Once upon a time there lived a King who had three sons; the two elder were learned and bright, but the youngest said very little and appeared somewhat foolish, so he was always known as Dummling.
When the King grew old and feeble, feeling that he was nearing his end, he wished to leave the crown to one of his three sons, but could not decide to which. He thereupon settled that they should travel, and that the one who could obtain the most splendid carpet should ascend the throne when he died.
So that there could be no disagreement as to the way each one should go, the King conducted them to the courtyard of the Palace, and there blew three feathers, by turn, into the air, telling his sons to follow the course that the three feathers took.
Then one of the feathers flew eastwards, another westwards, but the third went straight up towards the sky, though it only sped a short distance before falling to earth.
Therefore one son travelled towards the east, and the
second went to the west, both making fun of poor Dummling, who was obliged to stay where his feather had fallen. Then Dummling, sitting down and feeling rather miserable after his brothers had gone, looked about him, and noticed that near to where his feather lay was a trap-door. On lifting this up he perceived a flight of steps, down which he went. At the bottom was another door, so he knocked upon it, and then heard a voice calling –
“Maiden, fairest, come to me, Make haste to ope the door, A mortal surely you will see, From the world above is he, We’ll help him from our store.”
And then the door was flung open, and the young man found himself facing a big toad sitting in the centre of a number of young toads. The big toad addressed him, asking him what he wanted.
Dummling, though rather surprised when he saw the toads, and heard them question him, being good-hearted replied politely –
“I am desirous to obtain the most splendid carpet in the world; just now it would be extremely useful to me.”
The toad who had just spoken, called to a young toad, saying –
“Maiden, fairest, come to me, ‘Tis a mortal here you see; Let us speed all his desires, Giving him what he requires.”
Immediately the young toad fetched a large box. This the old one opened, and took out an exquisite carpet, of so beautiful a design, that it certainly could have been manufactured nowhere upon the earth.
Taking it with grateful thanks, Dummling went up the flight of steps, and was once more in the Palace courtyard.
The two elder brothers, being of the opinion that the youngest was so foolish that he was of no account whatever in trying to obtain the throne, for they did not think he would find anything at all, had said to each other:
“It is not necessary for us to trouble much in looking for the carpet!” so they took from the shoulders of the first peasant they came across a coarse shawl, and this they carried to their father.
At the same time Dummling appeared with his beautiful carpet, which he presented to the King, who was very much surprised, and said –
“By rights the throne should be for my youngest son.”
But when the two brothers heard this, they gave the old King no rest, saying –
“How is it possible that Dummling, who is not at all wise, could control the affairs of an important kingdom? Make some other condition, we beg of you!”
“Well,” agreed the father, “the one who brings me the most magnificent ring shall succeed to my throne,” and once more he took his sons outside the Palace.