GRIMM'S FAIRY TALES - online book

130 Fairy Stories Adapted & Arranged for young people

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A king once had twelve daughters, one quite as beautiful as another. They slept together in a large hall of the castle, where their beds stood side by side. Every evening, when they retired to rest, the door of the saloon in which they slept was locked, and bolted, and barred by the king himself. The princesses had dancing-shoes, which they wore when the king had grand enter­tainments, but this was not often enough to wear out many pairs, and yet, sometimes, when they each had a new pair, they were found the next morning, when the king unlocked the door, com­pletely worn out and in holes.
No one could imagine how it happened, for they could not possibly get out of the bolted and barred doors and windows. It occurred so often, and so many shoes were worn out, that the king at last made known his determination, that whoever would dis­cover where his daughters went in the night to dance, and how they got out of the room, should have one of them for a wife, whichever he liked best, and the kingdom after the king's death.
But he also announced that whoever did not succeed, after trying for three nights, should forfeit his life. Notwithstanding this, it was not long before a king's son presented himself, and begged to be allowed to take his chance. He was well received, and placed in a chamber adjoining the sleeping hall, to enable him to see all that took place, and whether they went out to dance, and if they did go, to follow them. The door leading into the sleeping hall was left open, and his bed was placed opposite to it.
But, when he laid down, it was as if lead had been placed on his eyelids; he could not keep awake, and in the morning the dancing-shoes were found more worn than ever; they had even holes in the soles, proving that they had been to a dance some­where. The second and the third night it was the same, and then the head of the poor prince was cut off without the least pity.
Even this did not prevent others from trying, and they all lost their lives.
Now it happened that a poor soldier, who had been wounded, and could not serve any more in the army, was passing on his way