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Youth in Search of Secrets

In my youth I had a great thirst to know things that other people didn't know and didn't care to know. After I had learned to understand the language of birds and other creatures, I had the sudden revelation that many things took place in the dark, invisible to mortal...

The Book of Destiny

I am a lying open on a large table in a locked room. The table is laid with a gorgeous cloth, made with care by many hands. My pages contain the destinies of the King’s three daughters. They have just come into the room. The eldest princess steps forward and dares to...

Letter to the Dragon King

She wrote upon me in great sorrow. How I felt for the daughter of the Dragon King of Dungting Lake! Her father had married her to a faithless, philandering Dragon who had sent her out to pasture to look after his sheep. I am to be taken to her father, and my contents...

King’s Son Raised by Peasants

My parents were peasants, and though we lived roughly, they were good people. We never went without. When I was old enough to understand where I came from, my parents told me that I was the son of a king. My peasant parents had given their daughter to the king in...

Flute that Plays a Secret

I am made from an elder tree, a tree that grew out of a hole that contained a secret. The secret was spoken into the hole by a young man who could no longer keep it in his heart. The shepherds have been making flutes from my elder, and we all play the same tune. It...

Barber’s Apprentice

No barber in the kingdom would cut the hair of the emperor Trojan. He had the ears of a goat and any barber who remarked on his ears was put to death. I was just an apprentice, but I went to cut the hair of the emperor because my master had taken ill. I began my work...

Boy in a Haunted Temple

I set off into the world in search of an adventure. I didn’t want to return until I had done some great deed that made my name famous. For a long time, I met nothing but a wild mountain, half-covered in dense forest. I made my way over huge rocks, and crossed wide,...

Magic Book of an Old Man

I sit on a shelf of books in a room that is off-limits to anyone but the old hill-man. I hold secret instructions for shape-shifting. Want to become a whale in the sea, or a deer running through the woods? Want to beguile or seduce others with your physical charms?...

Old Witch in the Tower

Of course, I know where the Bird of Truth can be found. It's locked up in a castle that is guarded by a fierce giant. You want to know the name of that castle? It's called Come-and-Never-Go. I will only tell you the way to the castle if you promise to bring me water...

Queen Who Keeps the Wild Man

My husband and I were amazed to see the wild man that the huntsman caught. His body was red-brown like rusty iron, and his hair hung down over his face and down to his knees. My husband put him in a cage in the courtyard. He gave me the key and I kept it under my...

Guilty Tailor’s Wife

We had been married for years. Our two children had grown up. Our parents had died, and we finally had the house to ourselves. My husband is a tailor and he had done well enough that he didn't have to work so hard anymore. One morning as he sat at the table in front...

Ancient Oak

I am hundreds of years old, and so gnarled and twisted that you will think I am monstrous. I am not a monster, but there is a demon under my tree roots. He is trapped in a bottle, and whenever someone approaches, he starts crying, "Let me out! Let me out!" He'll...

Lion Minister

For years I have been the favorite of the king. I know all sorts of concealed and secret things. The king has recently brought twelve huntsmen into his service. He doesn't know that they are girls, but I do. When I tell him, the king doesn't believe me, so I suggest...

Curious Wife of the Fisherman

My husband was supposed to keep the source of our wealth a secret, but I simply couldn't be kept in the dark. I had to know where it came from! He told me that he had caught a golden fish, and, in exchange for his liberty, the fish gave him a fine castle with an...

Old Man without a Heart

I didn't tell my young bride where I kept my heart. I lied to her. I said that I kept it under the bed cloth. Later I found her embroidering flowers on the quilt. How quaint. I said, "No, my dear, it's not under the bed cloth. It's in the--" "Where, dear husband?" "It...

Hidden Hut of the Spinners

I am hidden in the trees, and I shelter three sisters who spin from dawn to dusk. No one sees them, except the sun by day, the moon by night, and the eyes of the stars. And me. I see them. I see how they work with no rest. I see how the old woman hoards the gold flax...

Magic Pin

I'm a particular kind of pin. If I am stuck into the coat of a person, I will put that person to sleep. If I am removed from the coat, the sleeper will wake. I'm not a jabbing pin, you see. I'm not a pin that goes in. I can put you down painlessly. I slip in, ever so...

Baba Yaga’s Hut

The fence that surrounds me is made of human bones, and human skulls are stuck on the spikes. At night, they gleam and light the glade as bright as day. My doors have human legs for posts, and human hands for bolts. A mouth with sharp teeth serves as a lock. I shelter...

Servant Who Uncovers the King’s Secret

The king is uncommonly wise. No secret can be hidden from him. He seems to be able to glean information from the very air. He also has a strange custom. Every day after dinner, when the table is cleared, and no one else is present, I bring him one more dish. I do not...

Queen’s Seed

I grow into the finest apple in the whole world. I was so precious to the queen that when a magician stole me, the queen died. The magician gave me to a king, and he planted me in his orchard. Again, I grew into the finest apple in the whole world. But alas, he could...

Rustling Letter

If you were ever to come to our country, and meet one of the old sisters, you would be asked to deliver me from one sister to another. The distances between them are vast but I will give you the power to travel. When you become weary, simply rustle my paper, and you...

Old Woman of the Lake

One day, a young woman came to the river's edge, holding a baby. She was crying, and I was moved to appear to her from out of the place where the river meets the lake. I asked her why she was crying, and she said that her husband and mother-in-law wanted her to drown...

Crab Princess

It was the strangest wedding ceremony you could possibly imagine. Picture me, a princess, making my vows to a Crab who sat on a golden cushion wearing a golden robe! On our wedding night, he told me that he is a Man by night, a Crab by day, and an Eagle whenever he...

King Solomon’s Ring

I am the signet ring of the wisest king who ever lived, and I bear a secret inscription. The one who can interpret it will discover how to destroy the Dragon. Yet no one knows where I am hidden, and there is no one left in the world who is wise enough to decipher my...

Bluebeard

I gave her everything her heart could desire. A beautiful home, clothes, jewels, strong boxes full of money, and mirrors in which to admire herself. She had the master key to all my apartments except one. I forbid her to use the little key that opened the closet at...

Slaughterer

I just follow orders, so I ain't gonna give any thought to the fact that I have to slaughter this perfectly good horse. Then the goose girl comes along and gives me a golden coin. She wants me to nail the head of the horse to the bridge gate after I'm done killing it....