The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs
Child is promised to get princess later. King does not want this. Youth overcomes all obstacles, gets wife and punishes king.
Once upon a time a poor woman gave birth to a son, and because he had a lucky skin when he was born, it was prophesied that in the fourteenth year he would have the king's daughter as his wife. Soon after, the king came to the village, and no one knew that it was the king, and when he asked the people what was new, they answered "a child with a lucky skin was born in these days: what such a one undertakes is fortunate for him. It is also foretold to him that in his fourteenth year he shall have the king's daughter to wife." The king, who had an evil heart and was angry at the prophecy, went to the parents and acted quite kindly, saying "you poor people, leave your child to me and I will take care of it." At first they refused, but since the strange man offered heavy gold for it, and they thought "it is a lucky child, it must turn out for his good," they finally agreed and gave him the child.
The king put it in a box and rode on with it until he came to a deep water: there he threw the box in and thought "from the unexpected suitor I have helped my daughter." But the box did not sink, but floated like a little ship, and not a drop of water penetrated it. So it floated to two miles from the king's capital, where there was a mill, on whose weir it got stuck. A grinder, who fortunately was standing there and noticed her, pulled her in with a hook and thought he would find great treasure, but when he opened her up, there was a beautiful boy lying in it, all fresh and lively. He brought him to the miller's men, and because they had no children, they rejoiced and said, "God has provided it for us." They took good care of the foundling, and he grew up in all virtues.
It happened that the king once entered the mill during a thunderstorm and asked the miller's men if the tall boy was their son. "No," they answered, "it's an erratic boulder, he swam to the weir in a box fourteen years ago, and the mill boy pulled him out of the water." Then the king realized that it was none other than the lucky child he had thrown into the water, and said "you good people, could not the boy bring a letter to the lady queen, I will give him two gold pieces as a reward?" "As the Lord King commands," the people answered, and told the boy to get ready. Then the king wrote a letter to the queen, saying "as soon as the boy has arrived with this letter, he shall be killed and buried, and all this shall be done before I return."
The boy set out with this letter, but got lost and came into a large forest in the evening. In the darkness he saw a small light, went towards it and came to a cottage. When he entered, an old woman was sitting by the fire all alone. She was frightened when she saw the boy and said "where have you come from and where are you going?" "I have come from the mill," he answered, "and I want to go to the queen, to whom I am to bring a letter: but because I have lost my way in the forest, I would like to spend the night here." "Poor boy," said the woman, "you have got into a robber's house, and when they come home they will kill you." "Let whoever will come," said the boy, "I am not afraid: but I am so tired that I cannot go on," and he stretched himself on a bench, and fell asleep. Soon after, the robbers came and asked angrily what strange boy was lying there. "Ah," said the old woman, "it is an innocent child, lost in the forest, and I have taken him in out of mercy: he shall bring a letter to the Lady Queen." The robbers opened the letter and read it, and it said that the boy would be killed as soon as he arrived. Then the hard-hearted robbers felt pity, and the leader tore up the letter and wrote another, and it said that as soon as the boy arrived, he should be married to the king's daughter. They let him lie quietly on the bench until the next morning, and when he woke up, they gave him the letter and showed him the right way. When the queen had received and read the letter, she did as it said and arranged a splendid wedding feast, and the king's daughter was married to the lucky child; and since the young man was handsome and kind, she lived happily and contentedly with him.
After some time, the king returned to his castle and saw that the prophecy had been fulfilled and that the lucky child was married to his daughter. "How did this happen?" he said, "I gave a completely different order in my letter." Then the queen handed him the letter and said he would like to see for himself what was in it. The king read the letter and realized that it had been exchanged with another one. He asked the young man what had happened to the entrusted letter and why he had brought another in exchange. "I don't know anything," he answered, "it must have been exchanged with me during the night when I was sleeping in the forest. Full of anger the king said, "It shall not be so easy for you; whoever wants my daughter must fetch me from hell three golden hairs from the devil's head; if you bring me what I ask, you shall keep my daughter." With this the king hoped to be rid of him forever. But the child of fortune answered, "I will fetch the golden hairs; I am not afraid of the devil." Then he took his leave and began his wanderings.
The road led him to a large city, where the guard at the gate asked him what business he knew and what he knew. "I know everything," answered the lucky child. "So you can do us a favor," said the guard, "if you tell us why our market well, from which wine used to gush, has become dry, and no longer even gives water." "You shall know," he replied, "just wait until I come back." Then he went on and came before another town, where the gatekeeper again asked what trade he understood and what he knew. "I know everything" he answered. "So you can do us a favor, and tell us why a tree in our town, which used to bear golden apples, now does not even sprout leaves." "You shall know," he replied, "just wait until I come back." So he went on, and came to a great water, over which he had to cross. The ferryman asked him what business he was in and what he knew. "I know everything" he answered. "So you can do me a favor," said the ferryman, "and tell me why I always have to go back and forth and never get relieved." "You shall know," he replied, "only wait till I come back?"
When he had crossed the water, he found the entrance to hell. It was black and sooty inside, and the devil was not at home, but his grandmother was sitting there in a wide chair. "What do you want?" she spoke to him, but did not look so angry. "I would like three golden hairs from the devil's head," he answered, "otherwise I cannot keep my wife." "That's a lot to ask," she said, "if the devil comes home and finds you, you're in for it; but I pity you, I'll see if I can help you." She turned him into an ant and said "crawl into the folds of my skirt, you will be safe there." "Yes," he answered, "that's all right, but there are three things I'd like to know, why a well, from which wine used to gush, has become dry, and now doesn't even give water: why a tree, which used to bear golden apples, no longer even sprouts leaves, and why a ferryman must always go over and over, and is not relieved." "These are hard questions," she answered, "but just keep still and quiet, and be careful what the devil says when I pull out his three golden hairs."
When evening came, the devil came home. No sooner had he entered than he noticed that the air was not pure. "I smell, smell human flesh," he said, "it is not right here." Then he looked in all the corners, and searched, but could not find anything. The grandmother scolded him, "I have just swept up," she said, "and put everything in order, now you throw it back in my face; you always have human flesh in your nose! Sit down and eat your supper." When he had eaten and drunk, he was tired, put his head in his grandmother's lap and told her to listen to him for a while. It was not long before he fell asleep, blowing and snoring. Then the old woman grabbed a golden hair, plucked it out and laid it beside her. "Ouch!" cried the devil, "what are you up to?" "I had a bad dream," replied the grandmother, "I grabbed your hair." "What did you dream about?" asked the devil. "I dreamt that a market fountain, from which wine usually flowed, had dried up, and that not even water wanted to flow from it; what do you think is to blame for that?" "Hey, if they only knew!" replied the devil, "there is a toad under a stone in the well, if they kill it, the wine will flow again." The grandmother listened to him again until he fell asleep and snored so that the windows shook. Then she plucked out his second hair. "Hu! what are you doing?" cried the devil angrily. "Don't take it amiss," she answered, "I did it in a dream." "What did you dream again?" he asked. "I dreamed that in a kingdom there stood a fruit tree, which otherwise would have borne golden apples, and now would not even sprout foliage. What do you suppose was the cause of this?" "Hey, if they knew!" answered the devil, "a mouse gnaws at the root, if they kill it, it will already bear golden apples again, but if it gnaws it even longer, the tree withers completely. But leave me alone with your dreams, if you disturb my sleep again, you will get a slap in the face." The grandmother spoke him too well, and listened to him again until he fell asleep and snored. Then she grabbed the third golden hair and plucked it out. The devil went up in the air, screamed and wanted to do bad business with her, but she calmed him down again and said, "who can for bad dreams!" "What did you dream about?" he asked, yet curious. "I dreamed of a ferryman who complained that he always had to go back and forth, and was not relieved. I wonder what's to blame?" "Hey, the dumb beard!" answered the devil, "if someone comes and wants to cross, he must give him the pole in his hand, then the other must cross and he is free." When the grandmother had pulled out the three golden hairs and the three questions had been answered, she left the old dragon alone and he slept until daybreak.
When the devil had gone away again, the old woman took the ant out of the fold of her skirt, and gave the lucky child back its human form. "There you have the three golden hairs," she said, "what the devil said to your three questions, you must have heard." "Yes," he answered, "I have heard it, and will well keep it." "So you are helped," she said, "and now you can go your way." He thanked the old woman for her help in his trouble, left hell, and was pleased that everything had turned out so well for him. When he came to the ferryman, he was to give him the promised answer. "Drive me over first," said the lucky child, "and I will tell you how you will be delivered," and when he had reached the far shore, he gave him the devil's advice, "if anyone comes again, and wants to be driven over, just give him the pole in his hand." He went on and came to the town where the barren tree stood, and where the watchman also wanted an answer. Then he told him, as he had heard from the devil, "kill the mouse that gnaws at its root, and it will bear golden apples again." Then the guard thanked him and gave him as a reward two donkeys loaded with gold, which had to follow him. At last he came to the city whose well had dried up. Then he said to the watchman, as the devil had spoken, "there is a toad sitting in the well under a stone; you must seek it out and kill it, and it will give plenty of wine again." The guard thanked him and also gave him two donkeys loaded with gold.
Finally the lucky child arrived at home with his wife, who was very happy when she saw him again and heard how well he had succeeded in everything. He brought the king what he had asked for, the three golden hairs of the devil, and when he saw the four donkeys with the gold, he was quite pleased and said, "Now all the conditions are fulfilled and you can keep my daughter. But, dear son-in-law, tell me where is all this gold from? these are tremendous treasures!" "I went over a river," he answered, "and there I took it with me; it lies there instead of the sand on the bank." "Can I take some of it?" said the king, eagerly. "As much as you like," he answered, "there is a ferryman on the river, by him let you cross over, so you can fill your sacks over there." The greedy king set off in all haste, and when he came to the river, he beckoned to the ferryman to cross him over. The ferryman came and told him to get on, and when they reached the far bank, he gave him the oar pole in his hand and jumped away. But the king had to sail from now on as punishment for his sins.
"Do you think he's still driving?" "What? No one will have taken the bar from him."