Once upon a time, there was a band of traveling gypsies. They were peace-loving, simple people, who traveled from town to town entertaining the people on fairs, selling protecting amulets, telling the fortune. One day during their journey they came to crossroads where goons have been hung. There they found an infant lying in the mud. The baby had white hair, glittering like silver. The people of the band agreed that this is an evil omen, and the child should be left to die. But the leader had a kind heart, and took the baby against the will of the others. He named the boy Silver, because of his strange hair.
Time passed and the people became acquainted with the boy. They taught him the trade of the gypsies. He learned how to handle a knife, juggling, and little tricks to entertain the people. He learned how to hunt, follow tracks, and move undetected. He grew up into a handsome young man, who stands his ground in the town and the woods alike. His only flaw was his weakness for the ladies. His charm opened him many windows, but he had to flee many times from angry husbands and fathers.
It happened once, that on fair he spotted a beautiful maiden, and fell for her immediately. But this time his charms failed him. The maiden was high-born, and had no eyes for a poor traveling gypsy. He couldn’t eat and sleep for days. He always had that maiden on his mind. Finally he consulted the bands fortune teller, who was his stepmother.
“Help me mother. I can’t think of anything else, than that beautiful maiden. I have to win her heart, or I will die from longing.” He begged.
“Clear your mind my boy. There are many pretty girls, who would love to be your bride. Listen to the wisdom of the old one, forget that girl.”
But the boy was stubborn, and kept begging until his stepmother gave out a dark secret.
“You can’t be reasoned with boy. But I love you, so I will tell you a secret. In the woods nearby lives the witch with the twelve fingers on her hands. She has The key to every woman’s heart. If you wear that magical amulet, no woman can withstand your charms. But I beg you, don’t go there. It will be your doom, if you do that.”
But the boy already made up his mind. He took some aliments: bread, a few juicy pieces of pork, and a bottle of fine booze. He fastened his trusty knifes on his belt, and made haste into the deep of the woods, to find the witch with the twelve fingers on her hands. As he was wandering through the forest, he heard a small high pinched voice calling for help. He hurried to the source of the sound, and found a big evil troll holding a little fairy, ready to eat it.
“Isn’t that a meager meal for such a big guy, like you?” He called out to the troll.
“You are right. This puny thing won’t still my hunger, but maybe you will.” The monster turned monster toward Silver.
“Why would you eat a bony, raw creature like me, when you can have some tasty pork?” The boy said and offered his food to the troll.
The beast gobbled up all the food, and drank all the booze. The food couldn’t still his hunger, but the booze made him drunk. He demanded more food, but the boy showed him his empty bundle.
“I have no more food left, but I know where you can find a delicious, juicy boar for you to eat.”
The troll stumbled after Silver, as he was leading the beast to a deep hole between the roots of an old oak.
“It’s down there, but it’s too deep for me to reach.”
The beast bent down, and reached into the hole, to get his meal. Silver sneaked behind him, and kicked him into the butt. The troll pitched head forward into the hole, and got stuck, legs hanging in the air. The boy took his knife, and kept stabbing into the monsters belly till it was dead. The fairy flew to the boy, and bowed.
“Thank you my savior. Tell me how can I ever repay you?”
“I’m looking for the witch with the twelve fingers on her hands, to get The key to every woman’s heart from her.”
“Oh no, brave warrior! I beg you, turn back, and don’t look for that evil wench. It will be your doom, if you do.”
“I already made up my mind. Tell me where I can find her, if you know.”
“Very well. Always go where the woods are darker, and the trees are older. There you will find her hut, in the middle of the forest. There is something else brave one. If you come across a bush with blue leaves and green berries collect some of its fruit. Eating one berry allows you to carry on without food, drink and rest for a whole day. It might come handy during your journey.”
Silver thanked for the advice, and said farewell to the fairy. He traveled deeper and deeper into the forest. He came across the bush the fairy mentioned and took all berries it had. He stuffed all his pockets, and pouches full of the fruit. Finally he reached the middle of the forest. The sunlight barely reached the ground through the thick crown of the old tries. There was no bird or any other animal to be heard. There he found a little, tumble-down cottage. He knocked at the door three times. An ugly, old wench opened the door. Her back was so crooked under the weight of time, that her nose touched the ground.
“Good day to you, grandmother.” Silver greeted the witch politely.
“You are lucky to have called me grandmother. In other case your flesh would have been torn apart by the trees. What do you want boy?”
“I’m looking for The key to every woman’s heart.”
“My old bones are feeling cold. Cut up those trees, so I have wood for my fire.” The witch pointed to a pile of old, knotty trees, and slammed the door.
Silver found a rusty axe and stared to work. He worked day and night, without food, drink or rest for three days. When he finished his work, he knocked at the door again.
“I’m finished with the wood, grandmother.” He said to the witch.
“I see, you have strength boy. Come with me.” She said, and led him to a big pile of rusty pots behind the hut.
“Repair these, then we can talk.” She said, and went back into the house.
Silver started repairing the pots. He worked day and night without food, drink or rest for seven days. When he finished his work, he knocked at the door again.
“I’m finished with the pots, grandmother.”
“Very well. I see you have skills too. But do you have courage?” The witch said and led the boy to a well standing in the yard. There was a long rope hanging down.
“This well leads down into hell. There, behind three doors made of silver, gold, and diamonds is the bedroom of the devil himself. On his nightstand is the mirror of vanity. If you bring me that mirror, I will give you the magical amulet you are looking for.” The wench said and gave a ring to the boy.
“Take this ring. After you have the mirror just turn it on your finger, and you will be here on the yard again. Now go.”
Silver took the ring, and started to climb down the rope. He climbed without food, drink, or rest for twelve days. Finally he reached the ground of the cave. He saw light coming from a tunnel. He followed the light, and came to a room as big as a church. The walls were made out of silver, and all kind of silver treasure was piled up to the ceiling. At the other end of the room there was a big door made of silver. The door was guarded by a big dog. It had three heads. Silver hid and waited for three days and nights till all three heads of the dog fell asleep, and he could sneak by it. Behind the silver door there was a room as big as a cathedral. The walls were made out of gold, and all kind of golden treasure was piled up to the ceiling. At the other end of the room there was a big door made of gold. The door was guarded by a dog big as a calf. It had seven heads. Silver hid and waited for seven days and nights till all seven heads of the dog fell asleep, and he could sneak by it. Behind the golden door there was a room as big as a castle. The walls were made out of diamonds, and all kind of gems were piled up to the ceiling. At the other end of the room there was a big door made of diamonds. The door was guarded by a dog big as a bull. It had twelve heads. Silver hid and waited for twelve days and nights till all twelve heads of the dog fell asleep, and he could sneak by it. Behind the diamond door there was the bedroom of the devil himself. It was sleeping on his bed, and next to him was the mirror of vanity resting on the nightstand. Silver moved to the nightstand without a noise. But as he reached for the mirror his hand was grabbed by the devil.
“Foolish mortal. Don’t you know that I never sleep?” The devil laughed, and took a good look at Silver.
“You were very cunning, sneaking by my guards. You are lucky, that I am in a good mood. If you are able to pass my tests I may let you live and keep your soul.”
“I have no choice. Very well, what are the tests?”
The devil drew a circle on the floor, and handed a cup of wine to the boy.
“First of all, test of skill. Empty this cup inside the circle, without a single drop crossing the line.”
“Very well.” Silver stood into the middle of the circle, and drunk the whole cup.
“The cup is empty, and not a drop did cross the line.”
“Very good boy. Now follows the test of wits. Listen carefully. I have four rooms, but tables and chairs you'll not find. I am credited with feelings, yet they are not truly mine. I could be called a drummer, steady, strong, and true. And when I finish my work here, so, too, do you. What am I?”
“It’s my heart.” The boy answered.
“Good thinking boy. Here is the final test, the test of luck. Can you beat the devil? See this coin here? I’ll throw it. The rules are simple. Heads I win, tails you loose.” The devil said with a smile.
The devil tossed the coin, and Silver grabbed his knife. With a skillful throw he pinned the coin against the wall, preventing it from falling on the ground.
-No heads, so you didn’t win. No tails, so I didn’t loose. This has to mean, that I won.
The devil looked furious at the boy for a moment, and then laughed out loud. The halls trembled from the sound of his laughter.
-Very well boy. I see now, that you are truly my godson.
The devil told Silver that his real father was a powerful wizard, who was cast out for being in league with the forces of hell. The wizard asked the devil to be the godfather of his only son before he was captured of executed.
“For being your godfather, and because of an old debt I owe your father I let you live today.”
“Thank you for your kindness godfather, but may I ask for the mirror of vanity? I have to bring it to the witch with the twelve fingers on her hands, for the key to every woman’s heart.”
“You are pushing your luck boy. You are bold as your father was. I like your courage, so I tell you a secret. The wench will never give you the amulet. She sent you down to die in her place. The ring you’re wearing is a part of an old pact. Every hundred year she sends down a young soul so she can keep on living. She will never give out the medal. Without it, she has no way to lure people into her trap. Honestly I am tired of that deal, and would like to get my hand on that old wretched soul. But our contract is binding me. But if you could help me, I wouldn’t be ungrateful.”
“Tell me, what I have to do godfather.”
The devil took a sword, with the grip made of bone. He handed it to the boy together with the mirror of vanity.
“Here, take this magical blade. It can kill anything living or dead. Take the mirror to the witch, but don’t show her the blade. She will likely persuade to stay a little longer at her place, but do not trust her. She will try to murder you. Wait for the right moment, and strike her with the blade. When she is dead, I will come to collect her soul, and the mirror. You may keep the blade and the amulet for yourself. Do we have a deal, my boy?” The devil said, and offered his hand.
“Yes, godfather.” The boy answered, and shook the hand.
Silver turned the ring, and in the next moment he was standing in front of the hut of the witch. The witch was shocked to see the boy alive, but she pretended to be happy. She greeted him with a sweet voice.
“Did you bring me the mirror?”
“Yes, grandmother. Here it is.” Silver said and handed over the treasure.
The witch became even more scared, as she saw the boy was successful. When she looked into the mirror she saw her young, beautiful image and forgot her troubles for a moment.
“May I have The key to every woman’s heart?” Silver asked politely.
“Oh, my boy. You must be starving from the long journey. Come inside and have some food and drink.”
Silver accepted the invitation, but was aware of the danger. He pretended to eat and drink with good appetite, but didn’t swallow any food. He hid it under his clothes instead. After he was finished with his meal asked the witch again.
“Thank you for your hospitality grandmother, but may I have The key to every woman’s heart now?”
The witch was even more scared as she saw, that the boy was resistant against her poisoned food.
“You must be exausted from the long journey my boy. Stay for the night. I have a warm bed for you. Rest well, and in the morning I will give you what your heart desires.”
Silver took the kindly invitation, but he didn’t sleep that night. He was pretending to be sleeping, and was holding onto the blade the devil gave him. After midnight he heard the door of his room opening, and the sneaky steps of the witch approaching. When she was near, he suddenly jumped out of the bed, and sliced the wench with the magical blade.
“Curse you boy! You shall never find peace neither in life, nor in dead!” She screamed with her last breath before she fell dead to the ground.
As soon the witch was dead, the devil came to collect her soul and the mirror.
“Well done my boy. As I promised you may keep the blade, and anything else you find in this house. You were the first one who shed blood with that sword, so it will be loyal to you. It will slay your foes, but never do any harm to you. And if someone foolish attempts to wield it, the blade will bring pain and misery upon his head. The blade thrives in battle. The more foes you slay with it, the more powerful it will become.” The devil said and disappeared with the mirror and the soul of the witch.
Silver examined the blade, and saw that the name of the witch was now carved into the handle. He searched the house and found the key to every woman’s heart hanging around the neck of the witch. He found also three pouches. One was filled with coins of silver, one was filled with coins of gold, and one was filled with all kind of gems.
Together with the treasures Silver went back to the town. By the time he arrived the band of gypsies was gone. They took him for dead, and traveled to the next fair in a town far away. The young man bought expensive clothes and shoes from the money he found, and went to the house of the pretty maiden he was in love with. He introduced himself as a wealthy man, and with his charms he won the heart of the girl. The family of the girl saw that Silver was well mannered, and wealthy. They all agreed that he was the right match. Finally the two married, and lived happily ever after.