The Shoes
Which Were Danced to Pieces
The Shoes Which Were Danced to Pieces

here was once a King who had twelve daughters. Their beds all stood in a row, and in the evening, as soon as they were gone to sleep, the King shut the door and bolted it.

One morning, when he opened the door, he perceived that their shoes were danced to pieces, and nobody could tell how it happened. The King said that whoever could discover where they danced in the night, should have one of them to wife, and become King at his death; but whoever should attempt to do it, and after three nights and days fail, must lose his life.

In a short time, a Prince came and offered himself to undertake the task. He was led to a room which adjoined the bed chamber, but he went to sleep; and when he awoke in the morning he found their shoes there with holes in the soles. The second and third night it happened just the same; and on the morrow, the Prince lost his head without mercy. Afterward came many more and attempted the task, but they all lost their lives.

One day it chanced that a poor Soldier came upon the road which led to the city. There he met an old woman, who asked him whither he was going. "I had an idea of going to the place where the Princesses dance their shoes to pieces, to find out the mystery, and so become King." "That is not difficult," said the old woman, "If you do not drink the wine which will be brought to you in the evening, but feign to be asleep." With these words she gave him a cloak, and told him that if he put it on his shoulders, he would become invisible and be able to follow the Princesses. So the Soldier presented himself before the King as a suitor. W hen evening came, the eldest Princess came and brought him a cup of wine, but he drank none.

Then he laid himself down, and in a short time began to snore as if he were in a deep sleep, while the twelve sisters laughed to one another, saying, "He might have spared himself the trouble!" Then the eldest sister knocking on her bed, it sank down in the ground, and the twelve Princesses followed it through the opening, the eldest one going first. The Soldier put on his invisible cloak and descended with the youngest sister. So they went down, and at the bottom was a wonderful avenue of trees, whose leaves were all silver. Then they passed into another avenue where the leaves were of gold, and then into a further one where they shone like diamonds. In each avenue, he broke off a twig. Then they came to a lake, on which were twelve little boats, and in each boat a handsome Prince, who each took one sister, and the old Soldier in each boat a handsome Prince, who each took one sister, and the old Soldier sat down in the boat where the youngest one was.

On the other side of this water stood a noble castle, and here they danced till their shoes were in holes, and the Princes rowed them back again over the water. When they came back to the steps, the Soldier ran up first, and laid down again in his bed and snored loudly. The second and third nights passed like the first, and the Soldier brought away a cup with him from the ballroom. When the time arrived for him to answer, he went before the King. "Where have my daughters danced during the night?" asked the King. "With twelve Princes in a subterranean castle," he replied; and, relating everything as it had occurred, he produced his witnesses in the three twigs and the cup. The King then summoned his daughters, and they were obliged to confess the truth. The King asked him which he would have for a wife, and he chose the eldest. And the wedding was celebrated the self same day.

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