FAR, far from here, in a great forest, there once lived a poor couple. Heaven blessed them with a charming little daughter; but they were so poor they did not know how they were going to get her christened. So her father had to go forth to see whether he could not find a god-father to pay for the child's christening. All day long he went from one to another; but no one wanted to be the god-father. Toward evening, as he was going home, he met a very lovely lady, who wore the most splendid clothes, and seemed most kind and friendly, and she offered to see that the child was christened, if she might be allowed to keep it afterward. The man replied that first he must ask his wife. But when he reached home and asked her she gave him a flat "no." The following day the man set out again; but no one wanted to be the god-father if he had to pay for the christening himself, and no matter how hard the man begged, it was all of no avail. When he went home that evening, he again met the lovely lady, who looked so gentle, and she made him the same offer as before. The man again told his wife what had happened to him, and added that if he could not find a god-father for his child the following day, they would probably have to let the lady take her, since she seemed to be so kind and friendly. The man then went out for the third time, and found no god-father that day. And so, when he once more met the friendly lady in the evening, he promised to let her have the child, if she would see that it was baptized. The following morning the lady came to the man's hut, and with her two other men. She then took the child and went to church with it, and it was baptized. Then she took it with her, and the little girl remained with her for several years, and her foster-mother was always good and kind to her.
Now when the girl had grown old enough to make distinctions, and had acquired some sense, it chanced that her foster-mother once wished to take a journey. "You may go into any room you wish," she said to the girl, "only you are not to go into these three rooms," and then she set out on her journey. But the girl could not resist opening the door to the one room a little way--and swish! out flew a star. When her foster-mother came home, she was much grieved to find that the star had flown out, and was so annoyed with her foster-child that she threatened to send her away. But the girl pleaded and cried, until at last she was allowed to remain.
After a time the foster-mother wanted to take another journey, and she forbade the girl, above all, to go into the two rooms which, as yet, she had not entered. And the girl promised her that this time she would obey her. But when she had been alone for some time, and had had all sorts of thoughts as to what there might be in the second room, she could no longer resist opening the second door a little way--and swish! out flew the moon. When the foster-mother returned, and saw the moon had slipped out, she again grieved greatly, and told the girl she could keep her no longer, and that now she must go. But when the girl again began to cry bitterly, and pleaded with such grace that it was impossible to deny her, she was once more allowed to remain.
After this the foster-mother wished to take another journey, and she told the girl, who was now more than half-grown, that she must take her request not to go, or even so much as peep into the third room, seriously to heart. But when the foster-mother had been away for some time, and the girl was all alone and bored, she could at last resist no longer. "O," thought she, "how pleasant it would be to take a peep into that third room!" It is true, that at first she thought she would not do it, because of her foster-mother; yet when the thought returned to her, she could not hold back, after all; but decided that she should and must by all means take a peep. So she opened the door the least little bit--and swish! out flew the sun. When the foster-mother then returned, and saw that the sun had flown out, she grieved greatly, and told the girl that now she could positively stay with her no longer. The foster-daughter cried and pleaded even more touchingly than before; but all to no avail. "No, I must now punish you," said the foster-mother. "But you shall have your choice of either becoming the most beautiful of all maidens, without the power of speech, or the most homely, yet able to talk. But you must leave this place." The girl said: "Then I would rather be the most beautiful of maidens without the power of speech"--and such she became, but from that time on she was dumb.
Now when the girl had left her foster-mother, and had wandered for a time, she came to a large, large wood, and no matter how far she went she could not reach its end. When evening came, she climbed into a high tree that stood over a spring, and sat down in its branches to sleep. Not far from it stood a king's castle, and early the next morning a serving-maid came from it, to get water from the spring for the prince's tea. And when the serving-maid saw the lovely face in the spring, she thought it was her own. At once she threw down her pail and ran back home holding her head high, and saying: "If I am as beautiful as all that, I am too good to carry water in a pail!" Then another was sent to fetch water, but the same thing happened with her; she, too, came back and said she was far too handsome and too good to go to the spring and fetch water for the prince. Then the prince went himself, for he wanted to see what it all meant. And when he came to the spring, he also saw the picture, and at once looked up into the tree. And so he saw the lovely maiden who was seated among its branches. He coaxed her down, took her back home with him, and nothing would do but that she must be his bride, because she was so beautiful. But his mother, who was still living, objected: "She cannot speak," said she, "and, maybe, she belongs to the troll-folk." But the prince would not be satisfied until he had won her. When, after a time, heaven bestowed a child upon the queen, the prince set a strong guard about her. But suddenly they all fell asleep, and her foster-mother came, cut the child's little finger, rubbed some of the blood over the mouth and hands of the queen, and said: "Now you shall grieve just as I did when you let the star slip out!" And with that she disappeared with the child. When those whom the prince had set to keep guard opened their eyes again, they thought that the queen had devoured her child, and the old queen wanted to have her burned; but the prince loved her so very tenderly, that after much pleading he succeeded in having her saved from punishment, though only with the greatest difficulty.
When heaven gave her a second child, a guard of twice as many men as had first stood watch was again set about her; yet everything happened as before, only that this time the foster-mother said to her: "Now you shall grieve as I did when you let the moon slip out!" The queen wept and pleaded--for when the foster-mother was there she could speak--but without avail. Now the old queen insisted that she be burned. But the prince once more succeeded in begging her free. When heaven gave her a third child, a three-fold guard was set about her. The foster-mother came while the guard slept, took the child, cut its little finger, and rubbed some of the blood on the queen's mouth. "Now," said she, "you shall grieve just as I did when you let the sun slip out!" And now the prince could in no way save her, she was to be and should be burned. But at the very moment when they were leading her to the stake, the foster-mother appeared with all three children; the two older ones she led by the hand, the youngest she carried on her arm. She stepped up to the young queen and said: "Here are your children, for now I give them back to you. I am the Virgin Mary, and the grief that you have felt is the same grief that I felt aforetimes, when you had let the star, the moon and the sun slip out. Now you have been punished for that which you did, and from now on the power of speech is restored to you!"
The happiness which then filled the prince and princess may be imagined, but cannot be described. They lived happily together ever after, and from that time forward even the prince's mother was very fond of the young queen.