The poor child’s only consolation was the cow her mother had left her. Her mother had called her to her side as she lay dying and said to her: „My dear child, I am dying. Look after the cow and go to her whenever you are in trouble and she will help you as best as she can.” The cow was named Fairywhite and only the girl took her out to graze in the pasture. When the girl’s heart was filled with despair, she went to Fairywhite and told her all of her troubles. Fairywhite would lick her tears away and look so sad that one would expect tears to flow down her face.
Unfortunately for Fairywhite and the girl, the awful stepmother was not as stupid as she was cruel. She noticed that whenever she scolded or beat the girl she would go to the barn to see the cow. She also noticed that Fairywhite would let no one except the Old Man’s Daughter milk her and would kick and butt them with her horns if they tried. The stepmother realized that there was obviously something to all of this and determined to get rid of Fairywhite.
One day the stepmother and stepsister went to visit a relative in another town. She ordered her stepdaughter to clean the house, cook the evening meal and spin an entire chest of wool into thread. She warned her that if it wasn’t done by the time she returned she would beat her until she was crippled. The girl ran to Fairywhite as soon as her stepmother and sister had left. She wept as she told Fairywhite what her stepmother had threatened. „Oh, Fairywhite, whatever shall I do?” cried the girl. „Even if I spin all day, there is no way that I can finish it all by myself and she has promised to beat me until I am crippled if I do not finish before her return” she moaned and leaned her head in despair against her only ally and friend. The cow spoke gently to the distraught girl: „Don’t cry dear one; spin away and you’ll finish it all and still have time to tidy up and cook.” So, the girl began to spin and found herself amazed at the speed with which her fingers twirled the spindle and by sunset she had finished. She quickly ran about the house tidying up before hastening into the kitchen to fix the evening meal. When the old woman returned home and discovered that the girl had indeed done all the tasks she had given her she asked the girl who had helped her with her chores. The girl replied that she had done it all by herself…indeed, who was there to help her? The stepmother said nothing more but her thoughts had turned towards the cow.
The next Sunday the old woman decided to take her own daughter to the town dance. Before they started for the dance, she called her stepdaughter and said: „Take this bushel of wheat and pick out the grains one by one, wash them and dry them, so that everything is ready by sunset.” Once again, upon her stepmother and sister’s departure, the girl flew to Fairywhite’s side to tell her her woes. The cow told her to begin the task and she would find that she could do it in time. She did as Fairywhite said and found her fingers moving quickly and deftly at their task. By sunset, her impossible task was completed and she had the house cleaned and the meal cooked.
The following Sunday, the stepmother and stepsister again went to a dance. In fact, the stepmother had decided that they would do this each and every Sunday in the hopes of finding the homely girl a husband. Before they left, she called the Old Man’s Daughter and said: „Take this bushel of millet, count the grains and make little heaps of a hundred and a thousand grains. Count them well, for I’ll count them again behind you and if you have miscounted even a single grain, I will cut off your hair and gouge out your eyes.” When the girl heard her stepmother say this she began to tremble with fear for she knew that this was no empty threat but she thought of Fairywhite and was comforted. As soon as her stepmother and sister had left she ran to Fairywhite and told her of her stepmother’s latest demand. The girl was no longer afraid because she knew that Fairywhite would help her. Fairywhite said to the girl: „Count, little one, count, and you will finish before they return home.” When the old woman returned, she saw that the girl had succeeded in this impossible task too and she grew livid with rage. In her fury, her thoughts turned to the cow and she said to herself: „It must be the cow who helped her, for there is no one else who would.” Her hatred for Fairywhite grew a hundred-fold and she decided to make the Old Man have the cow killed.
The very next day she went to the Old Man to demand that he kill Fairywhite. She said to him: „Listen, why do we keep that old cow when she does not breed and her milk is all but gone. She eats our food but gives us almost nothing in return. She even kicks and butts whenever someone comes near her.”
But the Old Man was in no hurry to kill the cow for it was all that his first wife had left him. When he said this to the Old Woman she rose up with a fury and left him saying that she would not return to share his bed or his table again until the old cow was dead. When the girl heard of her stepmother’s plans for Fairywhite, she ran to the barn to warn her dear friend. She wept bitterly at the prospect of losing the loving cow but Fairywhite reassured her once again. She said to the miserable girl: „Don’t cry my dear child. Don’t worry. They can not truly harm me for I am too strong for them. If they do kill me, you must gather my bones, hoofs, and horns and cover them with dung at night when no one can see you. Whenever you need something, come to the place where you have buried my bones and tell me about it, for my right horn is magical.”
The girl was only a little reassured but promised to do as Fairywhite instructed her should the stepmother succeed in having the cow killed. And succeed she did for the Old Man was weak and he gave in to the stepmother’s constant nagging. He went to the barn and killed Fairywhite and the girl did as the cow had told her. Now the awful stepmother reveled in her success in destroying the girl’s only ally.
On the Sunday following Fairywhite’s death, the stepmother devised another cruel torment for her hated stepchild. The Old Woman had noticed that the handsome young men in the town thronged about her lovely stepdaughter while they ignored her homely daughter completely. She knew that the girl was likely to marry before she could get a husband for her own child. So, before they started off for town that Sunday, the stepmother poured ashes on the Old Man’s Daughter’s head and smeared her pretty face with soot. She warned the girl not to wash it off because if she did she would get the worst beating of her sad life.
After the Old Woman and her ugly daughter left for town, the girl ran to tell Fairywhite’s bones about this latest undeserved cruelty. She wept and asked the bones: „How long am I to live this way?” Then she heard a familiar voice saying: „Don’t weep little one! Just pull the right horn and ask for beautiful clothes and jewelry and put them on. Then go to the village and join in the dance.”
The girl did as she was told and found herself magically dressed in the most beautiful finery ever to be seen. She was as bright as sunbeams and looked like a princess. The girl was overjoyed and quickly ran to the dance. She danced as lightly and beautifully as a little butterfly and all of the young men present lost their hearts to the vision of beauty and sweetness that she presented. Everyone wondered aloud: „Who is this girl? Does anyone know her?” But no one recognized this happy creature as the Old Man’s Daughter.
In those days, the sons and daughters of kings would often appear and take part in town dances and on this occassion the King’s son was among those assembled who stood marvelling at the girl. As soon as he saw her he determined to meet her and joined in the dance next to her. He questioned the girl as they whirled around and around together but she never said a word in response. She was pleased with the handsome and distinguished young man’s attentions but feared what would happen if anyone discovered her identity. She danced three times with the prince and then vanished mysteriously from the dance.
The girl dashed home and removed her sumptuous clothes and returned them to Fairywhite’s horn. As she did this she found herself once again dressed in rags and covered in soot. She went into the kitchen and sat at the hearth and that is where the Old Woman and her daughter found her when they returned from the dance.
Her stepsister was all aflutter when she arrived home and was quick to tell the girl all about the dance. She told her of the mysterious arrival and disappearance of a beautiful girl dressed in exquisite clothes. Hoping to make the abused girl feel envious, the stepsister said to her: „But as you haven’t seen her, you can’t imagine how lovely she was”. The girl responded to her by saying: „But, if I had beautiful clothes, I could have gone to the dance and seen her for myself!” This quite incensed the ugly girl’s jealousy and she responded hotly: „It is not for a creature like you to see such wonderful sights!” The Old Woman, who had been listening to the conversation joined in and said to the girl with contempt: „Your place is by the hearth, filthy with ashes. Dancing! Indeed! Do not ever be so insolant again or I shall beat you ‘til you are black and blue!”
Despite the harsh rebuke, the girl was still singing inside. She could not remember another evening that was so joyous and gay. As the girl sat by the hearth reminiscing about the dance, her stepsister’s words finally sank into her head and she realized that the young man whose company she had so enjoyed was the Prince! The girl sat in astonishment as she realized that she had danced thrice with a prince and not even realized it. She set about her chores with a greater peace of mind and held her happy memories of that night close to her heart.
Only a few days later, it was announced throughout the Kingdom that the King’s son was giving a big dance at the palace. All the eligible girls in the kingdom were invited to attend the lavish affair. The prince was orchestrating the entire ball in the hopes of discovering the secret identity of the mysterious beauty he had met and danced with at the town dance.
The old man’s daughter was told of the ball by her ugly stepsister. Despite the fact that she was as homely a girl as had ever walked the earth, the stepsister believed herself to be beautiful. The ball was to take place on a Sunday and as soon as the stepmother and stepsister had left the house, the girl ran to the horn and asked for clothes as beautiful as the stars in the sky. She also asked for a horse and a groom.The horn gave her what she asked for and the girl found herself arrayed in clothes even more lovely than those she had worn to the town dance the Sunday before.
She started immediately for the Palace. As soon as she arrived the Prince dashed to greet her and began to ask her questions to learn her identity. But she told him sorrowfully that she could only stay a short time. The Prince’s heart seized in his chest when she said this and he declared his love for her on the spot in hopes that she would not leave him again. The girl was amazed by this but told him that she loved no one, but then she danced with no one except him. When she was ready to leave, he asked for her ring and she gave it to him.
The next Sunday the Prince again invited all of the eligible girls to a lavish ball for he knew that he could no longer live without the girl. She came dressed in an exquisitely beautiful gown with twin stars on her shoulders but again vanished at the end of the dance. The prince was distraught and knew not what to think of this strange girl who had so won his heart. Being a man of action, the Prince quickly formulated a plan to finally discover the identity of his beloved. He planned to hold one more ball on the following Sunday and intended to steal one of the girl’s shoes from her.
The girl appeared at the next ball just as the Prince knew she would. After they had danced together and the girl was preparing to disappear into the night once again, the prince followed her and pulled her shoe off as she leaped onto her horse. The girl rode away into the darkness with only one shoe. The very next day the prince put the second part of his plan into action. Taking the shoe and the ring, the Prince went to his father and told him that he was leaving to look for the girl he loved and would not return until he found her.
The Prince set out and went from town to town until he came to the town where the Old Man lived. He knocked at one door after another until he came to the house where the Old Man lived with his family. The shoe fit the girl to perfection but the girl was a little ashamed because she was still grimy with the soot and ashes that her stepmother forced her to wear to conceal her beauty. The Prince looked upon her with the eyes of true love and asked her if she was the beautiful girl that he had danced with so many times. The girl shyly admitted that she was indeed the same girl. At this, the stepmother scolded the girl and called her a liar. The girl replied: „Let your highness wait but a minute and I will prove that I am the same girl.”
She ran to Fairywhite’s bones and asked to be dressed exactly as she was when she and her Prince first met and danced. Immediately she was clean and dressed in the same exquisite clothes. She then returned to her father’s house to present herself before the Prince and her family. The Prince was overjoyed to see for certain the he had at last found his beloved. But the girl ran back to the bones twice more and presented herself in turn in all of her other dresses. The Prince lifted the girl into his carriage and bore her off to the Palace where they were married with a sumptuous marriage feast that lasted seven days and seven nights. The awful stepmother’s heart burst with envy and her daughter remained a lonely spinster since no man wished to marry such a sour and unkind girl. The girl forgave her father’s weakness and bade him to live with her and her Prince in the Palace which he did until the end of his days.
Filed under: Sunday evening story