The Witch

From: Theo Meder, De Magische Vlucht, Uitgeverij Bert Bakker, 2000. Originally from the collection Boekenoogen, sent in by a man from Arnhem, the Netherlands in 1894.

There once were a king and a queen who longed to have a son. One day, when the queen was praying in the forest, she met an old woman. When the queen told that she wanted to have a son, she received from this woman a bean. She was to plant it in a pot at home, and to pray in the forest every day.

This the queen did, and after a year a lovely baby boy was born. However, there was a caveat. The last day the queen had prayed in the forest, the old woman came to her again and told the queen that she was to keep the boy at home. And if the boy came outside nevertheless, he was not to be alone.

The queen kept her promise until the boy was eleven years old. As an exception, the boy was allowed to go hunting with the king. The young prince shot a deer, but it wasn’t killed and fled into the forest. The prince went after it, searching for it until the end of the day, only to find out that he was lost.

Standig on a hill, the prince saw a light in the distance and walked towards it. The light belonged to a little house, and when he arrived there, an old woman opened the door. She welcomed her in her house for the night, if he would get something for her the next day. To this, the prince obliged. In the house lived three girls who called the old woman mother, and the oldest girl kindly took care of the prince.

The next day, the old woman gave the prince a small hatchet and told him to chop down the whole forest. If he hadn’t finished doing this by the end of the day, she would chop off his head. The prince was frightened and didn’t know what to do. But in the afternoon the eldest girl came to bring him food. She told him to sleep for a while. When he slept, she took out the old woman’s wand, that she had secretly taken with her. With it, she chopped down every tree except for one. When the prince woke up she told him that she and the other girls were held captive by the woman, who was a witch.

In the evening, the old witch and the eldest girl went to see the prince. He was chopping away on the last tree. When it fell down, the witch told the prince that he was now allowed to marry the girl, if he could build a house out of the wood. If he didn’t succeed, his head would be chopped off anyway. What the witch didn’t know was that the girl still had her wand. She helped the prince, and the next day the house was finished, furniture and all.

The couple was to marry the next day, but at night they heard the old witch shout: “Are you asleep yet?”They climbed out of their window, which was the right thing to do. Because when the witch entered their bedroom, she stabbed the bed crosswise with a knife. She thought she had killed them, but when she came back the next day she saw an empty bed and an open window.

At home, she told her husband, who was a good runner, to go and get them. The couple saw him coming. Quickly, with the magic wand, the girl turned herself and the prince into flowers. Back at home the witch scolded her husband for not picking the flowers.

The husband, who was also kidnapped and frightened of the witch, ran again and saw them in the distance. This time, the girl tunred herself into a church with a pulpit, and the prince became a minister. When the husband saw the minister preaching in his pulpit, he went back home. The witch scolded him again for not bringing the prince and the girl back, and decided to go get them herself.

The witch came to a water in which a little duck swam, and knew immediately that it was the girl and the prince. She started to drink all the water from the pond, until only a little was left for the duck to swim in. But she had drunk too much and died. Before she was dead, she told the couple to take a little box she was carrying.

The prince and the girl walked and walked until they reached the king’s palace. The girl asked the prince to not kiss anyone else, because then he would forget her. She went to work for a miller, as the prince went back to the palace. Everybody was so happy to see him, that they kissed him.

Because the prince had returned, a large ball was organized. Everyone in the whole country was invited. The miller went too, but he told the girl not to go, because she didn’t have a nice dress. The girl went upstairs, where she had kept the witch’s wand and box. She tapped on the box with the wand, and from it appeared a beautiful dress.

At the ball the girl was even more splendidly dressed than the queen. The queen longed to have her dress, and this the girl gladly obliged to, in return for a night at the palace. At night, the girl went to the prince, but he didn’t remember her anymore because he had been kissed.

The girl went home, and the next day another ball was held. She went again, in an even more beautiful dress that the queen also wanted to have. The girl stayed another night and went to the prince. But the king had heard rumors, and was hidden in the prince’s closet. There he heard the girl pleading with the prince, asking him to remember her. And this time, the prince did rememeber her. But what to tell to the king? And the king heard the girl say: “Tell him that you have two rings, one of loveliness and one of unloveliness. Which one should be done away with? You should do as he says”, which he liked very much.

The next day the prince said these words to his father. The king told his son to keep the ring of loveliness, and that he had heard the conversation at night and that everyone would cherish the prince’s wife. This the king told to the queen, who ordered the girl to be fetched from the miller’s place. The girl once again got a wonderful dress from the witch’s box. She married the prince and they lived happily ever after.