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The Seven Crows

There was a man who had seven sons, but never a daughter, although he wished very much for one; at last his wife promised him another child, and when it was born, lo! it was a daughter. Their happiness was great, but the child was so weak and small that, on account of its delicate health, it had to be baptized immediately. The father sent one of his sons hastily to a spring in order to fetch some water, but the other six would run as well; and as each strove to be first to fill the pitcher, between them all it fell into the water. They stood by not knowing what to do, and none of them dared to go home. As they did not come back, the father became impatient, saying, "They have forgotten all about it in a game of play, the godless youths." Soon he became anxious lest the child should die un-baptized, and in his haste he exclaimed, "I would they were all changed into crows!"Scarcely were the words out of his mouth, when he heard a whirring over his head, and looking up he saw seven coal-black crows flying over the house.

The parents could not recall their curse, and grieved very much for their lost sons; but they comforted themselves in some measure with their dear daughter, who soon grew strong, and became more and more beautiful every day. For a long time she did not know she had any brothers, for the parents were careful not to mention them, but one day accidentally she overheard the people talking of her, and saying, "She is certainly very beautiful; but still the guilt of her seven brothers lands on her." This made her very sad, and she went to her parents and asked whether she had any brothers, and whither they were gone. The old people durst no longer keep their secret, but said it was the decree of heaven, and her birth had been the unhappy cause. Now the maiden daily accused herself, and thought how she could again deliver her brothers. She had neither rest nor quiet, until she at last set out secretly, and journeyed into the wide world to seek out her brothers, and to free them wherever they were, cost what it might. She took nothing with her but a ring of her parents' for a remembrance, a loaf of bread for hunger's sake, a bottle of water for thirst's sake, and a little stool for weariness.

Now on and on went the maiden further and further, even to the world's end. Then she came to the sun, but he was too hot and fearful, and burnt up little children. So she ran hastily away to the moon, but she was too cold, and even wicked-looking, and said, "I smell, I smell man's flesh?" So she ran away quickly, and went to the stars, who were friendly and kind to her, each one sitting upon his own little seat. But the morning-star was standing up, and gave her a crooked bone, saying, "If you have not this bone you cannot unlock the castle door, where your brothers are."

The maiden took the bone, and wrapped it well up in a handkerchief, and then on she went again till she came at last to the glass castle. The door was closed, and she looked therefore for the little bone; but when she unwrapped her handkerchief it was empty — she had lost the present of the good star. What was she to do now? She wished to save her brothers, and she had no key to the glass castle. The good sister bent her little finger, and put it in the door, and luckily it unlocked it. As soon as she entered, a little dwarf came towards her, who said, "My child, what do you seek?"

"I seek my brothers, the seven crows," she replied.

The dwarf answered, "My Lord Crows are not at home; but if you wish to wait their return, come in and sit down."

Thereupon the little dwarf carried in the food of the seven crows upon seven dishes and in seven cups, and the maiden at a little piece off each dish, and drank a little out of every cup; but in the last cup she dropped the ring which she had brought with her.

All at once she heard a whirring and cawing in the air, and the dwarf said, "My Lord Crows are now flying home."

Presently they came in and prepared to eat and drink, each seeking his own dish and cup. Then one said to the other, "Who has been eating off my dish? Who has been drinking out of my cup? There has been a human mouth here!"

When the seventh came to the bottom of his cup, the little ring rolled out. He looked at it, and recognized it as a ring of his parents', and said, "God grant that our sister be here; then are we saved!"

As the maiden, who had stood behind the door watching, heard this wish, she came forward, and immediately all the Crows received again their human forms, and embraced and kissed one another, and then they all went joyously home.


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