The youngest of twelve sons goes off to serve the king for a year. The king's daughter had been carried off by trolls, but no one can discover anything about where she is, although the king has offered half the kingdom and the princess's hand in marriage to anyone who can bring her back.
When he returns home, his parents had died, and his brothers had already split up the entire estate except twelve mares, and they give them to him as his portion. When he goes to see them, they each have a foal, and there is, in addition, a dapple-gray colt. It persuades him to kill all the foals so that it can suckle from all twelve mares all year. The effects are so amazing that the colt persuades him to do it two more years. At the end of the third year, the youth trades with his brothers, the twelve mares and their new foals for equipment for his horse, Dapplegrim, and the youth rides off to rejoin the king's household.
The rest of the king's men grow envious of him, and tell the king he had said he could rescue the king's daughter. The king, despite the youth's denials, orders him to do it. Dapplegrim instructs him to tell the king he must have his horse wellshod. The king agrees, and Dapplegrim is, after three tries, able to climb the hill where the princess was imprisoned, and they carry off the princess.
The king is glad to see her, but the envious men persuade him not keep his word. He tells the youth that he must let the sun into the king's hall first, although the king's hall was built under a ridge. Dapplegrim asks to be shod again, and then tramples the ridge to nothing. Once again, the envious men persuade the king to break his promise, and the king says that his bride must have as fine a horse as he has. Dapplegrim tells the youth that they must retrieve the horse from Hell, and therefore they will not only need him to be reshod, but more supplies.
When they ride off, birds are sent to stop them, but the youth spills rye and barley, and the birds eat and forget them. Beasts are sent to stop them, but the youth throws down twelve ox carcasses, and the beasts eat and forget them. Then Dapplegrim neighs as they ride along, three times, and each time the response grows louder. Dapplegrim has the youth cover him with oxhides covered with spikes, and then set down a tar barrel. When the horse comes it sets the tar barrel on fire, and when Dapplegrim defeats it, the youth throws a bridle on it, which tames it.
The king says that the princess shall hide herself twice, and the youth has to find her, and then the youth has to hide himself twice, and the princess not find him. With Dapplegrim's advice, he finds her as a duck and as a loaf of bread. Then he hides as a tick in Dapplegrim's stall, and Dapplegrim neighs and kicks so that the princess does not dare come in. Then, he hides as a clod of earth under Dapplegrim's hoof. The princess comes into the stall, but can not get him to budge his feet, and so can not find the youth.
The king agrees to the marriage, and the youth rides on Dapplegrim, and the bride on Dapplegrim's match, to the church.
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