The Wicked Prince


The Wicked Prince

THERE was once a wicked Prince. His aim and object was to conquer all the countries in the world, and to inspire all men with fear. He went about with fire and sword, and his soldiers trampled down the corn in the fields, and set fire to the peasants' houses, so that the red flames licked the leaves from the trees, and the fruit hung burned on the black charred branches. With her naked baby in her arms, many a poor mother took refuge behind the still smoking walls of her burned house; but even here the soldiers sought for their victims, and if they found them, it was new food for their demoniac fury: evil spirits could not have raged worse than did these soldiers; but the Prince thought their deeds were right, and that it must be so. Every day his power increased; his name was feared by all, and fortune accompanied him in all his actions. From conquered countries he brought vast treasures home, and in his capital was heaped an amount of wealth unequaled in any other place. And he caused gorgeous palaces, churches, and halls to be built, and every one who saw those great buildings and these vast treasures cried out respectfully, "What a great Prince!" They thought not of the misery he had brought upon other lands and cities; they heard not all the sighs and all the meanings that arose from among the ruins of demolished towns.
The Prince looked upon his gold, and upon his mighty buildings, and his thoughts were like those of the crowd.
"What a great Prince am I! But," so his thought ran on, "I must have more, far more! No power may be equal to mine, much less exceed it!"
And he made war upon all his neighbors, and overcame them all. The conquered Kings he caused to be bound with fetters of gold to his chariot, and thus he drove through the streets of his capital; when he banqueted, those Kings were compelled to kneel at his feet, and at the feet of his courtiers, and receive the broken pieces which were thrown to them from the table.
At last the Prince caused his own statue to be set up in the open squares and in the royal palaces, and he even wished to place it in the churches before the altars; but here the priests stood up against him, and said,
"Prince, thou art mighty, but Heaven is mightier, and we dare not fulfill thy commands."
"Good: then," said the Prince, "I will vanquish Heaven likewise."
And in his pride and impious haughtiness he caused a costly ship to be built, in which he could sail through the air: it was gay and glaring to behold, like the tail of a peacock, and studded and covered with thousands of eyes; but each eye was the muzzle of a gun. The Prince sat in the midst of the ship, and needed only to press on a spring, and a thousand bullets flew out on all sides, while the gun barrels were re-loaded immediately. Hundreds of eagles were harnessed in front of the ship, and with the speed of an arrow they flew upwards towards the sun. How deep the earth lay below them! With its mountains and forests, it seemed but a field through which the plough had drawn its furrows, and along which the green bank rose covered with turf; soon it appeared only like a flat map with indistinct lines; and at last it lay completely hidden in mist and cloud. Ever higher flew the eagles, up into the air; then one of the innumerable angels appeared. The wicked Prince hurled thousands of bullets against him; but the bullets sprang back from the angel's shining pinions, and fell down like common hail-stones; but a drop of blood, one single drop, fell from one of the white wing-feathers, and this drop fell upon the ship in which the Prince sat, and burned its way deep into the ship, and weighing like a thousand hundred weight of lead, dragged down the ship in headlong fall towards the earth; the strongest pinions of the eagles broke; the wind roared round the Prince's head, and the aroused clouds formed from the smoke of burned cities drew themselves together in threatening shapes, like huge sea crabs stretching forth their claws and nippers towards him, and piled themselves up in great overshadowing rocks, with crushing fragments rolling down them, and then to fiery dragons, till the Prince lay half dead in the ship, which at last was caught with a terrible shock in the thick branches of a forest.
"I will conquer Heaven!" said the Prince. "I have sworn it, and my will must be done!"
And for seven years he caused his men to work at making ships for sailing through the air, and had thunderbolts made of the hardest steel, for he wished to storm the fortress of Heaven; out of all his dominions he gathered armies together, so that when they were drawn up in rank and file they covered a space of several miles. The armies went on board the ships, and the Prince approached his own vessel. Then there was sent out against him a swarm of gnats, a single swarm of little gnats. The swarm buzzed round the Prince, and stung his face and hands: raging with anger, he drew his sword and struck all round him; but he only struck the empty air, for he could not hit the gnats. Then he commanded his people to bring costly hangings, and to wrap them around him, so that no gnat might further sting him; and the servants did as he commanded them. But a single gnat had attached itself to the inner side of the hangings, and crept into the ear of the Prince, and stung him. It burned like fire, and the poison penetrated to his brain: like a madman he tore the hangings from his body and hurled them far away, tore his clothes and danced about naked before the eyes of his rude, savage soldiers, who now jeered at the mad Prince who wanted to overcome Heaven, and who himself was conquered by one single little gnat.

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The Stories on this site were compiled from the following historical publications and others.

Hans Christian Andersen
Andersen's Fairy Tales
Chicago - New York - San Francisco
Belford, Clarke & Co.

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen's
for the
Copyrighted 1893, McLoughlin Bros.

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen
Camden Press
Dalziel Bros. Engravers and Printers Copyright Unknown, est. 1870

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen
E.P. Dutton and Co.
© 1906-1907

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen
The Century Company,
The DeVinne Press
Copyright 1900