The Rabbit Herd

Folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther Type 570
edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2014-2017


  1. The Rabbit Herd (Europe).

  2. The Hare Herder (Germany).

  3. The Green Fig (Germany).

  4. The King's Hares (Norway).

  5. Jesper the Hare Herder (Denmark).

  6. The Flute (Poland).

  7. The Magic Fife (Ukraine / Russia).

  8. Bibliography of additional tales.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

The Rabbit Herd


Once upon a time there was a king who had a daughter that would not laugh. His jugglers, clowns, and jesters performed their utmost for her, but she could not, or would not, even break a smile. Finally the king proclaimed that whatever man -- rich or poor, young or old, strong or frail -- could break his daughter's spell should take her to wife, and receive half the kingdom as well. Men and boys came from every direction to try their luck but no one was successful, until....

The news finally reached a remote corner of the kingdom where a poor peasant lived with his three sons. The youngest -- we'll call him Hans (although some say that his name was Jack, or Ivan, or Juan) -- decided that he too would try his luck at winning the hand of the princess. He was a droll sort -- some called him silly, others just plain stupid -- whose capers often brought the villagers to laughter. Yes, he would give it a try. And he set forth, pursued by the jeers of his older and wiser brothers, on the path that led to the king's palace.

At midday he was looking for a shady spot where he could rest and eat the crust of bread he had brought, when suddenly he came upon an old man by the side of the road.

"Would you share your bread with a weary traveler?" asked the stranger.

"Half a dry crust is quite as good as a whole one," replied Hans, and broke off a piece for the old man.

"Bless you, my son," responded the stranger. "I cannot reward you with gold, but this whistle will lead you to that, and more." So saying, he offered Hans a tiny silver flute.

Hans put the flute to his lips, and it began to play, first a marching tune, then a cheerful air, and then a pensive hymn. Before he knew it, Hans had arrived at the palace, and the guards, charmed by his tuneful music, let him pass. His heart leapt for joy, and the flute broke into a lusty jig. The princess, hearing the tune, opened her window and looked out. She nodded her head to the beat, then gave a cautious grin, and then an open smile. She chuckled softly to herself, then broke into a happy laugh.

The king, hearing her joyful laughter, was beside himself with glee, until -- that is -- until he saw the lad who was playing the flute. Hans, you see, did have the look of a peasant and of a simpleton, and the king, in spite of his promise, was hoping for a finer man.

"That is all well and good," said the king to Hans, "but before you can receive the princess, there is yet another task that you must fulfill." He then had one hundred wild rabbits set loose in a nearby forest. "Keep these animals together in a herd," said the king, and in three days the princess and half the kingdom shall be yours. But if you lose a single rabbit, you shall forfeit everything.

Even as they spoke the rabbits ran to the four winds, but Hans did not despair. He blew a few notes into the silver flute, and as if by magic, the hundred rabbits assembled at his feet. Reassured, he made himself comfortable in the shade of a large tree, and waited for the three days to pass.

The king, seeing how easily Hans kept the herd together was filled with worry and anger. No other solution presented itself, so finally he sent his daughter into the woods, telling her to do whatever was necessary to get a rabbit away from the peasant herdsman.

The princess presented herself to Hans, and asked him ever so politely if she might not purchase one of his rabbits. His answer made her blush. "You don't mean that I would have to ...," she said, and didn't know whether to pout or to smile.

No, he would accept no other offer, said Hans. "Take it, or leave it."

And so she took it.

The princess left the woods carrying a rabbit in her basket. But well before she arrived home, Hans put the magic flute to his lips, and in an instant the rabbit jumped from her basket and raced back to the herd.

The next day the king, ever more desperate, sent his own wife into the woods with instructions to bring home a rabbit, whatever the cost. When Hans named his price, the queen, like the princess before her, first pouted, then smiled, and then gave in. But she too lost her rabbit when Hans called it back with his magic flute.

On the third day the king himself went into the woods to bargain for a rabbit. Hans, as before, was willing to trade, but this time the price -- no, I cannot bring myself to say more than that it involved a mare that was grazing in a nearby clearing. Red with shame, the king took his rabbit and started off for home, but again the flute called the rabbit back into the herd.

The three days had passed, and the rabbit herd was still intact, but now the king found yet another task that Hans would have to fulfill before he could claim the princess and half the kingdom. "A trifle," explained the king. "Just sing three bags full."

"I can manage that," said Hans. "Bring me three empty bags, and I'll sing them full to the top, but only in the presence of the finest lords and ladies of the kingdom.

The king, believing that at last he would be rid of the peasant lad, assembled the lords and ladies in a great hall, then brought in Hans and three empty bags. Hans picked up a bag and started to sing:

Our princess went into the woods;
She thought she'd try her luck,
"Stop!" called out the princess. That bag is full!" Hans obligingly stopped singing, tied a string around the mouth of the bag, picked up the next one, and started a new song:

Our queen she went into the woods;
She thought she'd try her luck,
"Stop!" shouted the queen. That bag is full!" Hans stopped, tied this bag shut, picked up the last one, and commenced singing:

Our king he went into the woods;
He thought he'd try his luck,
"Stop!" bellowed the king. The last bag is full!" With that, the king proclaimed that Hans had won the princess's hand in marriage and half the kingdom.

The wedding was celebrated that same day. All the lords and ladies attended the great feast that followed. I too was invited, but I lost my way in the woods and arrived only as the last toast was being drunk.

The Hare Herder


A wealthy king had a very beautiful daughter. When the time came for her to marry, all the suitors gathered in a large green meadow. She repeatedly threw a golden apple into the air, agreeing to marry the one who caught it and then fulfilled three tasks that she herself would assign. Many suitors caught the apple, including a good-looking, lively shepherd lad, but none of the others were able to fulfill the tasks.

Finally it was the shepherd's turn, the last and the lowest of all the suitors. The first task was as follows: The king had a hundred hares in a stall. The shepherd was to drive them out to a pasture, herd them, then bring them all back home in the evening.

When the shepherd heard this he wanted a day's time to think about whether or not he could undertake the venture. He wandered into the surrounding hills, filled with sorrow, for he was afraid that he would not succeed. Then he met a little old woman who asked him why he was sad.

He said, "No one can help me."

The little gray woman said, "Don't be so quick to judge. Tell me what is the matter, and perhaps I can help."

So he explained the task to her.

Then the woman gave him a little flute, saying, "Take good care of this. It will be of value to you."

Before the lad could thank her, she disappeared.

Now in good spirits, he went to the king and said, "I want to herd the hares."

They were released from the stall, and by the time that the last one came out, the first one was nowhere to be seen. They had scattered in all directions. The lad went out, sat down on a green hill, and thought, "What should I do now?"

Then he remembered his flute. He took it out and blew into it. Suddenly all hundred of the hares ran toward him and began to graze peacefully near him on the green hill.

The king and the princess did not want him to fulfill the task because he was such a poor sucker, not high-born at all, and they thought about ways to prevent him from bringing all the hares back home.

Thus the princess disguised herself and altered her appearance so that he would not know her, but he recognized her nonetheless.

Seeing that all the hares were still there, she asked, "Could I buy one of the hares?"

The lad said, "The hares are not for sale, but one can be earned."

She asked further, "How am I to understand that?"

The lad said, "If you will be my sweetheart and spend a cuddly hour with me!"

She did not want to do this, but she did want one of the hares, so finally she gave in and did what the lad wanted. After he had cuddled with her and kissed her enough, he caught a hare for her and put it into her basket, and then she went away.

A quarter-hour later the shepherd blew into his flute, and the hare pushed up the basket's lid, jumped out, and ran back to him.

Not long afterward the old king, also disguised, came to the shepherd, but the lad recognized him as well. The king was riding a donkey with a basket hanging on either side.

The king asked, "Will you sell me a hare?"

"No, the hares are not for sale, but one can be earned."

"How am I to understand that?" asked the king.

"Just kiss the donkey beneath its tail," began the lad, "and you can have one."

The king did not want to do this and offered the shepherd good money if he would sell him one, but the lad refused. Seeing that he could not buy a hare for money the king finally gave in and kissed the donkey a good one right beneath its tail. Then a hare was caught and put into one of the baskets on the donkey, and the king went on his way. He hadn't gone very far when the lad blew into his flute. The hare jumped out of the basket and ran back.

Arriving home, the king said, "He is a stubborn fellow. I couldn't get a hare from him." But the king did not say what he had done.

"Yes," answered the princess, "I couldn't get one either." But she too did not admit what she had done.

That evening the lad returned with his hares and counted them for the king, all hundred of them were back in the stall.

"You have fulfilled the first task," said the king, "and now for the second one. Pay attention! One hundred bushels of peas and one hundred bushels of lentils are lying in my loft. I had them all mixed up together. If you can separate them in one night, without light, then you will have fulfilled the second task."

The lad said, "I can do it!"

He was locked inside the loft, and the door was securely fastened. When everything was quiet in the castle, he blew into his flute, then many thousands of ants appeared and scurried back and forth until they had piled all the peas in one heap and all the lentils in a separate one.

When the king looked in early the next morning and saw that the task had been fulfilled, he did not see any ants, for they had all gone away.

Then he said, "In the coming night if you can eat your way through a large room filled with bread, so that nothing is left over, then you will have fulfilled the third task, and you can have my daughter."

When it was dark the lad was put into the room filled with bread. It was so full that there was only a tiny space for him next to the door. When everything was quiet in the castle he once again blew into his flute, and so many mice appeared that it almost frightened him. At daybreak all the bread had been eaten, with not a single crumb left over.

He pounded on the door and shouted, "Open up! I'm hungry!" And with that the third task had been fulfilled.

However, the king said, "Just for the fun of it, tell us a sack full of lies, and then you can have my daughter."

So the lad told them a terrible lie for half the day, but he could not fill the sack, so finally he related, "I have already spent a cuddly hour with the princess, my bride-to-be."

Hearing these words, the princess turned fire-red. The king looked at her, and although it was supposed to be a lie, he believed it to be true, putting together in his own mind where and how it had happened.

"The sack is not full yet!" he shouted.

Then the lad began, "And furthermore, the king kissed ... "

"It's full! It's full! Tie it shut!" shouted the king. He was ashamed and did not want anyone to know how the donkey had been honored with the king's royal mouth, for all of his courtiers were standing around in a circle.

So the shepherd lad married the princess, and the wedding was celebrated for fourteen days. Such a grand time was had by all that the person who told this story wishes that he had been a guest there as well.

The Green Fig


A king who had a beautiful daughter had an unusual idea. He proclaimed throughout the entire land that whoever could bring him a green fig at Christmas-time should receive the princess to wife.

Now there was a country-dweller who had three sons. The oldest was a cobbler, the second a tailor, but the third one had no trade at all. He was nothing but a kitchen guy.

One day around Christmas-time the boys' father found a tree in the woods with three green figs. He took them home, put one of them in a little basket, and said to his oldest son, "Put your best clothes on and take this fig to the king."

The boy dressed up smartly and set forth.

Coming into a great forest he met a little old man who asked him, "What do you have in your basket?"

"What am I supposed to have in it? It's dung," said the cobbler.

"So!" replied the little man. "If it is dung, then let it be dung!"

The lad continued on his way, finally arriving at the royal palace. The guard asked him what he wanted.

"I'm bringing a green fig to the king," he said.

They let him enter. When he stepped before the king and gave him the basket, it turned out to be just as the little man had said. They gave him a good beating and sent him on his way.

Back at home he said that his mission had been unsuccessful, but he did not admit what had actually happened.

Then the tailor said, "You must have done something stupid. I will be more clever, if father will send me with another fig."

The father gave his permission and put another fig in a basket for him. In the woods the same thing happened to the tailor. He answered the little old man even more rudely, and at the palace received an even harder beating than his brother had.

Back at home he did not admit why he too had failed.

Now the cinder-lad wanted to try his luck with the third fig.

His brothers said, "You stupid devil, the guards will never let you in."

The youth did not give his father any peace until he allowed him to try his luck with the third fig. He too met the little man in the woods. When he was asked what was in his basket, he said, honestly and politely, "A green fig that I am taking to the king."

"Now, my son," said the little man, "if you have a green fig, then let it remain a green fig. And because you are such an honest fellow I want to give you something. Here is a little flute. If you play on it, everything that you want will come to you."

Thanking the little man, the lad put the flute in his pocket and continued on to the royal palace. After a little difficulty he gained entrance. He gave the king the basket, and behold! The fig was still a fig.

However, the princess was not happy about marrying the lad. She said, "I will marry you only under one condition. You must let the hundred hares that are in the stall graze in the woods for eight days without losing a single one."

He accepted the task, and his little flute made it possible for him to bring all hundred back home on the first evening.

Then the princess thought, "I have to be clever about this."

The next day she disguised herself and went into the woods where he was herding.

"Will you sell me a hare?"

"I won't sell you one," he said, "but you can earn one from me."

"How?" she asked.

"The donkey that you're riding -- just kiss its behind," he said.

"I'd rather do that than to marry this peasant," she thought, and did what he had demanded.

He gave her a hare. When she had gone a little way he blew on his flute. The hare immediately freed itself and returned to its herder. Thus on the second evening he again returned with all hundred hares.

The next day the queen came out in disguise, and the same thing happened to her.

On the fourth day the king tried his luck, but he fared no better.

At the end of eight days the youth thought that he had now earned the hand of the princess. But the king insisted on yet another task.

"You must," he said, "bring me three sacks filled with truths."

The lad asked for time to think things through, left the palace, and went out into the woods. No solution came to him, and he was about ready to give up all hope when the little man came to him and asked why he was so sad.

After hearing the lad's response, the little man said, "Oh, that's nothing! Just tell them how you traded away the hares!"

So the lad returned to the palace and said, "I have what you asked for."

"Let us hear," said the king.

"When I was herding the hares," began the youth, "on the second day the princess came to me and wanted a hare. But she didn't get one until she had kissed the donkey's b---"

"Stop!" shouted the king. "One sack is full."

"The next day the queen came to me and wanted ---"

"Stop!" shouted the king. "The second sack is full."

"On the following day," said the lad, "the ---"

"Stop!" shouted the king. "The third sack is full."

The king gave a wedding celebration with drinking a feasting. I too was there, but when I went into the kitchen and nibbled a bit on the roast, the cook gave me such a blow on my behind with a foam-spoon that I flew all the way from there to here.

The King's Hares


Once upon a time there was a man who lived in the little back room. He had given up his estate to the heir; but in addition he had three sons, who were named Peter, Paul, and Esben, who was the youngest. All three hung around at home and would not work, for they had it too easy, and they thought themselves too good for anything like work, and nothing was good enough for them.

Finally Peter once heard that the king wanted a shepherd for his hares, and he told his father he would apply for the position, as it would just suit him, seeing that he wished to serve no one lower in rank than the king. His father, it is true, was of the opinion that there might be other work that would suit him better, for whoever was to herd hares would have to be quick and spry, and not a sleepy-head, and when the hares took to their heels in all directions, it was a dance of another kind than when one skipped about a room.

But it was of no use. Peter insisted, and would have his own way, took his knapsack, and shambled down hill.

After he had gone a while, he saw an old woman who had got her nose wedged in a tree-stump while chopping wood, and when Peter saw her jerking and pulling away, trying to get out, he burst into loud laughter.

"Don't stand there and laugh in such a stupid way," said the woman, "but come and help a poor, feeble old woman. I wanted to split up some firewood, and caught my nose here, and here I have been standing for more than a hundred years, pulling and jerking, without a bit of bread to chew in all that time," said she.

Then Peter had to laugh all the harder. He found it all very amusing, and said that if she had already been standing there a hundred years, then she could probably hold out for another hundred years or more.

When he came to court they at once took him on as a herdsman. The place was not bad, there was good food, and good wages, and the chance of winning the princess besides; yet if no more than a single one of the king's hares were to be lost, they would cut three red strips from his back, and throw him into the snake-pit.

As long as Peter was on the common or in the enclosure, he kept his hares together nicely, but later, when they reached the forest, they ran away from him across the hills. Peter ran after them with tremendous leaps, as long as he thought he could catch even a single hare, but when the very last one had vanished, his breath was gone, and he saw no more of them. Toward noon he went home, taking his time about it, and when he reached the enclosure, he looked around for them on all sides, but no hares came. And then, when he came to the castle, there stood the king with the knife in his hand. He cut three red strips from his back, and cast him into the snake-pit.

After a while Paul decided to go to the castle and herd the king's hares. His father told him what he had told Peter, and more besides; but he insisted on going, and would not listen, and he fared neither better nor worse than Peter had. The old woman stood and pulled and jerked at her nose in the tree-trunk, and he laughed, found it very amusing, and let her stand there and torment herself.

He was at once taken into service, but the hares all ran away across the hills, though he pursued them, and worked away like a shepherd dog in the sun, and when he came back to the castle in the evening minus his hares, there stood the king with the knife in his hand, cut three broad strips from his back, rubbed in pepper and salt, and flung him into the snake-pit.

Then, after some time had passed, the youngest decided to set out to herd the king's hares, and told his father of his intention. He thought that would be just the work for him, to loaf about in forest and field, look for strawberry patches, herd a flock of hares, and lie down and sleep in the sun between times. His father thought that there was other work that would suit him better, and that even if he fared no worse than his brothers, it was quite certain that he would fare no better. Whoever herded the king's hares must not drag along as though he had lead in his soles, or like a fly on a lime-rod; and that when the hares took to their heels, it was a horse of an other color from catching flees with gloved hands; whoever wanted to escape with a whole back, would have to be more than quick and nimble, and swifter than a bird.

But there was nothing he could do. Esben merely kept on saying that he wanted to go to court and serve the king, for he would not take service with any lesser master, said he; and he would see to the hares. They could not be much worse than a herd of goats or of calves. And with that he took his knapsack and strolled comfortably down the hill.

After he had wandered a while, and began to feel a proper hunger, he came to the old woman who was wedged by the nose in the tree-trunk and who was pulling and jerking away, in order to get loose.

"Good day, mother," said Esben, "and why are you worrying yourself so with your nose, you poor thing?"

"No one has called me mother for the last hundred years," said the old woman, "but come and help me out, and give me a bite to eat; for I have not had a bit to eat in all that time. And I will do something for your sake as well," said she.

Yes, no doubt she would need something to eat and drink badly, said Esben.

Then he hewed the tree-trunk apart, so that she got her nose out of the cleft, sat down to eat, and shared with her. The old woman had a good appetite, and she received a good half of his provisions.

When they were through she gave Esben a whistle which had the power that if he blew into one end, whatever he wished scattered was scattered to all the winds, and when he blew into the other, all came together again. And if the whistle passed from his possession, it would return as soon as he wished it back.

"That is a wonderful whistle!" thought Esben.

When he came to the castle, they at once took him on as a shepherd; the place was not bad, he was to have food and wages, and should he manage to herd the king's hares without losing one of them, he might possibly win the princess; but if he lost so much as a single hare, and no matter how small it might be, then they would cut three red strips from his back, and the king was so sure of his case that he went right off to whet his knife.

It would be a simple matter to herd the hares, thought Esben; for when they went off they were as obedient as a herd of sheep, and so long as they were on the common, and in the enclosure, they even marched in rank and file. But when they reached the forest, and noontime came, and the sun burned down on hill and dale, they all took to their heels and ran away across the hills.

"Hallo, there! So you want to run away!" called Esben, and blew into one end of his whistle, and then they scattered the more quickly to all the ends of the earth. But when he had reached an old charcoal-pit, he blew into the other end of his whistle, and before he knew it the hares were back again, and standing in rank and file so he could review them, just like a regiment of soldiers on the drill-ground.

"That is a splendid whistle!" thought Esben; lay down on a sunny hillock, and fell asleep.

The hares were left to their own devices, and played until evening; then he once more whistled them together, and took them along to the castle like a herd of sheep.

The king and queen and the princess, too, stood in the hallway, and wondered what sort of a fellow this was, who could herd hares without losing a single one. The king reckoned and added them up, and counted with his fingers, and then added them up again; but not even the teeny-weeniest hare was missing.

"He is quite a chap, he is," said the princess.

The following day he again went to the forest, and herded his hares; but while he lay in all comfort beside a strawberry patch, they sent out the chambermaid from the castle to him, and she was to find out how he managed to herd the king's hares.

He showed her his whistle, and blew into one end, and all the hares darted away across the hills in all directions, and then he blew into the other, and they came trotting up from all sides, and once more stood in rank and file.

"That is a wonderful whistle," said the chambermaid. She would gladly give him a hundred dollars, if he cared to sell it.

"Yes, it is a splendid whistle," said Esben, "and I will not sell it for money. But if you give me a hundred dollars, and a kiss with every dollar to boot, then I might let you have it."

Yes, indeed, that would suit her right down to the ground; she would gladly give him two kisses with every dollar, and feel grateful, besides.

So she got the whistle, but when she reached the castle, the whistle disappeared all of a sudden. Esben had wished it back again, and toward evening he came along, driving his hares like a herd of sheep. The king reckoned and counted and added, but all to no purpose, for not the least little hare was missing.

When Esben was herding his hares the third day, they sent the princess to him to get away his pipe from him. She was tickled to death, and finally offered him two hundred dollars if he would let her have the whistle, and would also tell her what she had to do in order to fetch it safely home with her.

"Yes, it is a very valuable whistle," said Esben, "and I will not sell it," but at last, as a favor to her, he said he would let her have it if she gave him two hundred dollars, and a kiss for every dollar to boot. But if she wanted to keep it, why, she must take good care of it, for that was her affair.

"That is a very high price for a hare-whistle," said the princess, and she really shrank from kissing him, "but since we are here in the middle of the forest, where no one can see or hear us, I'll let it pass, for I positively must have the whistle," said she.

And when Esben had pocketed the price agreed upon, she received the whistle, and held it tightly clutched in her hand all the way home; yet when she reached the castle, and wanted to show it, it disappeared out of her hands.

On the following day the queen herself set out, and she felt quite sure that she would succeed in coaxing the whistle away from him.

She was stingier, and only offered fifty dollars; but she had to raise her bid until she reached three hundred. Esben said it was a magnificent whistle, and that the price was a beggarly one; but seeing that she was the queen, he would let it pass. She was to pay him three hundred dollars, and for every dollar she was to give him a buss to boot, then she should have the whistle. And he was paid in full as agreed, since as regards the busses the queen was not so stingy.

When she had the whistle in her hands, she tied it fast, and hid it well, but she fared not a whit better than either of the others; when she wanted to show the whistle it was gone, and in the evening Esben came home, driving his hares as though they were a well-trained flock of sheep.

"You are stupid women!" said the king. "I suppose I will have to go to him myself if we really are to obtain this trumpery whistle. There seems to be nothing else left to do!"

And the following day, when Esben was once more herding his hares, the king followed him, and found him at the same place where the women had bargained with him. They soon became good friends, and Esben showed him the whistle, and blew into one end and the other, and the king thought the whistle very pretty, and finally insisted on buying it, even though it cost him a thousand dollars.

"Yes, it is a magnificent whistle," said Esben, "and I would not sell it for money. But do you see that white mare over yonder?" said he, and pointed into the forest.

"Yes, she belongs to me, that is my Snow-Witch!" cried the king, for he knew her very well.

"Well, if you will give me a thousand dollars, and kiss the white mare that is grazing on the moor by the big pine, to boot, then you can have my whistle !" said Esben.

"Is that the only price at which you will sell!" asked the king.

"Yes," said Esben. "But at least may I not put a silken handkerchief between?" asked the king.

This was conceded him, and thus be obtained the whistle. He put it in the purse in his pocket, and carefully buttoned up the pocket. Yet when he reached the castle, and wanted to take it out, he was in the same case as the women, for he no longer had the whistle.

And in the evening Esben came home with his herd of hares, and not the least little hare was missing. The king was angry, and furious because he had made a fool of them all, and had swindled the king's self out of the whistle into the bargain, and now he wanted to do away with Esben. The queen was of the same opinion, and said it was best to behead such a knave when he was caught in the act.

Esben thought this neither fair nor just; for he had only done what he had been asked to do, and had defended himself as best he knew how.

But the king said that this made no difference to him; yet if Esben could manage to fill the big brewing-cauldron with lies till it ran over, he would spare his life.

The job would be neither long nor hard, said Esben, he thought he could warrant that, and he began to tell about the old woman with her nose in the tree-trunk, and in between he said, "I must make up plenty of stories, to fill the cauldron," -- and then he told of the whistle, and the chambermaid who came to him and wanted to buy the whistle for a hundred dollars, and about all the kisses that she bad had to give him to boot, up on the hillock by the forest; and then he told about the princess, how she had come and kissed him so sweetly for the whistle's sake, because no one could see or hear it in the forest -- "I must make up plenty of stories, in order to fill the cauldron," said Esben.

Then he told of the queen, and of how stingy she had been with her money, and how liberal with her busses -- "for I must make up plenty of stories in order to fill the cauldron," said Esben.

"But I think it must be full now!" said the queen.

"O, not a sign of it!" said the king.

Then Esben began to tell how the king had come to him, and about the white mare who was grazing on the moor, "and since he insisted on having the whistle he had to -- he had to -- well, with all due respect, I have to make up plenty of stories in order to fill the cauldron," said Esben.

"Stop, stop! It is full, fellow!" cried the king. "Can't you see that it is running over!"

The king and the queen were of the opinion that it would be best for Esben to receive the princess and half the kingdom; there did not seem anything else to do.

"Yes, it was a magnificent whistle!" said Esben.

Jesper the Hare Herder


There was a king who had half a hundred hares. He also had a daughter who was exceptionally beautiful. Many suitors came to her, but none succeeded, for her father had decreed that he would give her in marriage only to the person who could tend half a hundred hares for three days in the woods, bringing them all back to the palace every evening. Anyone who attempted to do this, but failed, should have three strips of skin cut from his back, with salt and pepper sprinkled into the wound. He would then be banished from the land or be fined five hundred thalers.

In spite of these harsh conditions a number of suitors tried their luck, but none of them succeeded.

Now there was a man who had three sons: Povl, Per, and Jesper, and they wanted to try their luck.

Povl, the oldest, presented himself first, and was accepted into service. The next morning he went out with the hares.

As soon as they had closed the gate the king said, "You must take care of them," but they were hard animals to care for, because as soon as they were outside they scattered in all directions.

Povl saw no more of them, although he ran hither and thither, both far and wide. He had brought a snack with him from the palace, so when he got hungry he sat down to eat.

Then an old woman came up to him and said, "Won't you give me a bite from your snack, little chap?"

"No, I won't. I don't have enough for myself," he said. "Just be on your way."

"Yes, I'll have to be off again," she said, and went on her way."

After Povl had eaten, he of course again began to think about collecting the hares. "It doesn't look good," he said to himself. "How shall I find the hares and gain control over them?"

He ran, and he sought, but he could not round up the hares, and in the evening he came back to the palace empty-handed. Then three strips of skin were cut from his back; pepper and salt were sprinkled into the wound; and finally he was banished from the land, for he had no money to pay the fine.

At home his parent heard the news, and they were very discouraged. Nonetheless, Per, the second brother, wanted to try his luck as well. He reported to the palace and was also accepted into service. The king told him that he was to take care of the hares as soon as the gate was opened. But the next morning when they opened the gate, whoosh, the hares scattered to all four corners of the world. And, briefly stated, it did not go one whit better with him than with his brother.

The same old woman came to him and asked for food, but he also said to her, "No, be on your way. There's nothing here for you."

In the end, three strips of skin were cut from his back; pepper and salt were sprinkled into the wound; and he was banished from the land.

The old parents were terribly angered to learn this. But then Jesper, the youngest son, came to them and asked permission to try his luck. He felt sure that luck would be with him and that he would win the princess. Until now he had never asked anything of them. The mother, in truth, held him in the highest esteem, so he was allowed to set forth.

Approaching the palace, Jesper met the king behind the barn, but he did not know that it was the king.

Jesper said, "Will you go in to the king, greet him from me, and tell him that I would like to serve here as the hare herder?"

Why?" asked the king.

"The king has proclaimed that the one who can tend his fifty hares for three days shall have his daughter to wife, and I would like to have her.

"So that's it," said the king, "but do you also know, that if you cannot tend them, three strips of flesh will be cut from your back? And you should know straightaway that I am king."

And thus the situation was decided.

Jesper's service was to begin the next day. The hares were driven out, and as soon as the gate was opened, whoosh, they scattered in all directions, and not a trace of them was to be seen anywhere.

"This is crazy," thought Jesper. "What kind of hares are these? How is this going to end?"

He wandered about in the woods with his lunch-bucket under his arm looking for the hares. Growing tired and hungry, he sat under a tree to eat his snack, when the old woman came up to him and asked if he would not give her a little piece of bread.

"Yes," he said, "you may as well eat my entire snack. I probably cannot eat anyway, and here is a big piece of meat; you may have it as well."

What is the matter with you?" she asked.

"Oh, I have taken on myself to win the princess, and now all the hares have run away. I cannot find them, and because of that I must now be banished from the land and never again see my father and mother."

"Right, but we can find some help for you, because you were so good to me. But let's eat first."

When they had finished, she took the gnawed bone and gave it back to him, saying, "I have made a flute from it, and when you blow into one end you can bring all the hares to you whether they are ever so far away or whether they are than under lock and key, if they are still alive. But if you blow into the other end, they will run away again to all corners of the world so fast that no one can get hold of them. You must always keep the flute with you, and if you use it right, you probably will have the good fortune to win the princess."

Then the old woman said farewell and thank you, and went her way.

"Thanks also to you," said Jesper and I can believe that he was glad for this flute, thinking that his difficulties were now over.

As soon as the old woman was gone he gave it a try, and everything went well enough. When he blew into one end, all fifty hares came running up to him at once, and when he blew into the other end, they fled away like the wind.

When it was evening he blew hares together, and dancing around him they entered the king's gate. The king himself came out to count them, and they were all there. Then he went to the queen and talked to her about what should be done.

"We cannot let it be known that such a fellow is getting our daughter."

They put their heads together, and at last the king said that the next day the princess should disguise herself and go out to him and seek to buy a hare from him Thus he would be lacking one when they were counted.

In the morning when the hares were let out they ran away as usual, but Jesper thought, "Let the critters run. I'll win the princess anyway."

Soon afterward, while he was lost in his own thoughts, a ragged urchin girl came to him and asked if she could not buy one of his hares. Her parents, she said, had guests and nothing fresh to offer them.

"No, I cannot sell you one," he said, "for they are not my own, and I need a full count in the evening when I get home."

Yes, she knew that, but still she asked what he would take for one.

Finally he said, "If I lose the princess it would be the worst thing that could befall me, but if you must have one, you will have to give me a kiss for it."

Yes, she agreed to do this, and she gave him what he asked for. Then he blew the hares together and gave her one of them in her apron. She made her way homeward, happy about the arrangement that she had made, but just as she reached the gate, Jesper blew on his flute, and whoosh, the hare jumped from her apron and was gone. With a sad face the princess went to her mother and told her what had happened. But she said nothing at all about the kiss.

So there was another discussion as to what should be done, and the king and the queen together decided that the queen should go out and give it a try. So that afternoon, disguised in old clothes, she went out into the woods to Jesper and asked if she could not buy a hare.

"No," he said, that was not possible, for they were not his own.

She begged and promised so well that he finally agreed to let her have one.

He blew the hares together, picked up one of them by its hind legs, and said, "If you want this one you will have to lift up its tail and kiss its behind."

The queen thought that this was disgusting, but she would have to go through with it rather than to let her daughter marry such a fellow and be plagued with him throughout her life. Furthermore, no one would see her do it.

So she got the hare, put it in a sack, and walked toward home with the sack on her back. But just as she was entering the gate Jesper blew on his flute, and whish, the hare jumped from the sack, leaving her standing there with a very sad face.

Then she went to the king and told him part of what had happened, adding, "Now you yourself must go there, and do better than we have done. It is all about our daughter's happiness.

"Yes," said the king, "but let us see what happens this evening. It could be that he will not bring all of them home."

But, in fact, he was tired of the game. "Am I some miserable wretch who cannot keep hold of a hare?" he thought.

That evening Jesper blew his hares together, and they obediently followed him to the palace grounds. The king came down and counted them, and they were all there.

Well, the third day arrived, and Jesper went out with his hares. A little later the king, disguised as a huntsman and riding a dapple-gray horse, went out as well.

Meeting Jesper, he said, "You have many hares out here."

"Yes, I have half a hundred," said Jesper.

"Would it be possible for me to see one of them."


Jesper blew on his flute, and all the hares came running up to him..

"Could I buy one of them?" asked the huntsman.

"No, that's not possible," said Jesper, "for they are not my own. They belong to the king, and I have agreed to the conditions that if I do not keep all of them, then I will be banished from the land and punished further as well."

"Oh, it won't be that bad for you," said the huntsman. "I will pay you whatever you ask for."

"I agree with that," said Jesper "Stand by your horse and kiss it right under its tail, and then I'll give you a hare."

The king turned as red in the face as an angry turkey-cock. It was terrible that such a simple oaf would dare to say such a thing to him.

But he held his temper and thought, "If no one sees it, there will be no shame in it. I'll do what he says."

So he stood by the horse, lifted up its tail, and kissed the beast right in its behind.

Afterward he got the hare and put it in his saddlebag, which he buckled tightly shut. "It will stay there," he thought.

But just as he arrived at the gate and was about to ride through, Jesper gave his flute a little tweet and whish, the hare was gone.

"He is a dangerous lad," thought the king, and he was quite abashed that he had had no better luck than the others.

That evening the lad came home with the hares at his heels, jumping and dancing. It was a delight. The king came down and counted them, and of course they were all there.

In the meantime the queen and the princess had spoken to the king, claiming that Jesper's task had been too easy.

The king agreed with them, so after the hares had been counted, he said to Jesper, "By rights you should have my daughter, but I find that you have won her too easily. You must admit that she will bring you great happiness. Therefore it is not unjust that one of these days I should give you a new test. If you can fulfill it, you shall have my daughter. So it shall be."

Of course Jesper was not pleased with this, but because he could do nothing about it, he decided that the best thing would be to accept it cheerfully.

Now the new task was to be extremely difficult, so there was to be a council to judge it. The king issued an invitation to all the princes and great lords who were unmarried to a grand feast when he would give his daughter away. They came from far and near, and gathered in the palace on the appointed day. After all the guests had eaten, the king commanded that a large brewing vat be placed in the middle of the room.

Then he said, "Now, princes and lords, bear witness that the one of you who can tell this vat full of truths, he shall have my daughter."

Then they began to tell stories, one after the other, but nothing came from the contest.

Finally the king said, "Yes, we probably should have called on Jesper the hare herder. Let him try his luck."

So it was Jesper's turn. He was not very good at storytelling, he said, but that could not be helped, so he would just relate how it went the other day when he was looking after the king's hares for the first time:

"A girl in ragged clothes came to me and wanted to get a hare from me. She begged long and hard, finally promising to give me a kiss for one. She got the hare, and I got the kiss. And this girl was the princess, is that not so?"

They all looked at the princess, and she turned red in the face, but then stood up and said yes.

"Do you want to hear more?" asked the boy.

"Yes, the vat is not yet full," said the king.

So he continued: "In the afternoon of the same day an old woman came to me, and she too wanted to get a hare from me. At first I said no, but she kept begging, and finally I promised her a hare on the condition that she kiss its behind, and she did it too. And that woman was the queen. "

"What are you saying?" cried the king. He stood up, and they all stood up as all.

"Oh, never mind, let him have our daughter," said the queen.

Everyone stared at her, and the boy said, "Is it not true?"

"Yes," she admitted, but did not relate the whole story.

"Should I tell any more truths?" said the boy.

"Yes, the vat is not yet full."

So he began again: "On the third day I went out with the hares, and a huntsman came by, riding on a dapple-gray horse, and he wanted to buy a hare from me, offering me gold or whatever I wanted, if he could have one. We finally agreed on a price: He was to stand by his horse, lift up its tail, and kiss its behind. I could see that he did not want to do this, but finally he did so anyway. And this huntsman was no one other than ..."

"Stop! Stop! That's enough! That's enough! The vat is now full," said the king. He had heard enough.

So Jesper got the princess and half the kingdom.

The king put on the wedding, and it was so joyful that it was heard throughout the land. Jesper sent for his parents, so they too could be present, and I was there as well.

I did not leave until late at night. They did not let me go until they had given me some of the wedding feast. I got beer in a scarf and bread in a bottle. Then they gave me a paper gown, a hat made of butter, and a pair of glass clogs for my feet. As I went outside the door my butter hat melted, and it ran down around my ears; and when I reached the pavement my glass clogs shattered. Then the wind tore my paper gown apart. I was about to eat a piece of bread to give myself strength, but when I broke the bottle to get at it, the bread fell into the dirt in the street. When I opened the scarf to drink a drop of beer, the beer ran out into the gutter. So there I stood, naked and barefoot and hungry and thirsty.

As I stood there they shot a cannon salute for Jesper and the princess. The cannonball came flying by, but I was quick and jumped on it, and thus I was shot home to the others in order to tell them this story.

The Flute


Once there was a boy who was supposed to tend three hundred hares, and the king had proclaimed that if he succeeded in bringing all of them back home for three evenings then he should receive the princess.

He drove them out early in the morning, but the hares immediately ran away. He cried bitterly. In the evening he was supposed to have all the hares, but now he did not have a single one.

Then a little man came to him and asked, "Why are you crying so much?"

He told the little man that he was supposed to bring all the hares back home in the evening, but that now he did not have a single one.

Then the little man asked him if he had anything to eat, and the boy answered, "Just a bit of dry bread."

After the two of them had eaten the bread, the little man gave a flute to the boy, saying, "When evening comes just play on this flute, and all the hares will come to you."

The boy did just that, and all the hares came to him.

When he arrived back in the village, everyone was standing in front of the palace to see if he would indeed bring all the hares back, and the boy did bring all three hundred back.

The next day he drove them out again, and the little man returned. They ate breakfast together, and the little man asked, "Why are you so happy?"

The boy said, "All my hares came back."

The little man said, "Do the same thing again this evening."

And in that manner all the hares returned for three evenings.

However, the king did not want to give the boy his daughter, because another young gentleman was there. Finally it was determined that the young gentleman, the boy, and the princess should all sleep together in one bed. In the morning, the person whom the princess was facing should receive her.

In the middle of the night the boy went next door to a store and bought all kinds of sweets, raisins, and almonds, then got back in bed. At midnight the young gentleman asked, "What is it that smells so good on you?"

"Oh, I just went outside and ate some of my own dung."

So the young gentleman went outside and smeared dung all over his face.

Now everyone thought that the girl would be facing the young gentleman in the morning, but that was not the case. Thus the boy received the princess.

The Magic Fife

Ukraine / Russia

Once in a certain empire, in certain kingdom, there was a lord, and there was also a peasant, and I cannot say how poor he was.

The lord summoned him and said, "Listen, little peasant! You have not paid your debt, and one cannot get anything from you. Come and work for me for three years to pay off your debt."

The peasant lived with him a first, a second, and a third year. The master, seeing that the peasant soon would have paid off his debt, thought to himself, "What fault could I invent in order to keep the peasant working here for another three years."

The lord summoned him and said, "Listen, little peasant, here are ten hares. Take them out to graze in the meadow, and be very careful to bring them all back, otherwise I will keep you here with me for another three years."

As the peasant began to drive the hares to the meadow they all fled in all directions.

"What can I do?" he thought. Now I'm lost!"

He sat down and cried.

Coming from who knows where, an old man appeared, and asked, "Why are you crying, little peasant?"

"How can I not cry, old man? My master gave me hares to graze, and they all ran away. Now my downfall is inevitable."

The old man gave him a fife and said, "Here is a fife; when you play on it they will all come running back to you!"

Thanking him, the peasant took the fife, and he had scarcely played on it when all the hares immediately ran back to him.

He drove them home. The master counted the hares and exclaimed, "All ten!"

Then the lord said to his wife, "Well, what shall we do? What fault can we now find with the peasant?"

"Darling, here's what we shall do. Tomorrow, after he has taken the hares out to graze, I shall disguise myself with different clothes. Then I'll find him and buy a hare from him!"


The next morning the peasant took the hares out to graze, and no sooner had he arrived in the woods than they all ran off in different directions. But the peasant just sat on the grass and began to weave hemp shoes.

Suddenly the lady approached in her carriage. She stopped, came up to him, and asked, "What are you doing there, little peasant?"

"I'm grazing livestock."

"What kind of livestock?"

The peasant took his fife and played on it. All the hares ran up to him.

"Ah, little peasant!" said the lady, sell me one of those hares."

"Impossible! They are the lord's hares, and the lord is very strict with me! He would destroy me without mercy."

The lady persisted: "I beg you to sell me one."

Seeing her great desire to have a hare, the peasant said, "But, good lady, I have a rule."

"What kid of rule?

"I will give a hare to that person lets me f--- her."

"Just ask for more money, little peasant!"

"No, I do not want anything else ''

So the lady (what else could she do?) let the peasant f--- her. He did his thing and then gave her a hare.

"Hold it gently, lady, or you will strangle it."

She took the hare, got into her carriage, and left.

But when the peasant played his fife the hare heard it and escaped from the lady's hands and returned to the peasant.

The lady arrived home.

"Well, did you buy the hare?"

"I bought it, I bought it, but when the peasant played his fife, the hare escaped from my hands and ran away."

The following day the lady returned to the peasant. She approached him and again asked, "What are you doing, little peasant?"

I'm weaving hemp shoes and grazing my master's livestock."

"Where is the livestock?"

The peasant played his fife and immediately all the hares ran up to him."

The lady wanted to buy a hare.

"I have a rule."

"What is it?"

"Let me f--- you."

The lady let him f--- her a second time, and she received a hare, but when the peasant played the fife, the hare escaped and ran away from her.

On the third day, the master, in disguise, went out himself. "What are you doing, little peasant?"

"I'm grazing livestock."

"And where is your livestock?"

The peasant played his fife, and the hares came running towards him.

"Sell me one of those hares!"

"I do not sell them for money. I have a rule."

"What rule?"

"I'll give a hare to whomsoever will f--- a mare."

So the lord mounted the mare and fornicated with her.

The peasant gave him a hare and said, "Hold it carefully, lord; otherwise you will strangle it."

The lord took the hare and went home, but the peasant played on his fife. The hare heard it and ran away to the peasant. The lord saw that he could do nothing more, and he let the peasant live in freedom.

Additional tales of type 570

  1. Afanasyev. "The Wonderful Whistle." Russian Secret Tales: Bawdy Folktales of Old Russia. New York: Brussel and Brussel, 1966. Pp. 169-72.

  2. Afanas'ev [Afanasyev], Aleksandr. "The Magic Fife." Erotic Tales of Old Russia. Oakland, California: Scythian Books, 1980. Pp. 41-44.

  3. Blecher, Lone Thygesen and George. "The King's Hares. Swedish Folktales and Legends. New York: Pantheon Books, 1993. Pp. 128-32.

  4. Calvino, Italo. "The King's Daughter Who Could Never Get Enough Figs." Italian Folktales. New York: Pantheon Books, 1980. No. 47, pp. 145-47.

  5. Chambers, Robert. "Jack and His Lulls (Pipe)." Popular Rhymes of Scotland. New edition. London and Edinburgh: W. and R. Chambers, 1870 1870), Pp. 103-105 .

  6. Chase, Richard. "Fill, Bowl! Fill!" The Jack Tales. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1971. No. 10, pp. 89-95.

  7. Delarue, Paul. "The Three May Peaches." French Folktales. Translated by Austin E. Fife. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956. Pp. 3-9.

  8. Dorson, Richard M. "Ignez Was A Burro." Buying the Wind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964. Pp. 423-27. Dorson's source: Zunser.

  9. Espinosa, Aurelio M. "The Riddle." Folklore of Spain in the American Southwest: Traditional Spanish Folk Literature in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. Edited by J. Manuel Espinosa. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985. Pp. 178 ff.

  10. Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. "The Griffin." Grimm's Household Tales. Vol. 2. London: George Bell and Sons, 1884. No. 165, pp. 246-52.

  11. Hardinge, Henry; and C. B. Going. "Provençal Folk-Tales: The Rabbit-Herd." Folk-Lore, vol. 49, no. 3 (September 1938). Pp. 292-95.

  12. Lang, Andrew. "Jesper Who Herded the Hares." The Violet Fairy Book. London: Longmans, Green, and Company, 1901. Pp. 205-216.

  13. Minford, John. "Aniz the Shepherd." Favourite Folktales of China. Beijing: New World Press, 1983. Pp. 95-100.

  14. Randolph. "Fill, Bowl, Fill!" Who Blowed Up the Church House? New York: Columbia University Press, 1952. Pp. 17-19; 185-86.

  15. Randolph, Vance. "Fill, Bowl, Fill." Pissing in the Snow and Other Ozark Folktales. New York: Avon Books, 1977. No. 29, pp. 93-96.

  16. Ranke, Kurt. "The Hare Herd." Folktales of Germany. Translated by Lotte Baumann. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966. No. 42, pp. 107-115.

  17. Sampson, John. "The Eighteen Rabbits." Gypsy Folk Tales. Salem, New Hampshire: Salem House, 1984. Pp. 66-71.

  18. Thompson, Stith. "The King's Hares" [Norway]. One Hundred Favorite Folktales. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1974. No. 57, pp. 258-65.

  19. Thorpe, Benjamin. "Temptations" [Denmark]. Yule-Tide Stories: A Collection of Scandinavian and North German Popular Tales and Traditions. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853. Pp. 369-75.

  20. Weinreich, Beatrice Silverman. "Forty Hares and a Princess." Yiddish Folktales. Translated by Leonard Wolf. New York: Pantheon Books, 1988. No. 44, pp. 130-35.

  21. Zunser, Helen. "Ignez era una Burra" [Ignez Was a Burro]. "A New Mexico Village" [Hot Springs]. Journal of American Folklore, vol. 48 (April - June 1935). Pp. 161-64.

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