The White Wolf by Andrew Lang
Once upon a time there was a king who had three daughters; they were
all beautiful, but the youngest was the fairest of the three. Now it
happened that one day their father had to set out for a tour in a
distant part of his kingdom. Before he left, his youngest daughter made
him promise to bring her back a wreath of wild flowers. When the king
was ready to return to his palace, he bethought himself that he would
like to take home presents to each of his three daughters; so he went
into a jeweller's shop and bought a beautiful necklace for the eldest
princess; then he went to a rich merchant's and bought a dress
embroidered in gold and silver thread for the second princess, but in
none of the flower shops nor in the market could he find the wreath of
wild flowers that his youngest daughter had set her heart on. So he had
to set out on his homeward way without it. Now his journey led him
through a thick forest. While he was still about four miles distant
from his palace, he noticed a white wolf squatting on the roadside,
and, behold! on the head of the wolf, there was a wreath of wild
Then the king called to the coachman, and ordered him to get down
from his seat and fetch him the wreath from the wolf's head. But the
wolf heard the order and said: 'My lord and king, I will let you have
the wreath, but I must have something in return.'
'What do you want?' answered the king. 'I will gladly give you rich
treasure in exchange for it.'
'I do not want rich treasure,' replied the wolf. 'Only promise to
give me the first thing that meets you on your way to your castle. In
three days I shall come and fetch it.'
And the king thought to himself: 'I am still a good long way from
home, I am sure to meet a wild animal or a bird on the road, it will be
quite safe to promise.' So he consented, and carried the wreath away
with him. But all along the road he met no living creature till he
turned into the palace gates, where his youngest daughter was waiting
to welcome him home.
That evening the king was very sad, remembering his promise; and
when he told the queen what had happened, she too shed bitter tears.
And the youngest princess asked them why they both looked so sad, and
why they wept. Then her father told her what a price he would have to
pay for the wreath of wild flowers he had brought home to her, for in
three days a white wolf would come and claim her and carry her away,
and they would never see her again. But the queen thought and thought,
and at last she hit upon a plan.
There was in the palace a servant maid the same age and the same
height as the princess, and the queen dressed her up in a beautiful
dress belonging to her daughter, and determined to give her to the
white wolf, who would never know the difference.
On the third day the wolf strode into the palace yard and up the
great stairs, to the room where the king and queen were seated.
'I have come to claim your promise,' he said. 'Give me your youngest
Then they led the servant maid up to him, and he said to her: 'You
must mount on my back, and I will take you to my castle.' And with
these words he swung her on to his back and left the palace.
When they reached the place where he had met the king and given him
the wreath of wild flowers, he stopped, and told her to dismount that
they might rest a little.
So they sat down by the roadside.
'I wonder,' said the wolf, 'what your father would do if this forest
belonged to him?'
And the girl answered: 'My father is a poor man, so he would cut
down the trees, and saw them into planks, and he would sell the planks,
and we should never be poor again; but would always have enough to
Then the wolf knew that he had not got the real princess, and he
swung the servant-maid on to his back and carried her to the castle.
And he strode angrily into the king's chamber, and spoke.
'Give me the real princess at once. If you deceive me again I will
cause such a storm to burst over your palace that the walls will fall
in, and you will all be buried in the ruins.'
Then the king and the queen wept, but they saw there was no escape.
So they sent for their youngest daughter, and the king said to her:
'Dearest child, you must go with the white wolf, for I promised you to
him, and I must keep my word.'
So the princess got ready to leave her home; but first she went to
her room to fetch her wreath of wild flowers, which she took with her.
Then the white wolf swung her on his back and bore her away. But when
they came to the place where he had rested with the servant-maid, he
told her to dismount that they might rest for a little at the roadside.
Then he turned to her and said: 'I wonder what your father would do if
this forest belonged to him?'
And the princess answered: 'My father would cut down the trees and
turn it into a beautiful park and gardens, and he and his courtiers
would come and wander among the glades in the summer time.'
'This is the real princess,' said the wolf to himself. But aloud he
said: 'Mount once more on my back, and I will bear you to my castle.'
And when she was seated on his back he set out through the woods,
and he ran, and ran, and ran, till at last he stopped in front of a
stately courtyard, with massive gates.
'This is a beautiful castle,' said the princess, as the gates swung
back and she stepped inside. 'If only I were not so far away from my
father and my mother!'
But the wolf answered: 'At the end of a year we will pay a visit to
your father and mother.'
And at these words the white furry skin slipped from his back, and
the princess saw that he was not a wolf at all, but a beautiful youth,
tall and stately; and he gave her his hand, and led her up the castle
One day, at the end of half a year, he came into her room and said:
'My dear one, you must get ready for a wedding. Your eldest sister is
going to be married, and I will take you to your father's palace. When
the wedding is over, I shall come and fetch you home. I will whistle
outside the gate, and when you hear me, pay no heed to what your father
or mother say, leave your dancing and feasting, and come to me at once;
for if I have to leave without you, you will never find your way back
alone through the forests.'
When the princess was ready to start, she found that he had put on
his white fur skin, and was changed back into the wolf; and he swung
her on to his back, and set out with her to her father's palace, where
he left her, while he himself returned home alone. But, in the evening,
he went back to fetch her, and, standing outside the palace gate, he
gave a long, loud whistle. In the midst of her dancing the princess
heard the sound, and at once she went to him, and he swung her on his
back and bore her away to his castle.
Again, at the end of half a year, the prince came into her room, as
the white wolf, and said: 'Dear heart, you must prepare for the wedding
of your second sister. I will take you to your father's palace to-day,
and we will remain there together till to-morrow morning.'
So they went together to the wedding. In the evening, when the two
were alone together, he dropped his fur skin, and, ceasing to be a
wolf, became a prince again. Now they did not know that the princess's
mother was hidden in the room. When she saw the white skin lying on the
floor, she crept out of the room, and sent a servant to fetch the skin
and to burn it in the kitchen fire. The moment the flames touched the
skin there was a fearful clap of thunder heard, and the prince
disappeared out of the palace gate in a whirlwind, and returned to his
But the princess was heart-broken, and spent the night weeping
bitterly. Next morning she set out to find her way back to the castle,
but she wandered through the woods and forests, and she could find no
path or track to guide her. For fourteen days she roamed in the forest,
sleeping under the trees, and living upon wild berries and roots, and
at last she reached a little house. She opened the door and went in,
and found the wind seated in the room all by himself, and she spoke to
the wind and said: 'Wind, have you seen the white wolf?'
And the wind answered: 'All day and all night I have been blowing
round the world, and I have only just come home; but I have not seen
But he gave her a pair of shoes, in which, he told her, she would be
able to walk a hundred miles with every step. Then she walked through
the air till she reached a star, and she said: 'Tell me, star, have you
seen the white wolf?'
And the star answered: 'I have been shining all night, and I have
not seen him.'
But the star gave her a pair of shoes, and told her that if she put
them on she would be able to walk two hundred miles at a stride. So she
drew them on, and she walked to the moon, and she said: 'Dear moon,
have you not seen the white wolf?'
But the moon answered, 'All night long I have been sailing through
the heavens, and I have only just come home; but I did not see him.'
But he gave her a pair of shoes, in which she would be able to cover
four hundred miles with every stride. So she went to the sun, and said:
'Dear sun, have you seen the white wolf?'
And the sun answered, 'Yes, I have seen him, and he has chosen
another bride, for he thought you had left him, and would never return,
and he is preparing for the wedding. But I will help you. Here are a
pair of shoes. If you put these on you will be able to walk on glass or
ice, and to climb the steepest places. And here is a spinning-wheel,
with which you will be able to spin moss into silk. When you leave me
you will reach a glass mountain. Put on the shoes that I have given you
and with them you will be able to climb it quite easily. At the summit
you will find the palace of the white wolf.'
Then the princess set out, and before long she reached the glass
mountain, and at the summit she found the white wolf's palace, as the
sun had said.
But no one recognised her, as she had disguised herself as an old
woman, and had wound a shawl round her head. Great preparations were
going on in the palace for the wedding, which was to take place next
day. Then the princess, still disguised as an old woman, took out her
spinning-wheel, and began to spin moss into silk. And as she spun the
new bride passed by, and seeing the moss turn into silk, she said to
the old woman: 'Little mother, I wish you would give me that
And the princess answered, 'I will give it to you if you will allow
me to sleep to-night on the mat outside the prince's door.'
And the bride replied, 'Yes, you may sleep on the mat outside the
So the princess gave her the spinning-wheel. And that night, winding
the shawl all round her, so that no one could recognise her, she lay
down on the mat outside the white wolf's door. And when everyone in the
palace was asleep she began to tell the whole of her story. She told
how she had been one of three sisters, and that she had been the
youngest and the fairest of the three, and that her father had
betrothed her to a white wolf. And she told how she had gone first to
the wedding of one sister, and then with her husband to the wedding of
the other sister, and how her mother had ordered the servant to throw
the white fur skin into the kitchen fire. And then she told of her
wanderings through the forest; and of how she had sought the white wolf
weeping; and how the wind and star and moon and sun had befriended her,
and had helped her to reach his palace. And when the white wolf heard
all the story, he knew that it was his first wife, who had sought him,
and had found him, after such great dangers and difficulties.
But he said nothing, for he waited till the next day, when many
guests—kings and princes from far countries —were coming to his
wedding. Then, when all the guests were assembled in the banqueting
hall, he spoke to them and said: 'Hearken to me, ye kings and princes,
for I have something to tell you. I had lost the key of my treasure
casket, so I ordered a new one to be made; but I have since found the
old one. Now, which of these keys is the better?'
Then all the kings and royal guests answered: 'Certainly the old key
is better than the new one.'
'Then,' said the wolf, 'if that is so, my former bride is better
than my new one.'
And he sent for the new bride, and he gave her in marriage to one of
the princes who was present, and then he turned to his guests, and
said: 'And here is my former bride'—and the beautiful princess was led
into the room and seated beside him on his throne. 'I thought she had
forgotten me, and that she would never return. But she has sought me
everywhere, and now we are together once more we shall never part