A merchant, who had three daughters, was once setting out upon ajourney; but before he went he asked each daughter what gift he shouldbring back for her. The eldest wished for pearls; the second forjewels; but the third, who was called Lily, said, «Dear father, bringme a rose.» Now it was no easy task to find a rose, for it was themiddle of winter; yet as she was his prettiest daughter, and was veryfond of flowers, her father said he would try what he could do. So hekissed all three, and bid them goodbye.
And when the time came for him to go home, he had bought pearls andjewels for the two eldest, but he had sought everywhere in vain for therose; and when he went into any garden and asked for such a thing,the people laughed at him, and asked him whether he thought roses grewin snow. This grieved him very much, for Lily was his dearestchild; and as he was journeying home, thinking what he should bringher, he came to a fine castle; and around the castle was a garden, inone half of which it seemed to be summer-time and in the other halfwinter. On one side the finest flowers were in full bloom, and on theother everything looked dreary and buried in the snow. «A lucky hit!’said he, as he called to his servant, and told him to go to a beautifulbed of roses that was there, and bring him away one of the finestflowers.
This done, they were riding away well pleased, when up sprang afierce lion, and roared out, «Whoever has stolen my roses shall beeaten up alive!» Then the man said, «I knew not that the gardenbelonged to you; can nothing save my life?» «No!» said the lion,«nothing, unless you undertake to give me whatever meets you on yourreturn home; if you agree to this, I will give you your life, and therose too for your daughter.» But the man was unwilling to do so andsaid, «It may be my youngest daughter, who loves me most, and alwaysruns to meet me when I go home.» Then the servant was greatlyfrightened, and said, «It may perhaps be only a cat or a dog.» And atlast the man yielded with a heavy heart, and took the rose; and said hewould give the lion whatever should meet him first on his return.
And as he came near home, it was Lily, his youngest and dearestdaughter, that met him; she came running, and kissed him, and welcomedhim home; and when she saw that he had brought her the rose, she wasstill more glad. But her father began to be very sorrowful, and toweep, saying, «Alas, my dearest child! I have bought this flower at ahigh price, for I have said I would give you to a wild lion; and whenhe has you, he will tear you in pieces, and eat you.» Then he told herall that had happened, and said she should not go, let what wouldhappen.
But she comforted him, and said, «Dear father, the word you havegiven must be kept; I will go to the lion, and soothe him: perhaps hewill let me come safe home again.»
The next morning she asked the way she was to go, and took leave ofher father, and went forth with a bold heart into the wood. But thelion was an enchanted prince. By day he and all his court were lions,but in the evening they took their right forms again. And when Lilycame to the castle, he welcomed her so courteously that she agreed tomarry him. The wedding-feast was held, and they lived happily togethera long time. The prince was only to be seen as soon as evening came,and then he held his court; but every morning he left his bride, andwent away by himself, she knew not whither, till the night came again.
After some time he said to her, «Tomorrow there will be a great feastin your father’s house, for your eldest sister is to be married; and ifyou wish to go and visit her my lions shall lead you thither.’Then she rejoiced much at the thoughts of seeing her father once more,and set out with the lions; and everyone was overjoyed to see her,for they had thought her dead long since. But she told them howhappy she was, and stayed till the feast was over, and then went backto the wood.
Her second sister was soon after married, and when Lily was asked to goto the wedding, she said to the prince, «I will not go alone thistime—you must go with me.» But he would not, and said that it wouldbe a very hazardous thing; for if the least ray of the torch-lightshould fall upon him his enchantment would become still worse, for heshould be changed into a dove, and be forced to wander about the worldfor seven long years. However, she gave him no rest, and said shewould take care no light should fall upon him. So at last they set outtogether, and took with them their little child; and she chose a largehall with thick walls for him to sit in while the wedding-torches werelighted; but, unluckily, no one saw that there was a crack in thedoor. Then the wedding was held with great pomp, but as the train camefrom the church, and passed with the torches before the hall, a verysmall ray of light fell upon the prince. In a moment he disappeared,and when his wife came in and looked for him, she found only a whitedove; and it said to her, «Seven years must I fly up and down overthe face of the earth, but every now and then I will let fall awhite feather, that will show you the way I am going; follow it, andat last you may overtake and set me free.»
This said, he flew out at the door, and poor Lily followed; and everynow and then a white feather fell, and showed her the way she was tojourney. Thus she went roving on through the wide world, and lookedneither to the right hand nor to the left, nor took any rest, forseven years. Then she began to be glad, and thought to herself thatthe time was fast coming when all her troubles should end; yet reposewas still far off, for one day as she was travelling on she missedthe white feather, and when she lifted up her eyes she could nowheresee the dove. «Now,» thought she to herself, «no aid of man can be ofuse to me.» So she went to the sun and said, «Thou shinesteverywhere, on the hill’s top and the valley’s depth—hast thouanywhere seen my white dove?» «No,» said the sun, «I have not seen it;but I will give thee a casket—open it when thy hour of need comes.»
So she thanked the sun, and went on her way till eventide; and whenthe moon arose, she cried unto it, and said, «Thou shinest through thenight, over field and grove—hast thou nowhere seen my white dove?» «No,’said the moon, «I cannot help thee but I will give thee an egg—break itwhen need comes.»
Then she thanked the moon, and went on till the night-wind blew; andshe raised up her voice to it, and said, «Thou blowest through everytree and under every leaf—hast thou not seen my white dove?’«No,» said the night-wind, «but I will ask three other winds; perhapsthey have seen it.» Then the east wind and the west wind came, and saidthey too had not seen it, but the south wind said, «I have seen thewhite dove—he has fled to the Red Sea, and is changed once more into alion, for the seven years are passed away, and there he is fighting witha dragon; and the dragon is an enchanted princess, who seeks toseparate him from you.» Then the night-wind said, «I will givethee counsel. Go to the Red Sea; on the right shore stand manyrods—count them, and when thou comest to the eleventh, break itoff, and smite the dragon with it; and so the lion will have thevictory, and both of them will appear to you in their own forms. Thenlook round and thou wilt see a griffin, winged like bird, sitting bythe Red Sea; jump on to his back with thy beloved one as quicklyas possible, and he will carry you over the waters to your home. I willalso give thee this nut,» continued the night-wind. «When you arehalf-way over, throw it down, and out of the waters will immediatelyspring up a high nut-tree on which the griffin will be able torest, otherwise he would not have the strength to bear you the wholeway; if, therefore, thou dost forget to throw down the nut, he willlet you both fall into the sea.»
So our poor wanderer went forth, and found all as the night-wind hadsaid; and she plucked the eleventh rod, and smote the dragon, andthe lion forthwith became a prince, and the dragon a princess again.But no sooner was the princess released from the spell, than sheseized the prince by the arm and sprang on to the griffin’s back, andwent off carrying the prince away with her.
Thus the unhappy traveller was again forsaken and forlorn; but shetook heart and said, «As far as the wind blows, and so long as the cockcrows, I will journey on, till I find him once again.» She went on fora long, long way, till at length she came to the castle whither theprincess had carried the prince; and there was a feast got ready, andshe heard that the wedding was about to be held. «Heaven aid me now!’said she; and she took the casket that the sun had given her, and foundthat within it lay a dress as dazzling as the sun itself. So she put iton, and went into the palace, and all the people gazed upon her; andthe dress pleased the bride so much that she asked whether it was tobe sold. «Not for gold and silver.» said she, «but for flesh andblood.» The princess asked what she meant, and she said, «Let me speakwith the bridegroom this night in his chamber, and I will give thee thedress.» At last the princess agreed, but she told her chamberlain togive the prince a sleeping draught, that he might not hear or seeher. When evening came, and the prince had fallen asleep, she was ledinto his chamber, and she sat herself down at his feet, and said: «Ihave followed thee seven years. I have been to the sun, the moon, andthe night-wind, to seek thee, and at last I have helped thee to overcomethe dragon. Wilt thou then forget me quite?» But the prince all thetime slept so soundly, that her voice only passed over him, andseemed like the whistling of the wind among the fir-trees.
Then poor Lily was led away, and forced to give up the golden dress;and when she saw that there was no help for her, she went out into ameadow, and sat herself down and wept. But as she sat she bethoughtherself of the egg that the moon had given her; and when she broke it,there ran out a hen and twelve chickens of pure gold, that playedabout, and then nestled under the old one’s wings, so as to form themost beautiful sight in the world. And she rose up and drove thembefore her, till the bride saw them from her window, and was so pleasedthat she came forth and asked her if she would sell the brood. «Notfor gold or silver, but for flesh and blood: let me again thisevening speak with the bridegroom in his chamber, and I will give theethe whole brood.»
Then the princess thought to betray her as before, and agreed to whatshe asked: but when the prince went to his chamber he asked thechamberlain why the wind had whistled so in the night. And thechamberlain told him all—how he had given him a sleeping draught, andhow a poor maiden had come and spoken to him in his chamber, and wasto come again that night. Then the prince took care to throw away thesleeping draught; and when Lily came and began again to tell him whatwoes had befallen her, and how faithful and true to him she had been,he knew his beloved wife’s voice, and sprang up, and said, «You haveawakened me as from a dream, for the strange princess had thrown aspell around me, so that I had altogether forgotten you; but Heavenhath sent you to me in a lucky hour.»
And they stole away out of the palace by night unawares, andseated themselves on the griffin, who flew back with them over the RedSea. When they were half-way across Lily let the nut fall into thewater, and immediately a large nut-tree arose from the sea, whereonthe griffin rested for a while, and then carried them safely home.There they found their child, now grown up to be comely and fair;and after all their troubles they lived happily together to the end oftheir days.