Fairy Tales in English - The Lost Bride

The Lost Bride 

Once upon a time, there lived a brother and a sister named Osmo and Ilona. They had no other kin in the world and were very poor. Though they worked hard they could hardly manage to make both ends meet. Osmo decided to go out and try his fortune. His sister stayed at home. He soon reached a beautiful city and took work there as a shepherd. The king's son who was fond of making friends with strangers got to know him and often came out to talk to him as he guarded the sheep. One day they fell to talking idly in the course of which Osmo declared that he had never seen anyone prettier than his own sister. She was also talented and the most kind-hearted girl in the world! He described her virtues so warmly that the prince felt a great urge to see her. He requested Osmo to bring her. "Will you marry her, if I bring her here?" asked Osmo. "I promise, I will," replied the prince. "But if you fail to bring her, you will be punished." Osmo returned home and told his sister all about the prince. She felt very happy at the prospect of seeing her brother's dear friend. The very next day they set out to meet the prince.

Ilona took all her worldly belongings including her little dog Pilka. They had not gone far in their boat when they saw a woman running on the shore calling out to them. Osmo was willing to stop, but Ilona restrained him saying that they did not after all know who the woman was! But the woman went on crying so piteously that Osmo rowed to the shore and took her into the boat. Now, this woman was a very naughty witch. She asked them where they were going. Osmo told her all. Immediately she cast a spell on them so that they could not hear each other. When they neared the prince's palace Osmo asked his sister to get ready with her best clothes on. Ilona could not hear him, though she could hear the witch. The witch told her that her brother was asking her to jump into the river She could not understand his strange command and insisted on knowing why she must do so. Osmo, not able to hear her, grew angry and shouted at her. Poor Ilona ultimately jumped overboard. The waters closed over her and she sank down like a stone, as she did not know how to swim. The bewildered Osmo tried to save her but his effort went in vain. The prince would certainly kill him. The witch told him not to fear for she had a plan. She would change herself into Ilona and put on her clothes. Nobody would know the difference! Osmo had to agree, for there was no other immediate solution at hand. The prince, on seeing the false Ilona, was happy, but his face fell the moment the witch started talking, for she had not been able to change her voice. It still cackled like a witch's. "Why did you say that she was good in everything?" demanded the angry prince and he had Osmo thrown into a den of snakes.

"If you are innocent, the snakes will not harm you," he said. Meanwhile, Ilona sank deeper and deeper and came to the lovely palace of the Sea King. All his subjects admired her and the king fell in love with her at first sight. He asked her to become his bride. But Ilona only wanted to go back into the green world above. She pleaded with the king, with tears in her eyes, to let her go up. At last, the king agreed, saying, "You can go up for three nights. But you will have to wear the clothes I provide and if you don't succeed in breaking the spell in this period, you will have to return here and become my bride." Ilona agreed. When evening came, the palace maids dressed Ilona in a wonderful robe of pearls and bound her ankles in long chains of silver that gave out wonderful music as she walked. She came up and the first thing she saw was her little dog Pilka. It had stayed there confident that its mistress would surely come. It bounded to her barking joyfully. She was delighted to see it. Taking out a little piece of gold and silver embroidery from her pocket she asked the little dog to take it to the chamber of the prince and to keep it on his pillow. The dog did as it was told. While returning, it went to the den where Osmo was thrown and saw that he was safe. When the prince woke up in the morning, he saw the embroidered cloth and wondered how it came there. He had never seen anything so beautiful. The witch said, "I made it at night to please you." The prince, however, did not believe her. Just then a messenger came in to tell that Osmo was safe as ever.

That meant Osmo was innocent. Puzzled, the prince went to a wise and holy woman who lived near the shore and told her everything. "You have married a witch while your true bride lies under a spell. She is now with the Sea King. By sending you this embroidery she has indicated that she is still alive and she seeks your help," explained the holy woman. "But where is she? How can I find her?" the prince asked anxiously. "Wait until tomorrow," was her answer. The next night Ilona came up again and this time gave a shirt to the dog to be given to the prince. She vanished with the dawn. The holy woman saw everything. When the prince went to see the holy woman she told him, "Go to the smith and ask him to make a strong iron chain and a scythe. When your bride comes out of the water this night, fling the chain around her and cut the silver chains from her feet with the scythe. Then you must hold her tightly, for she will change her shape many times and try to escape because of the spell. If you can hold on till the end, she will be yours." The prince hurried to the shore. When the moon rose he saw Ilona come out of the water. He followed the holy woman's instructions. After the chains were cut off, the prince held her tightly by the arm. Suddenly, Ilona changed into a silverfish and tried to slip out. But quick as lightning he drew out his knife and plunged it into the gills of the fish. Immediately the fish became a golden bird that tried to fly away, but, the prince was quicker and he struck it down. It changed into a green lizard and tried to wriggle away, but with no success. The lizard then turned into a tiny fly. It would have flown away but for his quick action in catching it and crushing it with his thumb.

The spell was broken at last and Ilona stood there in all her beauty. The delighted prince told her all that had come to pass. He wanted to take her away at once to the palace but she was frightened of the witch. So they spent the night in the holy woman's hut. In the morning, the prince went alone to the palace. He carried with him, in a hidden bottle, some magic water given by the holy woman. As soon as the witch came out to greet him, he splashed the water on her face. She screamed and shrieked. Slowly, her old haggard form came forth and in a moment the real witch was standing there, to the amazement of everyone around! She changed herself into a crow and tried to fly away. But, she had lost her strength. She slumped down on the floor crowing woefully. "Keep her in a cage till her end," the prince told his attendants. "But keep the cage away from the palace don't forget to feed the crow." The prince and Ilona rushed to Osmo's prison. The prince wept in shame for his conduct. But Osmo consoled him saying that all is well that ends well. The next day, the prince married Ilona. In the evening the crow had died.

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