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Little Snow-White

Once on a time in the middle of winter, when the flakes of snow were falling like feathers from the sky, a queen sat at a window sewing. The window frame was made of black ebony. While she was sewing and looking out of the window at the snow, she pricked her finger with the needle, and three drops of blood fell on the snow. She thought the red looked pretty on the white snow, and thought to herself, "Would that I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood of the window-frame."

Soon after that she had a little daughter. She was as white as snow, and as red as blood, and her hair was as black as ebony. She was therefore called Little Snow-white. But when the child was born, the queen died.

After a year had passed the king took to himself another wife. She looked beautiful, but was proud and haughty. And she could not bear that anyone else should surpass her in beauty. She had a wonderful looking-glass, and when she stood in front of it and looked at herself in it, and said:

"Looking-glass, looking-glass, on the wall,
Who in this land is the fairest of all?"

The looking-glass answered:

"You, queen, are the fairest of all!"

Then she was satisfied, for she knew that the looking-glass spoke the truth.

But Snow-white was growing up and grew more and more beautiful. When she was seven years old she was as beautiful as the day, and more beautiful than the queen herself. And once when the queen asked her looking-glass,

"Looking-glass, looking-glass, on the wall,
Who in this land is the fairest of all?"

it answered:

"You are fairer than all who are here, queen."
But more beautiful still is Snow-white, I think."

The queen was shocked and turned yellow and green with envy. From that hour, whenever she looked at Snow-white, her heart heaved in her breast: she hated the girl so much. Envy and pride grew higher and higher in her heart like a weed, so that she had no peace day or night. She called a huntsman, and said, "Take the child away into the forest; I will no longer have her in my sight. Kill her and bring me back her heart as a proof."

The huntsman obeyed and took her away; but when he had drawn his knife and was about to pierce Snow-white's innocent heart, she began to weep and said, "Ah dear huntsman, leave me my life! I will run away into the wild forest, and never come home again."

And as she was such a pure and innocent child, the huntsman said, "Run away, then, poor child."

"The wild beasts will soon have devoured you," thought he, and yet it seemed as if a stone had been rolled from his heart since it was no longer needful for him to kill her. And as a young boar just then came running by, he stabbed it and cut out its heart and took it to the queen as proof that the child was dead.

The child was all alone in the great forest, terrified and without knowing what to do. She began to run, and ran over sharp stones and through thorns. Wild beasts ran past her, but did her no harm.

She ran as long as her feet would go until it was almost evening. Then she saw a little cottage and went into it to rest herself. Everything in the cottage was small, but very neat and clean. On a table was a white cover and seven little plates, and on each plate a little spoon. There were also seven little knives and forks and seven little mugs. Against the wall stood seven little beds side by side and covered with snow-white bedspreads.

Little Snow-white was so hungry and thirsty that she ate some vegetables and bread from each plate and drank a drop of wine out of each mug, for she did not wish to take all from one only. Then, as she was so tired, she laid herself down on one of the little beds, but none of them suited her: one was too long, another too short, but at last she found that the seventh one was just right. So she remained in it, said a prayer and went to sleep.

When it was quite dark the owners of the cottage came home; they were seven dwarfs who dug and delved in the mountains for ore. They entered with their seven lit seven candles, and in the light they saw that someone had been there, for everything was not in the same order as when they had left it.

The first said, "Who's been sitting on my chair?"

The second, "Who's been eating off my plate?"

The third, "Who's been taking some of my bread?"

The fourth, "Who's been eating my vegetables?"

The fifth, "Who's been using my fork?"

The sixth, "Who's been cutting with my knife?"

The seventh, "Who's been drinking out of my mug?"

Then the first looked round and saw that there was a little hole on his bed, and he said, "Who's been getting into my bed?" The others came up and each called out, "Somebody has been lying in my bed too."

But when the seventh looked at his bed he saw little Snow-white who was lying asleep in it. He called the others, and they came running up and cried out with astonishment. Slowly they let the lights from their seven little candles fall on little Snow-white. "Oh, heavens! oh, heavens!" cried they, "what a lovely child!" and they were so glad that they did not wake her up, but let her sleep on in the bed. And the seventh dwarf slept with his companions, one hour with each, and so got through the night.

When it was morning, little Snow-white awoke and was frightened when she saw the seven dwarfs. But they were friendly and asked her what her name was.

"My name is Snow-white," she answered.

"How have you come to our house?" said the dwarfs. Then she told them that her step-mother had wished to have her killed, but that the huntsman had spared her life. Then she had run for the whole day until at last she had found their cottage. The dwarfs said, "If you will take care of our house, cook, make the beds, wash, sew and knit, and if you will keep everything neat and clean, you can stay with us and want for nothing."

"Yes," said Snow-white, "with all my heart," and she stayed with them and kept the house in order for them. In the mornings they went to the mountains and looked for copper and gold, in the evenings they came back, and then their supper had to be ready.

The girl was alone the whole day, so the good dwarfs warned her and said, "Beware of your step-mother, she will soon know that you are here; be sure to let no one come in."

But the queen, believing that she was rid of Snow-white, could not but think that she was again the first and most beautiful of all. She went to her looking-glass and said:

"Looking-glass, looking-glass, on the wall,
Who in this land is the fairest of all?"

And the glass answered:

"Well, you are fairest of all I see,
But over the hills, where the seven dwarfs live,
Snow-white is still alive and well,
And none is so fair as she."

Then the bad queen was astounded, for she knew that the looking-glass never spoke falsely. She soon understood that the huntsman must have fooled her and that little Snow-white was still alive. She thought and thought again how she might kill her, for so long as she herself was not the fairest in the whole land, envy let her have no rest. When the queen had at last thought of something to do, she painted her face and dressed herself like an old pedler-woman. No one could have known her. In this disguise she went over the seven mountains to the seven dwarfs, and knocked at the door and cried, "Pretty things to sell, very cheap, very cheap."

Little Snow-white looked out of the window and called out, "Hello, my good woman, what have you to sell?"

"Good things, pretty things," she answered; "tight underwear of all colours," and she pulled out one which was woven of bright-coloured silk.

"I may let the worthy old woman in," thought Snow-white, and she unbolted the door and bought the pretty laces.

"Child," said the old woman, "what a fright you look; come, I will lace you properly for once."

Snow-white had no suspicion, but stood before her and let herself be laced with the new laces. But the old woman laced so quickly and so tightly that Snow-white lost her breath and fell down as if dead.

"Now I am the most beautiful," said the queen to herself, and ran away.

Not long afterwards the seven dwarfs came home in the evening. How shocked they were when they saw their dear little Snow-white lying on the ground. She neither stirred nor moved and seemed to be dead. They lifted her up, but as they saw that she was laced too tightly, they cut the laces;. Then she began to breathe a little, and after a while came to life again. When the dwarfs heard what had happened they said, "The old pedler-woman was no one else than the wicked Queen; take care and let no one come in when we are not with you."

But the wicked woman when she had reached home went in front of the glass and asked:

"Looking-glass, looking-glass, on the wall,
Who in this land is the fairest of all?"

And it answered as before:

"Well, queen, you are fairest of all I see,
But over the hills, where the seven dwarfs dwell,
Snow-white is still alive and well,
And none is so fair as she."

When she heard that, all her blood rushed to her heart with fear, for she saw plainly that little Snow-white was again alive.

"But now," she said, "I'll think of something that will put an end to you," and by the help of witchcraft she made a poisonous comb. Then she disguised herself and took the shape of another old woman. She went over the seven mountains to the seven dwarfs again, knocked at the door, and cried, "Good things to sell, cheap, cheap!"

Little Snow-white looked out and said, "Go away; I cannot let anyone come in."

"I suppose you can look," said the old woman, and pulled the poisonous comb out and held it up. It pleased the girl so well that she opened the door. When they had made a bargain the old woman said, "Now I will comb you properly for once."

Little Snow-white had no suspicion and let the old woman do as she pleased, but hardly had she put the comb in her hair than the poison in it took effect, and the girl fell down senseless.

"Now at last I've done away with you!" said the wicked woman and went away.

But it was almost evening, the time when the seven dwarfs came home. When they saw Snow-white lying as if dead on the ground they at once suspected the step-mother. They earched the girl and found the poisoned comb. Scarcely had they taken it out when Snow-white came to herself and told them what had happened. Then they warned her once more to be on her guard and to open the door to no one.

The queen, at home, went in front of the glass and said:

"Looking-glass, looking-glass, on the wall,
Who in this land is the fairest of all?"

Then it answered as before:

"Well, you are fairest of all I see,
But over the hills, where the seven dwarfs dwell,
Snow-white is still alive and well,
And none is so fair as she."

When she heard the glass speak like that she trembled and shook with rage. "Snow-white shall die," she cried, "even if it costs me my life!"

Then she went into a quite secret, lonely room where no one ever came, and made a very poisonous apple. Outside it looked pretty white with a red cheek, but whoever ate a piece of it must surely die.

When the apple was ready, she painted her face and dressed herself up as a country-woman. Then she went over the seven mountains to the seven dwarfs again and knocked at the door. Snow-white put her head out of the window and said, "I cannot let anyone in; the seven dwarfs have forbidden me to do so."

"It's all the same to me," answered the woman, "I shall soon get rid of my apples. There, I'll give you one."

"No," said Snow-white, "I dare not take anything."

"Are you afraid of poison?" said the old woman; "look, I will cut the apple in two pieces; you eat the red cheek, and I will eat the white."

The apple was so cunningly made that only the red cheek was poisoned. Snow-white longed for the fine apple, and when she saw that the woman ate part of it she could resist no longer. She stretched out her hand and took the poisonous half. But hardly had she got a bit of it in her mouth than she fell down dead. Then the queen looked at her with a dreadful look, laughed aloud and said, "White as snow, red as blood, black as ebony-wood! this time the dwarfs cannot wake you up."

And when she asked of the looking-glass at home:

"Looking-glass, looking-glass, on the wall,
Who in this land is the fairest of all?"

it answered at last:

"Hm, in this land you are still the fairest of all
As long as it lasts.
But age is wont to take its toll, you know."

Then her envious heart had slightly more rest.

The dwarfs, when they came home in the evening, found Snow-white lying on the ground, without breathing, as far as they could tell. They lifted her up, looked to see whether they could find anything poisonous, unlaced her, combed her hair, washed her with water and wine, but it was all of no use; the poor child lay still and unmoving. They laid her on a bier, and all seven of them sat round it and wept for her, and wept two days long.

She still looked as if she was alive, and still had her pretty red cheeks, so they said, "We cannot bury her in the dark ground." So they had a transparent coffin of glass made, so that she could be seen from all sides. There were many small, round holes in the coffin too, just in case Snow-white was alive. They had been mistaken many times before already. Then they laid Snow-white in it and wrote her name on it in golden letters, and that she was a king's daughter. They put the coffin out on the mountain, and one of them was to stay by it and keep guard. Birds came too and wept for Snow-white; first an owl, then a raven, and last a dove.

Now Snow-white lay for many hours in the glass coffin. She did not change, but looked as if she were asleep - as white as snow, as red as blood, and with hair as black as ebony.

Now a king's son came into the forest. He saw the coffin on the mountain, and the beautiful Snow-white within it, and read what was written on it in golden letters. Then he said to the dwarf who stood on guard, "Let me have the coffin, I will give you whatever you want for it."

The guardian dwarf summoned the others, and they answered, "We will not part with it for all the gold in the world."

Then he said, "Let me have it as a gift, then, for I cannot live without seeing Snow-white. I will honour and prize her."

As he spoke in this way the good dwarfs took pity on him, and gave him the coffin. Now the king's son had it carried away by his servants on their shoulders. As they walked along with it, they chanced to stumble over a tree-stump and lose the coffin on the ground. The thump made the poisonous piece of apple that Snow-white had bitten off come out of her throat. Before long she opened her eyes, lifted up the lid of the coffin, sat up, and was alive!

"Oh, heavens, where am I?" she cried. The king's son, full of joy, said, "You are with me." He told her what had happened, and said, "I love you more than everything in the world; come with me to my father's palace and be my wife."

Snow-white was willing and went with him, and their wedding was held with great show and splendour. Snow-white's wicked step-mother was also bidden to the feast. When she had arrayed herself in beautiful clothes she went before the looking-glass, and said:

"Looking-glass, looking-glass, on the wall,
Who in this land is the fairest of all?"

The glass answered:

"Well, queen, of all here the fairest you are,
But the young queen is fairer by far."

Then the wicked woman cursed and was so wretched that she did not know what to do. At first she would not go to the wedding at all, but she had no peace, and must go to see the young queen. When she went in she saw it was Snow-white; and the queen stood still with rage and fear and could not stir. But iron slippers were brought in and set before her. She was forced to put them on and dance and dance. She got so embarrassed of the iron footwear that she dropped dead. [Retold]



Little Briar-Rose

A long time ago there were a king and Queen who said every day, "Ah, if only we had a child!" but they never had one. But it happened that once when the queen was bathing, a frog crept out of the water on to the land, and said to her, "Your wish shall be fulfilled; before a year has gone by, you shall have a daughter."

What the frog had said came true, and the queen had a little girl who was so pretty that the king could not contain himself for joy, and ordered a great feast. He invited not only his kindred, friends and acquaintance, but also the Wise Women, in order that they might be kind and well-disposed towards the child. There were thirteen of them in his kingdom, but, as he had only twelve golden plates for them to eat out of, one of them had to be left at home.

The feast was held with all manner of splendour and when it came to an end the Wise Women bestowed their magic gifts on the baby: one gave virtue, another beauty, a third riches, and so on with everything in the world that one can wish for.

When eleven of them had made their promises, suddenly the thirteenth came in. She wished to avenge herself for not having been invited, and without greeting, or even looking at anyone, she cried with a loud voice, "The king's daughter shall in her fifteenth year prick herself with a spindle, and fall down dead."

And, without saying a word more, she turned round and left the room.

They were all shocked; but the twelfth, whose good wish still remained unspoken, came forward, and as she could not undo the evil sentence, but only soften it, she said, "It shall not be death, but a deep sleep of a hundred years, into which the princess shall fall."

The king, who would fain keep his dear child from the misfortune, gave orders that every spindle in the whole kingdom should be burnt. Meanwhile the gifts of the Wise Women were plenteously fulfilled on the young girl, for she was so beautiful, modest, good-natured, and wise, that everyone who saw her was bound to love her.

It happened that on the very day when she was fifteen years old, the king and Queen were not at home, and the maiden was left in the palace quite alone. So she went round into all sorts of places, looked into rooms and bed-chambers just as she liked, and at last came to an old tower. She climbed up the narrow winding-staircase, and reached a little door. A rusty key was in the lock, and when she turned it the door sprang open, and there in a little room sat an old woman with a spindle, busily spinning her flax.

"Good day, old dame," said the king's daughter; "what are you doing there?"

"I am spinning," said the old woman, and nodded her head.

"What sort of thing is that, that rattles round so merrily?" said the girl, and she took the spindle and wanted to spin too. But scarcely had she touched the spindle when the magic decree was fulfilled, and she pricked her finger with it.

And, in the very moment when she felt the prick, she fell down on the bed that stood there, and lay in a deep sleep. And this sleep extended over the whole palace; the king and Queen who had just come home, and had entered the great hall, began to go to sleep, and the whole of the court with them. The horses, too, went to sleep in the stable, the dogs in the yard, the pigeons on the roof, the flies on the wall; even the fire that was flaming on the hearth became quiet and slept, the roast meat left off frizzling, and the cook, who was just going to pull the hair of the scullery boy, because he had forgotten something, let him go, and went to sleep. And the wind fell, and on the trees before the castle not a leaf moved again.

But round about the castle there began to grow a hedge of thorns, which every year became higher, and at last grew close up round the castle and all over it, so that there was nothing of it to be seen, not even the flag on the roof. But the story of the beautiful sleeping "Briar-rose," for so the princess was named, went about the country, so that from time to time kings' sons came and tried to get through the thorny hedge into the castle.

But they found it impossible, for the thorns held fast together, as if they had hands, and the youths were caught in them, could not get loose again, and died a miserable death.

After long, long years a king's son came again to that country, and heard an old man talking about the thorn-hedge, and that a castle was said to stand behind it in which a wonderfully beautiful princess, named Briar-rose, had been asleep for a hundred years; and that the king and Queen and the whole court were asleep likewise. He had heard, too, from his grandfather, that many kings' sons had already come, and had tried to get through the thorny hedge, but they had remained sticking fast in it, and had died a pitiful death. Then the youth said, "I am not afraid, I will go and see the beautiful Briar-rose."

The good old man might dissuade him as he would, he did not listen to his words.

But by this time the hundred years had just passed, and the day had come when Briar-rose was to awake again. When the king's son came near to the thorn-hedge, it was nothing but large and beautiful flowers, which parted from each other of their own accord, and let him pass unhurt, then they closed again behind him like a hedge. In the castle-yard he saw the horses and the spotted hounds lying asleep; on the roof sat the pigeons with their heads under their wings. And when he entered the house, the flies were asleep on the wall, the cook in the kitchen was still holding out his hand to seize the boy, and the maid was sitting by the black hen which she was going to pluck.

He went on farther, and in the great hall he saw the whole of the court lying asleep, and up by the throne lay the king and Queen.

Then he went on still farther, and all was so quiet that a breath could be heard, and at last he came to the tower, and opened the door into the little room where Briar-rose was sleeping. There she lay, so beautiful that he could not turn his eyes away; and he stooped down and gave her a kiss. But as soon as he kissed her, Briar-rose opened her eyes and awoke, and looked at him quite sweetly.

Then they went down together, and the king awoke, and the queen, and the whole court, and looked at each other in great astonishment. And the horses in the court-yard stood up and shook themselves; the hounds jumped up and wagged their tails; the pigeons on the roof pulled out their heads from under their wings, looked round, and flew into the open country; the flies on the wall crept again; the fire in the kitchen burned up and flickered and cooked the meat; the joint began to turn and frizzle again, and the cook gave the boy such a box on the ear that he screamed, and the maid plucked the fowl ready for the spit.

And then the marriage of the king's son with Briar-rose was celebrated with all splendour, and they lived contented to the end of their days.




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