Kate Crackernuts – Elementary Level
Once upon a time there was a king and a queen, as there have been in many lands. But this king and queen each had a daughter from an earlier marriage. The king had a daughter named Anne, and the queen had daughter named Kate. Anne was far prettier than Kate, but the two girls loved one another like real sisters.
Now the queen was very unhappy that the king’s daughter was prettier than her own. There was a very old woman who came every day to take care of the king’s chickens, and it was said that she knew magic. One day the queen called for her. “What can I do to take away Anne’s beauty?” she asked.
“Send her to my house early tomorrow morning,” the old woman said. “But you must make sure that she does not have anything to eat before she gets there.”
Early the next morning the queen called for Anne. “Go to house of the old woman who cares for your father’s chickens,” she said. “Ask her for some eggs.” As Anne set out, she passed through the castle kitchen. There was a piece of bread on the table, which she took and ate as she went along.
When Anne got to the old woman’s house, she asked for eggs. “Lift the lid off that pot there and see,” said the old woman. The girl lifted the lid, but nothing happened. “Go home to your mother and tell her to keep her kitchen door locked tomorrow,” said the woman. She went home to the queen and told her what the old woman had said. The queen knew from this that the girl had eaten something on the way to the old woman’s house.
The queen sent Anne to the old woman again the next morning. But this time she watched carefully as the girl left the castle. She wanted to make sure that she did not take any food. As she was walking, the princess came upon some farmers picking apples by the roadside. She spoke to them nicely, and they gave her one to eat as she went along.
When Anne got to the old woman’s house, she asked for eggs. “Lift the lid off the pot and you’ll see,” said the old woman again. The girl lifted the lid, but once more nothing happened. The old woman was very angry. “Tell your mother the pot won’t boil if the fire’s away,” said the woman. So she went home to the queen and told her what the old woman had said. Again the queen knew that the girl had eaten something on the way to the old woman’s house.
On the third day the queen decided to go with the girl to see the old woman. This time, Anne had nothing to eat. When she lifted the lid off the pot, her pretty head fell off and a sheep’s head appeared in its place.
The queen was very happy with this, and took Anne back home.
But the queen’s daughter, Kate, was not happy. She took a beautiful piece of cloth and put it over her sister’s head. Then she took her sister by the hand and they both went out into the world to try to find way to make Anne beautiful again.
They walked on, and on, and on, till at last they came to another castle. Kate knocked at the door and asked for somewhere for herself and a sick sister to sleep for the night. They went in and found that this was the castle of another king. They were told that this king had two sons, and that one of them was very sick. Everyone was scared that the sick prince might soon die unless someone could find out what was wrong with him. And the strange thing was that whoever watched over the prince at night was never seen again. The king had made it known that he would give a bag of silver to anyone who could stay up and watch over the prince for a whole night. Now Kate was a very brave girl, and said that she would like to try to sit up with the prince.
All went well until midnight. As twelve o’clock rang, the sick prince got out of bed, dressed himself, and went quietly outside. Kate followed, but he didn’t seem to notice her. The prince went to the place in the castle where the king kept his horses. As he got on his own horse, Kate jumped up so lightly behind him that he did not know she was there. In this way they rode away through the forest together. As they went, Kate pulled nuts from trees they passed and filled her pockets with them. They rode on and on till they came to a green hill. Here the prince stopped his horse and spoke, “Open, open, green hill, and let the young prince in.” To which Kate added quietly, “with this girl behind him.”
As soon as they had finished speaking a large door in the side of the hill opened. They went inside and Kate saw that they were in very big room with bright lights everywhere. Many beautiful fairies were waiting for the prince and led him off to the dance. Kate, without being noticed, hid herself behind the door. From there she watched the prince dancing. He danced, and danced, and danced till he could dance no longer and had to sit down. Then the fairies would fan him till he could stand again and go on dancing.
At last they heard the morning cry of a rooster. At this the prince quickly got back on his horse. Kate jumped up behind as before, and they rode home.
When the king came into the prince’s room the next morning, he found Kate sitting down by the fire cracking her nuts. Kate told him that the prince had a good night. She said that she would be happy to sit with him for another night if the king would give her a bag of gold.
The second night passed as the first had done. The prince got up at midnight and rode away to the green hill and the fairy ball. Kate went with him, picking nuts as they rode through the forest. This time she did not watch the prince, for she knew that he would dance and dance, and dance. As she looked around, she saw a fairy baby playing with a wand. “Three touches of that wand would make Kate’s sister as pretty as ever she was,” said a nearby fairy. Kate rolled some nuts near the fairy baby, and the baby dropped the wand and walked after them. Kate quickly picked up the wand and put it in her pocket.
At the morning cry of a rooster they rode home as before. The moment Kate got home, she ran to her room and touched Anne three times with the wand. The sheep’s head fell off and she had her own pretty head again.
When the king came into the prince’s room, Kate told him that the prince had again had a good night. She said that she would be happy to sit with him for a third night if she could marry him when he was well. All went on as on the first two nights. This time the fairy baby was playing with a bird. “Three bites of that bird would make the sick prince as well as ever he was,” said a nearby fairy. Kate rolled all the nuts she had to the fairy baby till it dropped the bird. Kate quickly picked up the bird and put it in her pocket.
At the morning cry of a rooster they set off again. As soon as she got home, Kate began to cook the bird. Soon there was a delicious smell in the prince’s room. “Oh!” said the sick prince, “I wish I had a bite of that bird.” Kate gave him a bite, and he lifted himself up on one arm. Soon he cried out again, “Oh, I would love to have another bite of that bird!” Kate gave him another bite, and he sat up on his bed. Then he said again, “Oh! if I only had a third bite of that bird!” So Kate gave him a third bite, and he got out of bed, dressed himself, and sat down by the fire.
When the king came into the prince’s room, he found Kate and the young prince cracking nuts together. And while they were away during the night his brother had met Anne. He had fallen in love with her, as everybody did who saw her pretty face. So the sick son married the well sister, and the well son married the sick sister. And they all lived happy and died happy, and never had to drink out of a dry cup.