THERE was once, I don't know where, a poor man who had a very good son who was a shepherd. One day he was tending his sheep in a rocky neighbourhood, and was sending sighs to Heaven as a man whose heart was throbbing with burning wishes. Hearing a noise as of some one approaching he looked round and saw St. Peter standing in front of him in the guise of a very old grey man. "Why are you sighing, my lad?" inquired he, "and what is your wish?" "Nothing else," replied the lad, respectfully, "but to possess a little bag which never gets full, and a fur cloak which makes me invisible when I put it on." His wish was fulfilled and St. Peter vanished. The lad gave up shepherding now and turned to the capital, where he thought he had a chance of making his fortune. A king lived there who had twelve daughters, and eleven of them wanted at least six pairs of shoes each every night. Their father was very angry about this, because it swallowed up a good deal of his income; he suspected that there was something wrong, but couldn't succeed by any traps to get to the bottom of it. At last he promised the youngest princess to him who would unveil the secret.
The promise enticed many adventurous spirits to the capital, but the girls simply laughed at them, and they were obliged to leave in disgrace. The shepherd lad, relying on his fur cloak, reported himself; but the girls measured him, too, with mocking eyes. Night came, and the shepherd, muffling himself in his fur cloak, stood at the bedroom door where they slept, and stole in amongst them when they went to bed. It was midnight and a ghost walked round the beds and woke the girls. There was now great preparation. They dressed and beautified themselves, and filled a travelling bag with shoes. The youngest knew nothing of all this, but on the present occasion the invisible shepherd woke her--whereupon her sisters got frightened; but as she was let into their secret they thought it best to decoy her with them, to which, after a short resistance, the girl consented. All being ready, the ghost placed a small dish on the table. Everyone anointed their shoulders with the contents, and wings grew to them. The shepherd did the same: and when they all flew through the window, he followed them.
After flying for several hours they came to a huge copper forest, and to a well, the railing round which was of copper, and on this stood twelve copper tumblers. The girls drank here, so as to refresh themselves, when the youngest, who was here for the first time, looked round in fear. The lad, too, had something to drink after the girls had left and put a tumbler, together with a twig that he broke off a tree, in his bag; the tree trembled, and the noise was heard all over the forest. The youngest girl noticed it and warned her sisters that some one was after them, but they felt so safe that they only laughed at her. They continued their journey, and after a short time came to a silver forest, and to a silver well. Here again they drank, and the lad again put a tumbler and a silver twig into his bag. In breaking off the twig the tree shook, and the youngest again warned her sisters, but in vain.
They soon came to the end of the forest and arrived at a golden forest, with a gold well and tumblers. Here again they stopped and drank, and the lad again put a gold tumbler and twig in his bag. The youngest once more warned her sisters of the noise the quivering tree made, but in vain. Having arrived at the end of the forest they came to an immense moss-grown rock, whose awe-inspiring lofty peaks soared up to the very heavens. Here they all stopped. The ghost struck the rock with a golden rod, whereupon it opened, and all entered, the shepherd lad with them. Now they came to a gorgeous room from which several halls opened, which were all furnished in a fairy-like manner. From these twelve fairy youths came forth and greeted them, who were all wonderfully handsome. The number of servants increased from minute to minute who were rushing about getting everything ready for a magnificent dance. Soon after strains of enchanting music were heard, and the doors of a vast dancing hall opened and the dancing went on without interruption. At dawn the girls returned--also the lad--in the same way as they had come, and they lay down as if nothing had happened, which, however, was belied by their worn shoes, and the next morning they got up at the usual hour.
The king was impatiently awaiting the news the shepherd was to bring, who came soon after and told him all that had happened. He sent for his daughters, who denied everything, but the tumblers and the twigs bore witness. What the shepherd told the youngest girl also confirmed, whom the shepherd woke for the purpose. The king fulfilled his promise with regard to the youngest princess and the other eleven were burnt for witchcraft.