As a merry young huntsman was once going briskly along through awood, there came up a little old woman, and said to him, «Good day,good day; you seem merry enough, but I am hungry and thirsty; dopray give me something to eat.» The huntsman took pity on her, and puthis hand in his pocket and gave her what he had. Then he wanted to gohis way; but she took hold of him, and said, «Listen, my friend, towhat I am going to tell you; I will reward you for your kindness; goyour way, and after a little time you will come to a tree where youwill see nine birds sitting on a cloak. Shoot into the midst ofthem, and one will fall down dead: the cloak will fall too; take it,it is a wishing-cloak, and when you wear it you will find yourself atany place where you may wish to be. Cut open the dead bird, take out itsheart and keep it, and you will find a piece of gold under your pillowevery morning when you rise. It is the bird’s heart that will bring youthis good luck.»
The huntsman thanked her, and thought to himself, «If all thisdoes happen, it will be a fine thing for me.» When he had gone a hundredsteps or so, he heard a screaming and chirping in the branches overhim, and looked up and saw a flock of birds pulling a cloak withtheir bills and feet; screaming, fighting, and tugging at each other asif each wished to have it himself. «Well,» said the huntsman, «thisis wonderful; this happens just as the old woman said’; then he shotinto the midst of them so that their feathers flew all about. Off wentthe flock chattering away; but one fell down dead, and the cloak withit. Then the huntsman did as the old woman told him, cut open thebird, took out the heart, and carried the cloak home with him.
The next morning when he awoke he lifted up his pillow, and there laythe piece of gold glittering underneath; the same happened nextday, and indeed every day when he arose. He heaped up a great deal ofgold, and at last thought to himself, «Of what use is this gold to mewhilst I am at home? I will go out into the world and look about me.»
Then he took leave of his friends, and hung his bag and bow abouthis neck, and went his way. It so happened that his road one day ledthrough a thick wood, at the end of which was a large castle in a greenmeadow, and at one of the windows stood an old woman with a verybeautiful young lady by her side looking about them. Now the old womanwas a witch, and said to the young lady, «There is a young man comingout of the wood who carries a wonderful prize; we must get it away fromhim, my dear child, for it is more fit for us than for him. He has abird’s heart that brings a piece of gold under his pillow everymorning.» Meantime the huntsman came nearer and looked at the lady,and said to himself, «I have been travelling so long that I shouldlike to go into this castle and rest myself, for I have money enough topay for anything I want’; but the real reason was, that he wanted to seemore of the beautiful lady. Then he went into the house, and waswelcomed kindly; and it was not long before he was so much in lovethat he thought of nothing else but looking at the lady’s eyes, anddoing everything that she wished. Then the old woman said, «Now is thetime for getting the bird’s heart.» So the lady stole it away, and henever found any more gold under his pillow, for it lay now under theyoung lady’s, and the old woman took it away every morning; but he wasso much in love that he never missed his prize.
«Well,» said the old witch, «we have got the bird’s heart, but notthe wishing-cloak yet, and that we must also get.» «Let us leave himthat,» said the young lady; «he has already lost his wealth.» Then thewitch was very angry, and said, «Such a cloak is a very rare andwonderful thing, and I must and will have it.» So she did as the oldwoman told her, and set herself at the window, and looked about thecountry and seemed very sorrowful; then the huntsman said, «What makesyou so sad?» «Alas! dear sir,» said she, «yonder lies the graniterock where all the costly diamonds grow, and I want so much to gothere, that whenever I think of it I cannot help being sorrowful, forwho can reach it? only the birds and the flies—man cannot.» «Ifthat’s all your grief,» said the huntsman, «I’ll take there with allmy heart’; so he drew her under his cloak, and the moment he wished tobe on the granite mountain they were both there. The diamondsglittered so on all sides that they were delighted with the sight andpicked up the finest. But the old witch made a deep sleep come uponhim, and he said to the young lady, «Let us sit down and restourselves a little, I am so tired that I cannot stand any longer.» Sothey sat down, and he laid his head in her lap and fell asleep; andwhilst he was sleeping on she took the cloak from his shoulders, hungit on her own, picked up the diamonds, and wished herself home again.
When he awoke and found that his lady had tricked him, and left himalone on the wild rock, he said, «Alas! what roguery there is in theworld!» and there he sat in great grief and fear, not knowing what todo. Now this rock belonged to fierce giants who lived upon it; and ashe saw three of them striding about, he thought to himself, «I canonly save myself by feigning to be asleep’; so he laid himself down asif he were in a sound sleep. When the giants came up to him, the firstpushed him with his foot, and said, «What worm is this that lies herecurled up?» «Tread upon him and kill him,» said the second. «It’s notworth the trouble,» said the third; «let him live, he’ll go climbinghigher up the mountain, and some cloud will come rolling and carry himaway.» And they passed on. But the huntsman had heard all they said;and as soon as they were gone, he climbed to the top of themountain, and when he had sat there a short time a cloud came rollingaround him, and caught him in a whirlwind and bore him along for sometime, till it settled in a garden, and he fell quite gently to theground amongst the greens and cabbages.
Then he looked around him, and said, «I wish I had something to eat,if not I shall be worse off than before; for here I see neither applesnor pears, nor any kind of fruits, nothing but vegetables.» At last hethought to himself, «I can eat salad, it will refresh and strengthenme.» So he picked out a fine head and ate of it; but scarcely had heswallowed two bites when he felt himself quite changed, and saw withhorror that he was turned into an ass. However, he still felt veryhungry, and the salad tasted very nice; so he ate on till he came toanother kind of salad, and scarcely had he tasted it when he feltanother change come over him, and soon saw that he was lucky enough tohave found his old shape again.
Then he laid himself down and slept off a little of his weariness;and when he awoke the next morning he broke off a head both of thegood and the bad salad, and thought to himself, «This will help me tomy fortune again, and enable me to pay off some folks for theirtreachery.» So he went away to try and find the castle of his friends;and after wandering about a few days he luckily found it. Then hestained his face all over brown, so that even his mother would not haveknown him, and went into the castle and asked for a lodging; «I am sotired,» said he, «that I can go no farther.» «Countryman,» said thewitch, «who are you? and what is your business?» «I am,» said he, «amessenger sent by the king to find the finest salad that grows underthe sun. I have been lucky enough to find it, and have brought it withme; but the heat of the sun scorches so that it begins to wither, and Idon’t know that I can carry it farther.»
When the witch and the young lady heard of his beautiful salad,they longed to taste it, and said, «Dear countryman, let us just tasteit.» «To be sure,» answered he; «I have two heads of it with me, andwill give you one’; so he opened his bag and gave them the bad. Thenthe witch herself took it into the kitchen to be dressed; and when itwas ready she could not wait till it was carried up, but took a fewleaves immediately and put them in her mouth, and scarcely were theyswallowed when she lost her own form and ran braying down into thecourt in the form of an ass. Now the servant-maid came into thekitchen, and seeing the salad ready, was going to carry it up; but onthe way she too felt a wish to taste it as the old woman had done, andate some leaves; so she also was turned into an ass and ran afterthe other, letting the dish with the salad fall on the ground. Themessenger sat all this time with the beautiful young lady, and as nobodycame with the salad and she longed to taste it, she said, «I don’tknow where the salad can be.» Then he thought something must havehappened, and said, «I will go into the kitchen and see.» And as hewent he saw two asses in the court running about, and the salad lyingon the ground. «All right!» said he; «those two have had theirshare.» Then he took up the rest of the leaves, laid them on the dishand brought them to the young lady, saying, «I bring you the dishmyself that you may not wait any longer.» So she ate of it, and like theothers ran off into the court braying away.
Then the huntsman washed his face and went into the court that theymight know him. «Now you shall be paid for your roguery,» said he; andtied them all three to a rope and took them along with him till hecame to a mill and knocked at the window. «What’s the matter?» saidthe miller. «I have three tiresome beasts here,» said the other; «ifyou will take them, give them food and room, and treat them as I tellyou, I will pay you whatever you ask.» «With all my heart,» said themiller; «but how shall I treat them?» Then the huntsman said, «Givethe old one stripes three times a day and hay once; give the next (whowas the servant-maid) stripes once a day and hay three times; and givethe youngest (who was the beautiful lady) hay three times a day andno stripes’: for he could not find it in his heart to have herbeaten. After this he went back to the castle, where he foundeverything he wanted.
Some days after, the miller came to him and told him that the old asswas dead; «The other two,» said he, «are alive and eat, but are sosorrowful that they cannot last long.» Then the huntsman pitied them,and told the miller to drive them back to him, and when they came, hegave them some of the good salad to eat. And the beautiful young ladyfell upon her knees before him, and said, «O dearest huntsman! forgiveme all the ill I have done you; my mother forced me to it, it wasagainst my will, for I always loved you very much. Your wishing-cloakhangs up in the closet, and as for the bird’s heart, I will give it youtoo.» But he said, «Keep it, it will be just the same thing, for Imean to make you my wife.» So they were married, and lived togethervery happily till they died.