Three Brothers, a chatty princess, and a noble billy-goat.
– A Hans Christian Andersen Story –
THERE was once an old country house, in which lived an old squire with his two sons, and these two sons were too clever by half. They had made up their minds to propose to the king’s daughter, and they ventured to do so, because she had announced that she would take any man for a husband who had most to say for himself. These two took a week over their preparations; it was all the time they had for it, but it was quite sufficient with all their accomplishments, which were most useful. One of them knew the Latin Dictionary by heart, and the town newspapers for three years either forwards or backwards. The second one had made himself familiar with all the statutes of the Corporations, and what every alderman had to know. So he thought he was equal to talking about affairs of state; and he also knew how to embroider harness for he was clever with his fingers.
“I shall win the king’s daughter,” they both said, and their father gave each of them a handsome horse. The one who could repeat the Dictionary and the newspapers had a coal black one, while the one who was learned in Guilds and embroideries had a snow-white one. Then they smeared the corners of their mouths with oil to make them more movable. All the servants were assembled in the court-yards to see them mount, but just then the third brother came up, for there were three, only nobody took any account of this one, Hans Clodhopper, as he had no accomplishments like his brothers.
“Where are you going wearing all your fine clothes?” he asked.
“To court, to talk ourselves into favour with the princess. Haven’t you heard the news which is being drummed all over the country?”
And then they told him the news.
“Preserve us! then I must go too,” said Hans Clodhopper. But his brothers laughed and rode away.
“Father, give me a horse. I want to get married too. If she takes me, she takes me, and if she doesn’t take me, I shall take her all the same.”
“Stuff and nonsense,” said his father, “I will give no horse to you. Why you have nothing to say for yourself, but your brothers are fine fellows.”
“If I mayn’t have a horse,” said Hans Clodhopper, “I’ll take the billy-goat, he is my own and he can carry me very well!”
And he seated himself astride the billy-goat, dug his heels into its sides, and galloped off down the highroad. Whew! what a pace they went.
“Here I come,” shouted Hans Clodhopper, and he sang till the air responded with it.
The brothers rode on in silence, they did not speak to each other, for they had to store up every good idea which they wanted to bring out later on, and their speeches had to be very carefully thought out.
“Halloo!” shouted Hans Clodhopper, “here I come; see what I’ve found on the road,” and he shewed them a dead crow.
“What on earth will you do with that, Clodhopper?” said they.
“I will give it to the king’s daughter.”
“Yes, I would do that,” said they, and they rode on laughing.
“Halloo, here I come; see what I have found; it isn’t every day one finds things like this on the road.” The brothers turned round to see what it was.
“Clodhopper,” said they, “it’s nothing but an old wooden shoe with the upper part broken off. Is the princess to have that too?”
“Yes indeed she is,” said Hans, and the brothers again rode on laughing.
“Halloo, halloo, here I am,” shouted Hans Clodhopper. “Now this is first rate.”
“What have you found this time?” enquired the brothers.
“Won’t the princess be delighted!”
“Why,” said the brothers, “it’s only sand picked up out of the ditch!”
“Yes, that it is,” said Hans Clodhopper, “and the finest kind of sand, too. You can hardly hold it.” And he filled his pockets with it.
The brothers rode on as quickly as they could, and arrived at the town gates a whole hour before him. At the gate the suitors received tickets, in the order of their arrival, and they were arranged in rows, six in each file, and so close together that they could not move their arms, which was a very good thing, or they would have torn each other’s garments off, merely because one stood in front of the other. All the other inhabitants of the town stood round the castle, peeping in at the windows to see the king’s daughter receive the suitors, and as each one came into the room he lost the power of speech.
“No good,” said the princess, “away with him!”
Now came the brother who could repeat the Lexicon, but he had completely forgotten it while standing in the ranks. The floor creaked and the ceiling was made of looking-glass, so that he beheld himself standing on his head; and at every window sat three clerks and an alderman, who wrote down all that was said, so that it might be sent to the papers immediately, and sold for a halfpenny at the street corners.
It was terrible, and the stoves had been heated to such a degree that they got red-hot at the top.
“It is fearfully hot in here,” said the suitor.
“That is because my father is roasting cockerels to-day,” said the princess.
Bah! There he stood like a fool; he had not imagined a conversation of this kind, and he could not think of a word to say, just when he wanted to be particularly witty.
“No good,” said the king’s daughter, “away with him,” and he had to go.
Then entered the second brother. “There’s a terrific heat here,” said he.
“Yes, we are roasting cockerels to-day,” said the king’s daughter.
“What did—what?” stuttered he, and all the reporters duly wrote “What did—what.”
“No good,” said the king’s daughter, “take him away.”
Then came Hans Clodhopper. He rode the billy-goat right into the apartment.
“What a scorching heat you have here,” said he.
“That is because I am roasting cockerels,” said the king’s daughter.
“That is very convenient,” said Hans Clodhopper; “then I suppose I can get a crow roasted, too.”
“Yes, quite well,” said the king’s daughter: “but have you something to roast it in? For I have neither pot nor pan.”
“But I have,” said Hans Clodhopper. “Here is a cooking pot.” And he pulled out the wooden shoe and put the crow into it.
“Why you have sufficient for a whole meal,” said the king’s daughter; “but where shall we get any dripping for basting it?”
“Oh, I have some in my pocket,” said Hans Clodhopper; “I have plenty and to spare,” and he poured a little of the sand out of his pocket.
“Now I like that,” said the princess; “you have an answer for everything, and you have something to say for yourself. I will have you for a husband. But do you know that every word we have said will be in the papers to-morrow, for at every window sit three clerks and an alderman, and the alderman is the worst, for he doesn’t understand.” She said this to alarm him. All the clerks sniggered and made blots of ink on the floor.
“Oh, those are the gentry,” said Hans Clodhopper; “then I must give the alderman the best thing I have,” and he turned out his pockets and threw the sand in his face.
“That was cleverly done,” said the princess, “I couldn’t have done it, but I will try to learn.”
So Hans Clodhopper became king, gained a wife and a crown and sat upon the throne. We have this direct from the alderman’s newspaper, but it is not altogether dependable.
This story was taken from the book:
Originally published in 1922, Hans Andersen Stories, is illustrated with the magnificent colour and black and white illustrations of Jennie Harbour. This collection contains some of Andersen’s best stories, including such well-known and loved tales as ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, ‘The Steadfast Tin Soldier’, ‘The Ugly Duckling’, ‘The Snow Queen’ and ‘The Princess and the Pea’.