The Seven Ravens

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The Seven Ravens

     There was once a man who had seven sons, and still he had no daughter,
however, much he wished for one. At length his wife again gave him hope of a
child, and when it came into the world it was a girl. The joy was great, but
the child was sickly and small, and had to be privately baptized on account of
its weakness. The father sent one of the boys in haste to the spring to fetch
water for the baptism. The other six went with him, and as each of them wanted
to be first to fill it, the jug fell into the well. There they stood and did
not know what to do, and none of them dared to go home. As they still did not
return, the father grew impatient, and said, "They have certainly forgotten it
for some game, the wicked boys!" He became afraid that the girl would have to
die without being baptized, and in his anger cried, "I wish the boys were all
turned into ravens." Hardly was the word spoken before he heard a whirring of
wings over his head in the air, looked up and saw seven coal-black ravens
flying away. The parents could not recall the curse, and however sad they were
at the loss of their seven sons, they still to some extent comforted
themselves with their dear little daughter, who soon grew strong and every day
became more beautiful. For a long time she did not know that she had had
brothers, for her parents were careful not to mention them before her, but one
day she accidentally heard some people saying of herself, "that the girl was
certainly beautiful, but that in reality she was to blame for the misfortune
which had befallen her seven brothers." Then she was much troubled, and went
to her father and mother and asked if it was true that she had had brothers,
and what had become of them? The parents now dared to keep the secret no
longer, but said that what had befallen her brothers was the will of Heaven,
and that her birth had only been the innocent cause. But the maiden laid it to
heart daily, and thought she must deliver her brothers. She had no rest or
peace until she set out secretly, and went forth into the wide world to trace
out her brothers and set them free, let it cost what it might. She took
nothing with her but a little ring belonging to her parents as a keepsake, a
loaf of bread against hunger, a little pitcher of water against thirst, and a
little chair as a provision against weariness.

     And now she went continually onwards, far, far, to the very end of the
world. Then she came to the sun, but it was too hot and terrible, and devoured
little children. Hastily she ran away, and ran to the moon, but it was far too
cold, and also awful and malicious, and when it saw the child, it said, "I
smell, I smell the flesh of men." On this she ran swiftly away, and came to the
stars, which were kind and good to her and each of them sat on its own
particular little chair. But the morning star arose, and gave her the
drumstick of a chicken, and said, "If thou hast not that drumstick thou canst
not open the Glass mountain, and in the Glass mountain are thy brothers."

     The maiden took the drumstick, wrapped it carefully in a cloth, and went
onwards again until she came to the Glass mountain. The door was shut, and she
thought she would take out the drumstick; but when she undid the cloth, it was
empty, and she had lost the good star's present. What was she now to do? She
wished to rescue her brothers, and had no key to the Glass mountain. The good
sister took a knife, cut off one of her little fingers, put it in the door,
and succeeded in opening it. When she had gone inside, a little dwarf came to
meet her, who said, "My child, what are you looking for?" "I am looking for my
brothers, the seven ravens," she replied. The dwarf said, "The lord ravens are
not at home, but if you will wait here until they come, step in." Thereupon
the little dwarf carried the ravens' dinner in, on seven little plates, and in
seven little glasses, and the little sister ate a morsel from each plate, and
from each little glass she took a sip, but in the last little glass she
dropped the ring which she had brought away with her.

     Suddenly she heard a whirring of wings and a rushing through the air, and
then the little dwarf said, "Now the lord ravens are flying home." Then they
came, and wanted to eat and drink, and looked for their little plates and
glasses. Then said one after the other, "Who has eaten something from my
plate? Who has drunk out of my little glass? It was a human mouth." And when
the seventh came to the bottom of the glass, the ring rolled against his
mouth. Then he looked at it, and saw that it was a ring belonging to his
father and mother, and said, "God grant that our sister may be here, and then
we shall be free." When the maiden, who was standing behind the door watching,
heard that wish, she came forth, and on this all the ravens were restored to
their human form again. And they embraced and kissed each other, and went
joyfully home.