Today’s story is a Bohemian fairy tale collected by Louis Léger in Contes Populaires Slaves. I read the version retold by A. H. Wratislaw in his Sixty Folk-Tales from Exclusively Slavonic Sources, 1889, which you can find on-line here.
An aging king tells his only son that he wishes to see him married before he dies. The son replies that he does not know a suitable bride, so the king sends him to a tower room that has not been opened in years. There he finds windows showing beautiful women, and a curtain over one window. He pulls away the curtain and falls in love with the woman he sees there, pledging to marry her. He tells his father, who tells him he should have left that window curtained, because the woman is the prisoner of an evil sorcerer, in an iron castle, but the prince has given his word and must try to rescue her.
The son take leave of his father, and rides away on his horse to find his princess. On the way, he meets a man who wants to be taken into his service; his name is Long, and he can extend himself, which he demonstrates by taking down a nest from a tall tree. The prince lets him come along. He also meets Broad, who can make himself grow until he is as large as a mountain, and Sharpsight, who keeps his eyes bandaged because he can see through the bandage, and without it his gaze would set things afire or break them into pieces. The prince takes them into his service as well.
They reach the iron castle, and as soon as they are inside, the gates close. They find many men turned to stone, and food is laid out. As nobody is there, they eat the food. The sorcerer appears with the woman and tells them they can have the princess if they can keep her in sight for three nights. The prince tries to talk to her, but she does not answer. As the trio falls asleep, she vanishes, but Sharpsight spots her; she has turned into an acorn on an oak tree. Long brings her back and the wizard is furious. The next day, she becomes a precious stone on a mountain, but again Sharpsight sees her, and Long brings her back. The wizard is furious again. The third night, she becomes a golden ring on a shell in the sea, but Sharpsight finds her. Long brings Broad with him, and Broad, making himself broad, drinks up the sea, while Long gets the ring. On the way back, however, Long cannot carry Broad, but drops him in a valley. All the water comes out, and Broad barely manages to avoid drowning, but they eventually make it back.
The sorcerer turns into a crow, and all the people turned to stone comes back to life. The prince takes the princess home and marries her. Long, Broad, and Sharpsight leave his service and go on to seek their fortune.
I love how fairy tales are both familiar and new. There are so many things different tales have in common, quests, superhuman abilities, wizards, princesses, but they come together differently, which makes reading them fun. I especially like the windows in the tower. “There was a large circular room. The ceiling was blue like the sky on a clear night, and silver stars glittered on it, the floor was a carpet of green silk, and around in the wall were twelve high windows in golden frames, and in each window on crystal glass was a damsel painted with the colours of the rainbow, with a royal crown on her head, in each window a different one in a different dress, each handsomer than the other, and it was a wonder that the prince did not let his eyes dwell upon them. When he had gazed at them with astonishment, the damsels began to move as if they were alive, looked down upon him, smiled, and did everything but speak.” Isn’t that lovely?
Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in and leave your link the comments.