Love Like Salt

folktales of types 923 and 510

translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 1998-2013


  1. To Love My Father All (from The Tragedy of King Lear by William Shakespeare).

  2. Cap o' Rushes (England).

  3. Sugar and Salt (England).

  4. The Dirty Shepherdess (France).

  5. As Dear as Salt (Germany).

  6. The Most Indispensable Thing (Germany).

  7. The Necessity of Salt (Austria).

  8. The Value of Salt (Italy).

  9. Like Good Salt (Italy).

  10. Water and Salt (Italy).

  11. The King and His Daughters (Pakistan).

  12. The Princess Who Loved Her Father Like Salt (India).

  13. Link to The Goose-Girl at the Well (Germany, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm).

  14. Link to a "Love-Like-Salt" variant of "Ass's Skin" (Basque).

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

To Love My Father All

William Shakespeare

Which of you shall we say doth love us most?
That we our largest bounty may extend
Where nature doth with merit challenge. Goneril,
Our eldest-born, speak first.

Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter,
Dearer than eye-sight, space and liberty,
Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare,
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour,
As much as child e'er loved or father found;
A love that makes breath poor and speech unable;
Beyond all manner of so much I love you.

I am made of that self metal as my sister,
And prize me at her worth. In my true heart
I find she names my very deed of love;
Only she comes too short: that I profess
Myself an enemy to all other joys
Which the most precious square of sense possesses,
And find I am alone felicitate
In your dear highness' love

I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty
According to my bond; nor more nor less.

How, how, Cordelia! mend your speech a little,
Lest it may mar your fortunes.

Good my lord,
You have begot me, bred me, loved me: I
Return those duties back as are right fit,
Obey you, love you, and most honour you.
Why have my sisters husbands, if they say
They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed,
That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry
Half my love with him half my care and duty:
Sure, I shall never marry like my sister,
To love my father all.

Cap o' Rushes


Well, there was once a very rich gentleman, and he'd three darters [daughters]. And he thought to see how fond they was of him. So he says to the first, "How much do you love me, my dear?"

"Why," says she, "as I love my life."

"That's good," says he. So he says to the second, "How much do you love me, my dear?"

"Why," says she, "better nor all the world."

"That's good," says he.

So he says to the third, "How much do you love me, my dear?"

"Why," she says, "I love you as fresh meat loves salt," says she.

Well, he were that angry. "You don't love me at all," says he, "and in my house you stay no more." So he drove her out there and then, and shut the door in her face.

Well, she went away, on and on, till she came to a fen. And there she gathered a lot of rushes, and made them into a cloak kind o', with a hood to cover her from head to foot, and to hide her fine clothes. And then she went on and on till she came to a great house.

"Do you want a maid?" says she.

"No, we don't," says they.

"I hain't nowhere to go," says she, "and I'd ask no wages, and do any sort o' work," says she.

"Well," says they, "if you like to wash the pots and scrape the saucepans, you may stay," says they.

So she stayed there, and washed the pots and scraped the saucepans, and did all the dirty work. And because she gave no name, they called her Cap o' Rushes.

Well, one day there was to be a great dance a little way off, and the servants was let go and look at the grand people. Cap o' Rushes said she was too tired to go, so she stayed at home.

But when they was gone, she offed with her cap o' rushes, and cleaned herself, and went to the dance. And no one there was so finely dressed as her.

Well, who should be there but her master's son, and what should he do but fall in love with her, the minute he set eyes on her. He wouldn't dance with anyone else.

But before the dance were done, Cap o' Rushes she stepped off, and away she went home. And when the other maids was back, she was framin' [pretending] to be asleep with her cap o' rushes on.

Well, next morning, they says to her, "You did miss a sight, Cap o' Rushes!"

"What was that?" says she.

"Why the beautifullest lady you ever see, dressed right gay and ga'. The young master, he never took his eyes off of her."

"Well, I should ha' liked to have seen her," says Cap o' Rushes.

"Well, there's to be another dance this evening, and perhaps she'll be there."

But come the evening, Cap o' Rushes said she was too tired to go with them. Howsumdever, when they was gone, she offed with her cap o' rushes, and cleaned herself, and away she went to the dance.

The master's son had been reckoning on seeing her, and he danced with no one else, and never took his eyes off of her.

But before the dance was over, she slipped off, and home she went, and when the maids came back, she framed to be asleep with her cap o' rushes on.

Next day they says to her again, "Well, Cap o' Rushes, you should ha' been there to see the lady. There she was again, gay an' ga', and the young master he never took his eyes off of her."

Well there," says she, "I should ha' liked to ha' seen her."

"Well," says they, "there's a dance again this evening, and you must go with us, for she's sure to be there."

Well, come the evening, Cap o' Rushes said she was too tired to go, and do what they would, she stayed at home. But when they was gone, she offed with her cap o' rushes, and cleaned herself, and away she went to the dance.

The master's son was rarely glad when he saw her. He danced with none but her, and never took his eyes off her. When she wouldn't tell him her name, nor where she came from, he gave her a ring, and told her if he didn't see her again he should die.

Well, afore the dance was over, off she slipped, and home she went, and when the maids came home she was framing to be asleep with her cap o' rushes on.

Well, next day they says to her, "There, Cap o' Rushes, you didn't come last night, and now you won't see the lady, for there's no more dances."

Well, I should ha' rarely liked to ha' seen her," says she.

The master's son he tried every way to find out where the lady was gone, but go where he might, and ask whom he might, he never heard nothing about her. And he got worse and worse for the love of her till he had to keep his bed.

"Make some gruel for the young master," they says to the cook. "He's dying for love of the lady."

The cook she set about making it, when Cap o' Rushes came in.

"What are you a' doin' on?" says she.

"I'm going to make some gruel for the young master," says the cook, "for he's dying for love of the lady."

"Let me make it," says Cap o' Rushes.

Well, the cook wouldn't at first, but at last she said "yes," and Cap o' Rushes made the gruel. And when she had made it, she slipped the ring into it on the sly, before the cook took it upstairs.

The young man, he drank it, and saw the ring at the bottom.

"Send for the cook," says he. So up she comes.

"Who made this here gruel?" says he.

"I did," says the cook, for she were frightened, and he looked at her.

"No, you didn't," says he. "Say who did it, and you shan't be harmed."

"Well, then, 'twas Cap o' Rushes," says she.

So Cap o' Rushes came.

"Did you make the gruel?" says he."

"Yes, I did," says she.

"Where did you get this ring?" says she.

"From him as gave it me," says she.

"Who are you then?" says the young man.

"I'll show you," says she. And she offed with her cap o' rushes, and there she was in her beautiful clothes.

Well, the master's son he got well very soon, and they was to be married in a little time. It was to be a very grand wedding, and everyone was asked, far and near. And Cap o' Rushes' father was asked. But she never told nobody who she was.

But afore the wedding she went to the cook, and say she, "I want you to dress every dish without a mite o' salt."

"That will be rarely nasty," says the cook.

"That don't signify," says she.

"Very well," says the cook.

Well, the wedding day came, and they was married. And after they was married, all the company sat down to their vittles.

When they began to eat the meat, that was so tasteless they couldn't eat it. But Cap o' Rushes father, he tried first one dish and then another, and then he burst out crying.

"What's the matter?" said the master's son to him.

"Oh!" says he, "I had a daughter. And I asked her how much she loved me. And she said, 'As much as fresh meat loves salt.' And I turned her from my door, for I thought she didn't love me. And now I see she loved me best of all. And she may be dead for aught I know."

"No, father, here she is," says Cap o' Rushes.

And she goes up to him and puts her arms round him. And so they was happy ever after.

Sugar and Salt


Once upon a time there was a father who had two daughters. Calling them to him one day he said to them, "What is the sweetest thing in the world?"

"Sugar," said the elder daughter.

"Salt," said the younger.

The father was angry at this last answer. But his daughter stuck to it, and so her father said to her, "I won't keep a daughter in my house who believes that salt is the sweetest thing in the world. You must leave me and seek another home."

So the younger daughter left her father's house and wandered here and there, suffering much hunger and cold, until t last she was befriended by the fairies. As she walked through a wood one day listening to the songs of the birds, a prince came hunting for deer, and when he saw her he fell in love with her at once. She agreed to marry him, and a great banquet was prepared at the prince's house. To this banquet the bride's father was bidden; but he did not know that the bride was his own daughter.

Now, at the wish of the bride, all the dishes were prepared without salt. So when the guests began to eat they found that the food was tasteless. At last one of them said, "There is no salt in the meat!"

And then all the guests said, "There is no salt in the meat!"

And the bride's father spoke the loudest of all. "Truly, salt is the sweetest thing in the world," he said, "though, for saying so, I sent my own daughter away from my house, and shall never see her face again."

Then the bride made herself known to her father, and fell on his neck and kissed him.

The Dirty Shepherdess


Once upon a time there lived a king who had two daughters, and he loved them with all his heart. When they grew up, he was suddenly seized with a wish to know if they, on their part, truly loved him, and he made up his mind that he would give his kingdom to whichever best proved her devotion.

So he called the elder princess and said to her, "How much do you love me?"

"As the apple of my eye!" answered she.

"Ah!" exclaimed the king, kissing her tenderly as he spoke, "you are indeed a good daughter."

Then he sent for the younger, and asked her how much she loved him.

"I look upon you, my father," she answered, "as I look upon salt in my food."

But the king did not like her words, and ordered her to quit the court, and never again to appear before him. The poor princess went sadly up to her room and began to cry, but when she was reminded of her father's commands, she dried her eyes, and made a bundle of her jewels and her best dresses and hurriedly left the castle where she was born.

She walked straight along the road in front of her, without knowing very well where she was going or what was to become of her, for she had never been shown how to work, and all she had learnt consisted of a few household rules, and receipts of dishes which her mother had taught her long ago. And as she was afraid that no housewife would want to engage a girl with such a pretty face, she determined to make herself as ugly as she could.

She therefore took off the dress that she was wearing and put on some horrible old rags belonging to a beggar, all torn and covered with mud. After that she smeared mud all over her hands and face, and shook her hair into a great tangle. Having thus changed her-appearance, she went about offering herself as a goose-girl or shepherdess. But the farmers' wives would have nothing to say to such a dirty maiden, and sent her away with a morsel of bread for charity's sake.

After walking for a great many days without being able to find any work, she came to a large farm where they were in want of a shepherdess, and engaged her gladly.

One day when she was keeping her sheep in a lonely tract of land, she suddenly felt a wish to dress herself in her robes of splendor. She washed herself carefully in the stream, and as she always carried her bundle with her, it was easy to shake off her rags, and transform herself in a few moments into a great lady.

The king's son, who had lost his way out hunting, perceived this lovely damsel a long way off, and wished to look at her closer. But as soon as the girl saw what he was at, she fled into the wood as swiftly as a bird. The prince ran after her, but as he was running he caught his foot in the root of a tree and fell, and when he got up again, she was nowhere to be seen.

When she was quite safe, she put on her rags again, and smeared over her face and hands. However the young prince, who was both hot and thirsty, found his way to the farm, to ask for a drink of cider, and he inquired the name of the beautiful lady that kept the sheep. At this everyone began to laugh, for they said that the shepherdess was one of the ugliest and dirtiest creatures under the sun.

The prince thought some witchcraft must be at work, and he hastened away before the return of the shepherdess, who became that evening the butt of everybody's jests.

But the king's son thought often of the lovely maiden whom he had only seen for a moment, though she seemed to him much more fascinating than any lady of the court. At last he dreamed of nothing else, and grew thinner day by day till his parents inquired what was the matter, promising to do all they could to make him as happy as he once was. He dared not tell them the truth, lest they should laugh at him, so he only said that he should like some bread baked by the kitchen girl in the distant farm.

Although the wish appeared rather odd, they hastened to fulfill it, and the farmer was told the request of the king's son. The maiden showed no surprise at receiving such an order, but merely asked for some flour, salt, and water, and also that she might be left alone in a little room adjoining the oven, where the kneading-trough stood. Before beginning her work she washed herself carefully, and even put on her rings; but, while she was baking, one of her rings slid into the dough. When she had finished she dirtied herself again, and let lumps of the dough stick to her fingers, so that she became as ugly as before.

The loaf, which was a very little one, was brought to the king's son, who ate it with pleasure. But in cutting it he found the ring of the princess, and declared to his parents that he would marry the girl whom that ring fitted.

So the king made a proclamation through his whole kingdom, and ladies came from afar to lay claim to the honor. But the ring was so tiny that even those who had the smallest hands could only get it on their little fingers. In a short time all the maidens of the kingdom, including the peasant girls, had tried on the ring, and the king was just about to announce that their efforts had been in vain, when the prince observed that he had not yet seen the shepherdess.

They sent to fetch her, and she arrived covered with rags, but with her hands cleaner than usual, so that she could easily slip on the ring. The king's son declared that he would fulfill his promise, and when his parents mildly remarked that the girl was only a keeper of sheep, and a very ugly one too, the maiden boldly said that she was born a princess, and that, if they would only give her some water and leave her alone in a room for a few minutes, she would show that she could look as well as anyone in fine clothes.

They did what she asked, and when she entered in a magnificent dress, she looked so beautiful that all saw she must be a princess in disguise. The king's son recognized the charming damsel of whom he had once caught a glimpse, and, flinging himself at her feet, asked if she would marry him. The princess then told her story, and said that it would be necessary to send an ambassador to her father to ask his consent and to invite him to the wedding.

The princess's father, who had never ceased to repent his harshness towards his daughter, had sought her through the land, but as no one could tell him anything of her, he supposed her dead. Therefore it was with great joy he heard that she was living and that a king's son asked her in marriage, and he quitted his kingdom with his elder daughter so as to be present at the ceremony.

By the orders of the bride, they only served her father at the wedding breakfast bread without salt, and meat without seasoning. Seeing him make faces, and eat very little, his daughter, who sat beside him, inquired if his dinner was not to his taste.

"No," he replied, "the dishes are carefully cooked and sent up, but they are all so dreadfully tasteless."

"Did not I tell you, my father, that salt was the best thing in life? And yet, when I compared you to salt, to show how much I loved you, you thought slightingly of me and you chased me from your presence."

The king embraced his daughter, and allowed that he had been wrong to misinterpret her words. Then, for the rest of the wedding feast they gave him bread made with salt, and dishes with seasoning, and he said they were the very best he had ever eaten.

As Dear as Salt


A king once asked his daughter how dear he was to her.

"As dear, as dear -- as salt!" she said.

The king thought that this was very little, and he was very unhappy with his child's answer.

Soon thereafter he sponsored a great feast. The daughter saw to it that every dish was brought to the table unsalted, and thus nothing tasted good to the king.

Finally the daughter explained everything to him. He then recognized how important salt was, and that his daughter had spoken very positively. Thus he loved her again as dearly as before.

The Most Indispensable Thing


Ages ago there lived a king who had three good and beautiful daughters whom he loved very much and who in turn loved him dearly. He had no princes, but in his kingdom it was the custom that the succession of the throne could also pass to women and daughters. Because the king's wife was no longer alive he was free to appoint one of his daughters to the throne, and it did not need to be the oldest one.

Because this king loved all of his daughters equally the decision was very difficult for him. He came to the conclusion to select the one who demonstrated the keenest intellect. He shared this determination with his three daughters, declaring that his approaching birthday would be the day of decision. The one who would bring him "the most indispensable thing" would become queen.

Each of the princesses thought about what would be the most indispensable thing. When his birthday arrived, the oldest one approached him, carrying a fine purple robe, and said, "The Lord God had mankind come naked into the world, but then he barred them from paradise. Thus robes and clothing are indispensable."

The second daughter brought a loaf of fresh bread that she herself had baked. It was lying on top of a filled beaker made of gold. "Food and drink are the most indispensable things for mankind, born from dust, for without these they cannot live. Thus God created the fruits of the field, fruit, berries, and grapes, and taught mankind to make bread and wine, the sacred symbols of his love."

The youngest daughter brought a pile of salt on a wooden plate, saying, "My father, I consider salt and wood to be the most indispensable. Ancient peoples paid sacred homage to the trees and considered salt to be holy.

The king was very surprised with these gifts. Thinking about them, he said, "Purple is the most indispensable thing for a king, for if he has it, he has everything else. If he loses it, then he is no longer king and is as common as other humans. Because you have perceived this, my oldest and beloved daughter, after me you shall be decorated with royal purple. Come to me and receive my thanks and my blessing!"

After kissing and blessing his oldest daughter, he said to the second oldest, "Eating and drinking are not altogether necessary, my good child, and they draw us down entirely too much into commonness. They are a sign of mediocrity and of the masses. I cannot hinder you if you find pleasure therein, nor can I thank you for your poorly chosen gift, but you shall be blessed for your good will." Then the king blessed his daughter, but he did not kiss her.

Then he turned to the third princess, who was standing there pale and trembling. After what she had seen and heard, she sensed what was to come.

"My daughter, on your wooden plate you may well have some salt, but in your brain you have none," said the king. "You are still alive, and therefore salt is not indispensable. One does not need salt. With your salt you are showing the sense of a peasant, not the sense of a king. And I take no pleasure on that stiff wooden thing. Thus I can neither thank you nor bless you. Go away from me, as far as your feet will carry you. Go to the stupid and coarse people who worship old blocks of wood and tree limbs instead of the living God, and who consider common salt to be sacred."

Crying, the youngest princess then turned away from her hard father, and walked far, far away from the court and the royal city, as far as her feet would carry her.

She came to an inn and offered her services to the female innkeeper. The innkeeper was touched by her humility, innocence, youth, and beauty, and she took her in as a maid. The princess soon mastered all the household duties, and the innkeeper said, "It would be a pity if the girl did not learn a decent skill. I'll teach her to cook."

And thus the princess learned to cook. She grasped everything quickly, and soon could cook some dishes even better and more delicious than the teacher herself. Business improved at the inn because of the good cooking there, and the good cook's reputation -- who was also so young and so beautiful -- spread throughout the entire land.

Now it came to pass that this cook's father's oldest daughter was about to be married. A royal wedding was to be held, and it was recommended to bring the famous cook to the court to prepare the feast, for the lords at the royal court, the marshals, the royal wine stewards, the royal dining stewards, the masters of ceremony, the chamberlains, and other excellencies did not share the view that their most gracious lord the king had once expressed, that eating and drinking were not altogether necessary and that they draw us down to commonness. To the contrary, they praised all good food and fine wine and honored -- at least inwardly -- that old and true proverb, "Eating and drinking hold body and soul together."

The wedding meal was deliciously prepared, nor was the king's favorite dish lacking, which had been specially ordered by the royal dining steward. The meal was served. There came one dish after the other, and each was highly praised.

Finally came the king's favorite dish, and it was served first to him. He tried it and found it completely tasteless. His cheerful mood darkened, and he spoke to the chamberlain standing behind his golden armchair, "This dish is ruined! It is terrible! Stop the platters from being passed around, and summon the cook!"

The cook entered the magnificent hall, and the king addressed her, "You have ruined my favorite dish. You have spoiled my pleasure by not putting any salt in my favorite dish!"

Then the cook fell at the king's feet, saying with humility, "Have mercy, your majesty, my royal lord, and forgive me! How could I have dared to mix salt into your food? Did I not once hear from a lofty king's own mouth the words, " One does not need salt. Salt is not indispensable. Salt shows only the sense of a peasant, not the sense of a king!"

With shame the king recognized these words as his own and the cook as his daughter. Lifting her from the floor where she was kneeling, he drew her to his heart. He then told all the wedding guests her story and had his youngest daughter once again be seated by his side.

Then the wedding became doubly joyful, and the king was once again entirely happy with his daughter's love.

Salt is holy.

The Necessity of Salt


Once upon a time there was a king who had three daughters. Because they were good and beautiful he loved them all sincerely. He did not know which one he should appoint as queen.

As his birthday approached he summoned his daughters and said to them, "My dear children, I love all three of you sincerely, and for a long time have not known which one of you I should name to be the heir to my throne. But I have now decided that the one of you shall become queen who brings to me a birthday present that is most necessary in human life. Go and make your plans accordingly and with utmost diligence."

The old king's birthday arrived, and the two oldest daughters brought him presents that were very necessary, but at the same time extremely expensive. However, the youngest daughter brought him nothing more than a little pile of salt in a decorated container. When the king saw her present he became very angry, and he drove his daughter out of the castle, forbidding her ever again to let herself be seen by him.

With deep sorrow the rejected daughter went out into the unknown world, comforted only by her faith in her own good sense. After walking a good while she came to an inn. There she found a female innkeeper who thoroughly understood cooking. She entered an apprenticeship with her and soon exceeded even the innkeeper in the art of cooking.

News spread far and wide of the excellent cook in this inn, and everyone who came this way and who still had a few kreuzers left in his pocket stopped to be served a roast or something even more elegant.

The king heard of the cook's reputation, and he hired her as court cook. Now it came to pass that the oldest princess was getting married, and the famous cook was assigned the preparation of the wedding feast, with no expenses to be spared.

Thus on the wedding day one elegant dish after the other was served until the table almost cracked. Everything was excellently prepared, and everyone praised the cook. Finally the king's favorite dish arrived. Quickly taking a spoon he tasted it. "This has not been salted!" he cried out angrily. "Have the cook brought before me!"

They quickly ran for the cook, who entered the hall undaunted.

"Why did you forget to salt my favorite dish, you careless girl?" snapped the king at her.

The cook answered, "You drove away your youngest daughter because she thought that salt was so necessary. Perhaps you can now see that your child was not so wrong."

When the king heard these words he recognized his daughter, begged her for forgiveness, asked her to be seated at his side, and accepted her once again as his dear child. Then the wedding became doubly joyful.

The king lived happily with his children for many years thereafter.

The Value of Salt


They say there was a king who had three daughters. He was very anxious to know which of them loved him most; he tried them in various ways, and it always seemed as if the youngest daughter came out best by the test. Yet he was never satisfied, because we has prepossessed with the idea that the elder ones loved him most. One day he thought he would settle the matter once for all, hy asking each separately how much she loved him. So he called the eldest hy herself, and asked her how much she loved him.

"As much as the bread we eat," ran her reply; and he said within himself, "She must, as I thought, love me the most of all; for bread is the first necessary of our existence, without which we cannot live. She means, therefore, that she loves me so much she could not live without me."

Then he called the second daughter by herself, and said to her, "How much do you love me?"

And she answered, "As much as wine!"

"That is a good answer too," said the king to himself. "It is true she does not seem to love me quite so much as the eldest; but still, scarcely can one live without wine, so that there is not much difference."

Then he called the youngest by herself, and said to her, "And you, how much do you love me?"

And she answered, "As much as salt!"

Then the king said, "What a contemptible comparison! She only loves me as much as the cheapest and commonest thing that comes to table. This is as much as to say, she doesn't love me at all. I always thought it was so. I will never see her again."

Then he ordered that a wing of the palace should be shut up from the rest, where she should be served with everything belonging to her condition in life, but where she should live by herself apart, and never come near him.

Here she lived, then, all alone. But though her father fancied she did not care for him, she pined so much at being kept away from him, that at last she was worn out, and could bear it no longer.

The room that had been given her had no windows on to the street, that she might not have the amusement of seeing what was going on in the town, but they looked upon an inner courtyard. Here she sometimes saw the cook come out and wash vegetables at the fountain.

"Cook! cook!" she called one day, as she saw him pass thus under the window. The cook looked up with a good-natured face, which gave her encouragement.

"Don't you think, cook, I must be very lonely and miserable up here all alone?"

"Yes, Signorina!" he replied; "I often think I should like to help you to get out; but I dare not think of it, the king would be so angry."

"No, I don't want you to do anything to disobey the king," answered the princess; "but would you really do me a favor, which would make me very grateful indeed?"

"O! yes, Signorina, anything which I can do without disobeying the king," replied the faithful servant.

"Then this is it," said the princess. "Will you just oblige me so far as to cook papa's dinner today without any salt in anything? Not the least grain in anything at all. Let it be as good a dinner as you like, but no salt in anything. Will you do that?"

"I see!" replied the cook, with a knowing nod. "Yes, depend on me, I will do it."

That day at dinner the king had no salt in the soup, no salt in the boiled meat, no salt in the roast, no salt in the fried.

"What is the meaning of this?" said the king, as he pushed dish after dish away from him. "There is not a single thing I can eat today. I don't know what they have done to everything, but there is not a single thing that has got the least taste. Let the cook be called."

So the cook came before him.

"What have you done to the victuals today?" said the king, sternly. "You have sent up a lot of dishes, and no one alive can tell one from another. They are all of them exactly alike, and there is not one of them can be eaten. Speak!"

The cook answered: "Hearing your Majesty say that salt was the commonest thing that comes to table, and altogether so worthless and contemptible, I considered in my mind whether it was a thing that at all deserved to be served up to the table of the king; and judging that it was not worthy, I abolished it from the king's kitchen, and dressed all the meats without it. Barring this, the dishes are the same that are sent every day to the table of the king."

Then the king understood the value of salt, and he comprehended how great was the love of his youngest child for him; so he sent and had her apartment opened, and called her to him, never to go away any more.

Like Good Salt


Once upon a time there was a king, and this king had three daughters. One fine day he took it into his head to call these three daughters, and to ask them, one after another, if they loved him.

He calls the eldest, and he says, "Hark ye, do you love me?"

Says she, "Yes, daddy, I do."

"And how much?"

"As much as good bread."

The king thinks and thinks, and then he says, "Yes; when you're hungry bread is a good thing."

Then he calls the middle daughter, and he says to her, "Hark ye, do you love me?"

"Yes, daddy, I do."

"And how much?"

"As much as good wine."

Well, the king thinks and thinks, and then he says, "Yes, yes; wine puts life into a man, therefore it is a good thing."

Then he calls the youngest daughter, and he says, "Hark ye, and do you love me too?"

"Yes, daddy, I do."

"And how much?"

"As much as good salt."

And the king said, "As much as good salt!" And he began to think and think, and, because salt by itself tastes bad, this answer of the youngest daughter did not please him."

The king, having satisfied himself by reflection that to be loved as mnch as good salt is equivalent to not being loved at all, calls his most faithful servant, and orders him to conduct the youngest princess into some desert place, there to kill her, and to bring back her eyes and her heart in proof of the accomplishment of the deed. The faithful servant receives this remarkable order with the utmost calmness, merely replying, "It shall all be done."

The princess is conducted into a great meadow, and there informed that her father's commands are that she shall be killed, and her eyes and heart carried back to the palace. Whilst she is begging for her life, she perceives a little dog, and exclaims that heaven has sent it to assist her escape. She persuades the faithful servant to kill the dog, and carry back its eyes and heart instead of her own.

He consents; and she is left alone in the great meadow, very much at a loss what to do, and crying bitterly. In the midst of her grief and perplexity she meets with an old woman -- a fairy of course -- who gives her a little wand. When she puts the wand into her bosom her form will change to that of an old woman. She is then to proceed in a certain direction until she finds a palace. In this palace, as the fairy happens to know, tbey are in want of a woman to look after the poultry. The princess is told to ring the bell of the palace and offer herself for the place in her assumed form of an old woman.

All which falls out according to the fairy's directions, and the princess is received as hen-woman into the king's service. There not being room for her to sleep in the palace, she is put to lodge in an outhouse hard by.

One evening, the queen's son, happening to pass that way, hears the old hen-woman in her chamber sobbing and lamenting in a very piteous manner. He waits until she comes out, and asks her the cause of hor grief. Is she discontented with her master and mistress?

No; on the contrary, the hen-woman is most thankful to them, but she is crying over some private misfortunes of her own. But the next evening the young king goes near the outhouse again, ard hears the same lamentations. His curiosity is excited. He makes a hole in the wall with a gimlet, and, peeping through it, he beholds no old hen-woman, but a beautiful young lady; for the princess resumes her proper form in her own chamber every night by the simple process of putting down the fairy's little wand which she carries in her bosom all day.

The young king went directly to his mother, and said to her, "Mother, mother, it's no old woman that minds our hens, but the most beautiful girl that eyes ever saw. Come quickly and look, for I have made a hole in the wall, and you can peep through."

With that the queen up and went, and looked through the hole, and saw a beautiful girl, crying bitterly.

Said the queen, "Well, you're right; she is a most beautiful young woman."

The son said, "Mother, I'll have her for my wife."

"Very well, we'll go and ask her."

They waited until the hen-woman came out, and then the queen said to her, "Why are you always crying so, goody? But, indeed, you're not goody, but a beautiful young girl, and I won't have you stay there any longer."

"And if you're content," said the king, "I'll have you for my wife."

"Oh, your majesty," said she; "that's not for the like of me!"

"No matter for that," said the queen. "Come along with us now, and in a fortnight's time you shall be my son's wife."

This arrangement is acceded to by the disguised princess. But she requests as a favor that on the day of her wedding the bridegroom shall invite all the other kings to a banquet; and that, moreover, all the dishes set before one special king, whom she will indicate, shall be dressed entirely without salt, and that the said king shall be seated nest to her.

The wedding day came. All the kings who had been invited were there, and among them the king whose dinner was to be served without salt, and he sat next the bride. When the dinner was served, this king began to sup his broth, and found that there was no salt in it, and he gave a great sigh. He looked at the bride who sat beside him, and he kept looking and looking, because she was so exactly like his daughter.

Said she to him, "What's the matter, your royal majesty, that you sigh, and don't eat?"

He gave another sigh, and looked at her, but said nothing. They brought one dish after another, but he only just tasted them, and then left them, because they were all without salt.

The bride began again saying to him, "But whatever is the matter that you keep on sighing so, and eat nothing?"

"I sigh because of something that comes into my head."

"Oh, but eat now, and don't think of anything else!"

Then the king could not hold his peace any longer. The remorse he felt -- the dinner without salt -- the bride who was so like his daughter -- all made his heart so full, that it was ready to burst, and he was obliged to speak.

"If you only knew," said he, "what I have done! One fine morning I took it into my head to call all my daughters, and ask them if they loved me. The youngest one said, yes, she did as much as good salt. At the moment it seemed to me that salt was not a good thing; but now I know how good it is, and that we cannot do without it. But at the moment, in a fit of rage, I called my servant, and ordered him to take away my daughter into some desert place, and to kill her, and to bring back her eyes and her heart. And he did it. He took her away, and killed her, and brought me back her eyes and her heart. And when I look at you I seem to see my daughter, you are so like her."

"Have you that servant still?" said she.

"Yes; I have him still. But it was none of his fault, you know. He only did what I bade him."

"And if I were to say to you that I am your daughter, would you believe me? And that the servant, instead of killing me, killed a little dog, and that, instead of taking out my eyes and my heart, he took out the little dog's, and that he left me to my fate?"

Then the king, when he heard all this, was ready to faint. He was just going to fall down on his knees, and ask his daughter's pardon; but she said, "You must do nothing of the sort. Let bygones be bygones; you will always be my own daddy, and now let us think of nothing but making merry. Only I should like that everything belonging to me at home should be given to that servant, because it was he who saved my life."

The king was so delighted at finding his daughter again, whom he thought was dead, and at being present at her wedding, that he ordered eight days' more feasting at his own expense, and invited all the kings of his acquaintance, and the faithful servant too, and they had a great merry-making, and lived happy ever after.

Water and Salt


Once upon a time there was a king and three daughters. These three daughters being at table one day, their father said, "Come now, let us see which of you three loves me."

The oldest said, "Papa, I love you as much as my eyes."

The second answered, "I love you as much as my heart."

The youngest said, "I love you as much as water and salt."

The king heard her with amazement, "Do you value me like water and salt? Quick! call the executioners, for I will have her killed immediately."

The other sisters privately gave the executioners a little dog, and told them to kill it and rend one of the youngest sister's garments, but to leave her in a cave.

This they did, and brought back to the king the dog's tongue and the rent garment: "Royal majesty, here is her tongue and garment."

And his majesty gave them a reward.

The unfortunate princess was found in the forest by a magician, who took her to his house opposite the royal palace. Here the king's son saw her and fell desperately in love with her, and the match was soon agreed upon.

Then the magician came and said, "You must kill me the day before the wedding. You must invite three kings, your father the first. You must order the servants to pass water and salt to all the guests except your father."

Now let us return to the father of this young girl, who the longer he lived the more his love for her increased, and he was sick of grief. When her received the invitation he said, "And how can I go with this love for my daughter?" And he would not go. Then he thought, "But this king will be offended if I do not go, and will declare war against me some time."

He accepted and went. The day before the wedding they killed the magician and quartered him, and put a quarter in each of four rooms, and sprinkled his blood in all the rooms and on the stairway, and the blood and flesh became gold and precious stones.

When the three kings came and saw the golden stairs, they did not like to step on them. "Never mind," said the prince, "go up. This is nothing."

That evening they were married. The next day they had a banquet. The prince gave orders. "No salt and water to that king."

They sat down at table, and the young queen was near her father, but he did not eat.

His daughter said, "Royal majesty, why do you not eat. Does not the food please you?"

"What an idea! It is very fine."

"Why don't you eat then?"

"I don't feel very well."

The bride and groom helped him to some bits of meat, but the king did not want it, and chewed his food over and over again like a goat (as if he could eat it without salt!).

When they finished eating they began to tell stories, and the king told them all about his daughter. She asked him if he could still recognize her, and stepping out of the room put on the same dress she wore when he sent her away to be killed.

"You caused me to be killed because I told you I loved you as much as salt and water. Now you have seen what it is to eat without salt and water."

Her father could not say a word, but embraced her and begged her pardon. They remained happy and contented, and here we are with nothing.

The King and His Daughters


There was once a king who had several daughters. To the first he said, "How do you love me?"

"I love you as sugar," said she.

To the next he said, "And how do you love me?"

"I love you as honey," said she.

To the third he said, "And how do you love me?"

"I love you as sherbet," said she.

To the last and youngest he said, "And how do you love me?"

"I love you as salt," said she.

On hearing the answer of his youngest daughter the king frowned, and, as she persisted in repeating it, he drove her out into the forest.

There, when wandering sadly along, she heard the tramping of a horse, and she hid herself in a hollow tree. But the fluttering of her dress betrayed her to the rider, who was a prince, and who instantly fell in love with her and married her.

Some time after, the king, her father, who did not know what had become of her, paid her husband a visit. When he sat down to meat, the princess took care that all the dishes presented to him should be made-up sweets, which he either passed by altogether or merely tasted. He was very hungry, and was longing sorely for something which he could eat, when the princess sent him a dish of common spinach, seasoned with salt, such as farmers eat, and the king signified his pleasure by eating it with relish.

Then the princess threw off her veil, and, revealing herself to her father, said, "Oh my father, I love you as salt. My love may be homely, but it is true, genuine and lasting, and I entreat your forgiveness."

Then the king perceived how great a mistake he had made, and there followed a full reconciliation.

The Princess Who Loved Her Father Like Salt


In a country there lived a king who had seven daughters. One day he called them all to him and said to them, "My daughters, how much do you love me?"

The six eldest answered, "Father, we love you as much as sweetmeats and sugar;" but the seventh and youngest daughter said, "Father, I love you as much as salt."

The king was much pleased with his six eldest daughters, but very angry with his youngest daughter. "What is this?" he said; "my daughter only loves me as much as she does salt!"

Then he called some of his servants, and said to them, "Get a palanquin ready, and carry my youngest daughter away to the jungle."

The servants did as they were bid; and when they got to the jungle, they put the palanquin down under a tree and went away.

The princess called to them, "Where are you going? Stay here; my father did not tell you to leave me alone in the jungle."

"We will come back," said the servants; "we are only going to drink some water." But they returned to her father's palace.

The princess waited in the palanquin under the tree, and it was now evening, and the servants had not come back. She was very much frightened and cried bitterly. "The tigers and wild beasts will eat me," she said to herself. At last she went to sleep, and slept for a little while. When she awoke she found in her palanquin some food on a plate, and a little water, that God had sent her while she slept. She ate the food and drank the water, and then she felt happier, for she thought, "God must have sent me this food and water."

She decided that as it was now night she had better stay in her palanquin, and go to sleep. "Perhaps the tigers and wild beasts will come and eat me," she thought; "but if they don't, I will try tomorrow to get out of this jungle, and go to another country."

The next morning she left her palanquin and set out. She walked on, till, deep in the jungle, she came to a beautiful palace, which did not belong to her father, but to another king. The gate was shut, but she opened it, and went in. She looked all about, and thought, "What a beautiful house this is, and what a pretty garden and tank!"

Everything was beautiful, only there were no servants nor anybody else to be seen. She went into the house, and through all the rooms. In one room she saw a dinner ready to be eaten, but there was no one to eat it. At last she came to a room in which was a splendid bed, and on it lay a king's son covered with a shawl. She took the shawl off, and then she saw he was very beautiful, and that he was dead. His body was stuck full of needles.

She sat down on the bed, and there she sat for one week, without eating, or drinking, or sleeping, pulling out the needles.

Then a man came by who said to her, "I have here a girl I wish to sell."

"I have no rupees," said the princess; "but if you will sell her to me for my gold bangles, I will buy her."

The man took the bangles, and left the girl with the princess, who was very glad to have her. "Now," she thought, "I shall be no longer alone."

All day and all night long the princess sat and pulled out the needles, while the girl went about the palace doing other work. At the end of other two weeks the princess had pulled out all the needles from the king's body, except those in his eyes.

Then the king's daughter said to her servant-girl, "For three weeks I have not bathed. Get a bath ready for me, and while I am bathing sit by the king, but do not take the needles out of his eyes. I will pull them out myself."

The servant-girl promised not to pull out the needles. Then she got the bath ready; but when the king's daughter had gone to bathe, she sat down on the bed, and pulled the needles out of the king's eyes.

As soon as she had done so, he opened his eyes, and sat up. He thanked God for bringing him to life again. Then he looked about, and saw the servant-girl, and said to her, "Who has made me well and pulled all the needles out of my body?"

"I have," she answered. Then he thanked her and said she should be his wife.

When the princess came from her bath, she found the king alive, and sitting on his bed talking to her servant. When she saw this she was very sad, but she said nothing.

The king said to the servant-maid, "Who is this girl?"

She answered, "She is one of my servants."

And from that moment the princess became a servant-girl, and her servant girl married the king. Every day the king said, "Can this lovely girl be really a servant? She is far more beautiful than my wife."

One day the king thought, "I will go to another country to eat the air." So he called the pretended princess, his wife, and told her he was going to eat the air in another country. "What would you like me to bring you when I come back?"

She answered, "I should like beautiful saris and clothes, and gold and silver jewels."

Then the king said, "Call the servant-girl, and ask her what she would like me to bring her."

The real princess came, and the king said to her, "See, I am going to another country to eat the air. What would you like me to bring for you when I return?"

"King," she answered, "if you can bring me what I want I will tell you what it is; but if you cannot get it, I will not tell you."

"Tell me what it is," said the king. "Whatever it may be I will bring it you."

"Good," said the princess. "I want a sun-jewel box."

Now the princess knew all about the sun-jewel boxes, and that only fairies had such boxes. And she knew, too, what would be in hers if the king could get one for her, although these boxes contain sometimes one thing and sometimes another.

The king had never heard of such a box, and did not know what it was like; so he went to every country asking all the people he met what sort of box was a sun-jewel box, and where he could get it. At last one day, after a fruitless search, he was very sad, for he thought, "I have promised the servant to bring her a sun-jewel box, and now I cannot get one for her; what shall I do?"

Then he went to sleep, and had a dream. In it he saw a jungle, and in the jungle a fakir who, when he slept, slept for twelve years, and then was awake for twelve years. The king felt sure this man could give him what he wanted, so when he woke he said to his sepoys and servants, "Stay here in this spot till I return to you; then we will go back to my country."

He mounted his horse and set out for the jungle he had seen in his dream. He went on and on till he came to it, and there he saw the fakir lying asleep. He had been asleep for twelve years all but two weeks. Over him were a quantity of leaves, and grass, and a great deal of mud. The king began taking off all the grass, and leaves, and mud, and every day for a fortnight when he got up he cleared them all away from off the fakir.

When the fakir awoke at the end of the two weeks, and saw that no mud, or grass, or leaves were upon him, but that he was quite clean, he was very much pleased, and said to the king, "I have slept for twelve years, and yet I am as clean as I was when I went to sleep. When I awoke after my last sleep, I was all covered with dirt and mud, grass and leaves; but this time I am quite clean."

The king stayed with the fakir for a week, and waited on him and did everything for him. The fakir was very much pleased with the king, and he told this to him: "You are a very good man." He added, " Why did you come to this jungle? You are such a great king, what can you want from me?"

"I want a sun-jewel box," answered the king.

"You are such a good man," said the fakir, "that I will give you one."

Then the fakir went to a beautiful well, down which he went right to the bottom. There, there was a house in which lived the red fairy. She was called the red fairy not because her skin was red, for it was quite white, but because everything about her was red: her house, her clothes, and her country. She was very glad to see the fakir, and asked him why he had come to see her.

"I want you to give me a sun-jewel box," he answered.

"Very good," said the fairy, and she brought him one in which were seven small dolls and a little flute. "No one but she who wants this box must open it," said the fairy to the fakir. "She must open it when she is quite alone and at night." Then she told him what was in the box.

The fakir thanked her, and took the box to the king, who was delighted and made many salaams to the fakir. The fakir told him none but the person who wished for the box was to open it; but he did not tell him what more the fairy had said.

The king set off on his journey now, and when he came to his servants and sepoys, he said to them he would now return to his country, as he had found the box he wanted.

When he reached his palace he called the false princess, his wife, and gave her her silks and shawls, and scarfs, and gold and silver jewels. Then he called the servant-girl -- the true princess -- and gave her her sun-jewel box. She took it, and was delighted to have it. She made him many salaams and went away with her box, but did not open it then, for she knew what was in it, and that she must open it at night and alone.

That night she took her box and went out all by herself to a wide plain in the jungle, and there opened it. She took the little flute, put it to her lips, and began to play, and instantly out flew the seven little dolls, who were all little fairies, and they took chairs and carpets from the box, and arranged them all in a large tent which appeared at that moment. Then the fairies bathed her, combed and rolled up her hair, put on her grand clothes and lovely slippers. But all the time the princess did nothing but cry. They brought a chair and placed it before the tent, and made her sit in it One of them took the flute and played on it, and all the others danced before the princess, and they sang songs for her. Still she cried and cried.

At last, at four o'clock in the morning, one of the fairies said, "Princess, why do you cry?"

"I took all the needles out of the king, all but those in his eyes," said the princess, "and while I was bathing, my servant-girl, whom I had bought with my gold bangles, pulled these out She told the king it was she who had pulled out all the other needles and brought him to life, and that I was her servant, and she has taken my place and is treated as the princess, and the king has married her, while I am made to do a servant's work and treated as the servant."

"Do not cry," said the fairies. "Everything will be well for you by and by."

When it was close on morning, the princess played on the flute, and all the chairs, sofas, and fairies became quite tiny and went into the box, and the tent disappeared. She shut it up, and took it back to the king's palace. The next night she again went out to the jungle-plain, and all happened as on the night before.

A wood-cutter was coming home late from his work, and had to pass by the plain. He wondered when he saw the tent. "I went by some time ago," he said to himself, "and I saw no tent here." He climbed up a big tree to see what was going on, and saw the fairies dancing before the princess, who sat outside the tent, and he saw how she cried though the fairies did all they could to amuse her.

Then he heard the fairies say, "Princess, why do you cry?" And he heard her tell them how she had cured the king, and how her servant-girl had taken her place and made her a servant.

"Never mind, don't cry," said the fairies. "All will be well by and by."

Near morning the princess played on her flute, and the fairies went into the box, and the tent disappeared, and the princess went back to the palace.

The third night passed as the other two had done. The wood-cutter came to look on, and climbed into the tree to see the fairies and the princess. Again the fairies asked her why she cried, and she gave the same answer.

The next day the wood-cutter went to the king. "Last night and the night before," he said, "as I came home from work, I saw a large tent in the jungle, and before the tent there sat a princess who did nothing but cry, while seven fairies danced before her, or played on different instruments, and sang songs to her."

The king was very much astonished, and said to the wood-cutter, "Tonight I will go with you, and see the tent, and the princess, and the fairies."

When it was night the princess went out softly and opened her box on the plain. The wood-cutter fetched the king, and the two men climbed into a tree, and watched the fairies as they danced and sang. The king saw that the princess who sat and cried was his own servant-girl. He heard her tell the fairies all she had done for him, and all that had happened to her; so he came suddenly down from the tree, and went up to her, and took her hand.

"I always thought you were a princess, and no servant-girl," he said. "Will you marry me?"

She left off crying, and said, "Yes, I will marry you." She played on her flute, and the tent disappeared, and all the fairies, and sofas, and chairs went into the box. She put her flute in it, as she always did before shutting down the lid, and went home with the king.

The servant-girl was very vexed and angry when she found the king knew all that had happened. However, the princess was most good to her, and never treated her unkindly.

The princess then sent a letter to her mother, in which she wrote, "I am going to be married to a great king. You and my father must come to my wedding, and must bring my sisters with you."

They all came, and her father and mother liked the king very much, and were glad their daughter should marry him. The wedding took place, and they stayed with her for some time. For a whole week she gave their servants and sepoys nice food cooked with salt, but to her father and mother and sisters she only gave food cooked with sugar. At last they got so tired of this sweet food that they could eat it no longer. At the end of the week she gave them a dinner cooked with salt.

Then her father said, "My daughter is wise though she is so young, and is the youngest of my daughters. I know now how much she loved me when she said she loved me like salt. People cannot eat their food without salt. If their food is cooked with sugar one day, it must be cooked with salt the next, or they cannot eat it."

After this her father and mother and sisters went home, but they often came to see their little daughter and her husband.

The princess, the king, and the servant-maid all lived happily together.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Revised February 9, 2013.