"Our son is a great hunter," said the old king. "Every day he goes out to the woods with his crossbow. But he never
brings an animal home, although he shoots many. He gives everything he shoots to the poor. He is a very kind person!"
Such are the words the king used when he talked with his wife. But the deer in the woods thought quite differently. They
were not at all afraid of Heino; for they had known him for a long time and knew that he would not harm them. He would
always ride to the far end of the woods where there was a little cottage that was almost completely hidden by trees and
bushes, and its windows and door were overgrown with ivy and honeysuckle. At the threshold stood Little Blueeyes and
when she saw the king's son approaching, her big blue eyes shone with glee like two stars that lit up her whole face.—
But Heino would always come home emptyhanded and he always wanted to ride alone. When his father went out with
him he would always shoot off target. It was then that the old king noticed that there was something strange about his
son's behavior. He had one of his servants pursue Heino secretly and the servant told him what his son was doing. The
king was beside himself and flew into a rage, for Heino was the king's only son and the king had high hopes of him
marrying the daughter of some other mighty king. Then he called for two huntsmen from among his servants, laid a
clump of gold about the size of a man's head before them and said it would be theirs if they would murder Little
But Little Blueeyes had a snow-white dove that would sit all day long on the highest tree in the woods and it could see
the castle. When Heino mounted his horse to ride to Little Blueeye's cottage the dove would fly quickly in advance and
beat its wings on the window pane and call:
"A rustling in the branches
sweet Little Blueeyes,
riding on a horse!"
Then Blueeyes would be waiting at the door for Heino to arrive.
When the white dove saw the King's hunters one evening prowling around in the woods it sensed trouble. It flew to the
castle and beat against Heino's window panes until he came and opened, and it told him everything it had seen. Heino
ran to the woods as fast as his legs would take him until he came to the little hut where the servants had already bound
Blueeyes and were deciding how they would kill her. Then Heino cut off the heads of both servants and carried them
back to the castle and laid them on the threshold of his father's bed chamber.
The old king could not sleep that night and heard a soft wining and moaning the whole time outside his door. When
daylight came he got up and saw what was there. The heads of both servants were on the threshold and between them
a letter from Heino in which he wrote that he no longer wanted to have anything to do either with his father or mother,
and that every night he would be lying in wait at Blueeye's doorstep with his unsheathed sword on his lap. Anyone who
would be coming to harm her, even if it were his own father, would be beheaded, just as the servants had been.
When the king read that he was put to shame. He went to the queen and told her everything. But she reprimanded him
for wanting to have Blueeyes murdered and said: "You have spoiled everything! What do you mean by murdering? Men
are such awful creatures, every one of you! Your motto is: bend or break. Today there are six shirts of yours that came
back from the laundry and on each of them the collar bands are missing. Where are they? You tore them off because
you tied knots in them instead of having the patience to untie them. And now you are acting the same way with Heino.
And I am the one who is supposed to set things right!"
"Alright, alright," replied the king who knew that the queen was right, "just calm down and stop reprimanding me. It
doesn't help matters at all."
And the queen lay in her bed that night and kept turning from side to side, considering what she should do. As soon as
it was daylight she went to the village green and dug out a weed that had poisonous black berries on it. Then she went
into the woods and planted it along the path.
When she returned the king asked her what she had been doing. She told him: "I have planted a weed for him along the
path from which a red flower will sprout; whoever plucks it will have to forget the person he loves."
Next morning when Heino was walking in the woods he saw the weed there beside the path. It had already blossomed
into a red flower that shone in the sunlight and had such a strong scent that he almost fainted. Although there had
been a heavy dew overnight both the weed and the flower were completely dry. Then Heino said:
"What weed is that,
on which nothing thaws?
The flower answered:
"A weed no one can find
except a child of a king!"
After that he asked again:
"And if I do not pick you,
flower on my path?"
And the flower answered:
"Then I will bloom even nicer,
you proud king's son!"
He could restrain himself no longer and picked the flower; and when he had done that he forgot Blueeyes and went back
to his parents in the castle.
When his mother saw him coming she noticed that he had the red flower stuck on his jacket. Then she knew that
everything had gone as planned and she called for the king. He went out to meet his son, brought him a golden helmet
and gilded suit of armor and said: "I am now old and weak; go out into the world and learn what it has to teach you.
When you return in two years I will give you my kingdom.
So now Heino chose thirty pages and traveled with them from one kingdom to the other and saw the splendor of the
But when he failed to return Blueeyes knew that he had abandoned her. Every morning she sent the white dove flying
out for as long as was necessary to find Heino. And every evening the white dove would return and tell Blueeyes where
Heino was and how he was getting along:
"What is my dear hero doing,
my youngster of royal blood?"
And the dove answered:
"He travels far and wide
rides with courage and pride!"
"Am I forgotten now
no longer on his mind?"
"He has forgotten you,
only eats and bibs,
come rain, come shine!"—
Now two years had gone by and then the white dove came back one evening and had a spot of blood on its wing.
Then Blueeyes asked:
"What does my hero dear,
my youngster of royal blood?"
She saw the spot of blood on the dove's wing and was overcome with sadness. "Is he dead?" she inquired.
"Better God had wished,
that he be dead!"
cooed the dove.
"In Irrwisch swamp, he lies drowned,
in Irrwisch swamp, he sunk down,
Where the reeds grow,
there he lies bewitched,
God have mercy,
in the white arms of the Irrwisch Queen!"
Blueeyes told the white dove to sit on her shoulder and show her the way, and they set out to find Heino.
After a three day journey they reached Irrwisch swamp where Heino lay under a spell. Blueeyes sat down on the path
and waited there until it was evening when the sky darkened and storm clouds appeared. Rain pattered down on the
alder bushes and it was not long before she saw the first blue flames rising from the swamp. She put on her jacket,
walked in among the reeds and kept moving forward, her eyes on the ghostly lights. It was hard to advance and she
sank ankle-deep into the mud. The wind blew her hair around her shoulders and she had to stop and tie it in a knot and
throw it back over her shoulder as the rain was running off her face. But the swamp kept getting deeper and deeper and
the blue flames that came up on all sides seemed to be making fun of her. When it appeared as if they were standing still
or even coming towards her, she thought she could reach them easily, but then they would shift out to the middle of the
swamp and come to the surface there.
Now she sank in almost up to her knees and could not advance more than two or three steps before having to rest. The
storm let up, the thin moon sickle showed itself between the clouds, and in front of her, in the middle of a great dark
pool, the miraculous castle of the Queen Irrwisch rose up.
White stairs led from the silent waters to a great open hall which was set on many blue and green crystal pillars topped
with golden knobs, and in this hall in colorful confusion a countless number of ghostly lights were dancing around a
bright flickering flame that rose high up from its center. Suddenly a number of these lights separated from the mass and
formed two circles that departed from the hall in a whirling motion. And while the one stopped at the stairs of the castle,
the other quickly came up beside it, and soon Blueeyes recognized twelve pale but gorgeous virgins wearing golden
diadems on their forehead on which small golden bowls were fixed at the front with blue flames coming out. In a wild
dance they came and hovered around Blueeyes and as a magic music sounded from inside the castle they sang:
noble sister, Blueeyes, come in!
Inside the castle
inside the castle
beckons a dear friend!
See how it blinks!
How he waves,
how he greets, hand held high!
Forget what you loved on earth,
come, be one of us!"
But Blueeyes looked at the ghosts with her big clear eyes without flinching and said: "You have no power over me! Only
God in heaven knows if I will return alive from this swamp; but even if I must die, you will not bring me under your sway!"
The virgins fled in all directions back to the swamp. In their stead hovered the second group of ghostly lights
approached that had been dancing back and forth on the stairs in front of the castle. The group was made up of twelve
splendid but deathly pale boys who likewise had blue flames on their foreheads. They formed a circle around Blueeyes
and danced slowly around her while at the same time lifting their white arms alternately over their heads and pointing
back to the castle. There was one of them who kept coming up to Blueeyes as if he wanted to embrace her; and when
she regarded him closely she saw that it was Heino.
Her heart stopped suddenly as if an ice cold sword had been thrust through it, and she cried out loud: "Heino, God be
with you in your distress!"
Hardly had she shouted that when a blast of wind blew over the swamp and the lights of the Irrwischs went out. The still
surface of the pond rippled and the black waves hit up against the white stairs of the castle. Then the castle sank
noiselessly into the deep and in its place stood four poles of rotten wood which were the ruins of an old heathen
fishermen's cottage. But in front of Blueeyes, sunken into the swamp up to his waist stood Heino, alive, as she had
known him, but pale and sad. His hair fell clotted onto his forehead, his helmet and armor were rusted.
"Is that you, Blueeyes?" he asked wistfully.
"Yes, Heino, it is I."
"Just let me be," he replied, "For me there is no hope!"
But she gave him her hand and spoke words of courage to him; and he tried to take a few steps in her direction. Then
he stopped and said:
"Blueeyes, I am sinking;
Blueeyes, I am drowning.
But she held him all the tighter and answered:
"No, Heino, you will not sink!
No, Heino, you will not drown!
Hold on to me tightly,
And you will be saved!"
In this manner she helped him to come forward, but again and again he would stop and say:
"Blueeyes, I am sinking;
Blueeyes, I am drowning!"
And time and again she would console him saying:
"No, Heino, you will not sink!
no, Heino, you will not drown!
Hold on to me tightly,
and you will be saved!"
And finally, with untold effort, they advanced so far that they could see the end of the swamp and the road in the
distance. Heino remained where he was and called out: "I can come no farther, Blueeyes! You go back alone and tell my
dear mother. You will be able to get out, for you are not in so deep; but I am in almost up to my heart." Then he turned
around and looked at the place where the castle had gone under.
"Do not turn to look!" shouted Blueeyes anxiously. But she hardly had time to shout this when from the middle of the
swamp a single blue flame came gliding toward them. It approached swiftly and the Queen of Irrwisch stood before them.
She had a crown of white water roses on her head and her diadem was a golden serpent that was twisting gently in her
hair and around her forehead. With her glowing eyes she looked at Heino as if she wanted to look right into his heart.
Then she laid her hand on his shoulder and pleaded insistently: "Come back, Heino!" And he stood there looking at her
and swayed this way and that.
Blueeyes took his sword from its sheath and swung it at the Queen. But she laughed and said: "Foolish child, what are
you trying to do? I am not of flesh and blood." And she grabbed Heino and pulled him violently to herself so that her
black locks fell over his face. Bluewyes, frightened as she was, shouted: "Even if you are not of flesh and blood, you
horrible woman, I will save Heino from your destruction!" And she flourished the sword with all her might, and as the
Queen made one more attempt to be off with Heino, whose right hand she had clasped, she called out: "Heino, it will not
hurt!" and hit his arm with one blow and cut it off close to the wrist.
The flame on the queen's forehead went out and the queen melted away like a vision in the fog; the white dove however,
that had been perched on Blueeye's shoulder, flew over and landed on Heino's.
"Now you are saved, Heino!" shouted Blueeyes, when she saw that. "Come, it is not far to the road; muster up all your
strength. See, you are not sinking in so deep."
And they went on, but Heino often had to stop and kept saying:
"Blueeyes, my arm hurts so!"
Then she answered:
"Heino, I am hurting even more!"
On the last stretch she almost had to carry him, and when he finally came clear of the swamp he was so exhausted that
he fell down on the road and fell asleep. She took her veil and tied up his arm to stop it from bleeding.— When she saw
that he was sleeping soundly she took the ring he had given her from her finger, put it on his hand and started off for
As soon as she got there she went to the old king and, looking at him cheerfully with her big blue eyes, said: "I have
saved your son; he will soon be coming back to you. May God protect you for you will never see me again."
The old king embraced her and said: "Blueeyes, my daughter, you can wear a crown as proudly as a king's child! If you
are ready to forgive him and take a one-armed husband, you should be his queen for as long as he lives."
After he said that he opened the door and in came Heino, who took Blueeyes in his arms. There was great rejoicing in all
the land and everyone wanted to see the sweet, god-fearing girl who had saved the King's son.
But when they stood before the altar and were about to exchange rings Heino forgot that his right hand was missing
and he stretched out his stump to the priest. Then a miracle took place; for when the priest touched the stump a hand
grew out of it like a white flower coming out of a brown branch. But around his wrist there was a thin red stripe, as fine
as a thread. And it stayed that way for the rest of his life.—
|Heino in the Swamp
Richard von Volkmann-Leander
Illustration: Hans von Volkmann (Son)
|Reveries at French Firesides