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The Girl Who Could Spin Gold from Clay and Long Straw


There was once an old woman who had an only daughter. The lass was good and amiable, and also extremely beautiful, but at the same time so indolent that she would hardly turn her hand to any work. This was a cause of great grief to the mother, who tried all sorts of ways to cure her daughter of so lamentable a failing. But there was no help. The old woman then thought no better plan could be devised than to set her daughter to spin on the roof of their cottage, in order that all the world might be witness of her sloth. But her plan brought her no nearer the mark. The girl continued as useless as before.

One day, as the king's son was going to the chase, he rode by the cottage where the old woman dwelt with her daughter. On seeing the fair spinner on the roof, he stopped and inquired why she sat spinning in such an unusual place.

The old woman answered, "Aye, she sits there to let all the world see how clever she is. She is so clever that she can spin gold out of clay and long straw."

At these words the prince was struck with wonder, for it never occurred to him that the old woman was ironically alluding to her daughter's sloth. He therefore said, "If what you say is true, that the young maiden can spin gold from clay and long straw, she shall no longer sit there, but shall accompany me to my palace and be my consort."

The daughter thereupon descended from the roof and accompanied the prince to the royal residence, where, seated in her maiden-bower, she received a pail full of clay and a bundle of straw, by way of trial, whether she were so skillful as her mother had said.

The poor girl now found herself in a very uncomfortable state, knowing but too well that she could not spin flax, much less gold. So, sitting in her chamber, with her head resting on her hand, she wept bitterly. While she was thus sitting, the door was opened, and in walked a very little old man, who was both ugly and deformed. The old man greeted her in a friendly tone, and asked why she sat so lonely and afflicted.

"I may well be sorrowful," answered the girl. "The king's son has commanded me to spin gold from clay and long straw, and if it be not done before tomorrow's dawn, my life is at stake."

The old man then said, "Fair maiden, weep not, I will help you. Here is a pair of gloves. When you have then on you will be able to spin gold. Tomorrow night I will return, when, if you have not found out my name, you shall accompany me home and be my wife."

In her despair she agreed to the old man's condition, who then went his way. The maiden now sat and span, and by dawn she had already spun up all the clay and straw, which had become the finest gold it was possible to see.

Great was the joy throughout the whole palace, that the king's son had got a bride who was so skillful and, at the same time, so fair. But the young maiden did nothing but weep, and the more the time advanced the more she wept, for she thought of the frightful dwarf who was to come and fetch her. When evening drew nigh, the king's son returned from the chase, and went to converse with his bride. Observing that she appeared sorrowful, he strove to divert her in all sorts of ways, and said he would tell her of a curious adventure, provided only she would be cheerful. The girl entreated him to let her hear it.

Then said the prince, "While rambling about in the forest today I witness an odd sort of thing. I saw a very, very little old man dancing round a juniper bush and singing a singular song."

"What did he sing?" asked the maiden inquisitively, for she felt sure that the prince had met with the dwarf. "He sang these words, answered the prince,

Today I the malt shall grind,
Tomorrow my wedding shall be.
And the maiden sits in her bower and weeps;
She knows not what I am called.
I am called Titteli Ture.
I am called Titteli Ture.

Was not the maiden now glad? She begged the prince to tell her over and over again what the dwarf had sung. He then repeated the wonderful song, until she had imprinted the old man's name firmly in her memory. She then conversed lovingly with her betrothed, and the prince could not sufficiently praise his young bride's beauty and understanding. But he wondered why she was so overjoyed, being like everyone else, ignorant of the cause of her past sorrow.

When it was night, and the maiden was sitting alone in her chamber, the door was opened, and the hideous dwarf again entered. On beholding him the girl sprang up, and said, "Titteli Ture! Titteli Ture! Here are your gloves."

When the dwarf heard his name pronounced, he was furiously angry, and hastened away through the air, taking with him the whole roof of the house.

The fair maiden now laughed to herself and was joyful beyond measure. She then lay down to sleep, and slept till the sun shone. The following day her marriage with the young prince was solemnized, and nothing more was ever heard of Titteli Ture.


Benjamin Thorpe: Yule-Tide Stories. A Collection of Scandinavian and North German Popular Tales and Traditions, from the Swedish, Danish, and German. London 1853, p. 168 ff. (AT 500, Schweden)




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