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White Bear Who Comes for His Princess

I gave the princess the golden wreath on the condition that she would come away with me. And so, after three days, on a Thursday, I walked out of the forest to go and get her. The king had his whole army standing guard round the castle, but no soldier could stand...

Shepherdess Who Marries the Lindworm

How could I marry the monstrous lindworm? He had already eaten his first two brides on their wedding nights! But the king had given his orders. I ran into the woods, tearing myself apart on the thorns, desperate to avoid my fate. Why was I chosen? For my kindness and...

Petru Who Meets a Dragon

I had set off to get water to heal my father's eyes. He had one laughing eye and one weeping eye, and the only way to heal the weeping eye laugh was to bathe it in water from the spring of the Fairy of the Dawn. My two older brothers had gone on the adventure, but...

Bullied Husband

I'm thinner than my wife, and not as strong, and she used to beat me black and blue. But the day came when I could no longer endure the abuse. On that day, I was out in the fields, and I caught a crane in my net. The crane spoke and said, “If you let me go free, I...

Dragon Who Raids the Sheepfold

I was dashing down the road with my booty one night when I heard the word, “Stop.” I turned around and saw a little man who said, “I am Stan Bolovan, who eats rocks all night and feeds on flowers all day. If you meddle with those sheep, I will carve a cross on your...

Drummer Lad

I know how I'll get through the forest where the man-eating giants live. I'll beat my drum until I've woken them all. Then I'll tell the giants that I'm just the first. There are thousands of men coming after me, bound and determined to put an end to giants. We'll...

Mother Who Escapes With Her Son

My son Hans and I had been held by robbers from the time he was small, and I was so proud of Hans when he stood up to them. He was only ten years old, but he had a strong club and the robbers were drunk. The captain punched him so hard he fell to the floor, but then...

Boy Who Wants to Know His Father

When I was only two years old, my mother took me with her into the woods to gather branches for the fire. It was spring-time and I can still remember the delight I took in the flowers that carpeted the forest. Then all of sudden, two men sprang out of the thicket, and...

Discharged Soldier Who Faces Peacetime

When I received my dismissal, my captain said I might go where I liked. I had no money, so I went to my brothers and asked them to take me in until war broke out again. "What can we do with you?" they said. "You are no use to us. Go make your own living." I slung my...

Not-So-Stupid Hans

My brothers think I'm stupid, but I know the difference between a good man and a bad one. That little elf who came to the door was nothing but trouble. He asked for bread, and when I gave it to him, he let the bread fall to the ground. Then he ordered me to pick it...

King Who Rides to the Forbidden Mountain

My five older brothers could not help themselves. When they took the throne, they were compelled to hunt in the forests of the forbidden mountain. Nobody who goes there ever returns. Now I am king, I have that same compulsion, in spite of all the reasonable arguments...

Feather King

My two elder sons are clever and self-assured, but my third is a different sort of chap altogether. Very good-hearted, but simple. I'm not sure which of my sons is meant to be king. I'll throw three feathers to the wind and let the wind decide. See which way the wind...

Princess Hadvor Killing the Giant

The stone floor is heaving. The giant is coming up from below, shaking the house and raging like a thunderstorm. I run to my maids. "Come with your cauldron of pitch! Make haste!" The earth splits and we pour the pitch into the widening crack. I can see the three...

Mother Dragon

Does my appearance SHOCK you? Come now, approach my diamond throne. Which of my heads is more of a shock? One, two, or three? Is it our breath? Hah! Arr! Arr! Arr! Come on now, it can't be our VOICE. Don't you like the sound of cawing ravens? Approach, I say! What's...

Rat in the Tunnel

Who comes through my tunnel? A one-legged soldier in a paper boat! I get into his face. "Have you got a passport? Out with it!" He grips his gun and stares ahead. No fear? I'll show him my teeth. Then he'll pay the toll. A strong current pushes him through. "Hold...

Red, the Jealous Counselor

So this fellow comes into the castle with his massive, slobbering dog. They pass the guards and march straight into the hall to speak to the king. The fellow demands that the king give him a room for the winter, where he and his dog can stay. For some unknown reason,...

Swan Sister

When my six brothers shake off their swan feathers, I am so glad to see them! But there isn't much time. They will only be in their human forms for a quarter of an hour. "If you wish to free us, you must sew us six shirts from starwort," they say. "For seven years you...

Corva the Witch

Men. Don't have much use for 'em. They don't listen to the earth. They don't hear the cries of the fish in the stream, or the eagle in the air. Naw, I've tested men and found them wanting. I put their skulls on spikes to decorate my fences. Other than that, they're...

Forest Witch

I have tried to teach many boys how to acquire the gifts of the good spirits, but none of them will fast long enough to do any great good in the world. This boy, however, is different! He fasted thirty days, and then he told me that he still had not fasted long...

Gardener’s Son

The prince and I are good friends, and we often compete to see whose arrow can fly the highest. When one of our arrows pinned the feather of a golden bird, I claimed the arrow as my own. The prince said it was his, and when we couldn't settle the dispute, we took it...

Princess Who Challenges the Red Knight

The Red Knight was a complete imposter! He stole the right to marry me. But I decided I wouldn't get mad. I would get even! I marched into the hall where the king and his nobles were feasting, and I presented the youth who had fairly and truly won my heart. I said,...

Jousting Queen

I am quite prepared to rule my own country, but my uncle insists that the people do not like being ruled by a woman, and that I must find a husband to help me manage my affairs. So be it. I have not made a choice yet. Now something interesting has happened. A young...

Knight Who Uses a Mirror to Meet a Dragon

The princess, bound to a tree, was waiting for the dragon to come and destroy her. I borrowed a horse and rode in with a huge mirror. I put it against the trunk of a tree, took the maiden's veil, and covered the mirror with it. I told her to hide behind the mirror,...

Lizard Fairy Godmother

I am interested in how good things—a comfortable home, physical beauty and riches, for example—influence human beings. Must they always corrupt the heart? To find out the answer to my question, I shall conduct a little experiment. The peasant Masaniello has twelve...

Prudent King

The old fisherman's wife has come to me with a preposterous request. She wants me to give the hand of my daughter to her friend, a "golden crab." Ha! Yet I suspect there is more to this "crab" than meets the eye. So I say, "Tell your crab friend to build a wall in...

Widow Among Widows

Before our sons go off in the world, we make them cakes. They can have half a cake with their mother's blessing, or a whole cake with our curse. It's up to them. The size of the cake is determined by the quantity of water our sons can bring back from the well, in a...

Three-Headed Giant

If I catch a man hiding in my castle, he won't live unless he can answer my questions. My heads want to know: What country was first inhabited, Scotland or Ireland? Was man made before woman, or woman before man? Who came first, men or brutes? If you can't answer our...

Glass Hill

I'm a high, high, glass mountain, slippery as ice, standing close to the king's palace. On my peak sits a princess with three golden apples on her lap. The man who can ride up and take those apples will win her hand in marriage, and half the kingdom too. The Princess...

Fairy Truth

I am here to grant the good king a wish, and, true to character, he doesn't ask anything for himself. He wants something for his son. "Most certainly," I say. "I can give him riches, good looks, power, and so on. What will it be?" "None of those," says the king. "I...

Dragon of the Gloomy Cavern

I am yellow and green, my claws are scarlet, and my tail is so long that it lies in a hundred coils. My brother and I guard the entrance to the Gloomy Cavern that leads to the Fountain of Health and Beauty. If you were to pass us and get into the cavern you would find...

Nasty Giant

I'm a kind master. Really. Just do what I tell you. If you don't, I'll wring your neck. I like putting people in their place, especially young fellows like that prince who came to my house a few days ago. He was willing to be hired, so I brought him on as a servant....

Vizier

What burns me is not that the upstart has built a castle more splendid than the Sultan's. It's that he has left a window for the Sultan to finish. He mocks my master! He will never match the splendor! Where did he get such magic? There's a demon at work underneath...