Sunday, 21 January 2018

Three Lemons

There were once upon a time three brothers who had lost their parents, and there was nothing left after them, so they had to go out into the world and try their luck. The two eldest equipped themselves as best they could, but the youngest, he they called Tyrihans, because he always sat in the hearth, looking after the fatwood candles,1 he they would not have with them. They travelled out in the grey light of morning. But however it did or did not go, Tyrihans was just as early at the king’s farm as the others.

When they had arrived, they asked to go into service. The king said he did not have work for them, but since they were in such need, he would find them something—there was always something to do on such a large farm; they could knock nails into the wall, and when they had done that, they could pull them out again; and when they were finished with that, they could carry wood and water for the cook in the kitchen. Tyrihans was the best at knocking nails into the wall, and at taking them out again, and he was the best at carrying wood and water, too. His brothers were envious of him, therefore, and said that he had said that he was good to fetch the king the most beautiful princess there was in twelve kingdoms—for the king had lost his queen, and had become a widower. When the king heard this, he said to Tyrihans that he should do as he had said; could he not do it, then they would lay him on the chopping block, and strike his head off him.

Tyrihans replied that he had neither said nor thought it, but since the king was so determined, he would have to try. So he was given some food in a bundle over his shoulder, and went on his way. But he had not come far in the forest before he grew hungry, and would take of the food they had given him at the king’s farm. When he had sat himself well, in peace and quiet beneath a spruce beside the road, an old woman came hopping along, and asked what he had in his knapsack.

“Meat and flesh,” said the boy; “if you are hungry, then come and have some, old mother.” Yes, she thanked him and ate, and said that she would pay him a motherly turn in return, and then she hopped away into the forest.

When Tyrihans was good and full, he threw his knapsack over his shoulder, and set off again; but he had not gone far before he found a pipe. This he thought would be fun to have, to blow on the road, and it was not long before he got some sound from it, I would not think. But then small trolls swarmed forth, and they all asked at the same time: “What does my master have to command?”

Tyrihans said that he did not know that he was their master, but if he was to command, then he would have them find him the most beautiful princess there was in twelve kingdoms.

Well, that was no matter, said the small trolls; they knew well where she was, and they could take him on the way, so he could go and fetch her himself, for they had no power to touch her. They took him on the way, and such that he arrived both well and good; there was no one who as much lay two sticks in a cross before him. It was a troll castle, and there sat three gorgeous princesses; but when Tyrihans came in, they grew so foolish that they ran around like startled lambs, and just like that, they turned into three lemons that lay on the windowsill. Tyrihans was so aghast and simply dismayed at this that he knew not what to do. But when he had thought about it a little, he took the lemons and stuck them in his pocket; he thought they would be good to have if he grew thirsty on the way, for he had heard that lemons were supposed to be sour.

When he had come a way on the road, he grew very hot and thirsty. There was no water to be found anywhere, and he knew not what to do to slake his thirst. Then he began to think of the lemons, and took one out and bit a hole in it. But inside sat a princess to her armpits, and she cried: “Water! Water!” If she did not get some water, she would die, she said. Well, the boy ran in circles, looking for water, until he was out of his mind, but there was no water, and he found no water, and just like that, she was dead.

When he had gone a way more, he grew even hotter and even more thirsty, and when he found nothing with which to slake his thirst, he took the second lemon and bit a hole in it. Inside sat a princess to he armpits, too, and she was even more gorgeous than the first. She cried for water, and said that if she did not have water, then she would die within the hour. Tyrihans went looking around, beneath both stone and moss, but water found he none, and so died that princess, too.

Tyrihans thought things grew worse and worse, and they did, too, for the farther he went, the warmer it grew. The ground was so dry and scorched that there was no drop of water, and it was not long before he was almost half dead with thirst. He refrained for a long time before he bit a hole in the lemon he had left, but finally there was nothing esle for it. When he had bitten a hole, there sat a princess in it, too; she was the most gorgeous in twelve kingdoms, and she cried, saying that if she did not have water, then she would die within the hour. Tyrihans ran and would fetch water, and this time, he met the king’s miller; he showed him the way to the millpond. When he came to the pond, and gave her water, she came all the way out of the lemon, and was stark naked. Tyrihans had to let her have the garment he wore, to throw around her, and then she hid herself in a tree, while he went up to the king’s farm, to get her some clothes, and tell the king that he had fetched her, and how things had gone altogether.

Meanwhile, the cook girl came down to the millpond to fetch some water. When she saw the beautiful face reflected in the pond, she thought that it was hers, and she was so glad that she began to spin and dance because she had grown so beautiful. “The devil fetch the water, not you who are so beautiful!” she said, casting aside the water buckets . But after a while, she saw that the face in the water belonged to the princess who sat in the tree. Then she grew so angry that she pulled her out of the tree and threw her out into the pond. The dress that belonged to Tyrihans she threw about herself, and she climbed into the tree.

When the king came and saw the ugly black kitchen wench, he turned both red and pale; but when he heard that she was the most gorgeous in twelve kingdoms, then he could do nothing but believe there was something in it, and he felt sorry for Tyrihans, too, who had been through so much before he fetched her. She would probably grow more agreeable, he thought, when she could groom herself and put on costly clothes, and so he took her with him home. Word was sent for wigmakers and seamstresses; she was decorated and dressed like a princess, but for all the washing and decorating, she was black and ugly, and remained so, too.2

After a while, the assistant cook should go down to the pond for water, and she caught a large silver fish in her bucket. She carried it up and showed it to the king there, and he thought it bold and fine; but the ugly princess said it was some enchantment, and that they should burn it up, for she understood straight away what it was. Yes, the fish was burned, and the next morning, they found a nugget of silver in the ashes. This the cook came up to tell the king, and he thought it strange; but the princess said that it was merely enchantment, and bade them bury it in the dungheap. The king would rather not, but she gave him neither peace nor quiet, and so he finally said that they should do it. But on the next day, there was stood a beautiful, fine linden tree there where they had buried the nugget of silver, and the linden had leaves that glittered like silver. When they told the king this, he thought it strange; but the princess said it was nothing but enchantment, and that the linden should be chopped down within the hour. The king did not want to, but the princess bothered him for so long that he at last had to give her satisfaction in this, too.

When the girls went out to take bits of wood off the linden, to burn, they were pure silver. “It is not worth telling the king or the princess about it, again,” said one of them, “for then these shall also be burned and melted; it is better we hide them in our chest. They can be good to have when there, one day, comes a person and we shall marry.” Yes, they agreed to this. But when they had carried it a while, it became unreasonably heavy. When they should look to see why ths may be, the wood had been reformed into a child, and it was not long before it was the most gorgeous princess anyone would see. The girls understood that this was not at all usual; they brought her clothes, and flew after the boy who should fetch the most gorgeous princess in twelve kingdoms, and told him about it. And when Tyrihans came, she told him how everything had happened, that the cook had pulled her down into the pond, and that she had been both the silver fish and the silver nugget and the linden and the wood, and that she was the right one. It was not so easy to get hold of the king, for the ugly black cook hung over him, both late and early—but finally they found they could say there had come a declaration of war from the neighbouring king. So they got him out, and when he saw the gorgeous princess, he was so taken with her that he wanted to drink to his wedding within the hour, and when he heard how badly the ugly black cook had dealt with her, he said that they should take her and roll her in a nail barrel. Then they trumpeted the wedding so tat it was heard and asked about across twelve kingdoms.


  1. Fatwood (Norwegian: tyrived), the resinous wood found at the base of the branches of evergreens, was the preferred firestarter of rural Norway. The name Tyrihans thus means Fat(wood)-Hans. 

  2. Could this be the appearance of a person of colour in Asbjørnsen & Moe? Is there any reason to doubt that it is? 

No comments:

Post a Comment