The three green twigs

There was once on a time a hermit who lived in a forest at the foot of a mountain, and passed his time in prayer and good works, and every evening he carried, to the glory of God, two pails of water up the mountain. Many a beast drank of it, and many a plant was refreshed by it, for on the heights above, a strong wind blew continually, which dried the air and the ground, and the wild birds which dread mankind wheel about there, and with their sharp eyes search for a drink. And because the hermit was so pious, an angel of God, visible to his eyes, went up with him, counted his steps, and when the work was completed, brought him his food, even as the prophet of old was by God’s command fed by the raven. When the hermit in his piety had already reached a great age, it happened that he once saw from afar a poor sinner being taken to the gallows. He said carelessly to himself, “There, that one is getting his deserts!” In the evening, when he was carrying the water up the mountain, the angel who usually accompanied him did not appear, and also brought him no food. Then he was terrified, and searched his heart, and tried to think how he could have sinned, as God was so angry, but he did not discover it. Then he neither ate nor drank, threw himself down on the ground, and prayed day and night. And as he was one day thus bitterly weeping in the forest, he heard a little bird singing beautifully and delightfully, and then he was still more troubled and said, “How joyously thou singest, the Lord is not angry with thee. Ah, if thou couldst but tell me how I can have offended him, that I might do penance, and then my heart also would be glad again.” Then the bird began to speak and said, “Thou hast done injustice, in that thou hast condemned a poor sinner who was being led to the gallows, and for that the Lord is angry with thee. He alone sits in judgement. However, if thou wilt do penance and repent thy sins, he will forgive thee.” Then the angel stood beside him with a dry branch in his hand and said, “Thou shalt carry this dry branch until three green twigs sprout out of it, but at night when thou wilt sleep, thou shalt lay it under thy head. Thou shalt beg thy bread from door to door, and not tarry more than one night in the same house. That is the penance which the Lord lays on thee.”
Then the hermit took the piece of wood, and went back into the world, which he had not seen for so long. He ate and drank nothing but what was given him at the doors; many petitions were, however, not listened to, and many doors remained shut to him, so that he often did not get a crumb of bread.

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Our lady’s little glass

Once upon a time a waggoner’s cart which was heavily laden with wine had stuck so fast that in spite of all that he could do, he could not get it to move again. Then it chanced that Our Lady just happened to come by that way, and when she perceived the poor man’s distress, she said to him, “I am tired and thirsty, give me a glass of wine, and I will set thy cart free for thee.” – “Willingly,” answered the waggoner, “but I have no glass in which I can give thee the wine.” Then Our Lady plucked a little white flower with red stripes, called field bindweed, which looks very like a glass, and gave it to the waggoner. He filled it with wine, and then Our Lady drank it, and in the self-same instant the cart was set free, and the waggoner could drive onwards. The little flower is still always called Our Lady’s Little Glass.

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The aged mother

In a large town there was an old woman who sat in the evening alone in her room thinking how she had lost first her husband, then both her children, then one by one all her relations, and at length, that very day, her last friend, and now she was quite alone and desolate. She was very sad at heart, and heaviest of all her losses to her was that of her sons; and in her pain she blamed God for it. She was still sitting lost in thought, when all at once she heard the bells ringing for early prayer. She was surprised that she had thus in her sorrow watched through the whole night, and lighted her lantern and went to church. It was already lighted up when she arrived, but not as it usually was with wax candles, but with a dim light. It was also crowded already with people, and all the seats were filled; and when the old woman got to her usual place it also was not empty, but the whole bench was entirely full. And when she looked at the people, they were none other than her dead relations who were sitting there in their old-fashioned garments, but with pale faces. They neither spoke nor sang; but a soft humming and whispering was heard all over the church. Then an aunt of hers stood up, stepped forward, and said to the poor old woman, “Look there beside the altar, and thou wilt see thy sons.” The old woman looked there, and saw her two children, one hanging on the gallows, the other bound to the wheel. Then said the aunt, “Behold, so would it have been with them if they had lived, and if the good God had not taken them to himself when they were innocent children.” The old woman went trembling home, and on her knees thanked God for having dealt with her more kindly than she had been able to understand, and on the third day she lay down and died.

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The heavenly wedding

A poor peasant-boy one day heard the priest say in church that whosoever desired to enter into the kingdom of heaven must always go straight onward. So he set out, and walked continually straight onwards over hill and valley without ever turning aside. At length his way led him into a great town, and into the midst of a church, where just at that time God’s service was being performed. Now when he beheld all the magnificence of this, he thought he had reached heaven, sat down, and rejoiced with his whole heart. When the service was over, and the clerk bade him go out, he replied, “No, I will not go out again, I am glad to be in heaven at last.” So the clerk went to the priest, and told him that there was a child in the church who would not go out again, because he believed he was in heaven. The priest said, “If he believes that, we will leave him inside.” So he went to him, and asked if he had any inclination to work. “Yes,” the little fellow replied, “I am accustomed to work, but I will not go out of heaven again.” So he stayed in the church, and when he saw how the people came and knelt and prayed to Our Lady with the blessed child Jesus which was carved in wood, he thought “that is the good God,” and said, “Dear God, how thin you are! The people must certainly let you starve; but every day I will give you half my dinner.” From this time forth, he every day took half his dinner to the image, and the image began to enjoy the food. When a few weeks had gone by, people remarked that the image was growing larger and stout and strong, and wondered much. The priest also could not understand it, but stayed in the church, and followed the little boy about, and then he saw how he shared his food with the Virgin Mary, and how she accepted it.
After some time the boy became ill, and for eight days could not leave his bed; but as soon as he could get up again, the first thing he did was to take his food to Our Lady. The priest followed him, and heard him say, “Dear God, do not take it amiss that I have not brought you anything for such a long time, for I have been ill and could not get up.” Then the image answered him and said, “I have seen thy good-will, and that is enough for me. Next Sunday thou shalt go with me to the wedding.” The boy rejoiced at this, and repeated it to the priest, who begged him to go and ask the image if he, too, might be permitted to go. “No,” answered the image, “thou alone.” The priest wished to prepare him first, and give him the holy communion and the child was willing, and next Sunday, when the host came to him, he fell down and died, and was at the eternal wedding.

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The hazel-branch

One afternoon the Christ-child had laid himself in his cradle-bed and had fallen asleep. Then his mother came to him, looked at him full of gladness, and said, “Hast thou laid thyself down to sleep, my child?” Sleep sweetly, and in the meantime I will go into the wood, and fetch thee a handful of strawberries, for I know that thou wilt be pleased with them when thou awakest.” In the wood outside, she found a spot with the most beautiful strawberries; but as she was stooping down to gather one, an adder sprang up out of the grass. She was alarmed, left the strawberries where they were, and hastened away. The adder darted after her; but Our Lady, as you can readily understand, knew what it was best to do. She hid herself behind a hazel-bush, and stood there until the adder had crept away again. Then she gathered the strawberries, and as she set out on her way home she said, “As the hazel-bush has been my protection this time, it shall in future protect others also.” Therefore, from the most remote times, a green hazel-branch has been the safest protection against adders, snakes, and everything else which creeps on the earth.

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Puss in Boots

A miller had three sons, his mill, a donkey and a tom cat; the sons had to grind, the donkey had to get grain and carry flour away and the cat had to catch the mice away. When the miller died, the three brothers divided their inheritance, the oldest received the mill, the second the donkey and the third the tom cat, further was nothing left for him. Thereon he was sad ans spoke to himself: “But I have gotten all the worst, my oldest brother can mill, my second can ride on his donkey, what can I start with the tom cat? Let me make a pair of fur gloves out of his pelt, so it’s over.”

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The hand with the knife

There once lived a girl who had three brothers. The boys meant everything to their mother, and the girl was always put at a disadvantage and treated badly. Every day she had to go out to a barren heath to dig peat, which was used for cooking and heating. A dull old tool was all she had for that nasty work.

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Death and the goose herder

A poor herder went along the shore of a large and stormy water, herding many white geese. To this on came Death over water, and was asked by the herder, whence he came from, and whence he wanted to go? Death answered, that he came out of the water and wanted to go out of the world. The poor gooseherder asked futher: how does one go forth out of the world? Death said, that one had to go over the water into the new world, which lies beyond. The herder said, that he tired of this life, and asked Death, he should take him over with him. Death said, that it was not yet time, and he had now otherwise to do. But there was unfar from there a greedy-neck, he by night thought in his lair, how he could bring even more money and goods together, this one Death led the to the great water and pushed him in. Because he could no swim, he drowned to bottom, before he could reach the shore. His dogs and cats, who so ran after him, also drowned with him. Several days after that Death came also to the goose herder, found him singing merrily and said to him: “Will you now go with me?” He was willing and came with his white geese well over, which were all transformed into white sheep. The goose herder looked upon the beautiful land and heard, that the herders of the places became kings, and as he rightly looked about him, the chief herders Abraham, Isaac and Jacob came towards him, placed a kingly crown upon him, and led him to the herder’s palace, there he is still to be found.

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The Nightingale and the Blindworm

Once upon a time there was a nightingale and a blindworm, each with one eye. For a long time they lived together peacefully and harmoniously in a house. However, one day the nightingale was invited to a wedding, and she said to the blindworm: “I’ve been invited to a wedding and don’t particularly want to go with one eye. Would you be so kind as to lend me yours? I’ll bring it back to you tomorrow.”

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