When People told themselves their past with stories,
explained their present with stories,
foretold the future with stories,
the best place by the fire was kept for ...

~The Elves~

 (another story with that title)

There was once upon a time a rich king who had
three daughters, who daily went to walk in the palace
garden, and the king was a great lover of all kinds
of fine trees, but there was one for which he had
such an affection, that if anyone gathered an apple
from it he wished him a hundred fathoms underground.
And when harvest time came, the apples on this tree
were all as red as blood. The three daughters went
every day beneath the tree, and looked to see if the wind
had not blown down an apple, but they never by any
chance found one, and the tree was so loaded with
them that it was almost breaking, and the branches
hung down to the ground.

Then the king's youngest child had a great desire for
an apple, and said to her sisters, our father loves us
far too much to wish us underground, it is my belief
that he would only do that to people who were strangers.
And while she was speaking, the child plucked off
quite a large apple, and ran to her sisters, saying,
just taste, my dear little sisters, for never in my life
have I tasted anything so delightful.
Then the two other sisters also ate some of the apple,
whereupon all three sank deep down into the earth,
where they could hear no cock crow.

When mid-day came, the king wished to call them to
come to dinner, but they were nowhere to be found.
He sought them everywhere in the palace and garden,
but could not find them. Then he was much troubled,
and made known to the whole land that whosoever brought
his daughters back again should have one of them to wife. Hereupon so many young men went about the country
in search, that there was no counting them, for everyone
loved the three children because they were so kind
to all, and so fair of face.

Three young huntsmen also went out, and when they
had traveled about for eight days, they arrived at a great
castle, in which were beautiful apartments, and in one
room a table was laid on which were delicate dishes which
were still so warm that they were smoking, but in the
whole of the castle no human being was either to be seen or heard. They waited there for half a day, and the food
still remained warm and smoking, and at length they
were so hungry that they sat down and ate, and agreed
with each other that they would stay and live in that castle,
and that one of them, who should be chosen by casting
lots, should remain in the house,
and the two others seek the king's daughters.

They cast lots, and the lot fell on the eldest, so next day
the two younger went out to seek, and the eldest
had to stay home. At mid-day came a small,
small mannikin and begged for a piece of bread,
then the huntsman took the bread which he had
found there, and cut a round off the loaf and was about
to give it to him, but while he was giving it to the
mannikin, the latter let it fall, and asked the huntsman
to be so good as to give him that piece again.
The huntsman was about to do so and stooped,
on which the mannikin took a stick, seized him by
the hair, and gave him a good beating.

Next day, the second stayed at home, and he fared
no better. When the two others returned in the evening,
the eldest said, well, how have you got on? Oh, very badly,
said he, and then they lamented their misfortune
together, but they said nothing about it to the youngest,
for they did not like him at all, and always called him stupid Hans, because he did not know the ways of the world.

On the third day, the youngest stayed at home,
and again the little mannikin came and begged for a
piece of bread. When the youth gave it to him, the elf
let it fall as before, and asked him to be so good as to give
him that piece again. Then said Hans to the little mannikin,
what, can you not pick up that piece yourself?
If you will not take as much trouble as that for your
daily bread, you do not deserve to have it.
Then the mannikin grew very angry and said he was to
do it, but the huntsman would not, and took my
dear mannikin, and gave him a thorough beating.
Then the mannikin screamed terribly, and cried, stop,
stop, and let me go, and I will tell you where
the king's daughters are.

When Hans heard that, he left off beating him and
the mannikin told him that he was a gnome,
and that there were more than a thousand like him,
and that if he would go with him he would show him
where the king's daughters were. Then he showed him
a deep well, but there was no water in it. And the elf
said that he knew well that the companions Hans had
with him did not intend to deal honorably with him,
therefore if he wished to deliver the king's children,
he must do it alone.

The two other brothers would also be very glad
to recover the king's daughters, but they did not want
to have any trouble or danger. Hans was therefore to
take a large basket, and he must seat himself in it with
his hunting knife and a bell, and be let down.
Below are three rooms, and in each of them was a princess,
who was lousing a dragon with many heads, which he must
cut off. And having said all this, the elf vanished.

When it was evening the two brothers came and asked
how he had got on, and he said, pretty well so far, and
that he had seen no one except at mid-day when a
little mannikin had come and begged for a piece of bread,
that he had given some to him, but that the mannikin had
let it fall and had asked him to pick it up again,
but as he did not choose to do that, the elf had begun to
scold, and that he had lost his temper, and had
given the elf a beating, at which he had told him
where the king's daughters were. Then the two were
so angry at this that they grew green and yellow.

Next morning they went to the well together,
and drew lots who should first seat himself in the basket,
and again the lot fell on the eldest, and he was to seat
himself in it, and take the bell with him.
Then he said, if I ring, you must draw me up again
immediately. When he had gone down for a short
distance, he rang, and they at once drew him up again.
Then the second seated himself in the basket, but he did
just the same as the first, and then it was the turn of
the youngest, but he let himself be lowered quite to the bottom.

When he had got out of the basket, he took his knife, and
went and stood outside the first door and listened, and
heard the dragon snoring quite loudly.
He opened the door slowly, and one of the princesses
was sitting there, and had nine dragon's heads lying upon
her lap, and was lousing them. Then he took his knife
and hewed at them, and the nine fell off.
The princess sprang up, threw her arms round his neck,
embraced and kissed him repeatedly, and took her stomacher, which was made of pure gold, and hung it round his neck.

Then he went to the second princess, who had a dragon
with five heads to louse, and delivered her also, and
to the youngest, who had a dragon with four heads,
he went likewise. And they all rejoiced, and embraced
him and kissed him without stopping.
Then he rang very loud, so that those above heard him,
and he placed the princesses one after the other in the
basket, and had them all drawn up, but when it came
to his own turn he remembered the words of the elf,
who had told him that his comrades did not mean well
by him. So he took a great stone which was lying there,
and placed it in the basket, and when it was about
half way up, his false brothers above cut the rope,
so that the basket with the stone fell to the ground,
and they thought that he was dead, and ran away with
the three princesses, making them promise to tell their
father that it was they who had delivered them.
Then they went to the king, and each
demanded a princess in marriage.

In the meantime the youngest huntsman was wandering
about the three chambers in great trouble, fully expecting
to have to end his days there, when he saw,
hanging on the wall, a flute, then said he, why do you
hang there. No one can be merry here.

He looked at the dragons, heads likewise and said, you
too cannot help me now. He walked to and fro for such
a long time that he made the surface of the ground quite
smooth. But at last other thoughts came to his mind,
and he took the flute from the wall, and played a few
notes on it, and suddenly a number of elves appeared,
and with every note that he sounded one more came.
Then he played until the room was entirely filled.

They all asked what he desired, so he said he wished to
get above ground back to daylight, on which they seized
him by every hair that grew on his head, and thus they
flew with him onto the earth again.
When he was above ground, he at once went to the
king's palace, just as the wedding of one princess
was about to be celebrated, and he went to the room
where the king and his three daughters were.
When the princesses saw him they fainted.

Hereupon the king was angry, and ordered him to be
put in prison at once, because he thought he must
have done some injury to the children.
When the princesses came to themselves, however,
they entreated the king to set him free again.

The king asked why, and they said that they were not
allowed to tell that, but their father said that they were
to tell it to the stove. And he went out, listened at the door,
and heard everything. Then he caused the two brothers
to be hanged on the gallows, and to the third he gave
his youngest daughter, and on that occasion
I wore a pair of glass shoes, and I struck them against
a stone, and they said, klink, and were broken.

by The Brothers Grimm

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