The Fair One with Golden Locks
There was once a king's daughter so beautiful that
they named her the Fair One with Golden Locks.
These golden locks were the most remarkable in the
world, soft and fine, and falling in long waves down to her very
feet. She wore them always thus, loose and flowing, surmounted
with a wreath of flowers; and though such long hair
was sometimes rather inconvenient, it was so exceedingly
beautiful, shining in the sun like ripples of molten gold, that
everybody agreed she fully deserved her name.
Now there was a young king of a neighboring country, very
handsome, very rich, and wanting nothing but a wife to make
him happy. He heard so much of the various perfections of
the Fair One with Golden Locks that at last, without even
seeing her, he fell in love with her so desperately that he could
neither eat nor drink, and resolved to send an ambassador at
once to demand her in marriage. So he ordered a magnificent
equipage—more than a hundred horses and a hundred footmen—in
order to bring back to him the Fair One with Golden
Locks, who, he never doubted, would be only too happy to
become his queen. Indeed, he felt so sure of her that he refurnished
the whole palace, and had made, by all the dressmakers
of the city, dresses enough to last a lady for a lifetime. But,
alas! when the ambassador arrived and delivered his message,
either the princess was in a bad humor or the offer did not
appear to be to her taste, for she returned her best thanks to
his majesty, but said she had not the slightest wish or intention
to be married. She also, being a prudent damsel, declined
receiving any of the presents which the King had sent her;
except that, not quite to offend his majesty, she retained a box
of English pins, which were in that country of considerable
When the ambassador returned, alone and unsuccessful, all
the court was very much affected, and the King himself began
to weep with all his might. Now, there was in the palace
household a young gentleman named Avenant, beautiful as
the sun, besides being at once so amiable and so wise that the
King confided to him all his affairs; and everyone loved him,
except those people—to be found in all courts—who were envious
of his good fortune. These malicious folk hearing him
say gayly, "If the King had sent me to fetch the Fair One with
Golden Locks, I know she would have come back with me,"
repeated the saying in such a manner that it appeared as if
Avenant thought overmuch of himself and his beauty, and felt
sure the Princess would have followed him all over the world;
which, when it came to the ears of the King, as it was meant
to do, irritated him so much that he commanded Avenant to
be imprisoned in a high tower, and left to die there of hunger.
The guards accordingly carried off the young man, who had
quite forgotten his idle speech, and had not the least idea what
fault he had committed. They ill-treated him very much and
then left him, with nothing to eat and only water to drink.
This, however, kept him alive for a few days, during which
he did not cease to complain aloud, and to call upon the King,
saying, "O King, what harm have I done? You have no subject
more faithful than I. Never have I had a thought which
could offend you."
And it so befell that the King, coming by chance, or else
from a sense of remorse, past the tower, was touched by the
voice of the young Avenant, whom he had once so much regarded.
In spite of all the courtiers could do to prevent him,
he stopped to listen, and overheard these words. The tears
rushed into his eyes; he opened the door of the tower and
called, "Avenant!" Avenant came, creeping feebly along,
fell at the King's knees, and kissed his feet:
"O sire, what have I done that you should treat me so
"You have mocked me and my ambassador; for you said
if I had sent you to fetch the Fair One with Golden Locks,
you would have been successful and brought her back."
"I did say it, and it was true," replied Avenant fearlessly;
"for I should have told her so much about your majesty and
your various high qualities, which no one knows so well as
myself, that I am persuaded she would have returned with me."
"I believe it," said the King, with an angry look at those
who had spoken ill of his favorite; he then gave Avenant a
free pardon, and took him back with him to the court.
After having supplied the famished youth with as much
supper as he could eat, the King admitted him to a private
audience and said: "I am as much in love as ever with the
Fair One with Golden Locks, so I will take thee at thy word,
and send thee to try and win her for me."
"Very well, please your majesty," replied Avenant cheerfully;
"I will depart to-morrow."
The King, overjoyed with his willingness and hopefulness,
would have furnished him with a still more magnificent equipage
and suite than the first ambassador, but Avenant refused
to take anything except a good horse to ride and letters of
introduction to the Princess's father. The King embraced him
and eagerly saw him depart.
It was on a Monday morning when, without any pomp or
show, Avenant thus started on his mission. He rode slowly
and meditatively, pondering over every possible means of persuading
the Fair One with Golden Locks to marry the King;
but, even after several days' journey toward her country, no
clear project had entered into his mind. One morning, when
he had started at break of day, he came to a great meadow
with a stream running through it, along which were planted
willows and poplars. It was such a pleasant, rippling stream
that he dismounted and sat down on its banks. There he perceived,
gasping on the grass, a large golden carp, which, in
leaping too far after gnats, had thrown itself quite out of the
water, and now lay dying on the greensward. Avenant took
pity on it, and though he was very hungry, and the fish was
very fat, and he would well enough have liked it for his breakfast,
still he lifted it gently and put it back into the stream.
No sooner had the carp touched the fresh cool water than it
revived and swam away; but shortly returning, it spoke to
him from the water in this wise:
"Avenant, I thank you for your good deed. I was dying,
and you have saved me. I will recompense you for this one
After this pretty little speech, the fish popped down
to the bottom of the stream, according to the habit of
carp, leaving Avenant very much astonished, as was natural.
Another day he met with a raven that was in great distress,
being pursued by an eagle, which would have swallowed
him up in no time. "See," thought Avenant, "how the
stronger oppress the weaker! What right has an eagle to
eat up a raven?" So taking his bow and arrow, which he
always carried, he shot the eagle dead, and the raven, delighted,
perched in safety on an opposite tree.
"Avenant," screeched he, though not in the sweetest voice
in the world; "you have generously succored me, a poor miserable
raven. I am not ungrateful, and I will recompense you
"Thank you," said Avenant, and continued his road.
Entering in a thick wood, so dark with the shadows of
early morning that he could scarcely find his way, he heard
an owl hooting, as if in great tribulation. She had been
caught by the nets spread by birdcatchers to entrap finches,
larks, and other small birds. "What a pity," thought
Avenant, "that men must always torment poor birds and
beasts who have done them no harm!" So he took out his
knife, cut the net, and let the owl go free. She went sailing up
into the air, but immediately returned, hovering over his head
on her brown wings.
"Avenant," said she, "at daylight the birdcatchers
would have been here, and I should have been caught and
killed. I have a grateful heart; I will recompense you one
These were the three principal adventures that befell Avenant
on his way to the kingdom of the Fair One with Golden
Locks. Arrived there, he dressed himself with the greatest
care, in a habit of silver brocade, and a hat adorned with
plumes of scarlet and white. He threw over all a rich mantle,
and carried a little basket in which was a lovely little dog,
an offering of respect to the Princess. With this he presented
himself at the palace gates, where, even though he came alone,
his mien was so dignified and graceful, so altogether charming,
that everyone did him reverence, and was eager to run
and tell the Fair One with Golden Locks that Avenant,
another ambassador from the King her suitor, awaited an
"Avenant!" repeated the Princess. "That is a pretty
name; perhaps the youth is pretty too."
"So beautiful," said the ladies of honor, "that while he
stood under the palace window we could do nothing but look
"How silly of you!" sharply said the Princess. But she
desired them to bring her robe of blue satin, to comb out her
long hair and adorn it with the freshest garland of flowers,
to give her her high-heeled shoes, and her fan. "Also," added
she, "take care that my audience chamber is well swept and
my throne well dusted. I wish in everything to appear as becomes
the Fair One with Golden Locks."
This done, she seated herself on her throne of ivory and
ebony, and gave orders for her musicians to play, but softly,
so as not to disturb conversation. Thus, shining in all her
beauty, she admitted Avenant to her presence.
He was so dazzled that at first he could not speak; then he
began and delivered his harangue to perfection.
"Gentle Avenant," returned the princess, after listening to
all his reasons for her returning with him, "your arguments
are very strong, and I am inclined to listen to them; but you
must first find for me a ring which I dropped into the river
about a month ago. Until I recover it I can listen to no
propositions of marriage."
Avenant, surprised and disturbed, made her a profound
reverence and retired, taking with him the basket and the
little dog Cabriole, which she refused to accept. All night
long he sat sighing to himself: "How can I ever find a ring
which she dropped into the river a month ago? She has set
me an impossibility."
"My dear master," said Cabriole, "nothing is an impossibility
to one so young and charming as you are. Let us
go at daybreak to the riverside."
Avenant patted him, but replied nothing; until, worn out
with grief, he slept. Before dawn Cabriole wakened him,
saying, "Master, dress yourself and let us go to the river."
There Avenant walked up and down, with his arms folded
and his head bent, but saw nothing. At last he heard a voice
calling from a distance, "Avenant, Avenant!"
The little dog ran to the waterside—"Never believe me
again, master, if it is not a golden carp with a ring in its
"Yes, Avenant," said the carp, "this is the ring which the
Princess has lost. You saved my life in the willow meadow,
and I have recompensed you. Farewell!"
Avenant took the ring gratefully and returned to the palace
with Cabriole, who scampered about in great glee. Craving
an audience, he presented the Princess with her ring, and
begged her to accompany him to his master's kingdom. She
took the ring, looked at it, and thought she was surely
"Some fairy must have assisted you, fortunate Avenant,"
"Madam, I am fortunate only in my desire to obey your
"Obey me still," she said graciously. "There is a prince
named Galifron, whose suit I have refused. He is a giant
as tall as a tower, who eats a man as a monkey eats a nut.
He puts cannons into his pockets instead of pistols, and when
he speaks his voice is so loud that everyone near him becomes
deaf. Go and fight him, and bring me his head."
Avenant was thunderstruck; but after a time he recovered
himself. "Very well, madam. I shall certainly perish, but
I will perish like a brave man. I will depart at once to fight
the Giant Galifron."
The Princess, now in her turn surprised and alarmed, tried
every persuasion to induce him not to go, but in vain. Avenant
armed himself and started, carrying his little dog in its
basket. Cabriole was the only creature that gave him consolation:
"Courage, master! While you attack the giant,
I will bite his legs. He will stoop down to strike me, and
then you can knock him on the head." Avenant smiled at the
little dog's spirit, but he knew it was useless.
Arrived at the castle of Galifron, he found the road all strewn
with bones and carcasses of men. Soon he saw the giant
walking. His head was level with the highest trees, and he
sang in a terrific voice:
"Bring me babies to devour;
Men and women, tender and tough;
All the world holds not enough."
To which Avenant replied, imitating the tune:
"Avenant you here may see,
He is come to punish thee;
Be he tender, be he tough,
To kill thee, giant, he is enough."
Hearing these words, the giant took up his massive club,
looked around for the singer, and, perceiving him, would
have slain him on the spot, had not a raven, sitting on a tree
close by, suddenly flown down upon him and picked out both
his eyes. Then Avenant easily killed him and cut off his head,
while the raven, watching him, said:
"You shot the eagle who was pursuing me. I promised
to recompense you, and to-day I have done it. We are quits."
"No, it is I who am your debtor, Sir Raven," replied Avenant
as, hanging the frightful head to his saddle bow, he
mounted his horse and rode back to the city of the Fair One
with Golden Locks.
There everybody followed him, shouting, "Here is brave
Avenant, who has killed the giant," until the Princess, hearing
the noise, and fearing it was Avenant himself who was killed,
appeared, all trembling; and even when he appeared with Galifron's
head, she trembled still, although she had nothing to fear.
"Madam," said Avenant, "your enemy is dead, so I trust
you will accept the hand of the king, my master."
"I cannot," replied she, thoughtfully, "unless you first bring
me a vial of the water in the Grotto of Darkness. It is six
leagues in length, and guarded at the entrance by two fiery
dragons. Within it is a pit, full of scorpions, lizards, and
serpents, and at the bottom of this place flows the Fountain
of Beauty and Health. All who wash in it become, if ugly,
beautiful; and if beautiful, beautiful forever; if old, young;
and if young, young forever. Judge then, Avenant, if I can
quit my kingdom without carrying with me some of this
"Madam," replied Avenant, "you are already so beautiful
that you require it not; but I am an unfortunate ambassador
whose death you desire. I will obey you, though I know I
shall never return."
So he departed with his only friends—his horse and his faithful
dog Cabriole; while all who met him looked at him compassionately,
pitying so pretty a youth bound on such a hopeless
errand. But, however kindly they addressed him, Avenant
rode on and answered nothing, for he was too sad at heart.
He reached a mountain-side, where he sat down to rest,
leaving his horse to graze and Cabriole to run after the flies.
He knew that the Grotto of Darkness was not far off, yet he
looked about him like one who sees nothing. At last he perceived
a rock as black as ink, whence came a thick smoke; and
in a moment appeared one of the two dragons, breathing out
flames. It had a yellow-and-green body, claws, and a long
tail. When Cabriole saw the monster, the poor little dog
hid himself in terrible fright. But Avenant resolved to die
bravely; so taking a vial which the Princess had given him,
he prepared to descend into the cave.
"Cabriole," said he, "I shall soon be dead. Then fill this
vial with my blood and carry it to the Fair One with Golden
Locks, and afterwards to the King my master, to show him I
have been faithful to the last."
While he was thus speaking a voice called, "Avenant, Avenant!"
and he saw an owl sitting on a hollow tree. Said the
owl: "You cut the net in which I was caught, and I vowed
to recompense you. Now is the time. Give me the vial. I
know every corner of the Grotto of Darkness. I will fetch
you the water of beauty."
Delighted beyond words, Avenant delivered up his vial;
the owl flew with it into the grotto, and in less than half an
hour reappeared, bringing it quite full and well corked. Avenant
thanked her with all his heart, and joyfully took once
more the road to the city.
The Fair One with Golden Locks had no more to say. She
consented to accompany him back, with all her suite, to his
master's court. On the way thither she saw so much of him,
and found him so charming, that Avenant might have married
her himself had he chosen; but he would not have been false
to his master for all the beauties under the sun. At length
they arrived at the King's city, and the Fair One with Golden
Locks became his spouse and queen. But she still loved Avenant
in her heart, and often said to the king her lord: "But
for Avenant I should not be here; he has done all sorts of
impossible deeds for my sake; he has fetched me the water
of beauty, and I shall never grow old—in short, I owe him
And she praised him in this sort so much that at length the
King became jealous, and though Avenant gave him not the
slightest cause of offense, he shut him up in the same high
tower once more—but with irons on his hands and feet, and
a cruel jailer besides, who fed him with bread and water only.
His sole companion was his little dog Cabriole.
When the Fair One with Golden Locks heard of this, she
reproached her husband for his ingratitude, and then, throwing
herself at his knees, implored that Avenant might be set
free. But the King only said, "She loves him!" and refused
the prayer. The Queen entreated no more, but fell into a deep
When the King saw it, he thought she did not care for him
because he was not handsome enough; and that if he could
wash his face with her water of beauty, it would make her
love him more. He knew that she kept it in a cabinet in her
chamber, where she could find it always.
Now it happened that a waiting maid, in cleaning out this
cabinet, had, the very day before knocked down the vial,
which was broken in a thousand pieces, and all the contents
were lost. Very much alarmed, she then remembered seeing
in a cabinet belonging to the King, a similar vial. This she
fetched and put in the place of the other one, in which was
the water of beauty. But the King's vial contained the water
of death. It was a poison, used to destroy great criminals—that
is, noblemen, gentlemen, and such like. Instead of hanging
them or cutting their heads off, like common people, they
were compelled to wash their faces with this water, upon
which they fell asleep and woke no more. So it happened that
the king, taking up this vial, believing it to be the water of
beauty, washed his face with it, fell asleep, and—died.
Cabriole heard the news, and, gliding in and out among the
crowd which clustered round the young and lovely widow,
whispered softly to her, "Madam, do not forget poor Avenant."
If she had been disposed to do so, the sight of his
little dog would have been enough to remind her of him—his
many sufferings and his great fidelity. She rose up, without
speaking to anybody, and went straight to the tower where
Avenant was confined. There, with her own hands, she struck
off his chains, and putting a crown of gold on his head and a
purple mantle on his shoulders, said to him, "Be King—and
Avenant could not refuse, for in his heart he had loved her
all the time. He threw himself at her feet, and then took the
crown and scepter, and ruled her kingdom like a king. All
the people were delighted to have him as their sovereign. The
marriage was celebrated in all imaginable pomp, and Avenant
and the Fair One with Golden Locks lived and reigned happily
together all their days.