The Godmother


Two girls, all dressed up, were walking along playfully and mischievously one evening when suddenly a gigantic fat toad waddled across their path. The girls joked about the large animal: One of them said that if it ever had a baby, she would be its godmother. The other one quickly added that she would cook for the occasion.

A few days afterward, late in the evening, an old woman knocked at the cottage door of the two girls, reminded them of their promise, and asked them to come to the baptism of the toad’s child. They hesitated a long time, but fear finally drove the mischievous pair out into the night and the fog. The old woman led them to a remote place where the ceremony was taking place. A woman was there with a newborn child, and surrounded by all kinds of strange and unusual guests. Sighing, the two girls did what they had promised to do. As they were discharged from their duties, the woman thanked them kindly and gave them an apron filled with coal from the fireplace. The girls did not dare to throw the unwanted gift away, but as they quickly made their way homeward, they let most of the coal fall to the ground, paying no attention to a voice that repeatedly sounded from behind:

The more you throw away,
The less you will have!

When they arrived at home, the little bit of coal that they still had was nothing but pure gold.

  • Source: Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm, Märchen aus dem Nachlaß, edited by Heinz Rölleke (Bonn: Bouvier Verlag Herbert Grundmann, 1979), Nr. 25, p. 65.
  • Rölleke’s source: Unpublished papers of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Staatsbibliothek Berlin.
  • A marginal note, in the handwriting of Jacob Grimm, on this manuscript states: “oral, from Switzerland, with no specific location.”
  • It is possible that the Grimms received this account from Wilhelm Wackernagel, the source of many of their Swiss tales and legends.
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