A great king of a land far away in the East had a daughter who was very beautiful, but so proud, and haughty, and conceited, that none of the princes who came to ask for her hand in marriage was good enough for her, and she only made fun of them.
Once upon a time the king held a great feast, and asked all her suitors to come. They all sat in a row, ranged according to their rank—kings, and princes, and dukes, and earls, and counts, and barons, and knights. Then the princess came in, and as she passed by them she had something spiteful to say to everyone. The first was too fat: ‘He’s as round as a tub,’ she said. The next was too tall: ‘What a maypole!’ she said. The next was too short: ‘What a dumpling!’ she said. The fourth was too pale, and she called him ‘Wallface.’ The fifth was too red, so she called him ‘Tomato.’ The sixth was not straight enough; so she said he was like a green stick that had been laid to dry over a baker’s oven. And thus she had some joke to crack about every one: but she laughed more than all at a good king who was there. ‘Look at him,’ said she; ‘his beard is like an old mop; he shall be called Grisly-beard.’ So the king got the nickname of Grisly-beard.
But the old king was very angry when he saw how his daughter behaved, and how badly she treated all his guests. He vowed that, willing or unwilling, she should marry the first man, be he prince or beggar, that came to the door.
Two days after there came by a travelling fiddler, who began to play under the window and beg. When the king heard him, he said, ‘Let him come in.’ So they brought in a dirty-looking fellow, and when he had sung before the king and the princess, he begged for something. Then the king said, ‘You have sung so well, that I will give you my daughter for your wife.’ The princess begged and pleaded, but the king said, ‘I have sworn to give you to the first comer, and I will keep my word.’ So words and tears were of no avail. The priest was sent for, and she was married to the fiddler. When this was over the king said, ‘Now get ready to go—you must not stay here—you must travel on with your husband.’
Then the fiddler went on his way, and took her with him, and they soon came to a great wood. ‘Please,’ she said, ‘whose wood is this?’ ‘It belongs to King Grisly-beard,’ he answered. ‘If you had chosen him all this would have been yours.’ ‘Ah! Unlucky wretch that I am!’ she sighed, ‘If only I had married King Grisly-beard!’ Next they came to some fine meadows. ‘Whose are these beautiful green meadows?’ she said. ‘They belong to King Grisly-beard, ‘If you had chosen him all this would have been yours.’ ‘Ah! Unlucky wretch that I am!’ she said, ‘If only I had married King Grisly-beard!’
Then they came to a great city. ‘Whose is this noble city?’ she said. ”If you had chosen him all this would have been yours.’ ‘Ah! Wretch that I am!’ she sighed, ‘why didn’t I marry King Grisly-beard?’ ‘That is no business of mine,’ said the fiddler, ‘why should you wish for another husband? Am not I good enough for you?’
At last they came to a small cottage. ‘What a horrible place!’ she said. Who does that little dirty hole belong to?’ Then the fiddler said, ‘That is our house, where we are to live.’ ‘Where are your servants?’ she cried. ‘What do we want with servants?’ he said, ‘you must do for yourself whatever is to be done. Now make the fire, and put on water and cook my supper, for I am very tired.’ But the princess knew nothing of making fires and cooking, and the fiddler was forced to help her. When they had eaten a very scanty meal they went to bed. But the fiddler woke her up very early in the morning to clean the house. Thus they lived for two days, and when they had eaten up all there was in the cottage, the man said, ‘Wife, we can’t go on like this, spending money and earning nothing. You must learn to weave baskets.’ Then he went out and cut willows, and brought them home, and she began to weave, but it made her fingers very sore. ‘I see this work won’t do,’ he said, ‘try and spin. Perhaps you will do that better.’ So she sat down and tried to spin. But the threads cut her tender fingers till the blood ran. ‘See now,’ said the fiddler, ‘you are good for nothing; you can do no work. What a bargain I have got! However, I’ll try and set up a trade in pots and pans, and you shall stand in the market and sell them.’ ‘Alas!’ she sighed, ‘if any of my father’s court should pass by and see me standing in the market, how they will laugh at me!’
But her husband did not care about that, and said she must work, if she did not wish to die of hunger. At first the trade went well for many people, seeing such a beautiful woman, went to buy her wares, and paid their money without thinking of taking away the goods. They lived on this as long as it lasted. Then her husband bought a fresh lot of ware, and she sat herself down with it in the corner of the market. A drunken soldier soon came by, and rode his horse against her stall, and broke all her goods into a thousand pieces. Then she began to cry, and did not know what to do. ‘Ah! What will become of me?’ she said. ‘What will my husband say?’ So she ran home and told him everything. ‘Who would have thought you would have been so silly,’ he said, ‘as to put an earthenware stall in the corner of the market, where everybody passes? But let us have no more crying; I see you are not fit for this sort of work, so I have been to the king’s palace, and asked if they did not want a kitchen-maid. They say they will take you, and there you will have plenty to eat.’
Thus the princess became a kitchen-maid, and helped the cook to do all the dirtiest work; but she was allowed to carry home some of the meat that was left, and on this they lived.
She had not been there long before she heard that the king’s eldest son was passing by, going to be married.She went to one of the windows and looked out. Everything was ready, and all the pomp and brightness of the court was there. Then she bitterly grieved for the pride and folly which had brought her so low. The servants gave her some of the rich meats, which she put into her basket to take home.
All on a sudden, as she was going out, in came the king’s son in golden clothes; and when he saw a beautiful woman at the door, he took her by the hand, and said she should be his partner in the dance. But she trembled for fear, for she saw that it was King Grisly-beard, who was making fun of her. However, he kept fast hold, and led her in. The cover of the basket came off, so that the meats in it fell out. Then everybody laughed and jeered at her; and she was so ashamed, that she wished herself a thousand feet deep in the earth. She sprang to the door to run away. But on the steps King Grisly-beard overtook her, and brought her back and said, ‘Fear me not! I am the fiddler who has lived with you in the hut. I brought you there because I really loved you. I am also the soldier that overturned your stall. I have done all this only to cure you of your silly pride, and to show you the folly of your ill-treatment of me. Now all is over. You have learnt wisdom, and it is time to hold our marriage feast.’
Then the chamberlains came and brought her the most beautiful robes. Her father and his whole court were there already, and welcomed her home on her marriage. Joy was in every face and every heart. The feast was grand and they danced and sang