poor widow lived alone in a little cottage, in front of which was a
garden, where stood two little rose-trees: one bore white roses, the
other red. The widow had two children, who resembled the two
rose-trees: one was called Snow-white, and the other Rose-red. They
were two of the best children that ever lived; but Snow-white was
quieter and more gentle than Rose-red. Rose-red liked best to jump
about in the meadows, to look for flowers and catch butterflies; but
Snow-white sat at home with her mother, helped her in the house, or
read to her when there was nothing else to do. The two children loved
one another so much, that they always walked hand in hand; and when
Snow-white said, "We will not forsake one another," Rose-red answered,
"Never, as long as we live;" and the mother added, "Yes, my children,
whatever one has, let her divide with the other." They often ran about
in solitary places, and gathered red berries; and the wild creatures
of the wood never hurt them, but came confidingly up to them. The
little hare ate cabbage-leaves out of their hands, the doe grazed at
their side, the stag sprang merrily past them, and the birds remained
sitting on the boughs, and never ceased their songs. They met with no
accident if they loitered in the wood and right came on; they lay down
together on the moss, and slept till morning; and the mother knew
this, and was in no anxiety about them. Once, when they had spent the
night in the wood, and the red morning awoke them, they saw a
beautiful child in a shining white dress, sitting by the place where
they had slept, who, arising, and looking at them kindly, said
nothing, but went into the wood. And when they looked round, they
found out that they had been sleeping close to a precipice, and would
certainly have fallen down it if they had gone a few steps farther in
the dark. Their mother told them it must have been the angel that
takes care of good children who had sat by them all night long.
Snow-white and Rose-red kept their mother's cottage so clean, that it
was a pleasure to look into it. In the summer, Rose-red managed the
house, and every morning she gathered a nosegay in which was a rose
off each tree, and set it by her mother's bed before she awoke. In
winter Snow-white lighted the fire, and hung the kettle on the hook;
and though it was only copper, it shone like gold, it was rubbed so
clean. In the evening, when the snow fell, the mother said, "Go,
Snow-white, and bolt the door;" and then they seated themselves on the
hearth, and the mother took her spectacles, and read aloud out of a
great book, and the two girls listened, and sat and span. Near them
lay a lamb on the floor, and behind them, on a perch, sat a white
dove, with its head under its wing.
One evening, as they were thus happy together, some one knocked to be
let in. The mother said, "Quick, Rose-red, open the door; perhaps it
is a traveller who seeks shelter." Rose-red went and pushed the bolt
back, and thought it was a poor man, but a bear stretched his thick
black head into the door. Rose-red screamed and sprang back, the
little lamb bleated, the little dove fluttered about, and Snow-white
hid herself behind her mother's bed. However, the bear began to speak,
and said, "Do not be frightened, I will do you no harm; I am half
frozen, and only want to warm myself a little."
"You poor bear," said the mother, "lay yourself down before the fire,
only take care your fur does not burn." Then she called out,
"Snow-white and Rose-red, come out; the bear will not hurt you, he
means honestly by us." Then they both came out, and, by degrees, the
lamb and the dove also approached, and ceased to be afraid. The bear
said, "Children, knock the snow a little out of my fur;" and they
fetched a broom, and swept the bear's skin clean; and he stretched
himself before the fire and growled softly, like a bear that was quite
happy and comfortable. In a short time, they all became quite friendly
together, and the children played tricks with the awkward guest. They
pulled his hair, set their feet on his back, and rolled him here and
there; or took a hazel rod and beat him, and when he growled they
laughed. The bear was very much pleased with this frolic, only, when
they became too mischievous, he called out, "Children, leave me
"Little Snow-white and Rose-red,
You will strike your lover dead."
When bedtime came, and the others went to sleep, the mother said to
the bear: "You can lie there on the hearth, and then you will be
sheltered from the cold and the bad weather." At daybreak the two
children let him out, and he trotted over the snow into the wood.
Henceforward, the bear came every evening at the same hour, laid
himself on the hearth, and allowed the children to play with him as
much as they liked; and they became so used to him, that the door was
never bolted until their black companion had arrived. When spring
came, and everything was green out of doors, the bear said one morning
to Snow-white: "Now I must go away, and may not come again the whole
"Where are you going, dear Bear?" asked Snow-white.
"I must go into the wood, and guard my treasures from the bad dwarfs;
in winter, when the ground is frozen hard, they have to stay
underneath, and cannot work their way through, but now that the sun
has thawed and warmed the earth, they break through, come up, seek,
and steal: what is once in their hands, and lies in their caverns,
does not come so easily into daylight again." Snow-white was quite
sorrowful at parting, and as she unbolted the door for him, and the
bear ran out, the hook of the door caught him, and a piece of his skin
tore off; it seemed to Snow-white as if she had seen gold shining
through, but she was not sure. But the bear ran quickly away, and soon
disappeared behind the trees.
After some time, their mother sent the children into the wood to
collect faggots. They found there a large tree, which had been cut
down and lay on the ground, and by the trunk something was jumping up
and down, but they could not tell what it was. As they came nearer,
they saw that it was a dwarf, with an old withered face, and a
snow-white beard a yard long. The end of the beard was stuck fast in a
cleft in the tree, and the little fellow jumped about like a dog on a
rope, and did not know how to help himself. He stared at the girls
with his fiery red eyes, and screamed out, "Why do you stand there!
Can't you come and render me some assistance?"
"What is the matter with you, little man?" asked Rose-red.
"Stupid little goose!" answered the dwarf; "I wanted to chop the tree,
so as to have some small pieces of wood for the kitchen; we only want
little bits; with thick logs, the small quantity of food that we cook
for ourselves we are not, like you, great greedy people burns
directly. I had driven the wedge well in, and it was all going on
right, but the detestable wood was too smooth, and sprang out
unexpectedly; and the tree closed up so quickly, that I could not pull
my beautiful white beard out; now it is sticking there, and I can't
get away. There you foolish, soft, milk-faces! you are laughing and
crying out, 'How ugly you are! how ugly you are!'"
The children took a great deal of trouble, but they could not pull the
beard out; it stuck too fast.
"I will run and fetch somebody," said Rose red.
"You great ninny!" snarled the dwarf, "you want to call more people;
you are two too many for me now. Can't you think of anything better?"
"Only don't be impatient," said Snow-white, "I have thought of
something;" and she took her little scissors out of her pocket, and
cut the end of the beard off.
As soon as the dwarf felt himself free, he seized a sack filled with
gold that was sticking between the roots of the tree; pulling it out,
he growled to himself, "You rude people, to cut off a piece of my
beautiful beard! May evil reward you!" Then he threw his sack over his
shoulders and walked away, without once looking at the children.
Some time afterwards, Snow-white and Rose red wished to catch some
fish for dinner. As they came near to the stream, they saw that
something like a grasshopper was jumping towards the water, as if it
were going to spring in. They ran on and recognised the dwarf.
"Where are you going?" asked Rose-red, "You don't want to go into the
"I am not such a fool as that," cried the dwarf, "Don't you see the
detestable fish wants to pull me in?"
The little fellow had been sitting there fishing, and, unluckily, the
wind had entangled his beard with the line. When directly afterwards a
great fish bit at his hook, the weak creature could not pull him out,
so the fish was pulling the dwarf into the water. It is true he caught
hold of all the reeds and rushes, but that did not help him much; he
had to follow all the movements of the fish, and was in imminent
danger of being drowned. The girls, coming at the right time, held him
fast and tried to get the beard loose from the line, but in
vain beard and line were entangled fast together. There was nothing
to do but to pull out the scissors and to cut off the beard, in doing
which a little piece of it was lost. When the dwarf saw that, he cried
out: "Is that manners, you goose! to disfigure one's face so? Is it
not enough that you once cut my beard shorter? But now you have cut
the best part of it off, I dare not be seen by my people. I wish you
had had to run, and had lost the soles of your shoes!" Then he fetched
a sack of pearls that lay among the rushes, and, without saying a word
more, he dragged it away and disappeared behind a stone.
Soon after, the mother sent the two girls to the town to buy cotton,
needles, cord, and tape. The road led them by a heath, scattered over
which lay great masses of rock. There they saw a large bird hovering
in the air; it flew round and round just above them, always sinking
lower and lower, and at last it settled down by a rock not far
distant. Directly after, they heard a piercing, wailing cry. They ran
up, and saw with horror that the eagle had seized their old
acquaintance the dwarf, and was going to carry him off. The
compassionate children instantly seized hold of the little man, held
him fast, and struggled so long that the eagle let his prey go.
When the dwarf had recovered from his first fright, he called out, in
his shrill voice: "Could not you deal rather more gently with me? You
have torn my thin coat all in tatters, awkward, clumsy creatures that
you are!" Then he took a sack of precious stones, and slipped behind
the rock again into his den. The girls, who were used to his
ingratitude, went on their way, and completed their business in the
town. As they were coming home again over the heath, they surprised
the dwarf, who had emptied his sack of precious stones on a little
clean place, and had not thought that any one would come by there so
late. The evening sun shone on the glittering stones, which looked so
beautiful in all their colours, that the children could not help
standing still to gaze.
"Why do you stand there gaping?" cried the dwarf, his ash-coloured
face turning vermilion with anger.
With these cross words he was going away, when he heard a loud
roaring, and a black bear trotted out of the wood towards them. The
dwarf sprang up terrified, but he could not get to his lurking hole
again the bear was already close upon him. Then he called out in
"Dear Mr. Bear, spare me, and you shall have all my treasures; look
at the beautiful precious stones that lie there. Give me my life! for
what do you want with a poor thin little fellow like me? You would
scarcely feel me between your teeth. Rather seize those two wicked
girls; they will be tender morsels for you, as fat as young quails;
pray, eat them at once."
The bear, without troubling himself to answer, gave the malicious
creature one single stroke with his paw, and he did not move again.
The girls had run away, but the bear called after them, "Snow-white
and Rose-red, do not be frightened; wait, I will go with you.
Recognising the voice of their old friend, they stood still, and when
the bear came up to them his skin suddenly fell off; and behold he was
not a bear, but a handsome young man dressed all in gold.
"I am a king's son," said he; "I was changed by the wicked dwarf, who
had stolen all my treasures, into a wild bear, and obliged to run
about in the wood until I should be freed by his death. Now he has
received his well-deserved punishment."
So they all went home together to the widow's cottage, and Snow-white
was married to the prince, and Rose-red to his brother. They divided
between them the great treasures which the dwarf had amassed. The old
mother lived many quiet and happy years with her children; but when
she left her cottage for the palace, she took the two rose-trees with
her, and they stood before her window and bore every year the most
beautiful roses one white and the other red.
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