Gateway to the Classics: The Fairy Ring by Kate Douglas Wiggin & Nora Archibald Smith
The Fairy Ring by  Kate Douglas Wiggin & Nora Archibald Smith

The Old Griffin

T HERE was once a king, but where he reigned and how he was called I know nothing about. He had no son, only a daughter, who was always ill, and no doctor could cure her; but it was prophesied to the King that his daughter would eat herself well with an apple. So he made it known all over the kingdom that whoever brought his daughter some apples with which she could eat herself well should marry her and be King. Now a peasant who had three sons heard of it; and he said to the eldest: "Go to the garden, take a basketful of those beautiful apples with the red cheeks, and carry them to the court. Perhaps the King's daughter will be able to eat herself well with them, and then you can marry her and be King." The chap did as he was bid and took to the road. When he had walked a little while he met quite a little iron man, who asked him what he had in his basket. So Hele, for that was his name, said, "Frogs' legs!" The Little Man then said, "Well, so it shall be and remain"; and then went on. At last Hele came to the castle, and had it announced that he had some apples which would cure the Princess if she ate them. At that the King was mightily pleased, and received Hele in court. Oh, dear! when he opened it, instead of apples he had frogs' legs in the basket, and they were kicking about still. The King flew into a great rage, and had him kicked out of the castle. When he got home he told his father how he had fared. Then the father sent his next son, whose name was Saeme, but it went just the same with him as with Hele. The little Iron Man met him very soon, and asked him what he had in the basket, and Saeme said, "Sow-thistles"; and the Little Man said, "Well, so it shall be and remain." When he arrived at the King's castle, and said he had apples with which the King's daughter could eat herself well, they would not let him in, and told him there had already been one who had made fools of them. But Saeme insisted he had really such apples; they should only let him in. At last they believed him and took him before the King; but when he opened the basket he had nothing but sow-thistles. That annoyed the King most dreadfully, so that he had Saeme whipped out of the castle. When he got home he told them what had happened to him, and then came the youngest boy, whom they had always called Stupid Jack, and asked the father whether he, too, might go with apples. "Yes," said the father, "you are just the right sort of fellow; if the clever ones can't succeed, what will you be able to do?" The boy did not believe it. "Well, father, I will go too." "Get away, you stupid chap!" said the father; "you must wait till you grow wiser"; and then he turned his back upon him; but the boy tugged at his smock from behind and said, "Now, father, I will go too." "Well, just as you like; go—you will be sure to come back," he answered in a spiteful way. The boy was beyond measure delighted, and jumped for joy. "Aye, there! act like a fool! You get stupider from one day to the next," said the father. That did not affect Jack a bit, who would not be disturbed in his joy. As night soon came on, he thought he would wait till the next morning; anyhow, he would not be able to get to court that day. He could not sleep that night in bed, and when he only slumbered a little he dreamed of beautiful maidens, of castles, gold, silver, and all that sort of thing. Early next morning he went his way, and soon the Little Man in his iron dress met him and asked him what he had in the basket. "Apples," he answered, "with which the King's daughter can eat herself well. "Well," said the Little Man, "such it shall be and remain." But at court they would not let Jack in at all; for that there had been two who had said they brought apples, and one had frogs' legs and the other sow-thistles. But Jack insisted tremendously he had no frogs' legs, but the most beautiful apples that grew in the kingdom. As he spoke so nicely the doorkeeper thought he could not be telling a lie, and let him in; and they did quite right, too, for when Jack uncovered the basket before the King, apples as yellow as gold came tumbling out. The King was delighted, and had some of them taken to his daughter at once, and waited in anxious expectation until they should bring him word what effect they had. Not long after news was brought him; but what think you it was? It was the daughter herself! As soon as she had eaten of those apples she had jumped out of bed quite well. What the King's delight was cannot be described.

But now the King would not give Jack his daughter to marry, and said that he must first make him a boat that would swim better on land than in the water. Jack agreed to the condition and went home and told his adventures. So the father sent Hele into the wood to make such a boat; he worked away diligently, and whistled the while. At midday, when the sun was at the highest, came the little Iron Man and asked what he was making. "Wooden bowls," answered he. The Little Man answered, "Well, so it shall be and remain." In the evening Hele thought he had made the boat, but when he was going to get into it, it turned to wooden bowls. The next day Saeme went into the wood, but he met with exactly the same fate as his brother. On the third day Stupid Jack went. He worked very hard, so that the wood resounded all through with his heavy blows, and he sang and whistled besides right merrily. The Little Man came to him at midday when it was very warm, and asked him what he was making. "A boat that will swim better on dry land than in the water," he answered, "and that when he had done it he should marry the King's daughter." "Well," said the Little Man, "such an one it shall be and remain." In the evening when the sun was setting like a ball of gold, Jack made ready his boat and all things belonging to it, and rowed toward the castle; but the boat went as fast as the wind. The King saw it a long way off, but would not give Jack his daughter yet, and said he must first take a hundred hares out grazing from early morning to late in the evening, and if one were missing he should not have his daughter. Jack was quite contented, and the next day went out with his herd to the meadow, and kept a sharp lookout that none should stray away. Not many hours had passed when a maid came from the castle, and said Jack was to give her a hare directly, as some visitors had arrived. But Jack saw through that well enough, and said he would not give her one; the King might treat his visitors to hare pepper. But the maid would not heed him, and at last set to scolding. So Jack said that if the King's daughter came herself he would give her a hare. The maid told them in the castle, and the King's daughter did go herself. But in the meantime the Little Man had come again to Jack and asked him what he was doing there. Oh, he had to watch a hundred hares so that none ran away, and then he might marry the King's daughter and be King. "Good!" said the Little Man, "there's a whistle for you, and when one runs away, only just whistle and he will come back again." When the King's daughter came, Jack put a hare into her apron, but when she had gone about a hundred steps off, Jack whistled, and the hare jumped out of the cloth, and jump, jump! was back to the herd directly. In the evening the hareherd whistled again, and looked to see they were all right, and drove them to the castle. The King wondered how Jack had been able to take care of a hundred hares, so that none should run off, but he would not yet give him his daughter so easily, but said he must first get him a feather from the Old Griffin's tail.

Jack started at once, and marched right briskly on. In the evening he arrived at a castle, where he asked for a night's lodging, for at that time there were no such things as hotels; and the master of the castle greeted him very civilly, and asked him where he was going to. Jack answered, "To the Old Griffin." "Oh, indeed! to the Old Griffin; they say he knows everything, and I have lost the key to an iron money chest; perhaps you would be good enough to ask him where it is!" "Certainly," said Jack, "that I will." Early the next morning he started off again on his road, and arrived at another castle, where he again passed the night. When the people learned that he was going to the Old Griffin, they said, a daughter was ill in the house; they had already tried every possible remedy, but without effect; would he be kind enough to ask Old Griffin what would cure her? Jack said he would do it with pleasure, and went on again. He arrived at a lake, and instead of a ferryboat there was a big man who had to carry everybody over. The man asked him where he was bound for? "To the Old Griffin," said Jack. "When you get to him," said the man, "just ask him why I am obliged to carry everybody over the water." "Yes, to be sure," said Jack; "goodness gracious! yes, willingly!" The man then took him up on his shoulder and carried him over. At last Jack arrived at the Old Griffin's house, and only found the wife at home, not Old Griffin. The woman asked him what he wanted, so he told her he must have a feather from Old Griffin's tail; and that in a castle they had lost the key to the money chest, and he was to ask the Griffin where it was; and then, in another castle, the daughter was ill, and he was to know what would make her well again; then not far from there were the water and the man who was obliged to carry everybody over, and he should very much like to know why the man was obliged to carry everybody over. "But," said the woman, "look you, my good friend, no Christian can speak with a Griffin; he eats them all up; but, if you like, you can lie there under his bed, and at night when he is fast asleep you can reach up and pull a feather out of his tail; and as to those things that you want to know, I will ask him myself." Jack was quite satisfied with the arrangement, and got under the bed. In the evening Old Griffin came home, and when he stepped into the room he said, "Wife, I smell a Christian!" "Yes," said the wife, "there has been one here to-day, but he went away again." So Old Griffin said no more.

In the middle of the night, when Griffin was snoring away lustily, Jack reached up and pulled a feather out of his tail. The Griffin jumped up suddenly and cried: "Wife, I smell a Christian! and it was just as if some one had been plucking at my tail." The wife said: "You have no doubt been dreaming. I have told you already that one has been here to-day but that he went away again. He told me all sorts of things; that in one castle they had lost the key of the money chest and could not find it." "Oh, the fools!" exclaimed the Griffin; "the key lies in the wood-shed, behind the door, under a log of wood." "And further, he said that in another castle the daughter was ill, and they knew no means to cure her." "Oh, the fools!" said the Griffin, "under the cellar stairs a toad has made its nest of her hair, and if she got the hair back again she would be well." "And then, again, he said at a certain place there was a lake, and a man who was obliged to carry everybody over." "Oh, the fool!" said the Old Griffin, "If he were only to put somebody into the middle he need not carry any more over."

Early next morning the Old Griffin got up and went out, and Jack crept from under the bed with a beautiful feather, having heard what the Griffin had said about the key, the daughter, and the man. The wife repeated it all to him so that he should not forget, and then he started off toward home. He came to the man at the water first, and he asked him directly what the Griffin had said; but Jack said he must carry him over first, and then he would tell him. So he carried him over, and when they got there Jack told him he had only to put somebody into the middle and then he need carry no more. The man was delighted beyond measure, and told Jack that out of gratitude he should like to carry him over and back once more. But Jack said nay, he would save him the trouble; he was quite contented with him already, and then went on. Next he arrived at the castle where the daughter was ill; he took her on his shoulder, for she was not able to walk, and carried her down the cellar stairs, and then took the toad's nest from under the bottom step and put it into the daughter's hand, and all at once she jumped off his shoulder, up the stairs before him, strong and well. Now the father and mother were delighted indeed, and made Jack presents of gold and silver, and whatever he wanted they gave him.

When Jack arrived at the other castle he went straight to the wood-shed, and found the key right behind the door under the log of wood, and took it to the master. He was not a little pleased, and gave Jack in return a great deal of gold that was in the box and all sorts of things besides, such as cows and sheep and goats.

When Jack returned to the King with all these things, with the money and gold and silver, and the cows, sheep, and goats, the King asked him how he had come by it all. So Jack said the Old Griffin would give one as much as one liked. The King thought he could find a use for that kind of gifts himself, and so started off to the Griffin; but when he got to the water he happened to be the first who had crossed over since Jack, and the man put him in the middle of the stream and walked off, and the King was drowned.

So Jack married the King's daughter and became King.

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