Once there was a widow who had two daughters; her step-daughter was pretty and hard-working, but her actual daughter was ugly and lazy. The ugly daughter was her favorite, and the widow made the pretty daughter do all the hard housework.
Every day the poor girl had to sit by a well near a road and spin until her fingers bled. One day, she dipped the bloody spindle into the well to wash it, but it slipped out of her hand and fell in.
She ran back to her step-mother in tears and told her what happened. Her step-mother scolded her and told her that she would have to somehow find the spindle.
Then the girl went back to the well, and in despair, she jumped in, hoping to find the spindle. She lost consciousness, and when she recovered, she found herself in a beautiful bright meadow, surrounded by thousands of flowers.
She walked through the meadow until she came to an oven that was full of bread; and the bread called out to her, “Oh, take me out, take me out, or I will burn; I’ve baked enough!” Using a spatula that was near the oven, she took out all the loaves, one after the other.
Then came to a tree that was full of apples, and it called out to her, “Oh, shake me, shake me, all my apples are ripe!” She shook the tree until the apples fell like rain, shaking the tree until there were no more to fall. She then gathered them together into a pile and continued on her way.
She then came to a little house, and an older woman was looking out of a window, but the woman had such huge teeth that the girl was afraid. She started to run away, but the older woman called out. “What are you afraid of, my dear child? Come and stay with me, and if you do a good job doing my house-work, things shall go well with you. You will have to be especially careful making my bed: Shake it up thoroughly, so that the feathers fly, because this makes it snow in the world. I am Mother Hulda.”
Because the older woman spoke so kindly, the girl decided to stay with her. She did everything to the older woman’s satisfaction and shook the bed so thoroughly that the feathers flew like snow-flakes.
The girl had a good life staying with the older woman. They got along very well and ate fine food every day.
After she had lived with Mother Hulda for a long time, she began to feel home-sick, even though she was a thousand times better off with Mother Hulda than at home. She told Mother Hulda that she had to return to her own home, even though she was very happy where she was.
Mother Hulda answered, “I’m happy that you want to return home. Because you have served me so well, I will send you there.” She took her by the hand and led her to a large open door. As the girl went through the door, a shower of gold fell on her, and hung on her, until she was covered with gold.
“All this is yours, because you have been so industrious,” said Mother Hulda, and she gave the girl the spindle that she had dropped in the well.
The door closed, and the girl found herself back in the world, not far from her mother’s house. As she went through the front yard, the rooster cried out,
She’s covered with gold from head to shoe!”
Because she was covered with gold, her mother and sister were very happy to see her.
The girl told them what had happened to her, and the mother wanted the ugly and lazy daughter to have the same fortune.
So, she sent her to sit by the well and spin; and to make her spindle bloody, she put her hand into the thorn hedge. Then she threw the spindle into the well and jumped in herself.
Like her sister, she found herself in the beautiful meadow, and followed the same path. When she came to the oven, the bread called out to her, “Oh, take me out, take me out, or I will burn; I’ve baked enough!” But the lazy girl answered, “I don’t want to get my hands dirty,” and walked away.
Then she came to the apple tree, and it called out to her, “Oh, shake me, shake me, all my apples are ripe!” But she answered, “No, one of the apples might fall on my head,” and she walked away.
When she came to Mother Hulda’s house, she wasn’t afraid, because she already knew about her gigantic teeth, and she immediately agreed to work for her. She worked hard the first day, doing everything Mother Hulda asked her to do, because she was eager to get the gold. But on the second day, she began to get lazy, and on the third day, she wouldn’t even get out of bed in the morning.
She didn’t make Mother Hulda’s bed correctly and did not shake it to make the feathers fly. Mother Hulda soon got tired of her, and dismissed her. The lazy girl was quite happy to leave, thinking that she would soon get the gold.
Mother Hulda led her to the door. As she stood in the doorway, instead of a shower of gold, a great kettle full of tar was emptied over her.
“That is the reward for your service,” said Mother Hulda, and shut the door. So the lazy girl came home all covered with tar.
As she went through the front yard, the rooster cried out,
She’s covered with tar from head to shoe.
And the tar stuck to her as long as she lived.