The Twelve Wild Ducks(Norwegian)
Once on a time there was a queen who was out driving, when there had been a new fall of snow in the winter; but when she had gone a little way, she began to bleed at the nose, and had to get out of her sledge. And so, as she stood there, leaning against the fence, and saw the red blood on the white snow, she fell a-thinking how she had twelve sons and no daughter, and she said to herself--
‘If I only had a daughter as white as snow and as red as blood, I shouldn’t care what became of all my sons.’
But the words were scarce out of her mouth before an old witch of the Trolls came up to her.
‘A daughter you shall have,’ she said, ‘and she shall be as white as snow, and as red as blood; and your sons shall be mine, but you may keep them till the babe is christened.’
So when the time came the queen had a daughter, and she was as white as snow, and as red as blood, just as the Troll had promised, and so they called her ‘Sno-white and Rosy-red.’ Well, there was great joy at the king’s court, and the queen was as glad as glad could be; but when what she had promised to the old witch came into her mind, she sent for a silversmith, and bade him make twelve silver spoons, one for each prince, and after that she bade him make one more, and that she gave to Snow-white and Rosy-red. But as soon as ever the princess was christened, the princes were turned into twelve wild ducks, and flew away. They never saw them again--away they went, and away they stayed.
So the princess grew up, and she was both tall and fair, but she was often so strange and sorrowful, and no one could understand what it was that ailed her. But one evening the queen was also sorrowful, for she had many strange thoughts when she thought of her sons. She said to Snow-white and Rosy-red, ‘Why are you so sorrowful, my daughter? Is there anything you want? If so, only say the word, and you shall have it.’
‘Oh, it seems so dull and lonely here,’ said Snow-white and Rosy-red; ‘everyone else has brothers and sisters, but I am all alone; I have none; and that’s why I’m so sorrowful.’
‘But you had brothers, my daughter,’ said the queen; ‘I had twelve sons who were your brothers, but I gave them all away to get you’; and so she told her the whole story.
So when the princess heard that, she had no rest; for, in spite of all the queen could say or do, and all she wept and prayed, the lassie would set off to seek her brothers, for she thought it was all her fault; and at last she got leave to go away from the palace. On and on she walked into the wide world, so far, you would never have thought a young lady could have strength to walk so far.
So, once, when she was walking through a great, great wood, one day she felt tired, and sat down on a mossy tuft and fell asleep. Then she dreamt that she went deeper and deeper into the wood, till she came to a little wooden hut, and there she found her brothers. Just then she woke, and straight before her she saw a worn path in the green moss, and this path went deeper into the wood; so she followed it, and after a long time she came to just such a little wooden house as that she had seen in her dream.