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There was once a young woman who liked to walk in the forest behind her parentsí cottage. She rarely had the opportunity, for her family was very poor and had to work hard in order to eat. So twice a month she got to walk in the forest. One Midsummerís Day she was walking there and came across a little girl who had lost her hat. The little girl was crying because there was a party at her house that very evening, and if she came home without her hat, her mother would be most upset. Our young woman sympathized with the girl, because she herself was frequently admonished for coming home late for dinner after her walk in the woods. So she helped the little girl find her hat, and they both hurried home.

The following day the young woman, who had been asked by her mother to finish the dayís spinning, sat daydreaming about the little girl and the party. Her parents never had parties, and she wondered who was at the party last night, and what they wore, and what type of food was served and so on. Unfortunately, in the middle of this reverie, the womanís mother came into the room and caught her dreaming instead of spinning. This was not the first time this had happened, for our young woman hated spinning above all other things, and her poor overworked mother lost her temper and began to beat the girl.

It just so happens that the queen was riding by with her entourage that morning. She heard the noise from the cottage, and had the whole party stop to see what was the matter. The mother, not wanting the queen to know that she beat her children (for that was very much looked down upon by society) came up with a quick excuse. She told the queen that her daughter loved to spin so much that the poor family could not afford the flax. The queen offered to take her daughter away to the castle with her, where she could spin all the flax she liked. The mother, who had had enough of her lazy daughter, agreed.

So our young woman went with the queen to her castle. The queen brought the girl upstairs, and said, "There are three rooms full of flax for you. Your mother told me you love to spin, so if you finish shortly, and I am pleased with the resulting yarn, you shall be the bride of my oldest son. I have been looking for a young, hardworking girl to be his wife. Do not disappoint me." And she left the girl alone in the first room.

The young woman was of course devastated. She would never be able to spin all the flax, even if she wanted to, and she was sure she would never see her forest again. She sat and wept for three days straight. On the fourth day, the queen returned to the room, and she was surprised to find that none of the flax had been spun. She asked the girl what was the matter, and she made up an excuse about missing her home and her family. The queen accepted this, but told her that she must begin working right away.

The girl knew that the queen would not accept another excuse, and she did not know what to do. She went to the window and began to cry again. After a short time, she heard a noise. She looked up from her hands and there were three odd looking women standing below the window. One had a huge, flat foot, another a lower lip that hung down below her chin, and the third had an immense thumb on one hand. They asked her what the matter was, and the girl told them the whole story. They asked her if she was the same girl who had helped a little girl find her hat in the forest some days ago. The young woman, who was very confused, said yes. They offered to help her spin the flax, but only on three conditions: the girl must invite them to her wedding, she must let them sit at the table with her and her new husband, and she must call them her cousins and not be ashamed of them. The girl happily agreed.

So the women began to spin. They were fast, and the yarn they spun was the most beautiful the girl had ever see. She was most impressed by her new friends. Every time the queen came to check up on her, the girl hid the three women, and showed the queen the large quantities of yarn that she had finished. The queen lavished the girl with the praise, and began to prepare for her sonís wedding.

At last the three rooms were emptied of flax, and the women took their leave of our heroine. As they departed, the one with the large thumb said, "Now donít forget the promises youíve made. If you keep them, you shall only have good fortune."

The queen came to check on the girlís progress, and found the rooms empty of flax, and the girl arranging the piles of beautiful yarn. The queen kept her promise, and wedding took place shortly thereafter. The young woman had only one request of her husband-to-be. "I have three cousins," she said to him, "and they have always been kind and generous to me, and I would like to thank them by inviting them to our wedding, and allowing them to sit with us at our table."

The prince, who was gaining a lovely and industrious wife, agreed.

The wedding day came, and as everyone sat down to eat, three odd-looking strangely dressed women entered the hall. The bride stood and welcomed them as her dear cousins.

The prince asked his new wife how she came to have such strange relatives, but she just shrugged her shoulders. So he went to talk to three women. He asked the first, "How is it that you have such a large, flat foot?"

The woman smiled and responded, "From treading, dear cousin, from treading."

The prince shook his head and asked the next, "How did you get such a drooping lip?"

And she, too, smiled, and replied, "From licking, your highness."

Then he asked the third, "How did your thumb grow so much larger than the other?"

And the third woman smiled and replied, "From twisting thread."

The prince was horrified to hear this, and looked at his lovely young wife. "He shouted, "Never again shall my new wife touch a spinning wheel!"

And so the young woman never had to spin flax again, and was able to go walking in the woods anytime she pleased. But she never discovered the identities of her "cousins", and she never saw them again.


Adapted from Grimm

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Adapted by Queen Moon on July 12, 1998