The sun;Or, the three golden hairs of the old man Vsévède
Can this be a true story? It is said that once there was a king who was exceedingly fond of hunting the wild beasts in his forests. One day he followed a stag so far and so long that he lost his way. Alone and overtaken by night, he was glad to find himself near a small thatched cottage in which lived a charcoal-burner.
“Will you kindly show me the way to the high-road? You shall be handsomely rewarded.”
“I would willingly,” said the charcoal-burner, “but God is going to send my wife a little child, and I cannot leave her alone. Will you pass the night under our roof? There is a truss of sweet hay in the loft where you may rest, and to-morrow morning I will be your guide.”
The king accepted the invitation and went to bed in the loft. Shortly after a son was born to the charcoal-burner’s wife. But the king could not sleep. At midnight he heard noises in the house, and looking through a crack in the flooring he saw the charcoal-burner asleep, his wife almost in a faint, and by the side of the newly-born babe three old women dressed in white, each holding a lighted taper in her hand, and all talking together. Now these were the three Soudiché or Fates, you must know.
The first said, “On this boy I bestow the gift of confronting great dangers.”
The second said, “I bestow the power of happily escaping all these dangers, and of living to a good old age.”
The third said, “I bestow upon him for wife the princess born at the selfsame hour as he, and daughter of the very king sleeping above in the loft.”
At these words the lights went out and silence reigned around.
Now the king was greatly troubled, and wondered exceedingly; he felt as if he had received a sword-thrust in the chest. He lay awake all night thinking how to prevent the words of the Fates from coming true.
With the first glimmer of morning light the baby began to cry. The charcoal-burner, on going over to it, found that his wife was dead.
“Poor little orphan,” he said sadly, “what will become of thee without a mother’s care?