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The Brothers Grimm
Snowdrop
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SNOWDROP

It was the middle of winter, when the broad flakes of snow were
falling around, that the queen of a country many thousand miles off
sat working at her window. The frame of the window was made of fine
black ebony, and as she sat looking out upon the snow, she pricked her
finger, and three drops of blood fell upon it. Then she gazed
thoughtfully upon the red drops that sprinkled the white snow, and
said, 'Would that my little daughter may be as white as that snow, as
red as that blood, and as black as this ebony windowframe!' And so the
little girl really did grow up; her skin was as white as snow, her
cheeks as rosy as the blood, and her hair as black as ebony; and she
was called Snowdrop.

But this queen died; and the king soon married another wife, who
became queen, and was very beautiful, but so vain that she could not
bear to think that anyone could be handsomer than she was. She had a
fairy looking-glass, to which she used to go, and then she would gaze
upon herself in it, and say:

'Tell me, glass, tell me true!
Of all the ladies in the land,
Who is fairest, tell me, who?'

And the glass had always answered:

'Thou, queen, art the fairest in all the land.'

But Snowdrop grew more and more beautiful; and when she was seven
years old she was as bright as the day, and fairer than the queen
herself. Then the glass one day answered the queen, when she went to
look in it as usual:

'Thou, queen, art fair, and beauteous to see,
But Snowdrop is lovelier far than thee!'

When she heard this she turned pale with rage and envy, and called to
one of her servants, and said, 'Take Snowdrop away into the wide wood,
that I may never see her any more.' Then the servant led her away; but
his heart melted when Snowdrop begged him to spare her life, and he
said, 'I will not hurt you, thou pretty child.' So he left her by
herself; and though he thought it most likely that the wild beasts
would tear her in pieces, he felt as if a great weight were taken off
his heart when he had made up his mind not to kill her but to leave
her to her fate, with the chance of someone finding and saving her.

Then poor Snowdrop wandered along through the wood in great fear; and
the wild beasts roared about her, but none did her any harm. In the
evening she came to a cottage among the hills, and went in to rest,
for her little feet would carry her no further. Everything was spruce
and neat in the cottage: on the table was spread a white cloth, and
there were seven little plates, seven little loaves, and seven little
glasses with wine in them; and seven knives and forks laid in order;
and by the wall stood seven little beds. As she was very hungry, she
picked a little piece of each loaf and drank a very little wine out of
each glass; and after that she thought she would lie down and rest. So
she tried all the little beds; but one was too long, and another was
too short, till at last the seventh suited her: and there she laid
herself down and went to sleep.

By and by in came the masters of the cottage. Now they were seven
little dwarfs, that lived among the mountains, and dug and searched
for gold. They lighted up their seven lamps, and saw at once that all
was not right. The first said, 'Who has been sitting on my stool?' The
second, 'Who has been eating off my plate?' The third, 'Who has been
picking my bread?' The fourth, 'Who has been meddling with my spoon?'
The fifth, 'Who has been handling my fork?' The sixth, 'Who has been
cutting with my knife?' The seventh, 'Who has been drinking my wine?'
Then the first looked round and said, 'Who has been lying on my bed?'
And the rest came running to him, and everyone cried out that somebody
had been upon his bed. But the seventh saw Snowdrop, and called all
his brethren to come and see her; and they cried out with wonder and
astonishment and brought their lamps to look at her, and said, 'Good
heavens! what a lovely child she is!' And they were very glad to see
her, and took care not to wake her; and the seventh dwarf slept an
hour with each of the other dwarfs in turn, till the night was gone.

In the morning Snowdrop told them all her story; and they pitied her,
and said if she would keep all things in order, and cook and wash and
knit and spin for them, she might stay where she was, and they would
take good care of her. Then they went out all day long to their work,
seeking for gold and silver in the mountains: but Snowdrop was left at
home; and they warned her, and said, 'The queen will soon find out
where you are, so take care and let no one in.'

But the queen, now that she thought Snowdrop was dead, believed that
she must be the handsomest lady in the land; and she went to her glass
and said:

'Tell me, glass, tell me true!
Of all the ladies in the land,
Who is fairest, tell me, who?'

And the glass answered:

'Thou, queen, art the fairest in all this land:
But over the hills, in the greenwood shade,
Where the seven dwarfs their dwelling have made,
There Snowdrop is hiding her head; and she
Is lovelier far, O queen! than thee.'

Then the queen was very much frightened; for she knew that the glass
always spoke the truth, and was sure that the servant had betrayed
her. And she could not bear to think that anyone lived who was more
beautiful than she was; so she dressed herself up as an old pedlar,
and went her way over the hills, to the place where the dwarfs dwelt.
Then she knocked at the door, and cried, 'Fine wares to sell!'
Snowdrop looked out at the window, and said, 'Good day, good woman!
what have you to sell?' 'Good wares, fine wares,' said she; 'laces and
bobbins of all colours.' 'I will let the old lady in; she seems to be
a very good sort of body,' thought Snowdrop, as she ran down and
unbolted the door. 'Bless me!' said the old woman, 'how badly your
stays are laced! Let me lace them up with one of my nice new laces.'
Snowdrop did not dream of any mischief; so she stood before the old
woman; but she set to work so nimbly, and pulled the lace so tight,
that Snowdrop's breath was stopped, and she fell down as if she were
dead. 'There's an end to all thy beauty,' said the spiteful queen,
and went away home.

In the evening the seven dwarfs came home; and I need not say how
grieved they were to see their faithful Snowdrop stretched out upon
the ground, as if she was quite dead. However, they lifted her up, and
when they found what ailed her, they cut the lace; and in a little
time she began to breathe, and very soon came to life again. Then they
said, 'The old woman was the queen herself; take care another time,
and let no one in when we are away.'

When the queen got home, she went straight to her glass, and spoke to
it as before; but to her great grief it still said:

'Thou, queen, art the fairest in all this land:
But over the hills, in the greenwood shade,
Where the seven dwarfs their dwelling have made,
There Snowdrop is hiding her head; and she
Is lovelier far, O queen! than thee.'

Then the blood ran cold in her heart with spite and malice, to see
that Snowdrop still lived; and she dressed herself up again, but in
quite another dress from the one she wore before, and took with her a
poisoned comb. When she reached the dwarfs' cottage, she knocked at
the door, and cried, 'Fine wares to sell!' But Snowdrop said, 'I dare
not let anyone in.' Then the queen said, 'Only look at my beautiful
combs!' and gave her the poisoned one. And it looked so pretty, that
she took it up and put it into her hair to try it; but the moment it
touched her head, the poison was so powerful that she fell down
senseless. 'There you may lie,' said the queen, and went her way. But
by good luck the dwarfs came in very early that evening; and when they
saw Snowdrop lying on the ground, they thought what had happened, and
soon found the poisoned comb. And when they took it away she got well,
and told them all that had passed; and they warned her once more not
to open the door to anyone.

Meantime the queen went home to her glass, and shook with rage when
she read the very same answer as before; and she said, 'Snowdrop shall
die, if it cost me my life.' So she went by herself into her chamber,
and got ready a poisoned apple: the outside looked very rosy and
tempting, but whoever tasted it was sure to die. Then she dressed
herself up as a peasant's wife, and travelled over the hills to the
dwarfs' cottage, and knocked at the door; but Snowdrop put her head
out of the window and said, 'I dare not let anyone in, for the dwarfs
have told me not.' 'Do as you please,' said the old woman, 'but at any
rate take this pretty apple; I will give it you.' 'No,' said Snowdrop,
'I dare not take it.' 'You silly girl!' answered the other, 'what are
you afraid of? Do you think it is poisoned? Come! do you eat one part,
and I will eat the other.' Now the apple was so made up that one side
was good, though the other side was poisoned. Then Snowdrop was much
tempted to taste, for the apple looked so very nice; and when she saw
the old woman eat, she could wait no longer. But she had scarcely put
the piece into her mouth, when she fell down dead upon the ground.
'This time nothing will save thee,' said the queen; and she went home
to her glass, and at last it said:

'Thou, queen, art the fairest of all the fair.'

And then her wicked heart was glad, and as happy as such a heart could
be.

When evening came, and the dwarfs had gone home, they found Snowdrop
lying on the ground: no breath came from her lips, and they were
afraid that she was quite dead. They lifted her up, and combed her
hair, and washed her face with wine and water; but all was in vain,
for the little girl seemed quite dead. So they laid her down upon a
bier, and all seven watched and bewailed her three whole days; and
then they thought they would bury her: but her cheeks were still rosy;
and her face looked just as it did while she was alive; so they said,
'We will never bury her in the cold ground.' And they made a coffin of
glass, so that they might still look at her, and wrote upon it in
golden letters what her name was, and that she was a king's daughter.
And the coffin was set among the hills, and one of the dwarfs always
sat by it and watched. And the birds of the air came too, and bemoaned
Snowdrop; and first of all came an owl, and then a raven, and at last
a dove, and sat by her side.

And thus Snowdrop lay for a long, long time, and still only looked as
though she was asleep; for she was even now as white as snow, and as
red as blood, and as black as ebony. At last a prince came and called
at the dwarfs' house; and he saw Snowdrop, and read what was written
in golden letters. Then he offered the dwarfs money, and prayed and
besought them to let him take her away; but they said, 'We will not
part with her for all the gold in the world.' At last, however, they
had pity on him, and gave him the coffin; but the moment he lifted it
up to carry it home with him, the piece of apple fell from between her
lips, and Snowdrop awoke, and said, 'Where am I?' And the prince said,
'Thou art quite safe with me.'

Then he told her all that had happened, and said, 'I love you far
better than all the world; so come with me to my father's palace, and
you shall be my wife.' And Snowdrop consented, and went home with the
prince; and everything was got ready with great pomp and splendour for
their wedding.

To the feast was asked, among the rest, Snowdrop's old enemy the
queen; and as she was dressing herself in fine rich clothes, she
looked in the glass and said:

'Tell me, glass, tell me true!
Of all the ladies in the land,
Who is fairest, tell me, who?'

And the glass answered:

'Thou, lady, art loveliest here, I ween;
But lovelier far is the new-made queen.'

When she heard this she started with rage; but her envy and curiosity
were so great, that she could not help setting out to see the bride.
And when she got there, and saw that it was no other than Snowdrop,
who, as she thought, had been dead a long while, she choked with rage,
and fell down and died: but Snowdrop and the prince lived and reigned
happily over that land many, many years; and sometimes they went up
into the mountains, and paid a visit to the little dwarfs, who had
been so kind to Snowdrop in her time of need.


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

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