How Night Came

How Night Came
Brazilian Folk-Lore
Elsie Spicer Eells
*Audio file at the end

How Night Came
How Night Came

Years and years ago at the very beginning of time, when the world had just been made, there was no night. It was day all the time. No one had ever heard of sunrise or sunset, starlight or moonbeams. There were no night birds, nor night beasts, nor night flowers. There were no lengthening shadows, nor soft night air, heavy with perfume.

In those days the daughter of the Great Sea Serpent, who dwelt in the depths of the seas, married one of the sons of the great earth race known as Man. She left her home among the shades of the deep seas and came to dwell with her husband in the land of daylight. Her eyes grew weary of the bright sunlight and her beauty faded. Her husband watched her with sad eyes, but he did not know what to do to help her.

“O, if night would only come,” she moaned as she tossed about wearily
on her couch. “Here it is always day, but in my father’s kingdom there
are many shadows. O, for a little of the darkness of night!”

Her husband listened to her moanings. “What is night?” he asked her.
“Tell me about it and perhaps I can get a little of it for you.”

“Night,” said the daughter of the Great Sea Serpent, “is the name we
give to the heavy shadows which darken my father’s kingdom in the
depths of the seas. I love the sunlight of your earth land, but I grow
very weary of it. If we could have only a little of the darkness of my
father’s kingdom to rest our eyes part of the time.”

Her husband at once called his three most faithful slaves. “I am about to send you on a journey,” he told them. “You are to go to the kingdom of the Great Sea Serpent who dwells in the depths of the seas and ask him to give you some of the darkness of night that his daughter may not die here amid the sunlight of our earth land.”

The three slaves set forth for the kingdom of the Great Sea Serpent. After a long dangerous journey they arrived at his home in the depths of the seas and asked him to give them some of the shadows of night to carry back to the earth land. The Great Sea Serpent gave them a big bag full at once. It was securely fastened and the Great Sea Serpent warned them not to open it until they were once more in the presence of his daughter, their mistress.

The three slaves started out, bearing the big bag full of night upon their heads. Soon they heard strange sounds within the bag. It was the sound of the voices of all the night beasts, all the night birds, and all the night insects. If you have ever heard the night chorus from the jungles on the banks of the rivers you will know how it sounded. The three slaves had never heard sounds like those in all their lives. They were terribly frightened.

“Let us drop the bag full of night right here where we are and run away as fast as we can,” said the first slave.

“We shall perish. We shall perish, anyway, whatever we do,” cried the second slave.

“Whether we perish or not I am going to open the bag and see what makes all those terrible sounds,” said the third slave.

Accordingly they laid the bag on the ground and opened it. Out rushed all the night beasts and all the night birds and all the night insects and out rushed the great black cloud of night. The slaves were more frightened than ever at the darkness and escaped to the jungle.

The daughter of the Great Sea Serpent was waiting anxiously for the return of the slaves with the bag full of night. Ever since they had started out on their journey she had looked for their return, shading her eyes with her hand and gazing away off at the horizon, hoping with all her heart that they would hasten to bring the night. In that position she was standing under a royal palm tree, when the three slaves opened the bag and let night escape. “Night comes. Night comes at last,” she cried, as she saw the clouds of night upon the horizon. Then she closed her eyes and went to sleep there under the royal palm tree.

When she awoke she felt greatly refreshed. She was once more the happy princess who had left her father’s kingdom in the depths of the great seas to come to the earth land. She was now ready to see the day again. She looked up at the bright star shining above the royal palm tree and said, “O, bright beautiful star, henceforth you shall be called the morning star and you shall herald the approach of day. You shall reign queen of the sky at this hour.”

Then she called all the birds about her and said to them, “O, wonderful, sweet singing birds, henceforth I command you to sing your sweetest songs at this hour to herald the approach of day.” The cock was standing by her side. “You,” she said to him, “shall be appointed the watchman of the night. Your voice shall mark the watches of the night and shall warn the others that the madrugada comes.” To this very day in Brazil we call the early morning the madrugada. The cock announces its approach to the waiting birds. The birds sing their sweetest songs at that hour and the morning star reigns in the sky as queen of the madrugada.

When it was daylight again the three slaves crept home through the forests and jungles with their empty bag.

“O, faithless slaves,” said their master, “why did you not obey the voice of the Great Sea Serpent and open the bag only in the presence of his daughter, your mistress? Because of your disobedience I shall change you into monkeys. Henceforth you shall live in the trees. Your lips shall always bear the mark of the sealing wax which sealed the bag full of night.”

To this very day one sees the mark upon the monkeys’ lips, where they bit off the wax which sealed the bag; and in Brazil night leaps out quickly upon the earth just as it leapt quickly out of the bag in those days at the beginning of time. And all the night beasts and night birds and night insects give a sunset chorus in the jungles at nightfall.

Listen to the audio from LibriVox here:

Why the Moon and the Stars Get their light from the Sun

Why the Moon and the Stars Get their light from the Sun
West African Folk Tales

*Audio file

Once upon a time there was great scarcity of food in the land. Father Anansi and his son, Kweku Tsin, being very hungry, set out one morning to hunt in the forest. In a short time Kweku Tsin was fortunate enough to kill a fine deer—which he carried to his father at their resting-place. Anansi was very glad to see such a supply of food, and requested his son to remain there on guard, while he went for a large basket in which to carry it home. An hour or so passed without his return, and Kweku Tsin became anxious. Fearing lest his father had lost his way, he called out loudly, “Father, father!” to guide him to the spot. To his joy he heard a voice reply, “Yes, my son,” and immediately he shouted again, thinking it was Anansi. Instead of the latter, however, a terrible dragon appeared. This monster breathed fire from his great nostrils, and was altogether a dreadful sight to behold. Kweku Tsin was terrified at his approach and speedily hid himself in a cave near by.

The dragon arrived at the resting-place, and was much annoyed to find only the deer’s body. He vented his anger in blows upon the latter and went away. Soon after, Father Anansi made his appearance. He was greatly interested in his son’s tale, and wished to see the dragon for himself. He soon had his desire, for the monster, smelling human flesh, hastily returned to the spot and seized them both. They were carried off by him to his castle, where they found many other unfortunate creatures also awaiting their fate. All were left in charge of the dragon’s servant—a fine, white cock—which always crowed to summon his master, if anything unusual happened in the latter’s absence. The dragon then went off in search of more prey.

Kweku Tsin now summoned all his fellow-prisoners together, to arrange a way of escape. All feared to run away—because of the wonderful powers of the monster. His eyesight was so keen that he could detect a fly moving miles away. Not only that, but he could move over the ground so swiftly that none could outdistance him. Kweku Tsin, however, being exceedingly clever, soon thought of a plan.

Knowing that the white cock would not crow as long as he has grains of rice to pick up, Kweku scattered on the ground the contents of forty bags of grain which were stored in the great hall. While the cock was thus busily engaged, Kweku Tsin ordered the spinners to spin fine hempen ropes, to make a strong rope ladder. One end of this he intended to throw up to heaven, trusting that the gods would catch it and hold it fast, while he and his fellow-prisoners mounted.

While the ladder was being made, the men killed and ate all the cattle they needed—reserving all the bones for Kweku Tsin at his express desire. When all was ready the young man gathered the bones into a great sack. He also procured the dragon’s fiddle and placed it by his side.

Everything was now ready. Kweku Tsin threw one end of the ladder up to the sky. It was caught and held. The dragon’s victims began to mount, one after the other, Kweku remaining at the bottom.

By this time, however, the monster’s powerful eyesight showed him that something unusual was happening at his abode. He hastened his return. On seeing his approach, Kweku Tsin also mounted the ladder—with the bag of bones on his back, and the fiddle under his arm. The dragon began to climb after him. Each time the monster came too near the young man threw him a bone, with which, being very hungry, he was obliged to descend to the ground to eat.

Kweku Tsin repeated this performance till all the bones were gone, by which time the people were safely up in the heavens. Then he mounted himself, as rapidly as possible, stopping every now and then to play a tune on the wonderful fiddle. Each time he did this, the dragon had to return to earth, to dance—as he could not resist the magic music. When Kweku was quite close to the top, the dragon had very nearly reached him again. The brave youth bent down and cut the ladder away below his own feet. The dragon was dashed to the ground but Kweku was pulled up into safety by the gods.

The latter were so pleased with his wisdom and bravery in giving freedom to his fellowmen, that they made him the sun the source of all light and heat to the world. His father, Anansi, became the moon, and his friends the stars. Thereafter, it was Kweku Tsin’s privilege to supply all these with light, each being dull and powerless without him.

Thumbelina

Thumbelina
Hans Christian Andersen
*Audio file at the end

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Once upon a time there was a woman who very much wanted to have a little tiny child, but didn’t know where she could get one from; so she went to an old witch and said to her: “I do so want to have a little child; will you kindly tell me where I can get one?”

“Oh, we can manage that,” said the witch, “there’s a barleycorn for you! it isn’t the kind that grows in the farmers’ fields or that the chickens have to eat; just put it in a flower-pot, and you shall see what you shall see.”

“Much obliged,” said the woman, and gave the witch twelve pence, and went home and planted the barleycorn; and very soon a fine large flower came up which looked just like a tulip, but the petals were closed up tight as if it were still a bud.

“That’s a charming flower,” said the woman, and gave it a kiss on its pretty red and yellow petals. But just as she kissed it the flower gave a loud crack and opened. You could see it was a real tulip, only right in the middle of it, on the green stool that is there, sat a tiny little girl, as delicate and pretty as could be. She was only a thumb-joint long, so she was called Thumbelina. She was given a splendid lacquered walnut shell for a cradle, blue violet leaves for mattresses, and a rose-leaf for a counterpane. There she slept at night, but in the daytime she played about on the table, where the woman had put a plate, round which she put a whole wreath of flowers with their stalks in the water; and on the water floated a large tulip-leaf on which Thumbelina could sit and sail from one side of the plate to the other. She had two white horse-hairs to row with. It was really beautiful to see her; she could sing too—oh, so delicately and prettily as no one had ever heard.

One night, as she lay in her pretty bed, a horrid Toad came hopping in at the window, which had a broken pane. The Toad was ugly and big and wet, and hopped right down on to the table where Thumbelina lay asleep under her rose-leaf.

“That would make a lovely wife for my son,” said the Toad; so she took hold of the walnut-shell where Thumbelina slept and hopped off with her through the window and down into the garden. Through it flowed a big broad stream, but just at the edge it was marshy and muddy, and there the Toad lived with her son. Ugh! he was ugly and horrid too, just like his mother. “Koäx, koäx, brekke-ke-kex,” was all he could say when he saw the pretty little girl in the walnut-shell. “Don’t talk so loud, you’ll wake her,” said the old Toad, “and she might run away from us now, for she’s as light as a swansdown feather. We’ll put her out in the river on one of the broad water-lily leaves. It’ll be like an island for her, she’s so little and light. She can run about there while we get the drawing-room under the mud ready for you two to make your home in.”

There were a great many water-lilies growing out in the stream, with broad green leaves that looked as if they were floating on the water; and the leaf that was furthest out was also the biggest of all. To this leaf the old Toad swam out and put the walnut-shell with Thumbelina on it. The poor little wretch woke up very early in the morning, and when she saw where she was, she began to cry—oh, so bitterly!—for there was water all round the big leaf and she couldn’t possibly get to land.

The old Toad stayed down in the mud and set about decorating her room with rushes and yellow water-lily buds, so as to make it nice and neat for her new daughter-in-law; and then she swam out with her ugly son to the leaf where Thumbelina stood; they were going to fetch her pretty bed and put it up in the bridal chamber before she came there herself. The old Toad curtsied low in the water before her and said: “I present my son to you. He is going to be your husband, and you will have a delightful life with him down in the mud.”

“Koäx, koäx, brekke-ke-kex,” was all the son could say.

So they took the beautiful little bed and swam off with it while Thumbelina sat all alone on the green leaf crying, for she didn’t want to live with the horrid Toad or have her ugly son for a husband. The little fishes, swimming beneath in the water, had seen the Toad and heard what she said, so they put their heads up; they wanted to see the little girl. But as soon as they saw her, they thought her so pretty that it grieved them very much to think that she had to go down to the ugly Toad. No, that could never be. So they swarmed together down in the water, all round the green stalk that held the leaf she was on, and gnawed it through with their teeth; so the leaf went floating down the stream, and bore Thumbelina far, far away, where the Toad could not go. Thumbelina sailed past many places, and the little birds in the bushes saw her and sang, “What a pretty little maid!” The leaf floated further and further away with her, and thus it was that Thumbelina went on her travels.

A beautiful little white butterfly kept flying round her, and at last settled on the leaf, for it took a fancy to Thumbelina, and she was very happy, for now the Toad could not get at her, and everything was beautiful where she was sailing: the sun shone on the water and made it glitter like gold. She took her sash and tied one end of it to the butterfly, and the other end she fastened to the leaf, and it went along much faster with her, for of course she was standing on the leaf. Just then a large Cockchafer came flying by and caught sight of her, and in an instant he had grasped her slender body in his claws, and flew up into a tree with her. But the green leaf went floating downstream and the butterfly with it, for he was tied to the leaf and could not get loose.

Goodness! how frightened poor Thumbelina was when the Cockchafer flew up into the tree with her. But she was most of all grieved for the pretty white butterfly which she had tied to the leaf, for unless it got loose it would be starved to death. However, the Cockchafer cared nothing about that. He alighted with her on the largest green leaf on the tree, and gave her honey out of the flowers to eat, and told her she was very pretty, though she wasn’t in the least like a Cockchafer. Later on all the other Cockchafers that lived in the tree came and paid calls. They looked at Thumbelina, and the young lady Cockchafers brushed their feelers and said: “Why, she’s only got two legs! a wretched sight!” “She’s got no feelers,” they said. “She’s quite thin in the waist. Dreadful! She looks just like a human being! How ugly she is!” said all the lady Cockchafers; yet Thumbelina was as pretty as could be, and so thought the Cockchafer who had carried her off; but when all the rest said she was horrid, he came to think so too at last, and wouldn’t have anything to do with her, she could go wherever she chose. They flew down from the tree with her and put her on a daisy, and there she sat and cried because she was so ugly that the Cockchafers wouldn’t keep her—and yet she was the prettiest thing you could imagine, and delicate and bright like the loveliest rose-leaf. All the summer through poor Thumbelina lived quite alone in the big wood. She plaited herself a bed of green stalks and hung it up under a large dock leaf so as to be out of the rain. She picked the honey out of the flowers and ate it, and she drank the dew which lay every morning on the leaves. There she spent the summer and the autumn; but then came winter, the long cold winter. All the birds that had sung so prettily to her, flew their way; the trees and flowers withered, and the big dock-leaf under which she had lived rolled up and turned to nothing but a yellow dry stalk, and she was terribly cold, for her clothes were in rags, and she herself was so little and delicate. Poor Thumbelina! She was like to be frozen to death! Then it began to snow, and every snowflake that fell on her was just as when anybody throws a whole shovelful on any of us—for we are big, and Thumbelina was only an inch high. So she wrapped herself up in a dead leaf, but there was no warmth in it, and she shivered with the cold.

Just outside the wood where she was now, lay a large cornfield, but the corn had long been off it, and only the bare dry stubble stuck out of the frozen ground. This was like a whole forest for her to get through, and oh! how she did shiver with cold! At last she came to a Fieldmouse’s door, which was a little hole down among the stubble. There the Fieldmouse lived snug and happy, with a whole room full of corn, a lovely kitchen and dining-room. Poor Thumbelina went up to the door just like any little beggar girl, and asked for a little bit of barleycorn, for she hadn’t had anything whatever to eat for two days. “Poor little thing,” said the Fieldmouse, who was at heart a kind old fieldmouse, “you come into my warm room and have dinner with me.” And as she had taken a liking to Thumbelina she said: “You can stay the winter with me and welcome, only you’ll have to keep my room nice and clean and tell me stories, for I’m very fond of them.” And Thumbelina did as the kind old Fieldmouse asked, and had a very pleasant time of it.

“We shall soon be having a visitor,” said the Fieldmouse. “My neighbour calls on me every weekday; he’s even better housed than I am; his rooms are big, and he goes about in such a beautiful black velvet coat! Ah, if only you could get him for a husband! You would be well set up. But he can’t see. Mind and tell him the very prettiest stories you know!” But Thumbelina didn’t care much about this—she didn’t want to marry the neighbour, for he was a Mole. He came and paid a call in his black velvet coat. He was very well off and very learned, the Fieldmouse said: “His mansion was more than twenty times the size of hers, and he was very well informed”; but he didn’t like the sun and the pretty flowers, and abused them, for he had never seen them. Thumbelina had to sing, and she sang both “Cockchafer, Cockchafer fly away home” and also “The monk walked in the meadow”, and the Mole fell in love with her for her pretty voice; but said nothing about it, for he was a very cautious man.

He had recently dug a big passage through the earth from his house to theirs, and gave the Fieldmouse and Thumbelina leave to walk there whenever they liked; but he begged them not to be frightened at the dead bird that lay in the passage—a whole bird with beak and feathers which had certainly been dead only a little time, at the beginning of the winter, and was now buried just where he had made his passage.

The Mole took a bit of touchwood in his mouth (for that shines like fire in the dark) and went in front and lighted them along through the long dark passage, and when they got to where the dead bird lay, the Mole pushed his broad back against the ceiling and lifted the earth so that there was a big hole which let in the light: in the middle of this floor lay a dead swallow with its pretty wings close against its sides and its legs and head down in among its feathers: the poor bird had certainly died of cold. Thumbelina was very sorry for it; she was fond of all the little birds that had sung and twittered so prettily to her all the summer long; but the Mole kicked it with his short leg and said: “He won’t be squeaking any more! It must be wretched to be born a little bird! Thank God, none of my children will be like that. A bird has nothing but its twit, twit, and is bound to starve to death in winter.”

“Yes, you may well say so as a reasonable man,” said the Fieldmouse; “what has the bird to show for all its twit, twit, when winter comes? Why, it has to starve and freeze, and yet they’re so proud about it!”

Thumbelina said nothing, but when the others turned their backs on the bird, she stooped down and parted the feathers that covered its head, and kissed its dead eyes. “Perhaps this was the one that sang to me so prettily in the summer,” she thought; “what a lot of pleasure it gave me, the dear little bird.”

The Mole now stopped up the hole through which the daylight shone in, and saw the ladies home. But that night Thumbelina couldn’t sleep at all, so she got out of bed and plaited a nice large coverlet of hay, and carried it down and spread it about the dead bird, and then she laid some soft cotton wool she had found in the Fieldmouse’s room, on the bird’s sides, so that it might lie warmly on the cold ground. “Farewell, you pretty little bird,” said she; “farewell, and thank you for your lovely singing in the summer, when all the trees were green and the sun shone so hot on us.” She laid her head against the bird’s heart, and got quite a fright all at once, for it seemed as if something was knocking inside! It was the bird’s heart. The bird was not dead; it was only in a swoon, and now that it was warmed, it came to life again.

In autumn, you know, all the swallows fly away to the warm countries, but if there is one that lags behind it gets frozen so that it tumbles down quite dead and lies where it fell, and the cold snow covers it over.

Thumbelina really shivered, so frightened was she: for the bird was enormously big compared with her who was only an inch high: but she took courage and laid the cotton wool closer about the poor swallow, and folded a peppermint leaf, that she had for her own counterpane, and put it over the bird’s head. Next night she stole down to it again, and this time it was quite alive, but so weak that it could only open its eyes for a second, and look at Thumbelina who stood there with a bit of touchwood in her hand, for other light she had none.

“Thank you, you pretty little child,” the sick swallow said to her, “I’ve been beautifully warmed. Soon I shall get back my strength and be able to fly about again in the warm sun outside.”

“Oh,” said Thumbelina, “but it’s dreadfully cold outside, snowing and freezing! You must stay in your warm bed, I’ll nurse you, be sure!” Then she brought the swallow some water in the leaf of a plant, and it drank, and told her how it had hurt its wing on a thorn bush, and so couldn’t fly as well as the other swallows when they set out to fly, far, far away to the warm countries. At last it had fallen to the ground, but it couldn’t remember any more and didn’t know in the least how it had got to where it was.

All the winter it stayed down there, and Thumbelina was very kind to it, and got very fond of it, but neither the Mole nor the Fieldmouse heard anything whatever about it; they disliked the poor wretched swallow.

As soon as spring came and the sun’s warmth got into the ground, the swallow said good-bye to Thumbelina, who opened the hole which the Mole had made above. The sun shone in delightfully, and the swallow asked if Thumbelina would not come with it: she could sit on its back and they would fly away into the greenwood. But Thumbelina knew that it would grieve the old Fieldmouse, if she left her like that. “No, I can’t,” said Thumbelina. “Good-bye, good-bye, you kind pretty maid,” said the swallow, and flew out into the sunshine. Thumbelina stood looking after it, and the water stood in her eyes, for she was very fond of the poor swallow.

“Twit, twit,” sang the bird, and flew off into the greenwood.

Thumbelina was very unhappy; she got no chance to go out into the warm sunshine, because the corn that had been sown in the field over the Fieldmouse’s house was grown tall, and made a thick forest for the poor little maid, no more than an inch high.

“This summer you must make your trousseau,” the Fieldmouse told her; for their neighbour, the tiresome Mole in the black velvet coat, had proposed to her. “You shall have both woollen and linen—something to sit in and to lie on when you are the Mole’s wife.” So Thumbelina had to spin on the distaff, and the Fieldmouse hired four spiders to spin and weave day and night. Every evening the Mole called in, and they always talked about how when summer was over the sun wouldn’t be near as hot: just now it was scorching the ground as hard as a stone: ah yes, when the summer was over Thumbelina should be married. But she wasn’t at all pleased; she didn’t like the tiresome Mole one bit. Every morning when the sun rose and every evening when it set she stole out to the doorway, and there, when the wind parted the heads of corn, so that she could see the blue sky, she thought how bright and pretty it was outside, and longed to get another sight of the dear swallow: but he never came, he must certainly be flying far away in the beautiful greenwood. By the time autumn came, Thumbelina had all her trousseau ready.

“In four weeks’ time you shall be married,” the Fieldmouse told her, but Thumbelina cried and said she wouldn’t marry the tiresome Mole. “Rubbish,” said the Fieldmouse, “don’t be pigheaded or I’ll bite you with my white teeth. It’s a splendid husband you’re getting. The queen herself hasn’t the like of his black velvet coat; and a full kitchen and cellar he has, too! Just you thank your Maker for him.”

So the wedding was to be; already the Mole had come to fetch Thumbelina, and with him she must go deep down underground, and never come out into the warm sun, for he couldn’t stand it. The poor child was bitterly grieved, for now she must bid farewell to the beautiful sunshine which she had at least had the chance of seeing from the Fieldmouse’s door.

“Farewell! Farewell! bright sun,” she said, stretching her arms upwards and stepping a little way outside the Fieldmouse’s house, for now the corn was reaped, and only the dry stubble left. “Farewell! Farewell!” she said again, and threw her arms about a little red flower that grew there. “Give my love to the dear swallow for me if ever you see him.”

Twit! Twit! sounded at that moment above her head. She looked up and there was the swallow just flying by. He was overjoyed when he caught sight of Thumbelina, and she told him how she hated to have the ugly Mole for a husband, and how she must live right down underground where the sun never shone. She couldn’t help crying.

“Cold winter is coming,” said the swallow. “I am going to fly far away to the warm countries, will you come with me? You can sit on my back, only tie yourself tight with your sash, and we’ll fly far away from the ugly Mole and his dark home, far over the mountains to the warm countries where the sun shines fairer than here, and there is always summer and lovely flowers. Do fly away with me, you sweet little Thumbelina, who saved my life when I lay frozen in that dark cellar underground.”

“Yes, I will come with you,” said Thumbelina. So she got up on the bird’s back, put her feet upon his outspread wings, tied her belt fast to one of his strongest feathers, and off flew the swallow high in the air over forest and lake, high above the great mountains where the snow always lies, and where Thumbelina might have frozen in the cold air but that she crept in among the bird’s warm feathers, and only put her little head out to see all the beauty beneath her.

At last they got to the warm countries. There the sun shone far brighter than here, the sky seemed twice as high, and on hedges and ditches grew the loveliest clusters of grapes, green and purple. In the woods grew oranges and lemons, there was a scent of myrtle and mint, and in the roads pretty children ran about and played with great gay butterflies. But the swallow flew still further, and the country grew more and more delightful. Under splendid trees, beside a blue lake, stood a shining palace of white marble, built in ancient days, with creepers twining about its tall pillars. At its top were a number of swallows’ nests, one of which was the home of the swallow who was carrying Thumbelina.

“Here is my house,” said the swallow, “but won’t you look out for yourself one of the finest of the flowers that grow down below? and I’ll put you there, and you shall find everything as happy as your heart can wish.”

“That will be lovely,” said she, and clapped her little hands.

A great white marble column lay there, which had fallen down and broken into three pieces: between them grew large beautiful white flowers. The swallow flew down with Thumbelina and set her on one of the broad leaves. But what a surprise for her! A little man was sitting in the middle of the flower, as white and transparent as if he were made of glass, with the prettiest gold crown on his head and the loveliest bright wings on his shoulders, and he was no bigger than Thumbelina. He was the angel of the flower. In each of them there lived such another little man or woman, but this one was the king of them all.

“Goodness, how beautiful he is,” Thumbelina whispered to the swallow. The little prince was quite alarmed by the swallow, which was a giant bird to him, tiny and delicate as he was, but when he saw Thumbelina he was delighted, for she was by far the prettiest girl he had ever seen. He took his gold crown off his head and laid it upon hers, asked what her name was, and whether she would be his wife, for then she would become queen of all the flowers. Here indeed was a husband—very different from the Toad’s son or the Mole with his black velvet coat. So she said “Yes” to the handsome prince; and out of every flower there came a lady or a lord, so pretty that it was a pleasure to see them. Everyone brought Thumbelina a present, but the best of all was a pair of beautiful wings taken from a big white fly. They were fastened to Thumbelina’s back, and then she could fly from flower to flower. There were great rejoicings, and the swallow sat on his nest up there and sang to them as well as ever he could; but at heart he was sad, for he was very fond of Thumbelina and would have liked never to be parted from her. “You shan’t be called Thumbelina,” the angel of the flower said to her; “it’s an ugly name, and you are very pretty; we will call you Maia.”

“Good-bye, good-bye,” said the swallow, when he flew back, away from the warm countries; far, far, back to Denmark. There he had a little nest above the window, where the man who can tell stories lives; and to him he sang, “Twit, twit”, and that’s the way we came by the whole story.

Listen to the audio from LibriVox here:

The Ugly Duckling

The Ugly Duckling
Hans Christian Andersen
*Audio file at the end

winterduckling1

It was very pleasant out in the country. It was summer time, the corn was yellow, the oats green, the hay was stacked down in the green meadows, and there the stork walked about on his long red legs and talked Egyptian. He had learnt the language from his mother. Round the fields and meadows there were large woods and within them deep lakes: indeed, it was pleasant out in the country. Full in the sunshine, an old manor house stood, surrounded by a deep moat, and from the base of the walls right down to the water great dock plants grew–so tall that a little child could stand upright under the largest of them. It was as lonely in among them as in the thickest wood; and there a Duck was sitting on her nest. She had got to hatch out her little Ducklings, but by this time she was well nigh tired out, they took so long about it, and she had very few callers. The other Ducks preferred swimming about the moat to coming up and sitting under a dock-leaf to chat with her.

At last, one egg after another cracked, and said: “Pip! pip!” All the egg-yolks had come to life and were sticking their heads out.

“Quack, quack!” said she, and they said it too, as well as they could, and looked all round them beneath the green leaves; and their mother let them look as much as they liked, for green is good for the eyes.

“What a big place the world is,” said all the young ones: for to be sure they had a great deal more room now than when they lay in the egg.

“Do you suppose this is all the world?” said their mother; “why, it stretches out far beyond the other side of the garden, right into the parson’s field–but I’ve never been there. You’re all there, I suppose?” and she got up. “No, that’s not all; there lies the biggest egg still. How long will it take? I’m really almost sick of it,” and with that she sat down again.

“Well, how goes it?” asked an elderly Duck who came to call on her. “Oh, this one egg takes a dreadful long time,” said the sitting Duck; “it won’t break. But just you look at the others! They are the sweetest Ducklings I’ve ever seen; they’re all just like their wretch of a father, who never comes to see me.”

“Let me look at the egg that won’t hatch,” said the old Duck; “you may be sure that’s a turkey’s egg. I was made a fool of once that way, and I had my share of trouble and anxiety with the young ones, I can tell you, for they are afraid of the water. I couldn’t get them to go in! I quacked and I pecked, but it was no good. Let me see the egg. Ah, yes, that’s a turkey’s egg; you just let it lie and teach the rest to swim.”

“Oh, I’ll just sit on it a bit longer,” said the Duck. “As I’ve sat so long, I may as well give it a Whitsun week!” “Just as you please,” said the old Duck, and walked off.

At last the big egg opened. “Pip! pip!” said the young one, scrambling out; he was very big and ugly. The Duck looked at him: “That’s a fearfully big Duckling, that is,” she said. “None of the others look like that. I suppose it can’t be a turkey poult! Well, we’ll soon see; into the water he shall go, if I have to kick him out myself.”

Next day the weather was perfectly delicious: the sun shone all over the green docks, and the mother Duck and all her family came out, and down to the moat. Splash! Into the water went she. “Quack, quack!” she said, and one Duckling after another plumped in. The water went over their heads, but they were up again in a moment and swam beautifully. Their legs worked of themselves, and now they were all out in the water, and even the ugly grey one was swimming with them. “No, no, that’s no turkey,” she said. “Look how nicely he uses his legs, and how well he holds himself up. That’s my own child! He’s really quite handsome if you look at him properly. Quack, quack! Come along with me and I’ll take you out into the world and introduce you to the duck-yard, but mind and keep close to me so that nobody can tread on you, and do look out for the cat.”

So they went into the duck-yard. There was a terrible commotion there, for two families were quarrelling over an eel’s head–which the cat got after all.

“Look, that’s the way the world goes,” said the mother Duck–her beak watering a little, for she would have liked the eel’s head herself. “Now then, use your legs,” she said; “mind and look alive, and stoop your necks to the old Duck over there, she’s the most distinguished person here; she’s of Spanish descent, so she’s something special, and you see she’s got a red rag round her leg. That is an extraordinarily splendid thing, the greatest distinction any duck can have; it means that people can’t do without her, and she must be recognized by animals and men alike. Now then, look alive! Don’t turn your toes in! A duckling that’s properly brought up keeps its legs wide apart, like father and mother. Look here! Now then! Make a bow and say quack.”

So they did; but the other ducks round them looked at them and said, quite loud, “Look there! Now we’ve got to have all this mob on the top of us, as if there weren’t enough of us already; and poof! what an object that duckling is! We can’t stand him”; and a duck rushed at him and bit him in the neck.

“Let him be,” said his mother; “he isn’t doing any harm.” “Yes, but he’s too big and odd altogether,” said the duck who had bitten him; “so he’s got to be smacked.”

“Those are pretty ducklings that mother has,” said the old Duck with the rag on her leg; “all quite pretty except that one. He hasn’t been a success; I could wish the mother would alter him.”

“That can’t be done, your grace,” said the mother Duck. “He’s not handsome, but he has a really good disposition, and swims as nicely as any of the rest, even better, I venture to say. I believe he will grow handsome, or perhaps in time he will grow even somewhat smaller; he has lain too long in the egg, and so has not acquired a proper shape.” And she picked at his neck and smoothed him down. “Besides, he’s a drake,” she went on, “so it doesn’t matter quite so much. He has, I believe, a good constitution and will win through in the end.”

“The other ducklings are charming,” said the old lady. “Well, make yourselves at home, and if you happen to find an eel’s head, you can bring it to me.”

So they made themselves at home: but the poor Duckling who had come last out of the egg and looked so ugly, was bitten and buffeted and made to look a fool by the hens and the ducks alike. “He’s too big,” they all said; and the turkey cock, who was born with spurs, and considered himself an emperor on the strength of it, blew himself up like a ship under full sail and went straight at the Duckling, gobbling and getting quite red in the head. The poor Duckling didn’t know where to stay or which way to go, he was so miserable at being ugly and the butt of the whole duck-yard.

That was the first day, and as time went on it got worse and worse. The wretched Duckling was chased about by everybody, and even his mother and sisters were nasty to him, and kept saying: “I wish the cat would get you, you ugly devil.” And his mother said: “I wish you’d get right away”; and the ducks bit him and the hens pecked him, and the maid who had to feed the creatures kicked at him. So he ran away, and flew over the fence. The little birds in the bushes shot up in the air in a fright. “That’s because I’m so ugly,” the Duckling thought, and shut his eyes, but ran on all the same, till he got out into the wide marsh where the wild-duck lived; and there he lay all night, for he was very tired and very unhappy.

In the morning the wild-duck flew up and caught sight of their new comrade. “What sort of a chap are you?” they asked; and the Duckling turned to this side and that and greeted them as well as he could. “You’re precious ugly,” said the wild-ducks; “but that doesn’t matter to us as long as you don’t marry into our family.” Poor wretch! He wasn’t thinking much about marrying, as long as he could be allowed to lie among the reeds, and drink a little marsh water. There he lay two whole days, and then came a pair of wild geese (or rather wild ganders, for they were both he’s): they hadn’t been hatched out very long, and so they were particularly lively. “Here, mate,” they said, “you’re so ugly I quite like you. Will you come along and be a migrant? Close by in another marsh there’s some sweet pretty wild geese–all young ladies that can say Quack. You’re so ugly you could make your fortune with them.” At that moment there was a Bang! Bang! and both the wild geese fell dead among the reeds, and the water was stained blood red. Another bang! bang! and whole flights of geese flew up from the reeds, and there was yet another bang! a great shoot was afoot. The sportsmen were all round the marsh, some even sitting up among the branches of trees that stretched out over the reeds. The blue smoke drifted like clouds, in among the dark stems, and hung far out over the water. The dogs went splash! splash! into the mud, and the reeds and rushes swayed hither and thither; it was terrible for the wretched Duckling, who was bending his neck to get it under his wing, when all at once, close to him, there was a fearful big dog with his tongue hanging right out of his mouth and his eyes shining horribly. He thrust his muzzle right at the Duckling and showed his sharp teeth–and then–splash! Off he went without seizing him.

“Oh, thank goodness,” sighed the Duckling; “I’m so ugly, even the dog doesn’t like to bite me!” But there he lay perfectly still while the duck shots rattled in the reeds and gun after gun banged out. It was well on in the day before all was quiet, but the unhappy bird dared not get up even then. He waited several hours yet, before he looked about him, and then he hurried away from the marsh as fast as ever he could, running over fields and meadows, and such a wind got up that he had hard work to get along. Towards evening he was near a poor little cottage, so crazy was it that it didn’t know which way to tumble down, so it remained standing. The wind howled so fiercely round the Duckling that he had to sit down on his tail to keep facing it, and it grew worse and worse. Then he noticed that one hinge of the door was gone, and it hung so crooked that he could slip indoors through the crack, and so he did.

Here lived an old woman with a cat and a hen. The cat, whom she called Sonny, could set up his fur and purr, and also throw out sparks, but for this he had to be stroked backwards. The Hen had very short little legs, and was consequently called “chicky short legs”. She laid good eggs, and the woman was as fond of her as of a child of her own.

Next morning the strange Duckling was noticed at once, and the cat began to purr, and the Hen to cluck. “What’s the matter?” said the old woman, looking all about her. But her sight wasn’t good, so she took the Duckling for a fat duck that had strayed away. “That’s a splendid catch,” she said: “now I can have duck eggs, if only it isn’t a drake! We must make sure of that.” So the Duckling was taken in on approval for three weeks, but no eggs came.

The Cat was the gentleman of the house and the Hen the lady, and they always talked of “we and the world”; for they considered that they were half the world, and much the best half. It seemed to the Duckling that some people might think differently, but this the Hen could not tolerate.

“Can you lay eggs?” she asked. “No! Then will you kindly hold your tongue.”

And the Cat said: “Can you put up your fur, or purr, or give out sparks? No! Then you’ve no call to have an opinion when sensible people are talking.”

So the Duckling lay in a corner and was in the lowest spirits. He began to think of the fresh air and sunshine, and such a strange longing to swim in the water came on him that he could not help telling the Hen.

“What’s the matter with you?” she asked. “You’ve nothing to do, that’s why you get these fancies; you just lay some eggs, or purr, and they’ll pass off.” “But it is so delicious to float on the water,” said the Duckling; “so lovely to get it over your head and dive right down to the bottom.”

“Oh yes, most delightful, of course!” said the Hen. “Why, you’re absolutely mad! Ask the Cat–he’s the cleverest man I know–whether he enjoys floating on the water or diving down; I say nothing of myself. Why, ask your mistress, the old woman; there’s no one in the world cleverer than her–do you suppose she wants to go swimming and getting the water over her head?”

“You don’t understand me,” said the Duckling.

“Well, if we don’t understand you, who is going to understand you, pray? You’ll never be cleverer than the Cat and the woman, to say nothing of me. Don’t give yourself airs, child, but thank your Maker for all the kindness people have done you. Don’t you live in a warm room among company you can learn something from? But there! You’re a rubbishy thing, and there’s little entertainment in your company. You may take it from me! I mean well by you, and I’m telling you home truths, and that’s how people can see their true friends. Now just do take pains to lay eggs, or learn to purr or else give sparks.”

“I think I’ll go out into the wide world,” said the Duckling.

“Very well, do,” said the Hen.

So the Duckling went off and swam on the water and dived into it; but he was looked down upon by all the creatures because of his ugliness.

Autumn now came on: the leaves of the wood turned brown and yellow, the wind caught them and made them dance about, and above the sky looked cold, where the clouds hung heavy with hail and snow, and on the fence the raven perched and cried “Caw! Caw!” for the mere cold. Indeed, it regularly gave you the shivers to think of it. The unhappy Duckling had a very hard time.

One evening, when there was a lovely sunset, a whole flock of beautiful great birds rose out of the bushes. The Duckling had never seen any so handsome. They were brilliantly white, with long supple necks. They were swans, and they uttered a strange sound and spread their splendid long wings and flew far away from the cold region to warmer lands, and unfrozen lakes. They mounted so high, so high that the ugly little Duckling was strangely moved; he whirled himself round in the water like a wheel, he stretched his neck straight up into the air after them and uttered such a loud cry, so strange, that he was quite frightened at it himself. Oh, he could not forget those beautiful birds, those wonderful birds! And the moment they were out of sight he dived right down to the bottom of the water, and when he came up again he was almost beside himself. He didn’t know what the birds were called or which way they were flying, but he loved them as he had never loved anything yet. He was not envious of them–how could it enter his mind to wish for such beauty for himself–he would have been happy if even the ducks had let him into their company–poor ugly creature.

The winter grew very very cold: the Duckling was obliged to swim about on the water to keep it from freezing quite over, but every night the hole he swam in became smaller and smaller. It froze so hard that the ice cracked again; the Duckling had always to be moving about to keep the water open, till at last he was tired out and sat still, and was frozen fast in the ice.

Early in the morning a labourer came that way, saw him, went on the ice and with his wooden shoe broke it up and carried the Duckling home to his wife, and there he was brought to life again. The children wanted to play with him, but he thought they meant to hurt him, and in his fright he dashed right into the milk-pan and made the milk splash out into the room. The woman screamed and threw up her hands. Then he flew into the butter-tub and after that into the meal-bin and out again. Goodness, what a sight he was! The woman screamed out and hit at him with the tongs, and the children tumbled over one another trying to catch him, laughing, calling out–by good luck the door stood open, and out he rushed into the bushes, on the new fallen snow, and there he lay almost in a swoon.

But it would be too sad to tell of all the hardships and miseries which he had to go through in that hard winter. When the sun began once more to shine out warm and the larks to sing, he was lying among the reeds in the marsh, and it was the beautiful spring. Then all at once he lifted his wings, and they rustled more strongly than before, and bore him swiftly away; and before he knew it he was in a spacious garden where were apple trees in blossom, and sweet-smelling lilacs hung on long green boughs right down to the winding moat. Oh, it was lovely here, and fresh with spring; and straight in front of him, out of the shadows, came three beautiful white swans with rustling plumage floating lightly on the water. The Duckling recognized the splendid creatures, and a strange sorrowfulness came over him.

“I will fly to them, these royal birds, and they will peck me to death because I, who am so ugly, dare to approach them; but it doesn’t matter; it’s better to be killed by them than to be snapped at by the ducks and pecked at by hens and kicked by the servant who looks after the poultry-yard, and suffer all the winter.” So he flew out into the open water and swam towards the stately swans, and they saw him and hastened with swelling plumage to meet him. “Yes, kill me,” the poor creature said, bowing his head down to the water, and waited for death. But what did he see in the clear water? He beheld his own image, but it was no longer that of a clumsy dark grey bird, ugly and repulsive. He was a swan himself.

It doesn’t matter in the least whether you are born in the duck-yard, if only you’ve lain in a swan’s egg.

It really delighted him now to think of all the hardships and adversities he had suffered, now he could rightly discern his good fortune and all the beauty that greeted him. The great swans swam round him and caressed him with their bills. Some little children now came into the garden and threw bread and corn into the water, and the smallest of them cried: “There’s a new one!” And the others called out in delight: “Yes, there’s a new one come!” They clapped their hands and danced about and ran to their father and mother. More bread and cake was thrown into the water, and everyone said: “The new one is the handsomest of all; how young and beautiful he is!” And the elder swans bowed before him.

At that he felt quite ill at ease, and covered his head with his wings, and knew not what to do. He was more than happy, and yet not proud, for a good heart is never puffed up. He thought how persecuted and depressed he had been, yet now he heard everyone saying he was the most beautiful of all beautiful birds. And the lilacs bowed their branches down to the water, and the sun shone warm and pleasant, and his plumage ruffled, and he raised his slender neck, and from his heart he said joyfully: “Such happiness I never dreamed of when I was the Ugly Duckling.

Listen to the audio from LibriVox here:

The Twelve Huntsman

The Twelve Huntsman
Frog Prince
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
*Audio file at the end

Paolo Uccello
Paolo Uccello

Once upon a time there was a prince who had a fiancée whom he loved very much. Once when he was sitting beside her very happily, news came that his father was deathly ill, and wanted to see him before he died.

Then he said to his beloved, “I must now go and leave you. I give you a ring to remember me by. As soon as I am king, I will return and take you home with me.”

Then he rode away, and when he reached his father, the latter was mortally ill and near death.

The king said to him, “My dearest son, I wanted to see you one more time before my end. Promise me to marry the woman of my choice,” and he named a certain princess who was to become his wife.

The son was so grieved that without thinking he said, “Yes, dear father, your will shall be done.”

Then the king closed his eyes and died.

After the son had been proclaimed king, and the period of mourning had passed, he had to keep the promise that he had given his father. He proposed marriage to the princess, and she was promised to him.

His first fiancée heard about this, and was so saddened by his faithlessness that she nearly died.

Then her father said to her, “Dearest child, why are you so sad? You shall have whatever you want.”

She thought for a moment and then said, “Dear father, I want eleven girls exactly like myself in appearance, figure, and size.”

The father said, “If it is possible, your wish shall be fulfilled,” and he had his entire kingdom searched until eleven girls were found who were exactly like his daughter in appearance, figure, and size.

When they came to the princess, she had twelve huntsmen’s outfits made, each one like the others. The eleven girls put on the huntsmen’s outfits, and she herself put on the twelfth outfit.

After this she took leave of her father, and rode away with them. They rode to the court of her former fiancé, whom she loved so dearly. There she asked if he needed any huntsmen, and if he would take all of them into his service. The king looked at her without recognizing her. Because they were such good-looking fellows, he said, yes, that he would willingly take them, and then they were the king’s twelve huntsmen.

Now the king had a lion that was a miraculous animal, for he knew all hidden and secret things. It happened that one evening the lion said to the king, “You think that you have twelve huntsmen.”

“Yes,” said the king, “they are twelve huntsmen.”

The lion continued, “You are mistaken. They are twelve girls.”

The king said, “That is absolutely not true. How can you prove that to me?”

“Oh, just have some peas scattered in your antechamber,” answered the lion, “and then you shall soon see. Men have a firm step, and when they walk over the peas, none of them will be moved. On the other hand, girls trip and skip and shuffle their feet, rolling the peas about.”

The king liked this advise and had peas scattered on the floor.

Now one of the king’s servants liked the huntsmen, and when he heard that they were going to be put to this test, he went to them and told them everything, saying, “The lion wants to make the king believe that you are girls.”

The princess thanked him, then said to her girls, “Be strong, and step firmly on the peas.”

The next morning the king had the twelve huntsmen called before him. When they came into the antechamber where the peas were lying, they stepped so firmly on them, and had such a strong, sure walk, that not one of the peas rolled or moved.

After they had gone, the king said to the lion, “You lied to me. They walk just like men.”

The lion said, “They knew that were going to be put to a test, and acted like they were strong. Just have twelve spinning wheels brought into the antechamber. They will go up to them and admire them. No man would do that.”

The king liked this advice, and he had the spinning wheels set up in the antechamber.

But the servant who was honest with the huntsmen went to them and told them about the proposal.

So when they were alone, the princess said to her eleven girls, “Be strong and do not look around at the spinning wheels.”

The next morning when the king had his twelve huntsmen summoned, they walked through the antechamber without looking at the spinning wheels at all.

Then the king again said to the lion, “You lied to me. They are men, for they did not look at the spinning wheels.”

The lion answered, “They knew that they were going to be put to a test, and acted like they were strong.”

The king, however, refused to believe the lion anymore.

The twelve huntsmen always accompanied the king hunting, and the longer he knew them, the better he liked them. Now it happened that once when they were out hunting, news came that the king’s bride was approaching. When the true bride heard this, it hurt her so much that it almost broke her heart, and she fainted and fell to the ground.

Thinking that something had happened to his dear huntsman, the king ran up to him in order to help him. Pulling the huntsman’s glove off, he saw the ring that he had given to his first fiancée, and when he looked into her face, he recognized her. Then his heart was so touched that he kissed her, and when she opened her eyes he said, “You are mine, and I am yours, and no one in the world can change that.”

He sent a messenger to the other bride, and asked her to return to her own kingdom, for, as he informed her, he already had a wife, and someone who had found an old key did not need a new one.

After this their wedding was celebrated, and the lion was accepted back into favor, because, after all, he had told the truth.

Listen to the audio from LibriVox here:

The Water of Life

The Water of Life
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
*Audio file at the end

There was once a King who was so ill that it was thought impossible his life could be saved. He had three sons, and they were all in great distress on his account, and they went into the castle gardens and wept at the thought that he must die. An old man came up to them and asked the cause of their grief. They told him that their father was dying, and nothing could save him.

The old man said, “There is only one remedy which I know; it is the Water of Life. If he drinks of it, he will recover, but it is very difficult to find.”

The eldest son said, “I will soon find it”; and he went to the sick man to ask permission to go in search of the Water of Life, as that was the only thing to cure him.

“No,” said the King. “The danger is too great. I would rather die.”

But he persisted so long that at last the King gave his permission.

The Prince thought, “If I bring this water I shall be the favourite,
and I shall inherit the kingdom.”

So he set off, and when he had ridden some distance he came upon a
Dwarf standing in the road, who cried, ‘Whither away so fast?’

“Stupid little fellow,” said the Prince, proudly; “what business is it
of yours?” and rode on.

The little man was very angry, and made an evil vow.

Soon after, the Prince came to a gorge in the mountains, and the further he rode the narrower it became, till he could go no further. His horse could neither go forward nor turn round for him to dismount; so there he sat, jammed in.

The sick King waited a long time for him, but he never came back. Then the second son said, “Father, let me go and find the Water of Life, “thinking, “if my brother is dead I shall have the kingdom.”

The King at first refused to let him go, but at last he gave his consent. So the Prince started on the same road as his brother, and met the same Dwarf, who stopped him and asked where he was going in such a hurry.

“Little Snippet, what does it matter to you?” he said, and rode away without looking back.

But the Dwarf cast a spell over him, and he, too, got into a narrow gorge like his brother, where he could neither go backwards nor forwards.

This is what happens to the haughty.

As the second son also stayed away, the youngest one offered to go and
fetch the Water of Life, and at last the King was obliged to let him go.

When he met the Dwarf, and he asked him where he was hurrying to, he
stopped and said, “I am searching for the Water of Life, because my
father is dying.”

“Do you know where it is to be found?”

“No,” said the Prince.

“As you have spoken pleasantly to me, and not been haughty like your false brothers, I will help you and tell you how to find the Water of Life. It flows from a fountain in the courtyard of an enchanted castle; but you will never get in unless I give you an iron rod and two loaves of bread. With the rod strike three times on the iron gate of the castle, and it will spring open. Inside you will find two Lions with wide-open jaws, but if you throw a loaf to each they will be quiet. Then you must make haste to fetch the Water of Life before it strikes twelve, or the gates of the castle will close and you will be shut in.”

The Prince thanked him, took the rod and the loaves, and set off. When he reached the castle all was just as the Dwarf had said. At the third knock the gate flew open, and when he had pacified the Lions with the loaves, he walked into the castle. In the great hall he found several enchanted Princes, and he took the rings from their fingers. He also took a sword and a loaf, which were lying by them. On passing into the next room he found a beautiful Maiden, who rejoiced at his coming. She embraced him, and said that he had saved her, and should have the whole of her kingdom; and if he would come back in a year she would marry him. She also told him where to find the fountain with the enchanted water; but, she said, he must make haste to get out of the castle before the clock struck twelve.

Then he went on, and came to a room where there was a beautiful bed freshly made, and as he was very tired he thought he would take a little rest; so he lay down and fell asleep. When he woke it was striking a quarter to twelve. He sprang up in a fright, and ran to the fountain, and took some of the water in a cup which was lying near, and then hurried away. The clock struck just as he reached the iron gate, and it banged so quickly that it took off a bit of his heel.

He was rejoiced at having got some of the Water of Life, and hastened on his homeward journey. He again passed the Dwarf, who said, when he saw the sword and the loaf, “Those things will be of much service to you. You will be able to strike down whole armies with the sword, and the loaf will never come to an end.”

The Prince did not want to go home without his brothers, and he said,
“Good Dwarf, can you not tell me where my brothers are? They went in
search of the Water of Life before I did, but they never came back.”

“They are both stuck fast in a narrow mountain gorge. I cast a spell
over them because of their pride.”

Then the Prince begged so hard that they might be released that at last the Dwarf yielded; but he warned him against them, and said, “Beware of them; they have bad hearts.”

He was delighted to see his brothers when they came back, and told them all that had happened to him; how he had found the Water of Life, and brought a goblet full with him. How he had released a beautiful Princess, who would wait a year for him and then marry him, and he would become a great Prince.

Then they rode away together, and came to a land where famine and war
were raging. The King thought he would be utterly ruined, so great was
the destitution.

The Prince went to him and gave him the loaf, and with it he fed and satisfied his whole kingdom. The Prince also gave him his sword, and he smote the whole army of his enemies with it, and then he was able to live in peace and quiet. Then the Prince took back his sword and his loaf, and the three brothers rode on. But they had to pass through two more countries where war and famine were raging, and each time the Prince gave his sword and his loaf to the King, and in this way he saved three kingdoms.

After that they took a ship and crossed the sea. During the passage the two elder brothers said to each other, “Our youngest brother found the Water of Life, and we did not, so our father will give him the kingdom which we ought to have, and he will take away our fortune from us.”

This thought made them very vindictive, and they made up their minds to get rid of him. They waited till he was asleep, and then they emptied the Water of Life from his goblet and took it themselves, and filled up his cup with salt sea water.

As soon as they got home the youngest Prince took his goblet to the King, so that he might drink of the water which was to make him well; but after drinking only a few drops of the sea water he became more ill than ever. As he was bewailing himself, his two elder sons came to him and accused the youngest of trying to poison him, and said that they had the real Water of Life, and gave him some. No sooner had he drunk it than he felt better, and he soon became as strong and well as he had been in his youth.

Then the two went to their youngest brother, and mocked him, saying, “It was you who found the Water of Life; you had all the trouble, while we have the reward. You should have been wiser, and kept your eyes open; we stole it from you while you were asleep on the ship. When the end of the year comes, one of us will go and bring away the beautiful Princess. But don’t dare to betray us. Our father will certainly not believe you, and if you say a single word you will lose your life; your only chance is to keep silence.”

The old King was very angry with his youngest son, thinking that he had tried to take his life. So he had the Court assembled to give judgment upon him, and it was decided that he must be secretly got out of the way.

One day when the Prince was going out hunting, thinking no evil, the King’s Huntsman was ordered to go with him. Seeing the Huntsman look sad, the Prince said to him, “My good Huntsman, what is the matter with you?”

The Huntsman answered, “I can’t bear to tell you, and yet I must.”

The Prince said, “Say it out; whatever it is I will forgive you.”

“Alas!” said the Huntsman, “I am to shoot you dead; it is the King’s command.”

The Prince was horror-stricken, and said, “Dear Huntsman, do not kill me, give me my life. Let me have your dress, and you shall have my royal robes.”

The Huntsman said, “I will gladly do so; I could never have shot you.” So they changed clothes, and the Huntsman went home, but the Prince wandered away into the forest.

After a time three wagon loads of gold and precious stones came to the King for his youngest son. They were sent by the Kings who had been saved by the Prince’s sword and his miraculous loaf, and who now wished to show their gratitude.

Then the old King thought, “What if my son really was innocent?” and
said to his people, “If only he were still alive! How sorry I am that I ordered him to be killed.”

“He is still alive,” said the Huntsman. “I could not find it in my heart to carry out your commands,” and he told the King what had taken place.

A load fell from the King’s heart on hearing the good news, and he sent out a proclamation to all parts of his kingdom that his son was to come home, where he would be received with great favour.

In the meantime, the Princess had caused a road to be made of pure shining gold leading to her castle, and told her people that whoever came riding straight along it would be the true bridegroom, and they were to admit him. But any one who came either on one side of the road or the other would not be the right one, and he was not to be let in.

When the year had almost passed, the eldest Prince thought that he would hurry to the Princess, and by giving himself out as her deliverer would gain a wife and a kingdom as well. So he rode away, and when he saw the beautiful golden road he thought it would be a thousand pities to ride upon it; so he turned aside, and rode to the right of it. But when he reached the gate the people told him that he was not the true bridegroom, and he had to go away.

Soon after the second Prince came, and when he saw the golden road he thought it would be a thousand pities for his horse to tread upon it; so he turned aside, and rode up on the left of it. But when he reached the gate he was also told that he was not the true bridegroom, and, like his brother, was turned away.

When the year had quite come to an end, the third Prince came out of the wood to ride to his beloved, and through her to forget all his past sorrows. So on he went, thinking only of her, and wishing to be with her; and he never even saw the golden road. His horse cantered right along the middle of it, and when he reached the gate it was flung open and the Princess received him joyfully, and called him her Deliverer, and the Lord of her Kingdom. Their marriage was celebrated without delay, and with much rejoicing. When it was over, she told him that his father had called him back and forgiven him. So he went to him and told him everything; how his brothers had deceived him, and how they had forced him to keep silence. The old King wanted to punish them, but they had taken a ship and sailed away over the sea, and they never came back as long as they lived.

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The Goose Girl

The Goose Girl
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
(Ideal for 5-6 Year Olds)
*Audio file at the end

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There was once an old Queen whose husband had been dead for many
years, and she had a very beautiful daughter. When she grew up she was
betrothed to a Prince in a distant country. When the time came for the
maiden to be sent into this distant country to be married, the old
Queen packed up quantities of clothes and jewels, gold and silver,
cups and ornaments, and, in fact, everything suitable to a royal
outfit, for she loved her daughter very dearly.

She also sent a Waiting-woman to travel with her, and to put her hand
into that of the bridegroom. They each had a horse. The Princess’s
horse was called Falada, and it could speak.

When the hour of departure came, the old Queen went to her bedroom,
and with a sharp little knife cut her finger and made it bleed. Then
she held a piece of white cambric under it, and let three drops of
blood fall on to it. This cambric she gave to her daughter, and said,
‘Dear child, take good care of this; it will stand you in good stead
on the journey.’ They then bade each other a sorrowful farewell. The
Princess hid the piece of cambric in her bosom, mounted her horse, and
set out to her bridegroom’s country.

When they had ridden for a time the Princess became very thirsty, and
said to the Waiting-woman, ‘Get down and fetch me some water in my cup
from the stream. I must have something to drink.’

‘If you are thirsty,’ said the Waiting-woman, ‘dismount yourself, lie
down by the water and drink. I don’t choose to be your servant.’

So, in her great thirst, the Princess dismounted and stooped down to
the stream and drank, as she might not have her golden cup. The poor
Princess said, ‘Alas!’ and the drops of blood answered, ‘If your
mother knew this, it would break her heart.’

The royal bride was humble, so she said nothing, but mounted her horse
again. Then they rode several miles further; but the day was warm, the
sun was scorching, and the Princess was soon thirsty again.

When they reached a river she called out again to her Waiting-woman,
‘Get down, and give me some water in my golden cup!’

She had forgotten all about the rude words which had been said to her.
But the Waiting-woman answered more haughtily than ever, ‘If you want
to drink, get the water for yourself. I won’t be your servant.’

Being very thirsty, the Princess dismounted, and knelt by the flowing
water. She cried, and said, ‘Ah me!’ and the drops of blood answered,
‘If your mother knew this it would break her heart.’

While she stooped over the water to drink, the piece of cambric with
the drops of blood on it fell out of her bosom, and floated away on
the stream; but she never noticed this in her great fear. The
Waiting-woman, however, had seen it, and rejoiced at getting more
power over the bride, who, by losing the drops of blood, had become
weak and powerless.

Now, when she was about to mount her horse Falada again, the
Waiting-woman said, ‘By rights, Falada belongs to me; this jade will
do for you!’

The poor little Princess was obliged to give way. Then the
Waiting-woman, in a harsh voice, ordered her to take off her royal
robes, and to put on her own mean garments. Finally, she forced her to
swear before heaven that she would not tell a creature at the Court
what had taken place. Had she not taken the oath she would have been
killed on the spot. But Falada saw all this and marked it.

The Waiting-woman then mounted Falada and put the real bride on her
poor jade, and they continued their journey.

There was great rejoicing when they arrived at the castle. The Prince
hurried towards them, and lifted the Waiting-woman from her horse,
thinking she was his bride. She was led upstairs, but the real
Princess had to stay below.

The old King looked out of the window and saw the delicate, pretty
little creature standing in the courtyard; so he went to the bridal
apartments and asked the bride about her companion, who was left
standing in the courtyard, and wished to know who she was.

‘I picked her up on the way, and brought her with me for company. Give
the girl something to do to keep her from idling.’

But the old King had no work for her, and could not think of anything.
At last he said, ‘I have a little lad who looks after the geese; she
may help him.’

The boy was called little Conrad, and the real bride was sent with him
to look after the geese.

Soon after, the false bride said to the Prince, ‘Dear husband, I pray
you do me a favour.’

He answered, ‘That will I gladly.’

‘Well, then, let the knacker be called to cut off the head of the
horse I rode; it angered me on the way.’

Really, she was afraid that the horse would speak, and tell of her
treatment of the Princess. So it was settled, and the faithful Falada
had to die.

When this came to the ear of the real Princess, she promised the
knacker a piece of gold if he would do her a slight service. There was
a great dark gateway to the town, through which she had to pass every
morning and evening. ‘Would he nail up Falada’s head in this gateway,
so that she might see him as she passed?’

The knacker promised to do as she wished, and when the horse’s head
was cut off, he hung it up in the dark gateway. In the early
morning, when she and Conrad went through the gateway, she said in
passing–

‘Alas! dear Falada, there thou hangest.’

And the Head answered–

‘Alas! Queen’s daughter, there thou gangest.
If thy mother knew thy fate,
Her heart would break with grief so great.’

Then they passed on out of the town, right into the fields, with the
geese. When they reached the meadow, the Princess sat down on the
grass and let down her hair. It shone like pure gold, and when little
Conrad saw it, he was so delighted that he wanted to pluck some out;
but she said–

‘Blow, blow, little breeze,
And Conrad’s hat seize.
Let him join in the chase
While away it is whirled,
Till my tresses are curled
And I rest in my place.’

Then a strong wind sprang up, which blew away Conrad’s hat right over
the fields, and he had to run after it. When he came back, she had
finished combing her hair, and it was all put up again; so he could
not get a single hair. This made him very sulky, and he would not say
another word to her. And they tended the geese till evening, when they
went home.

Next morning, when they passed under the gateway, the Princess said–

‘Alas! dear Falada, there thou hangest.’

Falada answered:–

‘Alas! Queen’s daughter, there thou gangest.
If thy mother knew thy fate,
Her heart would break with grief so great.’

Again, when they reached the meadows, the Princess undid her hair and
began combing it. Conrad ran to pluck some out; but she said quickly–

‘Blow, blow, little breeze,
And Conrad’s hat seize.
Let him join in the chase
While away it is whirled,
Till my tresses are curled
And I rest in my place.’

The wind sprang up and blew Conrad’s hat far away over the fields, and
he had to run after it. When he came back the hair was all put up
again, and he could not pull a single hair out. And they tended the
geese till the evening. When they got home Conrad went to the old
King, and said, ‘I won’t tend the geese with that maiden again.’

‘Why not?’ asked the King.

‘Oh, she vexes me every day.’

The old King then ordered him to say what she did to vex him.

Conrad said, ‘In the morning, when we pass under the dark gateway with
the geese, she talks to a horse’s head which is hung up on the wall.
She says–

‘Alas! Falada, there thou hangest,’

and the Head answers–

‘Alas! Queen’s daughter, there thou gangest.
If thy mother knew thy fate,
Her heart would break with grief so great.’

Then Conrad went on to tell the King all that happened in the meadow,
and how he had to run after his hat in the wind.

The old King ordered Conrad to go out next day as usual. Then he
placed himself behind the dark gateway, and heard the Princess
speaking to Falada’s head. He also followed her into the field, and
hid himself behind a bush, and with his own eyes he saw the Goosegirl
and the lad come driving the geese into the field. Then, after a
time, he saw the girl let down her hair, which glittered in the sun.
Directly after this, she said–

‘Blow, blow, little breeze,
And Conrad’s hat seize.
Let him join in the chase
While away it is whirled,
Till my tresses are curled
And I rest in my place.’

Then came a puff of wind, which carried off Conrad’s hat and he had to
run after it. While he was away, the maiden combed and did up her
hair; and all this the old King observed. Thereupon he went away
unnoticed; and in the evening, when the Goosegirl came home, he called
her aside and asked why she did all these things.

‘That I may not tell you, nor may I tell any human creature; for I
have sworn it under the open sky, because if I had not done so I
should have lost my life.’

He pressed her sorely, and gave her no peace, but he could get nothing
out of her. Then he said, ‘If you won’t tell me, then tell your
sorrows to the iron stove there’; and he went away.

She crept up to the stove, and, beginning to weep and lament,
unburdened her heart to it, and said: ‘Here I am, forsaken by all the
world, and yet I am a Princess. A false Waiting-woman brought me to
such a pass that I had to take off my royal robes. Then she took my
place with my bridegroom, while I have to do mean service as a
Goosegirl. If my mother knew it she would break her heart.’

The old King stood outside by the pipes of the stove, and heard all
that she said. Then he came back, and told her to go away from the
stove. He caused royal robes to be put upon her, and her beauty was a
marvel. The old King called his son, and told him that he had a false
bride–she was only a Waiting-woman; but the true bride was here, the
so-called Goosegirl.

The young Prince was charmed with her youth and beauty. A great
banquet was prepared, to which all the courtiers and good friends were
bidden. The bridegroom sat at the head of the table, with the Princess
on one side and the Waiting-woman at the other; but she was dazzled,
and did not recognise the Princess in her brilliant apparel.

When they had eaten and drunk and were all very merry, the old King
put a riddle to the Waiting-woman. ‘What does a person deserve who
deceives his master?’ telling the whole story, and ending by asking,
‘What doom does he deserve?’

The false bride answered, ‘No better than this. He must be put stark
naked into a barrel stuck with nails, and be dragged along by two
white horses from street to street till he is dead.’

‘That is your own doom,’ said the King, ‘and the judgment shall be
carried out.’

When the sentence was fulfilled, the young Prince married his true
bride, and they ruled their kingdom together in peace and happiness.

Listen to the audio from LibriVox here:

The Fisherman and his Wife

The Fisherman and his Wife
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
(Ideal for 5-6 Year Olds)
*Audio file at the end

fisherman-and-his-wife-anne-anderson

There was once a fisherman and his wife who lived together in a hovel by the sea-shore, and the fisherman went out every day with his hook and line to catch fish, and he angled and angled.

One day, he was sitting with his rod and looking into the clear water, and he sat and sat.

At last down went the line to the bottom of the water, and when he drew it up, he found a great flounder on the hook. And the flounder said to him, “Fisherman, listen to me; let me go — I am not a real fish but an enchanted prince. What good shall I be to you if you land me? I shall not taste well; so put me back into the water again, and let me swim away.”

“Well,” said the fisherman, “no need of so many words about the matter; as you can speak, I had much rather let you swim away.”

Then he put him back into the clear water, and the flounder sank to the bottom, leaving a long streak of blood behind him. Then the fisherman got up and went home to his wife in their hovel.

“Well, husband,” said the wife, “have you caught nothing to-day?”

“No,” said the man — “that is, I did catch a flounder, but as he said he was an enchanted prince, I let him go again.”

“Then, did you wish for nothing?” said the wife.

“No,” said the man; “what should I wish for?”

“Oh dear!” said the wife; “and it is so dreadful always to live in this evil-smelling hovel; you might as well have wished for a little cottage; go again and call him; tell him we want a little cottage, I daresay he will give it us; go, and be quick.”

And when he went back, the sea was green and yellow, and not nearly so clear. So he stood and said,

O man, O man! — if man you be,
Or flounder, flounder, in the sea —
Such a tiresome wife I’ve got,
For she wants what I do not.”

Then the flounder came swimming up and said, “Now then, what does she want?”

“Oh,” said the man, “you know when I caught you my wife says I ought to have wished for something. She does not want to live any longer in the hovel and would rather have a cottage.

“Go home with you,” said the flounder; “she has it already.”

So the man went home and found, instead of the hovel, a little cottage, and his wife was sitting on a bench before the door. And she took him by the hand, and said to him, “Come in and see if this is not a great improvement.”

So they went in, and there was a little house-place and a beautiful little bedroom, a kitchen and larder, with all sorts of furniture, and iron and brass ware of the very best. And at the back was a little yard with fowls and ducks, and a little garden full of green vegetables and fruit.

“Look,” said the wife, “is not that nice?”

“Yes,” said the man, “if this can only last, we shall be very well contented.”

“We will see about that,” said the wife. And after a meal they went to bed.

So all went well for a week or fortnight, when the wife said, “Look here, husband, the cottage is really too confined, and the yard and garden are so small; I think the flounder had better get us a larger house. I should like very much to live in a large stone castle; so, go to your fish and he will send us a castle.”

“O my dear wife,” said the man, “the cottage is good enough; what do we want a castle for?”

“We want one,” said the wife; “go along with you; the flounder can give us one.”

“Now, wife,” said the man, “the flounder gave us the cottage; I do not like to go to him again — he may be angry.”

“Go along,” said the wife; “he might just as well give us it as not; do as I say!”

The man felt very reluctant and unwilling; and he said to himself, “It is not the right thing to do,” — nevertheless he went.
So when he came to the seaside, the water was purple and dark blue and grey and thick, and not green and yellow as before. And he stood and said,

O man, O man! — if man you be,
Or flounder, flounder, in the sea —
Such a tiresome wife I’ve got,
For she wants what I do not.”

“Now then, what does she want?” said the flounder.

“Oh,” said the man, half-frightened, “she wants to live in a large stone castle.”

“Go home with you; she is already standing before the door,” said the flounder.

Then the man went home, as he supposed, but when he got there, there stood in the place of the cottage a great castle of stone, and his wife was standing on the steps, about to go in; so she took him by the hand and said, “Let us enter.”

With that he went in with her, and in the castle was a great hall with a marble pavement, and there were a great many servants who led them through large doors, and the passages were decked with tapestry, and the rooms with golden chairs and tables and crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and all the rooms had carpets. And the tables were covered with eatables and the best wine for any one who wanted them. And at the back of the house was a great stable-yard for horses and cattle, and carriages of the finest; besides, there was a splendid large garden with the most beautiful flowers and fine fruit trees, and a pleasance full half a mile long, with deer and oxen and sheep, and everything that heart could wish for.

“There!” said the wife, “is not this beautiful?”

“Oh yes,” said the man, “if it will only last, we can live in this fine castle and be very well contented.”

“We will see about that,” said the wife; “in the meanwhile, we will sleep upon it.” With that they went to bed.

The next morning the wife was awake first, just at the break of day, and she looked out and saw from her bed the beautiful country lying all round. The man took no notice of it, so she poked him in the side with her elbow, and said, “Husband, get up and just look out of the window. Look, just think if we could be king over all this country. Just go to your fish and tell him we should like to be king.”

“Now, wife,” said the man, “what should we be kings for? I don’t want to be king.”

“Well,” said the wife, “if you don’t want to be king, I will be king.”

“Now, wife,” said the man, “what do you want to be king for? I could not ask him such a thing.”

“Why not?” said the wife, “you must go directly all the same; I must be king.”

So the man went, very much put out that his wife should want to be king.

“It is not the right thing to do — not at all the right thing,” thought the man. He did not at all want to go, and yet he went all the same.

And when he came to the sea the water was quite dark grey, and rushed far inland, and had an ill smell. And he stood and said,

“O man, O man! — if man you be,
Or flounder, flounder, in the sea —
Such a tiresome wife I’ve got,
For she wants what I do not.”

“Now then, what does she want?” said the fish.

“Oh dear!” said the man, “she wants to be king.”

“Go home with you, she is so already,” said the fish.

So the man went back, and as he came to the palace, he saw it was very much larger and had great towers and splendid gateways; the herald stood before the door, and a number of soldiers with kettle-drums and trumpets.

And when he came inside everything was of marble and gold, and there were many curtains with great golden tassels. Then he went through the doors of the saloon to where the great throne-room was, and there was his wife sitting upon a throne of gold and diamonds, and she had a great golden crown on, and the sceptre in her hand was of pure gold and jewels, and on each side stood six pages in a row, each one a head shorter than the other.

So the man went up to her and said, “Well, wife, so now you are king!”

“Yes,” said the wife, “now I am king.”

So then he stood and looked at her, and when he had gazed at her for some time he said, “Well, wife, this is fine for you to be king! Now there is nothing more to wish for.”

“O husband,” said the wife, seeming quite restless, “I am tired of this already! Go to your fish and tell him that, now I am king, I must be emperor.”

“Now, wife,” said the man, “what do you want to be emperor for?”

“Husband,” said she, “go and tell the fish I want to be emperor.”

“Oh dear!” said the man, “he could not do it — I cannot ask him such a thing. There is but one emperor at a time; the fish can’t possibly make any one emperor — indeed he can’t.”

“Now, look here,” said the wife, “I am king, and you are only my husband, so will you go at once? Go along! For if he was able to make me king, he is able to make me emperor, and I will and must be emperor, so go along!”

So he was obliged to go, and as he went, he felt very uncomfortable about it, and he thought to himself, “It is not at all the right thing to do; to want to be emperor is really going too far; the flounder will soon be beginning to get tired of this.”

With that he came to the sea, and the water was quite black and thick, and the foam flew, and the wind blew, and the man was terrified. But he stood and said,

O man, O man! — if man you be,
Or flounder, flounder, in the sea —
Such a tiresome wife I’ve got,
For she wants what I do not.”

“What is it now?” said the fish.

“Oh dear!” said the man, “my wife wants to be emperor.”

“Go home with you,” said the fish, “she is emperor already.”

So the man went home and found the castle adorned with polished marble, and alabaster figures, and golden gates. The troops were being marshalled before the door, and they were blowing trumpets and beating drums and cymbals, and when he entered, he saw barons and earls and dukes waiting about like servants, and the doors were of bright gold.

And he saw his wife sitting upon a throne made of one entire piece of gold, and it was about two miles high, and she had a great golden crown on, which was about three yards high, set with brilliants and carbuncles, and in one hand she held the sceptre, and in the other the globe, and on both sides of her stood pages in two rows, all arranged according to their size, from the most enormous giant of two miles high to the tiniest dwarf of the size of my little finger, and before her stood earls and dukes in crowds.

So the man went up to her and said, “Well, wife, so now you are emperor.”

“Yes,” said she, “now I am emperor.”

Then he went and sat down and had a good look at her, and then he said, “Well now, wife, there is nothing left to be, now you are emperor.”

“What are you talking about, husband?” said she; “I am emperor, and next I will be pope! So go and tell the fish so.”

“Oh dear!” said the man, “what is it that you don’t want? You can never become pope; there is but one pope in Christendom, and the fish can’t possibly do it.”

“Husband,” said she, “no more words about it; I must and will be pope; so go along to the fish.”

“Now, wife,” said the man, “how can I ask him such a thing? it is too bad — it is asking a little too much, and besides, he could not do it.”

“What rubbish!” said the wife; “if he could make me emperor he can make me pope. Go along and ask him; I am emperor, and you are only my husband, so go you must.”

So he went, feeling very frightened, and he shivered and shook, and his knees trembled, and there arose a great wind, and the clouds flew by, and it grew very dark, and the sea rose mountains high, and the ships were tossed about, and the sky was partly blue in the middle, but at the sides very dark and red, as in a great tempest. And he felt very desponding, and stood trembling and said,

“O man, O man! — if man you be,
Or flounder, flounder, in the sea —
Such a tiresome wife I’ve got,
For she wants what I do not.”

“Well, what now?” said the fish.

“Oh dear!” said the man, “she wants to be pope.”

“Go home with you; she is pope already,” said the fish.
So he went home, and he found himself before a great church, with palaces all round. He had to make his way through a crowd of people, and when he got inside, he found the place lighted up with thousands and thousands of lights, and his wife was clothed in a golden garment, and sat upon a very high throne, and had three golden crowns on, all in the greatest priestly pomp, and on both sides of her there stood two rows of lights of all sizes — from the size of the longest tower to the smallest rushlight, and all the emperors and kings were kneeling before her and kissing her foot.

“Well, wife,” said the man, and sat and stared at her, “so you are pope.”

“Yes,” said she, “now I am pope!”

And he went on gazing at her till he felt dazzled, as if he were sitting in the sun. And after a little time he said, “Well, now, wife, what is there left to be, now you are pope?”

And she sat up very stiff and straight, and said nothing.

And he said again, “Well, wife, I hope you are contented at last with being pope; you can be nothing more.”

“We will see about that,” said the wife. With that they both went to bed, but she was as far as ever from being contented, and she could not get to sleep for thinking of what she should like to be next.

The husband, however, slept as fast as a top after his busy day, but the wife tossed and turned from side to side the whole night through, thinking all the while what she could be next, but nothing would occur to her, and when she saw the red dawn, she slipped off the bed and sat before the window to see the sun rise, and as it came up, she said, “Ah, I have it! What if I should make the sun and moon to rise — husband!” she cried and stuck her elbow in his ribs; “wake up, and go to your fish, and tell him I want power over the sun and moon.”

The man was so fast asleep that when he started up he fell out of bed. Then he shook himself together, and opened his eyes and said, “Oh, — wife, what did you say?”

“Husband,” said she, “if I cannot get the power of making the sun and moon rise when I want them, I shall never have another quiet hour. Go to the fish and tell him so.”

“O wife!” said the man, and fell on his knees to her, “the fish can really not do that for you. I grant you he could make you emperor and pope; do be contented with that, I beg of you.”

And she became wild with impatience, and screamed out, “I can wait no longer; go at once!”

And so off he went as well as he could for fright. And a dreadful storm arose, so that he could hardly keep his feet, and the houses and trees were blown down, and the mountains trembled, and rocks fell in the sea; the sky was quite black, and it thundered and lightened; and the waves, crowned with foam, ran mountains high. So he cried out, without being able to hear his own words,

O man, O man! — if man you be,
Or flounder, flounder, in the sea —
Such a tiresome wife I’ve got,
For she wants what I do not.

“Well, what now?” said the flounder.

“Oh dear!” said the man, “she wants to order about the sun and moon.”

“Go home with you!” said the flounder, “you will find her in the old hovel.”

And there they are sitting to this very day.

Listen to the audio from LibriVox here:

Snowdrop aka Snow White

Snowdrop
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
(Ideal for 5-6 Year Olds)
*Audio file at the end

 

It was the middle of winter, and the snowflakes were falling from the
sky like feathers. Now, a Queen sat sewing at a window framed in black
ebony, and as she sewed she looked out upon the snow. Suddenly she
pricked her finger and three drops of blood fell on to the snow. And
the red looked so lovely on the white that she thought to herself: “If
only I had a child as white as snow and as red as blood, and as black
as the wood of the window frame!”

Soon after, she had a daughter,whose hair was black as ebony, while her cheeks were red as blood, and her skin as white as snow; so she was called Snowdrop. But when the child was born the Queen died. A year after the King took another wife. She was a handsome woman, but proud and overbearing, and could not endure that any one should surpass her in beauty. She had a magic looking-glass, and when she stood before it and looked at herself she used to say, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, Who is fairest of us all?”

Then the Glass answered, “Queen, thou’rt fairest of them all.”

Then she was content, for she knew that the Looking-glass spoke the truth.

But Snowdrop grew up and became more and more beautiful, so that when she was seven years old she was as beautiful as the day, and far surpassed the Queen. Once, when she asked her Glass, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of us all?”

It answered, “Queen, thou art fairest here, I hold, but Snowdrop is fairer a thousandfold.”

Then the Queen was horror-struck, and turned green and yellow with jealousy. From the hour that she saw Snowdrop her heart sank, and she hated the little girl.

The pride and envy of her heart grew like a weed, so that she had no rest day nor night. At last she called a Huntsman, and said: “Take the child out into the wood; I will not set eyes on her again; you must kill her and bring me her lungs and liver as tokens.”

The Huntsman obeyed, and took Snowdrop out into the forest, but when he drew his hunting-knife and was preparing to plunge it into her innocent heart, she began to cry, “Alas! dear Huntsman, spare my life, and I will run away into the wild forest and never come back again.”

And because of her beauty the Huntsman had pity on her and said, “Well, run away, poor child.” Wild beasts will soon devour you, he thought, but still he felt as though a weight were lifted from his heart because he had not been obliged to kill her. And as just at that moment a young fawn came leaping by, he pierced it and took the lungs and liver as tokens to the Queen. The Cook was ordered to serve them up in pickle, and the wicked Queen ate them thinking that they were Snowdrop’s.

Now the poor child was alone in the great wood, with no living soul near, and she was so frightened that she knew not what to do. Then she began to run, and ran over the sharp stones and through the brambles, while the animals passed her by without harming her. She ran as far as her feet could carry her till it was nearly evening, when she saw a little house and went in to rest. Inside, everything was small, but as neat and clean as could be. A small table covered with a white cloth stood ready with seven small plates, and by every plate was a spoon, knife, fork, and cup. Seven little beds were ranged against the walls, covered with snow-white coverlets. As Snowdrop was very hungry and thirsty she ate a little bread and vegetable from each plate, and drank a little wine from each cup, for she did not want to eat up the whole of one portion. Then, being very tired, she lay down in one of the beds. She tried them all but none suited her; one was too short, another too long, all except the seventh, which was just right. She remained in it, said her prayers, and fell asleep.

When it was quite dark the masters of the house came in. They were seven Dwarfs, who used to dig in the mountains for ore. They kindled their lights, and as soon as they could see they noticed that some one had been there, for everything was not in the order in which they had left it.

The first said, “Who has been sitting in my chair?”

The second said, “Who has been eating off my plate?”

The third said, “Who has been nibbling my bread?”

The fourth said, “Who has been eating my vegetables?”

The fifth said, “Who has been using my fork?”

The sixth said, “Who has been cutting with my knife?”

The seventh said, “Who has been drinking out of my cup?”

Then the first looked and saw a slight impression on his bed, and said, “Who has been treading on my bed?” The others came running up and said, “And mine, and mine.” But the seventh, when he looked into his bed, saw Snowdrop, who lay there asleep. He called the others, who came up and cried out with astonishment, as they held their lights and gazed at Snowdrop. “Heavens! what a beautiful child,” they said, and they were so delighted that they did not wake her up but left her asleep in bed. And the seventh Dwarf slept with his comrades, an hour with each all through the night.

When morning came Snowdrop woke up, and when she saw the seven Dwarfs she was frightened. But they were very kind and asked her name.

“I am called Snowdrop,” she answered.

“How did you get into our house?” they asked.

Then she told them how her stepmother had wished to get rid of her, how the Huntsman had spared her life, and how she had run all day till she had found the house.

Then the Dwarfs said, “Will you look after our household, cook, make the beds, wash, sew and knit, and keep everything neat and clean? If so you shall stay with us and want for nothing.”

“Yes,” said Snowdrop, “with all my heart”; and she stayed with them and kept the house in order.

In the morning they went to the mountain and searched for copper and gold, and in the evening they came back and then their meal had to be ready. All day the maiden was alone, and the good Dwarfs warned her and said, “Beware of your stepmother, who will soon learn that you are here. Don’t let any one in.”

But the Queen, having, as she imagined, eaten Snowdrop’s liver and lungs, and feeling certain that she was the fairest of all, stepped in front of her Glass, and asked, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of us all?”

the Glass answered as usual, “Queen, thou art fairest here, I hold, but Snowdrop over the fells, who with the seven Dwarfs dwells, is fairer still a thousandfold.”

She was dismayed, for she knew that the Glass told no lies, and she saw that the Hunter had deceived her and that Snowdrop still lived. Accordingly she began to wonder afresh how she might compass her death; for as long as she was not the fairest in the land her jealous heart left her no rest. At last she thought of a plan. She dyed her face and dressed up like an old Pedlar, so that she was quite unrecognizable. In this guise she crossed over the seven mountains to the home of the seven Dwarfs and called out, “Wares for sale.”

Snowdrop peeped out of the window and said, “Good-day, mother, what have you got to sell?”

“Good wares, fine wares,” she answered, “laces of every color”; and she held out one which was made of gay plaited silk.

“I may let the honest woman in,” thought Snowdrop, and she unbolted the door and bought the pretty lace.

“Child,” said the Old Woman, “what a sight you are, I will lace you properly for once.”

Snowdrop made no objection, and placed herself before the Old Woman to let her lace her with the new lace. But the Old Woman laced so quickly and tightly that she took away Snowdrop’s breath and she fell down as though dead.

“Now I am the fairest,” she said to herself, and hurried away.

Not long after the seven Dwarfs came home, and were horror-struck when they saw their dear little Snowdrop lying on the floor without stirring, like one dead. When they saw she was laced too tight they cut the lace, whereupon she began to breathe and soon came back to life again. When the Dwarfs heard what had happened, they said that the old Pedlar was no other than the wicked Queen. “Take care not to let any one in when we are not here,” they said.

Now the wicked Queen, as soon as she got home, went to the Glass and asked, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of us all?”

and it answered as usual, “Queen, thou art fairest here, I hold,
but Snowdrop over the fells, who with the seven Dwarfs dwells, is fairer still a thousandfold.”

When she heard it all her blood flew to her heart, so enraged was she, for she knew that Snowdrop had come back to life again. Then she thought to herself, “I must plan something which will put an end to her.” By means of witchcraft, in which she was skilled, she made a poisoned comb. Next she disguised herself and took the form of a different Old Woman. She crossed the mountains and came to the home of the seven Dwarfs, and knocked at the door calling out, “Good wares to sell.”

Snowdrop looked out of the window and said, “Go away, I must not let any one in.”

“At least you may look,” answered the Old Woman, and she took the poisoned comb and held it up.

The child was so pleased with it that she let herself be beguiled, and opened the door.

When she had made a bargain the Old Woman said, “Now I will comb your hair properly for once.”

Poor Snowdrop, suspecting no evil, let the Old Woman have her way, but scarcely was the poisoned comb fixed in her hair than the poison took effect, and the maiden fell down unconscious.

“You paragon of beauty,” said the wicked woman, “now it is all over with you,” and she went away.

Happily it was near the time when the seven Dwarfs came home. When they saw Snowdrop lying on the ground as though dead, they immediately suspected her stepmother, and searched till they found the poisoned comb. No sooner had they removed it than Snowdrop came to herself again and related what had happened. They warned her again to be on her guard, and to open the door to no one.

When she got home the Queen stood before her Glass and said, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of us all?”

and it answered as usual, “Queen, thou art fairest here, I hold,
but Snowdrop over the fells, who with the seven Dwarfs dwells, is fairer still a thousandfold.”

When she heard the Glass speak these words she trembled and quivered with rage. “Snowdrop shall die,” she said, “even if it cost me my own life.” Thereupon she went into a secret room, which no one ever entered but herself, and made a poisonous apple. Outwardly it was beautiful to look upon, with rosy cheeks, and every one who saw it longed for it, but whoever ate of it was certain to die. When the apple was ready she dyed her face and dressed herself like an old Peasant Woman and so crossed the seven hills to the Dwarfs’ home. There she knocked.

Snowdrop put her head out of the window and said, “I must not let any one in, the seven Dwarfs have forbidden me.”

“It is all the same to me,” said the Peasant Woman. “I shall soon get rid of my apples. There, I will give you one.”

“No; I must not take anything.”

“Are you afraid of poison?” said the woman. “See, I will cut the apple in half: you eat the red side and I will keep the other.”

Now the apple was so cunningly painted that the red half alone was poisoned. Snowdrop longed for the apple, and when she saw the Peasant Woman eating she could hold out no longer, stretched out her hand and took the poisoned half. Scarcely had she put a bit into her mouth than she fell dead to the ground.

The Queen looked with a fiendish glance, and laughed aloud and said, “White as snow, red as blood, and black as ebony, this time the Dwarfs cannot wake you up again.” And when she got home and asked the Looking-glass, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of us all?”

it answered at last, “Queen, thou’rt fairest of them all.”

Then her jealous heart was at rest, as much at rest as a jealous heart can be. The Dwarfs, when they came at evening, found Snowdrop lying on the ground and not a breath escaped her lips, and she was quite dead. They lifted her up and looked to see whether any poison was to be found, unlaced her dress, combed her hair, washed her with wine and water, but it was no use; their dear child was dead. They laid her on a bier, and all seven sat down and bewailed her and lamented over her for three whole days. Then they prepared to bury her, but she looked so fresh and living, and still had such beautiful rosy cheeks, that they said, “We cannot bury her in the dark earth.” And so they had a transparent glass coffin made, so that she could be seen from every side, laid her inside and wrote on it in letters of gold her name and how she was a King’s daughter. Then they set the coffin out on the mountain, and one of them always stayed by and watched it. And the birds came too and mourned for Snowdrop, first an owl, then a raven, and lastly a dove.

Now Snowdrop lay a long, long time in her coffin, looking as though she were asleep. It happened that a Prince was wandering in the wood, and came to the home of the seven Dwarfs to pass the night. He saw the coffin on the mountain and lovely Snowdrop inside, and read what was written in golden letters. Then he said to the Dwarfs, “Let me have the coffin; I will give you whatever you like for it.”

But they said, “We will not give it up for all the gold of the world.”

Then he said, “Then give it to me as a gift, for I cannot live without Snowdrop to gaze upon; and I will honor and reverence it as my dearest treasure.”

When he had said these words the good Dwarfs pitied him and gave him the coffin.

The Prince bade his servants carry it on their shoulders. Now it happened that they stumbled over some brushwood, and the shock dislodged the piece of apple from Snowdrop’s throat. In a short time she opened her eyes, lifted the lid of the coffin, sat up and came back to life again completely.

“O Heaven! where am I?” she asked.

The Prince, full of joy, said, “You are with me,” and he related what had happened, and then said, “I love you better than all the world; come with me to my father’s castle and be my wife.”

Snowdrop agreed and went with him, and their wedding was celebrated with great magnificence.

Snowdrop’s wicked stepmother was invited to the feast; and when she had put on her fine clothes she stepped to her Glass and asked, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of us all?”

The Glass answered, “Queen, thou art fairest here, I hold, the young Queen fairer a thousandfold.”

Then the wicked woman uttered a curse, and was so terribly frightened that she didn’t know what to do. Yet she had no rest: she felt obliged to go and see the young Queen. And when she came in she recognized Snowdrop, and stood stock still with fear and terror. But iron slippers were heated over the fire, and were soon brought in with tongs and put before her. And she had to step into the red-hot shoes and dance till she fell down dead.

Listen to the audio from LibriVox here: