Once upon a time, there was a wicked old woman, a widow, who lived with her two daughters, one of whom was noble and good, the other being lazy and indolent.
The wicked woman, naturally, doted on her lazy daughter, as this was her natural daughter, and not simply the daughter of her late husband from a previous marriage.
Every day the wicked stepmother made the poor girl go out to fetch the water, do all the chores, and spin flax to boot. One morning, when the daughter was gone to fetch the water, she, quite by accident, managed to drop her spinner into the well. At this, the girl ran home crying. But, do you expect she got any sympathy for her plight? Not a bit of it.
“You ignoramus!” spat the cruel stepmother (at least, she spat something that approximated this), “now you must go and jump in the well and retrieve your spinner!” And the stepmother put her arm out and pointed out the door; and, weeping the young miss went to do as she was told.
Terrified, she jumped in the dark, dank well. However, she was amazed and astounded when, much to her surprise, she didn’t drown in the bottom of the well, but instead fell until she fell down upon the side of a hillock in a strange, upside-down land.
“Oh, where am I?” she asked herself, rubbing her bruised bottom as she crept carefully through the meadow, which was quite beautiful and covered with thousands of bright flowers.
Soon, she came to a huge oven, wherein the loaves of bread cried out to her, “Oh, mercy, take us out of here, for we have been baked long enough!” And so, carefully taking up the bread shovel, the young maiden took the loaves out of the oven, setting them in a careful pile.
She was then on her way. She soon came to an apple tree, the likes of which was bursting with tremendous apples larger than any she had ever before seen. The apples cried out, “Oh! pluck us! For we have hung here long enough, and are ready to burst!”
So, taking pity upon the apples, she carefully began to pluck them one by one from the branches, until she had before her a pile she could set aside. Then, tired, but too curious to rest, she was once again on her way.
After a short amount of time she came to a strange cottage. Knocking at the door, she was terrified to see the ugliest old woman she had ever seen in her life come to the door. The woman had tremendous tusk-like teeth, and the poor young maiden was so terrified she almost ran away. She could tell by the kindly look in the old woman’s eyes though, that she was not going to hurt her.
“Well, miss, it seems that fate has brought you to my door step. Now, you may stay here as long as you like, if you will simply do your chores. Also, make sure you shake the feathers out of my pillow every morning, as then it will be sure to snow. Got that?”
And she nodded yes. Well, this good, honest, hardworking girl worked hard, and cleaned, and cooked, and took care of Mother Holle, and turned down the covers, and scrubbed the tub, and cleaned out the oven, and baked the bread, and shook the feathers out of the pillows, so that it would snow.
And she was most content to do it all, as Mother Holle, despite her odd appearance, was very kind, and treated her to a sumptuous feast and all the fun she could handle.
Well, things went on like this for awhile, until, one day the girl, looking out on the lonely forest wherein Mother Holle resided, began to feel homesick.
Mother Holle, sensing this, said, “Child, I suppose it is high time you had better be sent home. But, before you go, I want to give you your reward for being such a good and faithful servant.”
And Mother Holle pushed her out the door. But, before she could go, she covered her with a bucket of gold dust, so that she was completely covered in the valuable stuff. Then she sent her on her way, closing the door in an instant.
The gold-covered girl wandered out of the magical forest, buck up the mouth of the old well, and home again. As she approached, the hens began to sing and cluck, “Cock-a-doodle-doo, your golden girl has come back to you!”
When her stepmother at first saw her she was very frightened, for the girl had been missing a long time and was presumed dead. Then, when she saw the fine gold flakes stuck to her skin, she became envious.
She told her lazy, stupid daughter, “Go to this Mother Holle, who lives down the mouth of the old well, and see if you can be her servant for a time. Then, thou shalt have thine own reward like unto thy sister!”
So the stupid, lazy girl did just that. She went to the old well, and pricked her finger exactly as her sister had done on the spinner. Then, she let a few drops of blood fall into the water, and dove down the mouth of the well.
She soon found herself in the upside-down enchanted land, wandering through the strange, dark forest, until she came to the ovens wherein the helpless bread screamed, “Oh, mercy, take us out of here, for we have baked long enough!”
And the lazy girl would have been only too happy to oblige. Except it seemed like an awful lot of work to bend over and take the brad from the ovens, and might make her frightfully hot and dirty to boot. So she simply passed on by, and listened to the dying screams of the bread loaves as they were baked to a crisp.
Next she came to the apple tree, where the overripe apples were hanging from their stems. The apples cried out to her, “Oh, pluck us! For we have hung here long enough, and are ready to burst!”
And the lazy, stupid girl would have obliged, except, well…plucking the apples so high up in the tree seemed like quite an awful lot of work, and she might fall and hurt herself, and become dirty and tired to boot. So she simply walked past the tree, listening to the apples scream as they burst from becoming too ripe.
Soon, she came to the strange cottage of Mother Holle. At first she was frightened when Mother Holle opened the door, as she had never seen anyone with teeth quite so big. But then she remembered that Mother Holle was supposed to be very kind, and this allayed her fears.
“Well, missy, it seems that fate has brought you to my door step. Now, you may stay here as long as you like, if you will simply do your chores. Also, make sure you shake the feathers out of my pillow every morning, as then it will be sure to snow. Got that?”
And the lazy, stupid girl agreed to do it all.
At first, she was careful to do her chores exactly as Mother Holle had said, and she worked diligently at everything. It was not long, however, before the lazy, stupid nature began to reassert itself, and she started slacking off work, disobeying, and not doing what she was told.
Soon, Mother Holle tired of this. She said to her, “Now, I am going to send you back home, as you must be very homesick by now!”
“Oh yes,” cried the lazy, stupid girl. “But, what about my reward?”
And Mother Holle said, “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll get exactly what is coming to you!”
And with that, she shoved her out the door, but before she could go, she emptied a bucket of pitch over her head, and laughed. Mother Holle said, “That is your reward, dearie! Wear it well! Wear it well! It really suits you!”
And she slammed the door and never came out again.
Well, the stupid, lazy girl, who was now quite covered with pitch, found her way back to her own home from out the magic portal. And, at her coming, the hens began to cluck, saying:
“Cock-a-doodle-doo, your pitchy girl’s come back to you!”
And, no matter how hard they scrubbed, they could not got the layer of pitch off of the lazy daughter, who was forced to go abotu that way until the day she died.