The Three Princes and the Maiden
THERE was once three princes who were great friends. One day, as they walked out together, they saw a beautiful maiden looking out of a window, and they were all three, unknown to each other, struck and charmed with her loveliness; and one of them sought an occasion when he could go alone to ask her to name the hour when he should come to speak to her. The maiden told him to come at ten in the evening. The second prince came and begged of her the same favour, and she appointed him to come at eleven in the evening. The third prince also came and asked the same question and favour, and the maiden said that she would expect him at midnight.
At ten o'clock in the evening the first prince came to see her; at eleven the second prince arrived; and at midnight also came the third prince, and there he found the other two. "You are willing to speak to all three because you do not care for any." The maiden replied to him that she liked all three much. One of the princes then said that she could only marry one, and, therefore, that she should say which she would choose. The maiden again assured them that she did not make an exception, and that all three pleased her much. As the three princes were on the eve of undertaking a long journey, she at last decided that on their return they should all three bring her a keepsake, and that the one who should bring her the present she liked best, that one would she marry. They all three took leave of her, promising to bring the presents agreed upon. And when they had travelled for some distance came to a cross road, 'where they decided to part company, and at the end of their journey to meet again at the same spot. After this they each went their way. One of them arrived at a country where he saw many people going into a joiner's shop. He was much surprised at it, au he also wept to see what was going on. He found that the excitement was created by no less a thing than a most marvellous looking-glass; that the moment it was told, "Looking-glass, I wish to see this or that person," they would immediately appear reflected upon it. The prince bought it at once, and, delighted at the discovery, said: "Now I have found, indeed, an excellent present to take to my sweetheart!" The second prince reached another country where he saw many persons meet to buy a candle. He asked why they were all so anxious to purchase such an indifferent article as a candle, and of so little value; but they informed him that the candle had a particular mysterious property, so that if any person was dead, and the candle was put in the dead person's hands, he would immediately come to life again. The moment the prince heard this he lost no time in buying it, and, much pleased, he said: "I have now found a valuable present for my lady-love." The third prince saw in another country a man who was selling wool rugs. This man asked a great sum for one in particular. The prince inquired the reason why he asked so much more money for one rug than he did for the others. The man replied that the particular rug had a distinct peculiarity from the others, which was, that if any one wished to undertake a journey he had only to open it out on the ground, stand upon it, and say to it: "Oh I rug, take me to such a country in an instant." The moment the prince knew of this, he bought it, and, in great glee at finding such a treasure, said, "Now, indeed, I have a present worthy to present to my sweet heart."
When the three princes met at the appointed road, they showed each other the presents which they had bought. The one of the looking-glass said to the other two friends: "I order the looking-glass to show me my lady-love." And as he said so they looked into the glass, and there saw the dead form of the maiden. The prince who had bought the candle said: "Oh! that we could place this candle in her dead hands, that so she may come to life!" The prince with the rug then added, laying open the rug on the ground: "Rug, take us all three in an instant to where she is!" In a moment the three princes found themselves by the side of the dead maiden. They placed the candle in her hands, and she instantly rose once more to life. They were all exceedingly delighted at the result, yet now each put forth his claims for the maiden. The prince to whom the candle belonged said, that if it not been for it she would never have risen again. The one who held the looking-glass urged that had he not, seen her in the looking-glass they would never have known that she was dead. Whilst the prince who had the rug said, that had it not been for his rug they would not have found 'themselves there so quickly; and, compared to his rug, the other presents were use less. The maiden now came forward and said: "As you all three have a right to marry me, and as I cannot have three husbands at one time, I shall not marry any of you!" The maiden shut herself up in a tower; and the three princes, much disappointed and grieved, also retired into a dismal tower.
The text came from:
Pedroso, Consiglieri. Portuguese Folk-Tales. Folk Lore Society Publications, Vol. 9. Miss Henrietta Monteiro, translator. New York: Folk Lore Society Publications, 1882.
[Reprinted: New York: Benjamin Blom, Inc., 1969.]
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