Once upon a time there was a witch who lived with two daughters. One was ugly and wicked, and the witch loved her because she was her own daughter. The other one was beautiful and good, and the witch hated her, because she was her stepdaughter. The stepdaughter had a beautiful apron, and her sister was extremely jealous of it. She wanted it so much and she told her mother that she just had to have that apron.
“Be patient, my child,” said the old woman, “and you shall have it. I have hated your stepsister for a long time and she deserves to die. Tonight, when she is asleep, I will come and chop off her head. Make sure you lie down at the far side of the bed. Push your stepsister to the front of the bed.”
Fortunately, the poor girl was standing in the corner and overheard everything. If she hadn’t, that would have been the end of her. She pretended that she hadn’t heard and continued doing the housework. She was not allowed to go outside all day long, and at bedtime her wicked stepsister got into bed first, so she would be lying next to the wall. However, after the witch’s daughter fell asleep, the stepdaughter gently pushed her to the front of the bed, and she took her place back against the wall.
In the night the old woman crept into the bedroom holding an axe in her right hand. It was completely dark. She used her left hand to feel for anyone lying at the front of the bed. Then she held the axe with both hands and chopped off her own child’s head.
After the witch had left the room, the girl got up and went to her sweetheart, whose name was Roland, and knocked at his door. When he came out, she said to him, “Listen, dearest Roland, we must flee at once. My stepmother tried to kill me, but she killed her own child instead. When daylight comes, and she sees what she has done, she’ll try to kill us.”
“You had better take her magic wand,” said Roland, “or we will not be able to escape if she comes after us.”
The girl went back home and got the magic wand, then she picked up the dead girl’s head and dropped three drops of blood onto the floor, one in front of the bed, one in the kitchen, and one on the steps. Then she hurried away with Roland.
The next morning when the old witch got up, she called her daughter. “Now, you can wear that pretty apron!” she said. But the daughter did not come. So this time she shouted, “Where are you?”
“Here on the steps. I’m sweeping,” answered the first drop of blood.
The old woman went out, but seeing no one on the steps, she shouted again, “Where are you?”
“Here in the kitchen. I’m warming myself,” shouted the second drop of blood.
She went into the kitchen, but found no one. So she shouted again, “Where are you?”
“Here in the bed. I’m sleeping,” shouted the third drop of blood.
She went into the bedroom and approached the bed. She lifted up the sheet and what did she see there? Her own child swimming in blood with her head cut off.
The witch flew into a rage. Because she was a witch, she could see far into the world, so she jumped to the window and looked out. She saw her stepdaughter hurrying away with her sweetheart Roland. “You won’t get away”, she shouted. “Even if you’ve already gone a long way, you won’t escape from me.”
She put on her magic boots, and chased after them. It was not long before she overtook them. However, when the girl saw the old woman hurrying toward them, she used the magic wand to cast a spell. She transformed her sweetheart Roland into a lake, and herself into a duck swimming in the middle of the lake.
The witch stood on the shore and threw in pieces of bread, trying with great effort to lure the duck to her. But the duck did not give in, and the old woman had to return home that night without success. Afterward the girl and her sweetheart Roland returned to their natural shapes, and they walked on through the whole night until sunrise. Then the girl transformed herself into a beautiful flower in the middle of a rose hedge, and her sweetheart Roland into a fiddler.
Soon the witch approached them. She said to the musician, “Dear musician, may I pick that beautiful flower for myself?”
“Oh, yes,” he replied. “And I will play for you while you’re doing it.”
The witch knew that the flower was her stepdaughter. She quickly crawled into the hedge and was just about to pick it, when the fiddler began to play. He played magic dance music, which forced the witch to dance, whether she wanted to or not. The faster he played, the more violently she was forced to jump. The thorns tore the clothes off her body, pricking her until she bled, and as he did not stop, she had to dance until she fell down dead.
The girl and Roland were now free, so Roland said, “Now I will go to my father and arrange our wedding.”
“I’ll stay here and wait for you,” said the girl. “And I’ll transform myself into a red stone, so that no one will recognize me.”
So Roland started his journey, and the girl turned into a red stone by the side of the road, and waited for her sweetheart. But when Roland arrived home, the witch’s sister appeared. She was angry because she knew he had killed her sister. She cast a spell on him and he forgot all about the girl. Instead, he fell in love with another girl in the village. His poor sweetheart waited there a long time, but finally, when he failed to return, she became so sad and sorrowful. She thought, “I cannot live in this world as a woman, so I will live here as a flower”, and she transformed herself into a rose.
A little while later, a shepherd who was herding his sheep in the field saw the flower. As it was so beautiful, he picked it, took it home with him, and put it away in his chest. From then on, strange things happened in the shepherd’s house. When he got up in the morning, all the work was already done. The room was swept, the table and benches were cleaned, the fire was lit, and water had been brought from the well. In the late afternoon, when he came home, the table was already set, and a good dinner served. He didn’t know how this happened, because he never saw anyone in his house, and there was nowhere for anybody to hide in it.
Of course, the shepherd was pleased with this good service, but he was also afraid so he decided to visit a wise woman and ask for her advice.
The wise woman said, “There is magic behind it. Look around carefully early in the morning and if anything moves, throw a white cloth over it. If you do that, the magic will stop.”
The shepherd did what she told him to do, and the next morning at dawn, he saw the chest open and the flower come out. He quickly jumped towards it and threw a white cloth over it. Instantly the flower changed shape and a beautiful girl stood before him. She admitted to him that she had been the flower, and that she had been doing his housework. She told him her story. He liked her and asked her to marry him, but she answered, “No,” because she wanted to remain faithful to her sweetheart Roland, even though he had abandoned her. Nevertheless, she promised not to go away, and to continue keeping house for the shepherd.
It was announced that Roland was going to marry the other girl. According to an old custom in that country, every local girl had to attend the wedding and sing a song for the bride and groom. When the faithful girl heard this, she grew so sad that she thought her heart would break, and she did not want to go. But the other girls came and took her. When it was her turn to sing, she refused, and the girl next to her sang. Finally, she was the only one left, and she could not refuse any longer. But when she began her song, and it reached Roland’s ears, he jumped up and shouted, “I know that voice. That is the true bride. I do not want anyone else.” Everything he had forgotten, and which had vanished from his mind, had suddenly come home again to his heart.
And so the faithful girl was married to her sweetheart Roland. Her sorrow came to an end, and her joy began.