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From Fairy tales every child should know
Start of Story
by Hamilton Wright Mabie.
Age Rating 8 Plus.
There were once a king and queen who had twelve children--all boys. Now,
one day the king told his wife that if a daughter should be born, all
the sons must die--that their sister alone might inherit his kingdom and
So the king had twelve coffins made, which were filled with shavings,
and in each was the little pillow for the dead. He had them locked up in
a private room, the key of which he gave to the queen, praying her not
to speak of it to anyone. But the poor mother was so unhappy that she
wept for a whole day, and looked so sad that her youngest son noticed
He had the Bible name of Benjamin, and was always with his mother.
"Dear mother," he said, "why are you so sorrowful?"
"My child, I may not tell you," she replied; but the boy allowed her no
rest till she unlocked the door of the private room, and showed him the
twelve coffins filled with shavings.
"Dearest Benjamin," she said, "these coffins are for you and your
brothers; for if you should ever have a little sister, you will all die,
and be buried in them."
She wept bitterly as she told him, but her son comforted her, and said,
"Do not weep, dear mother. We will take care of ourselves, and go far
Then she took courage, and said, "Yes, go away with your eleven
brothers, and remain in the forest; and let one climb a tree, from
whence he will be able to see the tower of the castle; If I should have
a son, a white flag shall be hoisted, and then you may return home; but
if you see a red flag, you will know it is a girl, and then hasten away
as fast as you can, and may Heaven protect you! Every night I will pray
for you, that you may not suffer from the cold in winter or the heat in
Then she blessed all her sons, and they went away into the forest, while
each in turn mounted a high tree daily, to watch for the flag on the
Eleven days passed, and it was Benjamin's turn to watch. He saw the flag
hoisted, and it was red--the signal that they must die. The brothers
were angry, and said, "Shall we suffer death on account of a maiden?
When we find one we will kill her, to avenge ourselves."
They went still farther into the forest, and came upon a most pleasant
little cottage, which was uninhabited. "We will make this our home,"
they said; "and Benjamin, as you are the youngest and weakest, you shall
stay at home and keep house, while we go out and procure food."
So they wandered about the forest, shooting hares, wild rabbits, pigeons
and other birds, which they brought to Benjamin to prepare for food. In
this cottage they lived for ten years happily together, so that the time
Their little sister was growing a great girl. She had a sweet
disposition, and was very beautiful to look upon. She wore rich clothes,
and a golden star on her forehead.
One day, when she was about ten years old, she discovered in her
mother's wardrobe twelve shirts. "Mother," she exclaimed, "whose shirts
are these? They are much too small for my father."
The queen sighed as she replied, "Dear child, these shirts belong to
your twelve brothers."
"Twelve brothers!" cried the little maiden. "Where are they? I have not
even heard of them."
"Heaven knows where they are," was the reply; "but they are wandering
about the world somewhere." Then the queen took her little daughter to
the private room in the castle, and showed her the twelve coffins which
had been prepared for her brothers, and related to her, with many tears,
why they had left home.
"Dear mother," said the child, "do not weep. I will go and seek my
brothers." So she took the twelve shirts with her, and wandered away
into the forest.
She walked for a whole day, and in the evening came to a cottage,
stepped in, and found a young boy, who stared with astonishment at
seeing a beautiful little girl dressed in rich clothing and wearing a
golden star on her forehead.
At last he said, "Who are you, and what do you want?"
"I am a king's daughter," she said, "and I seek my twelve brothers, and
I intend to search for them till I find them;" and she showed him their
Then Benjamin knew that she was his sister, and said, "I am your
youngest brother, Benjamin." Then she wept for joy. They kissed each
other with deep affection, and were for a time very happy.
At last Benjamin said, "Dear sister, we have made a vow that the first
young maiden we meet should die, because through a maiden we have lost
our kingly rights."
"I would willingly die," she said, "if by so doing I could restore my
brothers to their rightful possessions."
"No, you shall not die," he replied. "Hide yourself behind this tub
until our eleven brothers come home; then I will make an agreement with
At night the brothers returned from hunting, and the supper was ready.
While they sat at table, one of them said, "Well, Benjamin, have you any
"Perhaps I have," he said, "although it seems strange that I, who stay
at home, should know more than you, who have been out."
"Well, tell us your news," said one. So he said:
"I will tell you if you will make one promise."
"Yes, yes!" they all cried. "What is it?"
"Well, then, promise me that the first maiden you meet with in the
forest shall not die."