The Blue Thread and the White Thread

A king and his three sons were all great lovers of hunting. One day the four of them went to hunt in some thickets a long way away and there they spent the whole day. When they were about to return home a great storm descended and they lost their way.

For a long time they went on without knowing where they were going, through the pouring rain on the darkest of nights lit up by thunder and lightning, until they came to a great palace. They dismounted, put their horses in the stables and went up the palace steps. They knocked but no-one answered. When they pushed the door it opened and they found themselves in a great hall, where they saw the table already being laid by invisible servants. They sat down at the table and ate their fill.

When they had finished eating, another door opened which led to a corridor along which they found four bedrooms with the beds already made up. They went to bed and the eldest prince remained on watch. At midnight the prince heard a loud hissing

as if a serpent was approching. He was terrified and went and got into bed with his middle brother, without saying anything.

Next day when they all got up the storm was even more furious than it had been before. They stayed in the palace the whole day, their needs always being well attended to. That night the middle brother remained on watch and the same happened with him as had happened with his elder brother. On the third day the youngest brother stood watch. At midnight he heard a great noise and he drew his scimitar and placed himself beside the only window to the palace. Then he saw an enormous serpent trying to hurl itself through the window, and he gave it a terrible slash with his sword, cutting it so badly that its blood put the light out in his lamp. The prince found himself in darkness and silence. He had no way of relighting his lamp, but through the window he saw a light in the distance.

He went out of the palace with his lamp in his hand and went to the place where the light was shining. He found an old woman and asked her if he could light his lamp.

 “Alas, young man,” the old woman said, “you can’t light your lamp here. Go further on, and you will find four men sitting round a fire, ask them for a light. If they refuse, don’t be afraid to insist they do so. Then they will ask you to go with them and pick some fruit from a tree by a well, and you should agree to do so. When you come the well they will try to throw you in, but, as you will be expecting thhem to do this, you will be able to throw them into the well.”

 “But all this is costing me a lot of time…” the prince objected.

 “Wrap this white thread round your finger and wrap this blue thread on top of it. When you want it to be daytime move the white thread over the blue, and when you want it to be night put the blue thread over the white.”

The prince set off towards the fire and found four black men around it.

 “Can you light my lamp for me,” the prince said.

 “Go and light it yourself,” they replied.

 “If I wanted to light it myself I wouldn’t have asked you. You light it,” said the prince.

 “We’ll light it for you, but first you must go and pick the fruit from that tree,”

the black men said.

 “I’m nobody’s servant. If you want fruit we’ll all go together,” the prince said.

 “Then let’s go,” the black men replied.

As soon as they reached the well the prince pushed them and all four fell down it.

At the same moment their fire went out. But nearby the prince saw another light and he went towards it and found a Turkish palace with its windows open. The prince went into the palace carrying his lamp and found a beautiful maiden asleep in a bedroom. He wanted to light his lamp but couldn’t do so. He picked up a pair of scissors from a needlework table, and went into another bedroom where he saw an even more beautiful maiden lying asleep. He was still unable to light his lamp and so he went on, taking a thimble with him. In the third bedroom he found another maiden, the most beautiful of all three of them. He kissed her and took a needle-case. His lamp lit up again in that room.

He entered another bedroom and found an old man sleeping beside a lady.

Hanging beside them were the robes of a king and a queen. With the scissors he cut off the fringes of the damask cover on their bed. At that moment he heard the slithering of a serpent. He unsheathed his scimitar and cut off its head as it tried to come in through the window. He cut out its tongue and made off with it.

The night was very dark, but the prince succeeded in finding his way back to the house where he found his father and brothers still asleep. It seemed to him that the night was lasting much longer than usual and then he remembered the blue thread which he still had on his finger on top of the white thread. He unwrapped the threads and immediately it became day. His father and brothers woke up, their eyes puffed with so much sleep. The storm had died down completely and they decided to leave the enchanted palace. The prince couldn’t find any traces of the serpent’s blood from the previous night. When they left, the youngest brother asked his father and brothers to take another route which led to the Turkish palace, where he had met the three beautiful young women. They found a venerable old man walking in the garden, who invited them into his palace. They went in and the three girls appeared with the old lady. His father and brothers were surprised when the youngest prince addressed the lady and the old man as if they were royalty.

 “I am a king in fact,” said the old man, “but I am staying here with my family

until the death of a serpent which is persecuting us and has sworn to kill me. I fled my kingdom to escape its persecution. The serpent embodies the evil influence of an old woman with magic powers who is waging war on me. When the serpent dies her power over me will come to an end.”

The youngest prince said: “That serpent is already dead.”

 “Where did this happen?” the old man asked him in happiness.

 “Here. Last night. I killed it.”

The good old man smiled in disbelief. Then the prince told him everything which had taken place the previous night, and showed him the serpent’s tongue, which he had kept in a handkerchief, and the thimble, the scissors and the needle-case, which he had taken from the bedrooms of the princesses. They blushed at the thought of the prince having seen them while they were sleeping, and the youngest blushed deepest when the prince openly declared that he had kissed her while she slept.

Then the two kings warmly embraced one another, and the queen and the princesses were very happy that their husband and father had been freed from the serpent. There and then the kings and the queen arranged the marriage of the three princesses to the three princes, with the youngest prince marrying the youngest princess, because it was she who had received the kiss from the prince.

They set off from that place with great satisfaction, and days later the princes married the the princesses, to great celebrations in both kingdoms.

I went there and they gave me not a thing.


Oliveira 1900 I, 379-382, #167 A Linha Azul e a Linha Branca; Oliveira 2002, I, 340-342.

Type AaTh 304, The Hunter

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