A fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm.


In olden times there was a king, who had behind his palace a beautiful pleasure-garden in which there was a tree that bore golden apples. When the apples were getting ripe they were counted, but on the very next morning one was missing. This was told to the king, and he ordered that a watch should be kept every night beneath the tree.

The king had three sons, the eldest of whom he sent, as soon as night came on, into the garden, but when midnight came he could not keep himself from sleeping, and next morning again an apple was gone.

The following night the second son had to keep watch, but it fared no better with him, as soon as twelve o'clock had struck he fell asleep, and in the morning an apple was gone.

Now it came to the turn of the third son to watch, and he was quite ready, but the king had not much trust in him, and thought that he would be of less use even than his brothers, but at last he let him go. The youth lay down beneath the tree, but kept awake, and did not let sleep master him. When it struck twelve, something rustled through the air, and in the moonlight he saw a bird coming whose feathers were all shining with gold.

The bird alighted on the tree, and had just plucked off an apple, when the youth shot an arrow at him. The bird flew off, but the arrow had struck his plumage, and one of his golden feathers fell down. The youth picked it up, and the next morning took it to the king and told him what he had seen in the night. The king called his council together, and everyone declared that a feather like this was worth more than the whole kingdom. "If the feather is so precious," declared the king, "one alone will not do for me. I must and shall have the whole bird."

The eldest son set out, and trusting to his cleverness thought that he would easily find the golden bird. When he had gone some distance he saw a fox sitting at the edge of a wood so he cocked his gun and took aim at him. The fox cried, "Do not shoot me, and in return I will give you some good counsel. You are on the way to the golden bird, and this evening you will come to a village in which stand two inns opposite to one another. One of them is lighted up brightly, and all goes on merrily within, but do not go into it, go rather into the other, even though it looks like a bad one."
"How can such a silly beast give wise advice?" thought the king's son, and he pulled the trigger. But he missed the fox, who stretched out his tail and ran quickly into the wood.

So he pursued his way, and by evening came to the village where the two inns were, in one they were singing and dancing, the other had a poor, miserable look. "I should be a fool, indeed," he thought, "if I were to go into the shabby tavern, and pass by the good one." So he went into the cheerful one, lived there in riot and revel, and forgot the bird and his father, and all good counsels.

When many months had passed, and the eldest son did not come back home, the second set out, wishing to find the golden bird. The fox met him as he had met the eldest, and gave him the good advice of which he took no heed. He came to the two inns, and his brother was standing at the window of the one from which came the music, and called out to him. He could not resist, but went inside and lived only for pleasure.

Again some time passed, and then the king's youngest son wanted to set off and try his luck, but his father would not allow it. "It is of no use," said he, "he will find the golden bird still less than his brothers, and if a mishap were to befall him he knows not how to help himself, he's not too bright at the best." But at last, as he had no peace, he let him go.

Again the fox was sitting outside the wood, and begged for his life, and offered his good advice. The youth was good-natured, and said, "Be easy, little fox, I shall do you no harm."
"You will not repent it," answered the fox, "and that you may get on more quickly, get up behind on my tail." And scarcely had he seated himself when the fox began to run, and away he went over stock and stone till his hair whistled in the wind. When they came to the village the youth got off, he followed the good advice, and without looking round turned into the little inn, where he spent the night quietly.

The next morning, as soon as he got into the open country, there sat the fox already, and said, "I shall tell you further what you have to do. Go on quite straight, and at last you will come to a castle, in front of which a whole regiment of soldiers is lying, but do not trouble yourself about them, for they will all be asleep and snoring. Go through the midst of them straight into the castle, and go through all the rooms, till at last you will come to a chamber where a golden bird is hanging in a wooden cage. Close by, there stands an empty gold cage for show, but beware of taking the bird out of the common cage and putting it into the fine one, or it may go badly with you."

With these words the fox again stretched out his tail, and the king's son seated himself upon it, and away he went over stock and stone till his hair whistled in the wind. The king, however, said that he would grant him his life on one condition - namely, if he brought him the golden horse which ran faster than the wind, and in that case he should receive, over and above, as a reward, the golden bird.

The king's son set off, but he sighed and was sorrowful, for how was he to find the golden horse? But all at once he saw his old friend the fox sitting on the road. "Look you," said the fox, "this has happened because you did not give heed to me. However, be of good courage. I will give you my help, and tell you how to get to the golden horse. You must go straight on, and you will come to a castle, where in the stable stands the horse. The grooms will be lying in front of the stable, but they will be asleep and snoring, and you can quietly lead out the golden horse. But of one thing you must take heed, put on him the common saddle of wood and leather, and not the golden one, which hangs close by, else it will go ill with you." Then the fox stretched out his tail, the king's son seated himself upon it, and away he went over stock and stone until his hair whistled in the wind.

Everything happened just as the fox had said, the prince came to the stable in which the golden horse was standing, but just as he was going to put the common saddle upon him, he thought, "Such a beautiful beast will be shamed if I do not give him the good saddle which belongs to him by right." But scarcely had the golden saddle touched the horse than he began to neigh loudly. The grooms awoke, seized the youth, and threw him into prison. The next morning he was sentenced by the court to death, but the king promised to grant him his life, and the golden horse as well, if he could bring back the beautiful princess from the golden castle.



on to part two

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