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Mother Holle

from Grimms' Fairy Tales





Once upon a time there was a widow who had two daughters; one of them
was beautiful and industrious, the other ugly and lazy. The mother,
however, loved the ugly and lazy one best, because she was her own
daughter, and so the other, who was only her stepdaughter, was made
to do all the work of the house, and was quite the Cinderella of the
family. Her stepmother sent her out every day to sit by the well in
the high road, there to spin until she made her fingers bleed. Now it
chanced one day that some blood fell on to the spindle, and as the girl
stopped over the well to wash it off, the spindle suddenly sprang out
of her hand and fell into the well. She ran home crying to tell of her
misfortune, but her stepmother spoke harshly to her, and after giving
her a violent scolding, said unkindly, 'As you have let the spindle fall
into the well you may go yourself and fetch it out.'

The girl went back to the well not knowing what to do, and at last in
her distress she jumped into the water after the spindle.

She remembered nothing more until she awoke and found herself in a
beautiful meadow, full of sunshine, and with countless flowers blooming
in every direction.

She walked over the meadow, and presently she came upon a baker's oven
full of bread, and the loaves cried out to her, 'Take us out, take us
out, or alas! we shall be burnt to a cinder; we were baked through long
ago.' So she took the bread-shovel and drew them all out.

She went on a little farther, till she came to a free full of apples.
'Shake me, shake me, I pray,' cried the tree; 'my apples, one and all,
are ripe.' So she shook the tree, and the apples came falling down upon
her like rain; but she continued shaking until there was not a single
apple left upon it. Then she carefully gathered the apples together in a
heap and walked on again.

The next thing she came to was a little house, and there she saw an old
woman looking out, with such large teeth, that she was terrified, and
turned to run away. But the old woman called after her, 'What are you
afraid of, dear child? Stay with me; if you will do the work of my house
properly for me, I will make you very happy. You must be very careful,
however, to make my bed in the right way, for I wish you always to shake
it thoroughly, so that the feathers fly about; then they say, down there
in the world, that it is snowing; for I am Mother Holle.' The old woman
spoke so kindly, that the girl summoned up courage and agreed to enter
into her service.

She took care to do everything according to the old woman's bidding and
every time she made the bed she shook it with all her might, so that the
feathers flew about like so many snowflakes. The old woman was as good
as her word: she never spoke angrily to her, and gave her roast and
boiled meats every day.

So she stayed on with Mother Holle for some time, and then she began
to grow unhappy. She could not at first tell why she felt sad, but she
became conscious at last of great longing to go home; then she knew she
was homesick, although she was a thousand times better off with Mother
Holle than with her mother and sister. After waiting awhile, she went
to Mother Holle and said, 'I am so homesick, that I cannot stay with
you any longer, for although I am so happy here, I must return to my own
people.'

Then Mother Holle said, 'I am pleased that you should want to go back
to your own people, and as you have served me so well and faithfully, I
will take you home myself.'

Thereupon she led the girl by the hand up to a broad gateway. The gate
was opened, and as the girl passed through, a shower of gold fell upon
her, and the gold clung to her, so that she was covered with it from
head to foot.

'That is a reward for your industry,' said Mother Holle, and as she
spoke she handed her the spindle which she had dropped into the well.

The gate was then closed, and the girl found herself back in the old
world close to her mother's house. As she entered the courtyard, the
cock who was perched on the well, called out:

'Cock-a-doodle-doo!
Your golden daughter's come back to you.'

Then she went in to her mother and sister, and as she was so richly
covered with gold, they gave her a warm welcome. She related to them
all that had happened, and when the mother heard how she had come by her
great riches, she thought she should like her ugly, lazy daughter to go
and try her fortune. So she made the sister go and sit by the well
and spin, and the girl pricked her finger and thrust her hand into a
thorn-bush, so that she might drop some blood on to the spindle; then
she threw it into the well, and jumped in herself.

Like her sister she awoke in the beautiful meadow, and walked over it
till she came to the oven. 'Take us out, take us out, or alas! we shall
be burnt to a cinder; we were baked through long ago,' cried the loaves
as before. But the lazy girl answered, 'Do you think I am going to dirty
my hands for you?' and walked on.

Presently she came to the apple-tree. 'Shake me, shake me, I pray; my
apples, one and all, are ripe,' it cried. But she only answered, 'A nice
thing to ask me to do, one of the apples might fall on my head,' and
passed on.

At last she came to Mother Holle's house, and as she had heard all about
the large teeth from her sister, she was not afraid of them, and engaged
herself without delay to the old woman.

The first day she was very obedient and industrious, and exerted herself
to please Mother Holle, for she thought of the gold she should get in
return. The next day, however, she began to dawdle over her work, and
the third day she was more idle still; then she began to lie in bed in
the mornings and refused to get up. Worse still, she neglected to
make the old woman's bed properly, and forgot to shake it so that the
feathers might fly about. So Mother Holle very soon got tired of her,
and told her she might go. The lazy girl was delighted at this, and
thought to herself, 'The gold will soon be mine.' Mother Holle led her,
as she had led her sister, to the broad gateway; but as she was passing
through, instead of the shower of gold, a great bucketful of pitch came
pouring over her.

'That is in return for your services,' said the old woman, and she shut
the gate.

So the lazy girl had to go home covered with pitch, and the cock on the
well called out as she saw her:

'Cock-a-doodle-doo!
Your dirty daughter's come back to you.'

But, try what she would, she could not get the pitch off and it stuck to
her as long as she lived.





Next: Little Red-cap [little Red Riding Hood]

Previous: The Mouse The Bird And The Sausage



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