Select the desired text size

Three heads of the well.

From English Fairy Tales, by Joseph Jacobs (coll. & ed.)

Start of Story

This king finding that she was the King of Colchester's daughter, ordered some chariots to be got ready, that he might pay the king, his father-in-law, a visit. The chariot in which the king and queen rode was adorned with rich gems of gold. The king, her father, was at first astonished that his daughter had been so fortunate, till the young king let him know of all that had happened. Great was the joy at Court amongst all, with the exception of the queen and her club-footed daughter, who were ready to burst with envy. The rejoicings, with feasting and dancing, continued many days. Then at length they returned home with the dowry her father gave her. The hump-backed princess, perceiving that her sister had been so lucky in seeking her fortune, wanted to do the same; so she told her mother, and all preparations were made, and she was furnished with rich dresses, and with sugar, almonds, and sweetmeats, in great quantities, and a large bottle of Malaga sack. With these she went the same road as her sister; and coming near the cave, the old man said: "Young woman, whither so fast?"

"What's that to you?" said she. "Then," said he, "what have you in your bag and bottle?" She answered: "Good things, which you shall not be troubled with." "Won't you give me some?" said he. "No, not a bit, nor a drop, unless it would choke you." The old man frowned, saying: "Evil fortune attend ye!" Going on, she came to the hedge, through which she espied a gap, and thought to pass through it; but the hedge closed, and the, thorns ran into her flesh, so that it was with great difficulty that she got through. Being now all over blood, she searched for water to wash herself, and, looking round, she saw the well. She sat down on the brink of it, and one of the heads came up, saying: "Wash me, comb me, and lay me down softly," as before, but she banged it with her bottle, saying, "Take that for your washing." So the second and third heads came up, and met with no better treatment than the first. Whereupon the heads consulted among themselves what evils to plague her with for such usage.

The first said: "Let her be struck with leprosy in her face." The second: "Let her voice be as harsh as a corn-crake's." The third said: "Let her have for husband but a poor country cobbler." Well, she goes on till she came to a town, and it being market-day, the people looked at her, and, seeing such a mangy face, and hearing such a squeaky voice, all fled but a poor country cobbler. Now he not long before had mended the shoes of an old hermit, who, having no money gave him a box of ointment for the cure of the leprosy, and a bottle of spirits for a harsh voice. So the cobbler having a mind to do an act of charity, was induced to go up to her and ask her who she was. "I am," said she, "the King of Colchester's daughter-in-law." "Well," said the cobbler, "if I restore you to your natural complexion, and make a sound cure both in face and voice, will you in reward take me for a husband?" "Yes, friend," replied she, "with all my heart!"

With this the cobbler applied the remedies, and they made her well in a few weeks; after which they were married, and so set forward for the Court at Colchester. When the queen found that her daughter had married nothing but a poor cobbler, she hanged herself in wrath. The death of the queen so pleased the king, who was glad to get rid of her so soon, that he gave the cobbler a hundred pounds to quit the Court with his lady, and take to a remote part of the kingdom, where he lived many years mending shoes, his wife spinning the thread for him.


back to top
Back To Top
first page
First Page
Audio version of this story
audio version of this story
Download the audio of this story
Download the audio of this story
Download the text of this story
download the text of this story