HERE WAS ONCE upon a time a King, but where he reigned and what he was called, I do not know. He had no son, but an only daughter who had always been ill, and no doctor had been able to cure her.
Then it was foretold to the King that his daughter should eat herself well with an apple. So he ordered it to be proclaimed throughout the whole of his kingdom, that whosoever brought his daughter an apple with which she could eat herself well, should have her to wife, and be King.
This became known to a peasant who had three sons, and he said to the eldest, "Go out into the garden and take a basketful of those beautiful apples with the red cheeks and carry them to the court; perhaps the King's daughter will be able to eat herself well with them, and then thou wilt marry her and be King." The lad did so, and set out.
When he had gone a short way he met a little iron man who asked him what he had there in the basket, to which replied Uele, for so was he named, "Frogs' legs." On this the little man said, "Well, so shall it be, and remain," and went away.
At length Uele arrived at the palace, and made it known that he had brought apples which would cure the King's daughter if she ate them. This delighted the King hugely, and he caused Uele to be brought before him; but, alas! when he opened the basket, instead of having apples in it he had frogs' legs which were still kicking about. On this the King grew angry, and had him driven out of the house.
When he got home he told his father how it had fared with him. Then the father sent the next son, who was called Seame, but all went with him just as it had gone with Uele.
He also met the little iron man, who asked what he had there in the basket. Seame said, "Hogs' bristles," and the iron man said, "well, so shall it be, and remain." When Seame got to the King's palace and said he brought apples with which the King's daughter might eat herself well, they did not want to let him go in, and said that one fellow had already been there, and had treated them as if they were fools. Seame, however, maintained that he certainly had the apples, and that they ought to let him go in.
At length they believed him, and led him to the King. But when he uncovered the basket, he had but hogs' bristles. This enraged the King most terribly, so he caused Seame to be whipped out of the house. When he got home he related all that had befallen him, then the youngest boy, whose name was Hans, but who was always called Stupid Hans, came and asked his father if he might go with some apples.
"Oh!" said the father, "thou wouldst be just the right fellow for such a thing! If the clever ones can't manage it, what canst thou do?" The boy, however, did not believe him, and said, "Indeed, father, I wish to go." "Just get away, thou stupid fellow, thou must wait till thou art wiser," said the father to that, and turned his back.
Hans, however, pulled at the back of his smock-frock and said, "Indeed, father, I wish to go." "Well, then, so far as I am concerned thou mayst go, but thou wilt soon come home again!" replied the old man in a spiteful voice.
The boy, however, was tremendously delighted and jumped for joy. "Well, act like a fool! thou growest more stupid every day!" said the father again. Hans, however, did not care about that, and did not let it spoil his pleasure, but as it was then night, he thought he might as well wait until the morrow, for he could not get to court that day.
All night long he could not sleep in his bed, and if he did doze for a moment, he dreamt of beautiful maidens, of palaces, of gold, and of silver, and all kinds of things of that sort. Early in the morning, he went forth on his way, and directly afterwards the little shabby-looking man in his iron clothes, came to him and asked what he was carrying in the basket.
Hans gave him the answer that he was carrying apples with which the King's daughter was to eat herself well. "Then," said the little man, "so shall they be, and remain." But at the court they would none of them let Hans go in, for they said two had already been there who had told them that they were bringing apples, and one of them had frogs' legs, and the other hogs' bristles.
Hans, however, resolutely maintained that he most certainly had no frogs' legs, but some of the most beautiful apples in the whole kingdom. As he spoke so pleasantly, the door-keeper thought he could not be telling a lie, and asked him to go in, and he was right, for when Hans uncovered his basket in the King's presence, golden-yellow apples came tumbling out.
The King was delighted, and caused some of them to be taken to his daughter, and then waited in anxious expectation until news should be brought to him of the effect they had. But before much time had passed by, news was brought to him: but who do you think it was who came? it was his daughter herself! As soon as she had eaten of those apples, she was cured, and sprang out of her bed.
The joy the King felt cannot be described! but now he did not want to give his daughter in marriage to Hans, and said he must first make him a boat which would go quicker on dry land than on water. Hans agreed to the conditions, and went home, and related how it had fared with him. Then the father sent Uele into the forest to make a boat of that kind.
He worked diligently, and whistled all the time. At mid-day, when the sun was at the highest, came the little iron man and asked what he was making? Uele gave him for answer, "Wooden bowls for the kitchen." The iron man said, "So it shall be, and remain." By evening Uele thought he had now made the boat, but when he wanted to get into it, he had nothing but wooden bowls.
The next day Seame went into the forest, but everything went with him just as it had done with Uele. On the third day Stupid Hans went. He worked away most industriously, so that the whole forest resounded with the heavy strokes, and all the while he sang and whistled right merrily.
At mid-day, when it was the hottest, the little man came again, and asked what he was making? "A boat which will go quicker on dry land than on the water," replied Hans, "and when I have finished it, I am to have the King's daughter for my wife." "Well," said the little man, "such an one shall it be, and remain." In the evening, when the sun had turned into gold, Hans finished his boat, and all that was wanted for it.
He got into it and rowed to the palace. The boat went as swiftly as the wind. The King saw it from afar, but would not give his daughter to Hans yet, and said he must first take a hundred hares out to pasture from early morning until late evening, and if one of them got away, he should not have his daughter. Hans was contented with this, and the next day went with his flock to the pasture, and took great care that none of them ran away.
Before many hours had passed came a servant from the palace, and told Hans that he must give her a hare instantly, for some visitors had come unexpectedly.