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The Seven Ravens

  • There was once a man who had seven sons, and last of all one daughter.
  • Although the little girl was very pretty, she was so weak and small that they
  • thought she could not live; but they said she should at once be christened.
  • So the father sent one of his sons in haste to the spring to get some water,
  • but the other six ran with him. Each wanted to be first at drawing the water,
  • and so they were in such a hurry that all let their pitchers fall into the
  • well, and they stood very foolishly looking at one another, and did not know
  • what to do, for none dared go home. In the meantime the father was uneasy, and
  • could not tell what made the young men stay so long. 'Surely,' said he, 'the
  • whole seven must have forgotten themselves over some game of play'; and when
  • he had waited still longer and they yet did not come, he flew into a rage and
  • wished them all turned into ravens. Scarcely had he spoken these words when he
  • heard a croaking over his head, and looked up and saw seven ravens as black as
  • coal flying round and round. Sorry as he was to see his wish so fulfilled, he
  • did not know how what was done could be undone, and comforted himself as well
  • as he could for the loss of his seven sons with his dear little daughter, who
  • soon became stronger and every day more beautiful.
  • For a long time she did not know that she had ever had any brothers; for her
  • father and mother took care not to speak of them before her: but one day by
  • chance she heard the people about her speak of them. 'Yes,' said they, 'she is
  • beautiful indeed, but still 'tis a pity that her brothers should have been
  • lost for her sake.' Then she was much grieved, and went to her father and
  • mother, and asked if she had any brothers, and what had become of them. So
  • they dared no longer hide the truth from her, but said it was the will of
  • Heaven, and that her birth was only the innocent cause of it; but the little
  • girl mourned sadly about it every day, and thought herself bound to do all she
  • could to bring her brothers back; and she had neither rest nor ease, till at
  • length one day she stole away, and set out into the wide world to find her
  • brothers, wherever they might be, and free them, whatever it might cost her.
  • She took nothing with her but a little ring which her father and mother had
  • given her, a loaf of bread in case she should be hungry, a little pitcher of
  • water in case she should be thirsty, and a little stool to rest upon when she
  • should be weary. Thus she went on and on, and journeyed till she came to the
  • world's end; then she came to the sun, but the sun looked much too hot and
  • fiery; so she ran away quickly to the moon, but the moon was cold and chilly,
  • and said, 'I smell flesh and blood this way!' so she took herself away in a
  • hurry and came to the stars, and the stars were friendly and kind to her, and
  • each star sat upon his own little stool; but the morning star rose up and gave
  • her a little piece of wood, and said, 'If you have not this little piece of
  • wood, you cannot unlock the castle that stands on the glass-mountain, and
  • there your brothers live.' The little girl took the piece of wood, rolled it
  • up in a little cloth, and went on again until she came to the glass-mountain,
  • and found the door shut. Then she felt for the little piece of wood; but when
  • she unwrapped the cloth it was not there, and she saw she had lost the gift of
  • the good stars. What was to be done? She wanted to save her brothers, and had
  • no key of the castle of the glass-mountain; so this faithful little sister
  • took a knife out of her pocket and cut off her little finger, that was just
  • the size of the piece of wood she had lost, and put it in the door and opened
  • it.
  • As she went in, a little dwarf came up to her, and said, 'What are you seeking
  • for?' 'I seek for my brothers, the seven ravens,' answered she. Then the dwarf
  • said, 'My masters are not at home; but if you will wait till they come, pray
  • step in.' Now the little dwarf was getting their dinner ready, and he brought
  • their food upon seven little plates, and their drink in seven little glasses,
  • and set them upon the table, and out of each little plate their sister ate a
  • small piece, and out of each little glass she drank a small drop; but she let
  • the ring that she had brought with her fall into the last glass.
  • On a sudden she heard a fluttering and croaking in the air, and the dwarf
  • said, 'Here come my masters.' When they came in, they wanted to eat and drink,
  • and looked for their little plates and glasses. Then said one after the other,
  • 'Who has eaten from my little plate? And who has been drinking out of my
  • little glass?'
  • {verse
  • 'Caw! Caw! well I ween
  • Mortal lips have this way been.'
  • {verse
  • When the seventh came to the bottom of his glass, and found there the ring, he
  • looked at it, and knew that it was his father's and mother's, and said, 'O
  • that our little sister would but come! then we should be free.' When the
  • little girl heard this (for she stood behind the door all the time and
  • listened), she ran forward, and in an instant all the ravens took their right
  • form again; and all hugged and kissed each other, and went merrily home.