This month: fairy tales from ancient Egypt!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fairy Tale of Spindle, Shuttle and Needle


Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 188: Spindle, Shuttle and Needle

There once lived a young maiden, whose father and mother had died when she was a small girl. Her godmother; who earned her living by spinning, weaving and sewing; lived at the end of the village in a little hut. The old woman took in the abandoned child, instilled in her the virtues of this work and raised her in utmost piety. When the girl was fifteen, the woman fell ill, called the child to her bedside and said: “Dear daughter, I feel that my end is approaching. I leave you my little hut, which shall protect you from wind and weather. Also, my spindle, shuttle and needle so you can earn your bread.
She placed her hands on the girl’s head, blessed the child and said “Keep God in your heart and things shall go well for you.” Then the woman closed her eyes and when she was buried in the ground, the girl cried bitter tears as she walked behind the coffin paying her last respects. The girl now lived in the hut all alone, was diligent and hard-working, spun, wove and sewed. And everything that she did was blessed by the beneficent old woman. It seemed like the flax in her chamber multiplied on its own and when she had woven a small cloth or carpet or had sewn a shirt, she immediately found a buyer who paid her handsomely. In this way she did not suffer want and could even give something to others. Around this time, the king’s son traveled through the countryside looking for a bride. He was not to select a poor one and a rich girl he did not want. He said: “She shall be my bride, who is both the poorest and the richest.” When he arrived in the village where the girl lived, he asked as he did everywhere else, who in the village was the richest and the poorest. First, the villagers mentioned the richest one. The poorest, they said, was the girl who lived in the small hut at the end of the village. The rich girl sat at the front of her house dressed in her finery. When the king’s son approached, she stood up, walked up to him and bowed. He looked upon her, spoke not a word and rode on. When he came to the house of the poor girl, the maiden was not sitting at the door but was inside instead. He stopped his horse and looked through the window, through which the sun shone. He saw the girl sitting at her spinning wheel, working industriously. She looked up and noticed that the king’s son was peering inside. She blushed deeply, lowered her eyes and continued spinning. Whether or not the thread at that moment was spun evenly, I do not know, but the girl continued spinning until the king’s son rode away again. Then she went to the window, opened it and said “It is hot in the chamber,” but she watched him as he rode away, until she could only see the white feathers in his hat. The girl went back to work again in the chamber and continued spinning. She remembered a saying the old woman had often recited when she sat working. The girl sang it now:

“Spindle, spindle, now go out,
Bring the suitor to my house.”


What happened? The spindle immediately jumped out of the girl’s hand and went through the door. When the girl stood up in amazement and followed the spindle with her eyes, she saw that it had merrily run into the field where it danced, pulling a shiny golden thread with it. It wasn’t long before it vanished altogether. Because the girl didn’t have a spindle any more, she took up the shuttle, sat by the loom and began to weave. But the spindle continued dancing and when the thread came to an end, it had reached the king’s son. “What do I see here?” he cried, “the spindle wants to show me the way.” He turned his horse and followed the golden thread. The girl sat at her work and sang:


“Shuttle, shuttle, weave so fine,
Bring to me the suitor mine.”

The shuttle immediately jumped from her hand and ran through the door. Before the threshold it began to weave a carpet, more beautiful than anyone had ever seen. On both sides roses and lilies bloomed and in the middle sprang forth a trellised flower on a golden background. Rabbits and hares were woven into the fabric, stag and deer stretched their necks in between. Colorful birds sat in the branches above. Everything she had sung about was included in the design. The shuttle wove back and forth effortlessly on its own.
Because the shuttle was now gone, the girl sat down to sew. She held the needle in her hand and sang:“Needle, needle, sharp and keen,
Make for my suitor the house so clean.”


The needle now slipped from her fingers and flew back and forth in the room as fast as lightening. It seemed as if invisible ghosts worked the room. One set the table, one spread a green cloth on the bench, covered the chairs in satin and hung silk curtains on the windows.
The needle had barely finished the last stitch when the girl looked through the window and saw the white feathers on the hat of the king’s son, who was carrying the spindle by the golden thread. He dismounted from his horse, walked across the carpet into the house and when he entered the room, the girl stood there in her poor dress, but she was as brilliant as a fresh rose blossom on the bush. “You are the poorest but also the richest,” he said to her, “Come with me, you shall be my bride.” She was silent but extended her hand. He then gave her a kiss and led her out, lifted her onto his horse and brought her to the royal palace, where the wedding was celebrated in great happiness. Spindle, shuttle and needle were kept in the treasury and were always held in high regard.


To read more fairy tales:
Translation FairyTaleChannel.com

2 comments:

Genie of the Shell said...

That's interesting... I have often thought about how "wealth" can be interpreted in various ways. What if someone doesn't have much income, but they have incredible practical skills that they can use to surround themselves with nice things? I have many friends who fit this description. Their tax bracket is low, but they look rich because they can do their own tailoring/hairstyling/home renovations/car repairs and upgrades.

I like to think the "magic" was really inside this girl and was her talent and training. :)

rapunzel said...

Dear Genie of the Shell,
I love your comments (and I would love to meet your friends, especially the ones that can do home renovations/car repairs and upgrades...) But on a more serious note, the fairy tale stresses the true virtue inherent in work, perhaps one could even say the transformative power of laboring at a task and getting really good at it. I think the story suggests we all have our own "magic" within (like you mention), and thus the potential to transform into something truly beautiful and spectacular. Thanks for adding your thoughtful comments.