Once upon a time there lived a poor old man and his wife in a village. They were very lonely as they didn’t have any children and nobody was ever knocking on their door. One day the old woman told her husband with a deep sigh:
– Husband, I am tired of this loneliness. Please take the path in front of our house and bring back home the first living thing you see. We will raise that as our child.
The old man agreed and returned not long after with a piglet. The old woman was all smiles, she took the piglet, washed it and tucked it in a cradle close to the stove calling it her son.
One day the old man went to the fair to buy a sack of flour. And when he returned his wife asked him as usual:
– What are the news out there?
– Well, my dear it seems the emperor decided to marry his daughter. He announced that the suitor who is able to build a gold bridge paved with gemstones that links the imperial palace to the house of the future son in law would get the princess and half of the kingdom. But the ones that endeavor to try and don’t succeed would be beheaded on the spot. And it seems many princes have already tried and failed. Many heads have rolled.
– I’m grief stricken just thinking how much their mothers are suffering right now. I am so happy our son cannot speak or think of putting himself in such a terrible situation.
– Mom, dad, I’ll build that bridge!
– Wife, did you hear that, it seems it came from near the stove…but only our son is there.
– It is me, your son. I will build that bridge for the emperor and marry the princess. Father please take me to the palace.
– All right, if you can speak then there must be more about you than meets the eye.
So the old man took his son to the imperial palace. Hearing that a pig wants to marry his daughter, the emperor got mad and sent the old man back to his hut under guard telling him that if the gold bridge was not built by the next morning he would be beheaded.
Being sure that his head will roll, the old man decided to take one last goodnight rest. When it was sure that his parents were sound asleep, the pig climbed onto the trunk under the window and pushed the panes open. By breathing out vigorously, the pig made two fiery rays come out of his nostrils and reach all the way to the imperial palace. And so the gold bridge paved with gemstones was now ready! At the same time the old man’s hut turned into a rich palace that outshined even the emperor’s castle.
Seeing this miracle, the emperor had no choice but to send the princess to the groom’s house.
After the honeymoon, the young empress started missing her parents so she went on visiting them by herself, as she did not want to be seen in the company of the pig.
– Hello dearest, how are you doing?
– Well…being married is so and so. During the day, my husband the pig just sniffs around the house like any pig…but in the evening he takes off his pig skin and turns into a very handsome prince.
-I knew this was an unusual pig, since he was able to do magical things that surpass human ability. Just be patient, my child, and I am sure things will turn all right in the end.
-Yes father. I will do so.
-No my daughter, I would advise you differently. You should order your servants to prepare a good fire in the chimney tonight and after your husband falls asleep you should throw the pigskin into the fire and be rid of it forever. That way you will only have your handsome prince for a husband.
-Good idea mother, why didn’t I think of that? I am running home to have it done tonight!
And the young empress did exactly what her mother suggested.
Smelling the burned skin, the prince woke up and said with sadness:
-Why didn’t you have a bit more patience my darling. The curse would have been lifted in 3 days from now. You have ruined yourself and me, and my poor old parents. I want you to know that my name is Prince Charming and you can find me at the Frankincense Palace.
A whirlwind started out of nowhere and lifted the prince up and swept him away. At the same time the gold bridge crumbled and the palace turned into the old hut again.
-Mother and father, I will search the corners of the earth and I won’t rest until I find my husband!
So the young empress left home in search of prince Charming. She traveled for 3 long years through woods and deserts, over mountains and hills until she finally reached a little moss covered hut in the wilderness. She knocked on the door and an old woman’s voice answered from inside:
-Who is it?
-A weary traveler, dear auntie! I am looking for my husband. He had been turned into a pig by a curse and I burned his pigskin hoping that he would stay in his human form but then a whirlwind took him away to the Frankincense Palace. Do you know of it?
-I have never heard of it, but let me call all the animals in my kingdom and maybe one of them knows where it might be.
But the animals said they have never heard about the Frankincense Palace either. And just as the young empress was about to burst into tears of despair, a woodpecker was just arriving a bit late for the summoning. One of its wings was injured.
-Hey woodpecker, do you know where the Frankincense Palace might be? Asked the old lady.
-I sure do mistress. That’s where my wing was wounded.
-Please take this young woman there and give her all the good advice so that she can find her missing husband.
-I will wholeheartedly obey, mistress but the journey will be very difficult.
-Before you go, dear child, take this gold distaff that spins gold yarn by itself. I am also gifting you this gold reel and this gold tray with a gold hen with gold chicks. I am sure they will come in handy where you’re going.
-I am deeply grateful, dear auntie! And now I am ready to go woodpecker!
And so the woodpecker and the girl went on their way and traveled for another year through unimaginable wilderness. After going through many hardships and dangers they finally made it to the entrance of a cave.
-Hold on tight, said the bird, we’re going to cross to another world.
-Oh, what a wondrous place!
-Look, there is the palace you’ve been looking for for so long. Prince Charming is also there.
-Finally, my troubles are over.
-Don’t be glad too soon, your ordeals are not over quite yet.
The woodpecker told the young empress that she should go sit next to a well that was in front of the palace for 3 consecutive days. The bird told the girl who she would meet and what to say. It told her what to do with the distaff, the reel and the tray with the hen and gold chicks.
-Don’t stray for even a bit from my advice otherwise it will be very bad for you here on these foreign lands. And now I’m off!
-Farewell my friend and thank you for everything.
The empress took her belongings and went to sit next to the well, like the bird taught her. She put out the distaff and set it next to her on the meadow while waiting. One of the palace window curtains soon opened and an old crone was staring at how the distaff was spinning the gold yarn into a thread 10 times finer than hair. The crone sent a servant to bring the girl in.
-I see that you have a magic distaff that spins by itself. Is it for sale? And how much would you like for it?
-Well, I would like to spend one night in the room where the emperor sleeps.
-Sure. Just wait here until evening. I am going to prepare food for the emperor and when he’s back from the hunt and asleep I’ll fetch you to his room.
“But he won’t know you’re there since I prepared a strong sleeping potion that I’ll pour into his milk so he’ll be sound asleep til morning. I am so clever to trick her like this and take the gold distaff.” thought the crone.
At nightfall the empress was allowed into the emperor’s bedroom. She went straight to him and shook him and hugged him to wake him up.
-Prince Charming, wake up! It is me, your bride. I have come all this way to find you. Please wake up, it took me 4 years to get here.
But he was sleeping like a log because of the potion from the crone. The empress spoke to him and cried all night but to no avail. At daybreak the old hag kicked her out of the room and of the palace.
Exhausted and still crying, the girl sat again by the well and this time she took out the gold reel that was skeining balls of gold thread by itself. The old witch was passing by the window and saw the reel and brought the girl in again. She used the same trick to get the gold reel from the young empress and the next morning she kicked her out one more time.
That night, however, the emperor’s faithful servant, who was sleeping in the next room, heard a woman crying and talking all night to his master. The moment the emperor woke up, the servant told him what went on for the last 2 nights. The emperor decided to stop drinking the warm milk that the crone was bringing him every evening before bed.
Meanwhile, the desperate empress was sitting by the well again and she took out the gold hen and chicks on the gold tray.
-Oh goodness, this is too much! Exclaimed the crone when she saw the gold chicks. I must have them!
Relying on the same trick, the crone took the gold tray with the hen and chicks and then ran to the emperor with the bewitched milk. This time prince Charming threw the milk into the fire and went to bed. Later the girl was allowed again into the room and she started crying and begging her husband.
-Please wake up, it’s me, your wife. I’ve traveled the earth for 4 years to find you. Prince Charming, please wake up.
-Welcome my empress. Your love and loyalty have lifted the curse. Our ordeals are finally over. I will throw the crone into jail and give you back the treasures that she swindled you out of. And now, let’s celebrate our reunion.
And a great feast started. Prince Charming snapped his fingers once and his parents, the old man and woman, appeared. They were dressed in royal garments and looked 10 years younger. One more finger snap and his in-laws popped up together with other kings and queens, nobles and knights. The merry-making lasted for 3 days and 3 nights and they lived happily ever after.