T HERE was once a man who had seven sons, but never a daughter no matter how much he wished for one.
At length, his wife had a child, and it was a daughter. The joy was great. But the child was sickly and small, and so weak that it had to be baptized at once.
The father sent one of the boys in a hurry to the spring, to fetch water for the baptism. The other six boys ran along with him. And as each strove to be the first to fill the jug, it fell into the spring. There they stood, and did not know what to do. None of them dared go home.
When they did not come back, the father grew impatient, and said, "They have forgotten all about it in a game of play, the wicked boys!"
Soon he grew afraid lest the child should die without being baptized, and he cried out in anger, "I wish the boys were all turned into Ravens!"
Hardly was the word spoken, before he heard a whirring of wings in the air above his head. He looked up, and saw seven coal-black Ravens flying high and away.
The parents could not recall the curse. And though they grieved over the loss of their seven sons, yet they comforted themselves somewhat with their dear little daughter, who soon grew strong and every day more beautiful.
For a long time, she did not know that she had had brothers. Her parents were careful not to mention them before her. But one day, she chanced to overhear some people talking about her, and saying, "that the maiden is certainly beautiful, but really to blame for the misfortune of her seven brothers."
Then she was much troubled, and went to her father and mother, and asked if it was true that she had had brothers, and what was become of them.
The parents did not dare to keep the secret longer, and said that her birth was only the innocent cause of what had happened to her brothers. But the maiden laid it daily to heart, and thought that she must deliver her brothers.
She had no peace and rest until she set out secretly, and went forth into the wide world to seek them out, and set them free, let it cost what it might. She took nothing with her but a little ring belonging to her parents as a keepsake, a loaf of bread against hunger, a little pitcher of water against thirst, and a little chair as a provision against weariness.
And now, she went continually onward, far, far, to the very end of the world. Then she came to the Sun, but it was too hot and terrible, and devoured little children. Hastily she ran away, and ran to the Moon, but it was far too cold, and also awful and malicious. And when it saw the child, it said:
"I smell, I smell
The flesh of men!"
On this she ran swiftly away, and came to the Stars, which were kind and good to her, and each of them sat on its own little chair. But the Morning Star arose, and gave her the drumstick of a chicken, and said, "If you have not that drumstick you cannot open the Glass Mountain, and in the Glass Mountain are your brothers."
The maiden took the drumstick, wrapped it carefully in a cloth, and went onward again until she came to the Glass Mountain. The door was shut, and she thought she would take out the drumstick. But when she undid the cloth, it was empty, and she had lost the good Star's present. What was she now to do? She wished to rescue her brothers, and had no key to the Glass Mountain. The good little sister took a knife, cut off one of her little fingers, put it in the door, and succeeded in opening it.
When she had got inside, a little Dwarf came to meet her, who 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 wish to wait here until they come, step in."
Thereupon the little Dwarf carried the Ravens' dinner in, on seven little plates, and in seven little glasses. The little sister ate a morsel from each plate and from each little glass she took a sip. But in the last little glass she dropped the ring which she had brought away with her.
Suddenly, she heard a whirring of wings and a rushing through the air, and then the little Dwarf said, "Now the Lord Ravens are flying home."
Then they came, and wanted to eat and drink, and looked for their little plates and glasses. Then said one after the other, "Who has eaten something from my plate? Who has drunk out of my little glass? It was a human mouth."
And when the seventh came to the bottom of the glass, the ring rolled against his mouth. Then he looked at it, and saw that it was a ring belonging to his father and mother, and said, "God grant that our little sister may be here, and then we shall be free."
When the maiden, who was standing behind the door watching, heard that wish, she came forth, and on this all the Ravens were restored to their human form again. And they embraced and kissed each other, and went joyfully home.