English short stories ; Fables for Children
There was once a brave solider who was coming home form the wars. On the way, he met an ugly witch with a hooked nose and heavy lips. ''Good day, soldier, ''she greeted him.
''How handsome you are and how like a real fighting man. If you will do one thing for me, I shall give you as much money as you desire. But before I do so, you must do this thing for me. Climb to the top of that tree. There you will find a hole and you must squeeze into it. Inside you must go down a corridor which is brilliantly lit by hundred lamps. At the end of the corridor, you will find three doors behind which three treasures are hidden.
But beware! In front of each door there stands a fierce dog. Talk gently to each dog in turn and they will do you no harm. You can take all the silver you like, but in exchange, you must bring me back the tinderbox which my grandmother forgot on her last visit.''
So that is what happened. The brave soldier climbed the tree, squeezed in through the hole, and found himself in a huge corridor at the end of which stood three big dogs.
You are a fine fellow,'' said the young man to the first dog, and took the copper coins. ''Take care you do not stare at me too hard, you might hurt your eyes, ''he said to the second dog, and he took the silver treasure. Then he smartly saluted the third dog and said to him, ''Good evening,'' while taking the gold treasure which he guarded.
Before he returned, the soldier picked up the tinderbox that was lying on the floor.
The soldier's pockets were overflowing with copper, silver, and gold treasure. When he climbed out of the tree again, he asked the witch, ''I have your tinderbox, but what will you do with it?''
The old woman refused to answer. Frustrated with her silence, the soldier pulled out his saber and killed her. He slung the treasure on his back, put the tinderbox in his pocket, and went to the town where he lived extravagantly for some time.
He visited the theatre, hired a carriage to see the king's gardens, and often gave alms to the poor. Everyone loved the brave soldier, but he was very sad. He knew that the king's beautiful daughter was imprisoned in a copper castle somewhere in the kingdom.
No one was allowed to visit her. She had been imprisoned in the castle because it had been foreseen that one day she would marry a mere soldier. The king was so anxious that he had locked her up behind thick walls.
So the poor soldier was rich but unhappy! He carried on spending money thoughtlessly every day.
One day, he awoke to find all that remained of his fortune was two pennies. No more beautiful clothes and delicious food! So once more, the soldier lived in a tiny room under the eaves. One dark evening, he did not even have enough money to buy a candle, but he suddenly remembered the tinderbox from the hollow tree.
So he struck the tinderbox and at once sparks flew from it. Suddenly the door opened, and the first dog walked in saying, ''Master, what is your command?''
''Can I really have anything I want?'' cried the soldier. ''Quickly, bring me some money. ''The second dog walked in and he asked him, ''Can you bring the beautiful princess here?'' now the soldier realized the true value of the tinderbox.
If he struck it once, the dog who guarded the copper coins would appear. If he struck it twice, the dog who guarded the silver coins would also appear. And if he struck it three times, the dog who guarded the gold coins would appear too The first dog returned immediately, holding a huge sack full of gold,
If he struck it once, the dog who guarded the copper coins would appear. If he struck it twice, the dog who guarded the silver coins would also appear. And if he struck it three times, the dog who guarded the gold coins would appear too. The first dog returned immediately, holding a huge sack full of gold, silver, and precious stones in his mouth.
Then the young soldier quickly put on his handsome dress uniform. He barely had time to finish dressing when the second dog returned with the princess sitting on his back. The soldier could not help kissing her, because she was so beautiful.
That evening, the second dog took the beautiful princess back to the copper castle.
She returned the next day, then the day after that, and so on, until the king, who was very jealous, realized that something was afoot. He had his daughter followed by her ladies-in-waiting. The two lovers were discovered and the soldier was arrested, thrown into prison, and sentenced to death, Fortunately, the brave soldier had not forgotten his magic tinderbox.
Outside the town stood the gallows, surrounded by a huge crowd of people. The king and queen were seated on thrones.
The soldier was on the platform, and the rope was about to be placed around his neck when he asked to be allowed to smoke a last pipe. The king could not refuse, so the soldier took the tinder box and struck it-once, twice, three times! And all at once, the three dogs appeared. ''Come to my aid, they are going to hang me!'' cried the young soldier. So the three big dogs fell upon the king and queen and tossed them high into the sky.
The people were so terrified they cried out, ''Soldier, you shall be our king and you shall marry the beautiful princess.''
The wedding festivities soon began and the dogs were honored guests. And the valiant soldier and his beautiful queen lived happily ever after.