“On the fourth day…” The Twelve Grimm Days of Christmas

We are delighted to share these stories from The Complete First Edition of The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm with our readers. This series will run for 12 days and each story is accompanied by original art from Andrea Dezsö.

OKerlo

Okerlo

A queen put her child out to sea in a golden cradle and let it float away. However, the cradle didn’t sink but drifted to an island inhabited only by cannibals. When the cradle drifted toward the shore, a cannibal’s wife happened to be standing there. Upon seeing the child, who was a beautiful baby girl, she decided to raise her and later give her to her son, who would wed her one day. But she had a great deal of trouble hiding the maiden carefully from her husband, Old Okerlo, for if he had laid his eyes on her, he would have eaten her up, skin and bones.

When the maiden had grown up, she was to be married to the young Okerlo, but she couldn’t stand him and cried all day long. Once when she was sitting on the shore, a young, handsome prince came swimming up to her. When it was clear they each took a liking to the other, they exchanged vows. Just then the old cannibal’s wife came, and she got tremendously angry at finding the prince with her son’s bride. So she grabbed hold of him and said, “Just wait! We’ll roast you at my son’s wedding.”

The young prince, the maiden, and Okerlo’s three children had to sleep together in one room. When night came, Old Okerlo began craving human flesh and said, “Wife, I don’t feel like waiting until the wedding. I want the prince right now!”

However, the maiden had heard everything through the wall, and she got up quickly, took off the golden crown from one of Okerlo’s children,

and put it on the prince’s head. When the old cannibal’s wife came in, it was dark. So she had to feel their heads and took the boy who wasn’t wearing a crown and brought him to her husband, who immediately devoured him.

Meanwhile, the maiden became terribly frightened, for she thought, “As soon as day breaks, everything will be revealed, and we’ll be in for trouble.” So, she got up quietly and fetched seven-mile boots, a magic wand, and a cake with a bean that provided answers for everything. After that she departed with the prince. They were wearing the seven-mile boots, and with each step they took, they went a mile. Sometimes they asked the bean, “Bean, are you there?”

“Yes,” the bean said. “I’m here, but you’d better hurry. The old cannibal’s wife is coming after you in some other seven-mile boots that were left behind!”

The maiden took the magic wand and turned herself into a swan and the prince into a pond for the swan to swim on. The cannibal’s wife came and tried to lure the swan to the bank, but she didn’t succeed and went home in a bad mood. The maiden and the prince continued on their way.

“Bean, are you there?”

“Yes,” the bean said. “I’m here, but the old woman’s coming again. The cannibal explained to her how you duped her.”

The princess took the wand and changed herself and the prince into a cloud of dust. Okerlo’s wife couldn’t penetrate it and again had to return empty-handed, while the maiden and the prince continued on their way.

“Bean, are you there?”

“Yes, I’m here, but I see Okerlo’s wife coming once more, and she’s taking tremendous steps!”

The maiden took the magic wand for the third time and turned herself into a rosebush and the prince into a bee. The old cannibal’s wife came and didn’t recognize them because of their changed forms. So she went home.

But now the maiden and the prince couldn’t regain their human forms because the maiden, in her fear, had thrown the magic wand too far away. Yet their journey had taken them such a long distance that the rosebush now stood in a garden that belonged to the maiden’s mother. The bee sat on the rose, and he would sting anyone who tried to pluck it. One day the queen herself happened to be walking in the garden and saw the beautiful flower. She was so amazed by it that she wanted to pluck it. But the little bee came and stung her hand so hard that she had to let go of the rose. Yet she had managed to rip the flower a little, and suddenly she saw blood gushing from the stem. Then she summoned a fairy to break the enchant- ment of the flower and the bee, and the queen then recognized her daugh- ter again and was very happy and delighted. Now a great wedding was held, and a large number of guests were invited. They came in magnificent array, while thousands of candles flickered in the hall. Music was played, and everyone danced until dawn.

“Were you also at the wedding ?”

“Of course I was there. My hairdo was made of butter, and as I was exposed to the sun, it melted and was muddled. My dress was made from a spider’s web, and as I went through some thorn bushes, they ripped it off my body. My slippers were made of glass, and as I stepped on a stone, they broke in two.”


bookjacket

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm:
The Complete First Edition
Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm, Translated and edited by Jack Zipes
Illustrated by Andrea Dezsö

Art credit: Andrea Dezsö
This post is part of a series, explore additional posts here<< “On the third day…” The Twelve Grimm Days of Christmas“On the fifth day…” The Twelve Grimm Days of Christmas >>