OW, WHEN THE simple youth heard this, he ran before her, and the whole seven trotted after him. The sight was so ridiculous that the moment the princess saw it she burst into a violent fit of laughter and they thought she would never leave off.
After this, the youth went to the king, and demanded his daughter in marriage, according to the king's decree; but his majesty did not quite like to have the young man for a son-in-law, so he said that, before he could consent to the marriage, the youth must bring him a man who could drink all the wine in the king's cellar.
The simpleton went into the forest, for he thought, "If anyone can help me, it is the little gray man." When he arrived at the spot where he had cut down the tree, there stood a man with a very miserable face.
The youth asked him why he looked so sorrowful.
"Oh," he exclaimed, "I suffer such dreadful thirst that nothing seems able to quench it; and cold water I cannot endure. I have emptied a cask of wine already, but it was just like a drop of water on a hot stone."
"I can help you," cried the young man; "come with me, and you shall have your fill, I promise you."
Upon this he led the man into the king's cellar, where he opened the casks one after another, and drank and drank till his back ached; and before the day closed he had quite emptied the king's cellar.
Again the young man asked for his bride, but the king was annoyed at the thought of giving his daughter to such a common fellow, and to get rid of him he made another condition. He said that no man should have his daughter who could not find someone able to eat up a whole mountain of bread.
Away went the simpleton to the forest as before, and there in the same place sat a man binding himself round tightly with a belt, and making the most horrible faces. As the youth approached, he cried, "I have eaten a whole ovenful of rolls, but it has not satisfied me a bit; I am as hungry as ever, and my stomach feels so empty that I am obliged to bind it round tightly, or I should die of hunger."
The simpleton could hardly contain himself for joy when he heard this. "Get up," he exclaimed, "and come with me, and I will give you plenty to eat, I'll warrant."
So he led him to the king's court, where his majesty had ordered all the flour in the kingdom to be made into bread, and piled up in a huge mountain. The hungry man placed himself before the bread, and began to eat, and before evening the whole pile had disappeared.
Then the simpleton went a third time to the king, and asked for his bride, but the king made several excuses, and at last said that if he could bring him a ship that would travel as well by land as by water, then he should, without any further conditions, marry his daughter.
The youth went at once straight to the forest, and saw the same old gray man to whom he had given his cake. "Ah," he said, as the youth approached, "it was I who sent the men to eat and drink, and I will also give you a ship that can travel by land or by sea, because when you thought I was poor you were kind-hearted, and gave me food and drink."
The youth took the ship, and when the king saw it he was quite surprised; but he could not any longer refuse to give him his daughter in marriage. The wedding was celebrated with great pomp, and after the king's death the simple wood-cutter inherited the whole kingdom, and lived happily with his wife.