Tale from Sweden.
Once upon a time there was a king who had an only daughter, fair and beautiful. But then she became seriously ill and the king mourned bitterly that she would die. He called together all the wise men of the land, but none of them could think of any remedy. One day a wise old woman came to the royal court and found out that the princess was sick. "Go ahead and get her a golden apple with silver leaves, and she will probably be well again," the old woman told the king.
The king immediately had an edict issued throughout his country, that whoever could arrange a golden apple with silver leaves would be allowed to marry the princess as a reward.
At the same time it happened that a wild apple tree that never bore fruit was growing on a high mountain and next to that mountain lived an old woman who had three sons. Like everyone else in the land, they had heard of the princess and the golden apple she needed to recover. But of course, none of them had any idea where such a fruit could be found. So one morning when the old woman went out to fetch water from the well, she saw something glinting up on the mountain. She called out to her sons who had soon climbed the mountain to take a closer look. Indeed, if the old wild apple hadn't gotten both golden apples and silver leaves on its branches during the night! Now of course the desire was awakened in all three boys to set off at once to the king's castle to win the princess, but their mother reassured them. “Only one of you can have her,” she explained. "You should not argue but go and try your luck each in turn". So the eldest son got to go first and picked a golden apple with silver leaves, put it in a basket and set off for the castle.
To get there he had to walk through a deep forest and there on the path he met an ugly sorceress. "Good day!" said the lady. "What do you have in the basket?" "Pig's hair and horsetail!" replied the boy. "So be it," answered the lady and let him pass.
When the boy arrived at the king's castle, he was stopped by the gatekeeper who wondered about his business. "I'm here to give the princess a golden apple with silver leaves," the boy declared confidently. “It wasn't bad!” replied the guard. "But we have to take a look at that first." When the guard looked in the basket, it turned out to be full of hog bristles and horseradish! The boy had to return home in shame and explain what had happened.
Now the middle son set off with his golden apple in the basket. As he walked through the forest he met the sorceress. "Good day!" said the lady. "What do you have in the basket?" "Nuts that no one can crack!" replied the boy. "So be it," answered the lady and let him pass.
When the boy arrived at the king's castle, he was stopped by the gatekeeper who wondered about his business. "I'm here to give the princess a golden apple with silver leaves," the boy declared confidently. “It wasn't bad!” replied the guard. "But we have to take a look at that first." When the guard looked in the basket, it turned out to be full of rock-hard nuts! The boy was ashamed to go home and tell about his accident.
Now it was the youngest son's turn to try his luck. Like his brothers, he put a golden apple with silver leaves in a basket and set off into the forest. Soon he met the sorceress. "Good day!" said the lady. "What do you have in the basket?" "Golden apple with silver leaves!" replied the boy. "Since you spoke the truth, you shall receive good advice from me!" said the lady. "If you meet someone on your way who you can help, do it! Take this little pipe and blow it when you yourself need help and you will get it.”
The boy thanked the sorceress and went on towards the king's castle. When he came to a lake, he saw that a large fish had jumped onto land and was now unable to get back into the water. The boy carefully lifted the fish and dropped it back into the lake. A little further along the road he saw a pigeon being chased by a hawk. The boy scared the hawk away and gave the pigeon some to eat from his traveling food. When he later passed a meadow, he discovered two ravens fighting each other to the death. The boy separated the ravens and told them right. On the way he then passed two anthills that were at war with each other. The ants swarmed all over the forest hill, biting and pulling at each other. Then the boy took out what was left of his traveling food and sprinkled it in each anthill. Then the ants forgot to fight and sat down to eat instead.
Finally the boy finally arrived at the king's castle and he knocked on the great gate. When the guards saw that he actually had a golden apple in his basket, he was immediately let in. The boy was allowed to go up to the princess, and in the presence of the king and the whole court, the girl ate the apple he had brought with him. Almost immediately she became much healthier and everyone in the castle was happy. But the king's brow darkened. "Should my daughter really have a torparson for a husband?" he asked himself. "No, more difficult tests than this he must pass if he is to have my daughter and half the kingdom!"
So the boy was summoned before the king, who explained that the following night he had to clear a thin bowl of mixed grain, so that the barley came by itself and the rye by itself. When evening came, the king's men poured out the grain in the castle yard and left the boy to do his impossible task.
But then he thought of those two anteaters, whose war he had interrupted. He took out the pipe he had been given by the sorceress and blew on it. Soon the two myr armies came running across the castle yard and in no time had separated the rye from the wheat.
When the king came out to the castle yard the next morning and saw that the boy had succeeded in his task, his vision went dark. The king was not yet willing to give up his daughter so he gave the boy a new impossible task, namely to find a ring in a lake that the king had once dropped there. But the boy thought of the fish he had saved and blew his pipe. Soon the fish emerged from the water and the boy explained what he needed help with. The fish disappeared into the depths of the lake and soon returned with the ring in its mouth.
When the king saw his ring again in the boy's hand, he hardly believed it possible, but he regained his composure and almost immediately thought of a new, even worse task. Now the king wanted an olive branch from paradise itself. The boy then thought of the pigeon he had rescued from the hawk and called it by blowing his pipe. As the pigeon settled on his shoulder, the boy whispered to it what he needed help with. Immediately the dove flew away and now it was all day before the bird returned, for it was a long way to paradise. But sure enough it had an olive branch in its beak and it handed the boy over to the enraged king. In his anger, the king stood up and scolded the boy. "Not that I know how you succeed in all your missions," he growled, "but now I want a glowing coal from hell and if you can't get it, you're going to die!"
It didn't sound fun, but the boy thought he could probably handle this too. He thought of the ravens he had helped to make peace and blew his pipe. The two black birds immediately appeared and the boy told him what he needed help with. One raven set off for hell and as dusk fell he returned with a coal from the devil's own tiled stove. When the raven dropped the coal in the castle yard, a terrible roar was heard and the whole castle shook to its foundations. The king ran out to see what had happened, but was immediately blinded by the glow of the coal, which was more terrible than any light he had seen and any heat he had known. "Now you've been messing with me long enough!" said the boy to the king. "Now give me the princess you promised, or I'll go home and the embers of hell will lie on your farm forever!"
Then the king paled and he realized how badly he had behaved. Could he get a better husband than this boy who had done so much to win his daughter? No, now the king went down on his knees before the boy and promised him everything he could wish for, if he would only take the piece of coal away. The boy blew the pipe and the other raven grabbed the coal and flew off to hell with it.
Now the boy was clothed in purple and gold, the wedding was prepared, and the silver leaf of the enchanted apple was woven into the bride's crown. After a few years, the king withdrew and made the boy and the princess the new rulers of the country. And there they sit and rule even if the story is now true and I thought it seemed that way when I last heard it.