From, The Red Fairy Book, edited By Andrew Lang
And retold by William Thompson
Finding herself alone, the Princess wept so that she thought her heart would break. But after a while, she got up, determined to go wherever fate should lead. On reaching a town, the first thing she did was to buy three pairs of iron sandals and a steel staff, and then she set out in search of her husband.
She wandered over the land, across wide plains and through dark forests. She stumbled over fallen branches, the boughs of the trees striking her face and the shrubs tearing her hands, but on she went, and never looked back. At last, wearied with her long journey and overcome with sorrow, but still with hope in her heart, she reached a house.
It was the house of the Moon. The Princess knocked at the door, and begged to be let in that she might rest a little. The mother of the Moon, seeing the Princess’s torn clothes and sorrowful face, felt a great pity for her, and took her in and nursed and tended her. While the Princess recovered in the house of the Moon, she had a little baby.
“How was it possible for you, a mortal, to come all this way to the house of the Moon?” asked the mother of the Moon, one day, as the Princess sat nursing her child.
The Princess told her sad tale. “I shall always be thankful for your kindness to me and my child,” the Princess concluded, “but I would beg one last favour. Can your daughter, the Moon, tell me where I may find my husband?”
“She cannot tell you that, my child,” replied the mother of the Moon, gravely, “but, if you travel towards the East until you reach the house of the Sun, you may discover something of your husband.” Then she gave the Princess a roast chicken for the journey, and warned her to be careful not to lose any of the bones.
When the Princess had thanked her once more for her care and good advice, and had thrown away one pair of worn-out iron shoes, and had put on a second pair, she tied up the chicken bones into a bundle, and taking her child in her arms and her staff in her hand, she set out once more on her wanderings.
On and on she went. She crossed wide deserts and scaled high mountains, always walking to the East. The sun burned her face, and the bitter snow of the mountains froze her hands, but on and on she went. At length, wearied to death, her body torn and bleeding, she reached the house of the Sun.
With the little strength she had left, the Princess knocked. The mother of the Sun opened the door, and was astonished to find a ragged mortal and her child. She wept with pity upon hearing of all the Princess had suffered. “I will do what I can for you, my dear,” said the mother of the Sun, “but I must hide you in the cellar before my son returns. He is always in a terrible temper at the end of the day.”
The mother of the Sun then helped the Princess and her child into a bath, and then fed them a wholesome supper. After that, she put the Princess and her child into the cellar, where she had set up a soft bed. As the weary Princess fell asleep, she could hear the Sun raging and storming upon his return.
The next day, the Princess feared that things would not go well with her. Before leaving the house, the Sun grumbled to his mother: “Why does the whole place stink of mortal?”
“The smell of the mortal world can reach us even here, my dear,” said his mother, soothingly. “Now, off you go.” And the Sun stumped off to shine on the world for another day.
“Why is the Sun so angry?” asked the Princess, later that day. “He is so beautiful and so good to the mortal world.”
“Well,” said the mother of the Sun, “he begins well enough, but watching the wickedness of the world for an entire day puts him in a bad mood.”
“Now, I asked my son about your husband, but even he has seen nothing of him. I think your best hope is to journey on to the house of the Wind. There you might get word.”
When the Princess had recovered herself, the mother of the Sun gave her a roast chicken for the journey, and told her to take care of the bones, for she might have a use for them. The Princess then threw away her second pair of iron shoes, which were quite worn out, and with her child on her back and her staff in her hand, she set forth on her way to the Wind.
The Princess met with even greater difficulties on her way to the house of the Wind. She crossed mountains that belched fire and smoke into the sky, entered forests where no mortal foot had trodden, and crossed fields of ice and avalanches of snow.
The poor Princess nearly died of these hardships, but she kept a brave heart, and at length she reached an enormous cave in the side of a mountain. It was the house of the Wind. The mother of the Wind took pity on her, and brought the Princess and her child inside to give her food and heal her many hurts.
The next morning, the mother of the Wind came to the Princess, where she had hidden her in the cellar and away from her son. “Your husband, it seems, is living in a thick wood far from here. He has built himself a house from the trunks of trees, where he lives alone, shunning all human companionship.”
After the mother of the Wind had given the Princess a chicken to eat, and had warned her to take care of the bones, she told her to go by the Milky Way, which at night lies across the sky, and to wander on till she reached her goal.
Thanking the old woman with tears in her eyes, the Princess set out on her journey and rested neither night nor day, so great was her longing to see her husband. On and on she walked until her last pair of iron shoes fell in pieces. She threw them away and went on in bare feet, not heeding the thorns that wounded her, nor the stones that bruised her. At last she reached the edge of a dark wood. With her child on her back, she slashed her way into the wood with her steel staff, till it was quite blunt. She threw it away, overcome with despair.
It was then, in a little clearing, she noticed a house made of the trunks of trees. It had no window, and the door was in the roof. What was she to do? How was she to get in?
Then, she thought of the chicken bones that she had carried all that weary way, and she said to herself: “They would not all have told me to take such good care of these bones if they had not had some good reason for doing so. Perhaps now, in my hour of need, they may be of use to me.”
She took the bones out of her bundle, and having thought for a moment, she placed the two ends together. To her surprise they stuck tight. Then she added the other bones, till she had two long poles the height of the house. Across them she placed the other bones, piece by piece, like the steps of a ladder. As soon as one step was finished
She stood upon it and made the next one, and then the next, till she reached the door in the roof. With her child on her arm she entered the door of the house. Here she found everything in perfect order. Having taken some food, she sat down with her child to rest.
When her husband, the Pig, came back to his house, he was startled by what he saw. At first he could not believe his eyes, and he stared at the ladder of bones. He felt that some fresh magic must be at work, and in his fear he almost turned away from the house. But then, he changed himself into a dove, so that no witchcraft could have power over him, and he flew into the room without touching the ladder. Here he found his wife rocking a child. At the sight of her, looking so changed by all that she had suffered for his sake, his heart was moved by such love and longing and by so great a pity that the enchantment that was upon him broke, and he became a man.
The Princess stood up when she saw him, and her heart beat with fear, for she did not at first know him. But suddenly she recognized her husband, and in her great joy she forgot all her sufferings, and they lifted from her like a cloak. He was a very handsome man, as straight as a fir tree. They sat down together and she told him all her adventures, and he wept with pity at the tale. And then he told her his own history.
“I am a King’s son,” he told her. “Once, my father was fighting against a family of dragons,, who were the scourge of our country. I slew the youngest dragon myself. His mother, who was also a witch, cast a spell over me and changed me into a Pig. It was she who in the disguise of an old woman gave you the thread to bind round my foot. So that instead of the three days that had to run before the spell was broken, I was forced to remain a Pig for three more years. Now that we have suffered for each other, and have found each other again, let us forget the past.”
And in their joy they kissed one another. Next morning, they set out early to return to his father’s kingdom. Great was the rejoicing of all the people when they saw the Prince and his Princess and their child. His father and mother embraced them both, and there was feasting in the palace for three days and three nights.
Then they set out to see the father of the Princess. The old King nearly went out of his mind with joy at beholding his daughter again. When she had told him all her adventures, he said to her:
“Did not I tell you that I was quite sure that that creature who wooed and won you as his wife had not been born a Pig? Great has been your suffering, my child, but greater has been your courage, and rich will be your reward.”
And as the King was old, he put them on the throne in his place. And they ruled as only kings and queens rule who have suffered many things. And if they are not dead, they are still living and ruling happily.