Once upon a time there was a poor husbandman who had many children and little
to give them in the way either of food or clothing. They were all pretty, but
the prettiest of all was the youngest daughter, who was so beautiful that there
were no bounds to her beauty.
So once--it was late on a Thursday evening in autumn, and wild weather
outside, terribly dark, and raining so heavily and blowing so hard that the
walls of the cottage shook again--they were all sitting together by the
fireside, each of them busy with something or other, when suddenly someone
rapped three times against the window-pane. The man went out to see what could
be the matter, and when he got out, there stood a great big white bear.
"Good-evening to you," said the White Bear.
"Good-evening," said the man.
"Will you give me your youngest daughter?" said the White Bear; "if you will,
you shall be as rich as you are now poor."
Truly the man would have had no objection to be rich, but he thought to
himself: "I must first ask my daughter about this," so he went in and told them
that there was a great white bear outside who had faithfully promised to make
them all rich if he might but have the youngest daughter.
She said no, and would not hear of it; so the man went out again, and settled
with the White Bear that he should come again next Thursday evening, and get her
answer. Then the man persuaded her, and talked so much to her about the wealth
that they would have, and what a good thing it would be for herself, that at
last she made up her mind to go, and washed and mended all her rags, made
herself as smart as she could, and held herself in readiness to set out. Little
enough had she to take away with her.
Next Thursday evening the White Bear came to fetch her. She seated herself on
his back with her bundle, and thus they departed. When they had gone a great
part of the way, the White Bear said: "Are you afraid?"
"No, that I am not," said she.
"Keep tight hold of my fur, and then there is no danger," said he.
And thus she rode far, far away, until they came to a great mountain. Then
the White Bear knocked on it, and a door opened, and they went into a castle
where there were many brilliantly lighted rooms which shone with gold and
silver, likewise a large hall in which there was a well-spread table, and it was
so magnificent that it would be hard to make anyone understand how splendid it
was. The White Bear gave her a silver bell, and told her that when she needed
anything she had but to ring this bell, and what she wanted would appear. So
after she had eaten, and night was drawing near, she grew sleepy after her
journey, and thought she would like to go to bed. She rang the bell, and
scarcely had she touched it before she found herself in a chamber where a bed
stood ready made for her, which was as pretty as anyone could wish to sleep in.
It had pillows of silk, and curtains of silk fringed with gold, and everything
that was in the room was of gold or silver, but when she had lain down and put
out the light a man came and lay down beside her, and behold it was the White
Bear, who cast off the form of a beast during the night. She never saw him,
however, for he always came after she had put out her light, and went away
before daylight appeared.
So all went well and happily for a time, but then she began to be very sad
and sorrowful, for all day long she had to go about alone; and she did so wish
to go home to her father and mother and brothers and sisters. Then the White
Bear asked what it was that she wanted, and she told him that it was so dull
there in the mountain, and that she had to go about all alone, and that in her
parents' house at home there were all her brothers and sisters, and it was
because she could not go to them that she was so sorrowful.
"There might be a cure for that," said the White Bear, "if you would but
promise me never to talk with your mother alone, but only when the others are
there too; for she will take hold of your hand," he said, "and will want to lead
you into a room to talk with you alone; but that you must by no means do, or you
will bring great misery on both of us."
So one Sunday the White Bear came and said that they could now set out to see
her father and mother, and they journeyed thither, she sitting on his back, and
they went a long, long way, and it took a long, long time; but at last they came
to a large white farmhouse, and her brothers and sisters were running about
outside it, playing, and it was so pretty that it was a pleasure to look at
"Your parents dwell here now," said the White Bear; "but do not forget what I
said to you, or you will do much harm both to yourself and me."
"No, indeed," said she, "I shall never forget;" and as soon as she was at
home the White Bear turned round and went back again.
There were such rejoicings when she went in to her parents that it seemed as
if they would never come to an end. Everyone thought that he could never be
sufficiently grateful to her for all she had done for them all. Now they had
everything that they wanted, and everything was as good as it could be. They all
asked her how she was getting on where she was. All was well with her too, she
said; and she had everything that she could want. What other answers she gave I
cannot say, but I am pretty sure that they did not learn much from her. But in
the afternoon, after they had dined at midday, all happened just as the White
Bear had said. Her mother wanted to talk with her alone in her own chamber.
But she remembered what the White Bear had said, and would on no account go.
"What we have to say can be said at any time," she answered. But somehow or
other her mother at last persuaded her, and she was forced to tell the whole
story. So she told how every night a man came and lay down beside her when the
lights were all put out, and how she never saw his face, because he always went away
before it grew light in the morning, and how she continually went about in
sadness, thinking how happy she would be if she could but see him, and how all
day long she had to go about alone, and it was so dull and solitary. "Oh!" cried
the mother, in horror, "you are very likely sleeping with a troll! But I will
teach you a way to see him. You shall have a bit of one of my candles, which you
can take away with you hidden in your breast. Look at him with that when he is
asleep, but take care not to let any tallow drop upon him."
So she took the candle, and hid it in her breast, and when evening drew near
the White Bear came to fetch her away. When they had gone some distance on their
way, the White Bear asked her if everything had not happened just as he had
foretold, and she could not but own that it had. "Then, if you have done what
your mother wished," said he, "you have brought great misery on both of us."
"No," she said, "I have not done anything at all." So when she had reached home
and had gone to bed it was just the same as it had been before, and a man came
and lay down beside her, and late at night, when she could hear that he was
sleeping, she got up and kindled a light, lit her candle, let her light shine on
him, and saw him, and he was the handsomest prince that eyes had ever beheld,
and she loved him so much that it seemed to her that she must die if she did not
kiss him that very moment. So she did kiss him; but while she was doing it she
let three drops of hot tallow fall upon his shirt, and he awoke. "What have you
done now?" said he; "you have brought misery on both of us. If you had but held
out for the space of one year I should have been free. I have a step-mother who
has bewitched me so that I am a white bear by day and a man by night; but now
all is at an end between you and me, and I must leave you, and go to her. She
lives in a castle which lies east of the sun and west of the moon, and there too
is a princess with a nose which is three ells long, and she now is the one whom
I must marry."
She wept and lamented, but all in vain, for go he must. Then she asked him if
she could not go with him. But no, that could not be. "Can you tell me the way
then, and I will seek you--that I may surely be allowed to do!"
"Yes, you may do that," said he; "but there is no way thither. It lies east
of the sun and west of the moon, and never would you find your way there."
When she awoke in the morning both the Prince and the castle were gone, and
she was lying on a small green patch in the midst of a dark, thick wood. By her
side lay the self-same bundle of rags which she had brought with her from her
own home. So when she had rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, and wept till she
was weary, she set out on her way, and thus she walked for many and many a long
day, until at last she came to a great mountain. Outside it an aged woman was
sitting, playing with a golden apple. The girl asked her if she knew the way to
the Prince who lived with his stepmother in the castle which lay east of the sun
and west of the moon, and who was to marry a princess with a nose which was
three ells long. "How do you happen to know about him?" inquired the old woman;
"maybe you are she who ought to have had him." "Yes, indeed, I am," she said.
"So it is you, then?" said the old woman; "I know nothing about him but that he
dwells in a castle which is east of the sun and west of the moon. You will be a
long time in getting to it, if ever you get to it at all; but you shall have the
loan of my horse, and then you can ride on it to an old woman who is a neighbour
of mine: perhaps she can tell you about him. When you have got there you must
just strike the horse beneath the left ear and bid it go home again; but you may
take the golden apple with you."
So the girl seated herself on the horse, and rode for a long, long way, and
at last she came to the mountain, where an aged woman was sitting outside with a
gold carding-comb. The girl asked her if she knew the way to the castle which
lay east of the sun and west of the moon; but she said what the first old woman
had said: "I know nothing about it, but that it is east of the sun and west of
the moon, and that you will be a long time in getting to it, if ever you get
there at all; but you shall have the loan of my horse to an old woman who lives
the nearest to me: perhaps she may know where the castle is, and when you have
got to her you may just strike the horse beneath the left ear and bid it go home
again." Then she gave her the gold carding-comb, for it might, perhaps, be of
use to her, she said.
So the girl seated herself on the horse, and rode a wearisome long way onward
again, and after a very long time she came to a great mountain, where an aged
woman was sitting, spinning at a golden spinning-wheel. Of this woman, too, she
inquired if she knew the way to the Prince, and where to find the castle which
lay east of the sun and west of the moon. But it was only the same thing once
again. "Maybe it was you who should have had the Prince," said the old woman.
"Yes, indeed, I should have been the one," said the girl. But this old crone
knew the way no better than the others--it was east of the sun and west of the
moon, she knew that, "and you will be a long time in getting to it, if ever you
get to it at all," she said; "but you may have the loan of my horse, and I think
you had better ride to the East Wind, and ask him: perhaps he may know where the
castle is, and will blow you thither. But when you have got to him you must just
strike the horse beneath the left ear, and he will come home again." And then
she gave her the golden spinning-wheel, saying: "Perhaps you may find that you
have a use for it."
The girl had to ride for a great many days, and for a long and wearisome
time, before she got there; but at last she did arrive, and then she asked the
East Wind if he could tell her the way to the Prince who dwelt east of the sun
and west of the moon. "Well," said the East Wind, "I have heard tell of the
Prince, and of his castle, but I do not know the way to it, for I have never
blown so far; but, if you like, I will go with you to my brother the West Wind:
he may know that, for he is much stronger than I am. You may sit on my back, and
then I can carry you there." So she seated herself on his back, and they did go
so swiftly! When they got there, the East Wind went in and said that the girl
whom he had brought was the one who ought to have had the Prince up at the
castle which lay east of the sun and west of the moon, and that now she was
traveling about to find him again, so he had come there with her, and would like
to hear if the West Wind knew whereabout the castle was. "No," said the West
Wind; "so far as that have I never blown; but if you like I will go with you to
the South Wind, for he is much stronger than either of us, and he has roamed far
and wide, and perhaps he can tell you what you want to know. You may seat
yourself on my back, and then I will carry you to him.".
So she did this, and journeyed to the South Wind, neither was she very long
on the way. When they had got there, the West Wind asked him if he could tell
her the way to the castle that lay east of the sun and west of the moon, for she
was the girl who ought to marry the Prince who lived there. "Oh, indeed!" said
the South Wind, "is that she? Well," said he, "I have wandered about a great
deal in my time, and in all kinds of places, but I have never blown so far as
that. If you like, however, I will go with you to my brother, the North Wind; he
is the oldest and strongest of all of us, and if he does not know where it is no
one in the whole world will be able to tell you. You may sit upon my back, and
then I will carry you there." So she seated herself on his back, and off he went
from his house in great haste, and they were not long on the way. When they came
near the North Wind's dwelling, he was so wild and frantic that they felt cold
gusts a long while before they got there. "What do you want?" he roared out from
afar, and they froze as they heard. Said the South Wind: "It is I, and this is
she who should have had the Prince who lives in the castle which lies east of
the sun and west of the moon. And now she wishes to ask you if you have ever
been there, and can tell her the way, for she would gladly find him again."
"Yes," said the North Wind, "I know where it is. I once blew an aspen leaf
there, but I was so tired that for many days afterward I was not able to blow at
all. However, if you really are anxious to go there, and are not afraid to go
with me, I will take you on my back, and try if I can blow you there."
"Get there I must," said she; "and if there is any way of going I will; and I
have no fear, no matter how fast you go."
"Very well then," said the North Wind; "but you must sleep here to-night, for
if we are ever to get there we must have the day before us."
The North Wind woke her betimes next morning, and puffed himself up, and made
himself so big and so strong that it was frightful to see him, and away they
went, high up through the air, as if they would not stop until they had reached
the very end of the world. Down below there was such a storm! It blew down woods
and houses, and when they were above the sea the ships were wrecked by hundreds.
And thus they tore on and on, and a long time went by, and then yet more time
passed, and still they were above the sea, and the North Wind grew tired, and
more tired, and at last so utterly weary that he was scarcely able to blow any
longer, and he sank and sank, lower and lower, until at last he went so low that
the waves dashed against the heels of the poor girl he was carrying. "Art thou
afraid?" said the North Wind. "I have no fear," said she; and it was true. But
they were not very, very far from land, and there was just enough strength left
in the North Wind to enable him to throw her on to the shore, immediately under
the windows of a castle which lay east of the sun and west of the moon; but then
he was so weary and worn out that he was forced to rest for several days before
he could go to his own home again.
Next morning she sat down beneath the walls of the castle to play with the
golden apple, and the first person she saw was the maiden with the long nose,
who was to have the Prince. "How much do you want for that gold apple of yours,
girl?" said she, opening the window. "It can't be bought either for gold or
money," answered the girl. "If it cannot be bought either for gold or money,
what will buy it? You may say what you please," said the Princess.
"Well, if I may go to the Prince who is here, and be with him to-night, you
shall have it," said the girl who had come with the North Wind. "You may do
that," said the Princess, for she had made up her mind what she would do. So the
Princess got the golden apple, but when the girl went up to the Prince's
apartment that night he was asleep, for the Princess had so contrived it. The
poor girl called to him, and shook him, and between whiles she wept; but she
could not wake him. In the morning, as soon as day dawned, in came the Princess
with the long nose, and drove her out again. In the daytime she sat down once
more beneath the windows of the castle, and began to card with her golden
carding-comb; and then all happened as it had happened before. The Princess
asked her what she wanted for it, and she replied that it was not for sale,
either for gold or money, but that if she could get leave to go to the Prince,
and be with him during the night, she should have it. But when she went up to
the Prince's room he was again asleep, and, let her call him, or shake him, or
weep as she would, he still slept on, and she could not put any life in him.
When daylight came in the morning, the Princess with the long nose came too, and
once more drove her away. When day had quite come, the girl seated herself under
the castle windows, to spin with her golden spinning-wheel, and the Princess
with the long nose wanted to have that also. So she opened the window, and asked
what she would take for it. The girl said what she had said on each of the
former occasions--that it was not for sale either for gold or for money, but if
she could get leave to go to the Prince who lived there, and be with him during
the night, she should have it.
"Yes," said the Princess, "I will gladly consent to that."
But in that place there were some Christian folk who had been carried off,
and they had been sitting in the chamber which was next to that of the Prince,
and had heard how a woman had been in there who had wept and called on him two
nights running, and they told the Prince of this. So that evening, when the
Princess came once more with her sleeping-drink, he pretended to drink, but
threw it away behind him, for he suspected that it was a sleeping-drink. So,
when the girl went into the Prince's room this time he was awake, and she had to
tell him how she had come there. "You have come just in time," said the Prince,
"for I should have been married to-morrow; but I will not have the long-nosed
Princess, and you alone can save me. I will say that I want to see what my bride
can do, and bid her wash the shirt which has the three drops of tallow on it.
This she will consent to do, for she does not know that it is you who let them
fall on it; but no one can wash them out but one born of Christian folk: it
cannot be done by one of a pack of trolls; and then I will say that no one shall
ever be my bride but the woman who can do this, and I know that you can." There
was great joy and gladness between them all that night, but the next day, when
the wedding was to take place, the Prince said, "I must see what my bride can
do." "That you may do," said the stepmother.
"I have a fine shirt which I want to wear as my wedding shirt, but three
drops of tallow have got upon it which I want to have washed off, and I have
vowed to marry no one but the woman who is able to do it. If she cannot do that,
she is not worth having."
Well, that was a very small matter, they thought, and agreed to do it. The
Princess with the long nose began to wash as well as she could, but, the more
she washed and rubbed, the larger the spots grew. "Ah! you can't wash at all,"
said the old troll-hag, who was her mother. "Give it to me." But she too had not
had the shirt very long in her hands before it looked worse still, and, the more
she washed it and rubbed it, the larger and blacker grew the spots.
So the other trolls had to come and wash, but, the more they did, the blacker
and uglier grew the shirt, until at length it was as black as if it had been up
the chimney. "Oh," cried the Prince, "not one of you is good for anything at
all! There is a beggar-girl sitting outside the window, and I'll be bound that
she can wash better than any of you! Come in, you girl there!" he cried. So she
came in. "Can you wash this shirt clean?" he cried. "Oh! I don't know," she
said; "but I will try." And no sooner had she taken the shirt and dipped it in
the water than it was white as driven snow, and even whiter than that. "I will
marry you," said the Prince.
Then the old troll-hag flew into such a rage that she burst, and the Princess
with the long nose and all the little trolls must have burst too, for they have
never been heard of since. The Prince and his bride set free all the Christian
folk who were imprisoned there, and took away with them all the gold and silver
that they could carry, and moved far away from the castle which lay east of the
sun and west of the moon.
From Andrew Lang's The Blue Fairy Book, published 1889