There once lived an old man who had three daughters. The two elder daughters thought of nothing but of dressing themselves up in fancy clothes, but the youngest cared little for such things and liked to keep house and tend the garden far more. One day the old man prepared to go to market and he asked his daughters what they wanted him to buy for them. The eldest daughter told him that she would like a length of silk for a dress, and so did the middle daughter, but when he turned to the youngest daughter, she said: "Buy me a feather of Fenist the Falcon, Father." The father bade his daughters goodbye and away he rode. He bought his two elder daughters what they had asked for, but he could not find Fenist the Falcon's feather anywhere. He came back home, and, oh, how pleased the two elder daughters were with the lengths of silk! But for the youngest daughter there was nothing. "I could not find Fenist the Falcon's feather anywhere," the father told her. "Well, it can't be helped!" she said. "Perhaps you will have better luck next time." The two elder sisters sat down and began making dresses for themselves, and they laughed at their younger sister, but she kept very quiet and paid them no heed.
By and by the father prepared to go to market again. "Well, daughters, what would you like me to buy for you this time?" he asked. The elder daughter told him that she would like a shawl, and so did the middle daughter, but the youngest daughter said: "Buy me a feather of Fenist the Falcon, Father." Off the father rode, he bought the two shawls, but he never so much as laid eyes on the feather. He came back home and said to his youngest daughter: "Ah, child, I could not find a feather of Fenist the Falcon for you this time, either." "Never mind, Father, perhaps you will have better luck next time!" said she.
By and by the father prepared to go to market for the third time. "Come, daughters, what would you like me to buy for you?" he asked them. The eldest daughter asked for a pair of earrings, and so did the middle daughter, but the youngest daughter said as she had before: "Buy me a feather of Fenist the Falcon, Father." The father bought two pairs of gold earrings, but though he looked everywhere no feather could he find. Saddened, he set out for home, but just as he had left the town gate behind him, he met an old man bearing a little box in his hands. "What have you there, old man?" he asked. "A feather of Fenist the Falcon." "How much do you want for it?" "A thousand pieces of gold." The father paid the money and drove home with the box. His daughters met him at the door. "Well, my dear," said he, turning to the
youngest daughter, "I have brought what you asked for at last. Here, take it!" The youngest daughter all but danced with joy. She took the box and kissed it and pressed it to her heart.
After supper they all went off to bed, and she ran to her chamber and opened the box, and lo!—out of it flew Fenist the Falcon's feather. It lighted on the floor, and there before her stood Fenist the Falcon himself, as handsome a youth as ever was born. They spoke lovingly to one another, and the two elder sisters heard them and called out: "Whom are you talking to, sister?" "To myself." "Well, then, open the door!" At this Fenist the Falcon struck the floor and turned into a feather, and the youngest sister picked it up and put it in the box. She opened the door, and the elder sisters came in. They looked here and they looked there but found no one, and as soon as they had left, the youngest daughter opened the window and said: "Fly, my feather, to the open field and bide there for a time!" And the feather turned into a falcon and away it flew.
On the following night Fenist the Falcon came flying back to see his beloved again and they began talking happily to one another, and the two elder sisters heard them and at once ran to tell their father about it. "Someone comes to our sister's chamber at night, he is there now talking to her!" they said. The father got up from bed and hurried to her chamber, but Fenist the Falcon had turned into a feather and was in the box and out of sight when he came in. The father was very angry with his two elder daughters. "You are wicked maids, both, to be spreading such tales!" said he. "Look to yourselves and leave your sister in peace!"
But this did not stop the two elder sisters who decided to use cunning in order to catch whoever it was kept coming to their younger sister's chamber. They waited till it was dark, and, moving a ladder up to the window of her chamber, stuck a large number of sharp needles into the pane. Night came, and Fenist the Falcon flew up to the window, but though he beat against the pane till his wings were cut and bleeding he could not get into his beloved's chamber. "Farewell, fair maid!" said he. "If ever you want to see me, seek me beyond the thrice-nine lands in the thrice-ten kingdom. But you shall not find me till you have worn out three pairs of iron shoes, broken three iron staffs and eaten three stone loaves!" But the maid slept, and though she heard these chilling words through her sleep, she could not wake up.
Dawn came, she rose and looked out of the window, and, seeing the needles stuck into the pane and the blood dripping down from them, threw up her hands in dismay. "Heavens! My sisters tried to kill Fenist the Falcon," cried she. And she at once got together a few belongings
and left the house. She ran to a smithy, had three pairs of iron shoes and three iron staffs made for herself, and, taking along three stone loaves, set out to seek Fenist the Falcon.
On and on she walked, and she had worn out a pair of iron boots, broken an iron staff and eaten a stone loaf when she saw a little hut standing before her. She knocked at the door and said, "Please, Master, please, Mistress, do let me in for the night!" and an old woman let her in. "You are welcome to spend the night in my house, fair maid!" said she. "Whither are you bound?" "I am seeking Fenist the Falcon, Grandma." "It's a long way that lies ahead of you, my dear!" Morning came, and the old woman said: "Go to see my middle sister, and she will help you. Here is a present for you: a stool of silver and a spindle of gold. You will sit down on the stool and spin some tow, and a gold thread will come running out." Then she brought out a ball of yarn, sent it rolling along the road and told the maid to follow it. The maid thanked her and set off after the ball of yarn.
Whether a short or a long time passed nobody knows, but she had worn out a second pair of boots, broken a second staff and eaten a second stone loaf when the ball of yarn brought her to another little hut. She knocked at the door and said, "Please, Master, please. Mistress, do let me in for the night!" and an old woman let her in. "You are welcome to spend the night in my house, fair maid," said she. "Whither are you bound?" "I am seeking Fenist the Falcon, Grandma." "It's a long way you have before you!"
Morning came, and the old woman gave the maid a platter of silver and an egg of gold for a present and told her that she was to go to see her elder sister. "She will know where Fenist the Falcon is to be found!" said she.
The maid bade the old woman goodbye and off she set on her way. On and on she walked, and she had worn out her third pair of iron boots, broken her third iron staff and eaten her last stone loaf when the ball of yarn rolled up to a little hut. She knocked at the door and said, "Please, Master, please, Mistress, do let me in for the night!" and an old woman let her in. "Come inside, my dear, you are welcome to spend the night in my house," said she. "Whither are you bound?" "I am seeking Fenist the Falcon, Grandma." "It will not be easy to get to him," said the old woman, and she told the maid that Fenist the Falcon now lived in such-and-such a town and that he was married to a wafer- maker's daughter. Morning came, and the old woman said: "Here is a present for you, fair maid: a frame of gold and a needle. All you must do is hold the frame, and the needle will do the needlework all by
itself. And now go with God and take up service with the wafer- maker."
No sooner said than done. The maid found the house where the wafer-maker lived, and, coming inside, offered to take up service with her. The wafer-maker hired her and was very pleased she had, for the maid was a quick worker who kept the stove hot, brought in water and cooked their meals, and did it all quickly and well. "God be thanked!" said the wafer-maker to her daughter. "We have got ourselves a servant who is hard-working and who does everything without having to be told." Her chores finished, the maid brought out her silver stool and her gold spindle and began to spin. And as she spun the tow, a thread came running out, and not a plain thread, either, but a gold one. Seeing this, the wafer-maker's daughter said: "Please, fair maid, won't you sell me your playthings?" "Well, I might at that!" "And what do you ask for them?" "I ask for no money. Just let me spend the night in your husband's chamber." To this the wafer-maker's daughter agreed. "No harm can come of it," said she to herself. "With the help of the spindle my mother and I will get rich. And as for my husband, I can give him a sleeping potion so that he will not wake till morning."
Now, Fenist the Falcon was away at the time. He roamed the skies all day and only came back home in the evening. They sat down to eat, and though the maid kept looking at him as she served, he did not recognize her. The wafer-maker's daughter put a sleeping powder into his drink and sent him off to bed, and then she said to the maid: "Go to his chamber and keep the flies away from him!" There sat the maid waving the flies away from her beloved's face, and she wept and sobbed as she did so. "Wake up, wake up, Fenist the Falcon, my own dear love!" cried she. "Long did I seek you, and I wore out three pairs of iron shoes, broke three iron staffs and ate three stone loaves before at last I found you!" But Fenist the Falcon slept on and did not wake.
Night passed, and on the following day the maid brought out her silver platter and began rolling the gold egg over it, and more and more gold eggs appeared on it. The wafer-maker's daughter saw this and said: "Do sell me your playthings, fair maid!" "Well, I might at that!" "And what do you ask for them?" "I ask for no money. Just let me spend the night in your husband's chamber." "Very well, if that's what you want!" Now, Fenist the Falcon was away roaming the skies again, and he only came back toward evening. They sat down to eat their supper, but though the maid kept looking at him as she served, he did not recognize her and it was as though he had never known her. The wafer-maker's daughter gave him a sleeping potion again, put him to bed and sent the maid to keep the flies away from him, and this time,
too, though the maid wept and sobbed and tried to wake him, he slept on and did not hear her.
The third day came, and the maid sat there holding the gold frame and watched the needle embroider, making as pretty a pattern as is rarely to be seen! The widow's daughter could not take her eyes from it. "Please, fair maid, sell me your playthings!" she said. "Well, I might at that!" "And what do you ask for them?" "I ask for no money. Just let me spend the night in your husband's chamber." "Very well, if that's what you want!" Evening came, and Fenist the Falcon came flying home. His wife gave him a sleeping potion, put him to bed and then sent the maid to keep the flies away from him. The maid sat there waving the flies away and weeping bitterly, and she kept saying over and over again through her tears: "Come, wake up, Fenist the Falcon, my own dear love, for I am here at your side! Long did 1 seek you, and I wore out three pairs of iron shoes, broke three iron staffs and ate three stone loaves before I found you at last!" But Fenist the Falcon slept on and never heard her.
The maid wept and sobbed and tried to wake him time and again, but it was not till a tear of hers fell on his cheek that he woke at last. "Something burnt my cheek!" he said. "I am here beside you, Fenist the Falcon," said the maid. "And I wore out three pairs of iron shoes, broke three iron staffs and ate three stone loaves before I found you. For three nights did 1 stand over you calling your name, but you slept on and never woke." Then it was that Fenist the Falcon knew who stood before him and was filled with such joy as cannot be described! They decided to go away together and left there and then, and when morning came and the wafer-maker's daughter rose, she could find neither her husband nor the maid. She rushed to her mother's chamber and told her about it, and the wafer-maker had her horses harnessed and rode after the runaways. She went everywhere and spoke to everyone, even paying the three old women a visit, but Fenist the Falcon had vanished without a trace and she could not find him.
Fenist the Falcon brought his beloved to her parents' house, he struck the ground and turned into a feather, and the maid picked it up, put it in her bosom and went to see her father. "Ah, my child, it is you!" the father cried. "And I thought I would never see you again. Where have you been all this time?" "Far, far away, Father." Now, it was holy week just then, and the father and his two elder daughters were preparing to go to church for the early morning service. "Won't you join us, my dear?" said he to the youngest daughter. "It's such a happy day for us!" "But I have nothing to wear, Father." "You can put
on one of our dresses," her sisters offered. "Ah, no, sisters, your dresses are too fine for me, I think I had better stay home."
Off they went to church, and no sooner had they left than the maid took out her feather and let it drop to the floor, and it turned into Fenist the Falcon, the most handsome youth that ever was born! He leaned out of the window and whistled, and lo!—there before them lay the finest of clothes and of jewels and a coach of gold stood at the door. They put on the clothes and the jewels, and, getting into the coach, drove to the church. They came inside and placed themselves where all could see them, and the townsfolk, who took them to be a prince and a princess, marvelled at the sight of them and asked themselves where it was they could have come from. They left the church before anyone else did, when the service was drawing to a close, and drove home. And no sooner were they there than the coach vanished and so did all the fine clothes and jewels, and Fenist the Falcon turned into a feather. By and by the father came home with his two daughters, and the daughters said: "Ah, Sister, a pity you did not come with us! A most handsome prince and a most beautiful of princesses were in church today!"
The next day the same thing happened, but on the third day the father, who came out of the church just as Fenist the Falcon and his bride were getting into the coach, saw it drive up to his house and vanish. He was no sooner home than he asked his youngest daughter if she had seen it. "There's nothing for it but to tell you all!" said she.
She brought out the feather and let it drop to the floor, and it turned into Fenist the Falcon.
Fenist the Falcon and the maid were married, and theirs was the richest wedding that ever was!
I was there and drank ale and wine, but all of it ran down this beard of mine. At the feast till morn I meant to stay, for my spirits were high and my heart was gay, but a cap and a basket were put on my head, and I found myself in the street instead!