从前有个富有的国王，他有三个女儿，她们每天到王宫花园里去散步，国王非常喜欢所有漂亮的树，尤其喜欢一棵苹果树，如果有人从树上摘下一个苹果，他会诅咒他下十八层地狱。 每当丰收时，这棵树上的苹果鲜红如血。 三个女儿天天到树下查看是否风会将苹果刮下来，可是从来没有发现一个，树上挂满的苹果几乎将树给压断了，树枝已垂到了地面。 国王的小女儿十分想得到一个苹果，她对姐姐们说："我们的父亲非常爱我们，他不会诅咒我们下地狱，我相信他只是对陌生人才这样。"一边说着，她一边摘了一个大苹果跑向姐姐们，说道："尝尝吧，我亲爱的小姐姐们，我生来就没尝过这么好吃的东西。"她的两个姐姐也吃了几口苹果，就在这时，她们三个全都陷到了深深的地底下，在那儿她们再也听不到公鸡打鸣了。
中午，国王想叫她们回来吃饭，可哪儿也找不到她们。 他找遍了王宫和花园，可还是找不到她们。 他感到麻烦大了，于是告之全国，谁能将他的女儿们找回来，谁就可以娶她们其中的一个为妻。 她们为人和善，美丽大方，因此得到大家的喜爱，便有许许多多，数也数不清的年青人走遍全国去寻找。 有三个年轻的猎人也出去寻找，当他们走到第八天时，到了一座大城堡，发现里面有漂亮的住房，在一间房子里有一张桌子，上面摆着精美的菜肴，菜肴还冒着热气，可是整个城堡里看不到一个人也没有任何人的动静。 他们在那里等了半天的时间，食物还是热气腾腾的，最后他们实在饿了，就坐下吃饭，大家商定准备住在城堡里，但是要抽签选出一人守在屋子里，其他两人出去寻找国王的女儿。 他们开始抽签，结果是老大中签。 第二天两个弟弟出去寻找，老大守在屋里。 中午时分，来了一个很小很小的矮人要讨一片面包，猎人找到一条面包，切下一片准备给他，可小矮人没有接，面包掉到了地上，小矮人请求猎人将那片面包拣起来再给他，当猎人弯腰准备这么做的时候，小矮人拿起一根棍子，揪住他的头发，狠狠地揍了他一顿。 次日，老二守在屋里，结果他的遭遇也是如此。 晚上，其他二人回来，老大问道老二："今儿你怎样？"
"嗨，太倒霉了，"他说，然后他俩悄悄将自己的苦水相互倾诉了一番，可就是没有告诉三弟，他们一点也不喜欢他，而且经常叫他傻汉斯，因为他丝毫不懂人间世故。 第三天，三弟呆在屋中，小矮人又来要一片面包。 当老三给他时，和以前一样，他又让面包掉了下来，然后让老三拣给他。 可是汉斯说："你自己怎么不能拣？如果你连这么点的劳动都不愿意付出的话，你就没资格得到每天的食物。"这小矮人可真气坏了，并且坚持让他拣，可汉斯不但不做，而且一把抓住小矮人，痛痛快快地揍了他一顿。 这时小矮人使劲哭喊着："别打了，别打了，你要是饶了我，我会告诉你国王的女儿在哪儿。"汉斯一听，就把他给放了，小矮人告诉汉斯他是个土地神，像他这样的有上千个，如果汉斯愿意跟他一起走，他可以带汉斯到国王女儿们的藏身处。 他们于是来到了一口深井，这是口枯井。 小矮人告诉汉斯他知道汉斯的同伴对汉斯不诚实，所以，如果他想将国王的女儿们送回去，他就得一个人干。 他的两个哥哥一旦知道了国王的女儿们已被发现，他们会非常高兴，但他们是不会付出任何劳动和冒风险的。 所以汉斯自己得拿一个大篮子，还得带上自己的猎刀和一只铃铛坐在篮子里沉到井底。 井底下有三间房子，每间屋子里有一位公主，每个公主都在给一条多头的龙抓虱子，他必须把每条龙的头都给砍掉。 说完这些，小矮人就消失了。 晚上两个哥哥回来了，问他怎样，他说："挺不错的。"并告诉他们在今天中午看到了一个小矮人，小矮人来向他乞讨一片面包，他给了小矮人一些，小矮人却让面包掉到地上，还要汉斯给他再拣起来；他没同意，小矮人就开始骂他，把他骂得火了起来，就揍了小矮人，挨了揍的小矮人告诉了他国王女儿们藏身之处。 听完之后，两个哥哥气得脸上绿一阵黄一阵。 第二天一早，他们一同来到井边，抽签决定谁第一个坐筐下去，老大又一次中签，他带着一只铃坐进筐里。 然后叮咛到："我一摇铃，你们就赶紧把我拉上来。"他刚下去一点儿，就开始摇铃，他们马上拉他上来。 老二第二个坐进筐里，可他也和老大一样，很快就上来了。 轮到三弟，他一直下到了井底。 他从筐里出来，拔出刀子，走到第一道门前站住，听见龙的鼾声极响，便慢慢地打开门，看见一位公主正坐在那里，九头龙的九个脑袋枕在她的腿上，她正在给龙抓虱子。 他举刀把龙的九个脑袋都砍了下来，公主跳了起来，用胳膊搂住了他的脖子，抱着他热情地吻着，并把她那纯金的胸饰挂在他的胸前。 然后他又将给五头龙抓虱子的二公主救了出来，最后他又将给四头龙抓虱子的小公主也救了出来。 三个公主非常高兴，拥抱着他不停地亲吻。 这时他使劲地摇铃，好让上面的人听见。 他先将公主们一个个依次装进筐里，给拉了上去。 可当轮到他自己的时候，他记起了小矮人告诫他的伙伴要害他的话。 于是他抱起井底一块大石头放进筐里，当筐升到半空时，地面上道貌岸然的哥哥们砍断了绳索，筐和石头都掉到了井底。 他们认为他已经死了，就带着三位公主逃走了，还逼迫她们保证告诉她们的父亲是他俩救出了她们。 于是他们见了国王，要求每人娶一个公主为妻。
与此同时，最年轻的猎人正惶惶不安地在那三间屋子里来回转悠，对是否能够活下去已经不抱希望。 当他看见墙上挂着的笛子时，说："你挂哪儿干吗？这儿没人高兴。"他看着龙脑袋说："你们现在也帮不了我。"他长时间地来回走着，地面都让他踩得光滑了。 无奈之际 ，他从墙上取下笛子，吹了几个音，忽然间几个小矮人出现了，随后他每吹一个音，就出现一个小矮人。 于是他就不停地吹，直到屋里全是小矮人为止。 他们大家问他要干什么，他说想回到地面上蓝天下。 小矮人们听后就抓住他头上长的每一根头发，带着他飞到了地面上。 他一上来，就立即去了王宫，那时正是一位公主准备举行婚礼的时候，他走进了国王和他三个女儿的房间。 公主们一见到他便晕倒了。 看到此情景，国王大发雷霆，下令把他立即投入牢房，因为国王认定是他伤害了孩子们。 公主们醒了过来，她们要求国王放了他，国王问为什么，她们不敢说，国王就让她们对火炉说。 国王自己走了出去，站在门外听，了解了事情的来龙去脉。 然后他将两个哥哥送上了绞架，并将小公主嫁给了老三。
There was once upon a time a rich King who had three daughters, who daily went to walk in the palace garden, and the King was a great lover of all kinds of fine trees, but there was one for which he had such an affection, that if anyone gathered an apple from it he wished him a hundred fathoms underground. And when harvest time came, the apples on this tree were all as red as blood. The three daughters went every day beneath the tree, and looked to see if the wind had not blown down an apple, but they never by any chance found one, and the tree was so loaded with them that it was almost breaking, and the branches hung down to the ground. Then the King's youngest child had a great desire for an apple, and said to her sisters, "Our father loves us far too much to wish us underground, it is my belief that he would only do that to people who were strangers." And while she was speaking, the child plucked off quite a large apple, and ran to her sisters, saying, "Just taste, my dear little sisters, for never in my life have I tasted anything so delightful." Then the two other sisters also ate some of the apple, whereupon all three sank deep down into the earth, where they could hear no cock crow.
When mid-day came, the King wished to call them to come to dinner, but they were nowhere to be found. He sought them everywhere in the palace and garden, but could not find them. Then he was much troubled, and made known to the whole land that whosoever brought his daughters back again should have one of them to wife. Hereupon so many young men went about the country in search, that there was no counting them, for every one loved the three children because they were so kind to all, and so fair of face. Three young huntsmen also went out, and when they had travelled about for eight days, they arrived at a great castle, in which were beautiful apartments, and in one room a table was laid on which were delicate dishes which were still so warm that they were smoking, but in the whole of the castle no human being was either to be seen or heard. They waited there for half a day, and the food still remained warm and smoking, and at length they were so hungry that they sat down and ate, and agreed with each other that they would stay and live in that castle, and that one of them, who should be chosen by casting lots, should remain in the house, and the two others seek the King's daughters. They cast lots, and the lot fell on the eldest; so next day the two younger went out to seek, and the eldest had to stay home. At mid-day came a small, small mannikin and begged for a piece of bread, then the huntsman took the bread which he had found there, and cut a round off the loaf and was about to give it to him, but whilst he was giving it to the mannikin, the latter let it fall, and asked the huntsman to be so good as to give him that piece again. The huntsman was about to do so and stooped, on which the mannikin took a stick, seized him by the hair, and gave him a good beating. Next day, the second stayed at home, and he fared no better. When the two others returned in the evening, the eldest said, "Well, how have you got on?"
"Oh, very badly," said he, and then they lamented their misfortune together, but they said nothing about it to the youngest, for they did not like him at all, and always called him Stupid Hans, because he did not exactly belong to the forest. On the third day, the youngest stayed at home, and again the little mannikin came and begged for a piece of bread. When the youth gave it to him, the elf let it fall as before, and asked him to be so good as to give him that piece again. Then said Hans to the little mannikin, "What! canst thou not pick up that piece thyself? If thou wilt not take as much trouble as that for thy daily bread, thou dost not deserve to have it." Then the mannikin grew very angry and said he was to do it, but the huntsman would not, and took my dear mannikin, and gave him a thorough beating. Then the mannikin screamed terribly, and cried, "Stop, stop, and let me go, and I will tell thee where the King's daughters are." When Hans heard that, he left off beating him and the mannikin told him that he was an earth mannikin, and that there were more than a thousand like him, and that if he would go with him he would show him where the King's daughters were. Then he showed him a deep well, but there was no water in it. And the elf said that he knew well that the companions Hans had with him did not intend to deal honourably with him, therefore if he wished to deliver the King's children, he must do it alone. The two other brothers would also be very glad to recover the King's daughters, but they did not want to have any trouble or danger. Hans was therefore to take a large basket, and he must seat himself in it with his hanger and a bell, and be let down. Below were three rooms, and in each of them was a princess, with a many-headed dragon, whose heads she was to comb and trim, but he must cut them off. And having said all this, the elf vanished. When it was evening the two brothers came and asked how he had got on, and he said, "pretty well so far," and that he had seen no one except at mid-day when a little mannikin had come and begged for a piece of bread, that he had given some to him, but that the mannikin had let it fall and had asked him to pick it up again; but as he did not choose to do that, the elf had begun to lose his temper, and that he had done what he ought not, and had given the elf a beating, on which he had told him where the King's daughters were. Then the two were so angry at this that they grew green and yellow. Next morning they went to the well together, and drew lots who should first seat himself in the basket, and again the lot fell on the eldest, and he was to seat himself in it, and take the bell with him. Then he said, "If I ring, you must draw me up again immediately." When he had gone down for a short distance, he rang, and they at once drew him up again. Then the second seated himself in the basket, but he did just the same as the first, and then it was the turn of the youngest, but he let himself be lowered quite to the bottom. When he had got out of the basket, he took his hanger, and went and stood outside the first door and listened, and heard the dragon snoring quite loudly. He opened the door slowly, and one of the princesses was sitting there, and had nine dragon's heads lying upon her lap, and was combing them. Then he took his hanger and hewed at them, and the nine fell off. The princess sprang up, threw her arms round his neck, embraced and kissed him repeatedly, and took her stomacher, which was made of pure gold, and hung it round his neck. Then he went to the second princess, who had a dragon with five heads to comb, and delivered her also, and to the youngest, who had a dragon with four heads, he went likewise. And they all rejoiced, and embraced him and kissed him without stopping. Then he rang very loud, so that those above heard him, and he placed the princesses one after the other in the basket, and had them all drawn up, but when it came to his own turn he remembered the words of the elf, who had told him that his comrades did not mean well by him. So he took a great stone which was lying there, and placed it in the basket, and when it was about half way up, his false brothers above cut the rope, so that the basket with the stone fell to the ground, and they thought that he was dead, and ran away with the three princesses, making them promise to tell their father that it was they who had delivered them, and then they went to the King, and each demanded a princess in marriage.
In the meantime the youngest huntsman was wandering about the three chambers in great trouble, fully expecting to have to end his days there, when he saw, hanging on the wall, a flute; then said he, "Why dost thou hang there, no one can be merry here?" He looked at the dragons, heads likewise and said, "You too cannot help me now." He walked backwards and forwards for such a long time that he made the surface of the ground quite smooth. But at last other thoughts came to his mind, and he took the flute from the wall, and played a few notes on it, and suddenly a number of elves appeared, and with every note that he sounded one more came. Then he played until the room was entirely filled. They all asked what he desired, so he said he wished to get above ground back to daylight, on which they seized him by every hair that grew on his head, and thus they flew with him onto the earth again. When he was above ground, he at once went to the King's palace, just as the wedding of one princess was about to be celebrated, and he went to the room where the King and his three daughters were. When the princesses saw him they fainted. Hereupon the King was angry, and ordered him to be put in prison at once, because he thought he must have done some injury to the children. When the princesses came to themselves, however, they entreated the King to set him free again. The King asked why, and they said that they were not allowed to tell that, but their father said that they were to tell it to the stove. And he went out, listened at the door, and heard everything. Then he caused the two brothers to be hanged on the gallows, and to the third he gave his youngest daughter, and on that occasion I wore a pair of glass shoes, and I struck them against a stone, and they said, "Klink," and were broken.