Gateway to the Classics: Fairy Tales Too Good To Miss—Aboard the Ship by Lisa M. Ripperton
Fairy Tales Too Good To Miss—Aboard the Ship by  Lisa M. Ripperton


The Prince of Engalien

T HE queen of Engalien had been, with her year-old son, Prince Balzar, on a visit to her father in his kingdom. But on her return home she encountered a fearful storm. The ship's masts cracked, the life-boats, which they lowered, filled immediately with water, and the ship's crew as well as the passengers felt their last hour was come.

So the queen took the little prince, put him in a seaman's chest, and commanded the sailors to cast it into the water. But just as they were preparing to do this, up came the cook's wife with her little boy, of the same age as the prince, and begged that he also might be placed in the chest, since it was big enough for both children.

The queen could not refuse this request. And it might, she thought, perhaps insure her own son's deliverance if she showed mercy to another mother's child. So the cook's son was also put in the chest, which was immediately thrown in the water. And shortly afterwards the ship sank to the bottom of the deep sea.

But the seaman's chest floated upon the waves and was borne slowly away to a foreign shore, where it was found by an old fisherman—who was greatly astonished when he heard a whimpering sound from the inside.

He opened the chest and found the children, who were both still alive. He carried them immediately to his wife, who took such good care of them they soon grew vigorous in spite of all they had suffered from cold and hunger. Lively and full of fun, they crept about on the floor of the fisherman's room.

The fisher and his wife had great pleasure with them; and, as they were unfortunate in not having children of their own, and could get no information as to where the small strange boys had come from, they decided to keep them. It was quite true they hadn't much to live upon, but they felt they could manage somehow to fill the two small mouths.

So both the prince and the cook's son remained in the fisherman's hut, where they grew into a couple of very handsome and brave boys.

Now it is probable they would have been fishermen all their lives, even as their fosterfather, if one fine day two courtiers had not looked through the door of the hut, and asked if they had not discovered therein two youths who fifteen years since had come sailing to shore in a seaman's chest.

One of the sailors on the queen of Engalien's ship was saved by pirates, who had kept him in slavery until a time when he was lucky enough to make his escape. And now he had been at the home of the king of Engalien, and had told him the story of the chest and the children.

The king had immediately sent people everywhere to search his own and the neighboring land, and to look in every hut and make all possible inquiries.

The fisherman and his wife were filled with respect and wonder. So they invited both strangers to come in, while the seaman's chest was hauled from its corner, and the clothing the children wore when they came to land was laid on the table.

The courtiers eagerly picked up the small articles of clothing, and soon separated those which belonged to the little prince.

"It is true, it is perfectly true," said they, in transports of joy over the boys. "All that now remains for us is to discover which is Prince Balzar."

The fisher and his wife stared with open mouths.

"Prince Balzar!" They did not know any Prince Balzar. These boys were called Arne and Ottar.

"Well, which of them is the one that had on the fine clothes?" asked the foremost of the men impatiently.

"Good gracious, how can we be expected to remember so far back," said the woman.


"How can we be expected to remember so far back," said the woman.

"You may well say that," added her husband.

But the fine courtiers from the castle were dreadfully provoked; for how would they now be able to know which was the prince—since it could not be done without the aid of the clothes.

And so they could think of nothing better than to give the fisherman a generous recompense for the bringing up of the prince—whichever one of the boys he was—and take both children with him back to Engalien.

When they arrived there, the people were beside themselves with joy at having gotten their prince back again; and on the streets and highways, along which the youths passed, all the people stood still and cried:

"Ah, the charming little prince! How handsome he is!" But when any man questioned another as to which of them he took to be the prince, the only answer he received was Hm!—for it would be very annoying to seem ignorant by praising the wrong one.

Yes, there was truly a great gathering of people.

It was nevertheless very trying for the king. He would fain have taken his son to his heart, but to treat the cook's son in such a fashion would never in the world do. And so he must content himself with kind words and assurances.

Meanwhile Arne and Ottar were both treated as princes. A number of teachers were engaged to give them the best education—and it was hoped a likeness to the king would in time show itself in one of the boys.

After a space of four years, the minister of state came one day to the king and declared that now he knew of a certainty which was the prince, for Arne without a question had the king's nose. But the very next day came the chief admiral and reported to his majesty that he had now discovered the heir to the throne. It must be Ottar, for he had the king's eyes.

And so the king was but little the wiser.

Throughout the whole realm there now arose a dispute over Arne's nose and Ottar's eyes. Two great parties sprang up, "The Nose Party" and "The Eyes Party"; and the best of friends became the deadliest of foes—and all because of The Nose or The Eyes.

And matters grew so intolerable with all the contention and discord, that the king at last summoned a council of state, and declared that it should now decide which one was to be regarded as the country's prince.

For six days the members of the council sat and laid their wise heads together; and they talked and puffed and perspired; but when, however, they could not seem to arrive at any result, the king made an end of the matter, and called an old and very wise councillor to come to him—one who had formerly been a great power in the kingdom. This man would be able to tell which was the prince; and after his decision everything would right itself.

The councillor did not come right off. He would first think over the matter a little, he said. So he thought and thought for a whole evening and a whole night, and the first thing the next morning he appeared at the palace. He had with him two beautiful gold-embroidered capes such as knights wear, exactly alike in cut, material and colour. These he gave to Arne and Ottar, upon the condition that for a half year they should wear them every day and all day, and both out of doors and in.

"After that I shall wish to see them again," said he, "and I shall then know well how to tell which of you is the true prince."

Arne and Ottar thanked him courteously, and at once took the pretty capes with the intention of being very careful with them, for naturally each would like to be chosen for the prince.

When they sat down, they did not dare lean against the back of the chair. When they ate, they stretched their necks well over the soup plates so as not to spill anything over themselves. And when they went to walk each took one side of the way so as not to rub the capes against each other, and wear out the costly embroidery.

But upon one occasion, as they were walking along the highway, an unruly horse came galloping toward them. Upon the carriage sat the driver, deathly pale, and unable to help himself.

Arne immediately jumped into the ditch so as not to be spattered or perhaps come to grief. But Ottar ran forward, grabbed the horse by the bridle, and had the good fortune to stop it, after being dragged a bit.

Both the driver and the horse were saved, and Ottar to his joy saw the equipage go off at an even trot.

But his satisfaction did not last long; for Arne, who now had crawled up out of the ditch, appeared before him and pointed, laughing, at his cape.

"You certainly look fine now," said he.

Ottar glanced at his cape and was horrified. Alas! where he was spattered by the horse, a long ugly rent had at the same time been made in the soft velvet.

"Perhaps it can be mended so the tear will not show," said he to comfort himself.

So he begged Arne not to speak of it to any one; and when he got home he locked himself in his innermost apartment and sewed and darned as well as he could. When he had finished, he thought the rent showed only a very little, and in certain lights scarcely at all.

This adventure had the immediate effect of making the two young men more cautious. Arne never went outside the castle walls. At the furthest he took a turn in the castle garden, and while there two lackeys were required to hold a parasol as big as the roof of a house over him, so the cape should not fade. But for the greater part of the time he sat on a bench on the floor of his room and shooed away every one who came near him lest they should touch his fine cape.

Ottar also tried to exercise great care, and remained quietly in the rooms of the castle for some days. But it grew very wearisome for him, and he felt he must again go out and look about the world. He would certainly guard against having to catch unruly horses while on his walk.

All went well, until one day he saw a farmer's boy begin to plow a field; and he was so stupid about it that the furrows were both crooked and twisted. Ottar could not bear to see such a mess, and so he ran up to the boy.

"Wait a moment, so I may show you how a furrow looks when it is even," said he. And Ottar, who had once learned how to plow, took the boy aside and in a short time taught him how one should plow a field.

But when afterwards he brushed the dirt from himself he saw to his horror that the plow in several places had worn the nap from the fine cape.

He went home, locked himself in, and moved the lace of the cape so that it almost covered the damaged places—for who would bother their heads over just where the lace should be put? It behooved him, however, to be more careful another time.

For a couple of months nothing unusual happened to him. But it chanced one day that he saw two men in the middle of the street cudgelling a third; and he could not stand the sight of so unequal a fight. Entirely forgetting his fine cape, he threw himself into the midst of the scrimmage, and flung one of the aggressors to the right and the other to the left. These now turned upon Ottar—and it was a fight which was not finished until both men lay upon the ground, so done up that they could not move even a finger.

The first thing Ottar then looked at was his cape. Good gracious! it was spotted with blood in several places. Again there was nothing for him to do but to wash and sponge and rub. It looked a little better—and in the end it could be counted upon that the wise councillor as well as other old folks had not particularly good eyes.

Ottar now stayed at home for a long time, and was careful with his cape; and when finally he felt he could not remain in the house any longer, but must now and again take a little run out into the world, he went always along the main highway, for he had determined not to mix himself up in other people's affairs any more, no matter what happened.

But one day, chancing to see a little girl who sat and cried by the wayside, he could not help bending down to question her as to why she wept so bitterly.

"Ah," said the little girl, "I cannot find my home and mother."

So he must help her find her home. But she still sobbed as though her small heart would break, and she was so weary that she hung like a little sack upon his hand.

Then he took her up and carried her; and she flung her arms around his neck and sobbed with her face against his breast until she fell asleep.

Ottar now had to go from house to house with her till he found her parents; and their joy over getting their little girl back again was so great that he could think of nothing else except their happiness the whole way home.

But when he arrived at the castle, it seemed that the lackeys looked at him very disdainfully, and even giggled with one another behind his back. And then he discovered that the cape was full of stains from the little girl's tears and her small dirty fingers.

And now it came over him it was this time the next morning the wise councillor was to look over his and Arne's capes, and afterwards pass a true judgment. How could he face the day!

Ottar sat up the whole night, and washed and rubbed his cape, and at last it seemed to him he had really made it look as neat as ever.

But when the next day he walked into the hall where the king, the wise men, and the entire household were assembled, and saw Arne enter by the opposite door, he observed to his embarrassment that his foster-brother's cape presented an altogether different appearance to his own.

It looked spick and span, whilst the one he himself wore—but he would not look at it again, so faded and soiled it suddenly seemed to him.

He blushed, and even kept behind Arne when they went forward to face the king and the wise men, who sat side by side at the back of the room.

The old man took in the two youths with his keen glance, which he allowed to linger first upon Arne.

"How fine and glistening you appear," said he. "You have taken such good care of your cape that it is every bit as handsome as on the day you first received it."

Arne straightened himself up proudly, as if he were already the king; for now he could not believe the choice would fall upon any one but himself.

But the old councillor turned to Ottar.

"Your cape is not nearly so fine as your foster-brother's," said he. "Let me see—it has both holes and stains."

"Yes, so many misfortunes happened to me," answered Ottar, and he bowed his head. "But I have tried to fix it up a little."

The old man nodded and smiled:

"Yes, I see that! I see that—but life's stains and rents are not so easy to wipe out."

And with that he pointed to the different blemishes, and wished to know where they came from. And thus Ottar was forced to tell him about the unruly horse, the plow-boy, the men who fought, and the little girl who cried. Meanwhile the old councillor sat and nodded over every fresh tale he heard; and every time he nodded he thrust his long grey beard out on the table in front of him.


The old councillor sat and nodded over every fresh tale.

But when Ottar had finished, the old man rose up, calm and peaceful.

"Yes," said he to Arne, "your cape tells me that you thought more of yourself, and the cape's self.

"But your  cape," continued he, and he turned toward Ottar, "it tells me that you thought more of others than yourself. And after that fashion must the one think who is created to be king!"

Thereupon he bowed himself to the ground three times before Ottar.

"I greet you, my future king!" said he.

Then a wave of joy broke over the whole room. And the king opened wide his arms to Ottar.

"Come, my son," said he, much moved.

Thus Ottar became prince.

But Arne stood in a corner and was ashamed of his fine cape.

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