The Skilful Brothers

This story has wandered across the world, perhaps from the Kalmucks
to Norway; and it is as well known in Japan as it was to the Brothers Grimm. This is the Albanian telling.

Once upon a time there was a King who had a beautiful daughter. They lived happily until, one day, the Devil took it into his head to carry her away. This he did, conveying her to his dwelling-place, deep in the earth, where human beings cannot normally reach.
The King was distraught beyond measure, and announced that whoever should save the girl could have her hand in marriage, provided she agreed to accept him.
Seven intelligent, noble, and skilful youths each volunteered to rescue the Princess, and they set out together to seek the hiding-place.

Now these brothers were well equipped for their task. The first had such acute hearing that he could hear any sound, even from the most remote distances. The second had the power of making the very earth open to any depth. The third could steal anything from anyone without their knowing it. The fourth could hurl any object to the very confines of the world. The fifth was able to build a lofty and impregnable castle in an instant. The sixth was such a marksman that he could hit anything, no matter how high in the air it was, or how distant. The seventh could catch, and safely hold, anything which fell from the sky, whatever the altitude.

The seven had not gone very far when the youth with the acute hearing put his ear to the ground and heard that under that very spot was the Devil’s hideout. He said to the second young man: “Cause the earth to open at this point!!

Instantly, by the second youth’s magical power, the earth opened, and the party descended into the ground to where they saw the Devil, deeply asleep and snoring, clutching the maiden to him.

The third youth stole the Princess from the diabolical grasp by his power to abstract anything from anywhere without it being known. In her place he put a toad.
The fourth companion took off one of the Devil’s unique shoes, and hurled it so far that it descended at the other end of the earth.

Carrying the Princess, the brothers started their jouney back to her father’s palace.
Very soon, however, the Devil awoke. He roared and screamed with fury when he found the toad, the Princess gone, and his irreplaceable shoe missing. He threw himself into the air and sped to the end of the world to recover the footgear, and then started off in hot pursuit of the travellers.

As soon as they saw him coming in the distance, the fifth young man caused by his art a mighty and almost inaccessible tower to be built. The eight fugitives went inside, and the door closed, just at the moment when the Devil arrived.

Try as he might, the fiend could not get into the tower. Resorting to guile, he said: “I will go away in peace, if you will only just let me have one final look at the Princess.”
Foolishly, as it turned out, they made a very small hole in the tower for him to peep in; and in less time than it takes to tell he had pulled the girl through the aperture, and was flying away with her through the air towards his foul abode.

Now the sixth young man, taking his magical bow, sped an arrow towards the Devil, hitting him so hard and true that he dropped the Princess, from an immense height.
The seventh youth was ready and he caught her before she hit the ground.
Soon they reached the palace in safety, and the King was overjoyed at the return of his daughter. “Which of the brothers will you choose?” he asked her.

“Each one of them has done something indispensable to rescue me,” said the Princess, “yet I think that I will choose the one who caught me when I fell.”

This seventh youth was, as it happens, the youngest and most handsome, so they were married. And the King rewarded all the other young men with lavish presents and grants of land, and they all lived happily ever afterwards.

— Taken from WORLD TALES, Collected by Indries Shah Submitted by Jim Gregory

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