Once upon a time there was a man whose wife died, and he had only a little daughter, whose name was Maria.
Maria went to school to a woman who taught her sewing and knitting. In the evening when she left for home the woman would always say to her, "Give your father my kindest greetings."
Because of these friendly greetings the man thought, "She would be a wife for me," and he married the woman.
After they were married, the woman became very unfriendly toward poor Maria, for stepmothers have always been that way, and with time she could not stand her at all.
Then she said to her husband, "The girl eats too much of our bread. We will have to get rid of her."
But the man said, "I cannot kill my child!"
Then the woman said, "Tomorrow take her with you out into the country and leave her there alone, so that she will not be able to find her way back home."
The next day the man called his daughter and said to her, "We are going out into the country. We will take something to eat with us."
Then he got a large loaf of bread, and they set forth. However, Maria was clever, and she filled her pockets with bran. As she walked along behind her father, from time to time she threw down a little pile of bran onto the pathway. After walking for many hours they came to the top of a steep cliff. Her father dropped the loaf of bread over the cliff, then cried out, "Oh, Maria, our bread fell down there!"
"Father," said Maria, "I will climb down and get it."
So she climbed down the cliff and got the bread, but by the time she had climbed back up to the top, her father had gone away, and Maria was all alone.
She started to cry, for she was very far from home, and in a strange place. But then she thought about the bran and took courage. Following the bran, she finally arrived home again, late that night.
"Oh, father," she said, "why did you leave me alone?"
The man comforted her and talked to her until he had reassured her.
The stepmother was very angry that Maria had found the way back, and some time later she again told her husband that he should take Maria out into the country and abandon her in the woods.
The next morning the man called his daughter once again, and they set forth. The father again carried a loaf of bread, but Maria forgot to take the bran with her. In the woods they came to an even steeper and higher cliff. The father again dropped the bread over the edge, and Maria had to climb down to get it. When she arrived back at the top, her father had gone away, and she was alone. She began to cry bitterly, and she ran one way and the other for a long time, only to find herself even deeper in the dark woods.
Evening came, and suddenly she saw a light. She walked toward it and came to a little house. Inside she found a set table and seven beds, but no people were there.
The house belonged to seven robbers.
Maria hid behind a dough trough, and soon the seven robbers returned home. They ate and drank, and then went to bed. The next morning they left, but the youngest brother remained at home in order to cook the food and clean the house. After they had left, the youngest brother went out to buy food. Then Maria came out from behind the dough trough, swept and cleaned the house, and then put the kettle on the fire in order to cook the beans. Then once again she hid behind the dough trough.
When the youngest brother returned home he was amazed to see everything so clean, and when his brothers came back, he told them what had happened. They were all astonished and could not imagine how it had happened. The next day the second brother remained at home alone. He pretended that he too was going away, but he returned at once and saw Maria, who had come out once again to clean up the house.
Maria was frightened when she saw the robber. "Oh," she begged, " for heaven's sake, do not kill me!"
"Who are you?" asked the robber.
Then she told him about her wicked stepmother, and how her father had abandoned her in the woods, and how for two days she had been hiding behind the dough trough.
"You don't have to be afraid of us," said the robber. "Stay here with us and be our sister, and cook, sew, and wash for us."
When the other brothers returned home, they were satisfied with this, so Maria stayed with the seven robbers, did their housekeeping, and was always quiet and diligent.
One day as she was sitting by the window sewing, a poor old woman came by and asked for alms.
"Oh," said Maria, "I don't have much, for I myself am a poor, unhappy girl, but I will give you what I have."
"Why are you so unhappy?" asked the beggar woman.
Then Maria told her how she had left home and had come here. The poor woman went forth and told the wicked stepmother that Maria was still alive. When the stepmother heard this she was very angry, and she gave the beggar woman a ring that she was to take to poor Maria. The ring was a magic ring.
Eight days later the poor woman came again to Maria to beg for alms, and when Maria gave her something, she said, "Look, my child, I have here a beautiful ring. Because you have been so good to me, I want to give it to you."
Suspecting nothing, Maria took the ring, but when she put it on her finger she fell down dead.
When the robbers returned home and found Maria on the floor, they were very sad, and they cried bitterly for her. Then they made a beautiful coffin and laid Maria inside it, after having adorned her with the most beautiful jewelry. They also put a large amount of gold in the coffin, which they then set on an oxcart. They drove the oxcart into the city. When they came to the king's castle they saw that the stall door was wide open. They drove the oxen inside, in order to bring the cart into the stall. This caused the horses to become very uneasy, and they began rearing up and making noise.
Hearing the noise, the king sent someone down to ask the stall-master what had happened. The stall-master answered that a cart had been driven into the stall. No one was with the cart, but on it there was a beautiful coffin.
The king ordered that the coffin be brought to his room, and there he had it opened. When he saw the beautiful dead girl inside, he began to cry bitterly, and he could not leave her. He had four large wax candles brought and had them placed at the four corners of the coffin and lit. Then he sent everyone out of the room, barred the door, fell onto his knees before the coffin, and wept hot tears.
When it was time to eat, his mother sent for him, asking him to come. He did not answer at once, but instead wept all the more fervently. Then the old queen herself came and knocked on the door and asked him to open it, but he did not answer. She looked through the keyhole, and when she saw that her son was kneeling next to a corpse, she had the door broken down.
However, when she saw the beautiful girl, she herself was very moved, and she leaned over Maria and took her hand. Seeing the beautiful ring, she thought that it would be a shame to let it be buried along with the corpse, so she pulled it off. Then all at once the dead Maria came to life again.
The young king said joyfully to his mother, "This girl shall be my wife!"
The old queen answered, "Yes, so shall it be!" and she embraced Maria.
Thus Maria became the king's wife, and the queen. They lived joyfully and in splendor until they died.
Source: Laura Gonzenbach, "Maria, die böse Stiefmutter und die sieben Räuber," Sicilianische Märchen, aus dem Volksmund gesammelt, vol. 1 (Leipzig: Verlag von Wilhelm Engelmann, 1870), no. 2, pp. 4-7.