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.
The Three Sisters
Once upon a time there was a rich king who was so rich that he believed his wealth would last forever. Therefore, he wallowed in luxury and gambled on a golden board with silver dice. All this continued for some time until he squandered his wealth and was forced to mortgage his cities and castles one after the other. Finally, nothing was left except an old castle in the forest. He moved there with his queen and three daughters, and their lives were miserable: they had only potatoes to eat for their daily meal.
One day the king decided to go hunting to see if he could perhaps shoot a hare. After filling his pocket full of potatoes, he went off to a nearby forest that nobody dared enter because terrible stories had been told about what one might encounter there, such as bears that ate people, eagles that hacked out eyes, and wolves, lions, and all kinds of cruel beasts. However, the king was not in the least afraid and went straight into the forest. At first he didn’t see anything except huge and mighty trees, and everything was quiet beneath them. After he had walked around for a while, he became hungry and sat down underneath a tree to eat his potatoes. All of a sudden a bear came out of the thicket, trotted straight toward him, and growled, “How dare you sit under my honey tree! You’ll pay for this!”
The king was horrified and handed the bear his potatoes to appease him. But the bear began to speak and said, “I don’t want your potatoes. I’m going to eat you yourself. But, if you give me your oldest daughter, you can you save yourself ! If you do this, I’ll give you a hundred pounds of gold in the bargain.”
Since the king was afraid of being eaten, he said, “You shall have her. Just let me go in peace.”
The bear showed him the way out of the forest and growled after him, “In a week’s time I’ll come and fetch my bride.”
As he went home, the king felt more at ease and was convinced that the bear would not be able to crawl through a keyhole. So from then on everything at the castle was to be shut tight. He ordered all the gates to be locked, the drawbridges to be lifted, and told his daughter not to worry.
But just to be on the safe side and to protect his daughter from the bear bridegroom, he gave her a little room under the pinnacle high up in the castle. She was to hide there until the week was over.
Early on the seventh morning, however, when everyone was still asleep, a splendid coach drawn by six horses came driving up to the castle. It was surrounded by numerous knights clad in gold, and as soon as the coach was in front, the drawbridges dropped down by themselves, and the locks sprung open without keys. The coach drove into the courtyard, and a young, handsome prince stepped out. When the king was wakened by the noise and looked out the window, he saw the prince had already fetched his oldest daughter from the locked room and was lifting her into the coach. He could just call after her:
“Farewell, my maiden dear.
I see you’re off to wed the bear.”
She waved to him with her little white handkerchief from the coach, and then they sped off into the magic forest as if the coach were harnessed to the wind. The king felt very bad about having given his daughter to a bear. He was so sad that he and the queen wept for three days. But on the fourth day, after he had done enough weeping, he realized that he couldn’t change what had happened and went down into the courtyard. There he found a chest made out of smooth wood, which was very difficult to lift. Immediately he remembered what the bear had promised him. So he opened it and found a hundred pounds of glittering and glistening gold.
When the king saw the gold, he felt consoled. He reacquired his cities and kingdom and began leading his former life of luxury once more. Soon after, he was obliged to mortgage everything all over again, and he retreated to his castle in the forest and had nothing to eat but potatoes. Yet the king still had a falcon, and one day the king took it hunting with him and went out into the field to get something better to eat. The falcon soared high into the sky and flew in the direction of the dark magic forest, which the king no longer dared enter. Right after the falcon flew into the woods, an eagle shot out and pursued the falcon, which returned to the king, who tried to fend off the eagle with his spear. But the eagle grabbed the spear and broke it like a reed. Then the eagle crushed the falcon with one claw and dug into the king’s shoulder with the other.
“Why have you disturbed my kingdom in the sky?” the eagle cried out. “Either you give me your second daughter for my wife, or you shall die!”
“All right,” the king said. “You shall have my second daughter, but what will you give me for her?”
“Two hundred pounds of gold,” the eagle said. “In seven weeks I’ll come to fetch her.”
Then the eagle let him go and flew off into the forest. The king felt bad about having also sold his second daughter to a wild beast and didn’t dare tell her anything about it. Six weeks passed, and in the seventh the princess went out one day on the lawn in front of the castle to water the linseed. All at once a splendid parade of handsome knights came riding up, and at their head was the handsomest knight of all, who dismounted and cried out:
“Up you go, my maiden dear.
Come wed the eagle. No need to fear!”
And before she could answer him, he had already lifted her onto his horse and raced off with her into the forest, flying like a bird. Farewell! Farewell!
The king and queen waited a long time for the princess to come back to the castle, but no matter how long they waited, she didn’t return. Then the king finally revealed that he had promised her to an eagle when he had once been in trouble, and the eagle must have fetched her. After the king got over his sadness somewhat, he remembered the eagle’s promise, went down to the lawn, and found two golden eggs, each weighing one hundred pounds. “Money is a sign of piety,” thought the king, and he dismissed all gloomy thoughts from his mind. He resumed his merrymaking once more and lived luxuriously until he ran through the two hundred pounds of gold. Then the king returned to the castle in the forest, and the last of the princesses had to boil the potatoes.
The king didn’t want to hunt any more hares in the forest or any more birds in the sky, but he did desire to eat some fish. So the princess had to weave a net, which he took with him to a pond not far from the castle. A small boat was there, and he got in and threw the net into the water. On his very first try he caught a bunch of beautiful flounders with red speckles, but when he wanted to row ashore with his catch, the boat wouldn’t budge, and he couldn’t get it to move, no matter how much he tried. All of a sudden an enormous whale came puffing up to him and cried out, “Who said you could catch the subjects of my realm and take them away with you? This will cost you your life!”
As the whale said this, he opened his jaws as if he were going to swallow the king and the little boat as well. When the king saw his terrible jaws, he completely lost his courage and recalled that he had a third daughter.
“Spare my life,” he cried out, “and you shall have my third daughter!” “That’s fine with me,” roared the whale. “I’ll also give you something for her. I don’t have gold. That’s not good enough for me. But the floor of my sea is plastered with precious pearls. I’ll give you three sacks full of them. In the seventh month I’ll come and fetch my bride.”
Then he dived down into the water, while the king rowed ashore and brought the flounders home. Yet, when they were baked, he refused to eat any of them, and when he looked at his daughter, the only one left and the most beautiful and loveliest of them all, he felt as if a thousand knives were cutting his heart. Six months passed, and the queen and princess didn’t know what was wrong with the king, for he didn’t smile once during all that time. In the seventh month the princess was in the courtyard in front of a man-made well and drew a glass of water. Suddenly a coach with six white horses and men clad entirely in silver came driving up. A prince stepped out of the coach, and he was more handsome than any other prince she had ever seen in her life. He asked her for a glass of water, and when she handed it to him, he embraced her and lifted her into the coach. Then they drove back through the gate over the field toward the pond.
“Farewell, you maiden dear.
You’re bound to wed the whale down there.”
The queen stood at the window and watched the coach as it moved off in the distance. When she was unable to find her daughter, her heart was saddened, and she called her and looked for her everywhere. But the daughter was nowhere to be seen or heard. When the queen was certain the princess could not be found, she began to weep, and now the king revealed to her that a whale must have fetched their daughter, for he had been forced to promise their daughter to him. Indeed, that was the reason he had been so sad. The king wanted to comfort his wife and told her about the great treasure they would now get for the princess. However, the queen didn’t want to hear anything about it and said her only child was more dear to her than all the treasures of the world.
During the time that the whale prince had carried off the princess, his servants had carried three tremendous sacks into the castle, which the king found at the door. When he opened them, he found they were full of big, beautiful, and precious pearls, just as large as the fattest peas imaginable. All of a sudden he was rich again and richer than he had ever been before. He reacquired his cities and castles, but this time he didn’t resume his luxurious way of living. Instead, he became quiet and thrifty. Whenever he thought about what had happened to his three dear daughters with the wild beasts and that perhaps they had already been eaten up, he lost all zest for life.
Meanwhile, the queen couldn’t be consoled and wept more tears for her daughters than all the pearls the whale had given them. Finally, she became more calm and peaceful, and after some time she was happy again, for she gave birth to a handsome baby boy. Since God had given them the child so unexpectedly, he was named Reinald the Miracle Child. The boy grew big and strong, and the queen often told him about his three sisters, who were being held prisoners by three beasts in the magic forest. When he turned sixteen, he demanded some armor and a sword from the king, and when he received all this, he decided to embark on an adventure. So he blessed his parents and set forth.
He went straight toward the magic forest and had only one thing on his mind—to search for his sisters. At first he wandered around in the great forest for a long time without encountering a human being or a beast. But after three days he saw a young woman sitting in front of a cave and playing with a young bear cub, while another very young one was lying on her lap.
Reinald thought she must surely be his oldest sister. So he left his horse behind him and approached her.
“Dearest sister,” he said, “I’m your brother Reinald, and I’ve come to visit you.”
The princess looked at him, and since he resembled her father very strongly, she didn’t doubt his words, but she was frightened and said, “Oh, dearest brother, hurry and run away as fast as you can if you value your life. When my husband the bear comes home and finds you here, he’ll show you no mercy and will eat you up.”
But Reinald said, “I’m not afraid, and I won’t leave you until I know how you are and what things are like for you.”
When the princess saw that he was resolute, she led him into the dark cave that was like the dwelling of a bear. On one side was a heap of leaves and hay on which the old bear and his cubs slept, and on the other side was a magnificent bed with red covers trimmed with gold. That belonged to the princess. She told him to crawl under the bed and handed him something to eat. It didn’t take long before the bear came home.
“I smell, I smell the flesh of a human being,” he said and wanted to stick his hand under the bed.
But the princess cried out, “Be quiet! Who would ever come here?”
“I found a horse in the forest and ate it,” he growled, and his nose was still bloody from eating the horse. “Where there’s a horse, there’s a man, and I smell him.”
Again he wanted to look under the bed, but she gave him such a kick in the side that he did a somersault, went back to his place, put his paw in his mouth, and fell asleep.
Every seventh day the bear was restored to his natural form. He became a handsome prince; his cave, a splendid castle; the animals in the forest, his servants. It was on such a day that he had fetched the princess. Beautiful young women had come to meet her from the castle. There had been a glorious festival, and she had gone to sleep full of joy, but when she had awakened, she had found herself lying in the bear’s dark cave, and her husband had been turned into a bear growling at her feet. Only the bed and everything she had touched had remained in its natural condition and hadn’t been changed. Thus she lived six days in suffering, but on the seventh she was comforted. She didn’t grow old because only one day a week counted in her life, and she was content with her existence. She had given her husband two sons, who also became bears for six days and regained their human form on the seventh day. She stuffed their straw bed with the most delicious food all the time, including cake and fruit, and they lived off this food the entire week. Moreover, the bear obeyed her and did whatever she wanted.
When Reinald awoke, he lay in a silken bed. Servants waited on him and dressed him in the finest clothes, for his visit fell right on the seventh day. His sister entered with the two handsome princes and his brother-in-law the bear. They were glad about his arrival. Everything was magnificent and glorious, and the entire day was filled with pleasurable and joyous things. But, in the evening the princess said, “Dear brother, now it’s time for you to depart. At daybreak my husband will become a bear again, and if he finds you here tomorrow, he won’t be able to control his natural instincts and will eat you up.”
Then the bear prince came and gave him three bear hairs and said, “Whenever you’re in trouble, just rub these hairs, and I’ll come to your aid.”
Then they kissed each other and said farewell. Reinald climbed into a carriage drawn by six horses and drove off. He went over hill and valley, up and down mountains, through deserts and forests, shrubs and hedges without stopping to rest until the sky began turning grey at dusk. Then Reinald suddenly lay on the ground, and the horses and carriage disappeared. At sunrise he saw six ants galloping away, drawing a nutshell behind them.
Reinald realized he was still in the magic forest and wanted to search for his second sister. Again he wandered about aimlessly and lonely for three days without accomplishing anything. But on the fourth day he heard a big eagle come swooping down to settle in a nest. Reinald hid in the bushes and waited for the eagle to fly away. After seven hours it soared into the air again. Then Reinald emerged from the bushes, went over to the tree, and cried out, “Dearest sister, are you up above? If so, let me hear your voice. I’m Reinald, your brother, and I’ve come to visit you!”
Then he heard a voice calling down to him, “If you’re Reinald, my dearest brother, whom I’ve never seen, come up to me.”
Reinald wanted to climb the tree, but the trunk was too thick and slippery. He tried three times in vain. Suddenly a silken rope ladder dropped down, and he climbed it until he reached the eagle’s nest, which was strong and secure like a platform on a linden tree. His sister sat under a canopy made out of rose-colored silk, and an eagle’s egg was lying on her lap. She was keeping it warm in order to hatch it. They kissed each other and rejoiced, but after a while the princess said, “Now, hurry and see to it that you get out of here, dearest brother. If the eagle, my husband, sees you, he’ll hack your eyes out and devour your heart as he’s already done with three of your servants, who were looking for you in the forest.”
“No,” said Reinald. “I’m staying here until your husband is transformed.” “That will happen but only in six weeks. If you can hold out that long, go and hide in the tree. It’s hollow on the inside, and I’ll drop food down to you every day.”
Reinald crawled into the tree, and the princess let food down to him every day. Whenever the eagle flew away, he climbed up to her. After six weeks the eagle was transformed, and once more Reinald awoke in a bed that was like the one at his brother-in-law the bear’s place. Only here it was more splendid, and he lived with the eagle prince in great joy. On the seventh evening they said their farewells. The eagle gave him three eagle feathers and said, “If you’re in trouble, rub them, and I’ll come to your aid.”
Then he gave him servants to show him the way out of the forest. But when morning came, they suddenly disappeared, and Reinald was all alone on top of a high rocky cliff in a terrible wilderness. He looked around him, and in the distance he saw the reflection of a large lake, which glistened from the sun’s rays. He thought of his third sister, who might be there. So he began to climb down the cliff and work his way through the bushes and between the rocks. He needed three days to do this, and he often lost sight of the lake, but on the fourth day he succeeded in getting there. Once he was on the bank, he called out, “Dearest sister, if you’re in the water, let me hear your voice. I’m Reinald, your brother, and I’ve come to visit you.”
But no one answered, and everything was very quiet. He threw bread crumbs into the water and said to the fish, “Dear fish, go to my sister and tell her that Reinald the Wonder Child is here and wants to see her.”
But the red-speckled flounders snapped up the bread and didn’t listen to his words. Then he saw a little boat and immediately took off his armor. He kept only his sword in his hand as he jumped into the boat and rowed off. After he had gone a long way, he saw a chimney made of rock crystal jutting out of the water, and there was a pleasant smell rising up from it. Reinald rowed toward it and was convinced that his sister was living down below. So he climbed on top of the chimney and slid down. The princess was greatly startled when she suddenly saw a pair of wriggling legs followed shortly by a whole man, who identified himself as her brother. She rejoiced with all her heart, but then she turned sad and said, “The whale has heard that you’ve wanted to visit me, and he’s declared that if you come while he’s a whale, he’ll not be able to control his desire to eat you up. Moreover, he’ll break my crystal house, and I’ll also perish in the flood of water.”
“Can’t you hide me until the time comes when the magic loses its power?”
“Oh, no. How can I do that? Don’t you see that the walls are all made out of crystal, and you can see through them?”
Nevertheless, she thought and thought, and finally she remembered the room where the wood was kept. She arranged the wood in such a careful way that nobody could see anything from the outside, and it was there that she hid the Wonder Child. Soon after, the whale came, and the princess trembled like an aspen leaf. He swam around the crystal house a few times, and when he saw a little piece of Reinald’s clothing sticking out of the wood, he beat his tail, snorted ferociously, and if he had seen more, he would surely have destroyed the house. He came once a day and swam around it until the magic stopped in the seventh month. Suddenly Reinald found himself in a castle right in the middle of an island, and the castle surpassed even the splendor of the eagle’s castle. Now he lived with his sister and brother-in-law for a whole month in the lap of luxury. When the time was over, the whale gave him three scales and said, “When you’re in trouble, rub them, and I’ll come to your aid.”
The whale brought him to the bank, where his armor was still lying on the ground. The Wonder Child moved around in the wilderness for seven more days, and he slept seven nights under the open skies. Then he caught sight of a castle with a steel gate that had a mighty lock on it. In front of the gate was a black bull with flashing eyes. It was guarding the entrance, and Reinald attacked it. He gave the bull a powerful blow on its neck, but the neck was made of steel, and the sword broke as if it were glass. He tried to use his lance, but it broke like a piece of straw. Then the bull grabbed him with its horns and threw him into the air so that he got caught in the branches of a tree. In his desperation Reinald remembered the three bear’s hairs and rubbed them in his hand. All at once the bear appeared and fought with the bull. He tore the bull to pieces, but a bird came out of the bull’s stomach, flew high into the air, and rushed off. But Reinald rubbed the three eagle’s feathers, and suddenly a mighty eagle came flying through the air and pursued the bird, which flew directly toward a pond. The eagle dived at the bird and mangled it, but Reinald saw the bird drop a golden egg into the water. Now he rubbed the three fish scales in his hand, and immediately a whale came swimming up, swallowed the egg, and spat it out onto the shore. Reinald picked it up and cracked it open with a stone. There he found a little key that fit the steel gate. As soon as he just touched the gate with the key, the gate sprang open by itself, and he entered. All the bars on the other doors slid off by themselves, and he went through seven doors into seven splendid and brightly lit rooms. In the last room a maiden was lying asleep on a bed. She was so beautiful that he was completely dazzled by her. He sought to wake her, but it was in vain. Her sleep was so deep that she seemed to be dead. In his rage he struck a black slate standing next to the bed. At that very moment the maiden awoke but fell right back to sleep. Now he took the slate and threw it onto the stone floor so that it shattered into a thousand pieces. No sooner did this happen than the maiden opened her eyes wide, and the magic spell was broken. She turned out to be the sister of Reinald’s three brothers-in-law. Because she had rejected the love of a godless sorcerer, he had sentenced her to a deathlike sleep and changed her brothers into animals. They were to remain that way so long as the black slate remained untouched.
Reinald led the maiden out of the castle, and as they passed through the gate, his brothers-in-law came riding up from three different directions. They had been released from the magic spell, and with them came their wives and children. Indeed, the eagle’s bride had hatched the egg and carried a beautiful baby girl in her arms. Now all of them traveled to the old king and queen. The Miracle Child brought his three sisters home. Soon he married the beautiful maiden, and their wedding provided great joy and pleasure to everyone,
Now the cat’s run home, for my tale is done.
|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