Sacred Texts  Legends and Sagas  English Folklore  Index  Previous  Next 


IN days of yore, when this country was governed by many kings, among the rest the King of Canterbury had an only daughter, wise, fair, and beautiful. The king issued a decree that whoever would watch one night with his daughter, and neither sleep nor slumber, should have her the next day in marriage; but if he did either he should lose his head. Many knights and squires attempted it, but ended in losing their lives.

Now it happened, a young shepherd, grazing his flock near the. road, said to his master, "Zur, I zee many gentlemen ride to the Court at Canterbury, but I ne'er see 'em return again." "Oh, shepherd," said his master, "I know not how you should, for they attempt to watch with the king's daughter, according to the decree, and not performing it, they are all beheaded." "Well," said the shepherd, "I'll try my vorton; zo now vor a king's daughter or a headless shepherd!" And taking his bottle and bag, he trudged to Court Now, in his way he was to cross a river, over which lay a plank, and down he sits and pulls off his shoes and stockings to wash his feet. While he was doing this a fish came biting his toes, and he caught it and put it in his bag. After this, came a second, and a third, and a fourth; which he put in his bag likewise, and then pursued his journey. When he came to the palace he knocked at the gate loudly with his crook, and having told his business, was conducted to a hall, where the king's daughter sat ready to receive him, while the better to lull his senses, he was placed in a rich chair, and wines and fine dishes of fruit and meat were set before him. Of these the shepherd ate and drank plentifully, so that he began to slumber before midnight "O shepherd," said the lady, "I have caught you napping!" "Noa, sweet ally, I was busy a-feeshing." "A-fishing!" said the princess in the utmost astonishment. "Nay, shepherd, there is no fish-pond in the hall" "No matter vor that, I have been feeshing in my bag." "Oh me!" said she, "have you caught one?" Thereupon the shepherd slyly drew the fish out of his bag, at sight of which she was greatly pleased, and praised it for a pretty fish, and said, "Dear shepherd, do you think you could catch one in mine too?" He replied, "Mayhap I. may, when I have baited my hook." Then he did as before, and brought out another, which the princess also extolled as ten times finer, and then gave him leave to go to sleep, promising to excuse him to her father.

In the morning the king came to the hall, with his headsman, as usual, but the princess cried out, "Here is no work for you." "How so," said the king, "has he neither slumbered nor slept?" "No," said the princess, "he has been fishing in the hall all night." When the king heard this and saw the fish, he asked him to catch one in his own bag. The shepherd then bade the king lie down, and having another fish ready, and giving the king a prick with a packing needle, he drew out the fish and showed it to his majesty. The king said he never knew such fishing before. "However," said he, "take my daughter according to my royal decree." So the wedding was kept in great triumph, and the poor shepherd became a king's son.


1 From The History of the Four Kings of Canterbury, Colchester, Cornwall, and Cumberland, their Queens and Daughters. Chap-book, Falkirk, 1823.

Next: The Princess of Colchester