Happy Tuesday!! It’s been a rough week, so this is barely in time, but at least I made it!
Today’s tale is again from the Brother’s Grimm: Little Brother and Little Sister. Here is my interpretation:
Once upon a time there was a little brother and a little sister. The brother took his sister’s hand and said to her, “Since our mother died things have been terrible. Our stepmother beats us every day and we eat nothing but hard bread crusts! The dog is treated better than we! Our poor mother would be heartbroken if she knew. Come, let us go and find a better situation.”
So, the brother and sister walked away, over meadows and fields and stones. It began to rain and they still went on. At last, as evening was gathering, they came to a huge forest. So tired, sad, and hungry, they found a hollow tree to spend the night and fell asleep right away.
The sun was hot and shone down into the tree by the time the siblings woke. The brother confessed, “I am so thirsty. Let us find a brook – I think I hear one nearby.” The brother took his sister by the hand and led her deeper into the forest in search of water.
Little did they know, but their wicked stepmother was in fact a witch, and she had seen them run away. The witch had followed them in secret, and now she bewitched all the brooks in the forest.
When the siblings came upon a little brook running clear and merry, the brother stooped to drink but the sister stopped him. She heard the brook repeat “Whoever drinks of me will become a tiger.”
“Do not drink, my dear brother, for if you do, you will become a wild beast and tear me to pieces!” Her brother did not drink but led on through the forest. His thirst increasing, they found another brook. This one also whispered to the sister.
“Whoever drinks of me will become a wolf,” the brook repeated.
The sister cried, “Do not drink, my dear brother, for if you do, you will become a wolf and eat me up!” The broker did not drink, but his thirst was great.
“I will wait, but I must take a drink at the next brook, for I am far too thirsty to continue past it,” said the brother.
They continued walking and found another brook. This one whispered, “Whoever drinks of me will become a fawn.” The sister tried to warn him, but the brother’s thirst was too great and he knelt and took a sip of the clear water. As soon as his lips touched the liquid, he was transformed into a young deer.
The sister wept over her brother, and the deer wept also. “I will never leave you,” said the sister to her fawn. She fastened her golden garter around the fawn’s neck, and wove a rope from the reeds to fasten it. Then she led the fawn deeper into the woods.
At length they came upon an empty cottage in a clearing. The sister decided to make it their home. She brought leaves and moss to make a bed for the fawn. In the morning, she gathered roots, nuts, and berries for herself, and grass for the fawn. The fawn was content to eat out of her hand, and frolic about. In the evening, the sister laid her head upon the fawn’s back as her pillow.
They lived like this for quite some time and if only her brother was human they would have been quite happy.
One day, the King of the country held a large hunt in the forest. The hunting party made much noise, with horns bugling and dogs barking and merry shouts ringing through the trees. The fawn heard it all, and was anxious to be there. “Please let me go,” he said to his sister, “I cannot bear to stay here.” He begged and begged and at last the sister agreed.
“You must come back in the evening,” she said, “and you must knock on the door and say, ‘My little sister, let me in!’ I will lock the door while you are gone, for I am wary of the rough huntsmen, and if you do not say these words I will not open it again.” At this, she opened the door and the fawn bounded away.
The King and his huntsmen saw the fawn, and tried to pursue but they could not catch him. In the evening, the fawn ran back to the cottage, knocked, and said, “My little sister, let me in!” The sister opened the door and they went to bed, the sister sleeping with the fawn’s flank as her pillow.
In the morning, the fawn again heard the horns and was anxious to go out. He again begged, and the sister repeated her deal from before. “Don’t forget, you must come back this evening and say your password,” she said. The deer then sprang away.
Again, the King and his huntsman saw the young fawn with the golden collar and they chased him. He was again too quick and they could not catch him. By evening, the huntsmen had surrounded him, and managed to wound him a little in the foot, but the got away. A hunter stealthily crept after the fawn, and saw him come to the cottage. He heard the fawn say, “My little sister, let me in,” and saw the door open to admit the deer. The hunter then returned to the King and told him all that he’d observed.
The sister was frightened and distraught by her brother’s wound even though it was slight. She bathed him and dressed the wound. By the morning, the fawn felt much better, as if he was not even hurt, and again begged to go out. “I must go out,” he said, “I cannot bear to stay here!”
“What if they catch you? What if they kill you? I am alone here in the forest! I won’t let you out,” cried the sister.
“I will die of grief instead!” the fawn exclaimed, “for when I hear the horns call, I cannot help myself. I must go!” He begged again, and the sister, with a breaking heart, at last opened the door for him.
Upon seeing the deer with the golden collar, the King told his men to chase the deer all day but not to harm it. As the sun set, the King had his hunter lead him to the cottage in the woods. Before the fawn could return, the King went to the door and knocked. He called, “My little sister, let me in!” The door was opened, and the King walked inside.
The sister, who was a maiden more beautiful than the King had ever seen, was frightened and surprised to find a man come in and not her little fawn. The king looked at her kindly and fondly. He took her hand gently and said, “My dear, would you go with me to my castle and be my wife?”
“Yes,” replied the sister, “but my little fawn must come as well. I will not leave him.”
“If it pleases you,” said the King, “that fawn will stay with you as long as you live, and want for nothing.” At this moment, the fawn came running in and the sister tied him with her cord. Together they went with the King back to his palace.
There was a lovely wedding, and the sister, now the Queen, lived happily with her King. The fawn was also well looked-after and lived in the palace gardens.
The wicked stepmother, who had long ago cursed the brother, heard word of the children. She had long assumed that the sister had been eaten by the beats in the wood, and the brother had been shot by the huntsman. The stepmother was very dismayed to find that the sister and brother were so happy and prosperous. Envy and hatred consumed her heart, and she plotted against them. Her own daughter, who was ugly and only had one eye, grumbled as well. “I should have been a Queen,” moaned the daughter.
“Never mind,” said the old stepmother, “We shall bide our time.”
Eventually, the Queen had a son. The King was away hunting when the Queen delivered. The wicked stepmother took the form of a chamber-maid, who went to the Queen. “Come, you must bathe. It will do you good,” said the witch. The Queen was exhausted, and allowed herself to be helped into the bath. The witch shut the door and ran away, for she and her daughter had built a fire of such heat in the bathroom that the beautiful young Queen suffocated.
When the Queen was dead, the witch took her daughter and told her to lie down in bed in place of the real Queen. She gave the girl the shape and look of the Queen, although could do nothing for the lost eye. So she told the daughter to lie down on the side, so that the King would not know.
When the King returned, he rejoiced that he had a new son. He then went in search of his wife, to see how she was doing. The witch, still disguised, cried, “You must leave the curtains closed, for the Queen should not see light and must rest!” The King was fooled, and did not find out that there was a false Queen lying in the bed.
At midnight, the house was all asleep except for the nurse. She sat in the nursery, watching over the new Prince who lay in his cradle. The door opened, and the true Queen walked in. The Queen took her son, cuddling and nursing him. When he was sated, she laid the boy down again, covering him with a little quilt. She then went to the fawn, who was sleeping in a corner of the room and stroked his back. After this, the Queen went silently out again.
In the morning, the nurse asked the guards if they had seen anyone come into the palace during the night. “No one came or went,” said the guards.
The next night, and the next, as the nurse watched over the baby, the Queen again returned to feed her baby and pet her fawn. The Queen came for many nights, and the nurse saw but did not dare speak about it to anyone.
One night, the Queen spoke. She said, “How fares my child, how fares my fawn? Twice I shall come, then never more.” The nurse did not reply, but in the morning she went to the King and told him everything.
“What on earth?” said the King, “I shall myself watch the child tonight!” He went to the nursery in the evening to spend the night by his son’s side. At midnight, the Queen appeared.
“How fares my child, how fares my fawn?” said the Queen, “Once I will come, then never more.” The Queen nursed her child, patted her fawn, and then disappeared. The King dared not speak to her, but returned the next night to watch again.
The Queen returned the next night and said, “How fares my child, how fares my fawn? This time I come, but never more.”
The King, who loved her, jumped up and said, “You can be none other than my dear wife.”
“I am your dear wife,” she answered, and at once came alive, healthy and rosy. She told the King of the evil witch and her dreadful daughter, and how they had deceived him.
The King ordered the witch and the daughter to court, and judgement was swift. The daughter was taken to the forest, where she was eaten by wild beasts. The witch was cast into a fire and burned. When the witch was burnt, the fawn changed back into a human. The sister and brother then lived happily for the rest of their lives.
Man, the wicked stepmother thing. Brutal.
I have also noticed a theme: when you’re beautiful, a King will come and marry you. Just like that.
Another theme: justice comes to the wicked, and it’s usually pretty harsh.