Three hunters are looking for lost daughters of the king. The youngest defeats meerkats and dragons, rescues daughters, gets back through magic flute and marries.
Once upon a time there was a rich king who had three daughters who walked in the castle garden every day; and the king, who was a great lover of all kinds of beautiful trees, loved one tree in particular, so that he wished the one who plucked him an apple from it a hundred fathoms deep under the earth. When autumn came, the apples on the tree turned as red as blood. The three daughters went under the tree every day and watched to see if the wind had not knocked down an apple, but they found none for the rest of their lives, and the tree sat so full as if it wanted to break, and the branches hung down to the ground. Then the youngest of the king's daughters had a great desire, and she said to her sister, "Our father is much too fond of us to curse us; I think he only says that because of the strange people." And the child plucked off a very fat apple and jumped in front of her sisters and said, "Ah, now taste this, my dear sisters, I have never eaten anything so beautiful in my life." Then the two other king's daughters also bit into the apple, and there they all three sank deep into the earth, so that no cock crowed after them any more.
When noon came, the king wanted to call them to the table, but they were nowhere to be found. He looked for them everywhere, in the castle and in the garden, but he could not find them. Then he became very sad and summoned the whole country, and the one who would bring him back his daughters should have one of them as his wife. So many young people went over the fields and searched with all their might and beyond measure, for everyone had liked the three children, because they had been so friendly to everyone and also beautiful in their faces. Three hunter boys also set out, and when they had wandered for about eight days, they came to a large castle, where there were such pretty rooms, and in one room a table was set, on which there was such sweet food, which was still warm and steaming; but in the whole castle no one was to be heard or seen. They waited half a day, and the food remained warm and steaming, but then they became so hungry that they sat down at the table and ate with great appetite. They agreed to stay in the castle, and they cast lots for one to stay in the house and the other two to look for the daughters; they did so, and the oldest was cast. The next day the two youngest went out to look for them, and the eldest had to stay at home. On Wednesday, a little man came and asked for a piece of bread. The eldest took some of the bread he had found there, cut off a piece around the bread and wanted to give it to him. He handed it to the little man, but he dropped the piece and told the hunter boy to pick it up and give it back to him. He wanted to do that and bent down, but the little man took a stick, grabbed him by the hair and gave him a good beating. The next day, the second one stayed at home and did not fare any better. When the other two came home in the evening, the oldest one said: "Well, how have you been? - "Oh, I have fared badly." Then they complained to each other about their misery, but they said nothing to the youngest, for they did not like him at all and had always called him stupid Hans, because he was not particularly worldly-wise.
On the third day, the youngest stayed at home, and the little man came back and asked for a piece of bread. And when he had given it to him, he dropped it again and said that he would be so good as to give him the piece again. Then Hans said to the little man, "What, can't you pick up the piece yourself? If you don't even care that much about your daily food, then you are not worthy to eat it!" Then the male became angry and said that he had to do it; but Hans, not being lazy, took my dear male and thrashed him soundly. Then the little man cried out loudly, "Stop it, stop it, and let me go, and I will tell you where the king's daughters are."
When Hans heard this, he stopped beating, and the little man told him that he was a meerkat, and that there were more than a thousand of them, and that he should go with him and then he would show him where the king's daughters were. He showed him a deep well, but there was no more water in it. And then the little man said that he knew well that his companions were not honest with him, and if he wanted to redeem the king's children, then he would have to do it alone. The other two brothers also wanted to have the king's daughters back, but they did not want to undergo any trouble and danger. In order to redeem the daughters, he would have to take a large basket, sit in it with a deer hunter and a clamp, and let himself be wrung down. Downstairs there were three rooms; in each of them a child king was sitting and had to tickle a dragon with many heads: he would have to cut off their heads. When the meerkat had said all this, he disappeared. When evening came, the other two came and asked him how he had fared. He said, "Oh, so far so good," and he had seen no one, except at noon, when a little man came and asked for a piece of bread, and when he gave it to him, the man dropped it and said that he should pick it up again. As he did not want to do that, he started to threaten him, but he did not understand that and beat the little man up, so he told him where the king's children were. The other two hunters were so angry that they turned yellow and green. The next morning they went together to the well and cast lots to see who should sit down in the basket first. The lot fell on the oldest, he had to sit down in it and take the bell with him. Then he said, "When I ring the bell, you must wind me up again quickly." He was only down for a short time when the bell rang and the two other brothers wrestled him back up. Then the second one sat down and did the same. Now it was the turn of the youngest, who let himself be wrung down completely. When he had climbed out of the basket, he took his deerstalker, went to the first door and listened: there he heard the dragon snoring very loudly. He slowly opened the door; there sat a king's daughter, who had nine dragon heads lying on her lap and was cuddling them. Then he took his deerstalker and struck, and nine heads were off. The king's daughter jumped up and fell around his neck and kissed him from the bottom of her heart; then she took an ornament that she wore on her chest, which was of old gold, and hung it around the young hunter's neck. Then he also went to the second king's daughter, who had to tame a dragon with seven heads; and he delivered her also. Then he also delivered the youngest, who had to tame a dragon with four heads. The three sisters embraced and kissed each other with joy, without stopping. Now the youngest brother then rang so loudly that they heard it above. Then he put the king's daughters one by one into the basket and let them all three go up. But when his turn came, he remembered the words of the meerkat, that his companions did not mean well to him. So he took a large stone that was lying on the ground and put it into the basket. When the basket was pulled up to about the middle, the false brothers cut the rope at the top so that the basket with the stones fell to the bottom, and now they thought he was dead. They ran away with the three king's daughters and made them promise to tell their father that the two oldest brothers had delivered them. So they came to the king, and each of them desired a king's daughter as his wife.
In the meantime, the youngest hunter boy was walking around in the three chambers, quite sadly; he thought that he would have to die now. Then he saw a flute hanging on the wall and said, "Why are you hanging there? No one can be funny here!" He also looked at the dragon heads; then he said, "You can't help me either!" And he walked up and down, so that the ground became completely slippery. And suddenly, he got other thoughts, took the flute from the wall and blew a little on it; and suddenly, with every note he blew, a meerkat came out. He kept blowing until the whole room was full of meerkats. They all asked what he wanted. Then he said that he wanted to go back up to the daylight. Then everyone grabbed one of his head hairs, and so they flew up to the earth with him. As soon as he was up there, he went to the king's castle, where the wedding with the king's daughter was to take place, and he went to the room where the king was sitting with his three daughters. When the children saw him there, they fainted. The king became very angry and immediately had him thrown into prison, because he thought he had harmed the children. But when the king's daughters came to themselves again, they begged their father to release him. The king asked them why, but the children said they were not allowed to tell. But the father told them to tell the oven. Then he went out, listened at the door and heard everything. Then he had the two brothers hanged on the gallows, and to the youngest he gave the youngest daughter. And then I put on a pair of glass shoes, and there I struck a stone, and it went 'klink,' and they were broken in two.