The Hunchback, The Pool And The Magic Ring, Maurice Baring

There was once upon a time a King and a Queen who had three sons. The two eldest were big and strong, but the third was a cripple and a hunchback, because a wicked fairy, whom the Queen had forgotten to invite to his christening, had cast a spell over him in his cradle. Yet the King and the Queen loved their third son best of all, and this made his brothers jealous. When the three brothers were grown up, the King fell sick, and he knew that he was going to die. And so he called his three sons to him on his deathbed.

“Now that you are big and strong,” he said to the two eldest, “it is time you went out into the world to seek your fortune. I will give to each of you a good horse, a suit of armour, a bag of gold, and a sharp sword; and to you,” he said to the youngest, “I will give this castle, because you are not strong enough to go and seek your fortune for yourself. So you shall stay at home and look after your mother.”

And soon after he had said this he died.

Now the two eldest brothers were very angry because the hunchback had been given the castle, and they said to each other: “Our father was old and feeble and did not know what he was doing: we will not give our brother the castle. Indeed, it would be of no use to him, but we will keep it for ourselves, and we will get rid of him, because it is a disgrace to have a hunchback in the family.”

So they told their mother that they were going to take their brother with them, to show him the world, and they promised to look after him carefully. They started the next day, early in the morning, and when they had reached a large forest, they told the hunchback that he must seek his fortune by himself, and they took away his horse from him and his sword and his cloak. And the next day they rode home to the castle and said that their brother had been eaten by a bear in the night, entirely owing to his own fault.

When the young prince was left to himself, he was very sad, and did not know what to do, and he sat down by the side of a pool and cried bitterly. As he was crying, he heard a voice coming out of the pool and asking him what was the matter.

“I am crying,” he said, “because I am a hunchback and I have been deserted by my two brothers,” and he told all his story. Then he heard the voice laugh softly and say that everything could be put to rights. “Look into the pool,” said the voice, “and tell me what you see at the bottom of it.”

The hunchback looked, and said that he saw a gold ring.

“You must pull out the gold ring and put it on your finger,” said the voice.

The hunchback thrust his arm into the pool and pulled out a gold ring, and no sooner had he put it on his finger than a beautiful woman stood in front of him. She had golden hair which fell to her feet, and large, soft eyes, and he thought she must be a fairy. And so she was: but she had been imprisoned in the pool by the same wicked fairy who had not been invited to the christening of the young Prince.

“You have done me a great service,” said the fairy, “and I will not be ungrateful. Look into the pool.”

The hunchback looked into the pool and saw his own reflection. But something wonderful had happened, for he was no longer hunchbacked, but far taller and stronger than his brothers, and the handsomest and most gallant-looking young Prince that the world had ever seen.

“Now,” said the fairy, “all will be well with you. You have only to go into the world and you will make your fortune; but you must remember carefully what I tell you now. You must not lose the ring which I have given you, and never take it off your finger; and above all things you must never put it back into the pool. For whenever you take it off your finger, you will become a hunchback once more, and if you put it back into the pool, you will remain a hunchback for ever.” And so saying the fairy disappeared.

Then the hunchback walked through the forest, whistling for joy; and at sunset he reached a large town. As soon as he reached the town, a large coach drawn by six cream-coloured horses passed him, and in the coach was a beautiful Princess, driving with her father, who was King of the country. Directly she caught sight of the Prince she stopped the coach and begged him to get in, and they drove to the palace. “At last,” she said to her father, “I have found a man whom I will consent to marry.”

And when the King, her father, learnt who the stranger was, he was very pleased, and offered him the hand of his daughter. And the Prince learned that from far and wide suitors had come to seek the hand of the Princess, but she had never been willing to look at any of them. And as the King was anxious that his daughter should marry, because she had a bad temper, he was very pleased at what had happened.

The Prince consented readily enough to marry so beautiful a Princess; but when they were left alone he told her all his story. The Princess did not believe it, and so as to prove the truth of his words he took off his ring, and he stood before her in his true shape, a cripple and a hunchback.

The Princess screamed and burst into a flood of tears, and abused the poor Prince, and although he had put the ring on again and resumed his splendid shape, she bade him begone out of her sight for ever. “For how could I marry a man,” she said, “who might turn into a monster if he happened to lose a ring?”

So the Prince went away with a heavy heart, and started on his travels once more. He travelled far, and visited many cities, and wherever he went he was received with the greatest favour; for no one had ever seen so handsome a Prince, and many kings offered him their daughters in marriage. But the Prince turned a deaf ear now to their offers, and he was sad at heart, for he felt that the magic gift which he had received brought him no happiness, and he knew that he was wearing a mask and deceiving himself and the whole world.

Now it happened that one day during his travels he reached the seashore, and as darkness was falling he asked for shelter from a fisherman who had a hut on the beach. The fisherman bade him welcome, and told his wife to bring him some porridge. And as he sat eating his supper the fisherman’s daughter worked at her spinning-wheel in the corner of the room, and sang a song which was like this:–

“He brought me silver, he brought me gold,
I bade him go his way;
My heart was bought and my heart was sold
Upon a summer’s day.

He brought me horses and banners bold,
I bade him go his way;
My heart was bought and my heart was sold
Upon a summer’s day.

For a sigh, a song, and a tale half-told,
And for a wisp of hay,
My heart was bought and my heart was sold
Upon a summer’s day.”

He looked at the fisherman’s daughter. Her eyes were blue as the sky, and her cheeks were fresh as the salt sea. He looked at her and he fell in love with her at first sight. And she blushed and looked down, and although neither of them had spoken a word, they both knew that they would love each other for ever and ever.

The next day the Prince said good-bye to the fisherman’s daughter, and when he said good-bye her eyes filled with tears so that it hurt him to go away. The sun was shining on the sea and a fresh breeze was blowing, and many white sails were scudding in the distance through the foam, and something stirred and leapt in the Prince’s heart, and before he knew what he had done, he said: “I love you, and I shall always love you, and I am going away.”

“Take me with you,” said the fisherman’s daughter, and the Prince smiled and lifted the fisherman’s daughter on to his saddle, and they galloped away into the morning. They rode on and on, but the Prince guided his horse to a dark forest. The thick grass underneath them was wet with dew, and the bushes and the undergrowth glistened in the sunlight. The blackbird was whistling, and the finches answered him from the oak-trees, and far away the cuckoo called over and over again.

Soon they reached a dark pool. Up to now the Prince had not spoken a word. He got off his horse and lifted the fisherman’s daughter, who was as light as a feather, on to the ground.

“Now,” he said, “I have got a sad tale to tell you. I am not really what you think I am. I am not a handsome Prince, but only a poor crippled hunchback, so ugly that people hate to look at me.”

“What does it matter?” said the fisherman’s daughter. “I would love you whether you were a hunchback or not. Perhaps I should love you even more.”

“We will see,” he said; “at any rate I have made up my mind to be what I am for ever and not to deceive people any more.” And he threw his ring into the pool.

Then a soft moan was heard in the forest, and the birds flew away from their nests. The Prince stood before the fisherman’s daughter in his true shape: a hunchback and a cripple. He was so sad that he cried bitterly, just as he had done on the day when his brothers had deserted him.

The fisherman’s daughter cried too, to see that he was sad; but she kissed away his tears, and she told him that she loved him more than ever, and he knew by the sound of her voice that it was true.

Then he heard a voice coming from the pool, which said: “Look into the pool.”

And they both looked and saw the reflection of the Prince. The hunchback had gone, and he was big, handsome, and strong, and just as he had been when the fisherman’s daughter had first seen him. And then they both laughed, and kissed each other over and over again. The Prince had regained his splendid shape, which he was never to lose again; and he put the fisherman’s daughter on his horse, and they rode home to the castle where he had been born, and they found his mother looking out of the window in case he should come back that day; and they were married the next morning in great pomp, and his two brothers came back–everything had fared ill with them, and they were poor and miserable–and he forgave them, and the Prince and the fisherman’s daughter lived happily for ever afterwards.


Un comentario sobre “The Hunchback, The Pool And The Magic Ring, Maurice Baring

  1. 1. Write an opinion about the decision the King, the father of the three sons, took at the beginning of the story.

    2. Was it a good idea for the hunchback to decided to become a prince?

    3. What does the reaction of the princess tell you about marriage?

    4. What made the spell change?

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