How the Devil Married Three Sisters

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

D. L. Ashliman

© 1999-2020


  1. How the Devil Married Three Sisters (Italy).
  2. The Cobbler and His Three Daughters (Blue Beard) (Basque).

  3. The Three Sisters Who Were Taken into the Mountain (Norway).
  4. Fitcher's Bird (Germany).
  5. Link to The Hare's Bride (Germany). This tale is contained in a separate file and will open in a new window.

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

  7. The Widow and Her Daughters (Scotland).

  8. Peerifool (Scotland).

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

  10. Zerendac (Palestine).

  11. The Tiger's Bride (India).

  12. 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 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!

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 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.



There was 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 kale yard; 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 kale. 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 kale and throw it in a big cubby [straw basket]. So he cut till he had it well filled.

The princess was always asking him why he was taking her mother's kale. 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 kale 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 kale.

She was asking why he was taking her mother's kale. 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, "Peerie Fool 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 [basket], 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.

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.



There was once a poor woodcutter, who had a wife and three daughters dependent on him. One day, while he was working in the forest, a stranger passed that way and stopped to talk with him. Hearing he had three daughters the stranger persuaded him, for a large sum of money, which he paid on the spot, to let him have the eldest girl in marriage.

When the woodcutter went home at dusk, he boasted of the bargain to his wife, and next morning, took the girl to a certain cave and there gave her over to the stranger, who said that his name was Abu Freywar.

As soon as the woodman was gone, Abu Freywar said to her, "You must be hungry, eat these."

So saying, he took a knife and cut off both his ears, which he gave to her together with a nasty-looking loaf of black bread.

The girl refusing such food, he hung her up by the hair from the ceiling of a chamber in the cave, which had meanwhile become a magnificent palace.

Next day, Abu Freywar went again to the forest and found the woodcutter. "I want your second daughter for my brother," he said. "Here is the money. Bring her to the cave tomorrow."

The woodcutter, delighted at his great good fortune, brought his second daughter to Abu Freywar, and directly he had gone, Abu Freywar gave the girl his ears, which had grown afresh, to eat. She said she was not hungry just then, but would keep them to eat by-and-by. When he went out of the room, she tried to deceive him by hiding his ears under a carpet on the floor.

When he returned and asked if she had eaten them, she said "Yes."

But he called out, "Ears of mine, are you hot or cold? "and they answered promptly, "Cold as ice, and lying under the carpet."

Whereupon Abu Freywar, in a rage hung her up beside her sister.

He then went and asked for the youngest daughter, whose name was Zerendac, saying, that he wanted her for another brother. But the girl, a spoilt child, refused to go unless she might take with her a pet kitten and a box in which she kept her treasures. Hugging those, she went with Abu Freywar to the cave.

She proved wiser than her sisters. When her husband's back was turned, she gave his ears to the cat which devoured them eagerly, while she ate some food which she had brought from home.

When the ogre returned and cried as of wont, "Ears of mine, are you hot or cold?"

He received the answer, "As hot as can be in this snug little stomach," and this pleased him so that from that time he began to grow very fond of Zerendac.

After she had lived some days with him, he said, "I must go on a journey. There are forty rooms in this palace. Here are the keys, with which you may open any door you please except that to which this golden key belongs," and with that he took his departure.

Zerendac amused herself in his absence with opening and examining the locked- up rooms. On entering the thirty-ninth, she happened to look out of the window which opened on to a burial ground, and was terrified to see her husband, who was a ghoul, devouring a corpse that he had just dug out of a grave with his long claw- like nails. She was so fascinated with the sight that (hidden behind the window curtain), she watched him at his horrible repast. A few minutes later she saw him start and hide himself behind a monument in the cemetery. He had been disturbed by the approach of a funeral.

As the procession approached she heard one of the bearers say, "Let us be off as soon as possible, lest the ghoul which haunts this place get hold of us," and she could see that the whole company seemed very anxious.

This discovery caused the girl great uneasiness. She was anxious to know what was in the fortieth room, and the discovery she had made as to the real character of her husband prompted her to solve the mystery at any cost. She took the golden key and opened the door. She found her two sisters still alive and dangling from the ceiling by their hair. She cut them down, fed them, and as soon as their health was restored, sent them back to her parents.

Abu Freywar returned next day, but not for long. He left home a few days later, telling his wife she might invite any of her relations whom she cared to see. Accordingly she invited many of her friends and relatives, who came to see her, but heard nothing of her troubles. It was well for her that she did not complain, for her visitors were not the persons they seemed to be, but simply her husband in various shapes assumed in order to entrap her.

He succeeded at last in the form of her grandmother to whom she was beginning to tell all her sorrows; when the old woman became Abu Freywar and, taking a poisoned nail, drove it into her breast. The wound did not kill her, but it caused her to swoon away. No sooner was she unconscious than the monster put her into a chest and sank it in the sea.

Now the son of the sultan of that land was fond of boating and fishing, and this prince happened to cast a large net from a boat close to the place where the chest in which she was lay at the bottom of the sea. The net, happening to enclose the chest, was hauled in with the greatest difficulty. The sultan's son had it drawn into the boat, and, before opening it, said to his attendants, "If it contains money or jewels, you may have them all; but should it contain anything else, it is mine."

He was greatly shocked when he saw its actual contents, and mourned the sad fate of that lovely girl. He had her body carried to his mother's chamber, to be honorably prepared for burial. During the process, the nail being found and removed, Zerendac sneezed and came to life again.

She married the prince, and in course of time bore him a daughter. But one day, when she was alone with the child, the wall of her room suddenly split open, and Abu Freywar appeared. Without a word to the mother, he snatched up the infant and swallowed it, disappearing as suddenly as he had come. Zerendac was so bewildered by this fresh misfortune that, when asked where the baby had gone, she could only weep despairingly.

Her second child, a son, and the third, another daughter, were torn from her in the same horrible manner. On this last occasion, the cruel ogre smeared the poor mother's face with her child's blood. She washed it off, but, in her hurry and anguish, missed a slight stain beneath her under lip. Her husband and her mother-in-law, already very suspicious, judged of course that she was a ghoul and had devoured her offspring.

Zerendac told her story, but no one would believe it. Her husband, being loth to put her to death, ordered her to be imprisoned in a small underground chamber, and, at his mother's suggestion, sought another bride. Hearing of the beauty of the daughter of a neighboring sultan, he went to ask for her. But before setting out he sent for the mother of his lost children, and asked her what she would like him to bring her when he came back. She asked for a box of aloes [Arabic sebr, also meaning "patience"], for a box of henna [the same word means "tenderness"], and a dagger.

Her request was granted, and when the prince returned from his betrothal to the sultan's daughter, he brought with him these things for Zerendac. She opened the boxes, one by one, saying, "O box of sebr, you have not in you more patience than I have shown. O box of henna, you cannot be gentler than I have been," and was just going to stab herself with the dagger, when the wall of her prison opened and Abu Frey war appeared, leading a handsome boy and two lovely girls.

"Live!" he cried, "I have not killed your children. Here they are."

He then by his magic made a secret staircase connecting her dungeon with the great hall of the palace. Having done this, he seized the dagger and slew himself.

When the festivities in connection with the prince's marriage began, Zerendac sent the three children, richly dressed in clothes which Abu Freywar had left with her, up the staircase, telling them to amuse themselves without respect for the guests or the furniture. Accordingly they did all the damage they could think of; but the mother of the prince was slow to punish them, because they were pretty, and reminded her of her son at their age.

But at last, losing patience, she was going to strike one of them when they all shouted at once, "Ya sitt Ubdûr, shun keyf el kamr btadûr," which means, "O Lady Full-Moon, look how the moon is turning round."

Everyone rushed to the window, and while their backs were turned the children vanished.

On the actual wedding day the children appeared again when their father was present, ran about, breaking china and glass, and did all the damage they could think of. The prince forbade them.

They replied haughtily, "This is our house, and everything here belongs to us and to our parents."

"What do you mean by that?" inquired the prince.

The children answered by leading their father down the secret staircase to Zerendac, who explained who they really were and how they came there. The prince, greatly moved, embraced her tenderly and swore to be true to her till his life's end.

The sultan's daughter was returned, with excuses and a satisfactory present, to her father; and the prince and Zerendac lived happy 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 28, 2020.