French Folktales

The Boat That Went Both on Land and on Water

There, was once a great kingdom whose king had a daughter to marry off. A bit proud she was, but more beautiful than any. The king was in no hurry to find her a husband. He loved to have her with him, for she was as quick as a warbler, as straight as an arrow, and as sunny as an Easter day. He didn't look forward to letting any young man have her, not even a king's son. "Anyway," thought he, "where will I ever find a real match for her? She's my daughter, after all, the daughter of a great king."

But in time, the queen, the dishwasher, the minister, and the cobbler, in fact everyone in the castle and in the streets, began reminding the king at every turn that this daughter of his was his only child and that he had to get her married -- not to a prince, perhaps, if he couldn't think of a suitable one, but at least to a capable lad who could one day govern the kingdom.

"Is that what you want?" cried the king one morning, as his minister brought the subject up for the umpteenth time. "Is that your wish? You want a capable lad? All right, at the stroke of noon, have it announced with a flourish of trumpets that I'll give my daughter to anyone who takes wood from my forest and builds me a boat that goes both on land and on water. Yes, I'll say, to anyone who comes asking for her riding a boat like that!"

To himself he said, "A lot of water will flow under the bridges before any mother's son brings me a boat you can sail over fields and waves. These fools won't pester me any more with their nonsense about having to get my girl married!"



Text copyright©1989 Random House, from the Pantheon book French Folktales