| Hans, Who Made The Princess Laugh |
NCE UPON A time there was a king, who had a daughter, and she was so lovely that the reports of her beauty went far and wide; but she was so melancholy that she never laughed, and besides she was so grand and proud that she said "No" to all who came to woo her—she would not have any of them, were they ever so fine, whether they were princes or noblemen.
The king was tired of this whim of hers long ago, and thought she ought to get married like other people; there was nothing she need wait for—she was old enough and she would not be any richer either, for she was to have half the kingdom, which she inherited after her mother.
So he made known every Sunday after the service, from the steps outside the church, that he that could make his daughter laugh should have both her and half the kingdom. But if there were any one who tried and could not make her laugh, he would have three red stripes cut out of his back and salt rubbed into them—and, sad to relate, there were many sore backs in that kingdom. Lovers from south and from north, from east and from west, came to try their luck—they thought it was an easy thing to make a princess laugh. They were a queer lot altogether, but for all their cleverness and for all the tricks and pranks they played, the princess was just as serious and immovable as ever.
But close to the palace lived a man who had three sons, and they had also heard that the king had made known that he who could make the princess laugh should have her and half the kingdom.
The eldest of the brothers wanted to try first, and away he went; and when he came to the palace, he told the king he wouldn't mind trying to make the princess laugh.
"Yes, yes! that's all very well," said the king; "but I am afraid it's of very little use, my man. There have been many here to try their luck, but my daughter is just as sad, and I am afraid it is no good trying. I do not like to see any more suffer on that account."
But the lad thought he would try anyhow. It couldn't be such a difficult thing to make a princess laugh at him, for had not everybody, both grand and simple, laughed so many a time at him when he served as soldier and went through his drill under Sergeant Nils.
So he went out on the terrace outside the princess's windows and began drilling just as if Sergeant Nils himself were there. But all in vain! The princess sat just as serious and immovable as before, and so they took him and cut three broad, red stripes out of his back and sent him home.
He had no sooner arrived home than his second brother wanted to set out and try his luck. He was a schoolmaster, and a funny figure he was altogether. He had one leg shorter than the other, and limped terribly when he walked. One moment he was no bigger than a boy, but the next moment when he raised himself up on his long leg he was as big and tall as a giant—and besides he was great at preaching.
When he came to the palace, and said that he wanted to make the princess laugh, the king thought that it was not so unlikely that he might; "but I pity you, if you don't succeed," said the king, "for we cut the stripes broader and broader for every one that tries."
So the schoolmaster went out on the terrace, and took his place outside the princess's window, where he began preaching and chanting imitating seven of the parsons, and reading and singing just like seven of the clerks whom they had had in the parish.
The king laughed at the schoolmaster till he was obliged to hold on to the door-post, and the princess was just on the point of smiling, but suddenly she was as sad and immovable as ever, and so it fared no better with Paul the schoolmaster than with Peter the soldier—for Peter and Paul were their names, you must know!
So they took Paul and cut three red stripes out of his back, put salt into them, and sent him home again.
Well, the youngest brother thought he would have a try next. His name was Hans. But the brothers laughed and made fun of him, and showed him their sore backs. Besides, the father would not give him leave to go, for he said it was no use his trying, who had so little sense; all he could do was to sit in a corner on the hearth, like a cat, rooting about in the ashes and cutting chips. But Hans would not give in—he begged and prayed so long, till they got tired of his whimpering, and so he got leave to go to the king's palace and try his luck.
When he arrived at the palace he did not say he had come to try to make the princess laugh, but asked if he could get a situation there. No, they had no situation for him; but Hans was not so easily put off—they might want one to carry wood and water for the kitchenmaid in such a big place as that, he said. Yes, the king thought so too, and to get rid of the lad he gave him leave to remain there and carry wood and water for the kitchenmaid.
One day, when he was going to fetch water from the brook, he saw a big fish in the water just under an old root of a fir-tree, which the current had carried all the soil away from. He put his bucket quietly under the fish and caught it. As he was going home to the palace, he met an old woman leading a golden goose.
"Good day, grandmother!" said Hans. "That's a fine bird you have got there; and such splendid feathers too! he shines a long way off. If one had such feathers, one needn't be chopping firewood."