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Main > English folktales > Fairy tale "Kate Crackernuts"

Kate Crackernuts

ONCE upon a time there was a king whose wife had died in childbirth, leaving behind a dear infant daughter, the Princess Anne. When the princess was nearly grown the king married again, this time to a woman who also had a daughter, and her name was Kate. The stepmother became the new queen, and her daughter became the Princess Kate.

The new queen was driven to distraction because the king's daughter Anne was far prettier than her own daughter Kate. She could not bear the thought that her own daughter Kate would always look pale and plain beside the beautiful Anne. But bother the two young princesses it did not, and they became fast friends and loved one another like real sisters. The queen, however, was not content and she cast about for a way to spoil Anne's beauty so her Kate would be the prettiest princess in the castle.

To that end, she sought the advice of the henwife, an old woman who lived near the palace and was known to have magical powers.

"So you say young Anne is too pretty for her own good?" cackled the henwife. "That is a simple enough problem to fix. Send her to me in the morn."

So early the next morning, the queen found Anne and said, "Such a nice day! I do believe I'll walk myself to the henhouse for this morning's eggs. Anne, be a dear and join me."

So Princess Anne took step beside her stepmother, the queen. When they arrived at the henwife's cottage, they knocked on the door.

"How can I oblige you?" said the henwife, who knew very well why the queen had come.

Said Anne, "We've come for some new-laid eggs for breakfast. Have you any?"

"Well, if the girl will just step over there," said the henwife, motioning to Anne, "and lift the lid off that pot, she'll see what she'll find inside." Anne lifted the lid off the pot, and at that moment a sheep's head jumped right on top of her own pretty head and would not come off!

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