translated by Frederick H. Martens
Once upon a time there was a poor, poor boy.
He went to the king and begged to be taken
into service as a shepherd, and all called him "Sheep-Peter."
While he was herding his sheep, he used to
amuse himself with his crossbow. One day he saw a
crane sitting in an oak-tree, and wanted to shoot
her. The crane, however, hopped down further and
further, and at last settled in the lowest branches.
Then she said: "If you promise not to shoot me,
I will help you whenever you are in trouble. You
need only to call out: 'God aid me, and Queen
Crane stay by me, and I will succeed!'" With that
the bird flew away.
At length war broke out and the king had to take
the field. Then Sheep-Peter came to the king and
asked whether he might not be allowed to go along
to war. They gave him an old nag to ride, and he
rode into a swamp along the highway, and there
the horse died. So he sat down and clicked with
his tongue; but the horse would not move. And the
people who rode by had their sport with him; while
the youth pretended to feel sad.
When the people had all passed by, the youth
went to the oak in which the Queen Crane dwelt.
Here he was given a black steed, a suit of brazen
armor, and a silver sword. Thus he rode to battle
and got there as quickly as he could wish. Then he
said: "God aid me, and Queen Crane stay by me,
and I will succeed!" With that he killed all the
enemy and rode away again. But the king thought
that an angel had come to help him, and wanted to
hold him back. The youth, however, rode quickly
back to the oak, took off his armor, went down to
the swamp, and once more began to click to his
horse. When the people rode by they laughed and
said: "You were not along to-day, so you missed
seeing how an angel came and killed all the enemy."
And the youth pretended to feel sad, so sad.
The following day the king once more had to take
the field. And Sheep-Peter came to him and said
he wanted to go along. So they gave him an old
nag to ride, and he rode into a swamp beside the
highway. Then he sat down and clicked with his
tongue; but the horse would not move. When the
people rode by they had their sport with him; but
the youth pretended to feel sad, so sad. When the
people had gone by, he went to the oak in which the
Queen Crane dwelt, and was given a white steed, a
suit of silver armor, and a golden sword. Thus
equipped he rode to battle. When he arrived he
said: "God aid me, and Queen Crane ... and I
will succeed!" But he had forgotten to say "stay
by me," and so he was shot in the leg. But the king
took out his handkerchief, and tied up his leg. Then
the youth said once more: "God aid me, and Queen
Crane stay by me, and I will succeed!" And he
slew all of the enemy. Then the king thought he
was an angel from heaven, and wanted to hold him.
But the youth rode quickly to the oak, took off his
armor, and then went down to his nag in the swamp
and tried to get it to move, while the soldiers were
passing. They laughed and said: "You were not
along to-day, and did not see how an angel came
from heaven and killed all of the enemy." The
youth pretended to be very sad.
On the third day all happened as before. The
king took the field. The youth was given a wretched
nag and rode it into a swamp beside the highway.
Then he began to click with his tongue but the nag
would not go on, and the people who rode past
laughed at him. He pretended to feel very sad; but
when the people had passed, he went to the oak in
which Queen Crane dwelt, and she gave him a red
steed, a golden sword, and a golden suit of armor.
Thus equipped he rode to war, and all happened as
before. He said: "God aid me, and Queen Crane
stay by me, and I will succeed!" and slew all the
enemy. The king thought he was an angel from
heaven and wanted to hold him back by all means;
but the youth rode quickly to the oak, took off his
armor, and rode down to the swamp where he had
his three nags. He hid the king's handkerchief,
and when the people passed by he was clicking with
his tongue as usual.
Now the king had three princesses, and they were
to be carried off by three meer-women. So the king
had it proclaimed that whoever could rescue them
should receive one of them for a wife. When the
day came on which the oldest princess was to be
carried away, Sheep-Peter received a steed, a suit
of armor and a sword from Queen Crane. With
them he rode to the castle, fetched the princess, took
her before him on his steed, and then lay down on
the sea-shore to sleep. He had a dog with him as
well. And while he slept the princess wove her
hair-ribbon into his hair. Suddenly the meer-woman
appeared, and she awakened him and bade him
mount his steed. Many people had been standing
there; but when the meer-woman appeared they
all took fright, and climbed into tall trees. But the
youth said: "God aid me, and Queen Crane stay
by me, and I will succeed!" And then he slew the
meer-woman. Thereupon he rode quickly back to
Queen Crane, took off his armor, and herded his
sheep again. But among the on-lookers had been
a nobleman, who threatened the princess, and forced
her to say that he had rescued her. And from
Sheep-Peter no one heard a word.
On the following day the second princess was to
be carried off. So Sheep-Peter went to Queen
Crane, who gave him a steed, a suit of armor and a
sword, and with them he rode to the castle, and
fetched the second princess. When they reached
the sea-shore the meer-woman had not yet appeared.
So the youth lay down to sleep and said to the
princess: "Wake me when the meer-woman comes,
and if you cannot wake me, then tell my horse."
With that he fell asleep, and meanwhile the princess
wove a string of pearls into his hair. When the
meer-woman came, the princess tried to wake him;
but he would not wake up at all, and so she told the
horse to waken him. And the horse did wake him.
The great lords, however, who were standing about,
climbed into the trees out of pure fright when the
meer-woman appeared. The youth took the princess
on his steed, cried: "God aid me, and Queen
Crane stay by me, and I will succeed!" and with
that he slew the meer-woman. Then he rode quickly
back to Queen Crane, took off his armor, and led his
flock out to pasture. But among the on-lookers had
been a count, who threatened the princess, and said
he would thrust her through with his sword if she
did not swear he had rescued her. The princess did
so out of fear; but from Sheep-Peter no one heard
On the third day the same thing happened.
Sheep-Peter was given a suit of armor, a sword and
a steed by Queen Crane, and fetched the youngest
princess. When he lay down on the sea-shore to
sleep, he said to her: "When the meer-woman
comes, wake me, and if you cannot wake me, then
tell the horse to wake me, and if the horse cannot
wake me, then ask the dog to wake me." When the
meer-woman came, neither the princess nor the horse
was able to wake him, and they had to call the dog
to help them. At last he woke up, took the princess
on his horse, cried: "God aid me, and Queen Crane
stay by me, and I will succeed!" and slew the meer-woman.
Then he rode back again to Queen Crane,
took off his armor and let his flock out to pasture.
Not long after, the deliverers of the princesses
were to come to the castle and be married. But
first the king asked his daughters which of the three
each wanted to have. So the oldest said: "The
gentleman from court," and the second said: "the
count," but the third said "Sheep-Peter." Then
the king was very angry with his youngest daughter;
for he did not believe for a moment that Sheep-Peter
had delivered her. But she insisted and said
she would take no one else. The king then presented
an apple of pure gold to the count and the court
gentleman; but Sheep-Peter got nothing.
Now all three of them were to hold a three-days'
shooting-match, in order to see which was the best
shot; for the king hoped that Sheep-Peter would
make a proper laughing-stock of himself, and drop
far behind the others without any effort on their
part. But Sheep-Peter was so good a marksman
that he hit everything at which he aimed. And the
very first day he shot a great deal, while the others
shot but little. Then they bought the game he had
shot from him, and gave him a golden apple for it.
The same thing happened the second day, and thus
he got the other gold apple. But when Peter came
home on the evening of the first and second day, he
had only a crow dangling from his blunderbuss.
And when he met the king, he threw the crow to the
ground and cried: "There is my whole bag!"
On the third day all went as before. Sheep-Peter
hit everything at which he aimed; but the others
scored no hits. Then Sheep-Peter promised them
all he had bagged, if they would let him write what
he chose on their necks. They agreed to the bargain,
and he wrote on the neck of each: "A thief
and a rascal." Then all three went home, and again
Peter had no more than a crow to show.
At night all three of them slept together in one
room. When they woke in the morning, the king
came in to them, said good-morning, and asked how
they were. But he was much surprised to see that
Sheep-Peter was keeping them company. Then the
youth said: "I was in the war, and slew all of the
enemy!" "Ah!" said the king, "you did not do
that, it was an angel from heaven; for you were sitting
in the swamp." Then Sheep-Peter drew out
the king's handkerchief, and then the king recognized
him. Then the herdsman said: "I also delivered
the princesses!" But the king would not believe
that, and laughed at him. And then the youngest
princess came along and told how it all had happened.
And the youth took out the ribands of the other
princesses, and the king had to believe that this, too,
was true. Then, Peter continued: "I also shot
all the game!" And again the king would not believe
him and said: "Nonsense, why you never
brought home anything of an evening but a wretched
crow!" Then Peter produced the golden apples:
"I was given this one for the first day, and the
other for the second." "And what did you get for
the third?" asked the king. Then the shepherd
showed him what he had written on the necks of the
other suitors. And when the king saw that, he had
to believe him. And so he really got the youngest
princess, and with her half of the kingdom, and
after the king's death, all of it. But the two sham
heroes got nothing at all, and had only their trouble
for their pains.
"Queen Crane" is also a very popular Northern fairy-tale. (From
the collection of Hyltén-Cavallius and Stephens, communicated by
Dr. v. Sydow-Lund). It is another of those tales with a presumably
witless hero, but with a motive generally unknown: a bird bestows
weapons and armor on the poor boy; while ordinarily this is done
by a troll, a horse, or the spirit of one departed.