translated and/or edited by
D. L. Ashliman
Once upon a time there was a miller who was poor, but who had a beautiful daughter. Now it happened that he got into a conversation with the king and said to him: "I have a daughter who knows the art of turning straw into gold."
So the king immediately sent for the miller's daughter and ordered her to turn a whole room full of straw into gold in one night. And if she could not do it, she would have to die. She was locked in the room, and she sat there and cried, because for her life she did not know how the straw would turn into gold.
Then suddenly a little man appeared before her, and said: "What will you give me, if I turn this all into gold?" She took off her necklace and gave it to the little man, and he did what he had promised.
The next morning the king found the room filled with gold, and his heart became even more greedy. He put the miller's daughter into an even larger room filled with straw, and told her to turn it into gold. The little man came again. She gave him a ring from her hand, and he turned it all into gold.
The third night the king had her locked in a third room, which was larger than the first two, and entirely filled with straw. "If you succeed this time, I'll make you my wife," he said.
Then the little man came and said, "I'll do it again, but you must promise me the first child that you have with the king."
In her distress she made the promise, and when the king saw that this straw too had been turned into gold, he took the miller's daughter as his wife.
Soon thereafter the queen delivered a child. Then the little man appeared before her and demanded the child that had been promised him. The queen begged him to let her keep the child, offering him great riches in its place.
Finally he said, "I'll be back to get the child in three days. But if by then you know my name, you can keep the child.!"
For two days the queen pondered what the little man's name might be, but she could not think of anything, and became very sad. On the third day the king came home from a hunt and told her how, two days earlier, while hunting deep in a dark forest, he had come upon a little house. A comical little man was there, jumping about as if on one leg, and crying out:
Today I'll bake; tomorrow I'll brew.
Then I'll fetch the queen's new child.
It is good that no one knows
Rumpelstiltskin is my name.
The queen was overjoyed to hear this.
Then the dangerous little man arrived and asked: "Your majesty, what is my name?"
"Is your name Conrad?"
"Is your name Heinrich?"
"Then could your name be Rumpelstiltskin?"
"The devil told you that!" shouted the little man. He ran away angrily, and never came back.
Source: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, "Rumpelstilzchen," Kinder- und Hausmärchen, 1st ed. (Berlin: Realschulbuchhandlung, 1812), v. 1, no. 55, pp. 253-55.
In a city there was a wonderfully beautiful but poor girl. A merchant fell in love with her and asked her to marry him. However, because merchants expect a rich dowry, before the wedding she gave herself over to the devil. Thus the devil brought her great wealth under the condition that she would have to discover his name within one year, otherwise the devil would take her.
The year's end was approaching, and she still did not know the devil's name.
One night a shepherd was lying in his hut just outside the city when he saw a fire not far away. Walking toward the fire, he came to a hill. There he saw various beings dancing around. One of them was particularly cheerful as he jumped around the fire, singing:
It is good; it is good,
That Mistress Beautiful does not know,
That my name is Hipche, Hipche.
The next day the shepherd want to the merchant's wife and told her what he had seen and heard. She took note of the name, and when the year had come to an end, the devil appeared before her, and she stated the name: Hipche.
Thus the devil was defeated, and Mistress Beautiful lived happily and prosperously with her merchant. With the money that she had received from the devil, their trade expanded across the land and over the sea.
Once a prominent dwarf fell in love with a beautiful girl and wanted to force her to marry him. To be sure, the girl had a great aversion toward him because he was so small and not at all good looking, and she would not agree to marry him. However, he won over her father by offering him much money and land, so she finally had to accept his proposal. Nevertheless, he agreed to release her from her promise and to leave her alone if she could succeed in discovering his name. The girl searched a long time, but to no avail. However, in the end fate came to her aid.
One night a fish dealer was traveling along the road to Greifswald. Coming to a place where he saw a large number of dwarfs joyfully dancing and jumping about in the moonlight, he stopped with amazement. Then he suddenly heard one of the dwarfs call out with joy, "If my bride knew that my name is Doubleturk, she wouldn't take me!"
The next day the fish dealer related this experience in a tavern in Greifswald. The bride heard about it from the tavern keeper's daughter. She immediately assumed that it had been her lover, and when he came to her, she called him Doubleturk. Then the dwarf disappeared in great anger, and that was the end of their courtship.
In a great forest there once lived a cowherd and a shepherd, and they helped one another in times of need. The cowherd had a daughter and the shepherd a son. From their childhood on they were inseparable, and the older they became the fonder they grew of each other. Thus, when they came of age the shepherd's son proposed to the shepherd's daughter, and she was promised to him in marriage.
Some time later an ugly dwarf approached the cowherd and asked for the daughter's hand in marriage. He brought many valuable presents for the mother and the daughter. The daughter could not stand the dwarf, because he was so ugly, and she did not want to marry a dwarf in any event. The mother did not like him either, but that did not stop her from accepting his presents.
One day he returned, again with many costly things, but this time the mother said, "You are not going to get my daughter, no matter how many presents you bring."
The daughter added, "I do not want your presents at all, and I want you even less!"
Then the dwarf became very angry, threw the costly things on the floor, and replied to the mother, "It's not that simple to get rid of me! Earlier you accepted my presents, and I want to be paid for them. I will return tomorrow at noon. If by then you know my name, then you may keep your daughter, otherwise I will take her by force!"
With that the dwarf disappeared. Great concern now ruled the cowherd's household.
Now the shepherd's son, while watching over his sheep in the forest, had often seen the dwarf, but every time he had approached him, the dwarf had disappeared. On this day he was watching over his sheep in the vicinity of a cave, and this was the dwarf's cave. The shepherd stood there, leaning on his staff, when suddenly the dwarf came by, as though he were being driven through the forest by a windstorm, and he disappeared into the cave. At the cave's entrance there was a yellow flower that the shepherd's son had often admired because of its unusual color and shape. Before entering the cave, the dwarf had touched the flower. A loud sound came from within the cave. The shepherd's son listened, and he heard the dwarf sing:
Here I sit,The shepherd's son took note of the name, because it seemed so very unusual to him. That evening when he visited his sweetheart, and noticed her concern, he told her everything that had happened, and comforted her. The mother repeated the name over and over again until it came easily to her, and now they were no longer fearful about the dwarf's return.
My name is
If the mother knew that,
She could keep her daughter.
The next day at noon he appeared as announced. He stepped up to the mother and said sarcastically, "Now my dear lady, do you know my name?"
The mother pretended to be afraid and answered, "Oh, what could your name be? Are you not called Mäuserich?"
The dwarf laughed and said, "Not even close!"
"Is your name perhaps Ruppsteert?"
"Wrong again!" laughed the dwarf.
"Oh, what are you called then? Your name wouldn't be Holzrührlein Bonneführlein, now would it?"
The dwarf disappeared in an instant, and he was never heard from nor seen again. The shepherd's son married the cowherd's daughter, and they lived long and happy lives together.
Once upon a time there was a girl whose task it was to spin a certain quantity of flax every day. However, she could never complete her work. Then one day a man came to her who promised her that he would spin the flax for her every day if she could guess his name. But the girl could not guess his name. Then the man went away and turned himself into a bird. Flying happily back and forth it cried out:
God is dat, god is dat,
Dat de Diern nich weet,
Dat ick Nägendümer heet.
It is good, it is good,
That the girl does not know
That my name is Nägendümer.
A shepherd who was herding his flock nearby heard this, and he told it to the girl.
Sometime later the man returned to the girl and repeated his offer.
She said to him, "Your name is Nägendümer!"
The man answered, "A bad person told you that!" But he kept his promise, and from then on he spun all her flax every day.
A long time ago near Sandbühl there lived an elf. He was scarcely three spans tall. He often ran around dressed in only a shirt, which angered the people, but otherwise he did not get in their way. On the contrary did them many favors. He cut straw for them, tended their cows, and helped them with work at home and in the field. He also provided the sick with healing herbs and rescued many children from death.
One time a beautiful peasant girl was gored by a steer. She screamed aloud and called for help. The friendly elf came immediately, comforted her, and promised to help and rescue her, if she would marry him and go with him to the elf kingdom. She had no choice but to say yes, and upon her agreement the elf rescued her. Now she was supposed to go with the dwarf into the mountain, but she did not at all want to. She therefore asked the elf if he would not release her, promising him a beautiful red jacket if he would do so.
The dwarf said, "I can easily get a red jacket. However, if you can guess my name within three days, you shall be released from you promise."
The girl was satisfied with this answer, and she went home.
She thought the entire night about the dwarf's name, but it did not come to her. The next day the girl went out to the sand hill where the elf stayed. She said all kinds of names, but none was the right one, and the dwarf said, "Go home and think about it some more."
The girl returned home and thought day and night about what the little man's name might be. The following day she went out to the sand hill again, where she found the dwarf. Then she said many, many names, but none was the right one.
The dwarf said, "Go home and think about it better, or tomorrow you will be my wife."
So the girl, with her head hanging, returned home sad and dejected. She had given up hope of guessing the dwarf's name.
But where the need is greatest, there help will come the soonest. A peasant boy was working near the sand hill, and at noontime he lay down behind the brush to rest. The elf came out of his hole in the ground, and thinking that no one was there, he clapped his hands and danced around in his little shirt while singing,
Gott sei Lob und Dank,
Praise and thanks to God,
Gott sei Lob und Dank,
Praise and thanks to God,
The peasant boy was amused by the dwarf's antics, and that evening when he went to the girl's house to visit, he laughingly told her what he had seen and heard that day in the meadow near Sandbühl. The girl was now happy beyond measure and no longer had any fears or concerns.
Early in the morning of the following day she went up to the sand hill. She took a red jacket for the dwarf, for she wanted to give him something for rescuing her. When the tiny little man saw her coming he was filled with joy, and said, "Now tell me, what is my name?"
The girl said, "Putzli."
Then the dwarf laughed and asked her once again.
The girl said, "Nudi."
Then the elf laughed until he shook, and said, "Guess once again!"
Then the girl answered, "Would your name be Kugerl?" and gave him the red jacket.
Then the dwarf began to cry and to moan, and carrying the jacket he went out into the woods. Since that hour he has not been seen again, and no one knows where he went.
One evening she called out to her fiancé, who had just arrived, "Look, is your name not Hoppetînken."
Turning red with anger, the dwarf said, "The devil told you that."
From that time onward he abandoned the spinning girl, and never again helped her.
The woman did not think about this very long before saying yes, for she did not believe that she had anything under her apron. From that time onward she always had yarn enough, and every Saturday when her husband came to see what she had done, there was always an abundance. She was happy and satisfied, but before long all this changed, for she was about to deliver a child, and she now realized what the dwarf had meant.
Filled with grief, she told her husband everything. One day when he was walking over a mountain he heard the humming of a spinning wheel from within the mountain, and a dwarf singing:
Dat is gaut dat de gnädige Frû nich weit
It is good that the honorable lady does not know
Ages ago, in olden times, there lived a powerful count. All the lands far and wide belonged to him, and he had everything that his heart desired. He shared his wealth and his happiness with a good wife, who was as beautiful as the day and as dear as an angel. They had lived together happily together for several months, and the days seemed to them to be as short as minutes. One day the count was out hunting and went deeper and deeper into the forest. In the heat of the hunt he went further than ever before, and he became separated a good distance from the rest of his party. As he stood there alone in the forest, a dwarf suddenly appeared before him. The little forest dweller was only three feet tall, and his full beard reached his knees. Angrily he rolled his fiery red eyes and said, "What are you doing here? This is my realm, and you must pay a penalty to me. If you do not give me your wife, you shall not leave this forest alive."
The count was considerably frightened by the dwarf's appearance and his angry words, for he had often heard all kinds of spooky stories about strength and the wickedness of the little man of the forest. His old nurse had told him these stories when he was but a child. What was he to do? This was a critical situation. The frightened count did not know how to escape other than to try to beg and talk his way out.
"Forgive me," said the count, "that I have trespassed upon your realm. I did not know that it was yours, and I will certainly never do it again."
But the wild dwarf would not be pacified, and he said, "What I have said to you must happen. Either you or she."
"Demand what else you will, and I shall give it to you," said the count, "but do not insist upon this."
Then the little man appeared to reconsider, and he said, "If must be so, then I will place your fate in your wife's hands. I will give you both one month's time. If she is able, in three attempts, to guess my name then she shall be yours and free -- otherwise she shall belong to me."
The count was somewhat comforted with this, but still his heart was burdened. He made his way toward home, accompanied by the little man of the forest. Both were serious, and neither spoke a word. After they had gone some distance they came to an ancient gray-bearded fir tree. The dwarf stopped here and said, "This is the boundary of my realm. I will await your wife here at this fir tree, which is nine times older than the other trees. Three times she may have three guesses! But if you do not keep your word it will go badly for both of you."
The count now walked slowly homeward, for his heart was heavy, and the closer he came to his castle, the gloomier and sadder he became. As he approached the gate, the countess, who had seen him from her window, came out to meet him. She was filled with joy and happiness, for her husband was home again. But she soon noticed that he was not happy, as he usually was, but instead looked like seven days of rainy weather. This made her sad and concerned, and she asked the count what was wrong with him.
As soon as they entered the castle and were in the sitting room, the tired and sad count told her how he had met the dwarf and how he had wanted take the countess, and what conditions he had at last agreed to.
When the countess heard this, she became as pale as a corpse, and her beautiful, fine cheeks were wet with tears. Happiness and joy had now disappeared from the castle, and everyone there became silent and sad. The countess most often sat in an alcove thinking and thinking how short her happiness had been, or she went to the castle chapel where she prayed and cried.
The count no longer went out hunting nor to the jousting matches but sat instead on his old chair, richly decorated with carvings, on which his ancestors had also sat. Supporting his head with his right hand, he contemplated, but he himself did not know about what.
Thus passed day after day and week after week, until finally there were three days left in the month. The count and countess went out into the forest, then further and further until they could see the old gray-bearded fir tree in the distance. The count stayed behind, and the countess proceeded alone. Otherwise it was beautiful in the forest. The birds were singing; the squirrels were jumping about or sitting there splitting pine cones; and the wild roses were blossoming so beautifully white and red. But the countess had a heavy heart as never before, and she sadly walked on until she came to the fir tree.
The dwarf, beautifully dressed in green and red, was waiting for her. A mischievous pleasure overcame him when he saw the countess, for she pleased him greatly.
"Now guess my name, Lady Countess!" he said quickly, as though he hardly expected her to do so.
Then the countess guessed, "Fir, Spruce, Pine," because she thought that for living in the forest he would certainly have the name of a tree.
The dwarf had hardly heard this when he broke out laughing and rejoicing until the entire forest resounded. "You have not guessed it!" he said gleefully. "See if you can do any better tomorrow than you did today. Otherwise you will become my wife!"
The countess, sadder still, walked away from the fir tree with downcast eyes. The dwarf stood there and smiled at her, taking pleasure in her grief. She soon found her husband, and told him how she had guessed so badly. They returned to their castle even sadder than they had left.
The rest of the day passed too fast, although it was a sad one. Evening was soon there, and night followed quickly. It was a sad and hopeless night, and neither sleep nor dreams entered the count's room.
When the first larks began to sing the next morning, the count and countess were already up and concerned about their plight. They went to the castle chapel to pray, and afterward went out into the dark green forest, then further and deeper until they saw the old gray-bearded fir tree in the distance. The count stayed behind and the countess proceeded alone. Otherwise it was beautiful out there in the forest. The birds were singing; the flowers were laughing and giving off their sweet scent; the squirrels were standing up like little men. But the countess had a heavy heart as never before, and with tears in her eyes she walked on until she came to the fir tree. She had scarcely arrived there when the little man of the forest walked up, dressed beautifully in blue and red. A mischievous pleasure overcame him when he saw the countess, for she pleased him greatly.
"Now guess my name, Lady Countess!" he said quickly, and smiled.
Then the countess guessed, "Oat, Buckwheat, Maize," for she thought that he might have the name of a grain.
The little elf had hardly heard this when he broke out laughing and rejoicing until the entire forest resounded. "You have not guessed it!" he said gleefully. "You must do better tomorrow, or you will belong to me, and tomorrow will be my wedding."
The countess, sadder than ever before, walked away from the fir tree with wet eyes. The dwarf stood there impishly smiling at her. She soon found her husband, and told him how badly she had done. They returned to their castle even more gloomily than they had left.
The rest of the day passed under a shadow of sorrow. Evening was there before they realized it, and the dark night followed quickly. It was again a sad night, in which neither the count nor the countess closed their eyes.
As morning dawned, the count and countess were already up. They went to the castle chapel and prayed fervently. Then they went out into the beautiful green forest. It was still early, early in the morning, and many of the birds were still lying asleep in their nests. Only the brooks were rustling and murmuring, and the morning breezes were whispering through the tree branches. Otherwise it was quiet -- as quiet as in a church.
The count and countess walked until they saw the old gray-bearded fir tree in the distance. There the count kissed his beautiful countess, and a tear dropped onto his beard, for he did not know if he would ever see her again. The countess, however was more composed today, and her heart was not beating as quickly as it had done on the earlier occasions. She said good-bye to her husband and walked toward the fir tree. All soul alone, she stood there next to the old tree, but the dwarf was nowhere to be seen. On either side there were wild rosebushes, and they made a beautiful fence.
She walked along the path and soon came to a beautiful little valley. The most beautiful flowers were there, with vineyards and fig trees growing on the hillsides. In the middle of the field stood a neat little cottage. Its little windows glistened happily in the morning sunshine. Blue smoke curled upward from the little chimney, and a song sounded from within.
The countess forgot her pain and grief when she saw the little valley and the cottage. She crept up and, on tip-toes, looked inside the window to see if it was as beautiful inside as it was outside. She saw a lovely little kitchen, with things cooking and frying in pots and pans. The little man of the forest was standing at the hearth, first tending to one thing and then to another, at the same time singing with a smiling mouth:
Boil my oats, bubble my cabbage;
It is good that Lady Countess does not know
That Purzinigele is my name.
The countess had heard enough. She crept away and hurried back to the fir tree, so that the dwarf would not overtake her. Joyfully standing there, she could almost not wait for the dwarf to arrive. It was not long before the little man arrived. Today he was dressed even more beautifully than before. His clothing was embroidered with red and gold, and it glistened like a sunrise.
"Guess now for the last time," said the little elf to the countess, as though he had wanted to say, "This bird will not escape from my trap."
The countess started to say "Pur," while carefully observing her questioner.
"Not right! You have two guesses left!" said the little man.
"Goat," replied the countess.
With that the dwarf blushed a little and seemed to pause and think. Then he said, "Guess quickly! You have one more chance."
"Purzinigele!" cried out the countess, filled with joy. Upon hearing his name, the dwarf angrily rolled his fiery red eyes, clenched his fists tightly, then grumbling disappeared into the thicket. The freed countess hurried back to the place where the count was impatiently waiting for her. There was such joy when the two found one another again.
To the joy of their people, the count and countess returned to their castle. They lived there many, many years as the happiest couple that anyone ever knew.
And what became of Purzinigele?
He was so angry that he ran away, and was never seen again.
Once upon a time there was a mother who had but one daughter. She was not an ugly girl, but she had the flaw that she was always too smart for her own good and that she would rather eat and be lazy than work. Such daughters bring little joy to their mothers, and so it was here as well. The daughter could do nothing right for her mother, who for an entire year never stopped scolding her.
Once the mother left early for the field, telling the daughter, who was still in bed, "Near noontime cook some soup and put a couple of kernels of rice in it so there will be something for me to eat when I get home. Now "a couple" was a common way of saying "not too much and not too little," but the girl did not understand that. She put a kettle of water on the fire, picked out two kernels of rice and threw them in. What a soup that was when the mother arrived home! She scolded, but to no avail. She had to pour out the water and make her own soup, if she wanted anything to eat.
Another time the mother went away again, and said, "Boil some meat for our noon meal."
"How much should I use?" asked the girl.
"Whatever is honest!" replied the mother, and left.
"Just what is honest?" thought the girl over and over. Then it occurred to her that their donkey, standing in the stall, was named Honest. "Yes, indeed, mother meant him," she cried. "To be sure, he is old and is no longer worth much. I'll not get a scolding this time."
So she went to the stall, struck the poor donkey dead, and chopped him up in pieces. Then she put a large washtub on the fire, threw the pieces into the water, and let it boil until it was hissing and bubbling. When the mother arrived home and saw what had happened she was beside herself and began to hit at her daughter with both fists. But that did not bring the poor donkey back to life. And his meat was so tough that it could not be eaten. So she threw it out to the dogs, and they were only able to eat it only because they were bitterly hungry and had sharp teeth.
Later the mother went away again and told the daughter, "For our noon meal cook some mush, but do it right."
The daughter cooked a lot of mush, and she herself ate seven dishes full. The eighth dish, the smallest one, she saved for her mother. When she came home and learned that the girl had already eaten seven dishes of mush, she became angry and began to scold loudly and intensely.
At that same moment a distinguished gentleman passed by the house, heard the scolding, and entered. "Why are you scolding this poor girl so?" he asked.
The mother was ashamed and quickly replied, "I am scolding her because she works too much. Today she has spun seven spindles full, and I do not want her to overtire herself."
"Can she really spin so well?" asked the gentleman.
"There is no one far and wide in the entire country who can spin as well as my daughter," answered the mother.
Then the gentleman said, "If that is so, then you can give her to me for my wife. I want to have a wife who works well, and I shall never find one who is better or more industrious."
Mother and daughter agreed happily. The wedding took place, and the gentleman took his young wife home with him.
A few days later he had a large pile of flax brought in and said, "Listen, wife, I will be out hunting the entire day. By tomorrow evening you are to have spun this flax."
She made a sour face and said, "Husband, my lord, that is not possible."
Then he became angry and repeated to her, "Do you think that I took you for a wife so you would not have to work? If you want to be lazy then you can go back to your own house." With that he went forth to hunt.
The wife was beside herself. The pile of flax was so large that even with a hundred maids she would not have been able to spin it in two days. While she was standing there in desperation, a dwarf crept up to her. He was dressed in red and wore a little crown on his head. He said, "Why are you so sad? What will you give me if I spin the flax?"
The wife did not answer, and the red dwarf continued, "I will spin the flax, but only under the condition that you guess my name within three tries. If you fail to do so, you will be mine and must come with me."
In her desperation the wife said yes, and immediately there appeared countless little dwarfs, and they carried all the flax away until not a single strand was left behind.
That evening the gentleman returned home from hunting. Seeing his wife quiet and still, he thought that she must be tired from spinning. Before they went to bed he told her, "Just think about what happened to me today. When I was up on the mountain and it was just getting dark, I came to a split in the earth. I looked down and saw beneath me a large room where many hundreds of little devils were hurriedly spinning flax. It was a joy to watch them. In the middle there stood a throne, and on it sat a dwarf dressed in red and wearing a little crown on his head. He was continuously clicking his tongue and crying out:
What will she do, what will she say,
When tomorrow we take it to her?
Then she will guess so and so.
But my name is Tarandandò.
Then the wife became happy once again, and said, "Dear husband, my lord, what did the crazy dwarf say?" And when he repeated it, she secretly wrote down the name and went to bed feeling relieved.
The next morning the gentleman went hunting again. Then the red dwarf arrived with hundreds of little devils, who were carrying the flax, all finely and neatly spun, and not even a hair of it was missing. Then the red dwarf approached the wife and said with a scornful smile, "Here is the flax. Now guess what my name is."
Pretending to be at a loss for words, the wife said, "Is your name perhaps Peter?"
"No," cried the dwarf, laughing.
With an even sadder face she asked, "Is you name perhaps Toni?"
"No," repeated the dwarf and laughed even more scornfully.
Then she pretended to be thinking deeply and to have fallen into despair. But finally she said, "Is your name perhaps -- Tarandandò?"
"Curses!" cried the red dwarf, as though he had been stung by a viper. He slapped her hard on the cheek, and then he and his little devils departed into the air with such a sound of whistling and rushing that it was like a windstorm in the fall swirling the dry leaves about and blowing them through the woods.
When the gentleman arrived home that evening, his wife showed him the spun flax, and he was uncommonly satisfied. "But why is your cheek so swollen?" he asked.
"Oh, dear husband, my lord," she said, "that comes from spinning."
Soon afterward he had an even larger pile of flax brought in and ordered his wife to spin it within a few days. She was beside herself, but then it occurred to her that she had an aunt who was an uncommonly sly and clever woman who had helped many a relative out of difficulty. She went to her and told her of her troubles.
"Just let me deal with it," said the aunt. "Go home, and this evening when your husband is at home I shall come and pay you a visit. Then you'll see."
When it was evening she took a dead hen, filled it with blood and grease, put it under her arm between her skin and her undershirt, and went to her niece. She entered the room where the husband and wife were, and the latter approached her, saying, "Greetings, dear aunt. It is so good that you can visit us."
"Yes, yes, I have been looking forward to this for a long time," said the aunt, and pressed her arm against her body until the blood and grease ran out onto the floor, while she stood there all bent over.
"Oh, good woman, what are you doing there?" said the gentleman.
The sly woman looked casually at the blood drops on the floor, then complained loudly, "Oh, my ailment! My old ailment! I have a large boil under my arm. That's where the blood is coming from."
"How did you get such an ailment?" asked the gentleman with sympathy.
"Do you know, my lord," she replied, "when I was young and beautiful I always had to spin, and that is what brought on my ailment. How it grieved my dear departed husband. I believe it was the cause of his early death."
When the gentleman heard this he turned to his wife and said, "Listen, wife, you shall never touch another spindle. I can no longer stand spinning!"
That was fine with her. From that time forth she had the best and the most comfortable life, and if she hasn't died, she is still living lazily forth.
A poor woodcutter once lived on the edge of a great forest with his wife and his small daughter. He often did not know how he might still their hunger, and so he decided to lead his daughter into the forest and abandon her there.
When he once again had nothing for himself or for his family to eat, and he could find no work, he took his child with him into the woods and left her in a beautiful forest meadow with the promise to return soon. To deceive the child he tied a piece of wood to a tree with a string in such a way that the wind swung it back and forth. Hitting against the tree, it made a sound like someone chopping wood with an axe.
The child was thus deceived. She looked for strawberries, played with flowers, and after a while fell asleep -- tired from all the running about. When she awoke the moon was already high in the sky, and her father had not yet come.
The child began to cry fervently, then ran deeper into the forest looking for her father.
Suddenly she saw a little fire with a number of little pot-shaped containers standing nearby. Curiously, she ran up to them, laid some dry twigs on the fire, which was about to go out, and blew with all her strength in order to make it burn. Turning around, she saw a little man who was smiling at her good naturedly. He was entirely gray, and his white beard, which stuck out from his gray jacket in a strange manner, reached down over his chest.
The little girl was afraid and was about to run away, but the dwarf called her back. The child reluctantly obeyed. The old man stroked her cheeks and spoke in such a friendly manner that she lost all fear, and helped him with his cooking.
The gray man asked her her name and who her father was. With tears in her eyes she told him, and he comforted her and told her she should stay with him and become his daughter. The child accepted, and the old man led her into his home. It was in a large hollow tree. A pile of leaves served as his bed.
The little man prepared a second bed so that the tired child could lie down and rest.
The next morning the dwarf wakened the girl and said that he had to go away. She was to take care of the house -- as he called the tree -- while he was away. He returned soon and showed her everything, teaching her to cook and to do the other household chores. Thus the day passed quickly, and night was there before she knew it.
They lived several years happily and contentedly, and the girl had grown up so much that was now nearly a head taller than her foster father. Then one evening he told her that it was now time for him to make preparations for her future. "The queen," he said, "who lives in the area needs a faithful servant. I was there and recommended you to her, and she is inclined to take you on." He added that if she would behave properly it would go well with her the rest of her life.
The next morning they went together to the castle. The maiden was introduced to the queen, and accepted by her. She cordially took leave of her foster father, and he promised to visit her every Sunday.
She had not worked there long before the young king, who had been waging war against another king, returned home victoriously. The young king was attracted to the girl and wanted to marry her. His mother, who also liked the maiden, gave her approval.
When the Gray Man -- as they called him at the castle -- came again to visit his daughter, the queen told him that her son would like to marry his daughter, that she had given her approval, and that it thus now up to him to express his wishes.
The old man said sourly, "The king can marry my little daughter if and only if he can guess my name." With that he left the castle and returned to the woods. As usual, he made a fire and began to cook. While he was cooking he hopped around the fire singing:
Boil, pot, boil,The king was very concerned, and he sent out a servant to discover the old man's name. The servant overheard the old man and rushed back to the castle. He told the name and was rewarded with many gold pieces.
So the king will not know
That my name is Winterkölbl.
When the dwarf returned the king greeted him with the words "Welcome, Father Winterkölbl!"
The old man saw that he had been outsmarted and gave his consent. The wedding was festively celebrated, and even Winterkölbl was there. But he could not be talked into moving into the castle, and he continued to live, as before, in his tree.
There was once a king who wanted to marry, but he had decided to take no woman for a wife who did not have pitch-black hair and eyes of the same color. It made no difference to him whether she was of high or low birth. Thus he had proclaimed throughout the entire country that all girls with these qualities should report to him.
Many presented themselves, but in some instances the blackness did not reach the degree desired by the king, in other instances the hair was wrong, and -- in short -- there was a problem with each and every one.
A charcoal burner was walking along the path with his daughter. Seeing the crowd of people before the king's castle, she asked her father what it meant. He told her how the king wanted to marry someone with black hair and black eyes, but that he could not find anyone who had them to his satisfaction.
The charcoal burner's daughter had both. Therefore she said to her father, "May I go there?"
He replied, "Are you so stupid that you think the king would take you for his wife?"
She told him that she would like to go and just look around the palace a little. He gave his permission, and she walked toward the palace.
On the way she met a little man, who called out to her, "Hey, girl, what will you give me if you become queen?"
She answered, "Hey, little man, what can I give you? I have nothing."
The little man continued, "You will become queen, but in three years you must still remember that my name is Kruzimugeli. If you don't know that, then you'll be mine."
"If that's all you want from me, I'll remember it," replied the charcoal burner's daughter, and ran to the castle. She took no more heed of the little man who stared after her, rubbing his hands together with satisfaction.
As soon as the king saw the charcoal burner's daughter he decided to marry her, for her hair glistened and her eyes sparked with blackness. So she married the king and lived happily together with him. In her happiness she almost failed to notice that the three years were coming to an end, and -- oh fright! -- she had forgotten the little man's name.
Now she was always sad and spent every day crying. The king, who loved her dearly, attempted to cheer her up with festivities, but all to no avail. Whenever he asked her why she was so sad, she always answered that she could not tell him.
One day the royal forester was out in the woods in search of game for the king's table. Going deeper into the woods, he saw a little man who had made a fire and was jumping over it with spiteful joy, singing the whole time:
How good it isThe hunter listened to this and then went back home. He met the queen in the palace garden, where -- filled with sorrow -- she was taking a walk. He told her immediately about the event in the woods, and as soon as she heard the name Kruzimugeli she was almost beside herself with joy. The next day was the last day of the third year, and the little man would be coming to ask the queen for his name.
That the young queen doesn't know
That my name is Kruzimugeli.
The little man did indeed come the next day, and he asked the queen, "Now, Your Highness, do you still know my name? You may guess three times, and if you are not right, then you belong to me."
The queen answered, "I think your name is Steffel."
Hearing this, the little man jumped into the air with joy, and shouted with all his might, "Not right!"
The queen then said, "Then your name must be Veitl."
The little man made another leap, and called out once more, "Not right!"
Now the queen said very quietly, "Then your name must be Kruzimugeli."
Hearing this, and without answering, the little man jumped with a roar through the wall to the outside.
All attempts to repair the hole that he made in the wall remained fruitless.
But the queen and her husband lived happily and contentedly for a long time.
Once it must have been covered by a mound, and a troll family lived inside the mound. The wife from the farm Poskjær farm in Knebel once went to the troll wife and asked her to spin wool for her. The troll wife agreed to do this, and if the Poskjær wife could guess or find out what her name was before she returned the spinning wheel, she would not have to pay anything for the work.
The Poskær wife told this to her husband. One evening he went out to the hill, and he heard the troll wife rocking and singing to her child. It was a verse she sang, and in the verse was the name he wanted to know: Hottetejlil.
A few days later the troll wife came with the spinning wheel.
"Good day," she said.
"Good day, Hottetejlil!" replied the Poskjær wife.
When the troll wife heard her name mentioned, she hurried back to the hill and got no more work from Poskjær.
One day the husband said to his wife: "Now it's probably best that you get some cloth made, so that I can have some new clothes!"
The wife was so lazy that she didn't want to do anything but lie in bed from morning to night. She didn't know what she was supposed to do in order to finish the cloth. She then became so sick with grief that she couldn't manage to get anything done.
Then one day an ugly troll woman came to her. The wife was lying in bed as usual. The troll woman said that she had heard that the wife should have some cloth made, and that she could do this for her.
"You'll not have to pay anything for the cloth, but when I bring it to you, you must guess my name, and if you cannot do this, then you must follow me and always belong to me."
The wife turned a few times in bed, did not know what to do, but at last agreed to the troll woman's offer. It was decided that in three weeks the troll woman should come with the cloth. Then the troll woman went away.
The lazy wife lay in bed and listed all the names she could think of, but she only got so far. The appointed time was approaching, and the wife could neither eat nor drink. The husband was very worried. He could not understand what was wrong with his wife.
One day he was hunting up in the mountains when he heard a song coming from the ground below him.
He listened and heard someone singing while she wove: "Hi-e, hi-e, ha-e, a, that farmer's wife doesn't know my name, but my name is Gundeli."
The man looked around and then discovered a crack in the ground. He thought about this strange thing. Then with a piece of chalk he wrote on his coat what he had heard, so that he could remember it.
The lazy woman grew sicker and sicker as the day approached when she was to guess the troll woman's name.
The day before the troll woman was to come, the man asked his wife if she didn't want to tell him what she had done wrong, She then told him what had happened. The man immediately remembered what he had heard the day he was hunting, grabbed his hunting coat and read the name. The wife was so happy that she immediately jumped out of bed and was now completely well again.
The next day the troll woman came and stepped on the ground so hard that it practically shook.
She had hardly entered the room before the lazy woman shouted: "Gundeli!"
The troll woman let out a scream that shook the house, and then immediately disappeared into the ground.
Since that day the wife was no longer lazy.
There was once an old woman who had an only daughter. The lass was good and amiable, and also extremely beautiful, but at the same time so indolent that she would hardly turn her hand to any work. This was a cause of great grief to the mother, who tried all sorts of ways to cure her daughter of so lamentable a failing. But there was no help. The old woman then thought no better plan could be devised than to set her daughter to spin on the roof of their cottage, in order that all the world might be witness of her sloth. But her plan brought her no nearer the mark. The girl continued as useless as before.
One day, as the king's son was going to the chase, he rode by the cottage where the old woman dwelt with her daughter. On seeing the fair spinner on the roof, he stopped and inquired why she sat spinning in such an unusual place.
The old woman answered, "Aye, she sits there to let all the world see how clever she is. She is so clever that she can spin gold out of clay and long straw."
At these words the prince was struck with wonder, for it never occurred to him that the old woman was ironically alluding to her daughter's sloth. He therefore said, "If what you say is true, that the young maiden can spin gold from clay and long straw, she shall no longer sit there, but shall accompany me to my palace and be my consort."
The daughter thereupon descended from the roof and accompanied the prince to the royal residence, where, seated in her maiden-bower, she received a pail full of clay and a bundle of straw, by way of trial, whether she were so skillful as her mother had said.
The poor girl now found herself in a very uncomfortable state, knowing but too well that she could not spin flax, much less gold. So, sitting in her chamber, with her head resting on her hand, she wept bitterly. While she was thus sitting, the door was opened, and in walked a very little old man, who was both ugly and deformed. The old man greeted her in a friendly tone, and asked why she sat so lonely and afflicted.
"I may well be sorrowful," answered the girl. "The king's son has commanded me to spin gold from clay and long straw, and if it be not done before tomorrow's dawn, my life is at stake."
The old man then said, "Fair maiden, weep not, I will help you. Here is a pair of gloves. When you have then on you will be able to spin gold. Tomorrow night I will return, when, if you have not found out my name, you shall accompany me home and be my wife."
In her despair she agreed to the old man's condition, who then went his way. The maiden now sat and span, and by dawn she had already spun up all the clay and straw, which had become the finest gold it was possible to see.
Great was the joy throughout the whole palace, that the king's son had got a bride who was so skillful and, at the same time, so fair. But the young maiden did nothing but weep, and the more the time advanced the more she wept, for she thought of the frightful dwarf who was to come and fetch her. When evening drew nigh, the king's son returned from the chase, and went to converse with his bride. Observing that she appeared sorrowful, he strove to divert her in all sorts of ways, and said he would tell her of a curious adventure, provided only she would be cheerful. The girl entreated him to let her hear it.
Then said the prince, "While rambling about in the forest today I witness an odd sort of thing. I saw a very, very little old man dancing round a juniper bush and singing a singular song."
"What did he sing?" asked the maiden inquisitively, for she felt sure that the prince had met with the dwarf.
"He sang these words, answered the prince,
I dag skall jag maltet mala,
Today I the malt shall grind,
Was not the maiden now glad? She begged the prince to tell her over and over again what the dwarf had sung. He then repeated the wonderful song, until she had imprinted the old man's name firmly in her memory. She then conversed lovingly with her betrothed, and the prince could not sufficiently praise his young bride's beauty and understanding. But he wondered why she was so overjoyed, being like everyone else, ignorant of the cause of her past sorrow.
When it was night, and the maiden was sitting alone in her chamber, the door was opened, and the hideous dwarf again entered. On beholding him the girl sprang up, and said, "Titteli Ture! Titteli Ture! Here are your gloves."
When the dwarf heard his name pronounced, he was furiously angry, and hastened away through the air, taking with him the whole roof of the house.
The fair maiden now laughed to herself and was joyful beyond measure. She then lay down to sleep, and slept till the sun shone. The following day her marriage with the young prince was solemnized, and nothing more was ever heard of Titteli Ture.
Once upon a time there was a woman, and she baked five pies. And when they came out of the oven, they were that overbaked the crusts were too hard to eat.
So she says to her daughter: "Darter," says she, "put you them there pies on the shelf, and leave 'em there a little, and they'll come again." -- She meant, you know, the crust would get soft.
But the girl, she says to herself: "Well, if they'll come again, I'll eat 'em now." And she set to work and ate 'em all, first and last.
Well, come supper-time the woman said: "Go you, and get one o' them there pies. I dare say they've come again now."
The girl went and she looked, and there was nothing but the dishes. so back she came, and says she: "Noo, they ain't come again."
"Not one of 'em?" says the mother.
"Not one of 'em," says she.
"Well, come again, or not come again," said the woman, "I'll have one for supper."
"But you can't, if they ain't come," said the girl.
"But I can," says she. "Go you, and bring the best of 'em."
Best or worst," says the girl, "I've ate 'em all, and you can't have one till that's come again."
Well, the woman she was done, and she took her spinning to the door to spin, and as she span she sang:
My darter ha' ate five, five pies today.
My darter ha' ate five, five pies today.
The king was coming down the street, and he heard her sing, but what she sang he couldn't hear, so he stopped and said: "What was that you were singing, my good woman?"
The woman was ashamed to let him hear what her daughter had been doing, so she sang, instead of that:
My darter ha' spun five, five skeins today.
My darter ha' spun five, five skeins today.
"Stars o' mine!" said the king, "I never heard tell of anyone that could do that."
Then he said: "Look you here, I want a wife, and I'll marry your daughter. But look you here," says he, "eleven months out of the year she shall have all she likes to eat, and all the gowns she likes to get, and all the company she likes to keep; but the last month of the year she'll have to spin five skeins every day, and if she don't, I shall kill her."
"All right," says the woman; for she thought what a grand marriage that was. And as for the five skeins, when the time came, there'd be plenty of ways of getting out of it, and likeliest, he'd have forgotten all about it.
Well, so they were married. And for eleven months the girl had all she liked to eat, and all the gowns she liked to get, and all the company she liked to keep.
But when the time was getting over, she began to think about the skeins and to wonder if he had 'em in mind. But not one word did he say about 'em, and she thought he'd wholly forgotten 'em.
However, the last day of the last month he takes her to a room she'd never set eyes on before. There was nothing in it but a spinning wheel and a stool And says he: "Now, my dear, here you'll be shut in tomorrow with some victuals and some flax, and if you haven't spun five skeins by the night, your head'll go off."
And away he went about his business.
Well, she was that frightened, she'd always been such a gatless [careless] girl, that she didn't so much as know how to spin, and what was she to do tomorrow with no one to come nigh her to help her? She sat down on a stool in the kitchen, and law! how she did cry!
However, all of a sudden she heard a sort of a knocking low down on the door. She upped and oped it, and what should she see but a small little black thing with a long tail.
That looked up at her right curious, and that said: "What are you a-crying for?"
"What's that to you?:" says she.
"Never you mind," that said, "but tell me what you're a-crying for."
"That won't do me no good if I do," says she.
"You don't know that," that said, and twirled that's tail round.
"well," says she, "that won't do no harm, if that don't do no good," and she upped and told about the pies, and the skeins, and everything.
"This is what I'll do," says the little black thing, "I'll come to your window every morning and take the flax and bring it spun at night."
"What's your pay?" says she.
That looked out the corner of that's eyes, and that said: "I'll give you three guesses every night to guess my name, and if you haven't guessed it before the month's up, you shall be mine.
Well, she thought she'd be sure to guess that's name before the month was up. "All right," says she, "I agree."
"All right," that says, and law! how that twirled that's tail.
Well, the next day, her husband took her into the room, and there was the flax and the day's food.
"Now there's the flax," says he, and if that ain't spun up this night, off goes your head." And then he went out and locked the door.
He'd hardly gone, when there was a knocking against the window.
She upped and she oped it, and there sure enough was the little old thing sitting on the ledge.
"Where's the flax?" says he.
"Here it be," says she. And she gave it to him.
Well, come the evening a knocking came again to the window. She upped and she oped it, and there was the little old thing with five skeins of flax on his arm.
"Here it be," says he, and he have it to her.
"Now, what's my name" says he.
What, is that Bill?" says she.
"Noo, that ain't," says he, and he twirled his tail.
"Is that Ned?" says she.
"Noo, that ain't," says he, and he twirled his tail.
"Well, is that Mark?" says she.
"Noo, that ain't," says he, and he twirled his tail harder, and away he flew.
Well, when her husband came in, there were the five skeins ready for him. "I see I shan't have to kill you tonight, my dear," says her; "you'll have your food and your flax in the morning," says he, and away he goes.
Well every day the flax and the food were brought, and every day that there little black impet used to come mornings and evenings. And all the day the girl sate trying to think of names to say to it what it came at night. But she never hit on the right one. And as it got towards the end of the month, the impet began to look so maliceful, and that twirled that's tail faster and faster each time she gave a guess.
At last it came to the last day but one. The impet came at night along with the five skeins, and that said:
"What, ain't you got my name yet?"
"Is that Nicodemus?" says she.
"Noo, 'tain't," that says.
"Is that Sammle?" says she.
"Noo, 'tain't," that says.
"A-well, is that Methusalem?" says she.
"Noo, 'tain't that neither," that says.
Then that looks at her with that's eyes like a coal o' fire, and that says: "Woman, there's only tomorrow night, and then you'll be mine?" And away it flew.
Well, she felt that horrid. However, she heard the king coming along the passage.
In he came, and when he sees the five skeins, he says, says he: "Well, my dear," says he. "I don't see but what you'll have your skeins ready tomorrow night as well, and as I reckon I shan't have to kill you, I'll have supper in here tonight." So they brought supper, and another stool for him, and down the two sate.
Well, he hadn't eaten but a mouthful or so, when he stops and begins to laugh.
"What is it?" says she.
"A-why," says he, I was out a-hunting today, and I got away to a place in the wood I'd never seen before. And there was an old chalk pit. And I heard a kind of a sort of a humming. So I got off my hobby, and I went right quiet to the pit, and I looked down. Well, what should there be but the funniest little black thing you ever set eyes on. And what was that doing but that had a little spinning wheel, and that was spinning wonderful fast, and twirling that's tail. And as that span that sang:
Nimmy nimmy not
My name's Tom Tit Tot.
Well, when the girl heard this, she felt as if she could have jumped out her skin for joy, but she didn't say a word.
Next day that there little thing looked so maliceful when he came for the flax. And when night came, she heard that knocking against the window panes. She oped the window, and that come right in on the ledge. That was grinning from ear to ear, and Oo! that's tail was twirling round so fast.
"What's my name?" that says, as that gave her the skeins.
"Is that Solomon?" she says, pretending to be afeard.
"Noo, 'tain't," that says, and that come further into the room.
"Well, is that Zebedee?" says she again.
"Noo, 'tain't," says the impet. And then that laughed and twirled that's tail till you couldn't hardly see it.
"Take time, woman," that says; "next guess, and you're mine." And that stretched out that's black hands at her.
Well, she backed a step or two, and she looked at it, and then she laughed out, and says she, pointing her finger at it:
Well, when that heard her, that gave an awful shriek and away that flew into the dark, and she never saw it any more.Nimmy nimmy not
Your name's Tom Tit Tot.
Source: Joseph Jacobs, English Fairy Tales (London: David Nutt, 1898), pp. 1-8.
Contributed by Mrs. Walter-Thomas (née Fison) to the "Suffolk Notes and Queries" of the Ipswich Journal, 1877, and reprinted by Mr. E. Clodd in a paper on "The Philosophy of Rumpelstiltskin" in Folk-Lore Journal, vii , 138-43. I have reduced the Suffolk dialect.... One of the best folk-tales that have ever been collected, far superior to any of the continental variants of this tale with which I am acquainted. Mr. Clodd sees in the class of name-guessing stories, a "survival" of the superstition that to know a man's name gives you power over him, for which reason savages object to tell their names.
Many of the superstitions of our ancestors are preserved in quaint, irregular rhymes, the recitation of which was the amusement of the people in the long nights of winter. These were sung, or rather said, in a monotone, by the professional drolls, who doubtless added such things as they fancied would increase the interest of the story to the listeners. Especially were they fond of introducing known characters on the scene, and of mixing up events which had occurred within the memory of the old people, with the more ancient legend.
The following story, or rather parts of it, formed the subject of one of the Cornish Christmas plays. When I was a boy, I well remember being much delighted with the coarse acting of a set of Christmas players, who exhibited in the "great hall" of a farmhouse at which I was visiting, and who gave us the principal incidents of Duffy and the Devil Terrytop; one of the company doing the part of Chorus, and filling up by rude descriptions -- often in rhyme -- the parts which the players could not represent.
It was cider-making time. Squire Lovel of Trove, or more correctly, Trewoof, rode up to Burian Churchtown to procure help. Boys and maidens were in request, some to gather the apples from the trees, others to carry them to the cider mill. Passing along the village as hastily as the dignity of a squire would allow him, his attention was drawn to a great noise -- scolding in a shrill treble voice, and crying -- proceeding from Janey Chygwin's door. The squire rode up to the cottage, and he saw the old woman beating her stepdaughter Duffy about the head with the skirt of her swing-tail gown, in which she had been carrying out the ashes. She made such a dust, that the squire was nearly choked and almost blinded with the wood ashes.
"What cheer, Janey?" cries the squire. "What's the to-do with you and Duffy?"
"Oh, the lazy hussy!" shouts Janey, "is all her time courseying and courranting [running and chasing] with the boys! She will never stay in to boil the porridge, knit the stockings, or spin the yarn."
"Don't believe her, your honor," exclaims Duffy. "My knitting and spinning is the best in the parish."
The war of tongues continued in this strain for some time, the old squire looking calmly on, and resolving in his mind to take Duffy home with him to Trove, her appearance evidently pleasing him greatly. Squire Lovel left the old and young woman to do the best they could, and went round the village to complete his hiring.
When he returned, peace had been declared between them, but when Lovel expressed his desire to take Duffy home to his house to help the housekeeper to do the spinning, "A pretty spinner she is!" shouted old Janey at the top of her voice.
"Try me, your honor," said Duffy, curtsying very low. "My yarns are the best in the parish."
"We'll soon try that," said the squire. "Janey will be glad to get quits of thee, I see, and thou'lt be nothing loath to leave her. So jump up behind me, Duffy."
No sooner said than done. The maid Duffy, without ceremony, mounted behind the squire on the horse, and they jogged silently down to Trove.
Squire Lovel's old housekeeper was almost blind -- one eye had been put out by an angry old wizard, and through sympathy she was rapidly losing the power of seeing with the other. This old dame was consequently very glad of someone to help her in spinning and knitting.
The introduction over, the housekeeper takes Duffy up into the garret where the wool was kept, and where the spinning was done in the summer, and requests her to commence her work.
The truth must be told. Duffy was an idle slut. She could neither knit nor spin. Well, here she was left along, and, of course, expected to produce a good specimen of her work.
The garret was piled from the floor to the key-beams with fleeces of wool. Duffy looked despairingly at them, and then sat herself down on the "turn" -- the spinning wheel -- and cried out, "Curse the spinning and knitting! The devil may spin and knit for the squire for what I care."
Scarcely had Duffy spoken these words than she heard a rustling noise behind some wool-packs, and forth walked a queer-looking little man, with a remarkable pair of eyes, which seemed to send out flashes of light. There was something uncommonly knowing in the twist of his mouth, and his curved nose had an air of curious intelligence. He was dressed in black, and moved towards Duffy with a jaunty air, knocking something against the floor at every step he took.
"Duffy dear," said this little gentleman, "I'll do all the spinning and knitting for thee."
"Thank 'e," says Duffy, quite astonished.
"Duffy dear, a lady shall you be."
"Thank 'e, your honor," smiled Duffy.
"But, Duffy dear, remember," coaxingly said the queer little man, "remember, that for all this, at the end of three years, you must go with me, unless you can find out my name."
Duffy was not the least bit frightened, nor did she hesitate long, but presently struck a bargain with her kind but unknown friend, who told her she had only to wish, and her every wish should be fulfilled. And as for the spinning and knitting, she would find all she required under the black ram's fleece.
He then departed. How, Duffy could not tell, but in a moment the queer little gentleman was gone.
Duffy sung in idleness, and slept until it was time for her to make her appearance. So she wished for some yarns, and looking under the black fleece she found them.
Those were shown by the housekeeper to the squire, and both declared they had never seen such beautiful yarns.
The next day Duffy was to knit this yarn into stockings. Duffy idled, as only professed idlers can idle. But in due time, as if she had been excessively industrious, she produced a pair of stockings for the old squire.
If the yarn was beautiful, the stocking were beyond all praise. They were as fine as silk, and as strong as leather.
Squire Lovel soon gave them a trial; and when he came home at night after hunting, he declared he would never wear any other than Duffy's stocking. He had wandered all day through brake and briar, furze and brambles. There was not a scratch on his legs, and he was as dry as a bone. There was no end to his praise of Duffy's stockings.
Duffy had a rare time of it now. She could do what she pleased and rove where she willed.
She was dancing on the mill-bed half the day with all the gossiping women who brought their grist to be ground. In those "good old times" the ladies of the parish would take their corn to mill, and serge the flour themselves. When a few of them met together, they would either tell stories or dance whilst the corn was grinding. Sometimes the dance would be on the mill-bed, sometimes out on the green. On some occasions the miller's fiddle would be in request, at others the "crowd" [a sieve covered with sheepskin] was made to do the duty of a tambourine. So Duffy was always finding excuses to go to mill, and many "a round" would she dance with the best people in the parish.
Old Bet, the miller's wife, was a witch, and she found out who did Duffy's work for her. Duffy and old Bet were always the best of friends, and she never told anyone about Duffy's knitting friend, nor did she ever say a word about the stockings being unfinished. There was always a stitch down.
On Sundays the people went to Burian Church from all parts to look at the squire's stockings. And the old squire would stop at the cross, proud enough to show them. He could hunt
Through brambles and furze in all sorts of weather;
His old shanks were as sound as if bound up in leather.
Duffy was now sought after by all the young men of the country; and at last the squire, fearing to lose a pretty girl, and one who was so useful to him, married her himself, and she became, according to the fashion of the time and place, Lady Lovel. But she was commonly known by her neighbors as the Duffy Lady.
Lady Lovel kept the devil hard at work. Stockings, all sorts of fine underclothing, bedding, and much ornamental work, the like of which was never seen, was produced at command and passed off as her own.
Duffy passed a merry time of it, but somehow or other she was never happy when she was compelled to play the lady. She passed much more of her time with the old crone at the mill than in the drawing room at Trove. The squire sported and drank, and cared little about Duffy, so long as she provided him with knitted garments.
The three years were nearly at an end. Duffy had tried every plan to find out the devil's name, but had failed in all.
She began to fear that she should have to go off with her queer friend, and Duffy became melancholy. Old Bet endeavored to rouse her, persuading her that she could, from her long experience and many dealings with the imps of darkness, at the last moment put her in the way of escaping her doom. Duffy went day after day to her garret, and there each day was the devil gibing and jeering till she was almost mad.
There was but another day. Bet was seriously consulted now, and -- as good as her word -- she promised to use her power. Duffy Lady was to bring down to the mill that very evening a jack [leather jug] of the strongest beer she had in the cellar. She was not to go to bed until the squire returned from hunting, no matter how late, and she was to make no remark in reply to anything the squire might tell her.
The jack of beer was duly carried to the mill, and Duffy returned home very melancholy to wait up for the squire.
No sooner had Lady Lovel left the mill than old Bet came out with the "crowd" over her shoulders, and the blackjack [tar-coated leather jug] in her hand. She shut the door, and turned the water off the mill-wheel, threw her red cloak about her, and away.
She was seen by her neighbors going towards Boleit. A man saw the old woman trudging past the Pipers, and through the Dawnse Main into the downs, but there he lost sight of her, and no one could tell where old Bet was gone to at that time of night.
Duffy waited long and anxiously. By and by the dogs came home alone. They were covered with foam, their tongues were hanging out of their mouths, and all the servants said they must have met the devil's hounds without heads.
Duffy was seriously alarmed. Midnight came but no squire. At last he arrived, but like a crazy, crack-brained man, he kept singing:
Here's to the devil,
With his wooden pick and shovel.
He was neither drunk nor frightened, but wild with some strange excitement. After a long time Squire Lovel sat down, and began, "My dear Duffy, you haven't smiled this long time. But now I'll tell 'e something that would make ye laugh if ye're dying. If you'd seen what I've seen tonight, ha, ha, ha!
Here's to the devil,
With his wooden pick and shovel."
True to her orders, Duffy said not a word, but allowed the squire to ramble on as he pleased. At length he told her the following story of his adventures, with interruptions which have not been retained, and with numerous coarse expressions which are best forgotten:
The squire's story of the meeting of the witches in the Fugoe Hole:
Duffy dear, I left home at break of day this morning. I hunted all the moors from Trove to Trevider, and never started a hare all the livelong day. I determined to hunt all night, but that I'd have a brace to bring home.
So, at nightfall I went down Lemorna Bottoms, then up Brene Downses, and as we passed the Dawnse Main up started a hare, as fine a hare as ever was seen. She passed the Pipers, down through the Reens, in the mouth of the dogs half the time, yet they couldn't catch her at all. As fine a chase as ever was seen, until she took into the Fugoe Hole. In went the dogs after her, and I followed, the owls and bats flying round my head. On we went, through water and mud, a mile or more, I'm quite certain. I didn't know the place was so long before. At last we came to a broad pool of water, when the dogs lost the scent and ran back past me howling and jowling, terrified almost to death!
A little farther on I turned round a corner, and saw a glimmering fire on the other side the water, and there were St. Leven witches in scores. Some were riding on ragwort, some on brooms, some were floating on their three-legged stools, and some, who had been milking the little good cows in Wales, had come back astride of the largest leeks they could find. Amongst the rest there was our Bet of the mill, with her "crowd" in her hand, and my own blackjack slung across her shoulders.
In a short time the witches gathered round the fire, and blowed it up, after a strange fashion, till it burned up into a brilliant blue flame. Then I saw amongst the rest a queer little man in black, with a long forked tail, which he held high in the air, and twirled around. Bet struck her "crowd" as soon as he appeared, and beat up the tune:
Here's to the devil,
With his wooden pick and shovel,
Digging tin by the bushel,
With his tail cock'd up!
Then the queer little devil and all danced like the wind, and went faster and faster, making such a clatter, "as if they had on each foot a pewter platter."
Every time the man in black came round by old Bet, he took a good pull from my own blackjack, till at last, as if he had been drinking my best beer, he seemed to have lost his head, when he jumped up and down, turned round and round, and roaring with laughter, sung:
Duffy, my lady, you'll never know -- what? --
That my name is Terrytop, Terrytop -- top!
When the squire sung those lines, he stopped suddenly, thinking that Duffy was going to die. She turned pale, and red, and pale again. However, Duffy said nothing, and the squire proceeded:
After the dance, all the witches made a ring around the fire, and again blew it up, until the blue flames reached the top of the Zawn [a cavernous gorge]. Then the devil danced through and through the fire, and springing ever and anon amongst the witches, kicked them soundly. At last -- I was shaking with laughter at the fun -- I shouted, "Go it, Old Nick!" and lo, the lights went out, and I had to fly with all my speed, for every one of the witches were after me. I scampered home somehow, and here I am. Why don't you laugh, Duffy?Duffy did laugh, and laugh right heartily now, and when tired of their fun, the squire and the lady went to bed.
The three years were up within an hour. Duffy had willed for an abundant supply of knitted things, and filled every chest in the house. She was in the best chamber trying to cram some more stockings into a big chest, when the queer little man in black appeared before her.
"Well, Duffy, my dear," said he, "I have been true to my word and served you truly for three years as we agreed, so now I hope you will go with me, and make no objection." He bowed very obsequiously, almost to the ground, and regarded Duffy Lady with a very offensive leer.
"I fear," smiled Duffy, "that your country is rather warm, and might spoil my fair complexion."
"It is not so hot as some people say, Duffy," was his reply. "But come along. I've kept my word, and of course a lady of your standing will keep your word also. Can you tell me my name?"
Duffy curtsied, and smilingly said, "You have behaved like a true gentleman, yet I wouldn't like to go so far."
The devil frowned and approached as if he would lay forcible hands upon her.
"Maybe your name is Lucifer?"
He stamped his foot and grinned horridly. "Lucifer! Lucifer! He's no other than a servant to me in my own country." Suddenly calming again, he said, quietly, "Lucifer! I would scarcely be seen speaking to him at court. But come along. When I spin for ladies I expect honorable treatment at their hands. You've two guesses more. But they're of little use. My name is not generally known on earth."
"Perhaps," smiled Duffy again, "my lord's name is Beelzebub?"
How he grinned, and his sides shook with convulsive joy. "Beelzebub!" says he. "I believe he's some sort of a cousin -- a Cornish cousin you know."
"I hope your honor," curtsied Duffy, "will not take offence. Impute my mistake to ignorance."
Our demon was rampant with joy. He danced around Duffy with delight, and was, seeing that she hesitated, about to seize her somewhat roughly.
"Stop! Stop!" shouts Duffy. "Perhaps you will be honest enough to admit that your name is Terrytop."
The gentleman in black looked at Duffy, and she steadily looked him in the face. "Terrytop! Deny it if you dare," says she.
"A gentleman never denies his name," replied Terrytop, drawing himself up with much dignity. "I did not expect to be beaten by a young minx like you, Duffy. But the pleasure of your company is merely postponed."
With this Terrytop departed in fire and smoke, and all the devil's knitting suddenly turned to ashes.
Squire Lovel was out hunting, away far on the moors. The day was cold and the winds piercing. Suddenly the stockings dropped from his legs and the homespun from his back, so that he came home with nothing on but his shirt and his shoes, almost dead with cold. All this was attributed by the squire to the influence of old Bet, who, he thought, had punished him for pursuing her with his dogs when she had assumed the form of a hare.
The story, as told by the drolls, now rambles on. Duffy cannot furnish stockings. The squire is very wroth. There are many quarrels -- mutual recriminations. Duffy's old sweetheart is called in to beat the squire, and eventually peace is procured, by a stratagem of old Bet's, which would rather shock the sense of propriety in these our days.
Mony ane sings the gerss, the gerss,
And mony ane sings the corn;
And mony ane clatters o' bold Robin Hood,
Ne'er kent where he was born.
But howsoever about Kittlerumpit. The goodman was a rambling sort of body; and he went to a fair one day, and not only never came home again, but nevermore was heard of. Some said he 'listed, and others that the tiresome press-gang snatched him up, though he was furnished with a wife and a child to boot. Alas! that wretched press-gang! They went about the country like roaring lions, seeking whom they might devour. Well do I remember how my eldest brother Sandy was all but smothered in the meal-chest, hiding from those rascals. After they were gone, we pulled him out from among the meal, puffing and crying, and as white as any corpse. My mother had to pick the meal out of his mouth with the shank of a horn spoon.
Ah well, when the goodman of Kittlerumpit was gone, the goodwife was left with small means. Little resources had she, and a baby boy at her breast. All said they were sorry for her; but nobody helped her -- which is a common case, sirs. Howsoever, the goodwife had a sow, and that was her only consolation; for the sow was soon to farrow, and she hoped for a good litter.
But we all know hope is fallacious. One day the woman goes to the sty to fill the sow's trough; and what does she find but the sow lying on her back, grunting and groaning, and ready to give up the ghost.
I trow [trust, believe] this was a new pang to the goodwife's heart; so she sat down on the knocking stone [a stone with a hollow in it for pounding grain, so as to separate the husks from the kernels], with her bairn [child] on her knee, and cried sorer than ever she did for the loss of her own goodman.
Now I premise that the cottage of Kittlerumpit was built on a brae [hillside], with a large fir wood behind it, of which you may hear more ere we go far on. So the goodwife, when she was wiping her eyes, chances to look down the brae; and what does she see but an old woman almost like a lady, coming slowly up the road. She was dressed in green, all but a short white apron and a black velvet hood, and a steeple-crowned beaver hat on her head. She had a long walking staff, as long as herself, in her hand -- the sort of staff that old men and old women helped themselves with long ago. I see no such staffs now, sirs.
Ah well, when the goodwife saw the green gentlewoman near her, she rose and made a curtsy; and "Madam," quoth she, weeping, "I am one of the most misfortunate women alive."
"I don't wish to hear pipers' news and fiddlers' tales, goodwife," quoth the green woman. "I know you have lost your goodman -- we had worse losses at the Sheriff Muir [a common saying, in response to a complaint about a trifle]; and I know that your sow is unco [strangely, extremely] sick. Now what will you give me if I cure her?"
"Anything your ladyship's madam likes," quoth the witless goodwife, never guessing whom she had to deal with.
"Let us wet thumbs on that bargain," quoth the green woman; so thumbs were wetted, I warrant you; and into the sty madam marches.
She looks at the sow with a long stare, and then began to mutter to herself what the goodwife couldn't well understand; but she said it sounded like
Then she took out of her pocket a wee bottle, with something like oil in it; and she rubs the sow with it above the snout, behind the ears, and on the tip of the tail. "Get up, beast," quoth the green woman. No sooner said than done. Up jumps the sow with a grunt, and away to her trough for her breakfast.
The goodwife of Kittlerumpit was a joyful goodwife now, and would have kissed the very hem of the green woman's gown-tail, but she wouldn't let her.
"I am not so fond of ceremonies," quoth she; "but now that I have righted your sick beast, let us end our settled bargain. You will not find me an unreasonable, greedy body. I like ever to do a good turn for a small reward. All I ask, and will have, is that baby boy in your bosom."
The goodwife of Kittlerumpit, who now knew her customer, gave a shrill cry like a stuck swine. The green woman was a fairy, no doubt; so she prays, and cries, and begs, and scolds; but all wouldn't do.
"You may spare your din," quoth the fairy, "screaming as if I was as deaf as a doornail. But this I'll let you know: I cannot, by the law we live under, take your bairn till the third day; and not then, if you can tell me my right name."
So madam goes away round the pigsty end; and the goodwife falls down in a swoon behind the knocking stone.
Ah well, the goodwife of Kittlerumpit could not sleep any that night for crying, and all the next day the same, cuddling her bairn till she nearly squeezed its breath out. But the second day she thinks of taking a walk in the wood I told you of. And so with the bairn in her arms, she sets out, and goes far in among the trees, where was an old quarry hole, grown over with grass, and a bonny spring well in the middle of it. Before she came very near, she hears the whirring of a flax wheel, and a voice singing a song; so the woman creeps quietly among the bushes, and peeps over the brow of the quarry; and what does she see but the green fairy tearing away at her wheel, and singing like any precentor:
Little kens [knows] our guid dame at hame,
That Whuppity Stoorie is my name.
"Ha, ha!" thinks the woman, "I've got the mason's word at last. The devil give them joy that told it!"
So she went home far lighter than she came out, as you may well guess -- laughing like a madcap with the thought of cheating the old green fairy.
Ah well, you must know that this goodwife was a jocose woman, and ever merry when her heart was not very sorely overladen. So she thinks to have some sport with the fairy; and at the appointed time she puts the bairn behind the knocking stone, and sits on the stone herself. Then she pulls her cap over her left ear and twists her mouth on the other side, as if she were weeping; and an ugly face she made, you may be sure. She hadn't long to wait, for up the brae climbs the green fairy, neither lame nor lazy; and long ere she got near the knocking stone she screams out, "Goodwife of Kittlerumpit, you know well what I come for. Stand and deliver!"
The woman pretends to cry harder than before, and wrings her hands, and falls on her knees with "Och, sweet madam mistress, spare my only bairn, and take the wretched sow!"
"The devil take the sow, for my part," quoth the fairy. "I come not here for swine's flesh. Don't be contramawcious, huzzy, but give me the child instantly!"
"Ochone, dear lady mine," quoth the crying goodwife; "forgo my poor bairn, and take me myself!"
"The devil is in the daft jade," quoth the fairy, looking like the far end of a fiddle. "I'll bet she is clean demented. Who in all the earthly world, with half an eye in his head, would ever meddle with the likes of thee?"
I trow this set up the woman of Kittlerumpit's bristle, for though she had two blear eyes and a long red nose besides, she thought herself as bonny as the best of them. So she springs off her knees, sets the top of her cap straight, and with her two hands folded before her, she makes a curtsy down to the ground, and, "In troth, fair madam," quoth she, "I might have had the wit to know that the likes of me is not fit to tie the worst shoestrings of the high and mighty princess, Whuppity Stoorie."
If a flash of gunpowder had come out of the ground it couldn't have made the fairy leap higher than she did. Then down she came again plump on her shoe-heels; and whirling round, she ran down the brae, screeching for rage, like an owl chased by the witches.
The goodwife of Kittlerumpit laughed till she was like to split; then she takes up her bairn, and goes into her house, singing to it all the way:
A goo and a gitty, my bonny wee tyke,
Ye'se noo ha'e your four-oories;
Sin' we've gien Nick a bane to pyke,
Wi' his wheels and his Whuppity Stoories.
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 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 [brooms made from twigs of heather] 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 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 around 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 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 [straw 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 the queen's house.
She and her daughters had a big boiler of boiling water ready. They couped [overturned, emptied] it about him when he was under the window, and that was the end of the giant.
Long ago there was in service at a Monmouthshire farm a young woman who was merry and strong. Who she was or whence she came nobody knew, but many believed that she belonged to the old breed of Bendith y Mamau.
Some time after she had come to the farm, the rumor spread that the house was sorely troubled by a spirit. But the girl and the elf understood one another well, and they became the best of friends. So the elf proved very useful to the maid, for he did everything for her -- washing, ironing, spinning, and twisting wool. In fact, they say that he was remarkably handy at the spinning wheel. Moreover, he expected only a bowlful of sweet milk and wheat bread, or some flummery, for his work. So she took care to place the bowl with his food at the bottom of the stairs every night as she went to bed.
It ought to have been mentioned that she was never allowed to catch a sight of him, for he always did his work in the dark. Nor did anybody know when he ate his food. She used to leave the bowl there at night, and it would be empty by the time when she got up in the morning, the bwca having cleared it.
But one night, by way of cursedness, what did she do but fill the bowl with some stale urine which they used in dyeing wool and other things about the house. But heavens! it would have been better for her not to have done it, for when she got up next morning what should he do but suddenly spring from some corner and seized her by the neck! He began to beat her and kick her from one end of the house to the other, while he shouted at the top of his voice at every kick:
Y faidan din dwmp--
Yn rhoi bara haið a thrwnc
The idea that the thick-buttocked lass
Meanwhile she screamed for help, but none came for some time. When, however, he heard the servant men getting up, he took to his heels as hard as he could; and nothing was heard of him for some time.
But at the end of two years he was found to be at another farm in the neighborhood, called Hafod yr Ynys, where he at once became great friends with the servant girl, for she fed him like a young chicken by giving him a little bread and milk all the time.
So he worked willingly and well for her in return for his favorite food. More especially, he used to spin and wind the yarn for her; but she wished him in time to show his face, or to tell her his name. He would by no means do either. One evening, however, when all the men were out, and when he was spinning hard at the wheel, she deceived him by telling him that she was also going out. He believed her; and when he heard the door shutting, he began to sing as he plied the wheel:
Hi warða'n iawn pe gypa hi,
Taw Gwarwyn-a-throt yw'm enw i.
How she would laugh, did she know
"Ha! ha!" said the maid at the bottom of the stairs. "I know thy name now."
"What is it, then?" he asked.
She replied, "Gwarwyn-a-throt"; and as soon as she uttered the words he left the wheel where it was, and off he went.
In the northwest corner of the parish of Beddgelert there is a place which used to be called by the old inhabitants the Land of the Fairies, and it reaches from Cwm Hafod Ruffydd along the slope of the mountain of Drws y Coed as far as Llyn y Dywarchen. The old people of former times used to find much pleasure and amusement in this district in listening every moonlight night to the charming music of the fair family, and in looking at their dancing and their mirthful sports.
One on a time, a long while ago, there lived at upper Drws y Coed a youth, who was joyous and active, brave and determined of heart. This young man amused himself every night by looking on and listening to them. One night they had come to a field near the house, near the shore of Llyn y Dywarchen, to pass a merry night. He went, as usual, to look at them, when his glances at once fell on one of the ladies, who possessed such beauty as he had never seen in a human being. Her appearance was like that of alabaster; her voice was as agreeable as the nightingale's, and as unruffled as the zephyr in a flower garden at the noon of a long summer's day; and her gait was pretty and aristocratic; her feet moved in the dance as lightly on the grass as the rays of the sun had a few hours before on the lake hard by.
He fell in love with her over head and ears, and in the strength of that passion -- for what is stronger than love! -- he rushed, when the bustle was at its height, into the midst of the fair crowd, and snatched the graceful damsel in his arms, and ran instantly with her to the house.
When the fair family saw the violence used by a mortal, they broke up the dance and ran after her toward the house; but, when they arrived, the door had been bolted with iron, wherefore they could not get near her or touch her in any way; and the damsel had been placed securely in a chamber.
The youth, having her now under his roof, as is the saying, endeavored, with all his talent, to win her affection and to induce her to wed. But at first she would on no account hear of it. On seeing his persistence, however, and on finding that he would not let her go to return to her people, she consented to be his servant if he could find out her name; but she would not be married to him.
As he thought that was not impossible, he half agreed to the condition; but, after bothering his head with all the names known in that neighborhood, he found himself no nearer his point, though he was not willing to give up the search hurriedly.
One night, as he was going home from Carnarvon market, he saw a number of the fair folks in a turbary not far from his path. They seemed to him to be engaged in an important deliberation, and it struck him that they were planning how to recover their abducted sister. He thought, moreover, that if he could secretly get within hearing, he might possibly find her name out. On looking carefully around, he saw that a ditch ran through the turbary and passed near the spot where they stood. So he made his way round to the ditch, and crept, on all fours, along it until he was within hearing of the family.
After listening a little, he found that their deliberation was as to the fate of the lady he had carried away, and he heard one of them crying, piteously, "O Penelop, O Penelop, my sister, why didst thou run away with a mortal!"
"Penelop," said the young man to himself, "that must be the name of my beloved; that is enough."
At once he began to creep back quietly, and he returned home safely without having been seen by the fairies. When he got into the house, he called out to the girl, saying, "Penelop, my beloved one, come here!" and she came forward and asked, in astonishment, "O mortal, who has betrayed my name to thee?"
Then, lifting up her tiny folded hands, she exclaimed, "Alas, my fate, my fate!"
But she grew contented with her fate, and took to her work in earnest. Everything in the house and on the farm prospered under her charge. There was no better or cleanlier housewife in the neighborhood around, or one that was more provident than she.
The young man, however, was not satisfied that she should be a servant to him, and, after he had long and persistently sought it, she consented to be married, on the one condition, that, if ever he should touch her with iron, she would be free to leave him and return to her family.
He agreed to that condition, since he believed that such a thing would never happen at his hands.
So they were marred, and lived several years happily and comfortably together. Two children where born to them, a boy and a girl, the picture of their mother and the idols of their father. But one morning, when the husband wanted to go to the fair at Carnarvon, he went out to catch a filly that was grazing in the field by the house; but for the life of him he could not catch her, and he called to his wife to come to assist him.
She came without delay, and they managed to drive the filly to a secure corner, as they thought; but, as the man approached to catch her, she rushed past him. In his excitement, he threw the bridle after her; but who should be running in the direction of it, but his wife!
The iron bit struck her on the cheek, and she vanished out of sight on the spot. Her husband never saw her any more; but one cold frosty night, a long time after this event, he was awakened from his sleep by somebody rubbing the glass of his window, and, after he had given a response, he recognized the gentle and tender voice of his wife saying to him:
Lest my son should find it cold,
Place on him his father's coat;
Lest the fair one find it cold,
Place on her my petticoat.
It is said that the descendants of this family still continue in these neighborhoods, and that they are easy to be recognized by their light and fair complexion.
A farmer's wife who lived at the Nant, in the parish of Llaniestin, was frequently visited by a fairy who used to borrow paddett a gradett [a round flat iron and a pan used for baking] from her. These she used to get, and she returned them with a loaf borne on her head in acknowledgement. But one day she came to ask for the loan of her troett bach, or wheel for spinning flax. When handing her this, the farmer's wife wished to know her name, as she came so often, but she refused to tell her. However, she was watched at her spinning, and overheard singing to the whir of the wheel:
Bychan a wyða' hi
Little did she know
In the north of Ireland there are spinning meetings of unmarried females frequently held at the houses of farmers, called kemps. Every young woman who has got the reputation of being a quick and expert spinner attends where the kemp is to be held, at an hour usually before daylight, and on these occasions she is accompanied by her sweetheart or some male relative, who carries her wheel, and conducts her safely across the fields or along the road, as the case may be.
A kemp is, indeed, an animated and joyous scene, and one, besides which is calculated to promote industry and decent pride. Scarcely anything can be more cheering and agreeable than to hear at a distance, breaking the silence of morning, the light-hearted voices of many girls either in mirth or song, the humming sound of the busy wheels -- jarred upon a little, it is true, by the stridulous noise and checkings of the reels, and the voices of the reelers, as they call aloud the checks, together with the name of the girl and the quantity she has spun up to that period; for the contest is generally commenced two or three hours before daybreak. This mirthful spirit is also sustained by the prospect of a dance -- with which, by the way, every kemp closes; and when the fair victor is declared, she is to be looked upon as the queen of the meeting, and treated with the necessary respect.
But to our tale. Everyone knew Shaun Buie M'Gaveran to be the cleanest, best-conducted boy, and the most industrious too, in the whole parish of Faugh-a-ballagh. Hard was it to find a young fellow who could handle a flail, spade, or reaping-hook in better style, or who could go through his day's work in a more creditable or workmanlike manner. In addition to this, he was a fine, well-built, handsome young man as you could meet in a fair; and so, sign was on it, maybe the pretty girls weren't likely to pull each other's caps about him Shaun, however, was as prudent as he was good looking; and although he wanted a wife, yet the sorrow one of him but preferred taking a well-handed, smart girl, who was known to be well behaved and industrious, like himself. Here, however, was where the puzzle lay on him; for instead of one girl of that kind, there were in the neighborhood no less than a dozen of them -- all equally fit and willing to become his wife, and all equally good looking.
There were two, however, whom he thought a trifle above the rest; but so nicely balanced were Biddy Corrigan and Sally Gorman, that for the life of him he could not make up his mind to decide between them. Each of them had won her kemp; and it was currently said by them who ought to know, that neither of them could overmatch the other. No two girls in the parish were better respected, or deserved to be so; and the consequence was, they had everyone's good word and good wish.
Now it so happened that Shaun had been pulling a cord with each; and as he knew not how to decide between, he thought he would allow them to do that themselves if they could. He accordingly gave out to the neighbors that he would hold a kemp on that day week, and he told Biddy and Sally especially that he had made up his mind to marry whichever of them won the kemp, for he knew right well, as did all the parish, that on of them must. The girls agreed to this very good-humoredly, Biddy telling Sally that she (Sally) would surely win it; and Sally not to be outdone in civility, telling the same thing to her.
Well, the week was nearly past, there being but two days till that of the kemp, when, about three o'clock, there walks into the house of old Paddy Corrigan a little woman dressed in high-heeled shoes and a short red cloak. There was no one in the house but Biddy at the time, who rose up and placed a chair near the fire, and asked the little red woman to sit down and rest herself. She accordingly did so, and in a short time a lively chat commenced between them.
"So," said the strange woman, "there's to be a great kemp in Shaun Buie M'Gaveran's?"
"Indeed there is that, good woman," replied Biddy, smiling and blushing to back of that again, because she knew her own fate depended on it.
"And," continued the little woman, "whoever wins the kemp wins a husband?"
"Aye, so it seems."
"Well, whoever gets Shaun will be a happy woman, for he's the moral of a good boy."
"That's nothing but the truth, anyhow," replied Biddy, sighing, for fear, you may be sure, that she herself might lose him; and indeed a young woman might sigh from many a worse reason. "But," said she, changing the subject, "you appear to be tired, honest woman, an' I think you had better eat a bit, an' take a good drink of buinnhe ramwher (thick milk) to help you on you journey."
"Thank you kindly, a colleen," said the woman; "I'll take a bit, of you plase, hopin', at the same time, that you won't be the poorer of it this day twelve months."
"Sure," said the girl, "you know that what we give from kindness ever an' always leaves a blessing behind it."
"Yes, acushla, when it is given from kindness."
She accordingly helped herself to the food that Biddy placed before her, and appeared, after eating, to be very much refreshed.
"Now," said she, rising up, "you're a very good girl, an' if you are able to find out my name before Tuesday, the kemp-day, I tell you that you'll win it, and gain the husband."
"Why," said Biddy, "I never saw you before. I don't know who you are, nor where you live; how then can I ever find out your name?"
"You never saw me before, sure enough," said the old woman, "an' I tell you that you never will see me again but once; an' yet if you have not my name for me at the close of the kemp, you'll lose all, an' that will leave you a sore heart, for well I know you love Shaun Buie."
So saying, she went away, and left poor Biddy quite cast down at what she had said, for, to tell the truth, she loved Shaun very much, and had no hopes of being able to find out the name of the little woman, on which, it appeared, so much to her depended.
It was very near the same hour of the same day that Sally Gorman was sitting alone in her father's house, thinking of the kemp, when who should walk in to her but our friend the little red woman.
"God save you, honest woman," said Sally, "this is a fine day that's in it, the Lord be praised!"
"It is," said the woman, "as fine a day as one could wish for; indeed it is."
"Have you no news on your travels?" asked Sally.
"The only news in the neighborhood," replied the other, "is this great kemp that's to take place a Shaun Buie B'Gaveran's. They say you're either to win him or lose him then," she added, looking closely at Sally as she spoke.
"I'm not very much afraid of that," said Sally, with confidence; "but even if I do lose him, I may get as good."
"It's not easy gettin' as good," rejoined the old woman, "an' you ought to be very glad to win him, if you can."
"Let me alone for that," said Sally. "Biddy's a good girl, I allow; but as for spinnin', she never saw the day she could leave me behind her. Won't you sit an' rest you?" she added; "maybe you're tired."
"It's time for you to think of it," thought the woman, but she spoke nothing; "but," she added to herself on reflection, "it's better late than never -- I'll sit awhile, till I see a little closer what she's made of."
She accordingly sat down and chatted upon several subjects such as young women like to talk about, for about half an hour; after which she arose, and taking her little staff in hand, she bade Sally good-bye, and went her way.
After passing a little from the house she looked back, and could not help speaking to herself as follows:
She's smooth and smart,
Poor Biddy now made all possible inquiries about the old woman, but to no purpose. Not a soul she spoke to about her had ever seen or heard of such a woman. She felt very dispirited, and began to lose heart, for there is no doubt that if she missed Shaun it would have cost her many a sorrowful day. She knew she would never get his equal, or at least anyone that she loved so well.
At last the kemp day came, and with it all the pretty girls of the neighborhood to Shaun Buie's. Among the rest, the two that were to decide their right to him were doubtless the handsomest pair by far, and everyone admired them. To be sure, it was a blithe and merry place, and many a light laugh and sweet song rang out from pretty lips that day. Biddy and Sally, as everyone expected were far ahead of the rest, but so even in their spinning that the reelers could not for the life of them declare which was the better. It was neck-and-neck and head-and-head between the pretty creatures, and all who were at the kemp felt themselves would up to the highest pitch of interest and curiosity to know which of them would be successful.
The day was now more than half gone, and no difference was between them, when, to the surprise and sorrow of everyone present, Biddy Corrigan's heck broke in two, and so to all appearance ended the contest in favor of her rival; and what added to her mortification, she was ignorant of the little red woman's name as ever. What was to be done? All that could be done was done. Her brother, a boy of about fourteen years of age, happened to be present when the accident took place, having been sent by his father and mother to bring them word how the match went on between the rival spinsters. Johnny Corrigan was accordingly dispatched with all speed to Donnel M'Cusker's, the wheelwright, in order to get the heck mended, that being Biddy's last but hopeless chance. Johnny's anxiety that his sister should win was of course very great, and in order to lose as little time as possible he struck across the country, passing through, or rather close by, Kilrudden forth, a place celebrated as a resort of the fairies. What was his astonishment, however, as he passed a white-thorn tree, to hear a female voice singing, in accompaniment to the sound of a spinning wheel, the following words:
There's a girl in this town doesn't know my name;
"There's a girl in this town," said the lad, "who's in great distress, for she has broken her heck, and lost a husband. I'm now goin' to Donnel M'Cusker's to get it mended."
"What's her name?" said the little red woman.
The little woman immediately whipped out the heck from her own wheel, and giving it to the boy, desired him to take it to his sister, and never mind Donnel M'Cusker.
"You have little time to lose," she added, "so go back and give her this; but don't tell her how you got it, nor, above all things, that it was Even Trot that gave it to you."
The lad returned, and after giving the heck to his sister, as a matter of course told her that it was a little red woman called Even Trot that sent it to her, a circumstance which made tears of delight start to Biddy's eyes, for she know now that Even Trot was the name of the old woman, and having know that she felt that something good would happen to her. She now resumed her spinning, and never did human fingers let down the thread so rapidly. The whole kemp were amazed at the quantity which from time to time filled her pirn. The hearts of her friends began to rise, and those of Sally's party to sink, as hour after hour she was fast approaching her rival, who now spun if possible with double speed on finding Biddy coming up with her.
At length they were again even, and just at that moment in came her friend the little red woman, and asked aloud, "Is there anyone in this kemp that knows my name?" This question she asked three times before Biddy could pluck up courage to answer her. She at last said:
There's a girl in this town does know my name --
"Aye," said the old woman, "and so it is; and let that name be your guide and your husband's through life. Go steadily along, but let your step be even; stop little; keep always advancing; and you'll never have cause to rue the day that you first saw Even Trot."
We need scarcely add that Biddy won the kemp and the husband, and that she and Shaun lived long and happily together; and I have only now to wish, kind reader, that you and I may live longer and more happily still.
One day she was inside alone, when, who should come into her but a woman, who said she would spin all her linen for her if she could tell her name, but if the woman of the house could not tell the stranger's name she should go away with her the following day.
The woman of the house was satisfied and she gave the flax to the stranger, who went off. The same evening the man of the house was taking his horses to the well, for a drink. He heard some noise in a fort which was near the well.
When he looked, what should he see but a woman and she spinning flax at her full best and she humming "If Mrs. Lazybones knew that Tríopla Trúpla, was my name it is fine she would sleep to night and I finishing the flax for her."
The man opened his mouth in amazement but he did not speak a word or interfere with the work. He went home and the first question he asked his wife was, "Where is the flax?"
The wife confessed that she gave it to a woman who came to the house the previous day, and "I must go away with her tomorrow if I do not know her name."
He said, "Tríopla Trúpla is her name, my dear."
The stranger came the following day, and when the woman of the house saw her, she said, "Welcome, Tríopla Trúpla."
On hearing these words the other woman threw the linen on the floor. She raised her two claws, let an awful scream out of her, and went off like the wind.
The girl cried a good deal. A prince, Lord of the Red Castle, happened at that moment to pass by, and inquired as to the cause of such treatment, for it horrified him that a mother should so ill-use her child.
"Why should I not punish her?" answered the woman. "The idle girl can do nothing but spin hemp into gold thread."
"Really?" cried he. "Does she really know how to spin gold thread out of hemp? If that be so, sell her to me."
"Willingly; how much will you give me for her?"
"Half a measure of gold."
"Take her," said the mother; and she gave him her daughter as soon as the money was paid.
The prince placed the girl behind him on the saddle, put spurs to his horse, and took her home.
On reaching the Red Castle, the prince led Helen into a room filled from floor to ceiling with hemp, and having supplied her with distaff and spinning wheel, said, "When you have spun all this hemp into gold thread I will make you my wife."
Then he went out, locking the door after him.
On finding herself a prisoner, the poor girl wept as if her heart would break. Suddenly she saw a very odd looking little man seated on the window sill. He wore a red cap, and his boots were made of some strange sort of material.
"Why do you weep so?" he asked.
"I cannot help it," she replied, "I am but a miserable slave. I have been ordered to spin all this hemp into gold thread, but it is impossible, I can never do it, and I know not what will become of me."
I will do it for you in three days, on condition that at the end of that time you guess my right name, and tell me what the boots I am wearing now are made of."
Without for one moment reflecting as to whether she would be able to guess aright she consented. The uncanny little man burst out laughing, and taking her distaff set to work at once.
All day as the distaff moved the hemp grew visibly less, while the skein of gold thread became larger and larger.
The little man spun all the time, and, without stopping an instant, explained to Helen how to make thread of pure gold. As night drew on he tied up the skein, saying to the girl, "Well, do you know my name yet? Can you tell me what my boots are made of?"
Helen replied that she could not, upon which he grinned and disappeared through the window. She then sat and looked at the sky, and thought, and thought, and thought, and lost herself in conjecturing as to what the little man's name might be, and in trying to guess what was the stuff his boots were made of. Were they of leather? or perhaps plaited rushes? or straw? or cast iron? No, they did not look like anything of that sort. And as to his name -- that was a still more difficult problem to solve.
"What shall I call him?" said she to herself -- "John? Or Henry? Who knows? perhaps it is Paul or Joseph."
These thoughts so filled her mind that she forgot to eat her dinner. Her meditations were interrupted by cries and groans from outside, where she saw an old man with white hair sitting under the castle wall.
"Miserable old man that I am," cried he; "I die of hunger and thirst, but no one pities my sufferings." Helen hastened to give him her dinner, and told him to come next day, which he promised to do.
After again thinking for some time what answers she should give the little old man, she fell asleep on the hemp.
The little old man did not fail to make his appearance the first thing next morning, and remained all day spinning the gold thread. The work progressed before their eyes, and it was only when evening came that he repeated his questions. Not receiving a satisfactory answer, he vanished in a fit of mocking laughter. Helen sat down by the window to think; but think as she might, no answer to these puzzling questions occurred to her.
While thus wondering the hungry old man again came by, and she gave him her dinner. She was heart-sick and her eyes were full of tears, for she thought she would never guess the spinner's name, nor of what stuff his boots were made, unless perhaps God would help her.
"Why are you so sad?" asked the old man when he had eaten and drunk; "tell me the cause of you grief, dear lady."
For a long time she would not tell him, thinking it would be useless; but at last, yielding to his entreaties, she gave a full account of the conditions under which the gold thread was made, explaining that unless she could answer the little old man's questions satisfactorily she feared some great misfortune would befall her.
The old man listened attentively, then, nodding his head, he said: "In coming through the forest today I passed close to a large pile of burning wood, round which were placed nine iron pots. A little man in a red cap was running round and jumping over them, singing these words:
My sweet friend, fair Helen, at the Red Castle near,"Now that is exactly what you want to know, my dear girl; so do not forget, and you are saved."
Two days and two nights seeks my name to divine,
She'll never find out, so the third night 'tis clear
My sweet friend, fair Helen, can't fail to be mine.
Hurrah! for my name is Kinkach Martinko,
Hurrah! for my boots are of doggies' skin O!
And with these words the old man vanished.
Helen was greatly astonished, but she took care to fix in her memory all that the good fellow had told her, and then went to sleep, feeling that she could face tomorrow without fear.
One the third day, very early in the morning, the little old man appeared and set busily to work, for he knew that all the hemp must be spun before sunset, and that then he should be able to claim his rights. When evening came all the hemp was gone, and the room shone with the brightness of the golden thread.
As soon as his work was done, the queer little old man with the red cap drew himself up with a great deal of assurance, and with his hand in his pockets strutted up and down before Helen, ordering her to tell him his right name and to say of what stuff the boots were made; but he felt certain that she would not be able to answer aright.
"Your name is Kinkach Martinko, and your boots are made of dogskin," she replied without the slightest hesitation.
At these words he spun round on the floor like a bobbin, tore out his hair and beat his breast with rage, roaring so that the very walls trembled.
"It is lucky for you that you have guessed. If you had not, I should have torn you to pieces on this very spot:" so saying he rushed out of the window like a whirlwind.
Helen felt deeply grateful towards the old man who had told her the answers, and hoped to be able to thank him in person. But he never appeared again.
The Prince of the Red Castle was very pleased with her for having accomplished her task so punctually and perfectly, and he married her as he had promised.
Helen was truly thankful to have escaped the dangers that had threatened her, and her happiness as a princess was greater than she had dared hope. She had, too, such a good stock of gold thread that she never had occasion to spin any more all her life long.
Revised October 3, 2022