There was once upon a time an old Padishah who had three sons and three daughters. One day the old man fell ill, and though they called all the leeches together to help him, his disease would not take a turn for the better. "I already belong to Death," he thought, and calling to him his sons and daughters, he thus addressed them: "If I die, he among you shall be Padishah who watches three nights at my tomb. As for my daughters, I give them to him who first comes to woo them." And with that he died, and was buried as became a Padishah.
Now as the realm could have a Padishah in no other way, the eldest son went to his father's tomb and sat there for half the night, said his prayers upon his carpet, and awaited the dawn. But all at once a horrible din arose in the midst of the darkness, and so frightened was he that he snatched up his slippers and never stopped till he got home. The next night the middling son also went out to the tomb, and he also sat there for half the night, but no sooner did he hear the great din than he too caught up his slippers and hurried off homewards. So it now came to the turn of the third and youngest son.
The third son took his sword, stuck it in his girdle, and went off to the tomb. Sure enough, when he had sat there till midnight, he heard the horrible din, and so horrible was it that the very earth trembled. The youth pulled himself together, went straight towards the spot from whence the noise came loudest, and behold! right in front of him stood a huge dragon. Drawing his sword, the youth fell upon the dragon so furiously that at last the monster had scarcely strength enough left to say: "If thou art a man, put thy heel upon me and strike me with thy sword but once more! "
"Not I," cried the King's son, "my mother only bore me into the world once," whereupon the dragon yielded up its filthy soul. The King's son would have cut off the beast's ears and nose, but he could not see very well in the dark, and began groping about for them, when all at once he saw afar off a little shining light. He went straight towards it, and there in the midst of the brightness he saw an old man. Two globes were in his hand, one black and the other white; the black globe he was turning round and round, and from the white globe proceeded the light.
"What art thou doing, old father?" asked the King's son.
"Alas! my son," replied the old man, "my business is my bane, I hold fast the nights and let go the days." - "Alas! my father," replied the King's son, "my task is even greater than thine." With that he tied together the old man's arms, so that he might not let go the days, and went on still further to seek the light. He went on and on till he came to the foot of a castle wall, and forty men were taking counsel together beneath it.
"What's the matter?" inquired the King's son. - "We should like to go into the castle to steal the treasure," said the forty men, "but we don't know how."
"I would very soon help you if you only gave me a little light," said the King's son. This the robbers readily promised to do, and after that he took a packet of nails, knocked them into the castle wall, row after row, right up to the top, clambered up himself, and then shouted down to them: "Now you come up one by one, just as I have done."
So the robbers caught hold of the nails and began to clamber up, one after another, the whole forty of them. But the youth was not idle. He drew his sword, and the moment each one of them reached the top, he chopped off his head and pitched his body into the courtyard, and so he did to the whole forty. Then he leaped down into the courtyard himself, and there right before him was a beautiful palace; and no sooner had he opened the door than a serpent glided past him, and crawled up a column close by the staircase. The youth drew his sword to strike the serpent; he struck and cut the serpent in two, but his sword remained in the stone wall, and he forgot to draw it out again. Then he mounted the staircase and went into a room, and there lay a lovely damsel asleep. So he went out again, closed the door very softly behind him, and ascended to the second flight, and went into a room there, and before him lay a still lovelier damsel on a bed. This door he also closed, and went up to the third and topmost flight, and opened a door there also, and lo! the whole room was piled up with nothing but steel, and such a splendid damsel lay asleep there that if the King's son had had a thousand hearts, he would have loved her with them all. This door he also closed, remounted the castle wall, re-descended on the other side by means of the nails, which he took out as he descended, and so reached the ground again. Then he went straight up to the old man whose arms he had tied together. "Oh, my son!" cried he from afar, " thou hast remained a long time away. Everybody's side will be aching from so much lying down." Then the youth untied his arms, the old man let the white globes of day move round again, and the youth went up to the dragon, cut off its ears and nose, and put them in his knapsack. Then he went back to the palace, and when he drew nigh to it he found that they had made his eldest brother Padishah. However, he let it be and said nothing.
Not very long afterwards a lion came to the palace, and went straight up to the Padishah. "What dost thou want?" asked the Padishah. "I want thy eldest sister to wife," replied the lion. "I give not my sister to a brute beast," said the Padishah, and forthwith they began chasing the lion away; but now the King's son appeared and said: "Such was not our father's will, but he said we were to give her to whomsoever asked for her." With that they brought the damsel and gave her to the lion, and he took her and was gone.
The next day came a tiger, and demanded the middling daughter from the Padishah. The two elder brethren would by no means give her up, but again the youngest brother insisted that they should do so, as it was their father's wish. So they sent for the damsel and gave her to the tiger.