The Summer and Winter Garden

The Summer and Winter Garden

A merchant was planning to go to a fair, so he asked his three daughters what he should bring back for them.

The oldest one said, “A beautiful dress.”

The second, “A pair of pretty shoes.”

The third, “A rose.”

To find a rose would be difficult, for it was the middle of winter, but because the youngest daughter was the most beautiful, and because she took great pleasure in flowers, the father said that he would do his best to find her one.

The merchant was now on his homeward trip. He had a splendid dress for the oldest daughter, a pair of beautiful shoes for the second one, but he had not been able to get a rose for the third one. Whenever he had entered a garden looking for roses, the people just laughed at him, asking him if he believed that roses grew in the snow. He was very sad about this, and as he was thinking about what he might bring his dearest child, he came to a castle. It had an adjoining garden where it was half summer and half winter. On the one side the most beautiful flowers were blossoming — large and small. On the other side everything was bare and covered with deep snow.

The man climbed from his horse. He was overjoyed to see an entire hedge full of roses on the summer side. He approached it, picked one of them, and then rode off.

He had already ridden some distance when he heard something running and panting behind him. Turning around, he saw a large black beast, that called out, “Give me back my rose, or I’ll kill you! Give me back my rose, or I’ll kill you!”

The man said, “Please let me have the rose. I am supposed to bring one home for my daughter, the most beautiful daughter in the world.”

“For all I care, but then give me your beautiful daughter for a wife!”

In order to get rid of the beast, the man said yes, thinking that he would not come to claim her.

However, the beast shouted back to him, “In eight days I will come and get my bride.”

So the merchant brought each daughter what she had wanted, and each one was delighted, especially the youngest with her rose.

Eight days later the three sisters were sitting together at the table when something came stepping heavily up the stairs to the door. “Open up! Open up!” it shouted.

They opened the door, and were terrified when a large black beast stepped inside. “Because my bride did not come to me, and the time is up, I will fetch her myself.” With that he went to the youngest daughter and grabbed hold of her. She began to scream, but it did not help. She had to go away with him. And when the father came home, his dearest child had been taken away.

The black beast carried the beautiful maiden to his castle where everything was beautiful and wonderful. Musicians were playing there, and below there was the garden, half summer and half winter, and the beast did everything to make her happy, fulfilling even her unspoken desires. They ate together, and she had to scoop up his food for him, for otherwise he would not have eaten. She was dear to the beast, and finally she grew very fond of him.

One day she said to him, “I am afraid, and don’t know why. It seems to me that my father or one of my sisters is sick. Couldn’t I see them just once?”

So the beast led her to a mirror and said, “Look inside.”

She looked into the mirror, and it was as though she were at home. She saw her living room and her father. He really was sick, from a broken heart, because he held himself guilty that his dearest child had been taken away by a wild beast and surely had been eaten up. If he could know how well off she was, then he would not be so sad. She also saw her two sisters sitting on the bed and crying.

Her heart was heavy because of all this, and she asked the beast to allow her to go home for a few days. The beast refused for a long time, but she grieved so much that he finally had pity on her and said, “Go to your father, but promise me that you will be back here in eight days.”

She promised, and as she was leaving, he called out again, “Do not stay longer than eight days.”

When she arrived home her father was overjoyed to see her once again, but sickness and grief had already eaten away at his heart so much that he could not regain his health, and within a few days he died.

Because of her sadness, she could think of nothing else. Her father was buried, and she went to the funeral. The sisters cried together, and consoled one another, and when her thoughts finally turned to her dear beast, the eight days were long past.

She became frightened, and it seemed to her that he too was sick. She set forth immediately and returned to his castle. When she arrived there everything was still and sad inside. The musicians were not playing. Black cloth hung everywhere. The garden was entirely in winter and covered with snow. She looked for the beast, but he was not there. She looked everywhere, but could not find him.

Then she was doubly sad, and did not know how to console herself. She sadly went into the garden where she saw a pile of cabbage heads. They were old and rotten, and she pushed them aside. After turning over a few of them she saw her dear beast. He was lying beneath them and was dead.

She quickly fetched some water and poured it over him without stopping.

Then he jumped up and was instantly transformed into a handsome prince. They got married, and the musicians began to play again, and the summer side of the garden appeared in its splendor, and the black cloth was all ripped down, and together they lived happily ever after.


Source: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Kinder- und Hausmrchen (1812), vol. 1, no. 68. Translated by D. L. Ashliman

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