Then the King was angry, and he ordered that
watch should be kept about the tree every night. Now the King had
three sons, and he sent the eldest to spend the night in the garden;
but at midnight, he could keep off sleep no longer, and in the morning
another apple was missing. The second son had to watch the following
night; but at twelve o'clock he went to sleep, and in the morning
another apple was missing. No came the turn of the third sone to watch.
The King had less trust in him, but in the end he consented to let
him try. So the young man lay down under the tree to watch, and resolved
that sleep should not be master. When it struck twelve, something
came rushing through the air, and he saw in the moonlight a bird flying
towards him, whose feathers glittered like gold. The bird perched
upon the tree, and had already pecked off an apple, when the young
man let fly an arrow at it. The bird flew away, but the arrow had
struck its plumage, and one of its golden feathers fell to the ground;
the young man took it to the King, and told him what had happened.
The King called his council together, and all declared that such a
feather was worth more than the whole kingdom.
"Since the feather is so valuable," said
the King, "one is not enough for me; I must and
will have the whole bird."
So the oldest son set off, and he thought he
should soon find the golden bird. When he had gone some distance he
saw a fox and he pointed his gun at him. The fox cried out:
"Do not shoot me, and I will give you good counsel.
You are on your way to find the golden bird, and this evening you
will come to a village, in which two taverns stand facing each other.
One will be brightly lighted up and there will be plenty of merriment
going on inside; do not mind about that, but go into the other one,
although it will look to you very uninviting."
"How can a silly beast give one any rational advice?"
thought the King's son, and let fly at the fox, but missed him, and
he ran quickly into the wood. Then the young man went on and towards
evening he came to the village, and there stood the two taverns. In
one singing and dancing were going on; the other looked quite dull
and wretched. "I should be a fool,"
said he, "to go into the dismal place, while there
is anything so good close by." So he went into the merry
inn, and there lived in clover, quite forgetting the bird and his
father, and all good counsel.
As time went on, and the eldest son never came
home, the second son set out to seek the golden bird. He met with
the fox, just as the eldest did, and received good advice from him
without attending to it. And when he came to the two taverns, his
brother was standing and calling to him at the window of one of them,
out of which came sounds of merriment; so he could not resist, but
went and reveled to his heart's content.
Then the youngest son wished to try his luck,
but his father would not consent.
But at last, as there was no peace to be had,
he let him go. By the side of the wood sat the fox, who begged him
to spare his life, and gave him good counsel. The young man was kind,
and said: "Be easy, little fox, I will do you
"You shall not repent of it," answered
the fox; "and that you may get there all the sooner,
get up and sit on my tail."
And no sooner had he done so than the fox began
to run, and off they went. When they reached the village, the young
man, following the fox's advice, went into the mean-looking tavern,
and there he passed a quiet night. The next morning, when he went
out into the field, the fox, who was sitting there already, said:
"Go on until you come to a castle, before which
a great band of soldiers lie, but they will be all asleep and snoring;
pass through them and forward into the castle, and go through all
the rooms, until you come to one where there is a golden bird hanging
in a wooden cage. Near at hand will stand empty a golden cage; but
do not take the bird out of his ugly cage and put him into the fine
Then the fox stretched out his tail again,
and the King's son sat down upon it, and away they went. And when
the King's son reached the castle, he found everything as the fox
had said; the three golden apples too were in the room. Then, thinking
it foolish to let the beautiful bird stay in that mean and ugly cage,
he put it in the golden one. In the same moment the bird uttered a
piercing cry. The soldiers awoke, rushed in, seized the King's son
and put him in prison. The next morning he was brought before a judge
and condemned to death. But the king said he would spare his life
on one condition, that he should bring him the golden horse whose
paces were swifter than the wind, and that then he should also receive
the golden bird as a reward.
So the King's son set off to to find the golden
horse, but he was very sad, for how should it be done? Then he saw
the fox sitting by the roadside.
"Now, you see," said the fox, "all
this has happened, because you would not listen to me. But I will
tell you how you are to get the golden horse. You must go on until
you come to a castle, where the horse stands in his stable; before
the door the grooms will be lying, but they will all be asleep and
you can go and quietly lead out the horse. But take care to put upon
him the plain saddle, and not the golden one, which will hang close
Then the fox stretched out his tail, and the
King's son seated himself upon it, and away they went. And everything
happened just as the fox had said, and he came to the stall where
the golden horse was. And as he was about to put on him the plain
saddle, he thought to himself:
"Such a beautiful animal would be disgraced were
I not to put on him the good saddle, which becomes him so well."
However, no sooner did the horse feel the golden saddle touch
him than he began to neigh, and the grooms all awoke, seized the King's
son, and threw him into prison. The next morning, he was condemned
to death, but the King promised him his life, and also to bestow upon
him the golden horse, if he could bring the beautiful princess of
the golden castle.
With a heavy heart the King's son set out, but
by great good luck he soon met with the faithful fox.
"I ought to leave you to your own ill-luck,"
said the fox, "but I am sorry for you, and will once more help
you in your need. Your way lies straight up to the golden castle.
At night the beautiful princess will go to the bath. Go up to her
and give her a kiss, then she will follow you, but do not let her
go and take leave of her parents." At first he denied
her prayer, but as she wept so much, and fell at his feet, he gave
in at last. And no sooner had the princess reached her father's bedside
than all who were in the castle woke up, and the young man was thrown
The next morning the King said to him "Your
life is forfeit, but you shall find grace if you can level that mountain
that lies before my windows, and over which I am not able to see,
and if this is done within eight days, you shall have my daughter
as a reward."
So the King's son set to work, and dug without
ceasing, but when, on the seventh day, he saw how little he had accomplished,
he fell into great sadness, and gave up all hope. But in the evening
the fox appeared, and said:
"You do not deserve my help, but go and lie down
to sleep, and I will do the work for you."
The next morning when he looked out of the window,
the mountain had disappeared. The young man hastened full of joy to
the King, and told him that he request was fulfilled, and the King
had to keep to his word, and let his daughter go.
So they both went away together, and it was
not long before the faithful fox came up to them.
"Well, you have got the best first," said
he, "but you must know the golden horse belongs to the princess
of the golden castle."
||"But how shall I get it?"
asked the young man. "I am going to
tell you," answered the fox. "First,
go to the King who sent you to the golden castle, and take the
beautiful princess to him. He will willingly give you the golden
horse. Mount him without delay, and stretch out your hand to each
of them to take leave, and last of all to the princess, and when
you have her by the hand swing her upon the horse behind you,
and off you go!"
And so the King's son carried off the beautiful
princess. The fox did not stay behind, and he said to the young man:
"Now, I will help you to get the golden bird.
When you draw near the castle, let the lady alight; then you must
ride the golden horse into the castle-yard, and they will bring out
to you the golden bird. As soon as you have the cage in your hand,
you must come back to us."
When the young man returned with the treasure,
the fox said: "Now slay me, and cut my head and
"I could not possibly do such a thing,"
said the King's son.
"Then," said the fox, "if
you will not do it, let me give you some good advice. Beware of two
things -- buy no gallows-meat, and sit at no brookside." With
that the fox ran off into the wood.
The young man thought to himself, "How
should any one buy gallows-meat?" and I
am sure I have no particular fancy for sitting by a brookside."
So they rode on through the village where his
two brothers had stayed. There they heard a great noise, and learned
that two people were going to be hanged. And when he drew near, he
saw that it was his two brothers, who had done all sorts of evil tricks.
He brought them off, and when they were let
go they all went on their journey together.
After awhile they came to the wood where the
fox had met them first, and there it seemed so cool that the two brothers
said "Let's rest here for a little by the brook."
The young man consented, quite forgetting the
fox's warning. Then the two brothers thrust him into the brook, seized
the princess, the horse, and the bird, and went to their father.
Then there was great rejoicing in the royal
castle, but the horse did not feed, the bird did not chirp, and the
princess sat still and wept.
The youngest brother, however, had not perished.
The brook was, by good fortune, dry, and he fell on soft moss without
receiving any hurt, but he could not get up again. But in his need
the faithful fox was not lacking; he came up running, and reproached
him for having forgotten his advice.
"But I cannot forsake you all the same,'
he said; "I will help you back again into daylight."
So he told the young man to grasp his tail, and hold on to
it fast, and so he drew him up again.
"Still you are not quite out of danger,"
said the fox. "Your brothers, not being certain
of your death, have surrounded the wood with sentinels, who are to
put you to death if you let yourself be seen."
A poor beggar-man was sitting by the path, and
the young man changed clothes with him, and went clad in that wise
into the king's courtyard. Nobody knew him, but the bird began to
chirp, and the horse began to feed, and the beautiful princess ceased
"What does this mean?" said the King,
The princess answered "I
cannot tell, except that I was sad, and now I am joyful. It is to
me as if my rightful bridegroom had returned."
Then she told him all that happened, although
the two brothers had threatened to put her to death if she let out
anything. The King then ordered every person who was in the castle
to be brought before him, and with the rest came the young man, like
a beggar, in his wretched garments; but the princess knew him, and
greeted him well, falling on his neck and kissing him. The wicked
brothers were seized and put to death, and the youngest brother was
married to the princess, and succeeded to the inheritance of this
But what became of the poor fox? Long afterwards
the King's son was going through the wood, and the fox met him and
said "Now, you have everything that you can wish
for, but my misfortunes never come to an end, and it lies in your
power to free me from them." And once more he prayed the
King's son earnestly to slay him, and cut off his head and feet. So,
at last, he consented, and no sooner was it done than the fox was
changed into a man, and was no other than the brother of the beautiful
princess, and thus he was set free from a spell that had bound him
for a long, long time.
And now, indeed, there lacked nothing to their
happiness as long as they lived.