The House In The Wood

: The Pink Fairy Book

From the German of Grimm.

A poor woodcutter lived with his wife and three daughters in a little

hut on the borders of a great forest.

One morning as he was going to his work, he said to his wife, 'Let our

eldest daughter bring me my lunch into the wood; and so that she shall

not lose her way, I will take a bag of millet with me, and sprinkle the

seed on the path.'

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When the sun had risen high over the forest, the girl set out with a

basin of soup. But the field and wood sparrows, the larks and finches,

blackbirds and green finches had picked up the millet long ago, and the

girl could not find her way.

She went on and on, till the sun set and night came on. The trees

rustled in the darkness, the owls hooted, and she began to be very much

frightened. Then she saw in tile distance a light that twinkled between

the trees. 'There must be people living yonder,' she thought, 'who will

take me in for the night,' and she began walking towards it.

Not long afterwards she came to a house with lights in the windows.

She knocked at the door, and a gruff voice called, 'Come in!'

The girl stepped into the dark entrance, and tapped at the door of the


'Just walk in,' cried the voice, and when she opened the door there sat

an old gray-haired man at the table. His face was resting on his hands,

and his white beard flowed over the table almost down to the ground.

By the stove lay three beasts, a hen, a cock, and a brindled cow. The

girl told the old man her story, and asked for a night's lodging.

The man said:

Pretty cock,

Pretty hen,

And you, pretty brindled cow,

What do you say now?

'Duks,' answered the beasts; and that must have meant, 'We are quite

willing,' for the old man went on, 'Here is abundance; go into the back

kitchen and cook us a supper.'

The girl found plenty of everything in the kitchen, and cooked a good

meal, but she did not think of the beasts.

She placed the full dishes on the table, sat down opposite the

gray-haired man, and ate till her hunger was appeased.

When she was satisfied, she said, 'But now I am so tired, where is a bed

in which I can sleep? '

The beasts answered:

You have eaten with him,

You have drunk with him,

Of us you have not thought,

Sleep then as you ought!

Then the old man said, 'Go upstairs, and there you will find a bedroom;

shake the bed, and put clean sheets on, and go to sleep.'

The maiden went upstairs, and when she had made the bed, she lay down.

After some time the gray-haired man came, looked at her by the light

of his candle, and shook his head. And when he saw that she was sound

asleep, he opened a trapdoor and let her fall into the cellar.

The woodcutter came home late in the evening, and reproached his wife

for leaving him all day without food.

'No, I did not,' she answered; 'the girl went off with your dinner. She

must have lost her way, but will no doubt come back to-morrow.'

But at daybreak the woodcutter started off into the wood, and this time

asked his second daughter to bring his food.

'I will take a bag of lentils,' said he; 'they are larger than millet,

and the girl will see them better and be sure to find her way.'

At midday the maiden took the food, but the lentils had all gone; as on

the previous day, the wood birds had eaten them all.

The maiden wandered about the wood till nightfall, when she came in

the same way to the old man's house, and asked for food and a night's


The man with the white hair again asked the beasts:

Pretty cock,

Pretty hen,

And you, pretty brindled cow,

What do you say now?

The beasts answered, 'Duks,' and everything happened as on the former


The girl cooked a good meal, ate and drank with the old man, and did not

trouble herself about the animals.

And when she asked for a bed, they replied:

You have eaten with him

You have drunk with him,

Of us you have not thought,

Now sleep as you ought!

And when she was asleep, the old man shook his head over her, and let

her fall into the cellar.

On the third morning the woodcutter said to his wife, 'Send our youngest

child to-day with my dinner. She is always good and obedient, and will

keep to the right path, and not wander away like her sisters, idle


But the mother said, 'Must I lose my dearest child too?'

'Do not fear,' he answered; 'she is too clever and intelligent to lose

her way. I will take plenty of peas with me and strew them along; they

are even larger than lentils, and will show her the way.'

But when the maiden started off with the basket on her arm, the wood

pigeons had eaten up the peas, and she did not know which way to go. She

was much distressed, and thought constantly of her poor hungry father

and her anxious mother. At last, when it grew dark, she saw the little

light, and came to the house in the wood. She asked prettily if she

might stay there for the night, and the man with the white beard asked

his beasts again:

Pretty cock,

Pretty hen,

And you, pretty brindled cow,

What do you say now?

'Duks,' they said. Then the maiden stepped up to the stove where the

animals were lying, and stroked the cock and the hen, and scratched the

brindled cow between its horns.

And when at the bidding of the old man she had prepared a good supper,

and the dishes were standing on the table, she said, 'Shall I have

plenty while the good beasts have nothing? There is food to spare

outside; I will attend to them first.'

Then she went out and fetched barley and strewed it before the cock and

hen, and brought the cow an armful of sweet-smelling hay.

'Eat that, dear beasts,' she said,' and when you are thirsty you shall

have a good drink.'

Then she fetched a bowl of water, and the cock and hen flew on to the

edge, put their beaks in, and then held up their heads as birds do when

they drink, and the brindled cow also drank her fill. When the beasts

were satisfied, the maiden sat down beside the old man at the table and

ate what was left for her. Soon the cock and hen began to tuck their

heads under their wings, and the brindled cow blinked its eyes, so the

maiden said, 'Shall we not go to rest now?'

Pretty cock,

Pretty hen,

And you, pretty brindled cow,

What do you say now?

The animals said, 'Duks:

You have eaten with us,

You have drunk with us,

You have tended us right,

So we wish you good night.'

The maiden therefore went upstairs, made the bed and put on clean sheets

and fell asleep. She slept peacefully till midnight, when there was such

a noise in the house that she awoke. Everything trembled and shook; the

animals sprang up and dashed themselves in terror against the wall; the

beams swayed as if they would be torn from their foundations, it seemed

as if the stairs were tumbling down, and then the roof fell in with a

crash. Then all became still, and as no harm came to the maiden she lay

down again and fell asleep. But when she awoke again in broad daylight,

what a sight met her eyes! She was lying in a splendid room furnished

with royal splendour; the walls were covered with golden flowers on a

green ground; the bed was of ivory and the counterpane of velvet, and on

a stool near by lay a pair of slippers studded with pearls. The maiden

thought she must be dreaming, but in came three servants richly dressed,

who asked what were her commands. 'Go,' said the maiden, 'I will get up

at once and cook the old man's supper for him, and then I will feed the

pretty cock and hen and the brindled cow.'

But the door opened and in came a handsome young man, who said, 'I am a

king's son, and was condemned by a wicked witch to live as an old man

in this wood with no company but that of my three servants, who were

transformed into a cock, a hen, and a brindled cow. The spell could only

be broken by the arrival of a maiden who should show herself kind

not only to men but to beasts. You are that maiden, and last night at

midnight we were freed, and this poor house was again transformed into

my royal palace.

As they stood there the king's son told his three servants to go and

fetch the maiden's parents to be present at the wedding feast.

'But where are my two sisters?' asked the maid.

'I shut them up in the cellar, but in the morning they shall be led

forth into the forest and shall serve a charcoal burner until they have

improved, and will never again suffer poor animals to go hungry.'