Here is the story of Tartarus and the three children. Three children were left orphans of father and mother. As they were destitute, not even having a piece of bread to eat, they followed their younger brother's advice and set out to seek their fortune.
From forest to forest, they arrived in the evening without finding a house to have supper. The youngest climbs a tree and discovers a beautiful castle in the distance. He leads his brothers there, rejoicing in the hope of a good meal. They knock and ask for the charity of food and shelter for the night.
The tartare and the three children
The master was absent. The maid ushers them in and serves them a hearty supper which they never leave a crumb. Then she makes them sleep in a bottomless barrel.
"Be careful," she said to them, "not to make any noise, not to utter a word; for soon the Tartarus will return, my master, and if he discovers that there is any Christian with him, he will eat you without mercy.
The three orphans, seized with terror, keep silent, hardly daring to breathe.
'There is,' he said growling, 'some Christian here.
- You are mistaken, sir, there is not.
- If there was at least; I can smell it. Tell me the truth or I will exterminate you.
The terrified servant did not dare to deny further.
- To tell the truth, sir, a few Christians have come here during your absence. But they are very small and have arrived half dead of cold and hunger. I warmed them up by the fire and gave them something to eat. They are there, in this barrel, already asleep.
- Get out of there said the Tartarus in a harsh voice, removing the cover placed on the barrel.
The children get out of their diapers and come in trembling.
"Give them more to eat and to drink," said the Tartarus to the servant, "and lead them to the room where the bed is."
The maid obeyed and then went back down to the kitchen. The Tartarus had put a large pot full of water on the fire and was sharpening his knife. He tells him :
- Watch these children, and when they sleep, come and tell me.
The maid goes up to the bedroom and finds the children awake.
"Poor little ones," she said to them in a low voice, "take great care of yourself; in a little while my wicked master will come up to kill you.
She then goes back down to the kitchen and announces to Tartare that the children are not yet asleep.
However, the three brothers take advice. How to escape? Through the window, no doubt. But it is very high and they have no rope. The cadet says that the bed sheet, securely fastened, can replace the rope, as long as they go down one by one. They thus escape and move away at full speed. The maid comes to the door. She listens ; she looks through the keyhole and neither sees nor hears anything.
The warned Tartarus climbs the stairs, enters the bedroom and stabs the bed as much as he can. In the morning he thinks of preparing his stew and finds the bed empty.
- Where did you put these three lambs?
- I haven't touched it and haven't come back to the bedroom since last night.
- They left ; but I will catch up with them. Give me my boots right away.
Now when the Tartarus had put on his boots, he was a hundred leagues in a single stride. You think it didn't take long for him to catch up with the kids. They saw him coming from afar and hid behind a bush. The Tartarus, however, chose a good place to lie down and soon fell asleep.
The children were well acquainted with the virtue of the hundred-league boots and resolved to seize them, as their only means of salvation. They approach the sleeper silently and slowly take off his boots.
Immediately, they take the road to the castle:
- Here, they say to the servant, we come on behalf of Monsieur to ask you to give us the money which is in the cupboard. It is to pay us for having found his boots that we are bringing you back.
The servant, persuaded by the sight of the boots, gave them the money from the cupboard, with which the three children returned to their house, now rich.
As for the Tartarus, deprived of his boots, he had great difficulty getting home. And you can imagine what his anger and his shame was when he heard that he had been duped by children.