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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.

[Vernaleken 155-60]


For a Penny a Hundred

There was once a widow who had a son. She often sent him to church. There the boy once heard the words in the sermon: "Who gives something to the poor, God will return it back a hundredfold." At once the boy offered a small copper coin in the collection box and hoped every day that God would come to him to repay him a hundred copper coins.

But he waited in vain. At last he went to the priest and told him everything. The priest explained to him that the words were to be understood quite differently, but the boy was not satisfied with that explanation. To get rid of him, the priest gave him the advice that he should go out and seek the Almighty. He might meet him, and then God would repay him the hundred coins. The boy at once went home, packed up his bundle, bade farewell to his mother and walked away.

When it was evening, he saw a hut. He went in there and asked the peasant family for bread and a bed. They asked him where he was going.

"I seek the Almighty," he said.

The husband was surprised and promised him supper and bed if he would bring a greeting from him to the Almighty, and ask him why his apple tree, which had previously borne so much fruit, now had nothing. The boy promised to do so, and wandered off in the morning.

In the evening he came into a great city. In the middle of the city was the royal palace. He went in and asked to stay overnight and for bread once again, as he told why he was on his journey. The king was told about it, and called for the boy and finally gave him the task of asking the Lord why the water from the palace well, which used to be so pure and healthy, now was polluted and stinking. The boy promised this too and went on next morning, to heartfelt thanks.

In the evening he felt very, very tired. Luckily, he saw a monastery and went in. Again he asked for bread and a bed and told the gatekeeper who he was looking for. He reported it to the prior, and the prior gave him the job, in case he should meet the Almighty, to ask why there now was quarreling in the formerly peaceful monastery around noon every day.

The boy promised this too, and went on his way. But it had rained the whole night, and in the morning the rain poured down in torrents. The boy was already wet to the skin, when all of a sudden he saw a man with a big red umbrella before him. He hastened to overtake him, and begged that he might walk under the umbrella. This was permitted, and as they went the boy told the stranger why he had undertaken the journey. The stranger smilingly listened, and said to him,

"You may have far yet to go before you meet the Lord; but if you will follow me, turn round and say to that peasant: In former times the branches of the tree hung over the hedge, and the poor got much good from its fruit, but lately he has moved the hedge further up. Move the hedge back, and the tree will become fruitful again. But only say this to the peasant when he has promised you a hundred silver coins.

"Say to the king: Since he took the water of the brook from other men, it became so bad. Let him open the well to public use again, and the water will recover its former sweetness. But only say this when he has promised you a hundred florins for the explanation.

"And in the monastery say that the cook is the devil of dissension, and they must get rid of him as quickly as possible. But first the prior must pay out a hundred gold coins."

So saying, the stranger disappeared, and the boy turned back and did as the stranger had bidden him. And thus he gained more than a hundredfold reward.

Money talk

The Austrian Gulden (florin) was initially divided into 60 Kreuze. When the Gulden was decimalised in 1857, new coins were issued, and 100 Kreuzer amounted to 1 Gulden afterwards.

Generally speaking, copper coins were less worth than silver coins, and silver coins less worth than florins, which were less worth than "pure" gold coins.


The Outcast Son

Once there lived a married couple who had one son. He was still young when his mother died. Not long after, the father married again. But the young woman looked on her step-son with unquenchable hatred because he was the image of his deceased mother. She persecuted him in every way, and went so far in her hatred as even to plot against his life. But she did not succeed. Then she begged her husband to turn his son out of doors, saying that otherwise she could not live with him. After a long resistance the father at last agreed. He led his son away into a remote forest, and when they were in the middle of a wild thicket, the father said to the son,

"Wait here a moment, we have missed our way, and I will see if I cannot find it again."

He went away and the boy waited. Hour after hour passed by, till the poor boy saw that he was betrayed. As night came on he climbed up a high tree. Then he became aware of a great fire. Quickly he came down, went to the spot, and found a huge old man sitting by the fire. At first the boy was terrified, but hunger gave him courage; so he went up to the giant with a good heart, and begged that he might stop with him.

The old giant asked in astonishment how he had come into this wilderness. The boy told all, and the old man kept him with him, and taught him to hunt.

One morning as he was about to go hunting, the old man said to him that he might shoot any wild beast, but no raven must be harmed. He had already slain animals of every kind, when he took the fancy into his head just for once to shoot a raven. One evening he did so; and as he ran to pick it up, he saw three drops of blood in the snow and a black feather. He looked at it, and said to himself, "I would fain have a wife whose body should be white as snow, her cheeks as red as blood, her hair as black as a raven's feather."

Returning home he repented of the shot, and confessed his disobedience to his foster father. At first the old man was angry; but as the boy had so openly confessed his fault, he became good-tempered again, and the boy told him of the words which he had spoken over the dead raven.

Smiling at this, the old man said, "Such a wife you may have, if you follow my counsel. Go about the twelfth hour to that pool in the wood I have shown you. About that time three maidens, bearing crowns on their heads, will bathe in it. As soon as they go into the water, they will lay down their crowns. Then slip up and take the crown of the first, and run home without looking back."

The son did as the old man advised; but as he was about to run away with the crown, he was pursued by the owner, who called after him to stop and look round. Forgetful of his father's words, he stopped and looked round. Then the maiden gave him a heavy blow and snatched the crown from him.

He went home in great trouble.

The next day the same thing happened. But the third day he took the crown of the third maiden, and ran home with it without looking round. The maiden followed him, and he chose her for his wife.

For some time they lived peaceably and pleasantly together. But one day they were invited to a wedding. There was dancing, and the young woman danced the best of all, and filled all that were present with wonder. Noticing this, she begged her husband to give her the crown just for the day. He went and fetched it; but hardly had she got the crown on her head than she flew away swift as an arrow. At this mischance her husband was very sad. Departing, he took a pilgrim's staff, and went forth to seek his beloved wife.

After he had wandered for a long time, he was in the middle of a dark forest. Here he saw three devils who were quarrelling violently. He asked the devils what their difference was, and they told him their father was dead, and had left them nothing but a club, a cap, and a cloak. By means of the club any of them might be turned into a stone pillar. The cap made him who put it on invisible. And the cloak, had the property that anyone might be swiftly carried in it wherever he wished.

About these articles they could not agree, because each wished to have all three. The wanderer proposed to act as judge between them. All three were to go to the mountain opposite, and at a given sign were to run toward him. The first that came up should have all three articles. But meanwhile the club, the cap, and the cloak must remain with him.

The devils agreed to the proposal, and went. But as they hurried back towards him, they became all too rash and fell into a crevice and broke their necks. The young man went further with his magical booty. As night came on, he wrapped himself in his cloak, lay down on the earth, and thought if only he might awake tomorrow before the house-door of his beloved wife.

And next morning he woke before a strange house. The door opened and a beautiful woman came out. It was his dear wife.




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