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THE GOLDEN SPINNING WHEEL
HERE was once a poor woman who had twin
daughters. The girls were exactly alike in face
and feature but utterly different in disposition. Dobrunka
was kind, industrious, obedient, and everything
a good girl ought to be. Zloboha, her sister, was
spiteful, disobedient, lazy, and proud. In fact, she
had just about as many faults as a person could
have. Yet strange to say the mother loved Zloboha
much better and made everything easy for her.
Alike in Feature but Utterly Different in Disposition
They lived in a cottage a few miles from town.
The cottage stood by itself in a little clearing in the
woods. Hardly any one ever passed it except occasionally
some man who had lost his way in the woods.
The mother put her favorite, Zloboha, out to service
so that she might learn city ways, but she kept
Dobrunka at home to do the housework and take care
of the garden. Dobrunka always began the day by
feeding the goats, then she prepared the breakfast,
swept the kitchen, and when everything else was done
she sat down at her spinning wheel and spun.
 She seldom benefited from the yarn she spun so
carefully, for her mother always sold it in town and
spent the money on clothes for Zloboha. Yet Dobrunka
loved her mother although she never had a
kind word or a kind look from her the whole day
long. She always obeyed her mother instantly and
without a frown and no one ever heard her complain
about all the work she had to do.
One day when her mother was going to town
Dobrunka went part of the way with her, carrying
her yarn wrapped up in a kerchief.
"Now see that you're not lazy while I'm away,"
her mother said, crossly.
"You know, mother, you never have to nag at
me. Today when I finish the housework, I'll spin so
industriously that you'll be more than satisfied when
you get home."
She handed her yarn to her mother and went back
to the cottage. Then when she had put the kitchen
in order, she sat down to her wheel and began to
spin. Dobrunka had a pretty voice, as pretty as any
of the song-birds in the forest, and always when she
was alone she sang. So today as she sat spinning
she sang all the songs she knew, one after the other.
Suddenly she heard outside the trample of a horse.
 "Some one is coming," she thought to herself, "someone
who has lost his way in the woods. I'll go see."
She got up from her wheel and peeped out through
the small window. A young man was just dismounting
from a spirited horse.
"Oh," thought Dobrunka to herself, "what a
handsome young lord he is! How well his leather coat
fits him! How well his cap with its white feather
looks on his black hair! Ah, he is tying his horse and
is coming in. I must slip back to my spinning."
The next moment the young man opened the door
and stepped into the kitchen. All this happened a
long time ago, you see, when there were no locks or
bars on the doors, and there didn't have to be because
nothing was ever stolen.
"Good day to you, my girl," the young man said
"Good day, sir," Dobrunka answered. "What is
it, sir, you want?"
"Will you please get me a little water. I'm very
"Certainly," Dobrunka said. "Won't you sit
down while I'm getting it?"
She ran off, got the pitcher, rinsed it out, and
drew some fresh water from the well.
 "I wish I could give you something better, sir."
"Nothing could taste better than this," he said,
handing her back the empty pitcher. "See, I have
taken it all."
Dobrunka put the pitcher away and the young
man, while her back was turned, slipped a leather
bag, full of money, into the bed.
"I thank you for the drink," he said, as he rose
to go. "I'll come again tomorrow if you'll let me."
"Come if you want to," Dobrunka said, modestly.
He took her hand, held it a moment, then leaped
upon his horse and galloped off.
Dobrunka sat down again to her wheel and tried
to work, but her mind wandered. The image of the
young man kept rising before her eyes and I have to
confess that, for an expert spinner, she broke her
thread pretty often.
Her mother came home in the evening full of
praises of Zloboha, who, she said, was growing prettier
day by day. Everybody in town admired her and
she was fast learning city ways and city manners.
It was Zloboha this and Zloboha that for hours.
Finally the old woman remarked: "They say
there was a great hunting party out today. Did you
hear anything of it?"
 "Oh, yes," Dobrunka said. "I forgot to tell you
that a young huntsman stopped here to ask for a
drink. He was handsomely dressed in leather. You
know once when I was in town with you we saw a
whole company of men in leather coats with white
feathers in their caps. No doubt this young man
belonged to the hunting party. When he had his drink,
he jumped on his horse and rode off."
Dobrunka forgot to mention that he had taken
her hand in parting and promised to come back next
When Dobrunka was preparing the bed for the
night, the bag of money fell out. In great surprise
she picked it up and handed it to her mother.
The old woman looked at her sharply.
"Dobrunka, who gave you all this money?"
"Nobody gave it to me, mother. Perhaps the
huntsman slipped it into the bed. I don't know where
else it could have come from."
The old woman emptied the bag on the table.
They were all gold pieces.
"Good heavens, so much!" she murmured in
amazement. "He must be a very rich young lord!
Perhaps he saw how poor we were and though to do
a kind deed. May God grant him happiness!"
 She gathered the money together and hid it in the
Usually when Dobrunka went to bed after her
day's work she fell asleep at once, but tonight she
lay awake thinking of the handsome young rider.
When she did at last fall asleep it was to dream of
him. He was a powerful young lord, it seemed to
her, in her dream. He lived in a great palace and
she, Dobrunka, was his wife. She thought that they
were giving a fine banquet to which all the nobles in
the land had been invited. She and her husband arose
from the table and went together into another room.
He was about to put his arms about her and embrace
her when suddenly a black cat sprang between then
and buried its claws in Dobrunka's breast. Her
heart's blood spurted out and stained her white dress.
She cried out in fright and pain and the cry awoke
"What a strange dream," she thought to herself.
"I wonder what it means. It began so beautifully
but the cruel cat spoiled it all. I fear it bodes something
In the morning when she got up, she was still
thinking of it.
On other mornings it didn't take Dobrunka long
 to dress but this morning she was very slow. She
shook out her fresh skirt again and again. She had
the greatest trouble in putting on her bodice just
right. She spent much time on her hair, into which
she plaited the red ribbon that she usually kept for
holidays. When at last she was dressed and ready
to go about her household duties she looked very
fresh and sweet.
As midday came, she found it hard to sit still at her
wheel, but kept jumping up on any pretext whatever
to run outdoors a moment to see if the young horseman
was in sight.
At last she did see him at a distance and, oh, how
she hurried back to her stool so that he would never
think that she was watching for him.
He rode into the yard, tied his horse, and came into
"Good day, Dobrunka," he said, speaking very
gently and very respectfully.
Dobrunka's heart was beating so fast that she
feared it would jump out of her body. Her mother
was in the woods gathering fagots, so she was again
alone with him. She managed to return his greeting
and to ask him to sit down. Then she went back to
The young man came over to her and took her
"How did you sleep, Dobrunka?"
"Very well, sir."
"Did you dream?"
"Yes, I had a very strange dream."
"Tell me about it. I can explain dreams very
"But I can't tell this dream to you," Dobrunka
"Because it's about you."
"That's the very reason you ought to tell me,"
the young man said.
He urged her and begged her until at last
Dobrunka did tell him the dream.
"Well now," he said, "that dream of yours except
the part about the cat can be realized easily enough."
Dobrunka laughed. "How could I ever become a
"By marrying me," the young man said.
Dobrunka blushed. "Now, sir, you are joking."
"No, Dobrunka, this is no joke. I really mean
it. I came back this morning to ask you to marry
me. Will you?"
 Dobrunka was too surprised to speak, but when
the young man took her hand she did not withdraw it.
Just then the old woman came in. The young
man greeted her and without any delay declared his
intentions. He said he loved Dobrunka and wished
to make her his wife and that all he and Dobrunka
were waiting for was the mother's consent.
"I have my own house," he added, "and am well
able to take care of a wife. And for you too, dear
mother, there will always be room in my house and
at my table."
The old woman listened to all he had to say and
then very promptly gave her blessing.
"Then, my dear one," the young man said to
Dobrunka, "go back to your spinning and when you
have spun enough for your wedding shift, I shall
come for you."
He kissed her, gave his hand to her mother, and,
springing on his horse, rode away.
From that time the old woman treated Dobrunka
more kindly. She even went so far as to spend on
Dobrunka a little of the money the young man had
given them, but most of it, of course, went for clothes
But in those happy days Dobrunka wasn't
worry-  ing about anything as unimportant as money. She
sat at her wheel and spun away thinking all the while
of her fine young lover. Time sped quickly and before
she knew it she had spun enough for her wedding shift.
The very day she was finished her lover came. She
heard the trample of his horse and ran out to
"Have you spun enough for your wedding shift?"
he asked her as he took her to his heart.
"Yes," Dobrunka said, "I have."
"Then you can ride away with me this moment."
"This moment!" Dobrunka gasped." "Why so
"It has to be, my dear one. Tomorrow I go off
to war and want you to take my place at home.
Then when I come back you'll be there to greet me
as my wife."
"But what will my mother say to this?"
"She will have to consent."
They went into the cottage and spoke to the
old woman. She was far from pleased with this arrangement,
for she had worked out a very different plan in
her mind. But what could she do? A rich young
bridegroom always has his own way. So she hid her
 disappointment with a false smile and gave them her
Then the young man said to her: "Get your
things together, mother, and follow Dobrunka, for I
don't want her to be lonely while I'm gone. When
you get to the city, go to the palace and ask for
Dobromil. The people there will tell you where to
Dobrunka with tears streaming down her cheeks
bid her mother good-by. Dobromil lifted her to the
saddle in front of him and away they went like the
The town was in great excitement. There was
much hurrying to and fro as the troops were being
put in readiness for the morrow. A crowd had
gathered at the palace gates and as a young man came
galloping up, holding in front of him a lady lovely
as the day, the shout went up:
"Here he is! Here he is!"
The people in the courtyard took up the cry and
as Dobromil rode through the gate all of them with
one voice shouted out:
"Long live our beautiful queen! Long live our
Dobrunka was struck with amazement.
"Are you really the king, Dobromil?" she asked,
looking into his proud and happy face.
"Yes," he said. "Aren't you glad that I am?"
"I love you," Dobrunka said, "and so whatever
you are makes no difference to me. But why did you
"I did not deceive you. I told you that your
dream would be realized if you took me for your
In those early times marriage was a simple affair.
When a man and woman loved each other and their
parents consented to their union, they were looked
upon as married. So Dobromil now was able to present
Dobrunka to his people as his wife.
There was great rejoicing, music played, and there
was feasting and drinking in the banquet hall until
dawn. The next day the young husband kissed his
lovely bride farewell and rode off to war.
Left alone the young queen strayed through the
magnificent palace like a lost lamb. She would have
felt more at home rambling through the woods and
awaiting the return of her husband in a little cottage
than here where she was a lonely stranger. Yet
she was not a stranger long, for within half a day
she had won every heart by her sweetness and goodness.
The next day she sent for her mother and the
old woman soon arrived bringing with her Dobrunka's
spinning wheel. So now there was no more excuse
Dobrunka supposed that her mother would be
made very happy to find what good fortune had befallen
her daughter. The old woman pretended she
was, but in her heart she was furious that a king had
married Dobrunka and not Zloboha.
After a few days she said, very artfully, to Dobrunka:
"I know, my dear daughter, that you
think your sister, Zloboha, was not always kind to
you in times past. She's sorry now and I want you
to forgive her and invite her here to the palace."
"I should have asked her before this," said Dobrunka,
"but I didn't suppose she wanted to come.
If you wish it, we'll go for her at once."
"Yes, dear daughter, I do wish it."
So the queen ordered the carriage and off they
went to fetch Zloboha. When they came to the edge
of the woods they alighted and ordered the coachman
to await them there. They went on afoot to the cottage
where Zloboha was expecting them.
Zloboha came running out to meet them. She
threw her arms about her sister's neck and kissed
 her and wished her happiness. Then the wicked
sister and the wicked mother led poor unsuspecting
Dobrunka into the house. Once inside Zloboha took
a knife that she had ready and struck Dobrunka.
Then they cut off Dobrunka's hands and feet, gouged
out her eyes, and hid her poor mutilated body in the
woods. Zloboha and her mother wrapped up the
hands and the feet and the eyes to carry them back
with them to the palace because they believed that it
would be easier for them to deceive the king if they
had with them something that had belonged to Dobrunka.
Then Zloboha put on Dobrunka's clothes and she
and her mother rode back to town in the carriage and
nobody could tell that she wasn't Dobrunka. In the
palace the attendants soon whispered to each other
that their mistress was kinder to them at first, but
they suspected nothing.
In the meantime poor Dobrunka, who was not
quite dead, had been found by a hermit and carried by
him to a cave. She awoke to feel a kind hand soothing
her wounds and putting some reviving drops between
her lips. Of course, she could not see who it
was, for she had no eyes. As she regained consciousness
she remembered what had happened and began
 bitterly to upbraid her unnatural mother and her
"Be quiet. Do not complain," a low voice said.
"All will yet be well."
"How can all be well," wept poor Dobrunka,
"when I have no eyes and no feet and no hands? I
shall never again see the bright sun and the green
woods. I shall never again hold in my arms my beloved
Dobromil. Nor shall I be able to spin fine flax
for his shirts! Oh, what did I ever do to you, wicked
mother, or to you, cruel sister, that you have done
this to me?"
The hermit went to the entrance of the cave and
called three times. Soon a boy came running in answer
to the call.
"Wait here till I come back," the hermit said.
He returned in a short time with a golden spinning
wheel in his arms. He said to the boy:
"My son, take this spinning wheel to town to the
king's palace. Sit down in the courtyard near the
gate and if any one asks you for how much you will
sell the wheel, say: 'For two eyes.' Unless you are
offered two eyes for it bring it back."
The boy took the spinning wheel and carried it to
town as the hermit directed. He went to the palace
 and sat down in the courtyard near the gate, just as
Zloboha and her mother were returning from a walk.
"Look, mother!" Zloboha cried. "What a gorgeous
spinning wheel! I could spin on that myself!
Wait. I'll ask whether it's for sale."
She went over to the boy and asked him would he
sell the spinning wheel.
"Yes," he said, "if I get what I want."
"What do you want?"
"I want two eyes."
"Yes, two eyes. My father told me to accept
nothing for it but two eyes. So I can't sell it for
The longer Zloboha looked at the spinning wheel
the more beautiful it seemed to her and the more she
wanted it. Suddenly she remembered Dobrunka's eyes
that she had hidden away.
"Mother," she said, "as a queen I ought to have
something no one else has. When the king comes
home he will want me to spin, and just think how
lovely I should look sitting at this golden wheel. Now
we've got those eyes of Dobrunka's. Let us exchange
them for the golden spinning wheel. We'll still have
the hands and feet."
 The mother, who was as foolish as the daughter,
agreed. So Zloboha got the eyes and gave them to
the boy for the spinning wheel.
The boy hurried back to the forest and handed
the eyes to the hermit. The old man took them and
gently put them into place. Instantly Dobrunka
The first thing she saw was the old hermit himself
with his tall spare figure and long white beard. The
last rays of the setting sun shone through the opening
of the cave and lighted up his grave and gentle
face. He looked to Dobrunka like one of God's own
"How can I ever repay you?" she said, "for all
your loving kindness? Oh, that I could cover your
hands with kisses!"
"Be quiet, my child," the old man said. "If you
are patient all will yet be well."
He went out and soon returned with some delicious
fruit on a wooden plate. This he carried over to the
bed of leaves and moss upon which Dobrunka was
lying and with his own hands he fed Dobrunka as a
mother would feed her helpless child. Then he gave
her a drink from a wooden cup.
Early the next morning the hermit again called
 three times and the boy came running at once. This
time the hermit handed him a golden distaff and said:
"Take this distaff and go to the palace. Sit down
in the courtyard near the gate. If any one asks you
what you want for the distaff, say two feet and don't
exchange it for anything else."
Zloboha was standing at a window of the palace
looking down into the courtyard when she saw the boy
with a golden distaff.
"Mother!" she cried. "Come and see! There's
that boy again sitting near the gate and this time
he has a golden distaff!"
Mother and daughter at once went out to question
"What do you want for the distaff?" Zloboha
"Two feet," the boy said.
"Yes, two feet."
"Tell me, what will your father do with two feet?"
"I don't know. I never ask my father what he
does with anything. But whatever he tells me to do, I do.
That is why I can't exchange the distaff for
anything but two feet."
"Listen, mother," Zloboha said, "now that I have
 a golden spinning wheel, I ought to have a golden
distaff to go with it. You know we have those two
feet of Dobrunka's hidden away. What if I gave them
to the boy? We shall still have Dobrunka's hands."
"Well, do as you please," the old woman said.
So Zloboha went and got Dobrunka's feet, wrapped
them up, and gave them to the boy in exchange for
the distaff. Delighted with her bargain, Zloboha went
to her chamber and the boy hurried back to the forest.
He gave the feet to the hermit and the old man
carried them at once inside the cave. Then he rubbed
Dobrunka's wounds with some healing salve and stuck
on the feet. Dobrunka wanted to jump up from the
couch and walk but the old man restrained her.
"Lie quiet where you are until you are all well
and then I'll let you get up."
Dobrunka knew that whatever the old hermit said
was for her good, so she rested as he ordered.
On the third morning the hermit called the boy
and gave him a golden spindle.
"Go to the palace again," he said, "and today
offer this spindle for sale. If any one asks you what
you want for the spindle, say two hands. Don't accept
The boy took the golden spindle and when he
 reached the palace and sat down in the courtyard near
the gate, Zloboha ran up to him at once.
"What do you want for that spindle?" she asked.
"Two hands," the boy said.
"It's a strange thing you won't sell anything for
"I have to ask what my father tells me to ask."
Zloboha was in a quandary. She wanted the gold
spindle, for it was very beautiful. It would go well
with the spinning wheel and would be something to
be proud of. Yet she didn't want to be left without
anything that had belonged to Dobrunka.
"But really, mother," she whined, "I don't see
why I have to keep something of Dobrunka's so that
Dobromil will love me as he loved her. I'm sure I'm
as pretty as Dobrunka ever was."
"Well," said the old woman, "it would be better
if you kept them. I've often heard that's a good way
to guard a man's love. However, do as you like."
For a moment Zloboha was undecided. Then,
tossing her head, she ran and got the hands and gave
them to the boy.
Zloboha took the spindle and, delighted with her
bargain, carried it into her chamber where she had the
wheel and distaff. The old woman was a little troubled,
 for she feared Zloboha had acted foolishly. But Zloboha,
confident of her beauty and her ability to charm
the king, only laughed at her.
As soon as the boy had delivered the hands to the
hermit, the old man carried them into the cave. Then
he anointed the wounds on Dobrunka's arms with the
same healing salve that he used before, and stuck on
As soon as Dobrunka could move them she jumped
up from the couch and, falling at the hermit's feet,
she kissed the hands that had been so good to her.
"A thousand thanks to you, my benefactor!" she
cried with tears of joy in her eyes. "I can never
repay you, I know that, but ask of me anything I can
do and I'll do it."
"I ask nothing," the old man said, gently raising
her to her feet. "What I did for you I would do
for any one. I only did my duty. So say no more
about it. And now, my child, farewell. You are to
stay here until some one comes for you. Have no
concern for food. I shall send you what you need."
Dobrunka wanted to say something to him, but he
disappeared and she never saw him again.
Now she was able to run out of the cave and look
once more upon God's green world. Now for the first
 time in her life she knew what it meant to be strong
and well. She threw herself on the ground and kissed
it. She hugged the slender birches and danced around
them, simply bursting with love for every living thing.
She reached out longing hands towards the town and
would probably have gone there running all the
distance but she remembered the words of the old hermit
and knew that she must stay where she was.
Meanwhile strange things were happening at the
palace. Messengers brought word that the king was
returning from war and there was great rejoicing on
every side. The king's own household was particularly
happy, for service under the new mistress was growing
more unpleasant every day. As for Zloboha and her
mother, it must be confessed that they were a little
frightened over the outcome of their plot.
Finally the king arrived. Zloboha with smiling face
went to meet him. He took her to his heart with
great tenderness and from that moment Zloboha had
no fear that he would recognize her.
A great feast was at once prepared, for the king
had brought home with him many of his nobles to rest
and make merry after the hardships of war.
Zloboha as she sat at Dobromil's side could not take
her eyes off him. The handsome young soldier caught
fancy and she was rejoiced that she had put
Dobrunka out of the way.
When they finished feasting, Dobromil asked her:
"What have you been doing all this time, my dear
Dobrunka? I'm sure you've been spinning."
"That's true, my dear husband," Zloboha said in
a flattering tone. "My old spinning wheel got broken,
so I bought a new one, a lovely golden one."
"You must show me it at once," the king said,
and he took Zloboha's arm and led her away.
He went with her to her chamber where she had the
golden spinning wheel and she took it out and showed
it to him. Dobromil admired it greatly.
"Sit down, Dobrunka," he said, "and spin. I
should like to see you again at the distaff."
Zloboha at once sat down behind the wheel. She
put her foot to the treadle and started the wheel. Instantly
the wheel sang out and this is what it sang:
"Master, master, don't believe her!
She's a cruel and base deceiver!
She is not your own sweet wife!
She destroyed Dobrunka's life!"
Zloboha sat stunned and motionless while the king
looked wildly about to see where the song came from.
 When he could see nothing, he told her to spin
some more. Trembling, she obeyed. Hardly had she
put her foot to the treadle when the voice again sang
"Master, master, don't believe her!
She's a cruel and base deceiver!
She has killed her sister good
And hid her body in the wood!"
Beside herself with fright, Zloboha wanted to flee
the spinning wheel, but Dobromil restrained her.
Suddenly her face grew so hideous with fear that Dobromil
saw she was not his own gentle Dobrunka. With a
rough hand he forced her back to the stool and in a
stern voice ordered her to spin.
Again she turned the fatal wheel and then for the
third time the voice sang out:
"Master, master, haste away!
To the wood without delay!
In a cave your wife, restored,
Yearns for you, her own true lord!"
At those words Dobromil released Zloboha and ran
like mad out of the chamber and down into the
court-  yard
where he ordered his swiftest horse to be saddled
instantly. The attendants, frightened by his appearance,
lost no time and almost at once Dobromil was
on his horse and flying over hill and dale so fast that
the horse's hoofs scarcely touched the earth.
When he reached the forest he did not know where
to look for the cave. He rode straight into the wood
until a white doe crossed his path. Then the horse in
fright plunged to one side and pushed through bushes
and undergrowth to the base of a big rock. Dobromil
dismounted and tied the horse to a tree.
He climbed the rock and there he saw something
white gleaming among the trees. He crept forward
cautiously and suddenly found himself in front of a
cave. Imagine then his joy, when he enters and finds
his own dear wife Dobrunka.
As he kisses her and looks into her sweet gentle
face he says: "Where were my eyes that I was
deceived for an instant by your wicked sister?"
"What have you heard about my sister?" asked
Dobrunka, who as yet knew nothing of the magic
So the king told her all that had happened and
she in turn told him what had befallen her.
"And from the time the hermit disappeared," she
 said in conclusion, "the little boy has brought me food
They sat down on the grass and together they ate
some fruit from the wooden plate. When they rose
to go they took the wooden plate and the cup away
with them as keepsakes.
Dobromil seated his wife in front of him on the
horse and sped homewards with her. All his people
were at the palace gate waiting to tell him what had
happened in his absence.
It seems that the devil himself had come and
before their very eyes had carried off his wife and
mother-in-law. They looked at each other in amazement
as Dobromil rode up with what seemed to be
the same wife whom the devil had so recently carried
Dobromil explained to them what had happened
and with one voice they called down punishment on
the head of the wicked sister.
The golden spinning wheel had vanished. So
Dobrunka hunted out her old one and set to work at
once to spin for her husband's shirts. No one in the
kingdom had such fine shirts as Dobromil and no one