There was once a man whose wife died, and a woman whose husband
died, and the man had a daughter, and the woman also had a
The girls were acquainted with each other, and went
out walking together, and afterwards came to the woman in her
Then said she to the man’s daughter, listen, tell your
father that I would like to marry him, and then you shall
wash yourself in milk every morning, and drink wine, but my own
daughter shall wash herself in water and drink water.
The girl went home, and told her father what the woman had said.
The man said, what shall I do.
Marriage is a joy and also a torment.
At length as he could come to no decision, he pulled off his boot,
and said, take this boot, it has a hole in the sole of it.
Go with it up to the loft, hang it on the big nail, and then pour water into it.
If it hold the water, then I will again take a wife, but if it
run through, I will not.
The girl did as she was bid, but the water
drew the hole together and the boot became full to the top.
She informed her father how it had turned out.
Then he himself went up, and when he saw that she was right,
he went to the widow and wooed
her, and the wedding was celebrated.
The next morning, when the two girls got up, there stood before
the man’s daughter milk for her to wash in and wine for her to
drink, but before the woman’s daughter stood water to wash
herself with and water for drinking.
On the second morning, stood
water for washing and water for drinking before the man’s
daughter as well as before the woman’s daughter.
And on the third morning stood water for washing and water for drinking before the
man’s daughter, and milk for washing and wine for drinking, before
the woman’s daughter, and so it continued.
The woman became her step-daughter’s bitterest enemy, and day by day did her best to
treat her still worse.
She was also envious because her step-daughter was beautiful and lovable, and her own daughter ugly
Once, in winter, when everything was frozen as hard as a stone,
and hill and vale lay covered with snow, the woman made a frock
of paper, called her step-daughter, and said, here, put on this
dress and go out into the wood, and fetch me a little basket full of
strawberries – I have a fancy for some.
Good heavens, said the girl, no strawberries grow in winter.
The ground is frozen, and besides the snow has covered everything.
And why am I to go in this paper frock.
It is so cold outside that one’s very breath freezes.
The wind will blow through the frock, and the thorns tear it off my body.
Will you contradict me, said the step-mother.
See that you go, and do not show your face again until you have
the basket full of strawberries.
Then she gave her a little piece of hard bread, and said, this will last you the day, and thought,
you will die of cold and hunger outside, and will never be seen
again by me.
Then the maiden was obedient, and put on the paper frock, and
went out with the basket.
Far and wide there was nothing but snow,
and not a green blade to be seen.
When she got into the wood she
saw a small house out of which peeped three little men.
She wished them good day, and knocked modestly at the door.
They cried, come in, and she entered the room and seated herself on the bench by
the stove, where she began to warm herself and eat her breakfast.
The little men said, give us some of it, too.
Willingly, she said, and divided her piece of bread in two ‘and gave
them the half.
They asked, what do you here in the forest in the
winter time, in your thin dress.
Ah, she answered, I am to look for a basket full of strawberries, and am not to go home until I can
take them with me.
When she had eaten her bread, they gave her
a broom and said, sweep away the snow at the back door.
But when she was outside, the three little men said to each other, what
shall we give her as she is so good, and has shared her bread with
Then said the first, my gift is, that she shall every day grow
The second said, my gift is, that gold pieces shall
fall out of her mouth every time she speaks.
The third said, my gift is, that a king shall come and take her to wife.
The girl, however, did as the little men had bidden
her, swept away the snow behind the little house with
the broom, and what did she find but real ripe strawberries,
which came up quite dark-red out of the snow.
In her joy she hastily gathered her basket full, thanked the
little men, shook hands with each of them, and ran
home to take her step-mother what she had longed for so much.
When she went in and said good-evening, a piece of gold at once
fell out of her mouth.
Thereupon she related what had happened to her in the wood, but with every word she spoke, gold pieces fell from her mouth, until very soon the whole room was covered with
Now look at her arrogance, cried the step-sister, to throw
about gold in that way.
But she was secretly envious of it, and wanted to go into the forest also to seek strawberries.
The mother said, no, my dear little daughter, it is too cold, you might freeze
However, as her daughter let her have no peace, the
mother at last yielded, made her a magnificent coat of fur, which
she was obliged to put on, and gave her bread-and-butter and cake
for her journey.
The girl went into the forest and straight up to the little house.
The three little men peeped out again, but she did not greet them,
and without looking round at them and without speaking to them,
she went awkwardly into the room, seated herself by the stove, and
began to eat her bread-and-butter and cake.
Give us some of it, cried the little men.
But she replied, there is not enough for myself, so how can I give it away to other people.
When she had finished eating, they said, there is a broom for you, sweep it all
clean in front of the back-door.
Sweep for yourselves, she answered, I am not your servant.
When she saw that they were not going to give her anything, she went out by the door.
Then the little men said to each other, what shall we give her as she is so
naughty, and has a wicked envious heart, that will never let her do
a good turn to any one.
The first said, I grant that she may grow uglier every day.
The second said, I grant that at every word she says, a toad shall spring out of her mouth.
The third said, I grant that she may die a miserable death.
The maiden looked for strawberries outside, but as she found none, she went angrily home.
And when she opened her mouth, and was about to tell her mother what
had happened to her in the wood, with every word she said, a toad
sprang out of her mouth, so that everyone was seized with horror
Then the step-mother was still more enraged, and thought of
nothing but how to do every possible injury to the man’s daughter,
whose beauty, however, grew daily greater.
At length she took a cauldron, set it on the fire, and boiled yarn in it.
When it was boiled, she flung it on the poor girl’s shoulder, and gave her an
axe in order that she might go on the frozen river, cut a hole in the ice, and rinse the yarn.
She was obedient, went thither and cut a hole in the ice.
And while she was in the midst of her cutting, a
splendid carriage came driving up, in which sat the king.
The carriage stopped, and the king asked, my child, who are you, and
what are you doing here.
I am a poor girl, and I am rinsing yarn.
Then the king felt compassion, and when he saw that she was so very
beautiful, he said to her, will you go away with me.
Ah, yes, with all my heart, she answered, for she was glad to get away from the
mother and sister.
So she got into the carriage and drove away with the king, and
when they arrived at his palace, the wedding was celebrated with
great pomp, as the little men had granted to the maiden.
When a year was over, the young queen bore a son, and as the step-mother
had heard of her great good-fortune, she came with her daughter
to the palace and pretended that she wanted to pay her a visit.
But, when the king had gone out, and no one else was present, the
wicked woman seized the queen by the head, and her daughter
seized her by the feet, and they lifted her out of the bed, and
threw her out of the window into the stream which flowed by.
Then the ugly daughter laid herself in the bed, and the old woman
covered her up over her head.
When the king came home again and
wanted to speak to his wife, the old woman cried, hush, hush, that
can’t be now, she is lying in a violent sweat.
You must let her rest to-day.
The king suspected no evil, and did not come back
again till next morning.
And as he talked with his wife and she
answered him, with every word a toad leaped out, whereas formerly a
piece of gold had fallen.
Then he asked what that could be, but the
old woman said that she had got that from the violent sweat, and
would soon lose it again.
During the night, however, the scullion
saw a duck come swimming up the gutter, and it said –
king, what art thou doing now.
Sleepiest thou, or wakes thou.
And as he returned no answer, it said –
and my guests, what may they do.
The scullion said they are sleeping soundly, too.
Then it asked again what does little baby mine.
He answered Sleepiest in her cradle fine.
Then she went upstairs in the form of the queen, nursed the
baby, shook up its little bed, covered it over, and then swam away
again down the gutter in the shape of a duck.
She came thus for two nights.
On the third, she said to the scullion, go and tell the
king to take his sword and swing it three times over me on the
Then the scullion ran and told this to the king, who
came with his sword and swung it thrice over the spirit, and at the
third time, his wife stood before him strong, living, and healthy
as she had been before.
Thereupon the king was full of great joy,
but he kept the queen hidden in a chamber until the Sunday, when
the baby was to be christened.
And when it was christened he said,
what does a person deserve who drags another out of bed and
throws him in the water.
The wretch deserves nothing better,
answered the old woman, than to be taken and put in a barrel
stuck full of nails, and rolled down hill into the water.
Then, said the king, you have pronounced your own sentence.
And he ordered such a barrel to be brought, and the old woman to be put
into it with her daughter, and then the top was hammered on, and
the barrel rolled down hill until it went into the river.