Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fairy Tale of the House in the Woods

(Image, Maurice Sendak from Dear Mili)

Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 169 The House in the Woods

A poor woodcutter lived with his wife and three young daughters in a small hut at the edge of a desolate wood. One morning. when he was setting off to return to work, he said to his wife “Let the oldest daughter bring the noon-day bread to me in the woods. Otherwise, I shan’t finish. And so that she does not lose her way,” he added "I will take a sack with millet and scatter the grains across the path.”
When the sun stood in the middle of the sky high above the woods, the maiden began her walk carrying a pot of soup. But the field and forest sparrows, the larks and finches, the blackbirds and siskins had already pecked the path clean of any millet and the maid could not find her way. Trusting luck, she continued on her way until the sun sank and night fell. The trees rustled in the darkness, the owls hooted and the girl became frightened. In the distance, she saw a light blinking between the trees. “People must live there,” she thought “and they will keep me over night.” She continued to walk toward the light. It was not long before she came to a house whose windows were brightly illuminated. She knocked and a rough voice called out from inside “Come in.” The girl entered a dark hallway and knocked on the parlor door. “Enter,” the voice called and when she opened the door, there sat an old, icy gray man at a table. Supporting his head in both hands, his white beard flowed over the table and almost reached the floor. But on the hearth three animals rested: a chicken, a rooster and a brindle cow. The maid told the old man about her fate and requested lodgings for the night. The man spoke:
“Lovely hen, Pretty cock,
And beautiful brindle cow, too,

How do you moo?"

The animals replied “Duks!”. (Which translated probably meant: “We are satisfied, healthy and happy!”) The old man continued, “We live in abundance here, go to the stove and cook us dinner!”
The maid found the kitchen. Everything was stocked to excess and the girl was able to cook a hearty meal. But the animals thought differently. When the girl entered the room carrying the bowl, she placed it on the table, sat down beside the old gray man and stilled her hunger. Soon she had eaten her fill and said “But now, I am tired. Where is a bed so that I can lie down and sleep?” The animals replied
“You ate with him, You drank with him,
About us you have not thought,
You shall stay the night where you ought.”
The old man spoke “Just climb the stairs, you will find a chamber with two beds. Shake out the bed and cover it with white linen. I will also come up and lie down.” The girl went up and when she had shaken out the feather bed and covered it with fresh linen, she laid down in one of the beds without waiting for the old man. After some time the old gray man came, illuminated the girl with his candlelight and shook his head. When he saw that she was almost fast asleep, he opened a trap door and let her drop into the cellar.
The woodcutter came home late that evening and accused his wife of letting him starve the entire day long. “I’m not to blame,” she replied “The girl went out at midday. She must have lost her way. Tomorrow she will return again.” But the woodcutter rose before daylight, wanted to go into the woods and asked for his second daughter to bring lunch this time. “I will take a little sack with lentils” he said. The grains are larger than millet, the girl will see them better and then cannot miss the path.” At lunchtime the girl also carried out the meal, but the lentils were gone: the birds of the forest had eaten them like the day before and none were left. The girl wandered around in the woods until night fell. She also arrived at the house of the old man, heard the voice call out inviting her in and requested food and lodgings for the night. The man with the white beard once again asked the animals:
"Lovely hen,
Pretty cock,
And you beautiful brindled cow, too,
How do you moo?"

Once again the animals responded “Duks,” and everything repeated itself like the day before. The maid cooked a good meal, ate and drank with the old man and did not take care of the animals. When she asked about her accommodations for the night, they responded:
“You ate with him,
You drank with him,
About us you have not thought, You shall stay the night where you ought.”
When the girl had fallen asleep, the old man came, looked upon her and shook his head. Then he opened the trap door and let her fall into the cellar.
On the third morning the woodcutter spoke to his wife “Today send me the youngest child with the food. She has always been good and obedient. She will find the right way and not like her sisters, swarm around like wild bumble bees.”
The mother did not want to heed his request and replied “Must I also lose my dearest child?”
“Do not worry,” he replied, “the girl shall not go astray. She is too smart and understanding. I will take peas in abundance with me and scatter them on the path. They are even larger than lentils and will show her the way.” But when the girl went out with her basket on her arm, the forest doves already had the kernels in their gullet. She did not know where to turn. Full of dismay, she only thought about how her poor father would hunger and how her good mother would wail if she did not return. Finally, when night fell, she saw the little light flickering in the woods and came to the forest house. In a friendly voice, she asked if she could stay the night and the man with the white beard asked his animals once more
“Lovely hen,
Pretty cock,
And brindle cow too,
What do you moo?"

“Duks,” they replied. The girl went to the hearth where the animals lay and caressed the chicken and rooster and ran her little hand over their smooth feathers. She rubbed the brindle cow between its horns. And when at the request of the old man she prepared a good soup and the bowl was on the table, she asked “Am I to eat my fill and the good animals still have nothing?” There is abundance here. Let me care for them first.” She went and fetched barley and scattered it before the hen and cock. She brought the cow fragrant hay, an entire arm full. “I hope you enjoy it, dear animals,” the girl said. “And when you are thirsty you should also have a fresh drink.” She carried a pail full of water inside. The chicken and rooster jumped onto its rim and stuck their beaks inside. Then they held their heads in the air, like birds do when they drink and the brindle cow also took a hearty gulp. When the animals had been fed, the girl sat down next to the old man and ate what he had left over for her. It was not long before hen and cock began to place their heads under their wings. The spotted cow blinked its eyes. The girl spoke “Shall we not go to bed?”
“Lovely hen,
Pretty cock,

And you beautiful brindle cow, too,

What do you moo?

The animals replied “Duks,”
"You ate with us,
You drank with us,
You always remembered us,Now we wish you a good night."
The girl climbed the stairs, shook out the feather pillow and covered it in fresh linen. And when she was finished, the old man came and laid down in bed so that his white beard extended to his feet. The girl lay down in the other bed and said her prayer. Then she fell asleep.
She slept calmly until midnight. Then it became so noisy in the house that the girl awoke. Crackling and rustling sounds began to come from the corners, the door fell open and hit the wall, the beams groaned as if they would be torn from their joints and it seemed as if the stairs were about to collapse entirely. Finally there was a loud crashing sound as if the roof had fallen in. But then it became quiet again and because nothing had happened to the girl, she fell asleep once more. But in the morning when she awoke and the sun was shining brightly, what did she see? She awoke in a large hall and all around her everything glistened in royal splendor. On the walls, golden blossoms sprang up on a green silk background. The bed was made of ivory and the coverlet was red satin. Nearby on the stool lay a pair of slippers with pearl stitching. The girl thought it was all a dream but when three richly clothed servants appeared and asked her what her desires were, the girl replied “Just go, I will get up soon and cook a soup for the old man and then feed the lovely hen, pretty cock and brindle cow.”
She thought the old man had already risen and looked over to his bed. But he did not lay there, instead there lay a strange man. And when she gazed upon him and saw he was young and handsome, he awoke. He sat up and said “I am a king’s son and was enchanted by an evil witch. I had to live in the woods as an old, icy gray man. No one was allowed to serve me except my three servants, a hen, a cock and a brindle cow. And the enchantment would not end until a maiden came to us, of such good heart, that she not only showed kindness to people but also animals. And you are that maiden and tonight at midnight we have been redeemed by you and the old house in the woods has been once more transformed into a royal palace.”
And when they got up, the king’s son said the three servants should go out and fetch the father and mother of the maid and bring them to the wedding celebration.
“And where are my two sisters?” the girl asked. “I have locked them in the cellar. Tomorrow they will be led into the forest and shall work for the man who burns charcoal until they have improved themselves and do not let poor animals starve.”

To find out more about the history of charcoal burners:

More fairy tales can be found by clicking on the link:


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