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The Goose-girl

from The Blue Fairy Book





Once upon a time an old queen, whose husband had
been dead for many years, had a beautiful daughter.
When she grew up she was betrothed to a prince who lived
a great way off. Now, when the time drew near for her
to be married and to depart into a foreign kingdom, her
old mother gave her much costly baggage, and many
ornaments, gold and silver, trinkets and knicknacks, and,
in fact, everything that belonged to a royal trousseau,
for she loved her daughter very dearly. She gave her a
waiting-maid also, who was to ride with her and hand her
over to the bridegroom, and she provided each of them
with a horse for the journey. Now the Princess's horse was
called Falada, and could speak.

When the hour for departure drew near the old mother
went to her bedroom, and taking a small knife she cut her
fingers till they bled; then she held a white rag under
them, and letting three drops of blood fall into it, she
gave it to her daughter, and said: "Dear child, take great
care of this rag: it may be of use to you on the journey."

So they took a sad farewell of each other, and the
Princess stuck the rag in front of her dress, mounted her
horse, and set forth on the journey to her bridegroom's
kingdom. After they had ridden for about an hour the
Princess began to feel very thirsty, and said to her
waiting-maid: "Pray get down and fetch me some water in
my golden cup out of yonder stream: I would like a
drink." "If you're thirsty," said the maid, "dismount
yourself, and lie down by the water and drink; I don't mean
to be your servant any longer." The Princess was so
thirsty that she got down, bent over the stream, and
drank, for she wasn't allowed to drink out of the golden
goblet. As she drank she murmured: "Oh! heaven, what
am I to do?" and the three drops of blood replied:

"If your mother only knew,
Her heart would surely break in two."

But the Princess was meek, and said nothing about her
maid's rude behavior, and quietly mounted her horse
again. They rode on their way for several miles, but the
day was hot, and the sun's rays smote fiercely on them,
so that the Princess was soon overcome by thirst again.
And as they passed a brook she called once more to her
waiting-maid: "Pray get down and give me a drink from
my golden cup," for she had long ago forgotten her maid's
rude words. But the waiting-maid replied, more haughtily
even than before: "If you want a drink, you can dismount
and get it; I don't mean to be your servant." Then the
Princess was compelled by her thirst to get down, and
bending over the flowing water she cried and said: "Oh!
heaven, what am I to do?" and the three drops of blood
replied:

"If your mother only knew,
Her heart would surely break in two."

And as she drank thus, and leaned right over the water,
the rag containing the three drops of blood fell from her
bosom and floated down the stream, and she in her anxiety
never even noticed her loss. But the waiting-maid
had observed it with delight, as she knew it gave her
power over the bride, for in losing the drops of blood the
Princess had become weak and powerless. When she
wished to get on her horse Falada again, the waiting-maid
called out: "I mean to ride Falada: you must mount
my beast"; and this too she had to submit to. Then the
waiting-maid commanded her harshly to take off her
royal robes, and to put on her common ones, and finally
she made her swear by heaven not to say a word about
the matter when they reached the palace; and if she
hadn't taken this oath she would have been killed on the
spot. But Falada observed everything, and laid it all to
heart.

The waiting-maid now mounted Falada, and the real
bride the worse horse, and so they continued their journey
till at length they arrived at the palace yard. There was
great rejoicing over the arrival, and the Prince sprang
forward to meet them, and taking the waiting-maid for
his bride, he lifted her down from her horse and led her
upstairs to the royal chamber. In the meantime the real
Princess was left standing below in the courtyard. The
old King, who was looking out of his window, beheld her
in this plight, and it struck him how sweet and gentle,
even beautiful, she looked. He went at once to the royal
chamber, and asked the bride who it was she had brought
with her and had left thus standing in the court below.
"Oh!" replied the bride, "I brought her with me to keep
me company on the journey; give the girl something to do,
that she may not be idle." But the old King had no work
for her, and couldn't think of anything; so he said, "I've
a small boy who looks after the geese, she'd better help
him." The youth's name was Curdken, and the real bride
was made to assist him in herding geese.

Soon after this the false bride said to the Prince:
"Dearest husband, I pray you grant me a favor." He
answered: "That I will." "Then let the slaughterer cut
off the head of the horse I rode here upon, because it
behaved very badly on the journey." But the truth was she
was afraid lest the horse should speak and tell how she
had treated the Princess. She carried her point, and the
faithful Falada was doomed to die. When the news came
to the ears of the real Princess she went to the slaughterer,
and secretly promised him a piece of gold if he would do
something for her. There was in the town a large dark
gate, through which she had to pass night and morning
with the geese; would he "kindly hang up Falada's head
there, that she might see it once again?" The slaughterer
said he would do as she desired, chopped off the head, and
nailed it firmly over the gateway.

Early next morning, as she and Curdken were driving
their flock through the gate, she said as she passed under:
"Oh! Falada, 'tis you hang there";

and the head replied:

" 'Tis you; pass under, Princess fair:
If your mother only knew,
Her heart would surely break in two."

Then she left the tower and drove the geese into a field.
And when they had reached the common where the geese
fed she sat down and unloosed her hair, which was of pure
gold. Curdken loved to see it glitter in the sun, and wanted
much to pull some hair out. Then she spoke:

"Wind, wind, gently sway,
Blow Curdken's hat away;
Let him chase o'er field and wold
Till my locks of ruddy gold,
Now astray and hanging down,
Be combed and plaited in a crown."


Then a gust of wind blew Curdken's hat away, and he
had to chase it over hill and dale. When he returned from
the pursuit she had finished her combing and curling, and
his chance of getting any hair was gone. Curdken was
very angry, and wouldn't speak to her. So they herded
the geese till evening and then went home.

The next morning, as they passed under the gate, the
girl said:

"Oh! Falada, 'tis you hang there";

and the head replied:

" 'Tis you; pass under, Princess fair:
If your mother only knew,
Her heart would surely break in two."

Then she went on her way till she came to the common,
where she sat down and began to comb out her hair; then
Curdken ran up to her and wanted to grasp some of the
hair from her head, but she called out hastily:

"Wind, wind, gently sway,
Blow Curdken's hat away;
Let him chase o'er field and wold
Till my locks of ruddy gold,
Now astray and hanging down,
Be combed and plaited in a crown."


Then a puff of wind came and blew Curdken's hat far
away, so that he had to run after it; and when he returned
she had long finished putting up her golden locks, and he
couldn't get any hair; so they watched the geese till it was
dark.

But that evening when they got home Curdken went to
the old King, and said: "I refuse to herd geese any longer
with that girl." "For what reason?" asked the old King.
"Because she does nothing but annoy me all day long,"
replied Curdken; and he proceeded to relate all her
iniquities, and said: "Every morning as we drive the flock
through the dark gate she says to a horse's head that
hangs on the wall:

"'Oh! Falada, 'tis you hang there';

and the head replies:

"''Tis you; pass under, Princess fair:
If your mother only knew,
Her heart would surely break in two.'"


And Curdken went on to tell what passed on the common
where the geese fed, and how he had always to chase
his hat.

The old King bade him go and drive forth his flock as
usual next day; and when morning came he himself took
up his position behind the dark gate, and heard how the
goose-girl greeted Falada. Then he followed her through
the field, and hid himself behind a bush on the common.
He soon saw with his own eyes how the goose-boy and the
goose-girl looked after the geese, and how after a time the
maiden sat down and loosed her hair, that glittered like
gold, and repeated:

"Wind, wind, gently sway,
Blow Curdken's hat away;
Let him chase o'er field and wold
Till my locks of ruddy gold
Now astray and hanging down,
Be combed and plaited in a crown."

Then a gust of wind came and blew Curdken's hat away,
so that he had to fly over hill and dale after it, and the girl
in the meantime quietly combed and plaited her hair: all
this the old King observed, and returned to the palace
without anyone having noticed him. In the evening when
the goose-girl came home he called her aside, and asked
her why she behaved as she did. "I may not tell you why;
how dare I confide my woes to anyone? for I swore not to
by heaven, otherwise I should have lost my life." The
old King begged her to tell him all, and left her no peace,
but he could get nothing out of her. At last he said:
"Well, if you won't tell me, confide your trouble to the
iron stove there," and he went away. Then she crept to
the stove, and began to sob and cry and to pour out her
poor little heart, and said: "Here I sit, deserted by all the
world, I who am a king's daughter, and a false waiting-maid
has forced me to take off my own clothes, and has
taken my place with my bridegroom, while I have to fulfill
the lowly office of goose-girl.

"If my mother only knew
Her heart would surely break in two."


But the old King stood outside at the stove chimney,
and listened to her words. Then he entered the room
again, and bidding her leave the stove, he ordered royal
apparel to be put on her, in which she looked amazingly
lovely. Then he summoned his son, and revealed to him
that he had got the false bride, who was nothing but a
waiting-maid, while the real one, in the guise of the
ex-goose-girl, was standing at his side. The young King
rejoiced from his heart when he saw her beauty and learned
how good she was, and a great banquet was prepared, to
which everyone was bidden. The bridegroom sat at the
head of the table, the Princess on one side of him and the
waiting-maid on the other; but she was so dazzled that
she did not recognize the Princess in her glittering
garments. Now when they had eaten and drunk, and were
merry, the old King asked the waiting-maid to solve a
knotty point for him. "What," said he, "should be done
to a certain person who has deceived everyone?" and he
proceeded to relate the whole story, ending up with,
"Now what sentence should be passed?" Then the false
bride answered: "She deserves to be put stark naked into
a barrel lined with sharp nails, which should be dragged
by two white horses up and down the street till she is
dead."

"You are the person," said the King, "and you have
passed sentence on yourself; and even so it shall be done
to you." And when the sentence had been carried out the
young King was married to his real bride, and both
reigned over the kingdom in peace and happiness.[1]





Next: Toads And Diamonds

Previous: Snow-white And Rose-red



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