or, The Golden Slipper
(A Serbian Tale)
AS some village girls were spinning
whilst they tended the cattle grazing in the neighbourhood of a ravine,
an old man with a long white beard- so long a beard that it reached to
his girdle-approached them, and said, 'Girls, girls, take care of that
ravine! If one of you should drop her spindle down the cliff, her mother
will be turned into a cow that very moment!'
Having warned them thus, the old man went away again.
The girls, wondering very much at what he had told them, came nearer and
nearer to the ravine, and leant over to look in; whilst doing so one of
the girls-and she the most beautiful of them all-let her spindle fall
from her hand, and it fell to the bottom of the ravine.
When she went home in the evening she found her mother,
changed into a cow, standing before the house; and from that time forth
she had to drive this cow to the pasture with the other cattle.
In a little time the father of the girl married a widow,
who brought with her into the house her own daughter. The stepmother immediately
began to hate the step-daughter, because the girl was incomparably more
beautiful than her own daughter. She forbade her to wash herself, to comb
her hair, or to change her clothes, and sought by every possible way to
torment and scold her. One day she gave her a bag full of hemp, and said,
'If you do not spin all this well and wind it, you need not return home,
for if you do I shall kill you.'
The poor girl, walked behind the cattle and spun as fast
as possible; but at mid-day, seeing how very little she had been able
to spin, she began to weep. When the cow, her mother, saw her weeping,
she asked her what was the matter, and the girl told her all about it.
Then the cow consoled her, and told her not to be anxious. 'I will take
the hemp in my mouth and chew it,' she said, 'and it will come out of
my ear as thread, so that you can draw it out and wind it at once upon
the stick;' and so it happened. The cow began to chew the hemp and the
girl drew the thread from her ear and wound it, so that very soon they
had quite finished the task.
When the girl went home in the evening, and took all the
hemp, worked up, to her stepmother, she was greatly astonished, and next
morning gave her yet more hemp to spin and wind. When at night she brought
that home ready the stepmother thought she must be helped by some other
girls, her friends; therefore the third day she gave her much more hemp
than before. But when the girl had gone with the cow to the pasture, the
woman sent her own daughter after her to find out who was helping her.
This girl went quietly towards her step-sister so as not to be heard,
and saw the cow chewing the hemp and the girl drawing the thread from
her ear and winding it, so she hastened home and told all to her mother.
Then the stepmother urged the husband to kill the cow. At first he resisted;
but, seeing his wife would give him no peace, he at last consented to
do as she wished, and fixed the day on which he would kill it. As soon
as the step daughter heard this she began .to weep, and when the cow asked
her why she wept she told her all about it. But the cow said, 'Be quiet!
do not cry! Only when they kill me take care not to eat any of the meat,
and be sure to gather all my bones and bury them behind the house, and
whenever you need anything come to my grave and you will find help.' So
when they killed the cow the girl refused to eat any of the flesh, saying
she was not hungry, and afterwards carefully gathered all the bones and
buried them behind the house, on the spot the cow had told her.
The real name of this girl was Mary, but as she had worked
so much in the house, carrying water, cooking, washing dishes, sweeping
the house, and doing all sorts of house-work, and had very much to do
about the fire and cinders, her stepmother and half-sister called her
One day the stepmother got ready to go with her own daughter
to church, but before she went she spread over the house a basketful of
millet, and said to her step-daughter, 'You Cinderella! If you do not
gather up all this millet and get the dinner ready before we come back
from church, I will kill you!'
When they had gone to church the poor girl began to weep,
saying to herself: 'It is easy to see after the dinner; I shall soon have
that ready; but who can gather up all this quantity of millet!' At that
moment she remembered what the cow had told her, that in case of need
she should go to her grave and would there find help, so she ran quickly
to the spot, and what do you think she saw there? On the grave stood a
large box full of valuable clothes of different kinds, and on the top
of the box sat two white doves, who said, 'Mary, take out of this box
the clothes which you like best and put them on, and then go to church;
meanwhile we will pick up the millet seeds and put everything in order.'
The girl was greatly pleased, and took the first clothes which came to
hand. These were all of silk, and having put them on she went away to
church. In the church every one, men and women, wondered much at her beauty
and her splendid clothes, but no one knew who she was or whence she came.
The king's son, who happened to be there, looked at her all the time and
admired her greatly. Before the service was ended she stood up and quietly
left the church. Cinderella then ran away home, and as soon as she got
there took off her fine clothes and again laid them in the box, which
instantly shut itself and disappeared.
Then she hurried to the hearth and found the dinner quite
ready, all the millet gathered up, and everything in very good order.
Soon after the step mother came back with her daughter from the church,
and was extremely surprised to find all the millet picked up and everything
so well arranged.
Next Sunday the stepmother and her daughter again dressed
themselves to go to church, and, be fore she went away, the stepmother
threw much more millet about the floor, and said to her step daughter,
'If you do not gather up all this millet, prepare the dinner, and get
everything into the best order, I shall kill you.' When they were gone,
the girl instantly ran to her mother's grave, and there found the box
open as before, with the two doves sitting on its lid. The doves said
to her, 'Dress yourself, Mary, and go to church; we will pick up all the
millet and arrange everything.' Then she took from the box silver clothes,
and having dressed herself, went to church. In the church every one, as
before, admired her very much, and the king's son never moved his eyes
from her. Just before the end of the service the girl again got up very
quietly and stole through the crowd. When she got out of church she ran
away very quickly, took off the clothes, laid them in the box, and went
into the kitchen. When the stepmother and her daughter came home, they
were more surprised than before; the millet was gathered up, dinner was
ready, and everything in the very best order. They wondered very much
how it was all done.
On the third Sunday the stepmother dressed her self to
go with her daughter to church, and again scattered millet about on the
ground, but this time far more than on the other Sundays. Before she went
out she said to her step-daughter, 'If you do not gather up all this millet,
prepare the dinner, and have everything in order when I come from church,
I will kill you!' The instant they were gone, the girl ran to her mother's
grave, and found the box open with the two white doves sitting on the
lid. The doves told her to dress herself and go to church, and to have
no care about the millet or dinner.
This time she took clothes all of real gold out of the
box, and, having put them on, went away to the church. In the church all
the people looked at her and admired her exceedingly. Now the king's son
had resolved not to let her slip away as before, but to watch where she
went. So, when the service was nearly ended, and she stood up to leave
the church, the king's son followed her, but was not able to reach her.
In pushing through the crowd, however, Mary somehow in her hurry lost
the slipper from her right foot and had no time to look for it. This slipper
the king's son found, and took care of it. When the girl got home she
took off the golden clothes and laid them in the box, and went immediately
to the fire in the kitchen.
The king's son, having determined to find the maiden,
went all over the kingdom, and tried the slipper on every girl, but in
some cases it was too long, in others too short, and, in fact, it did
not fit any of them. As he was thus going about from one house to the
other, the king's son came at last to the house of the girl's father,
and the stepmother, seeing the king's son coming, hid her step-daughter
in a wash- trough before the house. When the king's son came in with the
slipper and asked if there were any girl sin the house, the woman answered
'Yes,' and brought out her own daughter. But when the slipper was tried
it was found it would not go even over the girl's toes. Then the king's
son asked if no other girl was there, and the stepmother said, 'No, there
is no other in the house.' At that moment the cock sprung upon the wash-trough,
and crowed out 'Cock-a-doodle-do!-here she is under the wash- trough!'
The stepmother shouted, 'Go away! may the eagle fly away
with you!' But the king's son, hearing that, hurried to the wash-trough,
and lifted it up, and what did he see there! The same girl who had been
in the church, in the same golden clothes in which she had appeared the
third time there, but lying under the trough and with only one slipper
on. When the king's son saw her, he nearly lost his senses for the moment,
he was so very glad. Then he quickly tried to place the slipper he carried
on her right foot, and it fitted her exactly, besides perfectly matching
with the other slipper on her left foot. Then he took her away with him
to his palace and married her.
Denton, Rev. W., editor. Serbian Folk-lore:
Popular Tales selected and translated by Madame Csedomille Mijatovics. London, 1874. Pp. 59-66. (Reprinted New York: Benjamin Blom, 1968).