THERE were once two kings who lived in great friendship; one had three sons, the other a daughter. The two fathers made an agreement, that in case of either of them dying, the other should become guardian of the orphans; and that if one of the boys married the girl he should inherit her property. Very soon after the girl's father died, and she went to live with her guardian. After a little time the eldest boy went to his father and asked the girl's hand, threatening to commit suicide if his request was refused; his father promised to give him a reply in three weeks. At the end of the first week the second son asked the girl's hand, and threatened to blow out his brains if he could not wed her; the king promised to reply to him in a fortnight. At the end of the second week, the youngest asked for the girl, and his father bade him wait a week for his answer. The day arrived when all three had to receive their reply, and their father addressed them thus: "My sons, you all three love the girl, but you know too well that only one can have her. I will, therefore, give her to the one who will show himself the most worthy of her. You had better go, wherever you please, and see the world, and return in one year from this day, and the girl shall be his who will bring the most valuable thing from his journey." The princes consented to this, and started on their journey, travelling together till they came to a tall oak in the nearest wood; the road here divided into three branches; the eldest chose the one leading west, the second selected the one running south, and the third son the branch turning off to the east. Before separating, they decided to return to the same place after the lapse of exactly one year, and to make the homeward journey together.
The eldest looked at everything that he found worthy of note during his travels, and spared no expense to get something excellent: after a long journey hither and thither, he at last succeeded in getting a telescope by the aid of which he could see to the end of the world; so he decided to take it back to his father, as the most valuable thing he had found. The second son also endeavoured to find something so valuable that the possession of it should make him an easy winner in the competition for the girl's hand: after a long search he found a cloak by means of which, when he put it on and thought of a place, he was immediately transported there. The youngest, after long wandering, bought an orange which had power to restore to life the dead when put under the corpse's nose, provided death had not taken place more than twenty-four hours before. These were the three valuable things that were to be brought home; and, as the year was nearly up, the eldest and the youngest were already on their way back to the oak: the second son only was still enjoying himself in various places, as one second was enough for him to get to the meeting place. The two having arrived at the oak, the middle one appeared after a little while, and they then shewed each other the valuables acquired; next they looked through the telescope, and to their horror they saw that the lady for the possession of whom they had been working hard for a whole year, was lying dead; so they all three slipped hurriedly into the cloak, and as quick as thought arrived at home; the father told them in great grief that the girl could belong to no one as she was dead: they inquired when she died, and receiving an answer that she had been dead not quite twenty-four hours, the youngest rushed up to her, and restored her to life with his magic orange. Now there was a good deal of litigation and quarrelling among the three lads: the eldest claimed the greatest merit for himself, because, he said, had they not seen through his telescope that the girl was dead they would have been still lingering at the oak, and the orange would have been of no avail; the second maintained that if they had not got home so quickly with his cloak the orange would have been of no use; the third claimed his orange as the best, for restoring the girl to life, without which the other two would have been useless. In order to settle the dispute, they called all the learned and old people of the realm together, and these awarded the girl to the youngest, and all three were satisfied with the award, and the two others gave up all idea about suicide. The eldest, by the aid of his telescope, found himself a wife who was the prettiest royal princess on earth, and married her: the second heard of one who was known for her virtue and beauty, and got into his cloak, and went to her, and so all three to their great satisfaction led their brides to the altar, and became as happy as men can be.