The Singing Rose

Ignaz and Joseph Zingerle; Austria.

A king had three daughters. They were more beautiful than the young women of today, and each had passed her sixteenth year of life. The king thought about making one of his daughters queen, but he did not know which one he should select over the other two.

One day he summoned all three and said to them, "My dear children, I am now old and frail, and every day is a gift. Before I die, I would like to bring everything in my realm into order and name one of you as the heir to my kingdom. Now go out into the wide world, and the one of you who brings back a singing rose shall inherit my throne, and she shall be queen over the entire land."

When the three daughters had heard this, they tearfully took leave of their old father, then -- trusting their luck -- set forth for foreign lands, each taking a different path.

It happened that the youngest and most beautiful of them had to go through a dark pine forest. All kinds of birds were singing at the same time. It was wonderful to listen to them. It began to get dark, the birds flew to their nests, and after a while it became quiet as a mouse. Then suddenly a bright, beautiful, loud tone sounded forth, such as the princess had never heard before, neither from birds nor from humans, and she immediately thought, "That can only be the singing rose."

She hurried on in the direction that the marvelous sounds seemed to be coming from. She had not walked long before she saw a large, old-fashioned castle on a cliff. She eagerly climbed up to the castle and pulled several times on the latch. Finally the gate opened with a creaking sound, and an old man with a long, ice-gray beard looked out.

"What is your wish?" he grumpily asked the startled maiden.

"I would like a singing rose," she answered. "Do you have such a thing in your garden?"

"Yes indeed," answered the old man.

"What will you take for it, if I could get it from you?"

"You need give me nothing for the singing rose. You can have it today, but as payment, I will come to you in seven years and bring you back with me to this, my castle."

"Just bring me quickly the valuable flower," shouted the maiden joyfully, for she was thinking only about the singing rose and the kingdom, but not about what would happen after seven years.

The old man went back into the castle, and returned soon with a full, glowing rose. It was singing so beautifully that the maiden's heart jumped for joy. She eagerly reached out her hand for it, and as soon as she had the flower in her hands she ran down the mountain like a deer.

The old man called after her with a serious voice, "I will see you in seven years!"

The maiden wandered the entire night through the dark woods with her rose. Her pleasure in the singing flower and the inherited kingdom caused her to forget all fear. The rose sang without pause the entire way; and the louder and more beautifully it sang, the faster the princess hurried on toward her homeland.

She arrived home and told her father everything that had happened to her, and the rose sang beautifully. Immeasurable joy ruled in the castle, and the king gave one celebration after the other. Soon the two older sisters returned. They had found nothing, and had had to return home empty handed. And now the youngest daughter, who had brought back the rose, became queen, although the old father continued to rule. The royal family lived beautiful, joyful days. Day after day and year after year slipped by.

Finally the seventh year came to an end, and on the first day of the eighth year the old man from the castle appeared before the king and demanded from him the one of his daughter who had brought home the singing rose. The king presented to him his oldest daughter, but the old man rejected her, shaking his head and growling, "She is not the right one."

When the king saw that he could not get away with deception, he -- with a bleeding heart -- turned over the youngest and dearest of his children.

The princess now had to go with the grumbling graybeard to his castle, from which she had once obtained the singing rose. The beautiful maiden was very sad, for she had no one there except for her old master. Day after day she sorrowfully thought about her father and her sisters.

In the castle there were other pleasures in abundance, but they did not comfort her, for she did not have the company of her loved ones. Her thoughts were always in her homeland. Further, all the doors and chests in the castle were locked, and the old man did not let her have access to a single key.

One day she learned -- God knows from where! -- that her oldest sister was to marry a neighboring prince, and that the wedding would take place in a few days. Disquieted, she went to the old man and asked him for permission to attend her sister's wedding.

"Just go!" growled the old man. "But I am telling you in advance, do not laugh once during the entire wedding day. If you disobey my order, I will tear you into a thousand pieces. I myself will continually be by your side, and if you as much as open your mouth to laugh, it will be over with you. Take notice!"

The princess thought that this would be easy to follow, and on the announced day she appeared with the old graybeard at her sister's wedding. Joy ruled in the king's castle when they saw the long missing queen returning. She was very happy and took advantage of the day, but she did not forget the old man's order, and she did not once open her mouth to laugh. That evening she had to take leave from her loved ones, and she sadly returned to the lonely castle with her companion. Her time of monotony began once again, and the poor princess was always glad when a day finally ended.

Then the rumor came to her ears that the other sister would marry soon. This disquieted her again, and she asked the old man if she could not attend her second sister's wedding.

"Just go!" growled the old man." But this time you are not allowed to speak a single word the entire day. I will go with you again and observe you vigilantly.

The princess thought that this would be easy to follow, and on the announced day she appeared with the old graybeard at her sister's wedding. Joy ruled in the king's castle when they saw the long missing queen returning. Everyone ran out to meet her. They greeted her and welcomed her and asked her about everything. But she pretended that she could not talk, and did not allow a single sound to escape from her beautiful lips. But this time she did not keep up her courage as well as she had the last time, and that evening when everyone was talking together until it was humming like a beehive, a little word slipped out. The old man quickly jumped up, took her by the hand, and led her out of the hall and back to his lonely castle.

Here the princess had other things in great abundance, but she greatly missed the company of her loved ones, and everything seemed terribly monotonous to her.

One day when she was sadly walking through the garden where the rose had previously blossomed and sung, the old man came to her and said with a serious expression, "Your majesty, if tomorrow while it is striking twelve you will cut off my head in three blows, then everything that you find in the castle will be yours, and you will be free forever!"

The princess took heart from the old man's speech and decided to attempt the risky deed.

The next day -- it was Saturday -- the old man appeared a little before twelve o'clock and uncovered his neck. She drew the sword that she had hung about her waist, and as the castle clock struck one she swung the sword once, then quickly again two more times. The old man's head rolled away on the floor. But behold! Instead of blood, a key fell from the head. It opened all the chests and doors in the entire castle. There the princess found many, many precious things, and she was rich and free forever.