A great king of a land far away in the East had a daughter who wasvery beautiful, but so proud, and haughty, and conceited, that noneof the princes who came to ask her in marriage was good enough forher, and she only made sport of them.
Once upon a time the king held a great feast, and asked thither allher suitors; and they all sat in a row, ranged according to theirrank—kings, and princes, and dukes, and earls, and counts, and barons,and knights. Then the princess came in, and as she passed by themshe had something spiteful to say to every one. The first was too fat:«He’s as round as a tub,» said she. The next was too tall: «What amaypole!» said she. The next was too short: «What a dumpling!» saidshe. The fourth was too pale, and she called him «Wallface.» The fifthwas too red, so she called him «Coxcomb.» The sixth was not straightenough; so she said he was like a green stick, that had been laid todry over a baker’s oven. And thus she had some joke to crack upon everyone: but she laughed more than all at a good king who was there. «Lookat him,» said she; «his beard is like an old mop; he shall be calledGrisly-beard.» So the king got the nickname of Grisly-beard.
But the old king was very angry when he saw how his daughter behaved,and how she ill-treated all his guests; and he vowed that,willing or unwilling, she should marry the first man, be he prince orbeggar, that came to the door.
Two days after there came by a travelling fiddler, who began to playunder the window and beg alms; and when the king heard him, he said,«Let him come in.» So they brought in a dirty-looking fellow; and whenhe had sung before the king and the princess, he begged a boon. Thenthe king said, «You have sung so well, that I will give you mydaughter for your wife.» The princess begged and prayed; but the kingsaid, «I have sworn to give you to the first comer, and I will keep myword.» So words and tears were of no avail; the parson was sent for,and she was married to the fiddler. When this was over the king said,«Now get ready to go—you must not stay here—you must travel on withyour husband.»
Then the fiddler went his way, and took her with him, and they sooncame to a great wood. «Pray,» said she, «whose is this wood?» «Itbelongs to King Grisly-beard,» answered he; «hadst thou taken him,all had been thine.» «Ah! unlucky wretch that I am!» sighed she;«would that I had married King Grisly-beard!» Next they came to somefine meadows. «Whose are these beautiful green meadows?» said she.«They belong to King Grisly-beard, hadst thou taken him, they had allbeen thine.» «Ah! unlucky wretch that I am!» said she; «would that I hadmarried King Grisly-beard!»
Then they came to a great city. «Whose is this noble city?» said she.«It belongs to King Grisly-beard; hadst thou taken him, it had allbeen thine.» «Ah! wretch that I am!» sighed she; «why did I notmarry King Grisly-beard?» «That is no business of mine,» said thefiddler: «why should you wish for another husband? Am not I good enoughfor you?»
At last they came to a small cottage. «What a paltry place!» said she;«to whom does that little dirty hole belong?» Then the fiddler said,«That is your and my house, where we are to live.» «Where are yourservants?» cried she. «What do we want with servants?» said he; «youmust do for yourself whatever is to be done. Now make the fire, andput on water and cook my supper, for I am very tired.» But theprincess knew nothing of making fires and cooking, and the fiddler wasforced to help her. When they had eaten a very scanty meal they wentto bed; but the fiddler called her up very early in the morning toclean the house. Thus they lived for two days: and when they hadeaten up all there was in the cottage, the man said, «Wife, we can’tgo on thus, spending money and earning nothing. You must learn toweave baskets.» Then he went out and cut willows, and brought themhome, and she began to weave; but it made her fingers very sore. «Isee this work won’t do,» said he: «try and spin; perhaps you will dothat better.» So she sat down and tried to spin; but the threads cuther tender fingers till the blood ran. «See now,» said the fiddler,«you are good for nothing; you can do no work: what a bargain Ihave got! However, I’ll try and set up a trade in pots and pans, andyou shall stand in the market and sell them.» «Alas!» sighed she, «ifany of my father’s court should pass by and see me standing in themarket, how they will laugh at me!»
But her husband did not care for that, and said she must work, if shedid not wish to die of hunger. At first the trade went well; for manypeople, seeing such a beautiful woman, went to buy her wares, and paidtheir money without thinking of taking away the goods. They lived onthis as long as it lasted; and then her husband bought a fresh lot ofware, and she sat herself down with it in the corner of the market;but a drunken soldier soon came by, and rode his horse against herstall, and broke all her goods into a thousand pieces. Then she beganto cry, and knew not what to do. «Ah! what will become of me?» saidshe; «what will my husband say?» So she ran home and told him all. «Whowould have thought you would have been so silly,» said he, «as to putan earthenware stall in the corner of the market, where everybodypasses? but let us have no more crying; I see you are not fit for thissort of work, so I have been to the king’s palace, and asked if theydid not want a kitchen-maid; and they say they will take you, and thereyou will have plenty to eat.»
Thus the princess became a kitchen-maid, and helped the cook to do allthe dirtiest work; but she was allowed to carry home some of the meatthat was left, and on this they lived.
She had not been there long before she heard that the king’s eldestson was passing by, going to be married; and she went to one of thewindows and looked out. Everything was ready, and all the pomp andbrightness of the court was there. Then she bitterly grieved for thepride and folly which had brought her so low. And the servants gaveher some of the rich meats, which she put into her basket to take home.
All on a sudden, as she was going out, in came the king’s son ingolden clothes; and when he saw a beautiful woman at the door, he tookher by the hand, and said she should be his partner in the dance; butshe trembled for fear, for she saw that it was King Grisly-beard, whowas making sport of her. However, he kept fast hold, and led her in;and the cover of the basket came off, so that the meats in it fellabout. Then everybody laughed and jeered at her; and she was soabashed, that she wished herself a thousand feet deep in the earth. Shesprang to the door to run away; but on the steps King Grisly-beardovertook her, and brought her back and said, «Fear me not! I am thefiddler who has lived with you in the hut. I brought you there becauseI really loved you. I am also the soldier that overset your stall. Ihave done all this only to cure you of your silly pride, and to showyou the folly of your ill-treatment of me. Now all is over: you havelearnt wisdom, and it is time to hold our marriage feast.»
Then the chamberlains came and brought her the most beautiful robes;and her father and his whole court were there already, and welcomed herhome on her marriage. Joy was in every face and every heart. Thefeast was grand; they danced and sang; all were merry; and I only wishthat you and I had been of the party.