Reading time: 5 minutes. Word count: 900 words.
Maiden Bright-eye had also to watch the sheep, but of course it would never do to let her go idle and enjoy herself too much at this work, so she had to pull heather while she was out on the moors with them. Her stepmother gave her pancakes to take with her for her dinner, but she had mixed the flour with ashes, and made them just as bad as she could.
The little girl came out on the moor and began to pull heather on the side of a little mound, but next minute a little fellow with a red cap on his head popped up out of the mound and said: 'Who's that pulling the roof off my house?'
'Oh, it's me, a poor little girl,' said she; 'my mother sent me out here, and told me to pull heather. If you will be good to me I will give you a bit of my dinner.'
The little fellow was quite willing, and she gave him the biggest share of her pancakes. They were not particularly good, but when one is hungry anything tastes well. After he had got them all eaten he said to her: 'Now, I shall give you three wishes, for you are a very nice little girl; but I will choose the wishes for you. You are beautiful, and much more beautiful shall you be; yes, so lovely that there will not be your like in the world. The next wish shall be that every time you open your mouth a gold coin shall fall out of it, and your voice shall be like the most beautiful music. The third wish shall be that you may be married to the young king, and become the queen of the country. At the same time I shall give you a cap, which you must carefully keep, for it can save you, if you ever are in danger of your life, if you just put it on your head. Maiden Bright-eye thanked the little bergman ever so often, and drove home her sheep in the evening. [bergman = barrow-man, man who lives in a mound of earth]
By that time she had grown so beautiful that her people could scarcely recognise her. Her stepmother asked her how it had come about that she had grown so beautiful. She told the whole story--for she always told the truth--that a little man had come to her out on the moor and had given her all this beauty. She did not tell, however, that she had given him a share of her dinner.
The stepmother thought to herself, 'If one can become so beautiful by going out there, my own daughter shall also be sent, for she can well stand being made a little prettier.'
Next morning she baked for her the finest cakes, and dressed her prettily to go out with the sheep. But she was afraid to go away there without having a stick to defend herself with if anything should come near her.
She was not very much inclined for pulling the heather, as she never was in the habit of doing any work, but she was only a minute or so at it when up came the same little fellow with the red cap, and said: 'Who's that pulling the roof off my house?'
'What's that to you?' said she.
'Well, if you will give me a bit of your dinner I won't do you any mischief,' said he.
'I will give you something else in place of my dinner,' said she. 'I can easily eat it myself; but if you will have something you can have a whack of my stick,' and with that she raised it in the air and struck the bergman over the head with it.
'What a wicked little girl you are!' said he; 'but you shall be none the better of this. I shall give you three wishes, and choose them for you. First, I shall say, "Ugly are you, but you shall become so ugly that there will not be an uglier one on earth." Next I shall wish that every time you open your mouth a big toad may fall out of it, and your voice shall be like the roaring of a bull. In the third place I shall wish for you a violent death.'
The girl went home in the evening, and when her mother saw her she was as vexed as she could be, and with good reason, too; but it was still worse when she saw the toads fall out of her mouth and heard her voice.
Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:
Source: Andrew Lang: Pink Fairy Book (1897). Weblink.
Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology.
Laura Gibbs, Ph.D.
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