Danish Fairy and Folk Tales/The Princess Who Said:—

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THE PRINCESS WHO SAID:—


ONCE on a time there was a king who advertised in the papers that if any one proved able to make his daughter say, "That is a lie!" he would be at liberty to marry her.

Although this sounds strange, it is as true as all the other stories I have told. It might be objected that kings do not advertise in the papers, but I who know so many of them say that such is, indeed, often the case, and there is no reason to doubt my words. Newspapers receive advertisements from any one who can pay for them, from the king and downward, or from the beggar and upward; and the king of whom we are now speaking paid a great sum, moreover, for having his law—kings' words are always law—inserted in the papers.

It might also be objected that a princess would not use such language as I mentioned.

They might! They do, indeed, sometimes! I have heard many princesses say words much worse than these, and yet they were fine girls, whom all liked. It matters little what you say, but it matters a great deal what you are!

So this princess, who was as brave and good as any girl living, was to be married to the man who could make her say the words: "That is a lie!"

There were many who thought it would be an easy matter to tell a lie to the princess, for the world always has more of this sort of thing than is needed. But she was so sweet and good, and trusted people so well, that it was a very difficult matter to tell her anything that she did not believe at all. One after another the suitors came with great hopes and went away disappointed.

In a little house near the borders of the same land there lived a man whose only son was known far and wide on account of his great foolishness. When this young man heard the news of the king's announcement, he put on his wooden shoes and his cap, said good-bye to his parents, and went straight to the palace, where he found the princess. When she learned his errand she proposed their taking a walk together, whereupon they strolled into the court-yard and through the gardens. Here the boy—Claus was his name—stopped and said:

"What immense cabbage you have here!"

"It might be smaller," returned the princess.

"Well," resumed Claus, "after all, it is nothing to my father's cabbage. Once we were building a new barn, and sixteen carpenters were working on the building; a shower came up, and all sixteen men took shelter under one of the leaves. After a while one of them thrust his knife through it, to see if the rain was over; but so much water had been collected on the surface that it poured down immediately in such quantities that every carpenter was drowned."

"That cabbage must have been large, indeed!" remarked the princess.

The young man was, however, not so easily disposed of. "You have a good-sized barn," remarked he, "and well built, too."

"Yes," replied the princess, "but my father is the king, you know, and so it could not be smaller."

"True enough," continued Claus, "but our barn is so immense that while a cow walks through it from one end to the other she may become old and worn out."

"A large barn, indeed!" observed the young lady.

Claus appeared unaffected. "Your sheep," he pursued, "seem to be large and well kept, but my father's sheep are larger yet. Their tails are so heavy that we are obliged to tie them to big wagons, and when we want some meat for a soup, all that we need is to go and cut off a piece of one of these tails. Then we have enough for several hundred persons. When they are sheared, we hire sixteen wood-cutters to cut off the wool with their axes. Each animal keeps them working for eight days."

"Fine sheep they must be, I am sure!" remarked the princess.

But Claus could not think of giving up yet.

"Your chickens are very good-looking, too," said he; "but ours are still better. Their feathers are so long and stiff that they can be used for ships' masts, and their eggs are so large that when we saw them through in the middle we have two good boats. The hens lay so many eggs that we send away ten wagon-loads of them every day. My father loads them, and I drive to town with them. Some days ago we were a little careless, for our load became so high that before I realized anything I was standing at the moon. While I looked around, the load was upset, and there I stood, unable to return. I found some cobweb, however, fastened one end to a tree, and lowered myself downward. The cobweb did not reach far enough, and I was obliged to jump, which I did. I landed in a church, where the congregation was just taking up a collection for the poor. Your father was there; he sat in the middle of the floor, with an old nightcap on his head, and it was drawn down over his ears. His pockets were filled with silver and gold, but he was so covetous that when his turn came he gave only two paltry copper pennies to the poor. His nose was—"

"That is a lie, if you wish to know it!" interrupted the princess, turning scarlet with anger. "My father never wears a nightcap in the church, and he is not covetous!"

"Quite possible," replied the young man, "but that does not matter, for I have made you utter what you never said before, and so you are mine and I am yours!"

The princess could not deny it, and they were married; but since that time she has never caught Claus telling lies. Therefore they live happily together.