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The Goose-girl






Source: Folk-lore And Legends: German

The king of a great land died, and left his queen to take care of
their only child. This child was a daughter, who was very beautiful,
and her mother loved her dearly and was very kind to her. When she
grew up, she was betrothed to a prince who lived a great way off; and
as the time drew near for her to be married, she got ready to set off
on her journey to his country. The queen, her mother, packed up a
great many costly things--jewels, gold and silver trinkets, fine
dresses, and, in short, everything that became a royal bride. She gave
her a waiting-maid to ride with her and give her into the bridegroom's
hands, and each had a horse for the journey. The princess' horse was
called Falada, and could speak.

When the time came for them to set out, the aged mother went into the
princess's bedchamber, took a knife, and having cut her finger till it
bled, let three drops of the blood fall upon a handkerchief, and gave
it to the princess, saying--

"Take care of it, dear child, for it is a charm that may be of use to
you on the road."

They all took a sorrowful leave of the princess, and she put the
handkerchief into her bosom, got upon her horse, and set off on her
journey to her bridegroom's kingdom.

One day as they were riding along by a brook, the princess began to
feel very thirsty, and said to her maid--

"Pray get down, and fetch me some water in my golden cup out of yonder
brook, for I want to drink."

"Nay," said the maid, "if you are thirsty, get off yourself and stoop
down by the water and drink. I shall not be your waiting-maid any
longer."

The princess got down, and knelt over the brook and drank, for she was
frightened, and dared not bring out her cup; and she wept, and said--

"Alas! what will become of me?"

The three drops of blood answered her, and said--

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

The princess was very gentle and meek, so she said nothing to her
maid's ill-behaviour, but got upon her horse again.

They all rode further on their journey, till the day grew so warm and
the 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 rude
speech, and said--

"Pray get down, and fetch me some water to drink in my cup."

But the maid answered her, and even spoke more haughtily than before--

"Drink if you will, but I shall not be your waiting-maid."

Then the princess got off her horse, and lay down, and held her head
over the running stream, and cried and said--

"What will become of me?"

And the drops of blood answered her again as before. As the princess
leaned down to drink, the handkerchief on which was the blood fell
from her bosom and floated away on the water, but the princess was so
frightened that she did not notice it. Her maid, however, saw it, and
was very glad, for she knew the charm, and she saw that the poor bride
would be in her power now that she had lost the drops of blood. So
when the bride had done drinking, and would have got upon Falada
again, the maid said--

"I will ride upon Falada, and you may have my horse instead;" so the
princess was forced to give up her horse, and soon afterwards to take
off her royal clothes and put on her maid's shabby ones.

At last, as they drew near the end of their journey, this treacherous
servant threatened to kill her mistress if she ever told any one what
had happened; but Falada saw it all, and marked it well.

Then the waiting-maid got upon Falada, while the real bride rode upon
the other horse, and they went on in this way until they came at last
to the royal court. There was great joy at their coming, and the
prince flew to meet them, and lifted the maid from her horse, thinking
she was the one who was to be his wife. She was led upstairs to the
royal chamber, but the true princess was told to stay in the court
below.

Now the old king happened just then to have nothing else to do, so he
was amusing himself by sitting at his window looking at what was going
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 chamber to
ask the bride who it was she had brought with her that was thus left
standing in the court below.

"I brought her with me for the sake of her company on the road,"
replied she. "Pray give the girl some work to do, that she may not be
idle."

The king could not for some time think of any work for her to do, but
at last he said--

"I have a lad who takes care of my geese, she may go and help him."

Now the name of this lad, whom the princess was to help in watching
the king's geese, was Conrad.

The false bride said to the prince--

"Dear husband, pray do me one piece of kindness."

"That I will," said the prince.

"Then tell one of your knackers to cut off the head of the horse I
rode upon, for it was very unruly, and plagued me sadly on the road."

In reality she was very much afraid lest Falada should some day or
other speak, and tell all that she had done to the princess. She
carried her point, and the faithful Falada was killed. When the true
princess heard of it she wept, and begged the man to nail up Falada's
head over a large dark gate of the city, through which she had to pass
every morning and evening, that there she might see him sometimes. The
slaughterer said he would do as she wished, and he cut off the head,
and nailed it up under the dark gate.

Early the next morning, as the princess and Conrad went through the
gate, she said sorrowfully--

"Falada, Falada, there thou hangest!"

The head answered--

"Bride, bride, there thou goest!
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. When they were
come to a meadow she sat down upon a bank there, and let down her
waving locks of hair, which were like pure gold; and when Conrad saw
it he ran up, and would have pulled some of the locks out, but the
princess cried--

"Blow, breezes, blow!
Let Conrad's hat go!
Blow, breezes, blow!
Let him after it go!
O'er hills, dales, and rocks,
Away be it whirled,
Till my golden locks
Are all combed and curled."

Then there came a wind so strong that it blew off Conrad's hat. Away
it flew over the hills, and he was forced to turn and run after it, so
that when he came back she had done combing and curling her hair, and
had put it up again safely, and he could not get any of it. He was
very angry and sulky, and would not speak to her; but they watched the
geese until it grew dark, and then drove them homewards.

The next morning, as they were going through the dark gate, the poor
girl looked up at Falada's head, and cried--

"Falada, Falada, there thou hangest!"

It answered--

"Bride, bride, there thou goest!
Alas, alas! if thy mother knew it,
Sadly, sadly would she rue it."

Then she drove on the geese, and sat down again in the meadow, and
began to comb out her hair as before, and Conrad ran up to her, and
wanted to take hold of it. The princess repeated the words she had
used the day before, when the wind came and blew away his hat, and off
it flew a great way, over the hills and far away, so that he had to
run after it. When he returned, she had bound up her hair again, and
all was safe. So they watched the geese until it grew dark.

In the evening, after they came home, Conrad went to the old king and
said--

"I won't have that strange girl to help me to keep the geese any
longer."

"Why?" said the king.

"Because instead of doing any good she does nothing but tease me all
day long."

Then the king made him tell what had happened, and Conrad said--

"When we go in the morning through the dark gate with our flock of
geese, she cries and talks with the head of a horse that hangs upon
the wall, and the head answers her."

And Conrad went on telling the king what had happened in the meadow
where the geese fed; how his hat was blown away, and how he was forced
to run after it and leave his flock of geese to themselves. The old
king told the boy to go out again the next day, and when morning came
he placed himself behind the dark gate, and heard how the princess
spoke to Falada, and how Falada answered. Then he went into the field
and hid himself in a bush by the meadow's side, and he soon saw with
his own eyes how they drove the flock of geese, and how, after a
little time, she let down her hair that glittered in the sun. Then he
heard her call the wind, and soon there came a gust that carried away
Conrad's hat, and away he went after it, while the girl went on
combing and curling her hair. All this the old king saw; so he went
home without having been observed, and when the goose-girl came back
in the evening, he called her aside and asked her why she did so. She
burst into tears, and said--

"That I must not tell you nor any man, or I shall lose my life."

The old king begged hard, but she would tell him nothing. Then he
said--

"If you will not tell me thy story, tell thy grief to the iron stove
there," and then he went away.

Then the princess crept into the stove, and, weeping and lamenting,
she poured forth her whole heart, saying--

"I am alone in the whole world, though I am a king's daughter. A
treacherous waiting-maid has taken my place and compelled me to put
off my royal dress, and even taken my place with my bridegroom, while
I have to work as a goose-girl. If my mother knew it, it would break
her heart."

The old king, however, was standing by the stove, listening to what
the princess said, and overheard it all. He ordered royal clothes to
be put upon her, and gazed at her in wonder, she was so beautiful.
Then he called his son, and told him that he had only a false bride,
for that she was merely the waiting-maid, while the true bride stood
by. The young prince rejoiced when he saw the princess's beauty, and
heard how meek and patient she had been, and the king ordered a great
feast to be got ready for all his court. The bridegroom sat at the top
of the table, with the false princess on one side and the true one on
the other; but the waiting-maid did not recognise the princess, for
her beauty was quite dazzling.

When they had eaten and drunk, and were very merry, the old king said
he would tell them a tale. So he began, and told all the story of the
princess, as if it were a tale he had heard, and he asked the
waiting-woman what she thought ought to be done to any one who behaved
so badly as the servant in the story.

"Nothing better," said the false bride, "than that she should be
thrown into a cask stuck round with sharp nails, and that two white
horses should be put to it, and should drag it from street to street
till she were dead."

"Thou art she," said the old king, "and as thou hast judged thyself,
so it shall be done to thee."

Then the young prince was married to his true wife, and they reigned
over the kingdom in peace and happiness all their lives.





Next: Hans Jagenteufel

Previous: The Alraun



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