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The Spindel, The Shuttle, and The Needle
Grimms Fairy Tales and German Folklore

There was once a girl whose father and mother died while
she was still a little child. All alone, in a small house at the
end of the village, dwelt her godmother, who supported herself
by spinning, weaving, and sewing. The old woman took the
forlorn child to live with her, kept her to her work, and educated
her in all that is good. When the girl was fifteen years old,
the old woman became ill, called the child to her bedside,
and said, dear daughter, I feel my end drawing near. I leave you
the little house, which will protect you from wind and weather, and
my spindle, shuttle, and needle, with which you can earn your
bread. Then she laid her hands on the girl's head, blessed her,
and said, only preserve the love of God in your heart, and all will
go well with you. Thereupon she closed her eyes, and when she was
laid in the earth, the maiden followed the coffin, weeping
bitterly, and paid her the last mark of respect.
And now the maiden lived quite alone in the little house, and
was industrious, and spun, wove, and sewed, and the blessing of the
good old woman was on all that she did. It seemed as if the flax
in the room increased of its own accord, and whenever she wove a
piece of cloth or carpet, or had made a shirt, she at once found
a buyer who paid her amply for it, so that she was in want of
nothing, and even had something to share with others.
About this time, the son of the king was traveling about the
country looking for a bride. He was not to choose a poor one, and
did not want to have a rich one. So he said, she shall be my wife
who is the poorest, and at the same time the richest. When he came
to the village where the maiden dwelt, he inquired, as he did
wherever he went, who was the richest and also the poorest girl in
the place. They first named the richest. The poorest, they said,
was the girl who lived in the small house quite at the end of the
village. The rich girl was sitting in all her splendor before the
door of her house, and when the prince approached her, she got up,
went to meet him, and made him a low curtsy. He looked at her,
said nothing, and rode on. When he came to the house of the poor
girl, she was not standing at the door, but sitting in her little
room. He stopped his horse, and saw through the window, on which
the bright sun was shining, the girl sitting at her spinning-wheel,
busily spinning. She looked up, and when she saw that the prince
was looking in, she blushed all over her face, let her eyes fall,
and went on spinning. I do not know whether, just at that
moment, the thread was quite even, but she went on spinning until
the king's son had ridden away again. Then she went to the
window, opened it, and said, it is so warm in this room, and she
looked after him as long as she could distinguish the white
feathers in his hat. Then she sat down to work again in her room
and went on with her spinning, and a saying which the old woman
had often repeated when she was
sitting at her work, came into her mind, and she sang these
words to herself,
spindle, my spindle, haste, haste thee away,
and here to my house bring the wooer, I pray.
And what do you think happened. The spindle sprang out of her
hand in an instant, and out of the door, and when, in her
astonishment, she got up and looked after it, she saw that it was
dancing out merrily into the open country, and drawing a shining
gold thread after it. Before long, it had entirely vanished from
her sight. As she had now no spindle, the girl took the weaver's
shuttle in her hand, sat down to her loom, and began to weave.
The spindle, however, danced continually onwards, and just as
the thread came to an end, reached the prince. What do I see, he
cried, the spindle certainly wants to show me the way, turned
his horse about, and rode back with the golden thread. The girl
however, was sitting at her work singing,
shuttle, my shuttle, weave well this day,
and guide the wooer to me, I pray.
Immediately the shuttle sprang out of her hand and out by the door.
Before the threshold, however, it began to weave a carpet which
was more beautiful than the eyes of man had ever yet beheld.
Lilies and roses blossomed on both sides of it, and on a golden
ground in the center green branches ascended, under which bounded
hares and rabbits, stags and deer stretched their heads in
between them, brightly-colored birds were sitting in the branches
above, they lacked nothing but the gift of song. The shuttle
leapt hither and thither, and everything seemed to grow of
its own accord.
As the shuttle had run away, the girl sat down to sew. She held
the needle in her hand and sang,
needle, my needle, sharp-pointed and fine,
prepare for the wooer this house of mine.
Then the needle leapt out of her fingers, and flew everywhere
about the room as quick as lightning. It was just as if
invisible spirits were working, it covered tables and benches
with green cloth in an instant,
and the chairs with velvet, and hung the windows with silken
curtains. Hardly had the needle put in the last stitch than the
maiden saw through the window the white feathers of the prince,
whom the spindle had brought thither by the golden thread. He
alighted, stepped over the carpet into the house, and when he
entered the room, there stood the maiden in her poor garments, but
she shone out from within them like a rose surrounded by leaves.
You are the poorest and also the richest, said he to her. Come
with me, you shall be my bride. She did not speak, but she gave
him her hand. Then he gave her a kiss, led her forth, lifted her
on to his horse, and took her to the royal castle, where the
wedding was solemnized with great rejoicings. The spindle,
shuttle, and needle were preserved in the treasure-chamber,
and held in great honor.