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Mermaid Love

When a very rich knight died, his widow moved with their only child to a castle in the middle of a lake. The child grew in beauty and understanding, but he was always very pale and withdrawn. He had chosen a room with a good view of the surrounding lake. Ever so often he would look dreamily over the lake.

When he was twenty-four years old, his mother urged him to choose a bride instead of leading a lonely life, but he would not. One evening he felt sad because of his mother's promptings, he leaned at the open window and saw the moon reflecting in the water. He thought of a bride and how she had to be like in order to please him. Tired, he went to bed, but forgot to close the window.

Suddenly he noticed a bright glow at the window. He looked up, but could not distinguish anything. He was about to fall asleep when the curtain of the bed was swept aside and a female with silk hair and light robes stood beside it. In the subdued moonlight he saw she was a pale, beautiful woman. She lay down beside him, they talked with each other and the night passed.

In the morning, the woman was gone, but if he left his windows open at nights a woman would come in and lie beside him, and he was happy. After some time he wanted to see her by day too, for he sometimes felt it was not the same woman who came to him. And besides, his mother pressed him to find a bride, even a poor bride, if only he would marry.

However, the one who slept with him would say, "My dear, I cannot marry in your ways. Let us be man and wife as we have been up till now instead.

But the young nobleman's mother had secretly looked for a bride for her son. She hurried and decided when the marriage was to be. On the first day of the wedding people were dancing until the early morning. On the second day the guests were eating and drinking by long tables. On the third day, several women led the bride to the bridegroom's chamber. When they entered, the curtains of the four-poster's bedstead rustled so much that it alarmed the bride, but the bridegroom laughed it away.

When the other women left and the bride went into the bed, she found there was someone there already, a woman, a mermaid. Her icy cold breath made the bride shrink to the edge of the bed. On the other side of the mermaid the bridegroom lay down. So it was every night; a mermaid lay between them. The young man had in mind to embrace his bride also, but she was so grieved that she pined away and died within a year, still a virgin.

The same thing happened to ten more women that the mother chose for her son. All died within a year after marrying him. He got quite a reputation.

However, the twelfth bride-to-be asked a wise woman what to do to survive marrying him.

The woman answered, "The eleven first wives died because of mermaids, but you can protect yourself."

Then the woman told her how to save herself and her husband from the mermaids. The bride was to keep the bedroom windows tightly shut on the third wedding day, so that no one could come in through them. And in the midnight hour she was to chant a spell and throw special herbs under their bed. Her husband would then still yearn for the view of the lake and would get restless and want to open a window to get fresh air, but she had to hold him back. He was not to open any window at all that night, said the wise woman. If the bride did not carry through all she was told to do, the mermaids would overcome her husband, and that might be the end of him.

At the wedding the bride carried through everything she had been told. When midnight came on the third wedding day, there came plaintive tones from outside the bed chamber. Her husband wanted to get out of bed and see what it was; something about those sounds apparently overcame him. However, the bride managed to keep him back by silently repeating a charm that the wise woman had taught her.

She held him back until long past midnight. She felt there was someone else in the moon-lit bed chambers still, for the bed curtains were opened, and twelve times there was a sigh. The bride intoned another charm and prayed with her husband, as he had not even thought of praying the last twelve years.

All through the late night they heard wild singing and water rushing. The water in the lake rose so high that waves licked the bedchamber windows. But at long last the night was won, and peace came along with it.

One year afterwards the new lady of the castle had a boy, and there was much rejoicing in the castle. However, the wise woman had cautioned the wife not to let go of her child at any time before the twelfth day, so the child was baptised only on the thirteenth day. During the ceremony they heard children's voices from the corners of the room, "I would also like a splash of water like that, I would also like it." But there was no one to be seen.

Twelve children hopped forward at once. They were pale and water-coloured, but beautiful, with silk hair, webbed toes and connected feet. The count was terrified to see them. When the priest baptised them, all but one of the pale children fell dead to the floor. The last of them managed to squeeze out these words before he died, he too:

"A human is our father; twelve water women are our mothers. We were not wholly humans, not wholly water folks, but now we are released from that fate. Also know that the water women bought themselves three hundred years of youth and beauty by loving our father."

[Schönwerth § 11. "Mermaid Love", No. 2. Retold.]

The Miracle Bird

A broom-maker with an only daughter once went into the forest to fetch twigs to make more brooms of, saying to himself as he walked along, "A bundle of twigs tied to a handle - a broom. Another bundle of twigs tied to another handle - another broom". As he walked along, a little bird kept running to and fro in front of him. He caught the bird, took it home and put it in a cage. There it began so beautifully that they had never heard the like of it.

One morning when the broom-maker fed the bird, there was an egg in the cage, and the egg looked like gold. The daughter was sent to market to sell it. As she sat there, a great man came, saw the egg and asked what it cost. The girl said she thought he himself knew how much it was worth, and then the great man gave her a bag of gold for it. She took the gold and went home, full of joy.

The next day the little bird again laid an egg. The girl carried it to market, and the gentleman again came. This time he gave her two bags of gold for the egg. At the same time he asked if the bird was for sale.

"Oh yes," she answered, "at the right price."

The gentleman soon paid a lot of gold for the bird, so much that the broom-maker gave up his business and lived happily with his daughter.

However, in the home of the gentleman the caged bird did not sing any longer, but looked very sad, ate nothing, and died. The gentleman was sorry for it all. Then, when he took the bird out of the cage to try to see what it had died of, he noticed a note in the beak of the bird. On the note was written,

Whoever eats my head, will find a bag of gold under his head every morning when waking up, and whoever eats my heart will come to rule the country.

"Not bad at all," thought the gentleman, "but who could have put the note there?" He puzzled over it a little, but could not find out of it. Instead he wanted to see if the message was right, and had the bird cooked at once. While his cook was roasting the bird on a spit, two hungry boys came in and begged for food. The cook said they had to wait till she had roasted the bird.

As the boys stood beside her and watched, a little piece of food fell down from the spit. The oldest boy bent down, took it up from the ashes and ate it. After some time another piece fell down. The cook did not mind, for the pieces were tiny, and she had not been instructed to keep what might fall down from the spit. This time the youngest boy bent down and ate the little piece. But the two pieces that had fallen from the bird on the spit, were the head and the heart of the bird.

When the bird was roasted, the cook put it on the table, and the gentleman ate it in a good mood, halfway hoping for a miracle. But as he got up the next day and hoped to find a bag gold under his pillow, he was disappointed. There was no such bag to be found.

The two boys walked on until night fell on, and asked a farmer for shelter overnight. They got it. In return they were to spread straw on the stable floor before they went to sleep in the barn on some bales of straw he showed them. When they woke up in the morning, the oldest brother had a bag of gold under his head. He thought the farmer wanted to test their honesty, and gave him the bag. The farmer took the gold and wanted to keep the boy with him, but the two brothers said they wanted to try their luck further, and left the farm.

On the second night they got overnight shelter at another farm, and the same thing happened as before. This farmer gave them some of the gold coins in the bag to have something on the way. They thought they had got just some worthless coins, so they did not try to buy anything with them on their way that day.

By now they had started to wonder whether there was something weird about the bag and decided to sleep in a corn field the third night. When they woke up next morning, there was a bag with much gold in it under the older boy's head. This time they kept the gold themselves, for they saw no one else around, and besides they thought the coins were worthless.

After a while they came to a town. It was after school, and the school boys were talking with one another in the street and playing with coins. The two brothers asked if they could join in playing, they too. The other boys let them join. The two boys lost all their coins to the son of a merchant. The winner went joyfully home and showed the coins to his father. The father asked him very soon where he had got the coins, for they were of gold. When his son told him he had won them from two beggar boys, the father though they had stolen the money and went to look for them. He found them on the road.

The merchant took the boys with him home, and when he found out how they had got the gold, he kept them as his adopted children. And each morning he found a bag of gold pieces under the head of the eldest of the two boys, so in a short time he was the richest man in town.

The boys were very diligent, and the oldest soon took it so far that the merchant gave him a job in his business, to learn the trade and keep the gold coming.

Now the king of the country had died without an heir. The officials of the kingdom issued orders in the city that all young men between 18 and 24 years should come on a particular day to the town hall. A dove would be released as they were gathered there, and if she settled on any had, that one would be the new king of the country.

The young men came on the appointed day and were all dressed up for the great event. The dove was let out, but she did not settle on any of them, but fluttered restlessly in the hall.

"Are all young men here?" the officials asked, and when they looked closely they discovered that the two adopted children of the merchant were missing. The two boys were sent for, and the dove at once came and settled on the head of the youngest one, and there she would stay.

In this way the youngest of the brothers became the king of the country, and his eldest brother left the merchant and soon was the richest of all there for as long as he lived, as he came to loads of riches while sleeping.

[Retold]

Healing a Blind Princess

A prince had been driven out of his country by enemies and wandered around in a foreign country. At last he lived just in caves and forests there. One morning when he woke up in a cave, a scary dwarf was standing next to him. Outside was a donkey. The dwarf offered the weary prince to ride on his very thin and bony animal.

After a while they came to a hut. But just as they came to the place, a band of robbers fell on them and wanted to kill the prince and the dwarf. The donkey, however, made such a noise that the robbers fled, and in such a hurry that they left behind the money they had been carrying.

The dwarf loaded the money on the donkey, and then they travelled on till they came to a city. There was great sorrow there, for the beautiful princess had gone blind. Whoever could bring back her eyesight, should get her as his wife, the king had decreed. The dwalf told the prince to dress up well, now that they had come by money. Meanwhile the dwarf left led his donkey to a shrub where it was allowed to nibble until it dropped some hard dung. The dwarf picked up these pieces, wrapped them in and gave them to the prince, and told him to go to the court and tell he was a doctor. He was to place the pieces on the eyes of the princess; then she would regain her eyesight at once, he said.

So the now well dressed, stately prince left for the blind princess. He did as the dwarf had told him, and the princess was healed on the spot and became his bride. After the marriage he wanted to find the dwarf and thank him, but he was gone, and with him the simple way to make the blind see again, was gone too.

[Schönwerth, Sitten und Sagen, 3.24.5]

The White Woman of Reichenberg Castle

Reichenberg Castle lies near Heidingsfeld. There is a legend of a white woman at the place. When something important to the family is about to happen, she can be seen in the rooms of the building, wearing a long, white garment. Nobody has dared to speak to her to this day.

[Schöppner, No. 1343]

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