ONE morning the son of the king went out to hunt. Whilst walking through the snow he cut himself a little, and the drops of blood fell on the snow. When he saw how pretty the red blood looked on the white snow, he thought, 'Oh, if I could only marry a girl as white as snow and as rosy red as this blood!' Whilst he was thus thinking, he met an old woman and asked her if there were such maidens anywhere to be found. The old woman told him that on the mountain he saw before him he would find a house without doors, and the only entrance and outlet of this house was a single window. And she added, 'In that house, my son, there is living a girl such as you desire; but of the young men who have gone to ask her to be their wife none have returned.'
'That may all be as you say,' answered the prince, 'I will go, nevertheless! Only tell me the way that I must take to get to the house.' When the old woman heard this resolve, she was sorry for the young man, and, taking a piece of bread from her pouch, she gave it to him, saying, 'Take this bread and keep it safe as the apple of your eye!' The prince took the bread, and continued his journey. Very soon afterwards he met another old woman, and she asked him where he was going. He told her he was going to demand the girl who lived in the doorless house on the mountain. Then the old woman tried to dissuade him, telling him just the same things as the former one had done. He said, however, 'That may be quite true, nevertheless I will go, even if I never return.' Then the old woman gave to the prince a little nut, saying, 'Keep this nut always by you; it may help you some time or other!'
The prince took the nut and went on his way, till he came to where an old woman was sitting by the roadside. She asked him, 'Where are you going?' Then he told her he was going to demand the girl who lived in the house on the mountain before him. Upon this the old woman wept, and prayed him to give up all thoughts of the girl, and she gave him the very same warnings as the other old women had done. All this however was of no use, the prince was resolved to go on, so the old woman gave him a walnut, saying, 'Take this walnut, and keep it carefully until you want it.'
He wondered at these presents, and asked her to tell him why the first old woman had given him a piece of bread, the second a nut, and she herself now a walnut. The old woman answered, 'The bread is to throw to the beasts before the house, that they may not eat you; and, when you find yourself in the greatest danger, ask counsel, first from the nut, and then from the walnut.'
Then the king's son continued his wandering, till he came at last to a thick forest, in the midst of which he saw the house with only a single window. When he came near it he was attacked by a multitude of beasts of all kinds, and, following the advice of the old woman, he threw the bit of bread towards them. Then the beasts came and smelt at the bread one after the other, and, upon doing so, each drew his tail between his legs and lay down quietly.
The house had no door, and but one window, which was very high above the ground, so high that do what he could he was not able to reach it. Suddenly he saw a woman letting down her golden hair; so he rushed and caught hold of it, and she drew him up thereby into the house. Then he saw that the woman was she for whose sake he had come to this place. The prince and the girl were equally pleased to see each other, and she said, 'Thank God that my mother happened to be from home! She is gone into the forest to gather the plants by the aid of which she transforms into beasts all the young men who venture here to ask me to be their wife. Those are the beasts who would have killed you, if God had not helped you. But let us fly away from this place.' So they fled away through the forest as quickly as they could. As they happened to look back, however, they saw that the girl's mother was pursuing them, and they became frightened. The old woman was already very near them before the prince remembered his nut. He took it out quickly and asked, 'For God's sake! tell me what we must do now?' The nut replied, 'Open me!' The prince opened it, and from the little nut flowed out a large river, which stopped the way, so that for a time the girl's mother could not pass. However, she touched the waters with her staff, and they immediately divided and left her a dry path, so that she could run on quickly after the prince and the girl.
When the prince saw she would soon come up with them, he took out the walnut and asked, 'Tell me, what we must do now?' And the walnut replied, 'Break me!' The king's son broke the walnut, and a great fire flamed out from it--so great a fire that the whole forest barely escaped being consumed by it. But the girl's mother spat on the fire, and it extinguished itself in a moment. Then the king's son saw that these were nothing but the jugglings of the devil, so he turned eastward, made the sign of the cross, and called on the mighty God to help him. Then it suddenly thundered and lightened, and from heaven flashed a thunderbolt which struck the mother of the girl, and she fell dead upon the ground.
Thus at length the king's son arrived safely at home, and when the girl had been made a Christian, he married her.