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The Brothers Grimm
Cat-Skin
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CAT-SKIN

There was once a king, whose queen had hair of the purest gold, and
was so beautiful that her match was not to be met with on the whole
face of the earth. But this beautiful queen fell ill, and when she
felt that her end drew near she called the king to her and said,
'Promise me that you will never marry again, unless you meet with a
wife who is as beautiful as I am, and who has golden hair like mine.'
Then when the king in his grief promised all she asked, she shut her
eyes and died. But the king was not to be comforted, and for a long
time never thought of taking another wife. At last, however, his wise
men said, 'this will not do; the king must marry again, that we may
have a queen.' So messengers were sent far and wide, to seek for a
bride as beautiful as the late queen. But there was no princess in the
world so beautiful; and if there had been, still there was not one to
be found who had golden hair. So the messengers came home, and had had
all their trouble for nothing.

Now the king had a daughter, who was just as beautiful as her mother,
and had the same golden hair. And when she was grown up, the king
looked at her and saw that she was just like this late queen: then he
said to his courtiers, 'May I not marry my daughter? She is the very
image of my dead wife: unless I have her, I shall not find any bride
upon the whole earth, and you say there must be a queen.' When the
courtiers heard this they were shocked, and said, 'Heaven forbid that
a father should marry his daughter! Out of so great a sin no good can
come.' And his daughter was also shocked, but hoped the king would
soon give up such thoughts; so she said to him, 'Before I marry anyone
I must have three dresses: one must be of gold, like the sun; another
must be of shining silver, like the moon; and a third must be dazzling
as the stars: besides this, I want a mantle of a thousand different
kinds of fur put together, to which every beast in the kingdom must
give a part of his skin.' And thus she though he would think of the
matter no more. But the king made the most skilful workmen in his
kingdom weave the three dresses: one golden, like the sun; another
silvery, like the moon; and a third sparkling, like the stars: and his
hunters were told to hunt out all the beasts in his kingdom, and to
take the finest fur out of their skins: and thus a mantle of a
thousand furs was made.

When all were ready, the king sent them to her; but she got up in the
night when all were asleep, and took three of her trinkets, a golden
ring, a golden necklace, and a golden brooch, and packed the three
dresses--of the sun, the moon, and the stars--up in a nutshell, and
wrapped herself up in the mantle made of all sorts of fur, and
besmeared her face and hands with soot. Then she threw herself upon
Heaven for help in her need, and went away, and journeyed on the whole
night, till at last she came to a large wood. As she was very tired,
she sat herself down in the hollow of a tree and soon fell asleep: and
there she slept on till it was midday.

Now as the king to whom the wood belonged was hunting in it, his dogs
came to the tree, and began to snuff about, and run round and round,
and bark. 'Look sharp!' said the king to the huntsmen, 'and see what
sort of game lies there.' And the huntsmen went up to the tree, and
when they came back again said, 'In the hollow tree there lies a most
wonderful beast, such as we never saw before; its skin seems to be of
a thousand kinds of fur, but there it lies fast asleep.' 'See,' said
the king, 'if you can catch it alive, and we will take it with us.' So
the huntsmen took it up, and the maiden awoke and was greatly
frightened, and said, 'I am a poor child that has neither father nor
mother left; have pity on me and take me with you.' Then they said,
'Yes, Miss Cat-skin, you will do for the kitchen; you can sweep up the
ashes, and do things of that sort.' So they put her into the coach,
and took her home to the king's palace. Then they showed her a little
corner under the staircase, where no light of day ever peeped in, and
said, 'Cat-skin, you may lie and sleep there.' And she was sent into
the kitchen, and made to fetch wood and water, to blow the fire, pluck
the poultry, pick the herbs, sift the ashes, and do all the dirty
work.

Thus Cat-skin lived for a long time very sorrowfully. 'Ah! pretty
princess!' thought she, 'what will now become of thee?' But it
happened one day that a feast was to be held in the king's castle, so
she said to the cook, 'May I go up a little while and see what is
going on? I will take care and stand behind the door.' And the cook
said, 'Yes, you may go, but be back again in half an hour's time, to
rake out the ashes.' Then she took her little lamp, and went into her
cabin, and took off the fur skin, and washed the soot from off her
face and hands, so that her beauty shone forth like the sun from
behind the clouds. She next opened her nutshell, and brought out of it
the dress that shone like the sun, and so went to the feast. Everyone
made way for her, for nobody knew her, and they thought she could be
no less than a king's daughter. But the king came up to her, and held
out his hand and danced with her; and he thought in his heart, 'I
never saw any one half so beautiful.'

When the dance was at an end she curtsied; and when the king looked
round for her, she was gone, no one knew wither. The guards that stood
at the castle gate were called in: but they had seen no one. The truth
was, that she had run into her little cabin, pulled off her dress,
blackened her face and hands, put on the fur-skin cloak, and was Cat-
skin again. When she went into the kitchen to her work, and began to
rake the ashes, the cook said, 'Let that alone till the morning, and
heat the king's soup; I should like to run up now and give a peep: but
take care you don't let a hair fall into it, or you will run a chance
of never eating again.'

As soon as the cook went away, Cat-skin heated the king's soup, and
toasted a slice of bread first, as nicely as ever she could; and when
it was ready, she went and looked in the cabin for her little golden
ring, and put it into the dish in which the soup was. When the dance
was over, the king ordered his soup to be brought in; and it pleased
him so well, that he thought he had never tasted any so good before.
At the bottom he saw a gold ring lying; and as he could not make out
how it had got there, he ordered the cook to be sent for. The cook was
frightened when he heard the order, and said to Cat-skin, 'You must
have let a hair fall into the soup; if it be so, you will have a good
beating.' Then he went before the king, and he asked him who had
cooked the soup. 'I did,' answered the cook. But the king said, 'That
is not true; it was better done than you could do it.' Then he
answered, 'To tell the truth I did not cook it, but Cat-skin did.'
'Then let Cat-skin come up,' said the king: and when she came he said
to her, 'Who are you?' 'I am a poor child,' said she, 'that has lost
both father and mother.' 'How came you in my palace?' asked he. 'I am
good for nothing,' said she, 'but to be scullion-girl, and to have
boots and shoes thrown at my head.' 'But how did you get the ring that
was in the soup?' asked the king. Then she would not own that she knew
anything about the ring; so the king sent her away again about her
business.

After a time there was another feast, and Cat-skin asked the cook to
let her go up and see it as before. 'Yes,' said he, 'but come again in
half an hour, and cook the king the soup that he likes so much.' Then
she ran to her little cabin, washed herself quickly, and took her
dress out which was silvery as the moon, and put it on; and when she
went in, looking like a king's daughter, the king went up to her, and
rejoiced at seeing her again, and when the dance began he danced with
her. After the dance was at an end she managed to slip out, so slyly
that the king did not see where she was gone; but she sprang into her
little cabin, and made herself into Cat-skin again, and went into the
kitchen to cook the soup. Whilst the cook was above stairs, she got
the golden necklace and dropped it into the soup; then it was brought
to the king, who ate it, and it pleased him as well as before; so he
sent for the cook, who was again forced to tell him that Cat-skin had
cooked it. Cat-skin was brought again before the king, but she still
told him that she was only fit to have boots and shoes thrown at her
head.

But when the king had ordered a feast to be got ready for the third
time, it happened just the same as before. 'You must be a witch, Cat-
skin,' said the cook; 'for you always put something into your soup, so
that it pleases the king better than mine.' However, he let her go up
as before. Then she put on her dress which sparkled like the stars,
and went into the ball-room in it; and the king danced with her again,
and thought she had never looked so beautiful as she did then. So
whilst he was dancing with her, he put a gold ring on her finger
without her seeing it, and ordered that the dance should be kept up a
long time. When it was at an end, he would have held her fast by the
hand, but she slipped away, and sprang so quickly through the crowd
that he lost sight of her: and she ran as fast as she could into her
little cabin under the stairs. But this time she kept away too long,
and stayed beyond the half-hour; so she had not time to take off her
fine dress, and threw her fur mantle over it, and in her haste did not
blacken herself all over with soot, but left one of her fingers white.

Then she ran into the kitchen, and cooked the king's soup; and as soon
as the cook was gone, she put the golden brooch into the dish. When
the king got to the bottom, he ordered Cat-skin to be called once
more, and soon saw the white finger, and the ring that he had put on
it whilst they were dancing: so he seized her hand, and kept fast hold
of it, and when she wanted to loose herself and spring away, the fur
cloak fell off a little on one side, and the starry dress sparkled
underneath it.

Then he got hold of the fur and tore it off, and her golden hair and
beautiful form were seen, and she could no longer hide herself: so she
washed the soot and ashes from her face, and showed herself to be the
most beautiful princess upon the face of the earth. But the king said,
'You are my beloved bride, and we will never more be parted from each
other.' And the wedding feast was held, and a merry day it was, as
ever was heard of or seen in that country, or indeed in any other.


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From "Grimm's Fairy Tales" by Jakob Grimm (1785 -1863) and Wilhelm
Grimm (1786-1859) -- translated from "Kinder und Hausmarchen"
("Nursery and Household Tales") by Edgar Taylor and Marian Edwardes.
 

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