The Water of Life
The youngest king's son manages to find the water of life and saves sick father. But the brothers do not want a happy ending. Does it succeed?
Once upon a time there was a king who was ill, and no one believed that he would escape with his life. But he had three sons who were saddened by this and went down to the castle garden and wept. An old man met them and asked them about their sorrow. They told him that their father was so ill that he would probably die, for nothing would help him. Then the old man said, "I know another remedy, that is the water of life, if he drinks of it, he will be well again: but it is hard to find. The eldest said, 'I will find it,' and went to the sick king and asked him to allow him to go out to look for the water of life, for that alone could heal him. No," said the king, "the danger is too great, I would rather die. But he begged until the king agreed. The prince thought in his heart, 'If I bring the water, I will be the dearest to my father and inherit the kingdom.
So he set off, and when he had ridden away for a while, there was a dwarf standing on the path, who called him and said, 'Where out so fast?' 'Silly boy,' said the prince proudly, 'you don't need to know that,' and rode on. But the little man had become angry and had made an evil wish. Soon after, the prince came to a mountain gorge, and the further he rode, the narrower the mountains became, and at last the way became so narrow that he could not go a step further; it was not possible to turn the horse or get out of the saddle, and he sat there like a prisoner. The sick king waited for him for a long time, but he did not come. Then the second son said, 'Father, let me go out and seek the water,' thinking to himself, 'If my brother is dead, the kingdom is mine.' At first the king did not want to let him go either, but at last he gave in. So the prince went on the same way his brother had gone, and met the dwarf, who stopped him and asked where he was going in such a hurry. Little squirt,' said the prince, 'you don't need to know,' and rode off without looking back. But the dwarf cursed him, and he, like the other, fell into a mountain ravine and could not go forward or backward. But this is what happens to the arrogant.
When the second son also stayed away, the youngest offered to go and fetch the water, and the king finally had to let him go. When he met the dwarf and he asked where he was going in such a hurry, he stopped, gave him an answer and said 'I am looking for the water of life, because my father is sick to death. Do you know where to find it? No' said the prince. Because you have behaved as you should, not boisterously like your false brothers, I will give you information and tell you how to get to the water of life. It springs from a well in the courtyard of a cursed castle, but you will not enter it unless I give you an iron rod and two loaves of bread. Strike the iron gate of the castle three times with the rod, and it will burst open: inside lie two lions who open their jaws, but if you throw a loaf of bread into each of them, they will be quiet, and then hurry and fetch some of the water of life before it strikes twelve, otherwise the gate will strike again and you will be locked in. The prince thanked him, took the rod and the bread, and went on his way. And when he arrived, everything was as the dwarf had said. The gate burst open at the third stroke of the rod, and when he had appeased the lions with the bread, he entered the castle and came into a large beautiful hall: in it sat cursed princes, from whom he pulled the rings off their fingers, then there lay a sword and a loaf of bread, which he took away. And further he came into a room, in it stood a beautiful virgin, who rejoiced when she saw him, kissed him and said he had redeemed her, and should have her whole kingdom, and if he came again in a year, their wedding should be celebrated. Then she also told him where the well with the water of life was, but he had to hurry and draw from it before it struck twelve. So he went on and finally came to a room where there was a beautiful, freshly made bed, and because he was tired, he wanted to rest a little first. So he lay down and fell asleep: when he awoke, it was three quarters of twelve. Then he jumped up, quite frightened, ran to the well and drew from it with a cup that was standing next to it, and hurried to get away. Just as he was going out to the iron gate, twelve o'clock struck, and the gate slammed shut so violently that it took a piece off his heel.
But he was glad that he had obtained the water of life, went home and passed the dwarf again. When the dwarf saw the sword and the bread, he said, "With this you have won great goods, with the sword you can beat whole armies, but the bread will never be enough. The prince did not want to come home to his father without his brothers, so he said, "Dear dwarf, can't you tell me where my two brothers are? they left earlier than I did for the water of life and have not returned. They are locked between two mountains," said the dwarf, "and I have cursed them there because they were so wanton. Then the prince begged until the dwarf let them go again, but he warned him and said 'beware of them, they have an evil heart'.
When his brothers came, he rejoiced and told them how he had fared, that he had found the water of life and had taken a cup full with him and had redeemed a beautiful princess, who wanted to wait for him for a year, then the wedding would be held and he would get a great kingdom. After that they rode away together and came into a country where there was famine and war, and the king thought he would have to perish, so great was the need. Then the prince went to him and gave him bread, with which he fed and satisfied his whole kingdom; and then the prince also gave him the sword, with which he defeated the armies of his enemies and could now live in peace and quiet. Then the prince took back his bread and sword, and the three brothers rode on. But they still came to two countries where there was famine and war, and there the prince gave his bread and sword to the kings each time, and had now saved three kingdoms. And after that they got on a ship and sailed across the sea. During the voyage the two eldest said among themselves 'the youngest has found the water of life and we have not, for this our father will give him the kingdom that is ours and he will take away our fortune'. Then they became vengeful and agreed with each other that they would destroy him. They waited until he was fast asleep, then they poured out the water of life from the cup and took it for themselves, but to him they poured bitter sea water.
When they arrived home, the youngest brought his cup to the sick king so that he could drink from it and get well. But no sooner had he drunk a little of the bitter sea water than he became even more ill than before. And as he lamented, the two eldest sons came and accused the youngest of trying to poison him, and they brought him the true water of life and gave it to him. No sooner had he drunk it than he felt his illness disappear and he became strong and healthy as in his younger days. Then the two went to the youngest and mocked him, saying, "You have found the water of life, but you have had the trouble and we the reward; you should have been wiser and kept your eyes open, we took it from you while you were asleep on the sea, and over the year one of us will take the beautiful king's daughter. But beware that you do not reveal anything about it, the father does not believe you, and if you say a single word, you shall lose your life on top of it, but if you keep silent, it shall be given to you.
The old king was angry with his youngest son and believed that he had tried to kill him. So he had the court assembled and pronounced the sentence on him that he should be shot secretly. When the prince rode out to hunt and did not suspect any harm, the king's hunter had to go with him. Outside, when they were all alone in the forest, and the huntsman looked so sad, the prince said to him, 'Dear huntsman, what is wrong with you? The huntsman said, 'I can't tell you, but I should. Then the prince said, "Tell me what it is, and I will forgive you. Ah,' said the huntsman, 'I am to shoot you to death, the king has ordered me to do it.' Then the prince was frightened and said: 'Dear hunter, let me live, I will give you my royal dress, give me your bad one in return. The hunter said, "I will do that gladly, I could not have shot at you. So they exchanged clothes, and the hunter went home, but the prince went further into the forest.
About a time there came to the old king three chariots with gold and precious stones for his youngest son: but they were sent by the three kings, who had slain the enemies with the prince's sword and fed their country with his bread, and who wanted to show their gratitude. Then the old king thought, 'Should my son have been innocent?' and said to his people, 'If he were still alive, how sorry I am that I let him be killed. He is still alive,' said the hunter, 'I could not bring myself to carry out your order,' and told the king how it had happened. Then a stone fell from the king's heart, and he sent word to all the kingdoms that his son might return and be received into grace.
But the king's daughter had a road made in front of her castle, all golden and shining, and told her people whoever came riding straight to her on it would be the right one, and they should let him in, but whoever came next to it would not be the right one, and they should not let him in either. When the time was almost up, the eldest thought he would hurry and go to the king's daughter and pretend to be her savior, so that he would get her as his wife and the kingdom next to her. So he rode away, and when he came before the castle and saw the beautiful golden road, he thought, "That would be a pity if you rode along it," and turned away and rode along to the right. But when he came to the gate, the people told him that he was not the right one and that he should go away again. Soon the second prince set out, and when he came to the golden road, and the horse had set foot on it, he thought, 'It would be a pity, it might be a bit of a waste,' and turned away and rode off to the left. But when he came to the gate, the people said he was not the right one, he should go away again. When the year was over, the third wanted to ride out of the forest to his beloved and forget his sorrow with her. So he set off, thinking of her all the time, and would have liked to be with her already, but he did not see the golden road at all. Then his horse rode over the middle of it, and when he came to the gate, it was opened, and the king's daughter received him with joy and said that he was her savior and the lord of the kingdom, and the wedding was held with great happiness. And when it was over, she told him that his father had sent for him and forgiven him. Then he rode up and told him everything, how his brothers had betrayed him and yet he had kept silent about it. The old king wanted to punish them, but they had put to sea and sailed away and did not come back again for the rest of their lives.