How the Devil Married Three Sisters

and other folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 311
translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 1999-2024


  1. How the Devil Married Three Sisters (Italy).

  2. The Devil (Italy).

  3. The Cobbler and His Three Daughters (Blue Beard) (Basque).

  4. The Three Sisters Who Were Taken into the Mountain (Norway).

  5. The Sisters in the Troll's Hill (Denmark).

  6. Fitcher's Bird (Germany).

  7. The Three Sisters (Germany).

  8. Link to The Hare's Bride (Germany). This tale is contained in a separate file and will open in a new window.

  9. The Three Chests: The Story of the wicked Old Man of the Sea (Finland).

  10. The Widow and Her Daughters (Scotland).

  11. Peerifool (Scotland).

  12. Jean-Parle (Canada).

  13. The Secret Room (New York, USA).

  14. The Three Sisters (Jamaica).

  15. The Wood-Cutter's Daughter (Palestine).

  16. The Tiger's Bride (India).

  17. Links to related sites.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

How the Devil Married Three Sisters


Once upon a time the devil was seized with a desire to marry. He therefore left hell, took the form of a handsome young man, and built a fine large house. When it was completed and furnished in the most fashionable style he introduced himself to a family where there were three pretty daughters, and paid his addresses to the eldest of them. The handsome man pleased the maiden, her parents were glad to see a daughter so well provided for, and it was not long before the wedding was celebrated.

When he had taken his bride home, he presented her with a very tastefully arranged bouquet, led her through all the rooms of the house, and finally to a closed door. "The whole house is at your disposal," said he, "only I must request one thing of you; that is, that you do not on any account open this door."

Of course the young wife promised faithfully; but equally, of course, she could scarcely wait for the moment to come when she might break her promise. When the devil had left the house the next morning, under pretence of going hunting, she ran hastily to the forbidden door, opened it, and saw a terrible abyss full of fire that shot up towards her, and singed the flowers on her bosom. When her husband came home and asked her whether she had kept her promise, she unhesitatingly said "Yes." But he saw by the flowers that she was telling a lie, and said, "Now I will not put your curiosity to the test any longer. Come with me. I will show you myself what is behind the door." Thereupon he led her to the door, opened it, gave her such a push that she fell down into hell, and shut the door again.

A few months after he wooed the next sister for his wife, and won her; but with her everything that had happened with the first wife was exactly repeated.

Finally he courted the third sister. She was a prudent maiden, and said to herself, "He has certainly murdered my two sisters; but then it is a splendid match for me, so I will try and see whether I cannot be more fortunate than they." And accordingly she consented. After the wedding the bridegroom gave her a beautiful bouquet, but forbade her, also, to open the door which he pointed out.

Not a whit less curious than her sisters, she, too, opened the forbidden door when the devil had gone hunting, but she had previously put her flowers in water. Then she saw behind the door the fatal abyss and her sisters therein. "Ah!" she exclaimed, "poor creature that I am; I thought I had married an ordinary man, and instead of that he is the devil! How can I get away from him?" She carefully pulled her two sisters out of hell and hid them. When the devil came home he immediately looked at the bouquet, which she again wore on her bosom, and when he found the flowers so fresh he asked no questions; but reassured as to his secret, he now, for the first time, really loved her.

After a few days she asked him if he would carry three chests for her to her parents' house, without putting them down or resting on the way. "But," she added, "you must keep your word, for I shall be watching you."

The devil promised to do exactly as she wished. So the next morning she put one of her sisters in a chest, and laid it on her husband's shoulders. The devil, who is very strong, but also very lazy and unaccustomed to work, soon got tired of carrying the heavy chest, and wanted to rest before he was out of the street on which he lived; but his wife called out to him, "Don't put it down; I see you!"

The devil went reluctantly on with the chest until he had turned the corner, and then said to himself, "She cannot see me here; I will rest a little."

But scarcely had he begun to put the chest down when the sister inside cried out, "Don't put it down; I see you still!" Cursing, he dragged the chest on into another street, and was going to lay it down on a doorstep, but he again heard the voice, "Don't lay it down, you rascal; I see you still!"

"What kind of eyes must my wife have," he thought, "to see around corners as well as straight ahead, and through walls as if they were made of glass!" and thus thinking he arrived, all in a perspiration and quite tired out, at the house of his mother-in-law, to whom he hastily delivered the chest, and then hurried home to strengthen himself with a good breakfast.

The same thing was repeated the next day with the second chest. On the third day she herself was to be taken home in the chest. She therefore prepared a figure which she dressed in her own clothes, and placed on the balcony, under the pretext of being able to watch him better; slipped quickly into the chest, and had the maid put it on the devil's back. "The deuce!" said he; "this chest is a great deal heavier than the others; and today, when she is sitting on the balcony, I shall have so much the less chance to rest." So by dint of the greatest exertions he carried it, without stopping, to his mother-in-law, and then hastened home to breakfast, scolding, and with his back almost broken.

But quite contrary to custom, his wife did not come out to meet him, and there was no breakfast ready. "Margerita, where are you?" he cried, but received no answer. As he was running through the corridors, he at length looked out of a window and saw the figure on the balcony. "Margerita, have you gone to sleep? Come down. I am as tired as a dog, and as hungry as a wolf." But there was no reply. "If you do not come down instantly I will go up and bring you down," he cried, angrily; but Margerita did not stir. Enraged, he hastened up to the balcony, and gave her such a box on the ear that her head flew off, and he saw that the head was nothing but a milliner's form, and the body, a bundle of rags. Raging, he rushed down and rummaged through the whole house, but in vain; he found only his wife's empty jewel box. "Ha!" he cried; "she has been stolen from me and her jewels, too!" and he immediately ran to inform her parents of the misfortune. But when he came near the house, to his great surprise he saw on the balcony above the door all three sisters, his wives, who were looking down on him with scornful laughter.

Three wives at once terrified the devil so much that he took his flight with all possible speed.

Since that time he has lost his taste for marrying.

The Devil

Italy (Venice)

Once upon a time there was a husband and wife, and they had three daughters all grown up, and they took in washing. As it happened, a gentleman passed by their house one day and fell in love with the eldest. girl. He went to her parents and asked if they would give her to him. for his wife. They saw that he was a handsome gentleman, and they said yes.

And he married her, and took her away. And he took her to the finest palace that eyes could see.

When they got there, he gave her the keys of all the rooms; but he said "Go wherever you like, except into that room there. If you do go into it, it will be worse for you."

And he gave her a beautiful fresh rose to put in her hair, and then he up and went away. This woman was curious to know what was in that chamber that he said she was not to go into, so she went and opened the door, and she saw that there were ever so many souls inside, all on the fire, and she knew that it was hell.

"Oh!" cried she. "what have I done? What have I done? For certain, he'll put me in there too!"

Then she looked at the rose in her hair and saw that it was quite faded.

By-and-by back comes the husband, and says he, "Good morning!"

He noticed that the rose was faded, and he knew well enough that she had been into that room; so he said, "Did you go into that room where I told you not to go?"

And she answered him, "Not I, indeed! Once you told me not to go; that was enough."

"Very well; now I'll take you myself to see it."

With that he opened the chamber and pushed her into it. Then he locked the door; and what did he do but set off to her mother, and he told her that her daughter had been so ill, so ill, until at last she was dead; and that now he should like to have the second daughter. And the mother gave her to him.

The same story is of course repeated with the second daughter, and, after she is disposed of in the same manner as her sister, the devil -- who is represented as an eminently domestic character -- not being able to do without a wife, returns a third time to the house of the washerwoman and demands her last remaining daughter in marriage. He obtains her from her confiding parents, takes her home, gives her the keys and the fresh-blown rose, and absents himself as before.

But this third young lady is at least a match for her husband! She is no whit less curious than her sisters, but she takes the precaution of removing the rose from her hair before peeping into the forbidden chamber. Of course she sees there what her sisters saw, and sees them into the bargain. They cry to her to hasten away, for otherwise her husband will throw her in there too.

But, nothing daunted, she answers, "Wait a bit. Don't be afraid. Only leave it to me!"

The master of the house on his return finds his wife with the flower in her hair still fresh and blooming. He accepts her assurance that she has obeyed him, and professes an unbounded affection for her.

"Well now, hark ye, old man," said she; "we must think of sending a few things to the wash, for all the house linen is dirty. Tomorrow morning I will put it all into a chest, and you must carry it to my mother's, and she'll wash it for us."

She waited till her husband went out, and then she put a few soiled things into the chest, and went and fetched her eldest sister and put her into the chest too, and some money besides.

And she said to her, "Remember, when you are on the way, if you feel him setting the chest down to peep into it, you must cry out 'Mind, I'm looking at you!'"

And she shut up the chest, and left it until he came back.

By-and-by home he came, and she said to him, "Now, there's a good fellow, take this chest and carry it to my mother's. But mind you don't peep into it, d'ye hear? because if you do peep I shall see you."

With that he took up the chest on his shoulders.

"Oh," cried he, "What a weight it is!"

"Well, just think," answered his wife, "it is such a long time since we had a wash that everything was dirty!"

On the road he began to think, "What a weight this chest is! I should like to know what's inside it!"

He was just beginning to set it down, when he heard a voice crying "Mind, I'm looking at you!"

"Oh," says he, "she can see me! No, no, I won't touch it."

The chest with its contents is safely carried to the washerwoman's house and left there; the husband answering his wife's inquiries on his return home with the assurance that he has not peeped into it.

The same thing happens again when the second sister is put into the chest and carried to her mother's house.

In order to effect her own escape, the cunning third sister feigns illness. She desires to be left undisturbed because she wants to sleep, and tells her husband that he will find another chest full of soiled linen at her bedroom door, which he must carry to the wash as before. Meanwhile she makes a huge rag-doll, dresses it in her own clothes, places it in her bed, and gets into the chest herself, not forgetting to take with her a provision of money and fine linen this time.

By-and-by the devil came home and went on tip-toe into the bedroom.

He looked at the bed, and saw her there all covered up, and said he, "Oh, bless her heart! I won't wake her. I'll leave her quiet. Now I'll carry the chest away."

He took up the chest, but said he, "My stars and garters (corpo di Baco!), what a weight this one is! It's heavier than the two others."

And he put it on his shoulders and set off. But when he had got half way, he began to set down the chest, and he heard a voice crying, "Mind, I'm looking at you!"

"Why, bless her heart," says he; although she's ill in bed, she sees me all the same!"

He went to her mother's house, and said he, "Make haste and get all these things washed. I must be off home to my wife, for she's not at all well."

"Mercy me!" cried the mother, "I hope she's not going to die like those two others!"

"No, no; I'm going at once to look after her."

He went home and went on tip-toe into the bedroom, and went up to the bed, and said, "Wife, how goes it? Ah! she don't answer me. Poor dear! why, can she be dead?"

With that he pulled the cover off the bed, and found the rag-doll there.

"Ah, the hussy! she has tricked me! Oh dear, oh dear! whatever will become of me?"

He ran into the other room to see if the two sisters were there still, and found them gone too. Upon this the devil fell into such a passion that he got a fit of the bile, and that killed him.

And so, you see, as the saying is, "Women are a match for the devil himself."

The Cobbler and His Three Daughters (Blue Beard)


Like many others in the world, there was a cobbler who had three daughters. They were very poor. He only earned enough just to feed his children. He did not know what would become of him. He went about in his grief, walking, walking sadly on, and he meets a gentleman, who asks him where he is going, melancholy like that.

He answers him, "Even if I shall tell you, I shall get no relief."

"Yes, yes; who knows? Tell it."

"I have three daughters, and I have not work enough to maintain them. I have famine in the house."

"If it is only that, we will manage it. You will give me one of your daughters, and I will give you so much money."

The father was, very grieved to make any such bargain; but at last he comes down to that. He gives him his eldest daughter. This gentleman takes her to his palace, and, after having passed some time there, he said to her that he has a short journey to make -- that he will leave her all the keys, that she might see everything, but that there is one key that she must not make use of -- that it would bring misfortune on her. He locks the door on the young lady.

This young girl goes into all the rooms, and finds them very beautiful, and she was curious to see what there was in that which was forbidden. She goes in, and sees heaps of dead bodies. Judge of her fright! With her trembling she lets the key fall upon the ground. She trembles for the coming of her husband. He arrives, and asks her if she has entered the forbidden chamber.

She tells him "Yes."

He takes her and puts her into an underground dungeon; hardly, hardly did he give her enough to eat (to live on), and that was human flesh.

This cobbler had finished his money, and he was again melancholy.

The gentleman meets him again, and says to him, "Your other daughter is not happy alone; you must give me another daughter. When she is happy, I will send her back; and I will give you so much money."

The father did not like it; but he was so poor that, in order to have a little money, he gives him his daughter.

The gentleman takes her home with him, like the other. After some days he said to her too, "I must take a short journey. I will give you all the keys of the house, but do not touch such a key of such a room."

He locks the house door, and goes off, after having left her the food she needed. This young girl goes into all the rooms, and, as she was curious, she went to look into the forbidden chamber. She was so terribly frightened at the sight of so many dead bodies in this room, that she lets the key fall, and it gets stained. Our young girl was trembling as to what should become of her when the master should come back.

He arrives, and the first thing he asks, "Have you been in that room?"

She told him "Yes."

He takes her underground, like her other sister.

This cobbler had finished his money, and he was in misery; when the gentleman comes to him again, and says to him, "I will give you a great deal of money if you will let your daughter come to my house for a few days; the three will be happier together, and I will send you the two back again together."

The father believes it, and gives him his third daughter. The gentleman gives him the money, and he takes this young girl, like the others.

At the end of some days he leaves her, saying that he is going to make a short journey. He gives her all the keys of the house, saying to her, "You will go into all the rooms except this one," pointing out the key to her.

He locks the outside door, and goes off. This young girl goes straight, straight to the forbidden chamber; she opens it, and think of her horror at seeing so many dead people. She thought that he would kill her too, and, as there were all kinds of arms in this chamber, she takes a sabre with her, and hides it under her dress. She goes a little further on, and sees her two sisters almost dying with hunger, and a young man in the same condition. She takes care of them as well as she can till the gentleman comes home.

On his arrival, he asks her, "Have you been in that room?"

She says, "Yes;" and, in giving him back the keys, she lets them fall on the ground, on purpose, and at the instant that this gentleman stoops to pick them up, the young lady cuts off his head (with her sword).

Oh, how glad she was! Quickly she runs to deliver her sisters and that young man, who was the son of a king. She sends for her father, the cobbler, and leaves him there with his two daughters, and the youngest daughter goes away with her young gentleman, after being married to him.

If they lived well, they died well too.

The Three Sisters Who Were Taken into the Mountain


Once upon a time there was an old widow who lived, with her three daughters, far away from the rest of the world, next to a mountain. She was so poor that her only animal was a single hen, which she prized as the apple of her eye. It was always cackling at her heels, and she was always running to look after it. One day, all at once, the hen was gone. The old woman went out, and walked around and around the cottage, looking and calling for her hen, but it was gone, and could not be found.

So the woman said to her oldest daughter, "You must just go out and see if you can find our hen, for we must have it back, even if we have to fetch it out of the mountain."

The daughter was ready enough to go, so she set off and walked up and down, and looked and called, but she could not find the hen. Suddenly, just as she was about to give up the hunt, she heard someone calling out from a cleft in the rock:

Your hen is in the mountain!
Your hen is in the mountain!

So she went into the cleft to see what it was, but she had barely set foot inside, when she fell through a trapdoor, deep, deep down, into an underground cavern. When she got to the bottom she went through many rooms, each finer than the one before it; but in the innermost room of all, a large ugly troll came to her and asked, "Will you be my sweetheart?"

"No! I will not," she said. She wouldn't have him for any price! All she wanted was to get above ground again as fast as ever she could, and to find her lost hen. Then the troll got so angry that he picked her up, twisted her head off, and then threw both the head and body into the cellar.

While this was going on, her mother sat at home waiting and waiting, but no daughter came. After she had waited a bit longer, and neither heard nor saw anything of her daughter, she told her middle daughter to go out and look for her sister, and, she added, "Give our hen a call at the same time."

So the second sister had to set off, and the very same thing happened to her. She was looking and calling, and suddenly she too heard a voice calling from from the cleft in the rock:

Your hen is in the mountain!
Your hen is in the mountain!

She thought that this was strange, and went to see what it was. She too fell through the trapdoor, deep, deep down, into the cavern. She too went from room to room, and in the innermost one the troll came to her and asked if she would be his sweetheart? No, she would not. All she wanted was to get above ground again, and hunt for her lost hen. The troll got angry, and picked her up, twisted her head off, and threw both head and body into the cellar.

Now, when the old woman had sat and waited seven lengths and seven breadths for her second daughter, and could neither see nor hear anything of her, she said to the youngest, "Now, you must go out and look for your sisters. It was silly to lose the hen, but it would be sillier still to lose both your sisters. Of course, you can give the hen a call at the same time." You see, the old woman's heart was still set on her hen.

Yes, the youngest was ready to go, and she walked up and down, hunting for her sisters and calling the hen, but she could neither see nor hear anything of them. She too came to the cleft in the rock, and heard something say:

Your hen is in the mountain!
Your hen is in the mountain!

She thought that this was strange, so she too went to see what it was, and she too fell through the trapdoor, deep, deep down, into a cavern. When she reached the bottom she went from one room to another, each grander than the one before it; but she wasn't at all afraid, and took time to look carefully about her. As she was peeping into this and that, she saw the trapdoor into the cellar, and looked down it, and what should she see there but her dead sisters. She barely had time to slam to the trapdoor before the troll came to her and asked, "Will you be my sweetheart?"

"With all my heart," answered the girl, for she saw very well how it had gone with her sisters. When the troll heard that, he brought her the finest clothes in the world. Indeed, she had only to ask, and she got whatever she wanted, because the troll was so glad that someone would be his sweetheart.

One day, after she had been there a little while, she was looking very gloomy and downcast, so the troll asked her what was the matter, and why she was so sad.

"Ah!" said the girl, "it's because I can't get home to my mother. I know that she has very little to eat and drink, and she has no one with her."

"Well!" said the troll, "I can't let you go to see her; but just stuff some meat and drink into a sack, and I'll carry it to her."

With many thanks, she said that she would do that. However, she put a lot of gold and silver into the bottom of the sack, then laid a little food on top. She told the ogre the sack was ready, but that he must be sure not to look into it. He gave his word not to look inside, and set off. As the troll walked off, she peeped out at him through a chink in the trapdoor. When he had gone a little way, he said, "This sack is very heavy. I'll just see what is inside." He was about to untie the the sack, when the girl called out to him, "I can still see you! I can still see you!"

"The devil you can!" said the troll; "you must have mighty sharp eyes!" And the troll did not try to look into it again. When he reached the widow's cottage, he threw the sack in through the cottage door, saying, "Here you have meat and drink from your daughter; she doesn't want for anything."

After the girl had been in the mountain a good bit longer, one day a billy goat fell down the trapdoor.

"Who sent for you, you long bearded beast!" said the troll, in an awful rage, and he picked up the goat, twisted his head off, and threw him into the cellar.

"Oh!" said the girl, "why did you do that? I might have had the goat to play with down here."

"Well!" said the troll, "you don't need to be so down in the mouth about it. I can bring the billy goat back to life again."

So saying, he took down a flask that was hanging on the wall, put the billy goat's head on his body again, and smeared it with some ointment from flask, and he was as well and as lively as before.

"Aha!" said the girl to herself; "that flask is worth something -- that it is."

When she had been in the mountain some time longer, on a day when the troll was away, she took her oldest sister, put her head on her shoulders, smeared her with some of the ointment from the flask, just as she had seen the troll do with the billy goat, and in an instant her sister came to life again.

The girl stuffed her into a sack, laid a little food over her, and when the troll came home, she said to him, "Dear friend! Now do go home to my mother with a morsel of food again. I'm certain that the poor thing is both hungry and thirsty, and besides that, she's all alone in the world. But you must not look into the sack."

He said that he would carry the sack, and that he would not look into it. But when he had gone a little way, he thought that the sack was getting very heavy; and when he had gone a bit further he said to himself, "Come what will, I must see what's inside this sack, for however sharp her eyes may be, she can't see me all this way off."

But just as he was about to untie the sack, the girl inside the sack called out, "I can still see you! I can still see you!"

"The devil you can!" said the ogre; "then you must have mighty sharp eyes," for he thought it was the girl inside the mountain who was speaking. So he didn't dare so much as to peep into the sack again, but carried it straight to her mother as fast as he could, and when he got to the cottage door he threw it in through the door, and cried out, "Here you have meat and drink from your daughter; she wants for nothing."

When the girl had been in the mountain a while longer, she did the very same thing with her other sister. She put her head on her shoulders, smeared her with ointment from the flask, brought her to life, and put her into the sack. This time she crammed in also as much gold and silver as the sack would hold, laying just a little food on top.

"Dear friend," she said to the troll, "you really must run home to my mother with a little food again; and don't look into the sack."

Yes, the troll was eager to do as she wished, and he gave his word too that he wouldn't look into the sack; but when he had gone a little way he began to think that the sack was getting very heavy, and when he had gone a bit further, he could scarce stagger along under it, so he set it down, and was just about to untie the string and look into it, when the girl inside the sack cried out, "I can still see you! I can still see you!"

"The devil you can," said the troll, "then you must have mighty sharp eyes."

Well, he did not dare to try to look into the sack, but hurried straight to the girl's mother. When he got to the cottage he threw the sack in through the door, and roared out, "Here you have food from your daughter; she wants for nothing!"

After the girl had been there a good while longer, on a day when the troll had decided to go out for the day, the girl pretended to be sick. She moaned and complained. "There's no need for you to come home before twelve o'clock tonight," she said, "for I won't be able to have supper ready before then. I'm just too sick!"

As soon as the troll was out of the house, she stuffed some of her clothes with straw, and stood this straw girl in the corner by the chimney, with a broom in her hand, so that it looked just as though she herself were standing there. After that she stole off home, and got a marksman to stay in the cottage with her mother.

So when the clock struck twelve, or thereabouts, the troll came home, and the first thing he said to the straw girl was, "Give me something to eat."

But she did not answer him.

"Give me something to eat, I say!" called out the troll, "for I am almost starved."

But she did not have a word for him.

"Give me something to eat!" roared out the ogre the third time. "I think you'd better open your ears and hear what I say, or else I'll wake you up, I will!"

But the girl stood just as still as ever; so he flew into a rage, and gave her such a slap in the face, that the straw flew all about the room. When he saw that he had been tricked, he began to hunt everywhere. When he came to the cellar, and found both the girl's sisters missing, he soon figured out what had happened, and ran off to the cottage, saying, "I'll soon pay her for this!"

But when he reached the cottage, the marksman fired off his piece. The troll did not dare go into the house, for he thought it was thunder [Thor]. So he set off for home again as fast as he could run; but just as he reached the trapdoor, the sun rose and he exploded.

There's a lot of gold and silver down there still, if you only knew where the trapdoor is!

The Sisters in the Troll's Hill


There was a man and a woman. They lived in a small house, and they had three daughters. One was sitting on the table carding, and the other was sitting on a chair spinning, and the third was sitting on the floor knitting stockings.

At that time a troll lived in a nearby hill. He transformed himself into a pig and walked through their cabbage patch.

When the man saw it, he said to the eldest daughter: "Go out and chase that pig out of the cabbage patch."

She grabbed the distaff in her hand and ran out and beat the pig. She smashed the distaff to pieces, but it wouldn't go away.

Then the pig said: "Climb on and ride me, and then I'll go away!"

She didn't think about what consequences it might have, and sat him, but then she couldn't get down again, and the pig ran with her to the hill. There was a small door on it, and when they entered it, the pig became a troll. She had to remain there, for she saw that she was locked inside. He comforted her as best he could, promising her that she would be much better off than she ever was before, if only she could accept being with him.

At the same time, he showed her all of his fine things, and in the end she thought that she might well want to stay with him. Then he gave her twelve keys, one for each of his twelve chambers. She should open the eleven and see what was in those chambers, but she could not use the twelfth. And finally he gave her a golden apple, which she could play with, but she had to be careful not to loose it.

The troll went out every day with his sheep and his goats. As usual he left the next morning, but before he left, he again strictly forbade her to enter that chamber.

Now she went and rummaged around the house and looked at everything, but when she came to the door she was not allowed to open, she thought to herself: "You, what shameful thing can there be inside? It can't hurt if I open the door and look inside."

In the end, she could no longer control her curiosity, and so she unlocked the door. But it was a horrible sight that she got to see. The chamber was full of corpses, and a vessel stood there that was half full of blood. Now she hastened to slam the door shut, but she dropped the golden apple, and it happened so unluckily that it fell right into the pool of blood. She had to get hold of her apple again, so she had to go inside and to pick it up.

Well, she wiped it off to the best of her ability and then closed the door, but the apple wasn't as clean as it had been before, and she couldn't get the blood off it. So she cried and moaned, because she was so frightened that when the troll came home, her apple would look like that.

Now there was an old gray cat who said that if she wanted to give it a dish of sour milk, it would lick her apple just as clean as it had been before. The girl said said no, the cat would not be able to do that, since she herself had dried it and polished it, and she didn't want to give the cat any milk either.

That evening, the troll came home.

"May I see your apple, my good girl," was the first thing he said.

She showed it to him, and he said: "Yes, you've been in there, and you're going to lose your life!"

With that he killed her and threw her body in with the other dead bodies.

The next morning he came again and walked through the man's cabbage patch in the shape of a pig.

"Now there's a pig in the cabbage patch again," said the man to the second-oldest daughter. "Go out and chase it away!"

She ran out with the carding combs in her hand and hit the pig, but the carding combs broke into pieces.

He said: "Sit on my back and I'll go away!"

Then it also happened to her that she entered hill. The troll told her, just like the first one, that she should be well off, and that she should have control over the whole house except for the one chamber. You are my girl, and now you can stay here and see my finery."

And she stayed there.

The next morning he gave her a golden apple, which she was to play with while he was away, "because I am going out with my sheep and goats," he said.

Now the girl went around all the beautiful rooms and looked at everything. Finally she came to the chamber that she was not allowed to enter.

"Oh, dear, what will it matter if I push the door open a little crack? He can't know that when that he's away," she said. "I'll be careful not to do anything wrong in there."

Then she opened the door, but she was very much taken aback when she looked in there. Yes, she was so startled that she dropped the apple, and it fell into the tub.

It was only when she saw the apple floating there that she came to herself again,. She picked it up and rubbed it carefully, yes, the best she could. Then she put it into her pocket for a bit. But it did no good. The blood could not be washed away. She was completely miserable about this.

The gray cat came to her as well and said that if she would give it a dish of sour milk, it would lick her apple clean.

"You can't do that," she said, "because I've been working on it until my fingers are all sore. Nothing takes the blood away."

When the troll came home in the evening and saw the apple, he found out what she had done.

"You have been in there, I can see that on your apple, and therefore you must lose your life."

Then he also killed her, and now he was girlless again.

He did not like this at all, and therefore he had to go to hunting again. He transformed himself into a pig and ran into the man's cabbage patch for the third time.

"The pig is out there again. Go out and chase it away!" said the man to the girl who was sitting there knitting stockings.

She ran out and hit at him with the knitting needles; but he wouldn't leave the cabbage patch.

"Get onto my back, and I'll go away!" he said.

She did this, and he ran with her straight up to the hill and into the little door that was on it. She could not get away from the pig in any way.

Then the pig turned into a troll, and he made himself nice to her and said: "Now you will be my girl and see all the nice things that I have here, if you want to stay with me."

But she was very disheartened and grieving, even though she had had a hard time at home and had been mistreated by the others. He kept promising good things, and talking good things to her, and showing her all that he had of wealth and finery. He said that she could have control over all this. In the end he persuaded her to promise to stay with him.

He now showed her around and gave her the keys to his twelve chambers. He also came to the chamber that she was not allowed to open.

There he said: "You must not enter this little chamber, because then you would lose your life. But there are other chambers besides this one. Furthermore you have here a golden apple that I want to give you; but you have to take care of it."

Yes, that was such a threatening statement.

"There must be a lot of work to keep clean here, as there are so many chambers here," she said. "Have we any brewed beer?

No, it was all used up.

"Then we must get some. I can't do without beer in the house."

The next morning he had to go out to get hold of some malt, for he had already taken his sheep and goats out.

It didn't take long before he was back again, and she busied herself with brewing. But she also thought that they had too little fuel, so he took the axe over his shoulder and walked through the forest.

Now she was the only one at home for a while, but she was very disheartened, no matter how much there was to look at. She intended to find her sisters, but they were nowhere to be found, and she didn't know what to do. Then she took the apple and looked at it.

"I wonder where I should keep it? If it would cause harm to throw it away, I must take good care of it."

With that, she made a pouch out of leather, tightly laced the apple in it, and put it in her pocket.

Then she walked around and looked at the chambers. All of them were full of silver and gold and good things. Finally she came to the twelfth chamber.

"Why am I not allowed to go in there?" she thought. "I'm curious to see what's inside."

Then she opened the door and saw the same horrible sight, and what made it even more terrifying was that her two sisters were also lying there. She ran to them, but then the apple began to jump up and down inside her pocket as fast as it could. She held onto the laces, but her pocket broke into pieces, so the apple fell into the tub. She was quick to pick it up, but it was bloody. She put it down and rubbed on it, but it remained just as bloody.

Now she was afraid that the troll would be angry when he came home and do to her just as he had done to her sisters. She remembered how they had come there and thought that she should run away from there.

But then the old gray cat came to her and said: "You can't run away, because the troll will catch up with you and kill you. You'd better stay here."

Yes, but she didn't know what to do: "What am I going to do when the troll comes and my golden apple looks like this?"

"If you will give me a dish of sour milk, I will lick off your apple," said the cat.

Yes, she said that she would give the cat two dishes full, and then it licked her golden apple until it was just as shiny as when the troll had given it to her.

When the troll came home after working hard in the forest, he immediately said: "Let me see your golden apple."

Yes, it was just as beautiful as when he had given it to her. Yes, she was a good girl, he told her. Now he had had hundreds of girls, but he had never had one as faithful as her, because she had not been in that chamber. Now she was to be his wife, and so she lay by his side that night.

The next morning after the troll had left, she was to brew some beer.

But then the gray cat came to her and said: "Because you were good to me, I will give you a pipe with which you can blow life into your sisters."

She was very happy about that pipe, and she immediately went into the chamber and blew one of her sisters to life. Then the cat gave her information as to how she should best manage to get her sisters and herself back again to their parents.

When he came home, she put the eldest sister in a bag with some malt around her.

Then she said: "I have brewed today."

"Good," he said," then I can get a drink of new beer."

No, he couldn't, because the bad cat had gone and spilled all the beer.

"Well," he said, then you can brew again tomorrow.

"But here I have a sackful of malt that I would like my mother to have for her chickens. You have no use for it. Won't you take it to her? You're not missing anything by loitering there."

No, he couldn't do anything here. H would to go with it.

"There are also a couple of brewing stones in the bag that they can use," she said, and then put the bag on his shoulders. "But hurry now and go, and don't let me see you rest along the way. I'll be watching after after you, and you mustn't look into the bag. If you did so, I would die."

Then he took off.

When he gone a little way, he became tired with the burden, which was not so strange, for it was quite heavy, and he mumbled to himself:

It's a long, long road,
with this heavy load.
In spite of my bride,
I'll see what's inside.

Then, just as the sister had taught her, the girl in the bag said: "I can see you there. If you look inside I will die."

"No, I won't do that," he said, because he thought it was the girl at home who had said that.

Then he lifted the bag back onto his shoulders started on his way. But fatigue came over him again, and he began to mumble: "I can't help but wanting to look inside. It can't be malt. It weighs too much."

"I can see you. I can see you," said the sister in the bag, and he had to go on his way again, because he was afraid of the girl at home.

Finally he came to the parents' house, opened the door, and threw the bag in the middle of the floor.

"There you have some malt and some brewing stones from your daughter!" he shouted, and with that he slammed the door shut, and off he went home.

"That was very nice. Now we have what we need for the chickens,", said the wife. "God bless him!"

She then had the sack dragged in and had it opened. What a surprise it was when her eldest daughter came crawling out of the sack.

Meanwhile, the youngest sister at home in the hill had been busy breathing life into the other girl and had her put into a bag with some malt.

When the troll returned home, he told her about the heavy burden and how he thrown it into her father's house.

She said: "Yes, you may think that you are done now, but there is still a lot more malt, and I've put it into a bag, so it's probably best for you be off with it too. You can't get there too soon with it."

"Yes, but may I see your apple!" he said.

Yes, but when he saw that it was clean, everything was good, and he prepared to put the sack on his back.

"Don't look in it at all," she said, "because then I would die. Now I want to stand outside of the house and watch you."

So he stomped off, but when he got a little further, the bag felt heavy on his back, and he mumbled to himself:

It's a long, long road,
with this heavy load.
In spite of my bride,
I'll see what's inside.

"If you look inside I'll die! If you look at it, I'll die," said the girl on his back, just as the sister had taught her.

He did not even think of putting it down, for he thought it was the girl outside of his house who was talking, so he had to continue on his way.

But after a little while, he became quite tired, and then he started talking again about the fact that he had to take the bag off.

"I can't help but wanting to look inside. It can't be malt. It weighs too much."

"I can see you. I can see you," said the girl in the bag, and he had to move on quickly.

At last he arrived at her father's home, but he was out of breath and dizzy headed. He threw the sack into the corner near the tile stove and shouted: "Here's the malt from your daughter!"

Then he slammed the door behind him, and it rattled throughout the house. They could see that he was not very well, and so of course they let him go home.

While he was away, the youngest sister had been busy telling the cat what to say to the troll when he returned, and she had a roof truss put in her bed with her head cloth on it, and wrapped as much as much cloth around it as possible, so that it could look like there was a person lying there. When she had finished with this, she herself got into a sack and had a large pile of gold and silver stacked by her. Then she had a small amount of malt spread on top. Finally the cat tied the sack shut, and then the troll came back.

Then the cat said what the girl had told it to say: that there was another sackful of malt, and she would like to have it carried home to her father's as well. He was not to look into the sack. She had become so ill that she could no longer stay up, and that she had gone to bed.

He looked over to the bed, and when he thought that she was asleep, he thought it would be wrong to speak to her, and so he might as well take off at once. This time the bag was hard to pick up, because now he had to lift it by himself. The cat said that this was the last of the malt, and that was a comfort to him.

When he gone a little way, the sack started to get too heavy for him, and he spilled it on himself a couple of times. No, it was too heavy:

It's a long, long road,
with this heavy load.
In spite of my bride,
I'll see what's inside.

"If you look inside it, I'll die," said the girl, and he turned and looked back. Then he saw the cat standing at the corner of the house, and he was afraid that it would tell the girl. He went a little further, but finally he got very confused and said: "I can't help but wanting to look inside."

"I can see you. I can see you,", she said, and so he had to continue on his way.

She was afraid that he might put it down, so she moaned from inside the bag: "Oh, oh, oh!"

Then he thought: "She is so ill that I can hear her out here. I must hurry on my way."

He ran as fast as he could. Finally he came to the parents' home with it, but it was hard, because it was the heaviest malt that he had every carried.

He threw the sack on the floor, as he had done before, and said: "Here is the last malt from you daughter. Now you will not get any more malt!"

Now he would have just slammed the door shut, as was his custom, but the man jumped up and asked him to sit down at the end of the table. The fact was that they now had been told the whole truth by the two girls who had come home, and they probably wanted to talk a little more with the troll. Then they carried the bag out of the living room and began to set out good food and drink for him, while they just as quietly sent for the priest, and he came in his robe and collar.

When the troll returned to his home the cat took pushed him away. He was so angry that he jumped on everything he could. He was unlucky enough to fall over a stone and break both his legs, so he had to drag himself back home.

He now heaped rubbish on his wife, but no one answered.

Then he limped about and shook the roof trusses, and then he looked around the whole house. In the end he looked in the chamber, you know, with the dead bodies, and then he discovered that all of his girls were gone. The only thing left was the malt beer. With that he got so angry that he jumped into one of the flintstones, and they are the ones we now walk and cut our feet on.

And since then there have been no more trolls.

After the troll had left them, the people back at home were quick to get the third daughter out of the bag. They were all so happy that there was no end to their happiness.

Now they also had enough to live on, and they could all thank the youngest daughter for that.

Fitcher's Bird

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Once upon a time there was a sorcerer who was a thief. He disguised himself as a poor man and went begging from house to house. A girl came to the door and brought him a piece of bread. He touched her, and she was forced to jump into his pack basket. Then he carried her to his house where everything was splendid, and he gave her everything that she wanted.

One day he said, "I have to take care of something away from home. I will be away for a while. Here is an egg. Take good care of it. Carry it with you at all times. And here is a key, but at the risk of your life, do not go into the room that it opens. But as soon as he had gone, she unlocked the door and went into the room. In the middle there was a large basin. In it there were dead and dismembered people. She was so terrified that she dropped the egg, which she was holding in her hand, into the basin. She quickly took it out again and wiped off the blood, but it reappeared in an instant. She could not get the egg clean, no matter how much she wiped and scrubbed.

When the man returned, he asked for the egg and the key. He looked at them and knew that she had been in the blood chamber. "You did not heed my words," he said angrily, "and now you are going into the chamber against your will." With that he seized her, led her into the room, cut her up in pieces, and threw her into the basin with the others.

Sometime later the man went begging again. He captured the second daughter from the house, and the same thing happened to her as to the first one. She too opened the forbidden door, dropped the egg into the blood, and was cut to pieces and thrown into the basin.

Then the sorcerer wanted to have the third daughter. He captured her in his pack basket, carried her home, and at his departure gave her the egg and the key. However, the third sister was clever and sly. First of all, she put the egg in a safe place, and then she went into the secret chamber. When she saw her sisters in the basin, she found all of their parts and put each one back in its right place: head, body, arm, and leg. The parts started to move, and then they joined together, and the two sister came back to life. She took them both out of the room and hid them.

When the man returned and found that the egg was free of blood, he asked her to become his bride. She said yes, but told him that first he would have to carry a basket filled with gold on his back to her parents, and that meanwhile she would be getting ready for the wedding. Then she told her sisters to get help from home. She put them into the basket and covered them over with gold. Then she said to the man, "Carry this away. And don't you dare stop to rest. If you do, I'll be able to see through my window." He lifted the basket onto his back and started off, but it was so heavy that the weight nearly killed him. He wanted to rest a little, but one of the girls inside the basket called out, "I can see through my window that you are resting. Walk on at once!" He thought it was his bride calling out, so he got up and walked on. Every time he wanted to rest, he heard the call, and had to continue on.

Meanwhile, back at his house, his bride dressed up a skull and placed it in the attic window. Then she invited all the sorcerer's friends to the wedding. Then she dipped herself in a barrel of honey, cut open the bed, and rolled in the feathers so that no one would be able to recognize her. In this strange disguise, she left the house and started down the path. Soon she met some of the guests, who said, "You, Fitcher's bird, where are you coming from?"

"I'm coming from Fitcher's house."

"And what is his young bride doing?"

"She's cleaning the house from bottom to top. Right now she is looking out of the attic window."

Then she also met the bridegroom, who was returning home.

"You, Fitcher's bird, where are you coming from?"

"I'm coming from Fitcher's house."

"And what is my young bride doing?"

"She's cleaning the house from bottom to top. Right now she is looking out of the attic window."

The bridegroom looked up, and saw the disguised skull. Thinking it was his bride, he waved to it. But after he arrived home, and all his friends were there as well, the help came that the sisters had sent. They closed up the house and set it afire, and because no one could get out, they all perished in the flames.

The Three Sisters


Once upon a time there was a mother who had three daughters whom she did not like.

The oldest one was finally tired of this and said: "Mother, I am going out to seek my fortune."

The mother replied: "Then I wish it would rain paving stones when you are on your way."

The girl paid no attention to this and went on her way. Some time later the sky became black. At first it rained only a little, then more, and finally a whole rain of paving stones fell from the air. The girl ran and took shelter under the protruding roof of a beautiful, beautiful house.

She had stood there for only a little while, when she heard a little voice calling out: "Who is standing under my little, little roof?"

"It's me, sir!" replied the girl, and the little voice said: "Come inside, child."

"I'm too frightened," replied the girl.

"Don't be afraid to come inside," said the little voice.

Then the girl went inside and came to a magnificent room where a little man was sitting.

He asked: "What do you want, red wine or white wine?"

"Red wine," answered the girl, because she didn't know that red wine meant blood and white wine meant pus.

Then the little man asked further: "What do you want, that I cut off your head on a block or that I crush you between two doors?"

"I would rather have my head cut off on a block," replied the girl, and the little man grabbed her and cut off her head on a block with an axe.

When the girl didn't return, the second sister said: "Mother, I am going out today to seek my fortune."

The old woman replied: "Then I wish it would rain buckets when you are on your way."

The girl paid no attention to this and went on her way. When she had gone a few steps, it started to rain buckets: big and small and light and heavy. She ran and took shelter under the roof.

The little voice could be heard again and called out: "Who is standing under my little, little roof?"

"It's me," answered the girl.

"Well, then come in, child," said the little voice.

"I'm too frightened," replied the girl.

The little voice said: "Just come inside. Nothing will happen to you."

Then the girl went inside and came into the beautiful room and found the little man there, who immediately asked: "Now what do you want, red wine or white wine?"

"Red wine," said the girl, because she didn't know that it meant blood.

Then the little man continued: "What do you want now, that I cut off your head on a block or that I crush you between two doors?"

"I would rather have my head cut off on a block," answered the girl, and with an axe the little man chopped off her head on the block.

When the second sister didn't return either, the youngest said: "Mother, I'm leaving today."

The old woman replied: "Then I wish that as soon as you're on your way it will rain paving stones.

The girl didn't pay much attention to this, and she set forth to seek her fortune. After she had walked a little way, it began to rain paving stones, and she took shelter under the roof of the beautiful house.

Then the little voice asked again: "Who is standing under my little, little roof?

"It's me," the girl replied.

Then the little voice continued: "Just come insie, child."

"I'm too frightened," said the girl.

"Just come inside. Nothing will happen to you," said the little voice, and the girl went inside.

She came into the room and found the little man.

"What do you want," asked the little man, "red wine or white wine?"

"I'm not thirsty," said the girl, and that pleased the little man, who was almost dumbfounded because of the girl's wonderful beauty.

Then the little man asked further: "What do you want, to have your head cut off on a block? Or to marry me?"

"I would rather marry you," answered the girl, "than have my head cut off."

The little man was very happy about that, and he married the beautiful girl, and she became richer than any human being in the world has ever been.

The Three Chests: The Story of the Wicked Old Man of the Sea


There was once an honest old farmer who had three daughters. His farm ran down to the shores of a deep lake. One day as he leaned over the water to take a drink, wicked old Wetehinen reached up from the bottom of the lake and clutched him by the beard.

"Ouch! Ouch!" the farmer cried. "Let me go!"

Wetehinen only held on more tightly. "Yes, I'll let you go," he said, "but only on this condition: that you give me one of your daughters for wife!"

"Give you one of my daughters? Never!"

"Very well, then I'll never let go!" wicked old Wetehinen declared and with that he began jerking at the beard as if it were a bell rope.

"Wait! Wait!" the fanner spluttered. Now he didn't want to give one of his daughters to wicked old Wetehinen -- of course not! But at the same time he was in Wetehinen's power and he realized that if he didn't do what the old reprobate demanded he might lose his life and so leave all three of his daughters orphans. Perhaps for the good of all he had better sacrifice one of them.

"All right," he said, "let me go and I'll send you my oldest daughter. I promise."

So Wetehinen let go his beard and the farmer scrambled to his feet and hurried home.

"My dear," he said to his oldest daughter, "I left a bit of the harness down at the lake. Like a good girl will you run down and get it for me."

The eldest daughter went at once and when she reached the water's edge, old Wetehinen reached up and caught her about the waist and carried her down to the bottom of the lake where he lived in a big house.

At first he was kind to her. He made her mistress of the house and gave her the keys to all the rooms and closets. He went very carefully over the keys and pointing to one he said, "That key you must never use for it opens the door to a room which I forbid you to enter."

The eldest daughter began keeping house for old Wetehinen and spent her time cooking and cleaning and spinning much as she used to at home with her father. The days went by and she grew familiar with the house and began to know what was in every room and every closet.

At first she felt no temptation to open the forbidden door. If old Wetehinen wanted to have a secret room, well and good. But why in the world had he given her the key if he really didn't want her to open the door? The more she thought about it the more she wondered. Every time she passed the room she stopped a moment and stared at the door. It looked just exactly like the doors that led into all the other rooms.

"I wonder why he doesn't want me to open just that door?" she kept asking herself.

Finally one day when old Wetehinen was away she thought, "I don't believe it would matter if I opened that door just a little crack and peeped in once! No one would know the difference!"

For a few moments she hesitated, then mustered up courage enough to turn the key in the forbidden lock and throw open the door. The room was a storeroom with boxes and chests and old jars piled up around the wall. That was unexciting enough, but in the middle of the floor was something that made her start when she saw what it was. It was blood -- that's what it was, a pool of dark red blood! She was about to slam the door shut when she saw something else that made her pause. This was a lovely shining ring that lay in the midst of the pool.

"Oh!" she thought to herself, "what a beautiful ring! If I had it I'd wear it on my finger!"

The longer she looked at it, the more she wanted it. "If I'm very careful," she said, "I know I could reach over and pick it up without touching the blood."

She tiptoed cautiously into the room, wrapped her skirts tightly about her legs, knelt down on the floor, and stretched her arm over the pool. She picked up the ring very carefully but even so she got a few drops of blood on her fingers.

"No matter!" she thought. "I can wash that off! And see the lovely ring!"

But later, after she had the door again locked, when she tried to wash the blood off, she found she couldn't. She tried soap, she tried sand, she tried everything she could think of, but without success.

"I don't care!" she thought to herself. "If Wetehinen sees the blood, I'll just tell him I cut my finger by accident."

So when Wetehinen came home, she hid the ring and pretended nothing was the matter.

After supper Wetehinen put his head in her lap and said, "Now, my dear, scratch my head and make me drowsy for bed."

She began scratching his head as she had many nights before but, at the first touch of her fingers, he cried out, "Stop! You're burning my ear! There must be some blood on your fingers! Let me see!"

He reached up and caught her hand and, when he saw the blood stains, he flew into a towering rage. "I thought so! You've been in the forbidden room!" He jumped up and without allowing her time to say a word he just cut off her head then and there with no more concern than if she had been a mosquito! After that he took the body and the severed head and threw them into the forbidden room and locked the door.

"Now then," he growled, "she won't disobey me again!"

This was all very well but now he had no one to keep house for him and cook and scratch his head in the evening and soon he decided he'd have to get another wife. He remembered that the farmer had two more daughters, so he thought to himself that now he'd marry the second sister.

He waited his chance and one day when the farmer was out in his boat fishing, old Wetehinen came up from the bottom of the lake and clutched the boat. When the poor old farmer tried to row back to shore he couldn't make the boat move an inch. He worked and worked at the oars and wicked old Wetehinen let him struggle until he was exhausted.

Then he put his head up out of the water and over the side of the boat and as though nothing were the matter he said, "Hullo!"

"Oh!" the farmer cried, wishing he were safe on shore, "it's you, is it? I wondered what was holding my boat."

"Yes," wicked old Wetehinen said, "it's me and I'm going to hold your boat right here on this spot until you promise to give me another of your daughters."

What could the farmer do? He pleaded with Wetehinen but Wetehinen was firm and the upshot was that before the farmer again walked dry land he had promised Wetehinen his second daughter.

Well, when he got home, he pretended he had forgotten his ax in the boat and sent his second daughter down to the lake to get it. Wicked old Wetehinen caught her as he had caught her sister and carried her home with him to his house at the bottom of the lake.

Wetehinen treated the second sister just exactly as he had the first, making her mistress of the house and telling her she might use every key but one. Like her sister she, too, after a time gave way to the temptation of looking into the forbidden room and when she saw the shining ring lying in the pool of blood of course she wanted it and of course when she reached to get it she dabbled her fingers in the blood. So that was the end of her, too, for wicked old Wetehinen when he saw the blood stains just cut her head right off and threw her body and the severed head into the forbidden room beside the body and head of her sister and locked the door.

Time went by and the farmer was living happily with his youngest daughter when one day while he was out chopping wood he found a pair of fine birch bark brogues. He put them on and instantly found himself, walking away from the woods and down to the lake. He tried to stop but he couldn't. He tried to walk in another direction but the brogues carried him straight down to the water's edge and out into the lake until he was in waist deep.

Then he heard a gruff voice saying, "Hullo, there! What are you doing with my brogues?"

Of course it was wicked old Wetehinen who had played that trick to get the farmer into his power again.

"What do you want this time?" the poor farmer cried.

"I want your youngest daughter," Wetehinen said.

"What! My youngest daughter!"


"I won't give her up!" the farmer declared. "I don't care what you do to me. I won't give her up!"

"Oh, very well!" Wetehinen said, and immediately the brogues which had been standing still while they talked started walking again. They carried the farmer out into the lake farther and farther until the water was up to his chin.

"Wait -- wait a minute!" he cried.

The brogues stopped walking and Wetehinen said, "Well, do you promise to give her to me?"

"No!" the farmer began. "She's my last daughter and -- "

Before he could say more, the brogues walked on and the water rose to his nose.

In desperation he threw up his hands and shouted, "I promise! I promise!"

So when he got home that day he said to his youngest daughter whose name was Lisa, "Lisa, my dear, I forgot my brogues at the lake. Like a good girl won't you run and get them for me?"

So Lisa went to the lake and Wetehinen of course caught her and carried her down to his house as he had her two sisters. Then the same old story was repeated. Wetehinen made Lisa mistress of the house and gave her keys to all the doors and closets with the same prohibition against opening the door of the forbidden room.

"If I am mistress of the house," Lisa said to herself, "why should I not unlock every door?"

She waited until one day when Wetehinen was away from home, then went boldly to the forbidden room, fitted the key in the lock, and flung open the door.

There lay her two poor sisters with their heads cut off. There in the pool of blood sparkled the lovely ring, but Lisa paid no heed to it.

"Wicked old Wetehinen!" Lisa cried. "I suppose he thinks that ring will tempt me, but nothing will tempt me to touch that awful blood!"

Then she rummaged about, opening boxes and chests, and turning things over. In a dark corner she found two pitchers, one marked Water of Life, the other Water of Death.

"Ha! This is what I want!" she cried, taking the pitcher of the Water of Life. She set the severed heads of her sisters in place and then with the magic water brought them back to life. She used up all the Water of Life, so she filled the pitcher marked Water of Life with the water from the other pitcher, the Water of Death. She hid her sisters each in a big wooden chest, she shut and locked the door of the forbidden room, and Wetehinen when he came home found her working at her spinning wheel as though nothing unusual had happened.

After supper Wetehinen said, "Now scratch my head and make me drowsy for bed."

So Lisa scratched his wicked old head and she did it so well that he grunted with satisfaction.

"Uh! Uh!" he said. "That's good! Now just behind my right ear! That's it! That's it! You're a good girl, you are! You're not like some of them who do what they're told not to do! Now behind the other ear! Oh, that's fine! Yes, you're a good girl, and if there's anything you want me to do just tell me what it is."

"I want to send a chest of things to my poor old father," Lisa said. "Just a lot of little nothings -- odds and ends that I've picked up about the house. I'd be ashamed to have you open the chest and see them. I do wish you'd carry the chest ashore tomorrow and leave it where my father will find it."

"All right, I will," Wetehinen promised. He was true to his word. The next morning he hoisted one of the chests on his shoulder, the one that had in it the eldest sister. He trudged off with it, and tossed it up on shore at a place where he was sure the farmer would find it.

Lisa then wheedled him into carrying up the second chest that had in it the second sister. This time Wetehinen wasn't so good-natured.

"I don't know what she can always be sending her father!" he grumbled. "If she sends another chest I'll have to look inside and see."

Now Lisa, when the second sister was safely delivered, began to plan her own escape. She pulled out another empty chest and then one evening after she had succeeded in making old Wetehinen comfortable and drowsy she begged him to carry this also to her father. He grumbled and protested but finally promised.

"And you won't look inside, will you? Promise me you won't!" Lisa begged.

Wetehinen said he wouldn't, but he intended to just the same.

Well, the next morning as soon as Wetehinen went out, Lisa took the churn and dressed it up in some of her own clothes. She carried it to the top of the house and perched it on the ridge of the roof before a spinning wheel. Then she herself crept inside the third chest and waited.

When Wetehinen came home he looked up and saw what he thought was Lisa spinning on the roof.

"Hullo!" he shouted. "What are you doing up there?"

Lisa, in the chest, answered in a voice that sounded as if it came from the roof: "I'm spinning. And you, Wetehinen, my dear, don't forget the chest that you promised to carry to my poor old father. It's standing in the kitchen."

Wetehinen grumbled but because of his promise he hoisted the chest on his shoulder and started off. When he had gone a little way he thought to put it down and take a peep inside.

Instantly Lisa's voice, sounding as if it came from the roof, cried out, "No! No! You promised not to look inside!"

"I'm not looking inside!" Wetehinen called back. "I'm only resting a minute!"

Then he thought to himself, "I suppose she's sitting up there so she can watch me!"

When he had gone some distance farther, he thought again to set down the chest and open the lid but instantly Lisa's voice, as from a long way off, called out: "No! No! You promised not to look inside!"

"Who's looking inside?" he called back, pretending again he was only resting.

Every time he thought it would be safe to put down the chest and open the lid, Lisa's voice cried out: "No! No! You promised not to !"

"Mercy on us!" old Wetehinen fumed to himself, "who would have thought she could see so far!"

On the shore of the lake when he threw down the chest in disgust he tried one last time to raise the lid.

Instantly Lisa's voice cried out: "No! No! You promised not to!"

"I'm not looking inside!" Wetehinen roared, and in a fury he left the chest and started back into the water.

All the way home He grumbled and growled, "A nice way to treat a man, always making him carry chests! I won't carry another one no matter how much she begs me!"

When he came neat home he saw the spinning wheel still on the roof and the figure still seated before it.

"Why haven't you got my dinner ready?" he called out angrily.

The figure at the spinning wheel made no answer.

"What's the matter with you?" Wetehinen cried. "Why are you sitting there like a wooden image instead of cooking my dinner?"

Still the figure made no answer and in a rage Wetehinen began climbing up the roof. He reached out blindly and clutched at Lisa's skirt and jerked it so hard that the churn came clattering down on his head. It knocked him off the roof and he fell all the way to the ground and cracked his wicked old head wide open.

"Ouch! Ouch!" he roared in pain. "Just wait till I get hold of that Lisa!"

He crawled to the forbidden room and poured over himself the water that was in the pitcher marked Water of Life. But it wasn't the Water of Life at all, it was the Water of Death, and so it didn't help his wicked old cracked head at all. In fact it just made it worse and worse and worse.

Lisa and her sisters were never again troubled by him nor was any one else that lived on the shores of that lake.

"Wonder what's become of wicked old Wetehinen?" people began saying.

Lisa thought she knew but she didn't tell.

The Widow and Her Daughters


There was formerly a poor widow, and she had three daughters, and all she had to feed them was a kailyard.

There was a great gray horse who was coming every day to the yard to eat the kail.

Said the eldest of the daughters to her mother, "I will go to the yard today, and I will take the spinning-wheel with me, and I will keep the horse out of the kail."

"Do," said her mother.

She went out. The horse came; she took the distaff from the wheel and she struck him. The distaff stuck to the horse, and her hand stuck to the distaff.

Away went the horse till they reached a green hill, and he called out, "Open, open, oh green hill, and let in the king's son; open, open, oh green hill, and let in the widow's daughter."

The hill opened, and they went in. He warmed water for her feet, and made a soft bed for her limbs, and she lay down that night. Early on the morrow, when he rose, he was going to hunt.

He gave her the keys of the whole house, and he said to her that she might open every chamber inside but the one. "By all she ever saw not to open that one." That she should have his dinner ready when he should come back, and that if she would be a good woman that he would marry her.

When he went away she began to open the chambers. Every one, as she opened it, was getting finer and finer, till she came to the one that was forbidden. It seemed to her, "What might be in it that she might not open it too."

She opened it, and it was full of dead gentlewomen, and she went down to the knee in blood. Then she came out, and she was cleaning her foot; and though she were cleaning it, still she could not take a bit of the blood off it.

A tiny cat came where she was, and she said to her, "If she would give a little drop of milk that she would clean her foot as well as it was before.

"Thou! Ugly beast! Be off before thee. Dost thou suppose that I won't clean them better than thou?"

"Yes, yes, take thine own way. Thou wilt see what will happen to thee when himself comes home."

He came home, and she set the dinner on the board, and they sat down at it.

Before they ate a bit he said to her, "Wert thou a good woman today?"

"I was," said she.

"Let me see thy foot, and I will tell thee whether thou wert or wert not."

She let him see the one that was clean.

"Let me see the other one," said he. When he saw the blood, "Oh! ho!" said he.

He rose and took the axe and took her head off, and he threw her into the chamber with the other dead people.

He laid down that night, and early on the morrow he went to the widow's yard again.

Said the second one of the widow's daughters to her mother, "I will go out today, and I will keep the gray horse out of the yard."

She went out sewing. She struck the thing she was sewing on the horse. The cloth stuck to the horse, and her hand stuck to the cloth. They reached the hill. He called as usual to the hill; the hill opened, and they went in. He warmed water for her feet, and made a soft bed for her limbs, and they lay down that night.

Early in the morning he was going to hunt, and he said to her that she should open every chamber inside but one, and "by all she ever saw" not to open that one.

She opened every chamber till she came to the little one, and because she thought, "What might be in that one more than the rest that she might not open it?" She opened it, and it was full of dead gentlewomen, and her own sister amongst them. She went down to the knee in blood.

She came out, and she was cleaning herself, and the little cat came round about, and she said to her, "If thou wilt give me a tiny drop of milk I will clean thy foot as well as it over was."

" Thou! Ugly beast! Begone. Dost thou think that I will not clean it myself better than thou?"

"Thou wilt see," said the cat, "what will happen to thee when himself comes home."

When he came she set down the dinner, and they sat at it.

Said he, "Wert thou a good woman today?"

"I was," said she.

"Let me see thy foot, and I will tell thee whether thou wert or wert not."

She let him see the foot that was clean.

" Let me see the other one," said he.

She let him see it.

"Oh! ho!" said he, and he took the axe and took her head off.

He lay down that night.

Early on the morrow, said the youngest one to her mother, as she wove a stocking, "I will go out with my stocking today, and I will watch the gray horse. I will see what happened to my two sisters, and I will return to tell you."

"Do," said her mother, "and see thou dost not stay away."

She went out, and the horse came. She struck the stocking on the horse. The stocking stuck to the horse, and the band stuck to the stocking. They went away, and they reached the green hill. He called out as usual, and they got in. He warmed water for her feet, and made a soft bed for her limbs, and they lay down that night.

On the morrow he was going to hunt, and he said to her, "If she would behave herself as a good woman till he returned, that they would be married in a few days."

He gave her the keys, and he said to her that she might open every chamber that was within but that little one, "but see that she should not open that one."

She opened every one, and when she came to this one, because she thought, "what might be in it that she might not open it more than the rest?"

She opened it, and she saw her two sisters there dead, and she went down to the two knees in blood. She came out, and she was cleaning her feet, and she could not take a bit of the blood off them.

The tiny cat came where she was, and she said to her, "Give me a tiny drop of milk, and I will clean thy feet as well as they were before."

"I will give it, thou creature; I will give thee thy desire of milk if thou will clean my feet"

The cat licked her feet as well as they were before.

Then the king came home, and they set down his dinner, and they sat at it Before they ate a bit, he said, to her, "Wert thou a good woman today?"

"I was middling," said she; I have no boasting to make of myself."

"Let me see thy feet," said he.

She let him see her feet.

"Thou wert a good woman," said he; "and if thou holdest on thus till the end of a few days, thyself and I will be married."

On the morrow he went away to hunt.

When he went away the little cat came where she was.

"Now, I will tell thee in what way thou wilt be quickest married to him," said the cat. "There are," said she, "a lot of old chests within. Thou shall take out three of them; thou shalt clean them. Thou shalt say to him next night, that he must leave these three chests, one about of them, in thy mother's house, as they are of no use here; that there are plenty here without them; thou shalt say to him that he must not open any of them on the road, or else, if he opens, that thou wilt leave him; that thou wilt go up into a tree top, and that thou wilt be looking, and that if he opens any of them that thou wilt see. Then when he goes hunting, thou shalt open the chamber, thou shalt bring out thy two sisters; thou shalt draw on them the magic club, and they will be as lively and whole as they were before; thou shalt clean them then, and thou shall put one in each chest of them, and thou shalt go thyself into the third one. Thou shalt put of silver and of gold, as much in the chests as will keep thy mother and thy sisters right for their lives. When he leaves the chests in thy mother's house, and when he returns he will fly in a wild rage; he will then go to thy mother's house in this fury, and he will break in the door; be thou behind the door, and take off his head with the bar; and then he will be a king's son, as precious as he was before, and he will marry thee. Say to thy sisters, if he attempts the chests to open them by the way, to call out, 'I see thee, I see thee,' and that he will think that thou wilt be calling out in the tree."

When he came home he went away with the chests, one after one, till he left them in her mother's house. When he came to a glen, where he thought she in the tree could not see him, he began to let the chest down to see what was in it; she that was in the chest called out, "I see thee, I see thee!"

" Good luck be on thy pretty little head," said he, " if thou canst not see a long way!"

This was the way with him each journey, till he left the chests altogether in her mother's house.

When he returned home on the last journey, and saw that she was not before him, he flew in a wild rage; he went back to the widow's house, and when he reached the door he drove it in before him. She was standing behind the door, and she took his head off with the bar. Then he grew a king's son, as precious as ever came; there he was within, and they were in great gladness. She and himself married, and they left with her mother and sisters, of gold and silver, as much as left them well for life.


Scotland (Orkney Islands)

At the extreme risk of boring the patient reader I venture to print the following fairy tale, sent from the Orkneys by Mr. D. J. Robertson. It is told, he says, almost in the very words of the original narrator, a woman who was an Orcadian, but had been in service in England. Every reader will recognise a form of Grimm's Rumpelstilzkin, and Chambers's Whuppity Stoorie. Mr. Clodd, in the last number of the Folk Lore Journal, published a Norfolk variety of this fairy tale -- a most interesting, lively, and humorous version of rural England. The story was quite as good as the German version, or better, and quite disproves the idea that our English country folk cannot tell a tale well.

This Orcadian version has a novel opening, that which generally begins the story of "East o' the Sun and west o' the Moon." Note the poverty of queens with their little "kail-yaird" or cabbage garden. The flaying is, unluckily, an historical trait. The demon, or whoever he is, lives in a "knowe," a hillock or tumulus, as the dead Gunnar of Lithend, in the saga of Burnt Njal, lived still and sang within his home, or grave-mound. We need not infer, "as others use," that Peerifool was an ancestral spirit. The fate of the Giant is badly charpenté, and Peerifool asks no great price, such as the body or soul or child of the lassie, in case she cannot tell him her name.

Mr. Robertson has other Orkney stories; perhaps they are more or less Scandinavian in origin as the Norsemen settled the islands. But the older Celtic stories would not die out as long as an old woman of the earlier race was left alive in the land.

There were once a king and queen in Rousay who had three daughters. The king died and the queen was living in a small house with her daughters. They kept a cow and a kail yard (cabbage garden) -- they found their cabbage was all being taken away. The eldest daughter said to the queen, she would take a blanket about her and would sit and watch what was going away with the kail. So when the night came she went out to watch. In a short time a very big giant came into the yard; he began to cut the kail and throw it in a big cubby (creel). So he cut till he had it well filled.

The princess was always asking him why he was taking her mother's kail. He was saying to her, if she was not quiet he would take her too.

As soon as he had filled his cubby he took her by a leg and an arm and threw her on the top of his cubby of kail and away home he went with her.

When he got home he told her what work she had to do; she had to milk the cow and put her up to the hills called Bloodfield, and then she had to take wool, and wash and tease it and comb and card, and spin and make claith [cloth].

When the giant went out she milked the cow and put her to the hills. Then she put on the pot and made porridge to herself. As she was supping it, a great many peerie (little) yellow-headed folk came running, calling out to give them some. She said:

Little for one, and less for two,
And never a grain have I for you.

When she came to work the wool, none of that work could she do at all.

The giant came home at night and found she had not done her work. He took her and began at her head, and peeled the skin off all the way down her back and over her feet. Then he threw her on the couples [rafters] among the hens.

The same adventure befell the second girl. If her sister could do little with the wool she could do less.

When the giant came home he found her work not done. He began at the crown of her head and peeled a strip of skin all down her back and over her feet, and threw her on the couples beside her sister. They lay there and could not speak nor come down.

The next night the youngest princess said she would take a blanket about her and go to watch what had gone away with her sisters. Ere long, in came a giant with a big cubby, and began to cut the kail.

She was asking why he was taking her mother's kail. He was saying if she was not quiet he would take her too. He took her by a leg and an arm and threw her on the top of his cubby and carried her away.

Next morning he gave her the same work as he had given her sisters.

When he was gone out she milked the cow and put her to the high hills. Then she put on the pot and made porridge to herself. When the peerie yellow-headed folk came asking for some she told them to get something to sup with. Some got heather cows and some got broken dishes; some got one thing, and some another, and they all got some of her porridge.

After they were all gone a peerie yellow-headed boy came in and asked her if she had any work to do; he could do any work with wool. She said she had plenty, but would never be able to pay him for it. He said all he was asking for it was to tell him his name. She thought that would be easy to do, and gave him the wool.

When it was getting dark an old woman came in and asked her for lodging. The princess said she could not give her that, but asked her if she had any news. But the old woman had none, and went away to lie out.

There is a high knowe [knoll] near the place, and the old woman sat under it for shelter. She found it very warm. She was always climbing up, and when she came to the top she heard someone inside saying, "Tease, teasers, tease; card, carders, card; spin, spinners, spin, for peerie fool, peerie fool is my name."

There was a crack in the knowe, and light coming out. She looked in and saw a great many peerie folk working, and a peerie yellow-headed boy running round them calling out that.

The old woman thought she would get lodging if she went to give this news, so she came back and told the princess the whole of it.

The princess went on saying "peerie fool, peerie fool," till the yellow-headed boy came with all the wool made into claith.

He asked what was his name, and she guessed names; and he jumped about and said "No."

At last she said, "Peeriefool is your name."

He threw down the wool and ran off very angry.

As the giant was coming home he met a great many peerie yellow-headed folk, some with their eyes hanging on their cheeks, and some with their tongues hanging on their breasts. He asked them what was the matter. They told him it was working so hard pulling wool so fine. He said he had a good-wife at home, and if she was safe, never would he allow her to do any work again.

When he came home she was all safe, and had a great many webs lying all ready, and he was very kind to her.

Next day when he went out she found her sisters, and took them down from the couples. She put the skin on their backs again, and she put her eldest sister in a cazy (cubby or creel), and put all the fine things she could find with her, and grass on the top.

When the giant came home she asked him to take the cazy to her mother with some food for her cow. He was so pleased with her he would do anything for her, and took it away.

Next day she did the same with her other sister. She told him she would have the last of the food she had to send her mother for the cow ready next night. She told him she was going a bit from home, and would leave it ready for him. She got into the cazy with all the fine things she could find, and covered herself with grass. He took the cazy and carried it to the queen's house. She and her daughters had a big boiler of boiling water ready. They couped [overturned] it about him when he was under the window, and that was the end of the giant.



Once there was a widow who had three daughters: Charlotte, Javotte, and the youngest, Finette. They earned their living by spinning wool for the locals.

One day, a well-dressed man arrived at their house and introduced himself under the name of Jean-Parle. "Madam, I am looking for a servant."

The widow replied: "Monsieur, we do not know you. My daughters have never gone out into service; I cannot . . ."

"You have nothing to fear, Madam. I am the lord of the neighboring country."

"Even if you are a lord, we do not know the people of the neighboring country."

"If you are afraid, you can ask the priest or the bishop of the place about me. They know me well."

Charlotte spoke up and said: "Mom, he can't eat me. I'm going to go there for a month."

The girl then got into the carriage and left with Jean-Parle.

Arriving at his house, Jean-Parle said to Charlotte: "You are going to be the mistress of this palace."

A few days later, he gave her all the keys to his house: "Here are the keys. You can see everything. But as for this key, I forbid you from entering its room. If you go there, some misfortune will happen to you."

"Do not be afraid, monsieur."

As he left, Jean-Parle said: "I am leaving for eight days. I have given you a servant to help you with the cleaning. Remember, I am forbidding you to go into this room."

Charlotte, having visited all the rooms, soon asked herself: "What could possibly be in this room, and why did he forbid me from going there?"

To the servant she said: "Today we'll go and see."

Taking the key, she unlocked the door, opened it and saw a trapdoor, a block, and an axe. All were smeared with blood. Opening the trapdoor, and what did she see? In the cellar there were bodies of women with their heads severed.

"My God! Now I'll be going there too. That's why he forbade me so strongly from entering here!"

Closing the door, she took the key from the lock, and found it all red with blood. She rubbed the key to clean it and return it to its original state, but in vain. She remained very sad.

After a few days, Jean-Parle arrived: "Hello, my servant."

"Hello, monsieur."

"Are you bored?"

"Certainly, Monsieur Jean-Parle."

"But, have you not seen through the castle and visited all the rooms? They are all filled with new furniture."

She replied: "Yes, I went through the whole castle, all the apartments."

"Have you been in all the apartments?"


"Go get me the keys so I can see."

Going to get the bunch of keys, she took out the one that was stained with blood, and gave the others to her master.

"The key to the forbidden door, where is it?"

"I forgot it. It's upstairs."

She went to get it, and gave it to him.

"Ah!" he said. "My unfortunate girl, you went there! Well, you are going to go back there to stay."

She threw herself at his knees and said: "I don't want to, Jean-Parle."

"You don't want to! You opened this door; and, as soon as you knew what's there, you were going to go inside yourself."

Pushing her into the forbidden room, he put her head on the block and cut it off with one blow of an axe.

Some time later Jean-Parle returned to the widow's house, dressed as a priest, and said to the widow: "Could I hire a servant from here?"

"Sir, you cannot hire a servant from here. And she added: "The oldest of my daughters, Charlotte, left like that, and we haven't heard from her since."

"But, Madam, you speak very severely to me. I am a priest. There is no danger that I will eat her, your daughter."

The widow replied: "You are a priest; the other was lord of a country."

Speaking up, Finette said: "Mom, let Javotte get involved. He's a priest, and he won't eat her!"

The mother replied: "But, Finette, we will be left alone to do all the work. You know, all the spinning that has to be done."

"It doesn't matter, mother; we will do what we can, and the rest will wait."

The priest said to Javotte: "Come on board with me, and after a month, I will take you back to see your mother."

And they left together.

Arriving at his house, Jean-Pere said to Javotte: "You are going to be the mistress of the castle. If you want to, you can be happy with me. But, if you do not want to, you also can be unhappy."

"I will try to do what you want, monsieur."

"Here are all the keys to the castle, and this is the key to the door here. With this key I also give you a golden ball. But I forbid you from opening this door."

"I will only try to please you. Don't worry. It will be easy for me!"

One morning, Jean-Parle said: "I'm leaving for a month. I'm going to give you a servant to help you. Go through the whole castle if you want to; but I forbid you from opening this door."

"Don't, don't be afraid, Monsieur Jean-Parle."

A fortnight after he left, Javotte said to the servant: "Why shouldn't we go and see inside that room? Let's go!"

She took the key, unlocked the door, opened it, and saw her sister's dress hanging on a rack.

"My God! She was killed in here. That's why the same thing will happen to me."

Opening the trapdoor, she saw her sister, her head cut off, on a pile of corpses. She closed the trapdoor, left the room, and locked the door. When she took the key from the lock, she saw that it was all rusty.

"My servant, now we are trapped. Look at the key: it's rusty."

The servant replied: "Let's go and rub it. Maybe the rust will go away."

They scrubbed and rubbed the key all day long. The more they rubbed, the more the key rusted. Javotte then went to see her golden apple. The golden apple was all stained with blood.

"My servant, I think that the end of our days is near. As soon as he arrives and asks for the key and the golden apple, he will know everything!"

At the end of the month, Jean-Parle arrived and asked his servant if she had seen through the castle.

"Yes, Monsieur Jean-Parle. I visited everything."

"You didn't go to the forbidden room?"

"No, that's the only place I didn't go."

"Go and get me the keys and the golden apple that I gave you."

She brought the bunch of keys.

"The key to the door of this room and the golden apple?"

"You don't need them tonight."

"Go get them right away."

She went and got the key and the golden apple and gave them to him.

"You wanted to know where your sister was? You're going to go join her. I'll give you a quarter of an hour to ask God for forgiveness for your sins."

When the quarter of an hour was over, Jean-Parle took her to the forbidden room, placed her head on the block, and cut it off with an axe.

Some time passed, and Jean-Parle, having stolen the clothes of the local bishop, disguised himself as a bishop and went again to the widow.

"Madame, can you show me the way to Rome?"

She replied: "Monsignor, you who are a bishop must know the way to Rome much better than I do. I am only a poor widow without education."

"Yes, but without being educated, you can still show me the shortest way to Rome. It's a hasty journey that I have to make."

"Well! Take the first road on the right. Follow it until the first side road, where you will go straight ahead. When you reach the second road, you will find the main road that leads to Paris. And there, you will get information."

"Yes, madam, that is well said. But send your daughter with me for a few minutes to show me the second road."

"My daughter is not for going away with you. Another time a priest came to hire Javotte, my daughter, and since then we have heard nothing at all from her."

"Yes, but if you don't receive any news, do you think I'm going to steal your daughter?"

"Mom, I'm going to show him the way, for a while."

Finette got into his carriage, and he drove very fast, not stopping to let Finette get out.

"I am not a bishop," he said. "My name is Jean-Parle, and it was I who came to get your two sisters, Charlotte and Javotte. Is your name Finette? We will see if you are as fine as your name."

On arriving at the castle: "Here, my little Finette, if you are smart, you will be all right."

He gave her the keys to the castle and gave her servants, if she should need them.

Some time later, he said: "Listen, my little Finette, you are very fine, but I have a trip to make, which will last fifteen days."

"Yes, Monsieur Jean-Parle, you can make your trip. With my servants, everything here will be done as usual."

As he left he said to her: "During these fifteen days, you can go into all the rooms of the castle, one by one, but I do not want you to set foot in this room here, neither you nor the servants. And take good care of the keys."

Ah, Monsieur Jean-Parle, if that's all there is to do, you can leave without fear."

"Be careful, Finette! If you want to do well here, you had better not go there and look."

About ten days passed, and Finette had visited all the rooms of the castle. The only one that remained was the room that Jean-Parle had prohibited her from opening. One morning, Finette took the key, the shiniest of all, looked at it carefully, unlocked the forbidden door and saw her sisters' dresses hanging on the wall.

"What! Is this where my sisters were killed?"

Opening the trapdoor, she saw her two dead sisters.

"He must be a sorcerer, this Jean-Parle!" she said to herself.

She closed the trapdoor, went out, and took the key from the lock. The key was all rusty!

Finette thought: "Wait a little, Jean-Parle! If you are a sorcerer, you will see who is the smartest."

Taking the key, she smeared it with her sisters' blood, then put it back into the lock. Then having glued Charlotte's head back to her body, and Javotte's head to hers, she left the room. Removing the key from the lock, she found it as shiny as when she had received it.

To her servants she said: "Jean-Parle is coming back in two days. I will say that I am very ill. Forbid him from coming to see me. Let him take the first chest here in the passage, and go with it to my mother's house. It's laundry that I'm sending to be washed."

But what is in the chest is Charlotte's body and a letter addressed to the parish priest, asking him to collect the people from justice to punish the sorcerer.

As he entered, Jean-Parle asked: "Where is my little Finette?"

"Ah, Monsieur Jean-Parle! Your little Finette is very ill. She cannot see you before you have taken this chest of laundry for washing to her mother."

He had not soon left when Finette said to her servants: "When he arrives, send him with this second chest as quickly as he can."

In this chest she placed the body of Javotte, so that she might be buried.

Here Jean-Parle returned: "Where is my little Finette? Is she not up yet?"

"No, monsieur. Finette is very ill and cannot see you. She asks you to take this second chest to her mother, and not to delay in returning for the third, lest she die before your return."

Jean-Parle took the chest and carried it as quickly as he could. Meanwhile, Finette stuffed her skirt and jacket and put them in her bed, in her usual place.

"My servants, you will tell him to come and see me at the door of my room, but without speaking to me, because otherwise I would die. And that he should quickly go and carry the third chest to my mother, without stopping on the way. If he were to stop, misfortune would happen to him."

After this Finette placed herself in the chest, with all the silver and gold that she found at the castle.

Jean-Parle once again took the trunk, placed it on his back and set off.

When he had walked a mile, he thought: "But this chest is very heavy!"

Placing it on the ground, he opened it to see what it contains. But a voice said to him: "Hurry up! Finette is dying."

Picking up the chest, he put it back on his shoulder.

"Poor Finette! I hear her screaming from here. I will hurry to help her."

A mile further on, he put the chest on the ground again, saying: "But, this chest weighs frightfully!"

Finette shouted at him: "Hurry up! Finette is dying."

Grabbing the chest, he ran to the widow's house and said to her: "I must go back quickly. Finette is dying."

"Yes?" but rest for a few minutes. Supper is ready, and it's getting late."

"Grandmother, I don't have time. As I came back, she shouted to me twice: 'Hurry up! Finette is dying!'"

But, in the meantime, the men of justice: the bailiff and the police arrived. They seized Jean-Parle, and did him justice on a block, with an axe.

As for Finette? She inherited the castle and the fortune of Jean-Parle.

And for me, she wanted to hire me to stay at the castle. But I didn't want to. Who knows? This Jean-Parle, being a sorcerer, would perhaps come back! I preferred to stay here to tell you this story.

The Secret Room

New York, USA

Once upon a time there lived a mother with three daughters, whose duty it was to guard the cabbage patch in front of the cottage in which they lived. One day they were all sitting in the sun, spinning, when they saw a bull in the cabbage-patch. "Take your distaff and run, child, run!" said the mother to the eldest daughter. So the girl took her distaff and ran. The bull ran and she ran, and she ran and the bull ran, until they came to a great house standing on the edge of a wood.

There the bull gave her a large bunch of keys, and told her that she could go anywhere in the house she liked except one room. He showed her the key to this room, and told her that she must not unlock the door to which it belonged. Then the bull went away and left her. The girl took the keys and roamed from one beautiful room to another, until she had seen all except the forbidden room. This she wanted to see more than she had any of the others. At last her curiosity became so great that she opened the door and went inside. What was her horror to discover that the room was full of headless bodies hung on all sides. Quickly she locked the door and ran downstairs. But she had some blood on the key, on her hand, and on her shoes.

As she was trying the best she knew how to get the blood off, along came a big black cat, which said to her, "Mew, mew, mew! Give me a dish of bread and milk, and I will tell you how to get the blood off your shoes."

"Go away, you old black thing! I am not going to bother with you."

So the cat went away, and pretty soon the bull came. "Let me see your keys!" said he. "How came the blood on this one?" Then he asked to see her hands and her shoes. When he saw blood on them too, he knew that she had disobeyed him; so, as he had done with all the others who had disobeyed him, he cut her head off and hung her body up with the others in the forbidden room.

The next day, when the mother and her two remaining daughters again sat spinning in the sun, they again saw the bull in the cabbage-patch. The mother sent the second daughter just as she had sent the first, and exactly the same things happened to her.

The third day the mother and the youngest daughter sat spinning in the sun, when the mother looked up and saw the bull a third time in the cabbage patch. "Take your distaff and run, child, run!" cried the mother.

So the youngest daughter ran, and the bull ran. The bull ran and she ran until they came to the great house on the edge of the wood. There the bull gave her a bunch of keys, and told her that she might open every door in the house except the one whose key he showed her. Then the bull went away. The youngest daughter did just as her sisters had done, and went into all the rooms except the forbidden one. She kept wondering what could be in there, until her curiosity became so great that she unlocked the door and went in. She, too, was so horrified that she quickly shut the door and ran downstairs, but with the tell-tale blood on the key, on her hand, and on her shoes.

To her came the big black cat, who said, "Mew, mew, mew! Give me a dish of bread and milk, and I will tell you how to get the blood off your shoes."

Instead of telling the cat to go away, as her sisters had done, she went and got some bread and milk for him. When the cat had finished eating, he said, "If you will go into the attic, you will find there a sickle. Take it, rub it on the key, on your hand, and on your shoes, while you say, 'Blood, be gone! Blood, be gone!"'

The girl went to the attic, found the sickle, and did with it as the cat had told her to do, saying, "Blood, be gone! blood, be gone!" Even as she spoke the last word, the blood-stains disappeared.

Then the girl went downstairs, where she found the bull waiting for her. "Let me see your keys," he said, "and your hands and your shoes!"

When he saw that she had no blood-stains upon her, he suddenly changed from a bull into a beautiful prince. "I was bewitched," he said, "by a girl who loved me, but whom I wouldn't marry because I didn't love her. I killed many a girl when I was a bull; but now we will have the bodies taken care of, and then we will be married."

So they buried the bodies, and then were married and lived happily ever after.

The Three Sisters


There was t'ree sister living into a house, an' everybody want them fe marry, an' them refuse. An' one day a Snake go an' borrow from his neighbour long coat an' burnpan hat an' the whole set out of clothing. Then he dress himself, an' him tell his friends that him mus' talk to those young lady. An' what you think the fellow does? He get up a heap a men to carry him to the young lady yard. An' when him got there the door was lock with an iron bar.

An' when he come he say: "Please to open the door, there is a stranger coming in." An' he sing like this:

My eldes' sister, will you open the door?
My eldes' sister, will you open the door oh?
Fair an' gandelow steel.

An' the eldest one was going to open the door. An' the last one, who was a old witch, say to her sister: "Don't open the door" an' she sing:

My door is bar with a scotran bar,
My door is bar with a scotran bar oh,
Fair an' gandelow steel.

Then the Snake ask again to the same tune:

My second sister will you open the door?
My second sister will you open the door oh?
Fair an' gandelow steel.

An' the Snake turn to a Devil, an' the t'ree sister come an' push on the door to keep it from open. An' the Devil ask a third time:

My youngest sister will you open the door?
My youngest sister will you open the door oh?
Fair an' gandelow steel.

But the last sister won't have it so, an' she said with a very wrath:

The Devil roguer than a womankind,
The Devil roguer than a womankind oh,
Fair an' gandelow steel.

An' the Devil get into a great temper an' say:

What is roguer than a womankind?
What is roguer than a womankind oh?
Fair an' gandelow steel.

Then the Devil fly from the step straight into hell an have chain round his waist until now.

Jack Mantora me no choose none.

The Wood-Cutter's Daughter


There was once a poor wood-cutter who had a wife and three daughters to feed and clothe from the proceeds of his labor. One day, while he was at work in the forest, a man came his way and stopped to talk with him. The stranger, learning about the daughters, persuaded the father, for a large sum of money then and there paid in advance, to promise him the eldest of the three in marriage.

That night, when the wood-cutter went home, he told his wife of the bargain that he had made, and the next morning, with her consent, took the girl to a certain cave and delivered her to the stranger, whose name was 'Abu Fraywar.

The latter, as soon as the father was gone, said to his wife, "You must be hungry; eat these."

So saying, he drew a knife, and, cutting off his own ears, gave them to her with a loathsome loaf of black bread. The girl, though frightened, refused to eat; whereupon her husband hung her by her hair from the ceiling of a chamber in the cave, which he had meanwhile by magic transformed into a beautiful palace.

The next day 'Abu Fraywar went again to the forest and said to the wood-cutter, "I am so pleased with your daughter that I want the next younger for my brother. Here is more money. Bring her tomorrow."

The simple father, overcome by the smooth words and bright gold of his son-in-law, again yielded, and the next day brought his second daughter to the cave, where she met with precisely the same treatment as her elder sister.

Finally, 'Abu Fraywar came for the third daughter, pretending that he wanted her for another brother. This time, also, the parents were easily won; but the girl, being somewhat spoiled, as the youngest of a family is apt to be, refused to go unless she might take with her a box in which she kept sweets, etc., and her favorite kitten. When, however, her terms were accepted, she followed her sisters to the cave where they were still hanging.

When 'Abu Fraywar offered his ears -- which grew again as often as they were removed -- to this girl, she, instead of showing the disgust she felt by refusing them, took them without hesitation and promised to eat them as soon as she felt hungry. He then left her for a time, saying that, when he returned, he expected to find that she had obeyed his wishes.

Now, the second sister, when 'Abu Fraywar left her, in the same way ordering her to dispose of the meal provided for her during his absence, had undertaken to deceive him by hiding his ears under the rug.

She did not succeed; for, when he returned and she told him, in response to his inquiries, that she had eaten them, he called out, "Ears of mine, are you hot or cold? " and they immediately replied, "As cold as ice, and lying under the rug."

Her attempt to deceive him, of course, made him very angry and furnished him an excuse for hanging her up beside his first victim. The third sister proved wiser than either of the others. She gave the ears to her cat, which devoured them with relish, while she ate some food that she had brought from home.

When 'Abu Fraywar returned and called out as before, "Ears of mine, are you hot or cold?" they replied, "As hot as can be in this snug little stomach."

At this the monster was so well pleased that from that time he grew more and more fond of the girl and treated her with increasing kindness.

One day, after she had been some time with him, he said to her, "I have to go on a journey. There are forty rooms in the palace. Here are the keys. You may open any you please except the one to which this golden key gives entrance." S

he promised not to disturb the forbidden chamber, and he took his departure. For a while after he was gone she amused herself with examining the rest of the rooms. She had reached the thirty-ninth, when, on looking from the window, which opened on a graveyard, she was horrified at seeing her husband, who was really a ghoul (ghul), devouring a corpse that he had just taken from its grave. She was so fascinated by the spectacle that she took a position from which she could see without being seen and watched him at his ghastly work. Presently he started and listened, then hid himself behind a tomb in the vicinity. It was a funeral that had disturbed him.

As the procession drew near she noticed that the bearers of the corpse seemed in great haste, and finally heard one of them say, "Let us be off as soon as possible, lest the ghoul that haunts the place seize and devour us."

The discovery that she had made gave the girl great uneasiness. She was especially anxious to know what was in the fortieth room, and her anxiety at last became so intense that she resolved at any cost to solve the mystery. When she applied the golden key to the door and opened it, there were her sisters, still alive, hanging from the ceiling by their hair. She cut them down and fed them; then, as soon as their strength was in a measure restored, she sent them back to their parents.

The next day her husband returned, but he did not remain long with her. After a few days he told her that he was obliged to make another journey. This time, before he left her, he gave her permission to have any of her relatives whom she wished to see to visit her. Accordingly, when he was gone, she sent invitations to several of her friends and relatives. They were accepted, but, when the people came, she said nothing to them about her troubles.

It was well that she did not, for among those who came to see her there were some who were not what they seemed, but her husband in the various shapes which his knowledge of magic enabled him to take for the purpose of entrapping her. At last he took the form of her aged grandmother and succeeded. No sooner did his unsuspecting wife see, as she sup- posed, the friend of her childhood, than she threw herself upon her neck and told her her sorrows.

Thereupon 'Abu Fraywar unmasked and, taking a poisoned nail, drove it into her breast. The wound thus made did not kill her; it only caused her to swoon and remain indefinitely in this condition. As soon as she became unconscious her husband put her into a chest, which he then sank in the sea.

Now the sultan of that country had a son who was very fond of sailing and fishing. It so happened that, soon after 'Abu Fraywar had made away with the wood-cutter's daughter, the young man, while engaged in fishing, ordered a large net to be cast from his boat near the place where she had been lowered. It inclosed the chest, which, after some difficulty, was finally brought to the surface.

The prince ordered it taken into the boat, and then, before opening it, said to his men, "If the chest contains money or jewels, you may have it with all its contents; but, if anything else, I shall claim it."

The young man was deeply pained, as well as surprised, when he saw what was actually in the chest. He wept and lamented over the sad fate of the unfortunate creature, and carried the body to his mother's chamber, that it might be prepared for proper burial. During this process the nail was discovered and removed, when the young woman began to sneeze and finally recovered consciousness.

When Zerendac -- for that was her name -- was completely restored, she became the wife of the prince and in due time bore him a daughter. One day, however, when she was alone with her baby, the wall of her room suddenly parted and 'Abu Fraywar made his appearance. He did not stop to greet his former wife, but, seizing the child, swallowed it and instantly vanished. The bereaved mother was so stunned by her loss that, when her husband asked her what had become of the child, she had nothing to answer. The same fate befell her second child, a son, and the third, another daughter. The last time 'Abu Fraywar, in his malignity, went so far as to smear the mother's face with her child's blood. When he was gone she washed her face, but in her haste and excitement she missed a slight stain just below her under lip. Her husband and his mother, who already suspected her, when they caught sight of this spot, at once concluded that she was a ghuleh, and had devoured her own children.

Seeing that her life was in danger, Zerendac told her story; but no one believed it. Her husband, however, refusing to put her to death, ordered her to be confined in a small room underground and fed on bread and water. Later, at his mother's suggestion, he sought another wife, and, hearing of the daughter of a neighboring sultan, went in person to sue for her hand. Before starting on his journey, not for the purpose of comforting, but of tormenting her, he sent to the mother of his lost children to ask her what he should bring her on his return. She replied, begging him to bring her a box of aloes (sebr) and another of henna; also a dagger.

The prince complied with his wife's request, and, when he reached home, sent her the things just mentioned. \She opened the boxes, and, placing them in front of her, said, "O box of sebr, you have not in you more patience than I have shown. O box of henna, you can not be gentler than I have been;" and, having said this, she was on the point of stab-bing herself with the dagger, when the wall again parted and 'Abu Fraywar again appeared, this time leading a handsome boy and two beautiful girls.

"Do not kill yourself," he cried, "I have not slain your children. Here they are."

He then, by the utterance of a magical formula, called into existence a staircase connecting the room in which Zerendac was imprisoned with the principal salon of the royal palace. At the top there was a trap-door so cunningly constructed that no one who was not in the secret could find it or would suspect its existence. This done, he took the dagger and killed himself.

When the time for the marriage of the prince with the sultan's daughter arrived, Zerendac sent the three children, arrayed in rich garments and rare jewels, up the staircase, with instructions to play as many pranks on the guests and do as much damage among the glass and china in the salon as possible. Now, the mother of the prince was so struck with the beauty of the children that, although she was annoyed by the mischief they did, she could not find it in her heart to punish them, especially as there was something in their features and movements that reminded her of her son in his childhood.

However, at last she lost her patienc; but just as she was about to strike one of them, they all shouted in chorus, "O lady, make haste and see how the moon is revolving."

At this, of course, everybody rushed to the window and the children seized the opportunity to lift the trap-door and escape.

On the day on which the wedding was to be consummated the children appeared again when their father was present. He was attracted by their beauty and amused by their conversation. They, however, went about upsetting vases and doing all the mischief in other ways that occurred to them.

When he remonstrated with them, they replied, "This house is our house, and all that is in it belongs to us and our parents."

"What do you mean?" inquired the prince.

For answer they took him down the secret staircase to their mother, who told him that they were his children and how they had been restored to her. The prince, deeply touched by the story, begged her to forgive his unkindness and return to her place in his household; which she was only too happy to do. He then sent the sultan's daughter, with an explanation and a satisfactory compensation, back to her father, and the reunited couple lived happily ever after.

The Tiger's Bride


One day a woman went to cut thatching grass and she cut such a quantity that when she tied it up, the bundle was too big for her to lift on to her head; so she stood and called for some one to help her, but no one was within hearing and no one came. She called and called and at last began to promise that she would give her daughter in marriage to any one who would help her.

After she had called out this a few times, a tiger suddenly appeared and asked what she wanted; she explained her difficulty and the tiger undertook to lift the load on to her head, if she would really give him her daughter in marriage. She promised and with the help of the tiger took up the bundle and went home.

Two or three days after, the tiger presented himself at her house and was duly married to the daughter. After the wedding the couple started for the tiger's home; all the way the unhappy bride wept und sang: "How far off is our home, big head?"

"You can just see the mouth of the cave," answered the tiger and in a short time they came to a large cave.

Then the tiger told her to set to work and cook a feast while he went off and invited his friends to come and share it. But the bride when left alone caught a cat and killed it and hung it over the fire, so that its blood dropped slowly into the pan and made a fizzling noise, as if cooking were going on; and then she ran off to her mother's house and climbed a tree which grew near it and began to sing:

You married me to a ti-ti-tiger:
You threw me to a bear:
Take back the necklace you gave me
Take back the bracelet and the diamonds and the coral.
Meanwhile the tiger returned with his friends and sat down outside the cave and told his wife to be quick with the cooking of the cakes for he heard the hissing over the fire and thought that she was cooking. At last as she did not come out, he got tired of waiting and went in to fetch her. Then he saw that she had disappeared and had to go and tell his friends. They were very angry at being cheated out of a feast, and fell upon the tiger and beat him, till he ran away and was seen no more; but his bride was left to flit from tree to tree singing:
You married me to a ti-ti-tiger:
You threw me to a bear:
Take back the necklace you gave me
Take back the bracelet and the diamonds and the coral.

Links to related sites

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  1. Blue Beard. Folktales of types 312 and 312A about women whose brothers rescue them from their ruthless husbands or abductors.

  2. The Robber Bridegroom and Other Tales Type 955.

  3. The Grimm Brothers' Children's and Household Tales (Grimms' Fairy Tales).

  4. Grimm Brothers' Home Page.

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Revised January 21, 2024.