Thursday, 12 November 2015

The Princess No One Could Dumbfound

Once upon a time, there was a king who had a daughter so quick of tongue that no one could dumbfound her. The king promised, therefore, that the suitor who could silence the princess would win both her and half of his kingdom.

There were many suitors, I would think, for it is hardly every day that one may win both a princess and half a kingdom so readily. The palace gates were not still for even a minute, they came in their droves from east and west, both riding and on foot. But none could silence the princess.

Eventually, the king made it known that those who made an unsuccessful bid for the hand of the princess would be branded on both ears with the king’s great branding iron, for he would no longer suffer the droves in his courtyard for no reason.

Now it happened that there were three brothers who had also asked about the princess, and since they had nothing special to do at home, they decided to tempt fate, and see if they could win the princess and half of the kingdom. They were friends, and much of the same mind, so the three of them walked together.

After a certain distance, Askeladden found a dead magpie.

“Look what I’ve found! Look what I’ve found!” he called.

“What have you found?” his brothers asked.

“I have found a dead magpie”, he said.

“Yuck! Throw it away! What are you going to do with that?” the other two said, who always thought they were wiser.

“Oh, I have things to do, I have places to go, and I think I’ll take this along with me”, said Askeladden.

When they had gone some distance farther, Askeladden found an old hoop. He picked it up.

“Look what I’ve found! Look what I’ve found!” he called.

“What have you found, now?” said his brothers.

“I have found a hoop”, he answered.

“Pooh! What are you going to do with that? Throw it away!”, the other two said.

“I have things to do, I have places to go. I’ll take this along with me”, said Askeladden.

When they had gone a distance farther, Askeladden found a potsherd, and picked it up.

“Lads! Look what I’ve found! Look what I’ve found!” he said.

“What have you found, now?” his brothers asked.

“A potsherd”, he said.

“Ach! That’s nothing to hold on to. Throw it away!”, they said.

“Oh, I have things to do, I have places to go, so I think I’ll take this along with me”, Askeladden answered.

When they had come a distance farther, he found a crooked ram’s horn, and shortly thereafter, he found its twin.

“Look what I’ve found! Look what I’ve found!” he called.

“What have you found, now then?” his brothers asked.

“Two ram’s horns”, Askeladden answered.

“Ach! Throw them away! What are you going to do with them?” they said.

“I don’t know. I have things to do, I have places to go. I think I’ll take them along with me”, said Askeladden.

After a while, he found a wedge.

“Well! Look what I’ve found! Look what I’ve found, lads!” he called.

“You and your finding! What have you found, now?” the elder two said.

“I’ve found a wedge”, he answered.

“Oh, throw it away! What are you going to do with that?” they said.

“I have things to do, I have places to go. I think I’ll take it along with me”, said Askeladden.

When they walked across the fields to the palace – the fields had recently been manured – he bent over and picked up a worn-out shoe sole.

“Well, well, lads! Look what I’ve found! Look what I’ve found!” he said.

“If only you’d find a little common sense before we get there”, the other two said. “What have you found, this time?”

“A worn-out shoe sole”, he answered.

“Yuck! As if that is anything to pick up! Throw it away! What are you going to do with that?” the brothers said.

“I don’t know. I have things to do, I have places to go. I think I’ll take it along with me, if I’m to win the hand of the princess and half the kingdom”, Askeladden said.

“Yes, it really looks as if you’ll do just that”, the other two remarked.

Then they gained admittance to the king’s daughter. First, the eldest.

“Good day to you”, he said.

“Good day to you”, she answered, and winked.

“It’s terribly warm in here”, he said.

“It’s warmer in the embers”, the princess answered.

The branding iron was awaiting, and when he saw it, he was at a loss for words. And that was the end of his suit.

Things went the same way for the middle one.

“Good day to you”, he said.

“Good day to you”, she answered, and winked.

“It’s terribly warm in here”, he said.

“It’s warmer in the embers”, the princess answered.

He also was at a loss for words, and thus out came the iron again.

Then it was Askeladden’s turn.

“Good day to you”, he said.

“Good day to you”, she answered, and winked, and pouted.

“It’s nice and warm in here”, said Askeladden.

“It’s warmer in the embers”, she replied, but was unhappy when the reply came:

“May I broil my magpie there, then?” he asked.

“I’m afraid she’ll burst”, said the king’s daughter.

“Oh, that doesn’t matter – I’ll fasten this hoop around it”, the boy answered.

“It’s too slack”, she said.

“I’ll drive in a wedge”, said the boy, and produced the wedge.

“The fat will run off it”, said the king’s daughter.

“I’ll hold this under it”, the boy answered, and showed her the potsherd.

“Your words are crooked”, said the princess.

“No, I’m not crooked, but this is crooked”, the boy answered, and produced one of the ram’s horns.

“I’ve never seen the like!” cried the princess.

“Here’s the like”, said the boy, and took out the other horn.

“I think you’ve worn yourself out, trying to silence me”, she said.

“No, I’m not worn out, but this is worn out”, the boy replied, producing the shoe sole.

The princess was dumbfounded.

“And now you’re mine”, said Askeladden.

And that’s how he won his suit, and half the land, and half the kingdom, as well.

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