Once upon a time there was a king and a queen, and they had an only son. This king was always sorrowful because he foresaw that, as he had neither soldiers nor money, if any other king were at any time to declare war against him, he would take away his kingdom from him. This worm continually gnawed him, and so his lips never smiled; and every day he walked out into the country to dispel the gloom which was in his heart.
One day as he was out walking, a monk met him on the road, and, seeing the king so moody, he asked him, “Sir King, what is the matter that thou art so sad? Always moody is your majesty!”
“Eh, my good monk,” says the king to him, “Every stick has its own smoke, you know. I am moody because one day I shall be undone; they will take from me all my towns, because I have no soldiers.”
“Oh! Is that why thou art sorrowful, my king? I will tell thee what to do. In a certain place there is a wild man whom all the world fears for his strength. Collect thy soldiers, and send them to seize him; and when thou possessest such a wild man, no king can menace thee.”
Then the king was somewhat heartened and said, “My good monk, I will give thee whatever thou may’st desire, if only this is accomplished and the wild man brought to me, as thou sayest.”
And when he returns to the palace, he calls immediately his twelve councillors and tells them what the monk had said to him. The twelve, when they heard his words, rejoiced on the one hand, but looked grave on the other, for how was it possible to bring that wild man?
So they said to the king, “O Sir King, thou sayest that in a certain place away in the wilderness is to be found a wild man; but we must see if it is possible to bring him hither. We see no easier way than that he who told thee of this man should himself bring him.”
The next day, accordingly, very early in the morning, the king gets up and goes to seek the monk; and when he had arrived at the same spot, the monk again presented himself, and said, “Eh, what hast thou done, my king?”
Then the king replies, “Alas, my good monk, I have done nothing. For I told my twelve, and they said to me that no other could bring him save he who had given me the tidings.”
“Very well, Sir King, if thou biddest me, I will bring him to thee. Give me forty thousand soldiers; make me a chain of copper weighing a hundred thousand kantars, and an iron cage each bar of which must be like a column; and then I will bring him to thee, otherwise nothing can be done.”
“I will gladly make for thee,” said the king, “anything thou askest me.”
And he takes him, and brings him to the palace, and at once gives orders to the Gypsies to collect all the copper in the city for the chain. In a week all is ready. And the monk takes the soldiers, the chain and the cage, and goes for the wild man; and after two or three months’ time they arrive at the place where he was to be found. The soldiers immediately set to work and encircled the mountain with the chain, and took every precaution against his escaping at any spot. They did in fact everything the monk told them. And about noontide they felt the mountain tremble, and from that they understood that the wild man was coming forth. They look this way and that, but see nothing; but when they look upwards, they see — my eyes! — they see coming down from the summit the wild man, a sight which made them tremble. But the monk encouraged them.
“Ah, my pallikars, let us seize the monster! Bring hither the chain!”
So then they took a little courage, and began to shout and drag the chain closer, and so approach him. But, as if he had wings, the wild man fled away, and so they could not entangle him. Not to make a long story of it, six months passed, and they had not yet caught him. But about the end of the sixth month the wild man became one day at last weary; and they entangle him in the chain, and bind him, and put him in the cage.
Then the monk says to them, “Now, my boys, you may rest, for we have him safe!”
They take him and bring him to the king, and put the cage in the courtyard of the palace. You should have seen the king when they brought him!
He made great rejoicings, and embraced the monk, and kissed him tenderly, and said to him, “What gift dost thou desire in return for the favour thou hast done me?”
“I want nothing,” he replied, “but thy love.”
“No,” said the king to him, “am I not able to reward thee?”
And he took and gave him many royal gifts, and the monk bade him adieu, and departed.
Let us return to the king. Sorrow and care had departed from him since the day on which they brought him the wild man, and he leapt for joy. In a short time, however, his grief returned, and you will see how.
Two weeks had not passed when one day the little prince was standing on the steps of the palace, playing with a golden apple. As he played, it slipped from his fingers, and rolled, and rolled, until it got inside the cage where was the wild man, and he picked it up. The boy runs to the cage and asks for his apple.
And then, for the first time, the wild man speaks, and says to the prince, “If thou wilt take the key and open the door of the cage that I may take the air a little who have been so long imprisoned, then I will give thee thy golden apple.”
The prince, like the child that he was, goes and takes the key from the guard-house without anyone seeing him, and opens the door; the wild man gives him back the apple, and then gives him a kick, and — if you see him, so do I!
In a short time the king comes, and as soon as he enters the courtyard, he goes to look at the wild man, as was his custom, for he was his consolation. And when he saw that the cage was open, and the wild man gone, he lost his senses, and drew his sword to kill the guard who kept the key.
Just as he was going to cut off his head, this man cried, “Sir King, you kill me unjustly, I have done no wrong! My prince came and took the keys without my knowledge, and went and opened the cage, and the wild man ran away.”
“Is that true?” asked the king, frantically.
“It is true, Affendi!”
So he left him and ran to kill his son. But the queen, when she heard of it, seized the prince in her arms, and cried, and besought the king — “In God’s name, my king, do not such a thing as to kill your only son in your anger,” she cried, and much more.
Then all the people in the palace fell at his feet, and “Forbear, my king! Forbear!” they cried. “Slay not our prince!”
And amid the cries and tears, here from the queen, and there from the rest, the boy found means to escape. The king called and sought him, but his nurse had hidden him.
After a while, when the king had become a little calmer, he made an oath, and said, “Let him not appear before me, nor let mine eyes see him, for I will not leave life in him so long as I remember how much I spent to bring hither that wild man, and he to let him go! I cannot stomach it! Let the boy go so far away that I cannot hear of him, for he knows what will otherwise happen to him.”
The poor queen, when she heard such hard words from the mouth of his father, seeks to make her son flee quickly, and goes at once to order him a pair of iron shoes, and puts in each one fifty gold pieces, takes whatever else is necessary for him, and carries them to the place where they had hidden him, and says to him, “My boy, as fate has overshadowed thee, and thou hast done such a deed; and as thy father has made a solemn oath to kill thee if ever again he set eyes on thee, thou must change thy name and thy dress, and go to live in a foreign land until we can see what turn things will take. And one thing only I beg of thee, that in whatever place thou bidest, thou wilt learn letters, because for that purpose I have put in thy shoes a hundred pieces of gold.”
And then she takes and strips him of his royal garments, and puts on him rustic clothes, gives him all that is necessary, and speeds him with her prayers and her blessing.
Let us now leave the king and the queen to their sorrow, and follow the poor prince, who took to the hills without knowing whither he went. He journeys one week, he journeys two, and in about a month’s time he comes upon a swineherd who was tending a thousand pigs.
“Good day, swineherd!” said he to him.
“Well met, my lad, and what art thou seeking here?”
“My fortune,” replied the prince. “I am a poor boy, and I have come out to find work so that I may earn my own living and help my parents.”
“Ah, is that it? Eh, what sayest thou? Will thy bones hold good to look after these swine?”
“Bravo!” replies the prince. “They will hold good.”
“Then stay with me, for I am only fifteen days from the end of my time; and come with me in the evening to my master, and I will tell him that I am going away — for I am weary of this trade, and you can take my place.”
When God brought the evening, the pair of them took the pigs to the fold, where they found the master. When he saw the youth, he asked the herd, “What is the matter that thou hast brought this lad here with thee?”
“Did I not tell thee that when my time was up I should go away? And thou saidst that I could not go unless I brought another in my stead? Well, then, I have brought him!”
“Very well,” he replied, “let the fifteen days pass, and I will pay thee and thou mayst go about thy business. Only during these fifteen days thou must take him with thee and teach him where and when to go with the pigs, lest perchance he take them to some strange place, and we lose them.”
But the youth soon found his way into the hearts of his master and mistress. For whenever he went to the house he did not sit with crossed hands, but took at once the broom and swept, lighted the fire, and amused the children until one cried “Tourou! Tourou!” and the other “Niá! Niá!” and he did all the work of the house. In fifteen days he became a better herd than the first. And he brought good luck with him, too. For from the time that the other herd had left, the pigs were bursting with fat, not one got lost, not one fell lame, but they were just like young lions; and the master loved the boy from his heart, for, from the time he had come into the house, everything had prospered. And so well did he love him that he told him he would make him his son-in-law.
But the prince remembered his mother’s words and how she had told him to go on with his studies, and not to become a mere shepherd. So one evening when he returned home, he pretended to be very melancholy.
His master, the apple of whose eye he was, observed his sadness and said, “What ails thee that I see thee sad? If thou hast lost a pig, and art anxious, never mind! It matters not so that thou art well.”
“How shall I tell you, Affendi? It is not that, but I am melancholy because I must soon leave you. For I have received a letter saying that my mother is dying, and now I must go and receive her blessing.”
“Stay where thou art, my boy. Who knows if thou wilt find her living?”
“No, Affendi, you will give me leave to go and see my mother?”
“My boy, if thy longing is so great, thou art free to go; I will not detain thee.”
And with these wiles he deceived his master, who would not have otherwise allowed him to depart. So again he takes to the road, and tramps, and tramps, and after a time he comes to a town. As he was passing along a street he saw a shoemaker’s shop, and stopped before the door.
The master, seeing him, asked, “What dost thou want, my boy?”
“What do I want? I am a poor lad, and want to learn a trade in order to live, and assist my family,” as he had said to the herd.
His reply was uttered in such a plaintive tone that the master had pity on him, and said, “Eh, wouldst thou become a shoemaker?”
“Oh, that God may dispose thee to such an act of charity!”
“Come in then, my boy, for thou art the lucky fellow.” And when he was come in, he saw a man polishing a pair of shoes. He seized the brush, and in a moment he had turned them into looking-glasses, while all in the shop wondered at his cleverness. The master then sent him to his house with a jar of water, and when he was come there — not to repeat it all over again — he did as he had done with his first master. And everybody was pleased with him, and he was even more beloved than he had been at the swineherd’s house.
When two or three months had passed, and he saw how fond they were of him, he said one day to the shoemaker, “Master, I would ask you a favour!”
“Ask two, my boy,” was the reply, “what is thy wish?”
“When, Master, I left home, I had learnt a little, but now I have nearly forgotten all I knew; and I shall remain half blind, for it is well said that ‘they who are learned have four eyes.'” Perhaps you will say, ‘There is no need for thee to study, learn the trade!’ and you will be right, Master. But my mother told me that, whatever trade I might learn, it would be necessary for me to have some schooling. And now I pray you, if possible, to find me a teacher, that I may do lessons but two hours a day, and the rest of the time I will work at my trade.”
“Very good, my dear boy,” was the reply. As good luck would have it, his master knew a clever schoolmaster who was one of his customers. And the boy’s good luck brought this man past the shop at the very moment they were talking.
So the master called, “Schoolmaster! Schoolmaster! Come in! You will do me the favour to give lessons to this youth two hours a day, and I shall be much obliged to you.”
“If anyone else had asked me, Mástro Ghiorghi ” — for this was the shoemaker’s name — “I should have said ‘No’; but I cannot say that to Mástro Ghiorghi. Let him come at noon to my house, and I will examine him, and then I will do my best with him for the two hours, and it shall be as if he studied all day.”
So at noon, as the schoolmaster had said, the prince goes to his house and asks him how much he must pay him for his lessons.
“Bre, my dear boy,” he replies, “I see that thou art poor; what can I ask from thee?”
“But tell me though, for I can raise the money somehow and pay you.”
“What shall I say? My trouble may be worth some thirty or forty piastres. But I don’t want to gain anything by thee — give me whatever thou conveniently canst.”
Then the boy took off his shoe, and took out of it the fifty sequins and gave them to the schoolmaster, who, when he saw them, smiled — for, as they say, “What is given to Christ is received back again” — and he said, “Never mind about the money, my boy, if thou pleasest me, I also will content thee.”
The disguised prince then made the schoolmaster do his best; and in a short time he had finished his studies, and became a lamp of learning. And afterwards he hired another schoolmaster to whom he gave the other fifty sequins, to teach him mathematics; and at the same time he learned to make shoes well. At last the master wanted to make him a bridegroom — and, in short, he played him the same trick as he had played his former master. And again he takes to the hills and runs and runs, until he meets with a herd who was tending a thousand goats.
“Good day, my goatherd!”
“Welcome, my boy!” And after they had exchanged a few words the goatherd goes away, and leaves him in charge of the goats. And the goats again, as formerly the pigs, prospered; none ever fell lame, or got lost out of his hand, and his master was delighted with him.
One day, as he was driving the goats home to the fold, one she-goat strayed away from the rest, and as he was very unwilling to lose her, he followed after. She crossed one hill ridge, and stopped, and then another, and stopped, and the youth ran after her to catch her. Well, what are you expecting?
She crossed seven ridges, and finally stopped content; and when the youth approached her, there appeared before him the wild man who, when he had embraced and kissed him, exclaimed, “My prince, for my sake thou hast suffered this adversity, and art become a shepherd and a shoemaker! But I have been ever near thee, that evil might not befall thee; and now I will make thee the greatest king upon earth! It was I who today enticed away the goat, that I might show myself to thee, and put an end to thy misfortunes. So sit thee down and rest thyself.”
“No,” replied the prince, “I cannot. I must first take back the goat to my master, and then, if thou desire it, I will return, but now I cannot.”
Go, then, and come back quickly!”
So he takes the goat, and goes back, and finds the rest all together, and leads them to his master, and tells him that he cannot remain, as he has received tidings from his parents who bid him come, for they are in trouble. And so he arose and went away to meet the wild man. And when he was come again to the same ridge the wild man appeared before him, and took off his old clothes, and dressed him in royal cloth of gold.
He then showed the prince a cave filled with sequins, and said to him, “Seest thou all that? — For thee have I kept it.”
Then he took him to another place where was a marble slab with an inscription upon it.
And when the wild man had read aloud the inscription he removed the slab, and said to the prince, “Now thou wilt descend three hundred steps, and when thou art at the bottom thou wilt see forty chambers, and in each one of them a Nereid. When thou hast entered the first chamber, the first Nereid will appear before thee, and her first words will be to ask thee to marry her. Thou must reply, ‘With all my heart, that is what I am come for!’ and she will be pleased, and will bestow on thee a gift; and so thou must deceive them all, and when thou hast gained the forty gifts, escape and come back to me.”
So the prince descended the three hundred steps, and when he came to the first chamber as the wild man had said, the first Nereid immediately appeared, and asked him, “What seekest thou? Wilt thou marry me?”
“Certainly, my lady,” he replied. “It is for that I have come.”
Then she said, “May’st thou shine like the sun!”
Then he goes to the next, and she says to him, “May’st thou become a philosopher!”
In a word, they endowed him with forty gifts.
Then he fled from them, remounted the three hundred steps, and returned to the wild man, who, when he saw him, said, “Well done! Now we are all right, you only lack a beautiful wife. In the nearest city is a beautiful princess who sets a task, and the task is this: She has a ring which is hung on the roof of the tower, and whoso is able to leap up and seize the ring, may marry her; but if he fails she cuts off his head. And already many princes and kings’ sons have decorated the tower with their heads, and but one is wanting. So now let us go and fulfill this condition; and if perchance thou art afraid of the leap, do but jump upwards and I will give the ring into thine hand, and we will win the princess. And give no heed to the people who, when they see such a youth as thou art, will say, ‘For God’s sake, leap not! Lose not so unjustly thy beautiful young life!’ but do as I have told thee.”
Then he presented the prince with a mare all golden from head to foot, and with trappings of diamonds — a wonder to behold; and she was so swift that she went like the wind. They mounted her, and, as soon as you could wink your eye, they found themselves outside that city, when the wild man disappeared, and the prince was left alone. The people stared and knew not which to admire more, the mare or the prince. When the princess saw such a handsome youth, she lost her senses; and all prayed God that the prince might win, and marry the princess; and on the other hand they pitied his youth, and begged him not to attempt the task.
The prince, however, heeded them not, but thought of what the wild man had said to him.
And he hastened to the tower, all the crowd following him, weeping and crying, “The poor prince! Ah, the poor, dear prince!”
When he arrived at the tower, and saw how high it was, his courage failed; but he was ashamed to show it, and said within himself, “Come, aid me with thy prayers, my mother!”
And he took a leap, and found the ring in his hand.
Then was their lamentation changed into laughter and joy! And the king decreed that the wedding should take place that very evening.
But the wild man presently came and said to the prince, “Do not be married this evening, but betrothed only, for thy father has been dead six months, and another has come forward to claim the kingdom. On the morrow thou must set out, for there is no time to be lost.”
So the prince told the king that he had such and such business on hand. Then he took the ring which he had won, and gave his own to the princess; and when they had said farewell to each other, he went away. Mounting his mare, he was soon in his native country. But when he alighted at the palace gate and asked for his mother, the servants told him that since the death of the king of blessed memory, the queen had covered herself with seven black veils, and would see no man.
“And so,” they added, “we cannot tell you where she is.” (For how should they know, poor things, after so many years, that he was the prince?)
Then he begged them to let him go in because he had a secret to tell the queen, which would do her good to learn. So earnestly did he plead with them that at last they relented, and went to tell the queen.
And when the prince was led to the door of his mother’s chamber, he rushed in and cried, “Queen! I am thy son!”
But his mother, without seeing him at all, replied, “Go, good youth, and good luck go with you! They drive me mad every hour with their news of my son! — ‘Your boy is found, and tomorrow he will be seen on the road!'”
“Am I not, mother mine, the prince, whose father of blessed memory sent the monk to find the wild man; and one day I was playing with the golden apple, and it fell into the cage, and I took the key and opened it, and the wild man escaped?”
“Those are things that have happened, my boy; and thou hast heard, and repeatest them.”
“Am I not he whom thou didst embrace and didst save from my father, and didst send to a foreign land, because my father had made an oath to kill me?”
“Those are things that have happened, my boy; and thou hast learnt, and repeatest them.”
“Am I not that prince into whose shoes thou didst put a hundred sequins that I might finish my studies?”
When the queen heard these words, she cast off her black coverings, and threw herself on his neck, saying, “Thou art my son! O live, my light! Thou hast come back safely! Thou art my consolation!” and much besides.
When it was known in the town that the real prince had come back, the people ran to meet him, and made great rejoicings; and the prince had no concern save for the grief of his mother, who was still sorrowing for the king. After a few days the queen consented to go with him to fetch his bride, who, until he returned, was wasting like a candle, for she thought he did not love her. But when she heard that the prince had arrived with his mother, she was like to burst with joy. And the king ran, and the twelve ran, and small and great ran to welcome the prince, and led them to the palace. In due time they crowned the young couple with the wedding crowns, and again there was staring and wondering!
When the wedding ceremonies and the rejoicings at last came to an end, the prince took his mother and the princess, bade adieu to his father-in-law, and returned to his own kingdom. When they arrived, the wild man appeared, and told the prince to give him fifty camels to bring away the treasure from the cave. And he loaded them with treasure, brought them back to the palace, and remained there himself. And the prince at last began to enjoy his life.
But, look you, a time comes when the other kings learn that he has wealth and gear, and they envy him; and seven kings and seven princes come against him, and soldiers without number, to fight against him, and to take from him his towns, and his treasures, and his wife.
When the prince heard this, he, too, began to prepare for war; but what could he do against so many soldiers? And so his heart quaked with the fear of losing his kingdom.
Then the wild man said to him, “Thou hast me, and yet thou art afraid! And not only with regard to this matter, but whatever may happen, let it not even make thine ear sweat! For so long as the wild man lives, thou needest neither raise soldiers, nor do anything but amuse thy sweet one.”
So the prince took courage, and troubled himself no more as to whether he was at war or not. And when his good wild man knew that the enemy had come quite close to the borders of his kingdom, he arose and went and fell upon them, first on this hand and then on the other, till he had destroyed them all.
Then he took the seven kings and the seven princes, and bound them, and brought them before the prince, and said, “Here are thine enemies, do with them as thou wilt, my king!”
Then they began to weep, and to beg the prince to spare their lives, and they would pay him tribute every year.
Then the prince had pity on them, and said, “Be off then, I give you your lives! But truly ye shall, each one of you, pay me so much tribute every year.”
Then he released them, and they fell down and did homage to him as their overlord, and each one went about his business. And so the prince became, as the wild man had promised, the greatest king in the world, and feared no one. And so he lived happily, and more than happily. And we more happily still!