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From Snowdrop and Other Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
Start of Story
Age Rating 4 to 8.
There was once a Man who had to take a long journey, and when he was
saying good-bye to his daughters he asked what he should bring back to
The eldest wanted pearls, the second diamonds, but the third said,
'Dear father, I should like a singing, soaring lark.'
The father said, 'Very well, if I can manage it, you shall have it';
and he kissed all three and set off. He bought pearls and diamonds for
the two eldest, but he had searched everywhere in vain for the
singing, soaring lark, and this worried him, for his youngest daughter
was his favourite child.
Once his way led through a wood, in the midst of which was a splendid
castle; near it stood a tree, and right up at the top he saw a lark
singing and soaring. 'Ah,' he said, 'I have come across you in the
nick of time'; and he called to his Servant to dismount and catch the
little creature. But as he approached the tree a Lion sprang out from
underneath, and shook himself, and roared so that the leaves on the
'Who dares to steal my lark?' said he. 'I will eat up the thief!'
Then the Man said, 'I didn't know that the bird was yours. I will make
up for my fault by paying a heavy ransom. Only spare my life.'
But the Lion said, 'Nothing can save you, unless you promise to give
me whatever first meets you when you get home. If you consent, I will
give you your life and the bird into the bargain.'
But the Man hesitated, and said, 'Suppose my youngest and favourite
daughter were to come running to meet me when I go home!'
But the Servant was afraid, and said, 'Your daughter will not
necessarily be the first to come to meet you; it might just as well be
a cat or a dog.'
So the Man let himself be persuaded, took the lark, and promised to
the Lion for his own whatever first met him on his return home. When
he reached home, and entered his house, the first person who met him
was none other than his youngest daughter; she came running up and
kissed and caressed him, and when she saw that he had brought the
singing, soaring lark, she was beside herself with joy. But her father
could not rejoice; he began to cry, and said, 'My dear child, it has
cost me dear, for I have had to promise you to a Lion who will tear
you in pieces when he has you in his power.' And he told her all that
had happened, and begged her not to go, come what might.
But she consoled him, saying, 'Dear father, what you have promised
must be performed. I will go and will soon soften the Lion's heart, so
that I shall come back safe and sound.' The next morning the way was
shown to her, and she said good-bye and went confidently into the
Now the Lion was an enchanted Prince, who was a Lion by day, and all
his followers were Lions too; but by night they reassumed their human
form. On her arrival she was kindly received, and conducted to the
castle. When night fell, the Lion turned into a handsome man, and
their wedding was celebrated with due magnificence. And they lived
happily together, sitting up at night and sleeping by day. One day he
came to her and said, 'To-morrow there is a festival at your father's
house to celebrate your eldest sister's wedding; if you would like to
go my Lions shall escort you.'
She answered that she was very eager to see her father again, so she
went away accompanied by the Lions.
There was great rejoicing on her coming, for they all thought that she
had been torn to pieces and had long been dead.
But she told them what a handsome husband she had and how well she
fared; and she stayed with them as long as the wedding festivities
lasted. Then she went back again into the wood.
When the second daughter married, and the youngest was again invited
to the wedding, she said to the Lion, 'This time I will not go alone,
you must come too.'
But the Lion said it would be too dangerous, for if a gleam of light
touched him he would be changed into a Dove and would have to fly
about for seven years.
'Ah,' said she, 'only go with me, and I will protect you and keep off
every ray of light.'
So they went away together, and took their little child with them too.
They had a hall built with such thick walls that no ray could
penetrate, and thither the Lion was to retire when the wedding torches
were kindled. But the door was made of fresh wood which split and
caused a little crack which no one noticed.
Now the wedding was celebrated with great splendour. But when the
procession came back from church with a large number of torches and
lights, a ray of light no broader than a hair fell upon the Prince,
and the minute this ray touched him he was changed; and when his wife
came in and looked for him, she saw nothing but a White Dove sitting
there. The Dove said to her, 'For seven years I must fly about the
world; every seventh step I will let fall a drop of blood and a white
feather which will show you the way, and if you will follow the track
you can free me.'
Thereupon the Dove flew out of the door, and she followed it, and
every seventh step it let fall a drop of blood and a little white
feather to show her the way. So she wandered about the world, and
never rested till the seven years were nearly passed. Then she
rejoiced, thinking that she would soon be free of her troubles; but
she was still far from release. One day as they were journeying on in
the accustomed way, the feather and the drop of blood ceased falling,
and when she looked up the Dove had vanished.
'Man cannot help me,' she thought. So she climbed up to the Sun and
said to it, 'You shine upon all the valleys and mountain peaks, have
you not seen a White Dove flying by?'
'No,' said the Sun, 'I have not seen one; but I will give you a little
casket. Open it when you are in dire need.'
She thanked the Sun, and went on till night, when the Moon shone out.
'You shine all night,' she said, 'over field and forest, have you seen
a White Dove flying by?'
'No,' answered the Moon, 'I have seen none; but here is an egg. Break
it when you are in great need.'
She thanked the Moon, and went on till the Night Wind blew upon her.
'You blow among all the trees and leaves, have not you seen a White
Dove?' she asked.
'No,' said the Night Wind, 'I have not seen one; but I will ask the
other three Winds, who may, perhaps, have seen it.'
The East Wind and the West Wind came, but they had seen no Dove. Only
the South Wind said, 'I have seen the White Dove. It has flown away to
the Red Sea, where it has again become a Lion, since the seven years
are over; and the Lion is ever fighting with a Dragon who is an
Then the Night Wind said, 'I will advise you. Go to the Red Sea, you
will find tall reeds growing on the right bank; count them, and cut
down the eleventh, strike the Dragon with it and then the Lion will be
able to master it, and both will regain human shape. Next, look round,
and you will see the winged Griffin, who dwells by the Red Sea, leap
upon its back with your beloved, and it will carry you across the sea.
Here is a nut. Drop it when you come to mid-ocean; it will open
immediately and a tall nut-tree will grow up out of the water, on
which the Griffin will settle. Could it not rest, it would not be
strong enough to carry you across, and if you forget to drop the nut,
it will let you fall into the sea.'
Then she journeyed on, and found everything as the Night Wind had
said. She counted the reeds by the sea and cut off the eleventh,
struck the Dragon with it, and the Lion mastered it; immediately both
regained human form. But when the Princess who had been a Dragon was
free from enchantment, she took the Prince in her arms, seated herself
on the Griffin's back, and carried him off. And the poor wanderer,
again forsaken, sat down and cried. At last she took courage and said
to herself: 'Wherever the winds blow, I will go, and as long as cocks
crow, I will search till I find him.'
So she went on a long, long way, till she came to the castle where the
Prince and Princess were living. There she heard that there was to be
a festival to celebrate their wedding. Then she said to herself,
'Heaven help me,' and she opened the casket which the Sun had given
her; inside it was a dress, as brilliant as the Sun itself. She took
it out, put it on, and went into the castle, where every one,
including the Bride, looked at her with amazement. The dress pleased
the Bride so much that she asked if it was to be bought.
'Not with gold or goods,' she answered; 'but with flesh and blood.'
The Bride asked what she meant, and she answered, 'Let me speak with
the Bridegroom in his chamber to-night.'
The Bride refused. However, she wanted the dress so much that at last
she consented; but the Chamberlain was ordered to give the Prince a
At night, when the Prince was asleep, she was taken to his room. She
sat down and said: 'For seven years I have followed you. I have been
to the Sun, and the Moon, and the Four Winds to look for you. I have
helped you against the Dragon, and will you now quite forget me?'
But the Prince slept so soundly that he thought it was only the
rustling of the wind among the pine-trees. When morning came she was
taken away, and had to give up the dress; and as it had not helped her
she was very sad, and went out into a meadow and cried. As she was
sitting there, she remembered the egg which the Moon had given her;
she broke it open, and out came a hen and twelve chickens, all of
gold, who ran about chirping, and then crept back under their mother's
wings. A prettier sight could not be seen. She got up and drove them
about the meadow, till the Bride saw them from the window. The
chickens pleased her so much that she asked if they were for sale.
'Not for gold and goods, but for flesh and blood. Let me speak with
the Bridegroom in his chamber once more.'
The Bride said 'Yes,' intending to deceive her as before; but when the
Prince went to his room he asked the Chamberlain what all the
murmuring and rustling in the night meant. Then the Chamberlain told
him how he had been ordered to give him a sleeping draught because a
poor girl had been concealed in his room, and that night he was to do
the same again. 'Pour out the drink, and put it near my bed,' said the
Prince. At night she was brought in again, and when she began to
relate her sad fortunes he recognised the voice of his dear wife,
sprang up, and said, 'Now I am really free for the first time. All has
been as a dream, for the foreign Princess cast a spell over me so that
I was forced to forget you; but heaven in a happy hour has taken away
Then they both stole out of the castle, for they feared the Princess's
father, because he was a sorcerer. They mounted the Griffin, who bore
them over the Red Sea, and when they got to mid-ocean, she dropped the
nut. On the spot a fine nut-tree sprang up, on which the bird rested;
then it took them home, where they found their child grown tall and
beautiful, and they lived happily till the end.