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The Experienced Huntsman

There was once upon a time a young lad who, after he had learnt the art of making locks, told his father he wished to go and seek his fortune in the world. “Well,” said the father, “very well, I am contented;” and gave him money for the journey.

So he set off, looking about for work; but after a while he determined to follow his trade no longer, for he had got tired of it, and. Wished to learn the art of hunting. While he was in this mood he met a Huntsman, dressed in green, who asked him whence he came, and whither he would go.

The youth told him he was a locksmith, but his business did not suit him any longer, and he had a wish to learn how to shoot, if he would take him as a pupil. “Oh, yes,” replied the other, “come with me.”

The youth accompanied him, and for several years abode with him while he learned the art of hunting. Afterwards he wished to leave, but the Huntsman gave him no further reward than an air-gun, which had the property of missing nothing at which it was fired. With this gift he went off, and by and by came to a very large forest, to which he could find no end the first day; so he perched himself upon a lofty tree where the wild beasts could not reach him.

Towards midnight it seemed to him that a light was glimmering at a distance and he peeped through the boughs in order to mark more exactly where it was. Then, taking his hat, he threw it in that direction that it might serve as a guide for him when he had descended the tree; and as soon as he was down, he ran after his hat, and putting it on again, he walked straight ahead.

The farther he went the larger the light appeared; and when he came nearly up to it he discovered that it was caused by a great fire, round which three Giants were sitting, watching the roasting of an ox, which hung on a spit above it. Just at that moment, one of the Giants said he would taste and see if the meat were done enough; and, tearing a piece off, he was going to put it into his mouth, when the Huntsman shot it clean out of his hand.

“Now, then,” cried the Giant, “the wind blows the meat out of my hand!” and, taking another piece, he was about to bite it when the Huntsman shot that out of his hand. Thereupon he gave the Giant next to him a box on the ear, saying angrily, “Why do you snatch my piece away?” “I did not take it away,” replied the other; “it was some sharpshooter who shot it away.” So the Giant took a third piece, but that also he could not hold, for the Huntsman shot it away.

“This must be a good shot,” cried all the Giants; “a man who can shoot away the food from one’s mouth would be very useful to us.” And then, speaking louder, they called to him, “Come, you sharp-shooter, sit down by our fire, and eat till you are satisfied, and we will do you no harm; but if you don’t come, and we have to fetch you, you will be lost.”

At these words the Huntsman stepped up to the fire, and said he was an experienced Huntsman, so much so, that whatever he aimed at, he shot, without ever missing. The Giants said that if he would go with them he should be well treated; and they told him, besides, that out of the forest there was a large piece of water, on the other side of which was a tower, wherein dwelt a beautiful Princess, whom they desired to possess.

The huntsman said he would willingly fetch her; and they further told him that outside the tower lay a little dog, which would begin to bark as soon as it saw anyone approach, and immediately it did so everybody would wake up in the royal palace; and it was on that account they had never been able to enter, and therefore he must first shoot the dog. To this the huntsman assented, declaring it was mere play; and soon afterwards he went on board a ship, and sailed over the water; and, as he neared the land, the little dog came running down and would have barked, but he, aiming with his air-gun, shot it dead.

As soon as the giants saw this done they were very glad, and thought they had the Princess for certain; but the Huntsman told them to remain where they were until he called them, for he must first see how it was to be accomplished.

He went into the castle, and found everybody as still as mice, for they were fast asleep; and as he entered the first room he saw a saber hanging up made of pure silver, and ornamented with a golden star and the king’s name. Below it stood a table, whereon laid a sealed letter, which he broke open, and read that whoever possessed the saber could bring to life whomever it passed. The Huntsman took the saber down from the wall, and, hanging it around him, walked on till he came to a room, where the king’s daughter lay asleep. She was so beautiful that he stood still and looked at her, holding his breath, while he thought, “How dare I deliver this innocent maiden into the power of these giants, with their evil intentions?”

He peeped about, and under the bed espied a pair of slippers; on the right one was marked the king’s name, with a star; and on the left his daughter’s, also with a star. She had also a large handkerchief over her, woven of silk and gold, having on the right side her father’s name, and on the left her own, all done in golden threads. So the huntsman took a knife and cut off the right corner and then he took the slipper with the King’s name in it, and put them both in his knapsack. All the while the princess remained quite passive; and as she was wrapped up in a sheet, the Huntsman cut off a piece of that, as well as the handkerchief, and put it in the knapsack with the others.

All these things he did without touching her, and afterwards went away without noise. When he got outside he found the three giants, who were waiting in expectation that he would bring the Princess with him. He shouted to them to come in, for the maiden was already in his power, but he could not open the door, and therefore they must creep through a hole which was in the wall. The first Giant came, and, as soon as he poked his head through the hole, the Huntsman seized him by the hair and chopped his head off with the saber. Then he pulled the body through, and called to the second, whose head he chopped off likewise, and then the third Giant shared the same fate. As soon as this was done he cut out the tongue of each and put it in his knapsack, rejoicing to think he had freed the Princess from her enemies. He resolved next to visit his father, and show him what he had done, and afterwards to travel again about the world; for, said he, “The fortune which God apportions to me will reach me anywhere!”

Meanwhile the king of the castle, when he awoke, had perceived the three giants lying dead in the hall, and, going into his daughter’s apartment, he awoke her, and inquired who it was that had destroyed the giants. “I know not, dear father,” she replied; “I have been sleeping.” But when she arose, and wished to put on her slippers, she found the one for the right foot missing; and her handkerchief also wanted the right-hand corner, which had been cut off, as well as a piece out of the sheet. The king thereupon caused the whole court to be assembled, soldiers and every one, and then put the question, who had freed his daughter and put to death the giants? Now the king had a captain, a one-eyed and ugly man, who said he had done it. The old king, therefore, declared that since it was he, he must marry the Princess. But as soon as he said so the Princess exclaimed, “Rather than marry him, dear father, I will wander over the world as far as my feet will carry me!” The King replied she might do as she pleased; but if she would not marry the man she must take off her royal clothes, and put on peasant’s clothes to travel in, and, also, she must go to a potter, and begin business in the earthenware trade.

So the King’s daughter drew off her royal clothes, and went to a potter, from whom she hired a crate of earthenware, and promised that if she had sold them by the evening she would pay for them. The King commanded her to sit at a certain corner of the market, across which he ordered that several wagons should be driven, so as to crush in pieces all the crockery. By-and-by, therefore, when the princess had stationed herself in the appointed place, the wagons came driving past and smashed her goods. Thereupon she began to cry, saying, “Ah, heaven! How am I to pay the potter?” But the King hoped by this means to have compelled his daughter to marry the captain; instead of which she went to the potter and asked if he would trust her with another crate. He refused till she should pay for the former one; and so the princess was forced to go crying and groaning to her father, that she wished to wander into the wide world. The king said, “I will cause a cottage to be built in the middle of the wood, wherein you shall sit all your lifetime, and cook for anybody who comes, but without taking money for it.” When the house was ready a sign was hung over the door, on which was inscribed — “Gratis today: Tomorrow, payment!

There she sat for a long time, while it was talked about in the world around that a maiden sat in a cottage in the wood, and cooked gratis, as was stated on a sign over the door. This the huntsman heard, and he thought to himself, “This is good news for me, who am so poor, and have no money.” So he took his air-gun and knapsack, in which he kept all the memorials he had brought away from the castle; and, going into the forest, came soon to the cottage where was written up — “Gratis to-day: To-morrow, payment!”

Now, he had the sword buckled round him which he had used to execute the three giants; and he stepped into the cottage and ordered something to eat. The Princess asked him whence he came and whither he was going; and he replied, “I am wandering about the world.” She asked next where he had procured his sword, on which she perceived her father’s name. “Are you the daughter of the king?” He inquired; and, as she nodded assent, he said, “With this sword I have cut off the heads of three giants!” And he held up the three tongues for a token, together with the slipper, and the pieces which he had cut off the handkerchief and sheet. The princess was glad indeed to see these things, and told the huntsman it was he who had saved her. Then they went to the king; and the princess led him to her chamber, and declared that it was the huntsman who had delivered her from the three giants. The king at first would not believe; but as soon as he was shown the tokens he could no longer doubt; and, in order to show his pleasure and his gratitude, he promised his daughter to the huntsman as his wife, which pleased the Princess very much.

Afterwards the king ordered a grand banquet, whereat the huntsman appeared as a distinguished stranger. When they sat down to table the captain took his place on the left hand of the king’s daughter, and the huntsman, whom the former believed to be a visitor of rank, on the right. When they had finished eating and drinking, the old king told the captain he would propound a question, which he must answer, and it was this: — “If one should say he had killed three giants, and was asked therefore where the tongues of the giants were, and should then go to seek them and find none, how would he explain that?” “By saying that they had had none!” Replied the captain. “Not so!” Said the king; “every creature has a tongue; therefore what would such an one deserve for his answer?” “To be torn to pieces!” Said the captain boldly.

“You have pronounced your own sentence!” Said the king to the captain; who was first imprisoned, and afterwards torn in four pieces. But the Huntsman was married to the King’s daughter; and after the wedding he invited his father and mother to live with him; and, after the old king’s death, the huntsman ascended the throne.

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