有一回，国王举行盛大宴会，邀请了各地所有希望结婚的男子。 先入席的是几个国王，接着入席的是王子、公爵、伯爵和男爵，最后入席的是其余所有应邀而来男子。 公主走过这个行列，可对每一位横挑鼻子竖挑眼，这位太胖啦，她就用轻蔑的口气说道："好一个啤酒桶。"那个呢，又高又瘦，她就评头论足地说道："活像一只大蚊子。"下一个呢，太矮啦……"五大三粗，笨手笨脚。"她又说道。 第四个呢，脸色太苍白啦，"一具死尸。"；第五个，脸太红润……"一只公火鸡。"第六个呢，身板儿不够直……"像一快放在炉子后面烤干的弯木头。"就这样，她看谁都不顺眼。
有一位国王，下巴长得有点儿翘，更是免不了遭到她的大肆嘲笑挖苦。 "我的天哪！"她一边放声大笑一边高声地说，"瞧这家伙的下巴呀，长得跟画眉嘴一模一样啊！"打那以后，这位国王就落了个诨名--画眉嘴。 老国王发现女儿只是在嘲弄人家，对每个前来求婚的人都嗤之以鼻，便大动干火，发誓要把她嫁给第一个上门来讨饭的叫花子。
几天以后，一个走街窜巷卖唱的人在王宫的窗下唱起歌来，想讨一点儿施舍。 国王听见了歌声，便吩咐把这个人带来见他。 卖唱的衣衫褴褛，肮脏龌龊 ，来到国王和公主面前唱了起来，唱完便恳求给他一点儿赏赐。
可是，公主哪里会生火煮饭呀，叫花子只得自己动手，不然就得挨饿。 他们的晚饭很简单，晚饭后，就休息了。 谁知第二天一大早，他就把她赶下床，逼着她做家务事。
可是，又有什么别的出路呢？ 不然就得活活饿死。 一开始，她的生意还不错。 人们见她长得漂亮，都来买她的东西，而且连价也不还。 的确，有几个人付了钱，却又把锅子作为礼物送给她。
夫妻俩靠她卖来的钱生活了一段时间，然后丈夫又进了一批陶器。 她坐在市场的一个角落里，把锅碗瓢盆什么的摆放在自己的周围，叫卖起来。 谁知一个喝得醉熏熏的骑兵突然打这儿急驰而过，那匹马冲进她的货摊，把所有的陶器踩得粉碎。 公主放声大哭，束手无策。 "我的天呀，我该怎么办哪？"她呜咽着说，"我丈夫会怎么骂我呀。"于是，她跑回家里，跟丈夫说了自己的遭遇。
这样一来，公主就变成了帮厨女佣。 她给大师傅打下手，干各种最脏的活儿。 她在衣服里缝了一个口袋，在口袋里放了一只带盖的罐子，每天把残羹剩饭盛在里面，带回家中糊口。
为了庆祝国王的长子满十八岁，国王举行了盛大的舞会。 在那个不同寻常的夜晚，可怜的年轻女佣躲在上面大厅的门后，偷偷地观望。 她目睹着蜡烛一根根点燃，宾客们一个个步入大厅，全都衣着华丽，光彩照人。 面对眼前富丽堂皇、令人眼花缭乱的景象，她不无哀伤地想起自己悲惨的命运，站在那里几乎泣不成声。 自己一向傲慢无理，目中无人，才落到今天这般贫穷凄惨的境地，她感到痛悔不已。 美味佳肴端进端出，香味扑鼻，她馋得口水直流，仆人们不时扔给她一些残渣剩菜，她便装进罐子里，准备带回家去。
国王的长子身着天鹅绒和绸缎衣服，衣服上镶嵌着钻石，脖子上挂着金项链，正朝大厅走去，发现这个可怜的女子站在门后，正偷偷地观望着舞会的情景，王子一把抓住她的手，要和她跳舞，她却不肯。 她认出这位王子正是曾经向她求过婚，被她嘲弄侮辱过的那个画眉嘴国王，不禁吓得浑身发抖。 可是，不管她怎样挣扎，王子还是硬将她拉进了舞厅。 不料，她用来系口袋的线绳，就在这时断了，罐子一下子滚了出来，汤汤水水流了一地，残渣剩菜撒得到处都是。 人们一见哄堂大笑，她成了众人的笑柄，羞愧得恨不得有个地缝钻进去。 她朝门口冲了过去，想要逃走，可在台阶上被一个男子拦住了去路，又给拉了回来。 她定睛一看，这个男子又是画眉嘴国王，国王用亲切和蔼的语气对她说：
A King had a daughter who was beautiful beyond all measure, but so proud and haughty withal that no suitor was good enough for her. She sent away one after the other, and ridiculed them as well.
Once the King made a great feast and invited thereto, from far and near, all the young men likely to marry. They were all marshalled in a row according to their rank and standing; first came the kings, then the grand-dukes, then the princes, the earls, the barons, and the gentry. Then the King's daughter was led through the ranks, but to every one she had some objection to make; one was too fat, "The wine-cask," she said. Another was too tall, "Long and thin has little in." The third was too short, "Short and thick is never quick." The fourth was too pale, "As pale as death." The fifth too red, "A fighting-cock." The sixth was not straight enough, "A green log dried behind the stove."
So she had something to say against every one, but she made herself especially merry over a good king who stood quite high up in the row, and whose chin had grown a little crooked. "Well," she cried and laughed, "he has a chin like a thrush's beak!" and from that time he got the name of King Thrushbeard.
But the old King, when he saw that his daugher did nothing but mock the people, and despised all the suitors who were gathered there, was very angry, and swore that she should have for her husband the very first beggar that came to his doors.
A few days afterwards a fiddler came and sang beneath the windows, trying to earn a small alms. When the King heard him he said, "Let him come up." So the fiddler came in, in his dirty, ragged clothes, and sang before the King and his daughter, and when he had ended he asked for a trifling gift. The King said, "Your song has pleased me so well that I will give you my daughter there, to wife."
The King's daughter shuddered, but the King said, "I have taken an oath to give you to the very first beggar-man, and I will keep it." All she could say was in vain; the priest was brought, and she had to let herself be wedded to the fiddler on the spot. When that was done the King said, "Now it is not proper for you, a beggar-woman, to stay any longer in my palace, you may just go away with your husband."
The beggar-man led her out by the hand, and she was obliged to walk away on foot with him. When they came to a large forest she asked, "To whom does that beautiful forest belong?" - "It belongs to King Thrushbeard; if you had taken him, it would have been yours." - "Ah, unhappy girl that I am, if I had but taken King Thrushbeard!"
Afterwards they came to a meadow, and she asked again, "To whom does this beautiful green meadow belong?" - "It belongs to King Thrushbeard; if you had taken him, it would have been yours." - "Ah, unhappy girl that I am, if I had but taken King Thrushbeard!"
Then they came to a large town, and she asked again, "To whom does this fine large town belong?" - "It belongs to King Thrushbeard; if you had taken him, it would have been yours." - "Ah, unhappy girl that I am, if I had but taken King Thrushbeard!"
"It does not please me," said the fiddler, "to hear you always wishing for another husband; am I not good enough for you?" At last they came to a very little hut, and she said, "Oh goodness! what a small house; to whom does this miserable, mean hovel belong?" The fiddler answered, "That is my house and yours, where we shall live together."
She had to stoop in order to go in at the low door. "Where are the servants?" said the King's daughter. "What servants?" answered the beggar-man; "you must yourself do what you wish to have done. Just make a fire at once, and set on water to cook my supper, I am quite tired." But the King's daughter knew nothing about lighting fires or cooking, and the beggar-man had to lend a hand himself to get anything fairly done. When they had finished their scanty meal they went to bed; but he forced her to get up quite early in the morning in order to look after the house.
For a few days they lived in this way as well as might be, and came to the end of all their provisions. Then the man said, "Wife, we cannot go on any longer eating and drinking here and earning nothing. You weave baskets." He went out, cut some willows, and brought them home. Then she began to weave, but the tough willows wounded her delicate hands.
"I see that this will not do," said the man; "you had better spin, perhaps you can do that better." She sat down and tried to spin, but the hard thread soon cut her soft fingers so that the blood ran down. "See," said the man, "you are fit for no sort of work; I have made a bad bargain with you. Now I will try to make a business with pots and earthenware; you must sit in the market-place and sell the ware." - "Alas," thought she, "if any of the people from my father's kingdom come to the market and see me sitting there, selling, how they will mock me?" But it was of no use, she had to yield unless she chose to die of hunger.
For the first time she succeeded well, for the people were glad to buy the woman's wares because she was good-looking, and they paid her what she asked; many even gave her the money and left the pots with her as well. So they lived on what she had earned as long as it lasted, then the husband bought a lot of new crockery. With this she sat down at the corner of the market-place, and set it out round about her ready for sale. But suddenly there came a drunken hussar galloping along, and he rode right amongst the pots so that they were all broken into a thousand bits. She began to weep, and did now know what to do for fear. "Alas! what will happen to me?" cried she; "what will my husband say to this?"
She ran home and told him of the misfortune. "Who would seat herself at a corner of the market-place with crockery?" said the man; "leave off crying, I see very well that you cannot do any ordinary work, so I have been to our King's palace and have asked whether they cannot find a place for a kitchen-maid, and they have promised me to take you; in that way you will get your food for nothing."
The King's daughter was now a kitchen-maid, and had to be at the cook's beck and call, and do the dirtiest work. In both her pockets she fastened a little jar, in which she took home her share of the leavings, and upon this they lived.
It happened that the wedding of the King's eldest son was to be celebrated, so the poor woman went up and placed herself by the door of the hall to look on. When all the candles were lit, and people, each more beautiful than the other, entered, and all was full of pomp and splendour, she thought of her lot with a sad heart, and cursed the pride and haughtiness which had humbled her and brought her to so great poverty.
The smell of the delicious dishes which were being taken in and out reached her, and now and then the servants threw her a few morsels of them: these she put in her jars to take home.
All at once the King's son entered, clothed in velvet and silk, with gold chains about his neck. And when he saw the beautiful woman standing by the door he seized her by the hand, and would have danced with her; but she refused and shrank with fear, for she saw that it was King Thrushbeard, her suitor whom she had driven away with scorn. Her struggles were of no avail, he drew her into the hall; but the string by which her pockets were hung broke, the pots fell down, the soup ran out, and the scraps were scattered all about. And when the people saw it, there arose general laughter and derision, and she was so ashamed that she would rather have been a thousand fathoms below the ground. She sprang to the door and would have run away, but on the stairs a man caught her and brought her back; and when she looked at him it was King Thrushbeard again. He said to her kindly, "Do not be afraid, I and the fiddler who has been living with you in that wretched hovel are one. For love of you I disguised myself so; and I also was the hussar who rode through your crockery. This was all done to humble your proud spirit, and to punish you for the insolence with which you mocked me."
Then she wept bitterly and said, "I have done great wrong, and am not worthy to be your wife." But he said, "Be comforted, the evil days are past; now we will celebrate our wedding." Then the maids-in-waiting came and put on her the most splendid clothing, and her father and his whole court came and wished her happiness in her marriage with King Thrushbeard, and the joy now began in earnest. I wish you and I had been there too.