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The Two Sisters

In a village there lived a woman who was little liked by the neighbours because she was proud and hardhearted. She had two daughters. The elder was exactly like her mother, while the younger was simple, kind, and ready to do a good turn to others. She was liked by the whole village, but she was not loved by her mother and sister. To get rid of her the mother sent her out to service. In spite of the sufferings she had endured at home, she did not find it easy to part from her kindred. However, when she saw that no entrieaties could alter the decision of her harsh mother, and that she had to endure the scoffs of her haughty sister besides, she took her bundle and went forth sobbing and weeping.

The wandering girl passed near an oven that had broken asunder and fallen to pieces. Accustomed to repair of this kind at home, she fetched some clay from a pit and stopped the holes in the oven, and only travelled on when the oven was repaired.

Then she came to a spring. Its mouth was quite choked up. She set to work at once and cleared out the spring so that again an abundant flow of water burst forth.

Passing on she came to a pear-tree. The earth had dried and cracked around its roots, so that the leaves had withered and fallen off. She covered the roots with earth, fetched water from the brook hard by, and watered them.

She did the same with an apple-tree in the neighbourhood.

At last in the course of her wandering she came to a hut where an old wife sat. The girl asked whether she could take service there. The old wife, after some hesitation, said, "Yes, but only on condition that you never touch the pots that stand in my room," and further that she must keep the light dust in an old chest, and that which lay under the light dust and was coarser, in a new chest.

The poor girl took the service. She got little to eat, and shared that little with a dog and a cat that the old woman had put in her charge to tend and take care of. Soon, by watchfulness and toil and careful, loving tendance, she had won the trust and attachment of the two animals, so that the old wife resolved to hand over to her for a time the charge of the house, and to leave on a little journey.

The first night the maiden heard a clatter and an outcry at the door. The noise continued so that she hesitated whether to open the door or not. In her anxiety she asked her two animals, and they showed by their gestures they were against opening the door. After one o'clock suddenly the noise ceased, and all was quiet again.

Every night for a year the noise was repeated, and as the old wife did not come back, the girl resolved to go back home to her mother. But the dog and the cat tried to prevent her carrying out this scheme, and would not go with her. So she determined to stay in the hut.

One day the old wife came back, and was delighted at the order which the maiden had kept in the house, and asked her whether she would keep her situation or would return to her mother. She chose the latter, and packed up her bundle. Then the old wife led her into the room where the pots stood, and said, "I can give you nothing but what you have gathered together; see, here are the two chests, choose either the old or the new."

She took the old chest, thinking it was all one whether she took the one or the other, as there was nothing but dust and rubbish in either.

While the old wife went out, her curiosity led her to open the pots, and out flew poor souls, who joyously thanked the maiden. Quickly she closed again all the pots, took the little dog and cat, and went forth.

The old wife noticed after she was gone that the pots had been meddled with, and hastened after the girl. But as she came close to her, there opened suddenly between her and the girl an impassable gulf. By a roundabout way the old wife hastened after her, and again all but overtook her; but this time an impenetrable thicket prevented her, and so she went back wearied out, and ceased from pursuing the girl further.

The maiden came to the spring on her way back and said, "Little spring, I repaired you; you could give me water!" Then pure wine bubbled forth from the spring, and she drank full draughts, and then filled her bottle and hung it on the dog's neck. Refreshed, she went on, and came to the apple-tree that was covered with beautiful fruit, and she said, "Little tree, I tended you; give me apples!"

Then there sprung up a wind, and the finest fruits fell down. Some she ate, and the others she put in the chest and went on. After a short time she came to the oven that was uninjured, in perfect order, and in which baking seemed to be going on. She wished for roast meat, cakes, and the like, and what she wished soon lay before her gladdened eyes. When she and the little dog and cat were satisfied, she took some more of the provisions with her, and went straight to her father's house.

When she got there and told all that had befallen her, and of the reward she had got for her faithful service, her mother and sister laughed, and said she must show them the dust. Then she opened the chest, and to the astonishment of all there was nothing but gold and silver inside. Pears, apples, cakes, all were gold. But soon the riddle was explained: the dog was a banished prince, and the cat his enchanted sister. The prince married the maiden, and the sister had long had a betrothed husband at home. Now, among the rejoicings of the people, they went to the chief city of the kingdom to their happy parents.

Full of envy at the good fortune of this daughter, the mother now sent her favourite also into the world, so that she might similarly get treasures and fortune. She went the same way that her sister had taken before. But when she came to the oven, it had fallen to pieces. She took no trouble to plaster it up with clay, as her sister had done, but went on. Likewise she neglected the pear-tree and the appletree and the spring.

At last she came to the old wife, who took her into her service, and bade her do as her sister had done, giving her likewise a dog and a cat. But these poor creatures got nothing to eat from the hard-hearted girl despite their fawning and begging. Nor did she clean the room so neatly, and the dust she sometimes threw away, sometimes put in the chest, so that the old wife was not satisfied with the girl, and could not therefore give her the charge of the hut.

One day the old wife led the girl to the chest, saying to her, "Here, take either the old or the new chest."

The maiden took the new chest, and went forth with the cat and the dog. When she came to the spring, she said, "Spring, give me wine!"

But from the spring there came nothing but muddy water. She filled some bottles with it, thinking it would turn to fine wine when she got home to her mother. Then she went on and came to the apple-tree; and there fell down stony apples, and from the pear-tree stony pears. Yet she still hoped that all would turn into gold.

Now she came to the oven, where her mother came to greet her. There was a fine fire, and already she revelled in the expected enjoyment of the dainties, and demanded roast meat an pastry of the oven. Full of curiosity she opened the chest, but it swarmed with hobgoblins and mountain sprites; the dog and the cat were also changed into unpleasant devils, and they helped their brothers to throw the hard-hearted mother and her hard-hearted, vain, and lazy daughter, into the oven.

So different was the fate of the two sisters who sought their fortunes by the same way, but in different manner.

The Haughty Woman

The wife of Christoph Weitmoser was a beautiful, proud woman. She liked to bedeck her body with all sorts of jewels, and was hard and against the poor.

Once she rode in the glory and glitter of her wealth and pride through the gorge the leads up toward the Gastein mountain. She looked like a princess. Close to the road sat a poor woman who begged for alms. The rich wife of Christoph Weitmoser on her horse looked at the poor woman with contempt and cried, "Away, you cheeky beggar!"

"Ah," sighed the beggar: "No one who struts like you today, knows if she has to beg next morning. Today me, tomorrow you!"

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the proud woman as she pulled her precious ring from her finger, "a Weitmoser woman beg! Just as little as this ring is found again, your wretched curse will work!" And with these words she threw the ring into the dark, coursing river Ache beneath the road.

It was not long, however, before a big trout that was caught in the Ache, was to be served at a banquet that Christoph Weitmoser gave. When they cut up the fish, they found the precious ring of his mistress lying in its belly.

From then on the happiness and prosperity of the rich clan came to an end. The tunnels and shafts they owned, collapsed, and ores were no longer found there, or they were drowned by waters. Veins were lost, and the rich kin became poor and died out. Only in countless legends and some charitable foundations the memory of the Weitmoser family still lives on. Even their castles fell into disrepair.

The Weitmoserhof with its tower in Gastein stands deserted. Only a few columns can still be seen, and the old tower.

The underground passage that once led from the castle to Hundsdorf, is buried, and the castle itself is nothing more than picturesque ruins of the area.

"Quickly the glory of the world passes away." (Cito transit gloria mundi.)

Martin's Eve

Once tomcat Braunz went to the feast of Martin's Eve. *

* Martinmas, or St. Martin's Day, is November 11 - the feast day of Martin of Tours. Children go to houses with paper lanterns and candles, and sing songs about St. Martin in return for treats.

Tomcat Braunz thought to himself as he went that if he were to meet somebody, they could make company. Then the time would not pass so slowly.

Suddenly a dog appeared. "Tomcat Braunz," said he, "where are you going?"

"To Martinmas."

"Let me go with you."

"Very well." So they went on together.

"Look over there," said the dog after a while, "there goes Mother Goose."

Just so; and soon she came up to them. "Where are you two going?"

"To Martinmas."

"Let me go with you."

"Very well."

When they had gone some way, an ox, a cock, and a pig joined them. Then they came into a great forest, and had not gone far before tomcat Braunz said, "Listen, I don't know where we are. We have lost our way. Let us turn back." So they turned back, but could not find the way they had come by. At last they were all so tired that they lay down on the ground.

Suddenly the ox saw a light quite far off. Tomcat Braunz said, "I can climb up a high tree and find out where the light is, This he did; and when he came down, they all set out towards the light. It became larger and larger, and finally they saw a house lighted up from top to bottom. The windows were all open. In slipped the cock and took a peep, and when he came back, he said he had seen thieves counting money through the whole house.

"Wait," said the ox, "I will manage it. First I will leap in at the window. They will all be frightened, and run away and leave us the money. When they are gone, you jump in after me. The ox went to the window and leaped plump in. Then the thieves left everything as it was, and fled.

The animals seized the money and divided it, and then prepared to sleep. Thinking the thieves might come during the night for their booty, the dog said, "I will lie by the door." Tomcat Braunz said he would lie before the hearth-fire. The ox lay on a straw-heap, the goose got on a table, the pig lay in the yard, and the cock perched on the roof.

When the thieves came back, the dog at the door gave them a bite. Then they tried to strike a light at the fire, but tomcat Braunz scratched their faces. And when they were trying to take the money from the table, the goose gave their fingers a good nipping. At last they got out by the door and tried to run through the yard. Then they tumbled down over the pig, and the ox gored them with his long horns.

The cock cried from the roof, "Why don't you take the money with you?"

The thieves ran away, covered with blood, leaving their booty behind. Next day the beasts took it with them and lived right merrily.

The Miraculous Dapple-Grey Horse

There was once a poor woodcutter who lived with his wife. Just when they expected a child, they were so needy that they did not know what to do. Then one day when he went to the forest and was full of grief and worries, he met a green-clad hunter who asked him why he was so sad.

Once the woodcutter had told his plight, the hunter said: "If I can get in nine years from now what you have at home, I will give you a small bag of gold pieces."

Thoughtlessly the man accepted. He took the purse and ran home to tell his wife that all their poverty was over. But his joy soon changed into worry, for at home their little son had been born, and now he knew who the green man had meant.

The boy grew fresh and healthy, and prosperity had entered their home, but they were never really happy. When the nine years were over, the green hunter called on the man again and fetched Ferdinand, as the child was named.

The hunter took the boy to a distant country where there was a castle in the middle of a beautiful garden. He showed the boy the many flowers, shrubs and trees, and led him through the beautiful castle. "You can go everywhere," he said to the boy, "except to the pond that is surrounded by shrubs." And Ferdinand promised him never to go there.

After a few days the hunters had to travel somewhere. The boys liked it quite well alone, and always found something to watch. As he walked through the castle and garden in this way, he found himself near the forbidden pond. "What there may be to see there, since I am not allowed to? I will take a quick look; that will not be too bad," he said to himself and slipped through the bushes.

When he came to the brink of the pond, he saw in the many beautiful goldfish swimming happily back and forth. He stretched his hand out to catch one, but scarcely had he touched the water than his finger turned golden. Frightened, he tried to scratch off the gold, but did not succeed. He anxiously ran back to the castle and wrapped the finger in a cloth. But suddenly the hunter stood before him, tore off the cloth so that the golden finger was visible, and flogged the boys severely. Then he fetched a little hammer, knocked on the finger with it, and the gold got off at once.

After some time the hunter wanted to travel again. Before he left he shouted to the boy and forbade him most sternly to enter the last room of the castle. At first Ferdinand restrained himself. He went into other beautiful chambers and looked at everything, but he did not go in through the last door. But soon his curiosity troubled him again: "What could possibly be in there since I can go anywhere but that room?" he asked himself, and went nearer and nearer to the room as time went by. At last he could not stand it any longer, he grasped the latch and opened the door.

When he went in, he saw a man looked who just like his grandfather. He greeted him, and the old man said: "Here you have a comb, a brush and a glass pitcher. Take them all with you, for they will help you in your need. Now go to the stable to the spotless, dapple-grey horse and say, "Dapple-grey horse, we are done for!" What happens next, you will see."

Ferdinand took the things and went to the snow-white horse. "Dapple-grey horse, we are done for," he said.

The animal answered: "Sit up!"

No sooner had he climbed the dapple-grey horse, than it jumped across the garden wall as quick as an arrow and ran and ran as fast as it could.

For hours the horse ran over hill and dale. Then it said: "Look around to see whether the green hunter is close already!"

Ferdinand looked back and cried: "The green hunter is coming closer and will reach us soon!"

"Throw the brush away," cried the horse.

The boy did as he was told, and soon there grew up a forest behind the dapple-grey horse, a forest that was so overgrown that it stayed the green hunter for a long time.

The horse carried Ferdinand further, running on and on as fast as it could. But after some hours it said: "Look around and see whether he is already quite close!"

Now the boy saw the hunter coming close behind them. "Throw away the comb," said the horse and the boy did it fast. At once a large lake rose behind them, and the green hunter had to find a boat to be able to chase them further.

After a while the the horse told the boy to look around again, and the green hunter was close behind them again. Ferdinand threw away the jug, and now rose a glass mountain into the air, and their persecutor could not get over it, so now they were rescued.*

* Come to think of it: If he had thrown the jug first, they could have saved themselves some trouble and kept the two other utensils instead of wasting them on the way.

Toward evening the horse halted when they came to a village near the royal palace. As Ferdinand climbed down from the dapple-grey horse, it said: "You have been riding for one day, and by that you have got/laid back ten years of your life."

The boy went to the inn and brought his horse to the stable there. The dapple-grey horse gave him money and a dress with embroidered stars and said: "Get a job with the gardener of the castle, but see to that you only have to work at night. In daytime come to me for advice!"

Ferdinand went to the royal court and was hired by the gardener as an apprentice. When it was dark, he always put on his star garb and worked without any trouble. At day he came to the tavern to the faithful horse to see and to speak with him. But when evening came he used to go back to the castle to work, singing. In his care the flowers and trees grew as they had never before done, and the king praised him often. The princess liked to listen to his songs, and the beautiful young man felt for her.

One day a great misfortune came to the castle. The king fell very ill, and nobody could help him. At last came an old man of the road and said that only the milk of a she-wolf, a bear and a deer could heal the ill king. Next day the old man was gone.

The king at once sent his hunters for such healing milk, but none was able to bring it, and he got worse and worse. At last he promised to his daughter to whoever could make him well again. When Ferdinand was told of all this, he said he would try to bring the milk. There were also two more gardener apprentices who wanted to milk wild animals.

Next morning the young man went to his horse to get advice. "Follow me," said Dapple-Grey, "and I will help you to succeed." Ferdinand climbed his horse, and it took him into the forest. After a time they came across a she-wolf. She was very peaceful and allowed him to milk her. On the way home he met his two fellow gardeners. They had been out in the woods in vain and were downcast upon returning. When he told them he carried with him wolf's milk, they asked him for some of it. Ferdinand did not quite want to, but his dapple-grey horse nodded, so he gave each a part of the milk.

Next morning the young man rode off again, and his horse led him to a she-bear. She willingly gave them milk. On the way home he met again the two other gardener apprentices. This time too they asked for a share. The boy noticed that the dapple-grey horse nodded again, and shared the bear's milk with them.

On the third day too Ferdinand rode into the forest, and this time he found a hind who calmly let him milk her. But when he did as Dapple-Grey counselled and shared the milk with the other two gardener apprentices this third time, they did not thank him at all, for now they began to quarrel who of them should bring the milk to the king.

"We are going to lose because of your counsels," said Ferdinand to his horse, for the three apprentices finally drew lots, and he was left with the smallest part, and thus was to let the other two go to the king before him.

It made him angry that he had to let the other two go to the king first, since had done nothing. But the dapple-grey horse comforted him and said: "They will not be able to heal the king."

The first apprentice appeared before the king and promised to heal him with the milk of the three forest animals. But when the king drank, he felt no relief of his suffering, and the second could not heal him either. Then the king had them put in prison.

Now came Ferdinand and brought the milk of the she-wolf, the bear and deer. Scarcely had the king drunk of them, when the disease vanished. Very soon he was completely cured.

But now it grieved him to give his daughter for a wife to a gardener apprentice, and so he tried to buy off the suitor. But the princess had long since won the heart of the youth, so the king had to keep his promise. Now there was a happy marriage, and it lasted for four days and four nights. Then the new king remembered his dapple-grey horse and went to the inn. The horse asked him to cut his head off.

"That would not show my great gratitude for the loyal service you have rendered me," said Ferdinand.

But the dapple-grey horse stood by his request, and at long last the young king drew his sword and cut his head off. At once a white dove rose into the air and disappeared in a a few moments.

In his joy Ferdinand came to think of his parents who lived in sorrows. He brought them to his castle and took care of them since, and how happy they were! When the old king died, Ferdinand took over the kingdom and reigned for a long time in peace and prosperity.

The Seven Ravens

There was once a woman who had seven sons and one daughter. The sons gave the mother much trouble because of their appetite. When on one occasion she made fritters, the seven snatched one after the other from the dish. Then the mother fell into a rage and said, "Boys, you snatch like ravens. May you be changed into ravens that I get rid of you."

She had hardly spoken these words when she saw to her horror that her sons actually changed into ravens and flew out of the window.

Many years passed by after this sad happening. Meanwhile the daughter grew up and daily asked her mother what had become of her brothers. At last the woman told her daughter, who at once made up her mind to deliver her brothers, regardless of the tears and prayers of her mother -

After she had journeyed several days she came into a great forest where she lost her way. As the night came on, she roamed about for a long time, till she suddenly saw the twinkling of a tiny light. She walked toward it till she came to a hut. A woman came out and said, "Child, go quickly on, for my husband is the wind who eats all human beings that come near him."

But the maiden would not be turned away and said, "Only let me in and I will hide in the floor under the tub which stands there."

For some time the woman resisted, but at last gave in and said, "Very well, sit there under the tub and I will roast a fat hen for my husband. Perhaps that will soften his temper."

At this moment a blustering announced that the Lord of the Winds returned home. He came in, as big as a giant and after a while said, "Wife, I smell human blood. You have hidden somebody and I shall have him for supper at once." The man began at once to seek, but could not find the maiden. Meanwhile the woman, who had not dared to contradict him, came with the roast hen and said, "Give up that seeking and eat this fat hen instead."

As the giant glanced at his favourite dish, his anger passed away and he said, "Now I will not hurt the hidden creature; so let him come forth!"

The girl now left her hiding-place at the call of the good wife and placed herself at the table. The Lord of the Winds meantime ate the hen and instead of casting the bones on the ground as he usually did, he laid them on the dish. The maiden had now to tell him how she had come into the hut and what she was seeking.

When she had finished, the Wind said, "Take the bones that lie there one the dish and take good care of them, for you will need them. Early tomorrow morning you shall come with me when I go forth, and then go in the direction in which I sway the trees."

Next day early she went away with the Wind and walked in the direction in which he swayed the trees. After some days she came to a castle of glass. It had neither door nor gate. She thought it would be in vain to press her way in, when suddenly she remembered the hen bones she was carrying. She now placed the leg bones stair-wise on one another against the glass wall and got up to the window, Then she went down through the window and found herself in a large hall where there were seven beds and seven tables. On each table stood a bowl with food. She ate from one of the bowls, then threw in her ring and hid herself under the bed.

Scarcely had she crept into her lurking-place when twelve ravens flew in at the window. They settled on the ground and were changed to men. In the first seven she at once recognised her brothers; the other five who were quite green, first served the others at table and then flew off again.

Then the eldest brother found in his bowl a ring. At once they searched all round the room, found the maiden and recognised their sister.

"I have come to deliver you," said she.

But the brothers sadly said, "Dear sister, do not, for in that case you would then have to remain dumb for seven years."

But the maiden insisted on it and from that hour spoke not a word more. She now remained with her brothers and looked after their house.

Once the brothers who were ravens by day, undertook a wide flight; and she went into the forest to seek fir-cones. There she suddenly heard the huntsmen of the king who ruled over the land where the crystal castle stood. Hastily she took refuge in a hollow tree, that she might not be forced to break silence in the last year.

When the dogs came up, they sniffed and sniffed about the tree till the king's attention was excited. He had the tree examined and the girl was found. As she gave no answer to any question, the king ordered her to be cast into prison. But even in prison all the tortures which they applied to force her to speak were in vain. And so orders were given that she should be executed.

But the seven years of silence were passed; and just as she was mounting the gallows, her brothers came flying up and saved the maiden from death. The king learned the heroic spirit of the maiden and chose her for his queen. Then the brothers fetched their old mother to the court and all now lived happy and content.

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Austrian Fairy Tales and Legends, Literature  

Source: "The most beautiful fairy tales from Austria".

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