This section is from the book "Myths And Folk-Tales Of The Russians, Western Slavs, And Magyars", by Jeremiah Curtin. Also available from Amazon: Myths and Folk-Tales of the Russians, Western Slavs, and the Magyars.
1 The Prussian king, - King of Prussia.
"High queen," answered the old woman, "what is the use in delay or denial? They were two untimely, hairy monsters, and to save thee from terror at sight of them, I threw both into the river".
The two children slept quietly under the tree till a white deer burst with great noise through the thicket, went straight as if sent, and taking the basket hung it on his antlers; then the white deer disappeared in the forest, went on till he came to the bank of a stream, where he called three times. The Forest Maiden appeared as if by magic, took the basket with great delight, and ran panting into her own palace.
The two children were seven years with the Forest Maiden, who reared them as carefully as if they had been her own.
Here, 'pon my soul, what came of the affair, or what did not, the Forest Maiden once sent the little girl with a green jug for water, and enjoined on her rigorously to be careful not to break the jug.
The little girl did not let this be said twice; she was obedient and attentive. She took the jug, and was at the well in a moment. When she came, she saw a little golden bird flying.around the well. Being a child, she wanted to catch the golden bird, therefore ran around with the jug in her hand till at last she saw that only the handle was left. The little girl, terrified, burst into tears, sat at the edge of the well, and cried there. The Forest Maiden waited and waited; but she could not wait longer, therefore she sent the little brother with a second jug, and told him sternly to be careful not to break the jug. The little brother went in the same way, for he also, like children of that age, barely saw the golden bird when he wanted to strike it with the jug, which he whirled around till only the handle remained in his hand; then he burst into tears, sat by his sister, and there the two were crying at the edge of the well.
Here, 'pon my soul, the golden bird pitied the children, and asked: "Why do ye cry? Why do ye weep, pretty children?"
"Oh, pretty bird," answered the boy, who had more sense than his sister, "why should we not cry? Why should we not weep? We shall be flogged for breaking the green jugs; our dear mother will whip us".
"Oh, my children, she is not your own mother! She is only your foster-mother. Your father and mother live far from here, - beyond those green mountains; so if ye will follow, I 'll lead you home".
The two children wanted nothing else. They went back no more to their foster-mother, for they would be flogged; but they followed the golden bird, which went always before them. And they travelled and journeyed till once in a forest they came upon a great heap of gold; near the gold was a number of dice, as if some one had been playing there. The little boy and girl each took a handful of gold, and went farther. They travelled and journeyed till they came to an inn; since they were wearied, and it was evening, they went in to ask lodging. In the inn three lords were playing dice; the two children at first merely noticed that they were playing. At last the boy took from his pocket the handful of gold, and began to play in such fashion that he won all the money of the three lords; and then one of them spoke thuswise: -
"Well, my dear son, I see that thou hast good luck. I have in a certain place a charming flower-garden; in the middle of the garden is a marble palace, and the palace has this peculiarity, - if it is struck on the side three times with this golden rod, it will turn into a golden apple; and thou mayest put down the marble palace and the flower-garden in any part of the world if thou wilt strike the golden apple with the small end of the golden rod. I will bet now this flower-garden and this marble palace; if thou canst win, they '11 be thine".
The little boy agreed; and he won fortunately the flower-garden and the marble palace. The other then gave him the golden rod, and showed him where the garden and the palace were. Next morning the children sought out the garden and the palace, which the boy struck three times on the side, and it turned to a golden apple; he put the apple in his pocket, and strolled on homeward. The little golden bird flew always ahead of them. They travelled and journeyed till one time the golden bird stopped and said: -
"Well, dear children, now we are at home; put down the golden apple on this spot and strike it three times with the red, and ye will see what a beautiful marble palace and flowery garden there will be, speaking to the seven kingdoms. The report of the palace and garden will circulate immediately, and the king himself will come to look at them. Him ye must honor as your father, for thou my little boy art the king's son, and thou my little girl the king's daughter. Dear children, here in a golden frame is a picture which gives your arms and name. Hang in the palace this picture, in the best place; but lest it be seen, cover it with velvet, and show it to no man save your own father. When he asks what that picture is, draw the velvet from it, and the rest will follow".
So it happened; the two children hung up the picture in the best room of the marble palace, and covered it with velvet. Now, the report ran to distant parts of the kingdom that there was a charming and wonderful marble palace in such and such a place, and people hastened from the seventh province distant to look at it; so that the report came to the ears of the king himself. The king decided straightway to look at the flowery garden and marble palace; but he had hardly conceived the idea when the old woman gave him a drug. The king fell ill, and could not see the flowery garden and marble palace; and then the old woman, without invitation, stood before the king and said: "High king, if thou art so curious to- see this flowery garden and marble palace, then I will go and see if they are as beautiful as report says, and tell the story to thy Highness".