How To Find Out A True Friend
: The Crimson Fairy Book
Once upon a time there lived a king and queen who longed to have a son.
As none came, one day they made a vow at the shrine of St. James that
if their prayers were granted the boy should set out on a pilgrimage as
soon as he had passed his eighteenth birthday. And fancy their delight
when one evening the king returned home from hunting and saw a baby
lying in the cradle.
All the people came crowding round
to peep at it, and declared it was
the most beautiful baby that ever was seen. Of course that is what they
always say, but this time it happened to be true. And every day the boy
grew bigger and stronger till he was twelve years old, when the king
died, and he was left alone to take care of his mother.
In this way six years passed by, and his eighteenth birthday drew near.
When she thought of this the queen's heart sank within her, for he was
the light of her eyes' and how was she to send him forth to the unknown
dangers that beset a pilgrim? So day by day she grew more and more
sorrowful, and when she was alone wept bitterly.
Now the queen imagined that no one but herself knew how sad she was, but
one morning her son said to her, 'Mother, why do you cry the whole day
'Nothing, nothing, my son; there is only one thing in the world that
'What is that one thing?' asked he. 'Are you afraid your property is
badly managed? Let me go and look into the matter.'
This pleased the queen, and he rode off to the plain country, where his
mother owned great estates; but everything was in beautiful order, and
he returned with a joyful heart, and said, 'Now, mother, you can be
happy again, for your lands are better managed than anyone else's I have
seen. The cattle are thriving; the fields are thick with corn, and soon
they will be ripe for harvest.'
'That is good news indeed,' answered she; but it did not seem to make
any difference to her, and the next morning she was weeping and wailing
as loudly as ever.
'Dear mother,' said her son in despair, 'if you will not tell me what is
the cause of all this misery I shall leave home and wander far through
'Ah, my son, my son,' cried the queen, 'it is the thought that I must
part from you which causes me such grief; for before you were born we
vowed a vow to St. James that when your eighteenth birthday was passed
you should make a pilgrimage to his shrine, and very soon you will be
eighteen, and I shall lose you. And for a whole year my eyes will never
be gladdened by the sight of you, for the shrine is far away.'
'Will it take no longer than that to reach it?' said he. 'Oh, don't be
so wretched; it is only dead people who never return. As long as I am
alive you may be sure I will come back to you.'
After this manner he comforted his mother, and on his eighteenth
birthday his best horse was led to the door of the palace, and he took
leave of the queen in these words, 'Dear mother, farewell, and by the
help of fate I shall return to you as soon as I can.'
The queen burst into tears and wept sore; then amidst her sobs she drew
three apples from her pocket and held them out, saying, 'My son, take
these apples and give heed unto my words. You will need a companion in
the long journey on which you are going. If you come across a young man
who pleases you beg him to accompany you, and when you get to an inn
invite him to have dinner with you. After you have eaten cut one of
these apples in two unequal parts, and ask him to take one. If he takes
the larger bit, then part from him, for he is no true friend to you. But
if he takes the smaller bit treat him as your brother, and share with
him all you have.' Then she kissed her son once more, and blessed him,
and let him go.
The young man rode a long way without meeting a single creature, but at
last he saw a youth in the distance about the same age as himself, and
he spurred his horse till he came up with the stranger, who stopped and
'Where are you going, my fine fellow?'
'I am making a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James, for before I was
born my mother vowed that I should go forth with a thank offering on my
'That is my case too,' said the stranger, 'and, as we must both travel
in the same direction, let us bear each other company.'
The young man agreed to this proposal, but he took care not to get on
terms of familiarity with the new comer until he had tried him with the
By-and-by they reached an inn, and at sight of it the king's son said,
'I am very hungry. Let us enter and order something to eat.' The other
consented, and they were soon sitting before a good dinner.
When they had finished the king's son drew an apple from his pocket,
and cut it into a big half and a little half, and offered both to the
stranger, who took the biggest bit. 'You are no friend of mine,' thought
the king's son, and in order to part company with him he pretended to be
ill and declared himself unable to proceed on his journey.
'Well, I can't wait for you,' replied the other; 'I am in haste to push
on, so farewell.'
'Farewell,' said the king's son, glad in his heart to get rid of him so
easily. The king's son remained in the inn for some time, so as to let
the young man have a good start; them he ordered his horse and rode
after him. But he was very sociable and the way seemed long and dull by
himself. 'Oh, if I could only meet with a true friend,' he thought, 'so
that I should have some one to speak to. I hate being alone.'
Soon after he came up with a young man, who stopped and asked him,
'Where are you going, my fine fellow?' The king's son explained the
object of his journey, and the young man answered, as the other had
done, that he also was fulfilling the vow of his mother made at his
'Well, we can ride on together,' said the king's son, and the road
seemed much shorter now that he had some one to talk to.
At length they reached an inn, and the king's son exclaimed, 'I am very
hungry; let us go in and get something to eat.'
When they had finished the king's son drew an apple out of his pocket
and cut it in two; he held the big bit and the little bit out to his
companion, who took the big bit at once and soon ate it up. 'You are no
friend of mine,' thought the king's son, and began to declare he felt so
ill he could not continue his journey. When he had given the young man a
good start he set off himself, but the way seemed even longer and duller
than before. 'Oh, if I could only meet with a true friend he should be
as a brother to me,' he sighed sadly; and as the thought passed through
his mind, he noticed a youth going the same road as himself.
The youth came up to him and said, 'Which way are you going, my fine
fellow?' And for the third time the king's son explained all about his
mother's vow. Why, that is just like me,' cried the youth.
'Then let us ride on together,' answered the king's son.
Now the miles seemed to slip by, for the new comer was so lively and
entertaining that the king's son could not help hoping that he indeed
might prove to be the true friend.
More quickly than he could have thought possible they reached an inn by
the road-side, and turning to his companion the king's son said, 'I am
hungry; let us go in and have something to eat.' So they went in and
ordered dinner, and when they had finished the king's son drew out of
his pocket the last apple, and cut it into two unequal parts, and held
both out to the stranger. And the stranger took the little piece, and
the heart of the king's son was glad within him, for at last he had
found the friend he had been looking for. 'Good youth,' he cried, 'we
will be brothers, and what is mine shall be thine, and what is thine
shall be mine. And together we will push on to the shrine, and if one
of us dies on the road the other shall carry his body there.' And the
stranger agreed to all he said, and they rode forward together.
It took them a whole year to reach the shrine, and they passed through
many different lands on their way. One day they arrived tired and
half-starved in a big city, and said to one another, 'Let us stay here
for a little and rest before we set forth again.' So they hired a small
house close to the royal castle, and took up their abode there.
The following morning the king of the country happened to step on to his
balcony, and saw the young men in the garden, and said to himself, 'Dear
me, those are wonderfully handsome youths; but one is handsomer than
the other, and to him will I give my daughter to wife;' and indeed the
king's son excelled his friend in beauty.
In order to set about his plan the king asked both the young men to
dinner, and when they arrived at the castle he received them with the
utmost kindness, and sent for his daughter, who was more lovely than
both the sun and moon put together. But at bed-time the king caused the
other young man to be given a poisoned drink, which killed him in a few
minutes, for he thought to himself, 'If his friend dies the other will
forget his pilgrimage, and will stay here and marry my daughter.'
When the king's son awoke the next morning he inquired of the servants
where his friend had gone, as he did not see him. 'He died suddenly last
night,' said they, 'and is to be buried immediately.'
But the king's son sprang up, and cried, 'If my friend is dead I can
stay here no longer, and cannot linger an hour in this house.'
'Oh, give up your journey and remain here,' exclaimed the king, 'and you
shall have my daughter for your wife.' 'No,' answered the king's son,
'I cannot stay; but, I pray you, grant my request, and give me a good
horse, and let me go in peace, and when I have fulfilled my vow then I
will return and marry your daughter.'
So the king, seeing no words would move him, ordered a horse to be
brought round, and the king's son mounted it, and took his dead friend
before him on the saddle, and rode away.
Now the young man was not really dead, but only in a deep sleep.
When the king's son reached the shrine of St. James he got down from his
horse, took his friend in his arms as if he had been a child, and laid
him before the altar. 'St. James,' he said, 'I have fulfilled the vow my
parents made for me. I have come myself to your shrine, and have brought
my friend. I place him in your hands. Restore him to life, I pray, for
though he be dead yet has he fulfilled his vow also.' And, behold! while
he yet prayed his friend got up and stood before him as well as ever.
And both the young men gave thanks, and set their faces towards home.
When they arrived at the town where the king dwelt they entered the
small house over against the castle. The news of their coming spread
very soon, and the king rejoiced greatly that the handsome young prince
had come back again, and commanded great feasts to be prepared, for in a
few days his daughter should marry the king's son. The young man himself
could imagine no greater happiness, and when the marriage was over they
spent some months at the court making merry.
At length the king's son said, 'My mother awaits me at home, full of
care and anxiety. Here I must remain no longer, and to-morrow I will
take my wife and my friend and start for home.' And the king was content
that he should do so, and gave orders to prepare for their journey.
Now in his heart the king cherished a deadly hate towards the poor young
man whom he had tried to kill, but who had returned to him living, and
in order to do him hurt sent him on a message to some distant spot. 'See
that you are quick,' said he, 'for your friend will await your return
before he starts.' The youth put spurs to his horse and departed,
bidding the prince farewell, so that the king's message might be
delivered the sooner. As soon as he had started the king went to
the chamber of the prince, and said to him, 'If you do not start
immediately, you will never reach the place where you must camp for the
'I cannot start without my friend,' replied the king's son.
'Oh, he will be back in an hour,' replied the king, 'and I will give him
my best horse, so that he will be sure to catch you up.' The king's son
allowed himself to be persuaded and took leave of his father-in-law, and
set out with his wife on his journey home.
Meanwhile the poor friend had been unable to get through his task in the
short time appointed by the king, and when at last he returned the king
said to him,
'Your comrade is a long way off by now; you had better see if you can
So the young man bowed and left the king's presence, and followed after
his friend on foot, for he had no horse. Night and day he ran, till at
length he reached the place where the king's son had pitched his tent,
and sank down before him, a miserable object, worn out and covered with
mud and dust. But the king's son welcomed him with joy, and tended him
as he would his brother.
And at last they came home again, and the queen was waiting and watching
in the palace, as she had never ceased to do since her son had rode
away. She almost died of joy at seeing him again, but after a little she
remembered his sick friend, and ordered a bed to be made ready and the
best doctors in all the country to be sent for. When they heard of the
queen's summons they flocked from all parts, but none could cure him.
After everyone had tried and failed a servant entered and informed the
queen that a strange old man had just knocked at the palace gate and
declared that he was able to heal the dying youth. Now this was a holy
man, who had heard of the trouble the king's son was in, and had come to
It happened that at this very time a little daughter was born to the
king's son, but in his distress for his friend he had hardly a thought
to spare for the baby. He could not be prevailed on to leave the sick
bed, and he was bending over it when the holy man entered the room. 'Do
you wish your friend to be cured?' asked the new comer of the king's
son. 'And what price would you pay?'
'What price?' answered the king's son; 'only tell me what I can do to
'Listen to me, then,' said the old man. 'This evening you must take your
child, and open her veins, and smear the wounds of your friend with her
blood. And you will see, he will get well in an instant.'
At these words the king's son shrieked with horror, for he loved the
baby dearly, but he answered, 'I have sworn that I would treat my friend
as if he were my brother, and if there is no other way my child must be
As by this time evening had already fallen he took the child and opened
its veins, and smeared the blood over the wounds of the sick man, and
the look of death departed from him, and he grew strong and rosy once
more. But the little child lay as white and still as if she had been
dead. They laid her in the cradle and wept bitterly, for they thought
that by the next morning she would be lost to them.
At sunrise the old man returned and asked after the sick man.
'He is as well as ever,' answered the king's son.
'And where is your baby?'
'In the cradle yonder, and I think she is dead,' replied the father
'Look at her once more,' said the holy man, and as they drew near the
cradle there lay the baby smiling up at them.
'I am St. James of Lizia,' said the old man, 'and I have come to help
you, for I have seen that you are a true friend. From henceforward live
happily, all of you, together, and if troubles should draw near you send
for me, and I will aid you to get through them.'
With these words he lifted his hand in blessing and vanished.
And they obeyed him, and were happy and content, and tried to make the
people of the land happy and contented too.
[From Sicilianische Mahrehen Gonzenbach.]