The Daughter of the Sun

Denmark, Jens Kamp

Once upon a time there was a mighty king who married a princess from another country. They lived very happily together, but to their great sorrow they had no children. Finally, after many years the queen gave birth to a daughter, and now there was great joy in the castle and throughout the entire land.

Before the child was named, they sent for an old wise woman who lived in the country. She was to predict the child's fate. At that time, such was the custom.

The woman came, and when she saw the child's little hand, she was amazed beyond words.

The startled king asked if his child was to be cursed with an evil fate.

"Both bad and good, as you take it," answered the old woman. "She shall become the most beautiful girl who has ever lived on earth."

The king thought that was something to be happy about.

"Yes," added the old woman, "but she will be so beautiful that even the sun will fall in love with her if he is allowed to see her. And it shall be her fate that when she turns fifteen, she shall have a child. The sun himself shall be the father."

This seemed to the king the strangest news he had ever heard; but he gave the wise woman a generous gift and let her go. The king then determined that everything possible must be done to avert this fate.

As the girl grew up, she became so well-liked and beautiful that no one had seen her equal. When she was twelve years old, the king had a tower built that had only one window, and it faced north. The daughter was put inside with a playmate and nurses, who were strictly instructed never to let her out, lest the sun would would shine on her.

The daughter longed for free nature, and most of all she wanted to see the golden sun again; but she had to settle for living in her prison. Thus some time passed.

Meanwhile, during the long summer days the sun burned the clay walls of the tower, so that the outside had cracked in several places. What was worse: one day, when the young princess had had fish to eat, she took one of the largest fish bones, and with this bone she began to drill into the clay wall on the southern side of the tower. She only wanted to get a little peep hole; but when she had finally made a small hole, a ray of sunlight crept through and hit her on the chest.

When the nurses saw the hole, they quickly closed it up. However, the damage was done, and the following year the princess gave birth to a daughter. When the king heard what had happened, he became very bitter. The nurses were severely punished, and he himself did not want to see the child. He had her taken from her mother and set out in the wilderness, so that she would perish.

The little child lay there, but she did not perish. The dew comforted her with its moisture, and the sun warmed her with its rays. And finally she was found by a loving person.

A young prince from the neighboring kingdom had lost his way. He found the child where she lay, and since she was so lovely, he took her home with him to be brought up. As the child grew, she became so beautiful that he had never seen anything so beautiful.

The prince's mother wanted him to marry; but he could not be persuaded to do so. He wanted to wait until his foster child grew up, and then she would be his wife. When she did grow up, she became the most beautiful maiden anyone had ever seen. The prince then asked her if she would be his wife.

She replied that she would never belong to any man unless he could tell her who her father was. The prince could not do that, so he had to leave her with the matter unsettled. He then arranged for an apartment for her in one wing of the castle, because his mother did not like to see her. Here she had her own household, with servant girls and everything. The prince asked these girls to question her from time to time, in order to find out who her father was. This didn't lead to anything, because she always answered:

My parents are a cat and a dog;
If you don't want me, then jiggety-jog.

Now the prince's mother pressed harder than ever to get her son married. She had a hall in the castle decorated, where she hung pictures of all the princesses from far and near; but none of them could compare in beauty with the prince's foster daughter.

Finally the prince was forced to decide on one of the princesses whose pictures were hung in the hall. He courted her, and she said "yes."

The wedding was held with great splendor. But the foreign princess had heard about the prince's foster child, whom he was supposed to love more than her, and therefore she was jealous of her right from the start.

The daughter of the sun was not at the wedding; but on the wedding day a boy was to carry some of the finest wedding food over to her. She thanked and accepted the food, but then asked the boy to wait.

She then commanded the firewood to place itself in the fireplace. She commanded the sun's rays to light a fire, and they obeyed her. Then she commanded a pan to sit over the fire and the butter to go into the pan. Next, she fried two golden fish. One held the prince's name and the other the princess's name in its mouth. When the fish were finished, she asked the boy to take them back to the prince in return for the wedding meal that he had given her.

When the prince and the princess and the wedding guests saw this work of art, they were very surprised. But the princess's jealousy awoke, and she said that she too could make such a masterpiece. She had no peace of mind until she went to the kitchen and got started. But for her the kitchen was a dangerous place in the house, for she had hardly been in a kitchen before. Once there, she knocked over the large frying pan and was scalded and burned. She died soon afterwards.

The prince was free again; but his mother gave him no peace. He was forced to choose a new bride. Shortly afterwards there was another wedding at the castle. The bride and groom rode in a golden carriage to the church, where they were married.

This young princess had also heard about the prince's foster daughter, but not yet seen her. When they now came driving back from the church, the daughter of the sun was sitting on a chair which she had put out on the sloping roof. She did not fall down, for she had commanded the sunbeams to hold her chair. The new bride could now see her, and when she saw how beautiful she was, ten times more beautiful than she herself, she became very jealous. She said that it was no great art to sit out there on the roof; she could do that too. She would not rest until she too had her chair put out on the roof. But then she fell down and killed herself.

The prince was now a widower for the second time, and now he thought that his mother surely must leave him alone; but nothing helped. Once more he had to choose a wife, and for the third time a wedding was held at the castle.

The daughter of the sun was not at the party; but when it was time to eat, a boy was sent over with some of the finest food for her. The daughter of the sun asked him to wait, in order to take something back in return. He now saw how she commanded, and how everything obeyed. The firewood went into the fireplace, the sun's rays lit the fire, the flour formed itself into dough, the dough became an artistic pastry and moved itself into the oven. The boy was very surprised at this; but he was most surprised when the daughter of the sun, who was standing and looking into the oven, suddenly crept into it to fix a little of the baked goods. She stayed in the oven for a long time, and when she came out with the pastry, she was more beautiful than ever.

The boy carried the pastry back to the prince and the princess, and he did not forget to tell about how the foster daughter had taken it from the oven. The princess then said that she herself could do the same thing. She lit a large fire in the baking oven, and climbed in with a pastry; but she burned herself so badly that she died immediately after they had taken her out again.

Now the prince was a widower for the third time, and it did not matter whether the mother scolded or begged. He would not marry again, unless he could get the one he loved.

A long time passed, and one day he went to visit his foster daughter. He asked her if she would not tell him who her father was; but she answered him, as always:

My parents are a cat and a dog;
If you don't want me, then jiggety-jog.

She wanted to cook a meal for him, and he saw then, as had happened before, how everything obeyed her. She was in the kitchen, but the prince was sitting in the living room, and here he was playing with the mortar that she had taken down from the shelf. It happened that she called for the mortar; but the prince held onto it so that it could not come.

Then the princess became angry and forgot herself. She shouted: "Mortar! Where are you? Don't you know that I am the daughter of the sun, and that everything must obey me?"

The prince listened. Now he could tell her who her father was. She then would have to become his wife. A wedding was held, and they lived happily and well together for many years.

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Revised December 11, 2022.