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Sweetheart Roland

from Grimms' Fairy Tales





There was once upon a time a woman who was a real witch and had two
daughters, one ugly and wicked, and this one she loved because she was
her own daughter, and one beautiful and good, and this one she hated,
because she was her stepdaughter. The stepdaughter once had a pretty
apron, which the other fancied so much that she became envious, and
told her mother that she must and would have that apron. 'Be quiet, my
child,' said the old woman, 'and you shall have it. Your stepsister has
long deserved death; tonight when she is asleep I will come and cut her
head off. Only be careful that you are at the far side of the bed, and
push her well to the front.' It would have been all over with the poor
girl if she had not just then been standing in a corner, and heard
everything. All day long she dared not go out of doors, and when bedtime
had come, the witch's daughter got into bed first, so as to lie at the
far side, but when she was asleep, the other pushed her gently to the
front, and took for herself the place at the back, close by the wall. In
the night, the old woman came creeping in, she held an axe in her right
hand, and felt with her left to see if anyone were lying at the outside,
and then she grasped the axe with both hands, and cut her own child's
head off.

When she had gone away, the girl got up and went to her sweetheart, who
was called Roland, and knocked at his door. When he came out, she said
to him: 'Listen, dearest Roland, we must fly in all haste; my stepmother
wanted to kill me, but has struck her own child. When daylight comes,
and she sees what she has done, we shall be lost.' 'But,' said Roland,
'I counsel you first to take away her magic wand, or we cannot escape
if she pursues us.' The maiden fetched the magic wand, and she took the
dead girl's head and dropped three drops of blood on the ground, one in
front of the bed, one in the kitchen, and one on the stairs. Then she
hurried away with her lover.

When the old witch got up next morning, she called her daughter, and
wanted to give her the apron, but she did not come. Then the witch
cried: 'Where are you?' 'Here, on the stairs, I am sweeping,' answered
the first drop of blood. The old woman went out, but saw no one on the
stairs, and cried again: 'Where are you?' 'Here in the kitchen, I am
warming myself,' cried the second drop of blood. She went into the
kitchen, but found no one. Then she cried again: 'Where are you?' 'Ah,
here in the bed, I am sleeping,' cried the third drop of blood. She went
into the room to the bed. What did she see there? Her own child,
whose head she had cut off, bathed in her blood. The witch fell into
a passion, sprang to the window, and as she could look forth quite far
into the world, she perceived her stepdaughter hurrying away with her
sweetheart Roland. 'That shall not help you,' cried she, 'even if you
have got a long way off, you shall still not escape me.' She put on her
many-league boots, in which she covered an hour's walk at every step,
and it was not long before she overtook them. The girl, however, when
she saw the old woman striding towards her, changed, with her magic
wand, her sweetheart Roland into a lake, and herself into a duck
swimming in the middle of it. The witch placed herself on the shore,
threw breadcrumbs in, and went to endless trouble to entice the duck;
but the duck did not let herself be enticed, and the old woman had to
go home at night as she had come. At this the girl and her sweetheart
Roland resumed their natural shapes again, and they walked on the whole
night until daybreak. Then the maiden changed herself into a beautiful
flower which stood in the midst of a briar hedge, and her sweetheart
Roland into a fiddler. It was not long before the witch came striding up
towards them, and said to the musician: 'Dear musician, may I pluck that
beautiful flower for myself?' 'Oh, yes,' he replied, 'I will play to
you while you do it.' As she was hastily creeping into the hedge and was
just going to pluck the flower, knowing perfectly well who the flower
was, he began to play, and whether she would or not, she was forced
to dance, for it was a magical dance. The faster he played, the more
violent springs was she forced to make, and the thorns tore her clothes
from her body, and pricked her and wounded her till she bled, and as he
did not stop, she had to dance till she lay dead on the ground.

As they were now set free, Roland said: 'Now I will go to my father and
arrange for the wedding.' 'Then in the meantime I will stay here and
wait for you,' said the girl, 'and that no one may recognize me, I will
change myself into a red stone landmark.' Then Roland went away, and the
girl stood like a red landmark in the field and waited for her beloved.
But when Roland got home, he fell into the snares of another, who so
fascinated him that he forgot the maiden. The poor girl remained there a
long time, but at length, as he did not return at all, she was sad, and
changed herself into a flower, and thought: 'Someone will surely come
this way, and trample me down.'

It befell, however, that a shepherd kept his sheep in the field and saw
the flower, and as it was so pretty, plucked it, took it with him, and
laid it away in his chest. From that time forth, strange things happened
in the shepherd's house. When he arose in the morning, all the work was
already done, the room was swept, the table and benches cleaned, the
fire in the hearth was lighted, and the water was fetched, and at noon,
when he came home, the table was laid, and a good dinner served. He
could not conceive how this came to pass, for he never saw a human being
in his house, and no one could have concealed himself in it. He was
certainly pleased with this good attendance, but still at last he was so
afraid that he went to a wise woman and asked for her advice. The wise
woman said: 'There is some enchantment behind it, listen very early some
morning if anything is moving in the room, and if you see anything, no
matter what it is, throw a white cloth over it, and then the magic will
be stopped.'

The shepherd did as she bade him, and next morning just as day dawned,
he saw the chest open, and the flower come out. Swiftly he
sprang towards it, and threw a white cloth over it. Instantly the
transformation came to an end, and a beautiful girl stood before him,
who admitted to him that she had been the flower, and that up to this
time she had attended to his house-keeping. She told him her story,
and as she pleased him he asked her if she would marry him, but she
answered: 'No,' for she wanted to remain faithful to her sweetheart
Roland, although he had deserted her. Nevertheless, she promised not to
go away, but to continue keeping house for the shepherd.

And now the time drew near when Roland's wedding was to be celebrated,
and then, according to an old custom in the country, it was announced
that all the girls were to be present at it, and sing in honour of the
bridal pair. When the faithful maiden heard of this, she grew so sad
that she thought her heart would break, and she would not go thither,
but the other girls came and took her. When it came to her turn to sing,
she stepped back, until at last she was the only one left, and then she
could not refuse. But when she began her song, and it reached Roland's
ears, he sprang up and cried: 'I know the voice, that is the true
bride, I will have no other!' Everything he had forgotten, and which had
vanished from his mind, had suddenly come home again to his heart. Then
the faithful maiden held her wedding with her sweetheart Roland, and
grief came to an end and joy began.





Next: Snowdrop

Previous: Frederick And Catherine



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