When People told themselves their past with stories,
explained their present with stories,
foretold the future with stories,
the best place by the fire was kept for ...

~The Wild Swans

Far, far away—where the swallows fly in winter—there lived a king who had eleven sons and one daughter, Elisa. The eleven brothers, princes all, each went to school with a star on his breast and a sword at his hip. They wrote with pencils of diamond upon golden slates, and could say their lesson by heart just as easily as they could read it from a book. Their sister, Elisa, sat on a little footstool of flawless glass, reading a picture book that had cost her father half a kingdom. Oh, the children had a very fine time, but it was not to last forever.

Their father, who was king over the whole country, married a wicked queen, who did not treat his children well at all.
They found that out the very first day. There was feasting throughout the palace, and the children played at entertaining the guests. But instead of letting them have all the cakes and baked apples that they used to get, their new step mother gave them only some sand in a teacup, and told them to make believe that it was a special treat.

The following week, the Queen sent little Elisa to live in the country with some peasants. Long before that, she had made the King believe so many falsehoods about the poor Princes that he took no further interest in them.

“Fly out into the world and make your own living,” the wicked Queen told them. “Fly away like birds without a voice.”

by Harry Clarke 
But she did not harm the Princes as much as she meant to, for they turned into eleven magnificent white swans.
With a strange cry, they flew out of the palace window, across the park into the woods.

It was so early in the morning that their sister, Elisa, was still asleep when they flew over the peasant hut where she was staying. They hovered over the roofs, craning and twisting their long necks and flapping their great wings, but nobody saw or heard them. They were forced to fly on, high up near the clouds and far away into the wide world. They came down in a vast, dark forest that stretched down to the shores of the sea.

Poor little Elisa stayed in the peasant hut, and played with a green leaf, for she had no other toy. She made a little hole in the leaf and looked through it at the sun. Through it, she seemed to see her brothers’ bright eyes, and whenever the warm sunlight touched her cheek, it reminded her of all their kisses.

On day passed like all the others. When the wind stirred the hedge roses outside the hut, it whispered to them, “Who could be prettier than you?” But the roses shook their heads and answered, “Elisa!” And on Sunday, when the old woman sat in the doorway reading the psalms, the wind fluttered through the pages and said to the book, “Who could be more saintly than you?” “Elisa,” the book testified. What it and the roses had said was perfectly true.

Elisa was to go back home when she turned fifteen, but as soon as the Queen saw what a beautiful Princess she had become, the Queen felt spiteful and full of hatred. She would not have hesitated to turn her into a wild swan like her brothers, but she did not dare do it just yet, because the King wanted to see his daughter.

In the early morning, the Queen went to the bathing place.
She took three toads, kissed them, and said to the first:
“Squat on Elisa’s head when she bathes, so that she will become as torpid as you are.” To the second, she said, “Squat on her forehead, so that she will become as ugly as you are, and her father won’t recognize her.” And to the third, she whispered,
“Lie against her heart, so that she will be cursed and tormented by evil desires.”

Thereupon the Queen dropped the three toads into the clear water, which at once turned a greenish color.
She called Elisa, made her undress, and told her to enter the bath.
When Elisa went down into the water, one toad fastened himself to her hair, another to her forehead, and the third against her heart.
But she did not seem to be aware of them, and when she stood up, three red poppies floated on the water. If the toads had not been poisonous, and had not been kissed by the witch, they would have been turned into red roses. But at least they had been turned into flowers, by the mere touch of her head and heart. She was too innocent and good for witchcraft to have power over her.

When the evil Queen realized this, she rubbed Elisa with walnut stain that turned her dark brown, smeared her lovely face with a vile ointment, and tousled her beautiful hair.
No one could have recognized the beautiful Elisa, and when her father saw her,
he was shocked. He said that this could not be his daughter.
No one knew her except the watchdog and the swallows, and they were humble creatures who had nothing to say.

Poor Elisa cried and thought of her eleven brothers, who were all away. Heavy-hearted, she stole away from the palace and wandered all day over long fields and marshes, till she came to a vast forest. She had no idea where to turn. All she felt was her sorrow and her longing to be with her brothers. Like herself, they must have been driven out into the world, and she set her heart upon finding them.

She had been in the forest only a little while when night came on, and as she strawed from any sign of a path, she said her prayers and lay down on the soft moss, with her head pillowed against a stump. All was quiet, the air so mild, and hundreds of fireflies glittered like a green fire in the grass and mosses.
When she lightly brushed against a single branch, the shining insects showered about her like falling stars.

She dreamed of her brothers all night long. They were all children again, playing together, writing with their diamond pencils on their golden slates, and looking at her wonderful picture book that had cost half a kingdom. But they no longer scribbled sums and exercises as they used to do. No, they had set down their bold deeds and all that they had seen or heard. Everything in the picture book came alive. The birds sang and the people strolled out of the book to talk with Elisa and her brothers, but whenever she turned a page, they immediately jumped back into place to keep the pictures in order.

When she awoke, the sun was already high.
She could not see it plainly, for the tall trees spread their tangled branches above her, but the rays played above like a shimmering golden gauze. She heard water splashing from many large springs, which all flowed into a pool with the most beautiful sandy bottom.
Although it was hemmed in by a wall of thick bushes, there was one place where the deer had made a path wide enough for Elisa to reach the water. The pool was so clear that, if the wind had not stirred the limbs and bushes, she might have supposed they were painted on the ground. For each leaf was clearly reflected, whether the sun shone upon it or not.

When Elisa saw her own face, she was horrified to find it so brown and ugly. But as soon as she wet her hand and rubbed her brow and eyes, her own fair, clear skin showed again.
Then she laid aside her clothes and plunged into the fresh water.

When she had dressed herself and plaited her long hair, she went to the sparkling spring and drank from the hollow of her hand.
She wandered deeper into the woods without knowing whether she went. She thought of her brothers, and she thought of the good Lord, who she knew would not forsake her.
She came upon a tree with its branches bent down by the weight of their fruit. Here she had her lunch.

After she put props under the heavy limbs, she went on into the depths of the forest. It was so quiet that she heard her own footsteps and every dry leaf that rustled underfoot.
Not a bird was in sight, not a ray of sun could get through the big heavy branches. She had never known such solitude.

Night came, pitch black. Not one firefly glittered among the leaves as she despondently lay down to sleep.

When she awoke the next morning, she encountered an old who who had a basket of berries and have some of them to her.
Elisa asked if she had seen eleven princes riding through the forest.

“No,” the old woman said, “but yesterday I saw eleven swans who wore golden crowns. They were swimming in the river not far from here.”

She led Elisa a little way to the top of a hill which sloped down to a winding river. The trees on either bank stretched their long leafy branches toward each other, and where the stream was too wide for them to grow across it, they had torn their roots from the earth and leaned out over the water until their branches met.

Elisa told the woman goodbye and followed the river down to where it flowed into the great open sea. Before the young girl lay the whole beautiful ocean, but not a sail nor a single boat was in sight. How could she go on?

She looked at the countless pebbles on the beach, and saw how round the water had worn them. Glass, iron ore, stones—all that had been washed up—had been shaped by water.

“It rolls on tirelessly, and that is the way it makes such hard things smooth,” she said. “I shall be just as untiring.
Thank you for your lesson, you clear rolling waves.
My heart tells me that someday you will carry me to my beloved brothers.”

Among the wet seaweed, she found eleven white swan feathers, which she collected in a sheaf. There were still drops of water on them, but whether these were spray or tears no one could say.
It was very lonely along the shore, but she did not mind, for the sea was constantly changing. When she sky was black with threatening clouds, it was as if the sea seemed to say, “I can look threatening, too!” Then the wind would blow and the waves would raise their white crests. But when the wind died down and the clouds were red, the sea would look like a rose petal.

Just at sunset, Elisa saw eleven white swans with golden crowns on their heads fly toward the shore. As they flew, one behind another, they looked like a white ribbon in the air. Elisa climbed up and hid behind a bush on the steep bank. The swans came down near her and flapped their magnificent white wings.

As soon as the sun went down beyond the sea, the swans threw off their feathers and there stood eleven handsome princes.
They were her brothers and, although they were greatly altered, she knew in her heart that she could not be mistaken.
She cried aloud and rushed into their arms, calling them each by name. They knew her at once, for all that she had grown tall and lovely. They laughed and cried, and they soon realized how cruelly their stepmother had treated them all.

“We brothers,” said the eldest, “are forced to fly about disguised as wild swans as long as the sun is in the heavens, but when it goes down, we take back our human forms. So at sunset, we must always look about us for some firm foothold, because if we were flying among the clouds at sunset, we would be dashed down to the earth.

“We do no live on this coast. Beyond the sea, there is another land as fair as this. Along our course there is not one island where we can pass the night, except one little rock that rises from the middle of the sea. It is barely big enough to hold us, however close together we stand, and if there is a rough sea, the waves wash over us. But we still thank God for it.

“In our human forms, we rest there during the night, and without it, we could never come back to our own dear homeland.
It takes two of the longest days of the year for our journey.
We are allowed to come back to our native land only once a year, and we do not dare stay longer than eleven days.
As we fly over this forest, we can see the palace. Here, we feel that even the trees and bushes are akin to us. This is our homeland.
It draws us to it, and here, dear sister, we have found you again. We may stay two days longer, and then we must fly across the sea. How shall we take you wish us? We have neither ship nor boat.”

“How shall I set you free?” their sister asked, and they talked on for most of the night, sparing only a few hours for sleep.

In the morning, Elisa was awakened by the rustling of birds’ wings overhead. Her brothers, once more enchanted, wheeled above her in great circles until they were out of sight. One of them, her youngest brother, stayed with her and rested his head on her breast while she stroked his wings. They spent the whole day together, and toward evening, the others returned.
As soon as the sun went down, they returned to their own shapes.

“Tomorrow,” said one of her brothers, “we must fly away, and we dare not return until a whole year has passed. But we cannot leave you like this. Have you courage enough to come with us? My arm is strong enough to carry you through the forest, so surely the wings of all of us should be strong enough to bear you across the sea.”

“Yes, take me with you,” said Elisa.

They spent the entire night making a net of pliant willow bark and tough rushes. They made it large and strong.
Elisa lay down upon it and, when the sun rose and her brothers again became wild swans, they lifted the net in their bills and flew high up toward the clouds with their beloved sister, who still was fast asleep. When she sun shone straight into her face, one of the swans flew over her head so as to shade her with his wings.

They were far from shore when she awoke. Elisa thought she must still be dreaming, so strange did it seem to be carried through the air, high over the sea. Beside her lay a branch full of beautiful ripe berries, and a bundle of sweet-tasting roots. Her youngest brother had gathered them and put them there for her. She gave him a grateful smile. She knew he must also be the one who flew over her head to protect her eyes from the sun.

All day they flew like arrows whipping through the air, yet, because they had their sister to carry, they flew more slowly than on their former journeys. Night was drawing near, and a storm was rising. In terror, Elisa watched the sinking sun, for the lonely rock was nowhere in sight. Black clouds gathered and great gusts told of the storm to come. The threatening clouds came on as one tremendous wave that rolled down toward them, and flash upon flash of lightning followed them.

Then the sun touched the rim of the sea. Elisa’s heart beat madly as the swans shot down so fast that she thought they were falling, but they checked their downward swoop. Half of the sun was below the sea when she first saw the little rock below them.
It looked no larger than the head of a seal jutting out of the water. The sun sank very fast. Her feet touched solid ground.
Then the sun went out like the last spark on a piece of burning paper. She saw her brothers stand about her, arm in arm, and there was only just room enough for all of them. The waves beat upon the rock and washed over them in a shower of spray. The heavens were lit by constant flashes, and bolt upon bolt of thunder crashed.

At dawn the air was clear and still. As soon as the sun came up, the swans flew off with Elisa and they left the rock behind.

When the sun rose higher, Elisa saw before her a mountainous land, half floating in the air. Its peaks were capped with sparkling ice, and in the middle rose a castle that was a mile long, with one bold colonnade perched upon another. Down below, palm trees swayed and brilliant flowers bloomed as big as mill wheels. She asked if this was the land for which they were bound, but the swans shook their heads. What she saw was the gorgeous and ever-changing palace of Fata Morgana. No mortal being could venture to enter it. As Elisa stared at it, the mountains, palms, and palace faded away, and in their place rose twenty splendid churches,
all alike, with lofty towers and pointed windows. She thought she heard the organ peal, but it was the roll of the ocean she heart. When they flew overhead and she looked down at it, it was only a sea mist drifting over the water.

At last she saw the real country whither they went. Mountains rose before her, beautifully blue, wooded with cedars, and studded with cities and palaces. Long before sunset,
she was sitting on a mountainside, in front of a large cave carpeted over with green creepers so delicate they looked like embroidery.

“We shall see what you’ll dream of here tonight,” her youngest brother said, as he showed her where she was to sleep.

“I only wish I could dream of how to set you free,” she said.

This thought so completely absorbed her, and she prayed so earnestly for the Lord to help her, that even in her sleep she kept on praying. It seemed to her that she was flying aloft to the Fata Morgana palace of clouds. The fairy who came out to meet her was fair and shining, yet she closely resembled the old woman who gave her the berries in the fores and told her of the swans who wore golden crowns on their heads.

“Your brothers can be set free,” she said, “but have you the courage and tenacity to do it? The sea water that changes the shape of rough stones is indeed softer than your delicate hands, but it cannot feel the pain that your fingers will feel.
It has no heart, so it cannot suffer the anguish and heartache that you will have to endure. Do you see this stinging nettle?
Many such nettles grow around the cave where you sleep.
Only those and the ones that grow upon graves in churchyards may be used—remember that! Those you must gather, although they will burn your hands to blisters. Crush the nettles with your feet and you will have flax, which you must spin and weave into eleven shirts of mail with long sleeves. Once you throw these over the eleven wild swans, the spell over them will be broken. But keep this well in mind! From the moment you undertake this task and until it is done, even should it last for years, you must not speak. The first word you say will strike your brothers’ hearts like a deadly knife. Their lives are at the mercy of your tongue.
Now, remember what I told you!”

She touched Elisa’s hand with nettles that burned like fire and awakened her. It was broad daylight, and close at hand where she had been sleeping grew a nettle like those of which she had dreamed. She thanked God upon her knees and left the cave to begin her task.

With her soft hands she took hold of the dreadful nettles that seared like fire. Great blisters rose on her hands and arms, but she endured it gladly in the hope that she could free her beloved brothers. She crushed each nettle with her bare feet, and spun the green flax.

When her brothers returned at sunset, it alarmed them that she did not speak. They feared this was some new spell cast by their wicked stepmother, but when they saw her hands, they understood that she labored to save them. The youngest one wept, and wherever his tears touched Elisa, she felt no more pain, and the burning blisters healed.

She toiled throughout the night, for she could not rest until she had delivered her beloved brothers from the enchantment. Throughout the next day, while the swans were gone she sat all alone, but never had the time sped so quickly.
One shirt was made, and she set to work on the second one.

Then she heard the blast of a hunting horn on the mountainside. It frightened her, for the sound came nearer until she could hear the hounds bark. Terror-stricken, she ran into the cave, bundled together the nettles she had gathered and woven, and sat down on this bundle.

Immediately a big dog came bounding from the thicket, followed by another, and still another, all barking loudly as they ran to and fro. In a very few minutes, all the huntsmen stood in front of the cave.

The most handsome of these was the King of the land, and he came up to Elisa. Never before had he seen a girl so beautiful.
“My lovely child,” he said, “how do you come to be here?”

Elisa shook her head, for she did not dare speak. Her brothers’ deliverance and their very lives depended upon it. She hid her hands under her apron to keep the King from seeing how much she suffered.

“Come with me,” he told her. “You cannot stay here.
If you are as good as you are fair, I shall clothe you in silk and velvet, set a golden crown upon your head, and give you my finest palace to live in.” Then he lifted her up on his horse.
When she wept and wrung her hands, the King told her,
“My only wish is to make you happy. Someday, you will thank me for doing this.” Off through the mountains he spurred, holding her before him on his horse as his huntsmen galloped behind him.

At sundown, his splendid city with all its towers and domes lay before them. The King led her into his palace, where great fountains played in the high marble halls, and where both walls and ceilings were adorned with paintings. But she took no notice of any of these things. She could only weep and grieve. Indifferently, she let the women dress her in royal garments, weave strings of pearls in her hair, and draw soft gloves over her blistered fingers.

She was so dazzlingly beautiful in all this splendor that the whole court bowed before her. And the King chose her for his bride, although the archbishop shook his head and whispered that this lovely maid of the woods must be a witch, who had blinded their eyes and stolen the King’s heart.

But the King would not listen to him. He commanded that music be played, the costliest dishes be served, and the prettiest girls dance for her. She was shown through sweet-scented gardens, and into magnificent halls, but nothing could make her lips smile or her eyes sparkle. Sorrow had set its seal upon them. At length, the King opened the door to a little chamber adjoining her bedroom. It was covered with splendid green embroideries and looked just like the cave in which he had found her. On the floor lay the bundle of flax she had spun from the nettles, and from the ceiling hung the shirt she had already finished. One of the huntsmen had brought these with him as curiosities.

“Here you may dream that you are back in your old home,”
the King told her. “Here is the work that you were doing there, and surrounded by all your splendor here, it may amuse you to think of those times.”

When Elisa saw these things that were so precious to her, a smile trembled on her lips, and the blood rushed back to her cheeks. The hope that she could free her brothers returned to her, and she kissed the King’s hand. He pressed her to his heart and commanded that all the church bells peal to announce their wedding. The beautiful mute girl from the forest was to be the country’s Queen.

The archbishop whispered evil words in the King’s ear, but they did not reach his heart. The wedding was to take place.
The archbishop himself had to place the crown on her head.
Out of spite, he forced the tight circlet so low on her head that it hurt her. But a heavier hand encircle her head, and the sorrow she felt for her brothers kept her from feeling any hurt of the flesh. Her lips were mute, for one single word would mean death to her brothers, but her eyes shone with love for the kind and handsome King who did his best to please her.
Every day she grew fonder and fonder of him in her heart.
Oh, if only she could confide in him, and tell him what grieved her. But mute she must remain, and finish her task in silence.
So at night she would steal away from his side into her little chamber which resembled the cave, and there she wove one shirt after another. But when she set to work on the seventh, there was not enough flax left to finish it.

She knew that the nettles she must use grew in the churchyard, but she had to gather them herself. How could she go there?

“Oh, what is the pain in my fingers compared with the anguish
I feel in my heart!” she thought. “I must take the risk, and the good Lord will not desert me.”

As terrified as if she were doing some evil thing, she tiptoed down into the moonlit garden, through the long alleys and down the deserted streets to the churchyard. There, she saw a group of vampires sitting in a circle on one of the large gravestones.
These hideous ghouls took off their ragged clothes as they were about to bathe. With skinny fingers, they clawed open the new graves. Greedily, they snatched out the bodies and ate the fresh from them. Elisa had to pass close to them, and they fixed their vile eyes upon her, but she said a prayer, picked the stinging nettles, and carried them back to the palace.

Only one man saw her—the archbishop. He was awake while others slept. Now he had proof of what he had suspected.
There was something wrong with the Queen. She was a witch, and that was how she had duped the King and all his people.

In the confessional, he told the King what he had seen and what he feared. As the bitter words spewed from his mouth, the images of the saints shook their heads, as much as to say, “He lies! Elisa is innocent!” The archbishop, however, had a different explanation for this. He said they were testifying against her, and shaking their heads at her wickedness.

Two big tears rolled down the King’s cheeks as he went home with suspicion in his heart. That night he pretended to be asleep, but no restful sleep touched his eyes. He watched Elisa get out of bed. Every night, he watched her get up, and each time he followed her quietly and saw her disappear into her private little room.
Day after day, his frown deepened. Elisa saw it, and could not understand why this should be, but it made her anxious and added to the grief her heart already felt for her brothers.
Her hot tears fell down upon her queenly robes of purple velvet. There, they flashed like diamonds, and all who saw this wished that they were the Queen who wore such splendor.

Meanwhile, she had almost completed her task. Only one shirt was lacking, but again she had run out of flax. Not a single nettled was left. Once more, for the last time, she must go to the churchyard and pluck a few more handfuls. She thought with fear of the lonely walk and ghastly vampires, but her will was strong.

She went upon her mission, but the King and his archbishop followed her. They saw her disappear through the iron gates of the churchyard and when they came in after her, they saw the vampires sitting on a gravestone, just as Elisa had seen them.

The King turned away, for he thought Elisa was among them—Elisa, whose head had rested against his heart that very evening.

“Let the people judge her,” he said. And judge her, the people did. They condemned her to die by fire.

She was led from her splendid royal halls to a dungeon, dark and damp, where the wind whistled in between the window bars. Instead of silks and velvets, they gave her for a pillow the bundle of nettles she had gathered, and for her coverlet, the harsh, burning shirts of mail she had woven. But they could have given her nothing that pleased her more.

She set to work again, and prayed. Outside, the boys in the street sang jeering songs about her, and not one soul came to comfort her with a kind word.

But toward evening, she heard the rustle of a bird’s wings close to her window. It was her youngest brother, who had found her at last. She sobbed for joy. Though she knew that this night was all too apt to be her last, the task was almost done and her brothers were near her.

The archbishop came to stay with her during her last hours on earth, for this much he had promised the King. But she shook her head, and by her expression and gestures, she begged him to leave. This was the last night she had to finish her task, or it would all go for naught—all her pain, and her tears, and her sleepless nights. The archbishop went away, saying cruel things against her. But poor Elisa knew her own innocence, and she kept on with her task.

It was still in the early dawn, an hour before sunrise, when the eleven brothers reached the palace gates and demanded to see the King. This, they were told, was impossible.
It was still night. The King was asleep and could not be disturbed. They begged and threatened so loudly that the guard turned out, and even the King came running to find out what the trouble was. But at that moment, the sun rose, and the eleven brothers vanished. Eleven swans were seen flying over the palace.

All the townsmen went flocking out through the town fates, for they wanted to see the witch burned. A decrepit old horse pulled the cart in which Elisa sat. They had dressed her in coarse sackcloth, and all her lovely long hair hung loose around her beautiful head. Her cheeks were deathly pale, and her lips moved in silent prayer as her fingers twisted the green flax. Even on her way to death, she did not stop her still unfinished work. Ten shirts lay at her feet and she worked away on the eleventh.

“See how the witch mumbles,” the mob scoffed at her.
“That’s no psalm book in her hands. No, there she sits, nursing her filthy sorcery. Snatch it away from her and tear it to bits!”

The crowd of people closed in to destroy all her work, but before they could reach her, eleven white swans flew down and made a ring around the cart with their flapping wings.
The mob drew back in terror.

“It is a sign from Heaven. She must be innocent,” many people whispered. But no one dared say it aloud.

As the executioner seized her arm, she made haste to throw the eleven shirts over the swans, who instantly became eleven handsome princes. But the youngest brother still had a swan’s wing in place of one arm, where a sleep was missing from his shirt. Elisa had not quite been able to finish it.

“Now,” she cried, “I may speak! I am innocent!”

All the people who saw what had happened bowed down to her as they would before a saint. But the strain, the anguish, and the suffering had been too much for her to bear, and she fell into her brothers’ arms as if all the life had gone out of her.

“She is innocent indeed!” said her eldest brother, and he told them all that had happened. And while he spoke, the scent of a million roses filled the air, for every piece of wood that they had piled up to burn her had taken root and grown branches.
There stood a great high hedge, covered with red and fragrant roses. At the very top a sing pure white flower shone like a star. The King plucked it and put it on Elisa’s heart, and she awoke with peace and happiness in her heart.

All the church bells began to ring of their own accords, and the air was filled with birds. Back to the palace went a bridal procession such as no King had ever enjoyed before.

By Hans Christian Andersen

~The Red Shoes

Once upon a time there was little girl, pretty and dainty.
But in summer time she was obliged to go barefooted because she was poor, and in winter she had to wear large wooden shoes, so that her little instep grew quite red.

In the middle of the village lived an old shoemaker’s wife; she sat down and made, as well as she could, a pair of little shoes out of some old pieces of red cloth. They were clumsy, but she meant well, for they were intended for the little girl, whose name was Karen.

Karen received the shoes and wore them for the first time on the day of her mother’s funeral. They were certainly not suitable for mourning; but she had no others, and so she put her bare feet into them and walked behind the humble coffin.

red shoes by cumuluscastle by cumuluscastle

Just then a large old carriage came by, and in it sat an old lady; she looked at the little girl, and taking pity on her, said to the clergyman, “Look here, if you will give me the little girl,
I will take care of her.”

Karen believed that this was all on account of the red shoes,
but the old lady thought them hideous, and so they were burnt. Karen herself was dressed very neatly and cleanly; she was taught to read and to sew, and people said that she was pretty.
But the mirror told her, “You are more than pretty—you are beautiful.”

One day the Queen was travelling through that part of the country, and had her little daughter, who was a princess, with her. All the people, amongst them Karen too, streamed towards the castle, where the little princess, in fine white clothes, stood before the window and allowed herself to be stared at.
She wore neither a train nor a golden crown, but beautiful red morocco shoes; they were indeed much finer than those which the shoemaker’s wife had sewn for little Karen. There is really nothing in the world that can be compared to red shoes!

Karen was now old enough to be confirmed; she received some new clothes, and she was also to have some new shoes.
The rich shoemaker in the town took the measure of her little foot in his own room, in which there stood great glass cases full of pretty shoes and white slippers. It all looked very lovely, but the old lady could not see very well, and therefore did not get much pleasure out of it. Amongst the shoes stood a pair of red ones,
like those which the princess had worn. How beautiful they were! and the shoemaker said that they had been made for a count’s daughter, but that they had not fitted her.

“I suppose they are of shiny leather?” asked the old lady.
“They shine so.”

“Yes, they do shine,” said Karen. They fitted her, and were bought. But the old lady knew nothing of their being red, for she would never have allowed Karen to be confirmed in red shoes,
as she was now to be.

Everybody looked at her feet, and the whole of the way from the church door to the choir it seemed to her as if even the ancient figures on the monuments, in their stiff collars and long black robes, had their eyes fixed on her red shoes. It was only of these that she thought when the clergyman laid his hand upon her head and spoke of the holy baptism, of the covenant with God, and told her that she was now to be a grown-up Christian. The organ pealed forth solemnly, and the sweet children’s voices mingled with that of their old leader; but Karen thought only of her red shoes. In the afternoon the old lady heard from everybody that Karen had worn red shoes. She said that it was a shocking thing to do, that it was very improper, and that Karen was always to go to church in future in black shoes, even if they were old.

On the following Sunday there was Communion. Karen looked first at the black shoes, then at the red ones—looked at the red ones again, and put them on.

The sun was shining gloriously, so Karen and the old lady went along the footpath through the corn, where it was rather dusty.

At the church door stood an old crippled soldier leaning on a crutch; he had a wonderfully long beard, more red than white, and he bowed down to the ground and asked the old lady whether he might wipe her shoes. Then Karen put out her little foot too. “Dear me, what pretty dancing-shoes!” said the soldier.
“Sit fast, when you dance,” said he, addressing the shoes, and slapping the soles with his hand.

The old lady gave the soldier some money and then went with Karen into the church.

And all the people inside looked at Karen’s red shoes, and all the figures gazed at them; when Karen knelt before the altar and put the golden goblet to her mouth, she thought only of the red shoes. It seemed to her as though they were swimming about in the goblet, and she forgot to sing the psalm, forgot to say the
“Lord’s Prayer.”

Now every one came out of church, and the old lady stepped into her carriage. But just as Karen was lifting up her foot to get in too, the old soldier said: “Dear me, what pretty dancing shoes!” and Karen could not help it, she was obliged to dance a few steps; and when she had once begun, her legs continued to dance.
It seemed as if the shoes had got power over them. She danced round the church corner, for she could not stop; the coachman had to run after her and seize her. He lifted her into the carriage, but her feet continued to dance, so that she kicked the good old lady violently. At last they took off her shoes, and her legs were at rest.

At home the shoes were put into the cupboard, but Karen could not help looking at them.

Now the old lady fell ill, and it was said that she would not rise from her bed again. She had to be nursed and waited upon, and this was no one’s duty more than Karen’s. But there was a grand ball in the town, and Karen was invited. She looked at the red shoes, saying to herself that there was no sin in doing that;
she put the red shoes on, thinking there was no harm in that either; and then she went to the ball; and commenced to dance.

But when she wanted to go to the right, the shoes danced to the left, and when she wanted to dance up the room, the shoes danced down the room, down the stairs through the street, and out through the gates of the town. She danced, and was obliged to dance, far out into the dark wood. Suddenly something shone up among the trees, and she believed it was the moon, for it was a face. But it was the old soldier with the red beard; he sat there nodding his head and said: “Dear me, what pretty dancing shoes!”

She was frightened, and wanted to throw the red shoes away;
but they stuck fast. She tore off her stockings, but the shoes had grown fast to her feet. She danced and was obliged to go on dancing over field and meadow, in rain and sunshine, by night and by day—but by night it was most horrible.

She danced out into the open churchyard; but the dead there did not dance. They had something better to do than that.
She wanted to sit down on the pauper’s grave where the bitter fern grows; but for her there was neither peace nor rest.
And as she danced past the open church door she saw an angel there in long white robes, with wings reaching from his shoulders down to the earth; his face was stern and grave, and in his hand he held a broad shining sword.

“Dance you shall,” said he, “dance in your red shoes till you are pale and cold, till your skin shrivels up and you are a skeleton! Dance you shall, from door to door, and where proud and wicked children live you shall knock, so that they may hear you and fear you! Dance you shall, dance—!”

“Mercy!” cried Karen. But she did not hear what the angel answered, for the shoes carried her through the gate into the fields, along highways and byways, and unceasingly she had to dance.

One morning she danced past a door that she knew well; they were singing a psalm inside, and a coffin was being carried out covered with flowers. Then she knew that she was forsaken by every one and damned by the angel of God.

She danced, and was obliged to go on dancing through the dark night. The shoes bore her away over thorns and stumps till she was all torn and bleeding; she danced away over the heath to a lonely little house. Here, she knew, lived the executioner; and she tapped with her finger at the window and said:

“Come out, come out! I cannot come in, for I must dance.”

And the executioner said: “I don’t suppose you know who I am.
I strike off the heads of the wicked, and I notice that my axe is tingling to do so.”

“Don’t cut off my head!” said Karen, “for then I could not repent of my sin. But cut off my feet with the red shoes.”

And then she confessed all her sin, and the executioner struck off her feet with the red shoes; but the shoes danced away with the little feet across the field into the deep forest.

And he carved her a pair of wooden feet and some crutches, and taught her a psalm which is always sung by sinners; she kissed the hand that guided the axe, and went away over the heath.

“Now, I have suffered enough for the red shoes,” she said;
“I will go to church, so that people can see me.” And she went quickly up to the church-door; but when she came there, the red shoes were dancing before her, and she was frightened, and turned back.

During the whole week she was sad and wept many bitter tears, but when Sunday came again she said: “Now I have suffered and striven enough. I believe I am quite as good as many of those who sit in church and give themselves airs.” And so she went boldly on; but she had not got farther than the churchyard gate when she saw the red shoes dancing along before her. Then she became terrified, and turned back and repented right heartily of her sin.

She went to the parsonage, and begged that she might be taken into service there. She would be industrious, she said, and do everything that she could; she did not mind about the wages as long as she had a roof over her, and was with good people.
The pastor’s wife had pity on her, and took her into service.
And she was industrious and thoughtful. She sat quiet and listened when the pastor read aloud from the Bible in the evening. All the children liked her very much, but when they spoke about dress and grandeur and beauty she would shake her head.

On the following Sunday they all went to church, and she was asked whether she wished to go too; but, with tears in her eyes, she looked sadly at her crutches. And then the others went to hear God’s Word, but she went alone into her little room; this was only large enough to hold the bed and a chair. Here she sat down with her hymn-book, and as she was reading it with a pious mind, the wind carried the notes of the organ over to her from the church, and in tears she lifted up her face and said: “O God! help me!”

Then the sun shone so brightly, and right before her stood an angel of God in white robes; it was the same one whom she had seen that night at the church-door. He no longer carried the sharp sword, but a beautiful green branch, full of roses; with this he touched the ceiling, which rose up very high, and where he had touched it there shone a golden star. He touched the walls, which opened wide apart, and she saw the organ which was pealing forth; she saw the pictures of the old pastors and their wives, and the congregation sitting in the polished chairs and singing from their hymn-books. The church itself had come to the poor girl in her narrow room, or the room had gone to the church.
She sat in the pew with the rest of the pastor’s household, and when they had finished the hymn and looked up, they nodded and said, “It was right of you to come, Karen.”

“It was mercy,” said she.

The organ played and the children’s voices in the choir sounded soft and lovely. The bright warm sunshine streamed through the window into the pew where Karen sat, and her heart became so filled with it, so filled with peace and joy, that it broke.
Her soul flew on the sunbeams to Heaven, and no one was there who asked after the Red Shoes.

by Hans Christian Andersen

~Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf

As soon as Wolf began to feel
That he would like a decent meal,
He went and knocked on Grandma’s door.
When Grandma opened it, she saw
The sharp white teeth, the horrid grin,
And Wolfie said, “May I come in?”
Poor Grandmamma was terrified,
“He’s going to eat me up!” she cried.
And she was absolutely right.

by Cathy Delanssay

He ate her up in one big bite.
But Grandmamma was small and tough,
And Wolfie wailed, “That’s not enough!
I haven’t yet begin to feel
That I have had a decent meal!”
He ran around the kitchen yelping,
“I’ve got to have a second helping!”
Then added with a frightful leer,
“I’m therefore going to wait right here
Till Little Miss Red Riding Hood
Comes home from walking in the wood.”
He quickly put on Grandma’s clothes,

(Of course he hadn’t eaten those).

He dressed himself in coat and hat.
He put on shoes, and after that,
He even brushed and curled his hair,
Then sat himself in Grandma’s chair.
In came the little girl in red.
She stopped. She stared. And then she said,
“What great big ears you have, Grandma.”
“All the better to hear you with,”
the Wolf replied.

“What great big eyes you have, Grandma.”
said Little Red Riding Hood.
“All the better to see you with,”
the Wolf replied.
He sat there watching her and smiled.
He thought, I’m going to eat this child.
Compared with her old Grandmamma,
She’s going to taste like caviar.

Then Little Red Riding Hood said,
“But Grandma, what a lovely great big
furry coat you have on.”
“That’s wrong!” cried Wolf.
“Have you forgot
To tell me what BIG TEETH I’ve got?
Ah well, no matter what you say,
I’m going to eat you anyway.”

The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature’s head,
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.
A few weeks later, in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change! No cloak of red,
No silly hood upon her head.
She said, “Hello, and do please note
My lovely furry wolfskin coat.”

By Roald Dahl

~Donkey Skin

Once upon a time there was a king who was the most powerful ruler in the whole world. Kind and just in peace and terrifying in war, his enemies feared him while his subjects were happy and content. His wife and faithful companion was both charming and beautiful. From their union a daughter had been born.

Their large and magnificent palace was filled with courtiers, and their stables boasted steeds large and small, of every description. But what surprised everyone on entering these stables was that the place of honor was held by a donkey with two big ears. However, it was quite worthy of this position, for every morning, instead of dung, it dropped a great load of gold coins upon the litter.

Now heaven, which seems to mingle good with evil, suddenly permitted a bitter illness to attack the queen. Help was sought on all sides, but neither the learned physicians nor the charlatans were able to arrest the fever which increased daily. Finally, her last hour having come, the queen said to her husband: "Promise me that if, when I am gone, you find a woman wiser and more beautiful than I, you will marry her and so provide an heir for throne."


Confident that it would be impossible to find such a woman, the queen thus believed that her husband would never remarry. The king accepted his wife's conditions, and shortly thereafter she died in his arms.

For a time the king was inconsolable in his grief, both day and night. Some months later, however, on the urging of his courtiers, he agreed to marry again, but this was not an easy matter, for he had to keep his promise to his wife and search as he might, he could not find a new wife with all the attractions he sought. Only his daughter had a charm and beauty which even the queen had not possessed.

Thus only by marrying his daughter could he satisfy the promise he had made to his dying wife, and so he forthwith proposed marriage to her. This frightened and saddened the princess, and she tried to show her father the mistake he was making. Deeply troubled at this turn of events, she sought out her fairy godmother who lived in a grotto of coral and pearls.

"I know why you have come here," her godmother said. "In your heart there is a great sadness. But I am here to help you and nothing can harm you if you follow my advice. You must not disobey your father, but first tell him that you must have a dress which has the color of the sky. Certainly he will never be able to meet that request."

And so the young princess went all trembling to her father. But he, the moment he heard her request, summoned his best tailors and ordered them, without delay, to make a dress the color of the sky, or they could be assured he would hang them all.

The following day the dress was shown to the princess. It was the most beautiful blue of heaven. Filled now with both happiness and fear, she did not know what to do, but her godmother again told her, "Ask for a dress the color of the moon. Surely your father will not be able to give you this."

No sooner had the princess made the request than the king summoned his embroiderers and ordered that a dress the color of the moon be completed by the fourth day. On that very day it was ready and the princess was again delighted with its beauty.

But still her godmother urged her once again to make a request of the king, this time for a dress as bright and shining as the sun. This time the king summoned a wealthy jeweler and ordered him to make a cloth of gold and diamonds, warning him that if he failed he would die. Within a week the jeweler had finished the dress, so beautiful and radiant that it dazzled the eyes of everyone who saw it.

The princess did not know how to thank the king, but once again her godmother whispered in her ear. "Ask him for the skin of the donkey in the royal stable. The king will not consider your request seriously. You will not receive it, or I am badly mistaken." But she did not understand how extraordinary was the king's desire to please his daughter. Almost immediately the donkey's skin was brought to the princess.

Once again she was frightened and once again her godmother came to her assistance. "Pretend," she said, "to give in to the king. Promise him anything he wishes, but, at the same time, prepare to escape to some far country.

"Here," she continued, "is a chest in which we will put your clothes, your mirror, the things for your toilet, your diamonds and other jewels. I will give you my magic wand. Whenever you have it in your hand, the chest will follow you everywhere, always hidden underground. Whenever you wish to open the chest, as soon as you touch the wand to the ground, the chest will appear.

"To conceal you, the donkey's skin will be an admirable disguise, for when you are inside it, no one will believe that anyone so beautiful could be hidden in anything so frightful."

Early in the morning the princess disappeared as she was advised. They searched everywhere for her, in houses, along the roads, wherever she might have been, but in vain. No one could imagine what had become of her.

The princess, meanwhile, was continuing her flight. To everyone she met, she extended her hands, begging them to find her some place where she might find work. But she looked so unattractive and indeed so repulsive in her Donkey Skin disguise that no one would have anything to do with such a creature.

Farther and still farther she journeyed until finally she came to a farm where they needed a poor wretch to wash the dishcloths and clean out the pig troughs. They also made her work in a corner of the kitchen where she was exposed to the low jokes and ridicule of all the other servants.

On Sundays she had a little rest for, having completed her morning tasks, she went to her room and closed the door and bathed. Then she opened the chest, took out her toilet jars and set them up, with the mirror, before her. Having made herself beautiful once more, she tried on her moon dress, then that one which shone like the sun and, finally, the lovely blue dress. Her only regret was that she did not have room enough to display their trains. She was happy, however, in seeing herself young again, and this pleasure carried her along from one Sunday to the next.

On this great farm where she worked there was an aviary belonging to a powerful king. All sorts of unusual birds with strange habits were kept there. The king's son often stopped at this farm on his return from the hunt in order to rest and enjoy a cool drink with his courtiers.

From a distance Donkey Skin gazed on him with tenderness and remembered that beneath her dirt and rags she still had the heart of a princess. What a grand manner he has, she thought. How gracious he is! How happy must she be to whom his heart is pledged! If he should give me a dress of only the simplest sort, I would feel more splendid wearing it than any of these which I have.

One day the young prince, seeking adventure from court yard to court yard, came to the obscure hallway where Donkey Skin had her humble room. By chance he put his eye to the key hole. It was a feast-day and Donkey Skin had put on her dress of gold and diamonds which shone as brightly as the sun. The prince was breathless at her beauty, her youthfulness, and her modesty. Three times he was on the point of entering her room, but each time refrained.

On his return to his father's palace, the prince became very thoughtful, sighing day and night and refusing to attend any of the balls and carnivals. He lost his appetite and finally sank into sad and deadly melancholy. He asked who this beautiful maiden was that lived in such squalor and was told that it was Donkey Skin, the ugliest animal one could find, except the wolf, and a certain cure for love. This he would not believe, and he refused to forget what he had seen.

His mother, the queen, begged him to tell her what was wrong. Instead, he moaned, wept and sighed. He would say nothing, except that he wanted Donkey Skin to make him a cake with her own hands.

"O heavens," they told her, "this Donkey Skin is only a poor, drab servant."

"It makes no difference," replied the queen. "We must do as he says. It is the only way to save him."

So Donkey Skin took some flour which she had ground especially fine, and some salt, some butter and some fresh eggs and shut herself alone in her room to make the cake. But first she washed her face and hands and put on a silver smock in honor of the task she had undertaken.

Now the story goes that, working perhaps a little too hastily, there fell from Donkey Skin's finger into the batter a ring of great value. Some who know the outcome of this story think that she may have dropped the ring on purpose, and they are probably right, for when the prince stopped at her door and looked through the key hole, she must have known it. And she was sure that the ring would be received most joyfully by her lover.

The prince found the cake so good that in his ravishing hunger, he almost swallowed the ring! When he saw the beautiful emerald and the band of gold that traced the shape of Donkey Skin's finger, his heart was filled with an indescribable joy. At once he put the ring under his pillow, but his illness increased daily until finally the doctors, seeing him grow worse, gravely concluded that he was sick with love.

Marriage, whatever may be said against it, is an excellent remedy for love sickness. And so it was decided that the prince was to marry.

"But I insist," he said, "that I will wed only the person whom this ring fits." This unusual demand surprised the king and queen very much, but the prince was so ill that they did not dare object.

A search began for whoever might be able to fit the ring on her finger, no matter what the station in life. It was rumored throughout the land that in order to win the prince one must have a very slender finger. Every charlatan had his secret method of making the finger slim. One suggested scraping it as though it was a turnip. Another recommended cutting away a small piece. Still another, with a certain liquid, planned to decrease the size by removing the skin.

At last the trials began with the princesses, the marquesses and the duchesses, but their fingers, although delicate, were too big. for the ring. Then the countesses, the baronesses and all the nobility presented their hands, but all in vain. Next came the working girls, who often have slender and beautiful fingers, but the ring would not fit them, either.

Finally it was necessary to turn to the servants, the kitchen help, the slaveys and the poultry keepers, with their red and dirty hands. Putting the tiny ring on their clumsy fingers was like trying to thread a big rope through the eye of a needle.

At last the trials were finished. There remained only Donkey Skin in her far corner of the farm kitchen. Who could dream that she ever would be queen?

"And why not?" asked the prince. "Ask her to come here." At that, some started to laugh; others cried out against bringing that frightful creature into the room. But when she drew out from under the donkey skin a little hand as white as ivory and the ring vas placed on her finger and fitted perfectly, everyone was astounded.

They prepared to take her to the king at once, but she asked that before she appeared before her lord and master, she be permitted to change her clothes. To tell the truth, there was some smiling at this request, but when she arrived at the palace in her beautiful dress, the richness of which had never been equaled, with her blonde hair all alight with diamonds and her blue eyes sweet and appealing and even her waist so slender that two hands could have encircled it, then even the gracious ladies of the court seemed, by comparison, to have lost all their charms. In all this happiness and excitement, the king did not fail to notice the charms of his prospective daughter-in-law, and the queen was completely delighted with her. The prince himself found his happiness almost more than he could bear. Preparations for the wedding were begun at once, and the kings of all the surrounding countries were invited. Some came from the East, mounted on huge elephants. Others were so fierce looking that they frightened the little children. From all the corners of the world they came and descended on the court in great numbers.

But neither the prince nor the many visiting kings appeared in such splendor as the bride's father, who now recognized his daughter and begged her forgiveness.

"How kind heaven is," he said, "to let me see you again, my dear daughter." Weeping with joy, he embraced her tenderly. His happiness was shared by all, and the future husband was delighted to find that his father-in-law was such a powerful king. At that moment the fairy godmother arrived, too, and told the whole story of what had happened, and what she had to tell added the final triumph for Donkey Skin.

It is not hard to see that the moral of this tale is that it is better to undergo the greatest hardships rather than to fail in one's duty, that virtue may sometimes seem ill-fated but will always triumph in the end.

The story of Donkey Skin may be hard to believe, but so long as there are children, mothers, and grandmothers in this world, it will be remembered by all.

by Charles Perrault

~The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf

Here was once a girl who trod on a loaf to avoid soiling her shoes, and the misfortunes that happened to her in consequence are well known. Her name was Inge; she was a poor child, but proud and presuming, and with a bad and cruel disposition. When quite a little child she would delight in catching flies, and tearing off their wings, so as to make creeping things of them. When older, she would take cockchafers and beetles, and stick pins through them. Then she pushed a green leaf, or a little scrap of paper towards their feet, and when the poor creatures would seize it and hold it fast, and turn over and over in their struggles to get free from the pin, she would say, “The cockchafer is reading; see how he turns over the leaf.” She grew worse instead of better with years, and, unfortunately, she was pretty, which caused her to be excused, when she should have been sharply reproved.

“Your headstrong will requires severity to conquer it,” her mother often said to her. “As a little child you used to trample on my apron, but one day I fear you will trample on my heart.” And, alas! this fear was realized.

Inge was taken to the house of some rich people, who lived at a distance, and who treated her as their own child, and dressed her so fine that her pride and arrogance increased.

by Jennie Harbour

When she had been there about a year, her patroness said to her, “You ought to go, for once, and see your parents, Inge.”

So Inge started to go and visit her parents; but she only wanted to show herself in her native place, that the people might see how fine she was. She reached the entrance of the village, and saw the young laboring men and maidens standing together chatting, and her own mother amongst them. Inge’s mother was sitting on a stone to rest, with a fagot of sticks lying before her, which she had picked up in the wood. Then Inge turned back; she who was so finely dressed she felt ashamed of her mother, a poorly clad woman, who picked up wood in the forest. She did not turn back out of pity for her mother’s poverty, but from pride.

Another half-year went by, and her mistress said, “you ought to go home again, and visit your parents, Inge, and I will give you a large wheaten loaf to take to them, they will be glad to see you, I am sure.”

So Inge put on her best clothes, and her new shoes, drew her dress up around her, and set out, stepping very carefully, that she might be clean and neat about the feet, and there was nothing wrong in doing so. But when she came to the place where the footpath led across the moor, she found small pools of water, and a great deal of mud, so she threw the loaf into the mud, and trod upon it, that she might pass without wetting her feet. But as she stood with one foot on the loaf and the other lifted up to step forward, the loaf began to sink under her, lower and lower, till she disappeared altogether, and only a few bubbles on the surface of the muddy pool remained to show where she had sunk. And this is the story.

But where did Inge go? She sank into the ground, and went down to the Marsh Woman, who is always brewing there.

The Marsh Woman is related to the elf maidens, who are well-known, for songs are sung and pictures painted about them. But of the Marsh Woman nothing is known, excepting that when a mist arises from the meadows, in summer time, it is because she is brewing beneath them. To the Marsh Woman’s brewery Inge sunk down to a place which no one can endure for long. A heap of mud is a palace compared with the Marsh Woman’s brewery; and as Inge fell she shuddered in every limb, and soon became cold and stiff as marble. Her foot was still fastened to the loaf, which bowed her down as a golden ear of corn bends the stem.

An evil spirit soon took possession of Inge, and carried her to a still worse place, in which she saw crowds of unhappy people, waiting in a state of agony for the gates of mercy to be opened to them, and in every heart was a miserable and eternal feeling of unrest. It would take too much time to describe the various tortures these people suffered, but Inge’s punishment consisted in standing there as a statue, with her foot fastened to the loaf. She could move her eyes about, and see all the misery around her, but she could not turn her head; and when she saw the people looking at her she thought they were admiring her pretty face and fine clothes, for she was still vain and proud. But she had forgotten how soiled her clothes had become while in the Marsh Woman’s brewery, and that they were covered with mud; a snake had also fastened itself in her hair, and hung down her back, while from each fold in her dress a great toad peeped out and croaked like an asthmatic poodle. Worse than all was the terrible hunger that tormented her, and she could not stoop to break off a piece of the loaf on which she stood. No; her back was too stiff, and her whole body like a pillar of stone. And then came creeping over her face and eyes flies without wings; she winked and blinked, but they could not fly away, for their wings had been pulled off; this, added to the hunger she felt, was horrible torture.

“If this lasts much longer,” she said, “I shall not be able to bear it.” But it did last, and she had to bear it, without being able to help herself.

A tear, followed by many scalding tears, fell upon her head, and rolled over her face and neck, down to the loaf on which she stood. Who could be weeping for Inge? She had a mother in the world still, and the tears of sorrow which a mother sheds for her child will always find their way to the child’s heart, but they often increase the torment instead of being a relief. And Inge could hear all that was said about her in the world she had left, and every one seemed cruel to her. The sin she had committed in treading on the loaf was known on earth, for she had been seen by the cowherd from the hill, when she was crossing the marsh and had disappeared.

When her mother wept and exclaimed, “Ah, Inge! what grief thou hast caused thy mother” she would say, “Oh that I had never been born! My mother’s tears are useless now.”

And then the words of the kind people who had adopted her came to her ears, when they said, “Inge was a sinful girl, who did not value the gifts of God, but trampled them under her feet.”

“Ah,” thought Inge, “they should have punished me, and driven all my naughty tempers out of me.”

A song was made about “The girl who trod on a loaf to keep her shoes from being soiled,” and this song was sung everywhere. The story of her sin was also told to the little children, and they called her “wicked Inge,” and said she was so naughty that she ought to be punished. Inge heard all this, and her heart became hardened and full of bitterness.

But one day, while hunger and grief were gnawing in her hollow frame, she heard a little, innocent child, while listening to the tale of the vain, haughty Inge, burst into tears and exclaim, “But will she never come up again?”

And she heard the reply, “No, she will never come up again.”

“But if she were to say she was sorry, and ask pardon, and promise never to do so again?” asked the little one.

“Yes, then she might come; but she will not beg pardon,” was the answer.

“Oh, I wish she would!” said the child, who was quite unhappy about it. “I should be so glad. I would give up my doll and all my playthings, if she could only come here again. Poor Inge! it is so dreadful for her.”

These pitying words penetrated to Inge’s inmost heart, and seemed to do her good. It was the first time any one had said, “Poor Inge!” without saying something about her faults. A little innocent child was weeping, and praying for mercy for her. It made her feel quite strange, and she would gladly have wept herself, and it added to her torment to find she could not do so. And while she thus suffered in a place where nothing changed, years passed away on earth, and she heard her name less frequently mentioned. But one day a sigh reached her ear, and the words, “Inge! Inge! what a grief thou hast been to me! I said it would be so.” It was the last sigh of her dying mother.

After this, Inge heard her kind mistress say, “Ah, poor Inge! shall I ever see thee again? Perhaps I may, for we know not what may happen in the future.” But Inge knew right well that her mistress would never come to that dreadful place.

Time-passed—a long bitter time—then Inge heard her name pronounced once more, and saw what seemed two bright stars shining above her. They were two gentle eyes closing on earth. Many years had passed since the little girl had lamented and wept about “poor Inge.” That child was now an old woman, whom God was taking to Himself. In the last hour of existence the events of a whole life often appear before us; and this hour the old woman remembered how, when a child, she had shed tears over the story of Inge, and she prayed for her now. As the eyes of the old woman closed to earth, the eyes of the soul opened upon the hidden things of eternity, and then she, in whose last thoughts Inge had been so vividly present, saw how deeply the poor girl had sunk. She burst into tears at the sight, and in heaven, as she had done when a little child on earth, she wept and prayed for poor Inge. Her tears and her prayers echoed through the dark void that surrounded the tormented captive soul, and the unexpected mercy was obtained for it through an angel’s tears. As in thought Inge seemed to act over again every sin she had committed on earth, she trembled, and tears she had never yet been able to weep rushed to her eyes. It seemed impossible that the gates of mercy could ever be opened to her; but while she acknowledged this in deep penitence, a beam of radiant light shot suddenly into the depths upon her. More powerful than the sunbeam that dissolves the man of snow which the children have raised, more quickly than the snowflake melts and becomes a drop of water on the warm lips of a child, was the stony form of Inge changed, and as a little bird she soared, with the speed of lightning, upward to the world of mortals. A bird that felt timid and shy to all things around it, that seemed to shrink with shame from meeting any living creature, and hurriedly sought to conceal itself in a dark corner of an old ruined wall; there it sat cowering and unable to utter a sound, for it was voiceless. Yet how quickly the little bird discovered the beauty of everything around it. The sweet, fresh air; the soft radiance of the moon, as its light spread over the earth; the fragrance which exhaled from bush and tree, made it feel happy as it sat there clothed in its fresh, bright plumage. All creation seemed to speak of beneficence and love. The bird wanted to give utterance to thoughts that stirred in his breast, as the cuckoo and the nightingale in the spring, but it could not. Yet in heaven can be heard the song of praise, even from a worm; and the notes trembling in the breast of the bird were as audible to Heaven even as the psalms of David before they had fashioned themselves into words and song.

Christmas-time drew near, and a peasant who dwelt close by the old wall stuck up a pole with some ears of corn fastened to the top, that the birds of heaven might have feast, and rejoice in the happy, blessed time. And on Christmas morning the sun arose and shone upon the ears of corn, which were quickly surrounded by a number of twittering birds. Then, from a hole in the wall, gushed forth in song the swelling thoughts of the bird as he issued from his hiding place to perform his first good deed on earth,—and in heaven it was well known who that bird was.

The winter was very hard; the ponds were covered with ice, and there was very little food for either the beasts of the field or the birds of the air. Our little bird flew away into the public roads, and found here and there, in the ruts of the sledges, a grain of corn, and at the halting places some crumbs. Of these he ate only a few, but he called around him the other birds and the hungry sparrows, that they too might have food. He flew into the towns, and looked about, and wherever a kind hand had strewed bread on the window-sill for the birds, he only ate a single crumb himself, and gave all the rest to the rest of the other birds. In the course of the winter the bird had in this way collected many crumbs and given them to other birds, till they equalled the weight of the loaf on which Inge had trod to keep her shoes clean; and when the last bread-crumb had been found and given, the gray wings of the bird became white, and spread themselves out for flight.

“See, yonder is a sea-gull!” cried the children, when they saw the white bird, as it dived into the sea, and rose again into the clear sunlight, white and glittering. But no one could tell whither it went then although some declared it flew straight to the sun.

by Hans Christian Andersen

~Fitcher's Bird

Once upon a time there was a sorcerer who disguised himself as a poor man, went begging from house to house, and captured beautiful girls. No one knew where he took them, for none of them ever returned.

One day he came to the door of a man who had three beautiful daughters. He appeared to be a poor, weak beggar, and he carried a pack basket on his back, as though he wanted to collect some benevolent offerings in it. He asked for a bit to eat, and when the oldest daughter came out to give him a piece of bread, he simply touched her, and she was forced to jump into his pack basket. Then he hurried away with powerful strides and carried her to his house, which stood in the middle of a dark forest.

Everything was splendid in the house, and he gave her everything that she wanted. He said, "My dear, you will like it here with me. You will have everything that your heart desires."

So it went for a few days, and then he said to her, "I have to go away and leave you alone for a short time. Here are the house keys. You may go everywhere and look at everything except for the one room that this little key here unlocks. I forbid you to go there on the penalty of death."

He also gave her an egg, saying, "Take good care of this egg.
You should carry it with you at all times, for if you should loose it great misfortune would follow."

She took the keys and the egg, and promised to take good care of everything.

As soon as he had gone she walked about in the house from top to bottom examining everything. The rooms glistened with silver and gold, and she thought that she had never seen such splendor.

Finally she came to the forbidden door. She wanted to pass it by, but curiosity gave her no rest. She examined the key. It looked like any other one. She put it into the lock and twisted it a little, and then the door sprang open.

What did she see when she stepped inside? A large bloody basin stood in the middle, inside which there lay the cut up parts of dead girls. Nearby there was a wooden block with a glistening ax lying on it.

She was so terrified that the egg, which she was holding in her hand, fell into the basin. She got it out again and wiped off the blood, but it was to no avail, for it always came back.
She wiped and scrubbed, but she could not get rid of the stain.

Not long afterward the man returned from his journey, and he immediately asked for the key and the egg. She handed them to him, shaking all the while, for he saw from the red stain that she had been in the blood chamber.

"You went into that chamber against my will," he said, "and now against your will you shall go into it once again. Your life is finished."

He threw her down, dragged her by her hair into the chamber,
cut off her head on the block, then cut her up into pieces, and her blood flowed out onto the floor. Then he threw her into the basin with the others.

"Now I will go get the second one," said the sorcerer, and, again disguised as a poor man, he went to their house begging.

The second sister brought him a piece of bread, and, as he had done to the first one, he captured her by merely touching her, and he carried her away. It went with her no better than it had gone with her sister. She let herself be led astray by her curiosity, opened the blood chamber and looked inside.
When he returned she paid with her life.

Then he went and captured the third sister, but she was clever and sly. After he had given her the keys and the egg, and had gone away, she carefully put the egg aside, and then examined the house, entering finally the forbidden chamber.

Oh, what she saw! He two dear sisters were lying there in the basin, miserably murdered and chopped to pieces.
In spite of this she proceeded to gather their parts together, placing them back in order: head, body, arms, and legs.
Then, when nothing else was missing, the parts began to move. They joined together, and the two girls opened their eyes and came back to life. Rejoicing, they kissed and hugged one another.

When the man returned home he immediately demanded the keys and the egg, and when he was unable to detect any trace of blood on them, he said, "You have passed the test. You shall be my bride."

He now had no more power over her and had to do whatever she demanded.

"Good," she answered, "but first you must take a basketful of gold to my father and mother. You yourself must carry it there on your back. In the meanwhile I shall make preparations for the wedding."

Then she ran to her sisters, whom she had hidden in a closet,
and said, "The moment is here when I can rescue you. The evildoer himself shall carry you home. As soon as you have arrived at home send help to me."

She put them both into a basket, then covered them entirely with gold, so that nothing could be seen of them.

Then she called the sorcerer in and said, "Now carry this basket away, but you are not to stop and rest underway.
Take care, for I shall be watching you through my little window."

The sorcerer lifted the basket onto his back and walked away with it. However, it pressed down so heavily on him that the sweat ran from his face. He sat down, wanting to rest, but immediately one of the girls in the basket called out, "I am looking through my little window, and I can see that you are resting. Walk on!"

He thought that his bride was calling to him, so he got up again. Then he again wanted to sit down, but someone immediately called out, "I am looking through my little window, and I can see that you are resting. Walk on!"

Every time that he stopped walking, someone called out, and he had to walk on until, groaning and out of breath, he brought the basket with the gold and the two girls to their parents' house.

At home the bride was making preparations for the wedding feast, to which she had had the sorcerer's friends invited.
Then she took a skull with grinning teeth, adorned it with jewelry and with a wreath of flowers, carried it to the attic window,
and let it look out.

When everything was ready she dipped herself into a barrel of honey, then cut open the bed and rolled around in it until she looked like a strange bird, and no one would have been able to recognize her. Then she walked out of the house.

Underway some of the wedding guests met her, and they asked, "You, Fitcher's bird, where are you coming from?"

"I am coming from Fitcher's house."
"What is his young bride doing there?"

"She has swept the house from bottom to top, and now she is looking out of the attic window."

Finally her bridegroom met her. He was slowly walking back home, and, like the others, he asked,
"You, Fitcher's bird, where are you coming from?"

"I am coming from Fitcher's house."
"What is my young bride doing there?"

"She has swept the house from bottom to top, and now she is looking out of the attic window."

The bridegroom looked up. Seeing the decorated skull, he thought it was his bride, and he waved a friendly greeting to her.

After he and all his guests had gone into the house, the bride's brothers and relatives arrived. They had been sent to rescue her. After closing up all the doors of the house so that no one could escape, they set it afire, and the sorcerer, together with his gang, all burned to death.

by The Brothers Grimm

~Snowwhite and Rose-Red

There was once a poor widow who lived in a lonely cottage. In front of the cottage was a garden wherein stood two rose-trees, one of which bore white and the other red roses. She had two children who were like the two rose-trees, and one was called Snow-white, and the other Rose- red. They were as good and happy, as busy and cheerful as ever two children in the world were, only Snow-white was more quiet and gentle than Rose-red. Rose-red liked better to run about in the meadows and fields seeking flowers and catching butterflies; but Snow-white sat at home with her mother, and helped her with her housework, or read to her when there was nothing to do.

The two children were so fond of one another that they always held each other by the hand when they went out together, and when Snow- white said: ’We will not leave each other,’ Rose-red answered: ’Never so long as we live,’ and their mother would add: ’What one has she must share with the other.’

They often ran about the forest alone and gathered red berries, and no beasts did them any harm, but came close to them trustfully. The little hare would eat a cabbage-leaf out of their hands, the roe grazed by their side, the stag leapt merrily by them, and the birds sat still upon the boughs, and sang whatever they knew.

No mishap overtook them; if they had stayed too late in the forest, and night came on, they laid themselves down near one another upon the moss, and slept until morning came, and their mother knew this and did not worry on their account.

Once when they had spent the night in the wood and the dawn had roused them, they saw a beautiful child in a shining white dress sitting near their bed. He got up and looked quite kindly at them, but said nothing and went into the forest. And when they looked round they found that they had been sleeping quite close to a precipice, and would certainly have fallen into it in the darkness if they had gone only a few paces further. And their mother told them that it must have been the angel who watches over good children.
 by Jennie Harbour

Snow-white and Rose-red kept their mother’s little cottage so neat that it was a pleasure to look inside it. In the summer Rose-red took care of the house, and every morning laid a wreath of flowers by her mother’s bed before she awoke, in which was a rose from each tree. In the winter Snow-white lit the fire and hung the kettle on the hob. The kettle was of brass and shone like gold, so brightly was it polished. In the evening, when the snowflakes fell, the mother said: ’Go, Snow- white, and bolt the door,’ and then they sat round the hearth, and the mother took her spectacles and read aloud out of a large book, and the two girls listened as they sat and spun. And close by them lay a lamb upon the floor, and behind them upon a perch sat a white dove with its head hidden beneath its wings.

One evening, as they were thus sitting comfortably together, someone knocked at the door as if he wished to be let in. The mother said: ’Quick, Rose-red, open the door, it must be a traveller who is seeking shelter.’ Rose-red went and pushed back the bolt, thinking that it was a poor man, but it was not; it was a bear that stretched his broad, black head within the door.

Rose-red screamed and sprang back, the lamb bleated, the dove fluttered, and Snow-white hid herself behind her mother’s bed. But the bear began to speak and said: ’Do not be afraid, I will do you no harm! I am half-frozen, and only want to warm myself a little beside you.’

’Poor bear,’ said the mother, ’lie down by the fire, only take care that you do not burn your coat.’ Then she cried: ’Snow-white, Rose- red, come out, the bear will do you no harm, he means well.’ So they both came out, and by-and-by the lamb and dove came nearer, and were not afraid of him. The bear said: ’Here, children, knock the snow out of my coat a little’; so they brought the broom and swept the bear’s hide clean; and he stretched himself by the fire and growled contentedly and comfortably. It was not long before they grew quite at home, and played tricks with their clumsy guest. They tugged his hair with their hands, put their feet upon his back and rolled him about, or they took a hazel-switch and beat him, and when he growled they laughed. But the bear took it all in good part, only when they were too rough he called out: ’Leave me alive, children,

 ’Snow-white, Rose-red,
Will you beat your Lover dead?’

When it was bed-time, and the others went to bed, the mother said to the bear: ’You can lie there by the hearth, and then you will be safe from the cold and the bad weather.’ As soon as day dawned the two children let him out, and he trotted across the snow into the forest.

Henceforth the bear came every evening at the same time, laid himself down by the hearth, and let the children amuse themselves with him as much as they liked; and they got so used to him that the doors were never fastened until their black friend had arrived.

When spring had come and all outside was green, the bear said one morning to Snow-white: ’Now I must go away, and cannot come back for the whole summer.’ ’Where are you going, then, dear bear?’ asked Snow- white. ’I must go into the forest and guard my treasures from the wicked dwarfs. In the winter, when the earth is frozen hard, they are obliged to stay below and cannot work their way through; but now, when the sun has thawed and warmed the earth, they break through it, and come out to pry and steal; and what once gets into their hands, and in their caves, does not easily see daylight again.’

Snow-white was quite sorry at his departure, and as she unbolted the door for him, and the bear was hurrying out, he caught against the bolt and a piece of his hairy coat was torn off, and it seemed to Snow-white as if she had seen gold shining through it, but she was not sure about it. The bear ran away quickly, and was soon out of sight behind the trees.

A short time afterwards the mother sent her children into the forest to get firewood. There they found a big tree which lay felled on the ground, and close by the trunk something was jumping backwards and forwards in the grass, but they could not make out what it was. When they came nearer they saw a dwarf with an old withered face and a snow-white beard a yard long. The end of the beard was caught in a crevice of the tree, and the little fellow was jumping about like a dog tied to a rope, and did not know what to do.

He glared at the girls with his fiery red eyes and cried: ’Why do you stand there? Can you not come here and help me?’ ’What are you up to, little man?’ asked Rose-red. ’You stupid, prying goose!’ answered the dwarf: ’I was going to split the tree to get a little wood for cooking. The little bit of food that we people get is immediately burnt up with heavy logs; we do not swallow so much as you coarse, greedy folk. I had just driven the wedge safely in, and everything was going as I wished; but the cursed wedge was too smooth and suddenly sprang out, and the tree closed so quickly that I could not pull out my beautiful white beard; so now it is tight and I cannot get away, and the silly, sleek, milk-faced things laugh! Ugh! how odious you are!’

The children tried very hard, but they could not pull the beard out, it was caught too fast. ’I will run and fetch someone,’ said Rose-red. ’You senseless goose!’ snarled the dwarf; ’why should you fetch someone? You are already two too many for me; can you not think of something better?’ ’Don’t be impatient,’ said Snow-white, ’I will help you,’ and she pulled her scissors out of her pocket, and cut off the end of the beard.

As soon as the dwarf felt himself free he laid hold of a bag which lay amongst the roots of the tree, and which was full of gold, and lifted it up, grumbling to himself: ’Uncouth people, to cut off a piece of my fine beard. Bad luck to you!’ and then he swung the bag upon his back, and went off without even once looking at the children.

Some time afterwards Snow-white and Rose-red went to catch a dish of fish. As they came near the brook they saw something like a large grasshopper jumping towards the water, as if it were going to leap in. They ran to it and found it was the dwarf. ’Where are you going?’ said Rose-red; ’you surely don’t want to go into the water?’ ’I am not such a fool!’ cried the dwarf; ’don’t you see that the accursed fish wants to pull me in?’ The little man had been sitting there fishing, and unluckily the wind had tangled up his beard with the fishing-line; a moment later a big fish made a bite and the feeble creature had not strength to pull it out; the fish kept the upper hand and pulled the dwarf towards him. He held on to all the reeds and rushes, but it was of little good, for he was forced to follow the movements of the fish, and was in urgent danger of being dragged into the water.

The girls came just in time; they held him fast and tried to free his beard from the line, but all in vain, beard and line were entangled fast together. There was nothing to do but to bring out the scissors and cut the beard, whereby a small part of it was lost. When the dwarf saw that he screamed out: ’Is that civil, you toadstool, to disfigure a man’s face? Was it not enough to clip off the end of my beard? Now you have cut off the best part of it. I cannot let myself be seen by my people. I wish you had been made to run the soles off your shoes!’ Then he took out a sack of pearls which lay in the rushes, and without another word he dragged it away and disappeared behind a stone.

It happened that soon afterwards the mother sent the two children to the town to buy needles and thread, and laces and ribbons. The road led them across a heath upon which huge pieces of rock lay strewn about. There they noticed a large bird hovering in the air, flying slowly round and round above them; it sank lower and lower, and at last settled near a rock not far away. Immediately they heard a loud, piteous cry. They ran up and saw with horror that the eagle had seized their old acquaintance the dwarf, and was going to carry him off.

The children, full of pity, at once took tight hold of the little man, and pulled against the eagle so long that at last he let his booty go. As soon as the dwarf had recovered from his first fright he cried with his shrill voice: ’Could you not have done it more carefully! You dragged at my brown coat so that it is all torn and full of holes, you clumsy creatures!’ Then he took up a sack full of precious stones, and slipped away again under the rock into his hole. The girls, who by this time were used to his ingratitude, went on their way and did their business in town.

As they crossed the heath again on their way home they surprised the dwarf, who had emptied out his bag of precious stones in a clean spot, and had not thought that anyone would come there so late. The evening sun shone upon the brilliant stones; they glittered and sparkled with all colours so beautifully that the children stood still and stared at them. ’Why do you stand gaping there?’ cried the dwarf, and his ashen- grey face became copper-red with rage. He was still cursing when a loud growling was heard, and a black bear came trotting towards them out of the forest. The dwarf sprang up in a fright, but he could not reach his cave, for the bear was already close. Then in the dread of his heart he cried: ’Dear Mr Bear, spare me, I will give you all my treasures; look, the beautiful jewels lying there! Grant me my life; what do you want with such a slender little fellow as I? you would not feel me between your teeth. Come, take these two wicked girls, they are tender morsels for you, fat as young quails; for mercy’s sake eat them!’ The bear took no heed of his words, but gave the wicked creature a single blow with his paw, and he did not move again.

The girls had run away, but the bear called to them: ’Snow-white and Rose-red, do not be afraid; wait, I will come with you.’ Then they recognized his voice and waited, and when he came up to them suddenly his bearskin fell off, and he stood there a handsome man, clothed all in gold. ’I am a king’s son,’ he said, ’and I was bewitched by that wicked dwarf, who had stolen my treasures; I have had to run about the forest as a savage bear until I was freed by his death. Now he has got his well-deserved punishment.

Snow-white was married to him, and Rose-red to his brother, and they divided between them the great treasure which the dwarf had gathered together in his cave. The old mother lived peacefully and happily with her children for many years. She took the two rose-trees with her, and they stood before her window, and every year bore the most beautiful roses, white and red.

by The Brothers Grimm

~The Girl without Hands

A miller fell slowly but surely into poverty, until finally he had nothing more than his mill and a large apple tree which stood behind it. One day he had gone into the forest to gather wood, where he was approached by an old man, whom he had never seen before, and who said, "Why do you torment yourself with chopping wood? I will make you rich if you will promise me that which is standing behind your mill."

"What can that be but my apple tree?" thought the miller, said yes, and signed it over to the strange man.

The latter, however, laughed mockingly and said, "I will come in three years and get what belongs to me," then went away.

When he arrived home, his wife came up to him and said, "Miller, tell me, where did all the wealth come from that is suddenly in our house? All at once all the chests and boxes are full, and no one brought it here, and I don't know where it came from."

He answered, "It comes from an strange man whom I met in the woods and who promised me great treasures if I would but sign over to him that which stands behind the mill. We can give up the large apple tree for all this."

"Oh, husband!" said the woman, terrified. "That was the devil. He didn't mean the apple tree, but our daughter, who was just then standing behind the mill sweeping the yard."

The miller's daughter was a beautiful and pious girl, and she lived the three years worshipping God and without sin. When the time was up and the day came when the evil one was to get her, she washed herself clean and drew a circle around herself with chalk. The devil appeared very early in the morning, but he could not approach her.

by Liza Corbett

He spoke angrily to the miller, "Keep water away from her, so she cannot wash herself any more. Otherwise I have no power over her."

The miller was frightened and did what he was told. The next morning the devil returned, but she had wept into her hands, and they were entirely clean.

Thus he still could not approach her, and he spoke angrily to the miller, "Chop off her hands. Otherwise I cannot get to her."

The miller was horrified and answered, "How could I chop off my own child's hands!"

Then the evil one threatened him, saying, "If you do not do it, then you will be mine, and I will take you yourself."

This frightened the father, and he promised to obey him. Then he went to the girl and said, "My child, if I do not chop off both of your hands, then the devil will take me away, and in my fear I have promised him to do this. Help me in my need, and forgive me of the evil that I am going to do to you."

She answered, "Dear father, do with me what you will. I am your child," and with that she stretched forth both hands and let her father chop them off.

The devil came a third time, but she had wept so long and so much onto the stumps, that they were entirely clean. Then he had to give up, for he had lost all claim to her.

The miller spoke to her, "I have gained great wealth through you. I shall take care of you in splendor as long as you live."

But she answered, "I cannot remain here. I will go away. Compassionate people will give me as much as I need."

Then she had her mutilated arms tied to her back, and at sunrise she set forth, walking the entire day until it was night. She came to a royal garden, and by the light of the moon she saw that inside there were trees full of beautiful fruit. But she could not get inside, for there it was surrounded by water.

Having walked the entire day without eating a bite, she was suffering from hunger, and she thought, "Oh, if only I were inside the garden so I could eat of those fruits. Otherwise I shall perish."

Then she kneeled down and, crying out to God the Lord, she prayed. Suddenly an angel appeared. He closed a head gate, so that the moat dried up, and she could walk through.

She entered the garden, and the angel went with her. She saw a fruit tree with beautiful pears, but they had all been counted. She stepped up to the tree and ate from it with her mouth, enough to satisfy her hunger, but no more. The gardener saw it happen, but because the angel was standing by her he was afraid and thought that the girl was a spirit. He said nothing and did not dare to call out nor to speak to the spirit. After she had eaten the pear she was full, and she went and lay down in the brush.

The king who owned this garden came the next morning. He counted the fruit and saw that one of the pears was missing. He asked the gardener what had happened to it. It was not lying under the tree, but had somehow disappeared.

The gardener answered, "Last night a spirit came here. It had no hands and ate one of the pears with its mouth."

The king said, "How did the spirit get across the water? And where did it go after it had eaten the pear?"

The gardener answered, "Someone dressed in snow-white came from heaven and closed the head gate so the spirit could walk through the moat. Because it must have been an angel I was afraid, and I asked no questions, and I did not call out. After the spirit had eaten the pear it went away again."

The king said, "If what you said is true, I will keep watch with you tonight."

After it was dark the king entered the garden, bringing a priest with him who was to talk to the spirit. All three sat down under the tree and kept watch. At midnight the girl came creeping out of the brush, stepped up to the tree, and again ate off a pear with her mouth. An angel dressed in white was standing next to her.

The priest walked up to them and said, "Have you come from God, or from the world? Are you a spirit or a human?"

She answered, "I am not a spirit, but a poor human who has been abandoned by everyone except God."

The king said, "Even if you have been abandoned by the whole world, I will not abandon you."

He took her home with him to his royal castle, and because she was so beautiful and pure he loved her with all his heart, had silver hands made for her, and took her as his wife.

After a year the king had to go out into the battlefield, and he left the young queen in the care of his mother, saying, "If she has a child, support her and take good care of her, and immediately send me the news in a letter."

She gave birth to a beautiful son. The old mother quickly wrote this in a letter, giving the joyful news to the king.

Now on the way the messenger stopped at a brook to rest. Tired from his long journey, he fell asleep. Then the devil came to him. He still wanted to harm the pious queen, and he took the letter, putting in its place one that stated that the queen had brought a changeling into the world. When the king read this letter he was frightened and saddened, but nevertheless he wrote an answer that they should take good care of the queen until his return. The messenger returned with this letter, but he rested at the same place, and again fell asleep. The devil came again and placed a different letter in his bag. This letter said that they should kill the queen with her child.

The old mother was terribly frightened when she received this letter. She could not believe it, and wrote to the king again, but she got back the same answer, because each time the devil substituted a false letter. And the last letter even stated that they should keep the queen's tongue and eyes as proof.

The old mother lamented that such innocent blood was to be shed, and in the night she had a doe killed, cut out its tongue and eyes, and had them put aside.

Then she said to the queen, "I cannot have you killed as the king has ordered, but you can no longer stay here. Go out into the wide world with your child, and never come back."

The old mother tied the queen's child onto her back, and the poor woman went away with weeping eyes. She came to a great, wild forest where she got onto her knees and prayed to God. Then the angel of the Lord appeared to her and led her to a small house. On it was a small sign with the words, "Here anyone can live free."

A snow-white virgin came from the house and said, "Welcome, Queen," then led her inside. She untied the small boy from her back, held him to her breast so he could drink, and then laid him in a beautiful made-up bed.

Then the poor woman said, "How did you know that I am a queen?"

The white virgin answered, "I am an angel, sent by God to take care of you and your child."

She stayed in this house for seven years, and was well taken care of. And through the grace of God and her own piety her chopped-off hands grew back.

The king finally came back home from the battlefield, and the first thing he wanted to do was to see his wife and their child.

Then the old mother began to weep, saying, "You wicked man, why did you write to me that I was to put two innocent souls to death," and she showed him the two letters that the evil one had counterfeited. Then she continued to speak, "I did what you ordered," and showed him as proof the eyes and the tongue.

Then the king began to weep even more bitterly for his poor wife and his little son, until the old woman had mercy and said to him, "Be satisfied that she is still alive. I secretly had a doe killed and took the proofs from it. I tied your wife's child onto her back and told her to go out into the wide world, and she had to promise never to come back here, because you were so angry with her."

Then the king said, "I will go as far as the sky is blue, and will neither eat nor drink until I have found my dear wife and my child again, provided that in the meantime they have not died or perished from hunger."

Then the king traveled about for nearly seven years, searching in all the stone cliffs and caves, but he did not find her, and he thought that she had perished. He neither ate nor drank during the entire time, but God kept him alive. Finally he came to a great forest, where he found a little house with a sign containing the words, " Here anyone can live free."

The white virgin came out, took him by the hand, led him inside, and said, "Welcome, King," then asked him where he had come from.

He answered, "I have been traveling about for nearly seven years looking for my wife and her child, but I cannot find them."

The angel offered him something to eat and drink, but he did not take it, wanting only to rest a little. He lay down to sleep, covering his face with a cloth.

Then the angel went into the room where the queen was sitting with her son, whom she normally called "Filled-with-Grief."

The angel said to her, "Go into the next room with your child. Your husband has come."

She went to where he was lying, and the cloth fell from his face.

Then she said, "Filled-with-Grief, pick up the cloth for your father and put it over his face again."

The child picked it up and put it over his face again. The king heard this in his sleep and let the cloth fall again.

Then the little boy grew impatient and said, "Mother, dear, how can I cover my father's face? I have no father in this world. I have learned to pray, 'Our father which art in heaven,' and you have said that my father is in heaven, and that he is our dear God. How can I know such a wild man? He is not my father."

Hearing this, the king arose and asked who she was.

She said, "I am your wife, and this is your son Filled-with-Grief."

He saw her living hands and said, "My wife had silver hands."

She answered, "Our merciful God has caused my natural hands to grow back."

The angel went into the other room, brought back the silver hands, and showed them to him. Now he saw for sure that it was his dear wife and his dear child, and he kissed them, and rejoiced, and said, "A heavy stone has fallen from my heart."

Then the angel of God gave them all something to eat, and then they went back home to his old mother. There was great joy everywhere, and the king and the queen conducted their wedding ceremony once again, and they lived happily until their blessed end.

by The Brothers Grimm