There was once a poor prince who had a kingdom, but it was a very small one. Still, it was big enough to allow him to share it with someone, so he decided to get married.
It was certainly quite cheeky of him to ask the emperor’s daughter, “Will you marry me?” as he did one day. But he was well known far and wide, and there were a hundred princesses who would have answered, “Yes please!”
Listen on and hear how this one answered.
It happened that in his kingdom there grew a rose tree, a most beautiful rose tree, which blossomed only once in five years, and even then had only one flower. Ah, but what a rose! It smelled so sweet that anyone who smelled it forgot all their worries.
The prince also had a nightingale that could sing so beautifully that it could sing any music in the world.
The prince decided to send these, his two most precious possessions to the princess. He put them into large silver caskets and sent them to her.
The emperor had them brought into a large hall, where the princess and the ladies of the court were sitting. When she saw the caskets with the presents, the princess clapped her hands for joy.
“I hope it’s a mechanical cat!” she cried. Instead, the rose tree, with its beautiful rose, came to view.
“Oh, how prettily it is!” said all the court ladies.
“It is more than pretty,” said the emperor, “it is lovely.”
The princess touched it and was ready to cry. “Darn it daddy,” she said, “it is not made by someone at all. It is only something that grew! How boring is that?”
“Darn,” said all the court ladies together, “it is only something that grew!”
“Let us see what’s in the other casket before we get into a bad mood,” said the emperor. So the nightingale came out, and sang so delightfully that at first no one could say anything bad about her.
“Super! Charming!” exclaimed the ladies all in one.
“The bird reminds me of the musical box that belonged to our dear emperor’s wife!” said an old knight. “Oh! yes, these are the same tunes, sung the same way.”
“Yes, yes!” said the emperor, and he started to cry with emotion.
“I still hope it is not a real bird,” said the princess. “Real things are boring. I only like things that are made.”
“Yes, it is a real bird,” said the delivery men who had brought it.
“Well, then, let the bird fly away for all I care,” replied the princess. “And I have certainly no interest in meeting the prince who sent me these disappointing gifts.”
The prince, however, he was not to be discouraged as he didn’t like to give up. He dirtied his face brown and black, pulled his cap over his ears, and knocked at the door of the castle.
“Good day to my emperor,” he said. “Can I have a job here at the palace?”
“Why, yes,” said the emperor. “I do need someone to take care of the pigs, there are so many of them.”
So the prince was given the job of the imperial swineherd.
He had a miserable little room, close by the pigsty, and here he had to stay the whole day long. By the first evening he had made a pretty little saucepan. Little bells were hung all around it and when the pot was boiling, the bells made a lovely tinkling and played a simple tune.
But what was still more amazing, whoever held his finger in the steam from this saucepan could smell all the dishes that were cooking on every cooker in the whole city.
Now the princess happened to walk that way with her court ladies, and when she heard the tune she stood quite still and seemed pleased. It was the only tune she could play on the piano, which she could only play with one finger, as she never could be bothered to practice.
“Why, that is the piece that I play on the piano!” said the princess. “That swineherd must certainly have been well educated. Go in and ask him the how much will it cost to buy it.”
So one of the court ladies went in holding her nose and asked “How much for the saucepan?”
“The price is ten kisses from the princess,” said the swineherd.
“Heaven preserve us!” cried the lady.
“I cannot sell it for less,” answered the swineherd.
“Well, what does he say?” asked the princess after the lady had returned.
“I cannot tell you, really,” replied the lady. “It is too dreadful.”
“Then you may whisper it.” So the lady whispered it.
“He is a cheeky fellow,” said the princess and she walked on. But when she had gone a little way, the bells again began to tinkle prettily.
“Wait!” said the princess. “Ask him if he will have ten kisses from my ladies of the court.”
“No, thank you!” answered the swineherd. “Ten kisses from the princess, or I keep the saucepan myself.”
“How tiresome! But I want that saucepan and I want it now!” said the princess to the ladies around her. “I’ll do it, but all of you stand around me so that nobody else can see.”
The court ladies placed themselves in front of her, and spread out their dresses. So the swineherd got his ten kisses and the princess got the saucepan.
It was delightful! The saucepan was kept boiling all the evening and the whole of the following day. They knew what was cooking on every cooker in the city. The court ladies danced and clapped their hands in excitement.
“We know who has soup, and who has pancakes for dinner to-day, who has chops and who has eggs. How interesting!” they all said.
“Yes, but keep my secret, for I am an emperor’s daughter,” said the princess. “It wouldn’t be good if people found out and said I was nosey, which of course I’m not,” she said, putting her finger back into the steam.
o — o — o
The prince – that is, the swineherd, for no one knew that he was anything other than a dirty pig boy – didn’t let a day pass without working at something. At last he made a rattle, which, when it was swung round and round, played all the dance waltzes and jigs which have ever been heard since the beginning of time.
“Ah, that is superb!” said the princess, when she passed by. “I have never heard prettier music. Go in and ask him the price of the instrument,” she asked one of the ladies. “But tell him no more kisses.”
“He wants a hundred kisses from the princess,” said the lady when she returned.
“He’s mad,” said the princess and walked on. But when she had gone a little way she stopped again. “It’s good to encourage the arts,” she said. “I am the emperor’s daughter. Tell him he shall, as on yesterday, have ten kisses and can take the rest from the ladies of the court.”
“Oh, but we would not like that at all,” said the ladies.
“How dare you complain,” cried the princess. “If I can kiss him, surely you can! Remember I give you food and money.”
The lady went back in to make the offer, but it was no use. “A hundred kisses from the princess,” he said, “or forget about it.”
Now the princess really wanted that rattle, so finally she gave in. “Stand round,” she said, and all the ladies stood around her as before to cover her up.
“What can be the reason for such a crowd by the pigsty?” asked the emperor, who happened just then to step out on the balcony. He rubbed his eyes and put on his spectacles.
“They are the ladies of the court. I must go and see what’s going on.” So he pulled on his slippers and went outside.
As soon as he had got into the courtyard he moved very softly, and the ladies were so busy with counting the kisses that they did not notice the emperor. He rose up on his tiptoes to see over them.
“What is all this?” said he, when he saw what was going on, and he tore off a slipper and threw it at the couple, just as the swineherd was taking the eighty-sixth kiss.
“Be off with you both! Leave!” cried the emperor, for he was very angry. Both the princess and the swineherd were thrown out of the city.
“What a bore,” said the princess. “Now I’m stuck out here with a smelly pig-boy. I should have married that other handsome prince with the rose tree and the nightingale. At least I would have had a roof over my head.”
The swineherd went behind a tree, washed the black and brown from his face, threw off his dirty clothing, and stepped forth in his princely clothes. He looked so noble that the princess could not help bowing before him.
“Great, that’s all sorted then,” she said. “I’ve changed my mind and I’ll take you after all. Hopefully most of your bad smell is gone. You’ll have to get rid of that bird though, I can’t stand it. Now, take me somewhere for food, I’m hungry.”
“You know what,” he replied. “On second thoughts, I think I’ll say no, thanks. You had no interest when I was an honourable prince. You couldn’t see the beauty of the rose or the nightingale, my most precious possessions in the world. But you were ok to kiss the swineherd for the sake of a toy. You’re not for me after all. I’m off.”
He then went back to his own little kingdom, where he shut the door of his palace and left her behind. As for the princess, maybe she learned her lesson and became a nicer person, nobody really knows for sure, as it was too long ago.