Once upon a time there was a widow who had two daughters; one of themwas beautiful and industrious, the other ugly and lazy. The mother,however, loved the ugly and lazy one best, because she was her owndaughter, and so the other, who was only her stepdaughter, was made todo all the work of the house, and was quite the Cinderella of thefamily. Her stepmother sent her out every day to sit by the well in thehigh road, there to spin until she made her fingers bleed. Now itchanced one day that some blood fell on to the spindle, and as the girlstopped over the well to wash it off, the spindle suddenly sprang outof her hand and fell into the well. She ran home crying to tell ofher misfortune, but her stepmother spoke harshly to her, and aftergiving her a violent scolding, said unkindly, «As you have let thespindle fall into the well you may go yourself and fetch it out.»
The girl went back to the well not knowing what to do, and at last inher distress she jumped into the water after the spindle.
She remembered nothing more until she awoke and found herself ina beautiful meadow, full of sunshine, and with countless flowersblooming in every direction.
She walked over the meadow, and presently she came upon a baker’soven full of bread, and the loaves cried out to her, «Take us out, takeus out, or alas! we shall be burnt to a cinder; we were baked throughlong ago.» So she took the bread-shovel and drew them all out.
She went on a little farther, till she came to a free full ofapples. «Shake me, shake me, I pray,» cried the tree; «my apples, oneand all, are ripe.» So she shook the tree, and the apples came fallingdown upon her like rain; but she continued shaking until there wasnot a single apple left upon it. Then she carefully gathered theapples together in a heap and walked on again.
The next thing she came to was a little house, and there she saw anold woman looking out, with such large teeth, that she wasterrified, and turned to run away. But the old woman called afterher, «What are you afraid of, dear child? Stay with me; if you willdo the work of my house properly for me, I will make you very happy.You must be very careful, however, to make my bed in the right way,for I wish you always to shake it thoroughly, so that the feathers flyabout; then they say, down there in the world, that it is snowing; forI am Mother Holle.» The old woman spoke so kindly, that the girlsummoned up courage and agreed to enter into her service.
She took care to do everything according to the old woman’s biddingand every time she made the bed she shook it with all her might, sothat the feathers flew about like so many snowflakes. The old woman wasas good as her word: she never spoke angrily to her, and gave herroast and boiled meats every day.
So she stayed on with Mother Holle for some time, and then she beganto grow unhappy. She could not at first tell why she felt sad, but shebecame conscious at last of great longing to go home; then she knewshe was homesick, although she was a thousand times better off withMother Holle than with her mother and sister. After waiting awhile, shewent to Mother Holle and said, «I am so homesick, that I cannot staywith you any longer, for although I am so happy here, I must return tomy own people.»
Then Mother Holle said, «I am pleased that you should want to go backto your own people, and as you have served me so well and faithfully, Iwill take you home myself.»
Thereupon she led the girl by the hand up to a broad gateway. The gatewas opened, and as the girl passed through, a shower of gold fell uponher, and the gold clung to her, so that she was covered with it fromhead to foot.
«That is a reward for your industry,» said Mother Holle, and as shespoke she handed her the spindle which she had dropped into the well.
The gate was then closed, and the girl found herself back in the oldworld close to her mother’s house. As she entered the courtyard, thecock who was perched on the well, called out:
«Cock-a-doodle-doo! Your golden daughter’s come back to you.»
Then she went in to her mother and sister, and as she was sorichly covered with gold, they gave her a warm welcome. She related tothem all that had happened, and when the mother heard how she had comeby her great riches, she thought she should like her ugly, lazy daughterto go and try her fortune. So she made the sister go and sit by thewell and spin, and the girl pricked her finger and thrust her hand intoa thorn-bush, so that she might drop some blood on to the spindle; thenshe threw it into the well, and jumped in herself.
Like her sister she awoke in the beautiful meadow, and walked over ittill she came to the oven. «Take us out, take us out, or alas! weshall be burnt to a cinder; we were baked through long ago,» criedthe loaves as before. But the lazy girl answered, «Do you think I amgoing to dirty my hands for you?» and walked on.
Presently she came to the apple-tree. «Shake me, shake me, I pray;my apples, one and all, are ripe,» it cried. But she only answered, «Anice thing to ask me to do, one of the apples might fall on myhead,» and passed on.
At last she came to Mother Holle’s house, and as she had heard allabout the large teeth from her sister, she was not afraid of them, andengaged herself without delay to the old woman.
The first day she was very obedient and industrious, and exertedherself to please Mother Holle, for she thought of the gold sheshould get in return. The next day, however, she began to dawdle overher work, and the third day she was more idle still; then she beganto lie in bed in the mornings and refused to get up. Worse still, sheneglected to make the old woman’s bed properly, and forgot to shake itso that the feathers might fly about. So Mother Holle very soon gottired of her, and told her she might go. The lazy girl was delightedat this, and thought to herself, «The gold will soon be mine.» MotherHolle led her, as she had led her sister, to the broad gateway; butas she was passing through, instead of the shower of gold, a greatbucketful of pitch came pouring over her.
«That is in return for your services,» said the old woman, and sheshut the gate.
So the lazy girl had to go home covered with pitch, and the cock onthe well called out as she saw her:
«Cock-a-doodle-doo! Your dirty daughter’s come back to you.»
But, try what she would, she could not get the pitch off and it stuckto her as long as she lived.