A fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm
There was once a young huntsman who went into the forest to lie in
wait. He had a fresh and joyous heart, and as he was going thither,
whistling upon a leaf, an ugly old crone came up, who spoke to him
and said, "Good-day, dear huntsman, truly you are merry and
contented, but I am suffering from hunger and thirst, do give me an
alms." The huntsman took pity on the poor old creature, felt in his
pocket, and gave her what he could afford.
He was then about to go further, but the old woman stopped him and
said, "Listen, dear huntsman, to what I tell you. I shall make you a
present in return for your good heart. Go on your way now, but in a
little while you will come to a tree, whereon nine birds are sitting
which have a cloak in their claws, and are fighting for it, take your
gun and shoot into the midst of them. They will let the cloak fall
down to you, but one of the birds will be hurt, and will drop down
dead. Carry away the cloak, it is a wishing-cloak. When you throw
it over your shoulders, you only have to wish to be in a certain
place, and you will be there in the twinkling of an eye. Take out
the heart of the dead bird and swallow it whole, and every morning
early, when you get up, you will find a gold piece under your
The huntsman thanked the wise woman, and thought to himself,
"Those are fine things that she has promised me, if all does but come
true." And verily when he had walked about a hundred paces, he heard
in the branches above him such a screaming and twittering that he
looked up and saw there a swarm of birds who were tearing a piece of
cloth about with their beaks and claws, and tugging and fighting as
if each wanted to have it all to himself. "Well," said the huntsman,
"this is amazing, it has really come to pass just as the old crone
foretold," and he took the gun from his shoulder, aimed and fired
right into the midst of them, so that the feathers flew about. The
birds instantly took to flight with loud outcries, but one dropped
down dead, and the cloak fell at the same time. Then the huntsman
did as the old woman had directed him, cut open the bird, sought the
heart, swallowed it down, and took the cloak home with him.
Next morning, when he awoke, the promise occurred to him, and he
wished to see if it also had been fulfilled. When he lifted up the
pillow, the gold piece shone in his eyes, and next day he found
another, and so it went on, every time he got up. He gathered
together a heap of gold, but at last he thought, "Of what use is all
my gold to me if I stay at home? I shall go forth and see the world."
He then took leave of his parents, buckled on his huntsman's pouch
and gun, and went out into the world. It came to pass that one day
he travelled through a dense forest, and when he came to the end of
it, in the plain before him stood a fine castle. An old woman was
standing with a wonderfully beautiful maiden, looking out of one of
the windows. The old woman, however, was a witch and said to the
maiden, "There comes one out of the forest, who has a wonderful
treasure in his body. We must filch it from him, daughter of my
heart, it is more suitable for us than for him. He has a bird's
heart about him, by means of which a gold piece lies every morning
under his pillow." She told her what she was to do to get it, and
what part she had to play, and finally threatened her, and said with
angry eyes, "And if you do not attend to what I say, it will be the
worse for you." Now when the huntsman came nearer he noticed the
maiden, and said to himself, "I have travelled about for such a long
time, I shall take a rest for once, and enter that beautiful castle.
I have certainly money enough." Nevertheless, the real reason was
that he had caught sight of the beautiful picture.
He entered the house, and was well received and courteously
entertained. Before long he was so much in love with the young witch
that he no longer thought of anything else, and only saw things as
she saw them, and liked to do what she desired. The old woman then
said, "Now we must have the bird's heart, he will never miss it." She
brewed a potion, and when it was ready, poured it into a goblet and
gave it to the maiden, who was to present it to the huntsman. She
did so, saying, "Now, my dearest, drink to me."
So he took the goblet, and when he had swallowed the draught, he
brought up the heart of the bird. The girl had to take it away
secretly and swallow it herself, for the old woman would have it so.
Thenceforward he found no more gold under his pillow, but it lay
instead under that of the maiden, from whence the old woman fetched
it away every morning, but he was so much in love and so befooled,
that he thought of nothing else but of passing his time with the
Then the old witch said, "We have the bird's heart, but we must also
take the wishing-cloak away from him."
The girl answered, "We shall
leave him that, he has lost his wealth."
The old woman was angry and
said, "Such a mantle is a wonderful thing, and is seldom to be found
in this world. I must and shall have it." She gave the girl several
blows, and said that if she did not obey, it should fare ill with
her. So she did the old woman's bidding, placed herself at the
window and looked on the distant country, as if she were very
sorrowful. The huntsman asked, "Why do you stand there so
"Ah, my beloved," was her answer, "over yonder lies the
garnet mountain, where the precious stones grow. I long for them so
much that when I think of them, I feel quite sad, but who can get
them. Only the birds, they fly and can reach them, but a man never."
"Have you nothing else to complain of?" said the huntsman. "I shall
soon remove that burden from your heart." With that he drew her under
his mantle, wished himself on the garnet mountain, and in the
twinkling of an eye they were sitting on it together. Precious
stones were glistening on every side so that it was a joy to see
them, and together they gathered the finest and costliest of them.
Now, the old woman had, through her sorceries, contrived that the
eyes of the huntsman should become heavy. He said to the maiden, "We
shall sit down and rest awhile, I am so tired that I can no longer
stand on my feet." Then they sat down, and he laid his head in her
lap, and fell asleep. When he was asleep, she unfastened the mantle
from his shoulders, and wrapped herself in it, picked up the garnets
and stones, and wished herself back at home with them.
But when the huntsman had slept his fill and awoke, and perceived
that his sweetheart had betrayed him, and left him alone on the wild
mountain, he said, "Oh, what treachery there is in the world," and
sat down there in trouble and sorrow, not knowing what to do.
the mountain belonged to some wild and monstrous giants who dwelt
thereon and lived their lives there, and he had not sat long before
he saw three of them coming towards him, so he lay down as if he were
sunk in a deep sleep.
Then the giants came up, and the first kicked him with his foot and
said, "What sort of an earth-worm is this, lying here contemplating
The second said, "Step upon him and kill him."
third said, contemptuously, "That would indeed be worth your while,
just let him live, he cannot remain here, and when he climbs higher,
toward the summit of of the mountain, the clouds will lay hold of him
and bear him away." So saying they passed by. But the huntsman had
paid heed to their words, and as soon as they were gone, he rose and
climbed up to the summit of the mountain, and when he had sat there a
while, a cloud floated towards him, caught him up, carried him away,
and travelled about for a long time in the heavens. Then it sank
lower, and let itself down on a great cabbage-garden, girt round by
walls, so that he came softly to the ground on cabbages and
Then the huntsman looked about him and said, "If I had but something
to eat. I am so hungry, and to proceed on my way from here will be
difficult. I see here neither apples nor pears, nor any other sort
of fruit, everywhere nothing but cabbages," but at length he thought,
"at a pinch I can eat some of the leaves, they do not taste
particularly good, but they will refresh me." With that he picked
himself out a fine head of cabbage, and ate it, but scarcely had he
swallowed a couple of mouthfuls than he felt very strange and quite
Four legs grew on him, a thick head and two long ears, and he saw
with horror that he was changed into an ass. Still as his hunger
increased every minute, and as the juicy leaves were suitable to his
present nature, he went on eating with great zest. At last he
arrived at a different kind of cabbage, but as soon as he had
swallowed it, he again felt a change, and resumed his former human
Then the huntsman lay down and slept off his fatigue.
When he awoke
next morning, he broke off one head of the bad cabbages and another
of the good ones, and thought to himself, "This shall help me to get
my own again and punish treachery." Then he took the cabbages with
him, climbed over the wall, and went forth to look for the castle of
his sweetheart. After wandering about for a couple of days he was
lucky enough to find it again. He dyed his face brown, so that his
own mother would not have known him, and begged for shelter. "I am so
tired," said he, "that I can go no further."
The witch asked, "Who
are you, countryman, and what is your business?"
"I am a king's
messenger, and was sent out to seek the most delicious salad which
grows beneath the sun. I have even been so fortunate as to find it,
and am carrying it about with me, but the heat of the sun is so
intense that the delicate cabbage threatens to wither, and I do not
know if I can carry it any further."
When the old woman heard of the exquisite salad, she was greedy, and
said, "Dear countryman, let me just try this wonderful salad."
not?" answered he. "I have brought two heads with me, and shall give
you one of them," and he opened his pouch and handed her the bad
cabbage. The witch suspected nothing amiss, and her mouth watered so
for this new dish that she herself went into the kitchen and dressed
it. When it was prepared she could not wait until it was set on the
table, but took a couple of leaves at once, and put them in her
mouth, but hardly had she swallowed them than she was deprived of her
human shape, and she ran out into the courtyard in the form of an
Presently the maid-servant entered the kitchen, saw the salad
standing there ready prepared, and was about to carry it up, but on
the way, according to habit, she was seized by the desire to taste,
and she ate a couple of leaves. Instantly the magic power showed
itself, and she likewise became an ass and ran out to the old woman,
and the dish of salad fell to the ground.
Meantime the messenger sat beside the beautiful girl, and as no one
came with the salad and she also was longing for it, she said, "I
don't know what has become of the salad." The huntsman thought, "The
salad must have already taken effect," and said, "I shall go to the
kitchen and inquire about it." As he went down he saw the two asses
running about in the courtyard. The salad, however, was lying on the
ground. "All right," said he, "the two have taken their portion," and
he picked up the other leaves, laid them on the dish, and carried
them to the maiden. "I bring you the delicate food myself," said he,
"in order that you may not have to wait longer." Then she ate of it,
and was, like the others, immediately deprived of her human form, and
ran out into the courtyard in the shape of an ass.
After the huntsman had washed his face, so that the transformed ones
could recognise him, he went down into the courtyard, and said, "Now
you will receive the wages of your treachery," and bound them
together, all three with one rope, and drove them along until he came
to a mill. He knocked at the window, the miller put out his head,
and asked what he wanted. "I have three unmanageable beasts,"
answered he, "which I don't want to keep any longer. Will you take
them in, and give them food and stable room, and manage them as I
tell you, and then I shall pay you what you ask?"
The miller said,
"Why not? But how am I to manage them?" The huntsman then said that
he was to give three beatings and one meal daily to the old donkey,
and that was the witch, one beating and three meals to the younger
one, which was the servant-girl, and to the youngest, which was the
maiden, no beatings and three meals, for he could not bring himself
to have the maiden beaten. After that he went back into the castle,
and found therein everything he needed.
After a couple of days, the miller came and said he must inform him
that the old ass which had received three beatings and only one meal
daily was dead. "The two others," he continued, "are certainly not
dead, and are fed three times daily, but they are so sad that they
cannot last much longer." The huntsman was moved to pity, put away
his anger, and told the miller to drive them back again to him. And
when they came, he gave them some of the good salad, so that they
became human again. The beautiful girl fell on her knees before him,
and said, "Ah, my beloved, forgive me for the evil I have done you,
my mother drove me to it. It was done against my will, for I love
you dearly. Your wishing-cloak hangs in a cupboard, and as for the
bird's-heart I shall take a vomiting potion."
But he thought
otherwise, and said, "Keep it. It is all the same, for I shall take
you for my true wife." So the wedding was celebrated, and they lived
happily together until their death.