ONCE upon a time a hunter went to the mountains to hunt, and met there a golden-fleeced ram. The moment he saw it he took up his rifle to shoot it; before, however, he could do so, the ram rushed at him and killed him with its horns. His friends found him lying dead, and took him home and buried him, without knowing how he had been killed. The hunter's wife hung up his rifle on a nail. When her son grew old enough, he one day asked his mother for the rifle, that he might go hunting. The mother, however, refused to give it him. 'Nothing in the world, my son,' cried she, 'shall induce me to do so. Your father lost his life through that gun, and do you wish, also, to lose your life because of it?'
However the youth managed to steal the rifle one day, and went away to the mountains to hunt. When he came to the forest, the golden-fleeced ram appeared also to him, and said, 'I killed your father, and I will kill you!' The son was shocked, and said, 'God help me!' Then he levelled at the ram with the rifle and killed it.
Greatly rejoiced that he had killed the golden-fleeced ram, (for there was not another like it in all the kingdom) he now took the fleece home. In a very short time the news of this spread all over the country, and reached even the king's ears. Then the king ordered the young lad to bring the ram's fleece to him, that he might see what different animals lived in his kingdom. When the young lad took it to the king, and exhibited it, the king asked, 'How much money do you want for that fleece?' To which the young man answered, 'I will not sell it for any money.'
Now the king's first minister happened to be the uncle of the young man; instead, however, of being his friend, he was his greatest enemy. So the minister said to the king, 'If he will not give you the fleece, set him something to do which will cost him his life. The best plan would be to order him to do something which it is impossible for him to do.' Accordingly he advised the king to order the young man to plant a vineyard, and to bring him, within seven days, new wine from it. The young man hearing this, began to weep, and begged to be excused from such a task as he could not work a miracle. But the king said, 'If you don't do that in seven days, you shall lose your life.'
Then the youth returned weeping to his mother, and told her about it. And the mother said, 'Did I not tell you, my son, that the golden fleece would cost you your life as it cost your father his?' Weeping and wondering what to do, since he got no rest at home, he thus walked out of the village a good distance, when, suddenly, a little girl appeared before him and said, 'Why are you weeping, my brother?' He answered, somewhat angrily, 'Go your way, in God's name! you cannot help me.' He then went on his way, but the little girl followed him, and begged much that he would tell her why he wept, 'for, perhaps,' said she, 'I may be able to help you.' 'Well, then, I will tell you,' said he, 'though I am sure no one except God can help me.' So he told her all that had happened to him, and what the king had ordered him to do. When she had heard all, she said, 'Be not tearful, my brother, but go and demand from the king that he should appoint the place where the vineyard shall be planted, and order it to be dug in straight lines; then go yourself, and take a sack, with a branch of basilicum in it, and lie down to sleep in the place where the vineyard has been marked out. Take courage! Don't be afraid! In seven days you will have ripe grapes.'
Thereupon he returned home and told his mother how he had met the little girl, and what she had told him; not, however, as having any belief in what she had said. The mother, however, when she had heard his words, said, 'Go, my son, and try; anyhow you are a lost man. You can but try.'
He went then to the king and demanded land for the vineyard, and begged that it should be dug in straight rows. The king ordered everything to be done as the young man demanded, who forthwith took a sack on his shoulder, and a sprig of basilicum, and went full of fear and sorrow to lie down in the place. When he awoke next morning the vines were already planted; the second morning the leaves were on the vines; and, in short, on the seventh day there were ripe grapes, and that, too, in a season when grapes were to be found nowhere else.
He gathered some grapes, and made sweet wine; and took also a cluster of grapes in a handkerchief, and went to the king.
The king and the whole court were exceedingly surprised, but the young man's uncle said, 'Now we will order him to do something which it is quite impossible that he should do.' He then advised the king to call the young man, and order him to make a palace of elephants' tusks.
The young man heard the king's order, and went home weeping. He told his mother the order which the king had given him, and said, 'Mother, this is a task which neither I nor any one else can fulfil.' Then the mother advised him to take a walk beyond the village. 'Perhaps,' said she, 'you will again meet the little girl.' Accordingly he went; and when he reached the place where he had before seen the maiden, she again appeared to him, and said, 'You are sad and troubled as before, my brother.' Then he told her what a task the king had set him to perform. She, however, no sooner heard this than she said, 'This will also be easy; but first go to the king, and demand from him a ship with three hundred barrels of wine, and three hundred barrels of brandy, and twenty carpenters. Then, when you arrive at a place which you will find between the mountains, dam up the water there, and pour into it the wine and the brandy. The elephants will soon come there to drink water, and will get drunk and fall down. Then your twenty carpenters must cut off their tusks, and carry them to the spot where the king desires to have the palace built. Then lie down there to sleep, and in seven days the palace will be ready.'
The young man returned home and told his mother what the young maiden had said to him. The mother advised him to follow the girl's counsel. 'Go, my son,' she said, 'perhaps God will again help you.' So the young man went to the king, and demanded the barrels of wine and brandy, and the twenty carpenters. The king furnished him with all he desired; and he went immediately where the girl had told him, and did as she had ordered. And, even as she had foretold, the elephants came to drink, and got tipsy, and fell down; and the carpenters sawed their tusks, and carried them to the spot where the palace was to be built. Then, at evening, the young man took his sack and a branch of basilicum, and went and lay down to sleep in the place.
And on the seventh day the palace was ready. When the king saw it, he marvelled, and said to his first minister, the uncle of the young man, 'Now what shall we do with him? Indeed he is not a man; God knows only what he is.'
To this, the minister answered, 'Yet one thing you ought to order him to do, and if he fulfils that, also, indeed he must be something more than man.' So, in accordance with the advice of his minister, the king called the young man again, and said, 'Now, go and bring me the king's daughter from such and such a kingdom, and out of such a city. If you should fail to bring her, you will lose your head.'
The young man went home and told his mother the new task which the king had set him to do, and the mother said, 'Go, my son, and look for that young maiden. Perhaps God will grant that she may save you a third time!'
So, as before, he went outside the village, and met the young maiden, and told her what he had now to do.
The girl listened to him, and then said, 'Go and demand from the king a ship; in the ship must be made twenty shops, and in each shop must be a different kind of ware, each one better than the other. Then demand that the twenty handsomest young men should be chosen, and finely dressed, and put one in each shop as salesman. Then sail yourself with the ship, and you will first meet a man who carries a large eagle. You must ask him if he will sell it you, and he will answer "Yes." Then give him anything he demands in return for the eagle. After that you will meet a man carrying in his fishing-net a carp with golden scales; you must buy the carp, whatever it may cost you. Thirdly, you will meet a man carrying a live dove, and this dove you must also buy, whatever the price may be. Then, take a feather from the eagle's tail, a scale from the carp, and a little feather from the left wing of the dove, and let the eagle, carp, and dove go away free. When you arrive in the kingdom, and at the city where the princess resides, you must open all the twenty shops, and order each young man to stand before his shop-door. Then the citizens will come and admire the wares; and the maidens, who come to fetch water, will go back into the city and say, "Such a ship and such wares were never before seen since this was a city!" This news will reach the ears of the king's daughter, and she will beg permission from her father to go and see the ship herself. When she comes, with her friends, on board, you must lead her from one shop to the other, and bring out and show her the finest wares which you have. Thus you must contrive to engage her attention and to keep her on board till it gets dusk, and then let the ship sail. In that moment it will be so dark that nothing can be seen. The girl will have a bird on her shoulder, and, when she sees the ship is sailing away, she will let the bird fly to take tiding to the palace of what has happened to her. Then you must burn the eagle's plume, and the old eagle will instantly come to you. You must order him to catch the bird, and he will quickly do so. Then the girl will throw a small stone into the water, and the ship will at once stand still; but you will immediately burn the carp's scale, and the carp will come to you. You must order him to find and swallow that little water of life, and when he does so the ship will sail on. After sailing some time you will arrive between two mountains; there the ship will turn to stone and you will be greatly terrified. The girl will urge you to fetch some water of life, and you must then burn the dove's feather, and the bird will immediately appear. You will give him a little bottle that he may bring you some water of life, and when he does so the ship will sail on again, and you will come happily home with the king's daughter.'
The young man listened to the advice of the maiden, and then returned home and told all to his mother. After that he went to the king and demanded all the things that the maiden had counselled him to procure. The king could not refuse, so all that he asked was given him, and he sailed away.
All things happened exactly as the young maiden had foretold, and the young man came back with the king's daughter happily to his own country.
The king and his first minister, the uncle of the young man, saw, from the windows of the palace, the ship whilst yet it was far from the city; and the minister said to the king, 'Now there is nothing left to do but to kill him as he comes out of the ship!' When the ship reached the port, the king's daughter first came ashore with her companions; then the handsome young shopmen, and, lastly, the young man alone. But the king had had the headsman placed there, and when the young man stepped on the shore the executioner cut his head off. The king intended to marry the king's daughter; accordingly, as soon as she came on land he ran to her, and began to caress her, but she turned away her head from him, and said, 'Where is he who has been working for me?' And when she saw that his head was cut off she rushed to the body, took out some water of life and poured over it, so he arose alive and well as ever. When the king and his minister saw this wonder, the minister said to the king, 'This man will know now more than ever he did, since he has been dead and is come back to life!' Then the king began to wonder if it were true that a man who has been dead knows more when he returns to life, and, in order to satisfy his curiosity, he ordered the headsman to cut off his head, and directed that the girl with the water of life should bring him again to life. But, after the king's head was cut off, the girl refused to restore him to life. Instead of doing so, she wrote a letter to her father, told him all that had happened, and told him her wish to marry the young man. So the king, her father, sent forth a proclamation that the people should take the young man for their king, and threatened to declare war against them if they refused to do so. The people recognised immediately the merits of the young man, and owned that he deserved to be their king, and to marry the king's daughter. Accordingly they made him king, and he married the king's daughter. Then the handsome young men, who had sailed with him in the ship as shopmen, married the companions of the king's daughter who was now queen, and thus all of them became great dignitaries in the kingdom.