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 ...

~Princess and a Frog

One fine evening a young princess put on her bonnet and clogs, and went out to take a walk by herself in a wood; and when she came to a cool spring of water with a rose in the middle of it, she sat herself down to rest a while. Now she had a golden ball in her hand, which was her favourite plaything; and she was always tossing it up into the air, and catching it again as it fell.

     After a time she threw it up so high that she missed catching it as it fell; and the ball bounded away, and rolled along on the ground, until at last it fell down into the spring. The princess looked into the spring after her ball, but it was very deep, so deep that she could not see the bottom of it. She began to cry, and said, 'Alas! if I could only get my ball again, I would give all my fine clothes and jewels, and everything that I have in the world.'

by Joanna Pasek

     Whilst she was speaking, a frog put its head out of the water, and said, 'Princess, why do you weep so bitterly?'

     'Alas!' said she, 'what can you do for me, you nasty frog? My golden ball has fallen into the spring.'

     The frog said, 'I do not want your pearls, and jewels, and fine clothes; but if you will love me, and let me live with you and eat from off your golden plate, and sleep on your bed, I will bring you your ball again.'

     'What nonsense,' thought the princess, 'this silly frog is talking! He can never even get out of the spring to visit me, though he may be able to get my ball for me, and therefore I will tell him he shall have what he asks.'

     So she said to the frog, 'Well, if you will bring me my ball, I will do all you ask.'

     Then the frog put his head down, and dived deep under the water; and after a little while he came up again, with the ball in his mouth, and threw it on the edge of the spring.

     As soon as the young princess saw her ball, she ran to pick it up; and she was so overjoyed to have it in her hand again, that she never thought of the frog, but ran home with it as fast as she could.

     The frog called after her, 'Stay, princess, and take me with you as you said,'

     But she did not stop to hear a word.

     The next day, just as the princess had sat down to dinner, she heard a strange noise - tap, tap - plash, plash - as if something was coming up the marble staircase, and soon afterwards there was a gentle knock at the door, and a little voice cried out and said:

'Open the door, my princess dear,
Open the door to thy true love here!
And mind the words that thou and I said
By the fountain cool, in the greenwood shade.'

     Then the princess ran to the door and opened it, and there she saw the frog, whom she had quite forgotten. At this sight she was sadly frightened, and shutting the door as fast as she could came back to her seat.

     The king, her father, seeing that something had frightened her, asked her what was the matter.

     'There is a nasty frog,' said she, 'at the door, that lifted my ball for me out of the spring this morning. I told him that he should live with me here, thinking that he could never get out of the spring; but there he is at the door, and he wants to come in.'

     While she was speaking the frog knocked again at the door, and said:

'Open the door, my princess dear,
Open the door to thy true love here!

And mind the words that thou and I said
By the fountain cool, in the greenwood shade.'

     Then the king said to the young princess, 'As you have given your word you must keep it; so go and let him in.'

     She did so, and the frog hopped into the room, and then straight on - tap, tap - plash, plash - from the bottom of the room to the top, till he came up close to the table where the princess sat.

     'Pray lift me upon chair,' said he to the princess, 'and let me sit next to you.'

     As soon as she had done this, the frog said, 'Put your plate nearer to me, that I may eat out of it.'

     This she did, and when he had eaten as much as he could, he said, 'Now I am tired; carry me upstairs, and put me into your bed.' And the princess, though very unwilling, took him up in her hand, and put him upon the pillow of her own bed, where he slept all night long.

     As soon as it was light the frog jumped up, hopped downstairs, and went out of the house.

     'Now, then,' thought the princess, 'at last he is gone, and I shall be troubled with him no more.'

     But she was mistaken; for when night came again she heard the same tapping at the door; and the frog came once more, and said:

'Open the door, my princess dear,
Open the door to thy true love here!
And mind the words that thou and I said
By the fountain cool, in the greenwood shade.'

     And when the princess opened the door the frog came in, and slept upon her pillow as before, till the morning broke. And the third night he did the same. But when the princess awoke on the following morning she was astonished to see, instead of the frog, a handsome prince, gazing on her with the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen and standing at the head of her bed.

     He told her that he had been enchanted by a spiteful fairy, who had changed him into a frog; and that he had been fated so to abide till some princess should take him out of the spring, and let him eat from her plate, and sleep upon her bed for three nights.

     'You,' said the prince, 'have broken his cruel charm, and now I have nothing to wish for but that you should go with me into my father's kingdom, where I will marry you, and love you as long as you live.'

     The young princess, you may be sure, was not long in saying 'Yes' to all this; and as they spoke a brightly coloured coach drove up, with eight beautiful horses, decked with plumes of feathers and a golden harness; and behind the coach rode the prince's servant, faithful Heinrich, who had bewailed the misfortunes of his dear master during his enchantment so long and so bitterly, that his heart had well-nigh burst.

     They then took leave of the king, and got into the coach with eight horses, and all set out, full of joy and merriment, for the prince's kingdom, which they reached safely; and there they lived happily a great many years.

By The Brothers Grimm

~The Lady and the Lion

THERE was once a Man who had to take a long journey, and when he was saying good-bye to his daughters he asked what he should bring back to them.

The eldest wanted pearls, the second diamonds, but the third said, ‘Dear father, I should like a singing, soaring lark.’

The father said, ‘Very well, if I can manage it, you shall have it’; and he kissed all three and set off. He bought pearls and diamonds for the two eldest, but he had searched everywhere in vain for the singing, soaring lark, and this worried him, for his youngest daughter was his favourite child.

Once his way led through a wood, in the midst of which was a splendid castle; near it stood a tree, and right up at the top he saw a lark singing and soaring. ‘Ah,’ he said, ‘I have come across you in the nick of time’; and he called to his Servant to dismount and catch the little creature. But as he approached the tree a Lion sprang out from underneath, and shook himself, and roared so that the leaves on the tree trembled.

‘Who dares to steal my lark?’ said he. ‘I will eat up the thief!’

Then the Man said, ‘I didn’t know that the bird was yours. I will make up for my fault by paying a heavy ransom. Only spare my life.’

But the Lion said, ‘Nothing can save you, unless you promise to give me whatever first meets you when you get home. If you consent, I will give you your life and the bird into the bargain.’

But the Man hesitated, and said, ‘Suppose my youngest and favourite daughter were to come running to meet me when I go home!’

[Pg 76] But the Servant was afraid, and said, ‘Your daughter will not necessarily be the first to come to meet you; it might just as well be a cat or a dog.’

So the Man let himself be persuaded, took the lark, and promised to the Lion for his own whatever first met him on his return home. When he reached home, and entered his house, the first person who met him was none other than his youngest daughter; she came running up and kissed and caressed him, and when she saw that he had brought the singing, soaring lark, she was beside herself with joy. But her father could not rejoice; he began to cry, and said, ‘My dear child, it has cost me dear, for I have had to promise you to a Lion who will tear you in pieces when he has you in his power.’ And he told her all that had happened, and begged her not to go, come what might.

But she consoled him, saying, ‘Dear father, what you have promised must be performed. I will go and will soon soften the Lion’s heart, so that I shall come back safe and sound.’ The next morning the way was shown to her, and she said good-bye and went confidently into the forest.

Now the Lion was an enchanted Prince, who was a Lion by day, and all his followers were Lions too; but by night they reassumed their human form. On her arrival she was kindly received, and conducted to the castle. When night fell, the Lion turned into a handsome man, and their wedding was celebrated with due magnificence. And they lived happily together, sitting up at night and sleeping by day. One day he came to her and said, ‘To-morrow there is a festival at your father’s house to celebrate your eldest sister’s wedding; if you would like to go my Lions shall escort you.’

She answered that she was very eager to see her father again, so she went away accompanied by the Lions.

There was great rejoicing on her coming, for they all thought that she had been torn to pieces and had long been dead.

Arthur Rackham

But she told them what a handsome husband she had and how well she fared; and she stayed with them as long as the [Pg 77] wedding festivities lasted. Then she went back again into the wood.

When the second daughter married, and the youngest was again invited to the wedding, she said to the Lion, ‘This time I will not go alone, you must come too.’

But the Lion said it would be too dangerous, for if a gleam of light touched him he would be changed into a Dove and would have to fly about for seven years.

‘Ah,’ said she, ‘only go with me, and I will protect you and keep off every ray of light.’

So they went away together, and took their little child with them too. They had a hall built with such thick walls that no ray could penetrate, and thither the Lion was to retire when the wedding torches were kindled. But the door was made of fresh wood which split and caused a little crack which no one noticed.

Now the wedding was celebrated with great splendour. But when the procession came back from church with a large number of torches and lights, a ray of light no broader than a hair fell upon the Prince, and the minute this ray touched him he was changed; and when his wife came in and looked for him, she saw nothing but a White Dove sitting there. The Dove said to her, ‘For seven years I must fly about the world; every seventh step I will let fall a drop of blood and a white feather which will show you the way, and if you will follow the track you can free me.’

Thereupon the Dove flew out of the door, and she followed it, and every seventh step it let fall a drop of blood and a little white feather to show her the way. So she wandered about the world, and never rested till the seven years were nearly passed. Then she rejoiced, thinking that she would soon be free of her troubles; but she was still far from release. One day as they were journeying on in the accustomed way, the feather and the drop of blood ceased falling, and when she looked up the Dove had vanished.

‘Man cannot help me,’ she thought. So she climbed up to [Pg 78] the Sun and said to it, ‘You shine upon all the valleys and mountain peaks, have you not seen a White Dove flying by?’

‘No,’ said the Sun, ‘I have not seen one; but I will give you a little casket. Open it when you are in dire need.’

She thanked the Sun, and went on till night, when the Moon shone out. ‘You shine all night,’ she said, ‘over field and forest, have you seen a White Dove flying by?’

‘No,’ answered the Moon, ‘I have seen none; but here is an egg. Break it when you are in great need.’

She thanked the Moon, and went on till the Night Wind blew upon her. ‘You blow among all the trees and leaves, have not you seen a White Dove?’ she asked.

‘No,’ said the Night Wind, ‘I have not seen one; but I will ask the other three Winds, who may, perhaps, have seen it.’

The East Wind and the West Wind came, but they had seen no Dove. Only the South Wind said, ‘I have seen the White Dove. It has flown away to the Red Sea, where it has again become a Lion, since the seven years are over; and the Lion is ever fighting with a Dragon who is an enchanted Princess.’

Then the Night Wind said, ‘I will advise you. Go to the Red Sea, you will find tall reeds growing on the right bank; count them, and cut down the eleventh, strike the Dragon with it and then the Lion will be able to master it, and both will regain human shape. Next, look round, and you will see the winged Griffin, who dwells by the Red Sea, leap upon its back with your beloved, and it will carry you across the sea. Here is a nut. Drop it when you come to mid-ocean; it will open immediately and a tall nut-tree will grow up out of the water, on which the Griffin will settle. Could it not rest, it would not be strong enough to carry you across, and if you forget to drop the nut, it will let you fall into the sea.’

Then she journeyed on, and found everything as the Night Wind had said. She counted the reeds by the sea and cut off the eleventh, struck the Dragon with it, and the Lion mastered it; immediately both regained human form. But when the [Pg 79] Princess who had been a Dragon was free from enchantment, she took the Prince in her arms, seated herself on the Griffin’s back, and carried him off. And the poor wanderer, again forsaken, sat down and cried. At last she took courage and said to herself: ‘Wherever the winds blow, I will go, and as long as cocks crow, I will search till I find him.’

So she went on a long, long way, till she came to the castle where the Prince and Princess were living. There she heard that there was to be a festival to celebrate their wedding. Then she said to herself, ‘Heaven help me,’ and she opened the casket which the Sun had given her; inside it was a dress, as brilliant as the Sun itself. She took it out, put it on, and went into the castle, where every one, including the Bride, looked at her with amazement. The dress pleased the Bride so much that she asked if it was to be bought.

‘Not with gold or goods,’ she answered; ‘but with flesh and blood.’

The Bride asked what she meant, and she answered, ‘Let me speak with the Bridegroom in his chamber to-night.’

The Bride refused. However, she wanted the dress so much that at last she consented; but the Chamberlain was ordered to give the Prince a sleeping draught.

At night, when the Prince was asleep, she was taken to his room. She sat down and said: ‘For seven years I have followed you. I have been to the Sun, and the Moon, and the Four Winds to look for you. I have helped you against the Dragon, and will you now quite forget me?’

But the Prince slept so soundly that he thought it was only the rustling of the wind among the pine-trees. When morning came she was taken away, and had to give up the dress; and as it had not helped her she was very sad, and went out into a meadow and cried. As she was sitting there, she remembered the egg which the Moon had given her; she broke it open, and out came a hen and twelve chickens, all of gold, who ran about chirping, and then crept back under their mother’s wings. A prettier sight could not be seen. She got up and drove them [Pg 80] about the meadow, till the Bride saw them from the window. The chickens pleased her so much that she asked if they were for sale. ‘Not for gold and goods, but for flesh and blood. Let me speak with the Bridegroom in his chamber once more.’

The Bride said ‘Yes,’ intending to deceive her as before; but when the Prince went to his room he asked the Chamberlain what all the murmuring and rustling in the night meant. Then the Chamberlain told him how he had been ordered to give him a sleeping draught because a poor girl had been concealed in his room, and that night he was to do the same again. ‘Pour out the drink, and put it near my bed,’ said the Prince. At night she was brought in again, and when she began to relate her sad fortunes he recognised the voice of his dear wife, sprang up, and said, ‘Now I am really free for the first time. All has been as a dream, for the foreign Princess cast a spell over me so that I was forced to forget you; but heaven in a happy hour has taken away my blindness.’

Then they both stole out of the castle, for they feared the Princess’s father, because he was a sorcerer. They mounted the Griffin, who bore them over the Red Sea, and when they got to mid-ocean, she dropped the nut. On the spot a fine nut-tree sprang up, on which the bird rested; then it took them home, where they found their child grown tall and beautiful, and they lived happily till the end.

~The White Cat

THERE was once a King who had three sons, and because they were all so good and so handsome, he could not make up his mind to which of them to give his kingdom. For he was growing an old man, and began to think it would soon be time for him to let one of them reign in his stead.

So he determined to set them a task to perform, and whichever should be the most successful was to have the kingdom as his reward.

Gennady Spirin

It was some time before he could decide what the task should be. But at last he told them that he had a fancy for a very beautiful little dog, and that they were all to set out to find one for him. They were to have a whole year in which to search, and were all to return to the castle on the same day, and present the various dogs they had chosen at the same hour.

The three Princes were greatly surprised by their father's sudden fancy for a little dog, but when they heard that whichever of them brought back the prettiest little animal was to succeed his father on the throne, they made no further objection, for it gave the two younger sons a chance they would not otherwise have had of being King.

So they bade their father good-bye, and after agreeing to be back at the castle at the same hour, and on the same day, when a year should have passed away, the three brothers all started together.

A great number of lords and servants accompanied them out of the city, but when they had ridden about a league they sent everyone back, and after embracing one another affectionately, they all set out to try their luck in different directions.

The two eldest met with many adventures on their travels, but the youngest saw the most wonderful sights of all.

He was young and handsome, and as clever as a Prince should be, besides being brave.

Wherever he went he enquired for dogs, and hardly a day passed without his buying several, big and little, greyhounds, spaniels, lap-dogs, and sheep-dogs--in fact, every kind of dog that you could think of, and very soon he had a troop of fifty or sixty trotting along behind him, one of which he thought would surely win the prize.

So he journeyed on from day to day, not knowing where he was going, until one night he lost his way in a thick dark forest, and after wandering many weary miles in the wind and rain he was glad to see at last a bright light shining through the trees.
He thought he must be near some woodcutter's cottage, but what was his surprise when he found himself before the gateway of a splendid castle!

At first he hesitated about entering, for his garments were travel stained, and he was drenched with rain, so that no one could have possibly taken him for a Prince. All the beautiful little dogs he had taken so much trouble to collect had been lost in the forest, and he was thoroughly weary and disheartened.

However, something seemed to bid him enter the castle, so he pulled the bell. Immediately the gateway flew open, and a number of beautiful white hands appeared, and beckoned to him to cross the courtyard and enter the great hall.

Here he found a splendid fire blazing, beside which stood a comfortable arm-chair; the hands pointed invitingly towards it, and as soon as the Prince had seated himself they proceeded to take off his wet, muddy clothes, and dress him in a magnificent suit of silk and velvet.

When he was ready, the hands led him into a brilliantly-lighted room, in which was a table spread for supper. At the end of the room was a raised platform, upon which a number of cats were seated, all playing different musical instruments.

The Prince began to think he must be dreaming, when the door opened, and a lovely little White Cat came in. She wore a long black veil, and was accompanied by a number of cats, dressed in black, and carrying swords.

She came straight up to the Prince, and in a sweet, sad little voice bade him welcome. Then she ordered supper to be served, and the whole company sat down together.

They were waited upon by the mysterious hands, but many of the dishes were not to the Prince's liking. Stewed rats and mice may be a first-rate meal for a cat, but the Prince did not feel inclined to try them.

However, the White Cat ordered the hands to serve the Prince with the dishes he liked best, and at once, without his even mentioning his favorite food, he was supplied with every dainty he could think of.

After the Prince had satisfied his hunger, he noticed that the Cat wore a bracelet upon her paw, in which was set a miniature of himself; but when he questioned her about it, she sighed, and seemed so sad that, like a well-behaved Prince, he said no more about the matter.

Soon after supper, the hands conducted him to bed, when he at once fell fast asleep, and did not awaken until late the next morning. On looking out of his window, he saw that the White Cat and her attendants were about to start out on a hunting expedition.

As soon as the hands had dressed him in a hunting-suit of green, he hurried down to join his hostess.

The hands led him up to a wooden horse, and seemed to expect him to mount. At first the Prince was inclined to be angry, but the White Cat told him so gently that she had no better steed to offer him, that he at once mounted, feeling very much ashamed of his ill-humor.

They had an excellent day's sport. The White Cat, who rode a monkey, proved herself a clever huntress, climbing the tallest trees with the greatest ease, and without once falling from her steed.

Never was there a pleasanter hunting party, and day after day the time passed so happily away that the Prince forgot all about the little dog he was searching for, and even forgot his own home and his father's promise.

At length the White Cat reminded him that in three days he must appear at court, and the Prince was terribly upset to think that he had now no chance of winning his father's kingdom. But the White Cat told him that all would be well, and giving him an acorn, bade him mount the wooden horse and ride away.

Thc Prince thought she must be mocking him, but when she held the acorn to his ear, he heard quite plainly a little dog's bark.

"Inside this acorn," she said, "is the prettiest little dog in the world. But be sure you do not open the fruit until you are in the King's presence."

The Prince thanked her, and having bidden her a sorrowful farewell, mounted his wooden steed and rode away.

Before he reached the castle, he met his two brothers, who made fine fun of the wooden horse, and also of the big ugly dog which trotted by his side.

They imagined this to be the one their brother had brought back from his travels, hoping that it would gain the prize.

When they reached the palace, everyone was loud in praise of the two lovely little dogs the elder brothers had brought back with them, but when the youngest opened his acorn and showed a tiny dog, lying upon a white satin cushion, they knew that this must be the prettiest little dog in the world.

However, the King did not feel inclined to give up his throne just yet, so he told the brothers that there was one more task they must first perform: they must bring him a piece of muslin so fine that it would pass through the eye of a needle.

So once more the brothers set out upon their travels. As for the youngest, he mounted his wooden horse and rode straight back to his dear White Cat. ,

She was delighted to welcome him, and when the Prince told her that the King had now ordered him to find a piece of muslin fine enough to go through the eye of a needle, she smiled at him very sweetly, and told him to be of good cheer.

"In my palace I have some very clever spinners," she said, "and I will set them to work upon the muslin."

The Prince had begun to suspect by this time that the White Cat was no ordinary pussy, but whenever he begged her to tell him her history, she only shook her head mournfully and sighed.

Well, the second year passed away as quickly as the first, and the night before the day on which the three Princes were expected at their father's court, the White Cat gave the young Prince a walnut, telling him that it contained the muslin. Then she bade him good-by, and he mounted the wooden horse and rode away.

This time the young Prince was so late that his brothers had already begun to display their pieces of muslin to the King when he arrived at the castle gates. The materials they had brought were of extremely fine texture, and passed easily through the eye of a darning-needle, but through the small needle the King had provided they would not pass. Then the youngest Prince stepped into the great hall and produced his walnut. He cracked it carefully, and found inside a hazel-nut. This when cracked held a cherrystone , inside the cherrystone was a grain of wheat, and in the wheat a millet-seed. The Prince himself began to mistrust the White Cat, but he instantly felt a cat's claw scratch him gently, so he persevered, opened the millet-seed, and found inside a beautiful piece of soft white muslin that was four hundred ells long at the very least. It passed with the greatest ease through the eye of the smallest needle in the kingdom, and the Prince felt that now the prize must be his.

But the old King was still very loth to give up ruling, so he told the Princes that before any one of them could become King he must find a Princess to marry him who would be lovely enough to grace her high station; and whichever of the Princes brought home the most beautiful bride should really have the kingdom for his own.

Of course, the Prince went back to the White Cat, and told her how very unfairly his father had behaved to him. She comforted him as best she could, and told him not to be afraid, for she would introduce him to the loveliest Princess the sun had ever shone upon.

The appointed time passed happily away, and one evening the White Cat reminded the Prince that on the next day he must return home.

"Alas!" said he, "where shall I find a Princess now. The time is so short that I cannot even look for one."

Then the White Cat told him that if only he would do as she bade him all would be well.

"Take your sword, cut off my head and my tail, and cast them into the flames," she said.

The Prince declared that on no account would he treat her so cruelly; but she begged him so earnestly to do as she asked that at last he consented.

No sooner had he cast the head and the tail into the fire than a beautiful Princess appeared where the body of the cat had been. The spell that had been cast upon her was broken, and at the same time her courtiers and attendants, who had also been changed into cats, hastened in in their proper forms again, to pay their respects to their mistress.

The Prince at once fell deeply in love with the charming Princess, and begged her to accompany him to his father's court as his bride.

She consented, and together they rode away. During the journey, the Princess told her husband the story of her enchantment.

She had been brought up by the fairies, who treated her with great kindness until she offended them by falling in love with the young man whose portrait the Prince had seen upon her paw, and who exactly resembled him.

Now, the fairies wished her to marry the King of the Dwarfs, and were so angry when she declared she would marry no one but her own true love, that they changed her into a White Cat as a punishment.

When the Prince and his bride reached the court, all were bound to acknowledge that the Princess was by far the loveliest lady they had ever seen.

So the poor old King felt that now he would be obliged to give up his kingdom. But the Princess knelt by his side, kissed his hand gently, and told him that there was no reason for him to cease ruling, for she was rich enough to give a mighty kingdom to each of his elder sons, and still have three left for herself and her dear husband.

So everyone was pleased, and there was great rejoicing and feasting in the King's palace, and they all lived happily ever after.

tale by Madame d’Aulnoy (1650/1705)