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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 sun was already set behind the woods. She clasped her hands to her head and looking down at the unfilled spindle she burst into tears.

“Oh, what will my mother say?” she cried.

“Give me your little basket,” the maiden said, “and I will put something in it that will more than make up for today’s stint.”

Betushka handed her the basket and the maiden took it and vanished. In a moment she was back. She returned the basket and said:

“Look not inside until you’re home!

Look not inside until you’re home!”

As she said these words she was gone as if a wind had blown her away.

Betushka wanted awfully to peep inside but she was afraid to. The basket was so light that she wondered whether there was anything at all in it. Was the lovely lady only fooling her? Halfway home she peeped in to see.

Imagine her feelings when she found the basket was full of birch leaves! Then indeed did Betushka burst into tears and reproach herself for being so simple. In her vexation she threw out a handful of leaves and was going to empty the basket when she thought to herself:

“No, I’ll keep what’s left as litter for the goats.”

She was almost afraid to go home. She was so quiet that again the little goats wondered what ailed their shepherdess.

Her mother was waiting for her in great excitement.

“For heaven’s sake, Betushka, what kind of a spool did you bring home yesterday?”

“Why?” Betushka faltered.

“When you went away this morning I started to reel that yarn. I reeled and reeled and the spool remained full. One skein, two skeins, three skeins, and still the spool was full. ‘What evil spirit has spun that?’ I cried out impatiently, and instantly the yarn disappeared from the spindle as if blown away. Tell me, what does it mean?”

So Betushka confessed and told her mother all she knew about the beautiful maiden.

“Oh,” cried her mother in amazement, “that was a wood maiden! At noon and midnight the wood maidens dance. It is well you are not a little boy or she might have danced you to death!

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