"What, will you help us, you little wight?" said they.
"Do you not see I can creep between the iron bars into the chamber of the parson, and reach out to you whatever you require?"
"Very well; we will see what you can do," said the thief.
When they came to the house, Thumbling crept into the chamber, and cried out with all his might, "Will you have all that is here?" The thieves were terrified, and said, "Speak gently, or some one will awake."
But Thumbling feigned not to understand, and exclaimed, louder still, "Will you have all that is here?"
This awoke the cook, who slept in the room, and sitting up in her bed she listened. The thieves, however, had run back a little way, quite frightened; but taking courage again, and thinking the little fellow wished to tease them, they came and whispered to him to make haste and hand them out something. At this, Thumbling cried out still more loudly, "I will give you it all, only put your hands in." The listening maid heard this clearly, and springing out of bed, hurried out at the door. The thieves ran off as if they were pursued by the wild huntsman, but the maid, as she could see nothing, went to strike a light. When she returned, Thumbling escaped without being seen into the barn, and the maid, after she had looked round and searched in every corner, without finding anything, went to bed again, believing she had been dreaming with her eyes open. Meanwhile Thumbling had crept in amongst the hay, and found a beautiful place to sleep, where he intended to rest till daybreak, and then to go home to his parents.
Other things however, was he to experience, for there is much tribulation and trouble going on in this world.
The maid got up at dawn of day to feed the cow. Her first walk was to the barn, where she took an armful of hay, and just the bundle where poor Thumbling lay asleep. He slept so soundly, however, that he was not conscious, and only awoke when he was in the cow's mouth. "Ah, goodness!" exclaimed he, "however came I into this mill?" but soon he saw where he really was. Then he took care not to come between the teeth, but presently slipped quite down the cow's throat. "There are no windows in this room," said he to himself, "and no sunshine, and I brought no light with me." Overhead his quarters seemed still worse, and more than all, he felt his room growing narrower, as the cow swallowed more hay. So he began to call out in terror as loudly as he could, "Bring me no more food. I do not want any more food!" Just then the maid was milking the cow, and when she heard the voice without seeing anything, and knew it was the same she had listened to in the night, she was so frightened that she slipped off her stool and overturned the milk. In great haste she ran to her master, saying, "Oh, Mr. Parson, the cow has been speaking."
"You are crazy," he replied; but still he went himself into The stable to see what was the matter, and scarcely had he stepped in when Thumbling began to shout out again, "Bring me no more food, bring me no more food." This terrified the parson himself, and he thought an evil spirit had entered into his cow, and so ordered her to be killed. As soon as that was done, and they were dividing the carcass, a fresh accident befell Thumbling, for a wolf, who was passing at the time, made a snatch at the cow, and tore away the part where he was stuck fast. However, he did not lose courage, but as soon as the wolf had swallowed him, he called out from inside, "Oh, Mr. Wolf, I know of a capital meal for you." "Where is it to be found?" asked the wolf
"In the house by the meadow; you must creep through the gutter, and there you will find cakes, and bacon, and sausages, as many as you can eat," replied Thumbling, describing exactly his father's house.
The wolf did not wait to be told twice, but in the night crept in, and ate away in the larder, to his heart's content. When he had finished, he tried to escape by the way he entered, but the hole was not large enough. Thereupon Thumbling, who had reckoned on this, began to make a tremendous noise inside the poor wolf, screaming and shouting as loud as he could. "Will you be quiet?" said the wolf; "you will awake the people." "Eh, what!" cried the little man, "since you have satisfied yourself, it is my turn now to make merry;" and he set up a louder howling than before. At last his father and mother awoke, and came to the room and looked through the chinks of the door; and as soon as they perceived the ravages the wolf had committed, they ran and brought the man his ax and the woman the scythe. "Stop you behind," said the man, as they entered the room; "if my blow does not kill him, you must give him a cut with your weapon, and chop off his head if you can."
When Thumbling heard his father's voice, he called out, "Father dear, I am here, in the wolf's body!" "Heaven be praised," said the man, full of joy, "our dear child is found again;" and he bade his wife take away the scythe, lest it should do any harm to his son. Then he raised his ax, and gave the wolf such a blow on its head that it fell dead, and, taking a knife, he cut it open and released the little fellow, his son.
"Ah," said his father, "what trouble we have had about you." "Yes, father," replied Thumbling, "I have been traveling a great deal about the world. Heaven be praised! I breathe fresh air again."
"Where have you been, my son?" he inquired.
"Once I was in a mouse's hole, once inside a cow, and lastly inside that wolf; and now I will stop here with you," said Thumbling.
"Yes," said the old people, "we will not sell you again for all the riches of the world;" and they embraced and kissed him with great affection. Then they gave him plenty to eat and drink, and had new clothes made for him, for his old ones were worn out with traveling.
THE SIX SWANS
By William and Jacob Grimm
A KING was once hunting in a large wood, and pursued his game so hotly, that none of his courtiers could follow him. But when evening approached he stopped, and looking around him perceived that he had lost himself. He sought a path out of the forest, but could not find one, and presently he saw an old woman with a nodding head, who came up to him. "My good woman," said he to her, "can you not show me the way out of the forest?" "Oh, yes, my lord King," she replied, "I can do that very well, but upon one condition, which if you do not fulfill you will never again get out of the wood, but will die of hunger."
"What, then, is this condition?" asked the King.
"I have a daughter," said the old woman, "who is as beautiful as anyone you can find in the whole world, and well deserves to be your bride.
Now, if you will make her your Queen, I will show you your way out of the wood." In the anxiety of his heart the King consented, and the old woman led him to her cottage, where the daughter was sitting by a fire.
She received the King as if she had expected him, and he saw at once that she was very beautiful, but yet she did not quite please him, for he could not look at her without a secret shuddering. However, after all, he took the maiden up on his horse, and the old woman showed him the way, and the King arrived safely at his palace, where the wedding was to be celebrated.
The King had been married once before, and had seven children by his first wife, six boys and a girl, whom he loved above everything else in the world. He became afraid, soon, that the stepmother might not treat them very well, and might even do them some great injury, so he took them away to a lonely castle which stood in the midst of a forest.
This castle was so hidden, and the way to it so difficult to discover, that he himself could not have found it if a wise woman had not given him a ball of cotton which had the wonderful property, when he threw it before him, of unrolling itself and showing him the right path. The King went, however, so often to see his dear children, that the Queen noticed his absence, became inquisitive, and wished to know what he went to fetch out of the forest. So she gave his servants a great quantity of money, and they disclosed to her the secret, and also told her of the ball of cotton which alone could show the way. She had now no peace until she discovered where this ball was concealed, and then she made some fine silken shirts, and, as she had learned of her mother, she sewed within each one a charm. One day soon after, when the King was gone out hunting, she took the little shirts and went into the forest, and the cotton showed her the path. The children, seeing some one coming in the distance, thought it was their dear father, and ran out toward her full of joy. Then she threw over each of them a shirt, which as it touched their bodies changed them into Swans, which flew away over the forest. The Queen then went home quite contented, and thought she was free of her stepchildren; but the little girl had not met her with the brothers, and the Queen did not know of her.
The following day the King went to visit his children, but he found only the maiden. "Where are your brothers?" asked he. "Ah, dear father," she replied, "they are gone away and have left me alone;" and she told him how she had looked out of the window and seen them changed into Swans, which had flown over the forest; and then she showed him the feathers which they had dropped in the courtyard, and which she had collected together. The King was much grieved, but he did not think that his wife could have done this wicked deed, and, as he feared the girl might also be stolen away, he took her with him. She was, however, so much afraid of the stepmother, that she begged him not to stop more than one night in the castle.
The poor maiden thought to herself: "This is no longer my place, I will go and seek my brothers;" and when night came she escaped and went quite deep into the wood. She walked all night long and great part of the next day, until she could go no further from weariness. Just then she saw a rude hut, and walking in she found a room with six little beds, but she dared not get into one, but crept under, and, laying herself upon the hard earth, prepared to pass the night there. Just as the sun was setting, she heard a rustling, and saw six white Swans come flying in at the window. They settled on the ground and began blowing one another until they had blown all their feathers off, and their swan's down stripped off like a shirt. Then the maiden knew them at once for her brothers, and gladly crept out from under the bed, and the brothers were not less glad to see their sister, but their joy was of short duration. "Here you must not stay," said they to her; "this is a robber's hiding-place; if they should return and find you here, they will murder you." "Can you not protect me, then?" inquired the sister.
"No," they replied, "for we can only lay aside our swan's feathers for a quarter of an hour each evening, and for that time we retain our human form, but afterward we resume our usual appearance."
Their sister then asked them with tears, "Can you not be restored again?"
"Oh, no," replied they, "the conditions are too difficult. For six long years you must neither speak nor laugh, and during that time you must sew together for us six little shirts of star flowers, and should there fall a single word from your lips, then all your labor will be vain." Just as the brother finished speaking, the quarter of an hour elapsed, and they all flew out of the window again like Swans.
The little sister, however, made a solemn resolution to rescue her brothers or die in the attempt; and she left the cottage, and, penetrating deep into the forest, passed the night amid the branches of a tree. The next morning she went out and collected the star flowers to sew together. She had no one to converse with, and as for laughing she had no spirits, so there up in the tree she sat, intent only upon her work. After she had passed some time there, it happened that the King of that country was hunting in the forest, and his huntsmen came beneath the tree on which the maiden sat. They called to her and asked, "Who art thou?" But she gave no answer. "Come down to us,"
continued they, "we will do thee no harm." She simply shook her head, and, when they pressed her further with questions, she threw down to them her gold necklace, hoping therewith to satisfy them. They did not, however, leave her, and she threw down her girdle, but in vain; and even her rich dress did not make them desist. At last the hunter himself climbed the tree and brought down the maiden and took her before the King. The King asked her, "Who art thou? What dost thou upon that tree? But she did not answer, and then he asked her, in all the languages that he knew, but she remained dumb to all, as a fish.
Since, however, she was so beautiful, the King's heart was touched, and he conceived for her a strong affection. Then he put around her his cloak, and, placing her before him on his horse, took her to his castle. There he ordered rich clothing to be made for her, and, although her beauty shone as the sun-beams, not a word escaped her.
The King placed her by his side at table, and there her dignified mien and manners so won upon him, that he said, "This maiden will I to marry, and no other in the world," and after some days he was united to her.
Now, the King had a wicked stepmother who was discontented with his marriage, and spoke evil of the young Queen. "Who knows whence the wench comes?" said she. "She who cannot speak is not worthy of a King." A year after, when the Queen brought her first-born son into the world, the old woman took him away. Then she went to the King and complained that the Queen was a murderess. The King, however, would not believe it, and suffered no one to do any injury to his wife, who sat composedly sewing at her shirts and paying attention to nothing else. When a second child was born, the false stepmother used the same deceit, but the King again would not listen to her words, but said, "She is too pious and good to act so: could she but speak and defend herself, her innocence would come to light." But when again the third time the old woman stole away the child, and then accused the Queen, who answered her not a word to the accusation, the King was obliged to give her up to be tried, and she was condemned to suffer death by fire.
When the time had elapsed, and the sentence was to be carried out, during which she had neither spoken nor laughed, it was the very day when her dear brothers should be made free; the six shirts were also ready, all but the last, which yet wanted the left sleeve. As she was led to the scaffold she placed the shirts upon her arm, and just as she had mounted it, and the fire was about to be kindled, she looked round, and saw six Swans come flying through the air. Her heart leaped for joy as she perceived her deliverers approaching, and soon the Swans, flying toward her, alighted so near that she was enabled to throw over them the shirts, and as soon as she had so done their feathers fell off and the brothers stood up alive and well; but the youngest wanted his left arm, instead of which he had a swan's wing. They embraced and kissed each other, and the Queen going to the King, who was thunderstruck, began to say, "Now may I speak, my dear husband, and prove to you that I am innocent and falsely accused;" and then she told him how the wicked old woman had stolen away and hidden her three children. When she had concluded, the King was overcome with joy, and the wicked stepmother was led to the scaffold and bound to the stake and burned to ashes.
The King and the Queen forever after lived in peace and prosperity with their six brothers.
SNOW-WHITE AND ROSE-RED
By William and Jacob Grimm
THERE was once a poor Widow who lived alone in her hut with her two children, who were called Snow-White and Rose-Red, because they were like the flowers which bloomed on two rosebushes which grew before the cottage. But they were two as pious, good, industrious, and amiable children as any that were in the world, only Snow-White was more quiet and gentle than Rose-Red. For Rose-Red would run and jump about the meadows, seeking flowers and catching butterflies, while Snow-White sat at home helping her Mother to keep house, or reading to her if there were nothing else to do. The two children loved one another dearly, and always walked hand in hand when they went out together; and ever when they talked of it they agreed that they would never separate from each other, and that whatever one had the other should share. Often they ran deep into the forest and gathered wild berries; but no beast ever harmed them. For the hare would eat cauliflowers out of their hands, the fawn would graze at their side, the goats would frisk about them in play, and the birds remained perched on the boughs singing as if nobody were near. No accident ever befell them; and if they stayed late in the forest, and night came upon them, they used to lie down on the moss and sleep till morning; and because their Mother knew they would do so, she felt no concern about them. One time when they had thus passed the night in the forest, and the dawn of morning awoke them, they saw a beautiful Child dressed in shining white sitting near their couch. She got up and looked at them kindly, but without saying anything went into the forest; and when the children looked round they saw that where they had slept was close to the edge of a pit, into which they would have certainly fallen had they walked a couple of steps further in the dark. Their Mother told them the figure they had seen was doubtless the good angel who watches over children.
Snow-White and Rose-Red kept their Mother's cottage so clean that it was a pleasure to enter it. Every morning in the summer time Rose-Red would first put the house in order, and then gather a nosegay for her Mother, in which she always placed a bud from each rose tree. Every winter's morning Snow-White would light the fire and put the kettle on to boil, and although the kettle was made of copper it yet shone like gold, because it was scoured so well. In the evenings, when the flakes of snow were falling, the Mother would say: "Go, Snow-White, and bolt the door;" and then they used to sit down on the hearth, and the Mother would put on her spectacles and read out of a great book while her children sat spinning. By their side, too, laid a little lamb, and on a perch behind them a little white dove reposed with her head under her wing.
One evening, when they were thus sitting comfortably together, there came a knock at the door as if somebody wished to come in. "Make haste, Rose-Red," cried her Mother; "make haste and open the door; perhaps there is some traveler outside who needs shelter." So Rose-Red went and drew the bolt and opened the door, expecting to see some poor man outside, but instead, a great fat Bear poked his black head in.
Rose-Red shrieked out and ran back, the little lamb bleated, the dove fluttered on her perch, and Snow-White hid herself behind her Mother's bed. The Bear, however, began to speak, and said: "Be not afraid, I will do you no harm; but I am half frozen, and wish to come in and warm myself."
"Poor Bear!" cried the Mother; "come in and lie down before the fire; but take care you do not burn your skin;" and then she continued: "Come here, Rose-Red and Snow-White, the Bear will not harm you, he means honorably." So they both came back, and by degrees the lamb too and the dove overcame their fears and welcomed the rough visitor.
"You children!" said the Bear, before he entered, "come and knock the snow off my coat." And they fetched their brooms and swept him clean.
Then he stretched himself before the fire and grumbled out his satisfaction; and in a little while the children became familiar enough to play tricks with the unwieldy animal. They pulled his long, shaggy skin, set their feet upon his back and rolled him to and fro, and even ventured to beat him with a hazel stick, laughing when he grumbled.
The Bear bore all their tricks good temperedly, and if they hit him too hard he cried out:
"Leave me my life, you children,
Snow-White and Rose-Red,
Or you'll never wed."
When bedtime came and the others were gone, the Mother said to the Bear: "You may sleep here on the hearth if you like, and then you will be safely protected from the cold and bad weather."
As soon as day broke the two children let the Bear out again, and he trotted away over the snow, and ever afterward he came every evening at a certain hour. He would lie down on the hearth and allow the children to play with him as much as they liked, till by degrees they became so accustomed to him that the door was left unbolted till their black friend arrived.
But as soon as spring returned, and everything out of doors was green again, the Bear one morning told Snow-White that he must leave her, and could not return during the whole summer. "Where are you going, then, dear Bear?" asked Snow-White, "I am obliged to go into the forest and guard my treasures from the evil Dwarfs; for in winter, when the ground is hard, they are obliged to keep in their holes, and cannot work through; but now, since the sun has thawed the earth and warmed it, the Dwarf's pierce through, and steal all they can find; and what has once passed into their hands, and gets concealed by them in their caves, is not easily brought to light." Snow-White, however, was very sad at the departure of the Bear, and opened the door so hesitatingly that when he pressed through it he left behind on the sneck a piece of his hairy coat; and through the hole which was made in his coat Snow-White fancied she saw the glittering of gold; but she was not quite certain of it. The Bear, however, ran hastily away, and was soon hidden behind the trees.
Some time afterward the Mother sent the children into the wood to gather sticks; and while doing so, they came to a tree which was lying across the path, on the trunk of which something kept bobbing up and down from the grass, and they could not imagine what it was. When they came nearer they saw a Dwarf, with an old wrinkled face and a snow- white beard a yard long. The end of this beard was fixed in a split of the tree, and the little man kept jumping about like a dog tied by a chain, for he did not know how to free himself. He glared at the Maidens with his red fiery eyes, and exclaimed, "Why do you stand there? are you going to pass without offering me any assistance?"
"What have you done, little man?" asked Rose-Red. "You stupid, gaping goose!" exclaimed he. "I wanted to have split the tree, in order to get a little wood for my kitchen, for the little wood which we use is soon burned up with great fagots, not like what you rough, greedy people devour! I had driven the wedge in properly, and everything was going on well, when the smooth wood flew upward, and the tree closed so suddenly together that I could not draw my beautiful beard out, and here it sticks and I cannot get away. There, don't laugh, you milk- faced things! are you dumfounded?"