THE GOLDEN SLIPPER


AN OLD MAN and his old wife had two daughters. Once the old man went to town and bought a fish for the elder sister and a fish for the younger sister. The elder sister ate her fish, but the younger one went to the well and said: "Little mother fish, what shall I do with you?" "Do not eat me," said the fish, "but put me into the water; I will be useful to you." The maiden dropped the fish into the well and went home.

Now the old woman had a great dislike for her younger daughter. She dressed the elder sister in her best clothes, made ready to take her to mass, and gave the younger one two measures of rye ordering her to husk it before their return from church.

The young girl went to fetch water; she sat on the edge of the well and wept. The fish swam to the surface and asked her: "Why do you weep, lovely maiden?" "How can I help weeping?" answered the maiden. "My mother has dressed my sister in her best clothes and gone with her to mass, but she left me home and ordered me to husk two measures of rye before her return from church." The fish said: "Weep not; dress and go to church; the rye will be husked." The maiden dressed and went to mass. Her mother did not recognize her. Toward the end of the mass, the girl went home. Very soon her mother too came home also and said: "Well, you ninny, did you husk the rye?" "I did," the daughter answered. "What a beauty we saw at mass!" her mother went on. "The priest neither chanted nor read, but looked at her all the time—and just look at you, you ninny, see how you're dressed!" "I wasn't there, but I know all about it," answered the maiden. "How could you know?" asked her mother.

The next day the mother dressed her elder daughter in her best clothes, went with her to mass, and left three measures of barley for the younger one, saying: "While I pray to God, you husk the barley." So she went to mass, and her younger daughter went to fetch water at the well. She sat down at the edge and wept. The fish swam to the surface and asked: "Why do you weep, lovely maiden?" "How can I help weeping," the maiden answered. "My mother has dressed my sister in her best clothes and taken her to mass, but she left me at home and ordered me to husk three measures of barley before she returns from church." The fish said: "Weep not. Dress and go to church after her. The barley will be husked."

The maiden dressed, went to church, and began to pray to God. The priest neither chanted nor read, but looked at her all the time. That day the king's son was attending mass; our beautiful maiden pleased him tremendously and he wanted to know whose daughter she was. So he took some pitch and threw it under her golden slipper. The slipper remained when the girl went home. "I will marry her whose slipper this is," said the young prince. Soon the old woman too came home. "What a beauty was there!" she said. "The priest neither chanted nor read, but all the time looked at her—and just look at you, what a tatterdemalion you are!"

In the meantime the prince was traveling from one district to another, seeking the maiden who had lost her slipper, but he could not find anyone whom it fitted. He came to the old woman and said: "Call your young daughter hither; I want to see whether the slipper fits her." "My daughter will dirty the slipper," answered the old woman. The maiden came and the king's son tried the slipper on her: it fitted. He married her and they lived happily and prospered.

I drank beer at their wedding; it ran down my lips, but never went into my mouth. I was given a flowing robe to wear, but a raven flew over me and cawed: "Flowing robe! Flowing robe!" I thought he was crying: "Throw the robe!" So I threw it away. I asked for a cap but received a slap. I was given red slippers, but the raven flew over me and cawed: "Red slippers! Red slippers!" I thought he was crying: "Robbed slippers!" So I threw them away.

--Aleksandr Adanas'ev, Russian Fairy Tales, trans. Norbert Guterman. Pantheon Books.

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