The Twelve Dancing
There was a king who had twelve beautiful daughters. They slept
in twelve beds all in one room and when they went to bed, the doors were
shut and locked up. However, every morning their shoes were found to be
quite worn through as if they had been danced in all night. Nobody
could find out how it happened, or where the princesses had been.
So the king made it known to all the land that if any person could
discover the secret and find out where it was that the princesses danced
in the night, he would have the one he liked best to take as his wife,
and would be king after his death. But whoever tried and did not
succeed, after three days and nights, they would be put to death.
A king's son soon came. He was well entertained, and in the evening
was taken to the chamber next to the one where the princesses lay in
their twelve beds. There he was to sit and watch where they went to
dance; and, in order that nothing could happen without him hearing it,
the door of his chamber was left open. But the king's son soon fell
asleep; and when he awoke in the morning he found that the princesses
had all been dancing, for the soles of their shoes were full of holes.
The same thing happened the second and third night and so the king
ordered his head to be cut off.
After him came several others; but they all had the same luck, and
all lost their lives in the same way.
Now it happened that an old soldier, who had been wounded in battle
and could fight no longer, passed through the country where this king
reigned, and as he was travelling through a wood, he met an old woman,
who asked him where he was going.
'I hardly know where I am going, or what I had better do,' said the
soldier; 'but I think I would like to find out where it is that the
princesses dance, and then in time I might be a king.'
'Well,' said the old woman, 'that is not a very hard task: only
take care not to drink any of the wine which one of the princesses will
bring to you in the evening; and as soon as she leaves you pretend to be
Then she gave him a cloak, and said, 'As soon as you put that on you
will become invisible, and you will then be able to follow the
princesses wherever they go.' When the soldier heard all this good
advice, he was determined to try his luck, so he went to the king, and
said he was willing to undertake the task.
He was as well received as the others had been, and the king
ordered fine royal robes to be given him; and when the evening came he
was led to the outer chamber.
Just as he was going to lie down, the eldest of the princesses
brought him a cup of wine; but the soldier threw it all away secretly,
taking care not to drink a drop. Then he laid himself down on his bed,
and in a little while began to snore very loudly as if he was fast
When the twelve princesses heard this they laughed heartily; and
the eldest said, 'This fellow too might have done a wiser thing than
lose his life in this way!' Then they rose and opened their drawers and
boxes, and took out all their fine clothes, and dressed themselves at
the mirror, and skipped about as if they were eager to begin dancing.
But the youngest said, 'I don't know why it is, but while you are
so happy I feel very uneasy; I am sure some mischance will befall us.'
'You simpleton,' said the eldest, 'you are always afraid; have you
forgotten how many kings' sons have already watched in vain? And as for
this soldier, even if I had not given him his sleeping draught, he would
have slept soundly enough.'
When they were all ready, they went and looked at the soldier; but
he snored on, and did not stir hand or foot: so they thought they were
Then the eldest went up to her own bed and clapped her hands, and
the bed sank into the floor and a trap-door flew open. The soldier saw
them going down through the trap-door one after another, the eldest
leading the way; and thinking he had no time to lose, he jumped up, put
on the cloak which the old woman had given him, and followed them.
However, in the middle of the stairs he trod on the gown of the
youngest princess, and she cried out to her sisters, 'All is not right;
someone took hold of my gown.'