Brother and Sister – Pre-Intermediate Level

Brother took sister by the hand and said: “Look here! We haven’t had one single happy hour since our mother died. Our stepmother beats us every day, and if we go near her she kicks us away with her foot. We never get anything but old hard dry bread to eat. The little dog under the table is better off than we are, for she throws him some good bones now and then. Oh dear! If our own dear mother only knew! Come along, and let us go out into the world together.”

So off they started through the fields. They walked the whole day long, and towards evening came to a large forest. They were very tired from sadness, hunger and their long walk. They hid in the empty space inside an old tree and soon fell fast asleep.

Next morning, when they woke up, the sun was already high in the sky and shone down bright and hot into the place they were hiding. Brother said, “Sister I’m very thirsty. I think I can hear a stream running nearby where we can get a drink.” He jumped up, took sister by the hand, and they set off to look for it.

Now their wicked stepmother was in reality a witch, and she knew very well that the two children had run away. She had followed them without them knowing it, and put magic spells over all the streams in the forest.

Soon the children found a little stream dancing brightly over the stones. Brother wanted very much to drink out of it. But sister heard the water saying over and over as it ran quickly past, “Who drinks of me will be a tiger!” who drinks of me will be a tiger!”

So she cried out, “Oh! dear brother, please don’t drink, or you’ll be turned into a tiger and tear me to pieces.”

Brother was very thirsty, but he did not drink. “Very well,” said he, “I’ll wait till we come to the next stream.”

When they came to the second stream, sister heard the water saying over and over as it went past, “Who drinks of me will be a wolf! Who drinks of me will be a wolf!”

And she cried out, “Oh! brother, please don’t drink here either, or you’ll be turned into a wolf and eat me up.”

Again brother did not drink but said, “Well, I’ll wait a little longer till we reach the next stream. But then, whatever you may say, I really must drink. My thirst is too great and I can bear it no longer.”

And when they got to the third stream, sister heard the water saying over and over as it went past, “Who drinks of me will be a deer! Who drinks of me will be a deer!”

And she cried out, “Oh brother! Don’t drink yet, or you’ll become a deer and run away from me.”

But her brother was already on his knees by the stream and bending over it to drink. And sure enough, no sooner had his lips touched the water than he was changed into a young deer.

Sister cried over her poor brother, and the little deer cried too in its own way and sat sadly by her side. At last the girl said, “Never mind, dear little brother, I will never leave you. I will call you Roe,” she said “for you are a roe deer.” She took off her golden scarf and put it around the deer’s neck, and made a thin rope from the long stems of some water plants that were growing in the stream. Then she tied this to the scarf and led Roe away. Farther and farther they went, right into the depths of the forest.

After they had gone a long, long way they came to a little house. The girl looked into it found it was quite empty. “Perhaps we might stay and live here,” she thought as she hunted up some leaves to make a soft bed for little Roe.

Every morning and evening she went out to look for wild fruits, nuts and vegetables for herself, and sweet young grass for Roe. He fed from her hand, and played round her and seemed quite happy. In the evening, when sister was tired, she laid her head on Roe’s back and fell sound asleep with it as a pillow. And if brother had but kept his human form, really it would have been a very pleasing kind of life.

They had been living for some time in the forest in this way, when it came to pass that the King of that country held a great hunt in the forest. Soon the trees rang with the blowing of horns, the barking of dogs, and the happy cries of the king’s hunters. Little Roe heard it and wished that he could take part too.

“Oh!” said he to sister, “do let me go off to the hunt! I can’t keep still any longer.” And he asked and asked until at last she agreed.

“But,” she said to him, “you must come back in the evening. I shall lock the door fast to keep out those wild hunters. To make sure of my knowing you, knock on the door and say, ‘My little sister, let me in!’ If you don’t say those words, I shan’t open the door.”

Off sprang little Roe, feeling very happy to be running free in the open air.

The King and his hunters soon saw the beautiful animal and started to run after it, but they could not come up with it. And whenever they thought they were sure to catch it, it jumped off to one side into the bushes and disappeared.

As night came it ran home, knocked on the door of the little house cried, “My little sister, let me in.” Sister opened the door, and he ran in and rested all night on his soft bed of leaves.

Next morning the hunt began again, and as soon as little Roe heard the horns and the “Ho! ho!” of the hunters, he could not rest another moment. “Sister, open the door, I must get out,” he said.

So sister opened the door. “But you must come before it gets dark,” she said “and say the special words”.

As soon as the King and his hunters saw the little deer with the golden scarf they all rode off after it. But again they could not catch Roe because he was far too fast and quick on its feet. This went on all day, but as evening came Roe began to get tired.

Suddenly he found that the hunters were all around him. He was able to escape but one of them wounded him on the foot as he was running away. Because of this he could not run as fast as usual, and as he went home through the forest the hunter followed him.

When Roe got to the little house, the hunter heard him call out, “My little sister, let me in.” He saw a beautiful girl open the door, and then close it again as soon as the deer had run in.

The hunter remembered all this carefully, and went off straight to the King and told him all he had seen and heard. “Tomorrow we will hunt once more,” said the King.

Poor sister was terribly frightened when she saw how little Roe had been hurt. She washed off the blood and tied some special leaves over the wound that would make his foot get better quickly. “Now, dear,” she said, “go and lie down and rest.”

The wound was really so small that little Roe did not feel it at all the next day. He was quite well and no sooner did he hear the sounds of hunting in the forest than he cried, “I can’t stand this, I must be there too. I’ll take care and make sure they don’t catch me.”

Sister began to cry. “They are certain to kill you,” she said. “Then I shall be left all alone in the forest. I can’t and won’t let you out.”

“Then I shall die of sadness,” said Roe, “for when I hear that horn I feel as if I must jump right out of my skin.”

So at last, sister found there was nothing else to be done. She opened the door with a heavy heart, and Roe ran into the forest full of happiness and health.

As soon as the King saw Roe, he said to his hunters, “Now then, try to catch it all day till evening, but be careful not to hurt it.”

When the sun began to go down the King said to the hunter, “Now come and show me the little house in the wood.”

And when he got to the house he knocked on the door and said, “My little sister, let me in.” When the door opened and the King walked in, and there stood the loveliest young woman he had ever seen.

The girl was much surprised when it was not little Roe who came in but a man with a gold crown on his head. But the King looked kindly at her, held out his hand, and said, “Will you come with me to my castle and be my dear wife?”

As they were speaking, Roe came jumping in.

“Oh yes!” answered the woman, “but you must let my deer come too. I could not possibly leave it.”

“It shall stay with you as long as you live, and shall want for nothing,” the King promised.

The King lifted the lovely woman on to his horse and, with Roe running along happily beside them, led her to his castle. There they had the biggest and most wonderful wedding party ever seen in the kingdom. Roe was treated lovingly, and ran about wherever he wanted to in the castle gardens.

Now all this time the wicked stepmother thought that brother and sister were dead. She was sure sister would have been torn to pieces by wild animals, and brother shot to death in the shape of a deer. When she heard how happy and well they were, her heart was filled with jealousy and hatred. She could think of nothing but how to kill or hurt them in some other way.

Her own daughter was as ugly as night and had only one eye. She said angrily to her, “It is I who should have had this good luck and been Queen.”

“Be quiet, will you,” said the stepmother; “when the time comes I shall be ready.”

After some time it happened that, one day as the King was out hunting, the Queen gave birth to a beautiful little boy.

The stepmother said to her daughter, “Come, this is the time we have been waiting for.” She and her daughter dressed as nurses and went into the room where the Queen lay in her bed. “The bath is quite ready,” said the old woman. “It will help to make you strong again after having the baby. Come, let us be quick, before the water gets cold.”

Between them they carried the Queen, who was still very weak, into the bathroom. They laid her in the bath, locked the door and ran away. Before this they had taken care to make a very hot fire under the bath so that the lovely young Queen would surely die.

When this was done the stepmother dressed her daughter in the Queen’s night clothes, tied a cap on her head, and laid her in the Queen’s bed. She managed, too, to make her shape and general appearance look like the Queen’s. But even her power could not bring back the eye her daughter had lost. She made her lie on the side of the missing eye so that the King would not notice anything wrong.

In the evening, when the King came home and heard the news of his son’s birth, he was very happy. He went at once to his dear wife to see how she was getting on. But the old woman cried out, “Take care and keep the curtains closed. Don’t let the light get into the Queen’s eyes. She must be kept very quiet.” So the King went away and never knew that it was a false Queen who lay in the bed.

When midnight came and everyone in the castle was sound asleep, the nurse who alone watched over the baby’s bed at night saw something strange.

The door of the baby’s room opened quietly, and who should come in but the real Queen. She lifted the child from his little bed, held him in her arms, and nursed him for some time. Then she carefully laid the baby down again with his head upon the pillow and made sure that he was warmly covered with a blanket. She did not forget little Roe either. She went to the corner where he lay and lovingly stroked his back. Then she noiselessly left the room.

The next morning the nurse asked the guards if they had seen any one go into the castle that night. “No, we saw no one at all,” they all said.

For many nights the Queen came in the same way. She never spoke a word, and the nurse was too frightened to say anything about her visits.

Then one night the Queen spoke. She said:

“Is my child well? Is my Roe well?
I’ll come back twice more, and then farewell.”

The nurse made no answer, but as soon as the Queen had disappeared she went to the King and told him all. The King cried, “Oh dear! What should I do? I will watch tonight by the child’s bed and see for myself.”

When the evening came he went to the baby’s room. At midnight the Queen appeared and said:

“Is my child well? Is my Roe well?
I’ll come back once more, and then farewell.”

And she nursed and touched the child lovingly as usual before she disappeared. The King was not sure if he should try to talk to her, so the following night he kept watch again.

That night when the Queen came she said:

“Is my child well? Is my Roe well?
I’ve come back three times, and now farewell.”

Then the King could hold himself no longer. He ran to her side and cried, “You can be no one but my dear wife!”

“Yes,” said she, “I am your dear wife!” and in the same moment she came back to life. She was as young and beautiful as ever. Then she told the King all the wicked things the stepmother and her daughter had done. The King had them both brought before him at once. The daughter was led into the forest, where the wild animals tore her to pieces. The stepmother was put to death by fire, which is the only way to take away a witch’s magic.

As soon as the witch died the spell on little Roe was broken. He was his human shape once more, and brother and sister lived happily ever after.