|MÆ°á»i Hai HoÃ ng Tá»
NgÃ y xá»a ngÃ y xÆ°a, á» vÆ°Æ¡ng quá»c kia vua vÃ hoÃ ng háºu sá»ng ráº¥t hÃ²a thuáºn vÃ cÃ³ mÆ°á»i hai ngÆ°á»i con trai ráº¥t khÃ´i ngÃ´ tuáº¥n tÃº.
CÃ³ láº§n, vua nÃ³i vá»i hoÃ ng háºu:
– Náº¿u Äá»©a con thá»© mÆ°á»i ba láº¡i lÃ con gÃ¡i thÃ¬ mÆ°á»i hai Äá»©a con trai kia pháº£i cháº¿t Äá» cho con gÃ¡i ta thá»«a hÆ°á»ng má»t mÃ¬nh gia tÃ i vÃ trá» vÃ¬ vÆ°Æ¡ng quá»c nÃ y.
Rá»i nhÃ vua sai lÃ m mÆ°á»i hai cÃ¡i quan tÃ i, trong chá»©a phoi bÃ o vÃ Äá» sáºµn má»t cÃ¡i gá»i. Táº¥t cáº£ mÆ°á»i hai quan tÃ i ÄÆ°á»£c cáº¥t giáº¥u á» má»t nÆ¡i. NhÃ vua trao chÃ¬a khÃ³a cho hoÃ ng háºu vÃ dáº·n khÃ´ng ÄÆ°á»£c nÃ³i cho ai biáº¿t.
HoÃ ng háºu suá»t ngÃ y ráº§u rÄ©. Äá»©a con trai Ãºt lÃºc nÃ o cÅ©ng á» bÃªn hoÃ ng háºu. ÄÃ³ cÅ©ng lÃ Äá»©a con hoÃ ng háºu Äáº·t tÃªn theo kinh thÃ¡nh lÃ Benjamin. Tháº¥y hoÃ ng háºu lÃºc nÃ o cÅ©ng cÃ³ váº» buá»n buá»n, hoÃ ng tá» há»i:
– Máº¹ Æ¡i, sao máº¹ lÃºc nÃ o cÅ©ng buá»n váºy?
HoÃ ng háºu báº£o:
– Con yÃªu quÃ½ cá»§a máº¹, máº¹ khÃ´ng ÄÆ°á»£c phÃ©p nÃ³i ra Äiá»u ÄÃ³.
HoÃ ng tá» há»i luÃ´n má»m vá» chuyá»n ÄÃ³ lÃ m cho hoÃ ng háºu pháº£i má» cá»a buá»ng vÃ chá» cho biáº¿t mÆ°á»i hai quan tÃ i. Rá»i hoÃ ng háºu giáº£i thÃch:
– Benjamin, con yÃªu cá»§a máº¹. NhÃ vua ÄÃ£ sai lÃ m quan tÃ i cho con vÃ mÆ°á»i má»t anh trai cá»§a con. Náº¿u ngÆ°á»i con thá»© mÆ°á»i ba ra Äá»i láº¡i lÃ con gÃ¡i thÃ¬ táº¥t cáº£ mÆ°á»i hai anh trai sáº½ bá» giáº¿t, Äáº·t vÃ o trong quan tÃ i ÄÃ³ Äem chÃ´n.
HoÃ ng háºu vá»«a nÃ³i vá»«a khÃ³c ná»©c ná», cáºu con Ãºt an á»§i máº¹:
– Máº¹ Æ¡i, máº¹ Äá»«ng khÃ³c ná»¯a, chÃºng con sáº½ tÃ¬m cÃ¡ch Äi khá»i nÆ¡i nÃ y.
HoÃ ng háºu báº£o:
– Con hÃ£y cÃ¹ng mÆ°á»i má»t anh con láº»n vÃ o trong rá»«ng. CÃ¡c con thay phiÃªn nhau trÃ¨o lÃªn cÃ¢y cao Äá» canh chá»«ng xem cá» cáº¯m á» thÃ¡p canh hoÃ ng cung. Náº¿u máº¹ sinh con trai thÃ¬ sáº½ cÃ³ cá» tráº¯ng á» thÃ¡p canh, cÃ¡c con cÃ³ thá» trá» vá» hoÃ ng cung. Náº¿u máº¹ sinh con gÃ¡i, sáº½ cÃ³ cá» Äá» á» thÃ¡p canh, lÃºc ÄÃ³ cÃ¡c con hÃ£y nhanh nhanh tiáº¿p tá»¥c lÃªn ÄÆ°á»ng. ChÃºa kÃnh yÃªu sáº½ che chá» cÃ¡c con! ÄÃªm khuya nÃ o máº¹ cÅ©ng cáº§u kháº©n cho cÃ¡c con, Äá» mÃ¹a ÄÃ´ng ÄÆ°á»£c quÃ¢y quáº§n bÃªn lá»a sÆ°á»i áº¥m, mÃ¹a hÃ¨ quÃ¢y quáº§n dÆ°á»i bÃ³ng mÃ¡t cá»§a cÃ¢y cá» thá»¥.
Rá»i ngÆ°á»i máº¹ lÃ m dáº¥u cáº§u nguyá»n cho ÄÃ n con. Ngay sau ÄÃ³ mÆ°á»i hai anh em trai trá»n vÃ o rá»«ng. Anh em thay nhau trÃ¨o lÃªn cÃ¢y cao quan sÃ¡t thÃ¡p canh hoÃ ng cung. ÄÃ£ mÆ°á»i má»t ngÃ y trÃ´i qua khÃ´ng cÃ³ cá», ngÃ y thá»© mÆ°á»i hai Äáº¿n lÆ°á»£t Benjamin thÃ¬ tháº¥y cÃ³ cá» cáº¯m á» thÃ¡p canh, nhÆ°ng khÃ´ng pháº£i lÃ cá» tráº¯ng mÃ lÃ cá» Äá», lÃ¡ cá» bÃ¡o táº¥t cáº£ mÆ°á»i hai anh em pháº£i cháº¿t.
Khi biáº¿t tin, táº¥t cáº£ mÆ°á»i hai anh em Äá»u tá»©c giáºn nÃ³i:
– Táº¡i sao chÃºng ta láº¡i pháº£i cháº¿t chá» vÃ¬ má»t ngÆ°á»i con gÃ¡i. ChÃºng ta thá» sáº½ tráº£ thÃ¹, ngÆ°á»i con gÃ¡i Äáº§u tiÃªn chÃºng ta gáº·p sáº½ pháº£i Äáº§u rÆ¡i mÃ¡u cháº£y.
Ngay sau ÄÃ³, mÆ°á»i hai anh em lÃªn ÄÆ°á»ng, Äi vÃ o táºn sÃ¢u giá»¯a rá»«ng. á» ÄÃ¢y bÃ³ng cÃ¢y che háº¿t Ã¡nh sÃ¡ng máº·t trá»i, nÃªn lÃºc nÃ o cÅ©ng Ã¢m u. Äá»©ng á» giá»¯a rá»«ng lÃ má»t cÄn nhÃ nhá» mÃ má»¥ phÃ¹ thá»§y ÄÃ£ bá» bÃ¹a. NhÃ¬n tháº¥y cÄn nhÃ , há» Äá»ng thanh nÃ³i:
– ChÃºng ta sáº½ á» ÄÃ¢y. Benjamin lÃ em Ãºt vÃ lÃ ngÆ°á»i yáº¿u nháº¥t thÃ¬ á» nhÃ lo báº¿p nÃºc. CÃ²n mÆ°á»i má»t chÃºng ta Äi sÄn kiáº¿m Äá» Än.
MÆ°á»i má»t anh trai kÃ©o nhau Äi sÄn chim, hoáºµng Äem vá» Äá» Benjamin cháº¿ biáº¿n thÃ nh mÃ³n Än, Än cho qua ngÃ y.
Tháº¥m thoÃ¡t, há» ÄÃ£ sá»ng nhÆ° váºy á» trong cÄn nhÃ ÄÃ£ ÄÆ°á»£c mÆ°á»i nÄm.
NgÆ°á»i con gÃ¡i hoÃ ng háºu sinh ra giá» ÄÃ¢y ÄÃ£ trÆ°á»ng thÃ nh, cÃ´ ráº¥t thÆ°Æ¡ng ngÆ°á»i vÃ cÅ©ng ráº¥t xinh Äáº¹p, trÃ¡n cÃ´ cÃ³ ngÃ´i sao vÃ ng.
CÃ³ láº§n, nhÃ¬n trong Äá»ng Äá» Äem phÆ¡i cÃ´ tháº¥y cÃ³ mÆ°á»i hai chiáº¿c Ã¡o nhá», cÃ´ há»i hoÃ ng háºu:
– Máº¹ Æ¡i, mÆ°á»i hai chiáº¿c Ã¡o nhá» nÃ y cá»§a ai? Nhá» tháº¿ thÃ¬ khÃ´ng pháº£i lÃ cá»§a vua cha rá»i.
HoÃ ng háºu buá»n ráº§u ÄÃ¡p:
– Con yÃªu cá»§a máº¹. ÄÃ³ lÃ Ã¡o cá»§a mÆ°á»i hai anh trai cá»§a con.
CÃ´ gÃ¡i há»i tiáº¿p:
– Tháº¿ mÆ°á»i hai anh trai cá»§a con ÄÃ¢u? Con chÆ°a nghe tháº¥y ai nÃ³i vá» Äiá»u nÃ y.
HoÃ ng háºu báº£o:
– Chá» cÃ³ ChÃºa Trá»i má»i biáº¿t ÄÆ°á»£c nÆ¡i á» cá»§a cÃ¡c anh con. CÃ¡c anh con Äang lÆ°u láº¡c kháº¯p má»i nÆ¡i.
Rá»i hoÃ ng háºu dáº«n con gÃ¡i tá»i má»t cÄn buá»ng, rá»i láº¥y khÃ³a má» cá»a vÃ chá» vÃ o phÃ²ng:
– Äáº¥y lÃ nhá»¯ng quan tÃ i lÃ m sáºµn dÃ nh cho mÆ°á»i hai anh trai cá»§a con. NhÆ°ng cÃ¡c anh ÄÃ£ trá»n khá»i hoÃ ng cung trÆ°á»c khi con chÃ o Äá»i.
Rá»i hoÃ ng háºu ká» cho nghe háº¿t Äáº§u ÄuÃ´i cÃ¢u chuyá»n. Nghe xong, cÃ´ng chÃºa nÃ³i:
– Máº¹ Æ¡i, máº¹ Äá»«ng khÃ³c ná»¯a, con sáº½ Äi tÃ¬m cÃ¡c anh con.
CÃ´ng chÃºa lÃªn ÄÆ°á»ng vÃ mang theo mÆ°á»i hai chiáº¿c Ã¡o. CÃ´ vÃ o táºn sÃ¢u trong rá»«ng. CÃ´ Äi suá»t ngÃ y, khi trá»i tá»i thÃ¬ cÅ©ng lÃ lÃºc cÃ´ tá»i cÄn nhÃ nhá» trong rá»«ng sÃ¢u. CÃ´ bÆ°á»c vÃ o trong nhÃ thÃ¬ gáº·p má»t chÃ ng trai, ngÆ°á»i nÃ y há»i:
– CÃ´ á» ÄÃ¢u tá»i ÄÃ¢y? CÃ´ Äá»nh Äi ÄÃ¢u?
ChÃ ng ngáº¡c nhiÃªn vÃ¬ váº» Äáº¹p lá»ng láº«y cá»§a nÃ ng, ngÆ°á»i ÄÃ£ xinh Äáº¹p láº¡i cÃ³ ngÃ´i sao vÃ ng á» trÃ¡n. CÃ´ gÃ¡i ÄÃ¡p:
– TÃ´i lÃ cÃ´ng chÃºa. TÃ´i sáº½ Äi cÃ¹ng trá»i cuá»i Äáº¥t Äá» tÃ¬m cho báº±ng ÄÆ°á»£c mÆ°á»i hai anh trai cá»§a tÃ´i.
Rá»i cÃ´ giÆ¡ mÆ°á»i hai chiáº¿c Ã¡o cho chÃ ng trai xem. Benjamin hiá»u ngay ngÆ°á»i Äá»©ng trÆ°á»c mÃ¬nh chÃnh lÃ em gÃ¡i cá»§a mÃ¬nh. ChÃ ng nÃ³i:
– TÃ´i lÃ Benjamin, em Ãºt trong mÆ°á»i hai ngÆ°á»i anh cá»§a em.
Hai anh em háº¿t sá»©c vui má»«ng, vui tá»i má»©c Ã´m hÃ´n nhau vá»«a khÃ³c. ChÃ ng nÃ³i:
– CÃ²n má»t viá»c ná»¯a. CÃ¡c anh cÃ³ thá» nguyá»n, ngÆ°á»i con gÃ¡i Äáº§u tiÃªn mÃ¬nh gáº·p sáº½ pháº£i cháº¿t, chá» vÃ¬ chuyá»n sinh con gÃ¡i mÃ táº¥t cáº£ mÆ°á»i hai ngÆ°á»i pháº£i Äi trá»n trÃ¡nh.
CÃ´ gÃ¡i nÃ³i:
– Em sáºµn sÃ ng cháº¿t Äá» giáº£i thoÃ¡t cho mÆ°á»i hai anh.
ChÃ ng trai nÃ³i:
– KhÃ´ng, em khÃ´ng pháº£i cháº¿t. Em hÃ£y áº©n trong cÃ¡i thÃ¹ng nÃ y. Khi nÃ o cáº£ mÆ°á»i má»t ngÆ°á»i vá», anh sáº½ bÃ n thá»ng nháº¥t viá»c nÃ y.
Äáº¿n ÄÃªm, mÆ°á»i má»t ngÆ°á»i Äi sÄn vá». BÃ n Än ÄÃ£ dá»n sáºµn, há» ngá»i quanh bÃ n vÃ Än. Há» há»i:
– HÃ´m nay cÃ³ chuyá»n gÃ¬ khÃ´ng?
– CÃ³, cÃ³ chuyá»n mÃ chÆ°a ai biáº¿t.
– Tháº¿ chuyá»n gÃ¬ nÃ o?
– Trong lÃºc cÃ¡c anh Äi sÄn, em á» nhÃ vÃ cÃ³ chuyá»n.
– ThÃ¬ ká» tiáº¿p Äi!
– NhÆ°ng cÃ¡c anh pháº£i há»©a, sáº½ khÃ´ng giáº¿t cháº¿t ngÆ°á»i con gÃ¡i Äáº§u tiÃªn mÃ mÃ¬nh gáº·p.
– ThÃ¬ cÅ©ng cÃ³ thá» tha ÄÆ°á»£c. Cá»© ká» tiáº¿p Äi!
LÃºc báº¥y giá» chÃ ng nÃ³i:
– Em gÃ¡i cá»§a chÃºng ta Äang á» ÄÃ¢y.
Rá»i chÃ ng nháº¥c chiáº¿c thÃ¹ng. Má»i ngÆ°á»i nhÃ¬n tháº¥y má»t cÃ´ gÃ¡i cÃ³ váº» Äáº¹p lá»ng láº«y, á» trÃ¡n láº¡i Äiá»m ngÃ´i sao vÃ ng. Má»i ngÆ°á»i háº¿t sá»©c vui má»«ng, cháº¡y láº¡i Ã´m hÃ´n tháº¯m thiáº¿t.
Giá» nÃ ng á» nhÃ cÃ¹ng vá»i Benjamin lo cÃ´ng viá»c báº¿p nÃºc. MÆ°á»i má»t ngÆ°á»i anh trai hÃ ng ngÃ y Äi sÄn thÃº nhÆ° chim, thá», hoáºµng Äem vá» Äá» cháº¿ biáº¿n thÃ nh mÃ³n Än. CÃ´ em gÃ¡i Äi hÃ¡i rau, nhÃ³m báº¿p vÃ náº¥u thá»©c Än, Äá» Äáº¿n khi mÆ°á»i má»t anh trai Äi sÄn vá» lÃ cÃ³ ngay. NÃ ng cÃ²n quÃ©t dá»n nhÃ cá»a, xáº¿p chÄn giÆ°á»ng ngay ngáº¯n. MÆ°á»i ba anh em sá»ng ráº¥t hÃ²a thuáºn.
CÃ³ láº§n, hai anh em náº¥u mÃ³n tháºt ngon Äá» táº¥t cáº£ mÆ°á»i ba anh em cÃ¹ng Än uá»ng vui váº». PhÃa bÃªn nhÃ lÃ má»t vÆ°á»n hoa nhá» cÃ³ mÆ°á»i hai bÃ´ng huá» tráº¯ng – mÃ ngÆ°á»i ta váº«n thÆ°á»ng gá»i lÃ Hoa Sinh ViÃªn. CÃ´ em Ãºt ra vÆ°á»n hÃ¡i mÆ°á»i hai bÃ´ng huá» tráº¯ng tÃnh Äá» táº·ng mÆ°á»i hai anh trai. NhÆ°ng cÃ´ vá»«a hÃ¡i hoa xong thÃ¬ cáº£ mÆ°á»i hai anh ÄÃ£ biáº¿n thÃ nh mÆ°á»i hai con quáº¡ bay vÃ o trong rá»«ng. CÄn nhÃ vÃ vÆ°á»n hoa cÅ©ng biáº¿n máº¥t. Giá» ÄÃ¢y chá» cÃ²n má»t mÃ¬nh cÃ´ gÃ¡i ÄÃ¡ng thÆ°Æ¡ng á» trong rá»«ng. Trong lÃºc cÃ´ Äang cÃ²n ngÆ¡ ngÃ¡c thÃ¬ cÃ³ má»t bÃ giÃ xuáº¥t hiá»n Äá»©ng ngay bÃªn cáº¡nh. BÃ nÃ³i:
– NÃ o, con cá»§a ta ÄÃ£ lÃ m gÃ¬ Äáº¥y? Táº¡i sao con láº¡i hÃ¡i mÆ°á»i hai bÃ´ng huá» tráº¯ng Äá» cho cÃ¡c anh con biáº¿n thÃ nh quáº¡?
CÃ´ gÃ¡i Ã²a lÃªn khÃ³c.
– ThÆ°a bÃ , tháº¿ khÃ´ng cÃ³ cÃ¡ch nÃ o giáº£i thoÃ¡t cho cÃ¡c anh áº¥y Ã ?
– KhÃ´ng cÃ³ cÃ¡ch nÃ o khÃ¡c ngoÃ i cÃ¡ch con pháº£i báº£y nÄm cÃ¢m láº·ng, khÃ´ng nÃ³i, khÃ´ng cÆ°á»i. Khi thá»i háº¡n báº£y nÄm chÆ°a háº¿t, dÃ¹ chá» trÆ°á»c ÄÃ³ má»t giá» mÃ con láº¡i má» má»m ra nÃ³i thÃ¬ táº¥t cáº£ chá» lÃ uá»ng cÃ´ng. ChÃnh lá»i nÃ³i ÄÃ³ giáº¿t cÃ¡c anh con.
CÃ´ gÃ¡i tá»± nhá»§:
– Cháº¯c cháº¯n mÃ¬nh cÃ³ thá» giáº£i thoÃ¡t cho cÃ¡c anh trai.
CÃ´ Äi, Äi mÃ£i, tá»i chá» má»t cÃ¢y cá» thá»¥, cÃ´ trÃ¨o lÃªn ngá»i á» trÃªn cÃ¢y. CÃ´ ngá»i Äan, cháº³ng nÃ³i mÃ cÅ©ng cháº³ng cÆ°á»i.
CÃ³ láº§n nhÃ vua Äi sÄn trong rá»«ng, con chÃ³ sÄn to cháº¡y láº¡i gá»c cÃ¢y cá» thá»¥, nÃ³ vá»«a cháº¡y quanh thÃ¢n cÃ¢y vá»«a sá»§a. NhÃ vua thÃºc ngá»±a cháº¡y tá»i thÃ¬ nhÃ¬n tháº¥y trÃªn cÃ¢y cÃ³ ngÆ°á»i, nhÃ vua háº¿t sá»©c ngáº¡c nhiÃªn vá» váº» Äáº¹p cá»§a cÃ´ gÃ¡i cÃ³ ngÃ´i sao vÃ ng á» trÃ¡n. NhÃ vua há»i cÃ´ cÃ³ Æ°ng lÃ m hoÃ ng háºu khÃ´ng. CÃ´ khÃ´ng nÃ³i, nhÆ°ng gáºt Äáº§u.
NhÃ vua thÃ¢n chinh trÃ¨o lÃªn cÃ¢y, bá»ng cÃ´ xuá»ng, Äáº·t cÃ´ lÃªn ngá»±a vÃ Äi vá» hoÃ ng cung.
ÄÃ¡m cÆ°á»i ÄÆ°á»£c tá» chá»©c ráº¥t linh ÄÃ¬nh vÃ tÆ°ng bá»«ng, nhÆ°ng cÃ´ dÃ¢u cháº³ng nÃ³i mÃ cÅ©ng cháº³ng cÆ°á»i.
NhÃ vua vÃ hoÃ ng háºu vui sá»ng bÃªn nhau ÄÆ°á»£c máº¥y nÄm thÃ¬ hoÃ ng thÃ¡i háºu dÃ¨ bá»u chÃª:
– NÃ³ chá» lÃ Äá»©a Än mÃ y háº¡ Äáº³ng mÃ con ÄÆ°a vá» nhÃ . Ai mÃ biáº¿t ÄÆ°á»£c nÃ³ sáº½ lÃ m nhá»¯ng trÃ² quá»· quÃ¡i gÃ¬. Náº¿u nÃ³ cÃ¢m thÃ¬ khÃ´ng nÃ³i ÄÆ°á»£c, nhÆ°ng Ãt ra nÃ³ cÅ©ng nhoáº»n ÄÆ°á»£c miá»ng cÆ°á»i. Nhá»¯ng loáº¡i ngÆ°á»i khÃ´ng cÆ°á»i lÃ loáº¡i thÃ¢m Äá»c.
LÃºc Äáº§u nhÃ vua khÃ´ng muá»n tin lá»i máº¹, nhÆ°ng nghe hoÃ ng thÃ¡i háºu nÃ³i mÃ£i, nÃ³i hoÃ i, rá»i láº¡i thÃªm tháº¯t nhá»¯ng chuyá»n tá»i lá»i nÃ y ná» lÃ m cho nhÃ vua náº£n lÃ²ng chiá»u theo Ã½ máº¹ Äá» cho hÃ nh hÃ¬nh hoÃ ng háºu.
GiÃ n há»a thiÃªu ÄÆ°á»£c Äáº·t á» trong sÃ¢n hoÃ ng cung, nhÃ vua Äá»©ng bÃªn cá»a sá», vá»«a nhÃ¬n vá»«a rÆ¡m rá»m nÆ°á»c máº¯t, nhÃ vua trong lÃ²ng váº«n thÆ°Æ¡ng yÃªu hoÃ ng háºu.
HoÃ ng háºu bá» cá»t cháº·t vÃ o cá»t giÃ n há»a thiÃªu, lá»a chÃ¡y ngÃ¹n ngá»¥t, ngá»n lá»a báº¯t Äáº§u liáº¿m tá»i quáº§n Ã¡o nÃ ng thÃ¬ ÄÃºng lÃ lÃºc háº¡n báº£y nÄm cÅ©ng vá»«a háº¿t. TrÃªn báº§u trá»i cÃ³ tiáº¿ng chim vá» cÃ¡nh, mÆ°á»i hai con quáº¡ bay tá»i, sÃ xuá»ng Äáº¥t vÃ hiá»n thÃ nh mÆ°á»i hai chÃ ng trai. Há» dáºp ngay lá»a giÃ n há»a thiÃªu, cá»©u cÃ´ em gÃ¡i ra khá»i nÆ¡i áº¥y. Rá»i anh em Ã´m hÃ´n nhau tháº¯m thiáº¿t.
Giá» ÄÃ¢y hoÃ ng háºu cÃ³ thá» cÆ°á»i nÃ³i. HoÃ ng háºu liá»n ká» cho vua nghe táº¡i sao báº¥y lÃ¢u nay khÃ´ng nÃ³i mÃ cÅ©ng cháº³ng cÆ°á»i. NhÃ vua ráº¥t má»«ng, vÃ¬ hoÃ ng háºu lÃ ngÆ°á»i vÃ´ tá»i. NhÃ vua vÃ hoÃ ng háºu sá»ng hÃ²a thuáºn tá»i khi khuáº¥t nÃºi. ThÃ¡i hoÃ ng háºu thÃ¢m hiá»m Äá»c Ã¡c bá» ÄÆ°a ra xÃ©t xá», bá» nÃ©m vÃ o váº¡c dáº§u sÃ´i bÆ¡i cÃ¹ng lÅ© ráº¯n Äá»c vÃ cháº¿t ÄÃ¡ng kiáº¿p má»¥.
||Â The Twelve Brothers
There were once on a time a king and a queen who lived happily together and had twelve children, but they were all boys. Then said the King to his wife, “If the thirteenth child which thou art about to bring into the world, is a girl, the twelve boys shall die, in order that her possessions may be great, and that the kingdom may fall to her alone.” He caused likewise twelve coffins to be made, which were already filled with shavings, and in each lay the little pillow for the dead, and he had them taken into a locked-up room, and then he gave the Queen the key of it, and bade her not to speak of this to any one.
The mother, however, now sat and lamented all day long, until the youngest son, who was always with her, and whom she had named Benjamin, from the Bible, said to her, “Dear mother, why art thou so sad?”
“Dearest child,” she answered, “I may not tell thee.” But he let her have no rest until she went and unlocked the room, and showed him the twelve coffins ready filled with shavings. Then she said, my dearest Benjamin, thy father has had these coffins made for thee and for thy eleven brothers, for if I bring a little girl into the world, you are all to be killed and buried in them.” And as she wept while she was saying this, the son comforted her and said, “Weep not, dear mother, we will save ourselves, and go hence.” But she said, “Go forth into the forest with thy eleven brothers, and let one sit constantly on the highest tree which can be found, and keep watch, looking towards the tower here in the castle. If I give birth to a little son, I will put up a white flag, and then you may venture to come back, but if I bear a daughter, I will hoist a red flag, and then fly hence as quickly as you are able, and may the good God protect you. And every night I will rise up and pray for you — in winter that you may be able to warm yourself at a fire, and in summer that you may not faint away in the heat.”
After she had blessed her sons therefore, they went forth into the forest. They each kept watch in turn, and sat on the highest oak and looked towards the tower. When eleven days had passed and the turn came to Benjamin, he saw that a flag was being raised. It was, however, not the white, but the blood-red flag which announced that they were all to die. When the brothers heard that, they were very angry and said, “Are we all to suffer death for the sake of a girl? We swear that we will avenge ourselves!– wheresoever we find a girl, her red blood shall flow.”
Thereupon they went deeper into the forest, and in the midst of it, where it was the darkest, they found a little bewitched hut, which was standing empty. Then said they, “Here we will dwell, and thou Benjamin, who art the youngest and weakest, thou shalt stay at home and keep house, we others will go out and get food.” Then they went into the forest and shot hares, wild deer, birds and pigeons, and whatsoever there was to eat; this they took to Benjamin, who had to dress it for them in order that they might appease their hunger. They lived together ten years in the little hut, and the time did not appear long to them.
The little daughter which their mother the Queen had given birth to, was now grown up; she was good of heart, and fair of face, and had a golden star on her forehead. Once, when it was the great washing, she saw twelve men’s shirts among the things, and asked her mother, “To whom do these twelve shirts belong, for they are far too small for father?” Then the Queen answered with a heavy heart, “Dear child, these belong to thy twelve brothers.” Said the maiden, “Where are my twelve brothers, I have never yet heard of them?” She replied, “God knows where they are, they are wandering about the world.” Then she took the maiden and opened the chamber for her, and showed her the twelve coffins with the shavings, and pillows for the head. “These coffins,” said she, “were destined for thy brothers, but they went away secretly before thou wert born,” and she related to her how everything had happened; then said the maiden, “Dear mother, weep not, I will go and seek my brothers.”
So she took the twelve shirts and went forth, and straight into the great forest. She walked the whole day, and in the evening she came to the bewitched hut. Then she entered it and found a young boy, who asked, “From whence comest thou, and whither art thou bound?” and was astonished that she was so beautiful, and wore royal garments, and had a star on her forehead. And she answered, “I am a king’s daughter, and am seeking my twelve brothers, and I will walk as far as the sky is blue until I find them.” She likewise showed him the twelve shirts which belonged to them. Then Benjamin saw that she was his sister, and said, “I am Benjamin, thy youngest brother.” And she began to weep for joy, and Benjamin wept also, and they kissed and embraced each other with the greatest love. But after this he said, “Dear sister, there is still one difficulty. We have agreed that every maiden whom we meet shall die, because we have been obliged to leave our kingdom on account of a girl.” Then said she, “I will willingly die, if by so doing I can deliver my twelve brothers.”
“No,” answered he, “thou shalt not die, seat thyself beneath this tub until our eleven brothers come, and then I will soon come to an agreement with them.”
She did so, and when it was night the others came from hunting, and their dinner was ready. And as they were sitting at table, and eating, they asked, “What news is there?” Said Benjamin, “Don’t you know anything?” – “No,” they answered. He continued, “You have been in the forest and I have stayed at home, and yet I know more than you do.” – “Tell us then,” they cried. He answered, “But promise me that the first maiden who meets us shall not be killed.” – “Yes,” they all cried, “she shall have mercy, only do tell us.”
Then said he, “Our sister is here,” and he lifted up the tub, and the King’s daughter came forth in her royal garments with the golden star on her forehead, and she was beautiful, delicate and fair. Then they were all rejoiced, and fell on her neck, and kissed and loved her with all their hearts.
Now she stayed at home with Benjamin and helped him with the work. The eleven went into the forest and caught game, and deer, and birds, and wood-pigeons that they might have food, and the little sister and Benjamin took care to make it ready for them. She sought for the wood for cooking and herbs for vegetables, and put the pans on the fire so that the dinner was always ready when the eleven came. She likewise kept order in the little house, and put beautifully white clean coverings on the little beds, and the brothers were always contented and lived in great harmony with her.
Once on a time the two at home had prepared a beautiful entertainment, and when they were all together, they sat down and ate and drank and were full of gladness. There was, however, a little garden belonging to the bewitched house wherein stood twelve lily flowers, which are likewise called students. She wished to give her brothers pleasure, and plucked the twelve flowers, and thought she would present each brother with one while at dinner. But at the self-same moment that she plucked the flowers the twelve brothers were changed into twelve ravens, and flew away over the forest, and the house and garden vanished likewise. And now the poor maiden was alone in the wild forest, and when she looked around, an old woman was standing near her who said, “My child, what hast thou done? Why didst thou not leave the twelve white flowers growing? They were thy brothers, who are now for evermore changed into ravens.” The maiden said, weeping, “Is there no way of delivering them?”
“No,” said the woman, “there is but one in the whole world, and that is so hard that thou wilt not deliver them by it, for thou must be dumb for seven years, and mayst not speak or laugh, and if thou speakest one single word, and only an hour of the seven years is wanting, all is in vain, and thy brothers will be killed by the one word.”
Then said the maiden in her heart, “I know with certainty that I shall set my brothers free,” and went and sought a high tree and seated herself in it and span, and neither spoke nor laughed. Now it so happened that a king was hunting in the forest, who had a great greyhound which ran to the tree on which the maiden was sitting, and sprang about it, whining, and barking at her. Then the King came by and saw the beautiful King’s daughter with the golden star on her brow, and was so charmed with her beauty that he called to ask her if she would be his wife. She made no answer, but nodded a little with her head. So he climbed up the tree himself, carried her down, placed her on his horse, and bore her home. Then the wedding was solemnized with great magnificence and rejoicing, but the bride neither spoke nor smiled. When they had lived happily together for a few years, the King’s mother, who was a wicked woman, began to slander the young Queen, and said to the King, “This is a common beggar girl whom thou hast brought back with thee. Who knows what impious tricks she practises secretly! Even if she be dumb, and not able to speak, she still might laugh for once; but those who do not laugh have bad consciences.” At first the King would not believe it, but the old woman urged this so long, and accused her of so many evil things, that at last the King let himself be persuaded and sentenced her to death.
And now a great fire was lighted in the courtyard in which she was to be burnt, and the King stood above at the window and looked on with tearful eyes, because he still loved her so much. And when she was bound fast to the stake, and the fire was licking at her clothes with its red tongue, the last instant of the seven years expired. Then a whirring sound was heard in the air, and twelve ravens came flying towards the place, and sank downwards, and when they touched the earth they were her twelve brothers, whom she had delivered. They tore the fire asunder, extinguished the flames, set their dear sister free, and kissed and embraced her. And now as she dared to open her mouth and speak, she told the King why she had been dumb, and had never laughed. The King rejoiced when he heard that she was innocent, and they all lived in great unity until their death. The wicked step-mother was taken before the judge, and put into a barrel filled with boiling oil and venomous snakes, and died an evil death.