The Pink Fairy Book, by Andrew Lang

Maiden Bright-eye

From the Danish

Once, upon a time there was a man and his wife who had two children, a boy and a girl. The wife died, and the man married again. His new wife had an only daughter, who was both ugly and untidy, whereas her stepdaughter was a beautiful girl, and was known as Maiden Bright-eye. Her stepmother was very cruel to her on this account; she had always to do the hardest work, and got very little to eat, and no attention paid to her; but to her own daughter she was all that was good. She was spared from all the hardest of the housework, and had always the prettiest clothes to wear.

Maiden Bright-eye had also to watch the sheep, but of course it would never do to let her go idle and enjoy herself too much at this work, so she had to pull heather while she was out on the moors with them. Her stepmother gave her pancakes to take with her for her dinner, but she had mixed the flour with ashes, and made them just as bad as she could.

The little girl came out on the moor and began to pull heather on the side of a little mound, but next minute a little fellow with a red cap on his head popped up out of the mound and said:

‘Who’s that pulling the roof off my house?’

‘Oh, it’s me, a poor little girl,’ said she; ‘my mother sent me out here, and told me to pull heather. If you will be good to me I will give you a bit of my dinner.’

The little fellow was quite willing, and she gave him the biggest share of her pancakes. They were not particularly good, but when one is hungry anything tastes well. After he had got them all eaten he said to her:

‘Now, I shall give you three wishes, for you are a very nice little girl; but I will choose the wishes for you. You are beautiful, and much more beautiful shall you be; yes, so lovely that there will not be your like in the world. The next wish shall be that every time you open your mouth a gold coin shall fall out of it, and your voice shall be like the most beautiful music. The third wish shall be that you may be married to the young king, and become the queen of the country. At the same time I shall give you a cap, which you must carefully keep, for it can save you, if you ever are in danger of your life, if you just put it on your head.

Maiden Bright-eye thanked the little bergman ever so often, and drove home her sheep in the evening. By that time she had grown so beautiful that her people could scarcely recognise her. Her stepmother asked her how it had come about that she had grown so beautiful. She told the whole story — for she always told the truth — that a little man had come to her out on the moor and had given her all this beauty. She did not tell, however, that she had given him a share of her dinner.

The stepmother thought to herself, ‘If one can become so beautiful by going out there, my own daughter shall also be sent, for she can well stand being made a little prettier.’

Next morning she baked for her the finest cakes, and dressed her prettily to go out with the sheep. But she was afraid to go away there without having a stick to defend herself with if anything should come near her.

She was not very much inclined for pulling the heather, as she never was in the habit of doing any work, but she was only a minute or so at it when up came the same little fellow with the red cap, and said:

‘Who’s that pulling the roof off my house?’

‘What’s that to you?’ said she.

‘Well, if you will give me a bit of your dinner I won’t do you any mischief,’ said he.

‘I will give you something else in place of my dinner,’ said she. ‘I can easily eat it myself; but if you will have something you can have a whack of my stick,’ and with that she raised it in the air and struck the bergman over the head with it.

‘What a wicked little girl you are!’ said he; ‘but you shall be none the better of this. I shall give you three wishes, and choose them for you. First, I shall say, “Ugly are you, but you shall become so ugly that there will not be an uglier one on earth.” Next I shall wish that every time you open your mouth a big toad may fall out of it, and your voice shall be like the roaring of a bull. In the third place I shall wish for you a violent death.’

The girl went home in the evening, and when her mother saw her she was as vexed as she could be, and with good reason, too; but it was still worse when she saw the toads fall out of her mouth and heard her voice.

Now we must hear something about the stepson. He had gone out into the world to look about him, and took service in the king’s palace. About this time he got permission to go home and see his sister, and when he saw how lovely and beautiful she was, he was so pleased and delighted that when he came back to the king’s palace everyone there wanted to know what he was always so happy about. He told them that it was because he had such a lovely sister at home.

At last it came to the ears of the king what the brother said about his sister, and, besides that, the report of her beauty spread far and wide, so that the youth was summoned before the king, who asked him if everything was true that was told about the girl. He said it was quite true, for he had seen her beauty with his own eyes, and had heard with his own ears how sweetly she could sing and what a lovely voice she had.

The king then took a great desire for her, and ordered her brother to go home and bring her back with him, for he trusted no one better to accomplish that errand. He got a ship, and everything else that he required, and sailed home for his sister. As soon as the stepmother heard what his errand was she at once said to herself, ‘This will never come about if I can do anything to hinder it. She must not be allowed to come to such honour.’

She then got a dress made for her own daughter, like the finest robe for a queen, and she had a mask prepared and put upon her face, so that she looked quite pretty, and gave her strict orders not to take it off until the king had promised to wed her.

The brother now set sail with his two sisters, for the stepmother pretended that the ugly one wanted to see the other a bit on her way. But when they got out to sea, and Maiden Bright-eye came up on deck, the sister did as her mother had instructed her — she gave her a push and made her fall into the water. When the brother learned what had happened he was greatly distressed, and did not know what to do. He could not bring himself to tell the truth about what had happened, nor did he expect that the king would believe it. In the long run he decided to hold on his way, and let things go as they liked. What he had expected happened — the king received his sister and wedded her at once, but repented it after the first night, as he could scarcely put down his foot in the morning for all the toads that were about the room, and when he saw her real face he was so enraged against the brother that he had him thrown into a pit full of serpents. He was so angry, not merely because he had been deceived, but because he could not get rid of the ugly wretch that was now tied to him for life.

Now we shall hear a little about Maiden Bright-eye When she fell into the water she was fortunate enough to get the bergman’s cap put on her head, for now she was in danger of her life, and she was at once transformed into a duck. The duck swam away after the ship, and came to the king’s palace on the next evening. There it waddled up the drain, and so into the kitchen, where her little dog lay on the hearth-stone; it could not bear to stay in the fine chambers along with the ugly sister, and had taken refuge down here. The duck hopped up till it could talk to the dog.

‘Good evening,’ it said.

‘Thanks, Maiden Bright-eye,’ said the dog.

‘Where is my brother?’

‘He is in the serpent-pit.’

‘Where is my wicked sister?’

‘She is with the noble king.’

‘Alas! alas! I am here this evening, and shall be for two evenings yet, and then I shall never come again.’

When it had said this the duck waddled off again. Several of the servant girls heard the conversation, and were greatly surprised at it, and thought that it would be worth while to catch the bird next evening and see into the matter a little more closely. They had heard it say that it would come again.

Next evening it appeared as it had said, and a great many were present to see it. It came waddling in by the drain, and went up to the dog, which was lying on the hearth-stone.

‘Good evening,’ it said.

‘Thanks, Maiden Bright-eye,’ said the dog.

‘Where is my brother?’

‘He is in the serpent-pit.’

‘Where is my wicked sister?’

‘She is with the noble king.’

‘Alas! alas! I am here this evening, and shall be for one evening yet, and then I shall never come again.’

After this it slipped out, and no one could get hold of it. But the king’s cook thought to himself, ‘I shall see if I can’t get hold of you to-morrow evening.’

On the third evening the duck again came waddling in by the drain, and up to the dog on the hearth-stone.

‘Good evening,’ it said.

‘Thanks, Maiden Bright-eye,’ said the dog.

‘Where is my brother?’

‘He is in the serpent-pit.’

‘Where is my wicked sister?’

‘She is with the noble king.’

‘Alas! alas! now I shall never come again.’

With this it slipped out again, but in the meantime the cook had posted himself at the outer end of the drain with a net, which he threw over it as it came out. In this way he caught it, and came in to the others with the most beautiful duck they had ever seen — with so many golden feathers on it that everyone marvelled. No one, however, knew what was to be done with it; but after what they had heard they knew that there was something uncommon about it, so they took good care of it.

At this time the brother in the serpent-pit dreamed that his right sister had come swimming to the king’s palace in the shape of a duck, and that she could not regain her own form until her beak was cut off. He got this dream told to some one, so that the king at last came to hear of it, and had him taken up out of the pit and brought before him. The king then asked him if he could produce to him his sister as beautiful as he had formerly described her. The brother said he could if they would bring him the duck and a knife.

Both of them were brought to him, and he said, ‘I wonder how you would look if I were to cut the point off your beak.’

With this he cut a piece off the beak, and there came a voice which said, ‘Oh, oh, you cut my little finger!’

Next moment Maiden Bright-eye stood there, as lovely and beautiful as he had seen her when he was home. This was his sister now, he said; and the whole story now came out of how the other had behaved to her. The wicked sister was put into a barrel with spikes round it which was dragged off by six wild horses, and so she came to her end.:But the king was delighted with Maiden Bright-eye, and immediately made her his queen, while her brother became his prime minister.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/l/lang/andrew/l26pf/chapter34.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 22:03