There was once a man who had three sons， two of them clever young men and the third， the youngest， a fool. Past the man's farm there ran a wide river， and the sons had to ferry people across it.
One day a stranger came up to the eldest son.
“Take me across the river！” said he.
Well and good， and the eldest son did so.
“What would you like to have in reward，” asked the man when they reached the opposite shore， “a bag of gold or three magic things？”
“A bag of gold，” said the eldest son.
“Very well！” said the man， and， giving him a bag of gold， vanished.
On the second night the same thing happened to the middle son and he， too， chose the bag of gold.
On the third night it was the fool's turn to be ferryman， and the same man came up to him and asked to be taken across.
Well and good， and the fool did so.
“What would you like to have in reward， fool，” asked the man when they reached the opposite shore， “a bag of gold or three magic things？”
“What's a bag of gold！ I think I'll have three magic things.”
“Will you know？ It looks like you're clever than the other two. Here is the first magic thing-a horse hair. Put it between your lips and say， 'I want to be a horse and nothing but a horse！' and you will turn into a horse. Here is the second magic thing-a pigeon feather. Put it between your lips and say， 'I want to be a pigeon and nothing but a pigeon！' and you'll turn into a pigeon. And here is the third magic thing-a fish scale. Put it between your lips and say， 'I want to be a fish and nothing but a fish！' and you'll turn into a fish. And if you want to became a man again， put the hair or the feather or the scale， as the case may be， between your lips and say， 'I want to be a man and nothing but a man！' and you'll get back your proper shape.”
And having said this， the stranger vanished just as if the earth had swallowed him.
As for the fool， he at once turned himself into a fish， swam across the river， and， getting back his proper shape again， went off to roam the wide world.
He walked and he walked and he reached a forest so dense and thick that he could not so much as think of making his way through it. But this is no way grieved the fool. He turned into a pigeon and flew over the forest. On and on he flew till he saw a field， and so large was it that you could not see from one end of it to another. But the fool at once changed himself into a horse and before one could count to two had galloped across the field and reached a palace that stood just beyond it.
What was he to do next？ He thought about it and decided to take up service with the king. This he did， and soon after the king set out to pay another king a visit and took the fool with him. Now， this other king had a daughter as lovely as a sun-beam and as playful and gay as a forest brook. A joy to behold was she， and the fool fell in love with her at sight and did not know what to do about it， for who would give a princess in marriage to a poor man！
One day， evil tidings reached the ear of the king in whose service the fool was： his lands had been overrun and were being plundered. The king turned white as a sheet and prepared to set off for home at once to try and save whatever he could.
Said the second king：
“You must not go alone， for you can never tell what you may be up against. I will come with you and help you in your trouble.”
They reached the first king's realm and when they saw what was taking place there and the size and strength of the enemy host they knew that they could not hope to rout it.
“It's a pity I haven't my large sword with me，” said the second king， “for if I had I'd have ground their whole accursed host to dust singlehanded. The point is how to get the sword here in time-the way is far too long. If only someone could fetch it before morning I'd give him my own daughter in marriage， and welcome.”
The fool heard about it and at once rushed off after the sword. He never spared himself but went as fast as he could-in the guise of a horse wherever there were roads， in the guise of a pigeon when there were none and in the guise of a fish when there were rivers to swim across. He put all of his strength into it and reached the palace at last， and he was quite out of breath as he ran into the princess's chamber.
“Let me have your father's large sword！” cried he. “He must have it by morning.”
“By morning？” asked the princess， surprised. “You'll never get there in time， the way is far too long.”
“I'll hear none of that talk！ How do you know how I'm going to go about it？ I'll gallop in the guise of a horse， I'll fly in the guise of a pigeon， I'll swim in the guise of a fish， and I swear I'll get there before night.”
But the princess would not believe him， for how could a man gallop like a horse， fly like a pigeon and swim like a fish！
“Well， then， watch！ I haven't time enough for this， but what can I do with a stubborn less like you！” the fool exclaimed， and he turned into a horse.
Said the horse to the princess in pleading tones：
“Please my sweet lass pluck three hairs out of my mane and hide them in a safe place.”
The princess did as she was asked she looked and what did she see but the horse turn back into the fool again and the fool into a pigeon.
Said the pigeon to her in pleading tones：
“Please， my sweet lass， pluck three feathers from one of my wings and hide them in a safe place.”
The princess did as she was asked， she looked and what did she see but the pigeon turn back into the fool again and the fool into a fish.
Said the fish to her in pleading tones：
“Please， my sweet lass， scrape three scales from off my tail and hide them in a safe place.”
The princess did as she was asked， and the fool got back his own shape again. He took the sword and was about to set out on his way when the princess stopped him， saying：
“Whoever can work such miracles is on ordinary man. I have wanted someone like that for a husband for a long time， and I've met him at last！”
“Good！” the fool returned. “I have been trying to win a bride as lovely as you are for a long time， too.”
And having hastily made plans about their wedding， they parted.
One-two！ -and the fool galloped across fields in the guise of a horse， flew over forests in the guise of a pigeon and swam rivers in the guise of a fish， and before dark had descended the large sword was in the first king's palace. Now， there was no one there at the time， everyone having gone off to guard the borders， but the cook who was as crafty a fellow as they come.
Said the cook， pretending to be very simple and trusting：
“You've brought the sword， it's true， but who ever can lift anything so heavy！ With the little strength I have， I don't suppose I could even lift the scabbard.”
“How can you tell before you've tried！” said the fool with a laugh.
And the cook， evil man that he was， snatched up the sword， cut off the fool's head with it， dragged the fool behind some bushes， and， running to the second king， told him that it was he who had fetched the sword. The king was very pleased， telling him that he was a brave and a clever man and that he would be glad to have him for a son-in-law， and at once set to and began wielding the sword. And before one could count to two the enemy host was wiped out to a man！
There was no end to the friends' joy， and on the next day the second king set off for home， taking the cook whom he called his own dear son-in-law with him.
As for the fool， he lay still and dead behind the bushes when the very same man whom he had once ferried across the river happened to be passing by there. Seeing the fool stretched out on the ground， he at once sent a raven to fetch him some living water， and-lo and behold！ -brought the fool back to life again. He shook his finger at him then and scolded him saying：
“Oh， what a fool you are！ Why did you give up your sword to that trickster of a cook？ Make haste and be off now， gallop in the guise of a horse， fly in the guise of a pigeon， swim in the guise of a fish， and get to your promised bride before evening， for if you don't they will marry her to the cook instead of to you.”
It was only then that the fool realized what a simpleton he had been and rushed off at once in great alarm.
One-two！ -and there he was by the second king's palace. He came inside， and there was merrymaking there， and everyone was dressed in his finest clothes， and only the bride sat there with hanging head. She did not see the fool at first， but he waved to her and she saw him and hastened to his side.
The fool told them his story， and the second king， though he noticed that the cook had turned pale， listened and could not believe his own ears. Then the princess spoke up and she said to the cook：
“If you are my promised husband， as you say， then turn into a horse， a pigeon and a fish！”
A droll request if there ever was one！ All the guests waited， round eyed， to se what would happen next， and the cook furrowed his brow and said in whining tones“
“You are only poking fun at me. Who ever is up to such a thing！”
“There is such a one！” said the princess， interrupting him. “And he is no trickster like yourself.”
The fool turned into a horse， and the princess put the three hairs she had plucked out of it to his name and they grew fast to it. The fool turned into a pigeon， and the princess put the three feathers she had plucked out of it to its wing and they grew fast to it. The fool turned into a fish， and the princess put the three scales she had scraped off it to its tail and they grew fast to it， too.
Everyone now knew the cook for the swindler that he was and they put him to death then and there. And as for the fool， he married the princess and lived happily ever after.