The Seven Ravens
a folktale adapted from the Brothers Grimm
Once upon a time, there were a mother and father with seven sons and one daughter. The daughter, their youngest child, was very sick. Her parents didn’t know if she would survive, so they decided she should be baptized immediately.
The father sent his sons to quickly draw water from a spring for the baptism. The seven sons raced each other to get to the spring first. Each wanted to be the one to bring back the water. However, in their haste, they dropped their pitchers into the water and couldn’t get them out. Now they were afraid to go home without any water.
Waiting at home, the father grew anxious. "Where are my sons?" he said over and over. "Are they playing around when they should be doing what I asked of them?" He became more impatient by the minute. "What useless sons! I wish they would turn into ravens!" he shouted angrily. No sooner had he said this than he saw seven black ravens circling overhead. He realized his wish had come true. "What have I done?" he cried, but it was too late.
The daughter survived and grew into a beautiful young lady. She never knew she had brothers, for her parents never spoke of them. But one day she heard some townspeople talking. "What a shame about that girl’s brothers," said one. "Yes, ’tis a pity," agreed another. "Seven fine young men, lost for their sister’s sake."
The daughter was stunned and troubled by this news. How awful that they had been turned into ravens for trying to save her! She was determined to save her brothers, no matter what. She packed a ring (a gift from her parents), some food and water, and a stool to rest on. She traveled to the ends of the earth, searching for her raven brothers. Finally, she came to a castle on top of a glass mountain, and she went inside.
A dwarf greeted her. "What are you doing here?" he asked. "I’m looking for my brothers. They’ve been turned into ravens," she answered. It just so happened that the dwarf took care of the ravens, and he was getting their dinners ready for when they returned. He set out seven plates and glasses for the ravens.
The girl was very hungry, so she took a small bite from each plate and a small sip from each glass. She dropped her ring into the last glass.
Suddenly, the ravens flew into the castle. Startled, the girl hid behind a door. The ravens looked at the table spread before them and said, "Someone’s been eating our food and drinking our drink. Who is here?" One of them found the ring in the glass and recognized it.
"Our sister wore a ring like this," said the raven. "Oh, I wish she were here! Then we’d be free at last." Hearing this, the girl ran up to her brothers. They instantly turned back into humans. Overjoyed, the eight siblings returned home and lived happily ever after.