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.

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