Maid Maleen

Maid Maleen

Once upon a time there was a king whose son proposed marriage to a beautiful princess. Her name was Maid Maleen, and she was very beautiful. The girl’s father wanted to give her to another man, however, so the prince was rejected. However, the prince and princess both loved each other with all their hearts and they would not give each other up. Maid Maleen said to her father, “I can and will take no one else for my husband.” Then the King flew into a rage, and ordered a dark tower to be built, into which no ray of sunlight or moonlight should enter. When it was finished, he said, “You will be kept prisoner in this tower for seven years, and then I will come and see if you have changed your mind.” Enough food and water to last seven years was carried into the tower, then Maid Maleen and her servant were led into it and the last stones were put into the wall to finish it. They were cut off from the sky and from the earth. There they sat in the darkness, and they didn’t know when it was night and when it was day. The prince who was the sweetheart of Maid Maleen often went round and round the tower, and called their names, but no sound could enter the thick walls. What else could they do but weep and complain?

Meanwhile the time passed, and because they had almost no food left, they knew that the seven years were coming to an end. They thought that they would soon be released, but they never heard the sound of a hammer and no stone fell out of the wall. It seemed to Maid Maleen that her father had forgotten her. As they only had food for a short time longer, they saw a miserable death awaiting them. Maid Maleen said, “We have one last chance. We must see if we can break through the wall.” She took the bread-knife, and picked at the stone wall. When she was tired, the servant took her turn. They tried and tried and finally they succeeded in getting out one stone, and then a second, and a third, and after three days the first ray of light fell on their darkness, and at last the opening was so large that they could look out. The sky was blue, and a fresh breeze blew on their faces. When they saw the land around them, however, they had a terrible shock. Her father’s castle lay in ruins, the town and the villages were all destroyed by fire, the fields far and wide were damaged, and they couldn’t see any human beings at all. When the opening in the wall was large enough for them to slip through, the servant jumped down first, and then Maid Maleen followed. But where could they go? The enemy had destroyed the kingdom and killed the people who lived there and the King had disappeared.

Maid Maleen and her servant wandered around, looking to find another country to live in. They couldn’t find a roof for their heads and nobody gave them any bread so they became so hungry. They became so hungry that they were forced to eat nettles. They tried to find work but nobody gave them a chance. Finally they arrived at a large city and went to the royal palace. There also they were ordered to go away, but finally the cook said that they could stay in the kitchen and be servants.

The son of the King in whose kingdom they were, was, however, the very man who had been engaged to Maid Maleen. His father had chosen another bride for him, whose face was as ugly as her heart was wicked. The wedding was fixed, and the future bride had already arrived. Because she was so ugly, however, she shut herself in her room, and allowed no one to see her, and Maid Maleen had to take her her meals from the kitchen. When the day of the wedding came, she was ashamed of her ugliness, and afraid that if she showed her face on the way to the church, she would be mocked and laughed at by the people. Then said she to Maid Maleen, “You are very lucky. I have sprained my foot, and cannot walk through the streets. Put on my wedding clothes and you can take my place. You will never have a bigger honor!”

Maid Maleen, however, refused it, and said, “I wish for no honour which is not suitable for me.” The bride offered her gold but Maid Maleen refused that, too. Finally, the bride became angry and said, “If you do not obey me, you will die. If I say the word, they will cut your head off!” So Maid Maleen was forced to obey and put on the bride’s magnificent wedding dress and all her jewels.

When she entered the royal hall, every one was amazed at her great beauty, and the King said to his son, “This is the bride that I have chosen for you, and who you must lead to church.” The bridegroom was astonished, and thought, “She looks like my Maid Maleen! I would believe that it was really her, if she were not imprisoned in the tower, or dead.” He took her by the hand and led her to church. On the way she saw a nettle-plant, and she said,

“Oh, nettle-plant,

Little nettle-plant,

I remember the time

When I ate you.”

“What are you saying?” asked the prince.

“Nothing,” she replied, “I was only thinking of Maid Maleen.”

He was surprised that she knew about her, but kept silent. When they came to the foot-bridge into the churchyard, she said,

“Foot-bridge, do not break,

I am not the true bride.”

“What are you saying there?” asked the prince.

“Nothing,” she replied, “I was only thinking of Maid Maleen.”

“Do you know Maid Maleen?”

“No,” she answered, “how could I know her? I have only heard of her.”

When they arrived at the church-door, she said once more,

“Church-door, do not break,

I am not the true bride.”

“What are you saying?” he asked.

“Ah,” she answered, “I was only thinking of Maid Maleen.”

Then he took out a precious chain, put it round her neck, and fastened it. Then they entered the church, and the priest joined their hands together and married them. He led her home, but she did not speak a single word the whole way. When they got back to the royal palace, she hurried into the bride’s chamber, took off the magnificent clothes and the jewels, dressed herself in her gray servant’s clothes, and kept nothing except the jewel on her neck, which she had received from the bridegroom.

That evening, when the bride was led into the prince’s room, she let her veil fall over her face, so that he would not notice her deception. As soon as every one had gone away, he said to her, “What did you say to the nettle-plant which was growing by the road?”

“To which nettle-plant?” she asked. “I don’t talk to nettle-plants.”

“If you didn’t do it, then you are not the true bride,” he said.

She thought to herself and said “I must ask my servant, who remembers all my thoughts.”

She went out and found Maid Maleen. “Girl, what did you say to the nettle?”

“I only said,

Oh, nettle-plant,

Little nettle-plant,

I remember the time

When I ate you.”

The bride ran back into the chamber, and said, “I now know what I said to the nettle,” and she repeated the words which she had just heard.

“But what did you say to the foot-bridge when we went over it?” asked the prince.

“To the foot-bridge?” she answered. “I don’t talk to foot-bridges.”

“Then you are not the true bride.”

She again said, “I must ask my servant, who remembers all my thoughts.” Then she ran out and found Maid Maleen, “Girl, what did you say to the foot-bridge?”

“I only said,

Foot-bridge, do not break,

I am not the true bride.”

“That will cost you your life!” cried the bride, but she hurried back into the room, and said, “I know now what I said to the foot-bridge,” and she repeated the words.

“But what did you say to the church-door?”

“To the church-door?” she replied; “I don’t talk to church-doors.”

“Then you are not the true bride.”

She went out and found Maid Maleen, and said, “Girl, what did you say to the church-door?”

“I only said,

Church-door, do not break,

I am not the true bride.”

“That will break your neck!” cried the bride, and she flew into a rage, but she hurried back into the room, and said, “I know now what I said to the church-door,” and she repeated the words.

“But where is the jewel which I gave you at the church-door?”

“What jewel?” she answered. “You did not give me any jewel.”

“I put it round your neck, and I fastened it myself. If you don’t know that, you are not the true bride.” He drew the veil from her face, and when he saw her ugliness, he jumped back terrified, and said, “How did you come here? Who are you?”

“I am your engaged bride, but because I feared the people would mock me when they saw me, I commanded a servant to dress herself in my clothes, and to go to church instead of me.”

“Where is the girl?” he said. “I want to see her, go and bring her here.”

She went out and told the servants that the kitchen servant was an impostor, and that they must take her out into the courtyard and cut off her head. The servants got hold of Maid Maleen and wanted to drag her out, but she screamed so loudly for help, that the prince heard her voice, hurried out of his chamber and ordered them to set the girl free instantly. Lights were brought, and then he saw on her neck the gold chain that he had given her at the church-door.

“You are the true bride,” he said. “You went with me to the church. Come with me now to my room.”

When they were both alone, he said, “On the way to church you spoke the name Maid Maleen, who I was my engaged to. If I could believe it possible, I would think that she was standing before me because you are like her in every way.”

She answered, “I am Maid Maleen, who because of you was imprisoned for seven years in the darkness, who suffered hunger and thirst, and has lived so long in poverty. Today, however, the sun is shining on me once more. I was married to you in the church, and I am your lawful wife.”

Then they kissed each other, and were happy all the days of their lives. The false bride was rewarded for what she had done by having her head cut off.

The End