The Brothers Grimm – The Old Woman in the Wood

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A poor servant-girl was once traveling with the family with which she
was in service, through a great forest, and when they were in the
midst of it, robbers came out of the thicket, and murdered all they
found. All perished together except the girl, who had jumped out of
the carriage in a fright, and hidden herself behind a tree. When the
robbers had gone away with their booty, she came out and beheld the
great disaster. Then she began to weep bitterly, and said, "What can
a poor girl like me do now? I do not know how to get out of the
forest, no human being lives in it, so I must certainly starve."

She walked about and looked for a road, but could find none. When it
was evening she seated herself under a tree, gave herself into God's
keeping, and resolved to sit waiting there and not go away, let
happen what might. When she had sat there for a while, a white dove
came flying to her with a little golden key in its beak. It put the
little key in her hand, and said, "Do you see that great tree,
therein is a little lock, open it with the tiny key, and you will
find food enough, and suffer no more hunger."

Then she went to the tree and opened it, and found milk in a little
dish, and white bread to break into it, so that she could eat her
fill. When she was satisfied, she said, "It is now the time when the
hens at home go to roost, I am so tired I could go to bed too." Then
the dove flew to her again, and brought another golden key in its
bill, and said, "Open that tree there, and you will find a bed." So
she opened it, and found a beautiful white bed, and she prayed God to
protect her during the night, and lay down and slept.

In the morning the dove came for the third time, and again brought a
little key, and said, "Open that tree there, and you will find
clothes." And when she opened it, she found garments beset with gold
and with jewels, more splendid than those of any king's daughter. So
she lived there for some time, and the dove came every day and
provided her with all she needed, and it was a quiet good life.

Then one day the dove came and said, "Will you do something for my
sake?" "With all my heart," said the girl. Then said the little
dove, "I will guide you to a small house, enter it and inside it, an
old woman will be sitting by the fire and will say, 'good-day.' But
on your life give her no answer, let her do what she will, but pass
by her on the right side. Further on, there is a door, which open,
and you will enter into a room where a quantity of rings of all kinds
are lying, amongst which are some magnificent ones with shining
stones. Leave them, however, where they are, and seek out a plain
one, which must likewise be amongst them, and bring it here to me as
quickly as you can."

The girl went to the little house, and came to the door. There sat
an old woman who stared when she saw her, and said, "Good-day my
child." The girl gave her no answer, and opened the door. "Whither
away?" cried the old woman, and seized her by the gown, and wanted to
hold her fast, saying, "That is my house, no one can go in there if I
choose not to allow it." But the girl was silent, got away from her,
and went straight into the room.

Now there lay on the table an enormous quantity of rings, which
gleamed and glittered before her eyes. She turned them over and
looked for the plain one, but could not find it. While she was
seeking, she saw the old woman and how she was stealing away, and
wanting to go off with a bird-cage which she had in her hand. So she
went after her and took the cage out of her hand, and when she raised
it up and looked into it, a bird was inside which had the plain ring
in its bill.

Then she took the ring, and ran quite joyously home with it, and
thought the little white dove would come and get the ring, but it did
not. Then she leant against a tree, determined to wait for the dove.
As she thus stood, it seemed just as if the tree was soft and pliant,
and was letting its branches down. And suddenly the branches twined
around her, and were two arms, and when she looked around, the tree
was a handsome man, who embraced and kissed her heartily, and said,
"You have delivered me from the power of the old woman, who is a
wicked witch. She had changed me into a tree, and every day for two
hours I was a white dove, and so long as she possessed the ring I
could not regain my human form." Then his servants and his horses,
who had likewise been changed into trees, were freed from the
enchanter also, and stood beside him. And he led them forth to his
kingdom, for he was a king's son, and they married, and lived
happily.

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