There was once a poor widow who lived in a lonely cottage. In front ofthe cottage was a garden wherein stood two rose-trees, one of which borewhite and the other red roses. She had two children who were likethe two rose-trees, and one was called Snow-white, and the otherRose-red. They were as good and happy, as busy and cheerful as evertwo children in the world were, only Snow-white was more quiet andgentle than Rose-red. Rose-red liked better to run about in themeadows and fields seeking flowers and catching butterflies; butSnow-white sat at home with her mother, and helped her with herhousework, or read to her when there was nothing to do.
The two children were so fond of one another that they always heldeach other by the hand when they went out together, and when Snow-whitesaid: «We will not leave each other,» Rose-red answered: «Never solong as we live,» and their mother would add: «What one has she mustshare with the other.»
They often ran about the forest alone and gathered red berries, andno beasts did them any harm, but came close to them trustfully. Thelittle hare would eat a cabbage-leaf out of their hands, the roe grazedby their side, the stag leapt merrily by them, and the birds satstill upon the boughs, and sang whatever they knew.
No mishap overtook them; if they had stayed too late in the forest,and night came on, they laid themselves down near one another upon themoss, and slept until morning came, and their mother knew this and didnot worry on their account.
Once when they had spent the night in the wood and the dawn hadroused them, they saw a beautiful child in a shining white dresssitting near their bed. He got up and looked quite kindly at them, butsaid nothing and went into the forest. And when they looked round theyfound that they had been sleeping quite close to a precipice, and wouldcertainly have fallen into it in the darkness if they had gone only afew paces further. And their mother told them that it must have beenthe angel who watches over good children.
Snow-white and Rose-red kept their mother’s little cottage so neat thatit was a pleasure to look inside it. In the summer Rose-red took care ofthe house, and every morning laid a wreath of flowers by hermother’s bed before she awoke, in which was a rose from each tree.In the winter Snow-white lit the fire and hung the kettle on the hob.The kettle was of brass and shone like gold, so brightly was itpolished. In the evening, when the snowflakes fell, the mother said:«Go, Snow-white, and bolt the door,» and then they sat round thehearth, and the mother took her spectacles and read aloud out of alarge book, and the two girls listened as they sat and spun. And closeby them lay a lamb upon the floor, and behind them upon a perch sat awhite dove with its head hidden beneath its wings.
One evening, as they were thus sitting comfortably together,someone knocked at the door as if he wished to be let in. The mothersaid: «Quick, Rose-red, open the door, it must be a traveller who isseeking shelter.» Rose-red went and pushed back the bolt, thinkingthat it was a poor man, but it was not; it was a bear that stretchedhis broad, black head within the door.
Rose-red screamed and sprang back, the lamb bleated, the dovefluttered, and Snow-white hid herself behind her mother’s bed. But thebear began to speak and said: «Do not be afraid, I will do youno harm! I am half-frozen, and only want to warm myself a littlebeside you.»
«Poor bear,» said the mother, «lie down by the fire, only take carethat you do not burn your coat.» Then she cried: «Snow-white,Rose-red, come out, the bear will do you no harm, he means well.» Sothey both came out, and by-and-by the lamb and dove came nearer, andwere not afraid of him. The bear said: «Here, children, knock the snowout of my coat a little’; so they brought the broom and swept thebear’s hide clean; and he stretched himself by the fire and growledcontentedly and comfortably. It was not long before they grew quite athome, and played tricks with their clumsy guest. They tugged his hairwith their hands, put their feet upon his back and rolled him about, orthey took a hazel-switch and beat him, and when he growled theylaughed. But the bear took it all in good part, only when they weretoo rough he called out: «Leave me alive, children,
Snow-white, Rose-red, Will you beat your wooer dead?»
When it was bed-time, and the others went to bed, the mother said tothe bear: «You can lie there by the hearth, and then you will be safefrom the cold and the bad weather.» As soon as day dawned the twochildren let him out, and he trotted across the snow into the forest.
Henceforth the bear came every evening at the same time, laid himselfdown by the hearth, and let the children amuse themselves with him asmuch as they liked; and they got so used to him that the doors werenever fastened until their black friend had arrived.
When spring had come and all outside was green, the bear said onemorning to Snow-white: «Now I must go away, and cannot come back forthe whole summer.» «Where are you going, then, dear bear?» askedSnow-white. «I must go into the forest and guard my treasures from thewicked dwarfs. In the winter, when the earth is frozen hard, they areobliged to stay below and cannot work their way through; but now, whenthe sun has thawed and warmed the earth, they break through it, and comeout to pry and steal; and what once gets into their hands, and intheir caves, does not easily see daylight again.»
Snow-white was quite sorry at his departure, and as she unbolted thedoor for him, and the bear was hurrying out, he caught against the boltand a piece of his hairy coat was torn off, and it seemed toSnow-white as if she had seen gold shining through it, but she was notsure about it. The bear ran away quickly, and was soon out of sightbehind the trees.
A short time afterwards the mother sent her children into the forestto get firewood. There they found a big tree which lay felled on theground, and close by the trunk something was jumping backwards andforwards in the grass, but they could not make out what it was. Whenthey came nearer they saw a dwarf with an old withered face and asnow-white beard a yard long. The end of the beard was caught in acrevice of the tree, and the little fellow was jumping about like a dogtied to a rope, and did not know what to do.
He glared at the girls with his fiery red eyes and cried: «Why doyou stand there? Can you not come here and help me?» «What are youup to, little man?» asked Rose-red. «You stupid, prying goose!’answered the dwarf: «I was going to split the tree to get a littlewood for cooking. The little bit of food that we people get isimmediately burnt up with heavy logs; we do not swallow so much as youcoarse, greedy folk. I had just driven the wedge safely in, andeverything was going as I wished; but the cursed wedge was too smoothand suddenly sprang out, and the tree closed so quickly that I couldnot pull out my beautiful white beard; so now it is tight and Icannot get away, and the silly, sleek, milk-faced things laugh! Ugh!how odious you are!»
The children tried very hard, but they could not pull the beard out,it was caught too fast. «I will run and fetch someone,» said Rose-red.«You senseless goose!» snarled the dwarf; «why should you fetchsomeone? You are already two too many for me; can you not think ofsomething better?» «Don’t be impatient,» said Snow-white, «I will helpyou,» and she pulled her scissors out of her pocket, and cut off theend of the beard.
As soon as the dwarf felt himself free he laid hold of a bag whichlay amongst the roots of the tree, and which was full of gold, andlifted it up, grumbling to himself: «Uncouth people, to cut off apiece of my fine beard. Bad luck to you!» and then he swung the bagupon his back, and went off without even once looking at the children.
Some time afterwards Snow-white and Rose-red went to catch a dish offish. As they came near the brook they saw something like a largegrasshopper jumping towards the water, as if it were going to leap in.They ran to it and found it was the dwarf. «Where are you going?’said Rose-red; «you surely don’t want to go into the water?» «I am notsuch a fool!» cried the dwarf; «don’t you see that the accursed fishwants to pull me in?» The little man had been sitting there fishing,and unluckily the wind had tangled up his beard with the fishing-line;a moment later a big fish made a bite and the feeble creature had notstrength to pull it out; the fish kept the upper hand and pulled thedwarf towards him. He held on to all the reeds and rushes, but itwas of little good, for he was forced to follow the movements ofthe fish, and was in urgent danger of being dragged into the water.
The girls came just in time; they held him fast and tried to freehis beard from the line, but all in vain, beard and line were entangledfast together. There was nothing to do but to bring out the scissorsand cut the beard, whereby a small part of it was lost. When the dwarfsaw that he screamed out: «Is that civil, you toadstool, to disfigurea man’s face? Was it not enough to clip off the end of my beard? Nowyou have cut off the best part of it. I cannot let myself be seen by mypeople. I wish you had been made to run the soles off your shoes!» Thenhe took out a sack of pearls which lay in the rushes, and withoutanother word he dragged it away and disappeared behind a stone.
It happened that soon afterwards the mother sent the two children tothe town to buy needles and thread, and laces and ribbons. The road ledthem across a heath upon which huge pieces of rock lay strewn about.There they noticed a large bird hovering in the air, flying slowlyround and round above them; it sank lower and lower, and at lastsettled near a rock not far away. Immediately they heard a loud,piteous cry. They ran up and saw with horror that the eagle had seizedtheir old acquaintance the dwarf, and was going to carry him off.
The children, full of pity, at once took tight hold of the little man,and pulled against the eagle so long that at last he let his booty go.As soon as the dwarf had recovered from his first fright he cried withhis shrill voice: «Could you not have done it more carefully! Youdragged at my brown coat so that it is all torn and full of holes, youclumsy creatures!» Then he took up a sack full of precious stones, andslipped away again under the rock into his hole. The girls, who bythis time were used to his ingratitude, went on their way and didtheir business in town.
As they crossed the heath again on their way home they surprisedthe dwarf, who had emptied out his bag of precious stones in a cleanspot, and had not thought that anyone would come there so late. Theevening sun shone upon the brilliant stones; they glittered andsparkled with all colours so beautifully that the children stood stilland stared at them. «Why do you stand gaping there?» cried the dwarf,and his ashen-grey face became copper-red with rage. He was stillcursing when a loud growling was heard, and a black bear came trottingtowards them out of the forest. The dwarf sprang up in a fright, but hecould not reach his cave, for the bear was already close. Then in thedread of his heart he cried: «Dear Mr Bear, spare me, I will give youall my treasures; look, the beautiful jewels lying there! Grant me mylife; what do you want with such a slender little fellow as I? you wouldnot feel me between your teeth. Come, take these two wicked girls,they are tender morsels for you, fat as young quails; for mercy’ssake eat them!» The bear took no heed of his words, but gave thewicked creature a single blow with his paw, and he did not move again.
The girls had run away, but the bear called to them: «Snow-whiteand Rose-red, do not be afraid; wait, I will come with you.» Thenthey recognized his voice and waited, and when he came up to themsuddenly his bearskin fell off, and he stood there a handsome man,clothed all in gold. «I am a king’s son,» he said, «and I was bewitchedby that wicked dwarf, who had stolen my treasures; I have had to runabout the forest as a savage bear until I was freed by hisdeath. Now he has got his well-deserved punishment.»
Snow-white was married to him, and Rose-red to his brother, andthey divided between them the great treasure which the dwarf hadgathered together in his cave. The old mother lived peacefully andhappily with her children for many years. She took the two rose-treeswith her, and they stood before her window, and every year bore themost beautiful roses, white and red.