The Mysterious Power of Music
Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 56: Sweetheart Roland
There once lived a woman who was really a witch and she had two daughters. One was ugly and bad and the woman loved this daughter because it was her real daughter. The other girl was beautiful and good. This one she hated because she has her stepdaughter. At the time, the stepdaughter had a beautiful apron, which the other girl sorely wanted. She became envious and said to her mother that she desired it above all else and had to have the apron. “Quiet, my child,” replied the old woman, “you shall indeed have it. Your stepsister deserved to die a long time ago. Tonight, when she sleeps, I will come and chop off her head. Make sure that you lie on the far side of the bed and push her to the front.” Now it would have been over for the poor girl if she hadn’t been standing in the corner and heard everything. When it came time for bed, the first daughter had to get into bed first; but when she had fallen asleep the stepsister pushed the girl forward and took the place near the wall. At night the old woman came creeping into the room holding an axe in her right hand. With her left hand she felt the bed to see if anyone was lying in front. Then she seized the axe with both hands, and struck and chopped her own child’s head off.
When the woman had gone, the girl got up and went to her sweetheart, who was named Roland, and knocked on his door. When he came out she said to him “Listen, Sweetheart Roland. We must flee quickly. My stepmother wanted to strike me dead, but she killed her own child instead. When dawn breaks and she sees what she has down, all will be lost.”
“But I advise you to first take her magic wand away, otherwise we will not be able to save ourselves when she pursues us.” The girl fetched the magic wand and then took the severed head and scattered little droplets of blood, one on the earth in front of the bed, one in the kitchen and one on the stairs. Then she hastened away with her dear one.
In the morning when the old witch got up, she called to her daughter and wanted to give her the apron. But the girl did not come. Then she called out “Where are you?” “Here on the stairs, I am sweeping,” replied one of the blood droplets. The old woman went out and did not see anyone on the stairs and called out again “Where are you?” “Here in the kitchen, I am warming myself,” called the second droplet of blood. She went into the kitchen but did not find anyone. Then she called out again “Where are you?” “Oh, here in bed, I am sleeping,” the third blood droplet cried. She went into the chamber and to the bed. What did she see? Her own child lay there swimming in blood, the one whose head she had chopped off.
The witch fell into a frenzied rage and leaped to the window. She could peer out far into the world where she saw her stepdaughter with her Sweetheart Roland hastening away. “That won’t help you,” she called after them. “Even if you are far away from me, you shall not escape.” The witch put on her magic mile boots, in which she could travel an hour’s distance in one step. It did not take long before she had caught up to them both. When the girl saw the old woman rushing toward her, she took the magic wand and transformed Dear Roland into a sea and she herself into a duck, which swam in the middle of the sea. The witch stood on shore and threw bread crumbs and tried as she would to lure the duck ashore. But the duck would not be lured and the old woman had to return home in the evening defeated.
The girl and her Sweetheart Roland then took on their human forms and hastened away . They fled the entire night until dawn broke. Then the girl changed into a beautiful flower in the middle of a thorn hedge but her Sweetheart Roland she changed into a fiddle player. It wasn’t long until the witch caught up to them and said to the fiddle player “Dear fiddler, may I break off this beautiful flower?” “Oh yes,” he replied “I will play while you do it.” In her haste the witch now crept through the hedgerow and wanted to break the flower because she knew who the flower really was. The fiddler began to play and whether she wanted to or not, the woman began dancing, she had to dance because it was a magic dance. The faster he played, the more violent the old woman was forced to jump. The thorns tore at her clothing and pierced her skin until bloodied and wounded, she fell to the ground dead.
Now the two were redeemed. Roland spoke “I will go to my father and prepare our wedding.” “I will stay here and wait for you,” the girl replied. “So that no one recognizes me, I shall turn myself into a red field stone.” Now Roland went out and the girl stood in the middle of the field as red stone and waited for her sweetheart. But when Roland returned home, he fell into the trap of another and he soon forgot the girl. The poor girl stood a long time, but when he did not return, she became sad and turned herself into a flower and thought that soon someone would come and trample her.
But it happened that a shepherd was watching his flock in the field and saw the flower. Because it was so beautiful, he broke off the stem, took it home and placed it in a box. From that time on wonderful things happened in the shepherd’s house. When he got up in the morning, all the work was already done; the rooms were swept, tables and benches cleaned, fire and stove were warm and water already carried. At noon when he returned home, the table was set and a good meal was presented. He could not understand how it happened because he never saw anyone in his house and no one could have hidden in such a small cabin. The good care was of course welcomed but finally he became unsettled by it. He went to a wise woman to seek council. The wise woman said “Magic must be behind it; tomorrow morning early, hold a watch and see if anything stirs in the chamber. When you see anything move, regardless of what it is, throw a white cloth over it, the magic will be over.” The shepherd did what she said and the next morning when day broke, he saw how the box opened and a flower emerged. Quickly he jumped toward it and threw a white cloth over it. The magic was now undone and a beautiful girl stood before him. She admitted that she had been the flower and had kept his household for him. She told him about her fate and because he liked her he asked whether she wanted to marry him. But she replied “No,” because she wanted her Sweetheart Roland, even though he had abandoned her. But she promised not to leave and would continue to keep house for him.
Now the time came that Roland’s wedding was to be held. According to ancient custom it was announced that all the young maids should gather at his house and sing to honor the wedding couple. When the faithful girl heard it, she was very sad and thought her heart would break in two. She didn’t want to go but the others came and took her with them. When the other girls turn came to sing, she stepped back, until only she was left. She could do nothing but had to sing. When she began her song and it reached Roland’s ears, he jumped up and cried “That voice I know. That is the rightful bride. I do not desire any other.” Everything that he had forgotten suddenly returned and filled his heart with joy. Now the true maid celebrated the wedding with her Dearest Roland. Her suffering was over and her joy now began.