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The swineherd - a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen

 Read "The swineherd" fairy tale for all children. "The swineherd" story, is a short bedtime Story for kids written by Hans Christian Andersen about a prince who was poor and ruled over a very small kingdom. But the prince had enough wealth to marry, and this is exactly what he wanted. He liked the emperor's daughter, but as it was not proper for a little prince to make such a gesture, he thought it best to send as a gift to the palace a very beautiful rose growing above his father's tomb, and a nightingale singing so beautiful that everyone stopped and listened to her. But the emperor's daughter did not even want to hear about him, but the prince dressed in simple clothes and went to the palace where he took a job as a swineherd.

"The swineherd"
a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen

There lived once a king’s son who had a small kingdom to rule over of his own, and very little money. Yet still it was large enough for him to have a wife, and he determined to make an offer to the daughter of an emperor of a neighbouring country.

Now it was really very bold of this poor young prince to go to the palace and say to the princess, “Will you have me?” Yet he was very well known for miles round, and there were a hundred princesses who would have said “Yes” to such a question.

But what did the emperor’s daughter say?—Well, we shall see by-and-by.

On the grave of the prince’s father grew a rose-tree of a most unusual kind, which bore flowers but once in five years; and then only one rose, and not even a single bud besides. But the fragrance of this one rose was so sweet that people who inhaled it forgot for the time all their cares and sorrows.

Besides this rose-tree the prince had a nightingale that sang so sweetly, it seemed as if all the loveliest melodies were seated in its throat. The rose and the nightingale were both intended for the princess whom the prince wished to marry, for the lady had not yet accepted his offer, and he hoped to gain her favour by presents.

The flower-tree and the bird were both packed carefully in large silver vases, and forwarded to the princess at the emperor’s palace. When they arrived the cases were brought into the great hall (where the princess was amusing herself with the court ladies) by the emperor’s orders, for he wished to see their contents, as the cases were addressed to the princess, who, when she saw them, clapped her hands with joy, exclaiming, “Oh, suppose there should be a little pussy-cat for me!”

But as she spoke one case was opened, and there appeared the beautiful rose-tree, with the sweetly scented rose.

“Oh, how pretty! and how well the rose is made,” exclaimed the maids of honour.

​“Altogether rare,” said the emperor; “it is charming.”

But the princess quickly guessed where it came from, and she put out her hand to feel the tree, and then actually almost cried as she said, “It is not a cleverly-made tree, but a natural one.”

“Nonsense,” said all the ladies, “it cannot be a natural tree with such a flower.”

“Well, let us see what is in the other case before we get angry,” said the emperor; and then out came a cage with the nightingale, who began its wonderful song, and sang so beautifully that no one could be angy then.

“Superbe! charmant!” cried the ladies, for they all spoke French—some of them better than the rest.

“How greatly this bird reminds me of the musical box which belonged to our dear, lost empress,” said an old knight. “Ah, yes, the tones of the music used to sound just like the notes of this nightingale.”

“Ah, so they did,” replied the emperor, and then began to weep like a child.

“I hope neither of my presents are natural ones,” said the princess.

“But the bird is natural,” said the messenger who had brought the gifts.

“Then let it fly,” said the princess, who was wildly determined not to accept the prince’s offer for all his beautiful presents, nor to admit him if he came to visit her.

But the prince was not to be disheartened by her refusal to see him. He went home, and stained his face brown and his hair black, changed his clothes, pulled his cap low down over his forehead, and presenting himself at the palace, asked permission to see the emperor.

He was readily admitted, although in appearance he was only a common servant; yet he bowed low as he said—

“Good day, emperor; I hear that you are in want of another servant at the palace; will you engage me?”

“Well, I don’t think I have a situation to suit you at present;” then he paused and added—“Wait, I have just thought of something. I am in want of a man to look after the swine, for we have a large number of these animals.”

The disguised prince readily agreed to accept any situation at the palace which would give him opportunities of meeting the princess without being recognised, and so he became swineherd to the emperor.

He was shown to a miserable little room, close to the pigsties, and there he had to live; but while watching the pigs after feeding them, he could sit and work busily, without interruption, for the whole day.

When the first evening came, he had made a pretty little kettle, round which hung a number of little bells. As soon as the water in the kettle boiled, these bells rang out a tinkling peal, and then played a well-known melody:—

“Oh, my dearly loved Augustin,
All is lost now!”

​But the most clever thing of all the kettle’s performances was this. When anyone put his finger in the steam that came from it, he could at once discover by the smell what every family in the town was having for dinner. This was certainly very different to the sweet perfume of the natural and beautiful rose. But the silly princess had no love for the beauties of nature.

Next day the princess and all her ladies were walking near the swineherd’s dwelling, and they stopped and listened with surprise and pleasure, especially when they heard the tune of “Dearest Augustin” being played. The princess was delighted; it was one of the tunes she knew, but she could only play it with one finger.

“Hark!” she exclaimed, “I know that tune. The swineherd must be an educated young man to play so well. Just go and ask him the price of the instrument.”

So one of the young ladies was obliged to go and make the inquiry, but she took care to put on her wooden shoes before venturing near the pigsties.

“What is the price of that kettle?” asked the lady.

“I will sell it to the princess for ten kisses.”

“Oh, you dreadful man!” she exclaimed.

“Well,” he said, “I will not sell it at all for any other payment.”

So the lady returned to the princess in dismay.

“What is the answer?” she asked.

“Oh, I dare not tell you,” was the reply.

“Come closer and whisper it in my ear,” said the princess. The lady obeyed, and as the princess heard the answer, she flushed and walked away, saying, “What impertinence! A clown like that to send me such a message.”

But she had not walked far when the bells on the kettle began to ring so sweetly, and the music to play—

“Oh, my dearly loved Augustin,
All is lost now!”

that the princess stopped and said to one of her ladies, “Listen, dear; you must go to him once more and ask if ten kisses from my ladies will do.

“I thank you very much,” replied the swineherd; “but I must have the ten kisses from the princess, and no one else, or I keep my kettle.”

“It is very tiresome,” said she, “but i want this very wonderful kettle, and what can I do?”

So at last the princess consented to give the ten kisses if her ladies would all stand round her so that no one might see.

So the ladies all formed a ring round the princess, spread out their dresses, and the swineherd came and had the ten kisses from the princess in return for the wonderful kettle.

And was not that a joyful time? The whole evening, they listened to the bells and the music, and the whole of the next day they stood by the fire while the kettle boiled, and knew what was being cooked for dinner at every ​house in the town, from that of the high chamberlain to the cottage of the shoemaker.

The court ladies clapped their hands, and danced for joy.

“We know,” they said, ‘‘who are eating soup and pancakes to-day. We know who have gruel and sour krout. Oh, is it not interesting?”

“Highly interesting,” said the stewards of the court.

“Yes,” said the princess; “but you must not speak of it, for you know I am the daughter of the emperor.”

“Oh, we shall never say a word,” they all declared. “That speaks for itself.”

But the swineherd—that is to say the prince in disguise, for no one in ​the palace imagined that he was anything but a swineherd—let not a day go by till he had speedily constructed another beautiful toy—a wonderful musical rattle. When twirled round even lightly it played all the waltzes, marches, and polkas that people had known since the world began.

It was not long before all this music attracted the princess to the spot, and she could only stand still as she listened, and say, “Oh, that is superb. I have never before heard finer music. Go at once and ask what that instrument will cost, but there shall be no more kisses remember.”

Then the court lady returned with the swineherd’s answer.

“He says that for this rattle he must receive a hundred kisses from the princess,” said the lady.

“I believe the man is mad,” she said, as she turned away, but she did not go far before she came to a sudden stop and called one of her ladies.

“We ought to encourage talent,” she said. “Especially I, who am the daughter of an emperor. Go to him once more and ask if he will take ten kisses from the princess, and the remainder of the hundred from the maids of honour.”

“Oh! but we should not like that,” they all said.

“Nonsense,” replied the princess. “Surely if I can kiss him you need not object. You forget that I provide you with food and clothes at a great cost.” So several of the ladies were obliged to go again to the swineherd, but they quickly returned with his reply.

“A hundred kisses from the princess and no one else, or I shall still keep my rattle.”

For a time the princess stood undecided what to do, at last she exclaimed, “Take your places and form a ring round me, I must have the rattle.”

So the ladies quickly formed a circle round the princess, and spread out their dresses to hide her when the swineherd arrived.

“What can all that commotion be about near the pigsties,” asked the emperor, as he came out into the balcony. Then he rubbed his eyes and put on his spectacles. “It looks as if the ladies of the court were having some foolish frolic, I must go nearer and see what it means.”

So he pulled up his slippers, which were down at heel, and walked slowly and cautiously through the garden, but the ladies were so busy counting the kisses, that they did not notice the emperor’s approach till he came so close that he stood on tiptoe to see what was going on.

“What is all this?” he asked, and the next moment, when he saw the kissing going on, he drew off his slipper and threw it at the head of the swineherd, just as he had completed the sixty-eighth kiss.

“Pack yourselves off quickly, bag and baggage,” thundered the emperor, for he was in a terrible rage, and both the princess and the swineherd knew that they were now exiled from the palace for ever.

There stood the princess weeping bitterly, while the swineherd, upon whom the rain streamed down, was upbraiding her for her folly.

“Oh, wretched creature that I am,” sighed the princess, “if I had accepted the offer of that handsome prince I should not be so dreadfully unhappy now.” ​On hearing this, the swineherd stepped behind a tree, washed of all the brown and black from his face and hair, threw aside his filthy clothes and presently showed himself in his princely dress, looking so refined and handsome, that the princess continued curtsying to him.

“You cannot be surprised at my scorning you,” he said; “you refused an honourable prince. The rose and the nightingale you did not understand, but yet for the sake of trifling toys you have allowed yourself to be lowered in the estimation of every one by the kisses of a swineherd.”

Thereupon the prince departed to take possession of his kingdom once more, leaving the princess to sing more truly than ever—

“Oh, my dearest Augustin,
All is lost now!”

The End

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