Felix Hoffmann illustrates “The Seven Ravens” by the Brothers Grimm.

THE SEVEN RAVENS

 A STORY BY THE BROTHERS GRIMM
WITH PICTURES BY FELIX HOFFMANN
HARCOURT, BRACE & WORLD, INC., NEW YORK
1963.

Copyright and first published 1962 by H.R. Sauerländer & Co., Aarau [Switzerland].

English translation copyright 1963 by Oxford University Press.

First American edition 1963.

“The pictures were drawn on stone by the artist, the book printed by A. Trüb & Cie., Aarau.”

Once upon a time there was a man who had seven sons, but, as much as he loved them, he longed for a daughter. At last, his wife told him they were to have another child, and when it was born, it was a girl. The man and his wife were delighted, but the child was weak and small, and they were afraid she would not live long. So they decided to have her baptized at once and sent one of the boys to fetch water from the well. The other six went with him. Each wanted to draw the water and in the struggle, the jug fell and was smashed. They stood there, not knowing what to do, and none of them dared to go home.

 

When they still did not return, their father grew impatient and said: “Those naughty boys must be playing one of their games and have forgotten about the water.” Then he grew very angry and shouted: “I wish those wicked boys would all be turned into ravens.” 

 

No sooner had he spoken than he heard a beating of wings in the air above and, looking up, saw seven black ravens flying away.

 

The man and his wife were very sad to lose their seven sons, but it was too late to take back the curse. They found comfort in their little daughter, who grew stronger and more beautiful as each day went by. For a long time, she did not know that she had ever had any brothers. Then one day she heard some people say it was her fault that her seven brothers had suffered such cruel misfortune. So she went to her parents and asked if it was true that she had had seven brothers, and what had become of them? The man and his wife could keep the secret from her no longer, so they told her how her brothers had been changed into ravens.

 

Day by day the girl grew sadder.

 

Finally, she made up her mind to find her brothers and set them free. She set out, taking with her nothing but a ring that her parents gave her, a loaf of bread in case she was hungry, a little bottle of water in case she was thirsty, and a little chair in case she was tired.

 

She walked and walked, on and on, until she came to the end of the world, but she found no trace of her brothers.

 

Then she came to the Sun, but it was too hot and bright and no little children lived there.

 

Quickly, she ran away and went to the Moon, but it was too cold, and surly and bad-tempered as well. When it saw her, it said: “Go away! Go away!” She fled swiftly and came

 

to the stars, who were friendly and kind to her, each one sitting on its own special stool. The morning star rose, gave her a magic bone, and said: “You will find your brothers inside the Glass Mountain. But you cannot open the Glass Mountain without this magic bone.”

 

The girl took the magic bone, wrapped it carefully in a piece of cloth, and went on her way until she reached the Glass Mountain. The door into it was shut. She opened the cloth to take out the bone, but the cloth was empty. She had lost the magic gift of the star. What could she do now? She must rescue her brothers, but she had no key to the Glass Mountain. Quickly she took a knife, cut off her little finger, stuck it into the lock, and the door opened.

 

When she had gone inside, a dwarf came towards her and asked what she wanted. “I am looking for my brothers, the seven ravens,” she replied. The ravens were not at home, the dwarf told her, but she could wait for them if she liked. The girl watched him as he brought in food and drink for the ravens, on seven little plates, and in seven little goblets. From each plate, he took a bite to eat, and from each goblet she took a sip to drink, and into the last goblet, she dropped the ring her parents had given her. At once she heard a sighing sound in the art and the beating of wings, and the dwarf said: “The ravens are flying home.”

 

The ravens arrived and looked for their plates and goblets, for they were hungry and thirsty. Then, one after the other, they said: “Who has eaten from my plate? Who has drunk from my goblet?” As the seventh raven emptied his goblet, out rolled the ring? He looked at it, and he knew it was the ring that belonged to his father and mother. “If only our sister were here, then the curse would be broken and we should be set free, he said. When the girl, who was standing behind the door, heard his wish, 

 

she stepped forward, and at once the ravens were changed back into her seven brothers. They were overjoyed to see their sister and to be free at last.

 

And they all went home joyfully together.

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