Stories for Language Learners/Intermediate-Advanced English
Grimm's Tales[edit | edit source]
The True Bride[edit | edit source]
Once upon a time there was a girl who was young and beautiful, but who had lost her mother when she was still a child. Now she lived with her stepmother, who did all she could to make the girl’s life miserable. Whenever this woman gave her something to do, she worked at it tirelessly, and did everything she could to finish it. Even so, the girl could not touch the heart of the wicked woman, who was never satisfied. Nothing was ever enough for her. The harder the girl worked, the more work she was given, and the only thing her stepmother thought about was how to make her life even more miserable.
One day her stepmother said to her, “Here are twelve pounds of feathers which you must pick. If they are not done by this evening, you can expect a good beating.” The poor girl sat down to work, but tears ran down her cheeks as she did so, because she knew that it was quite impossible to finish the work in one day. Whenever she had a little heap of feathers lying before her, she sighed and they flew away, and she had to begin her work again. Then she put her elbows on the table, laid her face in her two hands, and cried, “Does no one on God’s earth have pity on me?”
Then she heard a low voice which said, “Be comforted, my child, I have come to help you.” The girl looked up, and an old woman was by her side. She took the girl kindly by the hand, and said, “Tell me what is troubling you.” As she spoke so kindly, the girl told her of her miserable life, and how she never could get to the end of the work which was given to her. “If I have not done these feathers by this evening, my stepmother will beat me. She has threatened me, and I know she keeps her word.”
Her tears began to flow again, but the good old woman said, “Do not be afraid, my child. Rest a while, and in the meantime I will do your work.” The girl lay down on her bed, and soon fell asleep. The old woman seated herself at the table with the feathers, and started picking them. How quickly they flew off the quills! How quickly her hands moved! The twelve pounds were soon finished, and when the girl awoke, great snow-white heaps were lying, piled up, and everything in the room was neatly cleared away, but the old woman had vanished. The maiden thanked God, and sat still till evening came, when the stepmother came in and was amazed to see the work completed.
“Just look, you horrible creature,” she said, “what can be done when people are hardworking. Why couldn’t you do something else as well? You are sitting there with your hands crossed!”
When she left the room, she said to herself, “This creature is impressive. I must give her some work that is even harder.”
Next morning she called the girl, and said, “There is a spoon for you. Use it to empty out for me the great pond which is beside the garden. If it is not done by night, you know what will happen!”
The girl took the spoon, and saw that it was full of holes, but even if it had not been, she never could have emptied the pond with it. She got to work at once, knelt down by the water, into which her tears were falling, and began to empty it. But the good old woman appeared again, and when she learnt why the girl was crying, she said, “Cheer up, my child. Go into the bushes and lie down and sleep. I will soon do your work.”
As soon as the old woman was alone, she touched the pond, and a vapour rose high up from the water, and mingled itself with the clouds. Gradually the pond was emptied, and when the girl woke up at sunset, she saw nothing but the fish that were struggling in the mud. She went to her stepmother, and showed her that the work was done. “You should have finished it much earlier,” she said and she grew white with anger.
On the third morning she said to the girl, “You must build me a castle in the valley over there, and it must be ready by the evening.”
The girl was shocked, and said, “How can I complete such a great work?”
“I will not listen to any opposition,” screamed the stepmother. “If you can empty a pond with a spoon that is full of holes, you can build a castle, too. I will move in to it later today, and if any little thing is missing, even a small thing in the kitchen or cellar, you know what will happen to you!”
She sent the girl out, and when she entered the valley, she saw many rocks, piled up one above the other. With all her strength she would not have been able to move even the very smallest of them. She sat down and wept, and still she hoped the old woman would help her. The old woman was not long in coming. She comforted her and said, “Lie down there in the shade and sleep, and I will soon build the castle for you. If you like, you can live there yourself.”
When the girl had gone away, the old woman touched the gray rocks. They began to rise, and immediately moved together as if giants were building walls. The castle rose up, and it seemed as if countless hands were working invisibly, and placing one stone upon another. The tiles laid themselves in order on the roof, and when noon came, a flag was already flying from the tallest tower. The inside of the castle was being finished while evening was drawing near. How the old woman managed it, I do not know, but silk and velvet was hanging from the walls, and there were embroidered armchairs, marble tables and soft carpets. Crystal chandeliers hung down from the ceilings, green parrots sang in golden cages and there was so much magnificence that it looked as if it were the castle of a king.
The sun was just setting when the girl awoke, and the brightness of a thousand lights flashed in her face. She hurried to the castle, and entered by the open door. There was red carpet spread on the steps and gold and silver everywhere. When she saw how beautiful it was she stood as if turned to stone. She would have stayed standing there for hours if she had not remembered her stepmother.
“If only she could be satisfied at last, and would give up making my life a misery,” she said to herself. The girl went and told her that the castle was ready.
“I will move into it at once,” said her stepmother, and rose from her seat. When they entered the castle, she was forced to hold her hand before her eyes, because everything was so dazzling.
“You see,” said she to the girl, “how easy it has been for you to do this. I ought to have given you something harder.” She went through all the rooms, and examined every corner to see if anything was missing or defective, but she could discover nothing.
“Now we will go down below,” she said, looking at the girl with malicious eyes. “I still have to examine the kitchen and the cellar, and if you have forgotten anything you will not escape punishment.” But the fire was burning on the hearth, and the meat was cooking in the pans, the shovel was leaning against the wall, and the shining utensils were all arranged carefully. Nothing was missing, not even a bucket of water.
“Which is the way to the cellar?” she cried. “If that is not perfect, things will be bad for you.” She herself lifted up the trap-door and descended, but she had hardly made two steps before the heavy trap-door fell down on her. The girl heard a scream, lifted up the door very quickly to go to her aid, but her stepmother had fallen down, and the girl found her lying lifeless at the bottom.
And now the magnificent castle belonged to the girl alone. She at first did not know how to accept her good fortune. Beautiful dresses were hanging in the wardrobes, the chests were filled with gold or silver, or with pearls and jewels, and she never felt a desire that she was not able to gratify. And soon the fame of the beauty and riches of the girl travelled over all the world. Suitors presented themselves daily, but none pleased her. Finally the son of the King came and he knew how to touch her heart, and she agreed to get engaged to him. One day they were sitting together in the castle garden under a lime tree, when he said to her, “I will go home and obtain my father’s consent to our marriage. Please wait for me here under this lime tree, I will be back in a few hours.” The girl kissed him on his left cheek, and said, “Stay true to me, and never let anyone else kiss you on this cheek. I will wait here under the lime tree until you return.”
She stayed beneath the lime tree until sunset, but he did not return. She sat for three days from morning till evening, waiting for him, but in vain. As he still was not there by the fourth day, she said, “He must have had some accident. I will go out and search for him, and will not come back until I have found him.” She packed up three of her most beautiful dresses, one embroidered with bright stars, the second with silver moons, the third with golden suns, tied up a handful of jewels in her handkerchief, and set out. She inquired everywhere for her beloved, but no one had seen him. In fact no one knew anything about him. Far and wide she wandered through the world, but she could not find him. Finally she found work from a farmer as a cowherd, and buried her dresses and jewels beneath a stone.
And now she lived as a herdswoman, guarded her herd, and was very sad and full of longing for her beloved. She had a little calf that she took special care of, and fed it out of her own hand. When she said to herself some poeticl words, the little calf knelt down, and she stroked it.
“Little calf, little calf, kneel by my side,
And do not forget your shepherd-maid,
Like the prince forgot his future bride,
Who waited for him in the lime tree’s shade.”
After she had lived for a couple of years alone and full of sorrow, a report was spread over all the land that the King’s daughter was about to celebrate her marriage.
The road to the town passed through the village where the girl was living. One day, when the girl was walking with her herd, her bridegroom travelled by. He was sitting proudly on his horse, and never looked round, but when she saw him she recognized her beloved, and it was just as if a sharp knife had pierced her heart.
“Oh, I believed him true to me, but he has forgotten me” she said to herself.
Next day he again came along the road. When he was near her she said to the little calf,
“Little calf, little calf, kneel by my side,
And do not forget your shepherd-maid,
Like the prince forgot his future bride,
Who waited for him in the lime-tree’s shade.”
When the prince heard this voice, he looked down and stopped his horse. He looked into the girl’s face, and then put his hands before his eyes as if he were trying to remember something, but he soon rode onwards and was out of sight. “Oh, he no longer knows me,” she said and her sorrow was ever greater.
Soon after this a great three-day festival to was to be held at the King’s court, and the whole country was invited to it. “Now is my last chance,” thought the girl, and when evening came she went to the stone under which she had buried her treasures. She took out the dress with the golden suns, put it on, and also decorated herself with the jewels. She let down her hair, which she had tied up under a handkerchief, and it fell down in long curls about her. Looking beautiful, she walked into the town, and in the darkness was observed by no one. When she entered the brightly-lit hall, everyone moved back in amazement, but no one knew who she was. The Prince went to meet her, but he did not recognize her. He led her out to dance, and was so enchanted with her beauty, that he thought no more of the other bride. When the feast was over, she vanished in the crowd, and hurried back to the village before sunrise, where she once more put on her cowherd’s dress.
Next evening she took out the dress with the silver moons, and put a half-moon made of precious stones in her hair. When she appeared at the festival, all eyes were turned upon her, but the Prince hurried to meet her, and filled with love for her, danced with her alone, and no longer so much as glanced at anyone else. Before she went away he made her promise him to come again to the festival on the last evening.
When she appeared for the third time, she wore the star-dress which sparkled at every step she took, and her hair-ribbon and belt were starred with jewels. The prince had already been waiting for her for a long time, and forced his way up to her.
“Do tell who you are,” he said. “I feel just as if I had already known you a long time.”
“Don’t you know what I did when you left me?”
Then she stepped up to him, and kissed him on his left cheek, and in a moment it was as if scales fell from his eyes, and he recognized the true bride.
“Come,” he said to her, “I do not want to stay here any longer.” He gave her his hand, and led her down to the carriage. The horses hurried away to the magic castle as if the wind had been harnessed to the carriage. The castle windows already shone brightly in the distance. When they drove past the lime-tree, many glow-worms were flying around it. It shook its branches, sending out a beautiful fragrance. On the steps flowers were blooming, and the room echoed with the song of strange birds. In the hall the entire court was assembled, and the priest was waiting to marry the bridegroom to the true bride.
Maid Maleen[edit | edit source]
Once upon a time there was a king whose son proposed marriage to a beautiful princess. Her name was Maid Maleen, and she was very beautiful. The girl’s father wanted to give her to another man, however, so the prince was rejected. However, the prince and princess both loved each other with all their hearts and they would not give each other up. Maid Maleen said to her father, “I can and will take no one else for my husband.” Then the King flew into a rage, and ordered a dark tower to be built, into which no ray of sunlight or moonlight should enter. When it was finished, he said, “You will be kept prisoner in this tower for seven years, and then I will come and see if you have changed your mind.” Enough food and water to last seven years was carried into the tower, then Maid Maleen and her servant were led into it and the last stones were put into the wall to finish it. They were cut off from the sky and from the earth. There they sat in the darkness, and they didn’t know when it was night and when it was day. The prince who was the sweetheart of Maid Maleen often went round and round the tower, and called their names, but no sound could enter the thick walls. What else could they do but weep and complain?
Meanwhile the time passed, and because they had almost no food left, they knew that the seven years were coming to an end. They thought that they would soon be released, but they never heard the sound of a hammer and no stone fell out of the wall. It seemed to Maid Maleen that her father had forgotten her. As they only had food for a short time longer, they saw a miserable death awaiting them. Maid Maleen said, “We have one last chance. We must see if we can break through the wall.” She took the bread-knife, and picked at the stone wall. When she was tired, the servant took her turn. They tried and tried and finally they succeeded in getting out one stone, and then a second, and a third, and after three days the first ray of light fell on their darkness, and at last the opening was so large that they could look out. The sky was blue, and a fresh breeze blew on their faces. When they saw the land around them, however, they had a terrible shock. Her father’s castle lay in ruins, the town and the villages were all destroyed by fire, the fields far and wide were damaged, and they couldn’t see any human beings at all. When the opening in the wall was large enough for them to slip through, the servant jumped down first, and then Maid Maleen followed. But where could they go? The enemy had destroyed the kingdom and killed the people who lived there and the King had disappeared.
Maid Maleen and her servant wandered around, looking to find another country to live in. They couldn’t find a roof for their heads and nobody gave them any bread so they became so hungry. They became so hungry that they were forced to eat nettles. They tried to find work but nobody gave them a chance. Finally they arrived at a large city and went to the royal palace. There also they were ordered to go away, but finally the cook said that they could stay in the kitchen and be servants.
The son of the King in whose kingdom they were, was, however, the very man who had been engaged to Maid Maleen. His father had chosen another bride for him, whose face was as ugly as her heart was wicked. The wedding was fixed, and the future bride had already arrived. Because she was so ugly, however, she shut herself in her room, and allowed no one to see her, and Maid Maleen had to take her her meals from the kitchen. When the day of the wedding came, she was ashamed of her ugliness, and afraid that if she showed her face on the way to the church, she would be mocked and laughed at by the people. Then said she to Maid Maleen, “You are very lucky. I have sprained my foot, and cannot walk through the streets. Put on my wedding clothes and you can take my place. You will never have a bigger honor!”
Maid Maleen, however, refused it, and said, “I wish for no honour which is not suitable for me.” The bride offered her gold but Maid Maleen refused that, too. Finally, the bride became angry and said, “If you do not obey me, you will die. If I say the word, they will cut your head off!” So Maid Maleen was forced to obey and put on the bride’s magnificent wedding dress and all her jewels.
When she entered the royal hall, every one was amazed at her great beauty, and the King said to his son, “This is the bride that I have chosen for you, and who you must lead to church.” The bridegroom was astonished, and thought, “She looks like my Maid Maleen! I would believe that it was really her, if she were not imprisoned in the tower, or dead.” He took her by the hand and led her to church. On the way she saw a nettle-plant, and she said,
I remember the time
When I ate you.”
“What are you saying?” asked the prince.
“Nothing,” she replied, “I was only thinking of Maid Maleen.”
He was surprised that she knew about her, but kept silent. When they came to the foot-bridge into the churchyard, she said,
“Foot-bridge, do not break,
I am not the true bride.”
“What are you saying there?” asked the prince.
“Nothing,” she replied, “I was only thinking of Maid Maleen.”
“Do you know Maid Maleen?”
“No,” she answered, “how could I know her? I have only heard of her.”
When they arrived at the church-door, she said once more,
“Church-door, do not break,
I am not the true bride.”
“What are you saying?” he asked.
“Ah,” she answered, “I was only thinking of Maid Maleen.”
Then he took out a precious chain, put it round her neck, and fastened it. Then they entered the church, and the priest joined their hands together and married them. He led her home, but she did not speak a single word the whole way. When they got back to the royal palace, she hurried into the bride’s chamber, took off the magnificent clothes and the jewels, dressed herself in her gray servant’s clothes, and kept nothing except the jewel on her neck, which she had received from the bridegroom.
That evening, when the bride was led into the prince’s room, she let her veil fall over her face, so that he would not notice her deception. As soon as every one had gone away, he said to her, “What did you say to the nettle-plant which was growing by the road?”
“To which nettle-plant?” she asked. “I don’t talk to nettle-plants.”
“If you didn’t do it, then you are not the true bride,” he said.
She thought to herself and said “I must ask my servant, who remembers all my thoughts.”
She went out and found Maid Maleen. “Girl, what did you say to the nettle?”
“I only said,
I remember the time
When I ate you.”
The bride ran back into the chamber, and said, “I now know what I said to the nettle,” and she repeated the words which she had just heard.
“But what did you say to the foot-bridge when we went over it?” asked the prince.
“To the foot-bridge?” she answered. “I don’t talk to foot-bridges.”
“Then you are not the true bride.”
She again said, “I must ask my servant, who remembers all my thoughts.” Then she ran out and found Maid Maleen, “Girl, what did you say to the foot-bridge?”
“I only said,
Foot-bridge, do not break,
I am not the true bride.”
“That will cost you your life!” cried the bride, but she hurried back into the room, and said, “I know now what I said to the foot-bridge,” and she repeated the words.
“But what did you say to the church-door?”
“To the church-door?” she replied; “I don’t talk to church-doors.”
“Then you are not the true bride.”
She went out and found Maid Maleen, and said, “Girl, what did you say to the church-door?”
“I only said,
Church-door, do not break,
I am not the true bride.”
“That will break your neck!” cried the bride, and she flew into a rage, but she hurried back into the room, and said, “I know now what I said to the church-door,” and she repeated the words.
“But where is the jewel which I gave you at the church-door?”
“What jewel?” she answered. “You did not give me any jewel.”
“I put it round your neck, and I fastened it myself. If you don’t know that, you are not the true bride.” He drew the veil from her face, and when he saw her ugliness, he jumped back terrified, and said, “How did you come here? Who are you?”
“I am your engaged bride, but because I feared the people would mock me when they saw me, I commanded a servant to dress herself in my clothes, and to go to church instead of me.”
“Where is the girl?” he said. “I want to see her, go and bring her here.”
She went out and told the servants that the kitchen servant was an impostor, and that they must take her out into the courtyard and cut off her head. The servants got hold of Maid Maleen and wanted to drag her out, but she screamed so loudly for help, that the prince heard her voice, hurried out of his chamber and ordered them to set the girl free instantly. Lights were brought, and then he saw on her neck the gold chain that he had given her at the church-door.
“You are the true bride,” he said. “You went with me to the church. Come with me now to my room.”
When they were both alone, he said, “On the way to church you spoke the name Maid Maleen, who I was my engaged to. If I could believe it possible, I would think that she was standing before me because you are like her in every way.”
She answered, “I am Maid Maleen, who because of you was imprisoned for seven years in the darkness, who suffered hunger and thirst, and has lived so long in poverty. Today, however, the sun is shining on me once more. I was married to you in the church, and I am your lawful wife.”
Then they kissed each other, and were happy all the days of their lives. The false bride was rewarded for what she had done by having her head cut off.
The Spirit in the Bottle[edit | edit source]
Once upon a time there was a poor woodcutter who worked every day from early morning till late at night. When at last he had saved some money he said to his little boy, “You are my only child, I will spend the money which I have earned on your education. If you find a good job you can support me in my old age, when my legs are weak and I cannot leave the house.”
Then the boy went to a High School and studied so hard that his teachers praised him, and he remained there a long time. When he had studied for two years, the money that his father had earned ran out, so the boy had to return home.
“I’m sorry, son,” said the father, sorrowfully, “I can give you no more. I can only buy bread with the money that I make. Times are hard.”
“Dear father,” answered the son, “don’t worry about it. It is God’s will. I will find a way somehow.”
When the father wanted to go into the forest to earn money by chopping wood, the son said, “I will go with you and help you.”
“No, my son,” said the father, “that would be hard for you. You are not accustomed to rough work. Besides, I have only one axe and no money to buy another.”
“Just go to the neighbour,” answered the son, “he will lend you his axe until I have made enough money to buy one for myself.”
The father then borrowed an axe from the neighbour, and next morning at sunrise they went out into the forest together. The son helped his father and was quite cheerful. But when the sun was right over their heads, the father said, “Let’s take a rest, and have our dinner, and then we can work hard again this afternoon.”
The son took his bread in his hands, and said, “Just you rest, father, I am not tired; I will walk up and down a little in the forest, and look for birds’ nests.”
“Oh, you fool,” said the father, “don’t waste your energy! Afterwards you will be tired, so stay here, and sit down beside me.”
The son, however, went into the forest, ate his bread, and peered in among the green branches to see if he could discover a bird’s nest anywhere. So he went here and there to see if he could find a bird’s nest until at last he came to a big oak, which was already many hundred years old. He stood still and looked at it, and thought, “There must be many birds nests in this tree.”
Then all at once it seemed to him that he heard a voice. He listened and became aware that someone was crying in a very smothered voice, “Let me out, let me out!” He looked around, but could discover nothing. Nevertheless, he was sure that the voice came out of the ground. Then he shouted, “Where are you?”
The voice answered, “I am down here amongst the roots of the oak-tree. Let me out! Let me out!” The boy began to search among the roots under the tree, until at last he found a glass bottle in a little hollow. He lifted it up and held it against the light, and inside it he saw a creature shaped like a frog, jumping up and down.
“Let me out! Let me out!” it cried again, and because the boy thought that it would cause no harm, he pulled the cork out of the bottle. Immediately a spirit rose from it, and began to grow, and grew so fast that in a very few moments he stood before the boy. What a terrible sight he was! He was half as big as the tree by which he was standing.
“Do you know,” shouted the spirit in an awful voice, “what will happen to you for letting me out?”
“No,” replied the boy fearlessly, “how could I know that?”
“Then I will tell you,” cried the spirit; “I must strangle you for it.”
“You should have told me that sooner,” said the boy, “or I wouldn’t have let you out. I think you should ask more people about that.”
“It makes no difference,” said the spirit. “You must get what you deserve. Why do you think that I was shut up in the bottle for such a long time? It was a punishment for me. I am the mighty Mercurius. I must strangle whoever releases me.”
“Not so fast,” answered the boy. “ I must first know that you really were shut up in that little bottle, and that you are the right spirit. If, indeed, you can get in again, I will believe you and then you may do as you want with me.”
“That is a simple thing to do,” said the spirit arrogantly, and he made himself as small and slim as he had been at first, so that he crept right through the neck of the bottle again. Just as he got inside, the boy quickly put the cork back into the bottle and threw it among the roots of the oak back where it had been before, and the spirit was betrayed.
The boy was just about to return to his father, but the spirit cried out very piteously, “Ah, please let me out! Please let me out!”
“No,” answered the boy, “not a second time! I won’t set free anyone who tried to take my life.”
“If you set me free,” said the spirit, “I will give you so much that you will be rich for the rest of your life.”
“No,” answered the boy, “you would cheat me like you did the first time.”
“You are throwing away your own good luck,” said the spirit. “I will do you no harm and will reward you richly.”
“Perhaps I should try it,” thought the boy. “He might keep his word, and anyway, I am cleverer than him.”
Then he took out the cork, and the spirit rose up from the bottle as he had done before, stretched himself out and became as big as a giant.
“Now you shall have your reward,” he said, and handed the boy a little bag just like a plaster. “If you spread one end of this over a wound it will heal, and if you rub steel or iron with it, it will change into silver.”
“I must just try that,” said the boy, and went to a tree, tore off the bark with his axe, and rubbed it with one end of the plaster. It immediately closed together and was healed.
“Now, it is all right,” he said to the spirit, “and we can part.”
The spirit thanked him for his release, and the boy thanked the spirit for his present, and went back to his father.
“Where have you been?” said the father. “How could you forget your work? I told you that you wouldn’t find anything.”
“Don’t worry, father. I will make it up to you.”
“Make it up to me indeed,” said the father angrily, “It’s easy to say that.”
“Look, father, I will soon chop that tree there, so that it will split.”
Then he took his plaster, rubbed the axe with it, and hit the tree hard with it. However, as the iron had changed into silver, the edge bent.
“Father, just look what a bad axe you’ve given me. It has become crooked.”
The father was shocked and said, “Oh, what have you done? Now I will have to pay for that and I don’t have enough money.”
“Don’t get angry,” said the son, “I will soon pay for the axe.”
“You fool,” shouted the father, “how can you pay for it? The only money you have is what I give you. You are a student. You have no idea about wood-cutting.”
After a while the boy said, “Father, I can really work no more, we had better take a rest.”
“What?!” he answered. “Do you think I can take a rest? I have to continue working. Go off home, then.”
“Father, I am here in this wood for the first time, so I don’t know the way. Please go with me.”
As he had calmed down, the father finally agreed to go home with him. Then he said to the son, “Go and sell the damaged axe, and see what you can get for it. I must earn the difference, in order to pay the neighbour.”
The son took the axe, and carried it into town to a goldsmith, who tested it, laid it in the scales, and said, “It is worth four hundred thalers, but I don’t have that much money here.”
The boy said, “Give me what you can, and I will lend you the rest.”
The goldsmith gave him three hundred thalers, and remained a hundred in his debt. The son then went home and said, “Father, I have got the money, go and ask the neighbour what he wants for the axe.”
“I know that already,” answered the old man, “two thalers.” “Then give him four. That is double and that is enough. You see, I have plenty of money,” and he gave the father a hundred thalers, and said, “You will never be poor again. Live as comfortably as you like.”
“Good heavens!” said the father, “How did you find these riches?”
The boy then told his father everything that had happened and how he had trusted his luck and found riches. But with the money that was left, he went back to the High School and went on learning more, and as he could heal all wounds with his plaster, he became the most famous doctor in the whole world.
Sweetheart Roland[edit | edit source]
Once upon a time there was a witch who lived with two daughters. One was ugly and wicked, and the witch loved her because she was her own daughter. The other one was beautiful and good, and the witch hated her, because she was her stepdaughter. The stepdaughter had a beautiful apron, and her sister was extremely jealous of it. She wanted it so much and she told her mother that she just had to have that apron.
“Be patient, my child,” said the old woman, “and you shall have it. I have hated your stepsister for a long time and she deserves to die. Tonight, when she is asleep, I will come and chop off her head. Make sure you lie down at the far side of the bed. Push your stepsister to the front of the bed.”
Fortunately, the poor girl was standing in the corner and overheard everything. If she hadn’t, that would have been the end of her. She pretended that she hadn’t heard and continued doing the housework. She was not allowed to go outside all day long, and at bedtime her wicked stepsister got into bed first, so she would be lying next to the wall. However, after the witch’s daughter fell asleep, the stepdaughter gently pushed her to the front of the bed, and she took her place back against the wall.
In the night the old woman crept into the bedroom holding an axe in her right hand. It was completely dark. She used her left hand to feel for anyone lying at the front of the bed. Then she held the axe with both hands and chopped off her own child’s head.
After the witch had left the room, the girl got up and went to her sweetheart, whose name was Roland, and knocked at his door. When he came out, she said to him, “Listen, dearest Roland, we must flee at once. My stepmother tried to kill me, but she killed her own child instead. When daylight comes, and she sees what she has done, she’ll try to kill us.”
“You had better take her magic wand,” said Roland, “or we will not be able to escape if she comes after us.”
The girl went back home and got the magic wand, then she picked up the dead girl’s head and dropped three drops of blood onto the floor, one in front of the bed, one in the kitchen, and one on the steps. Then she hurried away with Roland.
The next morning when the old witch got up, she called her daughter. “Now, you can wear that pretty apron!” she said. But the daughter did not come. So this time she shouted, “Where are you?”
“Here on the steps. I’m sweeping,” answered the first drop of blood.
The old woman went out, but seeing no one on the steps, she shouted again, “Where are you?”
“Here in the kitchen. I’m warming myself,” shouted the second drop of blood.
She went into the kitchen, but found no one. So she shouted again, “Where are you?”
“Here in the bed. I’m sleeping,” shouted the third drop of blood.
She went into the bedroom and approached the bed. She lifted up the sheet and what did she see there? Her own child swimming in blood with her head cut off.
The witch flew into a rage. Because she was a witch, she could see far into the world, so she jumped to the window and looked out. She saw her stepdaughter hurrying away with her sweetheart Roland. “You won’t get away”, she shouted. “Even if you’ve already gone a long way, you won’t escape from me.”
She put on her magic boots, and chased after them. It was not long before she overtook them. However, when the girl saw the old woman hurrying toward them, she used the magic wand to cast a spell. She transformed her sweetheart Roland into a lake, and herself into a duck swimming in the middle of the lake.
The witch stood on the shore and threw in pieces of bread, trying with great effort to lure the duck to her. But the duck did not give in, and the old woman had to return home that night without success. Afterward the girl and her sweetheart Roland returned to their natural shapes, and they walked on through the whole night until sunrise. Then the girl transformed herself into a beautiful flower in the middle of a rose hedge, and her sweetheart Roland into a fiddler.
Soon the witch approached them. She said to the musician, “Dear musician, may I pick that beautiful flower for myself?”
“Oh, yes,” he replied. “And I will play for you while you’re doing it.”
The witch knew that the flower was her stepdaughter. She quickly crawled into the hedge and was just about to pick it, when the fiddler began to play. He played magic dance music, which forced the witch to dance, whether she wanted to or not. The faster he played, the more violently she was forced to jump. The thorns tore the clothes off her body, pricking her until she bled, and as he did not stop, she had to dance until she fell down dead.
The girl and Roland were now free, so Roland said, “Now I will go to my father and arrange our wedding.”
“I’ll stay here and wait for you,” said the girl. “And I’ll transform myself into a red stone, so that no one will recognize me.”
So Roland started his journey, and the girl turned into a red stone by the side of the road, and waited for her sweetheart. But when Roland arrived home, the witch’s sister appeared. She was angry because she knew he had killed her sister. She cast a spell on him and he forgot all about the girl. Instead, he fell in love with another girl in the village. His poor sweetheart waited there a long time, but finally, when he failed to return, she became so sad and sorrowful. She thought, “I cannot live in this world as a woman, so I will live here as a flower”, and she transformed herself into a rose.
A little while later, a shepherd who was herding his sheep in the field saw the flower. As it was so beautiful, he picked it, took it home with him, and put it away in his chest. From then on, strange things happened in the shepherd’s house. When he got up in the morning, all the work was already done. The room was swept, the table and benches were cleaned, the fire was lit, and water had been brought from the well. In the late afternoon, when he came home, the table was already set, and a good dinner served. He didn’t know how this happened, because he never saw anyone in his house, and there was nowhere for anybody to hide in it.
Of course, the shepherd was pleased with this good service, but he was also afraid so he decided to visit a wise woman and ask for her advice.
The wise woman said, “There is magic behind it. Look around carefully early in the morning and if anything moves, throw a white cloth over it. If you do that, the magic will stop.”
The shepherd did what she told him to do, and the next morning at dawn, he saw the chest open and the flower come out. He quickly jumped towards it and threw a white cloth over it. Instantly the flower changed shape and a beautiful girl stood before him. She admitted to him that she had been the flower, and that she had been doing his housework. She told him her story. He liked her and asked her to marry him, but she answered, “No,” because she wanted to remain faithful to her sweetheart Roland, even though he had abandoned her. Nevertheless, she promised not to go away, and to continue keeping house for the shepherd.
It was announced that Roland was going to marry the other girl. According to an old custom in that country, every local girl had to attend the wedding and sing a song for the bride and groom. When the faithful girl heard this, she grew so sad that she thought her heart would break, and she did not want to go. But the other girls came and took her. When it was her turn to sing, she refused, and the girl next to her sang. Finally, she was the only one left, and she could not refuse any longer. But when she began her song, and it reached Roland’s ears, he jumped up and shouted, “I know that voice. That is the true bride. I do not want anyone else.” Everything he had forgotten, and which had vanished from his mind, had suddenly come home again to his heart.
And so the faithful girl was married to her sweetheart Roland. Her sorrow came to an end, and her joy began.
The Crystal Ball[edit | edit source]
Once upon a time there was a witch who gave birth to three sons, whom she loved very much. While the children were young, they were a happy family. However, as the children grew up, their mother began to distrust and fear them. Her heart became cold because she thought they wanted to steal her power from her, so she decided that she had to do something to stop them. She cast a spell and changed the eldest son into an eagle. He flew away and was often seen flying in big circles in the sky near the mountains. Next, she cast another spell and changed the middle son into a whale. He lived in the deep sea, and the only time he was seen was when he sometimes blew a jet of water into the air.
The third son saw what happened to his two elder brothers and became afraid that she would change him into a wild bear or a wolf, so he decided to sneak away from home. What was he to do? He had heard a story about a beautiful princess who had been bewitched and imprisoned in the Castle of the Golden Sun, and was waiting for someone to rescue her. Twenty-three young men had already risked their lives to try to free her, but all of them had died miserably and only one more man would have the chance to save her before she would be trapped forever. The young man was not afraid of anything and decided to search for the Castle of the Golden Sun. He wandered all across the land, looking for it, asking the local people if they knew where it was, but nobody could help him.
After travelling far, he one day entered by chance a great forest, and couldn’t find a way out. Then, he heard some voices faint voices. “It’s mine!” “No, it’s mine!” “No, it’s not. It’s mine!” On and on, he heard the same words being spoken. Walking towards the voices, he saw in the distance two giants, who beckoned him with their hands. When he came up to them they said, “We are quarrelling about a cap, and to which of us it belongs. Because we are equally strong, neither of us can beat the other. You small men are cleverer than we are, so we will leave the decision to you.”
“It’s just an old cap. Why are you arguing about that?” asked the young man.
“You don’t know what a special cap it is!” said one of the giants.
“It is a wishing cap,” said the other. “Whoever puts it on, can make a wish to go wherever he likes, and in an instant he will be there.”
“Give me the cap,” said the young man. “I will walk a short distance over there. When I call you, you must run a race, and the cap will belong to the one who gets to me first.” The simple giants agreed. The young man put the cap on and walked away. He thought of the beautiful princess, forgot the giants, and after a while he sighed from the very bottom of his heart. “Ah, if only I were at the Castle of the Golden Sun” he cried.
In an instant he was standing on a high mountain before the gate of the castle. He entered and went through all the rooms, but couldn’t find her. There was one more room to look inside, so he opened the door. There was the figure of a woman in the far corner, standing with her back turned towards him. “Princess….?” he asked.
The figure turned around.
How shocked he was when he saw her! Her face was grey and full of wrinkles and her hair was red and stuck out wildly from her head。
“Are you the King’s daughter, who is famous for her beauty?” he asked incredulously.
“Ah, this is not my true form” she answered sadly. “Human eyes can only see me in this ugly state. But if you look at my reflection in a mirror, you will see my true face. A mirror cannot be deceived.”
She gave him a mirror, which he held in his hand and looked at carefully. When he saw her refection, he was moved beyond words. In the mirror, he saw the image of the most beautiful girl on earth. He also saw that tears were running down her cheeks from grief.
“How can I set you free?” he asked. “I fear no danger.”
So she told him what to do.
“You need to get hold of the crystal ball and hold it in front of the wizard who cast a spell on me. If you do that, you will destroy his power and I will resume my true form.”
The she sighed. “So many have already died trying to free me, and you are so young….. It is so dangerous.”
“Nothing can stop me from doing it” he said. “Tell me what I must do.”
“Then I will tell you everything,” said the princess.
“First, leave the castle and go down the mountain. When you reach a spring, there will be a wild bull standing there, which you must kill. If you are lucky enough to kill it, a phoenix will spring out of it and fly away. Inside the phoenix’s body is a burning egg, and the crystal ball is inside the yolk of the burning egg. The bird will not let the egg fall unless you force it to, however. And if the egg falls on the ground, it will cause a fire and everything nearby will burn, including the crystal ball, and all your trouble will have been in vain.”
“I understand,” said the young man and he left the castle. He went down the slop and came to the spring, where he saw the bull. It made a horrible sound and steam came out of its nose. The young man drew his sword and they fought. After a long struggle he plunged his sword into the animal’s body, and it fell down dead. Instantly a fiery bird rose from it, and was about to fly away. The young man tried to catch it, …but he missed!
“Oh, no!” he cried.
The phoenix flew away, up into the clouds. Just then, however, another bird appeared. It was an eagle. It was the young man’s eldest brother! The eagle attacked the phoenix with its beak and pushed it away, so that it flew towards the sea. When the eagle hit the phoenix on its head with a heavy blow, the phoenix let the egg fall. The young man saw the burning egg fall towards the ground and ran towards it, trying to catch it. The egg dropped too far away, however, and landed on a fisherman’s hut, which stood near the shore. Instantly, the hut began to smoke and was about to burst into flames.
Just then, however, a huge wave came rushing towards the land, higher than a tall building. The other brother, the whale, was jumping out of the water and creating big waves! The waves covered the fisherman’s hut and extinguished the fire.
The young man rushed to the ruins of the hut and looked for the egg. He was overjoyed when he found it and saw that it had not yet melted. The shell had been broken by being so suddenly cooled with the water, so he put his fingers inside, and pulled the undamaged crystal ball out of the yolk.
He rushed back to the castle as fast as he could. In the great hall, he saw the wizard and he held out the crystal ball in front of him. The wizard was shocked but said, “My power is destroyed, and from now on you are the King of the Castle of the Golden Sun. As you are now king, you can give back to your brothers their human form.”
Then the young man rushed upstairs to find the princess. When he entered the room, he saw her figure in the far corner, with her back turned towards him. Slowly, she turned around. The young man gasped. In front of him was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. They both smiled and they joyfully exchanged rings, and lived together happily as husband and wife for the rest of their days.
The Four Skilled Brothers[edit | edit source]
Once upon a time there were four brothers. One day, their father said, “Sons, I am poor and I have nothing to give you. Go into the world and find your fortune. Learn a trade. Go and find an occupation.”
The four brothers accepted what their father told them. They said goodbye to him and walked together out of their town. When they had gone through the town gate, they came to a crossroads that split in four directions. The eldest brother said, “Here we must separate, but on this day in four years, we will meet each other again at this spot. In the meantime, we will seek our fortunes.” All the brothers made a made a promise to return in four years.
The eldest brother took the first road on the left. After walking for a while, he met an old man, who shouted to him, “Young man! Do you have an occupation?”
“No,” replied the brother. “I’m looking for one.”
“Come with me,” replied the old man. “I will teach you to be an excellent thief.”
“Being a thief is not an honourable occupation,” said the brother. “And if the police catch you, they will hang you by the neck until you are dead.”
“No. You don’t understand” said the old man. “I am an honourable thief. I steal from the rich and give to the poor – just like Robin Hood. If you take my training, the police will never be able to catch you. And you will be able to get your hands on things that other humans can never touch.”
The young man thought about it, but because he did not have a better plan, he followed the old thief. After training with him for four years, he became very skillful and the police never got close to him.
The second brother took the second road on the left. After walking for a while, he also met an old man at the side of the road.
“Young man, what do you want to learn in life?” asked the old man.
“Learn? Well, I don’t know… but I would like to learn something useful,” replied the second brother.
“Then come with me. I will teach you how to see things that other humans cannot see. I am an astronomer. I will teach you about the stars.”
The second brother liked what he heard, so he followed the old man. After four years of training, he became an excellent astronomer. Then, his master told him, “It’s time for you to become independent. I have taught you all I know. But take this gift before you leave,” and the old man gave him a beautiful telescope.
The third brother took the first road on the right. After walking for quite a long time, he also met an old man at the side of the road.
“You look hungry!” shouted the man.
“Yes, I’m starving,” replied the third brother.
“Come with me. Let’s hunt together!”
“Hunt? But I cannot shoot!” said the young man.
“I am an expert hunter. I can teach you how to shoot. After your training, whatever you aim at, you will hit.”
So, the young man followed him and learned how to be an excellent hunter. After four years, his master gave him the gift of a rifle.
The youngest brother took the second road on the right. After a while, he also met an old man standing at the side of the road.
“Young man! Your clothes are old and shabby.”
“These are the only clothes I have,” said the youngest brother.
“Would you like to be a tailor?” asked the old man.
“No, I wouldn’t,” replied the young man. “Tailors use a needle from morning until night. It’s hard work.”
“Being a tailor is a very honourable occupation,” said the old man. “You can make people look magnificent. You can change the way they look. The work is hard but worthwhile.”
Since the youngest brother did not have a better plan, he followed the old man and he became a very skillful tailor. After four years, his master told him, “It’s time for you to become independent.” Before he left, the tailor gave him a gift. “This is a gift for you. It is a very special needle. You can sew whatever you want with it.”
Exactly four years passed and the brothers met again at the crossroads. Then they walked to their father’s house, where their father was overjoyed to see them.
“Father, I had great adventures!” said the eldest brother.
“Father, I discovered my talents!” said the second.
“Father, I learned a good trade!” said the third.
“Father, I love my occupation!” said the last.
The father was very happy. “I’m so proud of you all,” he said. Then the family enjoyed a feast in their kitchen.
The next day, there was a lot of noise in the town. All the neighbours were talking about something, so the father went outside to find out what was going on. “There has been a tragedy!” said one of the neighbours. “The king’s daughter has been kidnapped – by a dragon! The king says whoever rescues the princess will marry her.”
The father rushed back to the house and said to the brothers, “My sons, this is your chance to become a prince! You are skilled! Go and kill the dragon!” The four brothers were excited and ran outside. “Let’s rescue the princess!” they all said. “Where is she?” they asked the people around them.
“Nobody knows where the dragon has taken her,” was the reply.
“How can we find the princess if we don’t know where she is?” they said.
“Wait! I have an idea!” said one of the brothers.
“I can find the princess!” said the second brother. He climbed the tallest tree in the town, then took out from his bag the beautiful telescope that his master had given him. Then he looked through the telescope.
“There she is!” he said. “She’s on a small island in the middle of the lake. And she is with the dragon…”
“We need a boat to get to the island,” said one of them. So, the four brothers went to the king’s palace and told him they knew where his daughter was. The king gladly gave them a boat and said to the brothers, “Please, please, please bring my daughter back safely!”
The brothers got on the king’s boat and sailed towards the island. When they got close, they could see the princess and the dragon. The dragon was asleep.
Then, three of the brothers looked at the other one and said to him, “You can really help us!”
“Quick! Shoot the dragon!” they all said. So the third brother picked up his rifle and aimed at the dragon’s head.
“Wait!” he said. “This is too dangerous. The princess is right behind the dragon’s head. If I shoot the dragon, the bullet might hit her, too. I cannot shoot.”
“I have an idea. I can help!” said one of the other brothers.
The eldest brother said, “If I can get on to the island, I can pick up the princess and steal her from the dragon while he is sleeping.” Then he jumped into the lake and swam to the island. Very carefully and very quietly, he walked towards the princess, picked her up, then carried her back to the boat, which was waiting at the beach.
Then the brothers started sailing the boat away from the island. They had rescued the princess! Hurrah! However, they soon heard a horrible cry. The dragon had woken up and noticed that the princess was not there. It was very angry. It roared and roared, then flew into the air and flapped its wings. It started chasing the boat and breathed fire into the air and then breathed fire at the boat.
“Now I can shoot it!” said the third brother. He picked up his rifle and aimed at the dragon’s head.
“Hurry!” said the others. Our boat is in flames! We are going to burn to death!”
The brother didn’t miss. The dragon fell into the lake like a stone. When the heavy dragon hit the water, there was a huge splash, which created a big wave. The wave crashed against the boat and extinguished the flames. The fire was out! The brothers were overjoyed, but then they noticed that the boat’s sail was full of holes.
“We’ll never get back to the king’s palace with a sail like that,” they said. “We are going to drown!”
“Wait! I have an idea!” said one of the brothers.
The youngest brother took out the special needle that his master had given him and started sewing up the holes in the sail. He worked quickly and skillfully and soon the sail was catching the wind. The sail was repaired and the brothers and the princess could sail back to the king’s palace. The king was so happy to be reunited with his daughter again.
“You four brothers were magnificent!” said one of the king. “Thank you very much indeed. As I promised, one of you can marry my daughter. But only one of you…”
“I should marry the princess!” said the astronomer. “If I hadn’t used my telescope, we would never have found her!”
“Wait!” said the thief. “If I hadn’t stolen the princess from the dragon, we would never have rescued her!”
“Wait!” said the hunter. “If I hadn’t shot the dragon, we would have burned to death!”
“Wait!” said the tailor. “If I hadn’t sewn the sail, we would have drowned in the lake!”
The brothers had spent four years away from home, learning a trade. They had learned a lot about the world. They had learned a lot about life. They looked at each other with loving eyes.
“This debate is stupid,” said the eldest. “We all contributed equally to rescuing the princess. So, none of us can marry the princess.” Then he spoke to the king. “Instead of marrying your daughter, we ask that you give each of us a palace.”
“Well, I have four palaces. Yes, I can do that,” was the reply.
The king gave them the palaces and a large fortune. The father and the four brothers lived together in wealth and happiness for the rest of their days.
Cinderella[edit | edit source]
Once upon a time, a rich man and his wife were the parents of a beautiful little daughter; but when she was still a little girl, her dear mother fell sick and died.
A while later, the little girl’s father married another lady. Now this lady was proud and arrogant, and had two grown-up daughters who were as horrible as herself. Then, tragedy struck again. The girl’s father got suddenly got sick. The girl rushed to see him, but it was already too late. Father was dead. The poor girl was devastated. She cried and cried. “Stop that ridiculous crying!” said the girl’s stepmother, who was called Eleanora. Father was a rich man, and Eleanora wanted his money. She had hated the girl for a long time.
The moment Father died, Elenora became openly cruel. She gave the girl the most troublesome housework and forced her to wash the dishes and clean the stairs.
“Please, Mother, I have so much to do…” said the girl.
“Don’t call me ‘Mother.’ You are not my daughter! You are my servant.”
Life without Father was terrible. The had become a servant and an orphan. Day after day, she sat in the corner next to the chimney and cried. She was covered in cinders from the fire, so her stepsisters gave her the name “Cinderella”. However, even in her shabby clothes Cinderella was ten times prettier than her stepsisters.
Eleonora’s daughters were called Nora and Dora. After the funeral, their mother told them that Cinderella was not a member of their family. The horrible girls enjoyed being unkind to her, often saying things like, “What an idiot!” and “She is just a stupid orphan!” Cinderella served them non-stop. One would say, “Cinderella, make tea!” And the other would say, “Cinderella, where is my dinner?”
One day, the king’s son sent invitations to a ball. All the great people of the land were invited, including the two sisters. This delighted them very much. Everyone guessed the prince wanted to get married. Dora happily exclaimed, “At the ball, I will dance with the prince!” But Nora replied, “That’s ridiculous! He will dance with me, because I am more beautiful.” Dora was jealous and hit back: “No, that’s ridiculous. The prince would never dance with you. Your dress is horrible.”
The argument continued and finally, Eleonora got so irritated that she ordered Cinderella to make two new beautiful dresses for Nora and Dora to wear at the ball.
Immediately, Cinderella got to work and in just two days, she made two gorgeous dresses. One of the dresses was green and embroidered with one hundred small roses. It was charming. The second dress was royal blue, with a multicoloured border, and it was just as beautiful.
Cinderella showed the two dresses to Eleonora, who saw that her stepdaughter had a special talent! But she was so cruel that she did not give Cinderella any compliment and just said, “Finally! Now go and make dinner!” Nervously, Cinderella asked, “Please, can I make another dress?” Eleonora was again irritated and angrily replied, “A dress? Why?” Cinderella said, “I want a dress so I can go to the royal ball.”
Eleonora imagined Cinderella at the ball. She was more beautiful than Dora and Nora, which made her jealous. Furiously, she cried, “You’re just a servant. Ha! Imagine a miserable orphan at the royal ball? Ridiculous!” Cinderella was devastated. She cried and cried.
At last the evening of the ball arrived, and the two proud sisters stepped into their carriage, and drove away to the palace. Cinderella watched the coach drive away, and then returned to the kitchen in tears. For the first time, she lamented her hard and cruel life. But she didn’t know that a kind fairy was watching over her. Cinderella continued crying in the chimney-corner until a knock at the door made her sit up and she went to the door. She saw a beautiful woman who said kindly: “Oh, dearee me! What are all these tears about, my child?”
And then Cinderella told her of all her troubles – how her sisters had gone to the ball, and how she would also like to have gone. “But you shall go to the ball!” exclaimed her visitor. “Dry up your tears, because I am your godmother and I can help you.”
The fairy took Cinderella by the hand, and said, “Now, my dear, go into the garden, and fetch me a pumpkin.” Cinderella brought her immediately the best she could find. Her godmother took the pumpkin and hollowed it out, leaving only the rind; she then hit it with her wand, and the pumpkin was immediately changed into a beautiful coach that was covered with gold. She next sent Cinderella to fetch the mouse-trap, which contained six mice that were still alive. She told Cinderella to raise the door of the trap, and as each mouse came out she hit it with her wand, and it was immediately changed into a beautiful horse; so that she had now six splendid white horses for her coach.
The fairy was unsure how to find a coachman, but Cinderella said, “I will go and see if there is a rat in the rat-trap; if there is, he will make a fine coachman.” Cinderella brought the rat-trap, in which there were three large rats. The fairy chose one, and, having touched it, it was changed into a coachman.
Then she touched Cinderella with her magic wand, and her clothes were instantly changed into the most magnificent ball-dress. The fairy now took from her pocket a beautiful pair of glass slippers, which she told Cinderella to put on. As she did so, the glass slippers stretched like elastic to fit her feet perfectly. Her dress and shoes were fit for a princess. Cinderella was so delighted! She said, “Thank you, ma’am! You are so generous!”
Then, the good fairy looked serious. She said, “Cinderella, go quickly. The magic does not last long. At twelve o’clock, the carriage will return to its original form. It will turn into a pumpkin. The horses and coachman and your dress will also change back. You must not stay at the ball after the clock has struck the hour of midnight. Cinderella said, “Yes, ma’am. Goodbye. Thank you very much!”
The Six Swans[edit | edit source]
A king was once hunting in a huge forest, and he chased the deer so fast on his horse that none of his servants could follow him. When the sun set and it became evening, he stood still and looked around, and he realized that he had become completely lost. He searched for a way out of the forest but couldn’t find one. Then he saw an old woman coming towards him. She had an ugly face and was shaking her head. He knew, for sure, that she was a witch.
‘Good woman,’ he said to her, ‘can you please show me the way out of the forest?’
‘Oh, certainly, Sir King,’ she replied, ‘I can easily do that, but on one condition. If you do not meet my demand, you will never get out of the forest, and you will die of hunger.’
‘What is the condition?’ asked the King.
‘I have a daughter,’ said the old woman, ‘who is the most beautiful girl in the world. She is very well suited to be your wife. If you make her Queen I will show you the way out of the forest.’
The King felt terrible at the idea of marrying a witch’s daughter, but he had no choice but to agree to the demand. The old woman led him to her little house where her daughter was sitting by the fire. She welcomed the King as if she were expecting him, and he saw that she was certainly very beautiful; but she did not please him, and he could not look at her without a secret feeling of horror. As soon as he had lifted the young woman on to his horse the old woman showed him the way, and the King reached his palace, where the wedding was celebrated.
The King had already been married once, and before his beloved wife died, she gave him seven children, six boys and one girl, who he loved more than anything in the world. Now, he was afraid that their stepmother might not treat them well and might hurt them, so he put them in a lonely castle that stood in the middle of a wood. It was so hidden, and the way to it was so hard to find, that even he could only find it by using a magic gift from a wise woman. The gift was a reel of thread which, when he threw it on the ground, it unwound itself and showed him the way. But the King went so often to see his dear children that the Queen was unhappy. ‘Why does he spend so much time away from me?’ she thought. She grew curious and wanted to know what he was doing alone in the wood. She gave his servants a lot of money, and they betrayed the secret to her: he was visiting his children in a lonely castle in the wood. They also told her about the reel of thread, the only thing that could show the way. The Queen immediately started searching for the reel of thread and after a few days of frantic activity, she found it. Then she made some little white shirts, and, as she had learnt from her witch-mother, she sewed an enchantment in each of them.
When the King left the palace to go hunting, she took the little shirts and went into the wood, and the reel showed her the way. The children, who saw someone coming in the distance, thought it was their dear father coming to them, and ran to meet him very joyfully. Then the Queen threw a little shirt over each one, and when it touched their bodies, it changed them into swans, and they flew away over the forest. The Queen went home quite satisfied and thought she had got rid of her stepchildren. However, the king’s daughter had not run out to meet her with her brothers, and the Queen knew nothing of her.
The next day the King went to visit his children, but he found no one but his daughter.
‘Where are your brothers?’ asked the King.
‘Alas! Dear father,’ she answered, ‘they have gone away and left me all alone.’ And she told him that through her little window she had seen her brothers flying over the wood in the shape of swans, and she showed him the feathers which they had let fall in the yard, and which she had collected. The King cried with sadness, but he did not think that the Queen had done the wicked deed. He was afraid that his daughter would also be taken from him, so he wanted to take her back to his palace with him. But the girl was afraid of her stepmother, and begged the King to let her stay just one night more in the castle in the wood. The poor girl thought, ‘My home is no longer here; I will go and look for my brothers.’ And when night came, she ran away into the forest. She ran all through the night and the next day, until she was too weary to go any further. Then she saw a little hut, went in, and found a room with six little beds. She was afraid to lie down on one, so she crept under one of them, lay on the hard floor, and was going to spend the night there. But when the sun had set, she heard a noise, and saw six swans flying in through the window. They stood on the floor and blew at one another, and blew all their feathers off, and their swan-skin came off like a shirt. Then the girl recognized her brothers, and she crept out from under the bed, overjoyed. Her brothers were equally delighted to see their little sister again, but their joy did not last long.
‘You cannot stay here,’ they said to her. ‘This is a hut of robbers; if they come here and find you, they will kill you.’
‘Can you not protect me?’ asked the little sister.
‘No,’ they answered, ‘because we can only take off our swan skins for a quarter of an hour every evening. For this time, we become humans again, but then we are changed back into swans.’
Then the little sister cried and said, ‘Can you not be freed from the enchantment?’
‘Oh, no,’ they said, ‘the conditions are too hard. You must not speak or laugh for six years, and in that time you must make six shirts for us out of star-flowers. If a single word comes out of your mouth, all your effort will be wasted.’ And when the brothers had said this the quarter of an hour came to an end, and they flew away out of the window as swans.
But the girl was determined to free her brothers, even if it cost her life. She left the hut, went into the forest, climbed a tree, and spent the night there. The next morning, she went out, collected star-flowers, and began to sew. She could speak to no one, and she had no wish to laugh, so she sat there, looking only at her work.
When she had lived there some time, it happened that the King of the country was hunting in the forest, and his hunters came to the tree on which the girl sat. They called to her and said, ‘Who are you?’
But she gave no answer.
‘Come down to us,’ they said, ‘we will do you no harm.’ But she shook her head silently. As they pressed her further with questions, she threw them the golden chain from her neck. But they did not give up, and she threw them her girdle, and when this was no use, her garters, and then her dress. The huntsmen would not leave her alone, but climbed the tree, lifted the girl down, and led her to the King. The King asked, ‘Who are you? What are you doing up that tree?’ But she answered nothing.
He asked her in all the languages he knew, but she remained as dumb as a fish. Because she was so beautiful, however, the King’s heart was touched, and he was seized with a great love for her. He wrapped her up in his cloak, placed her in front of him on his horse. and took her to his palace. There he had her dressed in rich clothes, and her beauty shone out as bright as the sun, but no one could draw a single word from her. He made her sit at his table by his side, and her modest ways and behaviour pleased him so much that he said, ‘This beautiful girl is the only girl in the world that I want to marry,’ and after some days he married her. But the King had a wicked mother who was displeased with the marriage and said nasty things about the young Queen.
‘Who knows who this girl is?’ she said; ‘she cannot speak, and is not good enough for my son.’
After a year, when the Queen had her first child, the old mother took it away from her. Then she went to the King and said that the Queen had killed it. The King would not believe it, and would not allow any harm to be done to his lovely wife. She just sat quietly sewing shirts and showing interest in nothing. The next time she had a child the wicked mother did the same thing, but the King could not make up his mind: should he believe what his mother said or trust his feelings for his beloved wife?
After some though, he said, ‘She is too sweet and good to hill her own baby. If she were not dumb and could defend herself, her innocence would be proved.’
But when the third child was taken away, and the Queen was again accused of killing it, and could not say a word in her own defence, the King had no choice but to hand her over to the law, and the judge announced that she must be burnt to death.
It so happened that the day when she was to be executed was the last day of the six years in which she must not speak or laugh. She knew that she had freed her dear brothers from the power of the enchantment. The six shirts were finished, except the left sleeve was missing on the last. When she was led to the stake, she laid the shirts on her arm, and as she stood on the pile of sticks and the fire was about to be lit, she looked around her and saw six swans flying through the air. Then she knew that she would be released and her heart danced for joy. The swans flew round her, and hovered low so that she could throw the shirts over them. When the shirts touched them the swan-skins fell off, and her brothers stood before her living, well and beautiful. Only the youngest had a swan’s wing instead of his left arm.
They embraced and kissed each other, and the Queen went to the King, who was standing by in great astonishment, and began to speak to him, saying, ‘Dearest husband, now I can speak and tell you openly that I am innocent and have been falsely accused.’ She told him of the old woman’s lie, and how she had taken their three children away and hidden them. Then they were brought to the King and Queen, and they were overjoyed to finally hold their beautiful children. In the Queen’s place, the King’s wicked mother was burned at the stake.
The King and the Queen with her six brothers lived for many years in happiness and peace.
Hansel and Gretel[edit | edit source]
Once upon a time, there was a woodcutter who lived close to a large forest with his second wife and his two children. They were always very poor and had very little to live on. One summer, there was famine in the land and the father could not find enough bread for his family.
One night he lay in bed worrying over his troubles and he sighed and said to his wife: “What is going to happen to us? How are we going to feed our children when he have nothing for ourselves?”
“I’ll tell you what,” answered the woman. “Tomorrow morning we will take the children into the thickest part of the forest. We will light a fire, give each of them a piece of bread; then we will go to our work and leave them alone. They won’t be able to find their way back home, so we won’t have to care for them any more.”
“No, we can’t do that!” said the man. “That would break my heart. And wild animals would soon kill them and eat them.”
“You are a fool! All four of us will die of hunger. We are all going to die!” said his wife.
She nagged him and nagged him again until he agreed. “But I feel sorry for the poor children all the same” said the man.
The two children could not go to sleep because they were hungry and they heard what their parents had said. Gretel started to cry. “That is the end of us!” she said.
“Be quiet, Gretel!” said Hansel. “Don’t cry. I will find some way out of this.”
When everyone had gone to sleep, he got up, put on his little coat, opened the door and went outside. The moon was shining brightly and the white pebbles around the house shone like new coins. Hansel picked up some pebbles and put as many as he could into his pockets.
Then he went back to Gretel and said, “Don’t worry sister, I have a plan.”
The next day, when the sun had risen, their stepmother came into their room and said, “Quick, get up, lazy children! Today we are going into the forest to fetch wood.” She gave each of them a small piece of bread and said, “This is for your dinner. Don’t eat it until then. We have nothing else.”
Hansel and Gretel walked along a path in the forest behind their father and stepmother. Sometimes, Hansel stopped and dropped a pebble onto the ground. When they reached the middle of the forest, their father said: “Now children, pick up some wood. I want to make a fire to warm you.” Hansel and Gretel gathered many sticks together and made a huge bundle. Their father lit the wood and when the fire was big, the stepmother said “Now lie by the fire and have a rest while we go to cut wood. When we have finished, we will come back to fetch you.”
Hansel and Gretel sat by the fire. When dinnertime came, they ate their little piece of bread. The thought their father was quite near because they heard the sound of an axe. It was no axe, however, but a branch that the man had tied to a dead tree, and which the wind blew against the tree, making a noise.
They sat there for such a long time that they became tired, their eyes started to close, and they were soon fast asleep.
When they woke it was dark night. Gretel started to cry. “How can we get out of the forest?” she said. But Hansel comforted her, and said: “Wait a little until the moon rises, then we will soon find our way!”
When the full moon rose, Hansel took his little sister’s hand, and they walked along the path, guided by the pebbles that glittered like coins. They walked the whole night, and at daybreak, they found themselves back at their father’s cottage.
They knocked at the door and the woman opened it and said: “You bad children. Why did you sleep so long in the forest? We thought you didn’t want to come home.”
But their father was delighted, because it broke his heart to leave them there.
A few days later, however, again there was no food for them to eat. At night, as they lay in bed, the woman said to their father: “We have eaten everything. The children must go away. We will take them further into the forest so that they cannot come back.”
The man was quiet and said: “We must share our last piece of bread with the children.”
But the woman would not listen to him. She nagged him and scolded him. Eventually the father gave in. He had to do the same thing a second time. The children were awake and heard everything.
When everyone had gone to sleep, Hansel put on his coat again and went to the door. He wanted to pick up more pebbles. But the woman had locked the door and he couldn’t open it. He told his little sister: “Don’t cry, Gretel. God will help us.”
In the early morning, the woman made the children get up, and gave them each a piece of bread, but it was smaller than last time. On the way into the forest, Hansel crumbled it in his pocket. Every few minutes, he stopped and dropped a crumb onto the ground.
The woman led the children far into the forest, to where the children had never been before. Again, they made a big fire, and the woman said: “Stay here, children. When you are tired, you can go to sleep for a while. We are going to cut wood, and we will come back for you in the evening.”
At dinnertime, Gretel shared her bread with Hansel. Then they went to sleep. The evening came, but nobody came to fetch them.
It was dark when they woke up. “Wait a little, Gretel” said Hansel. When the moon rises, we can see the breadcrumbs that I dropped on the ground. They will show the way to go home.”
When the moon rose, they looked around, but they could not see any breadcrumbs, because the birds in the forest had eaten them. Hansel said to Gretel: “We will soon find the way.”
But they could not find it. They walked all night, and they walked all the next day until night, but they could not get out of the forest.
They were very hungry, because they only ate a few berries that they found. They were so tired that their legs would not move any more, so they lay down under a tree and went to sleep.
When they woke in the morning, they started to walk again. It was now the third day since they left their father’s cottage. At midday they saw a beautiful snow-white bird sitting on a tree. It sang so beautifully that they stopped to listen to it. They followed it until it stood on the roof of a little cottage. When the children got near, they realized that the walls were made of bread, the roof was made of cake and the windows were made of transparent sugar.
“We can have a good meal!” said Hansel. He broke off a piece of the roof and tasted it. It was so delicious. Gretel went to the window and started to eat a piece. It was so good that she pushed out a whole pane of the window and sat down on the ground to enjoy it.
Suddenly the door opened and an old woman with a crutch came out. Hansel and Gretel were so frightened that they dropped what they were holding in their hands.
But the old woman smiled and said: “Ah, dear children. Who brought you here? Come in and stay with me.”
She took them by the hand and led them into the little house. She gave them a nice dinner of pancakes and sugar, milk, apples and nuts. After this she showed them two little white beds into which they crept, and they felt as if they were in heaven.
Although the old woman seemed to be friendly, she was really a wicked old witch. She had built the bread house to lure children to her. Whenever she found a child, she cooked it and ate it. It was a great feast for her.
She got up early in the morning, before the children were awake, and when she saw them sleeping, with their beautiful rosy cheeks, she said to herself: “They will taste really good!”
She picked up Hansel and carried him off to a little stable, where she locked him in. He shouted and shouted but she didn’t listen. Then she went to Gretel and shook her until she woke up. “Get up, lazy girl! Fetch some water and cook something for your brother. We have to fatten him. When he is nice and fat, I will eat him!”
Gretel started to cry but she had to obey the witch’s orders. The best food was now given to Hansel but Gretel only got shrimp shells.
Every morning the old woman hobbled to the stable and said: “Hansel, put your finger out for me. I want to feel how fat you are.”
Hansel put out a little bone and the old woman, whose eyes were very weak, thought that it was his finger. She was astonished that he wasn’t getting fat.
After four weeks passed, and Hansel was still thin, the old lady became very impatient and couldn’t wait any longer.
“Gretel, fetch the water” she said. Tomorrow, I am going to kill Hansel and eat him.
Gretel was so sad. As she fetched the water, tears rolled down her cheeks. It would have been better if we had died together in the forest, she thought.
Early the next morning, Gretel had to fill the kettle with water, then light a fire and hang the kettle over it.
“We will bake first,” said the old witch. I have heated the oven and kneaded the dough.” She wanted to eat Hansel with some fresh bread.
She pushed poor Gretel toward the oven and said: “Creep in and see if it is hot enough, and then we will put the bread in.”
Actually, she wanted to put Gretel in the oven first and roast her.
But Gretel wasn’t that stupid. She said: “I don’t know how to get in. What should I do?”
“You stupid thing” said the witch. The door is big enough. Even I can get in. Then the old woman went up to the oven and put her head in it. At that moment, Gretel gave the witch a push and sent her right into the oven. Then Gretel closed the door and locked it.
“Oh! Oh!” she started to howl horribly. But Gretel ran away and left the wicked witch to die.
Gretel ran as fast as she could to the stable. She opened the door and cried: “Hansel, we are saved. The old witch is dead.”
Hansel rushed out, like a bird out of a cage when the door is open. How delighted they were. They kissed each other and danced about for joy.
As they had nothing more to fear, they went into the witch’s house and they found chests in every corner full of pearls and precious stones.
“These are better than pebbles,” said Hansel, as he filled his pockets. “I must take something home, too,” said Gretel and she also filled her apron. “Now we must go and get out of this enchanted wood,” said Hansel.
Before they had gone very far, they reached a large lake.
“We can’t get across,” said Hansel. “I cannot see a bridge.”
“And there are no boats, either,” answered Gretel. “But there is a duck swimming. It will help us over if we ask it.”
“Little duck, that cries quack, quack, quack,
Quickly, take us on your back.”
The duck came swimming towards them, and Hansel got on its back and told his sister to sit on his knee.
“No,” answered Gretel, “we will be too heavy for the duck. It must take us one after the other.”
The kind duck did this, and when they both got safely to the other side and started walking through the forest again, the wood seemed to grow more and more familiar. At last, they saw their father’s cottage in the distance. They began to run, and rushed inside, where they threw their arms around their father’s neck. The man had been overcome with sadness since he left his children in the forest.
“Your stepmother has died,” said their father.
Gretel shook her apron and scattered pearls and precious stones all over the floor, and Hansel added handful after handful from his pockets.
So, all their troubles came to an end, and they lived together as happily as possible.
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The Snake Prince[edit | edit source]
Once upon a time there was a woman who was desperately poor. She lived by herself in the city and she was so lonely and tired and hungry that she didn’t see the point of living any more. One day, she went down to the river to take a bath and she carried a tall metal pot to fetch some water for drinking, although she had no food to eat with it.
Whilst she was bathing, she left her little pot on the riverbank covered with a cloth, to keep the inside nice and clean. When she came up out of the river and took the cloth off to fill the pot with water, however, she had a terrible shock. Inside the pot there was a dangerous snake. Its skin looked like a rainbow in the morning light. Immediately she put the cloth back in the top of the pot and said to herself, “I will take this snake back to my house and shake it out of the pot. Then it will bite me and I will die and all my troubles will end.”
With these sad thoughts in her mind, the poor woman hurried home, holding her cloth carefully in the mouth of the pot. When she got home, she shut all the doors and windows, took away the cloth, and turned the pot upside down. To her amazement, however, what fell out was not a snake, but a beautiful necklace of sparkling jewels.
For a few minutes she could not think or speak. She just looked at it without moving. Then she picked the necklace up and hurried to the king’s palace. She asked to speak to him and after a long wait, she took the necklace out of her coat pocket and showed it to him. As soon as the king saw it, he fell in love with it. He wanted to own it immediately. So, he gave the woman five hundred silver pieces for it and put it into his pocket. The woman went away full of happiness, because five hundred pieces of silver was enough to live on for many years.
As soon as he could, the king hurried to show the gorgeous necklace to his wife. She loved it, too. When they had finished admiring it, they locked it in the queen’s large jewellery chest.
A few weeks later, a neighbouring king sent a message to say that his wife had given birth to a lovely baby girl and he was having a party to celebrate. The queen said: “Oh, we have to go to the celebration. I will wear the new necklace you gave me.” Before they left, the king went to the jewel chest to take out the necklace for his wife to wear. He unlocked the chest, but when he opened it, he had an incredible surprise.
The king fell backwards. He could see no necklace at all. Instead, there was a fat, little baby boy, crying and screaming. The king also started screaming. “Waaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!” The queen came running, thinking that the necklace had been stolen.
“Look here, look!” cried the king. “We have always wanted a son. Now heaven has sent us one!”
“What do you mean?” cried the queen. “Are you crazy?”
“No, I’m not crazy!” said the king. “Look in this chest!”
The queen looked inside and gasped. Just then the baby giggled with joy.
“Oh!” she cried. “What a darling! Where did he come from?”
“I don’t know”, said the king, “But it doesn’t matter. This is the most beautiful baby I have ever seen.”
The queen picked up the baby boy and held him in her arms. “Oh, happy day! Write to our neighbour. Tell him we cannot go to his party, because we have a celebration of our own!”
So the king and queen did not go to their neighbour’s party. Instead, they had a feast in their own palace and there were fireworks and dancing and that lasted a whole week.
A few years passed. The king’s baby boy and his neighbour’s baby girl grew up to be healthy, handsome and clever. The two kings agreed that when their children were old enough, they would marry. This happened when they were both eighteen years old.
Now, I must tell you that the woman who sold the king the necklace became a servant at the palace. She was a good servant to the little prince. However, she couldn’t help talking about her story – about taking a bath in the river and finding a snake that turned into a necklance. Soon rumours spread across the kingdom. People said there was some magic about the young prince’s birth. The rumour spread to the neighbouring kingdom, to the ears of the princess’s parents. Her mother was especially curious about this strange story. So, the day before the prince and princess’s wedding, she said to her daughter: “Remember, you must find out the truth about his story. Find out about the magic! Ask him on the day of your wedding If he doesn’t tell you, you must not talk to him again!” The young princess promised that she would follow her mother’s advice.
After their wedding, the princess did not speak to her husband. He could not understand. “What is the matter?” he thought. Even at home, she would not say a word. Finally, he begged her to tell him what the problem was.
“Tell me the secret of your birth!” she said.
The prince was very sad and upset. The princess asked him again and again, but he would always reply the same way: “If I tell you, you will regret it for the rest of your life.”
For several months they lived together, but they were not happy. The secret created a wall between. Finally, the prince could not stand it any longer, so he said to his wife one day: “At midnight I will tell you my secret if you still want to know. But remember, you will regret it all your life.” However, the princess was so happy that he would tell her his secret that she that she did not listen to his warnings.
That night the prince and princess rode on horses together down to the river to the place where the woman had first found the snake in her metal pot. There the prince said sadly: “Do you still insist that I tell you my secret?”
And the princess answered “Yes.”
“If I do,” answered the prince, “you will regret it all your life.”
But the princess only replied, “Tell me!”
“Then,” said the prince, “know this: I am the son of the king of a faraway country, but a witch cast a spell and turned me into a snake.”
As soon as the prince said the word “snake”, he disappeared.
The princess heard a noise on the wind and in the moonlight she saw a snake swimming into the river. Soon it disappeared and she was left alone. She waited with beating heart for something to happen, and for the prince to come back to her. But nothing happened and no one came. Only the wind blew and the owl cried and the river flowed black below her.
In the morning, people from the palace found her crying, wet and cold. They looked for her husband, but nobody could find him. After a few weeks, she asked for a small house to be built next to the river, where she lived with only a few servants. She dressed in black every day and never smiled. In this way, she lived in mourning for five years.
One morning, when she woke up, she noticed there was mud on the carpet of her bedroom. She was shocked. “Who entered my room?” she thought. She asked the guards, who watched outside the house day and night They said no one entered her room, because they were watching very carefully. The next morning, she again found mud on her carpet and also on her blanket. Nobody knew why there was mud in her room. On the third night, the princess wanted to stay awake and watch, so she cut her finger with a knife and rubbed salt into the wound, so that the pain would stop her from sleeping. So, she lay in bed, awake. At midnight, she saw a snake come slithering into her room. It came near her bed and climbed up onto her blanket. She was very frightened, but tried to control her fear, and called out: “Who are you, and what do want here?”
The snake answered: “I am the prince, your husband, and I have come to visit you.”
Then the princess began to cry. The snake continued speaking.
“I told you that you would regret asking me for my secret.”
“Oh, I regret it,” cried the poor princess, “I was so stupid. Please, can I do something to make you human again?”
And the snake answered: “Yes, there is one thing, if you are brave enough.”
“Oh, tell me!” said the princess. “I will do anything.”
“Then,” replied the snake, “tomorrow night you must put a large bowl of milk and sugar in each of the four corners of this room. All the snakes in the river will come out to drink the milk, and the one that leads the others will be the queen of the snakes. You must stand in fron of her at the door, and say, “Oh, Queen of Snakes, Queen of Snakes, give me back my husband!” and perhaps she will do it. But if you are frightened, and do not stop her, you will never see me again.” And he slithered away.
The next night, the princess got four large bowls of milk and sugar, and put one in each corner of the room, and stood in the doorway waiting. At midnight there was a loud hissing, and suddenly the ground appeared to be alive with horrible snakes slithering on top of each other. Their eyes were shiny and their tongues looked like forks. They were all rushing to the princess’ house. At the front, there was one snake who was particularly disgusting. It was huge and its eyes were like lanterns in the dark. The guards were so frightened that they all ran away; but the princess stood in the doorway and held her hands tight together. She was so frightened, but she tried not to show it. When the snakes saw the princess in fronts of them, they all moved their heads from side to side. They stuck out their tongues and hit the princess in the face. Their breath smelled like poison. But the princess held her hands together and did not move. The leading snake moved its head within a few centimeters of the princess and opened its mouth, as if it was going to bite her head off. Just then, the princess shouted out: “Oh, Queen of Snakes, Queen of Snakes, give me back my husband!” Then the horrible crowd of snakes whispered to each other, “Her husband, her husband…” The queen of snakes closed her mouth and her eyes seemed to flash fire. Still the princess stood in the doorway and never moved, but cried again: “Oh, Queen of Snakes, Queen of Snakes, give me back my husband!” Then the queen of snakes replied: “I don’t need him anymore. Tomorrow you will have him – tomorrow!”
When she heard these words, the princess fainted onto her bed. She had a dream. She saw that her room was full of snakes, all slithering against each other and trying to drink from the bowls of milk. The sound and the smell were disgusting. The princess wanted to scream. And then they went away.
In the morning the princess woke up early and took off the mourning dress which she had worn for five years, and put on beautiful, colourful clothes. Then she cleaned the house and put fresh flowers in every room. She prepared the house as if she were preparing for her own wedding. When night came, she lit up the woods and gardens with lanterns, lit a thousand wax candles inside the house and prepared a feast on her kitchen table. Then she waited for her husband and thought about whether he would come back as a human or as a snake. She hoped and hoped he would come back as a human, as her prince.
At midnight she heard a sound from the river. She closed her eyes because she was too frightened to look. She heard more noise and the front door opened. Still she kept her eyes shut. Then she felt two warm hands on her cheeks and heard a laugh. She opened her eyes and saw her husband in front of her, with tears in his eyes. She threw herself into his arms, crying and laughing, too.
So, the prince came home and the next day he took his wife back to the palace. They old king and queen cried with joy when they saw him again. There was another celebration, one that people remembered for years and years.
The woman who had found the snake by the river was now old, but she became a servant to the prince and princess’s children. She was too old to do anything except love them, but she felt happier than ever. So, too, were the prince and princess and when they became king and queen, they ruled a peaceful country for many, many years.
Beauty and the Beast[edit | edit source]
A long time ago, in a faraway land, a merchant was returning home after a long journey. As night fell, he entered a deep forest. His head was full of thoughts of his six daughters. He had left home in summer, and now he was returning in deep winter. The most bitter sleet and snow came down, and his horse stumbled on a patch of ice. He heard wolves howling, and soon he realized that he was lost.
At last, he saw some sort of path. At the start it was rough and slippery, but soon it led him into an avenue of orange trees covered with flowers and fruit – and strangely here there was no snow.
He saw some stone steps. He went up them into a great castle. Inside he passed through several splendid rooms. Everywhere in the castle there was a deep silence. At last, he stopped in a small room where a fire was burning. He lay down on a sofa and very soon fell into a sweet sleep.
He woke up feeling hungry. He was still alone, but a good dinner had been laid on a little table. He began to eat, hoping that he might soon have a chance to thank his kind host, whoever it might be – but no one appeared.
Then he went down into the garden, and though it was winter everywhere else, here the sun shone, the birds sang, and the flowers bloomed, and the air was soft and sweet. The path had a hedge of roses on each side of it, and the merchant thought he had never seen or smelled such beautiful flowers. Then he remembered a promise he had made to his youngest daughter, who was so lovely that everyone called her Beauty. Before setting out on his journey, he had asked his daughters what presents they would like him to bring back for them. The five eldest wished for jewels and fine clothes, but Beauty asked only for a single rose. Now, as he stopped to pick a rose to take home to Beauty, he was startled by a strange noise behind him. Turning around, he saw a frightfully ugly Beast, which seemed to be very angry and sad and said in a terrible voice, “Who said that you could pick my roses? Was it not enough that I let you stay in my palace and was kind to you? This is the way you thank me, by stealing my flowers! You will be punished!”
The merchant was terrified by these furious words. He dropped the rose, and throwing himself on his knees, cried, “Pardon me, noble sir. I am truly grateful to you for your kindness. I could not imagine that you would mind so much if I took such a little thing as a rose.”
The Beast was still furious, however, and cried, “Excuses and flattery will not save you from the death you deserve!”
“Alas!” Thought the merchant. “My daughter’s rose has put me in this terrible danger.” He began to tell the Beast of his journey, not forgetting to mention how Beauty had asked him for a rose. “I beg you to forgive me. I didn’t want to harm you.”
The Beast thought for a moment, and then he said, in a less terrible voice, “I will forgive you on one condition – that is if you will give me one of your daughters.”
“Ah!” cried the merchant. “How could I bring her here? What excuse could I give?”
“No excuse!” answered the Beast. “She must come willingly. Go home. I give you a month to see if one of your daughters will save you. If none of them is willing to come to me, you must come back alone. Do not think that you can hide from me, for if you do not keep your word I will come and fetch you!”
The poor merchant, more dead than alive, went to the stable where his horse was ready for his journey. It carried him off so quickly that in an instant he could not see the palace anymore, and he was still thinking dark thoughts when it stopped before the door of his house.
His daughters rushed to meet him. At first, he told them nothing about the Beast, but as he gave Beauty the rose he said sadly, “Here is what you asked me to bring you. You don’t know how much it cost me.”
Later that evening he told his family of his adventures from beginning to end, and then his daughters wept loudly. The girls were very angry with Beauty, and said to her that it was all her fault, and complained bitterly that they should have to suffer for her foolish wish.
Poor Beauty said to them, “Who could have guessed that asking for a rose in the middle of summer would cause so much misery? But as I made this mistake, it is only right that I should be the one to suffer for it. I will go back to the Beast with father.”
When the tragic day came, she said goodbye to her sisters and everything she loved. She got on a horse together with her father, and it seemed to fly rather than gallop. They soon reached the avenue of orange trees, where statues were holding flaming torches, and when they got nearer to the palace, music sounded softly from the courtyard. Her father led her to the little room where he had stayed, and there they found a splendid fire burning, and a delicious supper set out on the table.
After they had finished their meal, they heard the Beast’s footsteps approaching, and Beauty held her father tightly. When the ugly Beast appeared, she tried hard to hide her terror, and she nodded to him politely. This clearly pleased the Beast. After looking at her he said, in a voice that would have scared even the bravest heart, “Good evening, old man. Good evening, Beauty.”
The merchant was too terrified to reply, but Beauty answered sweetly, “Good evening, Beast.”
“Have you come willingly?” asked the Beast.
Beauty answered bravely that she had come willingly to save her father.
“I am pleased with you,” said the Beast. “As for you, old man,” he added, turning to the merchant, “at sunrise tomorrow, you will go.”
Then turning to Beauty, he said, “Take your father into the next room and help him to choose presents for your sisters. Take everything they would wish for.” Then he left them saying, “Goodbye Beauty. Goodbye old man.”
In the next room they found splendid dresses fit for a queen. When Beauty opened the cupboards, she was quite dazzled by the gorgeous jewels that lay in piles on every shelf. After choosing many, she opened the last chest, which was full of gold.
“I think, father,” she said, “that gold will be more useful to you. We had better take out the other things again, and fill the trunks with gold.” So, they did this; and at last the trunks were so heavy that an elephant could not have carried them!
“The Beast was making fun of us,” cried the merchant. “He pretended to give us these things, knowing that I could not carry them away.”
“Let us wait and see,” answered Beauty.
At sunrise, they went down into the courtyard, where two horses were waiting; one loaded with the two trunks, the other for the merchant to ride. As soon as he climbed into the saddle, he went off so fast that he soon too far away to see. Then she began to cry and she went back to her room and fell into a deep sleep.
She dreamed that she was walking by a stream when a young prince came up to her and said, in a voice that went straight to her heart, “Ah, Beauty! You are not so unlucky as you suppose. Only try to find me, no matter how I may be disguised, as I love you dearly. Make me happy and you will be happy. Be as true-hearted as you are beautiful, and we will have everything we wish for.”
“What can I do, prince, to make you happy?” said Beauty.
“Do not trust your eyes,” he answered, “and set me free from my misery.”
When Beauty woke up, she began to think about the charming prince she had seen in her dream. “He said I could make him happy,” said Beauty to herself. “It seems that this horrible Beast keeps him a prisoner. How can I set him free? I don’t understand it. After all, it was only a dream, so why should I worry about it?”
She got up to explore the castle, but she did not see anyone or hear any sound, and she began to find it rather boring. That evening, after supper, she heard the Beast coming, and she trembled with fear at what it might do. But he only said, “Good evening, Beauty.” She answered cheerfully and managed to hide her terror. He spoke politely to her for about an hour, and asked her all about her life with her family. Then he said in a gruff voice, “Do you love me, Beauty? Will you marry me?”
“Oh! What shall I say?” cried Beauty, for she was afraid to make the Beast angry by refusing.
“Say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ without fear,” he replied.
“Oh! No, Beast,” said Beauty, quickly.
“Since you will not, goodnight Beauty,” he said.
And she answered, “Goodnight, Beast,” and she felt very glad that he had not attacked her. After he was gone, she was very soon in bed asleep, and dreaming of her unknown prince. He came to her and said to her, “Ah, Beauty! Why are you so unkind to me? I fear I will be unhappy for a long, long time.”
The next morning, she decided to have fun in the garden, because the sun shone, and all the fountains were playing. When she was tired, she went back to the palace, and found a new room full of rare birds, so tame that they flew to Beauty as soon as they saw her and perched upon her shoulders and her head. Some of them were parrots and cockatoos that could talk, and they greeted Beauty by name.
“Pretty little creatures,” she said. “Oh, how I wish that your cage was nearer to my room, that I could often hear you sing!” When she left, she opened a door and found that it led straight into her own room.
After supper, the Beast visited her as usual, and before he left, he asked her as before, “Beauty, will you marry me?” And when she refused, he said a gruff, “Goodnight” and left her. The days passed, and every evening the Beast asked her the same question and she gave him the same answer.
Beauty felt that when she said, “No, Beast,” he went away quite sad. But her happy dreams of the handsome young prince soon made her forget the poor Beast. Her prince always told to let her heart guide her, and not her eyes, and many other strange things which she could not understand.
At last, although she was happy, Beauty began to miss her family. One night, seeing her look very sad, the Beast asked her what the matter was. Beauty was no longer afraid of him. Now she knew that he was really gentle in spite of his frightening looks and his dreadful voice. She answered that she was longing to see her home once more. When he heard this, the Beast cried miserably, “Ah! Beauty, are you so cold-hearted that you want to leave an unhappy Beast like me? Is it because you hate me that you want to escape?”
“No, dear Beast,” answered Beauty softly. “I do not hate you, and I should be very sorry never to see you anymore, but I long to see my father again. Only let me go for two months, and I promise to come back to you and stay for the rest of my life.”
The Beast replied with a sigh, “I cannot refuse you anything you ask, even though it might cost me my life. You may go. But remember your promise and come back when the two months are over, or you may be sorry, for if you do not come on time you will find your faithful Beast dead.”
Then she went to bed but could hardly sleep for joy. When at last she did begin to dream of her beloved prince she saw him stretched upon a grassy bank, sad and tired, and not acting like himself. “What is the matter?” she cried.
He looked at her sadly and said, “How can you ask me, cruel one?”
“Ah! Don’t be so sad,” cried Beauty. “I am only going to let my father know that I am safe and happy. I have promised my Beast that I will come back. I would not cause him pain by breaking my word. He told me he would die if I did not keep my promise to him.”
“What do you care for an ugly Beast?” asked the prince.
“Oh,” said Beauty, “It is not his fault that he is so ugly. He is a very kind beast.”
Just then, she heard someone speaking not very far away. She got up and then she suddenly heard her father’s voice. She rushed out and greeted him. She was home. Her sisters were quite astonished to see her, and there was no end to their questions about her life with the Beast.
Then Beauty asked her father what he thought could be the meaning of her strange dreams. After much thought, he answered, “You tell me yourself that The Beast, frightful as he is, loves you dearly and is kind and gentle to you. I think the prince means that you should do as the Beast wishes in spite of his ugliness.” But Beauty’s thoughts were full of her handsome dream prince, and she could not imagine marrying the Beast.
When the two months were over, Beauty’s sisters begged her not to return to the ugly beast, but to stay with her family. At first, she could not refuse them, and she stayed on for a few days more. Then one night she had a different dream from usual. She saw not her prince, but the Beast. He was lying in a cave and he looked ill and in pain. Then Beauty remembered his words that he might die if she did not stay true to her word.
The next day, Beauty said goodbye to her father and all her sisters, and as soon as she was in bed, she turned her ring around upon her finger, and said firmly, “I wish to go back to see my Beast again.”
She fell asleep instantly, and only woke up to hear the clock saying, “Beauty, Beauty,” twelve times in its musical voice, which told her at once that she was in the palace once more. Everything was just as before, and her birds were so glad to see her! Beauty thought she had never known such a long day, for she was so anxious to see the Beast again, and she felt as if dinnertime would never come.
When it did come and Beast did not appear, she was really frightened. She ran down into the garden to search for him. Up and down the paths and avenues ran poor Beauty, calling him, but no one answered.
At last, quite tired, she stopped for a minute’s rest, and saw that she was standing opposite a cave, and in it lay the Beast, asleep. Extremely glad to have found him, she ran up and stroked his head, but to her horror, he did not move or open his eyes.
“Oh! He is dead, and it is all my fault,” said Beauty, crying bitterly.
But then, looking at him again, she thought he was still breathing. She fetched some water from the nearest fountain and sprinkled it over his face. Slowly, he began to open his eyes.
“Ah Beauty,” he said faintly, “now you see what happens when you do not keep your word.”
“Oh! Beast,” she cried. “I never knew how much I loved you until now, when I feared I was too late to save your life.”
“Can you really love such an ugly creature as me?” asked the Beast. “You came just in time. I was dying because I thought you had forgotten your promise. Go back now and rest, I will see you before long.”
Beauty went back to the palace, where dinner was awaiting her; and afterwards the Beast came in as usual, and asked about the time she had spent with her family, and if they had all been very glad to see her.
When at last the time came for him to go, and he asked, as he had so often asked before, “Beauty, will you marry me?” She answered softly, “Yes, dear Beast.” As she spoke a blaze of light sprang up before the windows of the palace; fireworks crackled and guns banged, and across the avenue of orange trees, in letters all made of fireflies, was written, “Long live the prince and his bride.”
Beauty wanted to ask the Beast what the meaning of this was, but he had gone. In his place stood her long-loved prince! At the same moment, two ladies entered the room. Both were splendidly dressed, but one especially so. Her companion said, “Well, Queen, this is Beauty, who has had the courage to rescue your son from the terrible magic spell that turned him into a Beast. They love one another, and your agreement to their marriage is all they need to make them perfectly happy.”
“I agree with all my heart,” cried the queen. Then she tenderly embraced Beauty and the prince.
“Now,” said the fairy to Beauty, “I suppose you would like me to send for your father and sisters?”
She did so. The marriage was celebrated the very next day, and Beauty and the prince lived happily ever after.
Rapunzel[edit | edit source]
Once upon a time there lived a man and his wife who were very unhappy because they had no children. These good people had a little window at the back of their house, which looked into the loveliest garden, full of all kinds of beautiful flowers and vegetables. However, the garden was surrounded by a high wall, and no one dared to enter it, because it belonged to a witch of great power, who was feared by the whole world.
One day the woman stood at the window overlooking the garden and saw a bed full of the finest lettuce: the leaves looked so fresh and green that she longed to eat them. Her desire grew day by day, and because she knew she couldn’t possibly get any, her yearning made her body and mind weak and she became quite pale and ill. Then her husband grew alarmed and said, “What troubles you, dear wife?”
“Oh,’ she answered, “if I don’t get some lettuce to eat out of the garden behind the house, I know I will die.”
So at dusk he climbed over the wall into the witch’s garden, and gathered a handful of lettuce leaves, but when he reached the other side he drew back in terror, for there, standing before him, was the old witch.
“How dare you,” she said, with a wrathful glance, “climb into my garden and steal my lettuce like a common thief? You will suffer for your foolishness.”
“Oh!” he implored, “Forgive me, I did this out of necessity. My wife saw your lettuce from her window and such a strong desire for it developed inside her that she would certainly die she cannot eat any.” Then the witch’s anger softened a little, and she said:
“If it is as you say, you may take as much lettuce away with you as you like, but on one condition – that you give me the child your wife will shortly bring into the world. All will go well with it, and I will look after it like a mother.”
The man was terrified and agreed to everything she asked, and as soon as the child was born the witch appeared. “I will call her Rapunzel” (which means lettuce), she said, and then carried it off with her, completely ignoring the parents’ cries of grief.
Rapunzel was the most beautiful child under the sun. When she was twelve years old, the witch shut her up in a tower, in the middle of a great wood, and the tower had neither stairs nor doors, only a small window at the very top. When the old witch wanted to get in, she stood underneath and called out:
Let down your golden hair.”
Rapunzel had wonderful long hair, and it was as fine golden thread. Whenever she heard the witch’s voice, she untied her plaits, and let her hair fall down out of the window, and the old witch climbed up by it.
After they had lived like this for a few years, it happened one day that a Prince was riding through the wood and passed by the tower. As he came near it, he heard someone singing so sweetly that he stood spell-bound and listened. It was lonely Rapunzel trying to while away the time by letting her sweet voice ring out into the wood. The Prince longed to see the owner of the voice, but he sought in vain for a door in the tower. He rode home, but he was so haunted by the song he had heard that he returned every day to the wood and listened. One day, when he was standing behind a tree, he saw the old witch approach and heard her call out:
Let down your golden hair.”
Then Rapunzel let down her plaits, and the witch climbed up by them. “So that’s the staircase, is it?” thought the Prince. “Then I, too, will climb it and try my luck.”
So, on the following day, at dusk, he went to the foot of the tower and cried:
Let down your golden hair.”
And as soon as she let it down the Prince climbed up. At first Rapunzel was terribly frightened when a man came in, because she had never seen one before! But the Prince spoke to her so kindly and told her at once that his heart had been so touched by her singing, and that his mind would not rest until he had seen her. Very soon Rapunzel forgot her fear, and when he asked her to marry him, she agreed at once. “For,” she thought, “he is young and handsome, and I’ll certainly be happier with him than with the old witch.” So, she put her hand in his and said:
“Yes, I will gladly go with you, but how can I get down out of the tower? From now on, every time you come to see me you must bring a long piece of silk with you, and I will make a ladder from them. When it is finished, I will climb down by it, and you will take me away on your horse.”
They arranged that until the ladder was ready, the prince would come to her every evening, because the old woman was with her during the day. The old witch, of course, knew nothing of what was going on, until one day Rapunzel, absent-mindedly turned to the witch and said:
“How is it, good mother, that you are so much harder to pull up than the young Prince? He is always with me in a moment.”
“Oh! you wicked child,” cried the witch. “What is this I hear? I thought I had hidden you safely from the whole world, and in spite of it you have managed to deceive me.”
In her wrath she seized Rapunzel’s beautiful hair, wound it round and round her left hand, and then grasping a pair of scissors in her right, she started to cut. Snip snip, off it came, and the beautiful plaits lay on the ground. And, worse than this, she was so hard-hearted that she took Rapunzel to a lonely place in a desert and left her there to live in loneliness and misery.
On the evening of the day in which she had driven poor Rapunzel away, the witch fastened the plaits on to a hook in the window, and when the Prince came and called out:
Let down your golden hair,”
she let them down, and the Prince climbed up as usual. But instead of his beloved Rapunzel, he found the old witch, who fixed her evil, glittering eyes on him, and cried mockingly:
“Ha, ha!” You thought you would find your lady love, but the pretty bird has flown and its song is dumb. The cat caught it, and it will scratch out your eyes, too. Rapunzel is lost to you forever – you will never see her anymore!”
The Prince was beside himself with grief, and in his despair he jumped right down from the tower, and, though he escaped with his life, the thorns among which he fell pierced his eyes out. Then he wandered, blind and miserable, through the wood, eating nothing but roots and berries, and weeping and lamenting the loss of his lovely bride.
So, he wandered about for some years, as miserable and unhappy as he could be, and at last he came to the desert place where Rapunzel was living. All of a sudden, he heard a voice which seemed strangely familiar to him. He walked eagerly in the direction of the sound, and when he was quite close, Rapunzel recognized him and fell on his neck and wept. Two of her tears touched his eyes, and in a moment they became quite clear again, and he saw as well as he had ever done. Then he led her to his kingdom, where they were received and welcomed with great joy, and they lived happily ever after.
Greek Myths[edit | edit source]
The Story of Cupid and Psyche[edit | edit source]
Foreword: The Ancient Greeks (who lived from about 700 to 400 B.C.) believed in many gods (male) and goddesses (female). These gods and goddesses lived at the top of Mount Olympus. Each god had a different role and Zeus was the king of them all. There were also nymphs, who were female gods but not major ones. Cupid and Psyche is one of the best loved stories from Ancient Greece. Cupid, son of Venus, threw arrows at people in order to hit their heart and make them fall in love. Psyche, a beautiful maiden, is a symbol of the human soul.
In Ancient Greece, there was a royal family which had three beautiful princesses. The most beautiful princess was Psyche. The people loved the princess. In fact, the people loved Psyche so much that they forget about the gods and goddesses when they said their prayers. They abandoned the temples of Venus, the goddess of beauty. Her altars were covered empty and the sculptors would make no more statues of her. The fame of Psyche’s beauty spread throughout the kingdom and men kept coming to her palace to admire and worship her. When they saw her, they said that she was even more beautiful than Venus.
Venus, who lived with the other gods on Mount Olympus, was enraged. She felt so jealous! When she heard men say that Psyche, was more beautiful than her, she lost her temper and promised herself: “I will kill this horrible little human!”
In her bitter envy, Venus made a plan. She made the royal family see a vision. In the vision, a messenger said, “Send Psyche to the dark palace at the bottom of Mount Olympus. If Psyche goes there, she will find her true love. Her true love is a god.”
Psyche’s family thought it would be wonderful for their human daughter to marry a god, so they told her about the vision they had seen and gave her instructions. “Go towards Mount Olympus. Enter a dark palace with no light.” Psyche obeyed and went to the dark palace. Inside, there were no lamps and no ray of light entered through the windows, which were covered with thick curtains. It was dangerous and dark, but Psyche was excited, because she expected to meet her true love. She was enjoying this unusual experience; she was hoping to feel great joy when she met her true love.
Venus was a goddess, so she could watch what humans were doing from the top of Mount Olympus. She was pleased that her plan was working. “Ha ha! What a stupid human!” she said. Venus turned to her son, who was called Cupid. “My son, go down from Mount Olympus. Go to this princess, Psyche. People say she is so beautiful and they do not pay attention to me. Go and kill this human.” Cupid had no choice but to obey his mother’s order.
Cupid was handsome and he was romantic like his mother, Venus. When he saw Psyche, he gasped. She was the most beautiful princess he had ever seen and he immediately fell deeply in love with her. Cupid felt that one of his own arrows had hit his heart. Psyche, though, did not see Cupid because he was invisible in the dark.
“Beautiful princess, sleep and relax,” whispered Cupid softly to her. Psyche obeyed. She was so curious about him and asked, “Can I see you?”
“No, you cannot see me”, replied Cupid. “If you see me, I will have to return to Mount Olympus. You must trust me. Love cannot last without trust. I want to be with you. I glanced at you for just a split second and immediately I fell in love with you. I couldn’t help it. Be my princess, be my true love forever!” What Cupid said was beautiful and romantic. Psyche remained silent but she knew that she had fallen in love with Cupid, too.
So, Cupid and Psyche got married and lived together in the dark palace. Day after day, Cupid said, “I love you, my beautiful Psyche.” Psyche closed her eyes whenever he said this. Cupid’s romantic words made Psyche’s heart jump every time. She didn’t care that Cupid was invisible. She loved him deeply, and they were very happy.
One day, however, terrible things happened. Venus was waiting for her son to return. She guessed that he had fallen in love with Psyche. She got even more enraged and sent another vision to Psyche’s family. When her mother, father and sisters saw the vision, they panicked and rushed to the dark palace. “Psyche, Psyche! You must come back with us”, they said. “This dark palace is terrible and the person you love… is a monster.”
“A monster? No, that’s not true! His name is Cupid and he is my true love,” she said passionately.
“Are you certain? You cannot even see him!” they said.
Psyche hesitated. Cupid was invisible, so she had never seen what he really looked like. Was it possible that he was, in fact, a monster? Could she trust him, even though she had never even seen him?
“Take this lamp”, said Psyche’s sister. “When Cupid is asleep, look at his face, and you will discover the truth for yourself!” She passed Psyche a lamp.
While Cupid was fast asleep, Psyche went up to him with the lamp and shined light on him. She saw his beautiful face. He was incredibly handsome. Why did her family call him a monster? She felt stupid. Cupid opened his eyes and saw what Psyche was doing. He was deeply hurt. “Don’t you trust me?” he cried. “Now my mother will find me and take me back to Olympus. What have you done? You have betrayed me!”
Venus had been desperately looking for her son from Mount Olympus. She still wanted him to kill Psyche and come back to her. When Psyche shined the light, Venus saw Cupid grow angry. “Now, he will kill her”, she said hopefully, and laughed a horrible laugh. But Cupid couldn’t do that to his true love. He was confused, so he got up and flew away. Venus chased after him and she was faster. When she caught him, she forced Cupid to return to Mount Olympus.
Psyche cried bitter tears when she realized that she had betrayed her true love. But she couldn’t accept being separated from him. She loved Cupid so much that she decided to go up Mount Olympus. Of course, she knew that Venus wanted to kill her, but she could not bear living without her true love. “I may die, but I have to see him again,” she told herself.
And so, Psyche climbed the great mountain alone. When she got to the top, Venus was waiting for her. “Venus, I want to see Cupid. You can kill me, but you cannot kill our love,” said Psyche calmly.
“Ha ha, you are a stupid creature! Cupid is my son. He is a god. You are just a human. Do you want to become a god? Do you want to be as beautiful as me? That is impossible!” Venus’s jealousy knew no limit. Venus made Psyche pick up a magic box. When Psyche opened the box, she closed her eyes and fell fast asleep. “Ha ha, Psyche will sleep forever! Now I am the most beautiful!” boasted Venus.
Cupid was watching and when he saw Psyche arrive, his heart jumped. He immediately forgave her for shining the light on him. Knowing that she was in terrible danger, he flew as fast as he could to Zeus. “Oh Zeus, king of all the gods! My true love has fallen asleep forever. I beg of you, please help me!”
Zeus admired Cupid’s romantic heart. “Well, I would like to help you. I will visit Venus. There must be a way to satisfy everyone.”
Soon Zeus was standing in front of the goddess of beauty. “Venus, your son loves Psyche. If you love your son, you cannot torture him like this. You must let them be together. I have a plan.” Zeus forced Venus to go along with his plan. Zeus helped Venus to make Psyche immortal. Now, Psyche was a goddess, too. Psyche and Cupid were married in front of all the gods and they could stay on Mount Olympus forever.
In the end, love triumphed. Cupid and Psyche were blissfully happy forever. Venus loved her son, and because he was happy with Psyche, Venus had to accept her. And something made Venus very happy indeed. Now Psyche was living with the gods on Mount Olympus, so the humans below forgot all about the beautiful princess and started worshiping her, the goddess of beauty, again. The sculptors started making new statues of her, and the temple altars were now covered with offerings.
Eros and Psyche[edit | edit source]
N ancient Greece long, long ago, the gods still walked on earth. The gods had strength and beauty, but their hearts were vain and foolish. One goddess was more beautiful and more vain than all the gods put together, Venus, the goddess of love. She watched the people of Greece. She listened for their prayers, expecting to be loved and admired more than any other being.
At this time, there lived a king and three young princesses. The two older princesses were beautiful, but the youngest sister, whose name was Psyche, was the most beautiful princess in all of Greece. In face and form she was as beautiful as a goddess, but her heart was so pure and generous that all of Greece loved her. Men who saw her admired her beautiful face saying, “Psyche is as more beautiful than any woman, or god.” Men stopped saying their prayers to Venus. Their hearts were so filled with love and admiration, they proclaimed Psyche the goddess of love. Men did not leave gifts at Venus’s temple. They brought their flowers, songs, food, and gifts to Psyche.
The Queen of Love was filled with jealousy. “Impossible! A mortal has taken my place?” said Venus, livid. “I must make this girl pay.”
Then she sent for her son, the great god Cupid.
“My son,” she said, “if you love me, you will find this girl, Psyche, who all Men admire. I detest her! Find her and kill her. But be careful. The people adore her. They guard her day and night. Go to the Black Castle, at the foot of Mount Olympus. I will see that the girl comes to this abandoned place, then you must get revenge for your mother!”
Quickly, Cupid went away to do what Venus commanded. He waited in the Black Castle and prepared his bow and poisoned arrows.
At that moment, Venus appeared before the king and negotiated a marriage: Psyche would marry a god, but she most go quickly to the Black Castle. She must go alone: no guards and no escort. If Psyche obeyed, a handsome god would be waiting in the Black Castle.
Psyche was not happy to marry a perfect stranger. Nevertheless, she obeyed. She walked down the road alone, with no escort. The silence washed over her. She breathed the still air. Psyche was happy to be alone and think about her future.
At that moment, Cupid was waiting. The knock on the door was so quiet, like a mouse had knocked. He raised his bow and arrow. “Hello, I have come to the Black Castle, as Venus commanded,” said Psyche nervously.
When he looked upon her face, Cupid froze like a statue. The arrow fell out of Cupid’s hand. He had never looked on one so beautiful. His heart pounded in his chest. From that moment he loved her with all his heart. Cupid picked up the arrow and put it back. He would not need the arrow today.
“If she can trust me,” he said, “I will make her love me. She will be mine; but not with an arrow. I will win her heart as men do: with no tricks and no powers.”
II[edit | edit source]
Psyche, meanwhile, was unsure about the Black Castle. As she entered, she was immediately wary, nervous, even terrified. There was no light anywhere. She could see two steps in front of her, but no more. She could not find even a small light or a warm fire to warm up.
Suddenly, there was a voice. “Do not be afraid,” said the voice. It was calm, strong, and masculine.
“Sire,” she said, as she walked closer, “Who are you?”
“I am Cupid, son of Venus, a god of love. I am here to marry you,” said Cupid.
Psyche was very sad to hear this, as she did not want to marry a total stranger. “Talk with me first, Mighty God,” said Psyche. The two talked about their lives. They talked all night until the stars appeared. Cupid confessed his eternal love. Psyche was in love too.
Cupid declared, “Psyche, my own, my beloved, at last I have got you, my dear one.” Then two strong arms were round her. Then there was a kiss upon her lips. In her happiness she closed her eyes. She did not see his face. Cupid had used his powers as a god to hide his face. There were no lights, and no lamps in the Black Castle.
Suddenly, Psyche opened her eyes. She was so curious, she had to see her love’s face. “Please, Cupid, I must see you. I will light a fire for just one minute to see you,” asked Psyche.
Cupid’s reply was sad and simple: “No, there can never be any light in the Black Castle. If there is one lamp, one fire, or one stray ray of sunshine, my mother, Venus, will find me. She detests you and you are in danger if she ever finds you.”
Psyche loved and trusted him so much, she never cared to ask him his secret. So the days and nights passed. The couple fell even more in love. One evening when he came to her he was troubled, and said, “My dear, I had a vision. I saw in the future, and you will be offered a lamp. You must refuse the lamp your sisters offer you. Remember, if you light a lamp, all will be lost.”
“My sisters!” Psyche was joyful to think she would see her sisters. She loved her family and missed her dear sisters very much. But Cupid repeated his warning: “My love, ignore your sisters. Do not open the door.” Psyche agreed sadly.
That very next day, Psyche was in the garden tending her flowers. Suddenly, her sisters come to her from a long journey. The princesses called her name, “Psyche, O Psyche! where are you?”
“I am here, come to me, my dear sisters!” said Psyche. She was overjoyed to see her family. She put her arms around them and hugged them.
“Ah, my dear sisters,” Psyche cried, “how happy am I to see you! Welcome to my new home. See, my life is very happy. Come in and relax.”
But the sisters’ eyes filled with tears. The sisters said, “Oh no, dear Psyche. You must have a terrible life. The Black Castle is dark and pitiful. They say the man of the castle is a monster. He is probably not even human…and you, poor Psyche. You must marry a monster!” Both girls cried uncontrollably.
“Oh no, that is ridiculous. A monster? No, he has a gentle heart. He is smart and kind, and I love him very much,” confessed Psyche. She smiled and her face turned pink with this confession.
“Psyche, what does he look like?” said one sister. The princesses were very curious. They were also nervous for their dear sister.
“I do not know,” said Psyche. “I can not see anything in the Black Castle.”
“How sad it must be to never see your love’s face. Here, take this lamp,” said one sister. The princess handed Psyche the lamp. But Psyche remembered her husband’s warning.
“But my love made me promise not to light any lamps,” she said.
At that, the sisters were very suspicious. “See! Only a monster would command you to never light a lamp. Please, Psyche, take the lamp. One day, you may need it,” said the sisters.
The sisters said goodbye to their beloved sister, Psyche. Psyche went to find her love, Cupid. She had a lamp in her hand, thinking, “I will give this lamp to my husband. He will see I am loyal. I did not light the lamp.”
She entered the bedroom, and laid down beside her true love. Psyche’s heart was filled with love, and curiosity. She longed to see his face. “Just for one second, then I will blow out the lamp,” said Psyche. She was sad as she lit the lamp, knowing Cupid would be mad.
In that second, the lamp shone a very small light. Quickly, Psyche held the lamp near Cupid’s face. Every feature was perfect: his soft lips, his square jaw, his perfect skin. Cupid was more handsome than any man Psyche had ever seen. For several moments, Psyche could not speak. She forgot the lamp, and looked intensely at his handsome face.
At that moment, there was a rush of wind. The banging of a door signaled that someone had arrived. Immediately, Cupid was alert. He opened his eyes and saw the lamp. “My Psyche, what have you done?” he cried. “It is too late. She is here. She saw the light and now she has found me.”
At that moment, Venus arrived in a rush of wind. She put her arms around Cupid. He was her prisoner. She flew up to Mount Olympus, the house of the gods. She was so fast, Psyche did not see the action, only she felt the hot rush. WOOSH! In a second, he was gone.
Psyche looked for Cupid, but he had disappeared before her very eyes. Psyche cried his name over and over, but it was too late. He was gone.
Apollo vs Pan – King Midas’ ears[edit | edit source]
After the incident of the golden touch, King Midas hated everything that was gold, and decided to live like a pauper. He dressed in rags and spent as much time as he could outside in nature. He started to follow Pan, the god of nature. Pan looked like a cross between a person and a goat, and had goat feet.
One day, as he was ambling in the woods, King Midas overheard an argument between Pan and Apollo, the god of music. Now, Apollo was known for playing music so beautiful that it could heal sick people when they heard it. Apollo was also known for his cruelty whenever his musical ability was challenged. Pan was saying, “There is no question, I can play better music on my flute than you can play with your harp.”
King Midas foolishly ran into the clearing where Apollo and Pan were arguing so that he could listen better. When Apollo saw him, he said, “Let’s have a contest, and let the good King Midas be the judge of whose music is better.”
First, Pan began by playing his flute. The tune he played was so happy and inviting that the king couldn’t help but start tapping his toe. Soon, he was dancing wildly to the music. Even though King Midas was out of breath and dizzy, he couldn’t stop dancing to the merry tune of Pan. Finally, Pan had mercy on him and stopped playing.
Now it was Apollo’s turn to play his harp. At the sound of the first heavenly note, the birds stopped chirping to listen. At the second note, the wind stopped blowing and every animal stopped moving. The only sound apart from the music was the king’s breathing. At the end of five minutes, the whole forest seemed to sigh. King Midas immediately jumped up and exclaimed, “There is no question! Pan’s music is the best!”
Apollo filled with rage, “You dirty little goat-god!” Turning to King Midas, he said, “Since you are deaf to the sound of real music, you have no need of those ears. From now on, you will have donkey ears.”
King Midas heard a buzzing noise, and when he reached up to his head, he felt donkey ears. For the rest of his life, he tried to hide in the woods, and even had a special hat made to cover his ears.
Eos and Tithonus[edit | edit source]
Eos, gentle dawn, was the mother of the four winds. While all creation slept, she rose from her pink pillows to announce the coming of a new day. She dipped her rosy fingers into a cup filled with dew and sprinkled the drops over flowers and trees. All nature awoke, rejoicing to see her.
One morning as Eos looked down on earth, her eyes fell on a young prince waking from his slumber. He was so handsome she could not take her eyes off him, and she wanted him for her husband. But how could she, who was a goddess, be married to a mortal whose life span was so short?
As soon as her morning duties were done, she went to Zeus and persuaded him to grant eternal life to the young prince, whose name was Tithonus.
She brought him with her to her palace in the east, and they spent many delightful years together.
Ecco and Narcissus[edit | edit source]
Narcissus was a young man of extraordinary beauty. He was incredibly good-looking. When he was a child, his parents were worried about the future of their child took him to see a blind prophet. The prophet made a prophecy: Narcissus would ‘live a long, healthy life, as long as he never knows himself’.
As he grew up and became a young man, many, many girls were entranced by his beauty, but he rejected them all. The nymph (a kind of minor female god), Echo, also fell in love with him. One day, Echo followed Narcissus through the woods when he was hunting. She longed to speak to him but was too shy to say the first word. Hearing her footsteps behind him, the young man cried out, ‘Who’s there?’ Echo didn’t know what to say, so she just repeated, ‘Who’s there?’ This happened several times. When at last she showed herself to him, she ran to embrace him. But Narcissus laughed at her and pushed her away.
Echo was heartbroken and slowly lost the desire to live. She spent the rest of her living days in mountain valleys thinking only of Narcissus. Echo became weaker and weaker, until there was nothing left of her body. Only her voice, an echo sound, remained in this world.
Nemesis, the Goddess of Revenge, heard the story and decided to punish Narcissus. A short time after meeting Echo, Narcissus went to drink some water from a pool in the woods. Amazed by the beauty of the reflection he saw in the water, he fell in love with his own image. But each time he bent down to kiss it, it seemed to disappear. Narcissus grew thirstier and thirstier but he would not leave or touch the pool of water because he was afraid of losing sight of his reflection. In the end, he died of thirst, and in his place, there appeared the narcissus flower, with its bright face that looks down.
Narcissus is still looking at his reflection in the Underworld (the place where the dead go) today, in the waters of the river Styx.
Persephone[edit | edit source]
Persephone was a Greek goddess. Her mother was Demeter, the goddess of earth’s fertility and harvest, and her father was Zeus, the king of all the Olympians. Her mother’s role was to take care of the earth and all the living things in it – too nurture them. She was a deeply nurturing mother, too. She cared as deeply for her daughter Persephone as she did the earth. Persephone lived a happy childhood, playing with the other Olympian children and spending time in the gardens of Olympus.
One day, however, as Persephone was picking the flower, narcissus, with a group of her favourite nymphs, the earth suddenly opened up. Out of the deep, dark blackness emerged Hades, the king of the Underworld (the place where people go when they die).
From his place in the Underworld, he had watched Persephone grow up. He was enchanted with her innocent beauty, which was now as bright as the sun. He desperately wanted her to be his Queen of the Underworld. So, one day he approached Zeus, asking for permission to marry Persephone and to make her his Queen. Zeus was often thoughtless and careless. He agreed to Hades’ request, without thinking how Demeter, her mother, would react.
When Hades emerged into the gardens of Olympus, he was overjoyed with the sight of Persephone’s natural but rich beauty. He softly took hold of her and carried her gently down with him to the Underworld. Persephone cried out for her dear mother Demeter, but it was no use. Now in the Underworld, Persephone was under Hades’ control.
Demeter became worried when Persephone did not return home so she visited the gardens where her daughter usually played with the nymphs (minor female gods), but she could not find her anywhere. She found one nymph, however, who usually wore lovely morning glory flowers in her hair, crying; the flowers lay scattered on the grass. Demeter gently asked her where Persephone was. The nymph, in anguish, would not answer.
Heartbroken, Demeter searched every corner of the earth in search of her daughter. Her great sorrow caused the earth to grow dark, cold, and barren. Meadows that were once lush and green turned yellow. The trees curled up and lost all their leaves. The rain stopped.
After searching the entire land of the living, Demeter finally contacted Zeus. He informed her of Persephone’s marriage to Hades in the Underworld. Demeter got angry like only a mother can. She demanded that Zeus return Persephone to her care. But Zeus refused.
Demeter left Olympus and watched as the earth began to decay without her nurture. She wanted to punish Zeus for betraying her and their daughter. The now yellow meadows blackened and turned to dust. The trees began to shrink into the hard ground. The rivers dried up, and the lakes froze over.
Zeus had no choice but to agree to Demeter’s demands. He told Hermes, the messenger, to bring Persephone back up to the world of the living, to Demeter’s care.
In the Underworld, Persephone had grown to love Hades, who treated her with compassion and loved her as his Queen. She remained eternally beautiful in the Underworld, just as she would have if she had remained in Olympus. Hades loved her kind and nurturing nature. However, Persephone missed her dear mother very much and wished to spend time on earth with her.
When Hermes reached the Underworld, he asked that Persephone come back to earth with him to rejoin her mother and father. Hades knew he could not refuse the commands of Zeus, but he also could not live without his beloved Persephone.
Before she departed from the Underworld, Hades gave Persephone a pomegranate as a farewell gift. This was, however, part of Hades’ cunning plan. All the Olympians knew that if anyone ate or drank anything in the Underworld, they would be have to stay there for eternity. Even Demeter had warned Persephone of this fate and told her never to eat or drink anything in the Underworld.
Thinking about what her mother had said, Persephone decided not to eat the pomegranate. However, in order to show her love to Hades, she decided to eat just a few small seeds of the pomegranate – thinking that this would not count. Persephone did not know that this was exactly why Hades had given her the pomegranate. After eating six of the seeds, Persephone was told by Hades’ servants that she would forever remain in the Underworld as Hades’ Queen.
Hermes sadly went back up to Zeus and Demeter, who anxiously sat awaiting her daughter’s return. When she saw Hermes returning alone, Demeter went started crying uncontrollably. She knew that Hades must have tricked Persephone to keep her in the Underworld.
Zeus realized he had made a mistake, because the earth was now black, cold, decayed and barren. Being the mighty king of all gods, he could not allow this to happen, so he met with Hades himself. With the help of Hermes, an infamous deal was made.
Because Hades had tricked the young Persephone into eating the pomegranate, Zeus commanded him to allow Persephone to visit her poor mother in the world above. In return, Zeus promised that Hades could keep Persephone for a month for each pomegranate seed that she had eaten. So, for half of each year, Persephone was to sit on the throne of the Underworld beside Hades and for the other half, she would spend time with her beloved mother on Olympus.
During Persephone’s six months on earth, the land was beautiful, warm and fertile. The meadows were lush and of the deepest green. The trees were tall, strong, and produced delicious fruit. The rains came often and there was never a drought.
However, when Persephone left the land and entered Hades’ Underworld, the earth experienced a cold, dark period with no growth. Demeter grieved for her missing daughter and had little time to nurture the land.
In this way, according to Greek mythology, the seasons were created – the autumn and winter months were when Persephone sat on the throne of the Underworld beside Hades, and the spring and summer months were when Persephone was reunited with her dear mother, Demeter.
Phaeton[edit | edit source]
There once was a boy named Phaeton. Phaeton lived in Greece, and had a normal life, going to school each day, playing with his friends, and helping his mother with chores around the house. But one thing about his life was different: he lived alone with his mother, and had never seen his father. He often wondered what his father was like. Was he a warrior? A hunter? A rich ruler? Would knowing his father’s identity change his own identity? He hoped that he would one day meet his father, and that he would be someone important, but he was doubtful that this wish would ever come true.
Finally, one day when Phaeton was a teenager, his mother, perhaps a little foolishly, let him in on the most important secret of his life. “It’s time you know the truth about the identity of your father,” she told him. “Your father is Helios, the god of the sun.”
Phaeton was so excited that he could think of nothing else. All day long, he thought of his father’s identity, and how important he himself must be as a god’s son. Although his father was more powerful and important than all of his friends’ fathers, he knew that the identity of his father must be kept a secret. The gods did not like their relationships with mere mortals to be known.
The next day, Phaeton could not contain the news any longer. He foolishly blurted out to his friends, “My father is Helios, the god of the sun!”
But his friends were doubtful, even though Phaeton stubbornly insisted that it was true. Instead of being impressed with the identity of his father, they just laughed and made fun of him. At first, this made Phaeton feel angry with his friends, and he would often get in fights with them. Then, after a while, he began to feel sad, and even doubted whether what his mother had told him was true.
He asked his mother, “How can I be sure that my father really is the god of the sun?”
His mother looked at him for a long moment. Finally she slowly replied, “My son, your father is a good god, but he is very busy. Without him, no plants would grow, and the earth would be very cold. Nothing would live without him. I think you should go to Helios yourself so he can tell you the truth about your identity, and you will no longer have any reason to doubt.”
The next day, Phaeton and his mother got up just as Eos, the goddess of the dawn, was painting the sky red in preparation for sunrise. Phaeton’s mother instructed him to walk toward the east, to where he saw the sun starting to rise, where he would find the castle of Helios.
Phaeton walked and walked. He walked across Greece, Persia and India, and began to doubt he would ever arrive. Just when he was about to completely lose hope, he came to some tall mountains. As he approached the highest mountain, a glimmer of light caught his eye. As he approached source of the light, he saw a glowing castle at the top of the mountain. Its twelve walls were made of bright gold, reflecting the sun; there were twelve doors made of bright silver; and sparkling diamonds on the tower roofs. He cautiously walked through an open door, and when he got inside, it was so bright that he covered his eyes and began to cry.
When Phaeton’s eyes had adjusted to the light, he saw a throne with a powerful man sitting on it. The man’s eyes seemed to be staring through Phaeton. He realized that this was no man, it was Helios, the god of the sun. Phaeton cautiously looked at the god’s face, but he didn’t dare approach him.
Helios’ deep voice demanded, “Who are you, and what do you want?”
Phaeton tried to answer, but his words got caught in his throat. He tried again, “I am Phaeton, the son of an earth woman of Greece. She says you are my father, but I doubt it very much. Please, if you are my father, prove it to me.”
Helios smiled and replied, “Surely only the son of a god would be able to find my castle and be brave enough to approach it. Don’t ever doubt that you are my son. I will prove it to you by giving you anything you wish. What would you like me to do for you?”
Phaeton didn’t even have to think about what he wanted, he blurted out, “I have always wanted to drive the sun chariot for one day!”
Helios knew that only he was capable of driving the sun chariot, so he tried to convince his son to not try such a hard task. “My son, your wish is very foolish. Not even Zeus can drive my sun chariot. It would be a disaster if you tried to drive it, even for one day. You must ask me for something else.”
Phaeton’s heart was set, and he stubbornly insisted, “I will drive the sun chariot tomorrow!”
Helios saw Phaeton’s stubbornness, so he tried to explain just how dangerous the trip would be. “The first part of the trip is steep, and the horses are almost wild. If they get off track even a little, they will hit the constellations. If they go too high, the earth will freeze, and if they run too low to the earth, it will burn up. Not only that, the chariot goes so high in the middle of the day that even I get dizzy if I look down. Please, do not do such a foolish and dangerous thing.”
But, the next morning, as Eos opened the dawn, Phaeton sat in the chariot, holding the reins to the wild horses. Suddenly, the horses bolted out of the castle, and shot straight up into the sky. Phaeton jerked back on the reins, but when the horses felt the inexperienced hand of Phaeton, they veered wildly off the path. They crashed into the constellations, which made the bear, the bull and the scorpion lash out at them. The horses shied, and took off higher and higher into the sky. Back on earth, as the sun got further away, everything suddenly got icy cold. The crops froze, the rivers and lakes froze in place, and people couldn’t even get warm with blankets and fires. Meanwhile, Phaeton looked down from such a great height and got so dizzy that he passed out in the chariot, pulling the reins down with him. Therefore, horses changed their course and headed downward, pulling the sun closer and closer to the earth. Suddenly, the ice melted, and the earth got hotter and hotter. Fires started, crops shriveled up, and all the rivers and lakes evaporated. Just as the horses were about to pull the sun into the earth and completely destroy it, Zeus pulled out a thunderbolt and threw it at Phaeton. When the bolt hit him, he fell out of the chariot, and landed in the sea, never to be seen again.
Fortunately, the horses immediately got back on their course, and the sun set peacefully that night, just as it always had. After that, Helios was careful to never let anyone else drive his chariot, except Apollo, the god of light.
King Midas[edit | edit source]
King Midas was a kind king, but he had some shortcomings. One of his shortcomings was that sometimes he made foolish and impulsive decisions. Another fault he had was that he was obsessed with gold. He had plenty of gold, and didn’t lack anything he could want, but all he could think about was getting more and more gold. He loved his kingdom because of the gold in the hills, he loved the morning because of the golden sunlight, he loved his flower gardens full of golden flowers, his gold crown, and the golden-colored hair of his beautiful daughter, Iris. Each night when he kissed his daughter’s golden hair, he told her he hoped to get all the gold in the world for her. Iris, who was named after the rainbow, was not obsessed with gold. In fact, she was tired of gold, and wanted to see all the other colors of the rainbow.
One day, the kind King Midas found a creature called a satyr asleep in his favorite garden of golden flowers, and showed mercy on the satyr by letting it go. This creature followed the god Dionysus, who decided to visit King Midas to reward him for his mercifulness.
One day, as King Midas was locked inside his vault counting his golden coins and listening to his favorite music, the sound of gold coins clinking together, he saw a shadow fall across the single sunbeam in the vault. King Midas turned and was startled to see a stranger smiling at him from atop a pile of gold bars. Suddenly, Midas realized that this was Dionysus, the god of happiness. Dionysus spoke to him, “Good King Midas, I came here to see if I could reward you with some more happiness, but I see that you lack nothing. You cannot possibly need anything else to make you happy.”
Midas sadly shook his head. “I have done very well, but I need far more to be happy. I do not have nearly enough gold. I wish that everything I touched would turn to gold.”
Dionysus smiled so big that the room filled with bright light. “What an extraordinary idea! Are you sure that will bring you happiness, and that you won’t regret this one day?”
Without waiting to think, Midas impulsively cried out, “Of course I won’t regret this!”
Dionysus reluctantly granted the wish, saying, “Very well, at sunrise tomorrow the golden touch will be yours.” And just as silently as he had entered, the stranger disappeared.
That night King Midas had difficulty sleeping. The anticipation of the golden touch that would be his tomorrow kept him tossing and turning all night. When he finally fell asleep, he slept until late the next morning. When King Midas opened his eyes and saw the sun shining through the window, he reached down to pull the covers away. The threads in the blanket instantly turned to gold, yet stayed the blanket stayed as soft as it had ever been. Joyfully, King Midas raced around the room touching everything he saw. The dresser and the bed turned to gold, and even a handkerchief Iris had embroidered for him turned to gold. He regretted for a moment that the handkerchief had changed from the way it was when Iris gave it to him, but he set it down and raced downstairs.
When he saw his daughter outside, he decided he would surprise her. He carefully sat down to eat breakfast without touching anything. Then he picked up his coffee to take a drink, but the cup and the liquid turned to gold, so he couldn’t drink it. He quickly and cautiously picked up an orange slice, but before he could put it in his mouth, it was gold. Next, he tried to eat a piece of toast, but it turned to a hot metal and burned his lips. He jumped up from his chair, beginning to regret the golden touch.
At that moment, the king’s beloved daughter, Iris, walked in. Iris saw her father jumping wildly around in a strange golden robe, with golden tears starting to fall down his cheeks. Impulsively, she ran over to her father and threw her arms around him. “My daughter!” cried out King Midas. But she could not answer him. It took the king a long time to pry himself out of her golden embrace.
When he was finally free, the kind ran down to his vault and cried. Suddenly, Dionysus appeared, smiling brightly. “Well, friend Midas. How do you like the golden touch?”
King Midas replied, “I would rather be the poorest man in the world than lose my daughter! Please take back the golden touch. I regret it so much!”
Dionysus replied, “Now you are truly a wise king. Go dip yourself in the river to change yourself back to normal, then dip a bucket in the river and sprinkle the water over anything you want to remove the golden touch from.”
So King Midas followed the instructions, and after dipping himself in the river, he poured a bucket of water on his daughter. Iris woke up, startled, and said, “Oh, my dress is all wet!”
The king just embraced her and said, “Iris, you are worth more than all of the gold in the world.”
Other traditional tales[edit | edit source]
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A Vietnamese Legend
Long ago, in a palace by the Red River, there lived a great mandarin* and his daughter, Mi Nuong. Like other young ladies of wealthy families, Mi Nuong was told to stay inside the house, away from the eyes of admiring men. She spent most of her time in her room at the top of a tower. There she would sit on a bench by a moon-shaped window...
A man named Faraz once lived in Syria, in a city that is still called Damascus today. Faraz worked hard and over many years he was able to save a large sum of money. When he was young, he had lived in poverty. As an adult, he knew people who were rich for a short time, but who lost all their money gambling or by spending too much money on luxuries. So, out of fear of losing everything, one night he carried his money out of the city and buried it under a tree.
After some time had passed, he began to miss looking at his money. He wanted to feel rich again, so he went back to the tree where he buried his treasure. But when he dug the ground, he discovered that all his treasure was gone!
Suddenly, he felt nothing but bitterness and disappointment. Ashamed, he didn’t know who to talk to. Could he confide in anyone? As each day passed, the emptiness in his heart only deepened.
One day he went to do business with a wise man of the city who said to him, “Recently, I have noticed a sad change in your health, my friend. I do not know the cause. What misfortune has hurt you?”
Faraz cried tears of sadness. “You are right that I carry a heavy heart and a great sorrow. Yet if I confide in you, I will make you sad as well. There is nothing that can be done.”
The wise man said, “Good friends should tell each other their troubles, so that together they can work them out.”
Faraz sighed. “Dear friend, I had some gold. It was my life savings. Fearing that it could be stolen, I carried it to a certain place and buried it under a tree. And when I next visited it, it was gone!
The wise man was alarmed. “Truly, I am sorry! Indeed, this is a serious dilemma.” He paused. “It may be difficult to get your gold back. Tell me, my friend, is it possible that someone saw you when you buried your treasure?” Faraz sadly shook his head. “I am quite sure, that no one saw me.”
“Or perhaps,” said the wise man, “somebody noticed that the earth was fresh at the foot of the tree?”
“But I was so careful!” replied the unhappy man. “I covered the hole with the same earth so well that no one would know that anything had changed.”
“Then, did you leave anything behind, perhaps a piece of cloth or something giving a clue of who was there?”
“Not a thing!” Faraz said, trying not to cry any more.
The friend said softly, “I don’t think you have any enemies.”
“Me, neither!” cried Faraz in despair. “And besides, no one even knew that I had a lot of gold.”
“Well then, friend,” said the wise man, “give me ten days to think about the situation. A good idea might come to me if I think about your problem carefully.”
The wise man sat down for ten days to contemplate the situation. But after thinking about every possibility, he could not come up with a plan. On the tenth day, he met Faraz in the street and said sadly, “Although I have thought hard about it for ten days, I couldn’t find the precious pearl of a wise plan. I just hope that someday, somehow you will find your lost treasure!”
They were talking this way when a madman met them on the street and asked, “Well, boys, what is your secret conversation about?” The wise man turned to Faraz. “Come, let us tell this crazy fellow our problem. A strange flower might bloom in his mind.”
Faraz said, “Dear friend, are you sure? You are so wise and even you could not come up with a plan after ten days’ thought. So, how can we expect any help from this crazy madman? He doesn’t even know if it’s day or night!”
The wise man replied, “We have no idea what he will tell us. But you know, even the most foolish people have ideas. He might give us a clue that can point us in the right direction.”
Meanwhile, a little boy had noticed the crazy madman. Stopping to observe the strange sight of a madman talking to two wise gentlemen, the boy approached the group.
The two friends explained what had happened to the madman. After thinking for some time, the madman said, “The person who took the root of that tree for a medicine also took the gold,” and then turned his back on them and went away.
Faraz and the wise were shocked. Was the madman’s idea good? While they were thinking about it, the little boy asked what kind of a tree it was. Faraz replied that it was a jujube-tree. Then the boy said: “This is a simple enough matter. Ask all the doctors in the city if they prescribed the roots of the jujube tree as medicine.”
The wise man was impressed with the boy’s sharp mind and also the crazy man’s lucky thought. He knew all the doctors of the city and he made inquiries. After a few days, one doctor told him that about twenty days before, he had prescribed a medicine for a merchant named Khoja Samander, who suffered from asthma. This medicine could only be made from the root of the jujube-tree.
The wise man discovered where the merchant lived, went to his house and spoke to him: “Ah, Khoja, I’m so happy that you have recovered your health. I have a friend who also wants to recover something. The owner of what you found at the foot of the jujube-tree is a good man, and it was all his treasure.”
The honest merchant replied, “It is true, I found it, and it is with me. If you tell me the amount of the gold, I will put it into your hands.” And in this way, Faraz recovered his lost treasure.
The Most Dangerous Game[edit | edit source]
Adapted from a story by Richard Connell
Rainsford was not tired. He paced the deck wishing that the ship would go faster.
From across the water he heard a strange sound. Somewhere off in the darkness someone had fired a gun three times. He went to the rail and leaned over. At the same moment the boat turned. Rainsford lost his balance and fell into the water.
The ship was speeding out of sight. Nobody knew what had happened to Rainsford. He began to swim in the direction where the shots had come from. Maybe there was an island out there. Where there were guns there were men. Where there were men there would be food and shelter.
It was a good guess. Ten minutes later Rainsford pulled himself over some sharp rocks and onto the shore. He fell fast asleep.
He woke up early the next morning and began to explore the island. Not far away he found an empty rifle shell. There were signs that a large animal had been wounded there. Some leaves nearby were stained red. There were tracks of hunting boots. Rainsford followed them and came to a huge, gloomy mansion. He could hardly believe his good luck.
The door was opened by the biggest man he had ever seen. In his hand the man held a long revolver. It was pointed at Rainsford’s heart.
“I’m not a robber,” Rainsford said. I fell off a ship. My name is Sam Rainsford. I’m from New York City.” The look in the man’s eyes did not change. He gave no sign he understood what Rainsford said. His only answer was to raise the gun an inch. Then he turned and saluted a man coming toward them.
“It is a great pleasure and honor to welcome Mr. Sam Rainsford, the famous hunter, to my home. My name it General Zaroff. This is my island.” He turned to his servant and said, “Ivan, put away your gun. Come, Mr. Rainsford, we can talk later. Right now you need food and rest.”
The dinner that night was the best that Rainsford had ever tasted. The general showed him every hospitality. “Perhaps,” he said, “you were surprised that I recognize your name. You see, I read all I can about hunting. I have only one interest in life, and this is the hunt.”
“Is there game on this island?’’
“Yes,” said the’ general, “the most dangerous game.”
“Really?” asked Rainsford. ‘‘What’s that? Tigers?”
“No,” replied the general. “For me there is no thrill left in hunting tigers. I live for real danger. I have hunted every kind of game in every land. It would be impossible to count how many wild animals I have killed. But hunting has become too easy for me. I always got what I went after. Always. It became boring, until I began to hunt the most dangerous game.”
“And what was that?” asked Rainsford, really interested.
“I needed a new animal.”
“A new one?”
“I found one. Now I hunt almost every day. I never get bored. I hunt an animal that can think,” the general said.
“There is only one animal that can think. You can’t mean… ?”
“And why not?”
“General Zaroff, you’re not speaking of hunting, you’re’ speaking of murder.”
“Never! With me it’s a fair contest. I bring my guests to the island especially for that reason. I give them food and an excellent ‘hunting knife. I also give them a three hours start. If they escape for two days, they win. If I find them—they lose.”
“This is mad! You hunt men!”
“And tonight I’ll enjoy my greatest hunt,” continued General Zaroff with an evil smile. “Tonight I’ll hunt a real hunter. You will be my hunted guest tonight.”
“If I refuse?”
“You can’t refuse. My servants won’t let you.”
“What if I win?”
“If you escape for two days I will have a ship of mine take you back to civilization.”
Ivan pushed Sam Rainsford out of the gate at nine that night. For a half hour, Rainsford ran like a frightened animal. His only thought was getting as far away as possible from General Zaroff. But the island was small. He could not go far in any direction before coming to the sea.
“I must think clearly,” he said to himself. “I’ll give him a false trail to follow.” He made a series of circles and doubled back on his trail again and again. Toward dawn he climbed up a tree and stretched out on a limb. No one could follow the trail, he thought. For a while he rested.
Rainsford was wakened by the sound of footsteps coming his way. It was General Zaroff. He was carefully looking at the ground. He shook his head many times, noticing every leaf and twig that was out of place. Rainsford held his breath. ‘The general’s eyes left the ground and traveled inch by inch up the tree. His sharp eyes stopped before they reached the limb where Rainsford rested. A smile spread over his face. Then he turned and walked back along the trail.
Rainsford’s first thought made him feel sick. The general was a really great hunter. He could follow a trail through the woods at night. Only by luck had he missed seeing Rainsford. But Rainsford’s second thought was even more terrible. Why had the general smiled? Why had he turned back? Zaroff was playing with him! The general was saving him for another day’s sport!
“I will not lose my nerve. I will not.” He slid down the tree and went on through the woods. He forced himself to think. Three hundred yards from his hiding place he stopped where a huge dead tree leaned on a smaller living one. Rainsford took out his knife and began to work with all of his strength.
When the job was finished he hid behind a fallen log. He didn’t have to wait long. The cat was coming again to play with the mouse.
Again, nothing escaped Zaroff’s eyes. His gun gleamed in the sunlight. His foot touched the trap that Rainsford had set. The general sensed danger and leaped back as quickly as an acrobat. But he was not quick enough. The dead tree crashed down and struck the general on the shoulder. He stumbled but did not fall.
“Rainsford, if you can hear my voice, let me congratulate you. Not many men could have set a trap for me. I’m going back to take care of my shoulder, but I will be back.”
Rainsford ran away like a madman. It was getting dark again. The ground became soft. He was in a part of the island that was jungle. He took a step forward. His foot sank into the mud. He pulled it out with a great effort. Quicksand!
He had another idea. He stepped back from the quicksand and began to dig. When he had dug a pit he could stand up in, he climbed out, cut some sticks and sharpened each one to a point.
He forced them into the mud at the bottom with the points sticking up. He hid the opening under some loose weeds and waited.
This time he heard a new sound–barking and sniffing. General Zaroff was using a dog to find him. He heard the sound of crashing and a yelp of pain. The pointed sticks’ went through their target. Then he heard a voice.
“You’ve done well, Rainsford. Your trap has killed one of my best dogs. I’m going home to rest now, but I will be back this afternoon. Let’s see what you can do against a whole pack of my dogs.
Rainsford was desperate. He was out of new ideas. Late that afternoon, as he was running along the cliff above the sea, he heard the barking of the hounds. He waited until he could see them. Forty feet below he could also see the ocean waves crashing against the sharp rocks. There was only one chance. Anything was better than facing the general’s dogs. He turned and leaped far out into the water.
When the general reached the cliff he was disappointed. Rainsford had chosen the cowards way out. Zaroff was cheated out of his prize. For a few minutes he watched the wild water. No one could live through that. He walked back to the house.
General Zaroff ate a good dinner that night. It was a shame that the famous American hunter had not played fair. But there would be other guests and other hunts. “Better luck next time,” he thought.
At ten he went up to his bedroom.
A shadow by the window moved toward him.
“Rainsford? How did you get here?”
“I swam,” said Rainsford. “I found it quicker that walking through the jungle.”
The general smiled. “I congratulate you. You have won the game.”
“Do you think I believe that you will really let me escape? Do you think I won’t tell the police about this island and your terrible hunting?”
“I see,’’ said the general. “The hunted has turned on the hunter. Well, one of us will sleep in this excellent bed tonight. Defend yourself!”
He had never slept in a better bed, Rainsford decided the next morning.
The Moon Maiden[edit | edit source]
A Japanese Fairytale
In the far reaches of Japan, at the base of the great Mt. Fuji, lived a kind bamboo–cutter and his lovely wife. They lived happily for most of their lives. They loved each other as greatly as any couple could; however, they never had any children and because of that, they eventually grew very sad and lonely.
One day, the bamboo–cutter came home from a hard day’s work. He placed his tools on the table and noticed his wife sitting alone, sobbing.
“Oh, my dear husband!” she began, sadly. “There is nothing more that I wish for in this great world than a child to call our own.”
The bamboo–cutter looked at his sad wife and felt hopeless that he could not console her. Later that evening, his wife looked up at Mt. Fuji’s brilliant snow-covered peak and shouted sadly, “Oh how I wish I had a sweet child to take care of! It saddens me so that I will never have a young life to nurture! Send me a child to care for! That is all I wish.”
While his wife spoke, the bamboo–cutter noticed a warm light shining radiantly from Mt. Fuji’s topmost point.
“Dear husband! Look! Look! There – on the mountaintop! I can see a child’s face! It is shining!” his wife cried out.
The bamboo–cutter assumed that this was just his wife’s imagination, but she insisted it was true. “I know it is true, I can feel it. I can see the child. It is like I am looking into its soul!”
Her husband was skeptical, but he didn’t want to disappoint his wife so he said, “Since you are so dear to me, I will go up to Fuji’s summit to see what is there.”
The bamboo–cutter climbed the mountain for hours and hours. He came to a small clearing in the mountain path and noticed a small blue and black butterfly fluttering gently towards him. “Follow me,” he heard someone whisper. The bamboo–cutter stopped immediately and stared at the butterfly dancing around him. He could not believe his ears. The butterfly had spoken to him!
The bamboo–cutter followed the fluttering butterfly along the trails of Mt. Fuji. Finally, the butterfly led him to a glade with a large bamboo tree and a small pond. Silver light shone beautifully on the water.
“Follow me!” the butterfly whispered as it landed on an object resting between the branches of the tree.
The bamboo–cutter approached the butterfly and found a small child cradled amongst the bamboo stalks that was as white as the moon.
“My child! Where have you come from?” the man cried, filled with joy.
“I have come to you from the Moon Lady. She is my true mother, but she noticed your wife’s sadness and sent me to heal her kind heart. I am Princess Moonbeam,” the child replied.
The man, still filled with all the joy in the world, cradled the child and made the journey home. The blue and black butterfly had enjoyed the bamboo-cutter’s company so much and fluttered behind him.
When he arrived home, his wife greeted him and asked him what he was cradling. The moment she saw the child, she cried out with happiness. This time, she was sobbing tears of joy. The moonchild had indeed healed the woman’s kind heart.
Over the following years, Princess Moonbeam brought nothing but happiness and comfort to the couple. She helped the bamboo–cutter with his work, she helped his wife tend the garden and she always said kind words to their neighbours in the nearby village. Princess Moonbeam even befriended the small butterfly and the two played happily in the grassy field near the bamboo-cutter’s house. Even when she was older, Princess Moonbeam played gracefully with the butterfly; the bamboo–cutter’s wife loved to watch the two run and play in the field.
One lovely day as spring turned to summer, Princess Moonbeam realized that she had grown up. She was not a little girl anymore. This meant that her time with the bamboo–cutter and his wife was near its end and it was time for her to return back to her true mother, the Moon Lady in the sky.
Sadly, she told the bamboo–cutter and his wife. “Stay with us, moonchild!” they cried. But the small butterfly landed on the bamboo–cutter’s shoulder and whispered gently to the kind-hearted couple:
“Let her go. She must be one with where she is from. She has given you all the joy in the world, just as you have done the same for her. The memories you have of your sweet Moon Maiden will be forever locked in your souls.”
Over the next few days, Princess Moonbeam bid farewell to all the people that she would be leaving behind once she returned to the sky. When the full moon rose, white and brighter than any star in the sky, a brilliant bridge shining with silvery light stretched far out from the sky to the ground.
All movement stopped as the bamboo–cutter, his wife and their neighbours stared in awe at the radiant Moon Lady walking gracefully down the silver bridge, her long wispy hair merging with the moonlight that seemed to follow her.
As she passed the villagers the Moon Lady gently approached her child. She wrapped her silvery body around Princess Moonbeam and the two glided back up the bridge to their home in the sky. Princess Moonbeam’s friend, the small blue and black butterfly fluttered along behind them for a while, before returning to rest again on the bamboo–cutter’s shoulder.
On her journey back home Princess Moonbeam wept softly, sad that it was time to leave her family on earth but glad that she’d had the opportunity to get to know them. As she wept, small silver droplets floated down to the ground. These shiny tears glided gracefully down to the ground near the bamboo–cutter, his wife, and their neighbours – who all missed the Moon Maiden greatly. Her tears carried a message of love and comfort.
To this day, the tears of Princess Moonbeam can be seen on a brightly moonlit night in the small ponds, marshes, and glades all across Japan, especially around Mt. Fuji. And, chances are, a small blue and black butterfly will be close by, fluttering in the grassy fields.
The Love Story of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl[edit | edit source]
The view that adorns the world’s largest city – Mexico City – is enhanced by the majesty of two of the highest volcanoes in the hemisphere: Popocatepetl and Iztaccíhuatl.
Before Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico, the Aztecs (or, Mexica) ruled the Valley of Mexico from the city of Tenochtitlán. It was common practice to require neighboring lands to pay them taxes. The chief of the Tlaxcaltecas, bitter enemies of the Mexica, grew weary of this terrible oppression, and decided to fight for his people’s freedom. The Mexica prepared to go south, to Oaxaca, to fight against the Tlaxcaltecas.
The Emperor and Empress of Tenochtitlán had only one child, a daughter named Iztaccihuatl, which meant White Lady in the Nahuatl language. She was the most beautiful of all the princesses, and she was in love with Popoca (which means “Smoke” in Nahuatl). Popoca was one of her father’s people and the most handsome of all the warriors. The princess and the warrior professed a deep love for each other, so before leaving for war, Popoca asked the Emperor for the hand of Princess Iztaccihuatl in marriage. The father gladly agreed and promised to welcome him back with a big marriage celebration if he returned victorious from the battle. The brave warrior accepted, and departed. As he fought, he kept in his heart the promise that the princess would be waiting for him when he returned.
However, the Princess Iztaccihuatl was very beautiful, and there were many other young men who wanted to marry her. Soon after Popoca departed for war, a jealous love rival cruelly told Princess Iztaccihuatl that her beloved had died in combat. The princess was crushed by the tragic news. Overwhelmed by sadness, she died, without even imagining it could be a lie.
Popoca returned victorious to his people, hoping to find his beloved princess. Upon arrival, he received the terrible news of the death of Iztaccihuatl. Devastated by the news, he wandered about the streets for several days and nights, until he decided he had to do something to honor her love and to assure that the princess would never be forgotten.
He ordered a great tomb built under the sun, piling up ten hills together to form a huge mountain. Then he carried the dead Princess in his arms, took her to the summit and laid her on the great mountain. The young warrior lovingly kissed her cold lips, took a smoking torch and knelt in front of his beloved to watch over her eternal sleep. Since that time, they continue to face each other. Eventually the snow covered their bodies, forming two majestic volcanoes that would remain joined till the end of time.
Popocatepetl, meaning “Smoking hill” in Nahuatl, continues to smoke whenever he remembers his beloved.
La Llorona -The Weeping Woman[edit | edit source]
According to a popular legend, the woman was a native of Tenochtitlán, a beautiful Aztec woman. One of the Spanish conquistadors who had been sent by Spain to oppress and conquer “New Spain” saw the beautiful woman and fell in love with her. They began to secretly see each other, and eventually the couple had three children. Since it was prohibited for Spanish noblemen to marry native women, their relationship had to be kept secret. But the woman begged the man to marry her anyway.
Rather than marry her, he began to evade her, visiting her and their children less and less over time. One day, the woman learned that the man had agreed upon a convenient marriage to a wealthy Spanish lady. Humiliated by the man she loved so much, the woman was driven totally mad. In an emotional fit, she took her three children to the river and threw them each into the water. But as soon as she had thrown them in, she realized that she had drowned her own children, and she threw herself into the river too. At the gates of Heaven, the woman was asked about her little ones. “My Lord, I don’t know where they are,” she replied. So her punishment was that she would have to search for them for all eternity.
There are those who claim that, in her zeal to be accepted into Heaven, the murderess Weeping Woman carries away firstborn children between the ages of 1 and 5 years-old to present them before God as her own children. For this reason, her cries are feared by all.
The Legend of the White Lady[edit | edit source]
The story just about how I told it, but you could leave out the history part if you don’t think your students would be interested.
Suspense building introduction
Imagine you are in Ireland, standing on a cliff with a gentle breeze blowing on your face. You can see the blue sea below you, and the rolling green hills along the coast. You
are on the southern coast of the country, not far from Cork, and you have been walking around the ruins of a fort built more than four hundred years ago.
At the moment, you are looking over a harbour. Its name is Kinsale Harbor, and it was
an important strategic location in the past. Suddenly, you feel a presence near you. You turn around, and you catch a glimpse of something white, disappearing into one of the buildings in ruin. You have probably just been visited by the White Lady of Kinsale, who has been haunting the castle for a long time.
The legend of the White Lady of Kinsale is not a romantic comedy, but the tragic tale of a wedding that led to three funerals.
Towards the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the Queen of England and
Ireland, an Irish alliance was at war with England. The alliance didn’t want
England to rule Ireland.
This war is often referred to as the “The Nine Years’ War”, and it lasted from
1593 to the early 17th century, just afer Queen Elizabeth died.
Even though the Irish had had help from the Spanish, their Catholic allies, the war was won by the English after the Siege, or the Battle of Kinsale in 1603.
In 1607, a castle was built to continue defending the harbour. It was named James Fort, after the new King James I of England and Ireland, formerly King James VI of Scotland, and it was situated on the west coast of the harbour.
At the end of the century, in 1682, a new star-shaped fort was built on the other side of the harbour. This one was named Charles Fort, after King Charles II, the grandson of King James I. It had walls up to six meters thick, to resist cannon attacks. It was even possible to stretch an underwater chain across the river estuary from Charles Fort to James Fort, to break up and sink enemy ships.
The fort is no longer in use, and it was declared an Irish National Monument in 1973 for its part in Irish history.
Wilful Warrender was the daughter of the commander of Charles Fort, Governor Warrender.
She fell madly in love with an officer named Sir Trevor Ashurst, and he with her. The couple
had a whirlwind romance and quickly decided to get married, which made the Governor very happy.
They had a grand wedding and in the evening, the weather being fine, the newly weds decided to go for a walk in the grounds of the fort. They were walking along the castle ramparts, when Wilful noticed some beautiful flowers at the bottom of the battlements. Sir Trevor, willing to do almost anything for his new bride, said he would climb down to pick some flowers for her, but a sentry on duty volunteered to climb down for him.
Sir Trevor agreed, but he didn’t want to leave the sentry’s post unattended, so he took the
man’s place, asking Wilful to go and wait for him back in their chambers, because it was starting to get cold.
The sentry was gone for a long time, for much longer than Sir Trevor had expected. Sir Trevor waited patiently, but he was so exhausted from the day’s wedding festivites, that he eventually fell asleep, leaning on his musket!
Shortly after, Wilful’s father, the Governor, came along on his nightly inspection. Governor Warrender was an extremely strict and organised commander. As he walked along the ramparts, he noticed what he thought was a sentry leaning against the wall. He called to the man, who didn’t answer. Supposing that the sentry had fallen asleep on duty, which was absolutely forbidden, the Governor shot him, straight through the heart! When he went to see who the man really was, he realized that he had just shot his own son-in-law.
Of course, after realising his mistake, Governor Warrender couldn’t face breaking the news to his one and only daughter who he loved so much, so he immediately threw himself off the battlements.
When Sir Trevor hadn’t come back, and probably having heard the gunshot, Wilful went back outside to look for her husband. When she found her husband’s body in a pool of blood on the battlement, and then looked down and saw her father’s broken body at the foot of the
ramparts, she was broken-hearted. She couldn’t face living without them. So Wilful wandered blindly along the castle ramparts, and then, she too, still in her wedding dress, threw herself off the castle wall and into the icy waters below.
Since that day, Wilful’s ghost, the White Lady, has been wandering around the grounds of the fort, still in her wedding dress, looking for sleeping sentries. She wants to make sure that the same thing doesn’t happen to them… and, in any case, the poor soul has nowhere else to go!
There have been many sightings of the White Lady. People who have seen her in recent times say that she is a sad soul, but kind.
One local person claims that he went out for a run one night out near Charles Fort. At one point he stopped to retie his shoe laces. He put his hand on the fort wall to get his balance, and he felt another hand reach out from the wall and interlock fingers with him.
The manager of the local ‘White Lady Hotel’ said that he saw her making toast in the hotel kitchen one New Year’s Eve!
However, the White Lady is not always a kind and gentle spirit. Many soldiers who served at
the fort before it was closed, mainly captains, told tales of being pushed down stairs by an
So, if you ever do visit County Cork, be careful if you feel a strange presence behind you!
The Last Lesson[edit | edit source]
From Contes du Lundi by Alphonse Daudet
This morning I was very late getting to school and I was afraid of being scolded because M. Hamel had said he would be quizzing us on the participles and I didn’t know the first word. It occurred to me that I might skip class and run afield. The day was warm and bright, the blackbirds were whistling at the edge of the woods, and in the meadow behind the sawmill the Prussians were practicing. Everything seemed much nicer than the rule of participles; but I resisted the urge and hurried toward school.
Passing the town hall, I saw a group of people gathered in front of the notice board. For the past two years that has been where we’ve gotten all the bad news, the battles lost, the demands, the commands; and I thought without stopping: “What now?” Then as I ran by, the blacksmith Wachter, who was there with his apprentice reading the postings, called to me: “Don’t rush, boy; you have plenty of time to get to school!” I thought he was teasing me, and I was out of breath as I reached M. Hamel’s.
Normally, when class starts, there is noise enough to be heard from the street as desks are opened and shut, students repeat lessons together and loudly with hands over ears to learn better, and the teacher’s big ruler knocking on the tables: “Let’s have some quiet!” I was hoping to use the commotion to sneak into place unnoticed, but today all was silent, like a Sunday morning. Through the open window I saw my classmates already in their seats and M. Hamel, who went back and forth with his terrible iron ruler under his arm. I had to open the door and enter amidst this great calm. You can imagine how flushed and fearful I was!
But no, M. Hamel looked at me evenly and said gently: “Take your seat quickly, little Franz, we were starting without you.” I hopped the bench and sat at my desk right away. Only after I had settled in did I notice our teacher had on his fancy green coat, his ruffled shirt and the embroidered silk cap he only wore on inspection or award days. Also, the whole room seemed oddly solemn. But what surprised me most was at the back of the room where the benches were always empty now sat people of the village, quietly like us: the old Hauser with his tricorn, the former mayor, the former postmaster, and some others. Everyone looked sad; and Hauser had brought his old primer, worn at the edges, which he held open on his knees with his glasses resting on the pages.
While I was taking all this in, M. Hamel stood by his chair and in the same grave, gentle voice with which he had welcomed me told us: “Children, this is the last time I will teach the class. Orders from Berlin require that only German be taught in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine … the new teacher arrives tomorrow. Today is your last French lesson. I ask for your best attention.” These words hit me hard. Ah! Those beasts, that’s what they had posted at the town hall. My last French lesson …
Yet I hardly knew how to write! I had learned nothing! And I would learn no more! I wished now to have the lost time back, the classes missed as I hunted for eggs or went skating on the Saar! My books that I had always found so boring, so heavy to carry, my grammar text, my history of the saints—they seemed to me like old friends I couldn’t bear to abandon. It was the same with M. Hamel. The idea that he was leaving made me forget his scolding and the thumps of his ruler. Poor man!
It was in honor of this final class that he had worn his best Sunday outfit, and now I understood why the old men from the village were gathered at the rear of the class. They were there to show that they too were sorry for neglecting to attend school more. It was also a way to thank our teacher of forty years for his fine service, and to show their respect for the country that was disappearing.
I was pondering these things when I heard my name called. It was my turn to recite. What wouldn’t I have given to say that vaunted rule of participles loudly, clearly, flawlessly? Instead I tangled the first words and stood, hanging onto my desk, my heart pounding, unable to raise my head. I heard M. Hamel say: “I won’t scold you, my little Franz, you must already feel bad … That’s how it is. We always say: ‘Bah! I have time. I’ll learn “tomorrow.”’ And now you see it has come … Ah! It is Alsace’s great trouble that she always puts off learning until tomorrow. Now people will be justified in saying to us: ‘How come you pretend to be French and yet don’t know how to read or write your language!” You are not the most guilty of this, my poor Franz. We all have good reason to blame ourselves.
Your parents did not press you to learn your lessons. They’d prefer to have you work in the fields or at the mill to earn some more money. Myself, I am not blameless. Haven’t I sent you to water my garden instead of work? And when I wanted to go fishing, didn’t I give you the day off?”
Then, from one thing to another, M. Hamel spoke of the French tongue, saying it was the most beautiful language in the world, the most clear, the most sensible. That we must keep it ourselves and never forget it, because when a people if they hold onto their language it is like holding the prison key …
Then he took a grammar text and read us our lesson. I was stunned to realize how well I understood it. Everything he said seemed so easy, easy! I believe also that I had never listened so well and that he had never explained to us so patiently. One might think that the poor man wished to give us all his knowledge, to fill our heads in a single try.
After grammar, we moved on to writing. For this day, M. Hamel had prepared new examples, written in beautiful, round script: France, Alsace, France, Alsace. They looked like little flags floating about the classroom, hung from the rods atop our desks. It was something to see everyone set to our work, and so silently! The only sound was the scratching of pens on paper. Once some beetles flew in but no one paid them any attention, not even the little ones who were assiduously tracing their figures with one heart, one mind, as if this also were French … On the roof the pigeons cooed softly. When I heard them I said to myself: “Will they be forced to sing in German, too?” From time to time when I’d raise my eyes from my writing I would see M. Hamel still in his chair staring at the objects around him as if he wanted to memorize exactly how things were in the little schoolhouse.
Imagine! For forty years, he’d been in the same place with his yard before him and all the class likewise. The benches and desks were polished, worn with use; the walnut trees had grown, and the hops he’d planted himself now climbed around the windows to the roof. How heart-breaking it must be for the poor man to leave all these things, to hear his sister packing their things in the room above.
They would have to leave the country the next day, forever.
All the same, he bravely kept class to the very end. After writing, we had a history lesson, then the little ones sang together their BA BE BI BO BU. At the rear of the room, old Hauser put on his glasses and, holding his primer in both hands, chanted the letters with them. It was obviously a great effort for him; his voice trembled with emotion and it was so funny to hear him that we wanted to laugh and cry. Ah! I do remember that last class…
Suddenly the church clock struck noon. During the Angelus we could hear the Prussians’ trumpets beneath the windows as they returned from their exercises… M. Hamel rose, colorless, from his chair. Never had he appeared so large.
“My friends, say, my, I … I…” But something choked him. He couldn’t say it.
He turned to the board, took a piece of chalk and, using all of his strength, he wrote as large as he could:
“VIVE LA FRANCE!”
He stayed there, his head resting on the wall, and wordlessly used his hand to motion to us: “It’s over … you may go.”