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

The princess with twenty petticoats

Then they wove them into pretty cloth.

This, when laid out on the grass, under the sunshine, was bleached white. The flax thread was made first into linen, and then into lace.

"Let us name the place Groen-e'-veld" (Green Field), the happy people cried, when they saw how green the earth was where had been the dark forest. So the place was ever after called the Green Field.

Now when the princess saw what pretty clothes the snow white linen made, she invented a new style of dress. The upper garment, or "rok," that is, the one above the waist, she called the "boven rok" and the lower one, beneath the waist, her "beneden rok." In Dutch "boven" means above and "beneden" means beneath. By and by, when, at the looms, more of the beautiful white linen was woven, she had a new petticoat made and put it on. She was so delighted with this one that she wanted more. One after the other, she belted them around her waist, until she had on twenty petticoats at a time. Proud she was of her skirts, even though they made her look like a barrel. When her mother, and maids, and all the women of Groen-é-veld, young and old, saw the princess set the fashion, they all followed. It was not always easy for poor girls, who were to be married, to buy as many as twenty petticoats. But, as it was the fashion, every bride had to obey the rule. It grew to be the custom to have at least twenty; for only this number was thought proper.

So, a new rule, even among the men, grew up. A betrothed young man, or his female relatives assisting him, was accustomed to make a present of one or more petticoats to his sweetheart to increase her wardrobe.

Thus the fashion prevailed and still holds among the women of the coast. Fat or thin, tall or short, they pile on the petticoats and swing their skirts proudly as they walk or go to market, sell their fish, cry "fresh herring" in the streets, or do their knitting at home, or in front of their houses. In some parts of the country, nothing makes a girl so happy as to present her with a new petticoat.

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