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The Traveling Companion

She was a wicked witch, who was responsible for many handsome Princes' losing their lives. She had decreed that any man might come to woo her. Anybody might come, whether he were Prince or beggar, it made no difference to her, but he must guess the answer to three questions that she asked him. If he knew the answers, she would marry him and he would be King over all the land when her father died. But if he could not guess the right answers, she either had him hanged or had his head chopped off. That was how bad and wicked the beautiful Princess was.

The old King, her father, was terribly distressed about it, but he could not keep her from being so wicked, because he had once told her that he would never concern himself with her suitors - she could do as she liked with them. Whenever a Prince had come to win the Princess's hand by making three guesses, he had failed. Then he was either hanged or beheaded, for each suitor was warned beforehand, when he was still free to abandon his courtship. The old King was so distressed by all this trouble and grief that for one entire day every year he and all his soldiers went down on their knees to pray that the Princess might reform; but she never would. As a sign of mourning, old women who drank schnapps would dye it black before they quaffed it - so deeply - did they mourn - and more than that they couldn't do.

"That abominable Princess," John said, "ought to be flogged. It would be just the thing for her, and if I were the old King I'd have her whipped till her blood ran."

"Hurrah!" they heard people shout outside the inn. The Princess was passing by, and she was so very beautiful that everyone who saw her forgot how wicked she was, and everyone shouted "Hurrah." Twelve lovely maidens, all dressed in white silk and carrying golden tulips, rode beside her on twelve coal-black horses. The Princess herself rode a snow-white horse, decorated with diamonds and rubies. Her riding costume was of pure gold, and the whip that she carried looked like a ray of sunlight.

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Category: Scandinavian folktales
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