Every morning I awake in pain and sorrow. Why, you ask?
I had three daughters, the youngest of whom was so beautiful that the whole world looked on her as a wonder. She had a heart as pure as white snow, skin as rosy as an apple-blossom, and hair as radiant as sun-beams. When she cried, not tears fell from her eyes, but pearls and jewels.
When she was fifteen years old, the king summoned all three sisters to come before his throne. You should have seen how the people gazed when the youngest entered. It was just as if the sun were rising.
Then the king spoke. “My daughters, I do not know when my last day may arrive, but today I will decide what each of you shall receive at my death. Now I know you all love me, but the one of you who loves me best, shall fare the best.
Each of my daughters said she loved him best, but he was not satisfied with that. He wanted them to elaborate. “Can you not express to me how much you love me, so that I may see what you mean?”
My eldest spoke first. “I love my father as dearly as the sweetest sugar.”
My second said: “I love my father as dearly as my prettiest dress.”
My youngest was silent. Then the king said,”And you, my dearest child, how much do you love me?”
“I do not know,” she stammered. “I can compare my love with nothing.”
Her father insisted that she should name something. So at last she said: “The best food does not please me without salt, therefore I love my father like salt.”
When the king heard that, he fell into a passion, and said: “If you love me like salt, your love shall be repaid with salt.”
Then he divided the kingdom between the two older girls, and ordered a sack of salt to be bound on the back of the youngest. Two servants were instructed to lead her into the wild forest.
We all begged and prayed for her, but the king’s anger was not to be appeased. How she cried when she had to leave us! The whole road was strewn with the pearls which flowed from her eyes.
Mother of an Exiled Princess in The Goose Girl at the Well, Grimms. Painting by Edgar Maxence.