The White Dove
Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 800 words.
Next morning the witch said to the prince, 'To-day you shall have some easy work to do. Outside the door I have some firewood lying; you must split that for me into little bits that I can kindle the fire with. That will soon be done, but you must be finished before I come home.'
The prince got a little axe and set to work at once. He split and clove away, and thought that he was getting on fast; but the day wore on until it was long past midday, and he was still very far from having finished. He thought, in fact, that the pile of wood rather grew bigger than smaller, in spite of what he took off it; so he let his hands fall by his side, and dried the sweat from his forehead, and was ill at ease, for he knew that it would be bad for him if he was not finished with the work before the witch came home.
Then the white dove came flying and settled down on the pile of wood, and cooed and said, 'Shall I help you?'
'Yes,' said the prince, 'many thanks for your help yesterday, and for what you offer to-day.'
Thereupon the little dove seized one piece of wood after another and split it with its beak. The prince could not take away the wood as quickly as the dove could split it, and in a short time it was all cleft into little sticks.
The dove then flew up on his shoulder and sat there and the prince thanked it, and stroked and caressed its white feathers, and kissed its little red beak. With that it was a dove no longer, but a beautiful young maiden, who stood by his side. She told him then that she was a princess whom the witch had stolen, and had changed to this shape, but with his kiss she had got her human form again; and if he would be faithful to her, and take her to wife, she could free them both from the witch's power.
The prince was quite captivated by the beautiful princess, and was quite willing to do anything whatsoever to get her for himself. She then said to him, 'When the witch comes home you must ask her to grant you a wish, when you have accomplished so well all that she has demanded of you. When she agrees to this you must ask her straight out for the princess that she has flying about as a white dove. But just now you must take a red silk thread and tie it round my little finger, so that you may be able to recognise me again, into whatever shape she turns me.'
The prince made haste to get the silk thread tied round her little white finger; at the same moment the princess became a dove again and flew away, and immediately after that the old witch came home with her dough-trough on her back.
'Well,' said she, 'I must say that you are clever at your work, and it is something, too, that such princely hands are not accustomed to.'
'Since you are so well pleased with my work, said the prince, 'you will, no doubt, be willing to give me a little pleasure too, and give me something that I have taken a fancy to.'
'Oh yes, indeed,' said the old woman; 'what is it that you want?'
'I want the princess here who is in the shape of a white dove,' said the prince.
'What nonsense!' said the witch. 'Why should you imagine that there are princesses here flying about in the shape of white doves? But if you will have a princess, you can get one such as we have them.' She then came to him, dragging a shaggy little grey ass with long ears. 'Will you have this?' said she; 'you can't get any other princess!'
The prince used his eyes and saw the red silk thread on one of the ass's hoofs, so he said, 'Yes, just let me have it.'
'What will you do with it ?' asked the witch.
'I will ride on it,' said the prince; but with that the witch dragged it away again, and came back with an old, wrinkled, toothless hag, whose hands trembled with age. 'You can have no other princess,' said she. 'Will you have her?'
'Yes, I will,' said the prince, for he saw the red silk thread on the old woman's finger.
At this the witch became so furious that she danced about and knocked everything to pieces that she could lay her hands upon, so that the splinters flew about the ears of the prince and princess, who now stood there in her own beautiful shape.
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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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