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Mother of a Boy Who Can’t Learn

After my husband died, I was very poor, and I had only one child, my little boy Hassebu. When it was time for him to learn to read, I sent him to school. He did not learn to read in school, and so he was put into a shop to learn how to make clothes. But he did not...

Flute of O’Yoné

One night the sweet child O’Yoné stole into the bamboo grove behind the garden. Weeping, she told her story to the forest. Her mother had died and her father had remarried a beautiful woman with a cruel, jealous heart. O’Yoné knew she would to kill her at her first...

Queen Trapped in a Mountain

Koschei the Deathless is not mortal and I doubt that he can be killed. But Prince Ivan is stronger than any mortal I have ever met. He came to my house in the mountain where I was trapped and he picked up Koschei's sword. It weighs two thousand pounds! Not only did he...

Ancient Oak

I am hundreds of years old, and so gnarled and twisted that you will think I am monstrous. I am not a monster, but there is a demon under my tree roots. He is trapped in a bottle, and whenever someone approaches, he starts crying, "Let me out! Let me out!" He'll...

Raven Princess

My mother has turned me into a raven, and though I have told a young man how to set me free, he can't resist the temptation to eat and drink. For three days, he has failed to stay awake. He has lost his chances now, and so I have left him with several gifts. I have...

Court Physician

"Here comes the Satin Surgeon! Look at the Satin Surgeon! Long live the Satin Surgeon!" You would think it was Christ coming into town on his mule for all the fuss the people made when he arrived. This "Satin Surgeon" claims to be able to heal the emperor's illness. I...

The Physician from Far Away

I was called to court to examine the king who had gone blind as a result of a bad illness. After carefully studying his case, I concluded that he had only one remaining hope. "Somewhere in the Great Sea there exists a Golden-Headed Fish," I told the king's son. "If...

Peter the Hermit

The queen found me in my forest hut. She and her two little sons came to live with me, and, before long, she found my blood-stained shirts. I knew she would. She scrubbed them until they were white again and hung them out to dry. Now she wants to know why I come home...

Gerda’s Red Shoes

Gerda had lost her friend Kay. He had disappeared. "Kay is dead and gone," she said to the sun. But the sun said, "I don't believe it." The sparrows didn't believe it, either. That's when Gerda came to get us, her brand-new red shoes. She put us on her feet, walked us...

Kisa the Cat

I belong to the queen, and I sit proudly by her side when she drives out in her fine glass coach. She tells me that I am happier than she is, because I have a kitten and she has no one to love but me. I happen to know a fairy who dwells in the forest, and I'll go and...

Dove of Peace

When the dwarves put the princess in the crystal coffin, the forest fell silent, and it has been silent ever since. First, the Owl came and watched over her. Then the Raven came and watched. When the Raven's time ended, I came and settled on the shoulder of the dwarf...

Great Gloomy Wood

In the darkest part of my interior, where the trees are thickest, a witch lives in a stone hut. She has outgrown it. She can hardly fit into it. She has to lie down with her head at the door and her feet in the corners. She has no friends. Not even her cat and her dog...

Black Girl

From the time I was little, I did not accept my mother's instruction. She was always trying to force me to obey her will. I pretended to agree with her. I did everything she told me to do. I learned all her magic tricks, and then I used them to disappear. She still...

Poor Miller

I used to have more money than I knew what to do with. But sorrow comes like a thief in the night, and all of a sudden, I lost everything. I couldn't even call the mill my own. One morning when I went down to the pond, a nixy rose out of water. She called me by name...

Forest Witch

I have tried to teach many boys how to acquire the gifts of the good spirits, but none of them will fast long enough to do any great good in the world. This boy, however, is different! He fasted thirty days, and then he told me that he still had not fasted long...

Golden Ball

I was so happy when the princess tossed me in the air. Me, the very image of the bright sun! Now I'm sinking down into the murky waters of the well. Where is the bottom? There doesn't seem to be any bottom. It's cold down here, and getting blacker by the moment. How...

Prunella’s Mother

I had a daughter, but she disappeared. She was only seven! I was waiting for her to come back from school, and she never came home. My sweet little girl, Prunella, that's what I called her because she always came home with a plum she had picked from a tree.... She'll...

Princess Rosalie

I have been snatched by the Lord of the Air and imprisoned in a huge, unfamiliar palace. He is demanding that I marry him, but I will not, no matter how much he storms around. He has left in a fury. What is this? A pen is rising over the desk, and hovering. Now it is...

Apple Queen

I became pregnant, not by my husband, but by an apple that an old woman gave me. After eating it, I threw the rind out the window. It was eaten by a horse who gave birth to a foal. My son and his speaking horse have grown up together, and who knows? Together they...

Old Toad

When the princess told us that she had set out to find her long-lost prince, we toads rejoiced. We had been waiting a long time for her to arrive! We gave her supplies for the long journey ahead. May she be reunited with her long-lost prince, and may the kings...

Lady of the Black Bull

When the Black Bull came and carried me away, I was terrified. He did me no harm, though. At the end of the day, he landed me in a bonny big castle. The next morning, the good people of the castle gave me an apple. They told me not to break into it unless I found...

Golden Trumpet

I hang on the gate of a castle that stands on the top of a high mountain. I bear the inscription: Whoever can this trumpet blow Shall cause the giant's overthrow. I have been quiet for a long time. Who could possibly climb up here? If you were successful, you would...

Tom Thumb’s Mother

My husband thinks that we should leave our little boys in the forest when they're out tying fagots tomorrow. I can't do it! Yet, we're so desperately poor. Not one of them is old enough to earn a living. The youngest is puny, and he hardly ever speaks a word. When he...

Dick Whittington

I was very little when my father and mother died; so little, indeed, that I never knew them, nor the place where I was born. I strolled around the country, ragged as a colt, until I met with a wagoner who was going to London. He gave me leave to walk beside his wagon...

Frisk the Dog

The princess isn't interested in me or my master, even though he's very handsome and I'm very frisky! She's only interested in retrieving a ring from the river. The prince can't fathom how to find the ring in the swift current, but I tell him not to despair. He's too...

Fluffy Ball

I'm a fluffy ball containing nine kinds of poison (mixed with salt and witchcraft) which means I'll pack a deadly punch. The poor girl who is fleeing with her lover won't know what's hit her. I'll knock her off her high horse and into the river. When she comes to,...

Imprisoned Maiden

I have been imprisoned in a castle that stands on a steep mountain. It is bolted by iron bars and chains, so imagine my surprise when all of a sudden a young man strode into my room. "How on earth did you get in here?" I asked. The youth replied that he was my...

Seal Woman

He has taken my pelt so I must marry him or freeze to death. I will go to that cold place. I will raise the children and assume the role of a domesticated person. But I will return to the wild one day. And the wild will return to me. The Seal Woman in Sealskin, from...

Spinning Daughter

My father has bragged to the king that I can spin straw into gold. Now the king has locked me in a room, and I must show that I can do it. I can’t spin straw into gold. It’s an impossible task! Why did my father insist on bragging about me? I didn’t want the king’s...