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Water of life.
From The Brothers Grimm.
Start of Story
When he found himself safe, he was overjoyed to think that he had got
the Water of Life; and as he was going on his way homewards, he passed
by the little dwarf, who, when he saw the sword and the loaf, said, 'You
have made a noble prize; with the sword you can at a blow slay whole
armies, and the bread will never fail you.' Then the prince thought
to himself, 'I cannot go home to my father without my brothers'; so he
said, 'My dear friend, cannot you tell me where my two brothers are, who
set out in search of the Water of Life before me, and never came back?'
'I have shut them up by a charm between two mountains,' said the dwarf,
'because they were proud and ill-behaved, and scorned to ask advice.'
The prince begged so hard for his brothers, that the dwarf at last set
them free, though unwillingly, saying, 'Beware of them, for they have
bad hearts.' Their brother, however, was greatly rejoiced to see them,
and told them all that had happened to him; how he had found the Water
of Life, and had taken a cup full of it; and how he had set a beautiful
princess free from a spell that bound her; and how she had engaged to
wait a whole year, and then to marry him, and to give him the kingdom.
Then they all three rode on together, and on their way home came to a
country that was laid waste by war and a dreadful famine, so that it was
feared all must die for want. But the prince gave the king of the land
the bread, and all his kingdom ate of it. And he lent the king the
wonderful sword, and he slew the enemy's army with it; and thus the
kingdom was once more in peace and plenty. In the same manner he
befriended two other countries through which they passed on their way.
When they came to the sea, they got into a ship and during their voyage
the two eldest said to themselves, 'Our brother has got the water which
we could not find, therefore our father will forsake us and give him the
kingdom, which is our right'; so they were full of envy and revenge, and
agreed together how they could ruin him. Then they waited till he was
fast asleep, and poured the Water of Life out of the cup, and took it
for themselves, giving him bitter sea-water instead.
When they came to their journey's end, the youngest son brought his cup
to the sick king, that he might drink and be healed. Scarcely, however,
had he tasted the bitter sea-water when he became worse even than he was
before; and then both the elder sons came in, and blamed the youngest
for what they had done; and said that he wanted to poison their father,
but that they had found the Water of Life, and had brought it with them.
He no sooner began to drink of what they brought him, than he felt his
sickness leave him, and was as strong and well as in his younger days.
Then they went to their brother, and laughed at him, and said, 'Well,
brother, you found the Water of Life, did you? You have had the trouble
and we shall have the reward. Pray, with all your cleverness, why did
not you manage to keep your eyes open? Next year one of us will take
away your beautiful princess, if you do not take care. You had better
say nothing about this to our father, for he does not believe a word you
say; and if you tell tales, you shall lose your life into the bargain:
but be quiet, and we will let you off.'
The old king was still very angry with his youngest son, and thought
that he really meant to have taken away his life; so he called his court
together, and asked what should be done, and all agreed that he ought to
be put to death. The prince knew nothing of what was going on, till one
day, when the king's chief huntsmen went a-hunting with him, and they
were alone in the wood together, the huntsman looked so sorrowful that
the prince said, 'My friend, what is the matter with you?' 'I cannot and
dare not tell you,' said he. But the prince begged very hard, and said,
'Only tell me what it is, and do not think I shall be angry, for I will
forgive you.' 'Alas!' said the huntsman; 'the king has ordered me to
shoot you.' The prince started at this, and said, 'Let me live, and I
will change dresses with you; you shall take my royal coat to show to my
father, and do you give me your shabby one.' 'With all my heart,' said
the huntsman; 'I am sure I shall be glad to save you, for I could not
have shot you.' Then he took the prince's coat, and gave him the shabby
one, and went away through the wood.
Some time after, three grand embassies came to the old king's court,
with rich gifts of gold and precious stones for his youngest son; now
all these were sent from the three kings to whom he had lent his sword
and loaf of bread, in order to rid them of their enemy and feed their
people. This touched the old king's heart, and he thought his son might
still be guiltless, and said to his court, 'O that my son were still
alive! how it grieves me that I had him killed!' 'He is still alive,'
said the huntsman; 'and I am glad that I had pity on him, but let him
go in peace, and brought home his royal coat.' At this the king was
overwhelmed with joy, and made it known thoughout all his kingdom, that
if his son would come back to his court he would forgive him.
Meanwhile the princess was eagerly waiting till her deliverer should
come back; and had a road made leading up to her palace all of shining
gold; and told her courtiers that whoever came on horseback, and rode
straight up to the gate upon it, was her true lover; and that they must
let him in: but whoever rode on one side of it, they must be sure was
not the right one; and that they must send him away at once.
The time soon came, when the eldest brother thought that he would make
haste to go to the princess, and say that he was the one who had set
her free, and that he should have her for his wife, and the kingdom with
her. As he came before the palace and saw the golden road, he stopped to
look at it, and he thought to himself, 'It is a pity to ride upon this
beautiful road'; so he turned aside and rode on the right-hand side of
it. But when he came to the gate, the guards, who had seen the road
he took, said to him, he could not be what he said he was, and must go
about his business.
The second prince set out soon afterwards on the same errand; and when
he came to the golden road, and his horse had set one foot upon it,
he stopped to look at it, and thought it very beautiful, and said to
himself, 'What a pity it is that anything should tread here!' Then he
too turned aside and rode on the left side of it. But when he came to
the gate the guards said he was not the true prince, and that he too
must go away about his business; and away he went.
Now when the full year was come round, the third brother left the forest
in which he had lain hid for fear of his father's anger, and set out in
search of his betrothed bride. So he journeyed on, thinking of her all
the way, and rode so quickly that he did not even see what the road was
made of, but went with his horse straight over it; and as he came to the
gate it flew open, and the princess welcomed him with joy, and said
he was her deliverer, and should now be her husband and lord of the
kingdom. When the first joy at their meeting was over, the princess told
him she had heard of his father having forgiven him, and of his wish to
have him home again: so, before his wedding with the princess, he went
to visit his father, taking her with him. Then he told him everything;
how his brothers had cheated and robbed him, and yet that he had borne
all those wrongs for the love of his father. And the old king was very
angry, and wanted to punish his wicked sons; but they made their escape,
and got into a ship and sailed away over the wide sea, and where they
went to nobody knew and nobody cared.
And now the old king gathered together his court, and asked all his
kingdom to come and celebrate the wedding of his son and the princess.
And young and old, noble and squire, gentle and simple, came at once
on the summons; and among the rest came the friendly dwarf, with the
sugarloaf hat, and a new scarlet cloak.
And the wedding was held, and the merry bells run.
And all the good people they danced and they sung,
And feasted and frolick'd I can't tell how long.