THERE was once upon a time a couple of rich folks who had twelve sons, and when the youngest was grown up he would not stay at home any longer, but would go out into the world and seek his fortune. His father and mother said that they thought he was very well off at home, and that he was welcome to stay with them; but ho could not rest, and said that he must and would go, so at last they had to give him leave. When he had walked a long way, he came to a King’s palace. There he asked for a place and got it.
Now the daughter of the King of that country had been carried off into the mountains by a Troll, and the King had no other children, and for this cause both he and all his people were full of sorrow and affliction, and the King had promised the Princess and half his kingdom to anyone who could set her free; but there was no one who could do it, though a great number had tried. So when the youth had been there for the space of a year or so, he wanted to go home again to pay his parents a visit; but when he got there his father and mother were dead, and his brothers had divided everything that their parents possessed between themselves, so that there was nothing at all left for him.
‘Shall I, then, receive nothing at all of my inheritance?’ asked the youth.
‘Who could know that you were still alive–you who have been a wanderer so long?’ answered the brothers. ‘However, there are twelve mares upon the hills which we have not yet divided among us, and if you would like to have them for your share, you may take them.’
So the youth, well pleased with this, thanked them, and at once set off to the hill where the twelve mares were at pasture. When he got up there and found them, each mare had her foal, and by the side of one of them was a big dapple-grey foal as well. which was so sleek that it shone again.
‘Well, my little foal, you are a fine fellow!’ said the youth.
‘Yes, but if you will kill all the other little foals so that I can suck all the mares for a year, you shall see how big and handsome I shall be then!’ said the Foal.
So the youth did this–he killed all the twelve foals, and then went back again.
Next year, when he came home again to look after his mares and the foal, it was as fat as it could be, and its coat shone with brightness, and it was so big that the lad had the greatest difficulty in getting on its back, and each of the mares had another foal.
‘Well, it’s very evident that I have lost nothing by letting you suck all my mares,’ said the lad to the yearling; ‘but now you are quite big enough, and must come away with me.’
‘No,’ said the Colt, ‘I must stay here another year; kill the twelve little foals, and then I can suck all the mares this year also, and you shall see how big and handsome I shall be by summer.’
So the youth did it again, and when he went up on the hill next year to look after his colt and the mares, each of the mares had her foal again; but the dappled colt was so big that when the lad wanted to feel its neck to see how fat it was, he could not reach up to it, it was so high? and it was so bright that the light glanced off its coat.
‘Big and handsome you were last year, my colt, but this year you are ever so much handsomer,’ said the youth; ‘in all the King’s court no such horse is to be found. But now you shall come away with me.’