By Grimm Brothers
There once lived an old widow, who had a daughter and a step daughter. Her step daughter was beautiful and hardworking, ever willing to do whatever was asked of her, little and large tasks, and she was always kind to everybody, including her mother and step sister. The step sister now, was rather plain looking, she was lazy and deceitful, and was always complaining to her mother about how her steps sister did not work hard enough, burned her toast and did not wash her dresses properly. The step daughter was made to sleep on a rough bed in the washing room, and for food she was only given left overs and dry bread crusts.
The poor step daughter was made to work on a spinning wheel put outside, next to a well. She worked so her, and spun so fast, that her fingers started to bleed. The spindle on the wheel became covered in blood, and the girl bent over the well to wash it off, otherwise she was afraid the blood might discolour the yarn she was spinning. But she dropped the spindle and it fell into the water. She did not want to be scolded for losing the spindle, so without thinking about the consequences, she hitched her skirt, and jumped into the water in order to retrieve it. But she could not feel the ground at the bottom, she kept sinking deeper and deeper, until eventually she lost consciousness. When she woke, she found herself in a charming meadow, covered I the greenest grass and a multitude of colourful flowers, all under a friendly sun spreading its warmth.
She got up and as she was naturally quite curious, she decided to take a walk and get to know her new surroundings. Before long she arrived at a bakery, with an oven full of bread. The bread was crying out; “Draw me out! Draw me out! We have baked long enough. If you don’t draw us out we shall surely burn and be of no use to anybody!” So the girl looked around, and found the bread peel, a long stick with a broad flat end, which she had seen bakers use to pull bread out of the oven. She started working, slowly at first, because she was not used to this kind of work, but eventually she got the hang of it and before long she had emptied the oven, and all the bread had been placed on racks, cooling off. The work had made her hungry, and when one of the loaves invited her to have a taste, she did not hesitate. She took one of the loaves, and munching it, continued on her walk.
Before long she came across an apple tree, whose branches were almost touching the ground, so heavily laden were they with fruit. The apples cried out: ”Shake the tree, shake the tree! We are all ripe, and we need to come off our tree, otherwise we will all rot away. Shake the tree!” So the girl, conscientious as ever, started shaking the tree with all her might. She shook for as long as it took for all the apples to fall down, then she proceeded to collect them all and put them neatly in a big heap. “Well done!” the apples shouted. “Take one of us to munch on, you’ll find we taste pretty good!” So he girl took an apple from the top of the pile and polished it on her frock before biting into the juicy fruit. On she went on her walk.
Before long she came to a clearing where there stood a small cottage, and in front of the cottage stood an old woman. The old woman was frankly quite a sight, she was as ugly as any creature from eh land of ghouls, her teeth were too long, and grew over her lips, her nose was covered in grey hairs, and her bosoms hung down like flour sacks. Our young girl was somewhat taken aback by this apparition, and her impulse was to turn round and get out of there. Anything was better than this old hag! But just then the old woman cried out a greeting, and her voice was much friendlier than her appearance. “What are you afraid of, little girl? Don’t run away, no harm will come to you here. Come and have a chat.”
So the girl and the ugly old woman sat down together on a bench in front of the cottage. The old woman asked her how she came to her cottage, and where she was heading. The girl explained what had happened to her, from jumping into the well to find her spindle, waking up in the meadow, and meeting the bread loaves and the ripe apples. “I really don’t know where I’m going, she said. I hadn’t really given it much thought.”
“Well then, said the old lady. Why don’t you stop here for a while, you can help me tidy up my place, you seem to have a talent for that. If you can do that, all will go well with you, I will see to that.”
“What would I have to do?” asked the girl.
The woman smiled a crooked smile. “I am Old Mother Frost” she said. The main job is to shake my bed thoroughly, so that all the feathers fly out. They will float down to the world, and turn into snow.” The girl quite lied the sound of that, the old lady seemed very kind, in spite of her rather rough appearance, and she had certainly enjoyed the taste of the bread and the apples. So she readily agreed to stay for a while. She worked hard, as that was her nature, and always shook the bed with the utmost vigour, so that there was so much snow on earth that life came to a standstill. Old Mother Frost looked after her very well, fed her fresh fruit and roast meat every day, and she was able to sleep on a wonderful soft mattress. And she never had to do any spinning! Her life was very happy and there were never any angry words between her and Old Mother Frost.
But in spite of her wonderful life here, she eventually started feeling sad, and after a while she realised she was homesick. So she sat down with Old Mother Frost one day, and told her that she wanted to go back to see her step mother and sister.” If I find it does not go so well down there, maybe I can come back here2, she said. Old Mother Frost agreed. “I can tell that you’ve been a little homesick these last few days, she said. It shows in your face, my dear girl. Of course you can go back, and I will keep an eye on you from here, when I see that you are suffering, I will come to fetch you myself, for I have grown very fond of you indeed.”
So the next day, Old Mother Frost took her hand, and led her down a path which led to a great wooden gate, which she unlocked. The old lady give her the spindle, which she had lost in the well. “You must take this back, she said, and ten she gave her a large bag, filled with gold. ”And this, she added, you have deserved this through your hard work.” She then guided her through the gate, and when the girl had passed through it locked it again. When the girl looked around, to her surprise she found herself on a path leading to her step mother’s house. She followed the path, and a little later was greeted by the cockerel, the chickens and the cat, who had all sorely missed her. She went in to see her mother, and because she had a bag full of gold, she was very warmly received.
The girl told the story of everything that had happened to her, and how Old Mother Frost had rewarded her with the bag of gold. When the step mother heard this story, she told her daughter that she too should try her luck, and travel to the meadow where Old Mother Frost dwelt, so she too would get a bag full of gold. The lazy daughter was not all that keen, as is all sounded like a lot of hard work to her, but her mother’s greed was too strong, and this time she did not take no for an answer, and made her daughter sit down by the side of the well, drop the spindle in it and jump after it. And so it happened that the lazy daughter sank deeper and deeper, until eventually she lost consciousness.
When she woke, she found herself in a charming meadow, covered I the greenest grass and a multitude of colourful flowers, all under a friendly sun spreading its warmth.
She got up and as she tried to remember what her step sister had told her, she started to walk. Before long she arrived at a bakery, with an oven full of bread. The bread was crying out; “Draw me out! Draw me out! We have baked long enough. If you don’t draw us out we shall surely burn and be of no use to anybody!” But the lazy daughter was not interested in dirtying herself rescuing the bread. “It’s nothing to do with me, she said, I did not put you in the oven! Get yourselves out if you’re so hot!” With this, she continued on her walk.
Before long she came across an apple tree, whose branches were almost touching the ground, so heavily laden were they with fruit. The apples cried out: ”Shake the tree, shake the tree! We are all ripe, and we need to come off our tree, otherwise we will all rot away. Shake the tree!” But the lazy daughter just shook her head. “I’m not going to exhaust myself for a bunch of sour apples, she said, Shake yourself down if you’re so clever!”
On she went on her walk.
Before long she came to a clearing where there stood a small cottage, and in front of the cottage stood an old woman. As her step sister had explained, the old woman was frankly quite a sight, she was as ugly as any creature from the land of ghouls, her teeth were too long, and grew over her lips, her nose was covered in grey hairs, and her bosoms hung down like flour sacks. But the lazy daughter was not afraid, having been warned. “So you must be Old Mother Frost” she said. Old Mother Frost confirmed that she was indeed her, and asked this new girl why she had come this way and where she was going. “I’ve come to give you a hand with some of your work”, the lazy daughter told her. “That’s very good, said Old Mother Frost, I can do with some help. My old bones are not getting any younger.” So the lazy daughter started working for Old Mother Frost. Well, she worked quite well on the first day, but by evening she was so tired, she had hardly enough energy left to eat the wonderful food that had been prepare. So the next day she slowed down a bit, and only shook the bed in a perfunctory manner, so that only a few of the feathers flew out. Not much snow fell on the earth that day.
The next day she did even less, but Old Mother Frost did not complain. But the next day, the lazy daughter stayed in her bed until midday, and when she got up complained that there was no breakfast waiting for her. That was it for Old Mother Frost. “I’ve had enough of you, she said. I’m giving you the sack! You’ll have to go back to where you came from!”
The lazy daughter was of course very happy to hear these words, because she thought she would now get her sack full of gold! Old Mother Frost took her by the arm, and led her to the great wooden gate, which she duly unlocked. Just step through here, she said, and you will return to your mother’s village. Just as the lazy daughter, stepping through the gate, thought she was going to be handed her gold, Old Mother Frost picked up a bucket standing by the side of the gate, and poured the content all over the wretched girl. It was pitch black tar, which covered her all over. When the lazy daughter got home, however much she and her mother tried to wash it off, they could not remove it and the tar stuck to her for the rest of her life.