There was once a poor woman who gave birth
to a little son, and as he came into the world with a caul on, it
was predicted that in his fourteenth year he would have the king's
daughter for his wife. It happened that soon afterwards the king
came into the village, and no one knew that he was the king, and
when he asked the people what news there was, they answered, a child
has just been born with a caul on, whatever anyone so born
undertakes turns out well. It is prophesied, too, that in his
fourteenth year he will have the king's daughter for his wife.
The king, who had a bad heart, and was angry
about the prophecy, went to the parents, and, seeming quite
friendly, said, you poor people, let me have your child, and I will
take care of it. At first they refused, but when the stranger
offered them a large amount of gold for it, and they thought, it is
a child of good fortune, and everything must turn out well for it,
they at last consented, and gave him the child.
The king put it in a box and rode away with it
until he came to a deep piece of water, then he threw the box into
it and thought, I have freed my daughter from her undesired suitor.
The box, however, did not sink, but floated
like a boat, and not a drop of water made its way into it. And it
floated to within two miles of the king's chief city, where there
was a mill, and it came to a halt at the mill-dam. A miller's boy,
who by good luck was standing there, noticed it and pulled it out
with a hook, thinking that he had found a great treasure, but when
he opened it there lay a pretty boy inside, quite fresh and lively.
He took him to the miller and his wife, and as they had no children
they were glad, and said, "God has given him to us." They took great
care of the foundling, and he grew up in all goodness.
It happened that once in a storm, the king
went into the mill, and asked the mill-folk if the tall youth were
their son. No, answered they, he's a foundling. Fourteen years ago
he floated down to the mill-dam in a box, and the mill-boy pulled
him out of the water.
Then the king knew that it was none other than
the child of good fortune which he had thrown into the water, and he
said, my good people, could not the youth take a letter to the
queen. I will give him two gold pieces as a reward. Just as the king
commands, answered they, and they told the boy to hold himself in
readiness. Then the king wrote a letter to the queen, wherein he
said, as soon as the boy arrives with this letter, let him be killed
and buried, and all must be done before I come home. The boy set out
with this letter, but he lost his way, and in the evening came to a
large forest. In the darkness he saw a small light, he went towards
it and reached a cottage. When he went in, an old woman was sitting
by the fire quite alone. She started when she saw the boy, and said,
whence do you come, and whither are you going. I come from the mill,
he answered, and wish to go to the queen, to whom I am taking a
letter, but as I have lost my way in the forest I should like to
stay here over night. You poor boy, said the woman, you have come
into a den of thieves, and when they come home they will kill you.
Let them come, said the boy, I am not afraid, but I am so tired that
I cannot go any farther. And he stretched himself upon a bench and