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Main > English folktales > Fairy tale "Princess of Canterbury"

Princess of Canterbury

There lived formerly in the County of Cumberland a nobleman who had three sons, two of whom were comely and clever youths, but the other a natural fool, named Jack, who was generally engaged with the sheep: he was dressed in a parti-coloured coat, and a steeple-crowned hat with a tassel, as became his condition. Now the King of Canterbury had a beautiful daughter, who was distinguished by her great ingenuity and wit, and he issued a decree that whoever should answer three questions put to him by the princess should have her in marriage, and be heir to the crown at his decease. Shortly after this decree was published, news of it reached the ears of the nobleman's sons, and the two clever ones determined to have a trial, but they were sadly at a loss to prevent their idiot brother from going with them. They could not, by any means, get rid of him, and were compelled at length to let Jack accompany them. They had not gone far, before Jack shrieked with laughter, saying, "I've found an egg." "Put it in your pocket," said the brothers. A little while afterwards, he burst out into another fit of laughter on finding a crooked hazel stick, which he also put in his pocket; and a third time he again laughed extravagantly because he found a nut. That also was put with his other treasures.

When they arrived at the palace, they were immediately admitted on mentioning the nature of their business, and were ushered into a room where the princess and her suite were sitting. Jack, who never stood on ceremony, bawled out, "What a troop of fair ladies we've got here!"

"Yes," said the princess, "we are fair ladies, for we carry fire in our bosoms."

"Do you?" said Jack, "then roast me an egg," pulling out the egg from his pocket.

"How will you get it out again?" said the princess.

"With a crooked stick," replied Jack, producing the hazel.

"Where did that come from?" said the princess.

"From a nut," answered Jack, pulling out the nut from his pocket. "I've answered the three questions, and now I'll have the lady.

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