English short stories ; Fables for Children
Once upon a time there was a boastful miller. One day, he told the king that his daughter was so clever that she could spin gold out of straw. ''I must meet this remarkable girl,'' said the king. ''Bring her to the palace at once.''
The king took the miller's daughter to a room filled with straw. In one corner stood a spinning wheel. ''You must spin all this straw into gold before morning,'' the king told the girl, ''or you will be put to death.'' Then he went out and locked the door behind him.
The poor girl sat at the spinning wheel and wept. How on earth could she make gold from straw? Suddenly, the door flew open, and in leaped a funny-looked little man.
Why are you crying?'' he asked.
When the girl had told him what the king had said, the strange man asked, ''What will you give me if I spin this straw into gold for you?''
''My pearl necklace,'' said the girl.
So the little man sat down at the spinning wheel and quickly spun all the straw into gold. Then he magically vanished from the room.
The next morning, the king was amazed at all the gold-but now he wanted even more. So he took the girl to a bigger room, and had it filled with straw. Once again, he told her to spin the straw into gold by morning, or she would die. Then he left.
The poor girl sat down and wept. Suddenly, the odd little man appeared, ''What will you give me if l help you this time?'' he asked.
''My pretty ring,'' the girl replied. So the little man began to spin, and soon all the straw had turned into gold. Then he vanished.
The next morning the greedy king was astounded, but still not satisfied. So he took the girl to an even bigger room, piled to the ceiling with straw. ''If you succeed this time, you will become queen,'' the king said. ''If you fail, you know what will happen.
As soon as the girl was alone, the little man appeared. ''I have nothing left to give you,'' said the girl.
''Then promise me your first-born child when you become queen,'' said the man.
''I might never become queen, and I may never have a child,'' the girl thought, and so she promised.
So the strange little man sat down at the spinning wheel and began to work. He spun for many hours, and the pile of gold grew and grew.
''At last,'' said the little man, my task is done.'' Then he vanished. The girl gazed around the room. It was stacked from floor to ceiling with glistening gold that shone like the sun.
At dawn, the king was overjoyed. he kept his promise and soon married the miller's daughter.
The whole kingdom rejoiced, and the king and his new queen were very happy together.
A year later, the king and queen had a baby. By this time, the queen had forgotten all about her promise-but the funny little man had not. One night, he appeared in the queen's bedchamber. ''I have come for your baby!'' he announced gleefully.
No!'' cried the queen. ''I will give you jewels, gold, anything you wish! But please do not take my baby. ''She wept so miserably that the little man took pity on her.
''Very well,'' he said. ''If you can quess my name within three nights, you may keep your baby. If not, the child is mine!'' Then he disappeared.
The queen sent messengers out to gather names from every town and village in the kingdom.
They returned with thousands of suggestions. Over the next two evenings, when the little man arrived, the queen questioned him again and again:
''Is your name Tom?''
''No,'' replied the little man.
''Jack? Mack? Peter?'' she asked.
The strange man shook his head.
''Could it be Brutus or Clarence, then?''
Each time, the reply was the same:
''No, Your Majesty.''
By the third day, only one messenger had not returned. Late that afternoon, he was on his way back to the palace when he saw a hut in a forest clearing. In front of it, an odd little man was dancing around a fire, singing:
''I'll be the winner of this game!
The queen will never guess my name!
She will lose, and I will win,
Because my name is...
The messenger galloped back to the palace and told the queen what he had seen and heard. She was so grateful that she rewarded the messenger with a huge sack of gold.
That night, the queen waited eagerly in her throne room for the little man. When he appeared, the queen asked, ''Is your name Guzzletum?''
''No, it's not!'' laughed the little man.
Is it Bumblebottom? Jigglejoggle? Tickletooth or Wigglewoggle?''
''No! No! he cackled. ''Your time's running out, Your Majesty!''
The queen smiled. ''Could it be...
The little man could not believe his ears, and he flew into a rage. ''Who told you? Who told you?'' he shrieked. ''How did you find out?''
He cried and squealed and beat the floor with is fists.
''You've won! You've won!'' he wailed, and disappeared in a shower of sparks.
The little man never came back to worry the queen again, and she and her family lived happily ever after.