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|Once upon a time there was a widow who lived with her two daughters. One of them was kind and good and beautiful, the other was nasty and lazy and of such a sour disposition that she was even ugly to look at. However, the kind, pretty one was the stepdaughter, so she got treated quite badly and was no better than a maid in her father's house. Day after day, she was sent out to sit by the well and spin yarn until her fingers were bloody.
And so it happened one day that the spool was all bloody and she bent down to wash it off in the well. Alas, she lost her grip and the spool sank below the water. She was deadly afraid what her stepmother might say, but she had little choice than to go home and tell what had happened. As expected, the stepmother threw a fit and after a lot of screaming and yelling she finally informed the girl that since she had dropped the spool into the water, she would do well to jump in after and bring it back.
The girl didn't know what to do but finally the fear of her stepmother got the better of her ... she jumped into the well ... her senses left her.
As she awoke, she found herself in a beautiful meadow, filled with flowers and birdsong and sunshine. She started to walk around and came upon a brick oven, filled with bread. A voice called to her from the oven, the loaves of bread begging her to take them out lest they burn, as they were all done baking. So she took the paddle and pulled the loaves out of the oven. And walked on. Soon she came to a tree, full of red and golden apples; they called to her "Please, shake the tree, shake the tree, we are all well ripened!" So she went and shook the tree, and she shook and she shook until there wasn't an apple left in the tree. She then gathered them all into a neat heap and went on her way.
Before long, she came to a neat little house. An old woman leaned out of a second-floor window and since she had such large teeth the girl got frightened and started to run away. But the old woman called to her and said "What are you afraid of, girl? I could use some help around here. You can stay and do housework and if you do a good job, you shall have a pretty good life. But you must promise to take special care and shake out my bedding each day, because as the feathers fly, so it snows on earth. You see, I'm Frau Holle." The girl figured she wasn't likely to get a better offer anywhere and decided to take the old woman up on her promise.
And she did indeed have a good life, better than she'd ever had before. She cooked and cleaned, never forgetting to give the bedding a good shake each day, and was rewarded with kind words and plenty of good food to eat. Alas, and she didn't know herself why this was so, that after a time she felt homesick and wanted to return to her own world. The old woman agreed to let her go and since she had been such a good helper to her, she would lead her back herself. She took the girl by the hand and led her to a huge gate, which opened before them. As the girl stood directly underneath, gold coins began to rain down on her, clinging to her hair and clothing until she was covered with them three times over. The old woman told her that was her reward. As a last gesture, she handed her the spool that had fallen into the well. The girl accepted the spool and wanted to thank the old woman again, but as she looked up, the gate had disappeared. She was back by the well, not far from her home.
As she walked into the yard, she rooster noticed her and crowed "The golden maiden has returned."
Needless to say, when the girl got home so covered in riches, she was greeted enthusiastically and treated quite well from then on. However, the mother wanted the same good luck for her real daughter and bade her to sit by the well and spin until her fingers were bloody, then drop the spool and jump in after it.
Not in the mood for any spinning, the lazy girl decided to stick her fingers on the spool to get it bloody, then threw it in the well and jumped in.
Just like the first girl, she came to the oven and heard the bread call to be taken out. "Yeah, right," she thought, "I'm just in the mood to get myself all dirty and sweaty." And she walked on. The apples on the tree begged her to be shaken off as they were quite ripe, but she thought "Yeah, right, one of them apples will fall on my head and muss my hair." And she walked on until she came to the little house where Frau Holle dwelled.
She got the same offer as her sister from the old woman which she of course accepted. At first, she had thoughts of all the gold that would be hers and did her duties well. But then her natural lazyness took over; she started to slack off, each day a little more, until Frau Holle finally had enough of her and told her to go away. That was just what the girl had hoped for, and off she went. Soon, she stood under the gate, waiting for her share of gold. Alas, it wasn't gold that rained down. A vat of pitch was emptied over her head and she screamed and yelled at the old woman, but she was of course nowhere near the little house anymore, she was in her own front yard and the rooster's crow announced that "The dirty, lazy maiden has returned."
And wouldn't you know it, that pitch clung to her for the rest of her life!
|NOTE: There is some speculation that "Fray Holle" was the blueprint for Mother Goose.|
|Page and background background created October 2000 by Val Grant|