A story from the fairy tale collection Children's and Household Tales, famously compiled by the Brothers Grimm.


There was once a poor farmer who had no land, only a small house and single daughter. His daughter said to him, "We should plead to the King for a small piece of land." And so the king heard of their poverty, and gave them a corner of grass, which the girl and her father hoed and wished to sow in it a little corn and one or two kinds of fruit.

Just as they were finishing hoeing the field, they found a mortar of pure gold in the earth. "Listen," said the father to his daughter, "because the King was so merciful to us and gave us this field, we must go and give him this mortar." But the daughter did not want to allow this, and said, "Father, if we have the mortar and not the pestle, we must also search for the pestle, and you had better keep quiet about it."

But he did not want to listen to her; he took the mortar, carried it to the king and told him that he had found it in the heath, and asked whether he wished to have it as a token of their respect. The king took the mortar and asked whether he had found anything more. "No," answered the farmer. Then the king said that he should search for the pestle as well. The farmer said again that he had found nothing, but such claims helped him so much that he may as well have said them to the wind, and he was thrown into prison and made to stay there until he could come up with the pestle.

Every day the servants had to bring him bread and water, which is what one is given in prison, and they always heard the farmer crying, "Oh, if only I had listened to my daughter!" Oh, oh, if only I had listened to my daughter!" The servants went to the King and told him of the prisoner who cried so loudly "Oh, if I had but listened to my daughter!" and would not eat or drink. Then the King ordered the servants to bring the prisoner, and when the farmer was before him he was asked, "What, then, did your daughter say?"

"Oh, she said that I should not bring the mortar; that I should look for the pestle as well."

"As you have such a clever daughter, let her come here."

And so she had to come before the king, who asked her if indeed she was so clever, and told her that he would give her a riddle, and that if she could solve it, then he would marry her. Then she happily said yes, she would guess it. The king said,

"Come to me not clothed, not naked, not riding, not walking, not in the street, not out of the street; and only when you can do this shall I marry you."

So she went, and pulled off her clothes so that she was not clothed, and then took a large fishing-net and stepped into it and wound it around herself so that she was not naked; and she hired an ass and tied the fishing-net to its tail, so that it would have to drag her along and she would be not riding and not walking; and the ass was forced to drag her through the gutter so that she was touching the ground only with her big toe, and so was not in the street and not out of the street. And when she came thus, the King declared that she had solved the riddle, and all requirements had been fulfilled. Then he let her father out of prison and took her as his wife, and all his kingly riches came into her possession.

Now, a few years went by, and when one day the King was drawing up his troops on the parade it so happened that some farmers, who had been selling wood, stopped their wagons in front of the palace; to some of them were tied oxen, to others horses. There was one farmer who had three horses, one of which had begotten a young foal, which had quickly run away and lain between two oxen, who were in front of a wagon. But when the farmers who owned the wagons came together, they began to quarrel noisily and make a ruckus. The oxen-farmer wanted to keep the foal and said that the oxen had had it; the other farmer said no, his horses had had it, and it was his. The quarrellers came before the king, and he proclaimed that where the foal had lain, there it should remain; and so it came to the oxen-farmer, to whom it did not belong. Then the other went away, wailing and lamenting over his foal.

The farmer had heard how merciful the Queen was, as she had come from a peasant family; he went to her and asked if she could not help him to retrieve his foal. Said she,

"Yes, if you promise me that you will not betray me, I shall tell you what to do. Early tomorrow morning, when the King is on the parade, stand in the middle of the street where he must pass, take a large fishing-net with you and make as if you were fishing, and continue fishing and pour out the net as if you had filled it," and she also told him what to answer when the King asked him what he was doing.

So the farmer stood in the road the next day and fished in a dry place. When the King came by and saw him, he sent a messenger to ask what this crazy man was doing. He gave the answer,

"I am fishing."

The messenger asked how he could fishing when there was obviously no water there. Said the farmer,

"If two oxen can deliver a foal, I can just as well fish on dry land."

The messenger went back and told the King his answer, who said that he had not thought of this, and demanded to be told who had; and he should confess at once. But the farmer would not tell him, and instead said over and over, "God forbid!" he had thought of it himself. The king's servants lay him on a pile of straw and struck and coerced him until he confessed that it had been the Queen's idea.

When the King came home, he said to his wife,

"Why do you act so falsely with me? I want you to be my wife no more: your time is up; go away, back to the place from whence you came, your little farmhouse."

He did, however, allow her one thing: she should take with her that which she held dearest and best, and that should be her discharge. She said,

"Yes, of course, my dear husband; if you so wish, then I shall do it."

And she fell on him and covered him with kisses and said that she would part from him. Then she ordered a strong sleeping-draught to drink to her dismissal; the king took a great slug, but she drank only a little. Then he fell into a deep sleep, and when the Queen saw this, she called a servant and took a pretty white sheet and wrapped him in it, and the servant had to carry him to a wagon in front of the palace doors, and drive them to her house. There he laid the King on the bed, and he slept a day and a night straight.

When he awoke he looked around and exclaimed, "By God, where am I?" and called his servant, but his servant was nowhere to be found. At last his wife came to his bed and said,

"Dear King, you commanded me to take with me that which I hold dearest and best in the world -- only since I have nothing dearer and better than you, I have brought you with me."

Then tears stung in the King's eyes, and he said,

"My dear wife, you shall always be mine and I yours," and he took her back with him to the royal palace and were married once again; and it is likely that to this day they are still living.
Translated by me from the German "Projekt Gutenberg" e-text. More can be found here.

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