Folktales > Princess Who Couldn't Laugh

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Narrator: Once upon a time in Norway, there lived a Norwegian king who had a Norwegian daughter. And she was a very fine daughter, kind and caring, who fed the poor and took care of injured birds. Or maybe she fed the birds and took care of the injured poor. Anyway, she was a perfect daughter in every way.

Daugther: Goody for me.

Narrator: Except for one little thing.

Daugther: Uh-oh.

Narrator: She never laughed.

Daugther: Never?

Narrator: She couldn't. She couldn't laugh. Or chuckle. Or snicker. Or giggle. Or guffaw. Or chortle. Or titter. Or grin. Or even crack a smile. The king's jester would tell all his best jokes, and none of them worked.

Jester: And so the third farmer said, "I don't know, it wasn't here yesterday". (Laughs heartily, then his laughter quickly subsides as he realizes that nobody else is laughing.)

Daugther: Yeah, whatever.

Narrator: Finally, the king decided that something had to be done.

King: I'll have the royal herald make a royal announcement.

Herald: Hear ye, hear ye! By order of the king, whoever shall be able to make the royal Norwegian princess laugh, chuckle, snicker, guffaw, chortle, titter, grin or crack a smile, shall have all the gold he can carry. (King clears throat, whispers to Herald). Um, right. Shall have all the gold he can carry in one hand. Good luck one and all. You're going to need it.

Narrator: And so, from all over the kingdom, people came to try their luck at making the princess laugh. (Sound of someone imitating Curly of The Three Stooges.) And one by one, they all failed. (Sound of buzzer.) Now it happened that in this kingdom, out in the countryside, too far away from the palace even to have a zip code, lived Three Brothers: Peter, Paul and Hans. Peter and Paul were rather mean to Hans, the youngest, and made him do all the work. One day Peter, the oldest, said.

Peter: Hey Paul, guess what I heard today.

Paul: Besides the moss growing?

Peter: I heard that the king is offering a reward to anyone who can make his daughter laugh.

Paul: Really? How'd you hear that?

Peter: Some of the mockingbirds around here do really good impressions of the royal herald. Look, I'm going to the palace to make some faces and silly noises. Clear out a space for all the gold I'm gonna bring back.

Narrator: Yes, Peter was very good at making funny faces. He could almost turn his face inside out and tie it into knots. His faces always made people laugh – if they didn't retch instead. But when he tried it on the princess…

(Sound of Peter making funny faces.)

Princess: Ho hum.

Narrator: After that, Peter wasn't exactly laughing himself. He went back home to his brothers and told them what happened. And the second oldest brother, Paul, who was also the second youngest, said…

Paul:Okay, looks like you blew it. Now it's my turn. I'm absolutely certain that I can make her laugh with my animal imitations. Nobody's ever been able to resist yet.

Narrator: So he made his way to the palace, and he appeared before the princess. He imitated a monkey. (Monkey noises.) And a chicken. (Chicken noises.) And a dog. (Dog noises.) And a giraffe. (Silence.) And a goat. (Meowing like a cat.) A goat with an identity crisis. But even after all of that…

Princess: Okay, so when does the real show start?

Narrator: So then Paul imitated a dog going home with its tail tucked under its legs. And he told his brothers what happened.

Hans: I guess it's up to me. I should go see if I can make the princess laugh.

Peter:You? That's a laugh. (He and Paul laugh heartily.)

Paul:All you know how to do is make candles. What makes you think you can succeed where we failed?

Hans: I don't know. Maybe it was that story I heard about the girl and the glass dipper.

Paul:I think you mean slipper.

Hans: Yes, one or the other.

Peter: All right. You go ahead to the palace and try it if you must. Just don't be surprised if everyone laughs at you – everyone except the princess, that is.

Paul: Just don't be gone long. You make our candles, so if you're gone too long, we'll have to sit in the dark.

Narrator: So Hans went to the palace as well. In fact, he went even better. Because he didn't go immediately to audition for the princess. First, he wanted to look around, do some spying, maybe find out what had already been tried to make the princess laugh. He went to the royal kitchen and asked the royal cook…

Hans: Excuse me, mum, but I'm working for looks – that is, I'm looking for work. Do you have any jobs I could do?

Cook: Why yes, it just so happens that I could use a boy who's not too bright or ambitious to haul firewood and water.

Hans: I could do that.

Cook: Just be careful and don't fall down and break your crown.

Narrator: So he took the bucket down to the well and scooped it full of water. But then he looked into the bucket and saw something rather unusual.

Hans: Well hello there Mr. Fish. I never expected to see you in here. How did you get in the well, anyway? That's really rather disgusting when you think about it.

Narrator: Just then, along came a rather strange woman carrying a goose.

Woman: Hello there, young fellow. Why are you talking to that bucket?

Hans: I'm not. I'm talking to the fish in the bucket.

Woman: Oh. Well that's different. I guess that's not nearly as strange as talking to a bucket. Of course, I guess I'm not one to talk about strange when I go around carrying a goose. Could I take a look at the fish?

Hans: Of course. Here you go.

Woman: Oh my, that is a very strange looking fish indeed. I'd like to have a fish like that. Say… could I trade you this goose for it? You could talk to it too, and it will understand just as much as the fish does.

Hans: Well, I don't know…

Woman: Oh, I forgot to mention that it's a magic goose. If someone touches it and you say "If you would come along then hold on", then that person can't let go of the goose or anyone who's touching it. It's sort of a goose magnet.

Hans: Really? That's a very interesting power the goose has.

Woman:Interesting, but not very profitable. My sister got one that lays golden eggs, and my mother got one that recites nursery rhymes, but I'm stuck with this one. Literally.

Hans: Very well, I'll trade. Here's your fish.

Narrator: So Hans took the goose and headed back toward the palace. Along the way, he passed a seamstress.

Seamstress: My, what a splendid goose you have there. May I pet it?

Hans: Yes, of course.

Seamstress: Oh what lovely soft feathers it has. It would make a very good pillow. Sorry – professional habit.

Narrator: Hans remembered what the woman said who had given him the goose, and he couldn't resist trying it.

Hans: If you would come along, then hold on.

Seamstress: Hey, what's this? I can't let go.

Hans: Wow, it actually worked. Come along to the palace.

Seamstress: But – but –

Narrator: So Hans continued toward the palace, with the Seamstress holding on to the goose. And then along came a man.

Man: Hey, seamstress! That coat you sold me last week fell apart as soon as I got it home. You cheated me! You deserve a good swift kick.

Narrator: So the man gave her a good swift kick. But just as he did so, Hans said…

Hans: If you would come along, then hold on.

Man: Hey, what gives? My foot is stuck to you.

Hans: So it is. Come along, let's go to the palace.

Narrator: So Hans continued to the palace with the Seamstress stuck to the goose, and the man's foot stuck on her, while he hopped on the other foot. Soon they passed a blacksmith.

Blacksmith: Wow, that's rich. I haven't seen a sight like this in… well, never. And hey… that fellow hopping on one foot is the guy who gave me a hard time about those horseshoes I made for him. It would be funny if I just took my tongs and grabbed him by the seat of the pants.

Narrator: So the blacksmith got his tongs and grabbed the man by the seat of the pants. But Hans saw him do it.

Hans: If you would come along, then hang on.

Blacksmith: Hey! The seat of your pants grabbed my tongs and won't let go. Give them back to me!

Hans: Let's go to the palace, one and all.

Narrator: And Hans continued toward the palace, with the Seamstress stuck to the goose, and the man's foot stuck on her while he hopped on the other foot, and the blacksmith with his tongs stuck to the seat of the man's pants. And as they approached the palace, the cook saw them.

Cook: What on earth! No wonder that boy is so late in bringing back a bucket of water. He's busy playing with all those other people. The blacksmith is there. He must have caused all of this, he's always playing tricks. Wait till I get my hands on him. Or my long wooden spoon.

Narrator: So the cook went out with her long wooden spoon and whacked the blacksmith on the head with it.

Hans: If you would come along, then hang on.

Cook: Hey! Give me back my spoon. We certainly don't want your hair in the soup.

Narrator: But Hans continued walking around in the courtyard, leading his curious little parade, with the seamstress stuck to the goose, and the man's foot stuck on her while he hopped on the other foot, and the blacksmith's tongs stuck to the seat of the man's pants, and the cook's long wooden spoon stuck to the blacksmith's head. They paraded around and attracted such a crowd that caused such a commotion that the princess heard it, and looked out her window. And when she saw Hans carrying the pail of water and the goose with the seamstress stuck on the goose and the man's foot stuck on her while he hopped on the other foot and the blacksmith's tongs stuck on the seat of the man's pants and the cook's long wooden spoon stuck on the blacksmith's head (Narrator takes a big breath) then she burst out laughing. (Princess laughs) She laughed as she had never laughed before – which goes without saying, I suppose. The King heard her laugh, and came running.

King: Here, here, what's all the ruckus? Oh my. Is that really my daughter laughing? Or is someone a ventriloquist? Please tell me, daughter, what is it that made you finally laugh like this?

Daugther: (trying to control her laughing) It's… it's… that boy leading the parade. I've never seen anything so comical in my life.

King: Why yes. It is a rather comical little parade, isn't it?

Princess: I don't know about that. But that boy has the silliest expression on his face I've ever seen.

King: Hmm… then we must bring that boy here and give him the reward.

Narrator: So the king gave Hans some gold. In fact, the princess laughed so much that the King gave him all the gold he could carry in both hands. And all of his pockets. But from what I hear, the gold still stayed in the family, because Hans and the princess got married, and lived happily ever laughter.

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About this Story

From Norway comes this classic story about a princess who was very charming except that she had no sense of humor. This tale is rather unusual in that it's both a Rule Of Three story and a cumulative story.

Rule Of Three refers to the three-part structure that many stories (and jokes) have: The Three Little Pigs, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, etc. In this case, there are three brothers who each undertake a task in turn.

A cumulative story (sometimes called a chain story) involves a series of actions in which something is repeated -- in this case, the actions all involve the goose. For additional examples of cumultive stories we have done, see Simple Ivan, The Drum, The Gingerbread Man and Something From Nothing -- as well as the familiar nursery rhyme "The House That Jack Built".

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