From "The Goldenrod Fairy Book" selected and translated by Esther Singleton; Dodd, Mead & Company; New York; pp. 269-281.
“This is the very last day I will go fishing. If I catch nothing, I will go and hang myself.”
He cast his net once more, and this time he caught a fine fish. When he took the fish in his hand, it opened its mouth and said:
“Take me home with you; cut me in six pieces and stew me with salt and pepper, cinnamon and cloves, laurel leaves and mint. Give two of the pieces to your wife, two to your mare, and the other two to the plant in your garden.”
The cobbler did exactly what the fish told him to do, and he was duly rewarded, for several months after his wife presented him with two fine boys, and his mare with two colts, whilst the plant in his garden produced two lances, which, 270 instead of blossoms, bore two shields, on which were to be seen a silver fish on an azure ground.
Everything prospered with the cobbler, and in course of time on one fine day two gallant youths were seen issuing from his house mounted on two superb chargers and bearing slender lances and brilliant shields.
These two brothers were so muck alike that they were known as The Double Knight; but each of them wished to preserve his individuality and seek his own fortune. After embracing each other with great affection, one took his way towards the West, and the other towards the East.
After travelling for some days, the first arrived at Madrid, and found the royal city pouring bitter tears into the pure sweet waters of her cherished river, the Manzanares. Everybody was weeping when our gallant youth arrived at the Spanish capital. He inquired the cause of this universal lamentation, and was told that every year a fiery dragon came and carried off a beautiful maiden, and that this year the lot had fallen upon their King’s good and peerless daughter.271
The Knight immediately asked where the Princess was to be found, and was informed that she was about a quarter of a league distant, expecting the fiery monster to appear at any moment and carry her away to his den. The Knight started off without delay, and found the Princess in tears and trembling from head to foot.
“Fly away!” she cried when she saw the Knight of the Fish approaching; “fly away, rash one! The monster is coming, and if he should see you, Heaven help you!”
“I will not go,” replied the gallant youth, “because I have come to save you.”
“To save me! Can that be possible?”
“I am going to see,” replied the valiant champion. “Are there any German merchants in the city?”
“Yes,” answered the astonished Princess, “but why do you ask?”
“You will see,” replied the Knight, and he galloped off to the sorrowful city.
Speedily he returned with an immense mirror which he had bought from a German dealer. He leaned this against the trunk of a tree, and, 272 covering it with the Princess’s veil, placed her in front of it, instructing her to pull off the veil and slip behind the glass when the dragon approached. Then he hid behind a neighboring wall.
In a little while the fiery dragon appeared, and gradually drew near the fair one, eyeing her will all the insolence and effrontery possible. When he was quite close, the Princess, obeying the Knight’s instructions, drew the veil aside, and, slipping behind the mirror, disappeared from the eyes of the fiery dragon, who remained stupefied at finding his amorous glances directed at a dragon like himself. He made a movement; the other dragon did the same. His brilliant red eyes sparkled like two rubies; those of his opponent gleamed like two carbuncles. This increased his fury; he erected his scales as a porcupine does his quills; those of his rival stood up likewise. He opened his tremendous mouth, which would have been without a parallel but for that of his opponent, who opened one just like it. The dragon dashed furiously against his enemy, giving his head such a powerful blow against the mirror that he was completely 273 stunned; and, as he had broken the glass, he fancied that he had killed his rival.
The Knight availed himself of this moment to dart forth from his hiding-place, and, plunging his lance into the dragon, deprived him of his life.
The delight of the Madrid people may be imagined when they beheld the Knight of the Fish bearing on his saddle the beautiful Princess, quite unharmed and as lively as a cricket, and the dead dragon fastened by the neck to his noble steed. It may be believed that after such an achievement that they were unable to reward the Knight with anything but the fair hand of the Princess, and that they had wedding festivities and banquets and bull-fights, and tilting matches, and all sorts of good things.
Some days after his marriage the Knight of the Fish said to his wife, that he would like to explore the palace, which was so extensive that it covered a league of ground. They went over it together, and it took them four whole days to see it all. On the fourth day they went up on the roof, and the Knight was struck with amazement at the view. He had never seen anything 274 like it, nor could he have found its equal if he had visited all Spain and the Empire of Morocco as well.
“What castle is that which I see standing in the distance so solitary and sombre?” asked the Knight of the Fish.
“That,” replied the Princess, “is the castle of Albastretch; it is enchanted, and no one is able to undo the enchantment; and no one of all those who have gone there has ever been known to return.”
The Knight listened intently, and, as he was valiant and adventurous, on the following morning, without letting any one know his intention, he seized his lance, mounted his horse, and set out for the castle.
The castle was enough to make one’s hair stand on end with fright just to look at it; for it was darker than a thunder-cloud and as silent as death. But the Knight of the Fish knew nothing of fear, and never turned his back upon a foe until he had conquered; so he lifted his horn and blew lustily. The sound awoke all the slumbering echoes of the castle, so that they repeated it, now nearer, now farther, sometimes 275 softer and then louder; but no one stirred in the castle.
“Ah! what a castle!” exclaimed the Knight in a loud voice. “Is there no one to welcome a knight who craves shelter? Is there no governor, nor squire, nor even a groom to take my horse away?”
“Away! Away! Away!” clamoured the echoes.
“Why should I go away?” said the Knight of the Fish. “I shall not go back for all you may say!”
“Aye! Aye! Aye!” (Alas! Alas! Alas!) groaned the echoes.
The Knight grasped his spear and struck it loudly on the door.
Then the portcullis was raised, and in the opening appeared the tip of an enormous nose, placed between the sunken eyes and fallen-in mouth of an old woman, uglier than sin.
“What do you want, impudent disturber?” she inquired in a cracked voice.
“To enter,” replied the Knight. “Are you not able to afford me the enjoyment of some rest at this hour of the night? Yes or no?”
“No! No! No!” said the echoes.276
Here the Knight lifted his visor because he was warm; and the old woman, seeing how handsome he was, said to him:
“Come in, handsome youth; you shall be cared for and well looked after.”
“After! After!” warned the echoes; but the Knight was fearless, and entered. The old woman promised that he should fare well.
“Farewell! Farewell!” sighed the echoes.
“Go on, old lady,” said the Knight.
“I am called Lady Berberisca,” the old woman remarked very crossly, “and I am the mistress of Albastretch.”
“Wretch! Wretch!” groaned the echoes.
“Won’t you be silent, cursed chatterers?” exclaimed Lady Berberisca. “I am your humble servant,” she continued, making a deep courtesy to the Knight, “and if you like I will be your wife, and you shall live with me here as grand as a Pacha.”
“Ha! Ha!” laughed the echoes.
“Would you have me marry you? You must be a hundred. You are foolish and mad as well.”
“Well! Well!” said the echoes.277
“What I want,” said the Knight, “is the register of the castle to examine.”
“Amen! Amen!” sighed the echoes.
Lady Berberisca’s pride was deeply wounded, she gave a hasty glance at the Knight of the Fish, and, intimating to him that he should follow her, she showed him all over the castle, where he beheld many strange things, but she did not give him any opportunity to talk about them. Finally the wicked old woman took him through an obscure corridor where there was a trap-door, into which he fell, to disappear in an abyss where his voice was added to the echoes; for these were the voices of the many gallant and accomplished knights whom the wicked old Berberisca had punished in the same manner for having despised her venerable charms.
Let us now turn to the other Knight of the Fish, who, after long travels, arrived at Madrid. As he entered the city gates the sentinels presented arms, the drums beat the royal march, and several of the palace servitors surrounded him, saying that the Princes was in tears owing to his long absence, fearing that some misfortune had happened to him in the enchanted castle of Albastretch.278
“They seem to take me for my brother,” the Knight said to himself, “to whom it seems some good fortune has happened. I will keep quiet and see what will come to pass.”
The people carried him in triumph to the castle, where he was met with caresses and congratulations from the King as well as the Princess. They were eager to learn about his adventures, and what he had seen at the enchanted castle. To the Princess’s questions he replied:
“I am not permitted to say one word about it till I have been there once more.”
“Will you go again to that cursed place?” she asked. “You are the only one who has ever yet retuned.”
“It is unavoidable; I must go there once more.”
When they went to rest the Knight placed his sword in the bed.
“Why do you do that?” asked the Princess.
“Because I have sworn not to sleep in a bed until after I have revisited Albastretch.”
On the following day he mounted his steed and took the road to the enchanted castle, fearing 279 that some misfortune had happened to his brother there. When he arrived at the castle he saw the old woman’s fiery nose through the portcullis.
As soon as she saw the Knight she became livid with fright, for she thought he was the dead knight come to life again. She called loudly to Beelzebub, and promised him all kinds of gifts if he would take away that vision of life and blood.
“Ancient lady,” cried the Knight, “I have come to ask where a knight is who recently came here.”
“Here! Here! Here!” responded the echoes.
“And what have you done with this knight, so accomplished in everything, and so skilled?”
“Killed! Killed!” groaned the echoes.
On hearing this, and seeing the old hag running away, the Knight of the Fish, beside himself with rage, ran after her and pierced her through with his sword, which stuck so fast in her body that she jumped about like a pea in a frying-pan.
“Where is my brother, ugly old traitress?” demanded the Knight.280
“I can tell you,” replied the witch; “but as I am at death’s door I will not let you know until you have resuscitated me.”
“But how can I do this, perfidious witch?”
“Go to the garden,” replied the old witch, “cut some evergreens, everlastings, and dragon’s blood; boil these plants in a cauldron and then sprinkle some of the decoction over me.”
On saying this the old woman died without uttering a prayer. The Knight did what the old witch had requested, and brought her back to life; but she was uglier than ever, for her nose remained deadly white and looked like an elephant’s tusk. Then the Knight made her tell him where his brother was; and down in the abyss he not only found him, but many other victims of the wicked Berberisca. He sprinkled them all with the decoction he had made in the cauldron, and they all came back to life. Their voices, which had been heard in the echoes, all returned, and the first words they all uttered were:
“Accursed witch! Merciless Berberisca!”
Then all those gallant knights, and many beautiful ladies whom the fiery dragon — who 281 was Berberisca’s son — had carried there, thanked the Knight of the Fish; and one of the most beautiful of the ladies gave him her hand; and, on seeing this, the wicked old witch died again from envy and spite.