| The Dragon And The Prince |
HERE WAS AN emperor who had three sons. One day the eldest son went out hunting, and, when he got outside the town, up sprang a hare out of a bush, and he after it, and hither and thither, till the hare fled into a water-mill, and the prince after it. But it was not a hare, but a dragon, and it waited for the prince and devoured him.
When several days had elapsed and the prince did not return home, people began to wonder why it was that he was not to be found. Then the middle son went hunting, and as he issued from the town, a hare sprang out of a bush, and the prince after it, and hither and thither, till the hare fled into the water-mill and the prince after it; but it was not a hare, but a dragon, which waited for and devoured him. When some days had elapsed and the princes did not return, either of them, the whole court was in sorrow. Then the third son went hunting, to see whether he could not find his brothers.
When he issued from the town, again up sprang a hare out of a bush, and the prince after it, and hither and thither, till the hare fled into the water-mill. But the prince did not choose to follow it, but went to find other game, saying to himself: "When I return I shall find you." After thus he went for a long time up and down the hill, but found nothing, and then returned to the water-mill; but when he got there, there was only an old woman in the mill. The prince invoked God in addressing her: "God help you, old woman!" The old woman replied: "God help you, my son!" Then the prince asked her: "Where, old woman, is my hare?" She replied: "My son, that was not a hare, but a dragon. It kills and throttles many people." Hearing this, the prince was somewhat disturbed, and said to the old woman: "What shall we do now? Doubtless my two brothers also have perished here." The old woman answered: "They have indeed; but there's no help for it. Go home, my son, lest you follow them." Then he said to her: "Dear old woman, do you know what? I know that you will be glad to liberate yourself from that pest." The old woman interrupted him: "How should I not? It captured me, too, in this way, but now I have no means of escape." Then he proceeded: "Listen well to what I am going to say to you. Ask it whither it goes and where its strength is; then kiss all that place where it tells you its strength is, as if from love, till you ascertain it, and afterward tell me when I come." Then the prince went off to the palace, and the old woman remained in the water-mill.
When the dragon came in, the old woman began to question it: "Where in God's name have you been? Whither do you go so far? You will never tell me whither you go." The dragon replied: "Well, my dear old woman, I do go far." Then the old woman began to coax it: "And why do you go so far? Tell me where your strength is. If I knew where your strength is, I don't know what I should do for love; I would kiss all that place." Thereupon the dragon smiled and said to her: "Yonder is my strength, in that fireplace." Then the old woman began to fondle and kiss the fireplace, and the dragon on seeing it burst into a laugh and said to her: "Silly old woman, my strength isn't there; my strength is in that tree-fungus in front of the house." Then the old woman began again to fondle and kiss the tree, and the dragon again laughed, and said to her: "Away, old woman! my strength isn't there." Then the old woman inquired: "Where is it?" The dragon began to give an account in detail: "My strength is a long way off, and you cannot go thither.
Far in another empire under the emperor's city is a lake, in that lake is a dragon, and in that dragon a boar, and in the boar a pigeon, and in that is my strength." The next morning when the dragon went away from the mill, the prince came to the old woman, and the old woman told him all that she had heard from the dragon.
Then he left his home, and disguised himself; he put shepherd's boots to his feet, took a shepherd's staff in his hand, and went into the world. As he went on thus from village to village, and from town to town, at last he came into another empire and into the imperial city, in a lake under which the dragon was.
On going into the town he began to inquire who wanted a shepherd. The citizens told him that the emperor did. Then he went straight to the emperor.
After he announced himself, the emperor admitted him into his presence, and asked him: "Do you wish to keep sheep?" He replied: "I do, illustrious crown!" Then the emperor engaged him, and began to inform and instruct him: "There is here a lake, and alongside of the lake very beautiful pasture, and when you call the sheep out, they go thither at once, and spread themselves round the lake; but whatever shepherd goes off there, that shepherd returns back no more. Therefore, my son, I tell you, don't let the sheep have their own way and go where they will, but keep them where you will." The prince thanked the emperor, got himself ready, and called out the sheep, taking with him, more-over, two hounds that could catch a boar in the open country, and a falcon that could capture any bird, and carrying also a pair of bagpipes.
When he called out the sheep he let them go at once to the lake, and when the sheep arrived at the lake, they immediately spread round it, and the prince placed the falcon on a stump, and the hounds and bagpipes under the stump, then tucked up his hose and sleeves, waded into the lake, and began to shout: "Dragon, dragon! come out to single combat with me to-day that we may measure ourselves together, unless you're a woman." The dragon called out in reply, "I will do so now, prince—now!" Erelong behold the dragon! it is large, it is terrible, it is disgusting! When the dragon came out, it seized him by the waist, and they wrestled a summer day till afternoon. But when the heat of afternoon came on, the dragon said: "Let me go, prince, that I may moisten my parched head in the lake, and toss you to the sky." But the prince replied: "Come, dragon, don't talk nonsense; if I had the emperor's daughter to kiss me on the forehead, I would toss you still higher." Thereupon, the dragon suddenly let him go, and went off into the lake.
On the approach of evening, he washed and got himself up nicely, placed the falcon on his arm, the hounds behind him, and the bagpipes under his arm, then drove the sheep and went into the town playing on the bagpipes.
When he arrived at the town, the whole town assembled as to see a wondrous sight because he had come, whereas previously no shepherd had been able to come from the lake. The next day the prince got ready again, and went with his sheep straight to the lake.