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Main > Czechoslovak folktale > Fairy tale "Longshanks, Girth, and Keen: The Story of Three Wonderful Serving Men"

Longshanks, Girth, and Keen: The Story of Three Wonderful Serving Men

“This one I want for my bride,” he said aloud, “this one and no other.”

At these words the maiden bowed, flushed like a rose, and then instantly all the pictures disappeared.

When the prince told his father what he had seen and which maiden he had chosen, the old king was greatly troubled.

“My son,” he said, “you did ill to uncover what was covered and in declaring this, your choice, you have exposed yourself to a great danger. This maiden is in the power of a black magician who holds her captive in an iron castle. Of all who have gone to rescue her not one has ever returned. However, what’s done is done and you have given your word. Go, then, try what fortune has in store for you, and may Heaven bring you back safe and sound.”

So the prince bade his father farewell, mounted his horse, and rode forth to find his bride. His first adventure was to lose his way in a deep forest. He wandered about some time not knowing where to turn when suddenly he was hailed from behind with these words:

“Hey, there, master, wait a minute!”

He looked around and saw a tall man running toward him.

“Take me into your service, master,” the tall man said. “If you do you won’t regret it.”

“What is your name,” the prince asked, “and what can you do?”

“People call me Longshanks because I can stretch myself out. I’ll show you. Do you see a bird’s nest in the top of that tall fir? I’ll get it down for you and not by climbing the tree either.”

So saying he began to stretch out and his body shot up and up until he was as tall as the fir tree. He reached over and got the nest and then, in a shorter time than it had taken him to stretch out, he reduced himself to his natural size.

“You do your trick very well,” the prince said, “but just now a bird’s nest isn’t of much use to me. What I need is some one to show me the way out of this forest.”

“H’m,” Longshanks said, “that’s an easy enough matter.”

Again he began to stretch himself up and up and up until he was three times as tall as the highest pine in the forest.

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