Once there was a princess who was betrothed to a prince whom she had never met. He lived in a distant kingdom. When it was time for the princess to join him there, her mother, a kind and generous queen, gathered clothes and jewels, linens and ornaments, to supply her daughter with everything necessary for her new home.
The queen gave her daughter one last gift.
"This is my royal ring," said the queen. "When you arrive at your new castle, this ring will prove who you are."
The princess slipped the ring onto her finger and joined her companions for the journey. These included a lady-in-waiting from the castle, and her beloved horse Falada, who had the gift of speech.
The little group set off. After a time, the princess grew thirsty, so they stopped by a stream. The princess knelt daintily on the bank and drank from her cupped hands.
As she dipped her hands into the water, her mother's ring slid from her finger. The princess did not notice, but the lady-in-waiting did. The maid waded into the stream and plucked the ring from the current.
"Dear princess," said the lady-in-waiting, "look what I found in the stream." She held out the royal ring.
"Oh, dear!" cried the princess. "You have saved me."
"Yes, I have," said the maid. "Perhaps I should keep this ring for you. And look how you've muddied your gown. You should allow me to take charge of all your belongings. I will ride Falada and keep them safe for you."
"You are very good to me," said the princess. And she switched her clothes and her horse with the maid.
When the travelers reached the castle, the king and the prince were waiting.
"Show me to my room," the lady-in-waiting demanded haughtily. "I am very tired and hungry."
The king was surprised by the young lady's rudeness. But he said politely, "We are delighted that you have arrived safely, Princess."
Then he turned to the real princess, assuming that she was the servant. "We will also find room for you. We understand you are to be our new goose girl. Welcome."
"Thank you," she replied. "But I am the princess."
The lady-in-waiting laughed. "You? Your clothes are mere rags." The maid extended her hand to display the queen's ring. "This ring proves that I am the princess."
The king sent the astonished princess off with the goose boy, Conrad. She did not know what to do!
Find out what happened to the real princess on the next page.