HOW CATS GOT THEIR PURR AND OTHER CAT FAIRY TALES
Here you will find various faerie stories from different countries, but they all have something in common - cats play an important role in each story.
HOW CATS GOT THEIR PURR
There once lived a king and queen who longed for a baby daughter. Finally, just as they were giving up hope, the queen bore a girl child and the king and queen were the happiest people on earth. Only one thing marred their contentment. A gypsy witch had read the queen's fortune in return for some food from the royal kitchen and she had predicted that the child would be a girl. The gypsy had given the queen a dire warning and in anger the king had driven the old crone from his land. The old woman's warning weighed heavily on their hearts.
The old witch had said: "You will bear a daughter and she will be strong and healthy. However, she will fall dead if she ever gives her hand in marriage to a prince. Heed my advice. Find three pure white cats, with not a single white hair upon them, and let them grow up with your child. Give the cats balls of two types to play with - balls of gold and balls of linen thread. If they ignore the gold and play with the linen, all will be well, but should they ignore the linen and choose the gold, beware!"
The king sent out a royal decree and his subjects offered him cats and kittens of all types - tabby cats, ginger tomcats, tortoiseshell mother cats still nursing their kittens; he was offered black kittens, grey kittens and ginger kittens. All of these he sent away again, being only interested in three pure cats. After years of searching, three white cats without a single white hair were duly found and though they came from different places, they became good friends. The three cats loved their young mistress and she adored them. As the months turned into years, the linen balls continued to be the only toys the cats chose to play with. The gold balls lay dusty and forgotten.
When the princess grew old enough to learn how to spin the cats were happy as she was. They leaped at the wheel as it turned and at the thread as the princess spun it, behaving like kittens. She begged her playful cats to leave things alone but they ignored her and continued to play gaily. The queen was so happy that the cats played only with the linen balls and never with the gold balls that she simply laughed at their antics and frolics.
At sixteen years old, the princess was very beautiful. Princes from neighbouring kingdoms and further afield asked her hand in marriage, but she remained indifferent to them all. She was content to live with her three beloved cats. One day, however, a prince arrived who was good and charming, wise and handsome, kind and virtuous and the princess fell deeply in love with him. Though he brought her gifts and visited often, he never once asked for her hand in marriage. One day she could bear it no longer and she confessed her love for him. Delighted and surprise, he expressed his own love for her.
The three white cats were in the tower room playing with the linen balls, but no sooner had the prince and princess professed their love for each other, than the cats seemed to notice the gold balls for the first time ever and began to play with them. In horror, servants reported the dire news to the king and queen. However, it wasn’t the princess who was struck down but the prince. He became gravely ill and nothing the physicians did could ease or cure whatever malady had struck him down.
In desperation the princess sought the gypsy who had made the prophecy about the cats and balls. The gypsy witch told her that there was only one way to save the prince. The princess must spin ten thousand skeins of pure white linen thread before midwinter's day. It was an impossible task - only 27 days remained before midwinter's day. No hand but hers could spin the thread and if she span but one skein too few, or one too many, the prince would die at midwinter. The princess rushed to her spinning wheel and worked steadily day after day, but after only a few days she knew she could never spin ten thousand skeins. She burst into tears and her three cats sat by her feet to comfort and console her.
"If you only knew what was wrong I know you’d help me if you could," she said to the three silent white cats at her feet.
To her amazement, one of the three placed its front paws on her knee, stared into the princess's face, opened its mouth and spoke to her: "We know what is needed and we know how to help you," it said. "Cats have no hands, only paws, so we can do the spinning for you and it will not break the terms of the prophecy. Now we must get to work for there is little time left."
And so it was that the three white cats began to spin, each at a wheel provided for it. Each spun rapidly and beautifully. All day the three wheels hummed and when they were silent as evening came the princess looked into the room to find her beloved cats sound asleep next to hundreds of skeins of thread. The days passed and the skeins increased in number. Each time a skein was finished, the prince’s health improved and the princess grew more hopeful. On midwinter's eve ten thousand skeins were ready and the prince was almost well.
The gypsy was amazed and please at the cats’ work though she had been cheated of a life. She told the princess to be sure and show her gratitude to her faithful cats. The princess loved her cats well and wisely and she gave them all her glittering jewels, which they had always loved to play with. On her wedding day, they sat in places of honour on magnificent velvet cushions, each cat with a necklace of precious stones around its neck.
As the feast continued, the three cats curled up contentedly on their cushions and - as cats are wont to do - fell asleep. From all three came loud, contented purring. This was the reward the cats had received for their work. Though no cat would ever again speak, all cats would purr like the whirr and hum of a spinning wheel. From that day to this cats have continued to purr whenever they feel contented.
THE MASTER CAT, OR "PUSS IN BOOTS"
There once was a miller whose only wealth was his mill, his ass, and his cat. To his eldest son he left the mill; to the second son he bequeathed the ass and the youngest son inherited nothing but the cat.
The youngest son lamented "My brothers can make a living by joining their stocks together, but once I have eaten the cat and made gloves of his fur I will have nothing at all."
The cat pretended he hadn't overheard these words and he said to the youngest son "Give me a bag and get a pair of boots made for me so I can scamper through the dirt and brambles; you will that you have inherited more than you imagine!"
The cat's new master gave the cat boots and a bag, but didn't build his hopes too high. He had watched the cat play cunning tricks to catch rats and mice. The cat put on his boots and held the strings of his bag in his forepaws and went down into a rabbit warren. He put dandelion leaves in the bag and he stretched out as though dead. Presently, a young and foolish rabbit jumped into the bag to eat the dandelion leaves. Puss sprang up and killed the rabbit at once then took his prize to the palace where his manners and garb gained him admittance to the king's apartment.
"Sire," said the cat, "I have brought you a rabbit from the warren, which my noble lord the Marquis of Carabas" (that being the title Puss invented for the miller's youngest son) "has commanded me to present to you as a gift."
"Please thank your master," said the king, "and tell him his gift pleases me."
Using the same tricks with his baited bag, puss hid among the standing corn where he caught a brace of partridges. Again, he presented these to the king as a gift from his master, the Marquis of Carabas. The king gave puss some money for drink to quench his thirst from such work. This continued for three months.
One day in particular, when the cat knew that the king and his beautiful daughter would be riding along the riverside for fresh air, puss said to his master: "If you follow my advice your fortune is made. Go and wash yourself in the river, at a place I will show you, but leave the rest to me. You are now the Marquis of Carabas, not a simple miller's son and you muse splash and make a commotion as you bathe."
The Marquis of Carabas did what the cat instructed and went to bathe in the river with much noise and splashing. While he was washing, the cat hid the Marquis's ragged clothes in a rabbit hole and began to cry out: "Help! help! My Lord Marquis of Carabas is drowning in the river."
At this noise, the King put his head out of the coach-window. Seeing it was the Cat who had so often brought him such good game, he commanded his guards to assist the Marquis of Carabas. While they were rescuing the poor Marquis from drowning, the cat told the King that some rogues had stolen the Marquis's rich clothes from the riverbank, though the cat had cried out "Thieves! thieves!" as loud as he could.
The King commanded the officers of his wardrobe to fetch one of his best suits for the Lord Marquis of Carabas. In this new clothing, the miller's son now looked very fine and handsome and he and the princess took a great liking to each other. The king invited the Marquis to join him on the ride in the coach and the cat, overjoyed at seeing the plan go so well, marched on ahead of them.
Presently, the cat met some country men who were mowing a meadow for hay. Puss said to them "Good men, the king is coming this way in his coach and is sure to ask what you are about. If you do not tell him that the meadow you mow belongs to my Lord Marquis of Carabas, you shall be chopped as small as herbs for the pot."
This they did, being fearful of the cat's threat and the Marquis said to the king "This meadow yields a plentiful harvest every year without fail."
The Master Cat, still marching ahead of the coach, met some reapers, and said to them: "Good people, the king is coming this way in his coach and is sure to ask what you are about. If you do not tell him that all this corn belongs to the Marquis of Carabas, you shall be chopped as small as herbs for the pot."
This they did, being fearful of the cat's threat and the Marquis said to the king "This land yields a plentiful harvest every year without fail."
The king was very well pleased and congratulated the Marquis on his lands and on the respectful people who worked the land. The Master Cat continued to march ahead of the coach and said the same thing to everyone he met. The king was astonished at the vast estates of the Lord Marquis of Carabas.
Puss came at last to a stately castle owned by a rich ogre, the real master of all the fields and land thereabouts. The cat, who had taken care to inform himself who this ogre was and what he could do, asked to speak with him, saying he could not pass so near his castle without paying his respects to its master. The ogre received him as civilly as an ogre could do and bade the cat sit down.
"I am told," said the Cat, "that you have the power to transform yourself into any creature you wish: a fierce and noble lion; a strong and stately elephant, and all manner of bests."
"That is true," answered the ogre very briskly, "I shall demonstrate by transforming myself into a lion."
Puss was so terrified at the sight of the lion that he leapt into the roof gutter in spite of his encumbering walking boots. When the ogre resumed his natural form, the cat came down and congratulated him on becoming such a fierce and frightening lion.
"I am told," said the Cat, "though I find it hard to believe, that you can even transform yourself into the smallest creature - a rat, for example, or a field mouse. Please excuse me, but I find it impossible to believe anyone so nobly built as yourself could shrink themselves to the size of a mouse."
"Impossible?" exclaimed the ogre, "let me show you!"
And the ogre transformed himself into a mouse which scurried about the floor. As soon as Puss saw this, he leapt on the mouse and ate it up.
Meanwhile the king, had reached the ogre's fine castle and decided to visit it. Puss heard the noise of his Majesty's coach running over the draw-bridge and ran out to greet the king: "Your Majesty, welcome to the castle of my Lord Marquis of Carabas."
"What! my Lord Marquis," exclaimed the King, "this noble castle belongs to you? There can be nothing finer than this court and all the stately buildings which surround it. Let us go in, if you please."
The Marquis gave his hand to the Princess, and they followed the king into a spacious hall, where they found a magnificent meal that the ogre had earlier prepared for some friends (who now dared not enter because the king was there). By now, his Majesty was utterly charmed with the Marquis of Carabas and his estates, as was the princess who had fallen hopelessly in love.
After a meal and several glasses of fine wine, the king said, "My Lord Marquis, I am much impressed. Let me offer you the hand of my daughter in marriage."
The Marquis accepted with a low bow and later that day he and the princess were married and installed in the castle which had once belonged to the ogre. The Master Cat, or Puss in Boots, became a great lord, and never again ran after mice except for his own sport.
THE WHITE CAT
There once was a ageing king who had three brave and clever sons. The king did not wish to give up his throne just yet, and was afraid that his sons would want to reign over the kingdom before he was dead. He decided to divert the minds of his sons by promises which he could always get out of when the time came for keeping them. So he sent for them all, and, after speaking to them kindly, he added: "I'm sure you'll agree that my great age makes it impossible for me to look after my affairs of state as carefully as I once did. Hence I wish that one of you should succeed me, but in return you should do something for me. I'm thinking of retiring into the country and it seems that a faithful little dog would be good company for me. Whichever of you brings me the prettiest little dog shall succeed me at once."
The three princes were surprised by their father's sudden fancy for a little dog, but as the challenge gave the two younger princes an unexpected chance of being king, and as the eldest was too polite to object, they eagerly accepted the challenge. They bade farewell to the king, who gave them presents of silver and gems, and he arranged to meet them in one year's time, at the same time and place, to see the little dogs they had brought for him.
The princes and their retainers went together to a castle one league from the city, where they enjoyed a grand banquet. The three brothers promised to remain firm friends, to share whatever good fortune befell them, and not to be parted by envy or jealousy. Each one took a different road, and though the two eldest met with many adventures, this tale concerns the adventures of the youngest prince.
The young prince was handsome and merry, brave and versed in everything a prince should know. He wandered from place to place and hardly a day passed without his buying several dogs of all sizes and breeds. Each time he bought a pretty one he would spy one prettier still and then have to sell all the others for it was quite impossible for him to take a thousand dogs with him on his travels!
One nightfall, he reached a great, gloomy forest. He was quickly lost and, to make matters worse, a storm began. He took the first path he saw and, after walking for a long time, he saw a faint red light and hoped to find some woodcutter's cottage where he could shelter for the night. At length, guided by the light, he reached the golden door of the most splendid castle imaginable. Its walls were fine porcelain in most delicate colours, and the Prince saw that all the stories he had ever read were pictured upon them. He was too wet and miserable to spend long looking about and he went to the great golden door.
There he saw a deer's foot hanging by a diamond chain and he wondered who could live in this magnificent castle and not worry about diamond chain being stolen. He pulled the deer's foot, and immediately a silver bell sounded and the door flew open. The Prince could see nothing but numbers of soft, pretty hands in the air, each holding a flaming torch. He was so surprised that he stood quite still until the hands pushed him into a hall paved with lapis-lazuli, while two lovely voices sang: ""The hands you see floating above will swiftly your bidding obey; If your heart dreads not conquering Love, in this place you may fearlessly stay."
No longer afraid, the prince allowed the hands to guide him towards a door of coral, which opened of its own accord, and he found himself in a vast hall of mother-of-pearl, out of which opened a many other brightly lit and fabulously equipped rooms. After passing through some sixty rooms, he reached a comfortable-looking armchair drawn up close to a hearth which sprang alight as he approached. The hands, which often appeared quite suddenly and unexpectedly, took off his wet, muddy clothes and dressed him in rich clothes embroidered with gold and emeralds.
The hands then led him to a splendid room, decorated with tapestries and paintings of Puss in Boots and other famous cats. The table was laid for supper with two golden plates, and golden spoons and forks, and the sideboard was covered with bejewelled dishes and glasses of crystal. The Prince wondered who the second place could be for. Suddenly in came about a dozen cats carrying guitars and music; they took their places at one end of the room, and under the direction of a cat who beat time with a roll of paper, the cat musicians began to mew in every imaginable key and to draw their claws across the strings of the guitars, making the strangest kind of music the prince had ever heard. At first he put his fingers in his ears, but soon he was overcome with laughter at the comical sight and he wondered what funny sight he would see next.
Instantly the door opened, and in came a tiny figure covered by a long black veil. It was conducted by two cats wearing black mantles and carrying swords, and a large party of cats followed, who brought in cages full of rats and mice. At first, the astonished prince thought he was dreaming, but the little figure came up to him and threw back its veil to reveal the loveliest little white cat imaginable. She looked very young and very sad, and in a sweet little voice that went straight to his heart she spoke to him.
"King's son," said the sad white cat, "You are welcome. The Queen of the Cats is glad to see you."
"Lady Cat," replied the prince, "I thank you for receiving me so kindly, but surely you are no ordinary cat? The way you speak and the magnificence of your castle prove it plainly."
"King's son," said the white cat, "I am not used to such compliments. Let supper be served and let my musicians be silent, as the Prince does not understand what they are saying."
The mysterious hands brought in the supper. First they put on the table two dishes, one containing stewed pigeons and the other a fricassee of fat mice. The sight of mice made the Prince feel uneasy, but the white cat assured him that his own dishes had been prepared in a separate kitchen and he could be certain they contained no rats or mice. Sure she would not deceive him, the prince began to eat.
Presently he noticed that the white cat wore on her little paw a bracelet containing a portrait. He begged to be allowed to look at it. To his great surprise he found the portrait depicted a handsome young man who bore an uncanny resemblance to himself. The white cat sighed and seemed sadder than ever, so the prince dared not ask about the portrait. Instead, he talked of other things and found that she was interested in the same subjects that interested him.
After supper they went into another room, which was equipped as a theatre, and the cats acted and danced for their amusement. At length, the white cat bade him good-night and the hands conducted him into a room hung with tapestry worked with butterflies' wings of every colour and with mirrors from floor to ceiling and a little white bed with curtains of gauze tied up with ribbons.
In the morning he was awakened by a noise and confusion outside of his window, and the mysterious hands quickly dressed him in hunting costume. When he looked out, all the cats were assembled in the courtyard, some leading greyhounds, some blowing horns, for the white cat was going out hunting. The hands led a wooden horse up to the prince, and mounted him on it despite his protests. It at once pranced gaily off with him.
The white cat rode a monkey, which climbed even up to the eagles' nests when she desired young eaglets. Never was there a pleasanter hunting party, and when they returned to the castle the prince and the white cat dined together as before. This time, after the meal was done, she offered him a crystal goblet, which must have contained a magic draught, for, as soon as he had swallowed its contents, he forgot everything, even the little dog that he was seeking for the king. His only thought was how happy he was to be with the white cat.
The days passed in every kind of amusement, until the year was nearly gone. The prince had forgotten about the meeting with his brothers and had even forgotten what country he belonged to. The white cat knew when he ought to go back, and one day she said to him: "Do you know that you have only three days left to look for the little dog for your father, and your brothers have found lovely ones?"
The prince's memory returned at once and he cried, "What can have made me forget such an important thing? My whole fortune depends upon it! There is no time to find a dog pretty enough to gain me a kingdom and I am far more than three days away from my home!"
The prince was distraught, but the white cat said to him: "King's son, do not fret. I am your friend and will make everything easy for you. Stay another day as the wooden horse can take you to your father in twelve hours."
"Thank you, beautiful Cat," replied the prince, "but there is little point as I have no dog to take to my father"
"See here," answered the white cat, holding up an acorn, "This acorn holds a prettier one than in the Dogstar!"
The prince chastised the white cat for teasing him, but she held the acorn to his ear and he heard a tiny "woof woof" from inside it. The prince was delighted, for it must surely be the smallest dog ever. He wanted to take it out to see it, but the white cat told him to wait until he was before the king, and in any case the tiny dog might become cold on the journey. So he stayed with her another day and thanked her a thousand times.
At last, time came for him to return home and he sadly said goodbye and said to the white cat "The days here have passed so quickly! I wish I could take you with me." But the white cat just sighed sadly and shook her head.
He was the first of the three princes to arrive at the castle. His brothers looked questioningly at the prancing wooden horse, but he kept quiet about his own adventures while listening to their stories. When they asked what dog he'd brought, he showed them a misshapen turnspit dog. The two elder princes smiled secretly, knowing their dogs to be far prettier than the ugly turnspit dog.
The brothers set out together in a coach. The elder brothers carried dogs so tiny and fragile they hardly dared touch them. The turnspit dog ran behind the coach and was filthy with mud by the time they arrived at the palace. The king could not decide which of the two tiny dogs was the prettier and while the elder brothers were arranging how to divide the kingdom up between them, their youngest brother stepped forward and opened the acorn. Inside, on a white cushion, was a dog so small that it could easily have jumped through a finger ring. The king complained that he could not decide which dog was prettiest and would therefore have to set another task in order to reach a decision.
He asked them to find him a piece of muslin so fine that it could be drawn through the eye of a needle. The brothers consented, though less willingly than before, and set out. The youngest mounted on his wooden horse and rode at full speed back to his beloved white cat. Back at the fabulous castle staffed by the mysterious hands, he found her asleep in a little basket on a white satin cushion. She was overjoyed at seeing him once more.
"How could I hope that you would come back to me King's son?" she said.
As he stroked and petted her, he told her that the king could not reach a decision and had set a new task. The white cat looked serious and said she must think what was to be done, though luckily she knew cats in the castle who could spin very well. Then they danced and dined together, and watched magnificent fireworks from a gallery overlooking the river.
The days passed quickly as before and it was impossible to be bored as the white cat had a talent for inventing new amusements. When the Prince asked her how it was that she was so wise, she only said, "King's son, do not ask me, but guess what you please. I may not tell you anything."
The Prince was so happy that he lost track of time until the white cat told him that the year was gone and it was time for him to return to his own palace. Her spinning cats had made the piece of muslin very well.
"This time," she said, "I can give you a suitable escort," and in the courtyard the prince found a golden chariot enamelled with red and drawn by twelve snow-white horses, harnessed four abreast. A hundred chariots followed, each drawn by eight horses, and filled with officers in splendid uniforms, while a thousand guards surrounded the procession.
"Go!" said the White Cat, "and when you appear before the King in such state he surely will not refuse you the crown which you deserve. Take this walnut, but do not open it until you are before him, then you will find in it the piece of stuff you asked me for."
"Lovely Blanchette," said the Prince, for that was what he had named the white cat, "however can I thank you for your kindness? Just say the words and I will give up all thought of kingship and stay here with you forever."
"King's son," she replied, "you are kind to care so much for a little white mouse-catcher, but you must not stay."
The Prince kissed her little white paw and set out. The enchanted chariots reached the king's palace in just six hours. This time his brothers had arrived first and had impressed the king with their pieces of muslin which they felt sure would pass through the eye of a needle. However, the wily king sent for a particular needle with such a tiny eye that everyone could see the muslin would never pass through it.
The two princes were angry and began to complain that it was an unfair trick. Just then, the youngest prince came in and his father and brothers were quite astonished at his magnificence. He took out the walnut and opened it, expecting to find a piece of muslin. Inside the walnut he found a hazelnut and inside that was a cherry stone and inside that was a grain of wheat. The prince thought the white cat had played a joke, but he quite distinctly felt a cat's claw scratch his hand so he opened the grain of wheat and found a millet seed. Inside the millet seed he drew out a piece of muslin four hundred ells long, woven with gorgeous colours and patterns. This muslin went through the needle's eye six times with ease. The king turned pale and other princes were silent. No-one could deny that this was the finest piece of muslin that was to be found in the world
Presently the king turned to his sons, and said, with a deep sigh "If you are to rule my kingdom, you need a queen to rule beside you. Go forth once more and whoever at the end of a year can bring back the loveliest princess shall be king and queen."
Though he had clearly won the challenge, the prince went back to his chariot and he and his escort returned to the white cat faster than he had left. This time she was expecting him. The path was strewn with flowers and a braziers of scented woods perfumed the air.
"Well, King's son," she said, "here you are again without a crown."
"Madam Blanchette," he sighed, "thanks to your generosity I have earned my crown twice over, but my wily father is so loath to part with it that it would give me no pleasure to have it."
Blanchette replied, "As you must next take back a lovely princess with you I will be on the look-out for one for you. Meanwhile let us enjoy ourselves"
The year slipped away even more pleasantly than the previous ones. Sometimes the prince could not help asking Blanchette how it was she could talk, "Perhaps you are a fairy, or some enchanter changed you into a cat?"
The white cat only gave him answers that told him nothing and while they were together he was so happy he quite lost track of time. One evening, the white cat told him that if he wanted to take a lovely princess home with him the next day he must be prepared to do exactly what she told him. Although he loved no-one, but Blanchette, he knew he could not wed a cat and he agreed.
"Take your sword," she said, "and cut off my head!"
"I cannot!" cried the prince, "How can you even ask such a thing?"
"Please do it," Blanchette begged.
Though he begged her to ask him to set a different task to prove his devotion to her, nothing could change her mind. He took out his sword and with tears running down his cheeks and a trembling hand, he cut off her little white head. Suddenly a lovely princess stood before him. While he was speechless with amazement, the door opened and a goodly company of knights and ladies entered, each carrying a cat's skin. They each kissed the princess's hand and congratulated her on being restored to her own form. After a short while she asked to be alone with the prince.
"You were right in supposing me to be no ordinary cat. My father reigned over six kingdoms. The Queen, my mother, whom he loved dearly, had a passion for travelling and exploring, and when I was only a few weeks old she obtained his permission to visit a certain mountain of which she had heard many marvellous tales. She set out, taking with her a number of her attendants. On the way they passed near an old castle belonging to the fairies. Nobody had ever been into it, but it was reported to be full of the most wonderful things and its garden was reputed to have such fruits as were to be found nowhere else. She wished to try these fruits for herself. Though her servants knocked and rang at the door, no-one answered and they believed the castle's inhabitants either asleep or dead. By then she was determined to try the fruit so she ordered her servants to put ladders against the wall and climb over. Though the walls did not look very high, however many ladders they tied together, they could not reach the top.
The Queen was sick with disappointment. She ordered her servants to set up camp for the night so they could try something else in the morning. In the middle of the night she was suddenly awakened by a tiny, ugly old woman. The old woman said to my mother 'It is somewhat troublesome of your Majesty to insist upon tasting our fruit. To save further annoyance, my sisters and I will give you as much as you can carry away, on one condition - you shall give us your little daughter to bring up as our own.' Though the queen begged the old fairy to take some other gift in return - kingdoms to rule, or riches, the old fairy insisted that only the baby daughter would do. 'She shall be as happy as the day is long, and we will give her everything that is worth having in fairy-land, but you must not see her again until she is married.' The queen consented, for she thought she would die of despair if she did not taste the fruit and so would lose her baby daughter either way.
The old fairy led her into the beautiful castle and called for the fruit to be brought to her. Golden baskets of perfect apricots, peaches, nectarines, cherries, plums, pears, melons, grapes, apples, oranges, lemons, gooseberries, strawberries and raspberries appeared at once.
The queen gave up her plan to visit the mountain and returned to her kingdom, but before she had gone very far she regretted her bargain. When the king came out to meet her she looked so sad that he guessed that something had happened, and asked what was the matter. The queen was afraid to tell him, but all at once five ugly dwarfs arrived to collect the baby princess and the queen told him about the fruit. In anger, the king drove the dwarfs away and had locked his queen and the baby princess in a securely guarded tower.
Then the fairies sent a great dragon which killed the king's subjects and devastated the kingdom until the king agreed to hand over his baby daughter to the fairies. The fairies took away the baby daughter - that is myself - and led away the dragon. I grew up in a fine tower surrounded with everything that was beautiful and rare, and learning everything that is ever taught to a princess, but without any companions but a talking parrot and a talking dog. I was visited each day by one of the old fairies and believed myself to be the fairies' own child, knowing nothing of my mother's bargain.
One day, as I sat at my window I saw a handsome young prince who had come hunting in the forest around my tower. He saluted me with great deference and I was delighted to have some one new to talk to. Despite the height of my window, we talked until nightfall. He visited me many times and I consented to marry him, but the question was how was I to escape from my tower. The fairies always supplied me with flax for spinning so I made enough cord for a ladder that reached to the foot of the tower. Just as my prince was helping me descend it, the crossest and ugliest of the old fairies caught us and the young prince was swallowed up by the fairies' dragon.
The fairies were furious at having their plans thwarted. They had intended me to marry the king of the dwarfs. When I utterly refused, they changed me into a white cat and brought me here. All the lords and ladies of my father's court were here too, some made into cats and the ones of lowest rank made invisible except for their hands. The fairies then told me all my history and warned me that my only chance of regaining my natural form was to win the love of a prince who resembled in every way my unfortunate lover."
"And you have won it, lovely Princess," interrupted the Prince.
"You are indeed wonderfully like him," said Blanchette, "and if you really love me all my troubles will be at an end."
"I love you more than anything and my troubles will also be ended if you will consent to marry me," said the prince, on bended knee.
They mounted into the golden chariot together and the journey was utterly delightful as they were together. At the prince's father's palace, four guards carried the princess in a crystal sedan chair with silk curtains drawn so that no-one could see her. The two older princes had each returned with a lovely princess, but the younger prince smiled and said he had returned with a rarer prize - a white cat. They just laughed at him and asked if had taken a cat for a wife because he was afraid of mice. Then the princes went to present their brides to their father.
"Are the ladies beautiful?" asked the king anxiously.
The two older princes answered that nobody had ever before seen such lovely princesses, which made the king quite annoyed. However the king could not choose which of their princesses was the most beautiful. Finally he turned to his youngest son.
"Have you come back without a bride?"
"Your Majesty, my father" replied the prince, "in that crystal chair you will find a little white cat, which has such soft paws, and mews so prettily, that I am sure you will be charmed with it."
The king smiled and went to draw back the curtains himself, but at a touch from the Princess the crystal shattered and she stood in all her beauty. Her fair hair floated over her shoulders and was crowned with flowers. Her robe was purest white.
"Sire," said Blanchette, "I will not deprive you of the throne you fill so worthily. I have already six kingdoms. Permit me to bestow one upon you and one upon each of your sons. I ask nothing but your friendship, and your consent to my marriage with your youngest son. We shall still have three kingdoms for ourselves."
The king could not conceal his joy and astonishment and the three princes were married at once to their princesses. After many months of celebration, each king and queen departed to their own kingdom and lived happily ever after, but only one of their castles was ever after full of cats.
KISSA THE CAT
Once upon a time there lived a queen who adored her beautiful smoke-grey, blue-eyed cat. It went everywhere she did and sat proudly by her side when she drove out in her fine glass coach.
"Oh, pussy," said the queen one day, "you are happier than I am! You have a dear kitten just like yourself, and I have nobody to play with but you."
"Don't cry," answered the cat, laying her paw on her mistress's arm. "Crying never does any good. I will see what can be done.'
The cat was as good as her word and she trotted off to the forest to consult a fairy who dwelt there, and very soon after the queen had a little girl, who seemed made out of snow and sunbeams. The queen was delighted and soon the baby began to take notice of the kitten as she jumped about the room, and would not go to sleep at all unless the kitten lay curled up beside her.
Two or three months went by, and though the baby was still a baby, the kitten was fast becoming a cat, and one evening when, as usual, the nurse came to look for her, to put her in the baby's cot, she was nowhere to be found. What a hunt there was for that kitten, to be sure! The servants, each anxious to find her, as the queen was certain to reward the lucky man, searched in the most impossible places. Boxes were opened that would hardly have held the kitten's paw; books were taken from bookshelves, lest the kitten should have got behind them, drawers were pulled out, for perhaps the kitten might have got shut in.
But it was all no use. The kitten had plainly run away, and nobody could tell if it would ever choose to come back. Years passed away, and one day, when the princess was playing ball in the garden, she happened to throw her ball farther than usual, and it fell into a clump of rose-bushes. The princess of course ran after it at once, and she was stooping down to feel if it was hidden in the long grass, when she heard a voice calling her: "Aurelie! Aurelie! Have you forgotten me? I am Kissa, your sister!"
"But I never had a sister," answered Aurelie, very much puzzled, for she knew nothing of what had taken place so long ago.
"Don't you remember how I always slept in your cot beside you, and how you cried till I came? But girls have no memories at all! Why, I could find my way straight up to that cot this moment, if I was once inside the palace."
"Why did you go away then?" asked the princess. But before Kissa could answer, Aurelie's attendants arrived breathless on the scene, and were so horrified at the sight of a strange cat, that Kissa plunged into the bushes and went back to the forest.
The princess was very much vexed with her ladies-in-waiting for frightening away her old playfellow, and told the queen who came to her room every evening to bid her good-night.
"Yes, it is quite true what Kissa said," answered the queen, "I should have liked to see her again. Perhaps, some day, she will return, and then you must bring her to me."
Next morning it was very hot, and the princess declared that she must go and play in the forest, where it was always cool, under the big shady trees. As usual, her attendants let her do anything she pleased, and sitting down on a mossy bank where a little stream tinkled by, soon fell sound asleep. The princess saw with delight that they would pay no heed to her, and wandered on and on, expecting every moment to see some fairies dancing round a ring, or some little brown elves peeping at her from behind a tree. But, alas! she met none of these; instead, a horrible giant came out of his cave and ordered her to follow him. The princess felt much afraid, as he was so big and ugly, and began to be sorry that she had not stayed within reach of help; but as there was no use in disobeying the giant, she walked meekly behind. They went a long way, and Aurelie grew very tired, and at length began to cry.
"I don't like girls who make horrid noises," said the giant, turning round, "but if you really want to cry, I will give you something to cry about." Drawing an axe from his belt, he cut off both her feet, which he picked up and put in his pocket.
Then he went away leaving poor Aurelie lying on the grass in terrible pain, and wondering if she should stay there till she died, as no one would know where to look for her. How long it was since she had set out in the morning she could not tell - it seemed years to her, of course; but the sun was still high in the heavens when she heard the sound of wheels, and then, with a great effort, for her throat was parched with fright and pain, she gave a shout.
"I am coming!" was the answer; and in another moment a cart made its way through the trees, driven by Kissa, who used her tail as a whip to urge the horse to go faster. Directly Kissa saw Aurelie lying there, she jumped quickly down, and lifting the girl carefully in her two front paws, laid her upon some soft hay, and drove back to her own little hut.
In the corner of the room was a pile of cushions, and these Kissa arranged as a bed. Aurelie, who by this time was nearly fainting from all she had gone through, drank greedily some milk, and then sank back on the cushions while Kissa fetched some dried herbs from a cupboard, soaked them in warm water and tied them on the bleeding legs. The pain vanished at once, and Aurelie looked up and smiled at Kissa.
"You will go to sleep now," said the cat, "and you will not mind if I leave you for a little while. I will lock the door, and no one can hurt you." Before she had even finished, the princess was fast asleep. Then Kissa got into the cart, which was standing at the door, and catching up the reins, drove straight to the giant's cave.
Leaving her cart behind some trees, Kissa crept gently up to the open door, and, crouching down, listened to what the giant was telling his wife, who was at supper with him. "The first day that I can spare I shall just go back and kill her," he said, "it would never do for people in the forest to know that a mere girl can defy me!" And he and his wife were so busy calling Aurelie all sorts of names for her bad behaviour, that they never noticed Kissa stealing into a dark corner, and upsetting a whole bag of salt into the great pot before the fire.
"Dear me, how thirsty I am!" cried the giant by-and-by.
"So am I," answered the giant's wife. "I do wish I had not taken that last spoonful of broth; I am sure something was wrong with it."
"If I don't get some water I shall die," went on the giant. And rushing out of the cave, followed by his wife, he ran down the path which led to the river.
Then Kissa entered the hut, and lost no time in searching every hole till she came upon some grass, under which Aurelie's feet were hidden, and putting them in her cart, drove back again to her own hut. Aurelie was thankful to see her, for she had lain, too frightened to sleep, trembling at every noise.
"Oh, is it you?" she cried joyfully, as Kissa turned the key. And the cat came in, holding up the two neat little feet in their silver slippers.
"In two minutes they shall be as tight as they ever were!" said Kissa. And taking some strings of the magic grass which the giant had carelessly heaped on them, she bound the feet on to the legs above.
"Of course you won't be able to walk for some time; you must not expect that," she continued. "But if you are very good, perhaps, in about a week, I may carry you home again."
And so she did; and when the cat drove the cart up to the palace gate, lashing the horse furiously with her tail, and the king and queen saw their lost daughter sitting beside her, they declared that no reward could be too great for the person who had brought her out of the giant's hands.
"We will talk about that by-and-by," said the cat, as she made her best bow, and turned her horse's head.
The princess was very unhappy when Kissa left her without even bidding her farewell. She would neither eat nor drink, nor take any notice of all the beautiful dresses her parents bought for her.
"She will die, unless we can make her laugh," one whispered to the other. "Is there anything in the world that we have left untried?"
"Nothing except marriage," answered the king. And he invited all the handsomest young men he could think of to the palace, and bade the princess choose a husband from among them.
It took her some time to decide which she admired the most, but at last she fixed upon a young prince, whose eyes were like the pools in the forest, and his hair of bright gold. The king and the queen were greatly pleased, as the young man was the son of a neighbouring king, and they gave orders that a splendid feast should be got ready. When the marriage was over, Kissa suddenly stood before them, and Aurelie rushed forward and clasped her in her arms.
"I have come to claim my reward," said the cat. "Let me sleep for this night at the foot of your bed."
"Is that all?" asked Aurelie, much disappointed.
"It is enough," answered the cat. And when the morning dawned, it was no cat that lay upon the bed, but a beautiful princess.
"My mother and I were both enchanted by a spiteful fairy," said she, "we could not free ourselves till we had done some kindly deed that had never been wrought before. My mother died without ever finding a chance of doing anything new, but I took advantage of the evil act of the giant to make you as whole as ever."
Then they were all more delighted than before, and the princess lived in the court until she, too, married, and went away to govern one of her own.
THE LION AND THE CAT
Once upon a time, a lion and his younger brother, the wild cat, shared the same hut. The lion was big and strong and could jump further and run faster than all the other beasts of the forest. If strength and swiftness alone could gain him a dinner he would never go hungry, but when it came to cunning, both the bear and the snake were more cunning than the lion. However, is brother the wild cat was even more cunning than the bear or the snake.
The wild cat had golden ball so beautiful you could not look at it for long. He kept it hidden in his thick furry ruff. A very large old animal, long since dead, had given it to him when he was a baby, and had told him never to part with it, for as long as he kept it no harm could befall him. In general the wild cat rarely used the golden ball, for the strong, swift lion did all the hunting. But now and then his life would have been in danger had it not been for the golden ball.
One day the two brothers started to hunt at daybreak. As they trotted along, the lion whispered "There is a bear sitting on that tree. He is waiting for us to pass so he can drop down on my back."
So the wild cat touched the golden ball and said, "Bear, die!" and the bear fell out of the tree, quite dead, but bear is not nice to eat so the lion and the wild cat continued on their way.
A little later they came to a strip of long grass on the edge of the forest. The lion's quick ears detected a faint rustling noise and he stopped short, crying out "That is a snake," for he was much more afraid of snakes than of bears.
So the wildcat touched the golden ball and said "Snake, die!" and the snake died.
The two brothers skinned the snake and made the skin into a small parcel which the cat tucked into his ruff for snake-skins are magical things. Snake, however, is not good to eat so they continued looking. Soon they reached the side of a hill where two fine deer were grazing.
"Kill one of those deer for your own dinner," said the wild cat, "but catch me another alive. I want him."
The lion at once sprang at the deer with a loud roar, but they bounded away and the lion gave chase. Soon they were all lost to sight. The wild cat waited for a long while, but the lion did not return, so he went back to their house, still hungry. It was quite dark when the lion came home, where his brother was sitting curled up in one corner.
"Did you catch the deer for me?" asked the wild cat, springing up.
"Well, no," replied the lion. "We ran half way across the world and left the wind far behind us before I caught them. Think what a trouble it would have been to drag it here! So I ate them both."
Wild cat said nothing, but he was very angry with the lion. He had planned to ride the deer like a horse so he could see all the wonderful places the lion told him about. The more he thought of it, the more he sulked. Next morning, when the lion said it was time to go hunting, the cat told him that he would have to kill any bears or snakes by himself, as the wild cat had a headache and would have to stay at home. The wild cat knew that the lion was too scared not go out alone.
The quarrel went on for days and soon they were not on speaking terms at all. They had not hunted and were both very hungry and even more cross. It occurred to the lion that he could steal the golden ball and kill bears and snakes for himself. The wild cat could sulk as much as he liked, but it wouldn't matter once the lion had the golden ball and could hunt alone. However, the cat kept the ball hung around his neck day and night and was such a light sleeper that it was impossible to take it while he slept. The only thing was to get the cat to lend it of his own accord. After some days the lion (who was not particularly clever) thought of a plan.
"How boring this is!" said the lion one afternoon, when the rain was pouring down in such torrents that he could not even watch the birds and beasts through the doorway, "Couldn't we have a game of catch with your golden ball?"
"I don't want to play catch," answered the cat, who was still cross (for even to this day a cat never forgets an injury done to him).
"Lend me the ball for a little, and I will play by myself," replied the lion, stretching out a paw as he spoke.
"You can't play in the rain, and if you did, you would only lose it in the bushes," said the cat.
"I will play in here," replied the lion, "Don't be so mean."
With bad grace the cat untied the string and threw the golden ball into the lion's lap, and composed himself to sleep again. For a long while the lion tossed it up and down gaily, knowing the wild cat was watching the precious golden ball through nearly-closed eyes. Gradually the lion edged closer to the door, and at last gave such a toss that the ball went up high into the air, and he could not see what became of it.
"How stupid of me!" he cried, as the cat sprang up angrily, "let us go at once and search for it. It can't have fallen very far." But though they searched all day and for several days thereafter, they never found it because it never came down.
After the loss of his ball the cat refused to live with the lion any longer, but wandered away to the north, always hoping he might meet with his ball again. Months passed, and years passed, and though he travelled over hundreds of miles, he never saw any traces of it. At length, when he was getting quite old, he came to a strange place where a big river rolled to the foot of some high mountains. The ground by river was damp and marshy, and as no cat likes wet feet, the wild cat climbed a tree that rose high above the water and thought sadly of his lost ball, which would have helped him out of this horrible place. Suddenly he saw a beautiful ball, very much like his own, dangling from a branch of his tree. He longed to get at it, but didn't know if the branch was strong enough to bear his weight. He saw no point in falling into the river and getting drowned.
So he stretched himself at full length upon the branch, and wriggled his body cautiously along. If the branch felt unsafe he could edge back again. To his delight it seemed thick and stout. He wriggled forward again and by stretching out his paw, he would be able to draw the string towards him. Suddenly the branch gave a loud crack, and the cat made haste to wriggle himself back the way he had come.
When cats make up their minds to do anything they generally will do it. So the wild cat looked about to see if there was another way to get at his ball. Above the bough where the ball was hung was another bough much thicker, which he knew could not break with his weight. By holding on tight to this with all four paws, he could just manage to touch the ball with his tail. He would thus be able to whisk the ball to and fro until the string loosened and it fell to the ground. It might would take time, but cats are very patient creatures when they want to be.
So he hung from the branch above and he worked the string until the ball fell onto the ground. The cat leapt down and tucked his ball away in the snake-skin round his neck. Then he began jumping along the shore of the river, trying to find a boat or a floating log to take him across. There were no boats or floating logs, but on the other side, he saw two girls cooking, and though he shouted to them at the top of his voice, they were too far off to hear him
Even worse, the golden ball fell out of its snake-skin bag right into the river. Normally, when a ball falls into a river it will fall to the bottom and stay there, or else bob about on the top of the water. But this ball, instead of doing either of these things, went straight across to the other side, where one of the girls was dipping her pail to get water.
"What a lovely ball!" she cried and tried to catch it in her pail. The ball always kept bobbing just out of her reach.
"Come and help me!" she called to her sister, and after a long while they had the ball safe inside the pail.
They two girls were delighted with their new toy and took it home with them. That night, they locked it safely in a cupboard in one corner of their room while they slept.
In the morning the first thing they did was to run to the cupboard for their new toy. But when they opened the cupboard door, instead of the ball, there stood a handsome young man.
"Ladies," he said, "how can I thank you for what you have done for me? Long ago, I was enchanted by a wicked fairy who turned me into a golden ball. The spell could only be broken if two maidens took me into their own home. For hundreds of years I lived in the forest among wild beasts. It was only when the lion threw me into the sky that I was able to fall to earth near this river. Where there is a river, sooner or later people will come so I hung myself on a tree and waited. I almost lost heart when my old master, the wild cat, found me. My hopes rose again when he went to the river bank opposite where you were fetching water. But now, ladies, I must leave you. If ever I can do anything to help you, go to the top of that high mountain and knock three times at the iron door at the north side, and I will come to you."
With a low bow, he vanished from before them, leaving the maidens weeping at having lost in one moment both the ball and the prince. To this day, lions and cats are not friends.
THE COTTAGER AND HIS CAT
Once upon a time there lived an old man and his wife in a dirty, tumble-down cottage, not very far from the splendid palace where the king and queen lived. In spite of the wretched state of the hut, which was not even fit for a pig sty, the old man was very rich, for he was a great miser and would often go without food all day sooner than change one of his beloved gold pieces. The rest he had gained through luck in cheating others.
After a while he found that he had starved himself once too often. He fell ill, and had no strength to get well again. In a few days he died, leaving his wife and one son behind him. The night following his death, the son dreamed that an unknown man appeared to him and said: "Listen to me, your father is dead and your mother will soon die, and all their riches will belong to you. Half of his wealth is ill-gotten, and this you must give back to the poor from whom he squeezed it. The other half you must throw into the sea. Watch, however, as the money sinks into the water, and if anything should swim, catch it and keep it, even if it is nothing more than a bit of paper."
Then the man vanished, and the youth awoke. His dream troubled him greatly. He did not want to part with the riches that his father had left him, for he had known all his life what it was to be cold and hungry, and now he had hoped for a little comfort and pleasure. Still, he was honest and good-hearted, and if his father had come wrongfully by his wealth he felt he could never enjoy it, and at last he made up his mind to do as he had been told. He went among the poorest people in the village, and spent half of his money in helping them, and the other half he put in his pocket.
The youth flung the rest of the money into the sea and in a moment it was out of sight, and no man could have told the spot where it had sunk, except for a tiny scrap of paper floating on the water. He stretched down carefully and managed to reach it, and on opening it found six shillings wrapped inside. This was now all the money he had in the world.
The young man stood and looked at it thoughtfully. "Well, I can't do much with this," he said to himself, six shillings were better than nothing, so he wrapped them up again and slipped them into his coat.
He worked in his garden for the next few weeks, and he and his mother contrived to live on the fruit and vegetables he got out of it, and then she too died suddenly. The poor fellow felt very sad when he had laid her in her grave, and with a heavy heart he wandered into the forest, not knowing where he was going. By-and-by he began to get hungry, and seeing a small hut in front of him, he knocked at the door and asked if they could give him some milk.
The old woman who opened it begged him to come in, adding kindly, that if he wanted a night's lodging he might have it without its costing him anything.
Two women and three men were at supper when he entered, and silently made room for him to sit down by them. When he had eaten he began to look about him, and was surprised to see an animal sitting by the fire different from anything he had ever noticed before. It was grey in colour, and not very big; but its eyes were large and very bright, and it seemed to be singing in an odd way, quite unlike any animal in the forest.
"What is the name of that strange little creature?" he asked.
They answered, "We call it a cat."
"I should like to buy it, if it is not too dear," said the young man, "it would be company for me."
And they told him that he might have it for six shillings, if he cared to give so much. The young man took out his precious bit of paper, handed them the six shillings, and the next morning bade them farewell, with the cat lying snugly in his cloak.
For the whole day they wandered through meadows and forests, till in the evening they reached a house. The young fellow knocked at the door and asked the old man who opened it if he could rest there that night, adding that he had no money to pay for it.
"Then I must give it to you," answered the man, and led him into a room where two women and two men were sitting at supper. One of the women was the old man's wife, the other his daughter.
The youth placed the cat on the mantel shelf, and they all crowded round to examine this strange beast, and the cat rubbed itself against them, and held out its paw, and sang to them. The women were delighted, and gave it everything that a cat could eat, and a great deal more besides.
After hearing the youth's story, and how he had nothing in the world left him except his cat, the old man advised him to go to the palace, which was only a few miles distant, and take counsel of the king, who was kind to everyone, and would certainly be his friend. The young man thanked him, and said he would gladly take his advice. Early next morning he set out for the royal palace.
He sent a message to the king to beg for an audience, and received a reply that he was to go into the great hall, where he would find his Majesty. The king was at dinner with his court when the young man entered, and he signed to him to come near. The youth bowed low, and then gazed in surprise at the crowd of little black creatures who were running about the floor, and even on the table itself. Indeed, they were so bold that they snatched pieces of food from the King's own plate, and if he drove them away, tried to bite his hands, so that he could not eat his food, and his courtiers fared no better.
"What sort of animals are these?" asked the youth of one of the ladies sitting near him.
"They are called rats," answered the king, who had overheard the question, "and for years we have tried some way of putting an end to them, but it is impossible. They come into our very beds."
At this moment something was seen flying through the air. The cat was on the table, and with two or three shakes a number of rats were lying dead round him. Then a great scuffling of feet was heard, and in a few minutes the hall was clear. For some minutes the King and his courtiers only looked at each other in astonishment.
"hat kind of animal is that which can work magic of this sort?" asked he. And the young man told him that it was called a cat, and that he had bought it for six shillings.
And the King answered: "Because of the luck you have brought me, in freeing my palace from the plague which has tormented me for many years, I will give you the choice of two things. Either you shall be my Prime Minister, or else you shall marry my daughter and reign after me. Say, which shall it be?"
"The princess and the kingdom," said the young man.
THE CLEVER CAT
Once upon a time there lived an old man and his son in a small house on the edge of the plain. The old man had worked very hard, and when at last he was struck down by illness he felt that he should never rise from his bed again.
So, one day, he called his wife and son and said, "My son, I am old and will die soon; I have nothing to leave you but my hawk, my cat and my greyhound. If you make good use of them you will never lack food. Take care of you mother also." The old man died soon after.
After several days of mourning, the son called to his greyhound, his cat and his hawk and left the house saying that he would bring back something for dinner. Presently he noticed some deer and pointed to his greyhound to give chase. The dog soon brought down a fine fat deer which the young man slung over his shoulder. On the way home with their day's catch, they passed a pond and a cloud of birds flew into the air. The young man shook his wrist and the hawk flew after the quarry, bringing back a fine fat fowl which the young man tied to his belt.
Near the small house was a small barn in which was kept the produce of the garden, corn and vegetables, and where he could hang and clean the day's catch. As he approached the barn, he saw three rats run out almost under his feet and quick as a flash the cat dispatched each rat in turn.
When the youth left his barn and took the path to the house, he felt a hand on his shoulder and heard a voice. The hand and voice belonged to an ogre who said "Young man, you have been a good son, and you deserve the luck which has befallen you this day. Come with me to the nearby shining lake and do not fear."
The youth followed the ogre to the shore of the lake where the ogre said to him "Walk into the lake and shut your eyes. You will find yourself sinking slowly to the bottom, but be brave and all will go well. Bring up as much silver as you can carry, and we will divide it between us."
The youth stepped bravely into the lake where he slowly sank to the bottom. In front of him lay four heaps of silver, and in the midst of them lay a curious white shining stone marked with strange runes. The youth picked up the stone to examine it more closely and as he held it the stone spoke.
"As long as you hold me, all your wishes will come true," it said, "but hide me in your hat and then call to the ogre that you are ready to come up."
In a few minutes the young man stood again, still empty-handed, by the shores of the lake and the ogre asked him where the silver was.
"I was so dazzled by the splendours of everything I saw, that I stood like a statue, unable to move. Then I heard steps approaching and got frightened and called to you," the youth replied.
"You are no better than the rest," grumbled the ogre, and turned away in a rage. When he was out of sight the young man took the stone from his hat and held it, saying "I want the finest horse that can be found, and the most splendid garments."
"Shut your eyes," replied the stone, "When you open them it shall be so."
The youth closed his eyes and when he dared open them he saw a fine horse before him and he was wearing fine robes. Mounting the horse, he called his greyhound, his cat and his hawk and set off homewards. His mother was sitting sewing and when she saw him she curtseyed, not recognising her own son.
"Don't you recognise me, mother?" he asked and on hearing his voice, his mother nearly fell to the ground in astonishment.
"Where did you get that fine horse and those robes?" she asked, "Surely you have not stooped to murder a rich traveller?"
"They are honestly come by," answered her son, "and I will explain later. First, you must go to the palace and tell the king I wish to marry his daughter."
Though his mother thought he had gone mad, she went to the palace and joined the crowd of other people petitioning for the king's attentions. When all the petitioners had gone, she knelt before the king and told him that her son wished the hand of the princess in marriage.
The king looked at the woman, who was quite obviously not rich, and thought that she was mad. Instead of ordering his guards to turn her out, he answered, "If he wishes to marry my daughter he must first build me a palace of ice, which can be warmed with fires, and wherein the rare and delicate singing birds can live."
The old woman nodded gravely and went away to give her son news of the impossible task. Her son was waiting anxiously outside the palace gates, dressed in his everyday clothes. His mother told him of the impossible task he must complete before he could marry the princess.
"Why I thought it would be something much harder than that," exclaimed the youth, "I will see about it at once."
The youth went into the countryside (where it was a hot summer day) and took the stone from his hat. He asked the stone for an ice palace, warmed with fires and filled with rare singing birds. The stone told him to close his eyes and when the youth opened them, there in front of him was the palace - fit even for a princess. When the king awoke next morning he looked out from his window and, across the plain he saw the ice palace glowing a warm pink from the fires inside.
"He must be a great wizard," the king said to himself, "and would therefore be most useful to me." He summoned the youth's mother and bade her tell her son that he had earned the princess's hand in marriage.
The princess was delighted with her new home and with her husband. They spent many days in the magical ice palace until the young man had grown tired of always staying inside walls. He told his wife that he planned to go hunting and would have to leave her for a few hours. The princess answered as became a good wife that though she would miss him, she would spend the day discussing new clothes and would look forward to his return.
Thus her husband went off to hunt, his hawk on his wrist, and the greyhound and the cat behind him. No sooner had he gone, than the ogre (who had been spying on the palace for many days) knocked at the palace door and asked for an audience with the princess.
"I have just returned from a far country," he said, "and some of the largest and most brilliant gems in the world with me. Perhaps Her Royal Highness might like to buy some?"
The princess was indeed interested in gems. She wanted her new dresses to outshine the dresses of the other ladies at the court balls. The ogre laid rare and beautiful gems and pearls before her. The princess was careful that her expression did not show how much she wanted those precious jewels.
"They are indeed very beautiful, but I fear they are too costly for me," she said with indifference, "and besides, I have plenty of jewels already."
"I don't particularly wish to sell them," replied the ogre, "but my father left me a necklace of shining stones and the largest of its stones, engraved with strange runes, is missing. I had heard that your husband had come by it. If you can return it to me you can have any of these jewels that you choose. However, I had heard that your husband has no love of ogres so you will have to pretend that you want the stone for yourself."
The princess admitted that her husband did indeed have a stone engraved with runes and that he treasured it dearly and would never sell it to a stranger.
"To-morrow I will return with even finer jewels," said the ogre, "Perhaps they will be more to your liking."
Left alone, the princess wondered whether she could persuade her husband to give her the engraved stone. He had already given her so much that it was a shame to ask for the only object he had kept back and apart from its engravings it was really quite a plain stone. However the thought of the ogre's diamonds, pearls and rubies was too great. Surely, she thought, if he really loves me he will give me everything I desire, even that curious stone. That evening, after supper, the princess invited her husband to tell her all about his hunting trip.
"Aaah," he said, "I was thinking of you all the time. I kept wondering what I could bring back for you. But surely you have everything you could ever desire! What could there be that you do not already possess?"
"It's true I have many beautiful things, but tomorrow is my birthday," said the princess.
"Then what can I give you?" the youth asked, "Is there anything you really for?"
"That curious stone that you keep in your hat," said the princess, "I've never seen anything like it before and I would truly love it as a trinket."
After a long while, the young man made her solemnly swear that if he gave her the stone she must never part with it and always keep it on her person. He did not tell her why and, feeling guilty, the princess agreed and made a great show of being delighted with the gift.
The next morning the young man went hunting again with his hawk, hound and cat and the ogre once again called at the ice palace. True to his word, the ogre had brought even finer gems. Her desire for the gems overcame her guilt at parting with the carved white stone and the princess chose the finest of the gems in exchange for the stone. Soon after the ogre left, the princess noticed a curious thing - the walls of ice were melting around her! The palace grew cold and when the servants stoked the fire the walls melted even faster. The exotic birds, being very delicate, dropped from cold.
When the young man returned, he found only the lower floor left and all the staff huddled together in furs and blankets. He knew his wife must have betrayed his trust and, though she must already be suffering from guilt, he would have to reproach her for it. He turned his horse away and left her in the melting palace saying "You have betrayed me and ruined me so I must seek my fortune alone."
With his greyhound and cat behind him, the young man walked a long way in search of the ogre. He bade his hawk fly as high as it could and to search for the ogre with its sharp eyes. When the hawk finally returned, it told its master the ogre was lying asleep in a splendid seaside palace in a faraway country. The youth rewarded the hawk with a good meal and said "Tomorrow you must fly to the palace and while the ogre is asleep you must find my magical engraved stone and snatch it back. I shall expect you back within three days."
"In that case I must take the cat with me," answered the hawk.
The next morning, before the sun had even risen, the cat leapt onto the hawk's back and clasped her paws around the hawk's neck. The hawk told her to close her eyes so as not to become giddy with height. All that day and night they flew until they finally reached the ogre's faraway palace.
The cat finally dared open her eyes and when she did, she said "Goodness, that looks like a rat city down there by the castle! Let's go down to it - they may be able to help us." For wherever there is a castle, or even a humble home, there are bound to be rats and mice.
They alighted and the cat went to lie outside the rat city's gate. The appearance of the cat caused terrible excitement among the rats. Finally, when the cat made no hostile move, one of the bolder rats put its head out of an upper window of the castle, and said in a trembling voice, "Why have you come? What do you want? If it is anything in our power, tell us, and we will do it."
"I come as a friend and I ask for the aid of four of the strongest and most cunning rats of your city."
Much relieved, the rat asked what task the cat had in mind so he could find the most suitable rats.
"What I have in mind is this," replied the cat, "Tonight they must burrow under the walls of the castle and go up to the room were an ogre lies asleep. Somewhere about him he has hidden my master's stone, which is engraved with strange runes. They must take this from him without waking him and bring the stone to me."
About midnight the cat, who was still sleeping before the gate, was awakened by some water flung at her by the chief rat (who was still too frightened to open the gate). "Here is the stone you wanted," said the rat, "Hold out your paw and I will drop it down to you."
Putting the stone in her mouth, the cat trotted off to where the hawk roosted and though the sun had not yet risen, they set off back to their master. Neither the cat nor the hawk had eaten during their journey and the hawk complained that he was hungry and tired and could go no further carrying such a heavy burden so that night they stopped to rest by a riverbank.
"it's my turn to take care of the stone," said the hawk, "and you can go hunting - for hawks don't hunt at night and you can see better in the darkness."
"Why should I?" said the cat, "I bargained with the rats and got the stone so i must keep hold of it."
The hawk and the cat began to quarrel. In the midst of the quarrel, the cat raised her voice and the stone fell out of her mouth and into the water where it landed in the ear of a large fish. Both the cat and the hawk dived into the river, but neither could catch the fish and, half-drowned, they returned to shore to dry out. Presently, the cat began to scratch up the sandy riverbank and threw the bits into the water. This caused a great commotion in the river.
"What are you doing that for?" asked a little fish, "You are making the water all muddy!"
"That doesn't matter at all to me," answered the cat. "I am going to fill the river with earth so that the fishes may die."
"That's very unkind," protested the fish, "We've never done you any harm! Why are you so angry with us?"
"One of you has got a stone of mine which dropped into the river. It is smooth and white with strange runes carved on it."
"If we fetch you your stone, will you leave our river alone?" asked the fish.
The cat said that she would.
"Please be patient - it may not be an easy task," said the fish and darted away.
The little fish called his relatives, but none of them had the carved stone. He told them of the terrible danger they would be in if the stone was not returned to the cat. Finally, one of the fish recalled that the large old trout had swum along that part of the river not so long ago so the little fish swam off to find the old trout. He found the trout dozing among some reeds.
"Why, I was swimming along that stretch of river earlier on," agreed the old trout, "and as I was coming back to my reed bed I'm sure something fell into my ear. It is probably still there - I was too tired to bother about it much. Perhaps you'd be so good as to remove it for me?"
The little fish removed the stone from the old trout's ear and joyfully carried it to the place where the cat was waiting. He spat the stone out into the shallow water, since he could not go ashore.
"I am much obliged to you," said the cat, pawing the stone out of the shallow water, so I will leave your river alone."
By this time, the hawk was rested and was eager to get home to his master where there would surely be a meal waiting. The young man was delighted to see his hawk and cat return, and even more delighted that they had brought back his magical carved stone. In an instant he had wished for a palace, but this time instead of ice, it was fine pale marble that would not melt in the heat of summer. He then wished for the princess and her ladies to return, which of course they would have done even without the magical stone whisking them there in the blink of an eye.
The youth and the princess, and the faithful hawk, hound and cat, lived happily for many years and when the old king died, the princess's husband became king.
AESOP: THE CAT AND THE MICE
There was once a house that was overrun with Mice. A Cat heard of this, and said to herself, "That's the place for me," and off she went and took up her quarters in the house, and caught the Mice one by one and ate them. At last the Mice could stand it no longer, and they determined to take to their holes and stay there. "That's awkward," said the Cat to herself: "the only thing to do is to coax them out by a trick." So she considered a while, and then climbed up the wall and let herself hang down by her hind legs from a peg, and pretended to be dead. By and by a Mouse peeped out and saw the Cat hanging there. "Aha!" it cried, "you're very clever, madam, no doubt: but you may turn yourself into a bag of meal hanging there, if you like, yet you won't catch us coming anywhere near you."
If you are wise you won't be deceived by the innocent airs of those whom you have once found to be dangerous.
AESOP: THE MICE IN COUNCIL
Once upon a time all the Mice met together in Council, and discussed the best means of securing themselves against the attacks of the cat. After several suggestions had been debated, a Mouse of some standing and experience got up and said, "I think I have hit upon a plan which will ensure our safety in the future, provided you approve and carry it out. It is that we should fasten a bell round the neck of our enemy the cat, which will by its tinkling warn us of her approach." This proposal was warmly applauded, and it had been already decided to adopt it, when an old Mouse got upon his feet and said, "I agree with you all that the plan before us is an admirable one: but may I ask who is going to bell the cat?"
AESOP: THE CAT AND THE BIRDS
A Cat heard that the Birds in an aviary were ailing. So he got himself up as a doctor, and, taking with him a set of the instruments proper to his profession, presented himself at the door, and inquired after the health of the Birds. "We shall do very well," they replied, without letting him in, "when we've seen the last of you."
A villain may disguise himself, but he will not deceive the wise.
AESOP: THE CAT AND THE COCK
A Cat pounced on a Cock, and cast about for some good excuse for making a meal off him, for Cats don't as a rule eat Cocks, and she knew she ought not to. At last she said, "You make a great nuisance of yourself at night by crowing and keeping people awake: so I am going to make an end of you." But the Cock defended himself by saying that he crowed in order that men might wake up and set about the day's work in good time, and that they really couldn't very well do without him. "That may be," said the Cat, "but whether they can or not, I'm not going without my dinner"; and she killed and ate him.
The want of a good excuse never kept a villain from crime.
AESOP: THE EAGLE, THE CAT, AND THE WILD SOW
An Eagle built her nest at the top of a high tree; a Cat with her family occupied a hollow in the trunk half-way down; and a Wild Sow and her young took up their quarters at the foot. They might have got on very well as neighbours had it not been for the evil cunning of the Cat. Climbing up to the Eagle's nest she said to the Eagle, "You and I are in the greatest possible danger. That dreadful creature, the Sow, who is always to be seen grubbing away at the foot of the tree, means to uproot it, that she may devour your family and mine at her ease." Having thus driven the Eagle almost out of her senses with terror, the Cat climbed down the tree, and said to the Sow, "I must warn you against that dreadful bird, the Eagle. She is only waiting her chance to fly down and carry off one of your little pigs when you take them out, to feed her brood with." She succeeded in frightening the Sow as much as the Eagle. Then she returned to her hole in the trunk, from which, feigning to be afraid, she never came forth by day. Only by night did she creep out unseen to procure food for her kittens. The Eagle, meanwhile was afraid to stir from her nest, and the Sow dared not leave her home among the roots: so that in time both they and their families perished of hunger, and their dead bodies supplied the Cat with ample food for her growing family.
AESOP: VENUS AND THE CAT
A Cat fell in love with a handsome young man, and begged the goddess Venus to change her into a woman. Venus was very gracious about it, and changed her at once into a beautiful maiden, whom the young man fell in love with at first sight and shortly afterwards married. One day Venus thought she would like to see whether the Cat had changed her habits as well as her form; so she let a mouse run loose in the room where they were. Forgetting everything, the young woman had no sooner seen the mouse than up she jumped and was after it like a shot: at which the goddess was so disgusted that she changed her back again into a Cat.
AESOP: THE PARROT AND THE CAT
A Man once bought a Parrot and gave it the run of his house. It revelled in its liberty, and presently flew up on to the mantelpiece and screamed away to its heart's content. The noise disturbed the Cat, who was asleep on the hearthrug. Looking up at the intruder, she said, "Who may you be, and where have you come from?" The Parrot replied, "Your master has just bought me and brought me home with him." "You impudent bird," said the Cat, "how dare you, a newcomer, make a noise like that? Why, I was born here, and have lived here all my life, and yet, if I venture to mew, they throw things at me and chase me all over the place." "Look here, mistress," said the Parrot, "you just hold your tongue. My voice they delight in; but yours — yours is a perfect nuisance."