从前有个姑娘，十分年轻美貌，当她还是孩子的时候便没了妈妈，她的继母想尽各种办法来折磨她，使她生活得十分凄惨。 不管继母什么时候让干什么，她总是毫无怨言，而且还做了各种她力所能及的事。 但这仍不能打动这个恶毒女人的心，她的贪欲永远也不会满足。 女孩越是卖命干活，继母给她的活儿也越多。 那女人就是想尽办法用更多的活来压得她闷闷不乐，让她生活更艰苦。
有一天，那女人对女孩说："这里有十二磅羽毛，你得把它拔下来，要是到晚上还没拔完，你就等着挨打吧。你以为可以成天在外面闲逛吗？"这可怜的女孩开始干活，眼泪顺着面颊流了下来，因为她明白自己一天内是不可能干完这些活的。 每当她面前有了一小堆羽毛，她总是叹着气或苦恼地搓着手，那些鸡毛就飞走了，不得不把它们拾起来，然后继续干。 过了一会儿，她听到一个低低的声音说："别着急，我的孩子，我来帮你来了。"女孩抬头看到一个老婆婆站在她身旁，慈祥地拉着女孩的手，说："快告诉我你有什么苦恼的事情。"由于她说得这么亲切，女骇便告诉老婆婆她痛苦的生活，一个一个重担是怎样压在她的身上的，她永远也干不完继母给她的活。 "如果我到今天晚上还没有弄好这堆羽毛，我的继母会打我。她威胁过我，而且我知道她会说到做到的。"她又开始流泪，但这善良的老婆婆说："别害怕，我的孩子，休息一会，现在让我来干你的活。"女孩躺在床上，很快就睡着了。 老婆婆坐在堆着羽毛的桌旁，她那双苍老的手几乎没有碰它们，那些羽毛就神奇地飞离了羽毛梗。 这十二磅羽毛一会儿就拣完了。 当小女孩醒来时，发现面前堆着一大堆雪白的羽毛，房子也干干净净的，但那老婆婆已经不见了。 女孩感谢了上帝，然后静静地坐在那儿直到晚上。 当她继母走进来看到活儿全部干完时，她大吃了一惊。 "瞧瞧，你这蠢东西，"她尖刻地说，"人勤快起来什么活都干得完，你就知道闲坐在那，不能再干点别的吗？"女人出来后心想："这家伙还能多干些，我一定要让她干更难的活儿。"
第二天早上她对女孩说："给你一个勺，去用它把花园边那个大池塘的水舀干。要是你到晚上还没干完，你就等着瞧吧！"女孩接过勺，发现勺上全是小孔，既使没有小孔，她也永远舀不完那池水。 她马上开始干活，眼泪却又流了下来，滴进池中。 但那善良的老婆又出现了，当她得知小女孩为什么伤心时，她说："高兴起来我的孩子，去灌木丛中美美睡上一觉吧，我会马上把你的活干完。"当只剩下老婆婆一人时，只见她几乎没碰池塘，水里就冒出了水气，一直升到空中，和彩云混在一起。 慢慢地池塘的水就干了，小女孩在日落时醒来到池边一看，只见鱼儿在泥里拼命地挣扎。 她跑去继母那告诉她活已干完了。 "你早就该干完的。"那继母嘴上这么说着，心里却气得面孔发白，于是她又想出了新的花招。
次日早上，她对女孩说："你得赶在天黑前给我在那块平地上建好一座城。"这女孩吓呆了，分辩说："我怎么能完成这么重的活呢？""不准回嘴！"继母尖叫着，"既然你能用有孔的勺舀干池水，你就有能耐给我建一座城堡。我今天就要这座城堡 ，如果城堡的厨房或地下室里还缺什么小东西，你就等着吃苦头吧！ "说完他就把女孩赶了出去。女孩来到山谷中，那儿有一块块垒起来的石头，就是用尽吃奶的力气她也挪不动最小的一块。于是她便坐在那儿伤心地哭了，希望老婆婆再一次帮她一把。过了不久，老婆婆果真来了，她安慰小女孩说："躺在树荫下休息吧，我会很快给你建好城堡。 只要你高兴，你可以自己住在这里。 "小女孩走开后，老婆婆用手轻轻碰了碰那些灰色的岩石，那堆岩石立刻都飞起来，一起挪动然后停下，好像是个巨人在筑墙一般。在这堆岩石上，房子渐渐耸起来了，仿佛有许多只无形的手在往上边垒石头。一声闷响从地下传来，立柱升了出来并依次地排好了，屋顶的砖瓦也排列得整整齐齐的。到中午，巨大的风信标耸立在塔顶上，好比一个身着绸衣的少女在飘动。夜幕降临时，城堡里也布置妥当了。那老婆婆是怎么做到这一切的我们也不知道。只见房间的墙壁都用丝绸和天鹅绒蒙着；五色刺绣的椅子套和雕刻精细的围椅，放在大理石桌旁；水晶般的吊灯挂在天花板上，照着下面那光光的地板；镀金笼内有绿色鹦鹉，还有那声音动听却不知名的鸟儿。所有的这一切都是那样的华丽，恰似一个王宫。太阳下山时，小女孩醒来了，千万盏灯光正照在她的脸上。她匆匆忙忙走向城堡，进去后发现台阶上铺着红色的地毯，栏杆上围满了盛开的鲜化。看到这么华丽的房间，小女孩一时都惊呆了，像石头般地站在那里。要不是她突然想起了她的继母，谁知道她会在那儿站多久。"唉！ "女孩想，"要是她这一次能最后满足，我也不必再过苦难的生活，那就好了。 "于是女孩走去告诉继母城堡已经建好了。"我这就搬进去。 "只见她从椅子上站了起来说。她们进入了城堡，那位继母不得不用手来遮住眼睛，因为这亮丽的一切让她头晕目眩。"瞧瞧！ "她对女孩说，"你轻而易举地就干好了这件事，我得给你点更重的活儿。 "她检查了所有的房间，查看了所有的角落，看看是否有什么遗漏或欠缺，但她什么毛病也挑不出来。"现在我们下去看看，"她恶狠狠地冲着小女孩说，"厨房和地窖还得检查，如果你遗漏了什么东西，我就会惩罚你的。 "但壁炉里的火烧得正旺，锅里蒸着肉，墙边放着煤和铲，亮晶晶的黄铜炊具摆得整整齐齐，什么都不缺，甚至连煤盆和水桶都有。"哪扇门是通到地窖的？ "她叫道，"如果酒桶里没有装满酒，那就有你的好看的。 "说着她掀开了地窖的活门就往下走，但还没等她走两步远，那扇向后靠着的活门就重重地倒了下来。女孩听到一声尖叫，马上赶过来举起门，想救她。但她已掉下去了，女孩发现她躺倒在地下断气了。
现在，这座美丽的城堡便属于这女孩一个人了，有这么好的运气，一开始她简直适应不了。 衣柜里挂着美丽的衣服，抽屉里盛放着金银珠宝，她再不会感到缺乏什么东西了。 很快，这女孩的美貌和财富就传遍了整个世界，求婚者络绎不绝，但没有一个能讨她的欢心。 最后有个王子来到了她的身边，他知道怎样打动少女的心，于是他们就订了婚。 有一天，他们正坐在城堡中花园的菩提树下，王子说："我要回家征得父王的同意，请你在这树下等我好吗？我几个小时后就回来。"女孩吻了吻他的左脸颊，说："你一定要守信用，决不要让人吻你的左半脸，我会在这儿等你，直到你回来。"
这女孩在树下一直呆到太阳下山，但他还没有回来。 连续三天她都这样从早到晚呆在树下等他，但什么也没等到。 第四天，他还是没回来，于是她想："一定是他出了什么事，我要去找他，直到把他找回来。"她包好三件漂亮的衣服，一件绣着闪亮的星星，一件缀着银色的月亮，一件布满了金色的太阳，她还用手帕包好了一大把珠宝，出发了。 她到处打听她的心上人，但没有人见过他，也没有人知道他的情况。 尽管她走遍了世界的许多地方，还是没能找到他。 最后，他到一个农场当了牧牛女，并把她的衣服和珠宝都埋在一块石头下。
现在她成了牧女，守着牛群。 她满怀悲伤，时刻想念着她的心爱的人。 她亲手喂养了一头小牛，小牛同她也格外亲近，每当她说：
她就是这样独自哀伤地过了几年。 一天有消息传来说国王的女儿将举行婚礼。 通向城里的路正好打这村口经过，那女孩赶着牛群出去，正巧碰见新郎从这里经过。 他洋洋得意地骑在马上，根本不把旁人放在眼里，但她一眼就认出了那是她的心上人，她心如刀绞。 "唉！"她想，"我还以为他会守信用，但他已经忘记了我。"
王子听到这熟悉的声音，勒住马往下看。 他久久地盯着女孩的脸，手摸着额头，竭力想记起什么来，但他很快又继续往前走，倾刻就消失了。 "哎！"她想，"他不再认得我了。"
这以后不久，宫廷里举行了长达三天的盛宴，所有的人都被邀请参加了。 "现在我得最后试试我的运气。"少女想。 夜幕降临时，她拿出自己以前埋在石头下的衣服和珠宝，穿上那件布满金色太阳的衣服，戴上她的珠宝，解开包在头上的手帕，让一头秀发披在肩上。 就这样她进了城，黑暗中谁也没注意到她。 当她进入灯火辉煌的大厅时，人群都惊奇的望着她，但没有人知道她是谁。 王子亲自来迎接她，但也没认出她是谁。 他带着她跳舞，被她的美色倾倒，几乎把另一个新娘遗忘了。 宴会结束后，她消失在人群中，天亮前她又匆忙赶回了村庄，又一次穿上牧女的衣服。
第二天晚上，她穿上那件有银色月亮的衣服，在头上别了个半月形的宝石。 当她出现在舞会上时，所有的人都望着她，王子急忙来迎接她，对她充满了爱意，整晚就和她一个人跳舞，对别的看也不看一眼。 在她走之前她答应了王子去参加最后一天的舞会。
当她第三次出现时，她穿着那件缀满了星星的衣服。 她每走一步，这衣服就闪闪发一次光。 她的发带和腰带上也缀满了珠宝。 王子已经等了她很久了，见她来，急忙走到她身边，"快告诉我你是谁，"他说，"我感觉我已经认识你很久了。""你难道不知道你离开的时候我都干了些什么？"然后她走向王子，吻了吻他的左半脸。 这时候王子突然醒悟了，他认出了真正的新娘。 "来吧，我再也不在这里呆了。"说着，他牵着少女的手，把她带进了马车。 马车一阵风似地驶向城堡，明亮的窗户已在不远处了。 当他们的马车经过菩提树时，无数萤火虫正围着那颗树打转，树枝摇曳着，散发出阵阵芳香。 台阶上鲜化盛开，房间里回荡着奇妙的鸟叫声，满朝文武正聚集在大厅里，牧师正等着给新郎和真新娘举行婚礼。
There was once on a time a girl who was young and beautiful, but she had lost her mother when she was quite a child, and her step-mother did all she could to make the girl's life wretched. Whenever this woman gave her anything to do, she worked at it indefatigably, and did everything that lay in her power. Still she could not touch the heart of the wicked woman by that; she was never satisfied; it was never enough. The harder the girl worked, the more work was put upon her, and all that the woman thought of was how to weigh her down with still heavier burdens, and make her life still more miserable.
One day she said to her, "Here are twelve pounds of feathers which thou must pick, and if they are not done this evening, thou mayst expect a good beating. Dost thou imagine thou art to idle away the whole day?" The poor girl sat down to the work, but tears ran down her cheeks as she did so, for she saw plainly enough that it was quite impossible to finish the work in one day. Whenever she had a little heap of feathers lying before her, and she sighed or smote her hands together in her anguish, they flew away, and she had to pick them out again, and begin her work anew. Then she put her elbows on the table, laid her face in her two hands, and cried, "Is there no one, then, on God's earth to have pity on me?" Then she heard a low voice which said, "Be comforted, my child, I have come to help thee." The maiden looked up, and an old woman was by her side. She took the girl kindly by the hand, and said, "Only tell me what is troubling thee." As she spoke so kindly, the girl told her of her miserable life, and how one burden after another was laid upon her, and she never could get to the end of the work which was given to her. "If I have not done these feathers by this evening, my step-mother will beat me; she has threatened she will, and I know she keeps her word." Her tears began to flow again, but the good old woman said, "Do not be afraid, my child; rest a while, and in the meantime I will look to thy work." The girl lay down on her bed, and soon fell asleep. The old woman seated herself at the table with the feathers, and how they did fly off the quills, which she scarcely touched with her withered hands! The twelve pounds were soon finished, and when the girl awoke, great snow-white heaps were lying, piled up, and everything in the room was neatly cleared away, but the old woman had vanished. The maiden thanked God, and sat still till evening came, when the step-mother came in and marvelled to see the work completed. "Just look, you awkward creature," said she, "what can be done when people are industrious; and why couldst thou not set about something else? There thou sittest with thy hands crossed." When she went out she said, "The creature is worth more than her salt. I must give her some work that is still harder."
Next morning she called the girl, and said, "There is a spoon for thee; with that thou must empty out for me the great pond which is beside the garden, and if it is not done by night, thou knowest what will happen." The girl took the spoon, and saw that it was full of holes; but even if it had not been, she never could have emptied the pond with it. She set to work at once, knelt down by the water, into which her tears were falling, and began to empty it. But the good old woman appeared again, and when she learnt the cause of her grief, she said, "Be of good cheer, my child. Go into the thicket and lie down and sleep; I will soon do thy work." As soon as the old woman was alone, she barely touched the pond, and a vapour rose up on high from the water, and mingled itself with the clouds. Gradually the pond was emptied, and when the maiden awoke before sunset and came thither, she saw nothing but the fishes which were struggling in the mud. She went to her step-mother, and showed her that the work was done. "It ought to have been done long before this," said she, and grew white with anger, but she meditated something new.
On the third morning she said to the girl, "Thou must build me a castle on the plain there, and it must be ready by the evening." The maiden was dismayed, and said, "How can I complete such a great work?" - "I will endure no opposition," screamed the step-mother. If thou canst empty a pond with a spoon that is full of holes, thou canst build a castle too. I will take possession of it this very day, and if anything is wanting, even if it be the most trifling thing in the kitchen or cellar, thou knowest what lies before thee!" She drove the girl out, and when she entered the valley, the rocks were there, piled up one above the other, and all her strength would not have enabled her even to move the very smallest of them. She sat down and wept, and still she hoped the old woman would help her. The old woman was not long in coming; she comforted her and said, "Lie down there in the shade and sleep, and I will soon build the castle for thee. If it would be a pleasure to thee, thou canst live in it thyself." When the maiden had gone away, the old woman touched the gray rocks. They began to rise, and immediately moved together as if giants had built the walls; and on these the building arose, and it seemed as if countless hands were working invisibly, and placing one stone upon another. There was a dull heavy noise from the ground; pillars arose of their own accord on high, and placed themselves in order near each other. The tiles laid themselves in order on the roof, and when noon-day came, the great weather-cock was already turning itself on the summit of the tower, like a golden figure of the Virgin with fluttering garments. The inside of the castle was being finished while evening was drawing near. How the old woman managed it, I know not; but the walls of the rooms were hung with silk and velvet, embroidered chairs were there, and richly ornamented arm-chairs by marble tables; crystal chandeliers hung down from the ceilings, and mirrored themselves in the smooth pavement; green parrots were there in gilt cages, and so were strange birds which sang most beautifully, and there was on all sides as much magnificence as if a king were going to live there. The sun was just setting when the girl awoke, and the brightness of a thousand lights flashed in her face. She hurried to the castle, and entered by the open door. The steps were spread with red cloth, and the golden balustrade beset with flowering trees. When she saw the splendour of the apartment, she stood as if turned to stone. Who knows how long she might have stood there if she had not remembered the step-mother? "Alas!" she said to herself, "if she could but be satisfied at last, and would give up making my life a misery to me." The girl went and told her that the castle was ready. "I will move into it at once," said she, and rose from her seat. When they entered the castle, she was forced to hold her hand before her eyes, the brilliancy of everything was so dazzling. "Thou seest," said she to the girl, "how easy it has been for thee to do this; I ought to have given thee something harder." She went through all the rooms, and examined every corner to see if anything was wanting or defective; but she could discover nothing. "Now we will go down below," said she, looking at the girl with malicious eyes. "The kitchen and the cellar still have to be examined, and if thou hast forgotten anything thou shalt not escape thy punishment." But the fire was burning on the hearth, and the meat was cooking in the pans, the tongs and shovel were leaning against the wall, and the shining brazen utensils all arranged in sight. Nothing was wanting, not even a coal-box and water-pail. "Which is the way to the cellar?" she cried. "If that is not abundantly filled, it shall go ill with thee." She herself raised up the trap-door and descended; but she had hardly made two steps before the heavy trap-door which was only laid back, fell down. The girl heard a scream, lifted up the door very quickly to go to her aid, but she had fallen down, and the girl found her lying lifeless at the bottom.
And now the magnificent castle belonged to the girl alone. She at first did not know how to reconcile herself to her good fortune. Beautiful dresses were hanging in the wardrobes, the chests were filled with gold or silver, or with pearls and jewels, and she never felt a desire that she was not able to gratify. And soon the fame of the beauty and riches of the maiden went over all the world. Wooers presented themselves daily, but none pleased her. At length the son of the King came and he knew how to touch her heart, and she betrothed herself to him. In the garden of the castle was a lime-tree, under which they were one day sitting together, when he said to her, "I will go home and obtain my father's consent to our marriage. I entreat thee to wait for me here under this lime-tree, I shall be back with thee in a few hours." The maiden kissed him on his left cheek, and said, "Keep true to me, and never let any one else kiss thee on this cheek. I will wait here under the lime-tree until thou returnest.
The maid stayed beneath the lime-tree until sunset, but he did not return. She sat three days from morning till evening, waiting for him, but in vain. As he still was not there by the fourth day, she said, "Some accident has assuredly befallen him. I will go out and seek him, and will not come back until I have found him." She packed up three of her most beautiful dresses, one embroidered with bright stars, the second with silver moons, the third with golden suns, tied up a handful of jewels in her handkerchief, and set out. She inquired everywhere for her betrothed, but no one had seen him; no one knew anything about him. Far and wide did she wander through the world, but she found him not. At last she hired herself to a farmer as a cow-herd, and buried her dresses and jewels beneath a stone.
And now she lived as a herdswoman, guarded her herd, and was very sad and full of longing for her beloved one; she had a little calf which she taught to know her, and fed it out of her own hand, and when she said,
"Little calf, little calf, kneel by my side,
And do not forget thy shepherd-maid,
As the prince forgot his betrothed bride,
Who waited for him 'neath the lime-tree's shade."
the little calf knelt down, and she stroked it.
And when she had lived for a couple of years alone and full of grief, a report was spread over all the land that the King's daughter was about to celebrate her marriage. The road to the town passed through the village where the maiden was living, and it came to pass that once when the maiden was driving out her herd, her bridegroom travelled by. He was sitting proudly on his horse, and never looked round, but when she saw him she recognized her beloved, and it was just as if a sharp knife had pierced her heart. "Alas!" said she, "I believed him true to me, but he has forgotten me."
Next day he again came along the road. When he was near her she said to the little calf,
"Little calf, little calf, kneel by my side,
And do not forget thy shepherd-maid,
As the prince forgot his betrothed bride,
Who waited for him 'neath the lime-tree's shade."
When he was aware of the voice, he looked down and reined in his horse. He looked into the herd's face, and then put his hands before his eyes as if he were trying to remember something, but he soon rode onwards and was out of sight. "Alas!" said she, "he no longer knows me," and her grief was ever greater.
Soon after this a great festival three days long was to be held at the King's court, and the whole country was invited to it.
"Now will I try my last chance," thought the maiden, and when evening came she went to the stone under which she had buried her treasures. She took out the dress with the golden suns, put it on, and adorned herself with the jewels. She let down her hair, which she had concealed under a handkerchief, and it fell down in long curls about her, and thus she went into the town, and in the darkness was observed by no one. When she entered the brightly-lighted hall, every one started back in amazement, but no one knew who she was. The King's son went to meet her, but he did not recognize her. He led her out to dance, and was so enchanted with her beauty, that he thought no more of the other bride. When the feast was over, she vanished in the crowd, and hastened before daybreak to the village, where she once more put on her herd's dress.
Next evening she took out the dress with the silver moons, and put a half-moon made of precious stones in her hair. When she appeared at the festival, all eyes were turned upon her, but the King's son hastened to meet her, and filled with love for her, danced with her alone, and no longer so much as glanced at anyone else. Before she went away she was forced to promise him to come again to the festival on the last evening.
When she appeared for the third time, she wore the star-dress which sparkled at every step she took, and her hair-ribbon and girdle were starred with jewels. The prince had already been waiting for her for a long time, and forced his way up to her. "Do but tell who thou art," said he, "I feel just as if I had already known thee a long time." - "Dost thou not know what I did when thou leftest me?" Then she stepped up to him, and kissed him on his left cheek, and in a moment it was as if scales fell from his eyes, and he recognized the true bride. "Come," said he to her, "here I stay no longer," gave her his hand, and led her down to the carriage. The horses hurried away to the magic castle as if the wind had been harnessed to the carriage. The illuminated windows already shone in the distance. When they drove past the lime-tree, countless glow-worms were swarming about it. It shook its branches, and sent forth their fragrance. On the steps flowers were blooming, and the room echoed with the song of strange birds, but in the hall the entire court was assembled, and the priest was waiting to marry the bridegroom to the true bride.