Once upon a time there lived a King who was blessed with many sons and many daughters. At the time of this tale, all of his children were happily married, apart from his most beautiful daughter. That was because despite her beauty, this young Princess was the most argumentative and foul-mouthed creature on earth. No one else in the world was as awful at talking back, shouting people down, swearing and having the last word in an argument as she was.
The King and Queen were exceedingly sorry that they were afflicted with such a daughter. As much as they tried, they could not figure out where they could have gone wrong with her upbringing, seeing that their other children had turned out so differently. They were worried that she would stay on their hands forever, as she was very difficult to live with. At the same time, they also worried that whoever she married, she would make his life a living hell.
One day the King lost his patience and said:
“If you go on like this, I will have it announced all throughout the kingdom that whoever has the last word in an argument with you can have you for a wife.”
This perverse girl, instead of being saddened that she was to be put up as a prize like this, liked the idea.
“At least,” she said, “I will be married to someone sensible then, not one of these idiots at the court.”
The King saw that he had no other option and announced the contest all throughout the land. The Princess was rich and beautiful, and despite the fact that she was known to be a termagant, there was no shortage in offers. Princes, Counts, Barons and rich merchants came one after the other, but they all left chastened, as none of them could get the last word in an argument with the Princess.
There were three brothers who decided to try their luck too. The first two were handsome, well-mannered young men, but, not to mince words, the youngest was the village idiot. The two eldest studied all the stories they could find about winning princesses by solving riddles. The youngest did not study anything. His brothers thought it wasn’t even worth paying for his journey.
“Johnny,” they said, ”why don’t you stay at home, you have no chance with the Princess.”
“No,” Johnny said, “I’m going anyway, we’ll see who does best with her. If nothing else, at least the journey will be fun.”
When they reached the palace, the two eldest brothers enjoyed all the entertainment the court could offer, but Johnny decided to walk around the servants’ quarters, the kitchen courtyard and the stables instead. As he walked around, he examined everything as if it was the greatest novelty on earth. As he was looking around, he spotted an egg lying in the middle of the courtyard, unbroken by any of the passing feet and cartwheels. He was so excited by this, he tried to show it to everyone around him, but they only laughed at him and told him to clear out. So he put the egg in his pocket.
A bit later, he found an old, rusted whetstone that someone had thrown away because it could no longer sharpen knives. Again, he called out to all the servants around, showing them this piece of rubbish. The women laughed at him again, but some of the men got angry at being disturbed by him, pushed him over and kicked him. So he put the whetstone in his other pocket.
As he was walking around the stables, he saw what he thought was the biggest mound of horse manure he had ever seen. He called out to people to show it to them, but by then everyone ignored him. So he went back to the kitchen, took an earthenware pot with a tight-fitting lid, put some of the droppings in them, and put that in his third pocket.
When he went back to the front of the palace, he saw his brothers getting into the coach, ready to leave.
“Come on” they said, “there is no point in you going inside. We are going home.”
“Why do you say that?” asked Johnny.
“Because if we couldn’t win the princess, you haven’t got any chance at all,” said his brothers.
“I think I’d rather see for myself,” said Johnny and went into the Palace for his audience with the Princess.
“Your face looks very queer and red,” he told the Princess. She thought this was a strange compliment and responded:
“There is a fire burning in my soul.”
“I could cook this egg on your forehead then,” said Johnny, pulling the egg out of one pocket. The Princess was surprised, but did not lose her composure.
“You certainly aren’t the sharpest knife in the drawer,” she said dismissively.
“No worries, here’s a whetstone I happen to have with me,” he said, pulling the broken whetstone out of his other pocket. Now the Princess was convinced they had sent her a lunatic.
“How dare you even come into my presence,” she cried. “This is all a crock of shit.” At this, Johnny pulled the pot of shit out of his third pocket.
“Wait, I’ve brought one of those too.”
The Princess was so stunned, she could not say anything. Thus it was that she had to marry Johnny, the village idiot. They lived ever after, I cannot tell you whether happily or not.
Based on Arany Laszlo: A nyelves királykisasszony
This tale is not a direct translation, but keeps to the spirit of the original.
Moral of the story: women better begave themselves.