Mother Holle


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:

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:

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.

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