(Illustration, Tomi Ungerer)
Fairy Tale of the Little KittenA Tale from the German by Ludwig Bechstein
Once a poor wife went into the forest to fetch wood. As she was returning with her burden, she saw a sickly little cat lying behind the fence and it was meowing woefully. The poor woman took pity and carried the little animal home in her apron. But on the way she encountered her own two children. When they saw what their mother was carrying, they asked: “Mother, what are you carrying?“ And both wanted to hold the kitten. But the woman had sympathy for the little creature and would not give it to her children thinking they might bother or tease it, or torment it in some other way. Instead she went home and placed it on a soft cloth and gave it milk to drink. When the kitten had lapped up the milk and had returned to health, it suddenly vanished. After some time the poor woman returned to the forest and with a bundle of wood on her back, she came to the spot where she had found the sick kitten . Now there stood a beautiful woman. She waved to the poor wife and threw five knitting needles into her apron. The woman didn’t know what to think and expressed her gratitude for the strange gift. In the evening she placed the five knitting needles on the table. But the next morning when the woman was leaving home, a pair of new, freshly knitted stockings lay on the table. The poor wife was filled with wonder and the next evening she placed the knitting needles on the table once again. In the morning new stockings lay on the table. Now she noticed that the reward for her compassion was the gift of these hard-working needles. She allowed them to knit every night until she and her children had enough. Then she sold the stockings and had plenty for all the days of her life.
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