A king has a beautiful daughter and loves hunting. One day, chasing a white stag, he becomes very lost and stumbles on a hermit, who, after being pressed, tells him that his daughter is fated to marry a slave-girl's son. He immediately shows the king who owns her, and having been given both the woman and her son, takes them to the wilderness, where he kills the woman and abandons the baby.
A poor widow, without any family lives in that wilderness. She supports herself with her goats, but wonders what she will do if she becomes ill or injured. One day, her best nanny goat does not yield a drop of milk. After this happens again and again, she follows it one day and finds the baby and his dead mother. She buries the woman then takes in the baby to help her in old age. He grows up into a brave, beautiful, and industrious young man.
One day, he finds a peddler's donkey eating their cabbages, so he beats it, defending himself to his neighbor. The neighbor exaggerates, claiming he has threatened the peddlar, and the king, who had been the peddlar in disguise, has him arrested on the pretence that even a poor peddlar could have justice in his lands. He realizes who he is, because his mother is too old, and then says that he can be pardoned if he enrolls in the army, because he looks to be a good soldier and needs some discipline. Once in, he is sent on many dangerous missions, which he survives. Then the king tries to have him poisoned, but a dog eats some of his food first, alerting him. Finally, the king sends him off with a message, to a governor — whose wife the princess is visiting.
The young man arrives with the message and is told the governor is resting and will receive him in the evening. He himself goes to sleep in the garden. The princess does not like the custom of sleeping during the day, and pretends to do so, so that her ladies will sleep, and she can wander as she pleases. She comes upon the young man and is much taken with his looks, and steals the message to find it orders his execution. She alters it to say that they should marry at once. The governor, being the king's most faithful servant, carries out the wedding at once.
The king is much distressed, but stops fighting fate. He receives his son-in-law, who becomes his heir after he dies.
Compare with "The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs", Joseph Jacobs "The Fish And The Ring" here, Alexander Afanasyev's "The Story of Marko the Rich and Vasily the Luckless" and other Russian tales like "The Three Golden Hairs of Grandfather Allknow" and "Right Always Remains Right".
- Discreet Dining Disposal: What else, when it kills the dog?
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: The king doesn't want to respect him, he wants to kill him.
- Due to the Dead: The old woman buries the slave girl.
- Follow the White Rabbit: If he hadn't followed the white stag, the boy would never have married her.
- Impossible Task: Attempting to kill him.
- It Was a Gift: The slave and her son.
- Love at First Sight: The princess falls in love with the sleeping boy.
- The Marvelous Deer: The original source of the problem, leading him to the hermit.
- Moving the Goalposts: What else, when everything fails to kill him?
- Nice Job Breaking It, Herod: It brings the boy into his own kingdom.
- The Pardon: Falsely offered, to lure the boy into danger.
- Please Shoot the Messenger: The king's last attempt to kill the boy.
- Rags to Royalty: The boy.
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Only the king's repeated attempt to kill him allow the boy to marry the princess.
- Tampering with Food and Drink: One of the king's attempts to kill the boy.
- Uriah Gambit: The king has the boy sent on many dangerous missions, in the hope that the boy will be killed in action.
- You Can't Fight Fate: The final lesson.