A king had an extremely lovely daughter. Since his queen had died,
he wanted to marry the daughter, but she did not wish it, and wept.
One day she stood and looked out over the courtyard. An old beggar-woman
came limping in on a cane and asked for gifts, but no one would
give her anything. The princess pitied her, and went down into the
yard and gave her rich presents. Then the old one told her that
if she asked her father for a dress of silver, it would be of help
to her someday in her hour of need. And so the princess went up
to her father, and asked, and got a lovely silver dress.
Some time later, she once again stood by the window and looked
out over the courtyard. Again the old beggar-crone came limping
on her cane, and asked for gifts, but did not get any. Then the
princess went down to her, and gave her a fine gift. The old one
was very grateful for it, and told her that if she asked her father
for a dress of gold, it would be of help to her someday when she
was in need. And so the princess went upstairs to her father and
asked him, and got a truly beautiful golden dress.
It happened some days later that the princess once again stood
at the window and looked out into the courtyard. The old one came
limping in again, and asked for gifts, but got only mockery in reply.
So the princess went down to her and gave her a great gift. Then
the old one bestowed upon her a lovely feather-coat, of the whitest
swan's down, and a little magic stick, and said to her, that when
she beat the air with the stick, put on the feather coat, and said:
"Light ahead! Dark behind!" that she could fly wherever
she wished, and no one would be able to see where she flew. The
princess thanked her for the priceless gift, and the old one limped
away on her crutches.
But now the king pressed forward with his plans for the wedding.
On the same day that it was to take place, the princess went down
into the garden, put on an old servant's dress, and held both of
the lovely new dresses in a bundle under her arm. Then she cast
the feather coat about her, beat the air with the stick, and said:
"Light ahead! Dark behind!" She was gently wafted high
into the sky, and she flew over mountains and valleys and silver
blue waves, until at last she stood in a foreign kingdom. There
she went into the castle, and asked if she might serve as a simple
kitchenmaid, and as they took her for a poor, wretched, abandoned
child, she was accepted as such. She had to wear a lowly servant's
dress every day, and do the rough work with the other maids in the
scullery. But she carefully hid the two lovely dresses.
One day the king demanded water with which to wash himself. The
princess asked permission to take it up to him, and everyone mocked
the wretched serving girl and her request. But she asked again and
again, until she got permission. Then she took the water basin in
her hands, and went up with it to the king. But when he saw the
poor serving maid, he became so angry, that he threw the basin after
her. Sometime after that, the king demanded a towel. The girl asked
again until she got permission to take it to him; but as soon as
he saw the lowly maid, he chased her right out of the room. It went
the same way a third time when the king wanted a comb, which she
brought to him.
Now it was a Sunday, when the king and the whole court went to
church. As soon as the king was gone, the princess asked to be allowed
to prepare the food that day. The cook had a good laugh over the
little maid's wish, but since he was glad to be able to go to church,
and she asked him so earnestly, he granted her request and left.
When he was gone, she put on her silver dress, cast the feather-coat
about her, and as soon as she had said "Light ahead! Dark behind!"
she flew to the church. There everyone wondered greatly at her beauty
and her handsome gown, and said that they had never seen such loveliness
before; but it was the king who least of all could understand where
she could have come from.
When she had been there an hour, she put her swan-coat on and flew
back to the castle, and prepared the food so well that the cook
was astonished at the delicious dishes when he came home. There
was a great deal said about the lovely princess who had been in
church, and whose identity nobody knew.
On the next Sunday, the king again went to church. As soon as he
was gone, she again asked the cook if she might prepare the king's
food that day, and since he was so well satisfied with her last
try, he gladly gave his consent, and with that he also left for
church. She took the mask off of her face, clothed herself in her
golden gown, and flew in her swan-coat directly to church. There
everyone wondered even more at her beautiful countenance and rich
dress, and said that the former one was nothing compared with such
glory. But the king wondered most of all, and pondered deeply who
she might be, and so he decided that he would not let her out of
When the princess had been in church for two hours, she left in
order to fly home. But as soon as the king saw that she stood up
to go, he followed her. She had just put on her swan coat, when
she saw the king, but in her haste to get away as fast as she could,
she lost one shoe. She said quickly: "Light ahead! Dark behind!"
and flew away, so that he could not see what became of her, and
he was very sad about this.
As soon as he had come home, he sent word throughout the whole
land, that he would marry the maiden whom the shoe fit. Many lovely
maidens and princesses came forward, but when they were all gathered,
and had all tried on the shoe, he saw that it fir none of them,
They pinched their foot, and they squeezed their toe,
And yet on none would that shoe go.
Now there was no one left at all except the little kitchen maid.
But when, to mock her, they
let her come upstairs to try on the shoe, it sat so neatly and closely
on her foot, that everyone saw that it had been sewn for her. They
were all greatly astonished over that, but when she had cast off
her servant's dress, and stood there in the lovely golden gown in
which they had seen her in church, they hardly knew, for sheer wonder,
what to say about it. Now the princess told the king everything,
and he married her, and lived for many years happily wedded to her.