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To the Golden Star hotel at Innsbruck there once came a very rich foreign princess. She was suffering from a terrible disorder that had baffled every doctor that had tried to cure her. Now the princess had heard of Dr. Theophrast, and had come to Innsbruck to consult him there. But he too said it was a malady that he had no control over, even though people said he was a wonder doctor. This was a terrible shock to the princess who had travelled so far in hopes of a cure.

One day when she was lying inconsolable in her bed, a tiny little man came into the room and offered his services. He also gave her a potion, and told her it would restore her to health. But the little fellow added that on that day next year he should return, and if she had forgotten his name, which was Hahnenkikerle, she must promise to marry him and to live with him under the Hottinger Gorge.

The princess gladly accepted this proposition, and she awoke on the following morning as fresh and healthy as a May rose.

She remained in Innsbruck, where she gave feast after feast, and in this way the year soon passed by. All at once she remembered her promise to the little dwarf, whose name had escaped her, and every effort to recall it was in vain. "Oh, why didn't I write it down at once and read it over several times?" she lamented.

She went on and asked many people, but no one could tell her. She confided her anxiety to her friends, but they could neither help her nor give her any advice. Only a poor servant girl, who came to hear of it, decided to try and help the princess.

So she went into the gorge, hoping to hear something certain there. She listened as she crept about all over, and at last she heard in the depth of the Klamm a joyous shouting, and down below she saw the dwarf jumping and singing, "Hurrah! the princess in the Golden Star hotel doesn't know that my name is Hahnenkikerle."

The girl hurried home as fast as she could, and told the princess all she had heard. Now the princess remembered the name, and when the day came and the dwarf appeared, she called out to him, "Hahnenkikerle!"

At hearing this the dwarf rushed away raging into the mountain.

The girl was rewarded by the princess; and when she married an honest burgher of Innsbruck, she received a princely dower.


The Wind's Present

Once a peasant lived with his wife in the greatest poverty. The peasant was a very good-natured man, but his wife was so ill-tempered that she often beat him for mere trifles. One day she sent the patient man with corn to the mill. The miller, who knew their poverty, ground the corn for nothing.

When the peasant went home, a strong wind arose and blew all his corn away. Of course he fared very badly at home. His wife sent him to the wind that he might demand of it money or the meal. So he went on and came into a forest, where he met a little old mother. She asked him why he was so sad. Then he told her all, and she said,

"Follow me. I am the mother of the wind, and have four sons, the East, West, South, and North Wind. Which of these has blown away your meal?"

Then he said, "I believe the South Wind."

Then they went deeper into the forest, and came to a little hut, where the old woman dwelt.

After a while the old wife said to the peasant, "Wrap yourself well up, for my sons will soon come."

"Why should I wrap myself up?"

"The North Wind is very cold, and you might freeze."

Soon the sons appeared, and when the South Wind came his mother said, "There is a complaint against you."

Without answering, the South Wind gave the peasant a basket, furnished with all meats and drinks that one could desire. Who was merrier than the peasant? He went home and gave his wife the basket, and she convinced herself very soon that it was excellent.

One day a great lord rode by, and the woman bade her husband invite this lord to partake of something. He did so, but the lord laughed at the invitation, and only sent his servants in. They were greatly astonished on finding so nobly spread a table in so poor a hut. But they observed that the woman asked and got everything of the basket. Some days after they came again, brought another basket exactly alike, and exchanged it for that of the peasant.

When next day the woman asked everything from the basket, the poor man had again to smart for it, for she thought that the basket only served for a certain time.

The man bestirred himself and went again to the wind. When he came to the old woman, the mother of the wind, he complained of his wife. The old one told him that he must wait for her son, and he would soon come. The South Wind appeared, and the peasant began to complain to him of his wife.

Then said the wind, "You complain to me, old man, that you have such a bad wife, I will help you, and your wife shall do nothing more to you. Take this tub, and when you are at home, and your wife comes too near you, get behind the tub, and say, "Five out of the tub, beat my wife!" And when that is done say, "Five back into the tub!"

"The peasant went home, and said, "Wife, instead of the basket, you have a tub."

His wife lost her temper, and said, "What shall I do with your tub? Why have you brought no meal?" With these words she seized the baking-fork.

But he quickly ran behind the tub, and cried, "Five out of the tub, beat my wife!"

At once five fellows sprang out of the tub and did their duty. When the peasant thought she had had enough, he cried, "Five back into the tub!"Then they left off, and crept into the tub.

From that time on the wife became mild and gentle. The peasant had now time to think about his basket. He suspected that his guests had tricked him out of it, and took counsel with his wife as to how they should get the basket back again.

The wife said, "As you have now a magical tub, you can match not one man only, but hundreds. Go to the great lord, and demand your basket back."

The peasant went to the lord, and challenged him to a duel. The lord laughed at his folly, and answered, "Good! I will meet you tomorrow on the open field."

Next day the peasant took his tub under his arm and went into the field, where he waited. The lord soon appeared in the company of his servants. Coming up to him, the lord bade his servants give the peasant a sound thrashing.

The peasant saw that he was taken at a disadvantage, but, trusting in his tub he cried, "Give me my basket, or it will be the worse for you."

Then they fell on him, but the peasant cried, "Five out of the tub on every man of them!"

At once five fellows sprang on each of them, and began to beat them unmercifully.

Then the lord cried out loudly, "Dear peasant, make them leave off!"

Then the peasant gave command, "Back, fellows, all of you, into the tub!"

Then they left off, and crept into the tub. The lord at once bade his servants fetch the basket and give it up. It was done on the spot. The peasant took his basket, went home, and lived with his wife in perfect peace afterwards.


The Grass Snake of the House

A little girl at times got a dish of milk and a hard roll as a between-meal by her mother. The girl sat down in the yard outside with her little feast. And as the child calmly and delightfully ate and drank, came a grass snake that lived in the farmstead, and sat down near her, and crept ever nearer. Probably the grass snake smelt the food and was hungry. And the animal-loving girl let the grass snake sponge unhindered.

The trust shown by the grass snake made the girl so happy that from now on, if she had something eatable, the grass snake said:

"We two love the food your mother makes."

And the grass snake was never missing and ate so much that it had to be more careful, so as not to overeat. But the grass snake also showed how grateful he was. He brought a precious jewel from his secret treasure to the girl, and beads and golden decorations of marvellous splendour. Because of the gifts the girl grew more beautiful and bright.

The girl's mother did not know anything about the friendship between her child and the grass snake. One day she was frightened to see how the animal coiled itself in the lap of her daughter. And since the mother got scared and feared the grass snake might harm her daughter, she grasped it and dashed it against the stone floor till it lay dead.

Afterwards a sad change came over the girl. She grew so ill that the night swallows called to her and the robin brought her dead leaves. Then one early morning, when the mother came to look after her child, she had passed away.

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



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