Danish Fairy and Folk Tales/The King and the Miller

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THE KING AND THE MILLER


ONCE there was a wealthy miller who lived near the high-road. Above his door he had written these words: "Here lives a man who is free from sorrows and trouble." One day the king, happening to pass the house, stopped and read the inscription. "I shall give him trouble," thought he, and having ordered the miller to appear before him, he gave him three questions to be answered to the king's satisfaction within three days. If he failed to answer the questions, he must forfeit his life.

As the miller walked about in the fields pondering on this difficult problem, his shepherd asked what grieved him, since he looked so troubled. "It is of no use to tell you," answered the miller, "for you cannot help me." "Yes," said the shepherd, "if you will only tell me all about it, I am ready to help you." So the miller told him all. "Oh, is it not worse?" exclaimed the shepherd. "If I may borrow your clothes, I will answer the questions for you."

On the appointed day the king returned, and the shepherd received him in the miller's clothes.

The first question was: "How long will it take me to make a voyage around the world?" "May I take time to consider?" asked the shepherd. The time was granted him, and in a little while he said: "If your Majesty follow the sun, it will take only twenty-four hours." "That is well enough," said the king, "but can you tell me how much I am worth in my full equipment?" The shepherd answered: "Our Saviour was sold for thirty pieces of silver, therefore your Majesty cannot be worth more than twenty-nine." This answer was also well received; but at last the king said: "Now I shall ask the third question, and you must have no time for consideration. Can you tell me what I am thinking?" "Yes," replied the shepherd; "your Majesty thinks you are speaking to the miller; but I am only his shepherd."

The king at once declared himself satisfied, and the miller escaped further trouble.