| Long, Broad, And Sharpsight |
HERE WAS A king, who was already old, and had but one son. Once upon a time he called this son to him and said to him: "My dear son! you know that old fruit falls to make room for other fruit. My head is already ripening, and maybe the sun will soon no longer shine upon it; but before you bury me, I should like to see your wife, my future daughter. My son, marry!" The prince said: "I would gladly, father, do as you wish; but I have no bride, and don't know any." The old king put his hand into his pocket, took out a golden key and showed it to his son, with the words, "go up into the tower, to the top story, look round there, and then tell me which you fancy." The prince went without delay. Nobody within the memory of man had been up there or had ever heard what was up there.
When he got up to the last story, he saw in the ceiling a little iron door like a trap-door. It was closed. He opened it with the golden key, lifted it, and went up above it. There was a large circular room. The ceiling was blue like the sky on a clear night, and silver stars glittered on it, the floor was a carpet of green silk, and around in the wall were twelve high windows in golden frames, and in each window on crystal glass was a damsel painted with the colours of the rainbow, with a royal crown on her head, in each window a different one in a different dress, each handsomer than the other, and it was a wonder that the prince did not let his eyes dwell upon them. When he had gazed at them with astonishment, the damsels began to move as if they were alive, looked down upon him, smiled, and did everything but speak.
Now the prince observed that one of the twelve windows was covered with a white curtain; he drew the curtain to see what was behind it. There there was a damsel in a white dress, girt with a silver girdle, with a crown of pearls on her head; she was the most beautiful of all, but was sad and pale, as if she had risen from the grave. The prince stood long before the picture, as if he had made a discovery, and as he thus gazed, his heart pained him, and he cried, "This one will I have, and no other." As he said the words the damsel bowed her head, blushed like a rose, and that instant all the pictures disappeared.
When he went down and related to his father what he had seen and which damsel he had selected, the old king became sad, bethought himself, and said: "You have done ill, my son, in uncovering what was curtained over, and have placed yourself in great danger on account of those words. That damsel is in the power of a wicked wizard, and kept captive in an iron castle; of all who have attempted to set her free, not one has hitherto returned. But what's done cannot be undone; the plighted word is a law. Go! try your luck, and return home safe and sound!"
The prince took leave of his father, mounted his horse, and rode away in search of his bride. It came to pass that he rode through a vast forest, and through the forest he rode on and on till he lost the road. And as he was wandering with his horse in thickets and amongst rocks and morasses, not knowing which way to turn, he heard somebody shout behind him, "Hi! stop!" The prince looked round, and saw a tall man hastening after him. "Stop and take me with you, and take me into your service, and you won't regret it!" "Who are you," said the prince, "and what can you do?" "My name is Long, and I can extend myself. Do you see a bird's nest in that pine yonder? I will bring you the nest down without having to climb up."
Long then began to extend himself; his body grew rapidly till it was as tall as the pine; he then reached the nest, and in a moment contracted himself again and gave it to the prince. "You know your business well, but what's the use of birds' nests to me, if you can't conduct me out of this forest?"
"Ahem! that's an easy matter," said Long, and began to extend himself till he was thrice as high as the highest fir in the forest, looked round, and said: "Here on this side we have the nearest way out of the forest." He then contracted himself, took the horse by the bridle, and before the prince had any idea of it, they were beyond the forest. Before them was a long and wide plain, and beyond the plain tall gray rocks like the walls of a large town, and mountains overgrown with forest trees.
"Yonder, sir, goes my comrade!" said Long, and pointed suddenly to the plain; "you should take him also into your service; I believe he would serve you well." "Shout to him, and call him hither, that I may see what he is good for." "It is a little too far, sir," said Long; "he would hardly hear me, and it would take a long time before he came, because he has a great deal to carry. I'll jump after him instead." Then Long again extended himself to such a height that his head plunged into the clouds, made two or three steps, took his comrade by the arm, and placed him before the prince. He was a short, thick-set fellow, with a paunch like a sixty-four-gallon cask. "Who are you?" demanded the prince, "and what can you do?" "My name, sir, is Broad; I can widen myself." "Give me a specimen." "Ride quick, sir, quick, back into the forest!" cried Broad, as he began to blow himself out.
The prince didn't understand why he was to ride away; but seeing that Long made all haste to get into the forest, he spurred his horse and rode full gallop after him. It was high time that he did ride away, or else Broad would have squashed him, horse and all, as his paunch rapidly grew in all directions; it filled everything everywhere, just as if a mountain had rolled up. Broad then ceased to blow himself out, and took himself in again, raising such a wind that the trees in the forest bowed and bent, and became what he was at first. "You have played me a nice trick," said the prince, "but I shan't find such a fellow every day; come with me."
They proceeded further. When they approached the rocks, they met a man who had his eyes bandaged with a handkerchief. "Sir, this is our third comrade," said Long, "you ought to take him also into your service. I'm sure he won't eat his victuals for naught."
"Who are you?" the prince asked him, "and why are your eyes bandaged? You don't see your way!" "No, sir, quite the contrary! It is just because I see too well that I am obliged to bandage my eyes; I see with bandaged eyes just as well as others with unbandaged eyes; and if I unbandage them I look everything through and through, and when I gaze sharply at anything it catches fire and bursts into flame, and what can't burn splits into pieces. For this reason my name is Sharpsight." He then turned to a rock opposite, removed the bandage, and fixed his flaming eyes upon it; the rock began to crackle, pieces flew on every side, and in a very short time nothing of it remained but a heap of sand, on which something glittered like fire. Sharpsight went to fetch it, and brought it to the prince. It was pure gold.
"Heigho! you're a fellow that money can't purchase!" said the prince. "He is a fool who wouldn't make use of your services, and if you have such good sight, look and tell me whether it is far to the iron castle, and what is now going on there?" "If you rode by yourself, sir," answered Sharpsight, "maybe you wouldn't get there within a year; but with us you'll arrive to-day—they're just getting supper ready for us." "And what is my bride doing?"
"An iron lattice is before her,
In a tower that's high
She doth sit and sigh,
A wizard watch and ward keeps o'er her."
The prince cried, "Whoever is well disposed, help me to set her free!" They all promised to help him. They guided him among the gray rocks through the breach that Sharpsight had made in them with his eyes, and farther and farther on through rocks, through high mountains and deep forests, and wherever there was any obstacle in the road, forthwith it was removed by the three comrades. And when the sun was declining toward the west, the mountains began to become lower, the forests less dense, and the rocks concealed themselves amongst the heath; and when it was almost on the point of setting, the prince saw not far before him an iron castle; and when it was actually setting, he rode by an iron bridge to the gate, and as soon as it had set, up rose the iron bridge of itself, the gate closed with a single movement, and the prince and his companions were captives in the iron castle.
When they had looked round the court, the prince put his horse up in the stable, where everything was ready for it, and then they went into the castle. In the court, in the stable, in the castle hall, and in the rooms, they saw in the twilight many richly-dressed people, gentlemen and servants, but not one of them stirred—they were all turned to stone. They went through several rooms, and came into the supper-room. This was brilliantly lighted up, and in the midst was a table, and on it plenty of good meats and drinks, and covers were laid for four persons. They waited and waited, thinking that some one would come: but when nobody came for a long time, they sat down and ate and drank what the palate fancied.