The Brothers Who Were Turned into Birds

Folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther Type 451
translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2013


  1. The Seven Doves (Italy, Giambattista Basile).

  2. The Curse of the Seven Children (Italy).

  3. The Bewitched Brothers (Romania).

  4. The Twelve Brothers (Germany, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm).

  5. The Seven Ravens (Germany, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm).

  6. The Six Swans (Germany, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm).

  7. The Twelve Wild Ducks (Norway, Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Engebretsen Moe).

  8. Link to The Wild Swans (Denmark, Hans Christian Andersen).

  9. The Little Sister: The Story of Suyettar and the Nine Brothers (Finland).

  10. The Twelve Wild Geese (Ireland).

  11. The Sister and Her Seven Brothers (Basque).

  12. Link to Udea and Her Seven Brothers (Libya, Andrew Lang, The Grey Fairy Book, 1900).

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

The Seven Doves

Italy, Giambattista Basile

There was once in the county of Arzano a good woman to whom every year gave a son, until at length there were seven of them, who looked like a syrinx of the god Pan, with seven reeds, one larger than another.

And when they had changed their first teeth, they said to Jannetella their mother, "Hark ye, mother, if, after so many sons, you do not this time have a daughter, we are resolved to leave home, and go wandering through the world like the sons of the blackbirds."

When their mother heard this sad announcement, she prayed Heaven to remove such an intention from her sons, and prevent her losing seven such jewels as they were. But the sons said to Jannetella, "We will retire to the top of yonder hill or rock opposite; if Heaven sends you another son, put an inkstand and a pen up at the window; but if you have a little girl, put up a spoon and a distaff. For if we see the signal of a daughter, we shall return home and spend the rest of our lives under your wings; but if we see the signal of a son, then forget us, for you may know that we have taken ourselves off."

Soon after the sons had departed it pleased Heaven that Jannetella should have given her a pretty little daughter; then she told the nurse to make the signal to the brothers, but the woman was so stupid and confused that she put up the inkstand and the pen. As soon as the seven brothers saw this signal, they set off, and walked on and on, until at the end of three years they came to a wood, where the trees were performing the sword-dance to the sound of a river which made counterpoint upon the stones.

In this wood was the house of an ogre, whose eyes having been blinded whilst asleep by a woman, he was such an enemy to the sex that he devoured all whom he could catch. When the youths arrived at the ogre's house, tired out with walking and exhausted with hunger, they begged him for pity's sake to give them a morsel of bread. And the ogre replied, that if they would serve him, he would give them food, and they would have nothing else to do but to watch over him, like a dog, each in turn for a day.

The youths, upon hearing this, thought they had found mother and father; so they consented, and remained in the service of the ogre, who having gotten their names by heart, called one time Giangrazio, at another Cecchitiello, now Pascale, now Nuccio, now Pone, now Pezzillo, and now Carcavecchia, for so the brothers were named; and giving them a room in the lower part of his house, he allowed them enough to live upon.

Meanwhile their sister had grown up; and hearing that her seven brothers, owing to the stupidity of the nurse, had set out to walk through the world, and that no tidings of them had ever been received, she took it into her head to go in search of them. And she begged and prayed her mother so long, that at last, overcome by her entreaties, she gave her leave to go, and dressed her like a pilgrim. Then the maiden walked and walked, asking at every place she came to whether anyone had seen seven brothers. And thus she journeyed on, until at length she got news of them at an inn, where having inquired the way to the wood, one morning, she arrived at the ogre's house, where she was recognized by her brothers with great joy, who cursed the inkstand and pen for writing falsely such misfortune for them.

Then giving her a thousand caresses, they told her to remain quiet in their chamber, that the ogre might not see her; bidding her at the same time give a portion of whatever she had to eat to a cat which was in the room, or otherwise she would do her some harm. Cianna (for so the sister was named) wrote down this advice in the pocket-book of her heart, and shared everything with the cat, like a good companion, always cutting justly, and saying, "This for me, this for thee, this for the daughter of the king!" giving the cat a share to the last morsel.

Now it happened one day that the brothers, going to hunt for the ogre, left Cianna a little basket of chickpeas to cook; and as she was picking them, by ill luck she found among them a hazelnut, which was the stone of disturbance to her quiet; for having swallowed it without giving half to the cat, the latter out of spite ran up to the hearth and put out the fire. Cianna seeing this, and not knowing what to do, left the room, contrary to the command of her brothers, and going into the ogre's chamber begged him for a little fire.

Then the ogre, hearing a woman's voice, said, "Welcome, madam! Wait a while, you have found what you are seeking." And so saying he took a Genoa stone, and daubing it with oil he fell to whetting his tusks.

But Cianna, who saw that she had made a mistake, seizing a lighted stick, ran to her chamber; and bolting the door inside, she placed against it bars, stools, bedsteads, tables, stones, and everything there was in the room.

As soon as the ogre had put an edge on his teeth he ran to the chamber of the brothers, and finding the door fastened, he fell to kicking it to break it open.

At this noise and disturbance the seven brothers came home, and hearing themselves accused by the ogre of treachery for making their chamber the abode of his women-enemies, Giangrazio, who was the eldest and had more sense than the others, and saw matters going badly, said to the ogre, "We know nothing of this affair, and it may be that this wicked woman has perchance come into the room whilst we were at the chase; but as she has fortified herself inside, come with me, and I will take you to a place where we can seize her without her being able to defend herself."

Then they took the ogre by the hand, and led him to a deep, deep pit, where giving him a push they sent him headlong to the bottom; and taking a shovel, which they found on the ground, they covered him with earth. Then they bade their sister unfasten the door, and they rated her soundly for the fault she had committed, and the danger in which she had placed herself; telling her to be more careful in future, and to beware of plucking grass upon the spot where the ogre was buried, or they would be turned into seven doves.

"Heaven keep me from bringing such a misfortune upon you!" replied Cianna.

So taking possession of all the ogre's goods and chattels, and making themselves masters of the whole house, they lived there merrily enough, waiting until winter should pass away.

Now it happened one day, when the brothers were gone to the mountains to get firewood, to defend themselves against the cold, which increased from day to day, that a poor pilgrim came to the ogre's wood, and made faces at an ape that was perched up in a pine tree; whereupon the ape threw down one of the fir apples from the tree upon the man's pate, which made such a terrible bump that the poor fellow set up a loud cry. Cianna hearing the noise went out, and taking pity on his disaster, she quickly plucked a sprig of rosemary from a tuft which grew upon the ogre's grave; then she made him a plaster of it with chewed bread and salt, and after giving the man some breakfast she sent him away.

Whilst Cianna was laying the cloth, and expecting her brothers, lo! she saw seven doves come flying, who said to her, "Ah! better that your hand had been cut off, you cause of all our misfortune, ere it plucked that accursed rosemary and brought such a calamity upon us! Have you eaten the brains of a cat, O sister, that you have driven our advice from your mind? Behold us turned to birds, a prey to the talons of kites, hawks, and falcons! Behold us made companions of water-hens, snipes, goldfinches, woodpeckers, jays, owls, magpies, jackdaws, rooks, starlings, woodcocks, cocks, hens and chickens, turkey-cocks, blackbirds, thrushes, chaffinches, tomtits, jenny-wrens, lapwings, linnets, greenfinches, crossbills, flycatchers, larks, plovers, kingfishers, wagtails, redbreasts, red finches, sparrows, ducks, fieldfares, wood-pigeons and bullfinches! A rare thing you have done! And now we may return to our country to find nets laid and twigs limed for us! To heal the head of a pilgrim, you have broken the heads of seven brothers; nor is there any help for our misfortune, unless you find the Mother of Time, who will tell you the way to get us out of trouble."

Cianna, looking like a plucked quail at the fault she had committed, begged pardon of her brothers, and offered to go round the world until she should find the dwelling of the old woman. Then praying them not to stir from the house until she returned, lest any ill should betide them, she set out, and journeyed on and on without ever tiring; and though she went on foot, her desire to aid her brothers served her as a sumpter-mule, with which she made three miles an hour.

At last she came to the seashore, where with the blows of the waves the sea was banging the rocks. Here she saw a huge whale, who said to her, "My pretty maiden, what go you seeking?"

And she replied, "I am seeking the dwelling of the Mother of Time."

"Hear then what you must do," replied the whale. "Go straight along this shore, and on coming to the first river, follow it up to its source, and you will meet with someone who will show you the way. But do me one kindness. When you find the good old woman, beg of her the favor to tell me some means by which I may swim about safely, without so often knocking upon the rocks and being thrown on the sands."

"Trust to me," said Cianna. Then thanking the whale for pointing out the way, she set off walking along the shore; and after a long journey she came to the river, which was disbursing itself into the sea. Then taking the way up to its source, she arrived at a beautiful open country, where the meadow vied with the heaven, displaying her green mantle starred over with flowers.

And there she met a mouse, who said to her, "Whither are you going thus alone, my pretty girl?"

And Cianna replied, "I am seeking the Mother of Time."

"You have a long way to go," said the mouse; "but do not lose heart. Everything has an end. Walk on therefore toward yon mountains, and you will soon have more news of what you are seeking. But do me one favor. When you arrive at the house you wish to find, get the good old woman to tell you what we can do to get rid of the tyranny of the cats; then command me, and I am your slave."

Cianna, after promising to do the mouse this kindness, set off toward the mountains, which, although they appeared to be close at hand, seemed never to be reached. But having come to them at length, she sat down tired out upon a stone; and there she saw an army of ants carrying a large store of grain, one of whom turning to Cianna said, "Who art thou, and whither art thou going?"

And Cianna, who was courteous to everyone, said to her, "I am an unhappy girl, who for a matter that concerns me am seeking the dwelling of the Mother of Time."

"Go on farther," replied the ant, "and where these mountains open into a large plain you will obtain more news. But do me a great favor. Set the secret from the old woman what we ants can do to live a little longer; for it seems to me a folly in worldly affairs to be heaping up such a large store of food for so short a life."

"Be at ease," said Cianna. "I will return the kindness you have shown me." Then she passed the mountains and arrived at a wide plain; and proceeding a little way over it, she came to a large oak tree, whose fruit tasted like sweetmeats to the maiden, who was satisfied with little.

Then the oak, making lips of its bark and a tongue of its pith, said to Cianna, "Whither are you going so sad, my little daughter? Come and rest under my shade."

Cianna thanked him much, but excused herself, saying that she was going in haste to find the Mother of Time.

And when the oak heard this he replied, "You are not far from her dwelling; for before you have gone another day's journey you will see upon a mountain a house, in which you will find her whom you seek. But if you have as much kindness as beauty, I prithee learn for me what I can do to regain my lost honor; for instead of being food for great men, I am now only made the food of hogs."

"Leave that to me," replied Cianna. "I will take care to serve you."

So saying she departed, and walking on and on without ever resting, she came at length to the foot of an impertinent mountain, which was poking its head into the face of the clouds. There she found an old man, who wearied and way-worn had lain down upon some hay. And as soon as he saw Cianna, he knew her at once, and that it was she who had cured his bump.

When the old man heard what she was seeking, he told her that he was carrying to Time the rent for the piece of earth which he had cultivated, and that Time was a tyrant who usurped everything in the world, claiming tribute from all, and especially from people of his age; and he added that, having received kindness from Cianna, he would now return it a hundredfold, by giving her some good information about her arrival at the mountain; and that he was sorry he could not accompany her thither, since his old age, which was condemned rather to go down than up, obliged him to remain at the foot of those mountains, to cast up accounts with the clerks of Time, which are the labors, the sufferings, and the infirmities of life, and to pay the debt of Nature.

So the old man said to her, "Now, my pretty innocent child, listen to me. You must know that on the top of this mountain you will find a ruined house, which was built long ago time out of mind; the walls are cracked, the foundations crumbling away, the doors worm eaten, the furniture all worn out, and in short everything is gone to wrack and ruin. On one side are seen shattered columns, on another broken statues, and nothing is left in a good state except a coat-of-arms over the door, quartered, on which you will see a serpent biting its tail, a stag, a raven, and a phoenix. When you enter, you will see on the ground files, saws, scythes, sickles, pruning-hooks, and hundreds and hundreds of vessels full of ashes, with the names written on them, like gallipots in an apothecary's shop; and there may be read Corinth, Saguntum, Carthage, Troy, and a thousand other cities, the ashes of which Time preserves as trophies of his conquests. When you come near the house, hide yourself until Time goes out; and as soon as he has gone forth, enter, and you will find an old, old woman, with a beard that touches the ground and a hump reaching to the sky. Her hair, like the tail of a dapple-gray horse, covers her heels; her face looks like a plaited collar, with the folds stiffened by the starch of years. The old woman is seated upon a clock, which is fastened to a wall; and her eyebrows are so large that they overshadow her eyes, so that she will not be able to see you. As soon as you enter, quickly take the weights off the clock; then call to the old woman, and beg her to answer your questions; whereupon she will instantly call her son to come and eat you up; but the clock upon which the old woman sits having lost its weights, her son cannot move, and she will therefore be obliged to tell you what you wish. But do not trust any oath she may make, unless she swear by the wings of her son. Then give faith to her, and do what she tells you, and you will be content."

So saying, the poor old man fell down and crumbled away, like a dead body brought from a catacomb to the light of day. Then Cianna took the ashes, and mixing them with a pint of tears, she made a grave and buried them, praying Heaven to grant them quiet and repose.

And ascending the mountain, till she was quite out of breath, she waited until Time came out, who was an old man with a long, long beard, and who wore a very old cloak covered with slips of paper, on which were worked the names of various people. He had large wings, and ran so fast that he was out of sight in an instant.

When Cianna entered the house of his mother, she started with affright at the sight of that black old chip; and instantly seizing the weights of the clock, she told what she wanted to the old woman, who setting up a loud cry called to her son.

But Cianna said to her, "You may butt your head against the wall as long as you like, for you will not see your son whilst I hold these clock-weights."

Thereupon the old woman, seeing herself foiled, began to coax Cianna, saying, "Let go of them, my dear, and do not stop my son's course; for no man living has ever done that. Let go of them, and may Heaven preserve you! for I promise you by the aquafortis of my son, with which he corrodes everything, that I will do you no harm."

"That's time lost," answered Cianna. "You must say something better if you would have me quit my hold."

"I swear to you by those teeth which gnaw all mortal things, that I will tell you all you desire."

"That is all nothing," answered Cianna; "for I know you are deceiving me."

"Well then," said the old woman, "I swear to you by those wings which fly over all, that I will give you more pleasure than you imagine."

Thereupon Cianna, letting go the weights, kissed the old woman's hand, which had a moldy feel and a musty smell.

And the old woman, seeing the courtesy of the damsel, said to her, "Hide yourself behind this door, and when Time comes home I will make him tell me all you wish to know. And as soon as he goes out again, for he never stays quiet in one place, you can depart. But do not let yourself be heard or seen, for he is such a glutton that he does not spare even his own children; and when all fails, he devours himself, and then springs up anew."

Cianna did as the old woman told her, and lo! soon after Time came flying quick, quick, high, and light, and having gnawed whatever came to hand, down to the very moldiness upon the walls, he was about to depart, when his mother told him all she had heard from Cianna, beseeching him to answer exactly all her questions.

After a thousand entreaties her son replied, "To the tree may be answered, that it can never be prized by men so long as it keeps treasures buried under its roots To the mice, that they will never be safe from the cat, unless they tie a bell to her leg, to tell them when she is coming. To the ants, that they will live a hundred years, if they can dispense with flying; for when the ant is going to die she puts on wings. To the whale, that it should be of good cheer, and make friends with the sea-mouse, who will serve him as a guide, so that he will never go wrong. And to the doves, that when they alight on the column of wealth, they will return to their former state."

So saying, Time set out to run his accustomed post; and Cianna, taking leave of the old woman, descended to the foot of the mountain, just at the very time that the seven doves, who had followed their sister's footsteps, arrived there. Wearied with flying so far, they stopped to rest upon the horn of a dead ox; and no sooner had they alighted, than they were changed into handsome youths, as they were at first. But while they were marveling at this, they heard the reply which Time had given, and saw at once that the horn, as the symbol of plenty, was the column of wealth of which Time had spoken.

Then embracing their sister with great joy, they all set out on the same road by which Cianna had come. And when they came to the oak tree, and told it what Cianna had heard from Time, the tree begged them to take away the treasure from its roots, since it was the cause why its acorns had lost their reputation. Thereupon the seven brothers, taking a spade which they found in a garden, dug and dug, until they came to a great heap of gold money, which they divided into eight parts, and shared among themselves and their sister, so that they might carry it away conveniently. But being wearied with the journey and the load, they laid themselves down to sleep under a hedge.

Presently a band of robbers coming by, and seeing the poor fellows asleep, with their heads upon the cloths full of dollars, bound them hand and foot to some trees, and took away the money, leaving them to bewail not only their wealth, which had slipped through their fingers as soon as found, but their life; for being without hope of succor, they were in peril of either soon dying of starvation or allaying the hunger of some wild beast.

As they were lamenting their unhappy lot, up came the mouse, who, as soon as she heard the reply which Time had given, in return for the good service nibbled the cords with which they were bound and set them free. And having gone a little way farther they met on the road the ant, who, when she heard the advice of Time, asked Cianna what was the matter, that she was so pale-faced and cast down.

And when Cianna told her their misfortune, and the trick which the robbers had played them, the ant replied, "Be quiet, I can now requite the kindness you have done me. You must know, that whilst I was carrying a load of grain underground, I saw a place where these dogs of assassins hide their plunder; they have made some holes under an old building, in which they shut up all the things they have stolen. They are just now gone out for some new robbery, and I will go with you and show you the place, so that you may recover your money."

So saying she took the way toward some tumble-down houses, and showed the seven brothers the mouth of a pit; whereupon Giangrazio, who was bolder than the rest, entering it, found there all the money of which they had been robbed.

Then taking it with them, they set out, and walked towards the seashore, where they found the whale, and told him the good advice which Time -- who is the father of counsel -- had given them. And whilst they stood talking of their journey, and all that had befallen them, they saw the robbers suddenly appear, armed to the teeth, who had followed in their footsteps.

At this sight they exclaimed, "Alas, alas! we are now wholly lost, for here come the robbers armed, and they will not leave the skin on our bodies!"

"Fear not," replied the whale," for I can save you out of the fire, and will thus requite the love you have shown me. So get upon my back, and I will quickly carry you to a place of safety."

Cianna and her brothers, seeing the foe at their heels and the water up to their throat, climbed upon the whale, who, keeping far off from the rocks, carried them to within sight of Naples; but being afraid to land them on account of the shoals and shallows, he said, "Where would you like me to land you? On the shore of Amalfi? "

And Giangrazio answered, "See whether that cannot be avoided, my dear fish; I do not wish to land at any place hereabouts; for at Massa they say barely good-day, at Sorrento thieves are plenty, at Vico they say you may go your way, at Castel-a-Mare no one says how are ye?"

Then the whale, to please them, turned about and went toward the Salt-Rock, where he left them; and they got put on shore by the first fishing boat that passed. Thereupon they returned to their own country, safe and sound and rich, to the great joy and consolation of their mother and father; and, thanks to the goodness of Cianna, they enjoyed a happy life, verifying the old saying, Do good whenever you can, and forget it.

The Curse of the Seven Children


There was once a king and a queen who had six children, all sons. The queen was about to give birth to another child, and the king said that if it was not a daughter all seven children would be cursed.

Now it happened that the king had to go away to war; and before departing he said to the queen, "Listen. If you have a son, hang a lance out of the window; if a daughter, a distaff; so that I can see as soon as I arrive which it is."

After the king had been gone a month, the queen gave birth to the most beautiful girl that was ever seen. Imagine how pleased the queen was at having a girl. She could scarcely contain herself for joy, and immediately gave orders to hang the distaff out of the window; but in the midst of the joyful confusion, a mistake was made, and they put out a lance. Shortly after, the king returned and saw the sign at the window, and cursed all his seven sons; but when he entered the house and the servants crowded around him to congratulate him and tell him about his beautiful daughter, then the king was amazed and became very melancholy.

He entered the queen's room and looked at the child, who seemed exactly like one of those wax dolls to be kept in a box; then he looked about him and saw nothing of his sons, and his eyes filled with tears, for those poor youths had wandered out into the world.

Meanwhile the girl grew, and when she was large she saw that her parents caressed her, but always with tears in their eyes. One day she said to her mother, "What is the matter with you, mother, that I always see you crying?"

Then, the queen told her the story, and said that she was afraid that some day she would see her disappear too.

When the girl heard how it was, what did she do? One night she rose softly and left the palace, with the intention of going to find her brothers. She walked and walked, and at last met a little old man, who said to her, "Where are you going at this time of the night?"

She answered, "I am in search of my brothers."

The old man said, "It will be difficult to find them, for you must not speak for seven years, seven months, seven weeks, seven days, seven hours, and seven minutes."

She said, "I will try."

Then she took a bit of paper which she found on the ground, wrote on it the day and the hour with a piece of charcoal, and left the old man and hastened on her way. After she had run a long time, she saw a light and went towards it, and when she was near it, she saw that it was over the door of a palace where a king lived. She entered and sat down on the stairway, and fell asleep. The servants came later to put out the light, and saw the pretty girl asleep on the stone steps; they awakened her, asking her what she was doing there. She began to make signs, asking them to give her a lodging. They understood her, and said they would ask the king.

They returned shortly to tell her to enter, for the king wished to see her before she was shown to her room. When the king saw the beautiful girl, with hair like gold, flesh like milk and wine, teeth white as pearls, and little hands that an artist could not paint as beautiful as they were, he suddenly imagined that she must be the daughter of some lord, and gave orders that she should be treated with all possible respect. They showed her to a beautiful room; then a maid came and undressed her and put her to bed.

Next morning, Diana, for so she was called, arose, saw a frame with a piece of embroidery in it, and began to work at it. The king visited her, and asked if she needed anything, and she made signs that she did not. The king was so pleased with the young girl that he ended by falling in love with her, and after a year had passed he thought of marrying her.

The queen mother, who was an envious person, was not content with the match, because, said she, no one knows where she came from, and, besides, she is dumb, something that would make people wonder if a king should marry her. But the king was so obstinate that he married her; and when his mother saw that there was no help, she pretended to be satisfied.

Shortly after, the queen mother put into the king's hands a letter which informed him of an imminent war, in which, if he did not take part, he would run the risk of losing his realm. The king went to the war, in fact, with great grief at leaving his wife; and before departing, he commended her earnestly to his mother, who said, "Do not be anxious, my son, I shall do all that I can to make her happy."

The king embraced his wife and mother, and departed. Scarcely had the king gone when the queen mother sent for a mason, and made him build a wall near the kitchen sink, so that it formed a sort of box.

Now you must know that Diana expected soon to become a mother, and this afforded the queen mother a pretext to write to her son that his wife had died in giving birth to a child. She took her and put her in the wall she had had built, where there was neither light nor air, and where the wicked woman hoped that she would die. But it was not so. The scullion went every day to wash the dishes at the sink near where poor Diana was buried alive. While attending to his business, he heard a lamentation, and listened to see where it could come from. He listened and listened, until at last he perceived that the voice came from the wall that had been newly built.

What did he do then? He made a hole in the wall, and saw that the queen was there. The scullion asked how she came there; but she only made signs that she was about to give birth to a child. The poor scullion had his wife make a fine cushion, on which Diana reposed as well as she could, and gave birth to the most beautiful boy that could be seen. The scullion's wife went to see her every moment, and carried her broth, and cared for the child; in short, this poor woman, as well as her husband, did everything she could to alleviate the poor queen, who tried to make them understand by signs what she needed.

One day it came into Diana's head to look into her memorandum book and see how long she still had to keep silent, and she saw that only two minutes yet remained. As soon as they had passed, she told the scullion all that had happened. At that moment the king arrived, and the scullion drew the queen from out the hole, and showed her to the king. You can imagine how delighted he was to see again his Diana, whom he believed to be dead. He embraced her, and kissed her and the child; in short, such was his joy that it seemed as if he would go mad.

Diana related everything to him: why she had left her home, and why she had played dumb so long, and finally how she had been treated by the queen mother, and what she had suffered, and how kind those poor people had been to her.

When he had heard all this, he said, "Leave the matter to me; I will arrange it."

The next day the king invited all the nobles and princes of his realm to a great banquet. Now it happened that in setting the tables the servants laid six plates besides the others; and when the guests sat down, six handsome youths entered, who advanced and asked what should be given to a sister who had done so and so for her brothers.

Then the king sprang up and said, "And I ask what shall be done to a mother who did so and so to her son's wife?" and he explained everything.

One said, "Burn her alive." Another, "Put her in the pillory." Another, "Fry her in oil in the public square." This was agreed to.

The youths had been informed by that same old man whom Diana had met, and who was a magician, where their sister was and what she had done for them. Then they made themselves known, and embraced Diana and their brother-in-law the king, and after the greatest joy, they all started off to see their parents.

Imagine the satisfaction of the king and queen at seeing again all their seven children. They gave the warmest reception to the king, Diana's husband, and after they had spent some days together, Diana returned with her husband to their city. And all lived there afterward in peace and contentment.

The Bewitched Brothers


Once upon a time there was such a famine in the land that the people lived on grass and even on sawdust, and were dying of hunger in untold numbers. At that time there lived a widow who had managed to husband a little flour. When she found that nothing else was left to her she took that flour and mixing it with water kneaded it into dough. Then she lit the furnace and got a shovel to put the dough on it and thence into the furnace to bake.

This woman had two sons and one daughter. The two boys came in just at the moment when the loaves of dough were on the shovel. They were so hungry that they did not wait for the dough to be baked, and before their mother had time to put the shovel into the oven they got hold of the dough, raw and uncooked as it was, and ate it up to the smallest bit. They did not leave even a little piece for their mother and sister.

When the mother saw the terrible greediness of her children, and that they ate the raw stuff and did not leave even a small piece for her or their sister, she cursed them and said, "May you be cursed by God and be changed into two birds; may you haunt the highest peaks of the mountains; may you never be able to eat bread even when you see it, because you did not leave any for me this day."

No sooner had the boys gone out of the house than they were changed into two huge eagles, who, spreading their wings, flew away to the ends of the earth, no one knowing whither they had gone. A short time afterwards their sister, who had not been at home when all this had happened, came in, and she asked the mother where her brothers were. Her mother did not tell her what had happened, and said that the brothers, finding it was impossible for them to live any longer here, had gone out into the wide world to live by their own earnings.

When the girl heard this she wept, and said, "If that be so, then I will also go out into the wide world, and will seek my brothers until I find them," and would not listen to the words of her mother, who wanted to keep her back.

She said good-bye and departed, and traveled on and on for a long time, until she came to the ends of the earth, where the sun and moon no longer shone, and the days were dark.

So she fell a-praying, and said, "I have gone in search of my brothers; O God, help me," and as she turned round she saw a forest full of high trees which she had not noticed before, and she said to herself, "I will go into that forest; I am sure nothing will happen to me," and so she did.

She went into the forest not knowing where she was going. In the midst of it she saw a beautiful meadow full of singing birds, and there was a huge castle surrounded by thick walls and closed by a gate with six locks. At the entrance of the gate there were two huge monsters. She was very frightened. Still she watched until these monsters had fallen asleep, and then slipping past them she entered the gates.

There she was met by a fox, who said to her, "What has brought thee hither into this the other world from the world outside? I fear our master will eat you up. As soon as he comes home he will swallow you."

Still she went on, and on entering the house she met the mistress of the house, who asked her the same question, and she told her what had happened to her from the beginning to the end, and that she had gone out into the wide world to seek for her lost brothers. When the mistress heard her tale she took pity on her, and taking her into the innermost chamber she hid he there, and then went to await the homecoming of the master.

About midday, when the sun stands on the crossways of heaven, there was a great noise in the house; the place shook, for the master had come, and he was none other than a huge lion.

At table, the mistress said to him, "O my master, thou hast always been so good to me; I ask you to be once more good and kind; promise me."

And he promised, and asked her her request. She told him what had happened to that girl, and said that she had come there from the other world in search of her brothers. The lion called the young girl, who was greatly frightened, and she told him again all that had happened to her.

He then said, "I will call together all my subjects and ask them whether they have seen your brothers passing by this way, or whether meeting them they have eaten them."

So he called from far and near all the animals who were in his dominion, and he asked them about the brothers. But they all said that these had never passed through the land, and they had neither seen them nor eaten them. So the lion told her to go on.

She went on and came to another forest, very big and dark, and waling for a time in it she came to another meadow full of birds singing so beautifully that you could not hear enough of them, and there in the midst was a house deep down in the ground with a thatched roof. The girl went in the house, and there was an old woman sitting on the oven.

"May God help you," said the young girl, and the old woman replied, "Welcome, my daughter, what has brought you here into this part of the world never yet trodden by human foot?"

And the girl told her that she had left her mother's house and gone in search of her brothers. The woman said, "Your brothers are alive, but they are under a spell, for they have been charmed into huge birds, and they live yonder in the castle on that steep mountain. If you can reach that place you will be able to see your brothers."

Full of joy at these tidings, the girl went to the mountain and found that it was a bare, steep, high cliff with little patches of grass here and there, just the place for eagles' nests. taking courage, she started climbing up, and after endless toil reached the top. There she saw a huge palace surrounded by iron walls, and going inside she saw a room; the table was set and food was on the table. As she was very hungry, she went round the table and took a bit from every dish. Then she hid herself, watching to see what would happen. She had not to wait very long, for soon two huge eagles came from the depths of heaven. They entered and sat down at the table and began to eat their meal.

Suddenly one of them said to the other, "Halloo, someone must have been here, for I see that my food has been nibbled."

The other said, "It is impossible for anyone to come here," and took no further notice of it.

On the second day they noticed that once again some of their food had been eaten again, and so on the third day, when more of it had been eaten. So they started hunting through the house to find out who was hidden there, for surely someone must have come to eat the food. After a long search they found the girl huddled up in a small room. As soon as they saw her they recognized her as their sister, and taking her into the large hall they asked her what had happened and what had brought her to them.

She told them all that had happened to her, and how she had been through the forest and climbed up the mountain, and that she was now there with them.

The brothers then said to her, "We are under a spell; mother has cursed us. We have now been changed into birds of prey; but if you will stay here for six years and not speak a single word, that will save us; the spell will be broken, and we shall again be human beings."

The girl promised to do all they wished, as the old woman whom she had met before had told her that she was to do whatever her brothers would wish he to do. And there she remained. Her brothers spread their wings and flew away.

Five years had passed, the girl no seeing anything of them, and not speaking all the time. After that time she said to herself, "What is the good of my sitting here and keeping silent when none of them have come; perchance they are dead, or who know what has happened?"

No sooner had she opened her mouth and spoken a word when in came her two brothers, and said to her mournfully, "Thou hast not kept thy vow, thou hast broken thy promise, thou hast spoken! If thou wouldst have waited one more year we would have become human beings, and the spell would have been broken. Now we are cursed forever. We must remain eagles and birds of prey."

And so they have remained to this day, preying on birds and beasts, living on raw meat, never being able to touch bread, and even picking up children under six years of age, the years which their sister had to wait in order to break the spell.

The Twelve Brothers


Once upon a time there was a king who had twelve children, all boys. He also wanted to have a girl and said to the queen, "If our thirteenth child, which you are soon going to bring to the world, is a girl, then I shall have the twelve others killed, but if it is also a boy, then they may all live together." The queen tried to dissuade him, but the king would not listen to her. "If it happens as I said, then they must die. I would rather strike off their heads myself than to have a girl among them."

This saddened the queen, for she loved her sons greatly and did not know how to save them. Finally she went to the youngest one, whom she loved even more than the others, and revealed to him what the king had decided, saying, "Dear child, go out into the forest with your eleven brothers. Stay there and do not return home. One of you must keep watch from a tree and look toward the tower here. If I bring a little son into the world, then I shall fly a white flag from the top of the tower, but if it is a little daughter, then it shall be a red flag. Then you must save yourselves by fleeing into the world, and may God protect you. I will get up every night and pray for you, in the cold of winter that you may not freeze and that a warm fire may be burning before you, and in the heat of summer that you may rest and sleep in a cool forest."

Thus she blessed her children, and they went forth into the forest. They often looked toward the tower, and one of them always had to sit high in a tall oak tree and keep watch. Soon a flag was raised, but it was not the white one, but rather the red-blood flag that threatened their destruction. When the boys saw it they became angry and cried out, "Are we to lose our lives for the sake of a girl!" Then they swore among themselves to remain in the middle of the forest, and whenever they might happen upon a girl, they would kill her without mercy.

They found a cave in the darkest part of the forest, and there they lived. Every morning eleven of them set forth to hunt, but one of them had to stay at home to cook and keep house. Every girl that the eleven came upon was done away with without mercy. And so it was for many years.

The little sister at home grew up as an only child. One day she discovered twelve men's shirts in the wash. "Whose shirts are these?" asked the princess. "They are much too small for my father." Then the washerwoman told her that she had had twelve brothers who had secretly left home because the king had wanted to have them killed, and no one knew where they now were. The twelve shirts belonged to these twelve brothers. The little sister was amazed that she had never heard anything of her twelve brothers. That afternoon she sat in a meadow bleaching the wash and pondering the words of the washerwoman. Finally she stood up, took the twelve shirts, and walked into the forest where her brothers lived.

The little sister came to the cave where they lived. Eleven were out hunting, and only one of them was at home doing the cooking. When he saw the girl he grabbed her and reached for his sword, saying, "Kneel down! Your red blood will flow this instant!"

"Master, let me live!" she begged. "I will stay here and serve you well. I will cook and keep house." Now this was the youngest brother, and the girl's beauty softened him, and he spared her life. The eleven returned home and were amazed to find a live girl in their cave. He said to them, "Brothers, this girl came to our cave. I was about to strike her down, but she begged so fervently for her life, and agreed to serve us faithfully and to keep house for us, so I spared her." The others agreed that this was to their advantage, and that now all twelve would be able to go out hunting, and they were satisfied. Then she showed them the twelve shirts and said that she was their sister. They rejoiced and were happy that they had not killed her.

The little sister took over the household. While the brothers were out hunting, she gathered wood and herbs, tended the fire, made the clean, white beds, and did everything eagerly and well. One day it happened that when she was finished with her work she went for a walk in the woods. She came to a place where there were twelve tall white lilies, and because she liked them so much, she plucked them all. This had scarcely happened when an old woman appeared before her. "Oh, my daughter," she said. "Why didn't you leave the twelve flowers standing? They are your twelve brothers, who have now been transformed into ravens and are lost forever."

The little sister began to cry. "Oh!" she said. "Is there no way to redeem them?"

"No, there is only one way in the world, and it is so difficult that you will never succeed. You must remain silent for twelve whole years. If you speak a single word, even if all but one hour has passed, then it will all be for nothing, and your brothers will die that instant."

The little sister took a seat high in a tall tree in the forest where she would spin in silence for twelve years and thus redeem her brothers. One day a king was hunting in this forest. His dog stopped at the tree and barked. The king halted, looked up, and was amazed at the princess's beauty. He called to her, asking her if she would become his wife. She remained silent, but nodded a little with her head. The king himself climbed up and lifted her down, set her before him on his horse, and took her home to his castle, where their wedding was celebrated with splendor. The princess never spoke a word, and the king thought that she was a mute.

They would have lived happily together if it had not been for the king's mother, who began to slander her to him, "You have brought home a common beggar girl, and behind your back she is doing the most unspeakable things."

Because the queen could not defend herself, the king was led into believing his mother, and finally he had his wife sentenced to death. A large fire was set in the courtyard where she was to be burned to death. She was already standing in the fire, with the flames jumping at her dress when the last minutes of the twelve years elapsed. There was a rushing sound in the air, and twelve ravens came flying down and landed. When they touched the earth they turned into twelve handsome princes, who scattered the fire about, and pulled out their sister. Then she spoke once again, telling the king everything, how she had had to redeem her twelve brothers, and they all rejoiced that everything turned out so well.

But what should they do with the wicked stepmother? She was thrown into a barrel filled with boiling oil and poisonous snakes, and died a miserable death.

The Seven Ravens


A man had seven sons, but however much he wished for a daughter, he did not have one yet. Finally his wife gave him hope for another child, and when it came into the world it was indeed a girl. Great was their joy, but the child was sickly and small, and because of her weakness, she was to be given an emergency baptism.

The father sent one of the boys to run quickly to the well and get some water for the baptism. The other six ran along with him. Because each one of them wanted to be first one to dip out the water, the jug fell into the well. There they stood not knowing what to do, and not one of them dared to go home.

When they did not return the father grew impatient, and said, "They have forgotten what they went after because they were playing, those godless boys."

Fearing that the girl would die without being baptized, he cried out in anger, "I wish that those boys would all turn into ravens."

He had hardly spoken these words when he heard a whirring sound above his head, and looking up, he saw seven coal-black ravens flying up and away.

The parents could not take back the curse, and however sad they were at the loss of their seven sons, they were still somewhat comforted because of their dear little daughter, who soon gained strength and became more beautiful every day.

For a long time she did not know that she had had brothers, for her parents took care not to mention them to her. However, one day she accidentally overheard some people talking about her. They said that she was beautiful enough, but that in truth she was to blame for her seven brothers' misfortune. This troubled her greatly, and she went to her father and mother and asked them if she indeed had had brothers, and what had happened to them.

Her parents could no longer keep the secret, but said that it had been heaven's fate, and that her birth had been only the innocent cause. However, this ate at the girl's conscience every day, and she came to believe that she would have to redeem her brothers.

She had neither rest nor peace until she secretly set forth and went out into the wide world, hoping to find her brothers and to set them free, whatever it might cost. She took nothing with her but a little ring as a remembrance from her parents, a loaf of bread for hunger, a little jug of water for thirst, and a little chair for when she got tired.

She walked on and on -- far, far to the end of the world. She came to the sun, but it was too hot and terrible, and ate little children. She hurried away, and ran to the moon, but it was much too cold, and also frightening and wicked, and when it saw the child, it said, "I smell, smell human flesh."

Then she hurried away, and came to the stars, and they were friendly and good to her, each one sitting on its own little chair. When the morning star arose, it gave her a chicken bone, and said, "Without that chicken bone you cannot open the glass mountain, and your brothers are inside the glass mountain."

The girl took the bone, wrapped it up well in a cloth, and went on her way again until she came to the glass mountain. The door was locked, and she started to take out the chicken bone, but when she opened up the cloth, it was empty. She had lost the gift of the good stars.

What could she do now? She wanted to rescue her brothers, but she had no key to the glass mountain. The good little sister took a knife, cut off one of her little fingers, put it into the door, and fortunately the door opened.

After she had gone inside a little dwarf came up to her and said, "My child, what are you looking for?"

"I am looking for my brothers, the seven ravens," she replied.

The dwarf said, "The lord ravens are not at home, but if you want to wait here until they return, step inside."

Then the dwarf carried in the ravens' dinner on seven little plates, and in seven little cups. The sister ate a little bit from each plate and took a little sip from each cup. Into the last cup she dropped the ring that she had brought with her.

Suddenly she heard a whirring and rushing sound in the air, and the dwarf said, "The lord ravens are flying home now."

They came, wanted to eat and drink, and looked for their plates and cups. Then one after the other of them said, "Who has been eating from my plate? Who has been drinking from my cup? It was a human mouth."

When the seventh one came to the bottom of his cup, the ring rolled toward him. Looking at it, he saw that it was a ring from their father and mother, and said, "God grant that our sister might be here; then we would be set free."

The girl was listening from behind the door, and when she heard this wish she came forth. Then the ravens were restored to their human forms again. They hugged and kissed one another, and went home happily.

The Six Swans


A king was once hunting in a great forest, and he chased his prey so eagerly that none of his men could follow him. As evening approached he stopped and looked around, and saw that he was lost. He looked for a way out of the woods, but he could not find one. Then he saw an old woman with a bobbing head who approached him. She was a witch.

"My dear woman," he said to her, "can you show me the way through the woods?"

"Oh, yes, your majesty," she answered, "I can indeed. However, there is one condition, and if you do not fulfill it, you will never get out of these woods, and will die here of hunger."

"What sort of condition is it?" asked the king.

"I have a daughter," said the old woman, "who is as beautiful as anyone you could find in all the world, and who well deserves to become your wife. If you will make her your queen, I will show you the way out of the woods."

The king was so frightened that he consented, and the old woman led him to her cottage, where her daughter was sitting by the fire. She received the king as if she had been expecting him. He saw that she was very beautiful, but in spite of this he did not like her, and he could not look at her without secretly shuddering.

After he had lifted the girl onto his horse, the old woman showed him the way, and the king arrived again at his royal castle, where the wedding was celebrated.

The king had been married before, and by his first wife he had seven children, six boys and one girl. He loved them more than anything else in the world.

Fearing that the stepmother might not treat them well, even do them harm, he took them to a secluded castle which stood in the middle of a forest. It was so well hidden, and the way was so difficult to find, that he himself would not have found it, if a wise woman had not given him a ball of magic yarn. Whenever he threw it down in front of him, it would unwind itself and show him the way.

However, the king went out to his dear children so often that the queen took notice of his absence. She was curious and wanted to know what he was doing out there all alone in the woods. She gave a large sum of money to his servants, and they revealed the secret to her. They also told her about the ball of yarn which could point out the way all by itself.

She did not rest until she discovered where the king kept the ball of yarn. Then she made some little shirts of white silk. Having learned the art of witchcraft from her mother, she sewed a magic charm into each one of them. Then one day when the king had ridden out hunting, she took the little shirts and went into the woods. The ball of yarn showed her the way.

The children, seeing that someone was approaching from afar, thought that their dear father was coming to them. Full of joy, they ran to meet him. Then she threw one of the shirts over each of them, and when the shirts touched their bodies they were transformed into swans, and they flew away over the woods.

The queen went home very pleased, believing that she had gotten rid of her stepchildren. However, the girl had not run out with her brothers, and the queen knew nothing about her.

The next day the king went to visit his children, but he found no one there but the girl.

"Where are your brothers?" asked the king.

"Oh, dear father," she answered, "they have gone away and left me alone."

Then she told him that from her window she had seen how her brothers had flown away over the woods as swans. She showed him the feathers that they had dropped into the courtyard, and which she had gathered up.

The king mourned, but he did not think that the queen had done this wicked deed. Fearing that the girl would be stolen away from him as well, he wanted to take her away with him, but she was afraid of her stepmother and begged the king to let her stay just this one more night in the castle in the woods.

The poor girl thought, "I can no longer stay here. I will go and look for my brothers."

And when night came she ran away and went straight into the woods. She walked the whole night long without stopping, and the next day as well, until she was too tired to walk any further.

Then she saw a hunter's hut and went inside. She found a room with six little beds, but she did not dare to get into one of them. Instead she crawled under one of them and lay down on the hard ground where she intended to spend the night.

The sun was about to go down when she heard a rushing sound and saw six swans fly in through the window. Landing on the floor, they blew on one another, and blew all their feathers off. Then their swan-skins came off just like shirts. The girl looked at them and recognized her brothers. She was happy and crawled out from beneath the bed. The brothers were no less happy to see their little sister, but their happiness did not last long.

"You cannot stay here," they said to her. "This is a robbers' den. If they come home and find you, they will murder you."

"Can't you protect me?" asked the little sister.

"No," they answered. "We can take off our swan-skins for only a quarter hour each evening. Only during that time do we have our human forms. After that we are again transformed into swans."

Crying, the little sister said, "Can you not be redeemed?"

"Alas, no," they answered. "The conditions are too difficult. You would not be allowed to speak or to laugh for six years, and in that time you would have to sew together six little shirts from asters for us. And if a single word were to come from your mouth, all your work would be lost."

After the brothers had said this, the quarter hour was over, and they flew out the window again as swans.

Nevertheless, the girl firmly resolved to redeem her brothers, even if it should cost her her life. She left the hunter's hut, went to the middle of the woods, seated herself in a tree, and there spent the night. The next morning she went out and gathered asters and began to sew. She could not speak with anyone, and she had no desire to laugh. She sat there, looking only at her work.

After she had already spent a long time there it happened that the king of the land was hunting in these woods. His huntsmen came to the tree where the girl was sitting.

They called to her, saying, "Who are you?" But she did not answer.

"Come down to us," they said. "We will not harm you."

She only shook her head. When they pressed her further with questions, she threw her golden necklace down to them, thinking that this would satisfy them. But they did not stop, so she then threw her belt down to them, and when this did not help, her garters, and then -- one thing at a time -- everything that she had on and could do without, until finally she had nothing left but her shift.

The huntsmen, however, not letting themselves be dissuaded, climbed the tree, lifted the girl down, and took her to the king.

The king asked, "Who are you? What are you doing in that tree?"

But she did not answer. He asked her in every language that he knew, but she remained as speechless as a fish. Because she was so beautiful, the king's heart was touched, and he fell deeply in love with her. He put his cloak around her, lifted her onto his horse in front of himself, and took her to his castle. There he had her dressed in rich garments, and she glistened in her beauty like bright daylight, but no one could get a word from her.

At the table he seated her by his side, and her modest manners and courtesy pleased him so much that he said, "My desire is to marry her, and no one else in the world."

A few days later they were married.

Now the king had a wicked mother who was dissatisfied with this marriage and spoke ill of the young queen. "Who knows," she said, "where the girl who cannot speak comes from? She is not worthy of a king."

A year later, after the queen had brought her first child into the world, the old woman took it away from her while she was asleep, and smeared her mouth with blood. Then she went to the king and accused her of being a cannibal. The king could not believe this, and would not allow anyone to harm her. She, however, sat the whole time sewing on the shirts, and caring for nothing else.

The next time, when she again gave birth to a beautiful boy, the deceitful mother-in-law did the same thing again, but the king could not bring himself to believe her accusations.

He said, "She is too pious and good to do anything like that. If she were not speechless, and if she could defend herself, her innocence would come to light."

But when the old woman stole away a newly born child for the third time, and accused the queen, who did not defend herself with a single word, the king had no choice but to bring her to justice, and she was sentenced to die by fire.

When the day came for the sentence to be carried out, it was also the last day of the six years during which she had not been permitted to speak or to laugh, and she had thus delivered her dear brothers from the magic curse. The six shirts were finished. Only the left sleeve of the last one was missing. When she was led to the stake, she laid the shirts on her arm. Standing there, as the fire was about to be lighted, she looked around, and six swans came flying through the air. Seeing that their redemption was near, her heart leapt with joy.

The swans rushed towards her, swooping down so that she could throw the shirts over them. As soon as the shirts touched them their swan-skins fell off, and her brothers stood before her in their own bodies, vigorous and handsome. However, the youngest was missing his left arm. In its place he had a swan's wing.

They embraced and kissed one another. Then the queen went to the king, who was greatly moved, and she began to speak, saying, "Dearest husband, now I may speak and reveal to you that I am innocent, and falsely accused."

Then she told him of the treachery of the old woman who had taken away their three children and hidden them.

Then to the king's great joy they were brought forth. As a punishment, the wicked mother-in-law was tied to the stake and burned to ashes. But the king and the queen with her six brothers lived many long years in happiness and peace.

The Twelve Wild Ducks


Once on a time there was a queen who was out driving, when there had been a new fall of snow in the winter; but when she had gone a little way, she began to bleed at the nose, and had to get out of her sledge. And so, as she stood there, leaning against the fence, and saw the red blood on the white snow, she fell a thinking how she had twelve sons and no daughter, and she said to herself, "If I only had a daughter as white as snow and as red as blood, I shouldn't care what became of all my sons."

But the words were scarce out of her mouth before an old witch of the trolls came up to her. "A daughter you shall have," she said, "and she shall be as white as snow and as red as blood; and your sons shall be mine, but you may keep them till the babe is christened."

So when the time came the queen had a daughter, and she was as white as snow, and as red as blood, just as the troll had promised, and so they called her "Snow-White and Rosy-Red." Well, there was great joy at the king's court, and the queen was as glad as glad could be; but when what she had promised to the old witch came into her mind, she sent for a silversmith, and bade him make twelve silver spoons, one for each prince, and after that she bade him make one more, and that she gave to Snow-White and Rosy-Red. But as soon as ever the princess was christened, the princes were turned into twelve wild ducks, and flew away. They never saw them again. Away they went, and away they stayed.

So the princess grew up, and she was both tall and fair, but she was often so strange and sorrowful, and no one could understand what it was that ailed her. But one evening, the queen was also sorrowful, for she had many strange thoughts when she thought of her sons.

She said to Snow-White and Rosy-Red, "Why are you so sorrowful, my daughter? Is there anything you want? If so, only say the word, and you shall have it."

"Oh, it seems so dull and lonely here," said Snow-White and Rosy-Red." Everyone else has brothers and sisters, but I am all alone; I have none; and that's why I'm so sorrowful."

"But you had brothers, my daughter," said the queen. "I had twelve sons who were your brothers, but I gave them all away to get you." And so she told her the whole story.

So when the princes heard that, she had no rest; for, in spite of all the queen could say or do, and all she wept and prayed, the lassie would set off to seek her brothers, for she thought it was all her fault; and at last she got leave to go away from the palace. On and on she walked into the wide world, so far, yon would never have thought a young lady could have strength to walk so far.

So, once, when she was walking through a great, great wood, one day she felt tired, and sat down on a mossy tuft and fell asleep. Then she dreamt that she went deeper and deeper into the wood, till she came to a little wooden hut, and there she found her brothers; just then she woke, and straight before her she saw a worn path in the green moss, and this path went deeper into the wood; so she followed it, and after a long time she came to just such a little wooden house as that she had seen in her dream.

Now, when she went into the room there was no one at home, but there stood twelve beds, and twelve chairs, and twelve spoons -- a dozen of everything, in short. So when she saw that she was so glad, she hadn't been so glad for many a long year, for she could guess at once that her brothers lived here, and that they owned the beds, and chairs, and spoons. So she began to make up the fire, and sweep the room, and make the beds, and cook the dinner, and to make the house as tidy as she could; and when she had done all the cooking and work, she ate her own dinner, and crept under her youngest brother's bed, and lay down there, but she forgot her spoon upon the table.

So she had scarcely laid herself down before she heard something flapping and whirring in the air, and so all the twelve wild ducks came sweeping in; but as soon as they crossed over the threshold they became princes.

"Oh, how nice and warm it is in here," they said. "Heaven bless him who made up the fire, and cooked such a good dinner for us."

And so each took up his silver spoon and was going to eat. But when each had taken his own there was one still left lying on the table, and it was so like the rest that they couldn't tell it from them.

"This is our sister's spoon," they said; "and if her spoon be here, she can't be very far off herself."

"If this be our sister's spoon, and she be here," said the eldest, "she shall be killed, for she is to blame for all the ill we suffer."

And this she lay under the bed and listened to.

"No" said the youngest; "'twere a shame to kill her for that. She has nothing to do with our suffering ill; for if any one's to blame, it's our own mother."

So they set to work hunting for her both high and low, and at last they looked under all the beds, and so when they came to the youngest prince's bed, they found her, and dragged her out. Then the eldest prince wished again to have her killed, but she begged and prayed so prettily for herself.

"Oh! gracious goodness! don't kill me, for I've gone about seeking you these three years, and if I could only set you free, I'd willingly lose my life."

"Well! "said they, "if you will set us free, you may keep your life; for you can if you choose."

"Yes; only tell me," said the princess, "how it can be done, and I'll do it, whatever it be."

"You must pick thistledown," said the princes, "and you must card it, and spin it, and weave it; and after you have done that, you must cut out and make twelve coats, and twelve shirts, and twelve neckerchiefs, one for each of us, and while you do that, you must neither talk, nor laugh, nor weep. If you can do that, we are free."

"But where shall I ever get thistle-down enough for so many neckerchiefs, and shirts, and coats? " asked Snow-White and Rosy-Red.

"We'll soon show you," said the princes. And so they took her with them to a great wide moor, where there stood such a crop of thistles, all nodding and nodding in the breeze, and the down all floating and glistening like gossamers through the air in the sunbeams. The princess had never seen such a quantity of thistledown in her life, and she began to pluck and gather it as fast and as well as she could; and when she got home at night she set to work carding and spinning yarn from the down. So she went on a long long time, picking, and carding, and spinning, and all the while keeping the princes' house, cooking, and making their beds. At evening home they came, flapping and whirring like wild ducks, and all night they were princes, but in the morning off they flew again, and were wild ducks the whole day.

But now it happened once, when she was out on the moor to pick thistledown -- and if I don't mistake, it was the very last time she was to go thither -- it happened that the young king who ruled that land was out hunting, and came riding across the moor and saw her. So he stopped there and wondered who the lovely lady could be that walked along the moor picking thistledown, and he asked her her name, and when he could get no answer, he was still more astonished. And at last he liked her so much, that nothing would do but he must take her home to his castle and marry her.

So he ordered his servants to take her and put her up on his horse. Snow-White and Rosy-Red, she wrung her hands, and made signs to them, and pointed to the bags in which her work was, and when the king saw she wished to have them with her, he told his men to take up the bags behind them. When they had done that the princess came to herself, little by little, for the king was both a wise man and a handsome man too, and he was as soft and kind to her as a doctor.

But when they got home to the palace, and the old queen, who was his stepmother, set eyes on Snow-White and Rosy-Red, she got so cross and jealous of her because she was so lovely, that she said to the king, "Can't you see now, that this thing whom you have picked up, and whom you are going to many, is a witch. Why, she can't either talk, or laugh, or weep!"

But the king didn't care a pin for what she said, but held on with the wedding, and married Snow-White and Rosy-Red, and they lived in great joy and glory; but she didn't forget to go on sewing at her shirts.

So when the year was almost out, Snow-White and Rosy-Red brought a prince into the world, and then the old queen was more spiteful and jealous than ever, and at dead of night, she stole in to Snow-White and Rosy-Red, while she slept, and took away her babe, and threw it into a pit full of snakes. After that she cut Snow-White and Rosy-Red in her finger, and smeared the blood over her mouth, and went straight to the king.

"Now come and see," she said, "what sort of a thing you have taken for your queen; here she has eaten up her own babe."

Then the king was so downcast, he almost burst into tears, and said, "Yes, it must be true, sure I see it with my own eyes; but she'll not do it again, I'm sure, and so this time I'll spare her life."

So before the next year was out she had another son, and the same thing happened. The king's stepmother got more and more jealous and spiteful. She stole in to the young queen at night while she slept, took away the babe, and threw it into a pit full of snakes, cut the young queen's finger, and smeared the blood over her mouth, and then went and told the king she had eaten up her own child.

Then the king was so sorrowful, you can't think how sorry he was, and he said, "Yes, it must be true, since I see it with my own eyes; but she'll not do it again, I'm sure, and so this time too I'll spare her life."

Well! before the next year was out, Snow-White and Rosy-Red brought a daughter into the world, and her, too, the old queen took and threw into the pit full of snakes, while the young queen slept. Then she cut her finger, smeared the blood over her mouth, and went again to the king and said, " Now you may come and see if it isn't as I say; she's a wicked, wicked witch for here she has gone and eaten up her third babe too."

Then the king was so sad, there was no end to it, for now he couldn't spare her any longer, but had to order her to be burnt alive on a pile of wood. But just when the pile was all ablaze, and they were going to put her on it, she made signs to them to take twelve boards and lay them round the pile, and on these she laid the neckerchiefs, and the shirts, and the coats for her brothers, but the youngest brother's shirt wanted its left arm, for she hadn't had time to finish it.

And as soon as ever she had done that, they heard such a flapping and whirring in the air, and down came twelve wild ducks flying over the forest, and each of them snapped up his clothes in his bill and flew off with them.

"See now! " said the old queen to the king, "Wasn't I right when I told you she was a witch; but make haste and burn her before the pile burns low."

"Oh!" said the king, "We've wood enough and to spare, and so I'll wait a bit, for I have a mind to see what the end of all this will be."

As he spoke up came the twelve princes riding along, as handsome well-grown lads as you'd wish to see; but the youngest prince had a wild duck's wing instead of his left arm.

"What's all this about?" asked the princes.

"My queen is to be burnt," said the king, "because she's a witch, and because she has eaten up her own babes."

"She hasn't eaten them at all," said the princes. "Speak now, sister. You have set us free and saved us, now save yourself."

Then Snow-White and Rosy-Red spoke, and told the whole story; how every time she was brought to bed, the old queen, the king's stepmother, had stolen into her at night, and taken her babes away, and cut her little finger, and smeared the blood over her mouth. And then the princes took the king, and showed him the snake pit where three babes lay playing with adders and toads, and lovelier children you never saw.

So the king had them taken out at once, and went to his stepmother, and asked her what punishment she thought that woman deserved who could find it in her heart to betray a guiltless queen and three such blessed little babes.

"She deserves to be fast bound between twelve unbroken steeds, so that each may take his share of her," said the old queen.

"You have spoken your own doom," said the king, "and you shall suffer it at once."

So the wicked old queen was fast bound between twelve unbroken steeds, and each got his share of her. But the king took Snow-White and Rosy-Red, and their three children, and the twelve princes; and so they all went home to their father and mother, and told all that had befallen them, and there was joy and gladness over the whole kingdom, because the princess was saved and set free, and because she had set free her twelve brothers.

The Little Sister: The Story of Suyettar and the Nine Brothers


There was once a woman who had nine sons. They were good boys and loved her dearly but there was one thing about which they were always complaining.

"Why haven't we a little sister?" they kept asking. "Do give us a little sister!"

When the time came that another child was to be born, they said to their mother, "If the baby is a boy we are going away and you will never see us again, but if it is a little girl then we shall stay home and take care of it."

The mother agreed that if the child were a girl she would have her husband put a spindle outside on the gatepost and, if it were a boy, an ax.

"Just wait," she said, "and see what your father puts on the gatepost and then you will know whether it is another brother God has sent you or a little sister."

The baby turned out to be a girl and the mother was overjoyed.

"Hurry, husband!" she cried, "and put a spindle on the gatepost so that our nine sons may know the good news!"

The man did so and then quickly returned to the mother and baby. The moment he was gone Suyettar slipped up and changed the tokens. She took away the spindle and put in its place an ax.

Then with an evil grin she hurried off mumbling to herself, "Now we'll see what we'll see!"

She hoped to bring trouble and grief and she succeeded. As soon as the nine sons saw the ax on the gatepost they thought their mother had given birth to another son and at once they left home vowing never to return.

The poor mother waited for them and waited.

"What is keeping my sons?" she cried at last. "Go out to the gate, husband, and see if they are coming."

The man went out and soon returned bringing back word that someone had changed the tokens.

"The spindle that I put on the gatepost is gone," he said, "and in its place is an ax."

"Alas!" cried the poor mother, "some evil creature has done this to spite us! Oh, if we could only get word to our sons of the little sister they were so eager to have!"

But there was no way to reach them for no one knew the way they had gone.

In a short time the husband died and the poor woman, abandoned by her nine sons, had only her little daughter left. She named the child Kerttu. Kerttu was a dear little girl and her face was as beautiful as her heart was good. Whenever she found her mother weeping alone she tried to comfort her and, as she grew older, she wanted to know the cause of her mother's grief. At last the mother told her about her nine brothers and how they had gone away never to return owing to the trick of some evil creature.

"My poor mother!" she cried, "how sorry I am that I am the innocent cause of your loss! Let me go out into the world and find my brothers! When once they hear the truth they will gladly come home to you to care for you in your old age!"

At first the mother would not consent to this.

"You are all I have," she said, "and I should indeed be miserable and lonely if anything happened you!"

But Kerttu continued to weep every time she thought of her poor brothers driven unnecessarily from home and at last the mother, realizing that she would nevermore be happy unless she were allowed to go in search of them, gave up opposing her.

"Very well, my daughter, you may go and may God go with you and bring you safely back to me. But before you go I must prepare you a bag of food for the journey and bake you a magic cake that will show you the way."

So she baked a batch of bread and at the same time mixed a little round cake with Kerttu's own tears and baked it, too. Then she said, "Here now, my child, are provisions for the journey and here is a magic cake that will lead you to your brothers. All you have to do is throw it down in front of you and say:

Roll, roll, my little cake!
Show me the way that I must take
To find at last the brothers nine
Whose own true mother is also mine!
Then the little cake will start rolling and do you follow wherever it rolls. But, Kerttu, my child, you must not start out alone. You must have some friend or companion to go with you."

Now it happened that Kerttu had a little dog, Musti, that she loved dearly.

"I'll take Musti with me!" she said. "Musti will protect me!"

So she called Musti and Musti wagged his tail and barked with joy at the prospect of going out into the world with his mistress.

Then Kerttu threw down the magic cake in front of her and sang:

Roll, roll, my little cake!
Show me the way that I must take
To find at last the brothers nine
Whose own true mother is also mine!
At once the cake rolled off like a little wheel and Kerttu and Musti followed it. They walked until they were tired. Then Kerttu picked up the little cake and they rested by the wayside. When they were ready again to start the cake a-rolling, all Kerttu had to do was throw it down in front of her and say the magic rhyme.

Their first day was without adventure. When night came they ate their supper and went to sleep in a field under a tree.

The second day they overtook an ugly old woman whom Kerttu disliked on sight. But she said to herself, "Shame on you, Kerttu, not liking this woman just because she's old and ugly!" and she made herself answer the old woman's greetings politely, and she made Musti stop snarling and growling.

The old hag asked Kerttu who she was and where she was going and Kerttu told her.

"Ah!" said the old woman, "how fortunate that we have met each other for our ways lie together!"

She smiled and petted Kerttu's arm and Kerttu felt like shuddering. But she restrained herself and told herself severely, "You're a wicked girl not to feel more friendly to the poor old thing!"

Musti felt much as Kerttu did. He no longer growled for Kerttu had told him not to, but he drooped his tail between his legs and, pressing up close to Kerttu, he trembled with fright. And well he might, too, for the old hag was none other than Suyettar who had been waiting all these years just for this very chance to do further injury to Kerttu and her brothers.

Kerttu, poor child, was, alas! too good and innocent to suspect evil in others. She said to Suyettar, "Very well, if our ways lie together then we can be companions."

So Suyettar joined Kerttu and Musti and the three of them walked on following the little cake.

As the day advanced the sun grew hotter and hotter and at last when they reached a lake Suyettar said, "My dear, let us sit down here for a few moments and rest."

They all sat down and presently Suyettar said, "Let us go bathing in the lake. That will refresh us."

Kerttu would have agreed if Musti had not tugged at her skirts and warned her not to.

"Don't do it, dear mistress!" Musti growled softly. "Don't go in bathing with her! She'll bewitch you!"

So Kerttu said, "No, I don't want to go in bathing."

Suyettar waited until they were again journeying on and then when Kerttu wasn't looking she turned around and kicked Musti and broke one of the poor little dog's legs. Thereafter Musti had to hop along on three legs.

The next afternoon when they passed another lake, Suyettar tried again to tempt Kerttu into the water.

"The sun is very hot," she said, "and it would refresh us both to bathe. Come, Kerttu, my dear, don't refuse me this time!"

But again Musti tugged at Kerttu's skirts and, licking her hand, whispered the warning, "Don't do it, dear mistress! Don't go in bathing with her or she will bewitch you!"

So again Kerttu said politely, "No, I don't feel like going in bathing. You go in alone and I'll wait for you here."

But this was not what Suyettar wanted and she said, no, she didn't care to go in alone. She was furious, too, with Musti and later when Kerttu wasn't looking she gave the poor little dog a kick that broke another leg. Thereafter Musti had to hop along on two legs.

They slept the third night by the wayside and the next day they went on again always following the magic cake.

In midafternoon they passed a lake and Suyettar said: "Surely, my dear, you must be tired and hot. Let us both bathe in this cool lake."

But Musti, hopping painfully along on two legs, yelped weakly and said to Kerttu, "Don't do it, dear mistress! Don't go in bathing with her or she'll bewitch you!"

So for a third time Kerttu refused and later, when she wasn't looking, Suyettar kicked Musti and broke the third of the poor little dog's legs. Thereafter Musti hopped on as best he could on only one leg,

Well, they went on and on. When night came they slept by the roadside and then next morning they started on again. The sun grew hot and by midafternoon Kerttu was tired and ready to rest. When they reached a lake Suyettar again begged that they both go in bathing.

Kerttu was tempted to agree when poor Musti threw himself panting at her feet and whimpered, "Don't do it, dear mistress! Don't go in bathing with her or she will bewitch you!"

So Kerttu again refused.

"That's right, dear mistress!" Musti panted, "don't do it! I shall soon be dead, I know, for she hates me, but before I die I want to warn you one last time never to go in bathing with her or she will bewitch you!"

"What's that dog saying?" Suyettar demanded angrily, and without waiting for an answer she picked up a heavy piece of wood and struck poor Musti such a blow on the head that it killed him.

"What have you done to my poor little dog?" Kerttu cried.

"Don't mind him, my dear," Suyettar said. "He was sick and lame and it was better to put him out of his misery."

Suyettar tried to soothe Kerttu and make her forget Musti but all afternoon Kerttu wept to think that she would never again see her faithful little friend.

The next afternoon when Suyettar begged her to go in bathing there was no Musti to warn her against it and at last Kerttu allowed herself to be persuaded. She was tired from her many days' wandering and it was true that the first touch of the cool water refreshed her.

"Now splash water in my face!" Suyettar cried.

But Kerttu didn't want to splash water into Suyettar's face for she supposed Suyettar was an old woman and she thought it would be disrespectful to splash water into the face of an old woman.

"Do you hear me!" screamed Suyettar.

When Kerttu still hesitated, Suyettar looked at her with such a terrible, threatening expression that Kerttu did as she was bidden.

She splashed water into Suyettar's face and, as the water touched Suyettar's eyes, Suyettar cried out:

Your bonny looks give up to me
And you take mine for all to see!
Instantly they two changed appearance: Suyettar looked young and beautiful like Kerttu, and Kerttu was changed to a hideous old hag. Then too late she realized that the awful old woman to whom she had been so polite was Suyettar.

"Oh, why," Kerttu cried, "why didn't I heed poor Musti's warning!"

Suyettar dragged her roughly out of the water. "Come along!" she said. "Dress yourself in those rags of mine and start that cake a-rolling! We ought to reach your brothers' house by tonight."

So poor Kerttu had to dress herself in Suyettar's filthy old garments while Suyettar, looking like a fresh young girl, decked herself out in Kerttu's pretty bodice and skirt. Unwillingly now and with a heavy heart Kerttu threw down the cake and said:

Roll, roll, my little cake!
Show me the way that I must take
To find at last the brothers nine
Whose own true mother is also mine!
Off rolled the little cake and they two followed it, Kerttu weeping bitterly and Suyettar taunting her with ugly laughs. Then suddenly Kerttu forgot to weep for Suyettar took from her her memory and her tongue.

The little cake led them at last to a farmhouse before which it stopped. This was where the nine brothers were living. Eight of them were out working in the fields but the youngest was at home. He opened the door and when Suyettar told him that she was Kerttu, his sister, he kissed her tenderly and made her welcome. Then he invited her inside and they sat side by side on the bench and talked and Suyettar told him all she had heard from Kerttu about his mother and about the tokens which had been changed at Kerttu's birth. The youngest brother listened eagerly and Suyettar told her story so glibly that of course he supposed that she was his own true sister.

"And who is the awful looking old hag that has come with you?" he asked pointing at Kerttu.

"That? Oh, that's an old serving woman whom our mother sent with me to bear me company. She's dumb and foolish but she's a good herd and we can let her drive the cow out to pasture every day."

The older brothers when they came home were greatly pleased to find what they thought was their sister. They began to love her at once and to pet her and they said that now she must stay with them and keep house for them. She told them that was what she wanted to do and she said that now she was here the youngest brother need no longer stay at home but could go out every morning with the rest of them to work in the fields. So now began a new life for poor Kerttu. In the morning after the brothers were gone Suyettar would scold and abuse her. She would bake a cake for her dinner to be eaten in the fields and she would fill the cake with stones and sticks and filth. Then she would take Kerttu as far as the gate where she would give her back her tongue and her memory and order her roughly to drive the cow to pasture and look after it all day long. In the late afternoon when Kerttu drove home the cow, Suyettar would meet her at the gate and take from her her tongue and her memory and then in the evening the brothers would see her as a foolish old woman who couldn't talk.

Every morning and every evening Kerttu begged Suyettar to show her a little mercy, but far from showing her any mercy Suyettar grew more cruel from day to day. Suyettar was very proud to think that nine handsome young men took her for a beautiful girl and she felt sure they would never find out their mistake for only Kerttu knew who she really was and Kerttu was entirely in her power. At night seated in the shadow in a far corner of the kitchen with her nine brothers laughing and talking Kerttu felt no sorrow for at such times of course she had no memory.

But during the day it was different. Then when she was alone in the meadow she had her memory and her tongue and she thought about her poor mother at home anxiously awaiting her return and she thought of her nine sturdy brothers all of whom might now through her mistake fall victims to Suyettar. These thoughts made her weep with grief and as the days went by she put this grief into a song which she sang constantly:

I've found at last the brothers nine
Whose own true mother is also mine,
But they know me not from stick or stone!
They leave me here to weep alone,
While Suyettar sits in my place
With stolen looks and stolen face!
She snared me first with evil guile
And now she mocks me all the while:
By night she takes my tongue away,
She feeds me sticks and stones by day! . . .
Oh, little they guess, the brothers nine,
That their own true mother is also mine!
The brothers as they worked in nearby fields used to hear the song and they wondered about it.

"Strange!" they said to one another. "Can that be the old woman singing? In the evening at home she never opens her mouth and our dear sister always says that she's dumb and foolish."

One afternoon when Kerttu's song sounded particularly sad, the youngest brother, crept close to the meadow where Kerttu was sitting in order to hear the words. He listened carefully and then hurried back to the others and with frightened face told them what he had heard.

"Nonsense I" the older brothers said. "It can't be so!"

However, they, too, wanted to hear for themselves the words of the strange song, so they all crept near to listen.

It looked like an old hag who was singing but the voice that came out of the withered mouth was the voice of a young girl. As they listened they, too, grew pale:

I've found at last the brothers nine
Whose own true mother is also mine,
But they know me not from stick or stone!
They leave me here to weep alone,
While Suyettar sits in my place
With stolen looks and stolen face!
She snared me first with evil guile
And now she mocks me all the while:
By night she takes my tongue away,
She feeds me sticks and stones by day! . . .
Oh, little they guess, the brothers nine,
That their own true mother is also mine!
"Can it be true?" they said, whispering together. They sent the youngest brother to question Kerttu, and he, when he had heard her story, believed it true. Then the other brothers went to her one by one and questioned her and finally they were all convinced of the truth of her story.

"It is well for us," they said, "if we do not all fall into the power of that awful creature! How, O how can we rescue our poor little sister!"

"I can never get back my own looks," Kerttu said, "unless Suyettar splashes water into my eyes and unless I cry out a magic rhyme as she does it."

The brothers discussed one plan after another and at last agreed on one that they thought might deceive Suyettar.

They had Kerttu inflame her eyes with dust and come groping home one midday.

The brothers, too, were at home and as Kerttu came stumbling into the kitchen they said to Suyettar, "Oh, sister, sister, see the poor old woman! Something ails her! Her eyes -- they're all red and swollen! Get some water and bathe them!"

"Nonsense!" Suyettar said. "The old hag's well enough! Let her be! She doesn't need any attention!"

"Oh, sister!" the youngest brother said, reproachfully, "is that any way for a human, kindhearted girl like you to talk? If you won't bathe the old creature's eyes, I will myself!"

Then Suyettar who of course wanted them to think that she was a human, kindhearted girl said, no, she would bathe them. So she took a basin of water over to Kerttu and told her to lean down her head.

As she splashed the first drop of water into Kerttu's eyes, Kerttu cried out:

"My own true looks give back to me
And take your own for all to see!
Instantly Suyettar was again a hideous old hag though still dressed in Kerttu's pretty bodice and skirt, and Kerttu was herself again, young and fresh and sweet, though still incased in Suyettar's rags. But the brothers pretended that they saw no difference and kept on talking to Suyettar as though they still thought her Kerttu. And Suyettar because her eyes were blinded with the dust supposed that they were still deceived.

Then one of the brothers said to Suyettar, "Sister dear, the sauna is all heated and ready. Don't you want to bathe?"

Suyettar thought that this would be a fine chance to wash the dust from her eyes, so she let them lead her to the sauna. Once they got her inside they locked the door and set the sauna afire. Oh, the noise she made then when she found she had been trapped! She kicked and screamed and cursed and threatened! But Kerttu and the brothers paid no heed to her. They left her burning in the sauna while they hurried homewards.

They found their poor old mother seated at the window weeping, for she thought that now Kerttu as well as her sons was lost forever. As Kerttu and the nine handsome young men came in the gate she didn't recognize them until Kerttu sang out:

I bring at last the brothers nine
Whose own true mother is also mine!
Then she knew who they were and with thanks to God she welcomed them home.

The Twelve Wild Geese


There was once a king and queen that lived very happily together, and they had twelve sons and not a single daughter. We are always wishing for what we haven't, and don't care for what we have, and so it was with the queen. One day in winter, when the bawn was covered with snow, she was looking out of the parlor window, and saw there a calf that was just killed by the butcher, and a raven standing near it.

"Oh," says she, "if I had only a daughter with her skin as white as that snow, her cheeks as red as that blood, and her hair as black as that raven, I'd give away every one of my twelve sons for her."

The moment she said the word, she got a great fright, and a shiver went through her, and in an instant after, a severe-looking old woman stood before her.

"That was a wicked wish you made," said she, "and to punish you it will be granted. You will have such a daughter as you desire, but the very day of her birth you will lose your other children." She vanished the moment she said the words.

And that very way it turned out. When she expected her delivery, she had her children all in a large room of the palace, with guards all round it, but the very hour her daughter came into the world, the guards inside and outside heard a great whirling and whistling, and the twelve princes were seen flying one after another out through the open window, and away like so many arrows over the woods. Well, the king was in great grief for the loss of his sons, and be would be very enraged with his wife if he only knew that she was so much to blame for it.

Everyone called the little princess Snow-White-and-Rose-Red on account of her beautiful complexion. She was the most loving and loveable child that could be seen anywhere.

When she was twelve years old she began to be very sad and lonely, and to torment her mother, asking her about her brothers that she thought were dead, for none up to that time ever told her the exact thing that happened them. The secret was weighing very heavy on the queen's conscience, and as the little girl persevered in her questions, at last she told her.

"Well, mother," said she, "it was on my account my poor brothers were changed into wild geese, and are now suffering all sorts of hardship; before the world is a day older, I'll be off to seek them, and try to restore them to their own shapes."

The king and queen had her well watched, but all was no use. Next night she was getting through the woods that surrounded the palace, and she went on and on that night, and till the evening of next day. She had a few cakes with her, and she got nuts, and mugoreens (fruit of the sweet briar) and some sweet crabs as she went along.

At last she came to a nice wooden house just at sunset. There was a fine garden round it, full of the handsomest flowers, and a gate in the hedge. She went in, and saw a table laid out with twelve plates, and twelve knives and forks, and twelve spoons, and there were cakes, and cold wild fowl, and fruit along with the plates, and there was a good fire, and in another long room there were twelve beds. Well, while she was looking about her she heard the gate opening, and footsteps along the walk, and in came twelve young men, and there was great grief and surprise on all their faces when they laid eyes on her.

"Oh, what misfortune sent you here?" said the eldest. "For the sake of a girl we were obliged to leave our father's court, and be in the shape of wild geese all day. That's twelve years ago, and we took a solemn oath that we would kill the first young girl that came into our hands. It's a pity to put such an innocent and handsome girl as you are out of the world, but we must keep our oath."

"But," said she, "I'm your only sister that never knew anything about this till yesterday; and I stole away from our father's and mother's palace last night to find you out and relieve you if I can."

Every one of them clasped his hands, and looked down on the floor, and you could hear a pin fall till the eldest cried out, "A curse light on our oath! what shall we do?"

"I'll tell you that," said an old woman that appeared at the instant among them. "Break your wicked oath which no one should keep. If you attempted to lay an uncivil finger on her I'd change you into twelve booliaun buis (stalks of ragweed), but I wish well to you as well as to her. She is appointed to be your deliverer in this way. She must spin and knit twelve shirts for you out of bog down, to be gathered by her own hands on the moor just outside of the wood. It will take her five years to do it, and if she once speaks, or laughs, or cries the whole time, you will have to remain wild geese by day till you're called out of the world. So take care of your sister; it is worth your while."

The fairy then vanished, and it was only a strife with the brothers to see who would be first to kiss and hug their sister.

So for three long years the poor young princess was occupied pulling bog down, spinning it, and knitting it into shirts, and at the end of the three years she had eight made. During all that time, she never spoke a word, nor laughed, nor cried; the last was the hardest to refrain from.

One fine day she was sitting in the garden spinning, when in sprung a fine greyhound and bounded up to her, and laid his paws on her shoulder, and licked her forehead and her hair. The next minute a beautiful young prince rode up to the little garden gate, took off his hat, and asked for leave to come in. She gave him a little nod, and in he walked. He made ever so many apologies for intruding, and asked her ever so many questions, but not a word could he get out of her.

He loved her so much from the first moment, that he could not leave her till he told her he was king of a country just bordering on the forest, and he begged her to come home with him, and be his wife. She couldn't help loving him as much as he did her, and though she shook her head very often and was very sorry to leave her brothers, at last she nodded her head, and put her hand in his, she knew well enough that the good fairy and her brothers would he able to find her out. Before she went she brought out a basket holding all her bog down, and another holding the eight shirts. The attendants took charge of these, and the prince placed her before him on his horse.

The only thing that disturbed him while riding along was the displeasure his stepmother would feel at what he had done. However he was full master at home, and as soon as he arrived he sent for the bishop, got his bride nicely dressed, and the marriage was celebrated, the bride answering by signs. He knew by her manners she was of high birth, and no two could be fonder of each other.

The wicked stepmother did all she could to make mischief, saying she was sure she was only a woodman's daughter; but nothing could disturb the young king's opinion of his wife. In good time the young queen was delivered of a beautiful boy, and the king was so glad he hardly knew what to do for joy.

All the grandeur of the christening and the happiness of the parents tormented the bad woman more than I can tell you, and she determined to put a stop to all their comfort. She got a sleeping posset given to the young mother, and while she was thinking and thinking how she could best make away with the child, she saw a wicked-looking wolf in the garden, looking up at her, and licking his chops. She lost no time, but snatched the child from the arms of the sleeping woman, and pitched it out. The beast caught it in his mouth, and was over the garden fence in a minute. The wicked woman then pricked her own fingers, and dabbled the blood round the mouth of the sleeping mother.

Well, the young king was just then coming into the big bawn from hunting, and as soon as he entered the house, she beckoned to him, shed a few crocodile tears, began to cry and wring her hands, and hurried him along the passage to the bedchamber.

Oh, wasn't the poor king frightened when he saw the queen's mouth bloody, and missed his child? It would take two hours to tell you the devilment of the old queen, the confusion, and fright, and grief of young king and queen, the bad opinion he began to feel of his wife, and the struggle she had to keep down her bitter sorrow, and not give way to it by speaking or lamenting.

The young king would not allow anyone to be called, and ordered his step-mother to give out that the child fell from the mother's arms at the window, and that a wild beast ran off with it. The wicked woman pretended to do so, but she told underhand to everybody she spoke to, what the king and herself saw in the bedchamber.

The young queen was the most unhappy woman in the three kingdoms for a long time, between sorrow for her child, and her husband's bad opinion; still she neither spoke nor cried, and she gathered bog down and went on with the shirts. Often the twelve wild geese would be seen lighting on the trees in the park or on the smooth sod, and looking in at her windows. So she worked on to get the shirts finished, but another year was at an end, and she had the twelfth shirt finished except one arm, when she was obliged to take to her bed, and a beautiful girl was born.

Now the king was on his guard, and he would not let the mother and child be left alone for a minute; but the wicked woman bribed some of the attendants, set others asleep, gave the sleepy posset to the queen, and had a person watching to snatch the child away, and kill it.

But what should she see but the same wolf in the garden looking up, and licking his chops again? Out went the child, and away with it flew the wolf, and she smeared the sleeping mother's mouth and face with blood, and then roared, and bawled, and cried out to the king and to everybody she met, and the room was filled, and every one was sure the young queen had just devoured her own babe.

The poor mother thought now her life would leave her. She was in such a state she could neither think nor pray, but she sat like a stone, and worked away at the arm of the twelfth shirt.

The king was for taking her to the house in the wood where he found her, but the stepmother, and the lords of the court, and the judges would not hear of it, and she was condemned to be burned in the big bawn at three o'clock the same day. When the hour drew near, the king went to the farthest part of his palace, and there was no more unhappy man in his kingdom at that hour.

When the executioners came and led her off, she took the pile of shirts in her arms. There were still a few stitches wanted, and while they were tying her to the stake, she still worked on.

At the last stitch she seemed overcome and dropped a tear on her work, but the moment after she sprang up, and shouted out, "I am innocent; call my husband!"

The executioners stayed their hands, except one wicked-disposed creature who set fire to the faggot next him, and while all were struck in amaze, there was a rushing of wings, and in a moment the twelve wild geese were standing round the pile.

Before you could count twelve, she flung a shirt over every bird, and there in the twinkling of an eye were twelve of the finest young men that could be collected out of a thousand. While some were untying their sister, the eldest, taking a strong stake in his hand, struck the busy executioner such a blow that he never needed another.

While they were comforting the young queen, and the king was hurrying to the spot, a fine-looking woman appeared among them holding the babe on one arm and the little prince by the hand. There was nothing hut crying for joy, and laughing for joy, and hugging and kissing, and when any one had time to thank the good fairy, who in the shape of a wolf, carried the child away, she was not to be found.

Never was such happiness enjoyed in any palace that ever was built, and if the wicked queen and her helpers were not torn by wild horses they richly deserved it.

The Sister and Her Seven Brothers


There was a man and a woman very poor, and overburdened with children. They had seven boys. When they had grown up a little, they said to their mother that it would be better that they should go on their own way -- that they would get on better like that. The mother let them go with great regret.

After their departure she gave birth to a little girl, and when this little girl was grown up a little she went one day to a neighbor's to amuse herself, and having played some childish trick the neighbor said to her, "You will be a good one, you too, as your brothers have been."

The child goes home and says to her mother, "Mother, have I some brothers?"

The mother says, "Yes."

"Where are they?"

"Oh, gone off somewhere."

The daughter said to her, "I must go too, then. Give me a piece of linen enough to make seven shirts."

And she would go off at once. The mother was very sorry for it, having already seven children away from home, and the only one she had wished to go away. She let her go then.

This young girl went off, far, far, far away. She asks in a town if they know seven brothers who work together. They tell her, "No."

She goes off to a mountain and asks there too, and they tell her in what house they live. She goes to this house, and sees that all the household work is to be done, and that there is nobody at home. She makes the beds, and cleans the whole house, and puts it in order. She prepares the dinner, and then hides herself in the dust-hole.

Her brothers come home, and are astonished to see all the household work done and the dinner ready. They begin to look if there is anyone in the house, but they never think of looking in the dust-hole, and they go off again to their work. Before night this young girl does all the rest of the work, and had the supper ready against the return of her brothers, and hides herself again in the dust-hole. Her brothers are astonished, and again search the house, but find nothing.

They go to bed, and this young girl takes to sewing and sews a whole shirt. She gives it to her eldest brother, and in the same way she made a shirt every night, and took it to one of her brothers. They could not understand how that all happened. They always said that they would not go to sleep, but they fell asleep as soon as they were in bed.

When the turn of the youngest came to have the shirt, he said to them, "Certainly I will not fall asleep."

After he is in bed the young girl goes and says to him, thinking that he is asleep, "Your turn has come now at last, my dearly loved brother."

And she begins to put the shirt on him on the bed, when her brother says to her, "You are then my sister, you?"

And he kisses her. She tells him then how she had heard that she had brothers, and how she had wished to go to them to help them. The other brothers get up and rejoice, learning that it was their sister who had done all the household work.

The brothers forbad her ever to go to such a neighbor's, whatever might happen. But one day, without thinking about it, when she was behindhand with her work, she went running to the house to ask for some fire, in order to make the supper ready quicker. She was very well received; the woman offered to give her everything she wanted, but she said she was satisfied with a little fire.

This woman was a witch, and gives her a parcel of herbs, telling her to put them as they were into the footbath -- that they relieved the fatigue very much. Every evening the seven brothers washed their feet at the same time in a large copper. She therefore put these herbs into the copper, and as soon as they had dipped their feet in they became six cows, and the seventh a Breton cow.

This poor girl was in such trouble as cannot be told. The poor cows all used to kiss their sister, but the young girl always loved much best the Breton one. Every day she took them to the field, and stopped with them to guard them.

One day when she was there the son of a king passes by, and is quite astonished to see so beautiful a girl there. He speaks to her, and tells her that he wishes to marry her. The young girl says to him that she is very poor, and that that cannot be.

The king says, "Yes, yes, yes, that makes no difference."

The young girl makes as conditions that, if she marries him, he must never kill these cows, and especially this little Breton one. The king promises it her, and they are married.

The princess takes these cows home with her; they were always well treated. The princess became pregnant, and was confined while the king was absent. The witch comes, and takes her out of her bed, and throws her down a precipice that there was in the king's grounds, and the witch puts herself into the princess' bed.

When the king comes home, he finds her very much changed, and tells her that he would not have recognized her. The princess tells him that it was her sufferings that had made her thus, and, in order to cure her more quickly, he must have the Breton cow killed.

The king says to her, "What! Did you not make me promise that she should never be killed? How is it you ask me that?"

The witch considered that one her greatest enemy; and, as she left him no peace, he sent a servant to fetch the cows. He finds them all seven by the precipice; they were lowing, and he tried to drive them to the house, but he could not do it in any way; and he hears a voice, which says, "It is not for myself that I grieve so much, but for my child, and for my husband, and for my dearly loved cows. Who will take care of them?"

The lad could not succeed (in driving them), and goes and tells to the king what is taking place. The king himself goes to the precipice, and hears this voice. He quickly throws a long cord down, and, when he thinks that she has had time to take hold of it, he pulls it up, and sees that they have got the princess there. Judge of the joy of the king! She relates to her husband all that the witch had done to her, both formerly and now.

The king goes to the witch's bed, and says to her, "I know your villainies now; and, if you do not immediately change these cows, as they were before, into fine boys, I will put you into a red-hot oven."

The witch makes them fine men, and, notwithstanding that, the king had her burnt in a red-hot oven, and threw her ashes into the air.

The king lived happily with his wife, and her seven brothers married ladies of the court, and sent for their mother, and they all lived happily together.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Revised February 2, 2013.