Select the desired text size
From The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang.
Start of Story
Age Rating 8 Plus.
The boy answered that he knew not where such things were to be procured,
and that, wanting them, he could only try and fail. Then the young man,
taking off his own shoes, said: "First, you shall use these shoes till
you have taken the Terrible Head, and then you must give them back to
me. And with these shoes you will fly as fleet as a bird, or a thought,
over the land or over the waves of the sea, wherever the shoes know the
way. But there are ways which they do not know, roads beyond the borders
of the world. And these roads have you to travel. Now first you must
go to the Three Gray Sisters, who live far off in the north, and are so
very cold that they have only one eye and one tooth among the three. You
must creep up close to them, and as one of them passes the eye to the
other you must seize it, and refuse to give it up till they have told
you the way to the Three Fairies of the Garden, and _they_ will give you
the Cap of Darkness and the Sword of Sharpness, and show you how to wing
beyond this world to the land of the Terrible Head."
Then the beautiful lady said: "Go forth at once, and do not return to
say good-by to your mother, for these things must be done quickly, and
the Shoes of Swiftness themselves will carry you to the land of the
Three Gray Sisters--for they know the measure of that way."
So the boy thanked her, and he fastened on the Shoes of Swiftness, and
turned to say good-by to the young man and the lady. But, behold! they
had vanished, he knew not how or where! Then he leaped in the air to try
the Shoes of Swiftness, and they carried him more swiftly than the wind,
over the warm blue sea, over the happy lands of the south, over the
northern peoples who drank mare's milk and lived in great wagons,
wandering after their flocks. Across the wide rivers, where the wild
fowl rose and fled before him, and over the plains and the cold North
Sea he went, over the fields of snow and the hills of ice, to a place
where the world ends, and all water is frozen, and there are no men, nor
beasts, nor any green grass. There in a blue cave of the ice he found
the Three Gray Sisters, the oldest of living things. Their hair was as
white as the snow, and their flesh of an icy blue, and they mumbled and
nodded in a kind of dream, and their frozen breath hung round them like
a cloud. Now the opening of the cave in the ice was narrow, and it
was not easy to pass in without touching one of the Gray Sisters. But,
floating on the Shoes of Swiftness, the boy just managed to steal in,
and waited till one of the sisters said to another, who had their one
"Sister, what do you see? do you see old times coming back?"
"Then give _me_ the eye, for perhaps I can see farther than you."
Then the first sister passed the eye to the second, but as the second
groped for it the boy caught it cleverly out of her hand.
"Where is the eye, sister?" said the second gray woman.
"You have taken it yourself, sister," said the first gray woman.
"Have you lost the eye, sister? have you lost the eye?" said the third
gray woman; "shall we _never_ find it again, and see old times coming
Then the boy slipped from behind them out of the cold cave into the air,
and he laughed aloud.
When the gray women heard that laugh they began to weep, for now they
knew that a stranger had robbed them, and that they could not help
themselves, and their tears froze as they fell from the hollows where no
eyes were, and rattled on the icy ground of the cave. Then they began to
implore the boy to give them their eye back again, and he could not help
being sorry for them, they were so pitiful. But he said he would never
give them the eye till they told him the way to the Fairies of the
Then they wrung their hands miserably, for they guessed why he had come,
and how he was going to try to win the Terrible Head. Now the Dreadful
Women were akin to the Three Gray Sisters, and it was hard for them to
tell the boy the way. But at last they told him to keep always south,
and with the land on his left and the sea on his right, till he reached
the Island of the Fairies of the Garden. Then he gave them back the
eye, and they began to look out once more for the old times coming back
again. But the boy flew south between sea and land, keeping the land
always on his left hand, till he saw a beautiful island crowned with
flowering trees. There he alighted, and there he found the Three Fairies
of the Garden. They were like three very beautiful young women, dressed
one in green, one in white, and one in red, and they were dancing and
singing round an apple tree with apples of gold, and this was their
THE SONG OF THE WESTERN FAIRIES
Round and round the apples of gold,
Round and round dance we;
Thus do we dance from the days of old
About the enchanted tree;
Round, and round, and round we go,
While the spring is green, or the stream shall flow,
Or the wind shall stir the sea!
There is none may taste of the golden fruit
Till the golden new time come
Many a tree shall spring from shoot,
Many a blossom be withered at root,
Many a song be dumb;
Broken and still shall be many a lute
Or ever the new times come!
Round and round the tree of gold,
Round and round dance we,
So doth the great world spin from of old,
Summer and winter, and fire and cold,
Song that is sung, and tale that is told,
Even as we dance, that fold and unfold
Round the stem of the fairy tree!
These grave dancing fairies were very unlike the Grey Women, and they
were glad to see the boy, and treated him kindly. Then they asked him
why he had come; and he told them how he was sent to find the Sword of
Sharpness and the Cap of Darkness. And the fairies gave him these, and
a wallet, and a shield, and belted the sword, which had a diamond blade,
round his waist, and the cap they set on his head, and told him that now
even they could not see him though they were fairies. Then he took it
off, and they each kissed him and wished him good fortune, and then they
began again their eternal dance round the golden tree, for it is their
business to guard it till the new times come, or till the world's