THE WHITE SNAKE.
delivered us." He rode on, and after a while he heard a small voice come up from the sand underneath his horse's feet. He listened, and understood how an ant-king was complaining,
" If only these men would keep off, with their great awkward beasts ! here comes this stupid horse treading down my people with his hard hoofs ! "
The man then turned his horse to the side-path, and the ant-king called out to him,
" We will remember and reward thee !"
The path led him through a wood, and there he saw a father-raven and mother-raven standing by their nest and throwing their young ones out.
" Off with you ! young gallows-birds ! " cried they; " we cannot stuff you any more ; you are big enough to fend for yourselves ! " The poor young ravens lay on the ground, fluttering, and beating the air with their pinions, and crying,
" We are poor helpless things, we cannot fend for ourselves, we cannot even fly ! we can only die of hunger!"
Then the kind young man dismounted, killed his horse with his dagger, and left it to the young ravens for food. They came hopping up, feasted away at it, and cried,
" We will remember and reward thee ! "
So now he had to use his own legs, and when he had gone a long way he came to a great town. There was much noise and thronging in the streets, and there came a man on a horse, who proclaimed,
" That the King's daughter seeks a husband, but he who wishes to marry her must perform a difficult task, and if he cannot carry it through successfully, he must lose his life."
Many had already tried, but had lost their lives, in vain. The young man, when he saw the King's daughter, was so dazzled by her great beauty, that he forgot all danger, went to the King and offered himself as a wooer.
Then he was led to the sea-side, and a gold ring was thrown into the water before his eyes. Then the King told him that he must fetch the ring up again from the bottom of the sea, saying,
" If you come back without it, you shall be put under the waves again and again until you are drowned."
Every one pitied the handsome young man, but they went,