This section is from the book "Fairy Tales Of The Slav Peasants And Herdsmen", by Aleksander Borejko Chodzko, Emily J. Harding.. Also available from Amazon: Fairy Tales of the Slav Peasants and Herdsmen (Illustrated Edition).
"O marvellous, wonderful, lake-forming Band, For my safety, and not for my fun, Bear me in a boat on thy waves far from land, So that I from my foes need not run".
There was a shimmering in the air, while at the same moment everything around them disappeared, and a beautiful lake, long, wide, and deep, was seen, surrounded by green fields. Fish with golden scales and eyes of pearls played in the clear water. In the centre, in a small silver skiff, rowed a man, whom the soldiers recognised as the fool.
They remained some time looking at this miracle, and then ran off to tell the king. Now when the king heard thereof he was so anxious to possess the lake, or rather the waistband that produced the lake, that he sent a whole battalion of soldiers to take the fool prisoner.
This time they managed to get hold of him while he was asleep, but as they were about to tie his hands he turned his hat round and said:
"O Magic Helmet, never thou,
Dost want for powder nor shot, Allay my fears and fire now Just where I point. Fail not".
Instantly a hundred bullets whistled through the air, amid clouds of smoke and loud reports. Many of the soldiers fell dead, others took refuge in the wood, whence they returned to the king to give an account of what had taken place.
Whereupon the king flew into a violent rage, furious that he had as yet failed to take the fool. But his wish to possess the feast-giving tablecloth, the magic wand, the lake-forming sash, and above all the helmet with twenty-four horns, was stronger than ever.
Having reflected for some days on the best ways and means to attain his object, he resolved to try the effect of kindness, and sent for the fool's mother.
"Tell your son, the fool," said his majesty to the woman, "that my charming daughter and I send greeting, and that we shall consider it an honour if he will come here and show us the marvellous things he possesses. Should he feel inclined to make me a present of them, I will give him half my kingdom and will make him my heir. You may also say that the princess, my daughter, will choose him for her husband".
The good woman hastened home to her son, whom she advised to accept the king's invitation and show him his treasures. The fool wound the waistband round his loins, put the helmet on his head, hid the tablecloth in his breast, took his magic wand in his hand, and started off to go to the court.
The king was not there on his arrival, but he was received by the paladin, who saluted him courteously. Music played, and the troops did him military honours - in fact, he was treated far better than he had expected. On being presented to the king he took off his helmet, and bowing low, said: "O king, I am come to lay at the foot of your throne my tablecloth, waistband, wand, and helmet. In return for these gifts I beg that your favour may be shown to the most humble of your subjects".
"Tell me then, fool, what price you want for these goods?"
"Not money, sire, a fool of my sort cares very little about money. Has not the king promised my mother that he will give me in exchange the half of his kingdom, and the hand of his daughter in marriage? These are the gifts I claim".
After these words the paladin was filled with envy at the good fortune of the fool, and made a sign for the guards to enter. The soldiers seized the poor fellow, dragged him out into the courtyard, and they killed him treacherously to the sound of drums and trumpets, after which they covered him over with earth.
Now it happened that when the soldiers stabbed him his blood spurted out, and some of the drops fell beneath the princess's window. The maiden wept bitterly at the sight, watering the blood-stained ground with her tears. And lo! marvellous to relate, an apple-tree grew out of the blood-sprinkled earth. And it grew so rapidly that its branches soon touched the windows of her rooms; by noon it was covered with blossom, while at eventide ripe red apples hung thereon. As the princess was admiring them she noticed that one of the apples trembled, and when she touched it, it fell into the bosom of her dress. This took her fancy, and she held it in her hand.
Meanwhile the sun had set, night had fallen, and every one in the palace was asleep, except the guard, the paladin, and the princess. The guard, sword in hand, patrolled up and down, for it was his duty. The princess toyed with her pretty little apple, and could not sleep. The paladin, who had gone to bed, was aroused by a sound that made his blood run cold, for the avenging wand stood before him and began to beat him soundly. And although he rushed from the room trying to escape from it, it followed him, crying out:
"False paladin, you worthless man,
Do not so envious be; Why act unjustly, when you can,
Both just and honest be? For others' goods why have you such a liking? You rogue, you thief, be sure I'll keep on striking".
The unhappy man wept and cried for mercy, but the wand still continued to strike.
The princess was distressed on hearing these cries of distress, and she watered her much - cherished apple with her tears. And, strange to tell, the apple grew and changed its shape. Thus continuing to change, it suddenly turned into a handsome young man, even the very same who had been killed that morning.
"Lovely princess, I salute you," said the fool. "The cunning of the paladin caused my death, but with your tears you have restored me to life. Your father promised to give you to me: are you willing?"
"If such be the king's wish, I consent," replied she, as she gave him her hand with a tender look.
As he spoke the door opened, admitting the helmet, which placed itself upon his head; the sash, which wound itself round his waist; the tablecloth, which hid itself in one of his pockets; and the avenging wand, which placed itself in his hand. Then came the king, all out of breath, and wondering what the noise was about. He was amazed to see the fool alive again, and even more so that he should be with the princess.
The young fellow, fearing the king's wrath, cried out:
"O marvellous, wonderful, lake-forming Band, For my safety, and not for my fun, Bear us in a boat on thy waves far from land, So that we from our foes need not run".
There was a shimmering in the air, and then everything disappeared, while on the lawn before the palace stretched a wide deep lake, in the crystal water of which swam little fish with eyes of pearl and scales of gold. Far away rowed the princess and the fool in a silver skiff. The king stood on the shores of the lake and signed to them to return. When they had landed they knelt at his feet and avowed their mutual love. Upon which his majesty bestowed his blessing, the lake disappeared, and they again found themselves in the princess's apartments.
The king called a special meeting of his council, at which he explained how things had turned out - that he had made the fool his heir, and betrothed him to his daughter, and had put the paladin in prison.
The fool gave the king his magic treasures, and told him what words to say in each case.
Next day all their wishes were fulfilled. The fool of the family was married to the princess, and at the same time received half the kingdom, with the promise of succession to the throne. And the wedding feast, to which all the rich and noble of the land were invited, exceeded in its magnificence and splendour any other festival ever seen or heard of.