Once there was a kingdom on a high mountain with high towers and a grand king. He was rich and his kingdom was blooming, when he decided to marry. His father had once arranged his marriage to a witch, as the price for their prosperity. But the young king did not want to marry the ugly, old witch.
„You are barren, you will bear me no children!“ he said to her and refused her hand. Infuriated by this the evil witch cursed him and all his kingdom, so no one in it would ever have children. They would grow old and die childless until it was empty of life. The king did not believe the curse and had the witch thrown out.
He married a kind, beautiful princess and made her his queen. But years and years later, no matter how happy they were otherwise, they were not granted the gift of children. Nor did anyone else in their kingdom. The king, now older and wiser than before, understood that the curse was not to be lifted by any tricks. So he turned to his neighboring kingdoms and asked them to send him all the orphans.
Once they arrived the queen decided to chose a child for themselves first. Of all the children, she chose the most beautiful, little girl of all. She had fire red, long, heavy hair, bright green eyes and a dazzling smile. The girl bowed prettily and took the queens hand. The king looked through the rows and rows of boys. There were tall ones, broad ones, strong ones and handsome ones. But the king was dissatisfied. What he wanted was a bright, quick-thinking boy. At that very moment he spotted a small, scruffy boy, who stood between to large ones. Off the one side he had plucked a hole in the other boy’s cup and was gathering his juice in his own cup silently. Off the other side, he was quickly stealing scraps from the next boy’s jacket.
The king laughed and took the little boy in, made him a prince and taught him not to steal and cheat. He had no reason to anymore. As all the other children, he would now have a home, three meals a day, a warm place to sleep. The little boy and his adopted sister grew up safely and loved with their royal parents. They had hoped, that the children from the other kingdoms would be free of the curse. But when they started marrying, they too stayed childless. So it happened that the kingdom fell into the hands of the prince and princess.
His sister told him to continue their parent’s legacy and adopt new children into their kingdom. But the young prince said he would find a solution and left their kingdom in her hands in his absence. His sister took in the orphans but looked out for a sign of her brother’s return every day.
The prince traveled for many years. So many that he ran out of the money he had brought with him and began selling his expensive clothes, until he once again looked no more than a beggar. Finally he found the old witch, now dying and alone in a cave. The young prince bowed before her and asked „Sorceress, may I enter?“
The witch tilted her head and bade him to come in.
„I am the son of the king who once rejected you, mighty sorceress.“ he began „He has died and so has my mother. They left me and my sister to look after their kingdom…“
„Impossible!“ the witch cried „I cursed them, all of them!“
„Indeed“ the young man agreed „But they adopted us from the surrounding lands and took us into their custody and safety. As their wards, their children, we didn’t lack anything. They fed us and clothed us, they taught us right from wrong, they gave us an education and a heritage.“
„And a legacy!“ the witch spat angrily „You are a liar and cheat like your father, no doubt.“
„He saw the error of his ways and taught me to be honest and fair.“ the prince disagreed „I am here to fulfill the promise he once made you.“
The witch looked at him stunned „You will marry me?“
„But I am old. I am sick and dying. A young prince of your state will wish for a beautiful lady.“
„I do.“ he agreed „But it is my obligation. My parents gave me everything I have, I am what I am for their sacrifices. If I can undo a wrong he did by you, it is my duty to do it in memory of him.“
„You are what you are!“ she cried „You are a beggar, poor and penniless.“
The prince smiled „I might have lost my gold and silver but I can never lose the treasures they gave me.“ He put a hand over his heart, still smiling „You cannot know what the love of a parent is to an orphan.“
The prince bowed again and seriously asked „Will you marry me, mighty sorceress?“
The witch saw the deep love and respect the young man had for his father and sincerity of his request. Tears welled in her eyes but she smiled and shook her head „No, young prince, go back to your kingdom and rule it with the wisdom you learned from your father. My days are over and with my death I release your home of it’s curse.“
With those words the witch left the world and the young prince returned with her body to his kingdom, which was finally granted the laughter and joy of children. He buried the witch to other side of his father and adorned her grave with flowers – for without her he would have found a home.