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Main > Scandinavian folktales > Fairy tale "Maiden Swanwhite and Maiden Foxtail"

Maiden Swanwhite and Maiden Foxtail

As the bird was about to go away, the king sprang out and caught it by the foot. Then the bird changed its form and became a horrible dragon, but the king held it fast. It changed itself again, and took the forms of snakes, wolves, and other fierce animals, but the king did not lose his hold. Then the mermaid pulled hard at the chain, but the king held so fast that the chain broke in two with a great snap and rattling. That moment there stood there a beautiful maiden much more beautiful than that in the fine picture. She thanked the king for having saved her from the power of the mermaid. The king was very glad, and took the beautiful maiden in his arms, kissed her, and said—

"I will have no one else in the world for my queen, and now I well see that your brother was guiltless."

Then he sent off at once to the lions' den to learn if the young man was yet alive. There the young man was safe and sound among the wild beasts, which had done him no injury. Then the king was in a happy mood, and rejoiced that everything had chanced so well. The brother and sister told him all that the step-mother had done.

When it was daylight the king ordered a great feast to be got ready, and asked the foremost people in the country to the palace. As they all sat at table and were very merry, the king told a story of a brother and sister who had been treacherously dealt with by a step-mother, and he related all that had happened from beginning to end. When the tale was ended the king's folk looked at one another, and all agreed that the conduct of the step-mother in the tale was a piece of unexampled wickedness.

The king turned to his mother-in-law, and said—

"Some one should reward my tale. I should like to know what punishment the taking of such an innocent life deserves."

The false hag did not know that her own treachery was aimed at, so she said boldly—

"For my part, I certainly think she should be put into boiling lead."

The king then turned himself to Foxtail, and said—

"I should like to have your opinion; what punishment is merited by one who takes so innocent a life?

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