A fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm
There was once a king's son who went out into the world, and
he was full of thought and sad. He looked at the sky, which
was so beautifully pure and blue, then he sighed, and said,
how well must all be with one up there in heaven.
Then he saw a poor grey-haired man who was coming along the
road towards him, and he spoke to him, and asked, "How can I
get to heaven?" The man answered, "By poverty and humility. Put
on my ragged clothes, wander about the world for seven years,
and get to know what misery is, take no money, but if you are hungry
ask compassionate hearts for a bit of bread. In this way you will
Then the king's son took off his magnificent coat, and wore in
its place the beggar's garment, went out into the wide world,
and suffered great misery. He took nothing but a little food,
said nothing, but prayed to the Lord to take him into his
seven years were over, he returned to his father's palace, but no
one recognized him. He said to the servants, "Go and tell my
parents that I have come back again." But the servants did not
believe it, and laughed and left him standing there. Then said he,
"Go and tell it to my brothers that they may come down, for I
should so like to see them again." The servants would not do that
either, but at last one of them went, and told it to the king's
children, but these did not believe it, and did not trouble
themselves about it. Then he wrote a letter to his mother, and
described to her all his misery, but he did not say that he was
her son. So out of pity, the queen had a place under the stairs
assigned to him, and food taken to him daily by two servants. But
one of them was ill-natured and said, "Why should the beggar have
the good food?" and kept it for himself or gave it to the
dogs, and took the weak, emaciated beggar nothing but water. The
other, however, was honest, and took the beggar what was sent to
him. It was little, but he could live on it for a while, and
all the time he was quite patient, but he grew continually weaker.
As his illness increased, he desired to receive the last sacrament.
When the mass was being celebrated, all the bells in the town and
neighbourhood began to ring of their own accord. After mass the
priest went to the poor man under the stairs, and there he lay
dead. In one hand he had a rose, in the other a lily, and beside
him was a paper on which was written his history.
When he was buried, a rose grew on one side of his grave, and a
lily on the other.