Happy Tuesday! Today is the tale of The Three Spinners, again by the Brothers Grimm.
Once upon a time there was a girl who was lazy and would not spin. The girl’s mother tried to put her to work, but she would not do it. At last the mother was so impatient and angry that she began to beat her, eliciting loud wails from the girl. At this moment, the Queen was driving by in her carriage. When she heard the cries, she stopped and alighted on the cottage.
“Why are you beating your daughter so, that her cries can be heard on the road?” inquired the Queen.
The mother was too ashamed to reveal the truth about her lazy daughter so she said, “I cannot get her to quit spinning. She insists on spinning, but I am too poor and I cannot get the flax.”
“I love the sound of spinning,” said the Queen, “it soothes me and makes me happy. Let your daughter come with me to the palace and she can spin as much as she likes.”
“Of course,” replied the mother, very satisfied.
So the Queen took the lazy daughter with her to the palace, and brought her to three rooms which were wholly filled with fine flax. “Now, spin me the flax,” the Queen told her, “and when you are done you can have my eldest son for a husband. I like to see a hard-working girl, even if you are poor.” The Queen left the girl to the work.
The girl was distraught, looking at the rooms full of flax. She could not possibly spin it all, even if she lived several lifetimes over. She began to weep, and sat like this for three days without moving. On the third day, the Queen came by and was very surprised that nothing had been accomplished at all.
“Please forgive me, but I am so distraught at leaving my mother’s house that I have not made a start,” the girl told the Queen.
“I understand,” said the Queen, “but tomorrow you must begin.” The Queen then took her leave.
The distraught girl went to the window, wondering what she could do. She saw three women coming toward her. The first woman had a broad, flat foot. The second woman had a large bottom lip, so long that it hung down over her chin. The third woman had a very wide thumb. The woman saw the girl, and coming to the window asked what was wrong. The girl explained her trouble and the women offered their help.
“If you invite us to the wedding, and are not ashamed of us but call us your aunts and place us at your table, we will spin the flax for you,” the woman told her.
“Such would be a small price for my gratitude,” said the girl.
Satisfied, the strange women came in and began to spin. One drew the thread and stepped on the spinning wheel, the other wetted the thread, and the third twisted it then tapped the table with her finger. Every time she struck the table, a skein of fine thread fell to the ground.
When the Queen came to see her progress, the girl hid the spinners from her. The Queen was delighted with the quantity and quality of the thread.
The three strange women worked through the first room, and then the second, and then the third. When at last the flax was all spun they said to the girl, “Do not forget your promise to us.” Then they took their leave.
When the Queen saw the empty rooms and stacks of fine thread, she gave orders for the wedding. The groom was pleased to have a cleaver and industrious wife.
“I have three aunts,” said the girl, “who have been most kind to me. Please allow me to invite them to the wedding, and to sit with us at our table.”
“Why not?” shrugged the Prince and his mother.
When the wedding feast began, the three women entered in strange garments.
“Welcome, my dear aunts!” the bride exclaimed, “Please join us at our table!”
The groom said to his wife, “How did you get such repulsive friends?” He then said to the first woman, “How did you come by such a broad foot?”
“By treading,” said the woman.
“And how do you come by your long lip,” the groom asked the second woman.
“By licking,” said the woman.
“How do you come by your wide thumb?” asked the groom of the third.
“By twisting tread,” she replied.
The Prince was very alarmed by this and said, “Never again sahll my beautiful bride touch a spinning wheel!”
This story brings to mind several things:
- I have no idea how you’d go about spinning flax into thread. Clearly, the modernization of society means that I haven’t actually seen the process or really know how a spinning wheel works.
- This is a funny moral: be good and keep your promises, and even if you are lazy you will be rewarded.
- Giving away your eldest son’s hand in marriage is a pretty hefty prize – we are talking about the succession to the throne here! It seems very eglitatrian that the Queen would elevate a poor peasant to royalty just like that.
- I don’t really understand what the three strange women get out of the deal.
I’m going to look up how to spin. Cheers!