There was once a king who had three sons, two of whom were clever and cunning, but the third son spoke little; his brothers thought him a simpleton and so they called him Dummling.
Now when the king was grown old he bethought him of his end, but he did not know to which of his sons he should leave the kingdom. So one day he called them to him and said: "Go out into the world, my sons, and whoever brings me the finest carpet shall be king after my death. And in order that there shall be no quarrel, he led them out before the castle and blew three feathers into the air and said: "Where these fly, ye shall, hie." One feather flew toward the East, the second toward the West, but the third flew in a straight line and soon fell upon the ground.
So the eldest went his way to the right, the second to the left and they both laughed at Dummling who had to stay where he was, upon the ground, with the third feather. Dummling sat himself down and was sad at heart, when all at once he saw a little door in the ground close to the feather. He opened it, and found three steps, down which he went. Then he came to another door at which he knocked and he heard a voice from within saying: "Little toad, little toad, see and say who comes this way." Then the door opened and Dummling spied a great fat toad, and a number of little toads sitting around her. The fat toad asked Dummling what his business was, and he answered: "I want to find the finest and most beautiful carpet in the world."
"The old toad called a young one and said, "Little toad, little toad, hie and see, and bring my box of treasures to me."
So the young toad hopped off and presently brought the box. The fat old toad opened a box from which she drew out a carpet, fine and more beautiful than any than could be woven in the loom, and gave it to Dummling. Now the other brothers had thought Dummling too great a simpleton to find any carpet to compare with theirs, and said one to another, "Why need we trouble ourselves with seeking? So they took from the first shepherd's wife, whom they met, the coarse shawl she had on and brought it to the king. Presently Dummling came also, with his beautiful carpet, and when the king saw it he was amazed, and said, "The kingdom shall belong to my youngest son."
But the two elder brothers let the king have no rest, telling him that it was not possible for Dummling to be king, and begged him to grant them another trial. Then the king said, "He shall have the kingdom who brings me the most beautiful ring." And so saying he took the three brothers into the courtyard, blew the three feathers into the air and let them go their way. Then the two elder brothers went forth toward the East and West, and Dummling's feather again flew straight forward and fell close to the little door in the ground. So Dummling went down the steps to the fat toad, and told her that he was in search of the finest ring in the world. The toad ordered her box to be brought, and took out of it a ring which was finer than any goldsmith could make, and gave it to Dummling.
Now the two elder brothers had laughed at the idea of Dummling seeking for a gold ring, and they gave themselves no thought or trouble, but took the first cart wheels they met with, hammered the nails out of the iron hoop, and took them to the king. But as soon as Dummling came and pulled out his gold ring the king said, "The kingdom must belong to Dummling." The two elder brothers however, were not yet satisfied, and they plagued the king until he gave them another trial. So at last the king said that whoever should bring home the most beautiful wife, should have the crown; then he blew the three feathers again into the air, and they flew away as before. Dummling went a third time to the old friend, the toad, and said, "I must now find the handsomest wife in the world and take her home with me."
"The handsomest wife indeed," answered the toad; "well, you shall have her in a trice." And so saying, she gave him a large turnip with six little mice harnessed to it.
"Alas!" said Dummling, with a sigh, "what can I do with a turnip?"
"Do what I bid you," replied the old toad. "Now take one of my little toads and place her in the turnip."
So Dummling took up one of the toads as they sat in a ring and placed it in the turnip, but hardly had he done so when the toad was changed into a beautiful maiden, the turnip into a handsome coach and the six little mice into fine prancing horses. Then Dummling handed the little lady into the coach and brought her to the king. The other brothers came just at the same time; they had meanwhile not troubled themselves about Dummling's finding a wife, but had taken the first country girls they met on the way and brought them to the king.
Then the king said again, "My kingdom shall belong to Dummling after my death." Nevertheless the two brothers began quarrelling and said, "No, no, this must not and cannot be." So they proposed that he should have the kingdom whose wife would leap through a ring which hung in the middle of the hall, for they thought to themselves, "Our lasses are stout and strong and can jump through easily enough, but this delicate little creature will kill herself if she tries to leap." And at last the king consented, whereupon the two country girls made a spring and leaped through the ring, but being plump and clumsy they fell to the ground and broke their arms and legs. Then the beautiful little lady whom Dummling had brought, bounded gracefully through the ring and gained the kingdom for Dummling.
When the old king died Dummling received the crown and ruled the kingdom well and wisely.
Dummling and the Toad
A Fictional Short Story by
Agnes Taylor Ketchum & Ida M. Jorgensen