King Mathias and the shepherd who always tells the truth
A tale about the Golden Lamb
The Prussian king went to visit king Mathias. They greeted each other
as old friends. The Prussian king said, “I’ve heard that you have a
golden lamb”. “ That’s right,” said Mathias. “I have a golden lamb
among my sheep, and I have a shepherd who has never lied.”
The Prussian king said “I’ll show you that he lies!”
“But,” said king Mathias, “he doesn’t lie, it is impossible!”
“But I’ll show you that he lies because I will trick him into lying.”
“I wager you anything that he does not lie”, says Mathias, “or I will give
you half my kingdom.”
“I’ll give you half my kingdom, too, if he doesn’t lie,” said the Prussian
So, they shook hands and the wager was sealed.
The Prussian king said good night and went back to his lodgings. There
he put on the clothing of a common peasant and went immediately to
the shepherds’ farm. He greeted the shepherd who never lies. He replies
“You are welcome, my king.”
“Where do you know me from, how do you know that I am a king?”
“I recognize you by your words,” said the shepherd.
“I will give you lots of money, and, in addition, six horses and a
carriage. All I want is the Golden Lamb.
“Oh!” said the shepherd. “I wouldn’t give it to you for all the world,
because king Mathias would hang me.”
The Prussian king promised even more money. But no, the shepherd
would not accept it.
So, the Prussian king went back to his lodgings and was very sad. His
daughter was there, too.
“Don’t be sad,” said the girl, “I will go to that shepherd with much gold
and I will trick him!”
She brought a box of pure gold and a bottle of wine with plenty of honey
in it. Her plan was to cheat him. But the shepherd told her that he did
not need the money! And he told her that king Mathias would hang him,
if he found out that the Golden Lamb had disappeared.
But the girl talked and talked and finally they drank the wine. However,
the girl had to drink first, because the shepherd wanted to see if there
was any poison in it. And there was not.
Eventually the shepherd became very merry from the wine, so he said
that he would give the lamb to the girl if she married him right away.
He refused the money, because he had plenty.
First the girl would not agree, but in the end she did. This is what she
said to the shepherd.
“Skin the lamb, eat its flesh, because I need only its fleece, not its meat.
The shepherd did this and the girl took the golden lamb’s fleece back to
her father and was very happy. Her father was happy too, because his
daughter was able to cheat the shepherd.
Then the morning came, and the shepherd was sad, because he did not
know what to say to the king about the disappearance of his lamb. He
went to the castle and during the journey he practiced how he would lie
to the king. He stuck his stick into a mouse hole and he put his hat onto
the stick. He moved back from it, then he went forward and greeted the
He spoke to himself in the name of the king:
“How are things going on at the farm?”
Then he said in his own name
“There is no other news, just the gold lamb has disappeared, the wolf
has eaten it.”
When he said this, he got scared.
“You are lying, because the other sheep would be eaten, too.”
He picked up his stick and went forward to the king’s castle. Then he
found another mouse hole, put in his stick, then his hat on it and greeted
the stick, as he would the king:
“What’s new at the farm?
“There’s nothing else, just the golden lamb died in the well.”
“You’re lying” it sounded like the king’s voice “the other sheep would
be dead, too.”
He picked up his stick again and went forward to the castle. When he
found a third mouse hole, he did the same again.
“What’s the news at the farm?”
“The gold lamb was stolen.”
“You’re lying” said the king, “because the other ones would be stolen,
He picked up his stick and hat, and went to king Mathias’ palace. The
Prussian king was there, too, sitting with his daughter at the table. He
went in and greeted them.
The Prussian king had taken the lamb’s fleece to the palace and they
were waiting to see if the shepherd would lie. If he lied, Mathias would
lose half his kingdom, as it was said in their wager.
“What’s going on at the farm?” asked Mathias.
“There is nothing just that I traded the golden lamb for a beautiful
Mathias king’s happiness was immense.
“Bring in the lamb!” he told the shepherd.
But the shepherd replied:
“She is sitting between the two kings.”
“Congratulations!” said Mathias to the shepherd. “You did not lie. I
give you the half the Prussian king’s kingdom I won in our wager.”
“So,” added the Prussian king” I will give you my daughter, too. As they
have fallen in love anyway.”
And this is how the shepherd became the Prussian king.