Snow-white and Rose-red
There was once a poor widow who lived in a lonely cottage. In
front of the cottage was a garden wherein stood two rose-trees,
one of which bore white and the other red roses. She had two
children who were like the two rose-trees, and one was called
Snow-white, and the other Rose-red. They were as good and happy,
as busy and cheerful as ever two children in the world were, only
Snow-white was more quiet and gentle than Rose-red. Rose-red
liked better to run about in the meadows and fields seeking
flowers and catching butterflies; but Snow-white sat at home
with her mother, and helped her with her house-work, or read to
her when there was nothing to do.
The two children were so fond of one another that they always
held each other by the hand when they went out together, and
when Snow-white said, "We will not leave each other," Rose-red
answered, "Never so long as we live," and their mother would
add, "What one has she must share with the other."
They often ran about the forest alone and gathered red berries,
and no beasts did them any harm, but came close to them
trustfully. The little hare would eat a cabbage-leaf out of
their hands, the roe grazed by their side, the stag leapt
merrily by them, and the birds sat still upon the boughs, and
sang whatever they knew.
No mishap overtook them; if they had stayed too late in the
forest, and night came on, they laid themselves down near one
another upon the moss, and slept until morning came, and their
mother knew this and had no distress on their account.
Once when they had spent the night in the wood and the dawn
had roused them, they saw a beautiful child in a shining white
dress sitting near their bed. He got up and looked quite kindly
at them, but said nothing and went away into the forest. And
when they looked round they found that they had been sleeping
quite close to a precipice, and would certainly have fallen into
it in the darkness if they had gone only a few paces further.
And their mother told them that it must have been the angel who
watches over good children.
Snow-white and Rose-red kept their mother's little cottage so
neat that it was a pleasure to look inside it. In the summer
Rose-red took care of the house, and every morning laid a wreath
of flowers by her mother's bed before she awoke, in which was
a rose from each tree. In the winter Snow-white lit the fire and
hung the kettle on the wrekin. The kettle was of copper and shone
like gold, so brightly was it polished. In the evening, when
the snowflakes fell, the mother said, "Go, Snow-white, and bolt
the door," and then they sat round the hearth, and the mother
took her spectacles and read aloud out of a large book, and the
two girls listened as they sat and span. And close by them lay
a lamb upon the floor, and behind them upon a perch sat a white
dove with its head hidden beneath its wings.
One evening, as they were thus sitting comfortably together,
someone knocked at the door as if he wished to be let in. The
mother said, "Quick, Rose-red, open the door, it must be a traveller
who is seeking shelter." Rose-red went and pushed back the bolt,
thinking that it was a poor man, but it was not. It was a
bear that stretched his broad, black head within the door.
Rose-red screamed and sprang back, the lamb bleated, the dove
fluttered, and Snow-white hid herself behind her mother's bed.
But the bear began to speak and said, "Do not be afraid, I will
do you no harm! I am half-frozen, and only want to warm myself
a little beside you."
"Poor bear," said the mother, "lie down by the fire, only take
care that you do not burn your coat." Then she cried, "Snow-white,
Rose-red, come out, the bear will do you no harm, he means well."
So they both came out, and by-and-by the lamb and dove came
nearer, and were not afraid of him. The bear said, "Here,
children, knock the snow out of my coat a little;" so they
brought the broom and swept the bear's hide clean; and he
stretched himself by the fire and growled contentedly and
comfortably. It was not long before they grew quite at home,
and played tricks with their clumsy guest. They tugged his
hair with their hands, put their feet upon his back and rolled
him about, or they took a hazel-switch and beat him, and when he
growled they laughed. But the bear took it all in good part, only
when they were too rough he called out, "Leave me alive, children,
Will you beat your lover dead?"
When it was bed-time, and the others went to bed, the mother
said to the bear, "You can lie there by the hearth, and then you
will be safe from the cold and the bad weather." As soon as day
dawned the two children let him out, and he trotted across
the snow into the forest.
Henceforth the bear came every evening at the same time, laid
himself down by the hearth, and let the children amuse themselves
with him as much as they liked; and they got so used to him that
the doors were never fastened until their black friend had arrived.
When spring had come and all outside was green, the bear said
one morning to Snow-white, "Now I must go away, and cannot come
back for the whole summer." "Where are you going, then, dear bear?"
asked Snow-white. "I must go into the forest and guard my treasures
from the wicked dwarfs. In the winter, when the earth is frozen
hard, they are obliged to stay below and cannot work their
way through, but now, when the sun has thawed and warmed the
earth, they break through it, and come out to pry and steal; and
what once gets into their hands, and in their caves, does not
easily see daylight again."
Snow-white was quite sorry for his going away, and as she unbolted
the door for him, and the bear was hurrying out, he caught against
the bolt and a piece of his hairy coat was torn off, and it
seemed to Snow-white as if she had seen gold shining through
it, but she was not sure about it. The bear ran away quickly,
and was soon out of sight behind the trees.
A short time afterwards the mother sent her children into the
forest to get fire-wood. There they found a big tree which lay
felled on the ground, and close by the trunk something was
jumping backwards and forwards in the grass, but they could
not make out what it was. When they came nearer they saw a dwarf
with an old withered face and a snow-white beard a yard long. The
end of the beard was caught in a crevice of the tree, and the
little fellow was jumping about like a dog tied to a rope, and did
not know what to do.
He glared at the girls with his fiery red eyes and cried, "Why do
you stand there? Can you not come here and help me?" "What are
you up to, little man?" asked Rose-red. "You stupid, prying
goose!" answered the dwarf; "I was going to split the tree to get
a little wood for cooking. The little bit of food that one of us wants gets
burnt up directly with thick logs; we do not swallow
so much as you coarse, greedy folk. I had just driven the
wedge safely in, and everything was going as I wished; but the
wretched wood was too smooth and suddenly sprang asunder, and the tree
closed so quickly that I could not pull out my beautiful white
beard; so now it is tight in and I cannot get away, and the silly,
sleek, milk-faced things laugh! Ugh! how odious you are!"
The children tried very hard, but they could not pull the
beard out, it was caught too fast. "I will run and fetch some one,"
said Rose-red. "You senseless goose!" snarled the dwarf; "why
should you fetch some one? You are already two too many for me;
can you not think of something better?" "Don't be impatient," said
Snow-white, "I will help you," and she pulled her scissors out of
her pocket, and cut off the end of the beard.
As soon as the dwarf felt himself free he laid hold of a bag which
lay amongst the roots of the tree, and which was full of gold,
and lifted it up, grumbling to himself, "Uncouth people, to cut
piece of my fine beard. Bad luck to you!" and then he swung the
bag upon his back, and went off without even once looking at
Some time afterwards Snow-white and Rose-red went to catch a
dish of fish. As they came near the brook they saw something
like a large grasshopper jumping towards the water, as if
it were going to leap in. They ran to it and found it was the
dwarf. "Where are you going?" said Rose-red; "you surely don't
want to go into the water?" "I am not such a fool!" cried the
dwarf; "don't you see that the accursed fish wants to pull
me in?" The little man had been sitting there fishing, and
unluckily the wind had twisted his beard with the fishing-line;
just then a big fish bit, and the feeble
creature had not strength to pull it out; the fish kept the
upper hand and pulled the dwarf towards him. He held on to
all the reeds and rushes, but it was of little good; he
was forced to follow the movements of the fish, and was in
urgent danger of being dragged into the water.
The girls came just in time; they held him fast and tried to
free his beard from the line, but all in vain, beard and line
were entangled fast together. Nothing was left but to
bring out the scissors and cut the beard, whereby a small part
of it was lost. When the dwarf saw that he screamed out,
"Is that civil, you toadstool, to disfigure one's face? Was
it not enough to clip off the end of my beard? Now you have
cut off the best part of it. I cannot let myself be seen by
my people. I wish you had been made to run the soles off your
shoes!" Then he took out a sack of pearls which lay in the
rushes, and without saying a word more he dragged it away and
disappeared behind a stone.
It happened that soon afterwards the mother sent the two children
to the town to buy needles and thread, and laces and ribbons. The
road led them across a heath upon which huge pieces of rock lay
strewn here and there. Now they noticed a large bird hovering in the
air, flying slowly round and round above them; it sank lower and
lower, and at last settled near a rock not far off. Directly afterwards
they heard a loud, piteous cry. They ran up and saw with horror
eagle had seized their old acquaintance the dwarf, and was going
to carry him off.
The children, full of pity, at once took tight hold of the little
man, and pulled against the eagle so long that at last he let
his booty go. As soon as the dwarf had recovered from his
first fright he cried with his shrill voice, "Could you not have
done it more carefully! You dragged at my brown coat so that it
is all torn and full of holes, you clumsy creatures!" Then he
took up a sack full of precious stones, and slipped away again
under the rock into his hole. The girls, who by this time
were used to his thanklessness, went on their way and did their
business in the town.
As they crossed the heath again on their way home they surprised
the dwarf, who had emptied out his bag of precious stones in
a clean spot, and had not thought that anyone would come there
so late. The evening sun shone upon the brilliant stones;
they glittered and sparkled with all colors so beautifully that
the children stood still and looked at them. "Why do you stand
gaping there?" cried the dwarf, and his ashen-grey face became
copper-red with rage. He was still cursing when a loud
growling was heard, and a black bear came trotting towards them
out of the forest. The dwarf sprang up in a fright, but he
could not reach his cave, for the bear was already close. Then
in the dread of his heart he cried, "Dear Mr. Bear, spare me, I
will give you all my treasures; look, the beautiful jewels
lying there! Grant me my life; what do you want with such a
slender little fellow as I? you would not feel me between
your teeth. Come, take these two wicked girls, they are tender
morsels for you, fat as young quails; for mercy's sake eat them!"
The bear took no heed of his words, but gave the wicked creature
a single blow with his paw, and he did not move again.
The girls had run away, but the bear called to them, "Snow-white
and Rose-red, do not be afraid; wait, I will come with you."
Then they knew his voice and waited, and when he came up
to them suddenly his bearskin fell off, and he stood there
a handsome man, clothed all in gold. "I am a King's son," he said,
"and I was bewitched by that wicked dwarf, who had stolen my
treasures; I have had to run about the forest as a savage bear until I was
freed by his death. Now he has got his well-deserved punishment."
Snow-white was married to him, and Rose-red to his brother,
and they divided between them the great treasure which the dwarf
had gathered together in his cave. The old mother lived
peacefully and happily with her children for many years. She took
the two rose-trees with her, and they stood before her window, and
every year bore the most beautiful roses, white and red.
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from Grimm's Household Tales,
translated by Margaret Hunt, 1884