Once upon a time there was a mother who had a son, who went to school. One day he came home and said to his mother: “Mother, I want to go and seek my fortune.” She replied: “Ah, my son, are you mad? Where do you want to seek it?” “I want to wander about the world until I find it.”
Now he had a dog whose name was Bierde. He said: “Tomorrow morning bake me some bread, put it into a bag, give me a pair of iron shoes, and I and Bierde will go and seek our fortune.” His mother said: “No, my son, don’t go, for I shall not see you again!” And she wept him as dead. After she was quieted she said to him: “Well, if you will go, tomorrow I will bake you some bread, and I will make you a bread-cake.”
She made the bread-cake, and put some poison in it; she put the bread and the bread-cake in the bag, and he went away. He walked and walked and walked until he felt hungry, and said to the dog: “Ah, poor Bierde, how tired you are, and how hungry, too! Wait until we have gone a little farther, and then we will eat.” He went on, tired as he was, and at last seated himself under a tree, with the dog near him. He said: “Oh, here we are; now we will eat. Wait, Bierde; I will give you a piece of the bread-cake so that you, too, can eat.” He broke off a piece of the cake, and gave it to him to eat. The dog was so hungry that he ate it greedily. After he had eaten it he took two or three turns, and fell dead on the ground, with his tongue sticking out. “Ah, poor Bierde!” said his master. “You have been poisoned! My mother has done it! The wretch! She has put poison in the cake in order to kill me!” He kept weeping and saying: “Poor Bierde, you are dead, but you have saved my life!” While he was weeping three crows passed, alighted, and pecked at the tongue of the dog, and all three died.
Then he said: “Well, well! Bierde dead has killed three crows! I will take them with me.” So he took them and continued his journey. He saw at a distance a large fire; he approached and heard talking and singing, and beheld seven highwaymen, who had eaten a great many birds, and who had a great deal of meat still left. He said to himself: “Poor me! Now I shall have to die; there is no escape; they will certainly take me and kill me!” Then he said: “Enough; I will go ahead.” As soon as they saw him they cried: “Stop! Your money or your life!” The poor fellow said: “Brothers, what would you have me give you? Money I have not. I am very hungry. I have nothing but these three birds. If you want them I will give them to you.” “Very well,” they said; “eat and drink; we will eat the birds.”
They took the birds, picked them, skinned them, roasted them over the coals, and said to the youth: “We will not give you any of these; you can eat the others.” They ate them, and all seven fell down dead. When the youth saw that they did not stir, but were dead, he said: “Well, well! Bierde dead has killed three, and these three have killed seven!” He rose and went away after he had made a good meal. On the way he felt hungry again, and sat down under a tree, and began to eat. When he got up he saw a beautiful canary-bird on the top of another tree. He took up a stone and threw at it. The bird flew away. Now, behind this tree was a hare, big with young, and it happened that the stone fell on it and killed it. The youth went to see where the stone fell, and when he saw the dead hare he said: “Well, well! I threw it at the canary-bird and the stone killed the hare! I will take it with me. If I had the fire that those robbers left I would cook it.” He went on until he came to a church, in which he found a lighted lamp and a missal. So he skinned the hare, and made a fire with the missal, and roasted and ate the hare.
Then he continued his journey until he came to the foot of a mountain, where the sea was. On the shore he saw two persons with a boat, who ferried over those who wished to reach the other shore, because one could not go on foot on account of the great dust, which was suffocating. The price for crossing was three soldi. The youth said to the owners of the bark: “How much do you want to set me down on the other bank?” “Three soldi.”
“Take me across, brothers; I will give you two, for I have no more.” They replied: “Two do not enter if there are not three.” He repeated his offer and they made the same answer. Then he said: “Very well. I will stay here.” And he remained there. In a moment, however, there came up a shower, and laid the dust, and he went on. He reached a city, and found it in great confusion. He asked: “What is the matter here, that there are so many people?”
They answered: “It is the governor’s daughter, who guesses everything. He whose riddle she cannot guess is to marry her; but he whose riddle she guesses is put to death.” He asked: “Could I, too, go there?” “What, you go, who are a foolish boy! So many students have abstained, and you, so ignorant, wish to go! You will certainly go to your death!” “Well,” he said, “my mother told me that she would never see me again, so I will go.”
He presented himself to the governor and said: “Sir governor, I wish to go to your daughter and see whether she can guess what I have to tell her.” “Do you wish,” he replied, “to go to your death? So many have lost their lives, do you, also, wish to lose yours?” He answered: “Let me go and try.”
He wished to go and see for himself. He entered the hall where the daughter was. The governor summoned many gentlemen to hear. When they were all there the governor again said that the youth should reflect that if she guessed what he had to say that he would lose his life. He replied that he had thought of that. The room was full of persons of talent, and the youth presented himself and said:—
“Bierde dead has killed three.”
She said to herself: “How can it be that one dead should kill three?”
“And three have killed seven.”
She said: “Here is nothing but dead and killed; what shall I do?” She was puzzled at once, and felt herself perplexed. He continued:—
“I threw where I saw, and reached where I did not expect to.I have eaten that which was born, and that which was not born.It was cooked with words.Two do not enter if there are not three;But the hard passes over the soft.”
When she heard this the governor’s daughter could not answer. All the others were astonished likewise, and said that she must marry him. Then he told them all that had happened, and the marriage took place.