Youth Without Age and Life Without Death
Once upon a time something happened whose like never occurred before—if it had not happened it would not be told—since the flea had one foot shod with ninety-nine pounds of iron and jumped into the skies to get us fairy tales.
There was once a mighty emperor and empress. Both were young and handsome, and as they desired the blessing of children they did every thing that was necessary to secure it, that is they went to the witches and philosophers and asked them to read the stars to find out whether they would have children or not. But it was all in vain. Finally the emperor heard that a very wise old man lived in a neighboring village, and sent for him. The messengers returned with the answer: "Let him who needs me come to me." So the emperor and empress set out for the wise man's house, taking with them several of their courtiers, attendants, and soldiers. When the old man saw them in the distance, he rose, went to meet them, and said at once:
"Welcome! But what do you want to know, oh, emperor! your wish will bring you sorrow."
"I am not here to question you about that," replied the emperor, "but to learn whether you have any plants you can give us that will bestow the blessing of children."
"I have," the old man answered, "but you will possess only one child. He will be a handsome, lovable boy, yet you will not be able to keep him long."
After the emperor and empress had obtained the herbs they joyfully returned to the palace. The whole empire, the courtiers, and all the attendants rejoiced too. But when the hour of its birth came, the child began to scream in a way no magic arts could silence. The emperor commenced to promise it all the good things the world contained, but it was impossible to quiet it.
"Hush, father's pet," said the emperor, "I will give you this or that kingdom; hush, my son, I will give you this or that princess for your wife." At last, when he saw the child would not stop, he added: "Hush, my boy, I will give you youth without age and life without death.