Cinderella #262 Vesle Brune Oks (Little Brown Ox
|The Ox of the Wonderful Horns
Once upon a time, in Sweden, there lived a very poor man with many children. When his eldest was barely shaving his beard, he was sent out into the world to earn his own keep. He wandered until he came to a village, then begged for work. He was taken on as ox herd by a cruel, selfish woman who barely fed him enough to keep him alive. At last, when the boy is on the brink of starvation, something amazing happens. One day, "when the rest of the cattle are sleeping, a magic ox amongst them turns his ear to the boy, who finds therein butter, cakes, and cheese." After John has eaten his fill, the ox says, "Drink from my horn.' Thence, he drinks beer, has never tasted better." As John begins to gain weight and strength, his mistress grows suspicious. She sends her daughter to spy upon him then, and discovers his secret. Now the woman orders that the magical brown ox be slain. John begs to be allowed to swing the axe to kill it, and is given leave to do so. But "he takes the axe and happens to strike the mistress on the head. She faints." Then John and the brown ox run away. After some time, they come to an assembly of horsemen. It turns out that each is taking a turn to ride up a very steep mountain, for at the top sits a princess. She "is holding a twig of gold, a twig of silver, and one of tin". If a man reaches the top of the mountain and she's just not that into him, she will give him the twig of tin. If a man rides up and is desirable to her, she will give him the twig of silver. And if a horseman reaches the top of the mountain, and she finds that she loves him, she will "give him the golden twig". No one has made it to the top yet, but John rides his magical ox straight up the mountain. The princess gives him the gold twig and "from that day, the little brown ox stands in the king's stable, and is caressed and cared for like the most beautiful horse."
From: Cox., M. R. (1893/2011) p. 456
Notes: This story is something of a predecessor, it would seem, to the tale of the Princess on the Glass Mountain. It is also strikingly similar to the African folktale of The Ox With the Wonderful Horns.