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About the Author
Place of Birth:Hanau, Germany
Place of Death:Berlin, Germany
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THERE was once a miller who was poor, but he had one beautiful daughter. It happened one day that he came to speak with the king, and, to give himself consequence, he told him that he had a daughter who could spin gold out of straw. The king said to the miller,
"That is an art that pleases me well; if thy daughter is as clever as you say, bring her to my castle tomorrow, that I may put her to the proof."
When the girl was brought to him, he led her into a room that was quite full of straw, and gave her a wheel and spindle, and said,
"Now set to work, and if by the early morning thou hast not spun this straw to gold thou shalt die." And he shut the door himself, and left her there alone.
And so the poor miller's daughter was left there sitting, and could not think what to do for her life; she had no notion how to set to work to spin gold from straw, and her distress grew so great that she began to weep. Then all at once the door opened, and in came a little man, who said,
"Good evening, miller's daughter; why are you crying?"
"Oh!" answered the girl, "I have got to spin gold out of straw, and I don't understand the business."
Then the little man said,
"What will you give me if I spin it for you?"
"My necklace," said the girl.
The little man took the necklace, seated himself before the wheel, and whirr, whirr, whirr! three times round and the bobbin was full; then he took up another, and whirr, whirr, whirr! three times round, and that was full; and so he went on till the morning, when all the straw had been spun, and all the bobbins were full of gold. At sunrise came the king, and when he saw the gold he was astonished and very much rejoiced, for he was very avaricious. He had the miller's daughter taken into another room filled with straw, much bigger than the last, and told her that as she valued her life she must spin it all in one night. The girl did not know what to do, so she began to cry, and then the door opened, and the little man appeared and said,
"What will you give me if I spin all this straw into gold?"
"The ring from my finger," answered the girl.
So the little man took the ring, and began again to send the wheel whirring round, and by the next morning all the straw was spun into glistening gold. The king was rejoiced beyond measure at the sight, but as he could never have enough of gold, he had the miller's daughter taken into a still larger room full of straw, and said,
"This, too, must be spun in one night, and if you accomplish it, you shall be my wife." For he thought, "Although she is but a miller's daughter, I am not likely to find any one richer in the whole world."
As soon as the girl was left alone, the little man appeared for the third time and said,
"What will you give me if I spin the straw for you this time?"
"I have nothing left to give," answered the girl.
"Then you must promise me the first child you have after you are queen," said the little man.
"But who knows whether that will happen?" thought the girl; but as she did not know what else to do in her necessity, she promised the little man what he desired, upon which he began to spin, until all the straw was gold. And when in the morning the king came and found all done according to his wish, he caused the wedding to be held at once, and the miller's pretty daughter became a queen.
In a year's time she brought a fine child into the world, and thought no more of the little man; but one day he came suddenly into her room, and said,
"Now give me what you promised me."
The queen was terrified greatly, and offered the little man all the riches of the kingdom if he would only leave the child; but the little man said,
"No, I would rather have something living than all the treasures of the world."
Then the queen began to lament and to weep, so that the little man had pity upon her.
"I will give you three days," said he, "and if at the end of that time you cannot tell my name, you must give up the child to me."
Then the queen spent the whole night in thinking over all the names that she had ever heard, and sent a messenger through the land to ask far and wide for all the names that could be found. And when the little man came next day, (beginning with Caspar, Melchior, Balthazar) she repeated all she knew, and went through the whole list, but after each the little man said,
"That is not my name."
The second day the queen sent to inquire of all the neighbours what the servants were called, and told the little man all the most unusual and singular names, saying,
"Perhaps you are called Roast-ribs, or Sheepshanks, or Spindleshanks?" But he answered nothing but,
"That is not my name."
The third day the messenger came back again, and said,
"I have not been able to find one single new name; but as I passed through the woods I came to a high hill, and near it was a little house, and before the house burned a fire, and round the fire danced a comical little man, and he hopped on one leg and cried,
"To-day do I bake, to-morrow I brew, The day after that the queen's child comes in; And oh! I am glad that nobody knew That the name I am called is Rumpelstiltskin!"
You cannot think how pleased the queen was to hear that name, and soon afterwards, when the little man walked in and said, "Now, Mrs. Queen, what is my name?" she said at first,
"Are you called Jack?"
"No," answered he.
"Are you called Harry?" she asked again.
"No," answered he. And then she said,
"Then perhaps your name is Rumpelstiltskin!"
"The devil told you that! the devil told you that!" cried the little man, and in his anger he stamped with his right foot so hard that it went into the ground above his knee; then he seized his left foot with both his hands in such a fury that he split in two, and there was an end of him.CHAPTER 2
Hansel and Gretel
NEAR a great forest there lived a poor woodcutter and his wife, and his two children; the boy's name was Hansel and the girl's Gretel. They had very little to bite or to sup, and once, when there was great dearth in the land, the man could not even gain the daily bread. As he lay in bed one night thinking of this, and turning and tossing, he sighed heavily, and said to his wife,
"What will become of us? we cannot even feed our children; there is nothing left for ourselves."
"I will tell you what, husband," answered the wife; "we will take the children early in the morning into the forest, where it is thickest; we will make them a fire, and we will give each of them a piece of bread, then we will go to our work and leave them alone; they will never find the way home again, and we shall be quit of them."
"No, wife," said the man, "I cannot do that; I cannot find in my heart to take my children into the forest and to leave them there alone; the wild animals would soon come and devour them."
"O you fool," said she, "then we will all four starve; you had better get the coffins ready," — and she left him no peace until he consented.
"But I really pity the poor children," said the man.
The two children had not been able to sleep for hunger, and had heard what their step-mother had said to their father. Gretel wept bitterly, and said to Hansel,
"It is all over with us."
"Do be quiet, Gretel," said Hansel, "and do not fret; I will manage something." And when the parents had gone to sleep he got up, put on his little coat, opened the back door, and slipped out. The moon was shining brightly, and the white flints that lay in front of the house glistened like pieces of silver. Hansel stooped and filled the little pocket of his coat as full as it would hold. Then he went back again, and said to Gretel,
"Be easy, dear little sister, and go to sleep quietly; God will not forsake us," and laid himself down again in his bed.
When the day was breaking, and before the sun had risen, the wife came and awakened the two children, saying,
"Get up, you lazy bones; we are going into the forest to cut wood."
Then she gave each of them a piece of bread, and said,
"That is for dinner, and you must not eat it before then, for you will get no more."
Gretel carried the bread under her apron, for Hansel had his pockets full of the flints. Then they set off all together on their way to the forest. When they had gone a little way Hansel stood still and looked back towards the house, and this he did again and again, till his father said to him,
"Hansel, what are you looking at? take care not to forget your legs."
"O father," said Hansel, "I am looking at my little white kitten, who is sitting up on the roof to bid me good-bye."
"You young fool," said the woman, "that is not your kitten, but the sunshine on the chimney-pot."
Of course Hansel had not been looking at his kitten, but had been taking every now and then a flint from his pocket and dropping it on the road.
When they reached the middle of the forest the father told the children to collect wood to make a fire to keep them warm; and Hansel and Gretel gathered brushwood enough for a little mountain; and it was set on fire, and when the flame was burning quite high the wife said,
"Now lie down by the fire and rest yourselves, you children, and we will go and cut wood; and when we are ready we will come and fetch you."
So Hansel and Gretel sat by the fire, and at noon they each ate their pieces of bread. They thought their father was in the wood all the time, as they seemed to hear the strokes of the axe: but really it was only a dry branch hanging to a withered tree that the wind moved to and fro. So when they had stayed there a long time their eyelids closed with weariness, and they fell fast asleep. When at last they woke it was night, and Gretel began to cry, and said,
"How shall we ever get out of this wood?" But Hansel comforted her, saying,
"Wait a little while longer, until the moon rises, and then we can easily find the way home."
And when the full moon got up Hansel took his little sister by the hand, and followed the way where the flint stones shone like silver, and showed them the road. They walked on the whole night through, and at the break of day they came to their father's house. They knocked at the door, and when the wife opened it and saw that it was Hansel and Gretel she said,
"You naughty children, why did you sleep so long in the wood? we thought you were never coming home again!"
But the father was glad, for it had gone to his heart to leave them both in the woods alone.
Not very long after that there was again great scarcity in those parts, and the children heard their mother say at night in bed to their father,
"Everything is finished up; we have only half a loaf, and after that the tale comes to an end. The children must be off; we will take them farther into the wood this time, so that they shall not be able to find the way back again; there is no other way to manage."
The man felt sad at heart, and he thought,
"It would be better to share one's last morsel with one's children."
But the wife would listen to nothing that he said, but scolded and reproached him. He who says A must say B too, and when a man has given in once he has to do it a second time.
But the children were not asleep, and had heard all the talk. When the parents had gone to sleep Hansel got up to go out and get more flint stones, as he did before, but the wife had locked the door, and Hansel could not get out; but he comforted his little sister, and said,
"Don't cry, Gretel, and go to sleep quietly, and God will help us."
Early the next morning the wife came and pulled the children out of bed. She gave them each a little piece of bread — less than before; and on the way to the wood Hansel crumbled the bread in his pocket, and often stopped to throw a crumb on the ground.
"Hansel, what are you stopping behind and staring for?" said the father.
"I am looking at my little pigeon sitting on the roof, to say good-bye to me," answered Hansel.
"You fool," said the wife, "that is no pigeon, but the morning sun shining on the chimney-pot."
Hansel went on as before, and strewed bread crumbs all along the road.
The woman led the children far into the wood, where they had never been before in all their lives. And again there was a large fire made, and the mother said,
"Sit still there, you children, and when you are tired you can go to sleep; we are going into the forest to cut wood, and in the evening, when we are ready to go home, we will come and fetch you."
So when noon came Gretel shared her bread with Hansel, who had strewed his along the road. Then they went to sleep, and the evening passed, and no one came for the poor children. When they awoke it was dark night, and Hansel comforted his little sister, and said,
"Wait a little, Gretel, until the moon gets up, then we shall be able to see the way home by the crumbs of bread that I have scattered along it."
So when the moon rose they got up, but they could find no crumbs of bread, for the birds of the woods and of the fields had come and picked them up. Hansel thought they might find the way all the same, but they could not. They went on all that night, and the next day from the morning until the evening, but they could not find the way out of the wood, and they were very hungry, for they had nothing to eat but the few berries they could pick up. And when they were so tired that they could no longer drag themselves along, they lay down under a tree and fell asleep.
It was now the third morning since they had left their father's house. They were always trying to get back to it, but instead of that they only found themselves farther in the wood, and if help had not soon come they would have been starved. About noon they saw a pretty snow-white bird sitting on a bough, and singing so sweetly that they stopped to listen. And when he had finished the bird spread his wings and flew before them, and they followed after him until they came to a little house, and the bird perched on the roof, and when they came nearer they saw that the house was built of bread, and roofed with cakes; and the window was of transparent sugar.
"We will have some of this," said Hansel, "and make a fine meal. I will eat a piece of the roof, Gretel, and you can have some of the window — that will taste sweet."
So Hansel reached up and broke off a bit of the roof, just to see how it tasted, and Gretel stood by the window and gnawed at it. Then they heard a thin voice call out from inside,
"Nibble, nibble, like a mouse, Who is nibbling at my house?"
And the children answered,
"Never mind, It is the wind."
And they went on eating, never disturbing themselves. Hansel, who found that the roof tasted very nice, took down a great piece of it, and Gretel pulled out a large round window-pane, and sat her down and began upon it. Then the door opened, and an aged woman came out, leaning upon a crutch. Hansel and Gretel felt very frightened, and let fall what they had in their hands. The old woman, however, nodded her head, and said,
"Ah, my dear children, how come you here? you must come indoors and stay with me, you will be no trouble."
So she took them each by the hand, and led them into her little house. And there they found a good meal laid out, of milk and pancakes, with sugar, apples, and nuts. After that she showed them two little white beds, and Hansel and Gretel laid themselves down on them, and thought they were in heaven.
The old woman, although her behaviour was so kind, was a wicked witch, who lay in wait for children, and had built the little house on purpose to entice them. When they were once inside she used to kill them, cook them, and eat them, and then it was a feast-day with her. The witch's eyes were red, and she could not see very far, but she had a keen scent, like the beasts, and knew very well when human creatures were near. When she knew that Hansel and Gretel were coming, she gave a spiteful laugh, and said triumphantly,
"I have them, and they shall not escape me!"
Early in the morning, before the children were awake, she got up to look at them, and as they lay sleeping so peacefully with round rosy cheeks, she said to herself,
"What a fine feast I shall have!"
Then she grasped Hansel with her withered hand, and led him into a little stable, and shut him up behind a grating; and call and scream as he might, it was no good. Then she went back to Gretel and shook her, crying,
"Get up, lazy bones; fetch water, and cook something nice for your brother; he is outside in the stable, and must be fattened up. And when he is fat enough I will eat him."
Gretel began to weep bitterly, but it was of no use, she had to do what the wicked witch bade her.
And so the best kind of victuals was cooked for poor Hansel, while Gretel got nothing but crabshells. Each morning the old woman visited the little stable, and cried,
"Hansel, stretch out your finger, that I may tell if you will soon be fat enough."
Hansel, however, used to hold out a little bone, and the old woman, who had weak eyes, could not see what it was, and supposing it to be Hansel's finger, wondered very much that it was not getting fatter. When four weeks had passed and Hansel seemed to remain so thin, she lost patience and could wait no longer.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Grimms' Fairy Tales"
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Table of ContentsThe Golden Bird
Hans in Luck
Jorinda and Jorindel
The Travellign Musicians
The Straw, the Coal and the Bean
The Sleeping Beauty
The Dog and the Sparrow
The Twelve Dancing Princesses
The Fisherman and His Wife
The Willow-Wren and the Bear
The Frog Prince
Cat and Mouse in Partnership
The Goose Girl
The Adventures of Chanticleer and Partlet
The Valiant Little Tailor
Hansel and Gretel
The Mouse, the Bird and the Sausage
Little Red Riding Hood
The Robber Bridegroom
The Old Man and His Grandson
The Little Peasant
Frederick and Catherine
The White Snake
The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids
The Queen Bee
The Elves and the Shoemaker
The Three Languages
The Fox and the Cat
The Four Clever Brothers
Lily and the Lion
The Fox and the Horse
The Blue Light
The Golden Goose
The Water of Life
The Twelve Huntsmen
The King of the Golden Mountain
The Seven Ravens
The Wedding of Mrs Fox
The Youth Who Felt No Fear
King Grisly Beard