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Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Mother Holle

T HERE was once a widow who had two daughters, one of whom was beautiful and industrious, whilst the other was ugly and lazy. But she was much fonder of the ugly and lazy one. Every day, the other, poor girl, had to sit by a well in the highway, and spin, spin  till her fingers bled.

Now it happened, one day, that the shuttle was stained with her blood. She dipped it in the well to wash the stains off, and it dropped out of her hand and fell to the bottom. She began to weep, and ran to the woman, and told her of the mishap.

She scolded her hard, and was so cruel as to say, "Since you have let the shuttle fall in, you must fetch it out again."

So the girl went back to the well, and did not know what to do. Then in the anguish of her heart, she jumped into the well to get the shuttle. She lost her senses. But when she awoke and came to herself, she was in a lovely meadow, where the sun was shining and thousands of flowers were growing.

Along this meadow she went, and at length came to a baker's oven full of bread. And the bread cried:

"Oh, take me out! Take me out!

Or I shall burn! I am well baked!"

So she went up to it, and, with the bread shovel, took out all the loaves one after the other.

After that, she went on till she came to a tree covered with apples, and it called to her:

"Oh, shake me! Shake me!

We apples are all ripe!"

So she shook the tree till the apples fell like rain, and went on shaking till they were all down. And when she had gathered them into a heap, she went on her way.

At last, she came to a little house out of which an Old Woman was peeping. She had such large teeth that the girl was frightened, and was about to run away.

But the Old Woman called out to her, "What are you afraid of, my Child? Stay with me. If you will do the work in my house carefully, you shall be the better for it! Only you must take care to make my bed well, and to shake it thoroughly till the feathers fly—for then it snows on earth. I am Mother Holle."

As the Old Woman spoke so kindly to her, the girl took heart, and willingly entered her service. She did everything to the Old Woman's satisfaction, and always shook her bed so hard that the feathers flew about like snowflakes. So she lived happily with her, never an angry word, and boiled or roasted meat every day.

She stayed some time with Mother Holle, then she grew sad. At first she did not know what was the matter with her, but, by and by, she found that it was homesickness. Although she was many thousand times better off here than at home, still she had a longing to be there.

At last, she said to the Old Woman, "I am longing for home. However well off I am down here, I cannot stay any longer. I must go up again to my own people."

Mother Holle said, "I am pleased that you long for your home again. You have served me so faithfully, that I myself will take you up again."

Thereupon she took her by the hand, and led her to a large door. The door was opened, and just as the girl was standing beneath the doorway, a heavy shower of Gold-Rain fell, and all the gold stuck to her so that she was covered with it.

"You shall have that because you are so industrious," said Mother Holle. And at the same time, she gave her back the shuttle which she had left fall into the well.

Thereupon the door closed, and the girl found herself again upon the earth, not far from her mother's house.

As she went into the yard, the cock was standing by the well, and cried:


Your Golden Girl's come back to you!"

So she went in to her mother. And as she was thus covered with gold, she was welcomed by both her and her sister.

The girl told all that had happened to her. As soon as the mother heard how she had come by such great riches, she was anxious for the same good fortune to befall her ugly and lazy daughter. She had to seat herself by the well and spin. And in order that her shuttle might be stained with blood, she stuck her hand into a thorn-bush, and pricked her finger. Then she threw her shuttle into the well, and jumped in after it.

She came like the other to the beautiful meadow, and walked along the very same path. When she got to the oven, the bread cried again:

"Oh, take me out! Take me out!

Or I shall burn! I am well baked!"

But the lazy thing answered, "As if I wanted to soil myself!" and on she went.

Soon she came to the apple-tree, which cried:

"Oh, shake me! Shake me!

We apples are all ripe!"

But she answered, "I like that! One of you might fall on my head!" and on she went.

When she came to Mother Holle's house, she was not afraid, for she had already heard about her big teeth. She hired herself out immediately.

The first day, she made herself work diligently, and obeyed Mother Holle, when she told her to do anything, for she was thinking of all the gold that she would give her.

But on the second day, she began to be lazy, and on the third day still more so, for then she would not get up in the morning. Neither did she make Mother Holle's bed carefully, nor shake it so as to make the feathers fly up.

Mother Holle was soon tired of this, and gave her notice to leave. The lazy girl was willing to go, and thought that now the Gold-Rain would come. Mother Holle led her to the great doorway. But while she was standing under it, instead of gold, a big kettleful of pitch was emptied over her.

"That is the reward of your service," said Mother Holle, and shut the door.

So the lazy girl went home. She was covered with pitch, and the cock by the well, as soon as he saw her, cried out:


Your Pitchy Girl's come back to you!"

But the pitch stuck fast to her, and could not be got off so long as she lived.