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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 merry young Huntsman, who went into the forest to
hunt. He was gay and light-hearted, and whistled a tune upon a leaf as
he went along.
Suddenly an ugly old Crone spoke to him, and said: 'Good morning, dear
Huntsman; you are merry and happy enough, while I am hungry and
thirsty. Pray give me an alms.'
The Huntsman pitied the poor Old Woman, put his hand in his pocket,
and made her a present according to his means.
Then he wanted to go on. But the Old Woman held him back, and said:
'Hark ye, dear Huntsman, I will make you a present because of your
good heart. Go on your way, and you will come to a tree, on which nine
birds are sitting. They will have a cloak in their claws, over which
they are fighting. Take aim with your gun, and shoot into the middle
of them. They will drop the cloak, and one of the birds will fall down
dead. Take the cloak with you, it is a wishing-cloak. When you throw
it round your shoulders you only have to wish yourself at a place to
be there at once. Take the heart out of the dead bird and swallow it
whole, then you will find a gold coin under your pillow every single
morning when you wake.'
The Huntsman thanked the Wise Woman, and thought: 'She promises fine
things, if only they turn out as well.'
When he had gone about a hundred paces, he heard above him, in the
branches of a tree, such a chattering and screaming that he looked up.
There he saw a flock of birds tearing a garment with their beaks and
claws; snatching and tearing at it as if each one wanted to have it
'Well,' said the Huntsman, 'this is extraordinary, it is exactly what
the Old Woman said.'
He put his gun to his shoulder, took aim and fired right into the
middle of them, making the feathers fly about.
The birds took flight with a great noise, all except one, which fell
down dead, and the cloak dropped at his feet.
He did as the Old Woman had told him, cut the heart out of the bird
and swallowed it whole. Then he took the cloak home with him.
When he woke in the morning, he remembered the Old Woman's promise,
and looked under his pillow to see if it was true.
There, sure enough, lay the golden coin shining before him, and the
next morning he found another, and the same every morning when he got
He collected quite a heap of gold, and at last he thought: 'What is
the good of all my gold if I stay at home here? I will go and look
about me in the world.'
So he took leave of his parents, shouldered his gun, and started off
into the world.
[Illustration: But the Old Woman was a witch.]
It so happened that one day he came to a thick forest, and when he got
through it, he saw a fine castle lying in the plain beyond.
He saw an Old Woman standing in one of the windows looking out, with a
beautiful Maiden beside her.
But the Old Woman was a witch, and she said to the Maiden: 'Here comes
some one out of the forest. He has a wonderful treasure inside him; we
must try to get it from him, my darling, it will suit us better than
him. He has a bird's heart about him, and therefore he finds a gold
coin every morning under his pillow when he wakes.'
She told the girl how he had got it, and at last said: 'If you don't
get it from him, it will be the worse for you.'
When the Huntsman got nearer, he saw the Maiden, and said: 'I have
been wandering about for a long time, I will go into this castle and
take a rest. I have plenty of money.'
But the real reason was that he had caught sight of the pretty picture
at the window. He went in, and he was kindly received and hospitably
Before long, he was so enamoured of the Witch-Maiden that he thought
of nothing else, and cared for nothing but pleasing her.
The Old Woman said to the Maiden: 'Now we must get the bird's heart,
he will never miss it.'
They concocted a potion, and when it was ready they put it into a
And the Maiden took it to him, and said: 'Now, my beloved, you must
drink to me.'
He took the cup and drank the potion, and when he was overpowered by
it the bird's heart came out of his mouth.
The Maiden took it away secretly and swallowed it herself, for the Old
Woman wanted to have it.
From this time the Huntsman found no more gold under his pillow; but
the coin was always under the Maiden's instead, and the Old Woman used
to fetch it away every morning.
But he was so much in love, that he thought of nothing but enjoying
himself in the Maiden's company.
Then the Old Woman said: 'We have got the bird's heart, but we must
have his wishing-cloak too.'
The Maiden said: 'Let us leave him that; we have taken away his
The Old Woman was very angry, and said: 'A cloak like that is a very
wonderful thing, and not often to be got. Have it I must, and will!'
So she obeyed the Witch's orders, placed herself at the window, and
looked sadly out at the distant hills.
The Huntsman said: 'Why are you so sad?'
'Alas! my love,' was her answer, 'over there are the garnet
mountains, where the precious stones are found. I long for them so
much that I grow sad whenever I think of them. But who could ever get
them? The birds which fly, perhaps; no mortal could ever reach them.'
'If that is all your trouble,' said the Huntsman, 'I can soon lift
that load from your heart.'
Then he drew her under his cloak, and in a moment they were both
sitting on the mountain. The precious stones were glittering around
them; their hearts rejoiced at the sight of them, and they soon
gathered together some of the finest and largest.
Now the Witch had so managed that the Huntsman began to feel his eyes
grow very heavy.
So he said to the Maiden: 'We will sit down to rest a while, I am so
tired I can hardly stand.'
So they sat down, and he laid his head on her lap and was soon fast
As soon as he was asleep, the Maiden slipped the cloak from his
shoulders and put it on her own, loaded herself with the precious
garnets, and wished herself at home.
When the Huntsman had had his sleep out, he woke up and saw that his
beloved had betrayed him, and left him alone on the wild mountain.
'Oh, what treachery there is in the world!' he exclaimed, as he sat
down in grief, and did not know what to do.
Now the mountain belonged to some wild and savage Giants who lived on
it, and before long he saw three of them striding along.
He quickly lay down again and pretended to be fast asleep.
The first one, as he came along, stumbled against him, and said: 'What
kind of earthworm is this?'
The second said: 'Tread on him and kill him.'
But the third said: 'It isn't worth the trouble. Let him alone,--he
can't live here; and when he climbs higher up the mountain, the clouds
will roll down and carry him off.'
Then they passed on, and as soon as they were gone, the Huntsman, who
had heard all they said, got up and climbed up to the top of the
After he had sat there for a time, a cloud floated over him, and
carried him away.
At first he was swept through the air, but then he was gently lowered
and deposited within a large walled garden, upon a soft bed of
lettuces and other herbs.
He looked around him and said: 'If only I had something to eat; I am
so hungry. And it will be difficult to get away from here. I see
neither apples nor pears, nor any other fruit, nothing but salad and
At last, however, he thought: 'At the worst, I can eat some of this
salad; it does not taste very good, but it will, at least, be
He picked out a fine head of lettuce, and began eating it. But he had
hardly swallowed a little piece, when he began to feel very odd, and
quite changed. He felt four legs growing, a big head, and two long
ears, and he saw to his horror that he was changed into an ass.
As he at the same time felt as hungry as ever, and the juicy salad was
now very much to his taste, he went on eating greedily.
At last he reached another kind of salad, which he had hardly tasted
when he felt a new change taking place, and found himself back in his
After this he lay down and slept off his fatigue.
When he woke next morning he broke off a head of the bad salad, and a
head of the good, and thought: 'These will help me to regain my own,
and also to punish the traitors.'
He put the salad into his wallet, climbed over the wall, and went off
to find the castle of his beloved.
After wandering about for a few days, he was fortunate enough to find
it. Then he stained his face, and disguised himself so that his own
mother would not have known him, and went to the castle to ask for
'I am so tired,' he said; 'I cannot go any further.'
The Witch said: 'Who are you, countryman, and what do you want?'
He answered: 'I am a messenger from the King. He sent me to find the
rarest salad which grows under the sun. I have been lucky enough to
find it, and I carry it with me. But the sun is so burning, that I am
afraid the tender plant will be withered, and I don't know if I shall
be able to take it any further.'
When the Old Witch heard about the rare salad, she felt a great desire
to have some, and said: 'Good countryman, let me try the wonderful
'By all means,' he answered. 'I have two heads with me, and you shall
have one.' So saying, he opened his sack, and handed her the bad one.
The Witch had no suspicions, and her mouth so watered for the new
dish, that she went to the kitchen herself to prepare it.
When it was ready, she could not wait till it was put upon the table,
but put a few leaves into her mouth at once.
Hardly had she swallowed them, when she lost her human shape, and ran
out into the courtyard, as an old she-ass.
Then the Maid came into the kitchen, saw the salad standing ready, and
was about to put it on the table. But on the way the fancy seized her
to taste it, according to her usual habit, and she ate a few leaves.
The power of the salad at once became apparent, because she also
turned into an ass, and ran out into the yard to join the Old Witch,
while the dish of salad fell to the ground.
In the meantime the messenger was sitting with the beautiful Maiden,
and as no one appeared with the salad, she also was seized with a
desire to taste it, and said: 'I don't know what has become of the
But the Huntsman thought: 'The plant must have done its work,' and
said: 'I will go into the kitchen and see.'
As soon as he got downstairs he saw the two asses running about, and
the salad lying on the ground.
'This is all right!' he said; 'two of them are done for.'
Then he picked up the leaves, put them on a dish, and took them to the
'I am bringing the precious food to you myself,' said he, 'so that you
may not have to wait any longer.'
She ate some, and, like the others, was immediately changed into an
ass, and ran out to them in the yard.
[Illustration: He tied them all together and drove them along till
he came to a mill.]
When the Huntsman had washed his face so that the transformed
creatures might know him, he went into the courtyard, and said: 'Now,
you shall be paid for your treachery.'
He tied them all together with a rope, and drove them along till he
came to a mill. He tapped at the window, and the Miller put his head
out and asked what he wanted.
'I have three bad animals here,' he said, 'that I want to get rid of.
If you will take them and feed them, and treat them as I wish, I will
pay you what you like to ask.'
'Why not?' said the Miller. 'How do you want them treated?'
The Huntsman said he wanted the old she-ass (the Witch) to be well
beaten three times a day and fed once. The younger one, which was the
Maid, beaten once and fed three times. The youngest of all, who was
the beautiful Maiden, was to be fed three times, and not beaten at
all; he could not find it in his heart to have her beaten.
Then he went back to the castle and found everything he wanted in it.
A few days later the Miller came and told him that the old ass which
was to be beaten three times and fed once, was dead. 'The other two,'
he said, 'which are to be fed three times, are not dead, but they are
pining away, and won't last long.'
The Huntsman's heart was stirred with pity, and he told the Miller to
bring them back to him.
When they came he gave them some of the other salad to eat, so that
they took their human shapes again.
The beautiful Maiden fell on her knees before him, and said: 'O my
beloved, forgive me all the wrong I have done you. My mother forced me
to do it. It was against my own will, for I love you dearly. Your
wishing-cloak is hanging in the cupboard, and you shall have the
bird's heart back too.'
But he said: 'Keep it; it will be all the same, as I will take you to
be my own true wife.'
Their marriage was soon after celebrated, and they lived happily
together till they died.