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Mother Holle

Mother Holle

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.