Not very long after the death of our Saviour on Calvary, there lived in a far-away land a powerful king named Jaime. By judicious usurpations and matrimonial alliances, this wise monarch extended his already vast dominions to the utmost limits. Instead of ruling his realm as a despot, however, he devoted himself to the task of establishing a strong government based on moderation and justice. By his marvellous diplomacy he won to his side counts, dukes, and lesser princes. To crown his happiness, he had an extremely lovely daughter, whose name was Maria. Neither Venus nor Helen of Troy could compare with her in beauty. Numerous suitors of noble birth from far and near vied with one another in spending fortunes on this pearl of the kingdom; but Maria regarded all suitors with aversion, and her father was perplexed as to how to get her a husband without seeming to show favoritism.
After consulting gravely with his advisers, the monarch gave out this proclamation: “He who shall succeed in getting the golden egg from the moss-grown oak in yonder mountain shall be my son-in-law and heir.”
This egg, whose origin nobody knew anything about, rendered its possessor very formidable. When the proclamation had been made public, the whole kingdom was seized with wild enthusiasm; for, though the task was hazardous, yet it seemed performable and easy to the reckless. For five days and five nights crowds of lovers, adventurers, and ruffians set sail for the “Mountain of the Golden Egg,” as it was called; but none of the enterprisers ever reached the place. Some were shipwrecked; others were driven by adverse winds and currents to strange lands, where they perished miserably; and the rest were forced to return because of the horrible sights of broken planks and mangled bodies.
Some days after the return of the last set of adventurers, three brothers rose from obscurity to try their fortunes in this dangerous enterprise. They were Pedro, Fernando, and Juan. They had been orphans since they were boys, and had grown up amid much suffering and hardship.
The three brothers agreed that Pedro should try first; Fernando second; and Juan last, provided the others did not succeed. After supplying himself with plenty of food, a good boat, a sword, and a sharp axe, Pedro embraced his brothers and departed, never to return. He took a longer and safer route than that of his predecessors. He had no sooner arrived at the mountain than an old gray-headed man in tattered clothes came limping towards him and asking for help; but the selfish Pedro turned a deaf ear to the supplications of the old man, whom he pushed away with much disrespect. Ignorant of his doom, and regardless of his irreverence, Pedro walked on with hasty steps and high animal spirits. But lo! when his axe struck the oak, a large piece of wood broke off and hit him in the right temple, killing him instantly.
Fernando suffered the same fate as his haughty brother.
Juan alone remained. He was the destined possessor of the egg, and the conqueror of King Jaime. Juan’s piety, simplicity, and goodness had won for him the good-will of many persons of distinction. After invoking God’s help, he set sail for the mountain, where he safely arrived at noon. He met the same old man, and he bathed, dressed, and fed him. The old man thanked Juan, and said, “You shall be amply requited,” and immediately disappeared. With one stroke of his axe Juan broke the oak in two; and in a circular hole lined with down he found the golden egg. In the afternoon he went to King Jaime, to whom he presented the much-coveted egg.
But the shrewd and successful monarch did not want to have a rustic son-in-law. “You shall not marry my daughter,” he said, “unless you bring me a golden ship.”
The next morning Juan, very disconsolate, went to the mountain again. The old man appeared to him, and said, “Why are you dejected, my son?”
Juan related everything that had happened.
“Dry your eyes and listen to me,” said the old man. “Not very far from this place you will find your ship all splendidly equipped. Go there at once!”
The old man disappeared, and Juan ran with all possible speed to where the ship was lying. He went on deck, and a few minutes later the ship began to move smoothly over stumps and stones.
While he was thus travelling along, Juan all of a sudden saw a man running around the mountain in less than a minute. “Corrin Corron, son of the great runner!” shouted Juan, “what are you doing?” The man stopped, and said, “I’m taking my daily exercise.”
“Never mind that!” said Juan, “come up here and rest!” And Corrin Corron readily accepted the offer.
Pretty soon Juan saw another man standing on the summit of a high hill and gazing intently at some distant object. “Mirin Miron, son of the great Farsight!” said Juan, “what are you doing?”
“I’m watching a game of tubigan seven miles away,” answered the other.
“Never mind!” said Juan, “come up here and eat with me!” And Mirin Miron gladly went on deck.
After a while Juan saw a hunter with gun levelled. “Puntin Punton, son of the great Sureshot!” said Juan, “what are you doing?”
“Three miles away there is a bat-fly annoying a sheep. I want to kill that insect.”
“Let the creature go,” said Juan, “and come with me!” And Puntin Punton, too, joined the party.
Not long after, Juan saw a man carrying a mountain on his shoulders. “Carguin Cargon, son of the great Strong-Back!” shouted Juan, “what are you doing?”
“I’m going to carry this mountain to the other side of the country to build a dam across the river,” said the man.
“Don’t exert yourself so much,” said Juan. “Come up here and take some refreshment!” The brawny carrier threw aside his load; and, as the mountain hit the ground, the whole kingdom was shaken so violently that the inhabitants thought that all the volcanoes had simultaneously burst into eruption.
By and by the ship came to a place where Juan saw young flourishing trees falling to the ground, with branches twisted and broken. “Friends,” said Juan, “is a storm blowing?”
“No, sir!” answered the sailors, amazed at the sight.
“Master Juan,” shouted Mirin Miron, “sitting on the summit of yonder mountain,” pointing to a peak three miles away, “is a man blowing with all his might.”
“He is a naughty fellow,” muttered Juan to himself; “he will destroy all the lumber-trees in this region if we do not stop him.” Pretty soon Juan himself saw the mischievous man, and said, “Soplin Soplon, son of the great Blast-Blower, what are you doing?”
“Oh, I’m just exercising my lungs and trumpeter’s muscles,” replied the other.
“Come along with us!” After blowing down a long line of trees like grain before a hurricane, Soplin Soplon went on board.
As the ship neared the capital, Juan saw a man lying on a bed of rushes, with his ear to the ground. “What are you doing, friend?” said Juan.
“I’m listening to the plaintive strains of a young man mourning over the grave of his deceased sweetheart, and to the touching love-ditties of a moonstruck lover,” answered the man. “Where are those two men?” asked Juan.
“They are in a city twelve miles away,” said the other. “Never mind, Oirin Oiron, son of the great Hear-All!” said Juan. “Come up and rest on a more comfortable bed! My divans superabound.” When Oirin Oiron was on board, Juan said to the helmsman, “To the capital!”
In the evening the magnificent ship, with sails of silk and damask, masts of gold heavily studded with rare gems, and covered with thick plates of gold and silver, arrived at the palace gate.
Early in the morning King Jaime received Juan, but this time more coldly and arrogantly than ever. The princess bathed before break of day. With cheeks suffused with the rosy tint of the morning, golden tresses hanging in beautiful curls over her white shoulders, hands as delicate as those of a new-born babe, eyes merrier than the humming-bird, and dressed in a rich outer garment displaying her lovely figure at its best, she stood beside the throne. Such was the appearance of this lovely mortal, who kindled an inextinguishable flame in the heart of Juan.
After doffing his bonnet and bowing to the king, Juan said, “Will you give me the hand of your daughter?” Everybody present was amazed. The princess’s face was successively pale and rosy. Juan immediately understood her heart as he stood gazing at her.
“Never!” said the king after a few minutes. “You shall never have my daughter.”
“Farewell, then, until we meet again!” said Juan as he departed.
When the ship was beyond the frontier of Jaime’s kingdom, Juan said, “Carguin Cargon, overturn the king’s realm.” Carguin Cargon obeyed. Many houses were destroyed, and hundreds of people were crushed to death. When the ship was within seven miles of the city, Oirin Oiron heard the king say, “I’ll give my daughter in marriage to Juan if he will restore my kingdom.” Oirin Oiron told Juan what he had heard.
Then Juan ordered Carguin Cargon to rebuild the kingdom; but when the work was done, Jaime again refused to fulfil his promise. Juan went away very angry. Again the kingdom was overturned, and more property and lives were destroyed. Again Oirin Oiron heard the king make a promise, again the kingdom was rebuilt, and again the king was obstinate.
Juan went away again red with anger. After they had been travelling for an hour, Oirin Oiron heard the tramp of horses and the clash of spears and shields. “I can see King Jaime’s vast host in hot pursuit of us,” said Mirin Miron. “Where is the army?” said Juan. “It is nine miles away,” responded Mirin Miron.
“Let the army approach,” said Soplin Soplon. When the immense host was within eight hundred yards of the ship, Soplin Soplon blew forcible blasts, which scattered the soldiers and horses in all directions like chaff before a wind. Of this formidable army only a handful of men survived, and these were crippled for life.
Again the king sued for peace, and promised the hand of his daughter to Juan. This time he kept his word, and Juan and Maria were married amidst the most imposing ceremonies. That very day King Jaime abdicated in favor of his more powerful son-in-law. On the site of the destroyed houses were built larger and more handsome ones. The lumber that was needed was obtained by Soplin Soplon and Carguin Cargon from the mountains: Soplin Soplon felled the trees with his mighty blasts, and Carguin Cargon carried the huge logs to the city. Juan made Corrin Corron his royal messenger, and Soplin Soplon commander-in-chief of the raw troops, which later became a powerful army. The other four friends were assigned to high positions in the government.
The royal couple and the six gifted men led a glorious life. They conquered new lands, and ruled their kingdom well.