Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
There was a girl who was lazy and would not spin. Her mother could not make her do so, whatever she said to her. Finally anger and impatience so overcame the mother that she beat her, upon which the girl began to cry loudly.
Now the queen was just driving by, and when she heard the crying she ordered her carriage to stop, went into the house, and asked the mother why she was beating her daughter so that her cries could be heard out on the road.
The woman was ashamed to reveal her daughter's laziness and said, "I cannot make her stop spinning. She wants to spin on and on forever, and I am poor, and cannot get the flax."
Then the queen answered, "There is nothing that I like better to hear than spinning. I am never happier than when the wheels are humming. Let your daughter come with me to the palace. I have flax enough. There she can spin to her heart's content."
The mother was completely satisfied with this, and the queen took the girl with her. Arriving at the palace, she took her upstairs to three rooms which were filled from the bottom to the top with the finest flax.
"Now spin this flax for me," she said, "and when you are finished, you shall have my oldest son for a husband. I do not mind if you are poor. Your untiring industry will do for a dowry."
The girl was frightened inside, for she would not be able to spin the flax, not even if she had lived until she was three hundred years old, sitting at it every day from morning until evening. When she was alone she began to cry, and just sat there for three days without moving a hand. On the third day the queen came, and when she saw that nothing had been spun yet, she was surprised. The girl excused herself by saying that because of her sorrow at being away from her mother's house, she had not yet been able to begin.
This satisfied the queen, but as she left she said, "Tomorrow you must begin my work."
When the girl was alone again, she did not know what to do, or where to turn for help. In her distress she went to the window. There she saw three women coming toward her. The first one had a broad flat foot, the second one had such a large lower lip that it hung down over her chin, and the third one had a broad thumb.
They stopped outside the window, looked up, and asked the girl what was wrong with her.
She bemoaned her troubles to them, upon which they offered her their help, saying, "If you will invite us to your wedding, not be ashamed of us, call us your aunts, and let us be seated at your table, we will spin all the flax for you, and in a very short time at that."
"With all my heart," she answered. "Come right in and begin the work at once."
Then she let the three strange women in, and cleared out a space in the first room where they could sit down and begin their spinning. The one pulled the thread and peddled the wheel, the second one moistened the thread, the third twisted it, then struck the table with her finger. Each time she struck, a skein of the most finely spun thread fell to the floor.
The girl kept the three spinners hidden from the queen, but whenever she came, the girl showed her the great quantity of thread that had been spun. The queen could not praise her enough.
When the first room was empty, they went to work on the second one, and on the third one, and it too was quickly cleaned out.
The three women now took leave and said to the girl, "Do not forget what you have promised us. It will bring you good luck."
When the girl showed the queen the empty rooms and the large pile of thread, the latter made preparations for the wedding. The bridegroom was happy that he was getting such a clever and industrious wife, and he praised her vigorously.
"I have three aunts," said the girl. "Because they have been very kind to me, I do not want to forget them in my good fortune. Allow me to invite them to the wedding, and let them be seated next to us at the table."
The queen and the bridegroom said, "Why should we not allow that?"
When the feast began, the three women, dressed in strange clothing, entered.
The bride said, "Welcome, dear aunts."
"Oh," said the bridegroom, "what brought you to this hideous friendship?"
Then he went to the one with the broad flat foot, and asked, "Where did you get such a broad foot?"
"From peddling," she answered. "From peddling."
Then the bridegroom went to the second one, and said, "Where did you get this fallen lip?"
"From licking," she answered. "From licking."
Then he asked the third one, "Where did you get this broad thumb?"
"From twisting thread," she answered. "From twisting thread."
This alarmed the prince, and he said, "My beautiful bride shall never again touch a spinning wheel."
With that she was freed from hateful flax spinning.
Source: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Die drei Spinnerinnen, Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales -- Grimms' Fairy Tales), 7th ed. (Berlin, 1857), no. 14.
The Grimms were acquainted with a number of variants of this widespread folktale. Their sources included Jeanette Hassenpflug (1791-1860), Paul Wigand (1786-1866), and Johannes Prätorius (pen name for Hans Schultze, 1630-1680). The version given above came primarily from Paul Wigand, and was first published in the second edition (1819) of Kinder- und Hausmärchen.
Once upon a time there was a poor woman who had an only daughter, named Helen, a very lazy girl. One day when she had refused to do a single thing, her mother took her down to the banks of a stream and began to strike her fingers with a flat stone, just as you do in beating linen to wash it.
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,
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!
"Now that is exactly what you want to know, my dear girl; so do not forget, and you are saved."
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.
Source: Alex. Chodsko, Fairy Tales of the Slav Peasants and Herdsmen, translated by Emily J. Harding (New York: Dodd Mead & Co., and London: George Allen, 1896), pp. 325-332.
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.
Source: John Rhys, Celtic Folklore: Welsh and Manx (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1901), vol. 1, pp. 86-89.
I see that you are fond of talks about fairies, children; and a story about a fairy and the goodwife of Kittlerumpit has just come into my mind; but I can't very well tell you now whereabouts Kittlerumpit lies. I think it is somewhere in the Debatable Ground. Anyway, I shall not pretend to know more than I do, like everybody nowadays. I wish they would remember the ballad we used to sing long ago:
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.
Source: John Rhys, Celtic Folklore: Welsh and Manx (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1901), vol. 2, pp. 585-590.
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.
Source: Robert Hunt, Popular Romances of the West of England; or, The Drolls, Traditions, and Superstitions of Old Cornwall (London: John Camden Hotten, 1871), pp. 239-247
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:
Nimmy nimmy not
Your name's Tom Tit Tot.
Well, when that heard her, that gave an awful shriek and away that flew into the dark, and she never saw it anymore.
Source: Joseph Jacobs, English Fairy Tales (London: David Nutt, 1898), pp. 1
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,
I morgon skall mitt bröllopp vara.
Och jungfrun sitter i buren och gråter;
Hon ver inte havad jag heter.
Jag heter Titteli Ture.
Jag heter Titteli Ture.
Today I the malt shall grind,
Tomorrow my wedding shall be.
And the maiden sits in her bower and weeps;
She knows not what I am called.
I am called Titteli Ture.
I am called Titteli Ture.
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.
Source:Benjamin Thorpe, Yule-Tide Stories: A Collection of Scandinavian and North German Popular Tales and Traditions, from the Swedish, Danish, and German (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853), pp. 168-170.
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.
Source: Christian Schneller, "Tarandandò," Märchen und Sagen aus Wälschtirol (Innsbruck: Verlag der Wagner'schen Universitäts-Buchhandlung, 1867), no. 55, pp. 158-162.
This story is from South Tyrol, an alpine region in northern Italy but with historical and cultural ties to Austria.
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,
My name is
If the mother knew that,
She could keep her daughter.
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.
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.
Source: Carl and Theodor Colshorn, Zwerg Holzrührlein Bonneführlein, Märchen und Sagen aus Hannover (Hannover: Verlag von Carl Rümpler, 1854), no. 29, pp. 88-89
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.
Source: J. D. H. Temme, Die Erdgeister in Greifswald, Die Volkssagen von Pommern und Rügen (Berlin: In der Nikolaischen Buchhandlung, 1840), no. 216, pp. 255-256.
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
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 to make an impression on him he said, "I have a daughter who can spin straw into gold."
The king said to the miller, "That is an art that I really like. If your daughter is as skillful as you say, then bring her to my castle tomorrow, and I will put her to the test."
When the girl was brought to him he led her into a room that was entirely filled with straw. Giving her a spinning wheel and a reel, he said, "Get to work now. Spin all night, and if by morning you have not spun this straw into gold, then you will have to die." Then he himself locked the room, and she was there all alone.
The poor miller's daughter sat there, and for her life she did not know what to do. She had no idea how to spin straw into gold. She became more and more afraid, and finally began to cry.
Then suddenly the door opened. A little man stepped inside and said, "Good evening, Mistress Miller, why are you crying so?"
"Oh," answered the girl, "I am supposed to spin straw into gold, and I do not know how to do it."
The little man said, "What will you give me if I spin it for you?"
"My necklace," said the girl.
The little man took the necklace, sat down before the spinning wheel, and whir, whir, whir, three times pulled, and the spool was full. Then he put another one on, and whir, whir, whir, three times pulled, and the second one was full as well. So it went until morning, and then all the straw was spun, and all the spools were filled with gold.
At sunrise the king came, and when he saw the gold he was surprised and happy, but his heart became even more greedy for gold. He had the miller's daughter taken to another room filled with straw. It was even larger, and he ordered her to spin it in one night, if she valued her life.
The girl did not know what to do, and she cried. Once again the door opened, and the little man appeared. He said, "What will you give me if I spin the straw into gold for you?"
"The ring from my finger," answered the girl.
The little man took the ring, and began once again to whir with the spinning wheel. By morning he had spun all the straw into glistening gold. The king was happy beyond measure when he saw it, but he still did not have his fill of gold. He had the miller's daughter taken to a still larger room filled with straw, and said, "Tonight you must spin this too. If you succeed you shall become my wife." He thought, "Even if she is only a miller's daughter, I will not find a richer wife in all the world."
When the girl was alone the little man returned for a third time. He said, "What will you give me if I spin the straw this time?"
"I have nothing more that I could give you," answered the girl.
"Then promise me, after you are queen, your first child."
"Who knows what will happen," thought the miller's daughter, and not knowing what else to do, she promised the little man what he demanded. In return the little man once again spun the straw into gold.
When in the morning the king came and found everything just as he desired, he married her, and the beautiful miller's daughter became queen.
A year later she brought a beautiful child to the world. She thought no more about the little man, but suddenly he appeared in her room and said, "Now give me that which you promised."
The queen took fright and offered the little man all the wealth of the kingdom if he would let her keep the child, but the little man said, "No. Something living is dearer to me than all the treasures of the world."
Then the queen began lamenting and crying so much that the little man took pity on her and said, "I will give you three days' time. If by then you know my name, then you shall keep your child."
The queen spent the entire night thinking of all the names she had ever heard. Then she sent a messenger into the country to inquire far and wide what other names there were. When the little man returned the next day she began with Kaspar, Melchior, Balzer, and said in order all the names she knew. After each one the little man said, "That is not my name."
The second day she sent inquiries into the neighborhood as to what names people had. She recited the most unusual and most curious names to the little man: "Is your name perhaps Beastrib? Or Muttoncalf? Or Legstring?"
But he always answered, "That is not my name."
On the third day the messenger returned and said, "I have not been able to find a single new name, but when I was approaching a high mountain in the corner of the woods, there where the fox and the hare say good-night, I saw a little house. A fire was burning in front of the house, and an altogether comical little man was jumping around the fire, hopping on one leg and calling 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.
You can imagine how happy the queen was when she heard that name. Soon afterward the little man came in and asked, "Now, Madame Queen, what is my name?"
She first asked, "Is your name Kunz?"
"Is your name Heinz?"
"Is your name perhaps Rumpelstiltskin?"
"The devil told you that! The devil told you that!" shouted the little man, and with anger he stomped his right foot so hard into the ground that he fell in up to his waist. Then with both hands he took hold of his left foot and ripped himself up the middle in two.
Source: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, "Rumpelstilzchen," Kinder- und Hausmärchen, vol. 1 (Göttingen: Verlag der Dieterichschen Buchhandlung, 1857) [Children's and Household Tales -- Grimms' Fairy Tales], no. 55, pp. 281-84.
The Grimms' source: Henriette Dorothea (Dortchen) Wild (1795-1867), and other sources.