THERE was once a king and a queen
who had an only daughter, who was dear to them above all things, and no
wonder, for she was fair and good, so that there never could be a more
amiable child. But after some years had elapsed, the queen fell sick and
died, and the king took to himself a new consort, who also had a daughter.
But if the first queen was gentle and good, the second was an arrant Troll,
both ugly and vicious in all manner of ways, in which respects the daughter
was in no wise inferior to her mother. Thus the king had no great joy
in his marriage, and for the little princess it was still worse; early
and late she heard nothing but dissensions, and no doubt often experienced
the truth of the old saying: that those who have a stepmother have also
Things went on thus for a season, when at last the king
also died, and now the young princess had neither kith nor kin in all
the wide world, and it may easily be believed that the queen and her daughter
did not treat her the better on that account. At the same time she grew
from day to day fairer and fairer, and when she had attained her fifteenth
year, a fairer maiden was nowhere to be found. On this account the queen
and her daughter bore her a still greater grudge, and took good care that
no one should know of the princess's beauty. With this object they treated
her rather as a peasant girl than as a king's daughter, all works of drudgery
being allotted to her; she was never allowed to come forward in the apartments
or sit with other people, but her place was always among the ashes on
the hearth, close by the mouth of the stove. There she sat covered with
rags, raking in the ashes and thinking of former days, while her mother
was still living. This was her favourite pastime, and whence she was called
in derision the Cinder-girl.
After a lapse of time, it one day happened that a rumour
was spread over all the country that a foreign prince was coming for the
purpose of wooing, and it was also said that he would attend church on
the following Sunday. This news caused a great stir; one female thought
of herself, another of her daughters, and in the whole kingdom there was
not a wench, however poor, who did not entertain the hope of becoming
a princess. But in no place was there so much bustle as in the royal palace;
there everything was turned upside down and inside out during the whole
week; for the queen had not even a thought that her daughter would not
be the lucky one. When Sunday at length came, she had her daughter washed
and scrubbed till her skin was almost rubbed off, and caused her hair
to be combed and curled, and herself tricked out in all sorts of ways
both before and behind, so that never was the like seen. She then ordered
forth her gilded chariot, and made ready to accompany her daughter to
church. In like manner did every one else; for if all could not get the
foreign prince, all were at least desirous to see him. But there was one
who did not follow with the others, and that was the Cinder-lass: she
was ordered to stay at home and sweep, and dress the dinner, and chop
pine twigs, and strew the floor, and many other things, which were always
her Sun day-work. Poor girl!
When all was in order, and the horses were put to the
chariot, and the queen was ready to set out, the daughter thought she
would show herself to her stepsister in all her finery and splendour.
So with a haughty step and many proud gestures she proceeded to the chimney-corner,
where she stopped, writhed and twisted herself about to the best advantage,
and said: "Now, Cinder-wench, what is thy opinion? Am I not elegantly
clad? Dost thou see how fine I am? This is somewhat different from thy
rags." The other answered that it was so, and in a humble tone asked,
whether she also might not sometimes go to the house of God with other
folks. At this the queen's daughter, betraying her true disposition, burst
forth in a fit of rage: "Heard any one ever the like? The Cinder-wench
is also for going to church! I believe thou thinkest to get the young
prince! No, stay where thou art, that is more becoming such a beggar-brat
as thou." She then went her way, and the sister wept bitterly at
her cruel words. But the wicked stepmother did not even allow her to weep
in peace; for, like all wicked people, she was always worst on God's holy
Sunday; but took a bushel of peas, scattered them about the yard and said:
"I shall teach thee to weep forsooth! Now pick up every single pea,
and wash and boil them for dinner; and the Lord have mercy on thee, if
it is not ready when I return home!" Having given these orders, the
queen and her daughter, in full dress, proceeded to church to meet the
prince; but the Cinder-girl remained at home picking up peas. That was
As the day was now advancing, and the church folks had
all set out, the damsel thought it time to begin her Sunday occupations.
Taking therefore a pail, she first went to the spring for water. As she
was hastening through the field she could not refrain from thinking of
former days, how different all was then; and on her wicked stepmother,
and on the church, to which she never went, and of the young prince; and
as her thoughts thus wandered, she became so sad that she sat down on
the earth, resting her cheek on her hand, and wept. As she stooped to
draw up water, it happened that a tear rolled down her cheek and fell
into the spring. At the same moment there rose to the surface an exceedingly
large pike, which asked her why she wept so. "I may well weep and
be sorrowful," answered the Cinder-lass; "my stepmother and
stepsister are driven out to church, to see the foreign prince, while
I am forced to sit at home and pick up peas; and at the same time I get
nothing but maledictions when they come home." "Alas, poor girl!"
said the pike, "thou hast a wicked stepmother. But if thou 'wilt
do as I tell thee, thou shalt go to church as well as the others, and
I will do thy work for to-day." The Cinder-lass promised to follow
his directions, and the pike continued,: "When thou goest now along
the path between the birches, thou wilt come to a hollow oak, which stands
the highest on the mountain. In that oak thou wilt find a suit of clothes,
which thou shalt put on. Thou shalt then saddle the palfrey that stands
close by, and ride to church, and sit down on the seat between thy stepmother
and step sister. But thou must not speak to them, for then they would
recognise thee; nor must thou wait till the mass is ended, but must hasten
out and ride back to the oak, and clothe thyself in thy old garments,
so that thy stepmother may not remark anything when she returns home."
The Cinder-girl was overjoyed at all this; for many a
day had passed since she had heard such friendly words. She therefore
dried her tears, thanked the pike in the most heartfelt terms, and ran
along the path among the birches till she reached the summit of the mountain.
On looking into the oak, as the pike had directed her, she saw hanging
a dress of the brightest silver, and by the side of the dress there hung
a silver saddle and a silver bridle; and without there stood a snow-white
palfrey, that snorted and neighed and beat with his hoofs, so that the
whole mountain trembled. Now it may well be imagined what the damsel's
feelings were. She hardly durst look upon the silver garment, it was so
exceedingly magnificent, but thought at first that it was all nothing
but a dream. Nevertheless, she did as the pike had enjoined her, entered
into the oak, divested herself of her old tatters, put on the splendid
silver dress, combed her golden locks, and in a short time was transformed
from a ragged cinder-girl to the fairest, stateliest damsel that ever
rode to court. Having completed her toilet, she saddled her palfrey and
proceeded to church, and it seemed when she arrived exactly as if a white
silvery cloud had issued from the sky. As she walked up the aisle and
seated herself between her stepmother and stepsister, such a brightness
shone over the whole church, that all the folks turned about and looked
after the stranger, silver-clad lady; but the young prince was so smitten
that he could not turn his eyes away from her. There was, in fact, no
one that attended to the priest, besides the wicked stepmother and her
daughter; for it may be imagined that they thereby strove to conceal their
vexation. But in one instant, before any one was aware, the Cinder-lass
suddenly rose from her seat, and hurried out of the church, long before
the mass was concluded. Now, it may easily be imagined there was a commotion!
The foreign prince instantly followed her, for he was desirous beyond
all belief of knowing who she wasp as were also the other people; all
streamed to the church door, and no one listened more either to text or
sermon. But the damsel let nothing detain her and instantly mounted her
"Light before me!
Darkness after me!"
and so in a twinkling vanished from their sight. While
now all were standing gaping and wondering what direction she had taken,
she hastened to the oak, divested herself of the elegant silver dress,
put on her old tatters, and ran to the royal palace, so that when the
queen and her daughter returned, they found neither palfrey nor silver-clad
damsel; but the peas were boiled, the floor was strewed, and the little
Cinder-girl sat down among the ashes, as we have been accustomed to find
The queen and her daughter were very far from pleased
with what had passed at church, and every one could easily perceive, both
by their words and answers, that things had not proved to their hearts'
content. In fact nothing pleased them, they found fault with and complained
of everything; but above all they spoke of a stranger princess who was
at church, and who came and departed no one knew whence or whither, ending
every conversation with the assurance, that on the next Sunday the queen's
daughter should be much finer than the princess. But all this while there
was no one that thought of the little Cinder-lass, except to chide and
snub her, so that for her the week passed much worse than any preceding
As the time drew on it may easily be imagined what bustle
and preparations there were in the royal palace, only that the queen's
daughter might have everything most fine and costly; nothing being so
sumptuous that the queen would not have it yet more so. At length Sunday
came, and the queen had her daughter washed and scrubbed till her face
'was as bright as a May morning (1),
combed her hair most curiously, and decorated her both before and behind,
so that the like of such finery had never been seen. She then ordered
forth her gilded chariot, and made ready to drive to church. In like manner
did every one in the royal palace, all being desirous of seeing the foreign
prince. The only one that did not go was the Cinder-lass, who, poor young
girl! was obliged to stay at home and sweep, and prepare dinner, and chop
pine twigs, and strew the floor, and numerous other things, as always
formed her employment on Sundays.
When all was in order, and the horses were put to the
chariot, the holyday attire examined in every fold, and the queen ready
to set out, it occurred to the daughter that she would grant her stepsister
the great pleasure of seeing her in all her pomp and finery. She went,
therefore, with stately step and many proud gestures to the chimney-corner,
where she stopped, twisted and turned herself on every side, that the
Cinder-lass might have a complete view of her, and at length said: "Well,
what dost thou think? Am I not splendidly lad? Dost thou see how fine
I am? This is a little different from thy rags." The stepsister answered,
that it was very true, and asked with great humility whether she might
not also one day go to church and see the young prince. At this the queen's
daughter broke out into a paroxysm of anger: "Well, was the like
ever heard? The Cinder-wench will go to church to see the foreign prince!
No, stay where thou art, thou beggar-brat, and grope in the ashes; that
befits thee far better." She then went her way, and the sister wept
bitterly at her cruel words. But the stepmother would not let her even
weep in peace, but taking a bushel of groats, she scattered them all over
the floor, saying: "I will give thee something else to do than to
sit there crying. Pick up now every single grain, and wash them, and boil
them for dinner; and the Lord help thee, if they are not ready when I
return!" Having given these orders, the queen with her daughter proceeded
in full state to church to meet the prince; but the Cinder-lass must sit
at home and pick up groats, as her wicked stepmother had ordered. That
was her employment.
When the day was so far advanced that all the folk had
gone to church, the Cinder-lass began her Sunday occupations. She first
of all took a pail, and ran to the well to retch water. As she was hastening
across the meadow, she could not refrain from thinking of this and that;
of her mother that was dead, how kind and good she had always been, and
of her wicked stepmother, and of the church, and of the young prince,
whom she should never see again; and. while she thus thought she became
so sorrowful, that sitting down on a stone and resting her cheek on her
hand, she wept bitterly. When leaning forward for the purpose of drawing
up water, a tear again rolled down her cheek and fell into the spring.
At the same moment the large pike rose to the surface of the water, and
asked as before why she sat there weeping so bitterly. "I may well
weep and be sad," answered she; "my stepmother and stepsister
have driven to church to see the young prince; while I must sit lonely
at home and pick up groats, and when the queen returns I get nothing but
chiding and hard words." "Ali!" said the pike, "thou
hast a wicked stepmother; but if thou wilt do as I say, thou shalt go
to church as well as the others, and I will do thy work, as I did last
Sunday." The Cinder-lass thanked the pike for his good will, and
promised to obey him in everything; and the pike continued: "When
thou goest along the path under the birches, thou wilt come to the hollow
oak that stands on the mountain. In the oak thou wilt find a garment which
thou wilt put on; thou wilt then saddle the palfrey, which stands close
by, and ride to church, and sit on the seat between thy step mother and
stepsister. But thou must not speak to them, for then they will recognise
thee; nor must thou stay till the service is ended, but hasten out and
ride back to the oak, and put on thy old garments, so that thy stepmother
may not observe anything when she returns home."
The Cinder-lass, on hearing this, was delighted beyond
measure; for it ran in her mind that she should see the young prince once
again. She therefore dried her tears, returned her best thanks to the
pike, and ran along the path under the birches till she reached the summit
of the mountain. On looking into the oak she saw hanging a habit of the
purest gold, and together with the habit there also hung a gold saddle
with a gold. bridle and a gold bit; and all so exceedingly magnificent,
that they glittered like fire, when any one looked on them. Close by without
there stood again the snow-white palfrey snorting and neighing, and full
of joy, and beating the earth with his hoofs, so that the whole mountain
shook. It may now be easily imagined in what state of mind the Cinder-lass
found herself; for a long time she knew not whether she were awake or
the whole were only a dream. Nevertheless, she did not forget what the
pike had said to her, but went into the oak, cast off her old rags, put
on the sumptuous golden garment, combed her golden locks, and was in a
short time metamorphosed from a poor ragged cinder-girl to the fairest,
stateliest damsel that ever wore a crown of gold. She then saddled her
palfrey and rode to church, and it seemed as if a cloud had appeared in
the sky with a little star on it. As she proceeded along the aisle and
seated herself between the queen and her daughter, such a brightness was
spread over the pavement and over the whole church, that all the people
turned about on their seats, and gazed only on the stranger damsel. But
the prince's heart was so smitten with love that he could not for a moment
turn his eyes from her. No one, in fact, attended to the priest, unless
it were the wicked stepmother and. her daughter. It may be supposed that
they thereby strove to conceal their vexation, although they would have
rejoiced if the young princess had been a hundred miles off. But while
they were thinking over the matter, the Cinder-lass starting suddenly
up, hurried out of the church long before the conclusion of the mass.
Now, we can well imagine, there was a commotion! The young prince instantly
hastened after her; for he was desirous above all things to discover who
she was. At the same time all the other people streamed to the church
door, and no one cared more either for priest or mass. But they got nothing
for their pains; for when the princess came out, she instantly mounted
her horse, and said:-
"Light before me!
Darkness after me!"
and vanished like lightning from the sight of all. While
the prince and all the people were standing gaping, and wondering in what
direction she could have taken her course, she hastened back to the oak,
put on her old garments, and ran to the royal palace, so that when the
queen and her daughter returned, they found the groats boiled and the
floor strewed, but neither palfrey nor gold-clad damsel, only the Cinder-girl
in her chimney-corner, precisely as they were accustomed to see her.
The queen and her daughter were now even more dissatisfied
with their church visit than on the preceding Sunday, and both in their
conversation and answers it might be observed that things had not fallen
out according to their expectations. Nothing in fact pleased them, neither
at home nor abroad, but they found fault with and complained of everything.
Above all things they spoke of a strange princess, who was so magnificently
clad, always adding how the queen's daughter should be even finer than
she. But all the while no one thought of the little Cinder-lass, unless
it were to snub and chide her, so that she was always made the object
of her stepmother's and stepsister's malignity.
As the time advanced it is easy to conceive that there
were sewing and cutting in the royal palace both early and late, solely
that the queen's daughter might appear as fine as possible; and however
magnificent a thing might be, yet it never was so exquisite that the queen
did riot require it still more so. At length Sunday came, and the queen
caused her daughter to be washed and scrubbed, until she was as bright
as a sun, curled her hair after the most tasteful fashion, and decorated
her in all manner of ways both before and behind, so that the like of
her outfit had never before been seen. She then ordered out her gilded
chariot, and prepared to ride in it to church. All her people likewise
went; for if all could not obtain the foreign prince, yet all were desirous
of seeing him. But there was one who was not allowed to accompany them,
and that was the Cinder-girl. She must stay at home and sweep, and chop
pine twigs, and strew the floor, and many other things, as were now her
constant Sunday occupations.
When everything was in order, the horses put to the chariot,
the holyday attire examined in every fold, and the queen ready to set
out, her daughter thought she would grant her stepsister the happiness
of beholding her in all her pomp and finery. With stately step, therefore,
and haughty mien she walked to the chimney-corner: there she stopped,
twisted and turned herself in every direction, and said at last: "Well,
Cinder-wench, what thinkest thou? Am I not sumptuously dressed? Dost thou
see bow splendid I am? This is something different from thy tatters."
Yes, the' other answered, it was so, and, with tears in her eyes, asked
if she also might not one day go to church and see the young prince. At
this the stepsister burst forth ii a fit of anger: "Well, was the
like ever heard? The Cinder-wench wishes to go with us! I believe thou
thinkest to get the young prince! No, stay where thou art, thou beggar-brat!
that is more befitting thee." She then took her departure, and her
stepsister slowly retired to her chimney-corner, to conceal her tears.
But she was not allowed to weep in peace; for the wicked stepmother, who
was instantly at hand, took a bushel of meal, cast it out in the middle
of the yard, and said: "I will give thee something else to do than
to sit there crying; gather up now the meal, every particle of it, and
cleanse it, and prepare it for dinner; and the Lord help thee if all is
not ready when I return home!" Having thus given her orders, she
and her daughter rode in full state to church to meet the prince. But
the stepdaughter must sit in the yard and gather up meal, as her wicked
stepmother had ordered her.
When the time had arrived that the church-folks were all
gone, and the Cinder-lass should begin her occupations, she first took
a pail and ran to get water from the spring. While thus again tripping
over the green meadow, her thoughts began to wander, and she thought of
her mother who was dead, and who had always been so kind to her, and of
her wicked stepmother, and of the church, which she was never allowed
to enter, and her tears began to flow in abundance, like the purest pearls.
But most of all it went to her heart when she thought of the young prince,
whom she should never again see, and she then became so afflicted, that
sitting down on a stone, and resting her cheek on her hand, she gave herself
up to despair. As she bent for ward to draw the water, a bright tear rolled
down her cheek into the spring. At the same instant the great pike again
appeared, raised his green head above the surface of the water, and asked
her why she wept so bitterly. "I may well weep and be sorrowful,"
answered the Cinder-lass. "My stepmother and stepsister have ridden
to church to meet the young prince; but I must sit in the yard and gather
up meal, and when the queen comes home I shall get nothing but maledictions
and hard words." "Ah, poor girl!" said the pike, "thou
hast a bad stepmother; but if thou wilt do as I tell thee, thou shalt
go to church like the others, and I will do thy work as I did on the last
two Sundays." The Cinder-lass hereupon returned her best thanks to
the pike, and promised to obey him in all things. The pike continued:
"When thou goest along the path under the birches, and comest to
the hollow oak, thou wilt there find a habit, which thou shalt put on.
Then thou wilt saddle the palfrey that stands close by and ride to church,
and sit down in the seat between thy stepmother and stepsister. But thou
must not speak to them, for then they would recognise thee; nor must thou
remain till the mass is over, but must hasten out and ride back to the
oak, and put on thy old garments, that thy stepmother may observe nothing
when she returns."
The Cinder-lass was heartily delighted at this, for her
thoughts were on the young prince, although she had never expected to
see him again. She therefore dried her tears, returned her warmest thanks
to the pike, and hastened along the path under the birches till she reached
the summit of the mountain. On looking into the oak she saw hanging a
garment wholly set round with precious stones, close by which there hung
a saddle-furniture, which was, in like manner, set with pearls and diamonds
from the East; and the whole was so indescribably magnificent that it
changed colours and glittered like the brightest rainbow. Close by there
stood again the snow-white palfrey, which snorted, and neighed, and was
overjoyed, and beat the ground with his hoofs, so that the whole mountain
echoed. Now every one can easily imagine the feelings of the Cinder-lass;
for a long time she knew not whether it were a reality, or whether the
whole were riot a delightful dream. She did not, however, forget what
the pike had enjoined her, but entered the oak, divested herself of her
old tatters, put on the splendid habit set with precious stones; placed
a crown of gold on her golden hair, and, within a short time, was metamorphosed
from a miserable cinder-girl to the fairest princess that was ever seen
in the world. She then saddled her palfrey, mounted it, and rode to church:
and it seemed when, she entered just as 'when the sun rises in the heavens
through a silvery cloud. As she walked up the aisle and placed herself
between the queen and her daughter, such a brilliancy was shed over the
whole church that it was illuminated in its remotest corners, and all
the people turned about on their seats and looked only on the stranger
princess; but the young prince received such a wound in his heart that
it seemed to him impossible to live without her. There was, consequently,
no one that listened to the priest, unless it were the wicked stepmother
and her daughter. It may be imagined that they thereby strove in some
degree to conceal their vexation; although they heartily wished the princess
a thousand miles off. But while they were thinking over the matter, the
Cinder-lass suddenly starting from her seat, hastened out long before
the mass was ended. Now, it is easy to imagine there was a com motion!
The young prince ran out instantly; for he had resolved within himself
that he would discover who she was, let it cost what it might. At the
same time all the other church-folks rose from their seats, even the priest
himself, who in his hurry forgot both bible and breviary. Just as the
princess was passing out at the church-door the prince had caused some
tar to be spilt, so that she lost one of her gold shoes, which remained
sticking in it; and the prince was so close behind her that she durst
not turn round to take it up. She had, therefore, no alternative but to
hasten to her palfrey, and say as before:-
"Light before me!
Darkness after me!"
and thus she vanished from the sight of all. She then
rode hastily to the great oak on the mountain; but on turning round she
perceived a considerable number of people running in all directions in
search of her, and at the same time observed that her stepmother and stepsister
were already returning from church. At this she was so terrified that
she gave herself no time to change her clothes, but cast her old coarse
garments over the sumptuous habit set with precious stones, and hurried
to the royal palace as speedily as she could. There she placed herself
in the chimney-corner, and feigned to be playing with the ashes, according
to her custom. The queen and her daughter could therefore observe nothing
remarkable; but on their return they found the floor strewed, the porridge
boiled, and the Cinder-girl sitting in her usual place, just as they were
in the habit of seeing her.
The story now returns to the young prince. When he saw
that the princess had escaped from him, he was sorely grieved, for he
had resolved either to possess her or no one else in the world. He therefore
began to consider how he might again find her. For this purpose he took
the little gold shoe which she had lost at the church door, and caused
it to be announced over the whole kingdom, that her whom the shoe fitted,
and no other, he would take to wife. Now, it may easily be believed that
there was a commotion of no trivial kind; for every individual maiden
must go and try her luck with the little shoe. But there was no one whom
the shoe fitted, and no wonder, for it was so very, very little and delicate,
that there probably was never in the world a damsel that trod a more elegant
little shoe. It now began to be very doubtful whether the prince would
ever find the object of his search again or not; nevertheless, hope did
not forsake him, but he sent his followers in every direction to seek
and make inquiry, while he himself went about the neighbourhood, both
to the east and west, in the hope of fitting the shoe.
While thus wandering he came at length to the royal palace.
The queen thereupon immediately caused her young stepdaughter to be shut
up in the oven, for she was fearful lest any one should see her extraordinary
beauty, but brought forward her own daughter, that she might put on the
gold shoe, but all in vain; her foot was, and continued to be, too large,
however she might press and pinch it. But the queen was not at a loss;
she chopped off her daughter's long heels and clipped her great toes,
and thus again brought her forward to try her luck. When the queen's daughter
was now again about to try on the gold shoe, there sat a little bird in
a tree, which sang:-
"Chop heel and clip toe!
In the oven is she whom fits the gold shoe." (2)
"What was that?" inquired the prince, wondering.
"Oh!" answered the queen, "it was nothing; it was only
the song of a bird." The prince took no further notice of it, the
queen's daughter being about to try on the shoe; but the bird did not
cease, but sang again:-
"Chop heel and clip toe
In the oven is she whom fits the gold shoe."
"What was that the bird sang?" inquired the
prince a second time, and listened. "Oh!" answered the queen,
"It is not worth listening to; it was only the twittering of a bird.
Away with thee, thou ugly bird!" But it was to no purpose, for hardly
had the queen's daughter tried to put on the gold shoe, when the bird
in the tree sang for the third time:-
"Chop heel and clip toe!
In the oven is she whom fits the gold shoe."
The prince could now easily perceive that there was some
trickery at work, and therefore sent his young pages to search the oven,
who almost instantly returned with the young stepdaughter, who had been
lying concealed there. Now, we may be sure that neither the queen nor
her daughter were in the best of humours. They grew pale and red from
anger, and asked how any one could trouble himself about such a little
beggar-brat. But the prince gave no heed to their talk, and ordered the
gold shoe to be brought, when lo! it was as if it had grown to the Cinder-lass's
little snow-white foot. While they were thus engaged the prince observed
that a golden corner peeped out from a hole in her garment. Seeing it,
the prince snatched off her old, coarse, gray cloak, and at the same instant-
it was as if a flash of lightning had darted among them; and behold! instead
of the ragged Cinder-girl, there stood before them a beautiful princess,
the self-same that the prince had seen at church, and the precious stones
on her garments glittered like the bright sun, and all who beheld her
could not sufficiently admire her wonderful beauty.
At all this the king's son was so unspeakably rejoiced
that he both laughed and wept; but the queen and her daughter did not
laugh. He pressed the young damsel to his breast and placed her on his
knee, and betrothed her with rings of red gold; after which he conducted
her with great honour home to his own kingdom, and made her his queen.
I was present at the marriage. There the prince tripped in the dance with
his fair young bride, and I danced, and all the guests danced with them,
all except the queen's daughter. She could not dance, for her mother had
cut off her toes. So is my story told.
1. A version from Ostergotland [Printed in I. Arwidsson's
Lase-och Laro-bok for Ungdom. Stockh., 1830, i. pp. 19-25] relates, that
when the queen was going to church, she gave her stepdaughter no food
besides a morsel of black bread and a little milk the cat's saucer, At
the same Lime she strewed a bushel of peas on the floor, and ordered the
Cinder-girl to pick up every pea before the people returned from church.
While the young girl sat weeping, and gathered, and gathered,
and wept, she heard a scratching at the door. On opening it there entered
a beautiful little white ermine, to which she gave some milk. When the
ermine was satisfied, it asked her why she wept and the Cinder-girl related
her whole story. "Now," said the ermine, "follow me, and
I will help thee." It then blew on the peas, when they immediately
flew back of themselves into the measure. The ermine then conducted her
to a large oak in the forest, where she found splendid garments, arid
a palfrey, and little pages, so that she could ride to church in great
state, and meet the young prince.
The continuation coincides with what is given above, only
with the addition, that when the Cinder-girl came to the oak on the third
Sunday, the ermine said: "My work is now ended, and I can no longer
help thee; but if thou thinkest thou owest me any gratitude, take this
knife and thrust it into my heart." The Cinder-girl was loth to reward
it so ill for its services; but the ermine besought her earnestly, saying:
"Do as I have said; it is my salvation." The damsel then, turning
away her eyes, stabbed it to the heart, and at the same instant three
drops of blood fell on the field, from which there sprang a comely young
prince, who instantly vanished, and was never heard of more.
2. A variation from Gottland makes the stepdaughter
go clad in a cloak of crow's feathers, that she might feel shame wherever
she might be, and that no one might see how much more beautiful she was
than the crone's own daughter. Hence she was called Krak-pels, i.e. Crow-cloak.
At length she received aid from a little old man with whom she had shared
her breakfast, and who promised to requite her. He then took her with
him to the forest, blew a pipe, and procured her first a habit that shone
like the stars in heaven; then one that shone like the moon; and lastly,
one that shone like the sun. So Krak-pels went all the three Sundays to
church, without being recognised either by her stepmother or stepsister.
When the prince's messenger came to the crone's dwelling,
for the purpose of fitting on the little gold shoe, Kr was so frightened
that she hid herself in the oven. But there sat a little bird in a tree
that sang and betrayed her. She was thus recognised, and married to the
king's son. The story concludes with the pleasing addition, that "she
always showed kindness to her wicked stepmother."
3. A version from South Smâland tells of
a stepdaughter that was called Aske-pjeske, and who had to sit at home
and prepare peas, while her stepmother and stepsister went to church to
meet a foreign prince. While she sat and wept there came a little bird,
and peeked at the easement, and sang:-
"Little maiden go to church,
I will clean thy peas;
I will sweep, and clear and do all things,
At the same moment an eagle came flying, which let fall
from his talons a splendid habit. This Aske-pjeske put on and went to
church, where every one was wonder-struck at her great beauty. But the
prince was smitten beyond all the others, and threw a white silk glove
into her lap.
On the following Sunday she went in the same manner, and
the prince threw the other glove to her. On the third Sunday he cast a
golden apple; but at every time Aske-pjeske hastened out of the church
before the service was over, as has been related above.
When the prince and his attendants came at length to the
mansion, to try on the little gold shoe, the crone shut her stepdaughter
up in the stable, and chopped off her own daughter's heels and toes; but
the prince, nevertheless, would not believe that she was the right one.
The crone then produced the silk gloves and the golden apple, when the
prince could no longer entertain a doubt. At the same moment there came
a little bird and pecked on the easement, and sang:-
"They cut off her heel, they cut off her toe,
In the stable is she whom fits the gold shoe."
The stepmother's falsehood was now detected, and the king's
son was married to Aske-pjeske.
4. According to another variation from South Smâland,
the prince allows himself to be misled by the queen's cunning, so that
he takes the false damsel with him in his carriage, for the purpose of
returning to his own kingdom; but when they had travelled a short distance,
they came to a bridge, where a bird was sitting in a tree, which sang:-
"Chop heel, chop toe;
At home sits the damsel in the bath-room and weeps,
She whom fits the gold shoe."
The prince now found that he had been deceived, and rode
back to the queen's palace, where he found his real beloved in the bath-house,
in which she had been shut by her wicked stepmother.
SKINN-PELS ROR I ASKAN
5. A third version from South Smâland, called
Fröken Skinn-pels Rör i askan, has a long introduction borrowed
from the story of De tre Under-skogarne, i.e. The Three Wonderful Forests.
It tells of a wicked stepmother, who sent her stepdaughter to tend cattle,
hut gave her no food except a morsel of oatmeal bread. When she had eaten
the bread, she sat down under an oak and wept. There then came forth a
huge white bear, that asked her why she was so afflicted. The girl told
him, as was the truth, that she ad been sent out to the field by her wicked
stepmother, and that she had no one to look t6 for help in all the wide
world. The bear replied: "If thou wilt be true to me, I will help
thee." To this the maiden consented, and the bear gave her a pipe
of gold, in which she was to blow whenever she was desirous of speaking
When some time had passed the young damsel began to long
for home. On reaching her stepmother's dwelling she found the crone even
worse than before. "So thou art come back, thou ugly urchin,"
said she; "I thought thou hadst perished with hunger long ago; but
there is no such good luck." The damsel answered that she had received
support from her best friend; so that she had suffered no want. What friend
hast thou had l" inquired the crone. "It is," answered
the maiden, "a huge white animal that is called a bear." "Well,"
replied the crone, "it is fortunate that I have got to know that."
She then consulted with her own daughter how they might lay snares and
entrap the bear. But when the stepdaughter perceived their design, she
went out into the forest sat down under the oak, and blew in her pipe.
Instantly the bear came forth, and the damsel warned him of the crone's
design. The bear said: "Have no fear on that account, I shall take
care of myself."
One day the bear said: "Thou shalt now go away with
me, and then thou wilt escape being longer with thy wicked stepmother.
But one thing thou must promise me, that thou wilt obey me in every thing
that I shall enjoin thee." To this the damsel agreed, and the bear
took her on his back, and thus they departed, travelling over hill and
dale. At length they came to a very large forest; but this forest was
not like other forests, for every, even the smallest, leaf on every tree,
was of bright silver, so that it shed light all around. "Now,"
said the bear, "thou must not touch anything here; for if thou dost,
both thou and I will be most unfortunate." And the damsel promised
not to touch anything. But when they had reached the middle of the forest,
the foliage glittered so beautifully around her, that, forgetting her
promise, she broke off a little silver leaf. There upon the bear said:
"My love, what hast thou done!" The damsel answered: "I
have only broken off a little silver leaf." The bear continued: "That
thou shouldst not have done. It is now a chance whether we escape from
hence with life." At the same moment the whole forest was filled
with a terrific roaring, and from all sides there streamed forth an innumerable
multitude of wild beasts, lions, tigers, and every other kind; and they
all went in pursuit of the bear, and strove to tear him in pieces. Now
the damsel was indeed terrified, and durst not look up, so affrighted
was she. But the bear ran with all his might, and the wild beasts after
him, so that when at length he came out of the forest be was almost dead
with fear and faintness.
Some time after they came to another forest, where every
little leaf was of bright gold, so that it glittered all around. Here
the same took place as before. At last they entered a third forest, much
more extensive than either of the before-mentioned, in which every, even
the smallest, leaf was of the brightest diamond, so that it played and
sparkled far and wide. There also the damsel could not refrain, but broke
a diamond leaf from a tree. Instantly there rushed forth an innumerable
multitude of wild beasts, and the bear ran, the wild beasts after him,
and were so quick upon him that they almost tore him in pieces before
he could get out of the forest.
The bear and the damsel now journeyed on gently; for he
was both weary and wounded, nor did he utter a single word on the way.
At length they came to a clear spring, which flowed out of a mountain,
and there they sat to rest. After having rested awhile, the bear said:
"Here we must part, for now either thou or I must descend into the
fountain." The damsel answered: "In that case it is I that should
go down, seeing I have been so disobedient to thee." "No,"
replied the bear, "that thou, nevertheless, shalt not do; but here
is a knife; take it and kill me, and cast my carcass into the fountain.
Afterwards thou shalt clothe thyself in my skin, and go up to the king's
palace, and beg to be employed in the court. Every time thou needest help
blow in the golden pipe which I gave thee." The damsel durst not
do otherwise than obey, and killed the bear, cast his body into the fountain,
wrapped herself in his skin, and wandered with a heart full of sorrow
up to the king's palace. There she got employment in the kitchen, and
sat in the chimney-corner raking the cinders. But every one was struck
with wonder at her garb and manners, and called her Fröken Skinnpels
rör i askan (Miss Skin-cloak rakes in the ashes).
After this introduction, it is related how the king and
the queen and the young prince, together with their court, go to church,
and the master-cook is also desirous of going. As he had no one to prepare
the king's dinner, he applied to Fröken Skinnpels for assistance.
The damsel long excused herself but finally yielded to his entreaties.
Bo when all the folks were gone their several ways, she took her golden
pipe, blew in it, and said: "Up, my little Pysslings and prepare
a dinner so dainty, that the like was never seen on royal table."
Instantly there appeared a numerous swarm of little Pysslings [See "Northern
Mythology and Traditions," vol. ii. p. 94.], who began to boil, and
roast, and prepare the repast, so as no one ever saw the like. When all
was ready the damsel said: "Bring now my silver habit, for I also
will go to church." Instantly the Pysslings brought forth the most
magnificent of silver habits, and clad Fröken Skinnpels in it, and
kept a careful watch over her. She then proceeded to church, and seated
herself on the bench between the queen and princess. But all the congregation
were amazed at her beauty, and the young prince was so smitten that it
seemed to him he could not live unless he could possess her.
The continuation and end of the story agree with what
is above communicated.
6. A variation from Upland, called "Krâknabba-pelsen"
(Crow's- nib-cloak), has also a long introduction, composed of originally
unconnected fragments. Of these some appear in the introduction to the
story of "Rosalill och Lânga Leda" (see p. 41), and in
the remarks on the same story (Nos. 1 and 2); while, others are borrowed
from a well- known Troll story of a totally unlike kind [See p. 35].
The story treats of a stepdaughter that was sent by her
wicked step mother to tend cattle in the forest without any food. While
she was sitting and weeping, a large black ox came to her and said: "If
thou wilt do as I say, I will help thee:" The girl consented. Then
continued the ox: "Shake my ear, and hold thy apron under."
The girl did so, and got as much delicate food as she could eat.
When she returned from the forest, the hag, her stepmother
was still more cruel towards her than before. It happened one day that
the crone forgot her axe in the rain, and sent her stepdaughter to fetch
it. The girl went, and found three little doves sitting on the haft of
the axe. She spoke to them kindly, caressed them, and gave them food from
her hand. The doves then flew up in a tree, and consulted together how
they should reward her. One of them said: "I wish that every time
she speaks, a gold ring may spring out of her mouth." The second
said: "I wish she may grow fairer and fairer." The third said:
"I wish she may have a king for her husband."
The damsel returned home, and was much more beautiful
than before; whereupon the crone became envious, and sent her own daughter
to the forest to fetch the axe. But the crone's daughter cursed the little
doves, and drove them away. They again flew into the tree, and consulted
together how they should reward her ill-usage. One of them said: "I
wish that every time she speaks a frog may spring out of her mouth."
The second said: "I wish she may grow fouler and fouler every day."
The third said: "And I wish that her nose may grow longer and longer."
And so it came to pass. She became uglier and uglier, and her nose grew
out like a crow's nib, and became so long that she could not open a door.
So she had made a large cloak, which she hung over her nose, to conceal
There was now no good for the stepdaughter in staying
at home; so she went to the black ox, and asked his advice. The ox said:
"Make haste, and take thy sister's crow's nib cloak, then we will
depart from hence. The damsel did so, and when they were on their journey
the ox said: "Here thou hast a piece of a tree, a bottle, and a stone;
east them behind thee, one at a time, when there is need."
After travelling awhile, they perceived the Troll-wife
coming after them, and the damsel east the piece of wood behind her, and
there grew up a large forest; but the crone returned home for her axe,
and hewed down the forest. The girl then east the bottle, and a spacious
lake arose; but the crone went home for her horn, and drank up the whole
lake. At last she east the stone, when a lofty mountain rose up. The crone
now went home for her pickaxe, for the purpose of breaking through the
mountain; hut with her picking and hacking the mountain fell in behind
her, and she never came out.
The continuation accords in its chief points with what
is related above. The stepdaughter comes to a royal palace, where she
gets employment as a stair-sweeper, and rides three Sundays on the back
of the ox, and magnificently clad, to church. The third Sunday the prince
watches at the door, and gets her little shoe. He thereupon issues an
order that all the maidens in the whole country should come to the king's
palace and try on the shoe; but it does not fit the foot of a single one.
A little bird then sings:-
"In the chimney sits the damsel whom the shoe fits.
In the chimney sits the damsel whom the shoe fits."
The prince thereupon goes into the kitchen, finds little
Krâknabba-pelsen, and takes her to wife.
On the wedding-day the stepdaughter goes to the meadow
to see after the black ox. The ox said: "If thou wilt requite me,
take a sword and divide me into three pieces." The damsel did as
he desired, although it pierced her to the heart. A comely young prince
now started up, who had been enchanted, and could never have recovered
the human form without the damsel's aid. Krâknabba-pelsen's marriage
was then celebrated, and with such pomp that it is famed even at the present
7. A variation from Upland, called "Krâkskinns-Maja,
tells of a wicked queen, who had two daughters of her own and a stepdaughter.
When the maidens were grown up, there came a message from a neighbouring
king that they should come to his palace; because he was desirous that
his son should take one of them to wife. Thereupon the queen's daughters
gave their stepsister a soporific potion, because they were envious of
her great beauty, and then took their departure. When the damsel awoke
she instantly set out after them, running as fast as she was able.
As the daughters were riding in their magnificent chariot,
they observed a little apple come rolling out of a field, and crying incessantly:
"Oh! oh! I am freezing." But they had no compassion on the little
apple, and ordered the driver to give it a lash with his whip, to help
it on its way. They then continued their journey, and the apple rolled
on and met the stepdaughter. But she did not do as the others had done,
but immediately stopped, took up the apple, and warmed it in her bosom.
Then said the apple: "Wait until thou art in need, and I will render
thee a service in return."
Shortly after there came a little pear rolling into the
road, and met the three damsels, when all took place as with the apple;
a plum also rolled forth in like manner, crying that it was freezing,
and received from the queen's daughters a lash from the whip, but which
the step daughter warmed in her bosom. Thus did the queen's daughters
arrive at the royal palace, and were received with feastings and many
tokens of honour; but the stepdaughter sought shelter in a little hut
by the wayside. She there clad herself in an old cloak, made solely of
crow-skins, with a veil before her face, and thus wandered up to the royal
palace, and got employment in the kitchen. But the court folks made game
of her wonderful appearance, and called her in derision, "Krâkskinns-Maja."
When Sunday came, and all the folks were gone to church,
the stepdaughter took forth her apple, and wished for a garment of pure
silver. She then said:-
"Light before me,
Darkness after me,
And may no one know whither I go."
And thus she went to church, where she seated herself
between the stepsisters; but they did not recognise her, and the young
prince was so smitten with her beauty, that he could not turn his eyes
on any other object.
The next Sunday passed in like manner. The stepdaughter
took forth her pear, wished for herself a habit of pure gold, and went
to church. On the third Sunday she took her plum, and clothed herself
in a dress wholly of precious stones. As she was hurrying out of church,
the young prince ran after her, when she lost one of her gold shoes. But
the prince took it up, and issued a proclamation, that no one should be
his wife, save her whose foot fitted the little gold shoe.
All the young maidens in the kingdom, of whatever degree,
must now go to the royal palace and try on the shoe; in doing which they
sat behind a curtain, and held forth a foot, each in her turn; but the
gold shoe was always too small, till Krâkskinns-Maja came. Now the
prince was in no little hurry to put aside the curtain, when lo! there
was no longer Krâksinns-Maja, but a beautiful princess entirely
clad in precious stones. Thus did the queen's daughters return home with
shame, and the prince celebrated his nuptials with the stepdaughter. Such
was her reward, because she was discreet and good.
Thorpe, Benjamin. Yule-Tide Stories. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853.