I had forgotten everything in the chase. By the time I came to my senses I realized that I was alone in the woods. I’d lost the whole hunting party. I had no food, no supplies, and no knowledge of how to fend for myself. Evening approached and I looked around but could not locate myself in the dark wood. I looked for a way out but wandered in circles.
Just before nightfall, I saw an old woman walking toward me. She had a strange, bobbing head.
I asked her if she could show me the way out of the woods. She said, “Yes, indeed, I can, but on one condition. And if you do not fulfill it, you will never get out of these woods. You will die here of hunger.”
I asked her to tell me the condition. I had to promise to marry her daughter “who is as beautiful as anyone you could find in all the world.”
I was terrified to be left alone in the forest, and so I promised. As I followed her back to her cottage, I knew that I, the hunter, had become the prey.
The Lost Hunting King in The Six Swans, Grimms. Picture by Sergei Solomko.