There was once upon a time a woman who was a real witch and had two
daughters, one ugly and wicked, and this one she loved because she was her own daughter,
and one beautiful and good, and this one she hated, because she was her step-daughter. The
step-daughter once had a pretty apron, which the other fancied so much that she became
envious, and told her mother that she must and would have that apron. Be quiet, my child,
said the old woman, and you shall have it. Your step-sister has long deserved death,
to-night when she is asleep I will come and cut her head off. Only be careful that you are
at the far-side of the bed, and push her well to the front. It would have been all over
with the poor girl if she had not just then been standing in a corner, and heard
All day long she dared not go out of doors, and when bed-time had
come, the witch's daughter got into bed first, so as to lie at the far side, but when she
was asleep, the other pushed her gently to the front, and took for herself the place at
the back, close by the wall. In the night, the old woman came creeping in, she held an axe
in her right hand, and felt with her left to see if anyone were lying at the outside, and
then she grasped the axe with both hands, and cut her own child's head off.
When she had gone away, the girl got up and went to her sweetheart,
who was called roland, and knocked at his door. When he came out, she said to him, listen,
dearest roland, we must fly in all haste. My step-mother wanted to kill me, but has struck
her own child. When daylight comes, and she sees what she has done, we shall be lost. But,
said roland, I counsel you first to take away her magic wand, or we cannot escape if she
pursues us. The maiden fetched the magic wand, and she took the dead girl's head and
dropped three drops of blood on the ground, one in front of the bed, one in the kitchen,
and one on the stairs. Then she hurried away with her lover.
When the old witch got up next morning, she called her daughter, and
wanted to give her the apron, but she did not come. Then the witch cried, where are you.
Here, on the stairs, I am sweeping, answered the first drop of blood. The old woman went
out, but saw no one on the stairs, and cried again, where are you. Here in the kitchen, I
am warming myself, cried the second drop of blood. She went into the kitchen, but found no
one. Then she cried again, where are you. Ah, here in the bed, I am sleeping, cried the
third drop of blood. She went into the room to the bed. What did she see there. Her own
child, whose head she had cut off, bathed in her blood.
The witch fell into a passion, sprang to the window, and as she
could look forth quite far into the world, she perceived her step-daughter hurrying away
with her sweetheart roland. That shall not help you, cried she, even if you have got a
long way off, you shall still not escape me. She put on her many league boots, in which
she covered an hour's walk at every step, and it was not long before she overtook them.
The girl, however, when she saw the old woman striding towards her, changed, with her
magic wand, her sweetheart roland into a lake, and herself into a duck swimming in the
middle of it.
The witch placed herself on the shore, threw bread-crumbs in, and
went to endless trouble to entice the duck, but the duck did not let herself be enticed,
and the old woman had to go home at night as she had come. At this the girl and her
sweetheart roland resumed their natural shapes again, and they walked on the whole night
until daybreak. Then the maiden changed herself into a beautiful flower which stood in the
midst of a briar hedge, and her sweetheart roland into a fiddler. It was not long before
the witch came striding up towards them, and said to the musician, dear musician, may I
pluck that beautiful flower for myself.
Oh, yes, he replied, I will play to you while you do it. As she was
hastily creeping into the hedge and was just going to pluck the flower, knowing perfectly
well who the flower was, he began to play, and whether she would or not, she was forced to
dance, for it was a magical dance. The faster he played, the more violent springs was she
forced to make, and the thorns tore her clothes from her body, and pricked her and wounded
her till she bled, and as he did not stop, she had to dance till she lay dead on the
As they were now set free, roland said, now I will go to my father
and arrange for the wedding. Then in the meantime I will stay here and wait for you, said
the girl, and that no one may recognize me, I will change myself into a red stone
Then roland went away, and the girl stood like a red land-mark in
the field and waited for her beloved. But when roland got home, he fell into the snares of
another, who so fascinated him that he forgot the maiden. The poor girl remained there a
long time, but at length, as he did not return at all, she was sad, and changed herself
into a flower, and thought, someone will surely come this way, and trample me down.
It befell, however, that a shepherd kept his sheep in the field, and
saw the flower, and as it was so pretty, plucked it, took it with him, and laid it away in
his chest. From that time forth, strange things happened in the shepherd's house. When he
arose in the morning all the work was already done, the room was swept, the table and
benches cleaned, the fire on the hearth was lighted, and the water was fetched, and at
noon, when he came home, the table was laid, and a good dinner served. He could not
conceive how this came to pass, for he never saw a human being in his house, and no one
could have concealed himself in it.
He was certainly pleased with this good attendance, but still at
last he was so afraid that he went to a wise woman and asked for her advice. The wise
woman said, there is some enchantment behind it, listen very early some morning if
anything is moving in the room, and if you see anything, no matter what it is, throw a
white cloth over it, and then the magic will be stopped.
The shepherd did as she bade him, and next morning just as day
dawned, he saw the chest open, and the flower come out. Swiftly he sprang towards it, and
threw a white cloth over it. Instantly the transformation came to an end, and a beautiful
girl stood before him, who admitted to him that she had been the flower, and that up to
this time she had attended to his housekeeping. She told him her story, and as she pleased
him he asked her if she would marry him, but she answered, no, for she wanted to remain
faithful to her sweetheart roland, although he had deserted her. Nevertheless, she
promised not to go away, but to continue keeping house for the shepherd.
And now the time drew near when roland's wedding was to be
celebrated, and then, according to an old custom in the country, it was announced that all
the girls were to be present at it, and sing in honor of the bridal pair. When the
faithful maiden heard of this, she grew so sad that she thought her heart would break, and
she would not go thither, but the other girls came and took her. When it came to her turn
to sing, she stepped back, until at last she was the only one left, and then she could not
But when she began her song, and it reached roland's ears, he sprang
up and cried, I know the voice, that is the true bride, I will have no other. Everything
he had forgotten, and which had vanished from his mind, had suddenly come home again to
his heart. Then the faithful maiden held her wedding with her sweetheart roland, and grief
came to an end and joy began.