then he remembered what the old
woman had said. After he had rustled the leaves only once all
fatigue disappeared, and he strode over the grass till he came to
another little turf hut.

'Let me in, I pray you, dear mother,' cried he. And the door
opened in front of him. 'Your sister has sent you this letter,'
he said, and added quickly: 'O mother! can you tell me anything
of the Sister of the Sun?'

'No, I know nothing of her,' answered she. But as he turned
hopelessly away, she stopped him.

'If you happen to pass my eldest sister's house, will you give
her this letter?' said she. 'And if you should get tired on the
road, just take it out of your pocket and rustle the paper.'

So the young man put the letter in his pocket, and walked all day
over the hills till he reached a little turf hut, exactly like
the other two.

'Let me in, I pray you, dear mother,' cried he. And as he
entered he added: 'Here is a letter from your sister and--can you
tell me anything of the Sister of the Sun?'

'Yes, I can,' answered the old woman. 'She lives in the castle
on the Banka. Her father lost a battle only a few days ago
because you had stolen his sword from him, and the Sister of the
Sun herself is almost dead of grief. But, when you see her,
stick a pin into the palm of her hand, and suck the drops of
blood that flow. Then she will grow calmer, and will know you
again. Only, beware; for before you reach the castle on the
Banka fearful things will happen.'

He thanked the old woman with tears of gladness for the good news
she had given him, and continued his journey. But he had not
gone very far when, at a turn of the road, he met with two
brothers, who were quarrelling over a piece of cloth.

'My good men, what are you fighting about?' said he. 'That cloth
does not look worth much!'

'Oh, it is ragged enough,' answered they, 'but it was left us by
our father, and if any man wraps it round him no one can see him;
and we each want it for our own.'

'Let me put it round me for a moment,' said the youth, 'and then
I will tell you whose it ought to be!'

The brothers were pleased with this idea, and gave him the stuff;
but the moment he had thrown it over his shoulder he disappeared
as completely as if he had never been there at all.

Meanwhile the young man walked briskly along, till he came up
with two other men, who were disputing over a table-cloth.

'What is the matter?' asked he, stopping in front of them.

'If this cloth is spread on a table,' answered they, 'the table
is instantly covered with the most delicious food; and we each
want to have it.'

'Let me try the table-cloth,' said the youth, 'and I will tell
you whose it ought to be.'

The two men were quite pleased with this idea, and handed him the
cloth. He then hastily threw the first piece of stuff round his
shoulders and vanished from sight, leaving the two men grieving
over their own folly.

The young man had not walked far before he saw two more men
standing by the road-side, both grasping the same stout staff,
and sometimes one seemed on the point of getting it, and
sometimes the other.

'What are you quarrelling about? You could cut a dozen sticks
from the wood each just as good as that!' said the young man.
And as he spoke the fighters both stopped and looked at him.

'Ah! you may think so,' said one, 'but a blow from one end of
this stick will kill a man, while a touch from the other end will
bring him back to life. You won't easily find another stick like
that!'

'No; that is true,' answered the young man. 'Let me just look at
it, and I will tell you whose it ought to be.'

The men were pleased with the idea, and handed him the staff.

'It is very curious, certainly,' said he; 'but which end is it
that restores people to life? After all, anyone can be killed by
a blow from a stick if it is only hard enough!' But when he was
shown the end he threw the stuff over his shoulders and vanished.

At last he saw another set of men, who were struggling for the
possession of a pair of shoes.

'Why can't you leave that pair of old shoes alone?' said he.
'Why, you could not walk a yard in them!'

'Yes, they are old enough,' answered they; 'but whoever puts them
on and wishes himself at a particular place, gets there without
going.'

'That sounds very clever,' said the youth. 'Let me try them, and
then I shall be able to tell you whose they ought to be.'

The idea pleased the men, and they handed him the shoes; but the
moment they were on his feet he cried:

'I wish to be in the castle on the Banka!' And before he knew it,
he was there, and found the Sister of the Sun dying of grief. He
knelt down by her side, and pulling a pin he stuck it into the
palm of her hand, so that a drop of blood gushed out. This he
sucked, as he had been told to do by the old woman, and
immediately the princess came to herself, and flung her arms
round his neck. Then she told him all her story, and what had
happened since the ship had sailed away without him. 'But the
worst misfortune of all,' she added, 'was a battle which my
father lost because you had vanished with his magic sword; and
out of his whole army hardly one man was left.'

'Show me the battle-field,' said he. And she took him to a wild
heath, where the dead were lying as they fell, waiting for
burial. One by one he touched them with the end of his staff,
till at length they all stood before him. Throughout the kingdom
there was nothing but joy; and THIS time the wedding was REALLY
celebrated. And the bridal pair lived happily in the castle on
the Banka till they died.

[Lapplandische Mahrchen.]