从前，有个男子，膝下抚养了三个儿子。 最小的那个儿子叫做小傻瓜，经常受到另外两个儿子的嘲弄取笑，总是遭人白眼。 有一次，大儿子要去森林里砍柴，母亲让他带上一块美味的大蛋糕和一瓶葡萄酒，怕他饿着，渴着。
接着，二儿子要去森林砍柴，母亲像对待大儿子一样，让他带上一块大蛋糕和一瓶葡萄酒。 他同样碰到了那个白发苍苍的小老头儿，小老头儿恳求给他一小块蛋糕和一口酒。 二儿子却粗暴地说："我绝不会把吃的喝的给你，却让自己忍饥挨饿。"小老头儿可怜巴巴地伸着两手站在那里，他睬也不睬，扬长而去。 他也受到了同样的报应--斧子没有砍在树上，却砍伤了自己的腿，只得被抬回家去。
小傻瓜走过去砍倒了那棵树，就在老树倒地的一刹那，一只大鹅飞了出来，浑身上下的羽毛全是纯金的。 他抱起金鹅，到一家小旅店去过夜。 店主有三个女儿，看到这么漂亮的大鹅，都特别好奇。 大女儿心里想："保准有机会拔掉它一片羽毛。"于是，趁小傻瓜不在房间时，她就跑过去一把抓住金鹅的翅膀，谁料她的手指被牢牢地粘住了，怎么也抽不回来。 过了一会儿，二女儿走了进来，也想拔一片羽毛，可她刚一挨着姐姐，也被牢牢地粘住了。 接着，三女儿也来了，两个姐姐对她大喊大叫："看在老天爷的份上，千万别过来！"她却听也不听，冲过去想看看两个姐姐到底在干什么，结果也被粘住了。 这样，三姐妹只得陪着金鹅过了一夜。
没过多久，他们碰到了教堂执事。 教堂执事眼见牧师跟在三个姑娘的屁股后面紧追不舍，惊得目瞪口呆。 他喊叫道："牧师先生，你这样急匆匆地到哪儿去呀？你可别忘了，今天还要做洗礼呢！"喊罢，他跑上前去，紧紧地抓住了牧师的衣袖，结果也像那几位一样，被牢牢地粘住了，跟在后面跑。
正在这一行五人一个紧跟着一个浩浩荡荡地行进的时候，地头上走来两个扛着耙子的农民。 牧师喊叫着请他们把他和教堂执事解脱出来，可是他们刚碰着教堂执事，也无可奈何地被粘住了。 这样一来，已经有七个人跟在抱着金鹅的小傻瓜身后跑了。
他们来到一座城市。 住在城里的国王有一个女儿，冷若冰霜，谁也休想使她笑一笑。 因此国王曾公开宣布，谁能把他的女儿逗笑，谁就可以娶她为妻。
小傻瓜想起了小老头儿，便来到森林中他砍倒那棵老树的地方。 只见小老头儿就坐在那里，满面愁容。 小傻瓜走上前去，问他有什么不高兴的事。
There was a man who had three sons, the youngest of whom was called the Simpleton, and was despised, laughed at, and neglected, on every occasion. It happened one day that the eldest son wished to go into the forest to cut wood, and before he went his mother gave him a delicious pancake and a flask of wine, that he might not suffer from hunger or thirst. When he came into the forest a little old grey man met him, who wished him good day, and said, "Give me a bit of cake out of your pocket, and let me have a drink of your wine; I am so hungry and thirsty." But the prudent youth answered, "Give you my cake and my wine? I haven't got any; be off with you." And leaving the little man standing there, he went off. Then he began to fell a tree, but he had not been at it long before he made a wrong stroke, and the hatchet hit him in the arm, so that he was obliged to go home and get it bound up. That was what came of the little grey man.
Afterwards the second son went into the wood, and the mother gave to him, as to the eldest, a pancake and a flask of wine. The little old grey man met him also, and begged for a little bit of cake and a drink of wine. But the second son spoke out plainly, saying, "What I give you I lose myself, so be off with you." And leaving the little man standing there, he went off. The punishment followed; as he was chopping away at the tree, he hit himself in the leg so severely that he had to be carried home.
Then said the Simpleton, "Father, let me go for once into the forest to cut wood; and the father answered, "Your brothers have hurt themselves by so doing; give it up, you understand nothing about it." But the Simpleton went on begging so long, that the father said at last, "Well, be off with you; you will only learn by experience." The mother gave him a cake (it was only made with water, and baked in the ashes), and with it a flask of sour beer. When he came into the forest the little old grey man met him, and greeted him, saying, "Give me a bit of your cake, and a drink from your flask; I am so hungry and thirsty." And the Simpleton answered, "I have only a flour and water cake and sour beer; but if that is good enough for you, let us sit down together and eat." Then they sat down, and as the Simpleton took out his flour and water cake it became a rich pancake, and his sour beer became good wine; then they ate and drank, and afterwards the little man said, "As you have such a kind heart, and share what you have so willingly, I will bestow good luck upon you. Yonder stands an old tree; cut it down, and at its roots you will find some thing," and thereupon the little man took his departure.
The Simpleton went there, and hewed away at the tree, and when it fell he saw, sitting among the roots, a goose with feathers of pure gold. He lifted it out and took it with him to an inn where he intended to stay the night. The landlord had three daughters who, when they saw the goose, were curious to know what wonderful kind of bird it was, and ended by longing for one of its golden feathers. The eldest thought, "I will wait for a good opportunity, and then I will pull out one of its feathers for myself;" and so, when the Simpleton was gone out, she seized the goose by its wing - but there her finger and hand had to stay, held fast. Soon after came the second sister with the same idea of plucking out one of the golden feathers for herself; but scarcely had she touched her sister, than she also was obliged to stay, held fast. Lastly came the third with the same intentions; but the others screamed out, "Stay away! for heaven's sake stay away!" But she did not see why she should stay away, and thought, "If they do so, why should not I?" and went towards them. But when she reached her sisters there she stopped, hanging on with them. And so they had to stay, all night.
The next morning the Simpleton took the goose under his arm and went away, unmindful of the three girls that hung on to it. The three had always to run after him, left and right, wherever his legs carried him. In the midst of the fields they met the parson, who, when he saw the procession, said, "Shame on you, girls, running after a young fellow through the fields like this," and forthwith he seized hold of the youngest by the hand to drag her away, but hardly had he touched her when he too was obliged to run after them himself. Not long after the sexton came that way, and seeing the respected parson following at the heels of the three girls, he called out, "Ho, your reverence, whither away so quickly? You forget that we have another christening to-day," and he seized hold of him by his gown; but no sooner had he touched him than he was obliged to follow on too. As the five tramped on, one after another, two peasants with their hoes came up from the fields, and the parson cried out to them, and begged them to come and set him and the sexton free, but no sooner had they touched the sexton than they had to follow on too; and now there were seven following the Simpleton and the goose.
By and by they came to a town where a king reigned, who had an only daughter who was so serious that no one could make her laugh; therefore the king had given out that whoever should make her laugh should have her in marriage. The Simpleton, when he heard this, went with his goose and his hangers-on into the presence of the king's daughter, and as soon as she saw the seven people following always one after the other, she burst out laughing, and seemed as if she could never stop.
And so the Simpleton earned a right to her as his bride; but the king did not like him for a son-in-law and made all kinds of objections, and said he must first bring a man who could drink up a whole cellar of wine. The Simpleton thought that the little grey man would be able to help him, and went out into the forest, and there, on the very spot where he felled the tree, he saw a man sitting with a very sad countenance. The Simpleton asked him what was the matter, and he answered, "I have a great thirst, which I cannot quench: cold water does not agree with me; I have indeed drunk up a whole cask of wine, but what good is a drop like that?" Then said the Simpleton, "I can help you; only come with me, and you shall have enough." He took him straight to the king's cellar, and the man sat himself down before the big vats, and drank, and drank, and before a day was over he had drunk up the whole cellar-full.
The Simpleton again asked for his bride, but the king was annoyed that a wretched fellow, called the Simpleton by everybody, should carry off his daughter, and so he made new conditions. He was to produce a man who could eat up a mountain of bread. The Simpleton did not hesitate long, but ran quickly off to the forest, and there in the same place sat a man who had fastened a strap round his body, making a very piteous face, and saying, "I have eaten a whole bakehouse full of rolls, but what is the use of that when one is so hungry as I am? My stomach feels quite empty, and I am obliged to strap myself together, that I may not die of hunger." The Simpleton was quite glad of this, and said, "Get up quickly, and come along with me, and you shall have enough to eat." He led him straight to the king's courtyard, where all the meal in the kingdom had been collected and baked into a mountain of bread. The man out of the forest settled himself down before it and hastened to eat, and in one day the whole mountain had disappeared. Then the Simpleton asked for his bride the third time. The king, however, found one more excuse, and said he must have a ship that should be able to sail on land or on water. "So soon," said he, "as you come sailing along with it, you shall have my daughter for your wife." The Simpleton went straight to the forest, and there sat the little old grey man with whom he had shared his cake, and he said, "I have eaten for you, and I have drunk for you, I will also give you the ship; and all because you were kind to me at the first." Then he gave him the ship that could sail on land and on water, and when the king saw it he knew he could no longer withhold his daughter.
The marriage took place immediately, and at the death of the king the Simpleton possessed the kingdom, and lived long and happily with his wife.