Three Little Men in the Wood

Picture Book by Max Teschemacher

There was a widower with a daughter and a widow with a daughter. They married and the new wife immediately started to mistreat her husband's previous daughter.

One winter day, when it was freezing cold, the new wife gave her stepdaughter a dress made of paper and sent her to berry some strawberries. She gave her a piece of hard bread to eat on her way. She was sure the girl would die of cold.

The girl obeyed her command and went to the woods. There she found a small house.

Three little men who lived there invited her in. She sat and started eating her bread. They asked her to share and she gave them half of her food. She told them why she went to the woods.

Little men told her to go out and broom behind the house.

While she was brooming they decided they should reward her for her generosity and good heart.

The first promised she would become prettier every day.

The second promised that gold coins would drop out of her mouth while she was talking.

The third promised she would marry a king.

The girl found fresh strawberries behind the house and happily returned home.

She told about her adventure and jealous stepmother decided that her daughter should go to the woods too. She gave her a very warm dress and a cake.

This girl wasn't nice to little men. She didn't share her food and didn't want to broom.

When she left they decided she should get some kind of reward as well.

The first promised she would become uglier every day.

The second promised that toads would drop out of her mouth while she was talking.

The third promised she would die in great pain.

In the meantime, the good daughter met a king and they married. They got a child and lived happily for some time. Then her wicked stepmother heard about her good life and wanted it for her own daughter.

They came to the castle and threw the queen in the water. Then her stepsister replaced her in the bed. The king was told that his wife had a fever and would be better soon. The fever was also the reason for numerous toads on the floor.

The assassinated queen returned to the castle in the form of a duck. She inquired at the kitchen boy about the situation.

She went to her bedroom where she transformed into a human form to breastfeed her kid.

On the third night, she told the kitchen boy that she could return if the king would swang his sword over her on the threshold. The boy obeyed.

The queen was back again.

Her evil stepmother and ugly stepsister were asked what would be an appropriate punishment for somebody who pushed a human being into a river. They proposed that such a bad person should be put in a barrel full of nails and rolled down the hill into the river.

They decided their own death sentence.

As you probably noticed this fairy tale shares many themes with other fairy tales:

  • competing siblings (Golden Bird, Mother Hulda)
  • evil stepmother (Hansel and Gretel, Snow White)
  • impossible task (Aschenputtel, Brave Little Tailor)
  • house in the woods (Red Riding Hood, House in the Woods)
  • cruel punishment similar to the evil deed (Goose Girl, Juniper Tree)
  • change of brides or wives (Brother and Sister, Maid Maleen) 

If you find such comparisons interesting, you can find many more in this blog about Fairy Tale Themes. 

Spread the word and have a great day!

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