True and Untrue

“Would to Heaven,” he said, “there was any one who could tell me a cure for my eyes; for I think I shall soon go quite blind!”

“I can tell you one soon enough,” said True; and then he told the king what he had done to cure his own eyes, and the king set off that very afternoon to the lime-tree, as you may fancy, and his eyes were quite cured as soon as he rubbed them with the dew which was on the leaves in the morning. From that time forth there was no one whom the king held so dear as True, and he had to be with him wherever he went, both at home and abroad.

So one day, as they were walking together in the orchard, the king said, “I can’t tell how it is, that I can’t! there isn’t a man in England who spends so much on his orchard as I, and yet I can’t get one of the trees to bear so much as a crab.”

“Well! well!” said True; “if I may have what lies three times twisted round your orchard, and men to dig it up, your orchard will bear well enough.”

Yes! the king was quite willing, so True got men and began to dig, and at last he dug up the whole gold chain. Now True was a rich man, far richer indeed than the king himself, but still the king was well pleased, for his orchard bore so that the boughs of the trees hung down to the ground, and such sweet apples and pears nobody had ever tasted.

Another day too the king and True were walking about, and talking together, when the princess passed them, and the king was quite downcast when he saw her.

“Isn’t it a pity, now, that so lovely a princess as mine should want speech and hearing,” he said to True.

“Ay, but there is a cure for that,” said True.

When the king heard that, he was so glad that he promised him the princess to wife, and half his kingdom into the bargain, if he could get her right again. So True took a few men, and went into the church, and dug up the toad which sat under the altar-rails. Then he cut open the toad, and took out the bread and gave it to the king’s daughter; and from that hour she got back her speech, and could talk like other people.

Now True was to have the princess, and they got ready for the bridal feast, and such a feast had never been seen before; it was the talk of the whole land. Just as they were in the midst of dancing the bridal-dance, in came a beggar lad, and begged for a morsel of food, and he was so ragged and wretched that every one crossed themselves when they looked at him; but True knew him at once, and saw that it was Untrue, his brother.

“Do you know me again?” said True.

“Oh! where should such a one as I ever have seen so great a lord,” said Untrue.

“Still you have seen me before,” said True. “It was I whose eyes you plucked out a year ago this very day. Untrue by name, and untrue by nature. So I said before, and so I say now; but you are still my brother, and so you shall have some food. After that, you may go to the lime-tree where I sat last year; if you hear anything that can do you good, you will be lucky.”

So Untrue did not wait to be told twice. “If True has got so much good by sitting in the lime-tree, that in one year he has come to be king over half England, what good may not I get,” he thought. So he set off and climbed up into the lime-tree. He had not sat there long, before all the beasts came as before, and ate and drank, and kept St. John’s eve under the tree. When they had left off eating, the Fox wished that they should begin to tell stories, and Untrue got ready to listen with all his might, till his ears were almost fit to fall off. But Bruin the bear was surly, and growled and said:—

“Some one has been chatting about what we said last year, and so now we will hold our tongues about what we know;” and with that the beasts bid one another “Good night,” and parted, and Untrue was just as wise as he was before, and the reason was, that his name was Untrue, and his nature untrue too.

From Popular Tales from the Norse, by George Webbe Dasent.
New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1859.

Folk tales


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