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Grimms Fairy Tales and German Folklore
A king had a daughter who was beautiful beyond all measure,
but so proud and haughty withal that no suitor was good
enough for her. She sent away one after the other, and
ridiculed them as well.
Once the king made a great feast and invited thereto, from far
and near, all the young men likely to marry. They were all
marshalled in a row according to their rank and standing. First
came the kings, then the grand-dukes, then the princes, the
earls, the barons, and the gentry. Then the king's daughter was
led through the ranks, but to each one she had some objection
to make. One was too fat, the wine-barrel, she said. Another
was too tall, long and thin has little in. The third was too
short, short and thick is never quick. The fourth was too
pale, as pale as death. The fifth too red, a fighting cock.
The sixth was not straight enough, a green log dried behind
So she had something to say against each one, but she made
herself especially merry over a good king who stood quite
high up in the row, and whose chin had grown a little crooked.
Look, she cried and laughed, he has a chin like a thrush's
beak. And from that time he got the name of king thrushbeard.
But the old king, when he saw that his daugher did nothing
but mock the people, and despised all the suitors who were
gathered there, was very angry, and swore that she should have
for her husband the very first beggar that came to his doors.
A few days afterwards a fiddler came and sang beneath the
windows, trying to earn a few pennies. When the king heard him
he said, let him come up. So the fiddler came in, in his dirty,
ragged clothes, and sang before the king and his daughter, and
when he had ended he asked for a trifling gift. The king said,
your song has pleased me so well that I will give you my
daughter there, to wife.
The king's daughter shuddered, but the king said, I have taken
an oath to give you to the very first beggar-man and I will keep
it. All she could say was in vain. The priest was brought,
and she had to let herself be wedded to the fiddler on the
spot. When that was done the king said, now it is not proper
for you, a beggar-woman, to stay any longer in my palace, you may
just go away with your husband.
The beggar-man led her out by the hand, and she was obliged to
walk away on foot with him. When they came to a large forest
she asked, to whom does that beautiful forest belong. It
belongs to king thrushbeard. If you had taken him, it would
have been yours. Ah, unhappy girl that I am, if I had but taken
Afterwards they came to a meadow, and she asked again, to whom
does this beautiful green meadow belong. It belongs to king
thrushbeard. If you had taken him, it would have been
yours. Ah, unhappy girl that I am, if I had but taken king
Then they came to a large town, and she asked again, to whom
does this fine large town belong. It belongs to king thrushbeard.
If you had taken him, it would have been yours. Ah, unhappy
girl that I am, if I had but taken king thrushbeard.
It does not please me, said the fiddler, to hear you always
wishing for another husband. Am I not good enough for you.
At last they came to a very little hut, and she said, oh
goodness. What a small house. To whom does this miserable,
tiny hovel belong. The fiddler answered, that is my house and
yours, where we shall live together.
She had to stoop in order to go in at the low door. Where are
the servants, said the king's daughter. What servants, answered
the beggar-man. You must yourself do what you wish to have done.
Just make a fire at once, and set on water to cook my supper,
I am quite tired. But the king's daughter knew nothing about
lighting fires or cooking, and the beggar-man had to lend a
hand himself to get anything fairly done. When they had
finished their scanty meal they went to bed. But he forced
her to get up quite early in the morning in order to look after
For a few days they lived in this way as well as might be, and
came to the end of all their provisions. Then the man said,
wife, we cannot go on any longer eating and drinking here and
earning nothing. You must make baskets. He went out, cut some
willows, and brought them home. Then she began to make baskets,
but the tough willows wounded her delicate hands.
I see that this will not do, said the man. You had better spin,
perhaps you can do that better. She sat down and tried to spin,
but the hard thread soon cut her soft fingers so that the blood
ran down. See, said the man, you are fit for no sort of work.
I have made a bad bargain with you. Now I will try to make a
business with pots and earthenware. You must sit in the
market-place and sell the ware. Alas, thought she, if any of
the people from my father's kingdom come to the market and see
me sitting there, selling, how they will mock me. But it was
of no use, she had to yield unless she chose to die of hunger.
For the first time she succeeded well, for the people were glad
to buy the woman's wares because she was good-looking, and
they paid her what she asked. Many even gave her the money and
left the pots with her as well. So they lived on what she had
earned as long as it lasted, then the husband bought a lot of
new crockery. With this she sat down at the corner of the
market-place, and set it out round about her ready for sale.
But suddenly there came a drunken hussar galloping along, and
he rode right amongst the pots so that they were all broken into
a thousand bits. She began
to weep, and did now know what to do for fear. Alas, what will
happen to me, cried she. What will my husband say to this.
She ran home and told him of the misfortune. Who would seat
herself at a corner of the market-place with crockery, said
the man. Leave off crying, I see very well that you cannot
do any ordinary work, so I have been to our king's palace and
have asked whether they cannot find a place for a kitchen-maid,
and they have promised me to take you. In that way you will
get your food for nothing.
The king's daughter was now a kitchen-maid, and had to be at
the cook's beck and call, and do the dirtiest work. In both her
pockets she fastened a little jar, in which she took home her
share of the leavings, and upon this they lived.
It happened that the wedding of the king's eldest son was to be
celebrated, so the poor woman went up and placed herself by
the door of the hall to look on. When all the candles were lit,
and people, each more beautiful than the other, entered, and
all was full of pomp and splendor, she thought of her lot with
a sad heart, and cursed the pride and haughtiness which had
humbled her and brought her to so great poverty.
The smell of the delicious dishes which were being taken in
and out reached her, and now and then the servants threw her
a few morsels of them. These she put in her jars to take home.
All at once the king's son entered, clothed in velvet and silk,
with gold chains about his neck. And when he saw the
beautiful woman standing by the door he seized her by the hand,
and would have danced with her. But she refused and shrank
with fear, for she saw that it was king thrushbeard, her
suitor whom she had driven away with scorn. Her struggles
were of no avail, he drew her into the hall. But the string
by which her pockets were hung broke, the pots fell down, the
soup ran out, and the scraps were scattered all about. And
when the people saw it, there arose general laughter and
derision, and she was so ashamed that she would rather have
been a thousand fathoms below the ground. She sprang to the
door and would have run away, but on the stairs a man caught
her and brought her back. And when she looked at him it was
king thrushbeard again. He said to her kindly, do not be
afraid, I and the fiddler who has been living with you in that
wretched hovel are one. For love of you I disguised myself
so. And I also was the hussar who rode through your crockery.
This was all done to humble your proud spirit, and to punish
you for the insolence with which you mocked me.
Then she wept bitterly and said, I have done great wrong, and
am not worthy to be your wife. But he said, be comforted,
the evil days are past. Now we will celebrate our wedding.
Then the maids-in-waiting came and put on her the most splendid
clothing, and her father and his whole court came and wished
her happiness in her marriage with king thrushbeard, and
the joy now began in earnest. I wish you and I had been there