The Golden Slipper
Source: Cossack Fairy Tales And Folk Tales
There was once upon a time an old man and an old woman, and the old
man had a daughter, and the old woman had a daughter. And the old
woman said to the old man, "Go and buy a heifer, that thy daughter may
have something to look after!" So the old man went to the fair and
bought a heifer.
Now the old woman spoiled her own daughter, but was always snapping at
the old man's daughter. Yet the old man's daughter was a good,
hard-working girl, while as for the old woman's daughter, she was but
an idle slut. She did nothing but sit down all day with her hands in
her lap. One day the old woman said to the old man's daughter, "Look
now, thou daughter of a dog, go and drive out the heifer to graze!
Here thou hast two bundles of flax. See that thou unravel it, and reel
it, and bleach it, and bring it home all ready in the evening!" Then
the girl took the flax and drove the heifer out to graze.
So the heifer began to graze, but the girl sat down and began to weep.
And the heifer said to her, "Tell me, dear little maiden, wherefore
dost thou weep?"--"Alas! why should I not weep? My stepmother has
given me this flax and bidden me unravel it, and reel it, and bleach
it, and bring it back as cloth in the evening."--"Grieve not, maiden!"
said the heifer, "it will all turn out well. Lie down to sleep!"--So
she lay down to sleep, and when she awoke the flax was all unravelled
and reeled and spun into fine cloth, and bleached. Then she drove the
heifer home and gave the cloth to her stepmother. The old woman took
it and hid it away, that nobody might know that the old man's daughter
had brought it to her.
The next day she said to her own daughter, "Dear little daughter,
drive the heifer out to graze, and here is a little piece of flax for
thee, unravel it and reel it, or unravel it not and reel it not as
thou likest best, but bring it home with thee." Then she drove the
heifer out to graze, and threw herself down in the grass, and slept
the whole day, and did not even take the trouble to go and moisten the
flax in the cooling stream. And in the evening she drove the heifer
back from the field and gave her mother the flax. "Oh, mammy!" she
said, "my head ached so the whole day, and the sun scorched so, that I
couldn't go down to the stream to moisten the flax."--"Never mind,"
said her mother, "lie down and sleep; it will do for another day."
And the next day she called the old man's daughter again, "Get up,
thou daughter of a dog, and take the heifer out to graze. And here
thou hast a bundle of raw flax; unravel it, heckle it, wind it on to
thy spindles, bleach it, weave with it, and make it into fine cloth
for me by the evening!"--Then the girl drove out the heifer to graze.
The heifer began grazing, but she sat down beneath a willow-tree, and
threw her flax down beside her, and began weeping with all her might.
But the heifer came up to her and said, "Tell me, little maiden,
wherefore dost thou weep?"--"Why should I not weep?" said she, and she
told the heifer all about it.--"Grieve not!" said the heifer, "it
will all come right, but lie down to sleep."--So she lay down and
immediately fell asleep. And by evening the bundle of raw flax was
heckled and spun and reeled, and the cloth was woven and bleached, so
that one could have made shirts of it straight off. Then she drove the
heifer home, and gave the cloth to her stepmother.
Then the old woman said to herself, "How comes it that this daughter
of the son of a dog has done all her task so easily? The heifer must
have got it done for her, I know. But I'll put a stop to all this,
thou daughter of the son of a dog," said she. Then she went to the old
man and said, "Father, kill and cut to pieces this heifer of thine,
for because of it thy daughter does not a stroke of work. She drives
the heifer out to graze, and goes to sleep the whole day and does
nothing."--"Then I'll kill it!" said he.--But the old man's daughter
heard what he said, and went into the garden and began to weep
bitterly. The heifer came to her and said, "Tell me, dear little
maiden, wherefore dost thou weep?"--"Why should I not weep," she
said, "when they want to kill thee?"--"Don't grieve," said the heifer,
"it will all come right. When they have killed me, ask thy stepmother
to give thee my entrails to wash, and in them thou wilt find a grain
of corn. Plant this grain of corn, and out of it will grow up a
willow-tree, and whatever thou dost want, go to this willow-tree and
ask, and thou shalt have thy heart's desire."
Then her father slew the heifer, and she went to her stepmother and
said, "Prythee, let me have the entrails of the heifer to wash!"--And
her stepmother answered, "As if I would let anybody else do such work
but thee!"--Then she went and washed them, and sure enough she found
the grain of corn, planted it by the porch, trod down the earth, and
watered it a little. And the next morning, when she awoke, she saw
that a willow-tree had sprung out of this grain of corn, and beneath
the willow-tree was a spring of water, and no better water was to be
found anywhere in the whole village. It was as cold and as clear as
When Sunday came round, the old woman tricked her pet daughter out
finely, and took her to church, but to the old man's daughter she
said, "Look to the fire, thou slut! Keep a good fire burning and get
ready the dinner, and make everything in the house neat and tidy, and
have thy best frock on, and all the shirts washed against I come back
from church. And if thou hast not all these things done, thou shalt
say good-bye to dear life."
So the old woman and her daughter went to church, and the smart little
stepdaughter made the fire burn up, and got the dinner ready, and then
went to the willow-tree and said, "Willow-tree, willow-tree, come out
of thy bark! Lady Anna, come when I call thee!" Then the willow-tree
did its duty, and shook all its leaves, and a noble lady came forth
from it. "Dear little lady, sweet little lady, what are thy commands?"
said she.--"Give me," said she, "a grand dress and let me have a
carriage and horses, for I would go to God's House!"--And immediately
she was dressed in silk and satin, with golden slippers on her feet,
and the carriage came up and she went to church.
When she entered the church there was a great to-do, and every one
said, "Oh! oh! oh! Who is it? Is it perchance some princess or some
queen? for the like of it we have never seen before." Now the young
Tsarevich chanced to be in church at that time. When he saw her, his
heart began to beat. He stood there, and could not take his eyes off
her. And all the great captains and courtiers marvelled at her and
fell in love with her straightway. But who she was, they knew not.
When service was over, she got up and drove away. When she got home,
she took off all her fine things, and put on all her rags again, and
sat in the window-corner and watched the folk coming from church.
Then her stepmother came back too. "Is the dinner ready?" said
she.--"Yes, it is ready."--"Hast thou sewn the shirts?"--"Yes, the
shirts are sewn too."--Then they sat down to meat, and began to relate
how they had seen such a beautiful young lady at church.--"The
Tsarevich," said the old woman, "instead of saying his prayers, was
looking at her all the while, so goodly was she." Then she said to the
old man's daughter, "As for thee, thou slut! though thou hast sewn
the shirts and bleached them, thou art but a dirty under-wench!"
On the following Sunday the stepmother again dressed up her daughter,
and took her to church. But, before she went, she said to the old
man's daughter, "See that thou keep the fire in, thou slut!" and she
gave her a lot of work to do. The old man's daughter very soon did it
all, and then she went to the willow-tree and said, "Bright spring
willow, bright spring willow, change thee, transform thee!" Then
still statelier dames stepped forth from the willow-tree, "Dear little
lady, sweet little lady, what commands hast thou to give?" She told
them what she wanted, and they gave her a gorgeous dress, and put
golden shoes on her feet, and she went to church in a grand carriage.
The Tsarevich was again there, and at the sight of her he stood as if
rooted to the ground, and couldn't take his eyes from her. Then the
people began to whisper, "Is there none here who knows her? Is there
none who knows who such a handsome lady may be!" And they began to ask
each other, "Dost thou know her? Dost thou know her?"--But the
Tsarevich said, "Whoever will tell me who this great lady is, to him
will I give a sack-load of gold ducats!"--Then they inquired and
inquired, and laid all their heads together, but nothing came of it.
But the Tsarevich had a jester who was always with him, and used
always to jest and cut capers whenever this child of the Tsar was sad.
So now, too, he began to laugh at the young Tsarevich and say to him,
"I know how to find out who this fine lady is."--"How?" asked the
young Tsarevich.--"I'll tell thee," said the jester; "smear with pitch
the place in church where she is wont to stand. Then her slippers will
stick to it, and she, in her hurry to get away, will never notice that
she has left them behind her in church."--So the Tsarevich ordered his
courtiers to smear the spot with pitch straightway. Next time, when
the service was over, she got up as usual and hastened away, but left
her golden slippers behind her. When she got home she took off her
costly raiment and put on her rags, and waited in the window-corner
till they came from church.
When they came from church they had all sorts of things to talk about,
and how the young Tsarevich had fallen in love with the grand young
lady, and how they were unable to tell him whence she came, or who she
was, and the stepmother hated the old man's daughter all the more
because she had done her work so nicely.
But the Tsarevich did nothing but pine away. And they proclaimed
throughout the kingdom, "Who has lost a pair of golden slippers?" But
none could tell. Then the Tsar sent his wise councillors throughout
the kingdom to find her. "If ye do not find her," said he, "it will be
the death of my child, and then ye also are dead men."
So the Tsar's councillors went through all the towns and villages, and
measured the feet of all the maidens against the golden slippers, and
she was to be the bride of the Tsarevich whom the golden slippers
fitted. They went to the houses of all the princes, and all the
nobles, and all the rich merchants, but it was of no avail. The feet
of all the maidens were either too little or too large. Then they hied
them to the huts of the peasants.
NOBLES AND PRINCES]
They went on and on, they measured and measured, and at last they were
so tired that they could scarce draw one foot after the other. Then
they looked about them and saw a beautiful willow-tree standing by a
hut, and beneath the willow-tree was a spring of water. "Let us go and
rest in the cool shade," said they. So they went and rested, and the
old woman came out of the hut to them.--"Hast thou a daughter, little
mother?" said they.--"Yes, that I have," said she.--"One or two?" they
asked.--"Well, there is another," said she, "but she is not my
daughter, she is a mere kitchen slut, the very look of her is
nasty."--"Very well," said they, "we will measure them with the golden
slippers."--"Good!" cried the old woman. Then she said to her own
daughter, "Go, my dear little daughter, tidy thyself up a bit, and
wash thy little feet!"--But the old man's daughter she drove behind
the stove, and the poor thing was neither washed nor dressed. "Sit
there, thou daughter of a dog!" said she.--Then the Tsar's councillors
came into the hut to measure, and the old woman said to her daughter,
"Put out thy little foot, darling!"--The councillors then measured
with the slippers, but they wouldn't fit her at all. Then they said,
"Tell us, little mother, where is thy other daughter?"--"Oh, as for
her, she is a mere slut, and besides she isn't dressed."--"No matter,"
said they; "where is she?"--Then she came out from behind the stove,
and her stepmother hustled her and said, "Get along, thou sluttish
hussy!"--Then they measured her with the slippers, and they fitted
like gloves, whereupon the courtiers rejoiced exceedingly and praised
"Well, little mother," said they, "we will take this daughter away
with us."--"What! take a slattern like that? Why, all the people will
laugh at you!"--"Maybe they will," said they.--Then the old woman
scolded, and wouldn't let her go. "How can such a slut become the
consort of the Tsar's son?" screeched she.--"Nay, but she must come!"
said they; "go, dress thyself, maiden!"--"Wait but a moment," said
she, "and I'll tire myself as is meet!"--Then she went to the spring
beneath the willow-tree, and washed and dressed herself, and she came
back so lovely and splendid that the like of it can neither be thought
of nor guessed at, but only told of in tales. As she entered the hut
she shone like the sun, and her stepmother had not another word to
So they put her in a carriage and drove off, and when the Tsarevich
saw her, he could not contain himself. "Make haste, O my father!"
cried he, "and give us thy blessing." So the Tsar blessed them, and
they were wedded. Then they made a great feast and invited all the
world to it. And they lived happily together, and ate wheat-bread to
their hearts' content.
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