Once upon a time there was a lazy maiden who would not spin, and, let her mother say what she would, she could not make her do it. At last, the mother, in a fit of impatience, gave her a blow which made the girl cry out loudly.
At that very instant, the Queen drove by, and, hearing the screams, she stopped the carriage, came into the house, and asked the mother why she beat her daughter in such a way that people in passing could hear the cries.
Then the mother felt ashamed that her daughter's laziness should be known, so she said: "Oh, your Majesty, I cannot take her away from her spinning: she spins from morning till night, and I am so poor that I cannot afford to buy the flax."
"There is nothing I like better than to hear the sound of spinning," the Queen replied, "and nothing pleases me more than the whirl of spinning-wheels. Let me take your daughter home with me to the castle; I have flax enough, and she may spin there to her heart's content."
The mother rejoiced greatly in her heart, and the Queen took the maiden home with her. When they arrived in the castle, she led her up into three rooms, which were piled from top to bottom with the finest flax.
"Now spin me this flax," said the Queen, "and when thou has spun it all, thou shalt have my eldest son for a husband. Although thou art poor, yet I do not despise thee on that account, for thy untiring industry is dowry enough."
The maiden was filled with inward terror, for she could not have spun the flax had she sat there day and night until she was three hundred years old! When she was left alone, she began to weep, and thus she sat for three days without stirring a finger.
On the third day the Queen came, and when she saw that nothing was as yet spun, she wondered over it, but the maiden excused herself by saying that she could not begin in consequence of the great sorrow she felt in being separated from her mother.
This satisfied the Queen, who, on leaving her, said:
"Thou must begin to work for me to-morrow."
But when the maiden was once more alone, she did not know what to do, or how to help herself, and in her distress she went to the window and looked out. She saw three women passing by, the first of whom had a great broad foot, the second such a large under-lip that it hung down to her chin, and the third an enormous thumb.
They stopped under the window, and, looking up, asked the maiden what was the matter.
When she had told them of her trouble, they immediately offered her their help, and said:
"Wilt thou invite us to the wedding, and not be ashamed of us, but call us thy aunts, and let us sit at thy table? If thou wilt, we will spin all the flax, and do it in a very short time."
"With all my heart," answered the glrl, "only come in, and begin at once."
Then she admitted the three strange women, and, making a clear space in the first room, they sat themselves down and began spinning.
One drew the thread and trod the wheel, the other moistened the thread, the third pressed it and beat it on the table, and every time she did so, a pile of thread fell on the ground spun in the finest way.
The maiden concealed the three spinners from the Queen, but showed her the heaps of spun yarn whenever she came, and received no end of praise for it.
When the first room was empty, the second was commenced, and when that was finished, the third was begun, and very soon cleared.
Then the three spinners took their leave, saying to the maiden:
"Forget not what thou hast promised us; it will make thy fortune."
When the girl showed the Queen the empty rooms and the great piles of thread, the wedding was announced. The bridegroom rejoiced that he had won so clever and industrious a wife, and he praised her exceedingly.
"I have three aunts," said the maiden, "and as they have done me many kindnesses, I could not forget them in my good fortune; permit me to invite them to our wedding and allow them to sit with me at table."
So the Queen and the bridegroom consented.
When the feast commenced, the three old women entered, clothed in the greatest splendor, and the bride said--"Welcome, my dear aunts!"
"Alas!" exclaimed the bridegroom, "how is it you have such ugly relations?" and going up to the one with a broad foot, he asked:
"Why have you such a broad foot?"
"From threading, from threading," she answered.
Then he went to the second, and asked:
"Why have you such an overhanging lip?"
"From moistening the thread," she replied, "from moistening the thread."
Then he asked the third:
"Why have you such a big thumb ?" "From pressing the thread," answered she.
Then the Prince became frightened, and said:
"Then shall my lovely bride never more turn a spinning-wheel, as long as she lives!"
Thus was the maiden freed from the hated flax-spinning.