The Three Spinners

Sacred Texts  Household Tales Index  Previous: The Three Little Men In The Wood  Next: Hansel And Grethel 

 The Three Spinners
      There was once a girl who was idle and would not spin, and let her mother
 say what she would, she could not bring her to it. At last the mother was once
 so overcome with anger and impatience, that she beat her, on which the girl
 began to weep loudly. Now at this very moment the Queen drove by, and when she
 heard the weeping she stopped her carriage, went into the house and asked the
 mother why she was beating her daughter so that the cries could be heard out
 on the road? Then the woman was ashamed to reveal the laziness of her daughter
 and said, "I cannot get her to leave off spinning. She insists on spinning for
 ever and ever, and I am poor, and cannot procure the flax." Then answered the
 Queen, "There is nothing that I like better to hear than spinning, and I am
 never happier than when the wheels are humming. Let me have your daughter with
 me in the palace, I have flax enough, and there she shall spin as much as she
 likes." The mother was heartily satisfied with this, and the Queen took the
 girl with her. When they had arrived at the palace, she led her up into three
 rooms which were filled from the bottom to the top with the finest flax. "Now
 spin me this flax," said she, "and when thou has done it, thou shalt have my
 eldest son for a husband, even if thou art poor. I care not for that, thy
 indefatigable industry is dowry enough." The girl was secretly terrified, for
 she could not have spun the flax, no, not if she had lived till she was three
 hundred years old, and had sat at it every day from morning till night. When
 therefore she was alone, she began to weep, and sat thus for three days
 without moving a finger. On the third day came the Queen, and when she saw
 that nothing had been spun yet, she was surprised; but the girl excused
 herself by saying that she had not been able to begin because of her great
 distress at leaving her mother's house. The Queen was satisfied with this, but
 said when she was going away, "To-morrow thou must begin to work."
      When the girl was alone again, she did not know what to do, and in her
 distress went to the window. Then she saw three women coming towards her, the
 first of whom had a broad flat foot, the second had such a great underlip that
 it hung down over her chin, and the third had a broad thumb. They remained
 standing before the window, looked up, and asked the girl what was amiss with
 her? She complained of her trouble, and then they offered her their help and
 said, "If thou wilt invite us to the wedding, not be ashamed of us, and wilt
 call us thine aunts, and likewise wilt place us at thy table, we will spin up
 the flax for thee, and that in a very short time." "With all my heart," she
 replied, "do but come in and begin the work at once." Then she let in the
 three strange women, and cleared a place in the first room, where they seated
 themselves and began their spinning. The one drew the thread and trod the
 wheel, the other wetted the thread, the third twisted it, and struck the table
 with her finger, and as often as she struck it, a skein of thread fell to the
 ground that was spun in the finest manner possible. The girl concealed the
 three spinners from the Queen, and showed her whenever she came the great
 quantity of spun thread, until the latter could not praise her enough. When
 the first room was empty she went to the second, and at last to the third, and
 that too was quickly cleared. Then the three women took leave and said to the
 girl, "Do not forget what thou has promised us, - it will make thy fortune."
      When the maiden showed the Queen the empty rooms, and the great heap of
 yarn, she gave orders for the wedding, and the bridegroom[1] rejoiced that he
 was to have such a clever and industrious wife, and praised her mightily. "I
 have three aunts," said the girl, "and as they have been very kind to me, I
 should not like to forget them in my good fortune; allow me to invite them to
 the wedding, and let them sit with us at table." The Queen and the bridegroom
 said, "Why should we not allow that?" Therefore when the feast began, the
 three women entered in strange apparel, and the bride said, "Welcome, dear
 aunts." "Ah," said the bridegroom, "how comest thou by these odious friends?"
 Thereupon he went to the one with the broad flat foot and said, "How do you
 come by such a broad foot?" "By treading," she answered, "by treading." Then
 the bridegroom went to the second, and said, "How do you come by your falling
 lip?" "By licking," she answered, "by licking." Then he asked the third, "How
 do you come by your broad thumb?" "By twisting the thread," she answered, "by
 twisting the thread. On this the King's son was alarmed and said, "Neither now
 nor ever shall my beautiful bride touch a spinning-wheel." And thus she got
 rid of the hateful flax-spinning.
 [1: Brautigam, betrothed. The old English brydguma had the same
 signification, and was only applied to a betrothed man, just as bryd, bride,
 was only applied to a betrothed woman. - Tr.]