Sunday, March 11, 2012

KHM 135 - Die schöne Stieftochter - Storyteller: Birgit Lehner

(Photo: Frank Helmrich)

Read the original story: in German, in English

"The Beautiful Stepdaughter" ("Die schöne Stieftochter") is an Austrian folktale that has been recorded in 1917 in Styria. It is a close variant of "The White Bride and the Black One", Grimm number 135.
It is part of the collection "Märchen aus Österreich", edited by Leander Petzold (Munich, 1991). In this recording (not a public performance) I tell my version in Austrian dialect.

Contact information:
Birgit Lehner, storyteller living in Vienna/Austria

Synopsis: A beggar (in the original version it is God himself disguised as a beggar, I leave this fact out in my version) knocks at the house of an evil woman who lives there with her evil daughter and her warmhearted stepdaughter. The woman chases the beggar away, but her stepdaughter clandestinly helps him. As a reward the beggar offers her two wishes, and the good girl chooses to become bright as day, whereas her stepsister should become black as night. (In "The White Bride and the Black One" the girl has three wishes, and she choses beauty, an ever-full purse and to go to Heaven after her death. And it is God himself who makes the stepmother and stepdaughter black and ugly.)
The beautiful stepdaughter then sends a portrait of herself to her brother who works as the king's coachman. (In the Grimm version it is her brother who paints her, and she asks him to show the painting to nobody else).
When the king sees her portrait he falls in love with her and promises to marry her. He orders the coachman to bring his sister to the castle. But when the coachmen drives home to fetch her, their stepmother casts an evil spell on them so that the coachman becomes blind and his sister deaf. The blind coachman drives his deaf sister and their evil stepmother and stepsister to the castle (What an absurd image, isn't it? In "The White Bride and the Black One" the coachman and his sister are only half blind and half deaf.)
During the journey the coachman asks his sister whether she is wearing her wedding cap and wedding dress (in the original version just a beautiful dress and cap). As the deaf girl cannot not understand his words she asks the evil women to explain her brother's words to her, but those pretend that she should handle over her wedding dress and cap to her stepsister. Finally the evil women throw the right bride into a river when the carriage crosses a bridge. When they arrive at the king's castle the king thinks that the coachman has betrayed him and lets him throw into a snakepit. But as he wants to keep his promise the king marries the false and ugly bride. (In the Grimm version it is because the stepmother bewitches also the king's mind or eyes.) Some days after the marriage, though, a snow-white duck comes into the royal kitchen and says to the cook "How's my poor brother and my evil stepmother? He's captured with snakes and otters whilst she warms herself at the oven." When the duck comes again the other day the cook informs the king. The king orders the cook to throw a white shirt over the duck the next time it would appear. The cook does as the king has ordered him to do, and the duck changes into the right bride. (In the Grimm version the king cuts off the duck's head.)
The king frees his innocent coachman and throws the false bride and her mother into the snakepit (in the original version he burns them; in the Grimm version the kings asks the stepmother what ought to be done to someone who had committed a crime like hers, and when she says that such a person should be stripped naked and put in a barrel with nails which should be dragged off by a horse, this is exactly how the king will punish her and her daughter). From that moment on the coachman is no longer blind and the right bride is no longer deaf and the king finally marries the right bright bride.

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