It is a cold, icy, rainy night here in the mountains, the kind of night when people gather in close to their fires. As the firelight glows on their faces, one begins to speak, and the others listen as the stories unfold. So draw close to the fire, and read on. It's a good night for stories.
The Three Sillies ( from England)
Once upon a long ago time, a young man asked a young lady to marry him. At the celebration of their engagement, she went to the cellar to get more cider. As she went down the steps she suddenly thought, “What will we name our children? All the names are taken!” She sat on steps to think about it, leaving the cider tap open so that cider ran all over the floor.
Her mother came looking for her.
“What’s wrong, my daughter?” When the girl told her, the mother sat to think about it too.
Not long after that, the father came looking for his wife and daughter. “What’s wrong?” he asked. They told him, and he sat down to study on the problem with them.
The young bridegroom-to-be came down the steps to see what the problem was. The cider was still running out of the barrel and the floor was covered with it. When they told him what they were worrying about, he couldn’t believe they were so silly.
“I’m leaving! I won’t come back until I find three people sillier than you are.” And off he went.
Soon he came upon a walnut grove. People were knocking down walnuts and trying to load them in wagon with a pitchfork. “Why don’t you gather the nuts in a basket and then pour them in the wagon?” he asked. They were amazed at his cleverness.
Next the young man found a man trying to feed acorns to his pigs, but he was making the pigs climb the tree to get the nuts. “You could shake the tree, and the nuts would fall so the pigs can get them,” the young man suggested. “What a brilliant idea!” the man exclaimed.
Soon after, the young man was astounded to see a man trying to put on his trousers by tying them to a tree and jumping into them. “That is so silly! Why don’t you try holding your pants with your two hands and stepping into them that way?”
“How would I do that” the man asked. The young man demonstrated how this could be done. “How smart you are!” the man exclaimed, and gave the young man 100 pieces of gold.
“Well,” said the young man, “ these three were sillier than my girlfriend and her parents, certainly!” And so he went back to that girl and married her. They had many children, but I have no idea what they named them.
Adapted from Joseph Jacobs' telling of the tale.
The Seven Ravens
from Grimm's Household Tales
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!"
The king waiting for his sons return, grew anxious and afraid that the girl would 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 brothers, for her parents were careful not to mention them before her, but one day she accidentally heard some people saying, "that girl is certainly beautiful, but she is 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 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 and finally 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.
She went far, far, to the very end of the world. Then she came to the sun, but it was too hot and terrible. Hastily she ran away to the moon, but it was far too cold. So she ran swifty 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. 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 little from each plate, and from each little glass she took a sip. 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.