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

The Herd Boy and the Weaving Maiden

At the same moment the nine maidens noticed him and were much frightened.

“O youth, whence do you come, that you dare to take our clothes?” they cried. “Put them down again quickly!”

But the Herd Boy did not let what they said trouble him; but crouched down behind one of the jade trees. Then eight of the maidens hastily came ashore and drew on their clothes.

“Our seventh sister,” said they, “whom Heaven has destined to be yours, has come to you. We will leave her alone with you.”

The Weaving Maiden was still crouching in the water.

But the Herd Boy stood before her and laughed.

“If you will promise to be my wife,” said he, “then I will give you your clothes.”

But this did not suit the Weaving Maiden.

“I am a daughter of the Ruler of the Gods,” said she, “and may not marry without his command. Give back my clothes to me quickly, or else my father will punish you!”

Then the yellow cow said: “You have been destined for each other by fate, and I will be glad to arrange your marriage, and your father, the Ruler of the Gods, will make no objection. Of that I am sure.”

The Weaving Maiden replied: “You are an unreasoning animal! How could you arrange our marriage?”

The cow said: “Do you see that old willow-tree there on the shore? Just give it a trial and ask it. If the willow tree speaks, then Heaven wishes your union.”

And the Weaving Maiden asked the willow.

The willow replied in a human voice:

“This is the Seventh day, The Herd Boy his court to the Weaver doth pay!”

and the Weaving Maiden was satisfied with the verdict. The Herd Boy laid down her clothes, and went on ahead. The Weaving Maiden drew them on and followed him. And thus they became man and wife.

But after seven days she took leave of him.

“The Ruler of Heaven has ordered me to look after my weaving,” said she. “If I delay too long I fear that he will punish me. Yet, although we have to part now, we will meet again in spite of it.”

When she had said these words she really went away. The Herd Boy ran after her.

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