A fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm
There was once upon a time a king who had a little boy in whose stars
it had been foretold that he should be killed by a stag when he was
sixteen years of age. When he had reached that age the huntsmen
once went hunting with him. In the forest, the king's son was
separated from the others, and all at once he saw a great stag which
he wanted to shoot, but could not hit. At length he chased the stag
so far that they were quite out of the forest, and then suddenly a
great tall man was standing there instead of the stag, and said, "It
is well that I have you. I have already ruined six pairs of glass
skates with running after you, and have not been able to reach you."
Then he took the king's son with him, and dragged him through a great
lake to a great palace, and he had to sit down to table with him and
eat something. When they had eaten something together the king said,
"I have three daughters, you must keep watch over the eldest for one
night, from nine in the evening till six in the morning, and every
time the clock strikes, I shall come myself and call, and if you then
give me no answer, to-morrow morning you shall be put to death, but
if you always give me an answer, you will have her to wife."
When the young folks went to the bedroom there stood a stone image of
St. Christopher, and the king's daughter said to it, "My father will
come at nine o'clock, and every hour till it strikes three, when he
calls, give him an answer instead of the king's son." Then the stone
image of St. Christopher nodded its head quite quickly, and then more
and more slowly till at last it again stood still. The next morning
the king said to him, "You have done the business well, but I cannot
give my daughter away. You must now watch a night by my second
daughter, and then I shall consider with myself, whether you can have
my eldest daughter to wife, but I shall come every hour myself, and
when I call you, answer me, and if I call you and you do not reply,
your blood will flow."
Then they both went into the sleeping-room, and there stood a still
larger stone image of St. Christopher, and the king's daughter said
to it, "If my father calls, answer him." Then the great stone image
of St. Christopher again nodded its head quite quickly and then more
and more slowly, until at last it stood still again. And the king's
son lay down on the threshold, put his hand under his head and slept.
The next morning the king said to him, "You have done the business
really well, but I cannot give my daughter away, you must now watch a
night by the youngest princess, and then I shall consider with myself
whether you can have my second daughter to wife. But I shall come
every hour myself, and when I call you answer me, and if I call you
and you answer not, your blood will flow for me."
Then they once more went to the sleeping-room together, and there was
a much greater and much taller image of St. Christopher than the two
first had been. The king's daughter said to it, "When my father
calls, answer." Then the great tall stone image of St. Christopher
nodded quite half an hour with its head, until at length the head
stood still again. And the king's son laid himself down on the
threshold of the door and slept. The next morning the king said,
"You have indeed watched well, but I cannot give you my daughter now,
I have a great forest, if you cut it down for me between six o'clock
this morning and six at night, I shall think about it."
Then he gave him a glass axe, a glass wedge, and a glass mallet.
When he got into the wood, he began at once to cut, but the axe broke
in two. Then he took the wedge, and struck it once with the mallet,
and it became as short and as small as sand. Then he was much
troubled and believed he would have to die, and sat down and wept.
Now when it was noon the king said, "One of you girls must take him
something to eat."
"No," said the two eldest, "we shall not take it to
him, the one by whom he last watched, can take him something." Then
the youngest was forced to go and take him something to eat. When
she got into the forest, she asked him how he was getting on. "Oh,"
said he, "I am getting on very badly." Then she said he was to come
and just eat a little. "Nay," said he, "I cannot do that, I have to
die anyway, so I shall eat no more." Then she spoke so kindly to him
and begged him just to try, that he came and ate something. When he
had eaten something she said, "I will pick your lice a while, and
then you will feel happier."
So she loused him, and he became weary and fell asleep, and then she
took her handkerchief and made a knot in it, and struck it three
times on the earth, and said, "Earth-workers, come forth." In a
moment, numbers of little earth-men came forth, and asked what the
king's daughter commanded. Then said she, "In three hours, time the
great forest must be cut down, and all the wood laid in heaps." So
the little earth-men went about and got together the whole of their
kindred to help them with the work. They began at once, and when the
three hours were over, all was done, and they came back to the king's
daughter and told her so. Then she took her white handkerchief again
and said, "Earth-workers, go home." At this they all disappeared.
When the king's son awoke, he was delighted, and she said, "Come home
when it has struck six o'clock." He did as she told him, and then the
king asked, "Have you made away with the forest?"
"Yes," said the
When they were sitting at table, the king said, "I
cannot yet give you my daughter to wife, you must still do something
more for her sake." So he asked what it was to be. "I have a great
fish-pond," said the king. "You must go to it to-morrow morning and
clear it of all mud until it is as bright as a mirror, and fill it
with every kind of fish."
The next morning the king gave him a glass shovel and said, "The
fish-pond must be done by six o'clock." So he went away, and when he
came to the fish-pond he stuck his shovel in the mud and it broke in
two. Then he stuck his hoe in the mud, and it broke also. Then he
was much troubled. At noon the youngest daughter brought him
something to eat, and asked him how he was getting on. So the king's
son said everything was going very ill with him, and he would
certainly have to lose his head. "My tools have broken to pieces
"Oh," said she, "you must just come and eat something, and
then you will be in another frame of mind." "No," said he, "I cannot
eat, I am far too unhappy for that." Then she gave him many good
words until at last he came and ate something.
Then she loused him again, and he fell asleep, so once more she took
her handkerchief, tied a knot in it, and struck the ground thrice
with the knot, and said, "Earth-workers, come forth." In a moment a
great many little earth-men came and asked what she desired, and she
told them that in three hours, time, they must have the fish-pond
entirely cleaned out, and it must be so clear that people could see
themselves reflected in it, and every kind of fish must be in it.
The little earth-men went away and summoned all their kindred to help
them, and in two hours it was done. Then they returned to her and
said, "We have done as you have commanded." The king's daughter took
the handkerchief and once more struck thrice on the ground with it,
and said, "Earth-workers, go home again." Then they all went away.
When the king's son awoke the fish-pond was done. Then the king's
daughter went away also, and told him that when it was six he was to
come to the house. When he arrived at the house the king asked,
"Have you got the fish-pond done?"
"Yes," said the king's son. That
was very good.
When they were again sitting at table the king said, "You have
certainly done the fish-pond, but I cannot give you my daughter yet,
you must just do one thing more."
"What is that, then?" asked the
king's son. The king said he had a great mountain on which there was
nothing but briars which must all be cut down, and at the top of it
the youth must build a great castle, which must be as strong as could
be conceived, and all the furniture and fittings belonging to a
castle must be inside it.
And when he arose next morning the king gave him a glass axe and a
glass gimlet, and he was to have all done by six o'clock. As he was
cutting down the first briar with the axe, it broke off short, and so
small that the pieces flew all round about, and he could not use the
gimlet either. Then he was quite miserable, and waited for his
dearest to see if she would not come and help him in his need. When
it was mid-day she came and brought him something to eat. He went to
meet her and told her all, and ate something, and let her louse him
and fell asleep.
Then she once more took the knot and struck the earth with it, and
said, "Earth-workers, come forth." Then came once again numbers of
earth-men, and asked what her desire was. Then said she, "In the
space of three hours you must cut down the whole of the briars, and a
castle must be built on the top of the mountain that must be as
strong as any one could conceive, and all the furniture that pertains
to a castle must be inside it." They went away, and summoned their
kindred to help them and when the time was come, all was ready. Then
they came to the king's daughter and told her so, and the king's
daughter took her handkerchief and struck thrice on the earth with
it, and said, "Earth-workers, go home," on which they all
disappeared. When therefore the king's son awoke and saw everything
done, he was as happy as a bird in air.
When it had struck six, they went home together. Then said the king,
"Is the castle ready?"
"Yes," said the king's son.
When they sat
down to table, the king said, "I cannot give away my youngest
daughter until the two eldest are married." Then the king's son and
the king's daughter were quite troubled, and the king's son had no
idea what to do. But he went by night to the king's daughter and ran
away with her. When they had got a little distance away, the king's
daughter peeped round and saw her father behind her. "Oh," said she,
"what are we to do? My father is behind us, and will take us back
with him. I shall at once change you into a briar, and myself into a
rose, and I shall shelter myself in the midst of the bush."
When the father reached the place, there stood a briar with one rose
on it, and he was about to gather the rose, when the thorn pricked
his finger so that he was forced to go home again. His wife asked
why he had not brought their daughter back with him. So he said he
had nearly got up to her, but that all at once he had lost sight of
her, and a briar with one rose was growing on the spot. Then said the
queen, "If you had but gathered the rose, the briar would have been
forced to come too."
So he went back again to fetch the rose, but in
the meantime the two were already far over the plain, and the king
ran after them. Then the daughter once more looked round and saw her
father coming, and said, "Oh, what shall we do now? I shall instantly
change you into a church and myself into a priest, and I shall stand
up in the pulpit, and preach." When the king got to the place, there
stood a church, and in the pulpit was a priest preaching. So he
listened to the sermon, and then went home again.
Then the queen asked why he had not brought their daughter with him,
and he said, "Nay, I ran a long time after her, and just as I thought
I should soon overtake her, a church was standing there and a priest
was in the pulpit preaching."
"You should just have brought the
priest," said his wife, "and then the church would soon have come.
It is no use to send you, I must go there myself." When she had
walked for some time, and could see the two in the distance, the
king's daughter peeped round and saw her mother coming, and said,
"Now we are undone, for my mother is coming herself, I shall
immediately change you into a fish-pond and myself into a fish."
When the mother came to the place, there was a large fish-pond, and
in the midst of it a fish was leaping about and peeping out of the
water, and it was quite merry. She wanted to catch the fish, but she
could not. Then she was very angry, and drank up the whole pond in
order to catch the fish, but it made her so ill that she was forced
to vomit, and vomited the whole pond out again. Then she cried, "I
see very well that nothing can be done now," and asked them to come
back to her. Then the king's daughter went back again, and the queen
gave her daughter three walnuts, and said, "With these you can help
yourself when you are in your greatest need."
So the young folks once more went away together. And when they had
walked quite ten miles, they arrived at the castle from whence the
king's son came, and near it was a village. When they reached it,
the king's son said, "Stay here, my dearest, I shall just go to the
castle, and then shall I come with a carriage and with attendants to
When he got to the castle they all rejoiced greatly at having the
king's son back again, and he told them he had a bride who was now in
the village, and they must go with the carriage to fetch her. Then
they harnessed the horses at once, and many attendants seated
themselves outside the carriage. When the king's son was about to
get in, his mother gave him a kiss, and he forgot everything which
had happened, and also what he was about to do. At this his mother
ordered the horses to be taken out of the carriage again, and
everyone went back into the house. But the maiden sat in the village
and watched and watched, and thought he would come and fetch her, but
no one came. Then the king's daughter took service in the mill which
belonged to the castle, and was obliged to sit by the pond every
afternoon and clean the tubs.
The queen came one day on foot from the castle, and went walking
by the pond, and saw the well-grown maiden sitting there, and said,
"What a fine strong girl that is. She pleases me well." Then she and
all with her looked at the maid, but no one knew her. So a long time
passed by during which the maiden served the miller honourably and
faithfully. In the meantime, the queen had sought a wife for her
son, who came from quite a distant part of the world. When the bride
came, they were at once to be married. And many people hurried
together, all of whom wanted to see everything. Then the girl said
to the miller that he might be so good as to give her leave to go
also. So the miller said, "Yes, do go there." When she was about to
go, she opened one of the three walnuts, and a beautiful dress lay
inside it. She put it on, and went into the church and stood by the
altar. Suddenly came the bride and bridegroom, and seated themselves
before the altar, and when the priest was just going to bless them,
the bride peeped half round and saw the maiden standing there. Then
she stood up again, and said she would not be given away until she
also had as beautiful a dress as that lady there.
So they went back to the house again, and sent to ask the lady if she
would sell that dress. No, she would not sell it, but the bride
might perhaps earn it. Then the bride asked her how she was to do
this. Then the maiden said if she might sleep one night outside the
king's son's door, the bride might have what she wanted. So the
bride said, Yes, she was willing to do that. But the servants were
ordered to give the king's son a sleeping draught, and then the
maiden laid herself down on the threshold and lamented all night
long. She had had the forest cut down for him, she had had the
fish-pond cleaned out for him, she had had the castle built for him,
she had changed him into a briar, and then into a church, and at last
into a fish-pond, and yet he had forgotten her so quickly.
The king's son did not hear one word of it, but the servants had been
awakened, and had listened to it, and had not known what it could
mean. The next morning when they were all up, the bride put on the
dress, and went away to the church with the bridegroom. In the
meantime the maiden opened the second walnut, and a still more
beautiful dress was inside it. She put it on, and went and stood by
the altar in the church, and everything happened as it had happened
the time before. And the maiden again lay all night on the threshold
which led to the chamber of the king's son, and the servant was once
more to give him a sleeping draught. The servant, however, went to
him and gave him something to keep him awake, and then the king's son
went to bed, and the miller's maiden bemoaned herself as before on
the threshold of the door, and told of all that she had done. All
this the king's son heard, and was sore troubled, and what was past
came back to him. Then he wanted to go to her, but his mother had
locked the door.
The next morning, however, he went at once to his beloved, and told
her everything which had happened to him, and prayed her not to be
angry with him for having forgotten her. Then the king's daughter
opened the third walnut, and within it was a still more magnificent
dress, which she put on, and went with her bridegroom to church, and
numbers of children came who gave them flowers, and offered them gay
ribbons to bind about their feet, and they were blessed by the
priest, and had a merry wedding. But the false mother and the bride
had to depart. And the mouth of the person who last told all this is