There was once an old lady who lived in a vinegar bottle. The bottle was very small for a house, and the old lady was always grumbling about how hard it was to live in. Then one day a fairy came to the bottle and knocked on the cork-stopper door with her wand. The old lady went to see who it was, grumbling all the way. “What do you want?” she asked the fairy sternly. “We don’t get too many of your kind round this way, so state your business and be gone, afore I gets too a-spicious.”

“I can grant you a wish,” said the fairy simply.

“Well, I have to say I’m none too sure about that,” said the old lady doubtfully, “but if it will make you leave, then yes, you can grant me a wish. I wish... I wish I lived in a bigger house. A nice cottage, none too fancy, but just right for my liking.”

“Your wish has been granted!” the fairy declared, and with that, she waved her wand and flew away.

But nothing happened.

“Well really! Bigger house indeed,” mumbled the old lady as she shut the door with annoyance. “I should know not to trust fairies. Strange mischievous folk.” But although the old lady said this, she was actually rather disappointed. The thought of a new house was enticing no matter how farfetched it sounded, and so the old lady went to bed moaning and grumbling herself to sleep as usual.

The next morning, though, she woke in a proper bedroom, with curtains and a door and a polished wood floor. “Well I’ll be!” the old lady exclaimed. “That fairy did grant my wish! Although… it’s not as nice a cottage as I would have liked. Only one floor and all.” And it was this way that the old lady soon started to grumble again. After a while the fairy came back to the house and knocked at the door again. “What is it you want now? A payment I expect…”

“I can grant you a second wish.”

“Then I wish for a house with two floors. And a garden as well. Now goodbye! I have a lot to attend to,” and with that she shut the door firmly and went to bed – although she made sure the fairy had waved her wand first.

The old lady was woken gently by sunlight streaming through a window. She got up and looked out to a marvellous view of hills and trees and pure peace. “But, oh, what a terribly small garden! No bench to sit on and watch the wildlife on a nice summer’s day. I ask you, what is the purpose in having a garden if there is no way of enjoying it?” And the old lady soon started to grumble about her house again.

Sure enough, though, the fairy came to the house and offered the old lady another wish.

“Well, where to begin? I need a bigger garden, with a bench and a shed. And a greenhouse and a conservatory to watch my plants grow on rainy days. And coal – you can never have enough coal, to be sure! A coalhouse that never runs out, that is the last I ask for.”

“Then your wishes are granted!” and the fairy waved her wand.

The next day, the old lady woke in a glorious house with all the things she’s wished for and more. “But where is the luxury?” asked the old lady in dismay. “I need to live life to the full! This house is not enough for me!” And she continued to grumble more than ever before, until the fairy came to her door once more, right on time. The old lady didn’t even wait for the fairy to say ‘I can grant you one wish’, and started to speak immediately.

“Fairy! I want a palace, full with servants and bowls of fruit. And I want a golden throne to sit on; in fact the whole palace shall be made of gold! I will have whole acres of gardens, with fountains and statues and wonderful flowers and endless wildlife. And there should be an ample supply of cosy benches, golden benches for relaxing on in summer.”

The fairy waved her wand and flew away.

The next morning the old lady woke not in a palace but in her old vinegar bottle. She grumbled incessantly and cursed the fairy until her voice was hoarse, but she never lived in a bigger house again.

Read to me many a time throughout my childhood, this is my own semi-remembered version of The Old Lady Who Lived In a Bottle. If you like this, go to Fairy Tales for lots more.