The Iron Stove
ONCE upon a time when wishes came true there was a
king's son who was enchanted by an old witch, so that
he was obliged to sit in a large iron stove in a wood.
There he lived for many years, and no one could free him.
At last a king's daughter came into the wood; she had lost
her way and could not find her father's kingdom again. She
had been wandering round and round for nine days, and she
came at last to the iron stove. A voice came from within and
asked her: "Where do you come from and where do you
want to go?" She answered: "I have lost my way to my
father's kingdom, and I shall never get home again." Then
the voice from the iron stove said: "I will help you to find
your home again, and that in a very short time, if you will
promise to do what I ask you. I am a greater prince than
you are a princess, and I will marry you." Then she grew
frightened and thought: "What can a young lassie do with
an iron stove?" But as she wanted very much to go home
to her father, she promised to do what he wished. He said:
"You must come again, and bring a knife with you to scrape
a hole in the iron."
Then he gave her some one for a guide, who walked near
her and said nothing, but he brought her in two hours to her
house. There was great joy in the castle when the Princess
came back, and the old King fell on her neck and kissed
her. But she was very much troubled and said: "Dear
father, listen to what has befallen me. I should never have
come home again out of the great wildwood if I had not
come to an iron stove, and I have had to promise that I
will go back to free him and marry him!" The old King
was so frightened that he nearly fainted, for she was his only
daughter. So they consulted together and determined that
the miller's daughter, who was very beautiful, should take
her place. They took her there, gave her a knife, and said
she must scrape at the iron stove. She scraped for twenty-four
hours, but did not make the least impression. When the
day broke a voice called from the iron stove: "It seems to me
that it is day outside." Then she answered: "It seems so to
me; I think I hear my father's mill rattling."
"So you are a miller's daughter! Then go away at once
and tell the King's daughter to come."
Then she went away and told the old King that the thing
inside the iron stove would not have her, but wanted the Princess.
The old King was frightened, and his daughter wept.
But they had a swineherd's daughter who was even more
beautiful than the miller's daughter, and they gave her a piece
of gold to go to the iron stove instead of the Princess. Then
she was taken there and made to scrape for twenty-four hours,
but she could make no impression. As soon as the day broke
the voice from the stove called out: "It seems to be daylight
outside." Then she answered: "It seems so to me, too; I
think I hear my father blowing his horn." "So you are a
swineherd's daughter! Go away at once and let the King's
daughter come. And say to her that what I foretell shall
come to pass, and if she does not come everything in the
kingdom shall fall into ruin, and not one stone shall be left
upon another." When the Princess heard this she began to
cry, but it was no good; she had to keep her word. She took
leave of her father, put a knife in her belt, and went to the
iron stove in the wood. As soon as she reached it she began
to scrape and the iron gave way, and before two hours had
passed she had made a little hole. Then she peeped in and
saw such a beautiful youth all shining with gold and precious
stones that she fell in love with him on the spot. So she
scraped away harder than ever, and made the hole so large
that he could get out. Then he said: "You are mine and I
am thine; you are my bride and have set me free!" He
wanted to take her with him to his kingdom, but she begged
him just to let her go once more to her father; and the Prince
let her go, but told her not to say more than three words to
her father, then to come back again. So she went home, but,
alas! she said more than three words; and immediately the
iron stove vanished and went away over a mountain of glass
and sharp swords. But the Prince was free and was no longer
shut up in it. Then she said good-by to her father, and took
a little money with her and went again into the great wood
to look for the iron stove; but she could not find it. She
sought it for nine days, and then her hunger became so great
that she did not know how she could live any longer. And
when it was evening she climbed a little tree and wished that
the night would not come, because she was afraid of the wild
beasts. When midnight came she saw afar off a little light
and thought: "Ah, if only I could reach that!" Then she
got down from the tree and went toward the light. She came
to a little old house with a great deal of grass growing around,
and stood in front of a little heap of wood. She thought,
"Alas! what am I coming to?" and peeped through the window;
but she saw nothing inside except big and little toads
and a table beautifully spread with roast meats and wine, and
all the dishes and drinking cups were of silver, so she took
heart and knocked. Then a fat toad called out:
"Little green toad with leg like crook,
Open wide the door, and look
Who it was the latch that shook."
And a little toad came forward and let her in. When she
entered they all bade her welcome and made her sit down.
They asked her how she came there and what she wanted.
Then she told everything that had happened to her, and how,
because she had exceeded her permission only to speak three
words, the stove had disappeared with the Prince; and how
she had searched a very long time, and must wander over
mountain and valley till she found him.
Then the old toad said:
"Little green toad whose leg doth twist,
Go to the corner of which you wist,
And bring to me the large old kist."
And the little toad went and brought out a great chest. Then
they gave her food and drink and led her to a beautifully
made bed of silk and samite, on which she lay down and slept
soundly. When the day dawned she arose, and the old toad
gave her three things out of the huge chest to take with her.
She would have need of them, for she had to cross a high
glass mountain, three cutting swords, and a great lake. When
she had passed these she would find her lover again. So she
was given three large needles, a plow wheel, and three nuts,
which she was to take great care of. She set out with these
things, and when she came to the glass mountain which was
so slippery, she stuck the three needles behind her feet and
then in front, and so got over it, and when she was on the
other side put them carefully away.
Then she reached the three cutting swords and got on her
plow wheel and rolled over them. At last she came to a great
lake, and when she had crossed that arrived at a beautiful
castle. She went in and gave herself out as a servant, a poor
maid who would gladly be engaged. But she knew that the
Prince whom she had freed from the iron stove in the great
wood was in the castle. So she was taken on as a kitchen
maid for very small wages. Now, the Prince was about to
marry another princess, for he thought she was dead long ago.
In the evening, when she had washed up and was ready,
she felt in her pocket and found the three nuts which the old
toad had given her. She cracked one and was going to eat
the kernel, when behold! there was a beautiful royal dress
inside it. When the bride heard of this she came and begged
for the dress and wanted to buy it, saying that it was not a
dress for a serving maid. Then she said she would not sell it
unless she was granted one favor—namely, to sleep by the
Prince's door. The bride granted her this, because the dress
was so beautiful and she had so few like it. When it was
evening she said to her bridegroom: "That stupid maid wants
to sleep by your door."
"If you are contented, I am," he said. But she gave him
a glass of wine in which she had poured a sleeping draught.
Then they both went to their room, but he slept so soundly
that she could not wake him. The maid wept all night long
and said: "I freed you in the wildwood out of the iron stove.
I have sought you and have crossed a glassy mountain, three
sharp swords, and a great lake before I found you, and will
you not hear me now?" The servants outside heard how
she cried the whole night, and they told their master in the
When she had washed up the next evening she bit the second
nut, and there was a still more beautiful dress inside.
When the bride saw it she wanted to buy it also. But the
maid did not want money and asked that she should sleep
again by the Prince's door. The bride, however, gave him
a sleeping draught, and he slept so soundly that he heard
nothing. But the kitchen maid wept the whole night long
and said: "I have freed you in a wood and from an iron
stove; I sought you and have crossed a glassy mountain, three
sharp swords, and a great lake to find you, and now you will
not hear me!" The servants outside heard how she cried
the whole night, and in the morning they told their master.
And when she had washed up on the third night she bit the
third nut, and there was a still more beautiful dress inside
that was made of pure gold. When the bride saw it she
wanted to have it, but the maid would only give it her on
condition that she should sleep for the third time by the
Prince's door. But the Prince took care not to drink the
sleeping draught. When she began to weep and to say,
"Dearest sweetheart, I freed you in the horrible wildwood
and from an iron stove," he jumped up and said: "Thou art
right. Thou art mine and I am thine." Though it was still
night, he got into a carriage with her, and they took the
false bride's clothes away, so that she could not follow them.
When they came to the great lake they rowed across, and
when they reached the three sharp swords they sat on the
plow wheel, and on the glassy mountain they stuck the three
needles in. So they arrived at last at the little old house, but
when they stepped inside it turned into a large castle. The
toads were all freed and were beautiful king's children running
about for joy. There they were married, and they remained
in the castle, which was much larger than that of the
Princess's father. But because the old man did not like being
left alone they went and fetched him. So they had two kingdoms
and lived in great wealth.
"A mouse has run,
My story's done."