I’m an old widow living in a small village and I haven’t any children or relations of any kind. I have my goats, that’s all, and I make my living selling their milk. I am strong. I must be strong because if I am too ill to look after my goats, I will have no means at all. Every morning I drive the goats out into the desert to graze on the shrubs and bushes that grow there, and every night they must be milked and shut in safely.

One evening, my very best nanny-goat came home without a drop of milk. I thought some naughty children were playing tricks on me but when she returned night after night in this condition, I decided to follow her to see if I could catch the thief. She went to graze with all the others, and then, in the afternoon, she stole away from the herd, and walked up the rocks and into a cave. I followed her, and what should I see but the animal giving her milk to a little baby boy! Lying on the ground beside him were the sad remains of his dead mother, who had been beheaded. I took the baby and carried him home, and the next day, I dug a grave and buried the poor mother.

The Old Goat Woman in Story of the King Who Would Be Stronger than Fate, Brown Fairy Book. Drawing by Nicolaes Berchem the Elder.

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