Mother Holle

There was once a widow who had two daughters--one of whom was pretty and
industrious, while the other was ugly and idle. But she was much fonder
of the ugly and idle one, because she was her own daughter; and the
other, who was a step-daughter, was obliged to do all the work, and be
the Cinderella of the house. Every day the poor girl had to sit by a
well, in the highway, and spin and spin till her fingers bled.

Now it happened that one day the shuttle was marked with her blood, so
she dipped it in the well, to wash the mark off; but it dropped out of
her hand and fell to the bottom. She began to weep, and ran to her
step-mother and told of the mishap. But she scolded her sharply, and was
so merciless as to say, "Since you have let the shuttle fall in, you
must fetch it out again."

So the girl went back to the well, and did not know what to do; and in
the sorrow of her heart she jumped into the well to get the shuttle. She
lost her senses; and when she awoke and came to herself again, she was
in a lovely meadow where the sun was shining and many thousands of
flowers were growing. Along this meadow she went, and at last came to a
baker's oven full of bread, and the bread cried out, "Oh, take me out!
take me out! or I shall burn; I have been baked a long time!" So she
went up to it, and took out all the loaves one after another with the
bread-shovel. After that she went on till she came to a tree covered
with apples, which called out to her, "Oh, shake me! shake me! we apples
are all ripe!" So she shook the tree till the apples fell like rain, and
went on shaking till they were all down, and when she had gathered them
into a heap, she went on her way.

At last she came to a little house, out of which an old woman peeped;
but she had such large teeth that the girl was frightened, and was about
to run away.

But the old woman called out to her, "What are you afraid of, dear
child? Stay with me; if you will do all the work in the house properly,
you shall be the better for it. Only you must take care to make my bed
well, and to shake it thoroughly till the feathers fly--for then there
is snow on the earth. I am Mother Holle."

As the old woman spoke so kindly to her, the girl took courage and
agreed to enter her service. She attended to everything to the
satisfaction of her mistress, and always shook her bed so vigorously
that the feathers flew about like snow-flakes. So she had a pleasant
life with her; never an angry word; and boiled or roast meat every day.

She stayed some time with Mother Holle, and then she became sad. At
first she did not know what was the matter with her, but found at length
that it was homesickness; although she was many times better off here
than at home, still she had a longing to be there. At last she said to
the old woman, "I have a longing for home; and however well off I am
down here, I cannot stay any longer; I must go up again to my own
people." Mother Holle said, "I am pleased that you long for your home
again, and as you have served me so truly, I myself will take you up
again." Thereupon she took her by the hand, and led her to a large door.
The door was opened, and just as the maiden was standing beneath the
doorway, a heavy shower of golden rain fell, and all the gold remained
sticking to her, so that she was completely covered with it.

"You shall have that because you are so industrious," said Mother Holle;
and at the same time she gave her back the shuttle which she had let
fall into the well. Thereupon the door closed, and the maiden found
herself up above upon the earth, not far from her mother's house.

And as she went into the yard the cock cried: "Cock-a-doodle-doo! Your
golden girl's come back to you!"

So she went in to her mother, and as she arrived thus covered with gold,
she was well received, both by her and her sister.

The girl told all that had happened to her; and as soon as the mother
heard how she had come by so much wealth, she was very anxious to obtain
the same good luck for the ugly and lazy daughter. She had to seat
herself by the well and spin; and in order that her shuttle might be
stained with blood, she stuck her hand into a thorn-bush and pricked her
finger. Then she threw her shuttle into the well, and jumped in after

She came, like the other, to the beautiful meadow and walked along the
very same path. When she got to the oven the bread again cried, "Oh,
take me out! take me out! or I shall burn; I have been baked a long
time!" But the lazy thing answered, "As if I had any wish to make myself
dirty!" and on she went. Soon she came to the apple-tree, which cried,
"Oh, shake me! shake me! we apples are all ripe!" But she answered, "I
like that! one of you might fall on my head," and so went on.

When she came to Mother Holle's house she was not afraid, for she had
already heard of her big teeth, and she hired herself to her

The first day she forced herself to work diligently, and obeyed Mother
Holle when she told her to do anything, for she was thinking of all the
gold that she would give her. But on the second day she began to be
lazy, and on the third day still more so, and then she would not get up
in the morning at all. Neither did she make Mother Holle's bed as she
ought, and did not shake it so as to make the feathers fly up. Mother
Holle was soon tired of this, and gave her notice to leave. The lazy
girl was willing enough to go, and thought that now the golden rain
would come. Mother Holle led her, too, to the great door; but while she
was standing beneath it, instead of the gold a big kettleful of pitch
was emptied over her. "That is the reward of your service," said Mother
Holle, and shut the door.

So the lazy girl went home; but she was quite covered with pitch, and
the cock by the well-side, as soon as he saw her, cried:
"Cock-a-doodle-doo! Your pitchy girl's come back to you." But the pitch
stuck fast to her, and could not be got off as long as she lived.