The White Dove
Reading time: 5 minutes. Word count: 900 words.
A king had two sons. They were a pair of reckless fellows, who always had something foolish to do. One day they rowed out alone on the sea in a little boat. It was beautiful weather when they set out, but as soon as they had got some distance from the shore there arose a terrific storm. The oars went overboard at once, and the little boat was tossed about on the rolling billows like a nut-shell. The princes had to hold fast by the seats to keep from being thrown out of the boat.
In the midst of all this they met a wonderful vessel--it was a dough-trough, in which there sat an old woman. She called to them, and said that they could still get to shore alive if they would promise her the son that was next to come to their mother the queen. 'We can't do that,' shouted the princes; 'he doesn't belong to us so we can't give him away.'
'Then you can rot at the bottom of the sea, both of you,' said the old woman; 'and perhaps it may be the case that your mother would rather keep the two sons she has than the one she hasn't got yet.'
Then she rowed away in her dough-trough, while the storm howled still louder than before, and the water dashed over their boat until it was almost sinking. Then the princes thought that there was something in what the old woman had said about their mother, and being, of course, eager to save their lives, they shouted to her, and promised that she should have their brother if she would deliver them from this danger. As soon as they had done so the storm ceased and the waves fell. The boat drove ashore below their father's castle, and both princes were received with open arms by their father and mother, who had suffered great anxiety for them.
The two brothers said nothing about what they had promised, neither at that time nor later on when the queen's third son came, a beautiful boy, whom she loved more than anything else in the world. He was brought up and educated in his father's house until he was full grown, and still his brothers had never seen or heard anything about the witch to whom they had promised him before he was born.
It happened one evening that there arose a raging storm, with mist and darkness. It howled and roared around the king's palace, and in the midst of it there came a loud knock on the door of the hall where the youngest prince was. He went to the door and found there an old woman with a dough-trough on her back, who said to him that he must go with her at once; his brothers had promised him to her if she would save their lives.
'Yes,' said he; 'if you saved my brothers' lives, and they promised me to you, then I will go with you.'
They therefore went down to the beach together, where he had to take his seat in the trough, along with the witch, who sailed away with him, over the sea, home to her dwelling.
The prince was now in the witch's power, and in her service. The first thing she set him to was to pick feathers. 'The heap of feathers that you see here,' said she, 'you must get finished before I come home in the evening, otherwise you shall be set to harder work.' He started to the feathers, and picked and picked until there was only a single feather left that had not passed through his hands. But then there came a whirlwind and sent all the feathers flying, and swept them along the floor into a heap, where they lay as if they were trampled together. He had now to begin all his work over again, but by this time it only wanted an hour of evening, when the witch was to be expected home, and he easily saw that it was impossible for him to be finished by that time.
Then he heard something tapping at the window pane, and a thin voice said, 'Let me in, and I will help you.' It was a white dove, which sat outside the window, and was pecking at it with its beak. He opened the window, and the dove came in and set to work at once, and picked all the feathers out of the heap with its beak. Before the hour was past the feathers were all nicely arranged: the dove flew out at the window, and at, the same moment the witch came in at the door.
'Well, well,' said she, 'it was more than I would have expected of you to get all the feathers put in order so nicely. However, such a prince might be expected to have neat fingers.'
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Source: Andrew Lang: Pink Fairy Book (1897). Weblink.
Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology.
Laura Gibbs, Ph.D.
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