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The Clinking Clanking Lowesleaf

March 5, 2011 in World Stories

Once upon a time there was a king who had three daughters. The youngest was his pride and joy. One day he wanted to go to the fair to buy something, and he asked his three daughters what he should bring home for them. The first one asked for a golden spinning wheel. The second one a golden yarn reel, and the third one a clinking clanking lowesleaf. The king promised to bring these things and rode away. At the fair he bought the golden spinning wheel and the golden yarn reel, but no one had a clinking clanking lowesleaf for sale. He looked everywhere, but could not find one. This saddened him, because the youngest daughter was the joy of his life, and he wanted to please her ever so much.

As he sorrowfully made his way homeward, he came to a great, great forest and to a large birch tree. Under the birch tree there lay a large black poodle dog. Because the king looked so sad, the dog asked him what was the matter. “Oh,” answered the king, “I was supposed to bring a clinking clanking lowesleaf to my youngest daughter, whom I love above anything else, but I cannot find one anywhere, and that is why I am so sad.”

“I can help you,” said the poodle. “The clinking clanking lowesleaf grows in this tree. If a year and a day from now you will give me that which first greets you upon your arrival home today, then you can have it.”

At first the king did not want to agree, but he thought about it long and hard, then said to himself, “What could it be but our dog? Go ahead and make the promise.” And he made the promise.

The poodle wagged his tail, climbed up into the birch, broke off the leaf with his frizzy-haired paw, and gave it to the king, saying, “You had better keep your word, or you will wish that you had!” The king repeated his promise, took the leaf, and rode on joyfully.

As he approached home, his youngest daughter jumped out with joy to greet him. The king was horrified. His heart was so filled with grief that he pushed her aside. She started to cry, thinking, “What does this mean, that father is pushing me away?” and she went inside and complained to her mother. Soon the king came in. He gave the oldest girl the golden spinning wheel, the middle one the golden yarn reel, and the youngest one the clinking clanking lowesleaf, and he was quiet and sad. Then the queen asked him was wrong with him, and why he had pushed the youngest daughter away; but he said nothing.

He grieved the entire year. He lamented and mourned and became thin and pale, so concerned was he. Whenever the queen asked him what was wrong, he only shook his head or walked away. Finally, when the year was nearly at its end, he could not longer keep still, and he told her about his misfortune, and thought that his wife would die of shock. She too was horrified, but she soon took hold of herself and said, “You men don’t think of anything! After all, don’t we have the goose herder’s daughter? Let’s dress her up and give her to the poodle. A stupid poodle will never know the difference.”

The day arrived, and they dressed up the goose girl in their youngest daughter’s clothes until she looked just perfect. They had scarcely finished when they heard a bark outside, and a scratching sound at the gate. They looked out, and sure enough, it was the large black poodle dog. They wondered who had taught him to count. After all, a year has more than three hundred days, and even a human can lose count, to say nothing of a dog! But he had not lost count. He had come to take away the princess.

The king and queen greeted him in a friendly manner, then led him outside to the goose girl. He wagged his tail and pawed at her, then he lay down on his belly and said,

Sit upon my tail,

And I’ll take you away!

She sat down on him, and he took off across the heath. Soon they came to a great, great forest. When they came to the large birch tree, the poodle stopped to rest a while, for it was a hot day, and it was cool and shady here. Around and about there were many daisies [called Gänseblümchen -- goose flowers -- in German] poking up their white heads from the beautiful grass, and the girl thought about her parents, and sighed, “Oh, if only my father were here. He could graze the geese so nicely here in this beautiful, lush meadow.”

The poodle stood up, shook himself, and said, “Just what kind of a girl are you?”

“I am a goose girl, and my father tends geese,” she answered. She would have liked to say what the queen had told her to say, but it was impossible for anyone to tell a lie under this tree. She could not, and she could not.

He jumped up abruptly, looked at her threateningly, and said, “You are not the right one. I have no use for you:”

Sit upon my tail,

And I’ll take you away!

They were not far from the king’s house, when the queen saw them and realized which way the wind was blowing. Therefore she took the broom binder’s daughter, dressed her up in even more beautiful clothes. When the poodle arrived and made nasty threats, she brought the broom girl out to him, saying, “This is the right girl!”

“We shall see,” responded the poodle dog. The queen became very uneasy, and the king’s throat tightened, but the poodle wagged his tail and scratched, then lay down on his belly, saying,

Sit upon my tail,

And I’ll take you away!

The broom girl sat down on him, and he took off across the heath. Soon they too came to the great forest and to the large birch tree. As they sat there resting, the girl thought about her parents, and sighed, “Oh, if only my father were here. He could make brooms so easily, for here there are masses of thin twigs!”

The poodle stood up, shook himself, and said, “Just what kind of a girl are you?”

She wanted to lie, for the queen had ordered her to, and she was a very strict mistress, but she could not, because she was under this tree, and she answered, “I am a broom girl, and my father makes brooms.”

He jumped up as though he were mad, looked at her threateningly, and said, “You are not the right one. I have no use for you:”

Sit upon my tail,

And I’ll take you away!

They approached the king’s house, and the king and queen, who had been steadily looking out the window, began to moan and cry, especially the king, for the youngest daughter was the apple of his eye. The court officials cried and sobbed as well, and there was nothing but mourning everywhere. But it was to no avail. The poodle arrived and said, “This time give me the right girl, or you will wish that you had!” He spoke with such a frightful voice and made such angry gestures, that everyone’s heart stood still, and their skin shuddered. Then they led out the youngest daughter, dressed in white, and as pale as snow. It was as though the moon had just come out from behind dark clouds. The poodle knew that she was the right one, and said with a caressing voice,

Sit upon my tail,

And I’ll take you away!

He ran much more gently this time, and did not stop in the great forest under the birch tree, but hurried deeper and deeper into the woods until they finally reached a small house, where he quietly lay the princess, who had fallen asleep, onto a soft bed. She slumbered on and dreamed about her parents, and about the strange ride, and she laughed and cried in her sleep. The poodle lay down in his hut and kept watch over the little house and the princess.

When she awoke the next morning and found herself soul alone, she cried and grieved and wanted to run away, but she could not, because the house was enchanted. It let people enter, but no one could leave. There was plenty there to eat and drink, everything that even a princess could desire, but she did not want anything and did not take a single bite. She could neither see nor hear the poodle, but the birds sang wonderfully. There were deer grazing around and about, and they looked at the princess with their large eyes. The morning wind curled her golden locks and poured fresh color over her face. The princess sighed and said, “Oh, if only someone were here, even if it were the most miserable, dirty beggar woman. I would kiss her and hug her and love her and honor her!”

“Is that true?” screeched a harsh voice close behind her, startling the princess. She looked around, and there stood a bleary-eyed woman as old as the hills. She glared at the princess and said, “You called for a beggar woman, and a beggar woman is here! In the future do not despise beggar women. Now listen well! The poodle dog is an enchanted prince, this hut an enchanted castle, the forest an enchanted city, and all the animals enchanted people. If you are a genuine princess and are also kind to poor people, then you can redeem them all and become rich and happy. The poodle goes away every morning, because he has to, and every evening he returns home, because he wants to. At midnight he pulls off his rough hide and becomes an ordinary man. If he knocks on your bedroom door, do not let him in, however much he asks and begs, not the first night, not the second night, and especially not the third night. During the third night, after he has tired himself out talking and has fallen asleep, take the hide, make a large fire, and burn it. But first lock your bedroom door securely, so that he cannot get in, and do not open it when he scratches on the door, if you cherish your life. And on your wedding day say three times, don’t forget it now, say three times:

Old tongues,

Old lungs!

and I will see you again.” The princess took very careful notice of everything, and the old woman disappeared.

The first night the prince asked and begged her to open her door, but she answered, “No, I’ll not do it,” and she did not do it. The second night he asked her even more sweetly, but she did not answer at all. She buried her head in her pillow, and she did not open the door. The third night he asked her so touchingly and sang such beautiful melodies to her, that she wanted to jump up and open the door for him, but fortunately she remembered the old woman and her mother and father. She pulled the bedcovers over her head, and did not open the door. Complaining, the prince walked away, but she did not hear him leave. While he slept she built up the fire, crept out on tiptoe, picked up the rough hide from the corner where the poodle always put it, barred the bedroom door, and threw it into the flames. The poodle jumped up howling, gnawed and clawed at the door, threatened, begged, growled, and howled again. But she did not open the door, and he could not open the door, however fiercely he threw himself against it.

The fire flamed up brightly one last time, and there was an enormous bang, as if heaven and hell had exploded. Standing before her was the most handsome prince in the world. The hut was now a magnificent castle, the forest a great city full of palaces, and the animals were all kinds of people.

At their wedding ceremony, the prince and the princess were seated at the table with the old king and the old queen and the two sisters and many rich and important people, when the bride called out three times,

Old tongues,

Old lungs!

and the tattered old woman came in. The old queen scolded, and the two princesses scolded, and they wanted to chase her away, but the young queen stood up and let the old woman sit down at her place, eat from her plate, and drink from her goblet. When the old woman had eaten and drunk her fill, she looked at the old queen and the evil daughters, and they became crooked and lame. But she blessed the young queen, and she became seven times more beautiful, and no one ever saw or heard from the old woman again.

THE END

• Source: Carl and Theodor Colshorn, Vom klinkesklanken Lowesblatt, Märchen und Sagen aus Hannover (Hannover: Verlag von Carl Ruempler, 1854), no. 20, pp. 64-69. Translated by D. L. Ashliman

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