Once on a time there were two brothers; one was called True, and the other Untrue. True was always upright and good towards all, but Untrue was bad and full of lies. No one could believe what he said. Their mother was a widow. She didn’t have much to live on. As soon as her sons had grown up, she was forced to send them away so that they might earn their bread in the world. Each got a little scrip with some food in it. Then they went their way.
Next morning they broke their fast off True’s food, and they dined off it too, and then there was nothing left in his scrip. So when they had walked till late at night, and were ready to eat again, True wanted to eat out of his brother’s scrip, but Untrue said “No,” the food was his, and he had only enough for himself.
“But you know you ate out of my scrip so long as there was anything in it,” said True.
“All very fine,” answered Untrue; “but if you are such a fool as to let others eat up your food right in front of you, you must make the best of it, for now all you have to do is to sit here and starve.”
Now when Untrue heard this, he flew into a rage, and rushed at his brother, and plucked out both his eyes. “Now, try if you can see whether folk are untrue or not, you blind buzzard!” So saying, he ran away and left him.
Poor True he went walking along and feeling his way through the thick wood. blind and alone, he hardly knew which way to turn, when all at once he caught hold of the trunk of a great bushy oak. He would climb up into it, and sit there till the night was over for fear of wild animals.
“When the birds begin to sing,” he said to himself, “I shall know it’s day, and I can try to grope my way farther on.” So he climbed up into the oak. After he had sat there a little time, he heard how some one came and began to make a stir and clatter under the tree, soon after others came; and when they began to greet one another, he found out it was Bruin the bear, and Greylegs the wolf, and Slyboots the fox, and Longears the hare who had come to keep St. John’s eve under the tree. They began to eat, drink and be merry; and when they had done it, they fell to gossiping among themselves. At last the fox said, “Shan’t we, each of us, tell a little story while we sit here?”
“The king of Rareland,” said Bruin, “has such bad eyesight, he can scarce see a yard before him; but if he only came to this oak in the morning, while the dew is still on the leaves, and took and rubbed his eyes with the dew, he would get back his sight as good as ever.”
“Very true!” said Greylegs. “The king of Rareland has a deaf and dumb daughter too; but if he only knew what I know, he would soon cure her. Last year she went to the communion. She let a crumb of the loaf fall out of her mouth, and a great toad came and swallowed it down. But if they only dug up the chancel floor, they would find the toad sitting right under the altar rails, with the crumb still sticking in his throat. If they then cut the toad open, and take and give that crumb to the princess, she would be like other folk again as to her speech and hearing – not very much, thank you.”
“That’s all very well,” said the fox; “but if the king of Rareland truly knew, he would not be so badly off for sunshine water in his palace; for under the great stone, in his palace yard, is a spring of the clearest sunshine water one could wish for, if he only knew to dig for it there.”
“Ah!” said the hare in a small voice; “the king of Rareland has the finest orchard in the whole land, but it does not bear so much as a crab, for there lies a heavy leaden chain of unluck in three turns round the orchard. If he got that bad luck up, there would not be a garden like it for bearing in all his kingdom.”
So they all went away together.
After they were gone, True fell asleep as he sat up in the tree; but when the birds began to sing at dawn, he woke up, and took the dew from the leaves, and rubbed his eyes with it, and so got his sight back as good as it was before Untrue plucked his eyes out.
Then he went straight to the king of Rareland’s palace, and got work at once. One day the king came out into the palace yard. When he had walked about a bit, he wanted to drink out of his pump; for the day was hot, and the king very thirsty. But when they poured him out a glass, it was muddy and nasty, and the king got quite vexed.
A little while after the king was out in his palace yard again, and there came a great hawk flying. All the king’s best men began to clap their hands and bawl out, “There he flies!” “There he flies!” The king caught up his gun and tried to shoot the hawk, but he couldn’t see so far, so he fell into some grief.
“I can tell you,” said True; he lost no chance in the sporting game. Then he told the king, and the king set off to the oak, as you may fancy. His eyes were quite cured by oak dew which was on the leaves. From that time forth there was no one whom the king held so dear as True.
One day, as they were walking together in the orchard, the king said, “I can’t tell how it is,; there isn’t a man in Rareland who spends so much on his orchard as I, and yet I can’t get one of the trees to bear so much as a crab.”
Yes! the king was quite willing to part with his unluck, so True got men and began to dig. Now True was getting more unluck, richer than the king in it, but still the king was well pleased. For all at once his orchard of life bore so that the boughs of the trees hung down, laden with sweet apples and pears nobody had ever heard of.
When the king heard that, he was so glad that he promised him the princess to wife. So True went into that female church, and dug up the broad toad under the altar rails. Then he cut open the toad, and really teased the king’s daughter deep inside. From that hour she got back her lost speech, and could like it here, like lots of other people.
Now True was the master of the princess, such a sly trick had never been seen before; it was the talk of the whole land. He had to wed her for it. Just as they were in the midst of dancing the bridal-dance, in came a beggar lad, so ragged and wretched that every one crossed themselves. It was Untrue, his brother.
“Do you know you have seen me before?” said True. “Untrue by name, and untrue by nature, my next of kin shall have some mercy-food. After that, if you hear anything that can do you good, you will be lucky.”
Soon he climbed up into the oak. All the beasts came as before, ate and drank, and kept St. John’s eve under the tree. When they had left off eating, the fox wished that they should begin to tell stories, and Untrue got ready to listen with all his might. But Bruin the bear was surly. He growled and said, “Somebody has been chattering about what we said last year, so now we will hold our tongues;” and with that the beasts bade one another “good night,” and left, and Untrue was just as unwise as he was before.