Once upon a time, an old man had two children, a boy and a girl. He married a witch, who became the children’s stepmother. As any stepmother she was treating bed her children. Finally she decided to get rid of them.
The woman went to his husband and told him he must get rid of the children or she would never again speak to him. She told the old man to take them to the forest and leave them there. Even if he begged his wife for mercy she wouldn’t changed her mind.
Soon the old man went to his children and told them to go into the woods to look for sticks for firewood. But things did not go as the old man and the old woman had planned. The children were covered in the ashes that they had been playing with in the garden. As they walked, the ashes made a trail behind them and marked the way home. When they were deep into the dark woods, the old man vanished and left his kids there.
The children did not panic. The little girl saw the trail made by the ashes, and they decided to follow it back home. Once arrived, they decided to hide because they feared their stepmother would be cross at them for losing their father in the woods. As night came on, the air grew chill and the two scrambled up onto the roof of their family’s small mud hut and curled-up close to the warm chimney. They dozed there and did not notice when their unhappy father finally arrived home from his terrible deed.
The witch was so pleased she got rid of the children that decided to tease her husband. After dinner, she asked him: “Well, where are your children? Why do they not come to the table for the bones?”. Upon hearing her voice rise through the chimney, the children woke and answered loudly: “Here we are mother. We are coming for our dinner.”
As soon as the children were asleep, the old woman turned her harsh tongue on the old man and called him all sorts of cruel names. She ordered him to try again.
On the next day the old man succeeded to get rid of his kids. They cried until they had no more tears left. Than they started looking for food and water. They found only roots to eat and they could not find a spring. Shortly after, they found rainwater pooled in the tracks of a fox. The boy dropped to the ground to drink but was stopped by his sister who said: “brother, if you drink the water, you’ll turn into a fox and there will be no one to look after me.” The boy loved his sister dearly and did not drink the water. Soon, they came upon rainwater collected in the tracks of a big bear. The boy was nearly delirious with thirst but the little girl warned him: “brother, do not drink that water or you will become a bear and kill me.”. The boy again did not drink. Later, they came upon rainwater pooled in the tracks of a stag and the boy could not be persuaded to not drink the water. He dropped to his knees and drank. As soon as he drank the water, he was turned into a magnificent golden stag. His body was all shining gold and he had gems sparkling at the tips of his antlers. He was so beautiful that the wind stopped blowing because it was awed at the sight of him.
There was a cradle of silken thread strung between the stag’s antlers and the former boy knelt before his disbelieving sister with big tears in his eyes and told her to climb into the cradle. The girl did so and off they went together to make their home in the dark woods. The stag built a nest for his little sister up high in a tree to keep her safe from animals. So they lived for many years until a king’s son went hunting into the woods. The little girl had become a beautiful woman. She had shining black hair and big black eyes and the prince’s heart was lost to her from the moment he first saw her perched high in her nest.
The prince abandoned the hunt and returned home to his kingdom, from where he sent word he would pay a big reward to the one who won for him the hand of the beautiful girl hidden in the forest tree. The wisest of all the wise women of the kingdom went to the prince and pledged that she would bring him this girl as his bride.
The wise woman soon arrived near the tree where the girl lived and settled down to watch the girl from a hiding place. She saw the girl’s brother arriving and feeding the girl.
The wise woman thought for many days how she could woo the girl for the love-struck prince. She could not speak the strange language of the golden stag, so she decided it would be best to lure the girl down from the safety of her tree. So, the wise woman returned to the prince’s kingdom to ask the King for the things she needed to carry-out her plan.
She asked for two horses, a cart, a trivet, a bucket, and a jug of water, and then set off for the woods. She left the cart and carried her supplies to the base of the girl’s tree. Once there, she lit a small fire and placed the trivet upon it upside down. The girl was watching the wise woman and called down to her to tell her that she had placed the trivet the wrong way around. The wise woman kept placing the trivet the wrong way despite the girl’s helpful instructions until she finally had it right.
Next the wise woman placed the bucket upside down on the trivet and poured the water on it. The wise woman despaired aloud that she would ever get her water boiled and the girl was quick to offer her help from the top of her tree. She told the old woman to turn the bucket the other way around but it took many instructions before the old woman got it right. This time the girl asked the old woman how it was that she should have lived so long but still did not know how to do such a simple thing as boiling water. The wise woman lied and said that she had been a wealthy woman whose servants had done everything for her but that now she was poor and all of her belongings were burned into ash and she had to live in the woods.
The girl felt sorry for the old woman and offered to climb down from the safety of her tree to boil the water. This was exactly what the wise woman had planned. As soon as the girl’s feet touched the ground, the wise woman grabbed her and put a gag on her mouth. Then she called to the groom who had accompanied her and carried the frightened girl to the cart and drove off to the prince’s kingdom.
When they arrived at the palace, the prince asked her to marry him. The girl was quite shocked by the whole turn of events. She accepted the prince proposal and married him.
Meanwhile, the stag had discovered the disappearance of his sister, and he started to cry so loud that all who heard him felt a deep sympathy for him. Soon, the stag noticed the footprints and the marks of a scuffle on the ground. He followed the footprints until he came to wheel marks and then he followed them to the palace gate, where he began crying. The girl heard her brother’s voice and ran to him. She told the prince that this wondrous golden stag with the jeweled horns was her brother and the prince invited him to live in a beautiful gilt stable and feed on the sweetest grasses in the kingdom.
All were happy now because the prince and the girl had fallen deeply in love and the stag and his sister were able to be together and safe. Or so they thought. They did not count on the machinations of a certain gypsy girl. This gypsy hated the new princess because she had been the prince’s sweetheart before his marriage. The gypsy decided to kill the girl to get revenge.
One day both the stag and the prince were away and the gypsy girl knew that this might be her only chance to get rid herself of both of them. She approached the girl and invited her to go pick up wild flowers. The girl was very pleased with the suggestion and they went together. Once the girl had become thirsty, the gypsy offered her a cup of water into which she had put a terrible sleeping potion that would make the girl sleep so deeply that she would seem to be dead. As soon as she had drunken the water, she fell to sleep. The gypsy planned to let the animals of the forest kill and eat the poor girl while she returned to the prince and assumed the girl’s identity.
The gypsy girl took the princess’ beautiful clothes and put them on and then made herself look like princess. Since she had made-up her face so cleverly and since she disguised her voice, no one suspected anything. Only the stag knew she was not her sister. Whenever she came near him the stag cried. This made the gypsy nervous and she tried to convince the prince that the stag was sick and needed to be killed.
The prince did not relish the idea of destroying his brother-in-law and did not agree to kill the stag. The stag run into the woods to find her sister; and he had find her. He ran up to the prince and ran off again and kept doing this repeatedly in order to get the prince to follow him to his true wife. Because the stag looked at him so piteously, the prince followed him into the woods.
When they came to the spot where the girl was sleeping, the prince thought she was dead. He was nearly mad with grief and bade his men to carry his beloved home to the palace. Once there, he called all of the doctors and wizards in the kingdom to the palace to try to bring his back to life. One of them realized right away that the princess was only sleeping and he revived her with a special potion. Once the girl was awake, she was able to tell her husband what had happened. The prince ordered the gypsy girl stoned to death for trying to murder his wife and the prince, princess and stag lived happily ever after.