Household Tales, by Brothers Grimm

The Three Black Princesses

EAST INDIA was besieged by an enemy who would not retire until he had received six hundred dollars. Then the townsfolk caused it to be proclaimed by beat of drum that whosoever was able to procure the money should be burgomaster. Now there was a poor fisherman who fished on the lake with his son, and the enemy came and took the son prisoner, and gave the father six hundred dollars for him. So the father went and gave them to the great men of the town, and the enemy departed, and the fisherman became burgomaster. Then it was proclaimed that whosoever did not say, “Mr. Burgomaster,” should be put to death on the gallows.

The son got away again from the enemy, and came to a great forest on a high mountain. The mountain opened, and he went into a great enchanted castle, wherein chairs, tables, and benches were all hung with black. Then came three young princesses who were entirely dressed in black, but had a little white on their faces; they told him he was not to be afraid, they would not hurt him, and that he could deliver them. He said he would gladly do that, if he did but know how. At this, they told him he must for a whole year not speak to them and also not look at them, and what he wanted to have he was just to ask for, and if they dared give him an answer they would do so. When he had been there for a long while he said he should like to go to his father, and they told him he might go. He was to take with him this purse with money, put on this coat, and in a week he must be back there again.

Then he was caught up, and was instantly in East India. He could no longer find his father in the fisherman’s hut, and asked the people where the poor fisherman could be, and they told him he must not say that, or he would come to the gallows. Then he went to his father and said, “Fisherman, how hast thou got here?” Then the father said, “Thou must not say that, if the great men of the town knew of that, thou wouldst come to the gallows.” He, however, would not stop, and was brought to the gallows. When he was there, he said, “O, my masters, just give me leave to go to the old fisherman’s hut.” Then he put on his old smock-frock, and came back to the great men, and said, “Do ye not now see? Am I not the son of the poor fisherman? Did I not earn bread for my father and mother in this dress?” Hereupon his father knew him again, and begged his pardon, and took him home with him, and then he related all that had happened to him, and how he had got into a forest on a high mountain, and the mountain had opened and he had gone into an enchanted castle, where all was black, and three young princesses had come to him who were black except a little white on their faces. And they had told him not to fear, and that he could deliver them. Then his mother said that might very likely not be a good thing to do, and that he ought to take a holy-water vessel with him, and drop some boiling water on their faces.

He went back again, and he was in great fear, and he dropped the water on their faces as they were sleeping, and they all turned half-white. Then all the three princesses sprang up, and said, “Thou accursed dog, our blood shall cry for vengeance on thee! Now there is no man born in the world, nor will any ever be born who can set us free! We have still three brothers who are bound by seven chains they shall tear thee to pieces.” Then there was a loud shrieking all over the castle, and he sprang out of the window, and broke his leg, and the castle sank into the earth again, the mountain shut to again, and no one knew where the castle had stood.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37