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Main > Czechoslovak folktale > Fairy tale "The Wood Maiden: The Story of Betushka and the Golden Birch Leaves"

The Wood Maiden: The Story of Betushka and the Golden Birch Leaves

The next day she felt cheerful again and as she drove the goats to pasture she sang merrily. At the birch wood she sat down to her spinning, singing all the while, for with a song on the lips work falls from the hands more easily.

Noonday came. Betushka gave a bit of bread to each of the goats and ran off to the woods for her berries. Then she ate her luncheon.

“Ah, my little goats,” she sighed, as she brushed up the crumbs for the birds, “I mustn’t dance today.”

“Why mustn’t you dance today?” a sweet voice asked, and there stood the beautiful maiden as though she had fallen from the clouds.

Betushka was worse frightened than before and she closed her eyes tight. When the maiden repeated her question, Betushka answered timidly:

“Forgive me, beautiful lady, for not dancing with you. If I dance with you I cannot spin my stint and then my mother will scold me. Today before the sun sets I must make up for what I lost yesterday.”

“Come, child, and dance,” the maiden said. “Before the sun sets we’ll find some way of getting that spinning done!”

She tucked up her skirt, put her arm about Betushka, the musicians in the treetops struck up, and off they whirled. The maiden danced more beautifully than ever. Betushka couldn’t take her eyes from her. She forgot her goats, she forgot her spinning. All she wanted to do was to dance on forever.

At sundown the maiden paused and the music stopped. Then Betushka, clasping her hands to her head, where the unspun flax was twined, burst into tears. The beautiful maiden took the flax from her head, wound it round the stem of a slender birch, grasped the spindle, and began to spin. The spindle hummed along the ground and filled in no time. Before the sun sank behind the woods all the flax was spun, even that which was left over from the day before. The maiden handed Betushka the full spindle and said:

“Remember my words:

“Reel and grumble not!

Reel and grumble not!”

When she said this, she vanished as if the earth had swallowed her.

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