There was and there was not a king. This king was a mighty ruler, and very fond of hunting. One day while hunting in the woods he saw a strange beast that sparkled like sunlight, and he said to his chamberlain:
‘Let’s capture it alive. It would be a pity to kill this beautiful Beast.’
They set a trap, caught it, and took it to the king’s castle.
‘Build a glass cage for it so that people can come and see it,’ the king commanded. And everybody who saw this Beast was amazed. It was the wonder of the whole kingdom.
The king had an only son who had just turned thirteen. One day the lad broke the glass wall of the cage with an arrow shot from his bow. He asked for his arrow, but the Beast would not give it back.
‘Not until you let me out of here,’ the Beast said. ‘Bring the key your father keeps under his pillow and open this cage. I’ll never forget your kindness if you set me free.’
The boy felt sorry for the Beast glowing like sunlight, fetched the key, and opened the door of the glass cage.
‘Come to me if you ever get in trouble with your father,’ the Beast said. ‘You will find me near the big spring in the wood.’ And it ran away.
The king became furious when he learned the rare beast he prized so much had escaped from the glass cage, and that it was his own son who had opened the door of the cage. He ordered his executioners to chop off the boy’s head.
His chamberlain cried out in horror: ‘He is the only son you have! How can you kill him for such a trifle? Banish him from your kingdom. That will be punishment enough.’
The king called the chamberlain’s son, gave him plenty of money for travelling expenses, and said to him: ‘Take that boy away from here, and I don’t care what you do with him. He is no longer my son and I don’t want him to set foot on the soil of my kingdom again.’
The two boys started out on their journey, and while travelling through the woods on their way to another kingdom, the chamberlain’s son said to the king’s son: ‘Give me your armband, or I will kill you!’
‘You can have it, I don’t need it,’ said the king’s son, and let him have his royal arm-band. The chamberlain’s son tied it around his arm and said: ‘From now on I am the king’s son and you are my servant. Be sure you say nothing about this to anyone.’
The chamberlain’s son lay down under a tree and went to sleep. The king’s son wandered off by himself, and while rambling in the wood saw the Beast he had set free; it glowed and glittered near a spring. The boy wept for joy, and told the Beast his troubles.
‘Never mind,’ said the Beast. ‘Just drink the water of this spring and you’ll be all right.’
The boy drank the water, and the Beast said: ‘Now shake this tree.’
He shook the tree, and pulled it up from the ground.
‘Drink some more!’
The boy drank more water.
‘Now shake that tree over there.’
He shook it, and tore it up by its roots.
‘Are you satisfied, or do you want to be stronger?’
‘I’d like to be a little stronger,’ said the boy.
‘Then you have to drink more water.’
The boy drank some more, and pulled up a tree twice the size of the other two. ‘Are you satisfied now?’ ‘Oh, quite. Thank you.’
The boy went back to the chamberlain’s son, who was now awake, and they continued their journey. It’s hard to say how far they travelled until they reached the city of another king. The chamberlain’s son sent a messenger ahead to inform the king of his arrival with his servant, and the king received him in his castle with royal honours. He liked both boys and said to the chamberlain’s son:
‘I will give you my second daughter in marriage, and from this day on you are my son-in-law. As for your servant, I’ll be glad to have him work for me. What kind of work would you suggest for him?’
‘Oh, it doesn’t matter. Anything you have in mind would be all right.’
‘Would you like to be my Swineherd?’ the king asked the boy.
‘I wouldn’t mind,’ he said.
And so he became the king’s Swineherd. His task was to drive the pigs out to pasture in the morning and bring them back at sundown. He slept in a smelly little hovel near the pigsties. He was up early the next morning, picked up a log he saw lying on the ground, and went up to the king’s balcony, tap-tapping the hand-rails with his log which he used as a walking stick. The noise he made woke up everybody.
‘What do you want?’ the king’s servants asked him.
‘Give me a copper coin so that I can buy some nuts,’ he said.
The king said: ‘Here, boy, take this silver coin and buy all the nuts you want.’
‘I don’t want a silver coin. Where am I going to change it for small cash? All I want is a copper.’
He took the copper coin, went to the bazaar, and banged on the door of one shop after another, looking for nuts. And taking exactly a copper’s worth of nuts he drove his herd to the king’s meadows. When he brought the pigs back in the evening he strode up to the king and said:
‘Order an iron stick for me, O king!’
‘Isn’t that log big enough?’
‘Oh, this is nothing, just a thin shoot. I need a stick weighing at least a thousand pounds.’
The king promised to order one for him.
The next morning the Swineherd woke up everybody again with his loud rapping as he marched down the balcony with his log, banging it on the hand-rails. He asked for another copper to buy nuts. They gave him the coin, and he smashed ten shops, took a copper’s worth of nuts, and drove his herd to pasture.
His iron stick was ready for him the next morning. The boy weighed it in his hand. ‘Just what I wanted,’ he said, put it on his shoulder, and drove his pigs to open fields, all the way into the land of the Black Dev.
The gate of the Dev’s mansion was locked. He smashed it to smithereens with two blows of his iron stick, the broken pieces flying east and west, and led his pigs into the Dev’s garden. He turned them loose to feed on the melons, and stretched out under a shady fruit tree to take a nap.
The Black Dev came back at mealtime and saw that somebody had broken into his house, and pigs had ruined his garden. ‘Who dares do this?’ he roared out, and ran madly around the garden, looking for the trespasser. He found the Swineherd sleeping under a tree.
‘Hey, you earthborn mortal, wake up!’
The boy pretended not to hear him.
‘The snake dares not crawl into my garden, no bird dares fly over it, and yet you trespass?’
The Swineherd yawned. ‘Can’t you be decent enough to let me enjoy my nap before we fight?’
‘When I get through with you, you’ll be nothing but mincemeat, and the biggest piece left of you will be your ears.’
The Swineherd sprang to his feet. ‘Stand back,’ he ordered.
‘Who strikes first?’ the Dev asked.
‘You strike first. I am your guest.’
The Dev cast his mace, and the Swineherd was lost in the dust storm raised by the resounding blow.
‘I wish I had broken my arm before throwing my mace,’ the Dev said. ‘I could have at least eaten his ears.’
‘It’s now my turn,’ the Swineherd said, as the dust cleared. ‘I am not dead yet.’
He struck with his iron stick at the base of the monster’s neck, and the Black Dev’s head is still spinning in the sky.
The Swineherd strolled around twirling his iron stick and entered the monster’s house. He saw ten armed horsemen in the stable, all dressed in black.
‘Who are you? he asked them.
‘Prisoners of the Black Dev,’ they answered. ‘If you let us go free we promise to come to your aid any time you need us.’
‘But remember, the Black Dev’s horse is mine,’ the Swineherd said. He tied a suit of black clothes on the saddle of the monster’s horse, thinking he might wear it some day: then plucked a hair from the tail of each horse in the stable and told their riders they were free to go. They thanked him and galloped off, taking the monster’s horse with them. The Swineherd went home with his pigs and saw that the whole city was celebrating with drums and bagpipes.
‘What’s going on?’ he asked.
‘The king’s daughter is marrying the king’s son who arrived here recently from another land,’ they told him.
He led his herd to the pigsties and went to his room. The king’s youngest daughter came to his hovel.
‘What do you want?’ he said.
‘I just came to have a talk with you.’
‘I am nothing but a swineherd, why should you want to talk with me? Or did you come here because you like the smell of pigs? Go away.’
The king’s daughter went away crying, and then came back with a tray of food and rapped on his door. He got up and opened it.
‘What is it now?’
‘I brought you some good things to eat. Let’s have our supper together.’
‘I told you not to bother me.’ He took the tray and pushed her out of his hovel. She went away crying.
The next morning the Swineherd was on the king’s balcony banging away with his iron stick.
‘What do you want, fellow?’
‘Give me another copper to buy nuts.’
They gave him the coin he wanted, and he took his herd to pasture. When he came back at sundown he found the whole city in panic.
‘What’s happened now?’ he asked.
‘The devs have come in force and are demanding the king’s eldest daughter. The king is gathering his troops to fight them.’
The king’s youngest daughter was back at his door weeping loudly.
‘What are all these tears for?’
‘The devs are taking my sister away.’
‘Well, why tell me about it? What can I do?’
‘You can save her.’
‘Look here, I am just a swineherd, and I have plenty to do as it is, trying to take care of the king’s pigs. Why don’t you ask her husband to save her? He is a king’s son.’
‘He can’t fight.’
‘Go away, leave me alone, I can’t be bothered with the devs.’
And the princess went away weeping.
The next morning the Swineherd was banging away on the balcony again, while everybody was in tears and crying, ‘The devs are here, what shall we do?’
‘I am in a hurry,’ he said to the king’s servants. ‘Give me my copper and I will be on my way.’
He pocketed his coin, bought his nuts, and was off to the pasture with his pigs. He turned them loose in the meadow, then took the horse hairs out of his pocket and burned them. The ten mounted warriors he had set free came galloping back with the Black Dev’s horse, the black suit of clothes still tied on the saddle. The Swineherd changed his clothes, and dressed in black like the others, sprang on the splendid stallion and led these ten warriors to battle. The king was moving against the devs with all his troops, but the devs were too much for him until the Swineherd led the attack, striking at the foe with lightning speed. Only one monster survived the slaughter. The Swineherd caught him, pulled out his teeth, strung them around his forehead like so many beads, and said: ‘Now go tell it all to your master.’
The king wanted to reward these gallant warriors, but they turned their horses around and disappeared before he could find out who they were. The Swineherd dismounted, changed back to his own clothes, released his men, gathered his pigs, and returned to the pigsties.
The whole city was rejoicing in the victory with bagpipes and drums, singing and dancing. The Swineherd retired to his smelly hovel. And again the king’s youngest daughter came and knocked on his door, carrying a trayful of choice foods and drinks.
‘Well, what is it now?’
‘I have missed you very much. I brought you your supper. Let’s eat together.’
‘I told you not to bother me. Go away.’
He took the tray, pushed her out of his hovel, and shut the door.
The princess went home crying.
The next morning the Swineherd received another copper coin, filled his pockets with nuts, drove his pigs to pasture, and entered the land of the Red Dev. He smashed the gate of this monster’s mansion with two blows of his iron stick and sent the pieces flying to Aleppo and Chin-ma-Chin. Then he turned his pigs loose in the garden and lay down under a fruit tree to take a nap.
The Red Dev came back at mealtime and his blood boiled when he saw his gate smashed and his garden ruined by pigs. He ran around looking for the culprit and saw the Swineherd sleeping under a tree.
‘Hey, you earthborn mortal, wake up!’
The Swineherd opened his eyes and saw the Red Dev towering over him.
‘I need my rest, you fool! Why did you wake me up? How stupid can you be?’
‘You dare talk to me in that angry voice after all the damage you have done? My teeth are just aching for some human flesh. You’d make a fine meal.’
The Swineherd stood up with his iron stick. ‘Stand back and strike!’ he ordered.
The Red Dev cast his mace and the Swineherd disappeared in swirling clouds of dust.
‘Too bad,’ the monster cried. ‘Nothing’s left of him, and I can’t even chew up his ears.’
When the dust settled and the Swineherd could see again he said: ‘It’s now my turn.’
He swung his iron stick and struck so hard at the base of the monster’s neck that he sent the huge head flying through the air. It crashed against Mount Ararat, which shook and swayed.
The Swineherd sauntered through the Dev’s mansion and saw another group of ten mounted warriors in the stable, all dressed in red.
‘Who are you?’
‘Prisoners of the Red Dev. Set us free, and we’ll come to your aid any time you are in danger.’
The horse of the Red Dev, a fiery charger, the Swineherd claimed for himself. He tied on the saddle a red suit of clothes, thinking he might have to wear it some day, plucked a hair from the tail of each horse, and let all of them go. At sundown he returned to the pigsties with his pigs.
He found the whole town celebrating the betrothal of the king’s second daughter. The youngest princess came to his room and said:
‘Come, let’s go to my house. Tonight everybody is eating, drinking, making merry. What are you doing here all by yourself?’
‘Go away. What do I have to do with you? I am just a swineherd, not fit to associate with the king’s family.’
‘You are my king! I love you.’
‘I am staying right here.’ He pushed her out of his hovel, and shut the door.
She came back with another trayful of food and opened the door without knocking.
‘Come on! Get up. Let’s eat this food and enjoy ourselves.’
He took the tray and again pushed her out of his hovel.
‘Go away! This is no place for you.’
The next morning he was back on the balcony, bang! bang! to get his copper coin. And munching his nuts he took his pigs to pasture. In the evening he found the whole town in panic.
‘The devs are coming tomorrow morning to take the king’s middle daughter away,’ people told him.
The youngest princess came to his hovel with tears in her eyes. ‘I rely on God in heaven, and on you on earth,’ she said. ‘I know you rescued my eldest sister from the devs. You must save my middle sister also.’
‘Get out! Why don’t you go to your royal brothers-in-law? I am just a swineherd. Let me alone.’
‘My royal brothers-in-law! They can’t do a thing. You are the only one who can save my sister.’
He put her out of his room. She went away weeping.
The next morning he took his pigs to the open fields, burned the horse hairs he kept in his pocket, and the horse of the Red Dev came galloping to him with twenty mounted warriors on its heels. Wearing the red suit of clothes, the Swineherd led these men to battle.
The king, waiting for the Devs to attack, saw a cloud of dust rising over the plain and said to his troops, ‘Cheer up, men, we are saved. These brave riders are coming to our aid.’
They shot past the king’s army like streaks of fire. The foe was quickly smashed. The Swineherd cut the ears off the lone survivor and said: ‘Now go tell it all to your master!’
The twenty-one warriors turned their horses around and galloped off before the king could thank them for their gallantry in battle.
‘I wish I knew who they are,’ he sighed.
That evening when the Swineherd came back with his pigs the whole town was celebrating the victory. The king’s youngest daughter came running to his hovel and said:
‘Come on, let’s go to my rooms. Let’s eat, drink and make merry. Can’t you see the whole town is eating, drinking and making merry?’
‘No, no, I know my place, I am just a swineherd, don’t try to drag me to your rooms. I am not going anywhere. I am staying right here.’
‘I love you with all my heart. Why should you stay in this filthy hovel?’
‘Let me alone. A swineherd doesn’t belong in your company.’
The princess went away shedding bitter tears, and came back with another trayful of food. ‘If you will not come to my rooms, then we can at least eat in your room.’
‘Go away, I said. You can’t eat in this smelly place.’
‘I don’t care, my dear, how bad it smells as long as I am with you.’
He put her out and shut the door. The princess went away weeping.
The next morning he took his pigs to pasture and entered the land of the White Dev, smashed the gate of the monster’s mansion with his iron stick that weighed a thousand pounds, and turned his pigs loose in the garden. Then he washed at a spring and stretched out under a tree to take his nap. The White Dev came at meal-time and his brain reeled when he saw his gate smashed, and pigs feeding on his melons. They had made a mess of the place and were still rooting around in his garden. The White Dev looked for the trespasser and found him sleeping under a tree.
‘Hey, Earthborn mortal, wake up!’ The earth shook as the monster stamped his foot.
‘Can’t you be a little more considerate and let me have some sleep?’ the Swineherd said. ‘Why are you so angry and what are you shouting about?’
‘I haven’t eaten a man for seven years. Get up and fight.’
The Swineherd stood up, holding his iron stick. ‘Stand back and strike!’ he ordered.
The White Dev took a few steps backward and cast his mace. The Swineherd disappeared in the dust.
‘Too bad,’ the monster sighed. ‘I drove him into the ground and nothing’s left to sweeten my teeth.’
‘Stop bragging!’ the Swineherd said, as the dust settled. ‘Now it’s my turn.’
He whirled his iron stick over his head and struck the monster at the base of his neck, severing his head. It’s still rolling away. He strolled into the house and saw ten white horsemen.
‘Who are you?’
‘Prisoners of the White Dev. Set us free, and we will come back any time you need us.’
He tied a white suit of clothes on the back of the Dev’s horse, plucked a hair from the tail of each horse, and let them go. Then he went home with his pigs.
The king’s youngest daughter came running to his hovel and cried: ‘Please come to my rooms!’
‘How many times do I have to tell you that I am not going to your rooms? I am a swineherd, you are a king’s daughter, and we two don’t match.’
‘O my beloved, you are dearer to me than my father and mother. I’d gladly sacrifice my life for you. I love you so very much that you are like the whole world to me.’
‘Go away, don’t give me a headache with such words.’
He put her out again, and the princess went away weeping.
She came back with another food tray, loaded with good things to eat. ‘You just leave the tray here and go,’ he said.
‘I am not going away even if you kill me!’
He pushed her out.
The next day when he came back from the pasture the city was again in panic. The king’s youngest daughter ran to the pigstie with tears in her eyes, opened the door of his hovel, and threw herself at his feet. ‘You saved my two sisters, and now you will have to save me from the devs!’ she cried.
‘I don’t care if the devs are back. It’s none of my business what they do.’
‘You are the only one who can save me!’
‘Why do you come to me? Why don’t you ask the king’s sons to save you?’
‘The king’s sons are worthless. You have that iron stick and I know you can fight. They can’t. I have no use for kings’ sons.’
He put her out once more and shut the door.
She came back with another food tray.
‘You have no more pride than a gypsy,’ he said.
‘Well, you have to eat, and I want to eat with you.’
He finally consented to sit down and eat with the princess. She swallowed her pride, and ate her food with tears in her eyes.
‘Why are you crying now?’
‘I told you the devs are coming to take me away tomorrow morning.’
‘As they took away your sisters...’
‘Don’t you want to save me?’
‘I will save you, of course, but you must not breathe a word about it to anyone. You must keep it to yourself.’
The princess went back to her rooms, and the queen was amazed to see her smiling and laughing. ‘What happened,’ she asked. ‘The devs are coming back and will take you away tomorrow morning, and you don’t seem to care.’
‘Mother, I am not worried any more, I am saved. He promised to save me.’
‘Who promised to save you?’
‘He who saved my sisters.’
‘And who is he?’
‘You won’t tell anyone?’
‘No! What are you saying, my daughter?’
‘God is my witness, I am speaking the truth. Our Swineherd saved them.’
‘I’ll go talk to him and ask his help.’
‘Don’t. If he learns that I told you, he will kill me, and kill you too. This must remain a secret between us.’
The next morning the king marched against the devs with his entire army, and glanced anxiously toward the mountains to see if any horsemen were coming to his aid this time. He didn’t have to wait long. A white horseman came racing toward him with thirty mounted warriors.
‘Cheer up, men, and make way, make way for these brave riders!’ the king cried out to his troops. They shot past the king’s army and routed the monsters. What a slaughter! Only one dev was left alive when the battle was over. The man who commanded these warriors cut off this monster’s ears and nose and said: ‘Now go tell it all to your master.’
The warriors turned their horses around and rode back before the king could stop them, but their gallant commander stayed behind and slowed down to a canter. The king ran to kiss the muzzle of the white horse, then pulled down the rider’s head and kissed him also on the forehead.
‘My kingdom is yours,’ the king said. He saw that the warrior’s arm was bleeding. He took out his handkerchief and tied it around the wound. The Swineherd in the white clothes dug in his spurs and flew away on his white horse before the king could recognize him.
He turned his horse loose, gathered his pigs, and went home. He saw the great rejoicing in the city, with drums and bagpipes, with fireworks, and feasting and singing and dancing. The king’s youngest daughter brought him a tray of choice foods and drinks and they toasted each other and had a merry time together.
The king told his wife how a gallant white horseman came with thirty warriors and slaughtered the devs, how he bandaged this warrior’s arm, and how this fearless hero escaped before he could even learn his name.
The queen laughed out loud.
‘Why are you laughing?’
‘Your gallant white horseman is our own Swineherd.’
‘No! What are you saying?’
‘That’s the truth. Call him tomorrow morning and ask him.’
The king sent for the Swineherd at once and saw that the boy’s arm was bound with his own handkerchief under the dressing. ‘What is this? I don’t understand it,’ said the king.
‘When the king’s son becomes a swineherd, and the chamberlain’s son becomes a king’s son, then the king’s son will behave like a madman, as I have done. If you do not believe me, call your royal son-in-law who arrived here with me and see if he is not wearing my own armband.’
The king summoned his son-in-law and saw that the royal armband he wore was indeed the Swineherd’s. He clapped his hands. ‘Executioners!’
The executioners came in and bowed.
The king removed the royal armband and returned it to the Swineherd. ‘My youngest daughter also belongs to you,’ he said. ‘Take her as a gift from me.’
The wedding feast lasted for seven days and seven nights. Five days later the king’s son took his bride and went back to his own country. His father was dead, and he ascended the throne as the new king.
They attained their wish, and may you likewise attain your wish.