Once upon a time, there was a young man named Edward who lived with his father and his dog in a forest. He was a good young man. Every day he would go out into the forest and chop wood for his father, who made cabinets. Edward was not a great woodchopper. He was small and not too strong. Each day, when he came back to his father with the small number of logs he had managed to chop, his father would sigh. "If only my son were stronger," he would say. Edward was very sad when this happened.
One day, while the boy and his dog were chopping wood, there was a pitiful cry from somewhere deeper into the forest. "I wonder who that could be," the boy said. "It sounded like a woman."
Edward and the dog followed the sound. They went deeper and deeper into the wood, until finally he came upon a giant castle. It was surrounded by a deep moat, and it had a door that had no handle. The cry was even louder now, as he approached the vast structure. As he tried to cross the drawbridge, a troll suddenly appeared and pushed the boy away. "You are not entering my palace today!!" the troll cried.
"But there is a woman inside and she needs help!"
"The princess is mine, and you are a fool!" the troll replied. Then, with a wave of his hand, he and the drawbridge disappeared.
"Help! Help!" the woman called from within the castle. Edward knew he just had to help the princess, but how? He pitifully slumped against a tall, tall tree and began to cry.
It was then that Edward's dog began to speak. "You have been such a loyal master all my life. I know a way to repay you for your kindness," the dog said. "I see a key, up high in that tree you are leaning against. Maybe if you can get it, it will unlock the door to the castle."
Edward thought it was worth a try, so he began to climb. Up and up he went. The higher he got, the scarcer the branches became. Finally, when he was only a few feet away, he found that he could go no further. The branches were too small, and he was too weak to hold himself up without their support. Edward began to weep. He could see the key, dangling just out of reach. If only he could get it!
Then, from up in the sky, three white birds flew down toward Edward. "You have climbed so far and done so much already. You deserve some help. We will fly you the rest of the way up, so you can get the key!" Then the birds lifted Edward up by his suspenders and carried him to the top of the tree. Edward reached out, and the key was his.
"Now what must I do?" he asked.
"Swim across the moat! Swim across the moat!" the birds chanted as they flew away.
Edward looked down into the river that surrounded the castle. It looked very deep, and very wide. Despair filled him again. He would never make it across.
"You can always try," his dog said.
So Edward took a deep breath, and plunged into the moat.
The water was deep indeed, and very cold. Edward shivered as he began to push himself through the waves, but it wasn't long before his limbs began to ache. He was only halfway there when he realized he could go no further, and he began to sink.
Then, three silver fish swam up to his side. "You have swum so far and done so much already. You deserve some help. We will swim you the rest of the way across so you can reach the palace!" And with that, the fish dove down and hoisted Edward across the treacherous waves. Finally, he was on solid ground, just outside the castle.
"You are almost there!" the dog called from across the moat. "Now all you must do is open the door!"
Edward turned toward the large, wooden door. There was no handle or latch -- no way to get in at all. Edward let out a desperate wail. All this work, and there no way he could ever get in! He fell to the floor and began to sob, uncontrollably.
Then Edward was startled to hear the voice of the princess from just beyond the door. "There is a latch here on the inside! If you can find a way to get me the key, I can open it and free myself!"
Edward leaped up. He tried to get the key in from under the door, but there was no crack wide enough. He looked at all the windows, but they were too high. After an hour of searching, Edward was ready to give up. Was there any way at all to get the key inside? It was impossible! "I am just not clever enough!" he cried.
"Yes, there is!" said a small voice at his feet. Edward looked down and saw the face of a tiny mole staring up at him. You have thought for so long and done so much. You deserve some help. Give me the key, and I will burrow under the door and give it to the princess!"
Edward thankfully gave the key to the mole, and within a few short minutes, he heard the lock unlatch on the inside of the castle. Then, before his eyes, was a beautiful maiden in a golden gown. Edward fell immediately in love with the princess and soon afterward, they were wed. With the princess's fortune, Edward never had to chop wood again.