A Story From: Germany
Read Time: ["10 to 15mins"]
For Ages: 5 to 7yrs., 8 to 10yrs.
Simpleton was the youngest of three brothers. Each brother chopped wood for a living. One day, the oldest brother went off to the forest where he met a dwarf.
“Please,” said the dwarf, looking hungrily at the oldest brother’s basket, “Won’t you share your lunch with me?”
“Why should I?” snapped the oldest brother.
The next day the middle brother ventured to the forest to chop wood, and he met the same dwarf.
“Surely you’ll share your lunch with me!” said the dwarf.
“Get your own,” growled the middle brother, “and don’t call me ‘Shirley’.”
On the third day the youngest brother went off into the forest to chop wood. Like his two older brothers, he met the same dwarf.
“I don’t suppose you’d share your lunch with me,” sighed the dwarf, casting his head down.
“Why not?” says Simpleton. “I’d like the company.” And so the two of them ate happily together.
“I am going to tell you a secret,” whispered the dwarf. “There’s an oak tree by the river near a very large rock. Chop it down, and you will find among the roots something very fine.”
Simpleton thanked the dwarf. He chopped down the tree, looked among the roots, and something bright sparkled in the sunlight. It was a goose – a goose with feathers made of pure gold!
Delighted, Simpleton scooped up the goose. That night he stayed at a nearby inn, paying for his room with one of the feathers. But it’s not everyday that someone steps into their inn and pays for a room with a feather made of pure gold. Poking their heads out from the hallway, each of the innkeeper’s three daughters hatched a plan.
When Simpleton was sound asleep, the innkeeper’s eldest daughter tiptoed into his room. She reached to grab the sleeping goose with the golden feathers. But the moment her hand alit onto the goose, it stuck! Try as she might, she could not remove her hand. “I may as well fall asleep,” she thought. “I just hope that by morning my hand will be free. Then I’ll go back to my room before anyone finds out I even came in here.”
Later that same night, the innkeeper’s middle daughter slowly opened the door. She, too, tiptoed into the room with the intention of stealing with the golden goose. But much to her surprise, snoring in the corner was her big sister! She tapped her big sister on the shoulder to wake her up. Alas! The moment she touched her sister’s arm she, too, was stuck.
I’m sure you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that before long that very night, the innkeeper’s youngest daughter also tiptoed into the room. She saw both of her older sisters snoring in the corner, tapped the arm of her middle sister, and instantly her fingers were also stuck.
The next morning they all awakened. Simpleton yawned and said, “Now that was a good night’s sleep. It’s time to move on.” He took the golden goose and left the inn, not bothering himself about the three sisters who were compelled to tumble after him, left and right, wherever his legs took him.
A farmer hoeing his field saw this strange sight. He said, “I’ve never seen a golden goose before, but if those girls are going to get a piece of it, there’s no reason I shouldn’t, either.” He grabbed the youngest daughter by the hand, whereupon his hand instantly became stuck to her hand, and he had to stagger along behind them. Then a miller got attached to the farmer. The five of them approached two woodcutters coming out of the woods. The farmer, the miller and the three sisters called to the woodcutters to set them loose. But the woodcutters thought they were being motioned to stay away from the golden goose. Of course, that they would not do. As soon as they touched the miller they got stuck, too, and now there were seven of them trailing Simpleton and his goose.
After awhile Simpleton entered a kingdom where a large crowd was gathered in front of the king’s castle.
“What’s going on?” said Simpleton to someone standing there.
“They’re all trying to make the princess laugh,” he said. “She hasn’t laughed in years, and the king says the first worthy fellow who can make her laugh will marry her.”
“Honestly, father,” Simpleton heard the exasperated voice of a princess coming from the balcony, “if there’s something that’s not funny, it’s a bunch of over-privileged young men competing to get something for nothing.”
“But pumpkin,” Simpleton heard the king plead, “won’t you give the next one a teentsy, weentsy chance? Number 437! Step up!”
The princess threw her arms in despair and whirled around. As she did, she saw Simpleton, looking around as if nothing at all is the matter, with seven people tripping behind him, all attached to one another. It was hilarious! She laughed and laughed.
The king, however, was none too pleased that Simpleton – a woodcutter of all things – should marry into the royal family. “I said a worthy young man,” frowned the king, crossing his arms. “A nobleman. From a good family. Not a woodcutter!”
Simpleton shrugged. “Whether or not I marry the princess,” he said, “with just a few golden feathers, we’ll all eat like royalty. Come, one and all!” At that very moment all seven followers, who had been tugging and pulling with all their might to break away, suddenly broke away. Springing backward, they collapsed into a heaping pile of arms, legs, and spinning hats. The princess roared with laughter once more.
“Oh father,” she said, gasping for air from laughter, “he will always keep me laughing! Besides, he’s the only fellow who ever offered us anything. Everyone else wanted to get something from us.”
“That’s true,” said the king, rubbing his chin. “Twice he’s made you laugh. And he’s a generous fellow. Not to mention he has that golden goose.”
So Simpleton married the princess. And who sat in the front row at the wedding? Why, the old dwarf, of course! And they all lived happily ever after.
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This version of "The Golden Goose" is retold by Elaine L. Lindy. ©2005. All rights reserved.
This tale was collected and told by the Brothers Grimm, two brothers who published their first collection of fairytales in 1812. Their book Children's and Household Tales was a great success and over time more stories were added until the collection totaled over 200 stories. The Grimms' collection of folk tales may well be the best known work of German literature.