The Clever One

This is a compilation of a few of my favourite childhood fairytales, with some extras like having a heroine instead of a hero.­­

nce upon a time there was a king’s son who went out into the world to seek his fortune. After he had travelled for many days he came to a giant’s castle. The king’s son knocked on the door and asked for work, and the giant accepted his offer.

The next morning the giant told the prince to clean out the stables. “After you have finished that” he said, “you may do what you wish and go where you will for the rest of the day. But stay out of the tower, if you value your life. I am an easy master if you do as I say, but if you disobey me, I will kill you.” And the giant laughed loudly and went off to herd his goats.

          “It is definitely an easy master I have got,” thought the prince, and he walked around the yard, singing to himself and enjoying the morning air, for there was seemingly plenty of time to do his work. Finally, however, he decided he should get it over with so as to enjoy the rest of the day. So he took a pitchfork and went to the stable. But, for every forkful of dirt and straw he flung out of the door, ten forkfuls came flying back at him. He had soon run out of room to stand! He worked as fast as was possible until he was quite worn out, but the stable were ten times as dirty as before.

          At last the prince threw down his pitchfork in despair and went back to the castle, all covered with muck and straw. He resolved to run away long before the giant came back to kill him, but first he thought he would go to the room in the tower and see what was so secretly kept there. So he climbed the stairs and pushed open the door. There, sitting by the window, was a girl so beautiful that he was momentarily dazzled.

          “In God’s name, who are you?” she cried.

          “I am the new serving man,” said the prince.

          “Then Heaven help you!” said the girl

          “If only it could,” replied the young man. “For though I have tried all morning to clean out the stable, it is a hundred times dirtier than before I started.”

          “Very likely,” said the girl. “But you may manage it yet. You must turn the pitchfork around and work with the handle, and the dirt will fly out quicker than you can think.”

          The prince went back to the stable and did as she had advised; and he had hardly begun when the whole place was sparkling as if it had been scoured. Then, since it was still early, he returned to the tower. He and the girl spent the rest of the day talking, so that time seemed to go by quickly until she said that he must leave.

          So evening drew on, and the giant came home with his goats.

          “Have you cleaned the stables?” he asked, grinning.

          “Yes master, it’s all clean and fresh.”

          “I will see about that,” growled the giant, and he strode off to the stable, where he found everything just as he prince had said.

          “And how did you manage that?” said he.

          “I could not get the dirt out with the pitchfork, so I turned it around and worked with the handle,” said the prince.

          “You must have been talking to my Clever One,” said the giant, his voice booming like thunder as he became angrier, “for you never got that out of your own head.”

          “Clever One?” asked the prince, blinking stupidly. “What is that?”

          “Never you mind,” said the giant. “You’ll know soon enough.”

          The next morning, before the giant went off with his goats, he told the prince to go and bring home his horse, which was grazing on the hillside, and after that he may have the rest of the day for himself. “I am an easy master,” said he, grinning, “If you do as you are told. But if you fail, I will wring your neck.”

          The prince was eager to see the Clever One again, but he decided that first he would do his work. So he went up the hillside. When he saw the horse, he thought it would be an easy task to bring it home, for he had ridden far wilder-looking ones before. But when he got closer, the horse began to stamp and paw and rear, and fire and smoke came out from its nostrils as if it were a flaming torch, so that the prince’s clothes and hair were singed.

          He went back to the castle, climbed up to the tower, and told the Clever One what had occurred.

          “Very likely,” she said. “You must take the old bridle which hangs by the door to the stables, and throw it into the horse’s mouth, and then you will be able to ride him home.”

            The prince did as she had told him; when the horse came at him snorting and flaming, he threw the bit into its mouth, and the fires went out and the beast stood there, quiet as a lamb. He rode it back to the giant’s castle and put it in the stable, and then he went back to the Clever One and they spent the rest of the day together. And the more they talked, the better they liked each other; indeed the prince would have forgotten about the giant if the Clever One had not reminded him that evening was coming and he should be gone soon.

            Presently the giant came home with his goats, and the first words he said were, “have you brought my horse down from the hill?”

            “We’ll see about that,” said the giant, and he hurried off to the stable, where he found the horse munching his oats.

          “And how did you manage that?” growled the giant.

          “It was nothing,” said the prince. “He did not want to come at first, but I threw the bit into his mouth, and he quieted down nicely.”

          “You have been talking to my Clever One!” roared the giant.

          “Clever One?” said the prince even more stupidly than before, for he too was wondering how the beautiful lady in the tower knew so much. “What is this ‘Clever One’ you are always talking of? Will you never show it to me?”

          “Well, you shall see it now,” cried the giant. He grabbed the prince and trussed him up with a rope as if he was a chicken, and then he called the Clever One down from the tower and said to her, “I am tired of this fool. Cut him up and boil him in the big pot; and when the stew is ready, wake me.” And he laid himself down on the bench and began to snore so loudly it sounded like thunder in the distant hills.

          The Clever One freed the prince, and then she cut her index finger with a knife and let three drops of blood fall on a three-legged stool. Then she gathered all the old rags and bones and rubbish she could find in the castle, and put them in the pot. She took all the giant’s gold and silver and she and the prince ran far away from the giant’s castle, as fast as they could go.

          After the giant had slept a long while, he began to stretch as he lay on the bench, and called out sleepily, “Will dinner soon be done?”

          “Only just started,” answered the first drop of blood on the stool, in the voice of the Clever One.

          So the giant lay down to sleep once more. He slumbered a long time, but at last he began to toss around a little, and called sleepily, “Is it ready now?”

          “Half done, I think,” said the second drop of blood.

          The giant turned over on his other side and fell asleep again, and when he had slept for many, many hours, he began to stir and stretch, and called out (not at all sleepily this time), “How is my supper?”

          “Ready to eat,” said the third drop of blood.

          Then the giant rose, rubbing his eyes. He could not see who was talking to him, so he called out for the Clever One, but there was no answer. He took a spoon and went to the pot to try the stew, but as soon as it touched his lips he spat it out, for it was nothing but old rags and bones boiled up together. When he saw this, the giant knew what had happened. He raged and roared through all the rooms of the castle, looking for the prince and the Clever one, but they were far away by now. The giant was so angry that he howled and raged and stamped on the floor until he burst into little pieces all over the floor.


          As for the prince and the Clever One, they reached his father’s kingdom in safety and lived happily ever after, as they usually tend to in this kind of story.


The End

3 comments about this story Feed