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Prince and the 3 fates.
From The Brown Fairy book by Andrew Lang.
Start of Story
Age Rating 8 Plus.
Once upon a time a little boy was born to a king who ruled over a great
country through which ran a wide river. The king was nearly beside
himself with joy, for he had always longed for a son to inherit his
crown, and he sent messages to beg all the most powerful fairies to come
and see this wonderful baby. In an hour or two, so many were gathered
round the cradle, that the child seemed in danger of being smothered;
but the king, who was watching the fairies eagerly, was disturbed to see
them looking grave. 'Is there anything the matter?' he asked anxiously.
The fairies looked at him, and all shook their heads at once.
'He is a beautiful boy, and it is a great pity; but what IS to happen
WILL happen,' said they. 'It is written in the books of fate that he
must die, either by a crocodile, or a serpent, or by a dog. If we could
save him we would; but that is beyond our power.'
And so saying they vanished.
For a time the king stood where he was, horror-stricken at what he had
heard; but, being of a hopeful nature, he began at once to invent plans
to save the prince from the dreadful doom that awaited him. He instantly
sent for his master builder, and bade him construct a strong castle on
the top of a mountain, which should be fitted with the most precious
things from the king's own palace, and every kind of toy a child could
wish to play with. And, besides, he gave the strictest orders that a
guard should walk round the castle night and day.
For four or five years the baby lived in the castle alone with his
nurses, taking his airings on the broad terraces, which were surrounded
by walls, with a moat beneath them, and only a drawbridge to connect
them with the outer world.
One day, when the prince was old enough to run quite fast by himself,
he looked from the terrace across the moat, and saw a little soft fluffy
ball of a dog jumping and playing on the other side. Now, of course, all
dogs had been kept from him for fear that the fairies' prophecy should
come true, and he had never even beheld one before. So he turned to the
page who was walking behind him, and said:
'What is that funny little thing which is running so fast over there?'
'That is a dog, prince,' answered the page.
'Well, bring me one like it, and we will see which can run the faster.'
And he watched the dog till it had disappeared round the corner.
The page was much puzzled to know what to do. He had strict orders to
refuse the prince nothing; yet he remembered the prophecy, and felt that
this was a serious matter. At last he thought he had better tell the
king the whole story, and let him decide the question.
'Oh, get him a dog if he wants one,' said the king, 'he will only cry
his heart out if he does not have it.' So a puppy was found, exactly
like the other; they might have been twins, and perhaps they were.
Years went by, and the boy and the dog played together till the boy grew
tall and strong. The time came at last when he sent a message to his
'Why do you keep me shut up here, doing nothing? I know all about the
prophecy that was made at my birth, but I would far rather be killed at
once than live an idle, useless life here. So give me arms, and let me
go, I pray you; me and my dog too.'
And again the king listened to his wishes, and he and his dog were
carried in a ship to the other side of the river, which was so broad
here it might almost have been the sea. A black horse was waiting for
him, tied to a tree, and he mounted and rode away wherever his fancy
took him, the dog always at his heels. Never was any prince so happy as
he, and he rode and rode till at length he came to a king's palace.
The king who lived in it did not care about looking after his country,
and seeing that his people lived cheerful and contented lives. He spent
his whole time in making riddles, and inventing plans which he had much
better have let alone. At the period when the young prince reached the
kingdom he had just completed a wonderful house for his only child, a
daughter. It had seventy windows, each seventy feet from the ground,
and he had sent the royal herald round the borders of the neighbouring
kingdoms to proclaim that whoever could climb up the walls to the window
of the princess should win her for his wife.
The fame of the princess's beauty had spread far and wide, and there
was no lack of princes who wished to try their fortune. Very funny the
palace must have looked each morning, with the dabs of different colour
on the white marble as the princes were climbing up the walls. But
though some managed to get further than others, nobody was anywhere near
They had already been spending several days in this manner when the
young prince arrived, and as he was pleasant to look upon, and civil to
talk to, they welcomed him to the house, which had been given to them,
and saw that his bath was properly perfumed after his long journey.
'Where do you come from?' they said at last. 'And whose son are you?'
But the young prince had reasons for keeping his own secret, and he
'My father was master of the horse to the king of my country, and after
my mother died he married another wife. At first all went well, but as
soon as she had babies of her own she hated me, and I fled, lest she
should do me harm.'
The hearts of the other young men were touched as soon as they heard
this story, and they did everything they could think of to make him
forget his past sorrows.
'What are you doing here?' said the youth, one day.
'We spend our whole time climbing up the walls of the palace, trying
to reach the windows of the princess,' answered the young men; 'but, as
yet, no one has reached within ten feet of them.'
'Oh, let me try too,' cried the prince; 'but to-morrow I will wait and
see what you do before I begin.
So the next day he stood where he could watch the young men go up, and
he noted the places on the wall that seemed most difficult, and made up
his mind that when his turn came he would go up some other way.
Day after day he was to be seen watching the wooers, till, one morning,
he felt that he knew the plan of the walls by heart, and took his
place by the side of the others. Thanks to what he had learned from the
failure of the rest, he managed to grasp one little rough projection
after another, till at last, to the envy of his friends, he stood on the
sill of the princess's window. Looking up from below, they saw a white
hand stretched forth to draw him in.