A Story From: Belgium
Read Time: 6 to 10 mins.
For Ages: 5 to 10yrs.
Everyone in the village was surprised when a mother gave both of her daughters the same name — Caroline. The older daughter was known as Blond Carrie. She was the one everyone loved because of her pretty face, rosy cheeks and fair hair. The younger daughter was known as Brunette Carrie. She was the one everyone shunned because of her ugly pock-marked face and matted black hair. Blond Carrie, the older girl, knew how good and kind her little sister really was and she loved Brunette Carrie with all her heart.One year the children’s mother died. Their father hired the girls’ old nurse, Nellie, to move into the house and to look after both of the children.
Nellie loved the younger girl as if she were her own child. But she hated Blond Carrie, because everyone loved the pretty child better than her own, dear ugly Brunette Carrie.
One day a shepherd passed the house with his flock of sheep. He noticed lovely Blond Carrie standing at the gate. Three of his white lambs ran up to the girl and let her stroke them, and this made him smile. So the shepherd gave Blond Carrie the smallest lamb as a present. At that moment, Brunette Carrie came out of the house. This child was so ugly that as soon as the shepherd saw her he quickly went away with his flock hurrying after him. But Blond Carrie tied a pink ribbon round the lamb’s neck and put the end in her sister’s hand. “The lamb is as much yours as it is mine,” she said, and Brunette Carrie was comforted.
Another time an organ-grinder came to the village. As he turned the handle of his hurdy-gurdy, a monkey danced to the music. When the old man caught sight of Blond Carrie, he played his most beautiful tunes and the monkey threw her a kiss. But the moment Brunette Carrie came running up, the organ-grinder stopped playing and the monkey hid under his master’s coat. But Blond Carrie said to her sister, “I’ll sing you a beautiful song and we’ll dance together.” And Brunette Carrie was comforted.
A little while after that a peddler came to the house with lots of pretty things in his pack. When he saw Blond Carrie, he spread out all his best wares for her to see and presented her with a bright ribbon and a silk handkerchief. But when Brunette Carrie wanted to look at all the treasures, too, the man quickly put everything away and hurried off. The child was so very ugly. But Blond Carrie gave her poor little sister the silk handkerchief and said, “That’s for you. I’ll keep the ribbon.” And Brunette Carrie was comforted.
Nellie, the nurse, noticed all that happened. It enraged her that everyone should treat Brunette Carrie so badly. She declared, “I will not allow this to go on!” So she went to the well, where Brunette Carrie was sitting, and fetched a pail of water. Then she fetched another and another. She went back and forth, fetching water until Brunette Carrie said, “Nellie, why are you carrying so much water into the house?”
The nurse answered, “If you must know, then I will tell you. Early tomorrow morning I am going to hang the big pot over the fire and throw herbs and roots into it. As soon as the water is warm I shall throw Blond Carrie into it. When she comes out she will be as ugly as you. Then no one will love her better than you.”
That night, when both children were in bed, Brunette Carrie whispered to her sister, “Are you still awake? There’s something I must tell you.”
She was awake, so Brunette Carrie went on.
“I was sitting by the well today, and Nellie began to carry pail after pail of water to the kitchen. When I asked her why she was doing it, she said that early tomorrow morning she’s going to prepare a bath for you that will make you as ugly as me. That must never happen! We must run away together at dawn, before Nellie wakes up!”
So the children left the house at cock-crow. But before they set off, Brunette Carrie said to her slippers under the bed, “When Nellie wakes up, you must answer instead of me.”
The sun rose and as the first beams shone into her room Nellie woke up and said, “Brunette Carrie, are you awake?”
“Yes,” said the slippers, “I’m in the kitchen lighting the fire.”
But nothing stirred in the house. After some time, Nellie jumped out of bed and went to the kitchen. The fire was not lit and the pot was not on the hearth. There was no sign of the two little girls. Nellie was frightened out of her wits.
“Oh dear, what shall I say to my master when he finds the children gone?” she fretted. “I must hurry after them and fetch them back.”
Blond Carrie looked round and saw something sparkling in the sun. “I think I see Nellie’s bright shawl behind us,” she said. “We must run faster!” The girls soon reached a dark lake and there was no way to get across to the other side. Brunette Carrie cried, “Oh, no! Now I see Nellie’s bright shawl sparkling in the sun, too. It looks closer than ever!”
A beautiful swan came gliding over the dark water. When the swan reached the shore, Blond Carrie called out:
“Oh, swan so fair and white Won’t you help us in our plight? On your back please let us ride And carry us safely to the other side.”
The children climbed onto the back of the beautiful swam and the swan carried them away. But when they reached the middle of the lake, the swan said:
“Both of you together weigh a ton, I cannot carry more than one, If I do, we’re all undone!”
“Then farewell, dear sister!” said Brunette Carrie. In an instant, she slipped into the water.
Blond Carrie called and called after her little sister but she had already disappeared into the water. She wept bitterly for she thought surely her little sister would be drowned, and all on account of her. The swan went on and brought the sobbing child to the other side of the lake. However, what the older girl did not know was that the waves did no harm to Brunette Carrie. Instead, the waves sang to her:
“We will gently rock you, rock you, Softly, softly here and there, Your face and hair we’ll wash you, wash you ‘Til you are the fairest of the fair.”
Blond Carrie sat on the shore and she cried and cried. All at once, the waves washed up Brunette Carrie at her feet. Brunette Carrie was safe and sound, but she was no longer the old Brunette Carrie. Her cheeks were as pink as wild roses, her lips were as red as cherries and her dark hair fell in soft waves about her shoulders and shone like silk. Brunette Carrie was now as beautiful as her sister! No one could have been happier than Blond Carrie.
The sun’s rays made a bridge over the lake. Hand in hand, the children crossed over the bridge, back across the lake to their home. They found Nellie waiting on the other side and she could hardly believe her eyes when she saw how beautiful Brunette Carrie had become.
“Nellie,” said the older girl, “Brunette Carrie was ready to lay down her life for me so I could live. But the lake kept her safe and washed away her ugliness. Now she’s as beautiful to look at on the outside as she’s always been on the inside. So you don’t need to make a bath anymore to make me ugly.”
Nellie was very ashamed of herself and promised never to do such a thing again. “Now come along home,” she said. “Your father will be looking for all three of us.”
So each girl took the other by the hand and together they skipped home alongside Nellie.
The story, "Blond Carrie and Black Carrie," from Fairy Tales from Many Lands, edited by H. Herda (Franklin Watts, Inc.: New York, 1956) pp. 31-37. Copyright not renewed.
Retold by Elaine L. Lindy. ©1999. All rights reserved.