This retelling of Minnikin from "If all the seas were ink we'd call them fish tales"
A retelling by J. Kearns
Two precocious girls, born one right after another, who are able to walk and talk just after birth, waste no time in setting out to seek their fortunes. Minnikin begins by stealing eyes--a curious profession!--by which she receives treasures for battling trolls.
There was once upon a time a couple of needy folk who lived in a wretched hut in which there was next to nothing.
Next to nothing--that about says it all right there, doesn't it. Next to nothing. You can't have it much worse off than that, not even if you tried, because everyone has something even if it is just themselves. They had no food. They didn't even have wood to burn to keep them warm or to cook their food if they had a little bit of something to eat, which they didn't. But one thing they did have was children. How they happened to have so many children on next to nothing is a mystery. Someone once said of the family, "If they had next to nothing of all else they had the blessing of God so far as children were concerned," which was true, for every year brought them one more.
The man of the house wasn't overly pleased about this blessing. He must not have thought it was a blessing for he was always going about growling and grumbling, and complaining. He said, "It seems to me that there might be such a thing as having too many of these good gifts." He said this just as his wife began to give birth to another baby, and then he went into the forest for some firewood, or so he said, so they'd have something, and said also that he didn't want to see the new child, that he would hear him quite soon enough when the child began to squall for some food, and the wife yelled after him what sounded like names, maybe endearments, and something else unintelligible, and then she just plain yelled, because giving birth hurts.
The new baby was born and was a girl. As soon as she was born, and I do mean immediately and not a second thereafter, she began to look about the room of the wretched hut, which is most unusual for a new baby to be so alert, and seeing the destitute nature of the circumstances to which she'd been born, she said, "Mother, give me some of my brothers' old clothes (for she only had brothers), and food enough for a day. I plan to go out into the world to seek my fortune, for I can plainly see that you have children enough."
The mother wouldn't hear of it, because her new daughter was just a little baby and certainly too small to take care of herself. She said, "Heaven help you, my poor daughter. Your plan will never do for you are still far too little. You don't know that yet, because you're just born. But it's true."
But the daughter was determined to go. She begged and begged until finally the mother, crying all the while, let her have some old rags for clothes. Then somehow or other she found some food for her daughter to take with her and tied it up in a bundle with another old rag. Babies usually don't even begin to crawl until they are around nine months old, but this little girl got right up and happily tripped out the door into the world.
Almost before that precocious daughter was out of the house, yet another girl was born, and she too looked about the room and said, "Mother, give me some of my brothers' old clothes and some food, and then I'll go out into the world and find my twin sister, for it's plainly visible you have children enough as it is to last you for a while."
The mother was driven to near distraction with befuddlement over the precociousness of these twins. She exclaimed, "Heaven help you, my little daughter. You are far too little to go out into the world. It would never do."
The little daughter begged and begged, however, so at last the mother gave her some old rags for clothes. Then, somehow or other, she managed to find a bit of food and tied it up for her daughter to take with her. "Goodbye," the little girl said. "I am going out into the world to find my twin sister." And she went out the door.
When this second-born little girl had walked for some time, she caught sight of her sister a short distance ahead of her and yelled out, "Hello, there! Stop! You're walking so quickly one might think you were running a race. You ought to have stayed to see your younger sister born before you hurried off into the world. I'm your twin."
So, the elder sister stood still and waited for her twin to catch up with her. They introduced themselves to each other, then the elder sister said, "We didn't stay long enough at home to nurse at our mother's breast before we went out into the world, and I'm getting a little hungry. Let's see what kind of food our mother packed for us." So, they sat and they ate a little, and then they went on.
They had walked on together a little way when they came to a brook which ran through a green meadow. The younger sister said, "We didn't stay long enough at home to be christened. I propose that we make good use of the brook and christen each other now and here."
It is the custom with some parents to christen their infants into the church to which they belong--which is to baptize; which is to put some drops of water on your forehead or maybe even dip your whole body in the water. This makes the infant a member of the church, and sometimes the child isn't even given his or her name until this event. You see, to christen means to annoint, which is to put some droplets of water or oil on you. If it's water, some say the idea is you're washed clean, like taking a bath, but others say it is like a replay of your being born, and the reason you would do a replay of your being born is to express that you are new.
These children were certainly new. They were so new they didn't have names yet. The older sister asked the younger one, "What do you want your name to be?"
The younger sister said, "My name will be Minnikin. What do you want your name to be?"
"Call me King Pippin," said the older girl, who thought this was just an awfully smart name to have.
A pippin is a seed or an apple.
After a moment's thought, the older girl asked the younger one, "What does Minnikin mean?"
Mannequin is the same thing as Minnikin. We know a mannequin is like a doll that is made so that it looks very nearly human and models clothes. You see them in shop windows. But Minnikin can also mean a dwarf, like a little man, as in a little person. The younger girl thought since she was a very little person then she should be named Minnikin, and the older girl agreed.
The two little girls went on their way. When they had walked for some time, they came to a place where one road crossed over another, which is a crossroads. The younger girl said, "As we have come to this crossroads, instead of us having to decide on which path to take together, why don't you take one road and I'll take the other, since we are twins and there are two of us. That way neither road feels neglected."
So, the twins parted. But no sooner had they walked a short distance when they met again.
The twins hugged and kissed hello, then hugged and kissed goodbye and parted once more, each taking her own road.
Again, no sooner had they walked a short distance when they met again! Again, the twins parted with hugs and kisses, each taking her own road.
What do you know but, again, no sooner had they walked a short distance than they met for a third time.
"I'll tell you what I think is going wrong," said the younger twin. "We each chose our own road but who can tell where a road might lead, because it might twist and turn all about until you're going in quite another direction than you set off to go in. What we need to do is tell these roads where we want to go. Why don't I go east, and you go west."
The elder sister said, "Little sister, if you ever are in need or having any trouble, call me three times and I'll come to help you. But you must not call me until you are in utmost need."
The younger sister said, "As I don't plan to be in any utmost need soon, we won't see each other for some time."
With hugs and kisses the two sisters bid each other farewell. Then Minnikin, the younger, faced her road and said, "Road, take me east." And King Pippin faced her road and said, "Road, take me west."
Thus, the twins parted.
When Minnikin had walked a long way alone, she met an old crook-backed hag who had only one eye just like a cyclops.
Minnikin had left home before her mother had a chance to teach her any manners.
Minnikin stole the hag's one eye.
The hag, now quite blind, cried out, "Oh, oh! What has become of my eye?"
Minnikin said, "I have stolen your eye. What will you give me to get your eye back."
The hag replied, "I'll give you a sword. Not just any old sword, but a grand sword, an amazing sword. This sword can conquer a whole army."
"If it's that good, let me have it then," said Minnikin.
The old hag gave Minnikin the sword, and Minnikin gave her eye back to her. Then Minnikin walked on. When she had wandered on for some time she met another old, old crook-backed hag who had only one eye.
Minnikin stole the second hag's one eye.
"Oh, oh!" cried the second hag. "What has become of my eye?"
Minnikin said, "What will you give me to get your eye back?"
The old hag answered, "I will give you a ship."
"Not just any old ship, I hope," said Minnikin.
"Not at all," said the hag. "This ship can sail over fresh water and salt water, over high hills and deep dales. In other words, it can go anywhere you want it to take you."
"That's a versatile ship," Minnikin said. "Give it to me."
So, the old woman gave Minnikin a little bitty ship that was so small she could fit it into her pocket, and Minnikin gave the old woman her eye back and went on her way. When she had walked on for a long time, she met a third, old, old, old, crook-backed hag who had only one eye. Those three old women must have been sisters. Maybe they were triplets, whereas King Pippin and Minnikin were twins.
Minnikin stole the hag's eye.
The hag screamed. She lamented. She wringed her hands, crying out, "What has become of my eye?"
Minnikin answered, "What will you give me to get back your eye?"
The hag replied, "I'll give you the art to brew a hundred lasts of malt in one brewing."
"What's a last?" Minnikin asked.
"A large unit of weight," said the hag.
"What's malt?" asked Minnikin.
"Beer," said the hag. "It's something adults are very fond of drinking. I can hear with my ears you are far, far too young to drink beer. Maybe you'd rather have malted milk?"
"No," said Minnikin, "this art of making beer sound like it might be useful to have."
So, for teaching that art, the old hag got her eye back, and Minnikin went on her way.
When Minnikin had walked a short distance, she thought to herself, "Why am I walking? The second hag said my ship would be able to sail not only over water, but over hill and dale. I ought to try it out and see how it rides." Minnikin took the ship out of her pocket and placed it on the ground. Into it she put one foot, and then the other, and no sooner had she put one foot in the ship than it became much larger, and when she set the other foot in it the ship became as large as ships that sail over the sea, though it didn't look quite like other ships did, but she didn't know that as she had not yet seen the sea and the ships that sail on it.
Minnikin said to the ship, "Now, ship, go over fresh water and salt water, over high hills and deep dales, and don't stop until you come to a king's palace."
In an instant, the ship rose into the air and flew as swiftly as any bird until it came to a king's palace, then it stood there in the air quite still.
From the windows of the king's palace, many persons of the court had seen Minnikin's ship come sailing up. They were all so astonished by the flying ship that they ran out of the castle to see what manner of person would come sailing in a ship through the air. But while they were running out of the palace, Minnikin had the ship settle on the ground, and she climbed out of it, whereupon the ship became small again and she put it in her pocket. Those who had come running out of the king's palace saw only a little ragged girl standing down by the seashore, for that is wear the ship landed. The king, who had also come running, asked Minnikin where she had come from. Minnikin said, "Where do I come from? That I can't tell you as I don't honestly know exactly from where I have sprung. Nor can I tell you exactly how I came to be here, if I can't tell you from where I have come, can I? However, I can tell you what I want, and what I want is a position of employment at your castle so that I may earn my living. If I entreat you earnestly and prettily I'm hoping you'll give me what I want, even if there's nothing more for me to do than fetch wood and water for the kitchen-maid."
The king agreed that Minnikin should work for him.
When Minnikin went up to the king's palace, she saw that it was hung with black cloth both inside and out, from the bottom to the top. As she didn't know what this meant, because she had left home before learning about such things, she asked the kitchen-maid.
The kitchen-maid said, "The black means everyone in the castle is grieving, just like they were mourning a death. The king's daughter was long ago promised to three terrible trolls. Next Thursday evening, one of those ugly trolls is to come and fetch her. That's why everyone is so sad, even though Ritter Red has said he'll be able to set her free. After all, who knows if he tells the truth and if he'll be able to do it? That's why everyone is mourning."
Minnikin asked, "Who is Ritter Red?"
The kitchen-maid said, "He's himself."
Minnikin asked, "Why should the king's daughter be promised to three terrible Trolls if it was going to cause such mourning."
The kitchen-maid replied, "It's just one of those things, you know?" and went back to her work.
When Thursday evening came, the princess went out to the seashore where she was to meet the troll, and Ritter Red accompanied her on his horse, for ritter is only a word which means rider, and a person who was a ritter would have been a knight. So Ritter Red could also be called Red Rider, of Red Knight, but we shall call him Ritter Red.
Ritter Red was supposed to protect the princess, and at court had been very vocal about how he would protect her to the end. Ritter Red, however, wasn't much likely to do the troll much injury, for no sooner had the princess seated herself by the seashore than Ritter Red climbed up into a great tree and hid himself among its branches. The princess wept and said, "Oh, please do come down out of that tree, Ritter Red! Please don't abandon me to the trolls. They are terribly ugly, you know, and it hardly seems right that I should be married to them. I wouldn't want to be married to one troll, much less three of them. So, please, Ritter Red, come down out of that tree where you're hiding yourself--I can see you very plainly--and keep your promise to protect me."
Ritter Red called back, "It's better that one should die than two."
In the meantime, Minnikin begged the kitchen-maid very prettily to give her leave to go down to the seashore for a short time.
"What for do you want to go down to the seashore? Do you want to play with the other children?" the kitchen-maid asked.
Minnikin was going to say that she wanted to watch the troll carry off the princess, but then thought better of it. Instead she said, "Yes, I want to go play with the other children."
"Well, well, go then!" said the kitchen-maid, "but don't stay too long for soon I'm going to have to put the roast on the spit and the pan over the fire and cook supper, and as I'll need wood for the fire you make sure to bring back a good big armful."
Minnkin promised, then ran down to the seashore. Just as Minnikin got to the seashore, she saw the troll come rushing up the sand with a great whistling and whirring. He was big and stout and terrible to see. People had talked about how the troll was ugly, but no one had mentioned that he had five heads. Which he did have. Five heads.
"FIRE!" screeched the troll.
"FIRE YOURSELF!" said Minnikin.
"CAN YOU FIGHT?" roared the troll.
"IF NOT, I CAN LEARN!" said Minnikin.
The troll was holding in his fist a great, thick, iron bar, which was as thick and big as the tree up which Ritter Red had fled and was hiding. The troll struck at Minnikin with the big, iron bar, but Minnikin leapt out of the way, and the iron bar hit the tree in which Ritter Red was hiding and sent it flying a half-mile down the beach.
Minnikin said, "THAT WASN'T MUCH OF A BLOW. NOW YOU SHALL SEE ONE OF MINE!"
Minnikin had with her the grand sword the first hag had given her. With hardly any effort at all she swung it and off flew the heads of the troll, one, two, three, four, five.
When the princess saw that she was delivered from the troll, she was so delighted that she didn't know what she was doing, and skipped and danced. "I'm saved, I'm saved," she sang to Minnikin. "I'm saved from having to marry that troll."
Minnikin, who was just a little girl, felt a little tired after all the excitement and yawned. The princess told her, "Come and sleep a bit with your head in my lap." Minnikin did so, and as she slept the princess took out of her suitcase a gold dress and put it on her. (Yes, the princess had been carrying with her a suitcase which had some of her clothes in it just in case she ended up having to go home with the troll.)
Ritter Red was a little bruised from his adventure in the tree, but only a little. When he saw there was no longer any danger afoot, he came back up the beach and said to the princess, "You must tell the king that I was the one who rescued you from the troll. If you don't, I will kill you. If you do, then I will marry you, I'm sure the king will see to that."
Then Ritter Red took the troll's lungs and all of his five tongues and put them in his pocket-handkerchief and led the princess back to the king's palace. It was immediately assumed that the princess had been saved from the troll by Ritter Red, so that she didn't even have to lie about it because no one asked her how she was saved and by whom. If anything had been lacking in the way of honor for Ritter Red before, it was lacking no longer, for the king didn't know how to exalt him enough, and from then on let him sit at his right hand at the table, which was a great privilege. But, he didn't offer Ritter Red the hand of the princess in marriage.
As for Minnikin. When she woke up, she went out to the troll's ship and took away from it a great quantity of gold and silver hoops. Then, the tree the troll had felled, she cut up for wood for the kitchen fire. Then, she trotted back to the king's palace.
When the kitchen-maid saw Minnikin with all the gold and silver hoops, she was quite amazed, and said, very sweetly, "My dear, dear, dearest friend Minnikin, where did you get all those gold and silver hoops? Are they yours?"
Minnikin answered, "I decided to run home and exchange my rags for a gold dress because I thought as long as I'm carrying wood for the fire for the king's supper, I better dress a little prettier, and where I come from we are so wealthy that the hoops that hold the wood of our buckets together aren't just any old metal, they've got to be silver and gold or nothing at all. So I took apart the buckets for wood for the fire and thought you might like the gold and silver hoops. Do you like them?"
The kitchen-maid thought this was an absurd story, but when she heard the hoops were for her she asked no more questions about the matter. She thanked Minnikin, and Minnikin put her rags back on over her golden dress, explaining that she had thought better of wearing her gold dress on the outside, for she was afraid it would be soiled, and that was that.
The next Thursday evening, when the second troll was due to come claim the princess, Minnikin once more begged the kitchen-maid to let her go down to the seashore for a short time.
"What do you want at the seashore? To play with the children?" the kitchen-maid asked.
Minnikin said, "They were a great deal of fun last time. Can I go play with them again?"
The kitchen-maid thought a second and then answered, "You may, but you must first promise to bring home a great armful of wood for the kitchen fire, as I must be soon cooking dinner. And mind you that it is a lot of wood, even if you must take apart some water buckets to get enough as you did the last time."
Minnikin agreed and started down to the beach.
Ritter Red had again, already, taken the princess down to the seashore on the pretense of protecting her. There was a little grief displayed in the palace when he left with the princess, but not as much as before, as everyone thought Ritter Red would kill the second troll, the same as they thought he had the first. But Ritter Red climbed up into a second tree that was on the beach and hid himself as he had done the first time.
The princess pleaded, "Ritter Red, do come down and save me from the troll." But he wouldn't hear of it. He replied only, "Better one dead than two."
That was when Minnikin came walking up. No sooner had Minnikin come walking up than the second troll came rushing along with a great whistling and whirring, and he was twice as big as the first troll, and had ten heads.
"FIRE!" shrieked the troll.
"FIRE YOURELF!" said Minnikin.
"CAN YOU FIGHT?" roared the troll.
"IF NOT, I CAN LEARN!" said Minnikin.
The troll had in his hand an iron club that was much bigger than the weapon the first troll had. He swung the iron club at Minnikin, but she leapt aside nimbly, and the club struck the tree in which Ritter Red was hiding and sent it flying a full mile down the beach.
"THAT WASN'T MUCH OF A BLOW. NOW YOU SHALL SEE ONE OF MINE!" said Minnikin. Then she grasped the grand sword the hag had given her in exchange for the eye, and she struck the troll with it so that all ten of his heads danced away over the sands.
Minnikin was just a tiny little girl, and so much excitement made her terribly sleepy. She was so sleepy she yawned. The king's daughter said to her, "Sleep a little while in my lap," and while Minnikin lay there she put on Minnikin a beautiful silver robe over her golden dress.
Ritter Red was pretty bruised from his adventure in the tree, but as soon as he saw that there was no longer any danger afoot, he managed to make his way back down the beach to the princess. Again, he ordered her to tell her father that he had rescued her, threatening that if she did not he would kill her. He then took the lungs and the ten tongues of the troll and put them in his pocket-handkerchief, and conducted the princess back to the castle. With the return of the princess, there was great joy and gladness in the palace, and the king said he didn't know how to show enough honor and respect to Ritter Red. After all, he'd already given Ritter Red the chair at his right hand at the table. He still did not offer his daughter's hand to Ritter Red in marriage, even though Ritter Red hinted at it.
When Minnikin woke up, she did as she had done after killing the first troll. She cut up for firewood for the kitchen the tree the second troll had felled, and carried this back to the kitchen along with the gold and silver hoops she found on the second troll's ship.
When the kitchen-maid saw Minnikin with all the gold and silver hoops, she said, very sweetly, "My dear, dear, dearest friend Minnikin, where did you get all those gold and silver hoops? Are they yours?"
Minnikin answered, "I decided to run home for a bit and get a silver coat to put over my gold dress, for it's getting cool out in the evenings. Also, I took apart some buckets for wood for the fire and thought you might like the gold and silver hoops from them. Do you like them?"
"They're just lovely, Minnikin, thank you," the kitchen-maid said, and asked her no more questions.
When the third Thursday evening came, and it was time for the third troll to come make his claim on the princess, everything happened exactly as it had on the two former occasions. Everything in the King's palace was hung with black, and everyone was sorrowful and distressed, though not as much as the second or first Thursday, for Ritter Red said that he did not think that they had much reason to be afraid. "After all," Ritter Red told them, "I delivered the princess from the first two trolls, so I can easily deliver her from the third troll as well."
Ritter Red led the princess down to the beach, but when the time came for the troll to appear, he climbed up into another tree that was there and hid himself. The princess saw no point in pleading with Ritter Red to come down and save her. She sat down and waited for Minnikin to appear, and Ritter Red also was waiting for Minnikin to appear. Still, Ritter Red must have been a little disappointed the princess hadn't pleaded with him to come down and rescue her, for he finally called out, "It is better that one life should be lost than two."
Minnikin, having asked the kitchen-maid for time to go to the seashore and play with the children, appeared just as the third troll came ashore with a great whizzing and whirring. This third troll was much bigger than either of the former two, and he had fifteen heads.
"FIRE!" roared the troll.
"FIRE YOURSELF!" said Minnikin.
"CAN YOU FIGHT?" screamed the troll.
"IF NOT, I CAN LEARN!" said Minnikin.
"I WILL TEACH YOU," yelled the troll, and struck at her with his iron club, but she leapt nimbly aside and he instead hit the tree in which Ritter Red was hiding and sent it flying a full mile and a half down the beach.
Minnikin said, "THAT WAS NOT MUCH OF A BLOW! NOW I WILL LET YOU SEE ONE OF MINE!" So saying, she grasped her sword and sweeping at the troll she cut off all fifteen of his heads so they danced over the sands.
Being just a little girl, Minnikin was exhausted by her effort, and a little sleepy. She yawned. The princess had Minnikin come lie down to sleep in her lap, and while Minnikin lay there the princess put on her a pretty brass coat that had a pretty brass scarf she wrapped around her neck.
The princess said to Minnikin, "It will be some time for Ritter Red to walk back here as the troll knocked the tree he was in a full mile and a half down the beach. In the meanwhile, we need to discuss how we should make it known that it was you who saved me. I have been afraid to tell anyone, for Ritter Red has said he would kill me. As my father believed Ritter Red had saved me from the first two trolls, he has already told Ritter Red that if he saved me from the third troll he could have half the kingdom and my hand in marriage. Ritter Red may not have fifteen heads, or even ten or five heads, but I believe his behavior is as ugly as any old troll's. I don't want to marry him, but I don't know how to say no."
Minnikin thought a second then answered, "This is what we'll do. When Ritter Red has taken you home, and pretended to everyone that he has rescued you again, he will then expect to receive half the kingdom and you as his wife. On your wedding day, when you are asked who you will have for a cup-bearer, you must say, "I will have the ragged girl who is in the kitchen, and carries wood and water for the kitchen-maid." Then, when I am filling your cups for you, I will spill a drop of wine on Ritter Red's plate, but none upon yours. He will be angry and strike me, and this will happen three times. The third time, you must say, 'Shame on you thus to smite the child. She is as dear to me as my own heart, as it is she who delivered me from the trolls.'"
Then Minnikin went on board the troll's ship and took a great quantity of gold and silver and other precious things; then she went and cut up the tree the giant had felled, and when she went back to the kitchen she gave the wood to the kitchen-maid for the fire, and also a whole armful of gold and silver hoops.
Ritter Red was this time pretty beaten up by his flight down the beach in the tree, but when he saw all the danger was over, while Minnikin was aboard the troll's ship he crept back down the seashore to the princess, and again threatened her with death if she did not make believe to everyone it was he who had rescued her. When he conducted her back to the king's palace, if honor enough had not been done him before it was certainly done now, for the king had no other thought than how to reward the man who had saved his daughter from the three trolls; and it was settled then that Ritter Red should marry the princess, and receive half the kingdom.
On the wedding day, the princess did as Minnikin had told her to do, and when she was asked who she wanted to have as cup-bearer and fill the wine-cups at the wedding feast, she said she would have the little girl in the kitchen who carried wood and water for the kitchen-maid.
Ritter Red said, "What can you want with that dirty, ragged child?" but the princess insisted.
Minnikin was called in to be cup-bearer, and appeared dressed in her rags. When she was pouring wine into the cups, she spilt a drop on Ritter Red's plate but none on the plate of the princess. Ritter Red, enraged, struck Minnikin quite hard as he was only an abusive bully, but no one even gasped for Minnikin was only a little girl in rags--except that when Minnikin was struck her rags had fallen off and she was seen to be wearing a brass coat with a brass scarf around her throat. Everyone wondered, What was this?--but no one said a word. They did, however, grumble a little, for it didn't seem right that a servant should be dressed in brass.
Then, when Minnikin was pouring wine a second time into the cups, she again spilt a drop on Ritter Red's plate but none on the princess'. Ritter Red, enraged, struck Minnikin again as he was a bad man, but no one said anything for Minnikin was only a kitchen servant usually dressed in rags--except that when Minnikin was struck this second time, her brass coat and scarf had fallen off and it was seen that underneath she wore a silver coat. Everyone wondered, What was this?--and they grumbled a little more for it didn't seem right that a servant should be dressed better than most of them.
Then, when Minnikin was pouring wine a third time into the cups, she again spilt a drop, red as blood, on Ritter Red's plate but none on the plate of the princess. Enraged, Ritter Red jumped up and struck Minnikin so hard that her silver coat fell off, and there she stood in the gold dress which was so bright and splendid that light flashed from it. You can be sure, this drew quite a grasp from all the guests.
The princess then said to Ritter Red, "Shame on you thus to smite the child. She is as dear to me as my own heart, as it is she who delivered me from the troll."
Ritter Red protested that it was he who killed the trolls, and for proof he took out his handkerchief, and unfolding it he spilled out all the trolls' lungs and their thirty heads on the table.
But Minnikin went out and brought back with her all the gold and silver and precious things she had taken out of the trolls' ships, and she laid these on the table beside the lungs and thirty heads. The gold and silver and precious things had a much better reception from the guests and king than did the gruesome lungs and heads which the king immediately asked to be removed from the prettily decorated feast table.
The king said, "The little girl, who has such precious things in gold and silver and diamonds, must be the one who killed the troll, for such treasures are not to be had anywhere else." Ritter Red tried to run away, but the king had Ritter Red caught and thrown into the snake-pit. Then the king proclaimed that Minnikin should be given half the kingdom.
Now, the king had two other children besides the princess, both sons. The younger son had been stolen by the same three trolls who had claimed the princess for their bride, and the king had given him up for dead. But when the three trolls had been killed, the young son had found himself miraculously released from the prison in which the three trolls had kept him. Slowly, he made his way home, so that one day the king saw him walking up the beach toward the castle and they were thus happily reunited. When the king told the young prince that Minnikin had killed the trolls, and they understood that this was the reason the prison had miraculously opened, the young prince said he would marry Minnikin if she would have him when she was old enough. Minnikin said she would like to think about this, but actually she believed it was a nice idea for the young prince was very handsome. The prince then went off to school so that he could learn how to be a wise ruler.
When Minnikin heard the story of how the young prince had been imprisoned, and learned there was also an older brother, she asked what had become of the older prince. The king told her that another troll, a female troll, which I guess would be called a trolless, had carried him away a long time ago, and that he was most certainly dead. But the king didn't want to talk about it as it made him very sad, and he went off to his rooms.
Minnikin told the princess she had a voyage she would like to take, and asked the princess for an iron rope five ells long, and said that she must have also five hundred men, and provisions for five weeks as the voyage would be a long one.
The princess said to Minnikin, "If you are going to take a voyage with five hundred men, you are going to need a large ship. It will take us a little while to make it."
Minnkin said, "No need to make a ship. I already have a ship of my own."
Minnikin took out the ship which the old hag had given her. The princess laughed and said, "Oh, this is another one of your fun jokes, isn't it?"
The princess didn't see how Minnikin's ship would be of any use, but she had the men and provisions brought to Minnikin anyway, and the iron rope was made right there on the spot, link by link, as five ells of rope would have been too heavy for anyone to carry. But when the cable was done it had to be put on the ship and there was no one who could lift it, and there wasn't room on the little ship anyway. So Minnikin herself took hold of the cable and laid one or two links of it in the ship, and as she threw the links into it the ship grew bigger and bigger, and at last it was so large that the cable, and the five hundred men, and the five weeks' provisions, and Minnikin herself, had room enough.
Minnikin said to the ship, "Now, go over fresh water and salt water, over hill and dale, and do not stop until we come to where the king's eldest son is."
In an instant, the ship went flying off. It sailed over land and water with such speed that the wind whistled and moaned all around it, and the five hundred men that Minnikin carried with her were quite frightened and amazed by Minnikin who was cool as a cucumber. When they had sailed a long, long way, the ship suddenly stopped short, bam, in the middle of the sea.
Minnikin said, "It seems we have arrived where the eldest son of the king is kept. Wasn't that a fun trip."
Minnikin took the iron cable and tied one end of it around her little body. She said to the five hundred men, "Now, I must go to the bottom of the sea. When I give a good jerk on the cable you will know I want to come up again, and all five hundred of you must pull like you were one man, or your lives and mine will end right here and no one will ever know what became of us." So saying, Minnikin jumped from the ship into the water, and bubbles rose up all around her.
Minnikin sank lower and lower, and there swam all around her many fish and whales and great squids. At last she set foot on the bottom of the sea. There she saw a large hill with a door in it, and she entered through the door. Inside, she found the elder son of the king who was quite amazed to see the little girl, scarcely bigger than an infant.
"I have come for you," said Minnikin.
The elder prince said, "It's no use even to think of that, for I have tried to escape several times and failed. If the trolless catches sight of you she'll take your life so you better leave."
Minnikin said, "You had better tell me about this trolless. Where has she gone to? It would be amusing to see her."
The prince said, "The trolless is out searching the world for someone who can brew a hundred lasts of malt at one brewing, for she has planned a feast and at that feast not less than that will be drunk."
Minnikin said, "I can do that."
The prince said, "This is a very quick-tempered trolless. She is so ill-natured that she will tear you to pieces the moment she comes in, so it doesn't you or the troll any good that you know this art." The prince fell silent a second, and then he said, "You have come all the way down here to try to help me so I shouldn't be so pessimistic. I will try to find a way of helping you. Hide yourself in this cupboard and we will see what I can do."
No sooner had Minnikin crept into the cupboard to hide when the trolless came in. She roared, "HUFF! I SMELL THE BLOOD OF A HUMAN!!"
Why the trolless would take such notice of the scent of a human, I don't know, for I imagine the prince was human.
Nevertheless, the prince answered, "Yes, a bird flew over with a human's bone in his bill. He let it drop into the chimney. I buried the bone immediately, but the smell remains. It must be that which you're smelling."
The trolless said, "YES, IT MUST BE THAT."
The prince asked, "Did you find anyone who can brew a hundred lasts of malt at one brewing?"
The trolless answered, "NO. I HAVE LOOKED HIGH AND LOW AND THERE IS NO ONE WHO CAN DO IT."
The prince said, "A short time ago, a little girl came here who said she could do it."
The trolless said, "HOW COULD YOU LET THE LITTLE GIRL GO AWAY? YOU KNEW THAT WAS JUST THE KIND OF PERSON FOR WHOM I WAS LOOKING. YOU AREN'T VERY CLEVER, ARE YOU?"
The prince replied, "I said she came by here. I didn't say I let her go away. Mother, you are so quick-tempered that I hid her in the cupboard."
The trolless said, "BRING THE LITTLE GIRL OUT. YOU ARE NOT SO STUPID, SON, AS YOU ALWAYS SEEM TO BE. YOU MAY MAKE SOMETHING OF YOURSELF YET."
The prince let Minnikin out of the cupboard. When the trolless saw her, she asked if it was true that Minnikin could brew a hundred lasts of malt at one brewing, and Minnikin said, yes, it was true. The trolless then ordered Minnikin to start brewing that very minute, saying, "HEAVEN HELP YOU IF YOU DON'T BREW THE ALE STRONG."
"Don't you worry about that. It'll taste just fine," Minnikin replied, and at once began to brew.
Minnikin said that she needed a number of trolls to carry for her all that she needed to do the brewing. The trolless went out and came back the trolls to help Minnikin, but Minnikin needed still more. So the trolless went out and brought still more trolls, but Minnikin needed more. So the trolless went out and came back with so many troll they were swarming all about and the brewing went on. When the ale was ready, all the trolls were anxious to taste it, so they did. First the trolless had a drink, and then the rest of the trolls had a drink. True to her word, Minnikin had brewed the ale quite strong. It was so strong that the trolless and the other trolls instantly all fell down dead like so many flies. At last, there was no one left standing except for Minnikin, the elder prince, and a wretched old hag who had been behind the stove.
Minnikin cried out when she saw the hag, "You, old hag, you! Don't think you won't have a taste of the ale like all the rest!" Minnikin then scooped up a little that had been left at the bottom of the brewing vat in a milk pan, and give it to the old hag. The old hag fell to the ground the instant the ale touched her lips, and that was that.
The trolless was so rich that gold and silver, and things made of gold and silver lay all about the room as if they were no more priceless than a copper penny. Minnikin took a chest and filled it with the gold and silver. Then she tied the iron cable around herself, the elder prince, and the chest. That done, she tugged on the iron cable with all her might, whereupon the five hundred men on her ship drew Minnikin, the prince, and the chest up through the water and very soon they were safe and sound and on the ship.
Minnikin said to the ship, "Go over salt water and fresh water, over hill and dale, and do not stop until you come to the king's palace." Immediately, the ship was went sailing off.
When the king saw the ship fly up and land upon the seashore, he lost no time in gathering his court to go out and meet it with song and music. The king's dancing and singing was the merriest of all for he had believed his elder son was dead, but now he was home again.
The elder son said that as Minnikin had saved him, when she was old enough to marry he wanted to have her as his wife--that is if she would have him. The elder son was certain that since Minnikin had come to save him, she must have done it because she loved him. But Minnikin had only saved him because she thought it was the thing to do, and instead favored the younger son. Minnikin didn't want to hurt the feelings of the elder son by telling him she had no interest in him, and for the following how many years she spent all her time walking backwards and forwards, thinking what could she do, what could she do, what could she do that wouldn't hurt the elder prince and sound unkind. One day, when she had grown up and was still walking about and puzzling over what to do, it came to her mind that if only she had her sister, King Pippin, with her, who was so like herself that no one could distinguish the one from the other, the problem would be solved. The elder prince could marry King Pippin and Minnikin could marry the younger prince.
As soon as Minnikin thought of this she went outside, took a great breath, and yelled, "King Pippin!"
Minnikin stood a moment, waiting, but no one came. So, Minnikin yelled out again, even louder, "King Pippin!"
Still, no one came.
A third time, Minnikin took a great, great, great breath, and with all her might she called out, "King Pippin!!!"
There stood King Pippin by Minnikin's side. Minnikin's twin sister, rather than seeming pleased to see her again, said in an angry voice, "I told you that you weren't to call me unless you were in utmost need. So, I hear your call and I come with all speed to help you, and when I look around I see there isn't even so much here as a midge (which is a tiny insect) which can do you any harm!" With that, Minnikin's twin gave Minnikin such a blow that Minnikin was sent reeling over the grass.
Minnikin popped right back up and said, "Shame on you to strike me! First, I rescued a princess and was given half the kingdom, and through rescuing the princess I also rescued her brother who is a prince. Then I rescued a second brother who is also a prince and was given the other half of the kingdom. Both of these princes want to marry me. I was thinking that I would let you have one of the princes, and one of the halves of the kingdom, which is why I called you. Now, do you think you have any reason to have given me such a blow? You have never given a thought to me, have you. Why, when you were born you marched right off without staying around to welcome me into the world. I had to come chasing after you or else you would never have known I existed."
Minnikin's older twin, hearing her words, was very sorry for what she had done. She begged Minnikin's pardon, to which Minnikin replied, "There now, we are reconciled. And I'm sure we'll be quite good friends from now on."
King Pippin said, "Yes, that's exactly what I want as well."
Minnikin said to King Pippin, "Here is my plan. As you know, we are so like each other that no one but us can tell us apart from one another. What I want you to do is to change clothes with me and go up to the palace. The princes are at home. When they see you they will think that I'm coming in. They will rush to greet me, each one trying to get to me first and give me a kiss. The prince who greets you first shall be yours, and I will have the other."
Minnikin knew that the elder prince was stronger than the younger prince, and guessed that the elder prince would win in the contest for the kiss.
King Pippin agreed to the plan. She and Minnikin exchanged clothes, then the elder twin went into the palace. When she entered, the princes saw her and believed she was Minnikin. Both of them ran to her; but the elder prince, who was bigger and stronger, pushed his brother aside, and greeted King Pippin with a sweet kill. So, he got her to wife. And Minnikin got the younger prince.
Pippin and the older prince were married, and Minnikin and the younger prince were married, both ceremnonies taking place at the same time, but you probably guessed this on your own.
That is all there is of this story.
Retelling by j. m. Kearns, based on the tale "Minnikin"
from Andrew Lang's "The Red Fairy Book".
© Copyright 1999 j m Kearns