The Most Beautiful Princess
Long ago there was a king who was very ill. He wanted a hare killed to make him some broth. His only son, the prince, set out to find one. As the prince walked along the path to the forest a pretty little hare ran out of the hedge and crossed his path. He at once started in pursuit. The hare was a very swift runner. The prince followed her into the deep forest. Suddenly the hare ran into a hole in the ground. The prince kept in sight of her and soon found to his dismay that he was in a big cave. At the very rear of the cave there was the most enormous giant he had ever seen in his life.
The prince was terribly frightened. “Oh, ho!” said the giant in such a deep savage voice that the cave echoed and re-echoed with his words. “You thought you’d catch my little hare, did you? Well, I’ve caught you instead!”
The giant seized the prince in one of his enormous hands and tossed him lightly into a box at one end of the cave. He put the cover on the box and locked it down with a big key. The prince could get only a tiny bit of air through a little hole in the top, and he thought that he never could live. Hours passed. Sometimes the prince slept, but more often he lay there thinking about his sick father and what he could ever do to get out of the box and back once more to his father’s side.
Suddenly he heard the key turn in the lock. The cover was lifted, and he saw standing before him the most beautiful maiden he had ever seen or dreamed of. “I am the hare you followed into the cave,” said she with a smile. “I am an enchanted princess and, though I have to take the form of a hare in the daytime, at night I am free to resume my own shape. You got into this trouble following me into the cave and I am so sorry for you that I am going to let you out.”
“You are so beautiful that I could stay here for ever and gaze into your lovely eyes,” said the prince.
“You would see only a hare in the daytime,” replied the princess. “It is not always night. Besides, the giant may return at any moment.