Mother Holle

There was once a widow who had two daughters, one of whom was beautiful and industrious, whilst the other was ugly and lazy. But she was much fonder of the ugly and lazy one. Every day, the other, poor girl, had to sit by a well in the highway, and spin, spin till her fingers bled.

Now it happened, one day, that the shuttle was stained with her blood. She dipped it in the well to wash the stains off, and it dropped out of her hand and fell to the bottom. She began to weep, and ran to the woman, and told her of the mishap.

She scolded her hard, and was so cruel as to say, “Since you have let the shuttle fall in, you must fetch it out again.”

So the girl went back to the well, and did not know what to do. Then in the anguish of her heart, she jumped into the well to get the shuttle. She lost her senses. But when she awoke and came to herself, she was in a lovely meadow, where the sun was shining and thousands of flowers were growing.

Along this meadow she went, and at length came to a baker’s oven full of bread. And the bread cried:

Oh, take me out! Take me out!
Or I shall burn. I am well baked!

So she went up to it, and, with the bread shovel, took out all the loaves one after the other.

After that, she went on till she came to a tree covered with apples, and it called to her:

Oh, shake me! Shake me!
We apples are all ripe!

So she shook the tree till the apples fell like rain, and went on shaking till they were all down. And when she had gathered them into a heap, she went on her way.

At last, she came to a little house out of which an Old Woman was peeping. She had such large teeth that the girl was frightened, and was about to run away.

But the Old Woman called out to her, “What are you afraid of, my Child? Stay with me. If you will do the work in my house carefully, you shall be the better for it! Only you must take care to make my bed well, and to shake it thoroughly till the feathers fly—for then it snows on earth. I am Mother Holle.”

As the Old Woman spoke so kindly to her, the girl took heart, and willingly entered her service. She did everything to the Old Woman’s satisfaction, and always shook her bed so hard that the feathers flew about like snowflakes. So she lived happily with her, never an angry word, and boiled or roasted meat every day.

She stayed some time with Mother Holle, then she grew sad. At first she did not know what was the matter with her, but, by and by, she found that it was homesickness. Although she was many thousand times better off here than at home, still she had a longing to be there.

At last, she said to the Old Woman, “I am longing for home. However well off I am down here, I cannot stay any longer. I must go up again to my own people.”

Mother Holle said, “I am pleased that you long for your home again. You have served me so faithfully, that I myself will take you up again.”

Thereupon she took her by the hand, and led her to a large door. The door was opened, and just as the girl was standing beneath the doorway, a heavy shower of Gold-Rain fell, and all the gold stuck to her so that she was covered with it.

“You shall have that because you are so industrious,” said Mother Holle. And at the same time, she gave her back the shuttle which she had let fall into the well.

Thereupon the door closed, and the girl found herself again upon the earth, not far from her mother’s house.

As she went into the yard, the cock was standing by the well, and cried:

Your Golden Girl’s came back to you!

So she went into her mother. And as she was thus covered with gold, she was welcomed by both her and the sister.