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Main > Scandinavian folktales > Fairy tale "Maiden Swanwhite and Maiden Foxtail"

Maiden Swanwhite and Maiden Foxtail

The guardian of the well was enraged, so he wished her three evil wishes, as a punishment for her wickedness. He wished that she should become three times as ugly as she was, that a dead rat should fall from her mouth whenever she laughed, and that the fox-tail grass might spring up in the footsteps wherever she trod. So it was. From that day the wicked girl was called Maiden Foxtail, and very much talk was there among the folk of her strange looks and her ill-nature. The hag could not bear her step-daughter should be more beautiful than her own daughter, and poor Swanwhite had to put up with all the ill-usage and suffering that a step-child can meet with.

Swanwhite had a brother whom she loved very much, and he also loved her with all his heart. He had long ago left home, and he was now the servant of a king, far, far off in a strange land. The other servants of the king bore him no good-will because he was liked by his master, and they wished to ruin him if they could find anything against him.

They watched him closely, and one day, coming to the king, said—

"Lord king, we know well that you do not like evil or vice in your servants. Thence we think it is only right to tell you that the young foreigner, who is in your service, every morning and evening bows the knee to an idol."

When the king heard that he set it down to envy and ill-will, and did not think there was any truth in it, but the courtiers said that he could easily discover for himself whether what they said was true or not. They led the king to the young man's rooms, and told him to look through the key-hole. When the king looked in he saw the young man on his knees before a fine picture, and so he could not help believing that what the courtiers had told him was true.

The king was much enraged, and ordered the young man to come before him, when he condemned him to die for his great wickedness.

"My lord king," said he, "do not imagine that I worship any idol. That is my sister's picture, whom I commend to the care of God every morning and evening, asking Him to protect her, for she remains in a wicked step-mother's power.

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