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Main > Dutch folktales > Fairy tale "The princess with twenty petticoats"

The princess with twenty petticoats

After a few minutes, the wind ceased and the sky was clear. The king looked and there lay the oak, fallen at full length, and the aurochs lay lifeless beside it.

Just then, the king's woodmen, who were out—thinking their master might be hurt—drew near. He ordered them to take out the right horn of the aurochs and to split up part of the oak for slaves. The next day, they made a wooden petticoat and a horn comb. They were such novelties that nearly every woman in the kingdom came to see them.

After this, the king called himself the Lord of the Land of Ten Eyck, and ever after this was his family name, which all his descendants bore. Whenever the princess showed bad temper, she was forced to wear the wooden petticoat. To have the boys and girls point at her and make fun of her was severe punishment.

But a curious thing took place. It was found that every time the maid combed the hair of the princess she became gentler and more sweet tempered. She often thanked her governess and said she liked to have her curls smoothed with the new comb. She even begged her father to let her own one and have the comb all to herself. It was not long before she surprised her governess and her parents by combing and curling her own hair. In truth, such a wonderful change came over the princess that she did not often have to wear the wooden petticoat, and after a year or two, not at all. So the gossips nearly forgot all about it.

One summer's day, as the princess was walking in the open, sunny space, where the old oak had stood, she saw a blue flower. It seemed as beautiful as it was strange. She plucked it and put it in her hair. When she reached home, her old aunt, who had been in southern lands, declared it to be the flower of the flax.

During that spring, millions of tiny green blades sprang up where the forest had been, and when summer came, the plants were half a yard high. The women learned how to put the stalks in water and rot the coarse, outer fibre of the flax. Then they took the silk-like strands from the inside and spun them on their spinning-wheels.

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