A boy was born with a caul, which was a sign of good luck. It was prophesied that at nineteen he would marry the king’s daughter.
A few days later, the king – in disguise – came to the village and heard this. But he didn’t like the idea of some peasant marrying his daughter. So he went to the parents and asked that they give him the boy. He gave them gold, and reminded him that the boy was lucky, so everything should work out.
The king rode away and threw the boy in a box into a river. But the box floated and carried the boy to a mill. The miller and his wife had no children, so they thought Heaven had sent them the boy.
Nineteen years later, the king was going by when a thunderstorm hit. He took shelter at the mill and asked about the youth. The miller told him how he had been found in a box.
The king figured it was the boy he had tried to kill, so he hatched a new plan. He sent a message to his wife and had the boy deliver it. The letter told her to have the boy killed.
The boy set out and became lost in a forest. At night he saw a small house and went to it. A woman was there who was frightened that he was there. He explained how he was taking a letter to the queen and got lost. The woman explained that this was a house of robbers, but the boy was so tired he didn’t care and fell asleep on the bench.
When the robbers came home, they opened the letter and saw that he was to be killed. So they tore it up and wrote another saying he was to marry the king’s daughter. The next morning they sent him on his way.
Shortly after the boy arrived at the palace, he was married to the princess, who quickly fell in love with him.
When the king finally came home, he was most vexed at what had happened. The queen showed him the fake letter.
The king was upset and sent the boy to the demon of the Black Forest to gather three of his golden hairs. Only then would the king recognize the marriage.
On his travel, the boy came to a city. The watchmen asked what he knew and the boy said, “Everything.” So the watchman asked why the fountain, which used to flow with wine, was now dried up. The boy said that he would tell him on his way back.
At the next town the same thing happened, except it was a tree that no longer produced golden apples. The boy then came to a river and the ferryman asked why he had to go back and forth on the ferry without any change.
Across the river was the Black Forest and the boy soon found the demon’s home. He wasn’t in, but his mother was. She asked the boy what he was doing there. He told her about the hairs and the questions and she said that if the demon found him he’d get no mercy. But she changed him into an ant and hid him in her gown.
When the demon came home he could smell the flesh of man, but after looking all over he couldn’t find one. His mother told him to sit down and eat his supper.
After eating, the demon was tired. His mother had him lay down with his head in her lap. Once he was asleep, she pulled out one hair. He asked why she did that, and she said that she had a dream about a fountain that no longer flowed with wine. The demon said that there was a toad in the well blocking the wine.
Once he was again asleep, she pulled another hair. She explained she had another dream about a tree that had stopped producing golden apples, and the demon explained there was a mouse gnawing on the roots.
He again fell asleep and she pulled a third hair. This really upset the demon, but she calmed him down and told him her “dream” of the ferryman. The demon said that the ferryman could put the oar in someone else’s hand and be done.
The next morning, after the demon left, his mother turned the ant back into the boy and sent him home with the three hairs.
After the ferryman ferried him over the river, the boy tells him to just shanghai the next person into being the new ferryman. At the town with the golden apple tree, the boy told them about the mouse and they gave him two asses laden with gold. At the town with the fountain he told them about the told and they gave him two more asses laden with gold.
When he reached home his wife was happy to see him. The king asked where he got all the gold and the boy said it was just lying on the ground across the river. So the king set out and reached the river. But the ferryman made him the new ferryman and left.
I guess the king enjoyed long, multiday rides in the countryside.
So the ferryman gets bored of crossing the same river? He doesn’t think he could just leave?
So you’d think it would be a couple days travel from the river to the castle, so it might be a week from when the boy told the ferryman to trick the next person into being the ferryman and the king showing up. Nobody else needed ferried in that time? Of course, if across the river is the home of demons, why have a ferry there at all?