The Magic Telescope
Once there lived a brave young hunter whose name was Peter. So good was he with his bow and arrow that he never missed a shot.
One day, however, for all his keen eyes and sharp ears, he found nothing, and as evening drew near, he had nothing to take home for the pot. Then he spied a giant eagle sitting on the branch of a tree and was just about to shoot it when the eagle said, “Do not kill me. If you spare my life, I may be useful to you one day.”
The young hunter dropped his bow and arrow in amazement, and the eagle plucked a feather from its wing, saying. as it did so, “If you ever need me, burn this feather, and I will appear.”
Peter took the feather and went on his way. He had not gone far before he saw a fine deer among the trees, and again, he drew his bow and arrow and took aim.
“Do not shoot me,” begged the deer. “If you spare my life, I may be useful to you one day.” With that, the deer plucked a tiny wad of wool from its hide and handed it to Peter. “If you need me, burn this wool, and I will appear,” it said. With that, the deer bounded off through the trees, and Peter went on his way.
He made his way through the forest and over a mountain until he reached the sea and decided to try his luck at fishing. On the shore, he set to work to make himself a fishing line from a strong reed and some string. He made a hook to go on the end and baited it with some crumbs. From the bread he had brought for his dinner.
He had not been fishing long when he felt a tug on the line, and, drawing it in; he saw that he had caught a little fish with scales of shining gold.
“Do not kill me,” pleaded the fish. “Throw me back into the water. If you spare me, I may be useful to you one day.” Saying this, it pulled off one of the shining scales and handed it to Peter. “If ever you need me, burn this scale, and I will come at once,” it said as it swam away.
Peter returned to the forest, and there, among the bushes, he saw a fine red fox. again he aimed, but before he could fly an arrow, the fox cried out, “let me live, for one day I may be useful to you.” With that, it plucked several hairs from its bushy tail and gave them to Peter, saying, “Whenever you need me, you have only to burn these hairs, and I will appear.”
Peter went on through the wood until he came to a road, along which he travelled until he reached a fine city. He stopped at a poor little house, went inside and, bowing to the older woman who sat beside the fireplace, asked her politely if she could provide him with a meal, for he had eaten nothing all day.
With a few coins supplied by Peter, she could buy food for both of them, and while they ate, she told Peter all the news of the country.
Peter learned that the land was ruled by a king who had one daughter. The princess was lovely, and many young princes had fallen in love with her, but she would marry none. She had a magic telescope with which she could see everything in the world and had vowed to marry only a man who could hide away in a place where she could not find him.
Peter thought he would try his luck, too, so, taking leave of the older woman, he made his way to the palace.
The princess was just as beautiful as the older woman had said, but her face was cold and arrogant. “I will set you four tests,” she said. “Four times you must hide, and if even one of those times I fail to find you, I will marry you. But if you are unsuccessful and I discover you each time, you will be imprisoned for the rest of your life, like the other ninety-nine of my suitors who have failed.”
That night, Peter burned the eagle’s feather, and when the eagle appeared, Peter explained that he wanted to be hidden away in a place where he would not be discovered.
The eagle picked him up in its talons and bore him away, over mountain and plain, until it reached its nest at the top of the tallest tree on the highest peak. It placed Peter inside the nest and then settled on top of him, covering him with its wings.
At daybreak, the princess took her telescope and searched the world but could not find Peter. At last, she searched even among the birds’ nests, and there she saw him, for a tiny piece of his fur hat was showing beneath the eagle’s wing.
The second night, Peter burned the fur from the coat of the deer and asked the deer to hide him. The deer swiftly carried him to its cave among the mountains and then curled up around him so that he was hidden from sight.
The next day, the princess scanned the world through her telescope, and because a tiny piece of his coat was showing beneath the deer’s hoof, she found him at last.
On the third night, Peter burned the fish’s scale, and when the fish heard his request, it called up a great pike from the depths of the ocean. The pike opened its vast mouth, took Peter inside, and swam away into the middle of the sea.
Suddenly, however, a little fish swam past, and the pike, which had a considerable appetite, opened its mouth to snap the little fish up. At that moment, the princess, scanning the world through her telescope, spied Peter in the pike’s mouth.
On the fourth and last night, almost in despair, Peter burned the hairs from the fox’s tail. “Do not worry,” said the fox. “I am cunning and clever and. I will hide you where no telescope will find you. Go to sleep now, and trust me.”
While the young man slept, the fox dug an underground passage that reached right under the room where the princess sat with her telescope. When it was finished, the fox took Peter and left him directly beneath the telescope while the fox mounted a guard at the entrance pretending to be doing nothing.
All day the princess searched, but she never thought to look beneath her feet, and by evening, she had found no sign of Peter. In a rage, she hurled her telescope across the room, and it shattered into a million pieces.
When Peter returned to the palace, he found the princess waiting to greet him with a smile. The cold, cruel look had left her face, and she seemed as good as she was beautiful.
She explained that a wicked magician had wished to marry her several years before. When she refused him, he shut her heart in a prison of ice so she could feel no tenderness or pity. Only a man who fulfilled the tasks set for him could rescue her. The princess was free when Peter was successful, and the magic telescope shattered.
The wedding was celebrated at once with great rejoicing, but those who rejoiced most of all were the ninety-nine other suitors, who were released from prison and given rich rewards to make up for their misfortune and the imprisonment they had suffered.