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Main > Serbia folktales > Fairy tale "The Prince & the Wild Man"

The Prince & the Wild Man

Once upon a time, many years ago, there was a king who ruled the country of Serbia. One day, the king went into his forest to hunt, but instead of the usual game he captured a wild man. This wild man was different from any human the king had ever seen. Certainly he was far taller and larger, and was completely covered with fur. He moved like a wild beast, and spoke only in grunts and snorts.

Proud of his rare catch, the king ordered the wild man to be taken to his castle, where he was locked up for safekeeping in the dungeon. This done, the king put out a proclamation that whosoever should dare to set the wild man free would surely be put to death.

It turns out that the dungeon where the creature was imprisoned was just below the bedroom of the king's youngest son. Now the captured wild man cried and groaned all night long. Though at first the prince tried to close his ears to the pitiful cries coming from below, at last, just before dawn, he could stand it no longer. He crept down to the dungeon, opened the dungeon door and let the prisoner escape.

Next morning, the king and all the courtiers and servants were astonished to hear no more sounds of wailing coming from the dungeon. The king, suspecting something amiss, went down himself to see what had become of his captive. When he found the den empty, he flew into a great passion and fiercely demanded to know who had presumed to disobey his royal command.

All the courtiers were so terrified at the sight of the king's anger that not one of them dared speak. However, the young prince, the king's son, stepped forward and confessed that the pitiful crying of the poor creature had so moved his heart that he himself was the one who had opened the door. When the king heard this, it was his turn to feel sorry, for he found himself compelled to put his own son to death or make a mockery of his royal proclamation.

However, some of his old counselors, seeing how greatly the king was troubled, came and assured his Majesty that the proclamation would in reality be carried out if the prince, instead of being put to death, was simply banished.

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