Faithful and Unfaithful
Once upon a time there was a couple of humble
cottagers who had no children until, at last, the
man's wife was blessed with a boy, which made
both of them very happy. They named him Faithful
and when he was christened a huldra came to the
hut, seated herself beside the child's cradle, and
foretold that he would meet with good fortune.
"What is more," she said, "when he is fifteen years
of age, I will make him a present of a horse with
many rare qualities, a horse that has the gift of
speech!" And with that the huldra turned and
The boy grew up and became strong and powerful.
And when he had passed his fifteenth year, a
strange old man came up to their hut one day, knocked,
and said that the horse he was leading had been
sent by his queen, and that henceforward it was to
belong to Faithful, as she had promised. Then the
ancient man departed; but the beautiful horse was
admired by all, and Faithful learned to love it more
with every passing day.
At length he grew weary of home. "I must away
and try my fortune in the world," said he, and his
parents did not like to object; for there was not much
to wish for at home. So he led his dear horse from
the stable, swung himself into the saddle, and rode
hurriedly into the wood. He rode on and on, and
had already covered a good bit of ground, when he
saw two lions engaged in a struggle with a tiger,
and they were well-nigh overcome. "Make haste
to take your bow," said the horse, "shoot the tiger
and deliver the two lions!" "Yes, that's what I
will do," said the youth, fitted an arrow to the bow-string,
and in a moment the tiger lay prone on the
ground. The two lions drew nearer, nuzzled their
preserver in a friendly and grateful manner, and
then hastened back to their cave.
Faithful now rode along for a long time among
the great trees until he suddenly spied two terrified
white doves fleeing from a hawk who was on the
point of catching them. "Make haste to take your
bow," said the horse, "shoot the hawk and save the
two doves!" "Yes, that's what I'll do," said the
youth. He fitted an arrow to the bow-string, and in
a moment the hawk lay prone on the ground. But
the two doves flew nearer, fluttered about their deliverer
in a tame and grateful manner, and then hurried
back to their nest.
The youth pressed on through the wood and by
now was far, far from home. But his horse did not
tire easily, and ran on with him until they came to a
great lake. There he saw a gull rise up from the
water, holding a pike in its claws. "Make haste to
take your bow," said the horse, "shoot the gull and
save the pike!" "Yes, that's what I'll do," answered
the youth, fitted an arrow to his bow-string,
and in a moment the gull was threshing the ground
with its wings, mortally wounded. But the pike who
had been saved swam nearer, gave his deliverer a
friendly, grateful glance, and then dove down to
join his fellows beneath the waves.
Faithful rode on again, and before evening came
to a great castle. He at once had himself announced
to the king, and begged that the latter would take him
into his service. "What kind of a place do you
want?" asked the king, who was inclined to look with
favor on the bold horseman.
"I should like to be a groom," was Faithful's
answer, "but first of all I must have stable-room
and fodder for my horse." "That you shall
have," said the king, and the youth was taken on
as a groom, and served so long and so well, that
every one in the castle liked him, and the king in
particular praised him highly.
But among the other servitors was one named Unfaithful
who was jealous of Faithful, and did what
he could to harm him; for he thought to himself:
"Then I would be rid of him, and need not see him
continue to rise in my lord's favor." Now it happened
that the king was very sad, for he had lost
his queen, whom a troll had stolen from the castle.
It is true that the queen had not taken pleasure in the
king's society, and that she did not love him. Still
the king longed for her greatly, and often spoke of
it to Unfaithful his servant. So one day Unfaithful
said: "My lord need distress himself no longer, for
Faithful has been boasting to me that he could rescue
your beautiful queen from the hands of the
troll." "If he has done so," replied the king,
"then he must keep his word."
He straightway ordered Faithful to be brought
before him, and threatened him with death if he did
not at once hurry into the hill and bring back the
wife of whom he had been robbed. If he were
successful great honor should be his reward. In
vain Faithful denied what Unfaithful had said of
him, the king stuck to his demand, and the youth
withdrew, convinced that he had not long to live.
Then he went to the stable to bid farewell to his
beautiful horse, and stood beside him and wept.
"What grieves you so?" asked the horse. Then
the youth told him of all that had happened, and
said that this was probably the last time he would
be able to visit him. "If it be no more than that,"
said the horse, "there is a way to help you. Up in
the garret of the castle there is an old fiddle, take
it with you and play it when you come to the place
where the queen is kept. And fashion for yourself
armor of steel wire, and set knives into it everywhere,
and then, when you see the troll open his
jaws, descend into his maw, and thus slay him.
But you must have no fear, and must trust me to
show you the way." These words filled the youth
with fresh courage, he went to the king and received
permission to leave, secretly fashioned his steel
armor, took the old fiddle from the garret of the
castle, led his dear horse out of the stable, and without
delay set forth for the troll's hill.
Before long he saw it, and rode directly to the
troll's abode. When he came near, he saw the troll,
who had crept out of his castle, lying stretched out
at the entrance to his cave, fast asleep, and snoring
so powerfully that the whole hill shook. But his
mouth was wide open, and his maw was so tremendous
that it was easy for the youth to crawl into it.
He did so, for he was not afraid, and made his way
into the troll's inwards where he was so active that
the troll was soon killed. Then Faithful crept out
again, laid aside his armor, and entered the troll's
castle. Within the great golden hall sat the captive
queen, fettered with seven strong chains of gold.
Faithful could not break the strong chains; but he
took up his fiddle and played such tender music on
it, that the golden chains were moved, and one after
another, fell from the queen, until she was able to
rise and was free once more. She looked at the
courageous youth with joy and gratitude, and felt
very kindly toward him, because he was so handsome
and courteous. And the queen was perfectly
willing to return with him to the king's
The return of the queen gave rise to great joy,
and Faithful received the promised reward from
the king. But now the queen treated her husband
with even less consideration than before. She
would not exchange a word with him, she did not
laugh, and locked herself up in her room with her
gloomy thoughts. This greatly vexed the king,
and one day he asked the queen why she was so
sad: "Well," said she, "I cannot be happy unless
I have the beautiful golden hall which I had in the
hill at the troll's; for a hall like that is to be found
"It will be no easy matter to obtain it for you,"
said the king, "and I cannot promise you that anyone
will be able to do it." But when he complained
of his difficulty to his servant Unfaithful, the latter
answered: "The chances of success are not so bad,
for Faithful said he could easily bring the troll's
golden hall to the castle." Faithful was at once
sent for, and the king commanded him, as he loved
his life, to make good his word and bring the golden
hall from the troll's hill. It was in vain that Faithful
denied Unfaithful's assertions: go he must, and
bring back the golden hall.
Inconsolable, he went to his beautiful horse, wept
and wanted to say farewell to him forever. "What
troubles you?" asked the horse. And the youth replied:
"Unfaithful has again been telling lies about
me, and if I do not bring the troll's golden hall to
the queen, my life will be forfeited." "Is it nothing
more serious than that?" said the horse. "See
that you obtain a great ship, take your fiddle with
you and play the golden hall out of the hill, then
hitch the troll's horses before it, and you will be
able to bring the glistening hall here without
Then Faithful felt somewhat better, did as the
horse had told him, and was successful in reaching
the great hill. And as he stood there playing the
fiddle, the golden hall heard him, and was drawn to
the sounding music, and it moved slowly, slowly,
until it stood outside the hill. It was built of virgin
gold, like a house by itself, and under it were many
wheels. Then the youth took the troll's horses, put
them to the golden hall, and thus brought it aboard
his ship. Soon he had crossed the lake, and brought
it along safely so that it reached the castle without
damage, to the great joy of the queen. Yet despite
the fact, she was as weary of everything as
she had been before, never spoke to her husband,
the king, and no one ever saw her laugh.
Now the king grew even more vexed than he had
been, and again asked her why she seemed so sad.
"Ah, how can I be happy unless I have the two
colts that used to belong to me, when I stayed at the
troll's! Such handsome steeds are to be seen
nowhere else!" "It will be anything but easy to
obtain for you what you want," declared the king,
"for they were untamed, and long ago must have
run far away into the wild-wood." Then he left
her, sadly, and did not know what to do. But Unfaithful
said: "Let my lord give himself no concern,
for Faithful has declared he could easily secure
both of the troll's colts." Faithful was at once
sent for, and the king threatened him with death,
if he did not show his powers in the matter of the
colts. But should he succeed in catching them,
then he would be rewarded.
Now Faithful knew quite well that he could not
hope to catch the troll's wild colts, and he once more
turned to the stable in order to bid farewell to the
huldra's gift. "Why do you weep over such a trifle?"
said the horse. "Hurry to the wood, play
your fiddle, and all will be well!" Faithful did as
he was told, and after a while the two lions whom he
had rescued came leaping toward him, listened to
his playing and asked him whether he was in distress.
"Yes, indeed," said Faithful, and told them
what he had to do. They at once ran back into the
wood, one to one side and the other to the other,
and returned quickly, driving the two colts before
them. Then Faithful played his fiddle and the
colts followed him, so that he soon reached the
king's castle in safety, and could deliver the steeds
to the queen.
The king now expected that his wife would be gay
and happy. But she did not change, never addressed
a word to him, and only seemed a little less sad
when she happened to speak to the daring youth.
Then the king asked her to tell him what she
lacked, and why she was so discontented. She answered:
"I have secured the colts of the troll, and
I often sit in the glittering hall of gold; but I can
open none of the handsome chests that are filled to
the brim with my valuables, because I have no keys.
And if I do not get the keys again, how can I be
happy?" "And where may the keys be?" asked the
king. "In the lake by the troll's hill," said the
queen, "for that is where I threw them when Faithful
brought me here." "This is a ticklish affair,
this business of those keys you want!" said the king.
"And I can scarcely promise that you will ever see
them again." In spite of this, however, he was
willing to make an attempt, and talked it over with
his servant Unfaithful. "Why, that is easily done,"
said the latter, "for Faithful boasted to me that he
could get the queen's keys without any difficulty if he
wished." "Then I shall compel him to keep his
word," said the king. And he at once ordered Faithful,
on pain of death, to get the queen's keys out of
the lake by the troll's hill without delay.
"The pike rose to the surface with the golden keys in his
This time the youth was not so depressed, for he
thought to himself: "My wise horse will be able to
help me." And so he was, for he advised him to go
along playing his fiddle, and to wait for what might
happen. After the youth had played for a while,
the pike he had saved thrust his head out of the
water, recognized him, and asked whether he could
be of any service to him. "Yes, indeed!" said the
youth, and told him what it was he wanted. The
pike at once dived, quickly rose to the surface of the
water with the golden keys in his mouth, and gave
them to his deliverer. The latter hastened back with
them, and now the queen could open the great chests
in the golden hall to her heart's content.
Notwithstanding, the king's wife was as sorrowful
as ever, and when the king complained about it to
Unfaithful, the latter said: "No doubt it is because
she loves Faithful. I would therefore advise that
my lord have him beheaded. Then there will be a
change." This advice suited the king well, and he
determined to carry it out shortly. But one day
Faithful's horse said to him: "The king is going to
have your head chopped off. So hurry to the wood,
play your fiddle, and beg the two doves to bring you
a bottle of the water of life. Then go to the queen
and ask her to set your head on your body and to
sprinkle you with the water when you have been beheaded."
Faithful did so. He went to the wood
that very day with his fiddle, and before long the
two doves were fluttering around him, and shortly
after brought back the bottle filled with the water of
life. He took it back home with him and gave it to
the queen, so that she might sprinkle him with it
after he had been beheaded. She did so, and at
once Faithful rose again, as full of life as ever; but
far better looking. The king was astonished at
what he had seen, and told the queen to cut off his
own head and then sprinkle him with the water.
She at once seized the sword, and in a moment the
king's head rolled to the ground. But she
sprinkled none of the water of life upon it, and the
king's body was quickly carried out and buried.
Then the queen and Faithful celebrated their wedding
with great pomp; but Unfaithful was banished
from the land and went away in disgrace. The
wise horse dwelt contentedly in a wonderful chamber,
and the king and queen kept the magic fiddle,
the golden hall, and the troll's other valuables, and
lived in peace and happiness day after day.
"Faithful and Unfaithful" (From the Hyìtén-Cavallius mss. collection),
is a distant offshoot, and one complicated with other motives,
of a cycle in which even the Tristan legend is represented, the fairy-tale
of the golden-haired maiden and the water of life and death.
(Reinhold Köhler, Kleinere Schriften, II, p. 328).