Once upon a time in a certain country there lived a king whose palace was
surrounded by a spacious garden. But, though the gardeners were many and the
soil was good, this garden yielded neither flowers nor fruits, not even grass or
The King was in despair about it, when a wise old man said to him:
"Your gardeners do not understand their business: but what can you expect of
men whose fathers were cobblers and carpenters? How should they have learned to
cultivate your garden?"
"You are quite right," cried the King.
"Therefore," continued the old man, "you should send for a gardener whose
father and grandfather have been gardeners before him, and very soon your garden
will be full of green grass and gay flowers, and you will enjoy its delicious
So the King sent messengers to every town, village, and hamlet in his
dominions, to look for a gardener whose forefathers had been gardeners also, and
after forty days one was found.
"Come with us and be gardener to the King," they said to him.
"How can I go to the King," said the gardener, "a poor wretch like me?"
"That is of no consequence," they answered. "Here are new clothes for you and
"But I owe money to several people."
"We will pay your debts," they said.
So the gardener allowed himself to be persuaded, and went away with the
messengers, taking his wife and his son with him; and the King, delighted to
have found a real gardener, entrusted him with the care of his garden. The man
found no difficulty in making the royal garden produce flowers and fruit, and at
the end of a year the park was not like the same place, and the King showered
gifts upon his new servant.
The gardener, as you have heard already, had a son, who was a very
handsome young man, with most agreeable manners, and every day he carried the best
fruit of the garden to the King, and all the prettiest flowers to his daughter.
Now this princess was wonderfully pretty and was just sixteen years old, and the
King was beginning to think it was time that she should be married.
"My dear child," said he, "you are of an age to take a husband, therefore I
am thinking of marrying you to the son of my prime minister.
"Father," replied the Princess, "I will never marry the son of the prime
"Why not?" asked the King.
"Because I love the gardener's son," answered the Princess.
On hearing this the King was at first very angry, and then he wept and
sighed, and declared that such a husband was not worthy of his daughter; but the
young Princess was not to be turned from her resolution to marry the gardener's
Then the King consulted his ministers. "This is what you must do," they said.
"To get rid of the gardener you must send both suitors to a very distant
country, and the one who returns first shall marry your daughter."
The King followed this advice, and the minister's son was presented with a
splendid horse and a purse full of gold pieces, while the gardener's son had
only an old lame horse and a purse full of copper money, and every one thought
he would never come back from his journey.
The day before they started the Princess met her lover and said to him:
"Be brave, and remember always that I love you. Take this purse full of
jewels and make the best use you can of them for love of me, and come back
quickly and demand my hand."
The two suitors left the town together, but the minister's son went off at a
gallop on his good horse, and very soon was lost to sight behind the most
distant hills. He traveled on for some days, and presently reached a fountain
beside which an old woman all in rags sat upon a stone.
"Good-day to you, young traveller," said she.
But the minister's son made no reply.
"Have pity upon me, traveller," she said again. "I am dying of hunger, as you
see, and three days have I been here and no one has given me anything."
"Let me alone, old witch," cried the young man; "I can do nothing for you,"
and so saying he went on his way.
That same evening the gardener's son rode up to the fountain upon his lame
"Good-day to you, young traveller," said the beggar- woman.
"Good-day, good woman," answered he.
"Young traveller, have pity upon me."
Take my purse, good woman," said he, "and mount behind me, for your legs
can't be very strong."
The old woman didn't wait to be asked twice, but mounted behind him, and in
this style they reached the chief city of a powerful kingdom. The minister's son
was lodged in a grand inn, the gardener's son and the old woman dismounted at
the inn for beggars.
The next day the gardener's son heard a great noise in the street, and the
King's heralds passed, blowing all kinds of instruments, and crying:
"The King, our master, is old and infirm. He will give a great reward to
whoever will cure him and give him back the strength of his youth."
Then the old beggar-woman said to her benefactor:
"This is what you must do to obtain the reward which the King promises. Go
out of the town by the south gate, and there you will find three little dogs of
different colours; the first will be white, the second black, the third red. You
must kill them and then burn them separately, and gather up the ashes. Put the
ashes of each dog into a bag of its own colour, then go before the door of the
palace and cry out, `A celebrated physician has come from Janina in Albania. He
alone can cure the King and give him back the strength of his youth.' The King's
physicians will say, 'This is an impostor, and not a learned man,' and they will
make all sorts of difficulties, but you will overcome them all at last, and will
present yourself before the sick King. You must then demand as much wood as
three mules can carry, and a great cauldron, and must shut yourself up in a room
with the Sultan, and when the cauldron boils you must throw him into it, and
there leave him until his flesh is completely separated from his bones. Then
arrange the bones in their proper places, and throw over them the ashes out of
the three bags. The King will come back to life, and will be just as he was when
he was twenty years old. For your reward you must demand the bronze ring which
has the power to grant you everything you desire. Go, my son, and do not forget
any of my instructions."
The young man followed the old beggar-woman's directions. On going out of the
town he found the white, red, and black dogs, and killed and burnt them,
gathering the ashes in three bags. Then he ran to the palace and cried:
"A celebrated physician has just come from Janina in Albania. He alone can
cure the King and give him back the strength of his youth."
The King's physicians at first laughed at the unknown wayfarer, but the
Sultan ordered that the stranger should be admitted. They brought the cauldron
and the loads of wood, and very soon the King was boiling away. Toward mid-day
the gardener's son arranged the bones in their places, and he had hardly
scattered the ashes over them before the old King revived, to find himself once
more young and hearty.
"How can I reward you, my benefactor?" he cried. "Will you take half my
"No," said the gardener's son.
"My daughter's hand?"
"Take half my kingdom."
"No. Give me only the bronze ring which can instantly grant me anything I
"Alas!" said the King, "I set great store by that marvellous ring;
nevertheless, you shall have it." And he gave it to him.
The gardener's son went back to say good-by to the old beggar-woman; then he
said to the bronze ring:
"Prepare a splendid ship in which I may continue my journey. Let the hull be
of fine gold, the masts of silver, the sails of brocade; let the crew consist of
twelve young men of noble appearance, dressed like kings. St. Nicholas will be
at the helm. As to the cargo, let it be diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and
And immediately a ship appeared upon the sea which resembled in every
particular the description given by the gardener's son, and, stepping on board,
he continued his journey. Presently he arrived at a great town and established
himself in a wonderful palace. After several days he met his rival, the
minister's son, who had spent all his money and was reduced to the disagreeable
employment of a carrier of dust and rubbish. The gardener's son said to him:
"What is your name, what is your family, and from what country do you
"I am the son of the prime minister of a great nation, and yet see what a
degrading occupation I am reduced to."
"Listen to me; though I don't know anything more about you, I am willing to
help you. I will give you a ship to take you back to your own country upon one
"Whatever it may be, I accept it willingly."
"Follow me to my palace."
The minister's son followed the rich stranger, whom he had not recognized.
When they reached the palace the gardener's son made a sign to his slaves, who
completely undressed the new-comer.
"Make this ring red-hot," commanded the master, "and mark the man with it
upon his back."
The slaves obeyed him.
"Now, young man," said the rich stranger, "I am going to give you a vessel
which will take you back to your own country."
And, going out, he took the bronze ring and said:
"Bronze ring, obey thy master. Prepare me a ship of which the half-rotten
timbers shall be painted black, let the sails be in rags, and the sailors infirm
and sickly. One shall have lost a leg, another an arm, the third shall be a
hunchback, another lame or club-footed or blind, and most of them shall be ugly
and covered with scars. Go, and let my orders be executed."
The minister's son embarked in this old vessel, and thanks to favourable
winds, at length reached his own country. In spite of the pitiable condition in
which he returned they received him joyfully.
"I am the first to come back," said he to the King; "now fulfil your promise,
and give me the princess in marriage."
So they at once began to prepare for the wedding festivities. As to the poor
princess, she was sorrowful and angry enough about it.
The next morning, at daybreak, a wonderful ship with every sail set came to
anchor before the town. The King happened at that moment to be at the palace
"What strange ship is this," he cried, "that has a golden hull, silver masts,
and silken sails, and who are the young men like princes who man it? And do I
not see St. Nicholas at the helm? Go at once and invite the captain of the ship
to come to the palace."
His servants obeyed him, and very soon in came an enchantingly handsome young
prince, dressed in rich silk, ornamented with pearls and diamonds.
"Young man," said the King, "you are welcome, whoever you may be. Do me the
favor to be my guest as long as you remain in my capital."
"Many thanks, sire," replied the captain, "I accept your offer."
"My daughter is about to be married," said the King; "will you give her
"I shall be charmed, sire."
Soon after came the Princess and her betrothed.
"Why, how is this?" cried the young captain; "would you marry this charming
princess to such a man as that?"
"But he is my prime minister's son!"
"What does that matter? I cannot give your daughter away. The man she is
betrothed to is one of my servants."
"Without doubt. I met him in a distant town reduced to carrying away dust and
rubbish from the houses. I had pity on him and engaged him as one of my
"It is impossible!" cried the King.
"Do you wish me to prove what I say? This young man returned in a vessel
which I fitted out for him, an unsea- worthy ship with a black battered hull,
and the sailors were infirm and crippled."
"It is quite true," said the King.
"It is false," cried the minister's son. "I do not know this man!"
"Sire," said the young captain, "order your daughter's betrothed to be
stripped, and see if the mark of my ring is not branded upon his back."
The King was about to give this order, when the minister's son, to save
himself from such an indignity, admitted that the story was true.
"And now, sire," said the young captain, "do you not recognize me?"
"I recognize you," said the Princess; "you are the gardener's son whom I have
always loved, and it is you I wish to marry."
"Young man, you shall be my son-in-law," cried the King. "The marriage
festivities are already begun, so you shall marry my daughter this very
And so that very day the gardener's son married the beautiful Princess.
Several months passed. The young couple were as happy as the day was
long, and the King was more and more pleased with himself for having secured such
But, presently, the captain of the golden ship found it necessary to take a
long voyage, and after embracing his wife tenderly he embarked.
Now in the outskirts of the capital there lived an old man, who had spent his
life in studying black arts-- alchemy, astrology, magic, and enchantment. This
man found out that the gardener's son had only succeeded in marrying the
Princess by the help of the genii who obeyed the bronze ring.
"I will have that ring," said he to himself. So he went down to the sea-shore
and caught some little red fishes. Really, they were quite wonderfully pretty.
Then he came back, and, passing before the Princess's window, he began to cry
"Who wants some pretty little red fishes?"
The Princess heard him, and sent out one of her slaves, who said to the old
"What will you take for your fish?"
"A bronze ring."
"A bronze ring, old simpleton! And where shall I find one?"
"Under the cushion in the Princess's room."
The slave went back to her mistress.
The old madman will take neither gold nor silver," said she.
"What does he want then?"
"A bronze ring that is hidden under a cushion."
"Find the ring and give it to him," said the Princess.
And at last the slave found the bronze ring, which the captain of the golden
ship had accidentally left behind and carried it to the man, who made off with
Hardly had he reached his own house when, taking the ring, he said, "Bronze
ring, obey thy master. I desire that the golden ship shall turn to black wood,
and the crew to hideous negroes; that St. Nicholas shall leave the helm and that
the only cargo shall be black cats."
And the genii of the bronze ring obeyed him.
Finding himself upon the sea in this miserable condition, the young
captain understood that someone must have stolen the bronze ring from him, and he
lamented his misfortune loudly; but that did him no good.
"Alas!" he said to himself, "whoever has taken my ring has probably taken my
dear wife also. What good will it do me to go back to my own country?" And he
sailed about from island to island, and from shore to shore, believing that
wherever he went everybody was laughing at him, and very soon his poverty was so
great that he and his crew and the poor black cats had nothing to eat but herbs
and roots. After wandering about a long time he reached an island inhabited by
mice. The captain landed upon the shore and began to explore the country. There
were mice everywhere, and nothing but mice. Some of the black cats had followed
him, and, not having been fed for several days, they were fearfully hungry, and
made terrible havoc among the mice.
Then the queen of the mice held a council.
"These cats will eat every one of us," she said, "if the captain of the ship
does not shut the ferocious animals up. Let us send a deputation to him of the
bravest among us."
Several mice offered themselves for this mission and set out to find the
"Captain," said they, "go away quickly from our island, or we shall perish,
every mouse of us."
"Willingly," replied the young captain, "upon one condition. That is that you
shall first bring me back a bronze ring which some clever magician has stolen
from me. If you do not do this I will land all my cats upon your island, and you
shall be exterminated."
The mice withdrew in great dismay. "What is to be done?" said the Queen. "How
can we find this bronze ring?" She held a new council, calling in mice from
every quarter of the globe, but nobody knew where the bronze ring was. Suddenly
three mice arrived from a very distant country. One was blind, the second lame,
and the third had her ears cropped.
"Ho, ho, ho!" said the new-comers. "We come from a far distant country."
"Do you know where the bronze ring is which the genii obey?"
"Ho, ho, ho! we know; an old sorcerer has taken possession of it, and now he
keeps it in his pocket by day and in his mouth by night."
"Go and take it from him, and come back as soon as possible."
So the three mice made themselves a boat and set sail for the magician's
country. When they reached the capital they landed and ran to the palace,
leaving only the blind mouse on the shore to take care of the boat. Then they
waited till it was night. The wicked old man lay down in bed and put the bronze
ring into his mouth, and very soon he was asleep.
"Now, what shall we do?" said the two little animals to each other.
The mouse with the cropped ears found a lamp full of oil and a bottle full of
pepper. So she dipped her tail first in the oil and then in the pepper, and held
it to the sorcerer's nose.
"Atisha! atisha!" sneezed the old man, but he did not wake, and the shock
made the bronze ring jump out of his mouth. Quick as thought the lame mouse
snatched up the precious talisman and carried it off to the boat.
Imagine the despair of the magician when he awoke and the bronze ring was
nowhere to be found!
But by that time our three mice had set sail with their prize. A favoring
breeze was carrying them toward the island where the queen of the mice was
awaiting them. Naturally they began to talk about the bronze ring.
"Which of us deserves the most credit?" they cried all at once.
"I do," said the blind mouse, "for without my watchfulness our boat would
have drifted away to the open sea."
"No, indeed," cried the mouse with the cropped ears; "the credit is mine. Did
I not cause the ring to jump out of the man's mouth?"
"No, it is mine," cried the lame one, "for I ran off with the ring."
And from high words they soon came to blows, and, alas! when the quarrel was
fiercest the bronze ring fell into the sea.
"How are we to face our queen," said the three mice "when by our folly we
have lost the talisman and condemned our people to be utterly exterminated? We
cannot go back to our country; let us land on this desert island and there end
our miserable lives." No sooner said than done. The boat reached the island, and
the mice landed.
The blind mouse was speedily deserted by her two sisters, who went off to
hunt flies, but as she wandered sadly along the shore she found a dead fish, and
was eating it, when she felt something very hard. At her cries the other two
mice ran up.
"It is the bronze ring! It is the talisman!" they cried joyfully, and,
getting into their boat again, they soon reached the mouse island. It was time
they did, for the captain was just going to land his cargo of cats, when a
deputation of mice brought him the precious bronze ring.
"Bronze ring," commanded the young man, "obey thy master. Let my ship appear
as it was before."
Immediately the genii of the ring set to work, and the old black vessel
became once more the wonderful golden ship with sails of brocade; the handsome
sailors ran to the silver masts and the silken ropes, and very soon they set
sail for the capital.
Ah! how merrily the sailors sang as they flew over the glassy sea!
At last the port was reached.
The captain landed and ran to the palace, where he found the wicked old man
asleep. The Princess clasped her husband in a long embrace. The magician tried
to escape, but he was seized and bound with strong cords.
The next day the sorcerer, tied to the tail of a savage mule loaded with
nuts, was broken into as many pieces as there were nuts upon the mule's
Traditions Populaires de
l'Asie Mineure. Carnoy et Nicolaides. Paris: Maisonneuve, 1889.
Adapted by Andrew Lang for the Blue Fairy