Here is the story of the Body-Without-Soul. There was once a king of France who had a son, who loved nothing more than hunting.
One day when he was hunting, as was his habit, he saw a crow lying on the ground, and although he was already very close to it, the bird did not fly away.
Here, he said to himself, is a crow which appears to be wounded and, doubtless, cannot fly away.
And he wanted to take it in his hand. But, the raven ran away, under a large stone (a dolmen?), And he descended into a hole so black and so deep, that it seemed to him that he was going to fall into hell. His fall lasted well for an hour, or so, and when his feet met the ground again, he found himself in a great avenue of old oak trees. At the end of this avenue, there was a beautiful castle. He walked towards the castle. The door to the courtyard was open and he entered. He saw a lord there, and, walking straight up to him, he asked him if he did not need a servant.
"Yes, really," replied the lord; my stable-boy has recently left, and I would like to replace him.
- Well ! If you want to take me into your service, I will take good care of your horses.
- I don't mind, but on the condition that you do exactly what I tell you to do.
- I promise to do exactly as you order me.
- So, follow me and I'll show you your work, because tomorrow morning I have to go on a trip and I won't be back for a year, and a day. You will remain alone in the castle, during all this time; but, rest assured, you will miss nothing.
And he led him first to the stable, where there were many horses, fat and shiny:
“Here,” he said, “here are my horses; you will take good care of them and give them hay, oats and clover, at will; on my return, I must find them absolutely in the state in which I entrust them to you, neither thinner nor fatter, or woe to you! Here now, behind the door, a little black horse, which you will treat differently. Every morning, for lunch, you will give him a good volley of blows with a stick, and strike mercilessly; in the evening, you will throw in its manger what the other horses will have refused to eat.
Then he led him to a large room which was filled with beautiful cages, in which were kept birds of all kinds, and he spoke to him thus:
- You will have to renew, twice a day, the food and water of these birds, and take good care of them, because if a single one dies, or if I find them in bad condition, on my return, you will pay for it with your head.
In another room, he showed her nine pistols, in an oak chest, and said to her:
- You will smash these pistols, every day; and take care that on my return I find the slightest stain of rust there, or there is only death for you!
When he had made all his recommendations to his new servant, the master of the castle left the next morning at daybreak.
The prince, left alone, also got up early and set to work. He began by distributing hay and oats to the beautiful horses in the stable, then, having taken off his jacket, he took a stick and began to strike, with all his arms, the little black horse which was behind the door.
- Stop it, bad guy! Don't hit me in such a cruel way, because, without much delay, you might just be treated yourself like you are treating me right now!
Here is our man very astonished to hear an animal speak to him in this way.
"How, poor beast," he asked him, "do you also speak in the language of men?"
- Yes, because I myself have been what you are; and take care, or you yourself will be reduced to the miserable condition in which you see me now.
- I was advised to break a stick, every day, while beating yourself.
- Break the stick, if you want, but not on my back, and feed me like the other horses.
The prince took pity on the poor beast, and gave him clover and oats at his discretion.
Then he went to the bird room. The latter, seeing him come in, began to sing, to whom better the better. You had to hear this music! He renewed the food and the water, in each cage, and, having noticed a sparrow which seemed quite sad and suffering:
"You," he said, "you seem to me to be ill, and if you were to die, that wouldn't do my business!"
And he drew the sparrow out of its cage, and began to stroke it. As he ran his hand over her back and head, he felt a bit pricked. - What is this? He says to him ; and, on examining closely, he saw that the bird had its head pierced right through by a pin.
- I am no longer surprised, poor little animal, to see you so sad!
He removed the pin from the sparrow's head, and the bird instantly changed into a wonderfully beautiful princess, who spoke to him like this:
- If you are not careful, O young prince, you will have the same fate as I and so many other unfortunate people who are here. Indeed, horses, birds, pistols, are as many princes and princesses and lords, of a high rank, that the master of this castle, who is a great magician, retains here enchanted, in different forms, from a great number of years. I am the daughter of the King of Naples, and that poor little black horse, whom you have beaten so well this morning, is my brother.
- God, what are you saying?
- Nothing but the truth ; but, if you want to do exactly as I will tell you, you will be able to get out of here, without harm, and by freeing us all, me and my brother and the others who suffer the same fate.
- What would I have to do about it? Tell me, quickly.
- We still have time ahead of us; for a year we can live happily and carefree, in this castle, where nothing is missing, and when the time is right, then I will tell you what to do.
They both lived happily together for a year, walking every day through the woods and the beautiful gardens that surrounded the castle, as if they were at home. When the sun went down, every evening, the prince put the pin back in the princess's head, and she immediately became a sparrow again, and spent the night in her cage; and every morning, as soon as the sun appeared, he took out the pin, and the bird became a princess again.
The days and months passed thus, imperceptibly, and time seemed short to them. However, one day the princess said to the prince:
- The giant must arrive tomorrow (because the master of the castle was a giant magician).
- How already?
- Alas! Yes, because you've been here for just a year. Tomorrow too, the anniversary of your death will be celebrated in your country, because you are believed to be dead there. So listen carefully to what you have to do: When the giant arrives, tomorrow morning (and don't forget to put the pin back in my head and put me in my cage), he will immediately go visit his birds. , and these at his sight will begin to sing and to hum, to which the better better. Seeing them so happy and so ready, he will show you his satisfaction, and, to reward you, he will lead you to his stable and there he will tell you to choose the horse that you like the most. There are beautiful horses there, you know it well, white, black, chestnut, blue-dapple; but, do not choose any of these, beware of them. Ask for the little black horse, so thin and looking so sad, who is behind the door, and to whom you administered such a good volley of blows the day after your arrival here. He will tell you that you are a fool to choose such a bitch; but, don't listen to him and keep saying that you want this one, because, as I have already told you, he is my brother.
Then he will lead you to the chest where the pistols are, which were so rusty when he left, and which are now so shiny and so shiny, because I have taught you how to burn them. He will still tell you to pick a gun from there. There is one, simpler and less beautiful than the others, with a small patch of rust, almost imperceptible. You will take this one, in spite of all the magician's entreaties to make you take another, more beautiful; because this is my maid.
Finally, he will then lead you to the bird room and again tell you to choose one among the most beautiful and those that sing the best. It is me that you will have to take, and close your ears to all his advice and to his entreaties to make you take some other, more beautiful one. As soon as you hold me, you will remove the pin from my head, so that I return to my human form, and immediately you will shoot, with your pistol, at a brass head which is above the door of the room. . The castle will instantly collapse on the magician, with a terrible uproar, and he will be crushed under the ruins, without any harm happening to you. All those he retains here enchanted, in different forms, will then be delivered, and will return to their original forms, and will go, each on his own, after having thanked you. At the same time, a beautiful coach will descend from the sky, and we will ascend there, you, my brother, my maid and I, and, in a short time, it will carry us, through the air, to your father's palace. . When we arrive there, all your parents and the principal of the kingdom will be gathered, preparing to go to the church to attend a solemn mass celebrated for you; because they've all believed you were dead for a year. Seeing you, joy and happiness will follow sadness and general mourning. All of your parents and friends will want to kiss you, and so will I. But, be careful not to allow yourself to be kissed by any woman, because immediately, I would be taken away by the Soul-Body, and you would never see me again! Do exactly what I just told you, or we are forever lost to each other.
"I will do it," replied the prince; don't worry about it.
In short, and so as not to repeat myself, everything happened as the princess had said; the prince also fulfilled all his recommendations point by point, so that, the next day, before noon, the four of them descended into the middle of the courtyard of the palace of the King of France, at the moment when the procession, in great mourning, was was willing to go to church. Judge the astonishment produced by such an unexpected appearance! - What does this mean? We wondered. Then we ran to the prince to kiss him. He willingly allowed himself to be embraced by men; but, he repelled women and young girls, which made them very unhappy. A young cousin approached him from behind, jumped on his neck and stole a kiss from him. Alas! It was enough. A fine coach immediately descended from the sky; the Soulless Body, which was there, took out its right arm, seized the princess, placed her at his side, then, the carriage rose in the air, so high, so high, that one soon no longer saw him. Nobody knew what that meant, except the prince, who knew it all too well, alas! He began to grieve, crying, screaming, tearing his hair. It was in vain that we tried to console him, he listened to no one. He bade farewell to his parents and friends, who flocked around him and told them that he would not stop walking, day or night, until he had found the princess his. fiancee. It was in vain that his father and mother begged him to stay with them, clinging to his clothes and telling him that they would die of pain, if he abandoned them, in their old age. They promised to marry him to the most beautiful princess that one could find in the world, and to cede the throne to him immediately. But, he didn't even listen to them, and he left.
He walked, he walked, at random, night and day, asking everyone he met for news of the Soul-Body; no one knew the Soul-Body nor could give it any correct answer. One day, he was surprised by night, in a large wood, where he had lost his way, and he was very embarrassed and very anxious, for this wood was filled with wild beasts. He climbed a tree and saw a dim light in the distance. He went down, somewhat reassured, and walked towards that light. He found himself, after some time of rather arduous walking, through the wood, in front of a little hut built of branches, ferns and foliage. Through a slit in the door he saw an old man with a long, white beard, who was praying, kneeling before a crucifix.
- He's a hermit! He said to himself.
He pushed open the badly closed door, which gave way easily, and he said:
- Good evening, father.
"Good evening, my son," replied the old man; How can I help you ?
- Would you be so kind as to grant me hospitality for the night?
- Alas! My poor child, a hermit, usually, is not rich: nevertheless enter my cabin and you will have neither better nor worse than me, a few herbs and a few roots for food, and bare earth for a bed.
- No one can give what he has, father, and I thank you.
And he entered the hermit's hut and told him his adventures.
- Alas! My poor child, then said the loner to him, I have been here for a long time, doing penance, and I have never heard of the Soul-Body, and I cannot tell you where it lives, nor which path you have to take pulley find; but, here is a briefcase that I am giving you and which may be of use to you. She did me great service in my youth; but now I don't need it anymore. When you are hungry or thirsty, wherever you are, all you have to do is unfold it, spread it out on a table, or even on the floor, and say: "Towel, do your duty!" And immediately there will be food and drink on it, whatever you want. Then, in another forest, which you will have to cross, further on, you will find another hermit, who is older and more learned than me, and perhaps this one will be able to give you some good advice. to help you find what you're looking for.
- Thank you, father, and God bless you and answer your prayers.
The next morning the prince bade farewell to the hermit, and set off again. He was soon hungry, and, taking from his pocket the napkin the recluse had given him, he unfolded it, hung it on the lawn at the foot of an old oak, and said:
"Towel, do your duty!" And, to his great satisfaction, an excellent meal was served to him instantly, by magic. After eating and drinking, as much as it pleased him, he carefully folded up his napkin, put it back in his pocket, and continued on his way. After walking for some time, he entered an immense plain, barren and quite bare, where he suddenly saw himself surrounded by an infinite multitude of ants, the size of hares, and which seemed to be very hungry. He was very embarrassed and did not know what to do. Two ants, bigger than the others, walked straight up to him; he thought it was to attack and devour him.
- Alas! He thought, it's all over with me! Then, thinking of his briefcase:
- Take ! But maybe my towel will get me out of danger?
And he hastened to take his briefcase from his pocket, unfold it, stretched it out on the ground, and said:
- Towel, do your homework! I want to treat all these beasts of the good Lord, who seem to me not to have had a good meal for a long time. And immediately the napkin was covered with a large heap of wheat, the food that best suited ants, and he said to them: - Enjoy yourself, dear beasts of God! The ants did not make themselves
to pray; they threw themselves on the heap of wheat, and everything disappeared in the twinkling of an eye.
When they were satisfied, the two grown-ups of whom we have already spoken said, addressing the prince:
- Thank you, son of the King of France! We are the Ant King and Queen, and if you ever need us or ours, just give us a call, and we'll be right there!
"Thank you very much, good Lord's beasts," replied the prince.
And he picked up his briefcase, put it back in his pocket, and continued on his way.
Towards the evening of the same day, he arrived at the hut of the second hermit, of whom the first had spoken to him. He was praying, like the other. The prince told him his story, and asked him if he knew where the castle of the Soulless Body was located.
- The Chateau du Corps-sans-Soul? Repeated the old man, recalling his memories; yes… yes, I know him… But, it is not easy to go that far, my son! This castle is held by four golden chains, between heaven and earth. You will see the chains, but not the castle, because it is too high for that.
- How to get there, then? asked the prince.
- Alas! I could not tell you, my son, for even the eagle does not reach that height. But, God, in his goodness, made me master over all the animals that have wings, and if, someday, you need me or someone of mine, you will only have me. call and I'll be right there. I have another recommendation for you: when you have left me, you will soon be at the seaside, and there, you will see, on the shore, a small fish left dry by the tide in withdrawing, and who will be close to death. Take this little fish with your hand and quickly put it back in the water, because later you might need it.
The next morning, early in the morning, the prince took leave of the hermit and set off again, still heading east.
He soon arrived at the seashore. As he walked on the sand on the shore, he saw the little fish the hermit had told him about, lying dry, with its mouth open, and appearing on the verge of death. He hastened to take it in his hand and put it back in the water. The little fish dove down, disappeared for a moment, then, raising its head above the water, spoke like this:
- Thank you, son of the King of France, for saving my life! I am the king of all the fish in the sea, and if you ever need me or mine, you just have to come to the seashore, anywhere, and call me , and I will arrive immediately.
- Perfectly ! The animals of the good Lord are always favorable to me, the prince said to himself, and with their help we can go far.
As he walked along the shore he saw, after some time, the chains that held the castle of the Soulless Body. They were sealed in two huge rocks. He stopped to consider them, and he said to himself:
- How to go up to the castle?… If I had had wings, perhaps… And yet, the old hermit told me that even the eagle could not reach so high!… How to do? Who will come to my aid? ... Perhaps an ant, climbing from mesh to mesh along the chain, could she reach the castle? The Ant King has promised to come to my aid, in case of need; I have to call him, to see:
King of the ants, your help I ask
To go up to the castle of Corps-sans-soul!
And immediately the Ant King came and asked:
- What is there for your service, son of the King of France?
- I would like, if possible, to be changed into an ant, so as to be able to climb along this chain to the castle of the Body-without-soul.
"Let it be done as you wish," replied the Ant King.
And here is the prince instantly transformed into an ant. Without wasting time, he began to climb up one of the gold chains, chain mail, so much so that he finally reached the castle of the Soul-Body. What a beautiful castle it was! He was amazed when he saw it. He climbed again against the walls of the castle, and entered through a window in the room of the princess. She was playing cards with the giant. He climbed up against the princess's dress and hid himself up her sleeve. It was night after supper. Towards midnight, the giant retired to his room to go to bed, and the princess was left alone.
- I want to become a man again, thought the ant then; - and the prince was immediately returned to his first form.
- Oh my God ! Dear prince, cried the princess, recognizing him; how did you get here? Alas! You are lost, my poor friend, because no one leaves here alive!
The prince told her by what means he had been able to reach her, and urged her to go with him, without wasting time.
"And the giant, are you not thinking of it?"
- I will kill him, the giant!
- Alas! My poor friend, that cannot be; it is a body without a soul, and its life does not reside in its body!
- And where the hell is she?
- I do not know ; but, I will make sure that you learn it for itself, tomorrow.
- What do you mean ?
- Every evening, after supper, he comes to play cards with me, in my room; you will still hide yourself, in the form of an ant, in my sleeve, and, as he will not suspect a thing, I will adroitly lead him to say how they could take his life.
They spent the night together, and did not sleep much, so much they had to say to each other since their separation. When day broke, the prince became an ant again and remained, all day long, in this form, hidden in the princess's sleeve. After supper, the giant led the princess back to her room, as was his custom, and played a game of cards with her. Suddenly the princess said to him:
- If you only knew the singular dream I had last night?
- What did you dream? Tell me, please.
- Oh ! It is a very foolish dream; see rather: I dreamed that a young prince, son of the king of France, had arrived in your castle, and that he wanted to kill you, in order to kidnap me and take me to the court of his father, to marry me. Isn't that a foolish dream?
- Ah! Yes, very foolish indeed, for nothing that is there can happen: no man can come up from the earth so far; and then, even if it could happen, I cannot be killed like other men.
- Why then?
- Why ? It is because I am a Body-without-soul, and that my life does not reside in my body.
- Truly ? Where is she?
- It's a secret, which I never told anyone, but I can tell it to you; listen to me then: My life resides in an egg, this egg is enclosed in a dove; the dove is in a hare; the hare, in a wolf, and the wolf is locked up in an iron chest, at the bottom of the sea. Do you still think that it is easy to take my life?
- Oh ! No, definitely.
The prince, who was in the princess's sleeve, had heard it all. As soon as the giant had retired to his room, he resumed his natural form, and the princess asked him:
- Well ! Did you hear ?
- Yes, I heard it all.
- And you still think we can get out of here?
- Maybe ; always trust me, and later we'll see. I must return to earth now, and when I return here, I will hold the life of the giant in my hands.
The next day, therefore, as soon as dawn broke, the prince, in the form of an ant, descended again along one of the golden chains which held the castle, and, when he had reached the shore of the sea, he walked up to the water's edge and called the king of fish:
King of fish, run, run,
Because I need your help!
And a moment later he saw a little fish, which raised its head above the water, and spoke thus:
- What is there for your service, son of the King of France?
- There must be somewhere, at the bottom of the sea, an iron chest, which contains the life of the Soulless Body, in an egg, and I would like to hold that chest!
The king of the fish immediately plunged again under the water, and came to his palace and ordered his heralds to immediately summon all the fish of the sea, large and small.
The heralds blew in great sea conches, and the inhabitants of the sea, great and small, immediately came running from all sides. The king then took a large book, where were inscribed the names of all his subjects, and as he called them, they presented themselves before his throne, and he asked them if they had not seen, somewhere, at the bottom of the sea, the iron chest that held the life of the Soulless Corpse. None of them had seen him. All had already answered the call, without giving any good information, except for a very small fish, of which nothing good was expected. Finally, he arrived too, and apologized for being late. The king, after scolding him a little, put the same question to him as to the others. He had seen the safe, he knew where it was, and it was because he had stopped to examine it that he was late. The whale was immediately ordered to leave, led by the little fish, and bring the chest. The whale carried out the order of its king, and brought the chest, without difficulty. Three other smaller fish were dispatched to deposit it on the shore, at the prince's feet. The latter opened it, for it seems that the key was in the lock, and an enormous wolf sprang from it immediately. With a blow of the ax, which he had taken care to arm himself with, the prince split the wolf's head and killed it cold. Then he opened her belly. A hare sprang from it; but he seized him by the ears and also opened his stomach, and the dove slipped between his hands and flew away, flapping its wings: Klak! Klak! Klak! Klak! ! - How to do ? Because he didn't have a gun. He thought of the old hermit who had told him that he was the master of all animals that had wings, and he called him to his aid. The hermit immediately sent a hawk after the dove, which was caught without difficulty and placed in the hands of the prince. This one opened the belly, and found there the egg to which was attached the life of the Body-without-soul. He picked it up carefully, put it in his pocket, and quickly returned to the giant's castle, by the same route as the first time. The giant was lying on his bed, very sick and almost dying. With each animal killed by the prince, he weakened visibly, as if a limb had been cut off. The princess was by her bed. The prince entered the room, in his natural form, holding the egg in his hand and showing it to the monster. The latter made a supreme effort to spring upon him; but unfortunately ! His strength betrayed him. So the prince threw the egg at him in the middle of his forehead, where it broke, and he expired instantly. And immediately the chains of air, which held the castle in the air, broke, with a terrible noise, and everything was swallowed up at the bottom of the sea!
The prince and princess had already climbed into the giant's carriage, which traveled through the air, and they were returned in a short time to the palace of the king of France. Great was the joy of everyone to see them again, and they got married, a few days later, and there were, on this occasion, feasts, games and feasts, as had never been seen before. , in the country.
If I can speak of it like this, it is because I was there myself, like a rotisserie. But, as I put my finger in all the sauces, a big devil of a master cook, who saw me, gave me a big kick ... somewhere, and suddenly, I was launched as far as Plouaret, to tell you all about it. this.