The three princesses in the blue mountain
When the soldier saw the old man’s beard had got well into the cleft, he struck out the wedge; the cleft closed and the old man was caught by the beard. The soldier began to beat him with the axe handle, and then swung the axe round his head, and vowed that he would split his skull if he did not tell him, there and then, where the Princesses were.
“Spare my life, spare my life, and I’ll tell you!” said the old man. “To the east of the house there is a big mound; on top of the mound you must dig out a square piece of turf, and then you will see a big stone slab. Under that there is a deep hole through which you must let yourself down, and you’ll then come to another world where you will find the Princesses. But the way is long and dark and it goes both through fire and water.”
When the soldier got to know this, he released the old man, who was not long in making off.
When the captain and lieutenant came home they were surprised to find the soldier alive. He told them what had happened from first to last, where the Princesses were and how they should find them. They became as pleased as if they had already found them, and when they had had some food, they took with them a basket and as much rope as they could find, and all three set off to the mound. There they first dug out the turf just as the old man had told them, and underneath they found a big stone slab, which it took all their strength to turn over. They then began to measure how deep it was; they joined on ropes both two and three times, but they were no nearer the bottom the last time than the first. At last they had to join all the ropes they had, both the coarse and fine, and then they found it reached the bottom.
The captain was, of course, the first who wanted to descend; “But when I tug at the rope you must make haste to drag me up again,” he said. He found the way both dark and unpleasant, but he thought he would go on as long as it became no worse. But all at once he felt ice cold water spouting about his ears; he became frightened to death and began tugging at the rope.