The Pleiades

from The Magic Pisspot: Swedish Folk Tales,

told by Per Gustavsson,

translated by Richard Martin

The Pleiades 
from The Magic Pisspot: Swedish Folk Tales, told by Per Gustavsson, translated by Richard Martin 

Once upon a time there was a king and a queen who had an only daughter. The young princess was pretty and kind and all in the palace loved her dearly. One day the princess and her maids were walking in the garden when suddenly a terrible giant appeared. He grabbed the princess in his powerful fist and strode away from the palace.
	The maids were desperate. They ran to the king and queen and told them what had happened. All in the palace shared the royal grief. The king and queen promised that the one who brought their daughter back should have her hand in marriage and half the kingdom, too.
	In the neighbouring land there lived a widowed queen, together with her six sons. When she heard of how the princess had been taken she called her sons together and said:
	“I want you each to learn a trade which can help to bring the princess back. Then and only then can you go out into the world and try to take the princess from the giant.”
	The eldest son went as apprentice to a shipwright from whom he learnt much. The shipwright taught the boy to build a ship that could always sail, even by wind from behind or wind from ahead, at high tide or low.
	The second son went as apprentice to a mariner from whom he learnt much. The mariner taught the boy to steer that miraculous ship by light or by dark, by wind from behind or wind from ahead, by high tide or low.
	The third son learnt to climb both trees and mountains, the highest that there were. Soon he could even climb a mountain of glass.
	The fourth son learnt how to steal the eggs from beneath a bird on her nest. Soon he could climb even the highest linden tree and take the eggs from beneath a magpie without her noticing a thing.
	The fifth son went as apprentice to an old magician who lived in a distant cave. To get there the boy travelled long over mountains and through valleys. As he came the magician said:
“Welcome, my prince.”
“How do you know who I am?” asked the prince in amazement. 
“I know you and why you have come,” said the old man. “Now you must stay a while and I’ll teach you much.”
And indeed the boy did learn what he needed for the magician taught the boy to cast light before him and darkness behind.
The sixth and youngest boy went as apprentice to an archer from whom he learnt much. He learnt to shoot so well that his arrow could hit the beak of a bird in flight.
When all the brothers had returned their mother said:
“Now you can go out together into the world and try to take the princess from the giant. Then we shall see which one of you she will marry.”
The princes boarded the ship which the eldest had built. The second took the rudder. They sailed across the stormy sea with waves as high as houses which threatened to overwhelm the ship. The wind blew from behind, it blew from ahead, it blew from all sides. But the prince steered with such skill past all the dangerous whirlpools and threatening reefs. Day and night they sailed through the treacherous storm.
At last in the distance they saw a strange cliff towering out of the sea. As they sailed closer they saw it was a mountain of glass. At the summit sat the princess, next to her lay the sleeping giant with his head in her lap.
They anchored before the cliff. The third prince, who could climb glass mountains, took on his shoulders the fourth brother who could steal eggs from beneath a sitting bird. Quickly he climbed to the summit. The fourth gently lifted the giant’s head so that at last the princess was free. The third took the other two on his back and climbed down.
But when the giant awoke and saw the princess was no longer there his screams of anger were so loud they could be heard far and wide. He saw the ship sailing away from the glass mountain. He picked up a rock to hurl it after the ship but the fifth brother cast darkness behind them and left light ahead. The giant could no longer see the ship, which sailed on as fast as fast. The giant stepped down into the sea and took gigantic strides in the direction the ship had disappeared, and he could soon see it again. Then the sixth prince stepped forward, fitted an arrow to his bow and shot the giant right between his eyes. The giant fell down dead and sank beneath the waves.
You can well imagine the joy there was when the six princes returned home with the princess. But which of them should she now marry? The king sat down on his throne to hear what the princes had to say, for he was to decide who had done the most to rescue the princess.
The eldest stepped forward and said:
“I have done the most to rescue the princess. Without my ship we would not have reached the glass mountain and found her.”
“But without me as helmsman we would not have crossed the dangerous sea,” said the second.
“That may be true,” said the third. “But if I had not climbed the glass mountain, the princess would be sitting up there still.”
“May be,” said the fourth. “But if I had not cleverly lifted the giant’s head from the princess’s lap, she would never have got away.”
“That is the truth,” said the fifth. “But if I had not cast darkness behind us, the giant’s rock would have sunk the ship.”
“The giant would still have overtaken us if I had not shot him dead,” said the youngest.
So yes, which one of them should have the princess? The king was distressed for he saw that each of them had had an equal part in the rescue of his daughter. Then as the six princes began to argue the queen said:
“Why don’t we let the princess decide?”
All agreed with this wise suggestion. But looking around they saw that the princess was no longer there. She had become so weary of the dispute between the boys that she had simply disappeared.
The princes searched for her. They searched everywhere. Then one lifted his head and saw the princess high above them in the night sky, sitting on a star. He gazed up with such longing that he also turned into a star – as did the other five princes. Today all six are sitting next to the princess in the heavens, and that is how the constellation of seven stars we know as the Pleiades came to be.

(C) Per Gustavsson and Richard Martin 2018