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LIKE many others in the world, there was a king who had three sons. This king was blind, and he had heard one day that there was a king who had a white blackbird, which gave sight to the blind. When his eldest son heard that, he. said to his father that he would go and fetch this white blackbird as quickly as possible.

The father said to him, "I prefer to remain blind rather than to separate myself from you, my child."

The son says to him, "Have no fear for me; with a horse laden with money I will find it and bring it to you."

He goes off then, far, far, far away. When night came he stopped. One evening he stopped at an inn where there were three very beautiful young ladies. They said to him. that they must have a game of cards together. He refuses; but after many prayers and much pressing they begin. He loses all his money, his horse, and also has a large debt against his word of honour. In this country it was the custom for persons who did not pay their debts to be put in prison, and if they did not pay after a given time they were put to death, and then afterwards they were left

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at the church doors until someone should pay their debts. 1 They therefore put this king's son in prison.

The second son, seeing that his brother did not return, said to his father that he wished to go off, (and asked him) to give him a horse and plenty of money, and that certainly he would not lose his time. He sets off, and, as was fated to occur, he goes to the inn where his brother had been ruined. After supper these young ladies say to him:

"You must have a game of cards with us."

He refuses, but these young ladies cajole him so well, and turn him round their fingers, that he ends by consenting. They begin then, and he also loses all his money, his horse, and makes a great many debts besides. They put him in prison like his brother.

After some time the king and his youngest son are in deep grief because some misfortune must have happened to them, and the youngest asks leave to set out.

"I assure you that I will do something. Have no anxiety on my account."

This poor father lets him go off, but not with a good will. He kept saying to him that he would prefer to be always blind; but the son would set off. His father gives him a beautiful horse, and as much gold as his horse could carry, and his crown. He goes off far, far, far away. They rested every night, and he happened, like his brothers, to go to the same inn. After supper these young ladies say to him:

"It is the custom for everyone to play at cards here."

He says that it is not for him, and that he will not play. The young ladies beg him ever so much, but they do not succeed with this one in any fashion whatever. They cannot make him play. The next morning he gets up early, takes his horse, and goes off. He sees that they are leading

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two men to death. He asks what they have done, and recognises his two brothers. They tell him that they have not paid their debts within the appointed time, and that they must be put to death. But he pays the debts of both, and goes on. Passing before the church he sees that they are doing something. He asks what it is. They tell him that it is a man who has left some debts, and that until someone pays them he will be left there still. He pays the debts again.

He goes on his journey, and arrives at last at the king's house where the blackbird was. Our king's son asks if they have not a white blackbird which restores sight. They tell him, "Yes." Our young gentleman relates how that his father is blind, and that he has come such a long way to fetch it to him.

The king says to him, "I will give you this white blackbird, when you shall have brought me from the house of such a king a young lady who is there."

Our young man goes off far, far, far away. When he is near the king's house a fox 1 comes out and says to him,

"Where are you going to?"

He answers, "I want a young lady from the king's house."

He gives his horse to the fox to take care of, and the fox says to him:

"You will go to such a room; there will be the young lady whom you need. You will not recognise her because she has old clothes on, but there are beautiful dresses hanging up in the room. You will make her put on one of those. As soon as she shall have it on, she will begin to sing and will wake up everybody in the house."

He goes inside as the fox had told him. He finds the young lady. He makes her put on the beautiful dresses, and as soon as she has them on she begins to sing and to

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carol. Everyone rushes into this young lady's room. The king in a rage wished to put him in prison, but the king's son shows his crown, and tells how such a king sent him to fetch this young lady, and when once he has brought her he promises him the white blackbird to open his father's eyes.

The king then says to him, "You must go to the house of such a king, and you must bring me from there a white horse, which is very, very beautiful."

Our young man sets out, and goes on, and on, and on. As he comes near the house of the king, the fox appears to him and says to him:

"The horse which you want is in such a place, but he has a bad saddle on. You will put on him that which is hanging up, and which is handsome and brilliant. As soon as he shall have it on he will begin to neigh, so much as not to be able to stop. 1 All the king's people will come to see what is happening, but with your crown you will always get off scot free."

He goes off as the fox had said to him. He finds the horse with the bad saddle, and puts on him the fine one, and then the horse begins to neigh and cannot stop himself. People arrive, and they wish to put the young man in prison, but he shows them his crown, and relates what king had sent him to fetch this horse in order to get a young lady. They give him the horse, and he sets off.

He comes to the house of the king where the young lady was. He shows his horse with its beautiful saddle, and asks the king if he would not like to see the young lady take a few turns on this beautiful horse in the courtyard. The king says, "Yes." As the young lady was very handsomely dressed when she mounted the horse, our young man gives the horse a little touch with his stick, and they set off like the lightning. The king's son follows them, and

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they go both together to the king who had the white blackbird. They ask him for the blackbird, and the bird goes of itself on to the knees of the young lady, who was still on horseback. The king's son gives him a blow, and they set off at full gallop; he also escapes in order to rejoin them. They journey a long, long time, and approach their city.

His brothers had heard the news how that their brother was coming with the white blackbird. These two brothers had come back at last to their father's house, and they had told their father a hundred falsehoods; how that robbers had taken away their money, and many things like that. The two brothers plotted together, and said that they must hinder their brother from reaching the house, and that they must rob him of the blackbird.

They keep expecting him always. One day they saw him coming, and they say that they must throw him into a cistern, 1 and they do as they say. They take the blackbird and throw him and the lady into the water, and leave the horse outside. The fox comes to them on the brink of the cistern, and says to them:

"I will leap in there; you will take hold of my tail one by one, and I will save you."

The two wicked brothers had taken the blackbird, but he escaped from them as they entered the house, and went on to the white horse. Judge of the joy of the youngest brother when he sees that nothing is wanting to them! They go to the king. As soon as they enter the young lady begins to carol and to sing, the bird too, and the horse to neigh. The blackbird of its own accord goes on to the king's knees, and there by its songs restored him to sight. The son relates to his father what labours he underwent until he had found these three things, and he told him how he had saved two men condemned to death by paying their debts, and that they were his two brothers; that he had also paid the

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debts of a dead man, and that his soul (the fox was his soul) had saved him from the cistern into which his brothers had thrown him.

Think of the joy of the father, and his sorrow at the same time, when he saw how wisely this young son had always behaved, and how wicked his two brothers had been. As he had well earned her, he was married to the young lady whom he had brought away with him, and they lived happily and joyfully. The father sent the two brothers into the desert to do penance. If they had lived well, they would have died well.


183:1 Cf. above in "Ezkabi" and "Juan Dekos." There is some similarity between this tale and Campbell's "Mac Ian Direach," Vol. II., p. 328. Compare also "The Greek Princess and the Young Gardener," in Kennedy's "Fireside Stories of Ireland." We know only the French translation of this last in Brueyre, p. 145. "Le Merle Blanc" is one of the best known of French stories.

184:1 Cf. "Juan Dekos" for paying the debts, and the fox. In the Gaelic the fox is called "An Gille Mairtean," "the fox." (Campbell, Vol. II., p. 329, seq.)

185:1 Cf. the stealing of the bay filly in Campbell's "Mac Iain Direach," Vol. II., p. 334

186:1 Huge cisterns, partly underground, for holding rain water, are common in the Pays Basque. They are, of course, near the houses off which the water drains.

Next: The Sister and Her Seven Brothers