There was once a poor widow, and she had two sons. The sons grew up, and it was time for the woman to send them away to seek their fortune. So one day she said to her elder son, "Take a jar and bring me some water from the well, I'll bake a cake for you. If you bring a lot of water, your cake will be large. If you bring only a little, it will be small. I can give you only one cake and nothing else, you must understand."
The young man went off with the jar to the well, and filled it with water, but there were cracks in the jar, and most of the water had run out before he got back home. So his cake was very small.
Then the mother said to her elder son, "You may take half of the cake with my blessing or the whole cake without my blessing. Which would you like?"
The young man thought, "I shall have to travel far, and I do not know when or how I shall have other food." So he said, "I'd like to have the whole cake," and the mother gave him the whole cake without her blessing.
Then he took his brother aside, gave him a knife and said, "Keep my knife till I come back. Look at it every morning, and as long as it shines, I am well; but if it grows rusty, then know that I am in trouble and want your help."
So the young man went to seek his fortune. He walked all that day and all the next day; then on the third day, in the afternoon, he saw a man in a field who was looking after a lot of sheep. He went up to the man and asked him who the sheep belonged to. The man said, "They belong to the Red Ettin. He is a terrible, cruel giant and magician with three heads. He stole King Malcolm's daughter, and he beats her every day. The Red Ettin's castle is not far away. If you want to go farther, be careful. You may meet some strange-looking beasts. You have never seen beasts like them. I know very well that they are dangerous."
So the young man went on, and soon he saw a lot of very dreadful beasts, with two heads, and on each head there were four horns. He was so frightened that he ran away from them as fast as he could. He was glad when he came to a castle. It stood on a hill, and its door was wide open. So the young man went into the castle to hide from those dreadful beasts, and there he saw an old woman. She was sitting beside the kitchen fire. "May I stay here for the night?" he asked her. "I am very tired after a long journey."
And the woman said, "Yes, you may, but this is not a good place to be in, it belongs to the Red Ettin, and he kills everyone he finds."
The young man wanted to go away, but he was afraid of the beasts outside the castle. So he begged the old woman to hide him and not to tell the Red Ettin he was there, and he promised to go away in the morning.
But he had not been long in his hiding-place before the terrible Ettin came and cried, "I smell a man! Living or dead, I'll eat him." The giant soon found the poor young man, and pulled him out of his hiding-place. Then he told him, "If you can answer my three questions, I'll spare your life."
So the first head asked, "A thing without an end, what's that?" But the young man did not know. Then the second head said, "The smaller the more dangerous, what's that?" But the young man did not know. And the third head asked, "The dead carries the living. Can you guess that?" But the young man could not guess. He could not answer the three questions, and the Red Ettin took a magic wand, knocked him on the head, and turned him into a large piece of stone.