Little Brother and Little Sister
Siblings flee from stepmother. Boy becomes deer, she becomes queen. Stepmother kills her child, king saves it. Deer is redeemed.
Little brother took his little sister by the hand and said, "Since our mother died we have had no happiness; our step-mother beats us every day, and if we come near her she kicks us away with her foot. Our meals are the hard crusts of bread that are left over; and the little dog under the table is better off, for she often throws it a nice bit. May Heaven pity us. If our mother only knew! Come, we will go forth together into the wide world."
They walked the whole day over meadows, fields, and stony places; and when it rained the little sister said, "Heaven and our hearts are weeping together." In the evening they came to a large forest, and they were so weary with sorrow and hunger and the long walk, that they lay down in a hollow tree and fell asleep.
The next day when they awoke, the sun was already high in the sky, and shone down hot into the tree. Then the brother said, "Sister, I am thirsty; if I knew of a little brook I would go and just take a drink; I think I hear one running." The brother got up and took the little sister by the hand, and they set off to find the brook.
But the wicked step-mother was a witch, and had seen how the two children had gone away, and had crept after them privily, as witches do creep, and had bewitched all the brooks in the forest.
Now when they found a little brook leaping brightly over the stones, the brother was going to drink out of it, but the sister heard how it said as it ran, "Who drinks of me will be a tiger; who drinks of me will be a tiger." Then the sister cried, "Pray, dear brother, do not drink, or you will become a wild beast, and tear me to pieces." The brother did not drink, although he was so thirsty, but said, "I will wait for the next spring."
When they came to the next brook the sister heard this also say, "Who drinks of me will be a wolf; who drinks of me will be a wolf." Then the sister cried out, "Pray, dear brother, do not drink, or you will become a wolf, and devour me." The brother did not drink, and said, "I will wait until we come to the next spring, but then I must drink, say what you like; for my thirst is too great."
And when they came to the third brook the sister heard how it said as it ran, "Who drinks of me will be a roebuck; who drinks of me will be a roebuck." The sister said, "Oh, I pray you, dear brother, do not drink, or you will become a roebuck, and run away from me." But the brother had knelt down at once by the brook, and had bent down and drunk some of the water, and as soon as the first drops touched his lips he lay there a young roebuck.
And now the sister wept over her poor bewitched brother, and the little roe wept also, and sat sorrowfully near to her. But at last the girl said, "Be quiet, dear little roe, I will never, never leave you."
Then she untied her golden garter and put it round the roebuck's neck, and she plucked rushes and wove them into a soft cord. With this she tied the little beast and led it on, and she walked deeper and deeper into the forest.
And when they had gone a very long way they came at last to a little house, and the girl looked in; and as it was empty, she thought, "We can stay here and live." Then she sought for leaves and moss to make a soft bed for the roe; and every morning she went out and gathered roots and berries and nuts for herself, and brought tender grass for the roe, who ate out of her hand, and was content and played round about her. In the evening, when the sister was tired, and had said her prayer, she laid her head upon the roebuck's back: that was her pillow, and she slept softly on it. And if only the brother had had his human form it would have been a delightful life.
For some time they were alone like this in the wilderness. But it happened that the King of the country held a great hunt in the forest. Then the blasts of the horns, the barking of dogs, and the merry shouts of the huntsmen rang through the trees, and the roebuck heard all, and was only too anxious to be there. "Oh," said he to his sister, "let me be off to the hunt, I cannot bear it any longer;" and he begged so much that at last she agreed. "But," said she to him, "come back to me in the evening; I must shut my door for fear of the rough huntsmen, so knock and say, "My little sister, let me in!" that I may know you; and if you do not say that, I shall not open the door." Then the young roebuck sprang away; so happy was he and so merry in the open air.
The King and the huntsmen saw the pretty creature, and started after him, but they could not catch him, and when they thought that they surely had him, away he sprang through the bushes and could not be seen. When it was dark he ran to the cottage, knocked, and said, "My little sister, let me in." Then the door was opened for him, and he jumped in, and rested himself the whole night through upon his soft bed.
The next day the hunt went on afresh, and when the roebuck again heard the bugle-horn, and the ho! ho! of the huntsmen, he had no peace, but said, "Sister, let me out, I must be off." His sister opened the door for him, and said, "But you must be here again in the evening and say your pass-word."
When the King and his huntsmen again saw the young roebuck with the golden collar, they all chased him, but he was too quick and nimble for them. This went on for the whole day, but at last by the evening the huntsmen had surrounded him, and one of them wounded him a little in the foot, so that he limped and ran slowly. Then a hunter crept after him to the cottage and heard how he said, "My little sister, let me in," and saw that the door was opened for him, and was shut again at once. The huntsman took notice of it all, and went to the King and told him what he had seen and heard. Then the King said, "To-morrow we will hunt once more."
The little sister, however, was dreadfully frightened when she saw that her fawn was hurt. She washed the blood off him, laid herbs on the wound, and said, "Go to your bed, dear roe, that you may get well again." But the wound was so slight that the roebuck, next morning, did not feel it any more. And when he again heard the sport outside, he said, "I cannot bear it, I must be there; they shall not find it so easy to catch me." The sister cried, and said, "This time they will kill you, and here am I alone in the forest and forsaken by all the world. I will not let you out." "Then you will have me die of grief," answered the roe; "when I hear the bugle-horns I feel as if I must jump out of my skin." Then the sister could not do otherwise, but opened the door for him with a heavy heart, and the roebuck, full of health and joy, bounded into the forest.
When the King saw him, he said to his huntsman, "Now chase him all day long till night-fall, but take care that no one does him any harm."
As soon as the sun had set, the King said to the huntsmen, "Now come and show me the cottage in the wood;" and when he was at the door, he knocked and called out, "Dear little sister, let me in." Then the door opened, and the King walked in, and there stood a maiden more lovely than any he had ever seen. The maiden was frightened when she saw, not her little roe, but a man come in who wore a golden crown upon his head. But the King looked kindly at her, stretched out his hand, and said, "Will you go with me to my palace and be my dear wife?" "Yes, indeed," answered the maiden, "but the little roe must go with me, I cannot leave him." The King said, "It shall stay with you as long as you live, and shall want nothing." Just then he came running in, and the sister again tied him with the cord of rushes, took it in her own hand, and went away with the King from the cottage.
The King took the lovely maiden upon his horse and carried her to his palace, where the wedding was held with great pomp. She was now the Queen, and they lived for a long time happily together; the roebuck was tended and cherished, and ran about in the palace-garden.
But the wicked step-mother, because of whom the children had gone out into the world, thought all the time that the sister had been torn to pieces by the wild beasts in the wood, and that the brother had been shot for a roebuck by the huntsmen. Now when she heard that they were so happy, and so well off, envy and hatred rose in her heart and left her no peace, and she thought of nothing but how she could bring them again to misfortune. Her own daughter, who was as ugly as night, and had only one eye, grumbled at her and said, "A Queen! that ought to have been my luck." "Only be quiet," answered the old woman, and comforted her by saying, "when the time comes I shall be ready."
As time went on, the Queen had a pretty little boy, and it happened that the King was out hunting; so the old witch took the form of the chamber-maid, went into the room where the Queen lay, and said to her, "Come, the bath is ready; it will do you good, and give you fresh strength; make haste before it gets cold."
The daughter also was close by; so they carried the weakly Queen into the bath-room, and put her into the bath; then they shut the door and ran away. But in the bath-room they had made a fire of such deadly heat that the beautiful young Queen was soon suffocated.
When this was done the old woman took her daughter, put a nightcap on her head, and laid her in bed in place of the Queen. She gave her too the shape and the look of the Queen, only she could not make good the lost eye. But in order that the King might not see it, she was to lie on the side on which she had no eye.
In the evening when he came home and heard that he had a son he was heartily glad, and was going to the bed of his dear wife to see how she was. But the old woman quickly called out, "For your life leave the curtains closed; the Queen ought not to see the light yet, and must have rest." The King went away, and did not find out that a false Queen was lying in the bed.
But at midnight, when all slept, the nurse, who was sitting in the nursery by the cradle, and who was the only person awake, saw the door open and the true Queen walk in. She took the child out of the cradle, laid it on her arm, and suckled it. Then she shook up its pillow, laid the child down again, and covered it with the little quilt. And she did not forget the roebuck, but went into the corner where it lay, and stroked its back. Then she went quite silently out of the door again. The next morning the nurse asked the guards whether any one had come into the palace during the night, but they answered, "No, we have seen no one."
She came thus many nights and never spoke a word: the nurse always saw her, but she did not dare to tell any one about it.
When some time had passed in this manner, the Queen began to speak in the night, and said—
"How fares my child, how fares my roe?
Twice shall I come, then never more."
The nurse did not answer, but when the Queen had gone again, went to the King and told him all. The King said, "Ah, heavens! what is this? To-morrow night I will watch by the child." In the evening he went into the nursery, and at midnight the Queen again appeared and said—
"How fares my child, how fares my roe?
Once will I come, then never more."
And she nursed the child as she was wont to do before she disappeared. The King dared not speak to her, but on the next night he watched again. Then she said—
"How fares my child, how fares my roe?
This time I come, then never more."
Then the King could not restrain himself; he sprang towards her, and said, "You can be none other than my dear wife." She answered, "Yes, I am your dear wife," and at the same moment she received life again, and by God's grace became fresh, rosy, and full of health.
Then she told the King the evil deed which the wicked witch and her daughter had been guilty of towards her. The King ordered both to be led before the judge, and judgment was delivered against them. The daughter was taken into the forest where she was torn to pieces by wild beasts, but the witch was cast into the fire and miserably burnt. And as soon as she was burnt the roebuck changed his shape, and received his human form again, so the sister and brother lived happily together all their lives.
Now the little sister cried over the poor cursed little brother, and the little deer also cried and sat so sadly next to him. Then the girl finally said, "Be quiet, dear little deer, I will never leave you again. Then she untied her golden garter and put it around the little deer's neck, and plucked rushes and wove a soft rope from them. He tied the little animal to it and led it on, going deeper and deeper into the forest. And when they had gone a long, long way, they came at last to a little house, and the girl looked in, and because it was empty, she thought, "Here we can stay and live." So she looked for leaves and moss to make a soft bed for the little deer, and every morning she went out and gathered roots, berries and nuts, and for the little deer she brought tender grass, which she ate out of her hand, was happy and played around in front of her. In the evening, when Sis was tired and had said his prayers, he laid his head on the back of the fawn, that was his pillow, on which he gently fell asleep. And if only the little brother had had his human form, it would have been a wonderful life.
They were alone in the wilderness for some time. But it happened that the king of the country was holding a great hunt in the forest. The blowing of horns, the barking of dogs and the merry shouting of the hunters resounded through the trees, and the little deer heard it and would have liked to be there. "Oh," he said to his sister, "let me go out hunting, I can't stand it any longer," and begged until he agreed. "But," he said to him, "come back to me in the evening, I will close my door to the wild hunters; and that I may know you, knock and say, my little sister, let me in: and if you do not say so, I will not open my door." Now the little deer jumped out, and was so happy and merry in the open air. The king and his hunters saw the beautiful animal and pursued it, but they could not catch it, and when they thought they had it for sure, it jumped away over the bushes and was gone. When darkness fell, he ran to the little house, knocked, and said, "My little sister, let me in." Then the little door was opened to him, he jumped in and rested all night on his soft bed. The next morning the hunt began anew, and when the little deer heard the hip horn again and the ho, ho! of the hunters, he had no peace, and said, "Little sister, open up for me, I must go out." The little sister opened the door for him and said, "But you must be back in the evening and say your spell." When the king and his hunters saw the little deer with the golden collar again, they all chased after it, but it was too fast and agile for them. This lasted all day, but at last in the evening the hunters had surrounded it, and one of them wounded it a little in the foot, so that it had to limp and slowly ran away. Then a hunter crept up to the little house and heard it call out, "My little sister, let me in," and saw that the door was opened for it and then immediately closed again. The hunter kept all this in mind, went to the king and told him what he had seen and heard. Then the king said, "Tomorrow there shall be another hunt."
But the little sister was terribly frightened when she saw that her little calf was wounded. She washed off the blood, put herbs on it and said "go to your bed, dear little deer, so that you will be healed again. But the wound was so slight that in the morning the little deer felt no more of it. And when he heard the hunt outside again, he said, "I can't stand it, I must be there; no one shall catch me so soon." The little sister cried and said "now they will kill you, and I am here alone in the forest and am abandoned by all the world: I will not let you out." "I'll die of sorrow here," answered the little deer, "when I hear the hip horn, I think I'll have to jump out of my shoes!" The little sister could not help it, and with a heavy heart she opened the door for him, and the little deer jumped into the forest, healthy and happy. When the king saw it, he said to his hunters, "Now chase after it all day and into the night, but do not harm it. As soon as the sun had set, the king said to the hunter, "Now come and show me the little forest house." And when he was before the little door, he knocked and called "dear little sister, let me in." Then the door opened and the king entered, and there stood a girl as beautiful as he had ever seen. The girl was frightened when she saw that it was not her little deer but a man who had a golden crown on his head who had come in. But the king looked at her kindly, held out his hand and said, "Will you go with me to my castle and be my dear wife?" "Oh yes," answered the girl, "but the little deer must also go with me, I will not leave her." Said the king, "he shall stay with you as long as you live, and shall want for nothing." So he jumped in, tied the little sister to the rush rope again, took her in his hand and left the forest cottage with her.
The king took the beautiful girl on his horse and led her to his castle, where the wedding was celebrated with great splendor, and now she was the queen, and they lived together happily for a long time; the little deer was nursed and cared for and jumped around in the castle garden. The wicked stepmother, however, for whose sake the children had gone into the world, thought that little sister had been torn to pieces by the wild animals in the forest and little brother had been shot dead as a fawn by the hunters. When she heard that they were so happy and well off, envy and jealousy stirred in her heart and left her no peace, and she had no other thought than how she could still bring them both to misfortune. Her right-hand daughter, who was as ugly as night and had only one eye, reproached her and said, "To become a queen, that happiness would have been mine." "Be quiet," said the old woman, and she said contentedly, "when the time comes, I will already be at hand." When the time had come, and the queen had given birth to a beautiful child, and the king was hunting, the old witch took the form of the chambermaid, entered the parlor where the queen lay, and said to the sick woman, "Come, the bath is ready, it will do you good and give you fresh strength: hurry, before it gets cold." Her daughter was also at hand, and they carried the weak queen into the bath-room and laid her in the tub; then they locked the door and ran away. In the bathing room, however, they had lit a hellish fire, so that the beautiful young queen was soon suffocated.
When this was done, the old woman took her daughter, put a hood on her head, and laid her in bed in the queen's place. She also gave her the form and appearance of the queen, but she could not give her back her lost eye. So that the king would not notice, she had to lie down on her side, where she had no eye. In the evening, when he came home and heard that a son had been born to him, he rejoiced heartily and wanted to go to the bedside of his dear wife and see what she was doing. Then the old woman called out quickly, "By heaven, let the curtains be drawn, the queen must not yet see the light and must have rest." The king went back, not knowing that a false queen was lying in bed.
When it was midnight and everything was asleep, the nanny, who was sitting in the nursery next to the cradle and was still awake alone, saw the door open and the right queen enter. She took the child out of the cradle, put him in her arms and gave him a drink. Then she shook his little pillow, put him back in it and covered him with the blanket. She did not forget the little deer either, and went to the corner where it was lying and stroked its back. The next morning the nanny asked the guards if anyone had gone into the castle during the night, but they answered, "No, we haven't seen anyone. So she came many nights and never spoke a word; the nanny always saw her, but she did not dare to tell anyone.
When such a time had passed, the queen began to speak in the night and said:
"What is my child doing? What is my deer doing?
Now I come twice more and then nevermore."
The nanny did not answer her, but when she had disappeared again, she went to the king and told him everything. Said the king, "Oh God, what is this! I will watch over the child the next night." In the evening he went to the nursery, but at midnight the queen appeared again and said
"what is my child doing? what is my deer doing?
Now I come once more, and then never more." And then she nursed the child as she usually did before she disappeared. The king did not dare to speak to her, but he kept watch the next night. She said again, "How is my child? How is my deer?
Now I come this time and then nevermore."
Then the king could not restrain himself, jumped to her and said "you can be no one else but my dear wife." Then she answered, "Yes, I am your dear wife," and at that moment, by the grace of God, had regained life, was fresh, red and healthy. She then told the king the outrage that the wicked witch and her daughter had committed against her. The king had both of them brought to court, and they were sentenced. The daughter was led into the forest, where the wild animals tore her apart, but the witch was put into the fire and burned miserably. And when she was burned to ashes, the baby deer was transformed and regained its human form; but little sister and little brother lived happily together until the end of their lives.