The huntsman then declared them free from any further dependence upon himself, adding, "You are now both accomplished huntsmen."

So the brothers went off into the wood and consulted together, and finally agreed what they would do.

When they sat down to supper that evening, they said to their foster father:

"We will not touch a single morsel of food until you have granted us the request we have to make ? "

"And what is the request?" he asked.

They answered, "We have been fully trained as huntsmen, but we still want experience, and what we ask is that you will let us leave you and go out into the world by ourselves."

The old man responded with delight, "You speak as brave hunstmen should, and what you wish is my desire also; go forth, all will, I know, be well with you."

After this they passed a happy evening, making merry over their supper.

When the appointed day came for their departure, the foster-father gave them each a good gun, and let them take as much as they wanted from the money he had saved for them. He went with them part of the way, and before finally saying good-bye to them, he made them a further present of a knife with a polished blade. "If later on," he said, "you should have to separate, stick this knife into a tree at the cross-ways, and when either of you wishes to know how his absent brother is faring, go back and look at the blade on the side facing the direction in which he went: if he is dead, the blade will be rusty, but as long as he is alive, it will remain bright."

The brothers travelled on and at last came to a forest which was too large to be traversed in a single day's journey, so they encamped there for the night, and fed on what they had in their hunting-pouches. The next day, however, they found it equally impossible to get out of the forest, and as they had now nothing left to eat, one of them said, " We must shoot something for ourselves, or we shall starve," and he loaded his gun and looked about to see what he could find.

An old hare came running by, and he was just going to shoot her, when she cried—

"Dear young huntsman, if I may live, two of my young to thee I'll give!"

And with that she leaped into the underwood and brought out two of her young; but the little things were so lively, and gambolled so prettily, that the two huntsmen could not find it in their hearts to kill them. So they agreed to keep them, and the young animals followed them on foot.

Then a fox crept across their path, and they thought they would shoot him, but he cried—

"Dear young huntsman, if I may live, two of my young to thee I'll give!"

And he also brought out two of his cubs, but the huntsmen again did not like to kill them; so they gave them to the hares as companions, and the four followed together.

Soon after this, a wolf stepped out from the thicket, and the huntsmen aimed at her, but the wolf cried —

"Dear young huntsman, if I may live, two of my young to thee I'll give!"

The two young wolves were added to the other animals, and also followed along with them.

Next a bear appeared, who thought he should like to trot about a bit longer, and so he cried—

"Dear young huntsman, if I may live, two of my young to thee I'll give!"

These two cubs now brought the number of the animals up to eight.

And last of all, what came ? a lion—shaking his mane. But the huntsmen were not to be frightened, and they pointed their guns at him, but the lion also cried—

"Dear young huntsman, if I may live, two of my young to thee I'll give!"

And he brought his young ones to them; and now the huntsmen had two lions, two bears, two wolves, two foxes, and two hares, and these all followed after them and were of service to them.

But with all this their hunger was not appeased, so they said to the foxes: "Listen, you sly ones, you are slim and artful, get us something to eat." They answered : "There is a village not far from here, from which we have stolen many a hen ; we can show you the way thither." They went on therefore to the village, bought food for themselves and their animals, and then went further on their road. The foxes knew the neighbourhood well, and where all the best poultry-yards were to be found, so the huntsmen found them very useful as guides.

They wandered about like this for some time, but were unable to find any employment which would allow them to remain together, so they said to one another, "There is no help for it, we shall have to part." They divided the animals, so that they each had a lion, a bear, a wolf, a fox, and a hare; then they bade farewell to one another, vowed to love each other till death, and stuck the knife, which their foster-father had given them, into a tree; and this done, the one brother turned his steps to the east, the other to the west.

The younger of the two, accompanied by his animals, came to a town which was everywhere hung with black. He went into an inn and asked the innkeeper if he could give shelter to the animals, and the innkeeper put them in one of his stables. There was a hole in the wall of the stable, and the hare crept through and fetched herself a cabbage, and the fox followed and fetched himself a hen, and when he had eaten her up, he went out again and brought in the cock. The wolf, and the bear, and the lion were too big to get through the hole, and would have fared badly, if the innkeeper had not given them one of his cows.

Having attended to his animals, the huntsman now asked the innkeeper the cause of the general mourning. "It is because to-morrow," replied the innkeeper, "the king's only daughter must die."

" Is she then so ill that she cannot recover ?" asked the huntsman.

" No," answered the innkeeper, " she is young and in good health, but nevertheless to-morrow she dies."

" But how is that ? " said the huntsman.

"Just beyond the town there rises a high mountain, and on it lives a dragon, and every year a young maiden must be given up to him, or he will devastate the whole country. But now he has had all the young maidens of the town, and only one remains, the king's daughter; there is, therefore, no possibility of saving her, she must be sacrificed to him, and this is to take place to-morow."