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The Lambkin and the Little Fish
Grimms Fairy Tales and German Folklore
There were once a little brother and a little sister, who loved
each other with all their hearts. Their own mother, however, was
dead, and they had a step-mother who was not kind to them, and
secretly did everything she could to hurt them. It so happened
that the two were playing with other children in a meadow before
the house, and there was a pond in the meadow which came up
to one side of the house. The children ran about it, and caught
each other, and played at counting out.
Eneke beneke, let me live,
and I to you my bird will give.
The little bird, it straw shall seek,
the straw I'll give to the cow to eat.
The pretty cow shall give me milk,
the milk I'll to the baker take.
The baker he shall bake a cake,
the cake I'll give unto the cat.
The cat shall catch some mice for that,
the mice I'll hang up in the smoke,
and then you'll see the snow.
They stood in a circle while they played this, and the one to
whom the word snow fell, had to run away and all the others ran
after him and caught him. As they were running about so merrily
the step-mother watched them from the window, and grew angry.
And as she understood arts of witchcraft she bewitched them both,
and changed the little brother into a fish, and the little sister
into a lamb. Then the fish swam here and there about the pond and
was very sad, and the lambkin walked up and down the meadow,
and was miserable, and could not eat or touch one blade of grass.
passed a long time, and then strangers came as visitors to the
castle. The false step-mother thought, this is a good opportunity,
and called the cook and said to him, go and fetch the lamb from
the meadow and kill it, we have nothing else for the visitors.
Then the cook went away and got the lamb, and took it into the
kitchen and tied its feet, and all this it bore patiently. When
he had drawn out his knife and was whetting it on the door-step
to kill the lamb, he noticed a little fish swimming backwards
and forwards in the water, in front of the gutter-stone and
looking up at him. This, however, was the brother, for when the
fish saw the cook take the lamb away, it followed them and swam
along the pond to the house, then the lamb cried down to it,
ah, brother, in the pond so deep,
how sad is my poor heart.
The cook he whets his knife
to take away my life.
The little fish answered,
ah, little sister, up on high
how sad is my poor heart
while in this pond I lie.
When the cook heard that the lambkin could speak and said such
sad words to the fish down below, he was terrified and thought
this could be no common lamb, but must be bewitched by the wicked
woman in the house. Then said he, be easy, I will not kill you,
and took another sheep and made it ready for the guests, and
conveyed the lambkin to a good peasant woman, to whom he related
all that he had seen and heard.
The peasant, however, was the very woman who had been foster-mother
to the little sister, and she suspected at once who the
lamb was, and went with it to a wise woman. Then the wise woman
pronounced a blessing over the lambkin and the little fish, by
means of which they regained their human forms, and after this
she took them both into a little hut in a great forest, where
they lived alone, but were contented and happy.