Iron Hans


There was once upon a time a king who had a great forest near his
palace, full of all kinds of wild animals. One day he sent out a
huntsman to shoot him a roe, but he did not come back. 'Perhaps some
accident has befallen him,' said the king, and the next day he sent
out two more huntsmen who were to search for him, but they too stayed
away. Then on the third day, he sent for all his huntsmen, and said:
'Scour the whole forest through, and do not give up until you have
found all three.' But of these also, none came home again, none were
seen again. From that time forth, no one would any longer venture into
the forest, and it lay there in deep stillness and solitude, and
nothing was seen of it, but sometimes an eagle or a hawk flying over
it. This lasted for many years, when an unknown huntsman announced
himself to the king as seeking a situation, and offered to go into the
dangerous forest. The king, however, would not give his consent, and
said: 'It is not safe in there; I fear it would fare with you no
better than with the others, and you would never come out again.' The
huntsman replied: 'Lord, I will venture it at my own risk, of fear I
know nothing.'

The huntsman therefore betook himself with his dog to the forest. It
was not long before the dog fell in with some game on the way, and
wanted to pursue it; but hardly had the dog run two steps when it
stood before a deep pool, could go no farther, and a naked arm
stretched itself out of the water, seized it, and drew it under. When
the huntsman saw that, he went back and fetched three men to come with
buckets and bale out the water. When they could see to the bottom
there lay a wild man whose body was brown like rusty iron, and whose
hair hung over his face down to his knees. They bound him with cords,
and led him away to the castle. There was great astonishment over the
wild man; the king, however, had him put in an iron cage in his
courtyard, and forbade the door to be opened on pain of death, and the
queen herself was to take the key into her keeping. And from this time
forth everyone could again go into the forest with safety.

The king had a son of eight years, who was once playing in the
courtyard, and while he was playing, his golden ball fell into the
cage. The boy ran thither and said: 'Give me my ball out.' 'Not till
you have opened the door for me,' answered the man. 'No,' said the
boy, 'I will not do that; the king has forbidden it,' and ran away.
The next day he again went and asked for his ball; the wild man said:
'Open my door,' but the boy would not. On the third day the king had
ridden out hunting, and the boy went once more and said: 'I cannot
open the door even if I wished, for I have not the key.' Then the wild
man said: 'It lies under your mother's pillow, you can get it there.'
The boy, who wanted to have his ball back, cast all thought to the
winds, and brought the key. The door opened with difficulty, and the
boy pinched his fingers. When it was open the wild man stepped out,
gave him the golden ball, and hurried away. The boy had become afraid;
he called and cried after him: 'Oh, wild man, do not go away, or I
shall be beaten!' The wild man turned back, took him up, set him on
his shoulder, and went with hasty steps into the forest. When the king
came home, he observed the empty cage, and asked the queen how that
had happened. She knew nothing about it, and sought the key, but it
was gone. She called the boy, but no one answered. The king sent out
people to seek for him in the fields, but they did not find him. Then
he could easily guess what had happened, and much grief reigned in the
royal court.

When the wild man had once more reached the dark forest, he took the
boy down from his shoulder, and said to him: 'You will never see your
father and mother again, but I will keep you with me, for you have set
me free, and I have compassion on you. If you do all I bid you, you
shall fare well. Of treasure and gold have I enough, and more than
anyone in the world.' He made a bed of moss for the boy on which he
slept, and the next morning the man took him to a well, and said:
'Behold, the gold well is as bright and clear as crystal, you shall
sit beside it, and take care that nothing falls into it, or it will be
polluted. I will come every evening to see if you have obeyed my
order.' The boy placed himself by the brink of the well, and often saw
a golden fish or a golden snake show itself therein, and took care
that nothing fell in. As he was thus sitting, his finger hurt him so
violently that he involuntarily put it in the water. He drew it
quickly out again, but saw that it was quite gilded, and whatsoever
pains he took to wash the gold off again, all was to no purpose. In
the evening Iron Hans came back, looked at the boy, and said: 'What
has happened to the well?' 'Nothing nothing,' he answered, and held
his finger behind his back, that the man might not see it. But he
said: 'You have dipped your finger into the water, this time it may
pass, but take care you do not again let anything go in.' By daybreak
the boy was already sitting by the well and watching it. His finger
hurt him again and he passed it over his head, and then unhappily a
hair fell down into the well. He took it quickly out, but it was
already quite gilded. Iron Hans came, and already knew what had
happened. 'You have let a hair fall into the well,' said he. 'I will
allow you to watch by it once more, but if this happens for the third
time then the well is polluted and you can no longer remain with me.'

On the third day, the boy sat by the well, and did not stir his
finger, however much it hurt him. But the time was long to him, and he
looked at the reflection of his face on the surface of the water. And
as he still bent down more and more while he was doing so, and trying
to look straight into the eyes, his long hair fell down from his
shoulders into the water. He raised himself up quickly, but the whole
of the hair of his head was already golden and shone like the sun. You
can imagine how terrified the poor boy was! He took his pocket-
handkerchief and tied it round his head, in order that the man might
not see it. When he came he already knew everything, and said: 'Take
the handkerchief off.' Then the golden hair streamed forth, and let
the boy excuse himself as he might, it was of no use. 'You have not
stood the trial and can stay here no longer. Go forth into the world,
there you will learn what poverty is. But as you have not a bad heart,
and as I mean well by you, there is one thing I will grant you; if you
fall into any difficulty, come to the forest and cry: "Iron Hans," and
then I will come and help you. My power is great, greater than you
think, and I have gold and silver in abundance.'

Then the king's son left the forest, and walked by beaten and unbeaten
paths ever onwards until at length he reached a great city. There he
looked for work, but could find none, and he learnt nothing by which
he could help himself. At length he went to the palace, and asked if
they would take him in. The people about court did not at all know
what use they could make of him, but they liked him, and told him to
stay. At length the cook took him into his service, and said he might
carry wood and water, and rake the cinders together. Once when it so
happened that no one else was at hand, the cook ordered him to carry
the food to the royal table, but as he did not like to let his golden
hair be seen, he kept his little cap on. Such a thing as that had
never yet come under the king's notice, and he said: 'When you come to
the royal table you must take your hat off.' He answered: 'Ah, Lord, I
cannot; I have a bad sore place on my head.' Then the king had the
cook called before him and scolded him, and asked how he could take
such a boy as that into his service; and that he was to send him away
at once. The cook, however, had pity on him, and exchanged him for the
gardener's boy.

And now the boy had to plant and water the garden, hoe and dig, and
bear the wind and bad weather. Once in summer when he was working
alone in the garden, the day was so warm he took his little cap off
that the air might cool him. As the sun shone on his hair it glittered
and flashed so that the rays fell into the bedroom of the king's
daughter, and up she sprang to see what that could be. Then she saw
the boy, and cried to him: 'Boy, bring me a wreath of flowers.' He put
his cap on with all haste, and gathered wild field-flowers and bound
them together. When he was ascending the stairs with them, the
gardener met him, and said: 'How can you take the king's daughter a
garland of such common flowers? Go quickly, and get another, and seek
out the prettiest and rarest.' 'Oh, no,' replied the boy, 'the wild
ones have more scent, and will please her better.' When he got into
the room, the king's daughter said: 'Take your cap off, it is not
seemly to keep it on in my presence.' He again said: 'I may not, I
have a sore head.' She, however, caught at his cap and pulled it off,
and then his golden hair rolled down on his shoulders, and it was
splendid to behold. He wanted to run out, but she held him by the arm,
and gave him a handful of ducats. With these he departed, but he cared
nothing for the gold pieces. He took them to the gardener, and said:
'I present them to your children, they can play with them.' The
following day the king's daughter again called to him that he was to
bring her a wreath of field-flowers, and then he went in with it, she
instantly snatched at his cap, and wanted to take it away from him,
but he held it fast with both hands. She again gave him a handful of
ducats, but he would not keep them, and gave them to the gardener for
playthings for his children. On the third day things went just the
same; she could not get his cap away from him, and he would not have
her money.

Not long afterwards, the country was overrun by war. The king gathered
together his people, and did not know whether or not he could offer
any opposition to the enemy, who was superior in strength and had a
mighty army. Then said the gardener's boy: 'I am grown up, and will go
to the wars also, only give me a horse.' The others laughed, and said:
'Seek one for yourself when we are gone, we will leave one behind us
in the stable for you.' When they had gone forth, he went into the
stable, and led the horse out; it was lame of one foot, and limped
hobblety jib, hobblety jib; nevertheless he mounted it, and rode away
to the dark forest. When he came to the outskirts, he called 'Iron
Hans' three times so loudly that it echoed through the trees.
Thereupon the wild man appeared immediately, and said: 'What do you
desire?' 'I want a strong steed, for I am going to the wars.' 'That
you shall have, and still more than you ask for.' Then the wild man
went back into the forest, and it was not long before a stable-boy
came out of it, who led a horse that snorted with its nostrils, and
could hardly be restrained, and behind them followed a great troop of
warriors entirely equipped in iron, and their swords flashed in the
sun. The youth made over his three-legged horse to the stable-boy,
mounted the other, and rode at the head of the soldiers. When he got
near the battlefield a great part of the king's men had already
fallen, and little was wanting to make the rest give way. Then the
youth galloped thither with his iron soldiers, broke like a hurricane
over the enemy, and beat down all who opposed him. They began to flee,
but the youth pursued, and never stopped, until there was not a single
man left. Instead of returning to the king, however, he conducted his
troop by byways back to the forest, and called forth Iron Hans. 'What
do you desire?' asked the wild man. 'Take back your horse and your
troops, and give me my three-legged horse again.' All that he asked
was done, and soon he was riding on his three-legged horse. When the
king returned to his palace, his daughter went to meet him, and wished
him joy of his victory. 'I am not the one who carried away the
victory,' said he, 'but a strange knight who came to my assistance
with his soldiers.' The daughter wanted to hear who the strange knight
was, but the king did not know, and said: 'He followed the enemy, and
I did not see him again.' She inquired of the gardener where his boy
was, but he smiled, and said: 'He has just come home on his three-
legged horse, and the others have been mocking him, and crying: "Here
comes our hobblety jib back again!" They asked, too: "Under what hedge
have you been lying sleeping all the time?" So he said: "I did the
best of all, and it would have gone badly without me." And then he was
still more ridiculed.'

The king said to his daughter: 'I will proclaim a great feast that
shall last for three days, and you shall throw a golden apple. Perhaps
the unknown man will show himself.' When the feast was announced, the
youth went out to the forest, and called Iron Hans. 'What do you
desire?' asked he. 'That I may catch the king's daughter's golden
apple.' 'It is as safe as if you had it already,' said Iron Hans. 'You
shall likewise have a suit of red armour for the occasion, and ride on
a spirited chestnut-horse.' When the day came, the youth galloped to
the spot, took his place amongst the knights, and was recognized by no
one. The king's daughter came forward, and threw a golden apple to the
knights, but none of them caught it but he, only as soon as he had it
he galloped away.

On the second day Iron Hans equipped him as a white knight, and gave
him a white horse. Again he was the only one who caught the apple, and
he did not linger an instant, but galloped off with it. The king grew
angry, and said: 'That is not allowed; he must appear before me and
tell his name.' He gave the order that if the knight who caught the
apple, should go away again they should pursue him, and if he would
not come back willingly, they were to cut him down and stab him.

On the third day, he received from Iron Hans a suit of black armour
and a black horse, and again he caught the apple. But when he was
riding off with it, the king's attendants pursued him, and one of them
got so near him that he wounded the youth's leg with the point of his
sword. The youth nevertheless escaped from them, but his horse leapt
so violently that the helmet fell from the youth's head, and they
could see that he had golden hair. They rode back and announced this
to the king.

The following day the king's daughter asked the gardener about his
boy. 'He is at work in the garden; the queer creature has been at the
festival too, and only came home yesterday evening; he has likewise
shown my children three golden apples which he has won.'

The king had him summoned into his presence, and he came and again had
his little cap on his head. But the king's daughter went up to him and
took it off, and then his golden hair fell down over his shoulders,
and he was so handsome that all were amazed. 'Are you the knight who
came every day to the festival, always in different colours, and who
caught the three golden apples?' asked the king. 'Yes,' answered he,
'and here the apples are,' and he took them out of his pocket, and
returned them to the king. 'If you desire further proof, you may see
the wound which your people gave me when they followed me. But I am
likewise the knight who helped you to your victory over your enemies.'
'If you can perform such deeds as that, you are no gardener's boy;
tell me, who is your father?' 'My father is a mighty king, and gold
have I in plenty as great as I require.' 'I well see,' said the king,
'that I owe my thanks to you; can I do anything to please you?' 'Yes,'
answered he, 'that indeed you can. Give me your daughter to wife.' The
maiden laughed, and said: 'He does not stand much on ceremony, but I
have already seen by his golden hair that he was no gardener's boy,'
and then she went and kissed him. His father and mother came to the
wedding, and were in great delight, for they had given up all hope of
ever seeing their dear son again. And as they were sitting at the
marriage-feast, the music suddenly stopped, the doors opened, and a
stately king came in with a great retinue. He went up to the youth,
embraced him and said: 'I am Iron Hans, and was by enchantment a wild
man, but you have set me free; all the treasures which I possess,
shall be your property.'

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