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How Geirald the coward was punished.
From The Brown Fairy book by Andrew Lang.
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Age Rating 8 Plus.
Once upon a time there lived a poor knight who had a great many
children, and found it very hard to get enough for them to eat. One
day he sent his eldest son, Rosald, a brave and honest youth, to the
neighbouring town to do some business, and here Rosald met a young man
named Geirald, with whom he made friends.
Now Geirald was the son of a rich man, who was proud of the boy, and had
all his life allowed him to do whatever he fancied, and, luckily for the
father, he was prudent and sensible, and did not waste money, as many
other rich young men might have done. For some time he had set his heart
on travelling into foreign countries, and after he had been talking
for a little while to Rosald, he asked if his new friend would be his
companion on his journey.
'There is nothing I should like better,' answered Rosald, shaking his
head sorrowfully; 'but my father is very poor, and he could never give
me the money.'
'Oh, if that is your only difficulty, it is all right,' cried Geirald.
'My father has more money than he knows what to do with, and he will
give me as much as I want for both of us; only, there is one thing you
must promise me, Rosald, that, supposing we have any adventures, you
will let the honour and glory of them fall to me.'
'Yes, of course, that is only fair,' answered Rosald, who never cared
about putting himself forward. 'But I cannot go without telling my
parents. I am sure they will think me lucky to get such a chance.'
As soon as the business was finished, Rosald hastened home. His parents
were delighted to hear of his good fortune, and his father gave him his
own sword, which was growing rusty for want of use, while his mother saw
that his leather jerkin was in order.
'Be sure you keep the promise you made to Geirald,' said she, as she
bade him good-bye, 'and, come what may, see that you never betray him.'
Full of joy Rosald rode off, and the next day he and Geirald started off
to seek adventures. To their disappointment their own land was so well
governed that nothing out of the common was very likely to happen,
but directly they crossed the border into another kingdom all seemed
lawlessness and confusion.
They had not gone very far, when, riding across a mountain, they caught
a glimpse of several armed men hiding amongst some trees in their path,
and remembered suddenly some talk they had heard of a band of twelve
robbers who lay in wait for rich travellers. The robbers were more like
savage beasts than men, and lived somewhere at the top of the mountain
in caves and holes in the ground. They were all called 'Hankur,' and
were distinguished one from another by the name of a colour--blue, grey,
red, and so on, except their chief, who was known as Hankur the Tall.
All this and more rushed into the minds of the two young men as they saw
the flash of their swords in the moonlight.
'It is impossible to fight them--they are twelve to two,' whispered
Geirald, stopping his horse in the path. 'We had much better ride back
and take the lower road. It would be stupid to throw away our lives like
'Oh, we can't turn back,' answered Rosald, 'we should be ashamed to look
anyone in the face again! And, besides, it is a grand opportunity to
show what we are made of. Let us tie up our horses here, and climb up
the rocks so that we can roll stones down on them.'
'Well, we might try that, and then we shall always have our horses,'
said Geirald. So they went up the rocks silently and carefully.
The robbers were lying all ready, expecting every moment to see their
victims coming round the corner a few yards away, when a shower of huge
stones fell on their heads, killing half the band. The others sprang up
the rock, but as they reached the top the sword of Rosald swung round,
and one man after another rolled down into the valley. At last the chief
managed to spring up, and, grasping Rosald by the waist, flung away
his sword, and the two fought desperately, their bodies swaying always
nearer the edge. It seemed as if Rosald, being the smaller of the two,
MUST fall over, when, with his left hand, he drew the robber's sword out
of its sheath and plunged it into his heart. Then he took from the
dead man a beautiful ring set with a large stone, and put it on his own
The fame of this wonderful deed soon spread through the country, and
people would often stop Geirald's horse, and ask leave to see the
robber's ring, which was said to have been stolen from the father of the
reigning king. And Geirald showed them the ring with pride, and listened
to their words of praise, and no one would ever have guessed anyone else
had destroyed the robbers.
In a few days they left the kingdom and rode on to another, where they
thought they would stop through the remainder of the winter, for Geirald
liked to be comfortable, and did not care about travelling through ice
and snow. But the king would only grant them leave to stop on condition
that, before the winter was ended, they should give him some fresh proof
of the courage of which he had heard so much. Rosald's heart was glad at
the king's message, and as for Geirald, he felt that as long as Rosald
was there all would go well. So they both bowed low and replied that it
was the king's place to command and theirs to obey.