Once upon a time there was a king who had three sons and three daughters. At length old age overtook him, and the hour came for him to die. While dying he called to him his three sons and three daughters, and told his sons to let their sisters marry the very first men who came to ask them in marriage. "Do this or dread my curse! " said he, and soon after expired.
Some time after his death there came one night a great knocking at the gate; the whole palace shook, and outside was heard a great noise of squeaking, singing, and shouting, whilst lightnings played round the whole court of the palace. The people in the palace were very much frightened, so that they shook for fear, when all at once someone shouted from the outside, "O princes! open the door!" Thereupon the king's eldest son said, "Do not open!" The second son added, "Do not open, for anything in the world!" But the youngest son said, "I will open the door!" and he jumped up and opened it.
The moment he had opened the door something came in, but the brother could see nothing except a bright light in one part of the room; out of this light came these words: "I have come to demand your eldest sister for wife, and I shall take her away this moment, without any delay; for I wait for nothing, neither will I come a second time to ask for her! Therefore answer me quickly - will you give her or not?"
The eldest brother said, "I will not give her. How can I give her when I cannot see you, and do not know who you are, nor whence you come? You come tonight for the first time, and wish to take her away instantly! Should I not know where I can visit my sister sometimes?"
The second said, "I will not give my sister to-night to be taken away!"
But the youngest said, "I will give her if you will not. Have you forgotten what our father commanded us?" and, with these words, taking his sister by the hand, he gave her away, saying, "May she be to you a happy and honest wife!"
As the sister passed over the threshold everyone in the palace fell to the ground from fear, so vivid was the lightning and loud the claps of thunder. The heavens seemed to be on fire and the whole sky rumbled, so that the whole palace shook as if about to fall. All this however passed over, and soon after the day dawned; when it grew light enough, the brothers went to see if any trace was left of the mighty power to whom they had given their sister, so that they might be able to trace the road by which it had gone. There was, however, nothing which they could either see or hear.
The second night, about the same time, there was heard again round the whole palace a great noise, as if an army was whistling and hissing, and at length someone at the door cried out, "Open the door, O princes!" They were afraid to disobey, and opened the door, and some dreadful power began to speak, "Give here the girl, your second sister! I am come to demand her!" The eldest brother answered, "I will not give her away!" The second brother said, "I will not give you my sister!" But the youngest said, "I will give her! Have you forgotten what our father told us to do?" So he took his sister by the hand and gave her over, saying, "Take her! may she be honest and bring you happiness!" Then the unseen noises departed with the girl. Next day, as soon as it dawned, all three brothers walked round the palace, and for some distance beyond, looking everywhere for some trace where the power had gone, but nothing could be seen or heard.
The third night, at the same hour as before, again the palace rocked from its very foundations, and there was a mighty uproar outside. Then a voice shouted, "Open the door!" The sons of the king arose and opened the door, and a great power passed by them and said, "I am come to demand your youngest sister!" The eldest and the second son shouted, "No! we will not give our sister this third night! At any rate, we will know before our youngest sister goes away from our house to whom we are giving her, and where she is going, so that we can come to visit her whenever we wish to do so!" Thereupon the youngest brother said, "Then I will give her!
Have you forgotten what our father on his death-bed recommended us? It is not so very long ago!" Then he took the girl by the hand and said, "Here she is! Take her! and may she bring you happiness and be happy herself!" Then instantly the power went away with a great noise. When the day dawned the brothers were very anxious about the fate of their sister, but could find no trace of the way in which she had gone.
Some time after the brothers, speaking together, said, "It is really very wonderful what has happened to our sisters! We have no news - no trace of them! We do not know where they are gone, nor whom they have married!" At last they said to each other, "Let us go and try to find our sisters!" So they prepared immediately for their journey, took money for their travelling expenses, and went away in search of their three sisters.
They had travelled some time when they lost their way in a forest, and wandered about a whole day. When it grew dark they thought they would stop for the night at some place where they could find water. So, having come to a lake, they decided to sleep near it, and sat down to take some supper. When the time for sleep came the eldest brother said, "I will keep watch while you sleep!" and so the two younger brothers went to sleep and the eldest watched. In the middle of the night the lake began to be greatly agitated, and the brother who was watching grew quite frightened, especially when he saw something was coming towards him from the middle of the lake. When it came near he saw that it was a terrific alligator with two ears, and it ran at him; but he drew his knife and struck it, and cut off its head. When he had done this he cut off the ears also, and put them in his pocket, the body and the head, however, he threw back into the lake. Meanwhile the day began to dawn, but the two brothers slept on and knew nothing of what their eldest brother had done. At length he awakened them, but told them nothing, so they went on their travels together. When the next day was closing, and it began again to grow dark, they took counsel with each other where they should rest for he night, and where they should find water. They felt also afraid, because they were approaching some dangerous mountains.