A long time ago there lived a poor woman who possessed nothing in the world except one son and four lambs. The boy took the lambs out to graze every morning, and brought them home every night. One day it happened that the lambs were grazing in a field not far from the summer palace of the king, and the king's daughter came out to the young shepherd and asked him to give her one of them. The boy refused, saying, "I cannot give you one, for my mother will scold me if I do, as we have nothing in the world except these four lambs." The princess, however, had taken so great a fancy for a lamb that she would not be refused, and at last said, "Only let me have this one and I will give you any price you like to ask".
The boy, seeing that the princess would not go away without a lamb, considered a little how he could get rid of her, and then he told her that he would give her one if she would show him one of her shoulders. To his great surprise the princess, without any hesitation, pushed her mantle aside and showed him her bare white arm, and he noticed that on the shoulder there was a mark like a star. He was obliged now to give her one of his lambs, and when he went home in the evening he told his mother that he had fallen asleep at noon, and that when he awoke, one of the lambs had vanished, and he could not find it anywhere.
Then his mother scolded him very much, saying, "I see you will bring me to the beggar's staff with your carelessness! To-morrow you must take these three lambs out to graze very early, and look well about for the lost one. And if you don't find it you had better never let me set eyes on you again".
At dawn the next day the boy took the three lambs to graze in the same field, and sat down to consider how he could get back the lamb he had lost. At noon, when no one was about, the king's daughter came out of the palace and said to him, "Young shepherd, give me another lamb, and ask what you please in return." But the boy answered, "No! I dare not give you another; I have suffered enough for the one I gave you yesterday! So please go and bring me my lamb back".
This the princess refused to do, and said, "It is quite useless to speak of such a thing. But tell me, did you notice anything particular on my shoulder?"
The youth answered, "Yes, I saw a star!"
"Ah!" exclaimed the princess; "for that you can never pay me enough, and yet you want your lamb back!" So they almost quarrelled, for the king's daughter persisted in begging him to give her another lamb, and the young shepherd insisted that she should bring him the first one back again.
At last, seeing there was no end to her begging, the boy said, "Well! I will give you one if you uncover before me your other shoulder." This the princess did instantly, and he remarked that she had the mark of a star on that arm also. In this way he lost a second lamb; and when the evening came he went home very sadly, feeling sure his mother would scold him. And so she did, far more than at the first time, calling him ill names and threatening to beat him. The boy was really sorry that he had given way to the princess's prayers, but he could not help it now. Next day, again, the princess came to him and begged so hard and so long for a third lamb that he became impatient, and, thinking to shame her, said he would give her one if she showed him her neck. To his great surprise, however, the king's daughter at once let her mantle fall, and he saw that she had the mark of a crescent on her throat. So the poor boy lost a third lamb, and hardly dared go home to his mother at night with the one lamb left them. Indeed the poor old woman was so angry at her son's carelessness in losing one lamb after another whilst he slept - for he did not dare to tell her the truth about the princess - that she cursed him as "a good-for-nothing who would bring her to beggary".
Notwithstanding all his mother's reproaches and threats the boy could not refuse the princess the next day when she came out to ask for the fourth lamb.
However, he tried to get her to go away a long time, and not until quite tired out with her begging, did he exclaim, "Well, I will give you the lamb if you will show me your breast!" Then the princess pushed her robe aside, and the boy noticed that she had the mark of a sun on her bosom.
In this way the young shepherd lost all the four lambs, and he lived a long time with his mother in great poverty.
A long, long time afterwards the king sent out a proclamation that he intended to let his daughter marry, and would give her to that man who could tell him what particular birth-marks she had about her. The young shepherd heard this proclamation, and when he went home in the evening he said to his mother, "Mother, I intend to go to the king's palace to-morrow, so get me my best linen ready".
"And what do you want in the king's palace?" asked the poor old woman wondering.
"I intend, God helping me, to marry the king's daughter," replied the young man boldly.
"Oh! you had better give up that fancy," cried the mother. "It will be better for you to go and work and gain a piaster than to go, like a fly without a head, dreaming about things that are as high as the sky above you".
But the young man would not be persuaded, and went the next day to the king's palace. Before going out of the hut, however, he said to his anxious old mother,
He had not walked very far before a gipsy met him, and asked, "Where are you going, my young man?"
"I am going to the king's palace," answered the youth, "and I mean, God helping me, to marry the king's daughter".
"But, my dear comrade," said the gipsy, keeping near him, "how can you really expect that she will marry you, when you are so poor? Only a shepherd!"
"Eh!" returned the young man; "but I know what birth-marks she has, and the king has sent out a proclamation that whoever guesses these shall have her for his wife".