Lyon and the Princess of Austria French folktale

There was once a little princess in Austria. Her father, his mother and a fairy godmother wanted her to marry a prince she did not like. She begged and pleaded with them to be spared from it, but they would not listen. At last the fairy godmother said the princess deserved to be punished for going against the parents, and all the three of them agreed.

The fairy had a large castle deep in a forest. The castle was surrounded by high walls, and was in the care of three giants. To this castle the fairy carried the princess while she was sleeping, after she had put a ring on her finger to keep her asleep, and had promised the king and queen that the end result would be good.

Some way from the castle, on the edge of the forest, there lived a happy widow with three fine sons in a small village. They were not rich, but they had enough vegetables and fruit, and a cow that gave them good milk.

One morning the youngest son, Lyon, had led his cow to pasture at the edge of the forest, when a giant came there. He was one of the fairy's three castle keepers. The giant was pleased to see the cow was a milk cow:– he knocked her out, put her on his shoulder and carried her away into the deep forest.

At home the distress was great when the youngest son came home and told how their cow had been robbed.

Another misfortune came the next day, when a hailstorm broke down even the grass in their garden. Half of the trees in their orchard were broken. The family was ruined. What to do?

"Let's get to town and look for work," said the widow. "If we are lucky we will find some."

Towards the middle of the day, as they were about to get into in a little wood on their way, a poorly dressed old woman greeted them and asked where they were headed.

"That's our own business," said the mother.

"Why are you meddling?" said the oldest boy.

"We are not accountable to you," added the second.

But the youngest son answered more helpfully: "We are looking for work."

"And why do you leave the country?"

"It is mostly because a giant stole the cow that kept us alive," the youngest son said. "If I had been taller and stronger, the giant would pay dearly for the theft that ruined us.

"Listen, godson," said the old woman - she was a good fairy and a rival of the fairy that kept the little princess prisoner in the forest – "if you are bold and straight I'll help you. Here, take this arrow. It will hit any mark you aim it at – it will go straight to that mark."

Full of joy over the gift the youngest son hastened in the opposite direction than his mother and brothers, to come back to their home and the edge of the forest of the giants. He ventured into the forest at once, following the deep footprints of the giant after he had stolen their cow. Night fell on when he was deep in the forest. It was the first time he was out alone this late. It was pitch dark, so he could not see where to go. He climbed a forked oak and slept as best he could, tired as he was.

At daybreak the sound of voices beneath the oak woke him up. The cow thief was there with his two giant brothers. The thief had probably been out stealing again, for as the three brother giants were talking, he dropped an ox from his shoulders, killed it and cut it up, and lit a big fire to cook it.

At this point young Lyon in the tree thought he might try the power of his magic arrow, placed it on his bow and told it, "Hit the ear of one and the nose of another!" Off it flew, and afterwards it came back into his hand. Now Lyon knew the arrow worked, and even came back to him by itself. He felt so reassured that he had to snigger when he saw the horrible grimace of the two surprised giants.

"Something just went through my ear" said one.

"Something just pierced my nose," said the other.

"I did it," said Lyon, laughing out loud. "Miserable runt, come down from the tree right now," shouted all the three giants.

"Come and see if you can get me."

"If you don't come down, we'll set fire to the tree and roast you alive."

"And if I come down, will you still roast me and eat me?"

After talking with each other, the giants answered, "No, we won't harm you if you will obey us."


"We swear."

The giants had found that the little fellow could be useful. He was hardly bigger than a large cat, and if he succeeded as well they thought, he could slip into the castle courtyard through a hole at the bottom of the front door that closed the entrance. They themselves were not allowed to go in there, the were just to keep watch outside the walls. But they dreamt of the treasures inside, and the princess. They had tried in vain to shake down the door a hundred times. It could be easily opened from inside, though.

Lyon climbed down from the oak went up the giants. They told him at once what they wanted him to do..

"Take me to the castle," said Lyon.

An hour later, he entered almost without difficulty.

"Turn the crank," cried the giants to him, "and the door will glide aside into the wall so that we three can come in."

Lyon turned the key once, and the door moved about a foot's length. The giants passed their big arms in through the opening.

"Turn the key! Turn it!"

"It's done already," said Lyon.

"No, turn it further."

"Oh, I see!"

"Go on, turn the key still more!" they said.

"I cannot."

"If I breathe out and flatten my tummy, maybe I could get inside sideways," said one of the giants.

"Yes, try," said Lyon, "but pass me your sword that otherwise might hinder you."

The unsuspecting giant gave Lyon his sword. Lyon took it and cut off the giant's head when he forced himself through the little opening. he drew the corpse away from the opening and shouted: "Next!"

The second giant lost his life in the same manner.

"The last one!" said Lyon.

But the third giant had just glimpsed the two trails of blood from the beheaded corpses, and exclaimed, "Traitor, what have you done? Open fast, that I may lay my hands on you!"

"Not at all."

And giant shouted raved a while, and then said whiningly: "The vessels with the water of life all the three of us have in our heads – will two of them be lost? A treasure so precious? Think, a single drop of that water poured on the body of a patient may at once restore him to health, regardless of what he is suffering from. And that costly magic remedy may be destroyed! No, it must not happen! I will kill you, I'll make you suffer a thousand tortures, I will crush you!"

Lyon did not say a word, but kept guard by the door opening, waiting. Suddenly the giant threw himself toward the opening, blinded by anger. He acted so quickly that he stood in the court before Lyon had time to strike him with the sword. The young boy paled a little, but he trusted his arrow and simply said to it: "Do your work."

The arrow flew off and killed the third giant at once. Lyon placed him next to his two brothers. They all had glass tubes up their left nostrils. Lyon took out the glass tubes carefully. And now he could enter the castle without fearing the cow thief and his brothers.

The castle was a marvel. He had never dreamt of anything like it. He went through a couple of rooms that glimmered with gold and there were heaps of gold coins of many sizes. But he wanted to see what was in the rest of the castle.

In the third room were precious stones, bright and beautiful. But in the fourth room was the young princess from Austria. She was lying on a bed, sleeping.

"Oh how I wish to have her," said Lyon. "How dear she is!"

He looked lovingly at her for a while, and then kissed her, but she did not open her eyes. He lay down beside her, his arms around her, and still she did not wake up.

At this point a board beside the bed. On the board was written: "The one who will save me and marry me, after getting rid of the three big keepers of the castle, would do well to take the ring off my finger."

Lyon quickly took the ring off her finger. At that moment the princess began to awaken and opened her eyes. When she saw him beside her, the boy was suddenly overcome with fear, lost his poise and ran away.

When the little princess was fully awake, she looked around, and saw she was alone. The youth who had saved her, was far into in the forest.

For seven days she looked and called for him, but in vain. Then she she returned to the court of her father. When she had told her story, the king said to the queen: "This young man should be found. I think he will return some day to the castle in the forest. I will build a large inn close by, and you and our daughter shall sit in the reception and welcome all the travellers. Anyone who will tell the story of his life will be offered free boarding and food a week in return.

What the king had decided he set others to do. While this was going on, Lyon was getting a reputation for healing people. No matter how ill and despairing they were, he could heal them with a single drop of fluid. Kings and emperors begged him to heal them, too. Before long, he got very rich. With all his money he wanted to give some bags of gold to his mother and brothers. When they finally met, all rejoiced.

One day they felt a longing for their homeland, where they had some friends and family, and wanted to make a trip and surprise them.

When they were nearly home, they passed in front of the hotel held by the queen and her daughter. There was a strange sign there. It said: "Who will tell of his life and its adventures, good food and good bed are offered here for a week, and for free."

"Let us go in there," said the mother of Lyon, "since we may eat and drink there without paying. Afterwards we will tell our stories to the people of the house, if they like."

The people of the house served them a good meal, but daughter of the hostess was so sweet-mannered and beautiful that the three youths could not take their eyes from her. "Ah! How I would like to be the one she chooses for her husband!"

Lyon, in particular, looked troubled; he wondered where he had seen that wonderful face.

The time came to settle accounts, each telling their own stories. The mother and the two elder sons had very little interesting to tell, but with Lyon it was otherwise.

"Until I was eighteen," he started, "nothing particular happened to me till three years ago. Then we left our country. I parted with my mother and brothers that day to fight a giant I hated."

He had not told his mother or brothers what happened after he went for the giant who had stolen their only cow. So when he told he found and fought both the giant and its two brothers, everyone was amazed, and his mother even opened her eyes widely so as to say, "Don't tell lies!"

Lyon, further: "I went into the forest where I knew I should meet him. Instead of one, I saw three of them. The one I was looking for carried a bull on his shoulders."

"Don't tell anything untrue," said his mother.

"They wanted me to accompany them and open the doors of a castle they had tried to break into a hundred times in vain.

"Should something like that be possible? Hush, you little liar," said his mother again.

"Go on," said the princess. She listened eagerly.

"I went into the courtyard of the castle through a narrow opening. The giants wanted to come in after me, and then I slew all three."

"Is it all right to lie like that?! Don't listen to it," said Lyon's mother, all confused and very upset.

"Go on," said the princess.

"In the castle I walked through three rooms of silver, gold and precious stones, but in the fourth room I found a living diamond."

"Hold your peace now!" cried his mother, increasingly impatient.

"I am listening, my friend," said the princess.

"You see, in the fourth room I found a beautiful princess sleeping on a bed. While she was asleep, I kissed her, laid down next to her . . ."

"But this is cheeky," his mother cried again. "Don't you blush with shame?"

"Go on, my friend, I beg you," said the princess.

"I read on a board at the bedside what to do to wake the princess. I did as it read and took a ring off her finger. But when she started to wake up, fear seized me, and I ran off like a fool or thief. Has the princess woken up completely? Does she wait for me? I don't know."

"Didn't you return to the castle to make sure?" asked the girl. She was visibly moved.

"No, but I'll go there tomorrow.

"And if you find your beautiful princess again, would you marry her with a happy heart?"

"Yes, on my life!"

"Do you have anything to remember her by?"

"I have her ring, this one."

"I know the ring," said the princess with a cry of joy, "the ring was mine, and the girl you woke up is me! I'm the daughter of the King of Austria. I have countless riches, and everything I have is yours. For three years I've been here waiting for you."

Lyon drew the princess into his arms and kissed her on the lips while his mother and brothers looked stunned, unable to believe their eyes.

The couple were married next week at the court of the King of Austria. It was with great festivities, and the whole kingdom took part in celebrating the occasion. Maybe the union of Lyons and the little princess was perfectly happy, for since then I have not heard from them.