Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Story Every Day: Who Cured the Princess?

Three brothers were left penniless after their parents die, so they decided to split up and make their way in the world, meeting again after ten years to compare stories.

The first brother traveled to India, where he became a magician. He got to know all the magic in India, and before ten years were up he learned to make a mirror that could show its bearer what was happening in far off lands as easily as it showed reflections.

The second traveled to the United States, and there he marveled at the wonders of technology. He became a pilot and engineer, and before ten years are up he built a fantastic plane that allowed him to circle the globe.

The third brother went to Nigeria, where he became a farmer. He grew apple trees in the fertile soil, and these became widely known for their heartiness and nutrition. Before ten years were up he discovered that his apples could cure diseases, both mundane and fatal.

The tenth anniversary saw these brothers reunited back home. They compared stories, and each was impressed with the others' but thought his own the most miraculous. The mirror was the first to be tested, and it showed the brothers the goings-on in a castle in northern Europe. There, the king was distraught at the illness of his eldest daughter. He prayed for a miracle, because she would not last the night.

It was time to test the airplane, and the brothers flew to northern Europe. They arrived at the castle in time to test the apple. They told the king of their powers, and the king didn't believe them. They assured the king of their efficacy, but he made them promise that, should the apples effect no cure, they would not resist a hanging for giving the king false hope.

The apple, of course, did its job. The king was thrilled, and he allowed the princess to choose one of the brothers to marry. However, after spending some time with them, she could not decide from amongst them. She asked which of them had saved her, but each had equal claim to that deed: the mirror invented by the first had revealed the problem, the plane built by the second had carried them quickly enough to perform the deed, and the apple had been the cure. The princess deferred to her younger sister, who thought a bit and then asked the brothers a single question each: "Was your object used up by the deed? The first two answered that it was not, since the plane was intact and the mirror still showed visions. Only the third said yes, since the apple was gone. The younger princess then said the farmer should be the prince.

All agreed. The other men married the other daughters of the King, and everyone lived happily ever after.

That story comes from Dov Noy's collection Folktales of Israel, translated by Gene Baharav, and retold in my own words. Noy collected it from a man named Moshe Kaplan, who heard it from an unnamed Polish rabbi, probably in the late 1950s or early 60s. Noy places it under tale type 653A, "The Rarest Thing in the World." Pretty good little story, eh?

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