There was once a woman who wished very much to have a little child, but she coul not obtain her wish. At last she went to a fairy, and said, “I should so very much like t have a little child; can you tell me where I can find one?Continue reading →
Three hundred years before the birth of the Lord Christ, there lived a mother who had twelve sons, but was so poor and needy that she no longer knew how she was to keep them alive at all. She prayed to God daily that he would grant that all her sons might be on the earth with the Redeemer who was promised.Continue reading →
There was once on a time a girl who was young and beautiful, but she had lost her mother when she was quite a child, and her step-mother did all she could to make the girl’s life wretched. Whenever this woman gave her anything to do, she worked at it indefatigably, and did everything that lay in her power. Still she could not touch the heart of the wicked woman by that; she was never satisfied; it was never enough. The harder the girl worked, the more work was put upon her, and all that the woman thought of was how to weigh her down with still heavier burdens, and make her life still more miserable.
One day she said to her, “Here are twelve pounds of feathers which thou must pick, and if they are not done this evening, thou mayst expect a good beating. Dost thou imagine thou art to idle away the whole day?” The poor girl sat down to the work, but tears ran down her cheeks as she did so, for she saw plainly enough that it was quite impossible to finish the work in one day. Whenever she had a little heap of feathers lying before her, and she sighed or smote her hands together in her anguish, they flew away, and she had to pick them out again, and begin her work anew. Then she put her elbows on the table, laid her face in her two hands, and cried, “Is there no one, then, on God’s earth to have pity on me?” Then she heard a low voice which said, “Be comforted, my child, I have come to help thee.” The maiden looked up, and an old woman was by her side. She took the girl kindly by the hand, and said, “Only tell me what is troubling thee.” As she spoke so kindly, the girl told her of her miserable life, and how one burden after another was laid upon her, and she never could get to the end of the work which was given to her. “If I have not done these feathers by this evening, my step-mother will beat me; she has threatened she will, and I know she keeps her word.” Her tears began to flow again, but the good old woman said, “Do not be afraid, my child; rest a while, and in the meantime I will look to thy work.” The girl lay down on her bed, and soon fell asleep. The old woman seated herself at the table with the feathers, and how they did fly off the quills, which she scarcely touched with her withered hands! The twelve pounds were soon finished, and when the girl awoke, great snow-white heaps were lying, piled up, and everything in the room was neatly cleared away, but the old woman had vanished. The maiden thanked God, and sat still till evening came, when the step-mother came in and marvelled to see the work completed. “Just look, you awkward creature,” said she, “what can be done when people are industrious; and why couldst thou not set about something else? There thou sittest with thy hands crossed.” When she went out she said, “The creature is worth more than her salt. I must give her some work that is still harder.”
There was once a tailor, who was a quarrelsome fellow, and his wife, who was good, industrious, and pious, never could please him. Whatever she did, he was not satisfied, but grumbled and scolded, and knocked her about and beat her. As the authorities at last heard of it, they had him summoned, and put in prison in order to make him better. He was kept for a while on bread and water, and then set free again. He was forced, however, to promise not to beat his wife any more, but to live with her in peace, and share joy and sorrow with her, as married people ought to do. All went on well for a time, but then he fell into his old ways, and was surly and quarrelsome. And because he dared not beat her, he would seize her by the hair and tear it out. The woman escaped from him, and sprang out into the yard, but he ran after her with his yard-measure and scissors, and chased her about, and threw the yard-measure and scissors at her, and whatever else came his way. When he hit her he laughed, and when he missed her, he stormed and swore. This went on so long that the neighbors came to the wife’s assistance. The tailor was again summoned before the magistrates, and reminded of his promise. “Dear gentlemen,” said he, “I have kept my word, I have not beaten her, but have shared joy and sorrow with her.” – “How can that be,” said the judge, “when she continually brings such heavy complaints against you?” – “I have not beaten her, but just because she looked so strange I wanted to comb her hair with my hand; she, however, got away from me, and left me quite spitefully. Then I hurried after her, and in order to bring her back to her duty, I threw at her as a well-meant admonition whatever came readily to hand. I have shared joy and sorrow with her also, for whenever I hit her I was full of joy, and she of sorrow, and if I missed her, then she was joyful, and I sorry.” The judges were not satisfied with this answer, but gave him the reward he deserved.Continue reading →
A father was one day sitting at dinner with his wife and his children, and a good friend who had come on a visit was with them. And as they thus sat, and it was striking twelve o’clock, the stranger saw the door open, and a very pale child dressed in snow-white clothes came in. It did not look around, and it did not speak; but went straight into the next room. Soon afterwards it came back, and went out at the door again in the same quiet manner. On the second and on the third day, it came also exactly in the same way. At last the stranger asked the father to whom the beautiful child that went into the next room every day at noon belonged? “I have never seen it,” said he, neither did he know to whom it could belong. The next day when it again came, the stranger pointed it out to the father, who however did not see it, and the mother and the children also all saw nothing. On this the stranger got up, went to the room door, opened it a little, and peeped in. Then he saw the child sitting on the ground, and digging and seeking about industriously amongst the crevices between the boards of the floor, but when it saw the stranger, it disappeared. He now told what he had seen and described the child exactly, and the mother recognized it, and said, “Ah, it is my dear child who died a month ago.” They took up the boards and found two farthings which the child had once received from its mother that it might give them to a poor man; it, however, had thought, “Thou canst buy thyself a biscuit for that,” and had kept the farthings, and hidden them in the openings between the boards; and therefore it had had no rest in its grave, and had come every day at noon to seek for these farthings. The parents gave the money at once to a poor man, and after that the child was never seen again.Continue reading →
A girl from Brakel once went to St. Anne’s Chapel at the foot of the Hinnenberg, and as she wanted to have a husband, and thought there was no one else in the chapel, she sang,Continue reading →
A poor servant-girl was once travelling with the family with which she was in service, through a great forest, and when they were in the midst of it, robbers came out of the thicket, and murdered all they found. All perished together except the girl, who had jumped out of the carriage in a fright, and hidden herself behind a tree. When the robbers had gone away with their booty, she came out and beheld the great disaster. Then she began to weep bitterly, and said, “What can a poor girl like me do now? I do not know how to get out of the forest, no human being lives in it, so I must certainly starve.” She walked about and looked for a road, but could find none. When it was evening she seated herself under a tree, gave herself into God’s keeping, and resolved to sit waiting there and not go away, let what might happen. When, however, she had sat there for a while, a white dove came flying to her with a little golden key in its mouth. It put the little key in her hand, and said, “Dost thou see that great tree, therein is a little lock, it opens with the tiny key, and there thou wilt find food enough, and suffer no more hunger.” Then she went to the tree and opened it, and found milk in a little dish, and white bread to break into it, so that she could eat her fill. When she was satisfied, she said, “It is now the time when the hens at home go to roost, I am so tired I could go to bed too.” Then the dove flew to her again, and brought another golden key in its bill, and said, “Open that tree there, and thou willt find a bed.” So she opened it, and found a beautiful white bed, and she prayed God to protect her during the night, and lay down and slept. In the morning the dove came for the third time, and again brought a little key, and said, “Open that tree there, and thou wilt find clothes.” And when she opened it, she found garments beset with gold and with jewels, more splendid than those of any king’s daughter. So she lived there for some time, and the dove came every day and provided her with all she needed, and it was a quiet good life.
Once, however, the dove came and said, “Wilt thou do something for my sake?” – “With all my heart,” said the girl. Then said the little dove, “I will guide thee to a small house; enter it, and inside it, an old woman will be sitting by the fire and will say, ‘Good-day.’ But on thy life give her no answer, let her do what she will, but pass by her on the right side; further on, there is a door, which open, and thou wilt enter into a room where a quantity of rings of all kinds are lying, amongst which are some magnificent ones with shining stones; leave them, however, where they are, and seek out a plain one, which must likewise be amongst them, and bring it here to me as quickly as thou canst.” The girl went to the little house, and came to the door. There sat an old woman who stared when she saw her, and said, “Good-day my child.” The girl gave her no answer, and opened the door. “Whither away,” cried the old woman, and seized her by the gown, and wanted to hold her fast, saying, “That is my house; no one can go in there if I choose not to allow it.” But the girl was silent, got away from her, and went straight into the room. Now there lay on the table an enormous quantity of rings, which gleamed and glittered before her eyes. She turned them over and looked for the plain one, but could not find it. While she was seeking, she saw the old woman and how she was stealing away, and wanting to get off with a bird-cage which she had in her hand. So she went after her and took the cage out of her hand, and when she raised it up and looked into it, a bird was inside which had the plain ring in its bill. Then she took the ring, and ran quite joyously home with it, and thought the little white dove would come and get the ring, but it did not. Then she leant against a tree and determined to wait for the dove, and, as she thus stood, it seemed just as if the tree was soft and pliant, and was letting its branches down. And suddenly the branches twined around her, and were two arms, and when she looked round, the tree was a handsome man, who embraced and kissed her heartily, and said, “Thou hast delivered me from the power of the old woman, who is a wicked witch. She had changed me into a tree, and every day for two hours I was a white dove, and so long as she possessed the ring I could not regain my human form.” Then his servants and his horses, who had likewise been changed into trees, were freed from the enchantment also, and stood beside him. And he led them forth to his kingdom, for he was a King’s son, and they married, and lived happily.
Hill and vale do not come together, but the children of men do, good and bad. In this way a shoemaker and a tailor once met with each other in their travels. The tailor was a handsome little fellow who was always merry and full of enjoyment. He saw the shoemaker coming towards him from the other side, and as he observed by his bag what kind of a trade he plied, he sang a little mocking song to him,Continue reading →
There was once upon a time a rich King who had three daughters, who daily went to walk in the palace garden, and the King was a great lover of all kinds of fine trees, but there was one for which he had such an affection, that if anyone gathered an apple from it he wished him a hundred fathoms underground. And when harvest time came, the apples on this tree were all as red as blood. The three daughters went every day beneath the tree, and looked to see if the wind had not blown down an apple, but they never by any chance found one, and the tree was so loaded with them that it was almost breaking, and the branches hung down to the ground. Then the King’s youngest child had a great desire for an apple, and said to her sisters, “Our father loves us far too much to wish us underground, it is my belief that he would only do that to people who were strangers.” And while she was speaking, the child plucked off quite a large apple, and ran to her sisters, saying, “Just taste, my dear little sisters, for never in my life have I tasted anything so delightful.” Then the two other sisters also ate some of the apple, whereupon all three sank deep down into the earth, where they could hear no cock crow.
When mid-day came, the King wished to call them to come to dinner, but they were nowhere to be found. He sought them everywhere in the palace and garden, but could not find them. Then he was much troubled, and made known to the whole land that whosoever brought his daughters back again should have one of them to wife. Hereupon so many young men went about the country in search, that there was no counting them, for every one loved the three children because they were so kind to all, and so fair of face. Three young huntsmen also went out, and when they had travelled about for eight days, they arrived at a great castle, in which were beautiful apartments, and in one room a table was laid on which were delicate dishes which were still so warm that they were smoking, but in the whole of the castle no human being was either to be seen or heard. They waited there for half a day, and the food still remained warm and smoking, and at length they were so hungry that they sat down and ate, and agreed with each other that they would stay and live in that castle, and that one of them, who should be chosen by casting lots, should remain in the house, and the two others seek the King’s daughters. They cast lots, and the lot fell on the eldest; so next day the two younger went out to seek, and the eldest had to stay home. At mid-day came a small, small mannikin and begged for a piece of bread, then the huntsman took the bread which he had found there, and cut a round off the loaf and was about to give it to him, but whilst he was giving it to the mannikin, the latter let it fall, and asked the huntsman to be so good as to give him that piece again. The huntsman was about to do so and stooped, on which the mannikin took a stick, seized him by the hair, and gave him a good beating. Next day, the second stayed at home, and he fared no better. When the two others returned in the evening, the eldest said, “Well, how have you got on?”
It happened that the cat met the fox in a forest, and as she thought to herself, “He is clever and full of experience, and much esteemed in the world,” she spoke to him in a friendly way. “Good-day, dear Mr. Fox, how are you? How is all with you? How are you getting through this dear season?” The fox, full of all kinds of arrogance, looked at the cat from head to foot, and for a long time did not know whether he would give any answer or not. At last he said, “Oh, thou wretched beard-cleaner, thou piebald fool, thou hungry mouse-hunter, what canst thou be thinking of? Dost thou venture to ask how I am getting on? What hast thou learnt? How many arts dost thou understand?” – “I understand but one,” replied the cat, modestly. “What art is that?” asked the fox. “When the hounds are following me, I can spring into a tree and save myself.” – “Is that all?” said the fox. “I am master of a hundred arts, and have into the bargain a sackful of cunning. Thou makest me sorry for thee; come with me, I will teach thee how people get away from the hounds.” Just then came a hunter with four dogs. The cat sprang nimbly up a tree, and sat down on top of it, where the branches and foliage quite concealed her. “Open your sack, Mr. Fox, open your sack,” cried the cat to him, but the dogs had already seized him, and were holding him fast. “Ah, Mr. Fox,” cried the cat. “You with your hundred arts are left in the lurch! Had you been able to climb like me, you would not have lost your life.”Continue reading →