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Main > German folktales > Fairy tale "The Prince and the Maiden"

The Prince and the Maiden

The prince determined that when he grew old enough he would travel all over the world, if that's what it took, until he had found her and set her free. To become king at the cost of a maiden's life was too heavy a price to pay. So one day, wearing his usual peasant garb, he threw a sack of peas on his back and marched straight into the forest where eighteen years before his father had lost himself. After he had walked some way he began to cry loudly: "Oh, dear me! How unlucky I am! Is there no one to show me the way out of the wood?"

Then appeared a strange man with a long gray beard and a leather bag hanging from his girdle. He nodded cheerfully to the young man and said: "I know this place well, and can lead you out of it, if you will promise me a good reward."

"What can a beggar such as I promise anyone?" answered the prince.

"Why not enter my service? I need a sharp fellow in the house, and you please me well enough."

"Why not indeed, if we can strike a bargain?" said the other. "For a peasant such as I, it is the same whomever I serve! What wages will you give me?"

"Every day fresh food, meat twice a week, butter and vegetables, your summer and winter clothes, and a portion of land for your own use," replied the stranger.

"I can be satisfied with that," said the youth. "I will go with you!" The old fellow spun round like a top and then set out with his companion, chattering so fast that he never noticed that his new servant kept dropping peas out of the back of his sack. At night they slept under a fig tree, and when the sun rose they started on their way once more. About noon they came to a large stone, and here the old fellow stopped, looked carefully round, gave a sharp whistle, and stamped three times on the ground with his left foot. Suddenly there appeared under the stone a secret door, which led to what looked like the mouth of a cave. The old fellow seized the youth by the arm, and said gruffly, "Follow me!

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