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Fairy Tales of Ludwig Bechstein
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  1. The Golden Roebuck
  2. Two Heavily Dressed Millers
  3. Seven Wayward Sons
  4. A Mother's Tears

The Golden Roebuck

Once on a time there were two poor children named Margaret and Henry. They were sister and brother. Their parents were dead and had left them nothing, so they were forced to beg their bread. They were too young to work hard. Henry was scarcely twelve years old and Margaret still younger. Every evening they would knock at some door, and many and many a time they were kindly taken in and given something to eat and drink, and perhaps some little new piece of clothing.

One evening they came to a cottage that was standing by itself. They tapped at the window and asked an old woman who put out her head, whether they could stop with her for the night. "For my part," she answered, "I will keep you all night, but my husband is a grim troll, and if he gets to know it you are lost, for he eats anything young and tender, and therefore all the little children in his way."


When the children heard this they were terribly frightened; but it was already dark and they could go no further. So they let the old woman hide them in a large tub. There they rested as quiet as mice, but they could not sleep. In about an hour's time they heard the heavy tread of the troll. As soon as he came in, he began to scold his wife because she had not prepared any food for supper. In the morning he left the house again and made such a noise going away that the children were awakened from their sleep by it.

As soon as they were up and dressed the woman gave them some breakfast. When they had finished, she said to them, "Here are two brooms; now go upstairs and brush out all the rooms but one. There are twelve rooms in all, but you must only dust eleven and not meddle with the twelfth. Meanwhile I must go out. If you work hard, all may be done till I return."

The children set to at once and soon finished the eleven rooms; but Margaret was very curious to know what was in the twelfth room. Still, she dared not open the door, because they had been forbidden. Instead she peeped through the key-hole. Inside she saw a beautiful little cart with a little golden roebuck harnessed to it. She called to Henry at once, that he might peep too. After looking cautiously out to see that the old woman was not returning, they unlocked the door and went in. The roebuck said, "Who rides the cart, has a right to it." The astonished children drew the cart out in the yard, got into it and drove off as fast as they could. But after driving some little distance, they saw the old woman and her grim husband coming towards them on the same road. "Alas, my dear sister," cried Henry, "what shall we do? If the old woman discovers us, we are lost."

Margaret said, "I know a witching spell. I learnt it from Grandmother." She repeated,

Red rose, rose-how.
Show me as a rose right now.

At once they were changed into a rosebush. Margaret was the flower, Henry the thorns, the roebuck the stem and the cart formed the leaves.

In a short time the man-eater and his wife came up to them. The wife wanted to pluck the pretty rose, but the thorns pricked her finger so deeply that it bled and hastily drew back.

As soon as the old wretches were gone away, the children took back their natural forms and hastened on till they came to a baker's oven. It was full of bread. Out of its mouth came a voice which said, "Draw my bread, draw my bread!"

Margaret hurried and drew the loaves out and put them in the cart.

Then they went on further and came to a huge pear-tree, full of ripe fruit. From the tree came a voice, "Shake down my pears, shake down my pears!"

Margaret shook the tree at once, while Henry gathered up the fruit and put it in the cart.

Next they came to a grape-vine. It shouted, "Pluck my grapes, pluck my grapes!"

Margaret plucked them also and put them in the golden cart.

But in the meantime the man-eater and his wife got home and discovered to their great horror that the golden cart and the roebuck were all gone. The man-eater and his wife had robbed the cart and roebuck many years before. It was a special cart, for wherever it went, gifts were given to it from all sides, such as from trees and bushes, ovens and grape-vines. In this way man-eater and his wife had lived on good kinds of food for many years. The wife told about the two children who had been in the house while she was away, so they ran out and searched for the children in the hope of overtaking them. The couple hurried along with huge strides.

The children had stopped at a large pond when they heard the couple from afar. There was neither ferry nor bridge to carry them over. Only a flock of ducks were swimming about there. Margaret made the ducks swim to the shore by throwing bread to them. Then she sung,

Little ducks, little ducks, swim feather to feather
and make us a bridge to cross together.

The ducks did at once as she wished and formed a bridge. The children, the roebuck and the cart went over it and reached the other side safely.

Close behind them on the side they left, the man-eater came running along. As soon as he reached the shore, he bellowed the spell he had misheard,

Little ducks, little ducks, swim feather to feather
and form us a bridge we can walk on together . . .

The ducks accordingly formed themselves into a bridge again, and the two old wretches started walking over it. But when the couple had come to the middle of the pond where the water was deepest, the ducks had had enough of their heavy and trampling feet, so they plumped the couple into the water and swam away.

Henry and Margaret afterwards became very wealthy people. They remembered how bitterly they had suffered when they themselves had been beggars, and therefore gave away liberally to all the poor around them, for they had supplies enough, they said.

[AT 313 + 480]


Two Heavily Dressed Millers

Once on a time there lived a miller. Although he was naturally very strong and well, yet he wished to make himself proof against all blows or stabs or strokes of any kind. So he had some remarkable clothing made for him: First he had a carefully stuffed jacket, as heavy and sword-proof as any breast-plate ever worn by a knight.

Underneath this jacket he wore two coats of mail and nine woollen coats, and his legs were covered by more than four pair of strong leather trousers.

When the miller was dressed in this way he was quite as broad as he was long. He could get in and out of the city-gate only with some difficulty.

Every year when he attended church on St. Oswald's Day he went armed from head to foot in the most formidable manner, in a wagon drawn by six stout oxen. He was armed with two spears and a crossbow; at his side hung a double-hilted sword as long as himself and at his feet lay a second bow with a quiver full of arrows.

After him walked all his tenants and servants, with their wives and children.

When the ball-round miller at length came to church, he had to be raised from his wagon by means of cranes and ladders.

Now there was another miller in the neighbourhood who was quite as big and strong and quite as round as the first miller. He too wore a well-stuffed and strong-made jacket.

These two millers had hated and quarrelled with each other for a long time. Every holiday that they chanced to meet, they were sure to end up fighting, Neither of them could conquer the other, so they both came to be feared as two mighty warriors.

Now one of these millers had a son and the other a daughter and their loved one another. This only served to increase the feud between their fathers, till at last the friends of each set to work to reconcile them, and succeeded so well that the couple was engaged to be married.

As soon as the report of this was made known, there was a great outcry, for most people agreed that the two ball-round millers together could crush everyone between them like two millstones. Besides, the two millers could not be easily starved out, since within their wide coats they could carry as many sacks of meal as they needed for a long time.

It was a source of joy to many when the two millers agreed to fight together against enemies of the country and asked no other reward than the glory and honour of doing it. But rather soon they began to complain that they had no enemies to fight, for the renown of their might spread so far and wide that all were cautious of attacking them. In this way the two ball-round millers ended up without enemies to fight.

[AT 1853 - Retold]


Seven Wayward Sons

A great many years ago there was a woman who had seven sons and one daughter, The daughter was much younger than her brothers. Their father was a careful and hard-working craftsman and was never in want of work. He earned enough to feed and clothe all his children, and also enough to enable his wife, by good management, to lay by a little against sickness and accidents.

He died in the prime of life, however, and his widow soon fell into distress and difficulty, for she was quite unable to earn enough to feed and clothe eight children. The seven boys were growing fast. Every day they seemed to be more and more hungry and unruly. The widow tried hard to bear her troubles and bring up her children to honest and decent people, but the boys did just as they liked.

At last she lost patience with them. One day, when they had vexed and grieved her more than usual, she exclaimed, "Oh, I wish you were seven black crows that I could drive away from here!"

She had hardly said it when her seven sons were changed into black crows and flew away.

The mother now lived alone with her young daughter. They were able to work quietly and steadily, and earned more than they needed.

The daughter grew up and became a pretty girl. As years rolled on, she longed to see the seven brothers again, and her mother did too. They often talked of them and how happy all could be if the boys could return and be with them.

One day the girl said, "Mother, let me go and search my brothers to bring them back. Then they can support you in your old age too."

"Oh, dear daughter!" answered the mother, "I cannot keep you from such a good thing, so go along."

The girl set out after putting on her little finger the ring she had worn when her seven brothers had first gone away. On she wandered, finding no trace of her brothers until she came to a high mountain. On the top of it she thought she saw a little hut. As she looked at intently at it she thought, "Perhaps my brothers live there."

At the same moment she saw seven black crows fly from the hut, and thought she had found them. Joyfully she began to climb the hill, but the path up was strewn with slippery stones and covered with moss, so that she slipped back almost every step she took.

The girl sighed and wished that she had goose wings that she might fly up. That was a vain wish, however. But at last, after much toil she got up anyway and found the little hut. She walked in. Within she found seven little tables, seven little stools and seven little beds. In the oven stood seven little dishes, Roast fowls and broiled eggs were laid on them.

The girl was weary and hungry with her long journey and was glad enough to rest a while. Taking the seven dishes out of the oven, she ate a little piece from each, sat down on each of the seven stools and lay for a little while in each of the beds. In the seventh bed she fell fast asleep. She lay there when the brothers came back.

They came flying in through the door, all of them, took their dishes from the oven and sat down to eat. All saw at once that a piece of each dish was missing, but none of them said anything. When they had eaten, they headed for their beds. Again, each crow found his bed tumbled.

When the seventh looked at his, he raised a loud cry, "There is a lovely girl in my bed! Come and look!"

The others came at once and saw the sleeping girl. They were astonished.

"Is this our sister?" asked one crow of the other, and one exclaimed.

"Yes, yes, it is! This is the ring that she used to wear on her thumb and now has on her little finger."

Then they all kissed their sister and talked together, but she was so fast asleep that all their noise did not wake her.

At last she opened, her eyes and saw her seven black brothers sitting round the bed. "Ah, dear brothers, at last I have found you! How glad I am to see you!" she began. "It was a long, wearisome journey to find you. And now, Mother gladly welcomes you back."

The seven brothers wept bitterly while their sister was speaking and told her that they had never stopped grieving for losing their home. Living as crows had been very miserable until they built themselves a house, and they had often suffered terribly from hunger.

The sister said once again that when their mother saw them again, she could bring them back to their human forms again.

Before they started for home the crows opened a strong oak box and gave to their sister, saying, "Take these beautiful gold rings and bright diamonds along with you in your apron. We saw them and picked them up up here and there because they were glittering and shiny, but now they may bring us food and clothing."

The sister did as her brothers asked her. As soon as they reached their childhood home, the seven crows flew in at the window of the room where their mother was sitting, and their sister soon joined them. Their mother granted their prayer while tears of joy were running down her cheeks. At once they became humans again. They were now seven handsome, well-made youths. When they had sold a jewel, the mother and sister could sew them clothes.

Soon after each of these young men got a fair wife each, and built a new, very large house for all of them for what they got for a handful of other jewels. And when the sister married soon after, they would not let her to live far away from them, but had build a house for her and her husband very close by. Their old mother found it good to move in with her daughter in the newly built house. There she could also pamper her grandchildren, herself cared for by her daughter and seven sons.

[AT 451 - Retold]


A Mother's Tears

In a village there was a mother with a little girl that she loved so dearly that she could not bear her to be out of her sight. But one day a serious disease broke out among the children of the village. After three days and nights in bed the little girl died.

The bereaved mother grieved so much that she would not eat or drink. But during the third night she thus sat grieving by the bed her daughter had died in, the door of the room was gently opened and the mother saw her dead child standing before her. The girl looked sweetly at her mother and said. "Dear mother," she said, "do not weep for me all the time. Know I am happy in high heaven. So, do not weep so much any longer, for I am much happier than on earth."

With these words the child vanished. The mother dried her eyes and stopped weeping.

[AT 769]



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