|WILLOW's MAGPIE No. 49|
A long time ago, a poor hard-working mother was cursed with an idle daughter who simply refused to bolster the household finances by helping her mother at the spinning wheel.
Finally mother lost all patience and smacked her daughter until she cried. The Queen happened to be riding by at that exact moment. She heard the girl cry and, being soft-hearted, came to inquire the reason for the racket.
Mother was ashamed of her lazy daughter. Instead of owning up, she said that her daughter wanted to spin all day but that she didn’t have the money to provide the flax.
“Poor girl”, said the Queen. “Come with me to the palace, I have plenty of flax and you’ll be able to spin to your heart’s content”.
At the palace the Queen showed the girl three rooms filled with flax.
“Spin me this flax”, she said, “ and when you have done so, you shall have my eldest son for a husband. You may be a poor peasant girl, but you are wonderfully industrious; that’s dowry enough”.
Left to get on with it, the girl burst into tears. She was even worse off here than at home. She went to the window, weeping desperately.
Three old women were standing outside, gossiping. One had a broad, flat foot, the second had a long, drooping underlip and the third had a huge thumb. “Why are you crying such bitter tears, pretty girl”, they asked.
The girl sobbed out her story.
“Well, here’s what we’ll do for you”, said the ugly women, “we’ll do the spinning for you if you invite us to your wedding to the Queen’s son. You’ll have to promise, mind”.
Instantly, the girl’s tears dried up. “Come in, come now”, she said, “don’t delay, you could start right away. I promise to do as you ask and invite you to the wedding.
No sooner said than done. The women came in and began their spinning. One drew the thread and trod the wheel, the next wetted the thread, the third twisted it and struck the table with her finger, and as often as she spun it a skein of thread fell to the ground, spun in the finest manner possible. When they were not working the girl hid the women in her own chamber where nobody else was allowed to enter.
One after the other the rooms were emptied of flax. Every time the Queen came to check on progress, the girl showed her the great quantity of thread spun. When all the work had been done, the three women left. “Don’t forget your promise and invite us to the wedding. It will make your fortune.
The Queen was delighted, mightily she praised the girl for her industriousness. “It shall be as I promised, you shall marry the crown prince. We will prepare for the wedding immediately”.
“May I ask a favour”, the girl said. “I have three dear old aunts who have been very kind to me. May I invite them to the wedding?”
The Queen consulted her son. “We don’t see why not”, they said.
In due course the wedding feast began and three old women entered, dressed in strange apparel; the girl embraced them and said “welcome, dear aunts”.
The Prince saw them, saw how ugly they were and looked at his new bride. Could they really be closely related? His pretty girl and these ugly old crones?
“Hello there, ladies,” he said politely, not wanting them to see that he was in shock. “Welcome and all that, but do tell me how you came by the massive foot, the lip hanging down to your chest and the malformed hand”, looking at each of them in turn.
“By treading the spinning wheel”, the first one said.
“By licking the thread”, the second one said.
“By twisting the thread”, the third one said.
Hearing that, the Prince instantly decided that he’d be the man in his household, to put his foot down and forbid his pretty new bride ever to touch a spinning wheel again, no matter how much she cried and pined for it.