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Main > Chinese folktales > Fairy tale "The Herd Boy and the Weaving Maiden"

The Herd Boy and the Weaving Maiden

The Herd Boy was the child of poor people. When he was twelve years old, he took service with a farmer to herd his cow. After a few years the cow had grown large and fat, and her hair shone like yellow gold. She must have been a cow of the gods.

One day while he had her out at pasture in the mountains, she suddenly began to speak to the Herd Boy in a human voice, as follows: “This is the Seventh Day. Now the White Jade Ruler has nine daughters, who bathe this day in the Sea of Heaven. The seventh daughter is beautiful and wise beyond all measure. She spins the cloud-silk for the King and Queen of Heaven, and presides over the weaving which maidens do on earth. It is for this reason she is called the Weaving Maiden. And if you go and take away her clothes while she bathes, you may become her husband and gain immortality.”

“But she is up in Heaven,” said the Herd Boy, “and how can I get there?”

“I will carry you there,” answered the yellow cow.

So the Herd Boy climbed on the cow’s back. In a moment clouds began to stream out of her hoofs, and she rose into the air. About his ears there was a whistling like the sound of the wind, and they flew along as swiftly as lightning. Suddenly the cow stopped.

“Now we are here,” said she.

Then round about him the Herd Boy saw forests of chrysophrase and trees of jade. The grass was of jasper and the flowers of coral. In the midst of all this splendor lay a great, four-square sea, covering some five-hundred acres. Its green waves rose and fell, and fishes with golden scales were swimming about in it. In addition there were countless magic birds who winged above it and sang. Even in the distance the Herd Boy could see the nine maidens in the water. They had all laid down their clothes on the shore.

“Take the red clothes, quickly,” said the cow, “and hide away with them in the forest, and though she ask you for them never so sweetly do not give them back to her until she has promised to become your wife.”

Then the Herd Boy hastily got down from the cow’s back, seized the red clothes and ran away.

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