从前，有一个寡妇，膝下有两个女儿，一个既漂亮又勤劳，而另一个则又丑又懒。 寡妇却格外疼爱又丑又懒的那一个，因为是她的亲生女儿；另一个呢，不得不什么活儿都干，成了家里名副其实的灰姑娘。 可怜的姑娘每天必须坐到大路旁的水井边纺线，不停地纺啊纺，一直纺到手指磨破了血。
有一天，纺锤全让血给染红了，姑娘打算用井水把它洗干净，不料纺锤脱了手，掉进井里。 姑娘一路哭着跑到继母跟前，对她说了这件不幸的事。 继母听了，把姑娘臭骂了一顿，还威逼她说，除非她把纺锤从井里捞出来，不然就饶不了她。 姑娘回到井边，不知如何是好。 后来，她害怕再遭继母的斥骂，就跳进了井里。 在井里，她失去了知觉，等苏醒过来时，发现自己躺在一片美丽的草地上，草地沐浴着灿烂的阳光，四周环绕着万紫千红的花朵，各自争妍斗艳。 她站起身来，向草地的前方走去，在一座烤炉旁停下了脚步，发现烤炉里装满了面包。
姑娘走上前去，拿起面包铲，把面包一个接一个地全取了出来。 随后，她继续往前走，来到一棵果实累累的苹果树下 ，果树冲她大喊大叫："摇一摇我啊，摇一摇我啊，满树的苹果全都熟透啦。"
最后，姑娘来到一幢小房子前，只见一个老太太在窗前望着她。 老太太青面獠牙，姑娘一见心惊胆战，打算赶快逃走。 谁知老太太大声嚷嚷起来："亲爱的，你干嘛害怕呢？就留在我这儿吧！要是你愿意在这儿好好干家务活儿，我保你过得舒舒服服的。你千万要当心，一定要整理好我的床铺，使劲儿抖我的床垫，要抖得羽绒四处飘飞，这样世界上就下雪了。我是霍勒大妈。"
老太太说这番话时，和颜悦色，姑娘于是鼓起勇气，答应留下来替她做家务事。 她尽力做好每件事情，使老太太心满意足。 抖床垫时 ，她使出全身力气，抖得羽绒像雪花儿似的四处飘飞。 因此，老太太对她也很好，使她生活得挺舒适，每天盘中有肉，要么是炖的，要么是烧的。
就这样过了一段时间之后，姑娘渐渐变得忧心忡忡起来，一开始她自己也不明白是怎么回事，后来终于明白了，原来是想家啦。 在霍勒大妈家里的生活比起在继母家里的生活，真是一个天上，一个地下，可尽管这样，她依然归心似箭。 最后，她对霍勒大妈吐露了自己的心事："我现在很想家。在这下面，我事事称心如意，可我再也呆不下去了，我得回到上面的亲人身边。"
说罢，霍勒大妈牵着姑娘的手，领着她来到一扇大门前。 大门洞开，姑娘刚刚站到门下，一粒粒的金子就像雨点般落在她身上 ，而且都牢牢地粘附在她衣服上，结果她浑身上下全是金子。
姑娘跟他们讲述了自己惊心动魄的经历。 继母听完了她获得这么多金子的过程，就打算让她那个又丑又懒的女儿也享有这么多的金子，于是她把这个女儿打发到井边去纺线。 为了使纺锤染上血污，这个姑娘就把手伸进刺篱笆里，将自己的手指扎破。 然后，她把纺锤投入井里，自己也随即跳了进去。
来到霍勒大妈的小房子前时，因为她听姐姐说过老太太青面獠牙，所以见了面一点儿也不感到害怕。 第一天，丑姑娘心里始终惦记着作为奖赏的金子，所以强打起精神，装成很勤快的样子，而且事事都照着老太太的意愿来做。 可到了第二天，她就懒起来了；第三天呢，她懒得更加不像话，早上甚至赖在床上不想起来，连整理好霍勒大妈的床铺这件事也给忘记了，更不用说抖床垫，抖得羽绒四处飘飞了。 几天下来，老太太已经受够了，就预先告诉她，她被解雇了。 懒姑娘一听，满心欢喜，心里想道："该下金雨啦！"
A widow had two daughters; one was pretty and industrious, the other was ugly and lazy. And as the ugly one was her own daughter, she loved her much the best, and the pretty one was made to do all the work, and be the drudge of the house. Every day the poor girl had to sit by a well on the high road and spin until her fingers bled. Now it happened once that as the spindle was bloody, she dipped it into the well to wash it; but it slipped out of her hand and fell in. Then she began to cry, and ran to her step-mother, and told her of her misfortune; and her stepmother scolded her without mercy, and said in her rage: "As you have let the spindle fall in, you must go and fetch it out again!" Then the girl went back again to the well, not knowing what to do, and in the despair of her heart she jumped down into the well the same way the spindle had gone. After that she knew nothing; and when she came to herself she was in a beautiful meadow, and the sun was shining on the flowers that grew round her. And she walked on through the meadow until she came to a baker's oven that was full of bread; and the bread called out to her: "Oh, take me out, take me out, or I shall burn; I am baked enough already!" Then she drew near, and with the baker's peel she took out all the loaves one after the other. And she went farther on till she came to a tree weighed down with apples, and it called out to her: "Oh, shake me, shake me, we apples are all of us ripe!" Then she shook the tree until the apples fell like rain, and she shook until there were no more to fall; and when she had gathered them together in a heap, she went on farther. At last she came to a little house, and an old woman was peeping out of it, but she had such great teeth that the girl was terrified and about to run away, only the old woman called her back. "What are you afraid of, my dear child? Come and live with me, and if you do the house-work well and orderly, things shall go well with you. You must take great pains to make my bed well, and shake it up thoroughly, so that the feathers fly about, and then in the world it snows, for I am Mother Hulda." As the old woman spoke so kindly, the girl took courage, consented, and went to her work. She did everything to the old woman's satisfaction, and shook the bed with such a will that the feathers flew about like snow-flakes: and so she led a good life, had never a cross word, but boiled and roast meat every day. When she had lived a long time with Mother Hulda, she began to feel sad, not knowing herself what ailed her; at last she began to think she must be home-sick; and although she was a thousand times better off than at home where she was, yet she had a great longing to go home. At last she said to her mistress: "I am homesick, and although I am very well off here, I cannot stay any longer; I must go back to my own home." Mother Hulda answered: "It pleases me well that you should wish to go home, and, as you have served me faithfully, I will undertake to send you there!" She took her by the hand and led her to a large door standing open, and as she was passing through it there fell upon her a heavy shower of gold, and the gold hung all about her, so that she was covered with it. "All this is yours, because you have been so industrious," said Mother Hulda; and, besides that, she returned to her her spindle, the very same that she had dropped in the well. And then the door was shut again, and the girl found herself back again in the world, not far from her mother's house; and as she passed through the yard the cock stood on the top of the well and cried:
Our golden girl has come home too!"
Then she went in to her mother, and as she had returned covered with gold she was well received.
So the girl related all her history, and what had happened to her, and when the mother heard how she came to have such great riches she began to wish that her ugly and idle daughter might have the same good fortune. So she sent her to sit by the well and spin; and in order to make her spindle bloody she put her hand into the thorn hedge. Then she threw the spindle into the well, and jumped in herself. She found herself, like her sister, in the beautiful meadow, and followed the same path, and when she came to the baker's oven, the bread cried out: "Oh, take me out, take me out, or I shall burn; I am quite done already!" But the lazy-bones answered: "I have no desire to black my hands," and went on farther. Soon she came to the apple-tree, who called out: "Oh, shake me, shake me, we apples are all of us ripe!" But she answered: "That is all very fine; suppose one of you should fall on my head," and went on farther. When she came to Mother Hulda's house she did not feel afraid, as she knew beforehand of her great teeth, and entered into her service at once. The first day she put her hand well to the work, and was industrious, and did everything Mother Hulda bade her, because of the gold she expected; but the second day she began to be idle, and the third day still more so, so that she would not get up in the morning. Neither did she make Mother Hulda's bed as it ought to have been made, and did not shake it for the feathers to fly about. So that Mother Hulda soon grew tired of her, and gave her warning, at which the lazy thing was well pleased, and thought that now the shower of gold was coming; so Mother Hulda led her to the door, and as she stood in the doorway, instead of the shower of gold a great kettle full of pitch was emptied over her. "That is the reward for your service," said Mother Hulda, and shut the door. So the lazy girl came home all covered with pitch, and the cock on the top of the well seeing her, cried:
Our dirty girl has come home too!"
And the pitch remained sticking to her fast, and never, as long as she lived, could it be got off.