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The Goose-Girl

The king of a great land died, and left his queen to take care oftheir only child. This child was a daughter, who was ve...

The Goose-Girl

The king of a great land died, and left his queen to take care oftheir only child. This child was a daughter, who was very beautiful;and her mother loved her dearly, and was very kind to her. And therewas a good fairy too, who was fond of the princess, and helped hermother to watch over her. When she grew up, she was betrothed to aprince who lived a great way off; and as the time drew near for herto be married, she got ready to set off on her journey to his country.Then the queen her mother, packed up a great many costly things;jewels, and gold, and silver; trinkets, fine dresses, and in shorteverything that became a royal bride. And she gave her a waiting-maidto ride with her, and give her into the bridegroom’s hands; and eachhad a horse for the journey. Now the princess’s horse was thefairy’s gift, and it was called Falada, and could speak.

When the time came for them to set out, the fairy went intoher bed-chamber, and took a little knife, and cut off a lock of herhair, and gave it to the princess, and said, «Take care of it, dearchild; for it is a charm that may be of use to you on the road.’Then they all took a sorrowful leave of the princess; and she putthe lock of hair into her bosom, got upon her horse, and set off onher journey to her bridegroom’s kingdom.

One day, as they were riding along by a brook, the princess began tofeel very thirsty: and she said to her maid, «Pray get down, and fetchme some water in my golden cup out of yonder brook, for I want todrink.» «Nay,» said the maid, «if you are thirsty, get off yourself,and stoop down by the water and drink; I shall not be yourwaiting-maid any longer.» Then she was so thirsty that she got down,and knelt over the little brook, and drank; for she was frightened, anddared not bring out her golden cup; and she wept and said, «Alas! whatwill become of me?» And the lock answered her, and said:

«Alas! alas! if thy mother knew it, Sadly, sadly, would she rue it.»

But the princess was very gentle and meek, so she said nothing toher maid’s ill behaviour, but got upon her horse again.

Then all rode farther on their journey, till the day grew so warm, andthe sun so scorching, that the bride began to feel very thirsty again;and at last, when they came to a river, she forgot her maid’s rudespeech, and said, «Pray get down, and fetch me some water to drink inmy golden cup.» But the maid answered her, and even spoke morehaughtily than before: «Drink if you will, but I shall not be yourwaiting-maid.» Then the princess was so thirsty that she got off herhorse, and lay down, and held her head over the running stream, andcried and said, «What will become of me?» And the lock of hair answeredher again:

«Alas! alas! if thy mother knew it, Sadly, sadly, would she rue it.»

And as she leaned down to drink, the lock of hair fell from her bosom,and floated away with the water. Now she was so frightened that shedid not see it; but her maid saw it, and was very glad, for she knewthe charm; and she saw that the poor bride would be in her power, nowthat she had lost the hair. So when the bride had done drinking, andwould have got upon Falada again, the maid said, «I shall ride uponFalada, and you may have my horse instead’; so she was forced to giveup her horse, and soon afterwards to take off her royal clothes andput on her maid’s shabby ones.

At last, as they drew near the end of their journey, thistreacherous servant threatened to kill her mistress if she ever toldanyone what had happened. But Falada saw it all, and marked it well.

Then the waiting-maid got upon Falada, and the real bride rode uponthe other horse, and they went on in this way till at last they cameto the royal court. There was great joy at their coming, and theprince flew to meet them, and lifted the maid from her horse,thinking she was the one who was to be his wife; and she was ledupstairs to the royal chamber; but the true princess was told to stay inthe court below.

Now the old king happened just then to have nothing else to do; sohe amused himself by sitting at his kitchen window, looking at what wasgoing on; and he saw her in the courtyard. As she looked very pretty,and too delicate for a waiting-maid, he went up into the royal chamberto ask the bride who it was she had brought with her, that was thusleft standing in the court below. «I brought her with me for the sakeof her company on the road,» said she; «pray give the girl some work todo, that she may not be idle.» The old king could not for some timethink of any work for her to do; but at last he said, «I have a lad whotakes care of my geese; she may go and help him.» Now the name of thislad, that the real bride was to help in watching the king’s geese, wasCurdken.

But the false bride said to the prince, «Dear husband, pray do meone piece of kindness.» «That I will,» said the prince. «Then tell oneof your slaughterers to cut off the head of the horse I rode upon, forit was very unruly, and plagued me sadly on the road’; but the truthwas, she was very much afraid lest Falada should some day or otherspeak, and tell all she had done to the princess. She carried herpoint, and the faithful Falada was killed; but when the true princessheard of it, she wept, and begged the man to nail up Falada’s headagainst a large dark gate of the city, through which she had to passevery morning and evening, that there she might still see himsometimes. Then the slaughterer said he would do as she wished; andcut off the head, and nailed it up under the dark gate.

Early the next morning, as she and Curdken went out through the gate,she said sorrowfully:

«Falada, Falada, there thou hangest!»

and the head answered:

«Bride, bride, there thou gangest! Alas! alas! if thy mother knew it, Sadly, sadly, would she rue it.»

Then they went out of the city, and drove the geese on. And when shecame to the meadow, she sat down upon a bank there, and let down herwaving locks of hair, which were all of pure silver; and whenCurdken saw it glitter in the sun, he ran up, and would have pulledsome of the locks out, but she cried:

«Blow, breezes, blow! Let Curdken’s hat go! Blow, breezes, blow! Let him after it go! O’er hills, dales, and rocks, Away be it whirl’d Till the silvery locks Are all comb’d and curl’d!»

Then there came a wind, so strong that it blew off Curdken’s hat; andaway it flew over the hills: and he was forced to turn and run after it;till, by the time he came back, she had done combing and curling herhair, and had put it up again safe. Then he was very angry and sulky,and would not speak to her at all; but they watched the geese until itgrew dark in the evening, and then drove them homewards.

The next morning, as they were going through the dark gate, the poorgirl looked up at Falada’s head, and cried:

«Falada, Falada, there thou hangest!»

and the head answered:

«Bride, bride, there thou gangest! Alas! alas! if they mother knew it, Sadly, sadly, would she rue it.»

Then she drove on the geese, and sat down again in the meadow, andbegan to comb out her hair as before; and Curdken ran up to her, andwanted to take hold of it; but she cried out quickly:

«Blow, breezes, blow! Let Curdken’s hat go! Blow, breezes, blow! Let him after it go! O’er hills, dales, and rocks, Away be it whirl’d Till the silvery locks Are all comb’d and curl’d!»

Then the wind came and blew away his hat; and off it flew a greatway, over the hills and far away, so that he had to run after it; andwhen he came back she had bound up her hair again, and all wassafe. So they watched the geese till it grew dark.

In the evening, after they came home, Curdken went to the old king,and said, «I cannot have that strange girl to help me to keep thegeese any longer.» «Why?» said the king. «Because, instead of doingany good, she does nothing but tease me all day long.» Then the kingmade him tell him what had happened. And Curdken said, «When we go inthe morning through the dark gate with our flock of geese, she criesand talks with the head of a horse that hangs upon the wall, and says:

“Falada, Falada, there thou hangest!”

and the head answers:

“Bride, bride, there thou gangest! Alas! alas! if they mother knew it, Sadly, sadly, would she rue it.”»

And Curdken went on telling the king what had happened upon themeadow where the geese fed; how his hat was blown away; and how he wasforced to run after it, and to leave his flock of geese to themselves.But the old king told the boy to go out again the next day: and whenmorning came, he placed himself behind the dark gate, and heard howshe spoke to Falada, and how Falada answered. Then he went into thefield, and hid himself in a bush by the meadow’s side; and he soon sawwith his own eyes how they drove the flock of geese; and how, after alittle time, she let down her hair that glittered in the sun. And thenhe heard her say:

«Blow, breezes, blow! Let Curdken’s hat go! Blow, breezes, blow! Let him after it go! O’er hills, dales, and rocks, Away be it whirl’d Till the silvery locks Are all comb’d and curl’d!»

And soon came a gale of wind, and carried away Curdken’s hat, andaway went Curdken after it, while the girl went on combing andcurling her hair. All this the old king saw: so he went home withoutbeing seen; and when the little goose-girl came back in the evening hecalled her aside, and asked her why she did so: but she burst intotears, and said, «That I must not tell you or any man, or I shall losemy life.»

But the old king begged so hard, that she had no peace till she hadtold him all the tale, from beginning to end, word for word. And itwas very lucky for her that she did so, for when she had done theking ordered royal clothes to be put upon her, and gazed on her withwonder, she was so beautiful. Then he called his son and told him thathe had only a false bride; for that she was merely a waiting-maid,while the true bride stood by. And the young king rejoiced when he sawher beauty, and heard how meek and patient she had been; and withoutsaying anything to the false bride, the king ordered a great feast tobe got ready for all his court. The bridegroom sat at the top, withthe false princess on one side, and the true one on the other; butnobody knew her again, for her beauty was quite dazzling to their eyes;and she did not seem at all like the little goose-girl, now thatshe had her brilliant dress on.

When they had eaten and drank, and were very merry, the old king saidhe would tell them a tale. So he began, and told all the story ofthe princess, as if it was one that he had once heard; and he asked thetrue waiting-maid what she thought ought to be done to anyone who wouldbehave thus. «Nothing better,» said this false bride, «than that sheshould be thrown into a cask stuck round with sharp nails, and that twowhite horses should be put to it, and should drag it from street tostreet till she was dead.» «Thou art she!» said the old king; «and asthou has judged thyself, so shall it be done to thee.» And the youngking was then married to his true wife, and they reigned over thekingdom in peace and happiness all their lives; and the good fairycame to see them, and restored the faithful Falada to life again.

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