When People told themselves their past with stories,
explained their present with stories,
foretold the future with stories,
the best place by the fire was kept for ...

~The Old Woman in the Wood~

A poor servant-girl was once traveling with the family
with which she was in service, through a great forest,
and when they were in the midst of it, robbers came
out of the thicket, and murdered all they found.
All perished together except the girl, who had jumped
out of the carriage in a fright, and hidden herself
behind a tree. When the robbers had gone away with
their booty, she came out and beheld the great disaster.
Then she began to weep bitterly, and said,
"What can a poor girl like me do now?
I do not know how to get out of the forest,
no human being lives in it, so I must certainly starve."

She walked about and looked for a road, but could
find none. When it was evening she seated herself
under a tree, gave herself into God's keeping, and
resolved to sit waiting there and not go away,
let happen what might. When she had sat there for
a while, a white dove came flying to her with a little
golden key in its beak. It put the little key in her hand,
and said, "Do you see that great tree, there in is a little lock,
open it with the tiny key, and you will find food enough,
and suffer no more hunger."

by Anne Anderson  
Then she went to the tree and opened it, and found
milk in a little dish, and white bread to break into it,
so that she could eat her fill. When she was satisfied,
she said, "It is now the time when the hens at home go
to roost, I am so tired I could go to bed too."
Then the dove flew to her again, and brought another
golden key in its bill, and said, "Open that tree there,
and you will find a bed." So she opened it, and found
a beautiful white bed, and she prayed God to protect
her during the night, and lay down and slept.

In the morning the dove came for the third time,
and again brought a little key, and said,
"Open that tree there, and you will find clothes."
And when she opened it, she found garments beset
with gold and with jewels, more splendid than those
of any king's daughter. So she lived there for some
time, and the dove came every day and provided her
with all she needed, and it was a quiet good life.

Then one day the dove came and said,
"Will you do something for my sake?" "With all my heart,"
said the girl. Then said the little dove,
"I will guide you to a small house, enter it and inside it,
an old woman will be sitting by the fire and will say,
'good-day.' But on your life give her no answer,
let her do what she will, but pass by her on the
right side. Further on, there is a door, which open,
and you will enter into a room where a quantity
of rings of all kinds are lying, amongst which
are some magnificent ones with shining stones.
Leave them, however, where they are, and seek out
a plain one, which must likewise be amongst them,
and bring it here to me as quickly as you can."

The girl went to the little house, and came to the door.
There sat an old woman who stared when she saw her,
and said, "Good-day my child."
The girl gave her no answer, and opened the door.
"Whither away?" cried the old woman, and seized
her by the gown, and wanted to hold her fast, saying,
"That is my house, no one can go in there if I choose
not to allow it." But the girl was silent, got away
from her, and went straight into the room.

Now there lay on the table an enormous quantity of rings,
which gleamed and glittered before her eyes.
She turned them over and looked for the plain one,
but could not find it. While she was seeking,
she saw the old woman and how she was stealing
away, and wanting to go off with a bird-cage which
she had in her hand. So she went after her and took
the cage out of her hand, and when she raised it up
and looked into it, a bird was inside which had
the plain ring in its bill.

by Arthur Rackham

Then she took the ring, and ran quite joyously home
with it, and thought the little white dove would come
and get the ring, but it did not.
Then she leant against a tree, determined to wait for
the dove. As she thus stood, it seemed just as if the
tree was soft and pliant, and was letting its branches
down. And suddenly the branches twined around
her, and were two arms, and when she looked around,
the tree was a handsome man, who embraced
and kissed her heartily, and said,
"You have delivered me from the power of the old woman,
who is a wicked witch. She had changed me into
a tree, and every day for two hours I was a white
dove, and so long as she possessed the ring I could not
regain my human form." Then his servants and his
horses, who had likewise been changed into trees,
were freed from the enchanter also, and stood beside him.
And he led them forth to his kingdom, for he was a
king's son, and they married, and lived happily.

by The Brothers Grimm

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