Once upon a time, there lived a boy who worked as a servant in the gardens for the king. The king had a daughter who would walk through the garden every day and sing. The boy loved to listen to her voice, and he did so every day.
One day, she caught him, and he explained how much he loved her voice and that he listened to it every day. He asked her if he could continue to do this, and, flattered at the compliment, the princess said yes.
As time passed, the princess grew to love the boy and the time she spent singing to him. Knowing the king would never approve, they had kept their love a secret and planned to run away and be married when each turned of age.
One day, however, the king’s advisor overheard them in the garden when they were talking about running away together. He ran straight to the king and repeated what he’d heard.
Enraged, the king devised a plan to make sure the boy would never see his daughter again.
One day, he invited the boy into the woods to go hunting with him. As they traveled deeper into the woods, less light shown through the trees, and the scenery all began to look the same.
As the hours passed by, and day turned to night, the boy began to tire. Leaning back against a tree, he could no longer keep his eyes open, and he drifted off into a deep sleep. When he awoke, he found himself alone. The king was nowhere to be seen. He wandered through the woods for a while, but could find no trace of him.
He came across a clearing and sat down, not sure of what to do, when he heard rustling nearby. He looked for the source of the noise and found a fox entangled in a thorn bush.
He pulled out the hunting knife he’d brought with him and cut the fox free. Grateful, the fox thanked the boy for saving it, and then asked if there was any way to repay the boy for his help. The boy shook his head sadly and recalled his misfortune to the fox.
“I cannot guide you out of this forest, but I know of someone who can,” the fox said. He told the boy of an old house in the woods that had been vacant for many years. “The house can be found in a clearing not too far east of here.” The fox bowed its head and pranced into the brush.
The boy looked at the rising sun, and headed towards it. Sure enough, it was not long before he found an old, wooden house, seemingly abandoned with moss growing on one side. He stepped inside, not knowing what sort of help to expect, and found a woman sitting next to a spinning wheel, stringing beads.
The boy jumped in surprise. It was with closer speculation that he noticed a strange blue glow about the woman and slight transparency. She looked up as he stepped closer.
“Excuse me. I was told that you could help me find my way out of this forest,” the boy explained.
The woman looked back to her beads and nodded.
“If guidance is what you seek,
Look to where the wood is green.
If this test is one that you pass,
You shall be presented with another task.
Help will come in the form of a shell,
Heed my words. I bid you farewell.”
With that, the woman vanished. The boy searched the rest of the house, but she could not be found, so he left.
Once outdoors, he looked around the woods, but in every direction, the trees were green. He circled the old house, searching for something, anything, indicating his next step.
He had circled it three times when he noticed again the moss that grew on the side of the house. “Look to where the wood is green…” That was what the woman had said. Perhaps she had not meant the woods. After all, the house was also made of wood.
He determined this to be his best chance and headed in the direction the moss grew. Soon, the trees became hollow and were not so green anymore, and he began to think he had chosen the wrong direction, when he noticed a child sitting inside of one of the trees.
It was a boy with the same blue glow about him as the woman had had. He too appeared transparent. The tree he sat inside of had a striped pattern on it around the outside and appeared with a blue tint like the boy.
“Help will come in the form of a shell…” The boy thought back to the woman’s words again. The tree this boy sat in was hollow like a shell. As the boy stepped closer, the child opened his eyes and looked up.
The boy approached the child and explained, “Excuse me. I was told that you could help me find my way out of this forest.”
The child closed his eyes again and nodded.
“Here, I sit,
Inside this tree,
Doing no more
Something rushes by,
But never moves,
Softening rough edges,
Reflecting vibrant hues.
Find this wonder
In the direction of darkness,
When it is late,
And the sun is in the west.”
With that, the child vanished. The boy looked around at the other trees, but the child was nowhere to be seen.
The sun began to set, casting long, dark shadows across the ground.
“In the direction of darkness, when it is late, and the sun is in the west.” Thinking back to the child’s words, the boy decided to follow the shadows.
It was not long before he came across a stream. “Something rushes by, but never moves…” This must be it. The boy looked, but could find nothing to help him, and the stream travelled north to south, not following the shadows the sun was setting.
The boy looked both ways, but they both appeared equally lit, and he could not figure out which way was the correct way to go.
The sun had set now, and the moon had risen. The boy sat against a nearby tree, and closed his eyes in exhaustion. Perhaps in the morning the riddle would make more sense.
When he awoke, he did not open his eyes right away. It was then, that he noticed a much louder rush of water to the north than to the south. The child had spoken of listening and rushing water. Having nothing to lose, the boy decided to travel in that direction.
Soon, he came across the starting point of the stream, a large reservoir of water. There rose a cliff on one side where water fell from above into the deep pool below, creating a cloud of mist. A rainbow shown in the mist where it caught the light and it reflected in the water beneath.
“Reflecting vibrant hues…” Relief washed over the boy when he realized he must have followed the stream in the correct direction.
He made his way around the pool towards the waterfall, where he found another child with the same transparency and blue glow. This one was a girl, and she was swimming in the pool.
As the boy stepped closer, she swam to the surface, poking her head just above the water’s edge to look at him.
He explained, “Excuse me. I was told that you could help me find my way out of this forest.”
She nodded and began to walk out of the water.
“Two riddles you’ve heard,
This one is the last,
But for it to be solved,
You must think back.
You must search for an object,
Its properties will guide you.
The other two spirits,
What is it they do?
The woman in the house,
Stringing her beads,
And the boy in the tree,
What object could it be
That relates to both?
The answer to this question
Is your way back home.
I’ll give one last clue,
From me to you:
This object’s location
Relates to my actions too.”
With that, the girl vanished. The boy looked around himself, but she could not be found.
He turned back to the pool she’d been swimming in. “This object’s location relates to my actions too.” Whatever this thing he was looking for was, it was in the pool. Perhaps it was a fish, but how could that relate to stringing beads and listening?
The boy walked into the pool and swam out to the center. Then, he dove deep, hoping that he would know it if he saw it.
He found many rocks, and they made him think of the beads, but one could not listen to rocks. He saw many hermit crabs, and though they could be heard scuttling about, they had nothing to do with stringing beads.
Just as he was beginning to lose hope, he found a shell. There was only one, so he picked it up and brought it with him to the surface. When he looked at it again, above water, he realized a string had been woven through a hole at the top of it. When he thought about it more, he remembered how the ocean could be heard in a seashell.
He carried it with him out of the pool and then brought it to his ear.
To his surprise, he could hear his beloved princess’s singing through it and the direction it was coming from.
Filled with delight at having figured out all three riddles, he ran all the way out of the forest. When he finally had found his way out, he could see the castle, and the beautiful garden where the princess must be singing.
He made his way there, and, when she saw him, she wept with relief. “I thought you were dead!” she told him. “My father was eaten by wolves in those woods and I thought you must have shared in his fate!
The boy explained to her what had truly taken place, and, not willing to put it off any longer, he and the princess were married the following day. The boy ruled the kingdom from that day on with the most intelligence any king had ever had and he and the princess lived happily ever after.