back to part one

With a heavy heart the youth set out, yet luckily for him he soon found the trusty fox. "I ought only to leave you to your ill luck," said the fox, "but I pity you, and shall help you once more out of your trouble. This road takes you straight to the golden castle, you will reach it by eventide, and at night when everything is quiet the beautiful princess goes to the bathing-house to bathe. When she enters it, run up to her and give her a kiss, then she will follow you, and you can take her away with you, only do not allow her to take leave of her parents first, or it will go ill with you." Then the fox stretched out his tail, the king's son seated himself upon it, and away went the fox, over stock and stone, till his hair whistled in the wind. When he reached the golden castle it was just as the fox had said. He waited until midnight, when everything lay in deep sleep, and the beautiful princess was going to the bathing-house. Then he sprang out and gave her a kiss. She said that she would like to go with him, but she asked him pitifully, and with tears, to allow her first to take leave of her parents. At first he withstood her prayer, but when she wept more and more, and fell at his feet, he at last gave in. But no sooner had the maiden reached the bedside of her father than he and all the rest in the castle awoke, and the youth was laid hold of and put into prison.

The next morning the king said to him, "Your life is forfeited, and you can only find mercy if you take away the hill which stands in front of my windows, and prevents my seeing beyond it, and you must finish it all within eight days. If you do that you shall have my daughter as your reward."

The king's son began, and dug and shovelled without stopping, but when after seven days he saw how little he had done, and how all his work was as good as nothing, he fell into great sorrow and gave up all hope. But on the evening of the seventh day the fox appeared and said, "You do not deserve that I should take my trouble about you, but just go away and lie down to sleep, and I shall do the work for you."

The next morning when he awoke and looked out of the window the hill had gone. The youth ran, full of joy, to the king, and told him that the task was fulfilled, and whether he liked it or not, the king had to hold to his word and give him his daughter.

So the two set forth together, and it was not long before the trusty fox came up with them. "You have certainly got what is best," said he, "but the golden horse also belongs to the maiden of the golden castle."
"How shall I get it?" asked the youth.
"That I shall tell you," answered the fox, "first take the beautiful maiden to the king who sent you to the golden castle. There will be unheard-of rejoicing, they will gladly give you the golden horse, and will bring it out to you. Mount it as soon as possible, and offer your hand to all in farewell, last of all to the beautiful maiden. And as soon as you have taken her hand swing her up on to the horse, and gallop away, and no one will be able to bring you back, for the horse runs faster than the wind."

All was carried out successfully, and the king's son carried off the beautiful princess on the golden horse. The fox did not remain behind, and he said to the youth, "Now I will help you to get the golden bird. When you come near to the castle where the golden bird is to be found, let the maiden get down, and I shall take her into my care. Then ride with the golden horse into the castle-yard, there will be great rejoicing at the sight, and they will bring out the golden bird for you. As soon as you have the cage in your hand gallop back to us, and take the maiden away again."

When the plan had succeeded, and the king's son was about to ride home with his treasures, the fox said, "Now you will reward me for my help."
"What do you require for it?" asked the youth.
"When you get into the wood yonder, shoot me dead, and chop off my head and feet.
!That would be fine gratitude," said the king's son. "I cannot possibly do that for you."
The fox said, "If you will not do it I must leave you, but before I go away I will give you a piece of good advice. Be careful about two things. Buy no gallows'-flesh, and do not sit at the edge of any well." And then he ran into the wood.

The youth thought, "That is a wonderful beast, he has strange whims, who on earth would want to buy gallows'-flesh?" As for the desire to sit at the edge of a well it has never yet occurred to me. He rode on with the beautiful maiden, and his road took him again through the village in which his two brothers had remained. There was a great stir and noise, and, when he asked what was going on, he was told that two men were going to be hanged. As he came nearer to the place he saw that they were his brothers, who had been playing all kinds of wicked pranks, and had squandered all their wealth. He inquired whether they could not be set free. "If you will pay for them," answered the people, "but why should you waste your money on wicked men, and buy them free?" He did not think twice about it, but paid for them, and when they were set free they all went on their way together.

They came to the wood where the fox had first met them, and as it was a hot day, but cool and pleasant within the wood, the two brothers said, "Let us rest a little by the well, and eat and drink." He agreed, and whilst they were talking he forgot himself, and sat down upon the edge of the well without thinking of any evil. But the two brothers threw him backwards into the well, took the maiden, the horse, and the bird, and went home to their father.
"Here we bring you not only the golden bird," said they, "we have won the golden horse also, and the maiden from the golden castle." Then was there great joy, but the horse would not eat, the bird would not sing, and the maiden sat and wept.

But the youngest brother was not dead. By good fortune the well was dry, and he fell upon soft moss without being hurt, but he could not get out again. Even in this strait the faithful fox did not leave him, it came and leapt down to him, and upbraided him for having forgotten its advice. "But yet I cannot give up," he said, "I shall help you up again into daylight." He bade him grasp his tail and keep tight hold of it, and then he pulled him up. "You are not out of all danger yet," said the fox. "Your brothers were not sure of your death, and have surrounded the wood with watchers, who are to kill you if you let yourself be seen." But a poor man was sitting upon the road, with whom the youth changed clothes, and in this way he got to the king's palace.

No one knew him, but the bird began to sing, the horse began to eat, and the beautiful maiden left off weeping. The king, astonished, asked, "What does this mean?" Then the maiden said, "I do not know, but I have been so sorrowful and now I am so happy. I feel as if my true bridegroom had come." She told him all that had happened, although the other brothers had threatened her with death if she were to betray anything.

The king commanded that all people who were in his castle should be brought before him, and amongst them came the youth in his ragged clothes, but the maiden knew him at once and fell upon his neck. The wicked brothers were seized and put to death, but he was married to the beautiful maiden and declared heir to the king.

But what happened to the poor fox? Long afterwards the king's son was once again walking in the wood, when the fox met him and said, "You have everything now that you can wish for, but there is never an end to my misery, and yet it is in your power to free me," and again he asked him with tears to shoot him dead and chop off his head and feet. So he did it, and scarcely was it done when the fox was changed into a man, and was no other than the brother of the beautiful princess, who at last was freed from the magic charm which had been laid upon him. And now they had all the happiness they wanted as long as they lived.

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