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From "The Goldenrod Fairy Book" selected and translated by Esther Singleton; Dodd, Mead & Company; New York; pp. 132-137.





THERE stood once, in the middle of a thick forest, an old castle, in which dwelt an aged woman, quite alone, who was a great sorceress. By day she took the form of a cat, during the night she was an owl and in the evening she assumed her proper form of a human being. She could entice game and birds to her, and then she killed and cooked them.

If any one came within a hundred steps of her castle, there he was obliged to remain, unable to move, till she spoke and set him free. If a young maiden came within the enchanted circle, the witch changed her into a bird, fastened her up in a basket, and carried her to a chamber in the castle, where she had more than seven thousand of these rare birds shut up.

Now, there was once a young maiden, named Florinda, who was more beautiful than all the other maidens. She was betrothed to a very handsome young man, whose name was Yoringal. 133 They were betrothed, and had great delight in the society of each other.

When they wanted to talk together confidentially they would go into the wood to walk. “We must be careful not to go too near the castle,” Yoringal had often said.

One beautiful evening, however, they went to take their walk. The sun shone between the trunks of the trees, and brightened the dark leaves of the forest, while the cooing of the turtle-dove sounded mournfully from the beeches. Florinda wept; indeed, they both felt as if something dreadful was about to happen to them, or as if they were going to die.

Meanwhile, the sun was setting behind the trees, and in their desponding mood they scarcely noticed it, but wandered on, forgetting that they must not go near the castle. Presently Florinda looked up, and saw the walls of the castle close by, and was almost dead with terror. The next moment Yoringal missed Florinda; she had been turned into a nightingale, and began to sing, “jug, jug, jug,” with the sweetest music. Just then a night owl with glowing eyes flew over them three times, each time screeching loudly. Then 134 Yoringal found he could not move; there he stood like a stone. He could neither speak nor cry, nor move hand or foot.

The sun went down, and the owl flew into a bush, and thence presently came forward a crooked old woman, thin and sallow, with great red eyes, and a hooked nose that almost touched her chin. Muttering to herself, she took hold of the nightingale, and carried it away on her hand. In a little while she returned, and said in a hollow voice: “I greet thee, Zachiel; if the moon shines, let him loose Zachiel at once.”

Then was Yoringal free, and he threw himself upon his knees before the woman, and prayed her to give him back his Florinda; but she told him he would never have her back again, and went away. Yoringal cried and wept, and wailed by turns: “What, oh! what shall I do?” he exclaimed, but all to no purpose.

At last he went away to a distant town, and hired himself to tend the sheep. He sometimes went round by the castle — not too near — but there were no signs of Florinda.

At length he dreamed one night that he had found a blood-red flower, in the middle of which 135 was a large and beautiful pear. He had plucked the flower, and while carrying it to the castle he knew he was safe from all witchcraft or sorcery. He dreamed also that through this flower he had got back his dear Florinda.

In the morning, when he awoke, he hurried away over mountain and valley to seek for such a flower as he had dreamed of. He had begun to give up all hope, when on the ninth day, early in the morning, he found the blood-red flower, and the centre was a dewdrop, as large and as beautiful as a pearl.

With this flower he travelled day and night till he came to the castle, and when he arrived within a hundred paces he found to his great joy that he was free to walk on even to the castle gate. He went in through the court, and stood still to listen, hoping that he might find out by their twittering where the birds were kept. At last he heard, and went on until he reached the hall in which the wicked old woman had shut up the birds in the seven thousand wicker basket-cages. As soon as she saw Yoringal she was very spiteful; she scolded and hissed, and spat poison and venom at him; but she could not hurt him.


He did not turn back, however, but went on still further, till he had found the nightingales. There were several hundred, and how, among so many, was he to find Florinda?

As he stood looking and considering, he saw the old woman moving stealthily away towards the door with a cage containing a bird in her hands. Swiftly he sprang upon her, and on touching the cage and the old woman with the flower the power over Florinda was over; she could do them no more harm. In a moment the young girl stood before him in her own proper form, as beautiful as ever, and clasped him round the neck with her arms.

Then he touched all the other birds with his flower, and set the young women free from the spell. After this he went home with Florinda, and it was not very long before they were married and lived in great happiness for the rest of their lives.


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