Grimm's Fairy Stories
Copyright© 2012 by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm
There was once a poor Miller who had a beautiful daughter, and one day, having to go to speak with the King, he said, in order to make himself appear of consequence, that he had a daughter who could spin straw into gold. The King was very fond of gold, and thought to himself, "That is an art which would please me very well"; and so he said to the Miller, "If your daughter is so very clever, bring her to the castle in the morning, and I will put her to the proof."
As soon as she arrived the King led her into a chamber which was full of straw; and, giving her a wheel and a reel, he said, "Now set yourself to work, and if you have not spun this straw into gold by an early hour to-morrow, you must die." With these words he shut the room door, and left the maiden alone.
There she sat for a long time, thinking how to save her life; for she understood nothing of the art whereby straw might be spun into gold; and her perplexity increased more and more, till at last she began to weep. All at once the door opened, and in stepped a little Man, who said, "Good evening, fair maiden; why do you weep so sore?" "Ah," she replied, "I must spin this straw into gold, and I am sure I do not know how."
The little Man asked, "What will you give me if I spin it for you?"
"My necklace," said the maiden.
The Dwarf took it, placed himself in front of the wheel, and whirr, whirr, whirr, three times round, and the bobbin was full. Then he set up another, and whir, whir, whir, thrice round again, and a second bobbin was full; and so he went all night long, until all the straw was spun, and the bobbins were full of gold. At sunrise the King came, very much astonished to see the gold; the sight of which gladdened him, but did not make his heart less covetous. He caused the maiden to be led into another room, still larger, full of straw; and then he bade her spin it into gold during the night if she valued her life. The maiden was again quite at a loss what to do; but while she cried the door opened suddenly, as before, and the Dwarf appeared and asked her what she would give him in return for his assistance. "The ring off my finger," she replied. The little Man took the ring and began to spin at once, and by morning all the straw was changed to glistening gold. The King was rejoiced above measure at the sight of this, but still he was not satisfied, but, leading the maiden into another still larger room, full of straw as the others, he said, "This you must spin during the night; but if you accomplish it you shall be my bride." "For," thought he to himself, "a richer wife thou canst not have in all the world."
When the maiden was left alone, the Dwarf again appeared and asked, for the third time, "What will you give me to do this for you?"
"I have nothing left that I can give you," replied the maiden.
"Then promise me your first-born child if you become Queen," said he.
The Miller's daughter thought, "Who can tell if that will ever happen?" and, ignorant how else to help herself out of her trouble, she promised the Dwarf what he desired; and he immediately set about and finished the spinning. When morning came, and the King found all he had wished for done, he celebrated his wedding, and the Miller's fair daughter became Queen.
The gay times she had at the King's Court caused her to forget that she had made a very foolish promise.