从前有个女孩，很小的时候父母就相继去世了。 她的教母独自一人住在村头的一间小屋里，靠做针线活儿、纺纱和织布来维持生活。 这位好心肠的妇人把这个孤儿接到家中，教她做活儿，培养她长大成了一个既孝顺又虔诚的人。
教母去世以后，女孩独自一人生活着，勤劳地纺纱、织布、做针线活儿；而且好心肠的老教母的祝福使她免受了伤害。 人们难免会揣测一番：她的亚麻老是用不完，而且她每织完一块布，或缝好一件衬衫 ，马上就会来个出好价的买主。 这样一来，她不但没有受穷，而且还能分给穷人一些东西。
这个时候，王子正周游全国各地，打算物色一位王妃。 他不能选择穷人家的姑娘，也不喜欢富家小姐。 于是他说，他要物色一位最贫穷同时又最富有的姑娘。 王子来到女孩居住的村庄，便按照他在其它地方的一惯作法，打听村子里哪个姑娘最贫穷同时又最富有。 村民们马上告诉他，村里哪个姑娘最富有；至于最贫穷的姑娘嘛，当然就是独自住在村头小屋里的那个女孩了。
那位富家小姐身着节日盛装，坐在门前，看见王子走过来便站起身，迎上前去给他行礼，可是王子看了看她，便一言不发地走了过去。 然后王子来到最贫穷的姑娘的屋前；姑娘没有站在门前，而是把自己关在那间小屋子里。 王子在窗前停下脚步，透过窗子注视着屋里。 阳光射进小屋，屋里一片明亮，姑娘正坐在纺车前纺纱，手脚灵巧，动作娴熟。 姑娘暗暗注意到，王子正在看着她，她羞得满脸通红，于是急忙垂下目光，继续纺纱。 不过她这回儿纺的纱是否很均匀，我可就说不准喽。 她一直纺啊纺啊，直到王子离开了才停下来。 王子刚一离开，她急忙跑到窗前，一把推开窗子，说道："屋里可真热啊！"透过窗口，她两眼紧紧地盯着王子的背影，直到他帽子上的羽毛也在视线中消失了，才作罢。
怎么回事？ 话音刚落，纺锤突然从她手中滑落，飞也似的跑出门去。 她目不转睛地看着纺锤奔跑，惊得目瞪口呆。 只见纺锤蹦蹦跳跳地跑过田野，身后拖着闪闪发光的金线。 不大一会儿，锤纺就从她的视线里消失了。 没了纺锤，姑娘便拿起梭子，开始织布。
纺锤不停地跑啊跑，刚好在金线用完了的时候，追上了王子。 "我看见什么啦？"王子大叫起来，"这支纺锤想给我带路呢。"他于是掉转马头，沿着金线飞快地往回赶。 姑娘呢，还在织布，一边织一边唱道：
话音刚落，梭子突然从她手中滑落，蹦跳着跑到门口。 谁知到了门口，它就开始织地毯，织了一块世上最漂亮的地毯。 地毯两侧织着盛开的玫瑰和百合花，中间呢，在金色的底子上织着绿油油的藤蔓。 在藤蔓间有许多蹦蹦跳跳的小兔子，还有许多探头探脑的小鹿和松鼠；枝头上栖息着五颜六色的小鸟，虽然小鸟不能歌唱，却栩栩如生。 梭子不停地跑过来，跳过去，地毯很快就织好了。
姑娘默不作答，而是将手伸给了王子。 王子吻了她之后，把她抱上马，带着她离开了小村庄，回到了王宫。 在宫里，他们举行了盛大的婚宴。
那么，纺锤、梭子和针呢？ 啊！ 就珍藏在王宫的宝库里了。
There was once a girl whose father and mother died while she was still a little child. All alone, in a small house at the end of the village, dwelt her godmother, who supported herself by spinning, weaving, and sewing. The old woman took the forlorn child to live with her, kept her to her work, and educated her in all that is good. When the girl was fifteen years old, the old woman became ill, called the child to her bedside, and said, "Dear daughter, I feel my end drawing near. I leave thee the little house, which will protect thee from wind and weather, and my spindle, shuttle, and needle, with which thou canst earn thy bread." Then she laid her hands on the girl's head, blessed her, and said, "Only preserve the love of God in thy heart, and all will go well with thee." Thereupon she closed her eyes, and when she was laid in the earth, the maiden followed the coffin, weeping bitterly, and paid her the last mark of respect. And now the maiden lived quite alone in the little house, and was industrious, and span, wove, and sewed, and the blessing of the good old woman was on all that she did. It seemed as if the flax in the room increased of its own accord, and whenever she wove a piece of cloth or carpet, or had made a shirt, she at once found a buyer who paid her amply for it, so that she was in want of nothing, and even had something to share with others.
About this time, the son of the King was travelling about the country looking for a bride. He was not to choose a poor one, and did not want to have a rich one. So he said, "She shall be my wife who is the poorest, and at the same time the richest." When he came to the village where the maiden dwelt, he inquired, as he did wherever he went, who was the richest and also the poorest girl in the place? They first named the richest; the poorest, they said, was the girl who lived in the small house quite at the end of the village. The rich girl was sitting in all her splendour before the door of her house, and when the prince approached her, she got up, went to meet him, and made him a low curtsey. He looked at her, said nothing, and rode on. When he came to the house of the poor girl, she was not standing at the door, but sitting in her little room. He stopped his horse, and saw through the window, on which the bright sun was shining, the girl sitting at her spinning-wheel, busily spinning. She looked up, and when she saw that the prince was looking in, she blushed all over her face, let her eyes fall, and went on spinning. I do not know whether, just at that moment, the thread was quite even; but she went on spinning until the King's son had ridden away again. Then she went to the window, opened it, and said, "It is so warm in this room!" but she still looked after him as long as she could distinguish the white feathers in his hat. Then she sat down to work again in her own room and went on with her spinning, and a saying which the old woman had often repeated when she was sitting at her work, came into her mind, and she sang these words to herself, --
"Spindle, my spindle, haste, haste thee away,
And here to my house bring the wooer, I pray."
And what do you think happened? The spindle sprang out of her hand in an instant, and out of the door, and when, in her astonishment, she got up and looked after it, she saw that it was dancing out merrily into the open country, and drawing a shining golden thread after it. Before long, it had entirely vanished from her sight. As she had now no spindle, the girl took the weaver's shuttle in her hand, sat down to her loom, and began to weave.
The spindle, however, danced continually onwards, and just as the thread came to an end, reached the prince. "What do I see?" he cried; "the spindle certainly wants to show me the way!" turned his horse about, and rode back with the golden thread. The girl was, however, sitting at her work singing,
"Shuttle, my shuttle, weave well this day,
And guide the wooer to me, I pray."
Immediately the shuttle sprang out of her hand and out by the door. Before the threshold, however, it began to weave a carpet which was more beautiful than the eyes of man had ever yet beheld. Lilies and roses blossomed on both sides of it, and on a golden ground in the centre green branches ascended, under which bounded hares and rabbits, stags and deer stretched their heads in between them, brightly-coloured birds were sitting in the branches above; they lacked nothing but the gift of song. The shuttle leapt hither and thither, and everything seemed to grow of its own accord.
As the shuttle had run away, the girl sat down to sew. She held the needle in her hand and sang,
"Needle, my needle, sharp-pointed and fine,
Prepare for a wooer this house of mine."
Then the needle leapt out of her fingers, and flew everywhere about the room as quick as lightning. It was just as if invisible spirits were working; they covered tables and benches with green cloth in an instant, and the chairs with velvet, and hung the windows with silken curtains. Hardly had the needle put in the last stitch than the maiden saw through the window the white feathers of the prince, whom the spindle had brought thither by the golden thread. He alighted, stepped over the carpet into the house, and when he entered the room, there stood the maiden in her poor garments, but she shone out from within them like a rose surrounded by leaves. "Thou art the poorest and also the richest," said he to her. "Come with me, thou shalt be my bride." She did not speak, but she gave him her hand. Then he gave her a kiss, led her forth, lifted her on to his horse, and took her to the royal castle, where the wedding was solemnized with great rejoicings. The spindle, shuttle, and needle were preserved in the treasure-chamber, and held in great honour.