The Child who came from an Egg
Once on a time there lived a queen whose heart was sore because she had no
children. She was sad enough when her husband was at home with her, but when he was away
she would see nobody, but sat and wept all day long.
Now it happened that a war broke out with the king of a neighbouring country, and the
queen was left in the castle alone. She was so unhappy that she felt as if the walls would
stifle her, so she wandered out into the garden, and threw herself down on a grassy bank,
under the shade of a lime tree. She had been there for some time, when a rustle among the
leaves caused her to look up, and she saw an old woman limping on her crutches towards the
stream that flowed through the grounds.
When she had quenched her thirst, she came straight up to the queen, and said to her:
"Don't take it evil, noble lady, that I dare to speak to you, and don't be afraid of
me, for it may be that I shall bring you good luck."
The queen looked at her doubtfully, and answered: "You don't seem as if you had been
very lucky yourself, or to have much good fortune to spare for anyone else."
"Under rough bark lies smooth wood and sweet kernel," replied the old woman.
"Let me see your hand, that I may read the future."
The queen held out her hand, and the old woman examined its lines closely. Then she said,
"Your heart is heavy with two sorrows, one old and one new. The new sorrow is for
your husband, who is fighting far away from you; but, believe me, he is well, and will
soon bring you joyful news. But your other sorrow is much older than this. Your happiness
is spoilt because you have no children." At these words the queen became scarlet, and
tried to draw away her hand, but the old woman said:
"Have a little patience, for there are some things I want to see more clearly."
"But who are you?" asked the queen, "for you seem to be able to read my
"Never mind my name," answered she, "but rejoice that it's permitted to me
to show you a way to lessen your grief. You must, however, promise to do exactly what I
tell you, if any good is to come of it."
"Oh, I'll obey you exactly," cried the queen, "and if you can help me you
shall have in return anything you ask for."
The old woman stood thinking for a little: then she drew something from the folds of her
dress, and, undoing a number of wrappings, brought out a tiny basket made of birch-bark.
She held it out to the queen, saying, "In the basket you'll find a bird's egg. This
you must be careful to keep in a warm place for three months, when it will turn into a
doll. Lay the doll in a basket lined with soft wool, and leave it alone, for it won't need
any food, and by-and-by you'll find it has grown to be the size of a baby. Then you'll
have a baby of your own, and you must put it by the side of the other child, and bring
your husband to see his son and daughter. The boy you'll bring up yourself, but you must
entrust the little girl to a nurse. When the time comes to have them christened you'll
invite me to be godmother to the princess, and this is how you must send the invitation.
Hidden in the cradle, you'll find a goose's wing: throw this out of the window, and I'll
be with you directly; but be sure you tell no one of all the things that have befallen
The queen was about to reply, but the old woman was already limping away, and before she
had gone two steps she had turned into a young girl, who moved so quickly that she seemed
rather to fly than to walk. The queen, watching this transformation, could hardly believe
her eyes, and would have taken it all for a dream, had it not been for the basket which
she held in her hand. Feeling a different being from the poor sad woman who had wandered
into the garden so short a time before, she hastened to her room, and felt carefully in
the basket for the egg. There it was, a tiny thing of soft blue with little green spots,
and she took it out and kept it in her bosom, which was the warmest place she could think
A fortnight after the old woman had paid her visit, the king came home, having conquered
his enemies. At this proof that the old woman had spoken truth, the queen's heart bounded,
for she now had fresh hopes that the rest of the prophecy might be fulfilled. She
cherished the basket and the egg as her chiefest treasures, and had a golden case made for
the basket, so that when the time came to lay the egg in it, it might not risk any harm.
Three months passed, and, as the old woman had bidden her, the queen took the egg from her
bosom, and laid it snugly amidst the warm woollen folds. The next morning she went to look
at it, and the first thing she saw was the broken eggshell, and a little doll lying among
the pieces. Then she felt happy at last, and leaving the doll in peace to grow, waited, as
she had been told, for a baby of her own to lay beside it.
In course of time, this came also, and the queen took the little girl out of the basket,
and placed it with her son in a golden cradle which glittered with precious stones. Next
she sent for the king, who nearly went mad with joy at the sight of the children.
Soon there came a day when the whole court was ordered to be present at the christening of
the royal babies, and when all was ready the queen softly opened the window a little, and
let the goose wing fly out. The guests were coming thick and fast, when suddenly there
drove up a splendid coach drawn by six cream-coloured horses, and out of it stepped a
young lady dressed in garments that shone like the sun. Her face couldn't be seen, for a
veil covered her head, but as she came up to the place where the queen was standing with
the babies she drew the veil aside, and everyone was dazzled with her beauty. She took the
little girl in her arms, and holding it up before the assembled company announced that
henceforward it would be known by the name of Cindya name which no one understood
but the queen, who knew that the baby had come from the yolk of an egg. The boy was called
After the feast was over and the guests were going away, the godmother laid the baby in
the cradle, and said to the queen, "Whenever the baby goes to sleep, be sure you lay
the basket beside her, and leave the eggshells in it. As long as you do that, no evil can
come to her; so guard this treasure as the apple of your eye, and teach your daughter to
do so likewise." Then, kissing the baby three times, she mounted her coach and drove
The children throve well, and Cindy's nurse loved her as if she were the baby's real
mother. Every day the little girl seemed to grow prettier, and people used to say she
would soon be as beautiful as her godmother, but no one knew, except the nurse, that at
night, when the child slept, a strange and lovely lady bent over her. At length she told
the queen what she had seen, but they determined to keep it as a secret between
The twins were by this time nearly two years old, when the queen was taken suddenly ill.
All the best doctors in the country were sent for, but it was no use, for there is no cure
for death. The queen knew she was dying, and sent for Cindy and her nurse, who had now
become her lady-in-waiting. To her, as her most faithful servant, she gave the lucky
basket in charge, and besought her to treasure it carefully. "When my daughter,"
said the queen, "is ten years old, you're to hand it over to her, but warn her
solemnly that her whole future happiness depends on the way she guards it. About my son,
I've no fears. He is the heir of the kingdom, and his father will look after him."
The lady-in-waiting promised to carry out the queen's directions, and above all to keep
the affair a secret. And that same morning the queen died.
After some years the king married again, but he didn't love his second wife as he had done
his first, and had only married her for reasons of ambition. She hated her step-children,
and the king, seeing this, kept them out of the way, under the care of Cindy's old nurse.
But if they ever strayed across the path of the queen, she would kick them out of her
sight like dogs.
On Cindy's tenth birthday her nurse handed her over the cradle, and repeated to her her
mother's dying words; but the child was too young to understand the value of such a gift,
and at first thought little about it.
Two more years slipped by, when one day during the king's absence the stepmother found
Cindy sitting under a lime tree. She fell as usual into a passion, and beat the child so
badly that Cindy went staggering to her own room. Her nurse was not there, but suddenly,
as she stood weeping, her eyes fell on the golden case in which lay the precious basket.
She thought it might contain something to amuse her, and looked eagerly inside, but
nothing was there save a handful of wool and two empty eggshells. Very much disappointed,
she lifted the wool, and there lay the goose's wing. "What old rubbish," said
the child to herself, and, turning, threw the wing out of the open window.
In a moment a beautiful lady stood beside her. "Don't be afraid," said the lady,
stroking Cindy's head. "I'm your godmother, and have come to pay you a visit. Your
red eyes tell me that you're unhappy. I know that your stepmother is very unkind to you,
but be brave and patient, and better days will come. She'll have no power over you when
you're grown up, and no one else can hurt you either, if only you're careful never to part
from your basket, or to lose the eggshells that are in it. Make a silken case for the
little basket, and hide it away in your dress night and day and you'll be safe from your
stepmother and anyone that tries to harm you. But if you should happen to find yourself in
any difficulty, and can't tell what to do, take the goose's wing from the basket, and
throw it out of the window, and in a moment I'll come to help you. Now come into the
garden, that I may talk to you under the lime trees, where no one can hear us."
They had so much to say to each other, that the sun was already setting when the godmother
had ended all the good advice she wished to give the child, and saw it was time for her to
be going. "Hand me the basket," said she, "for you must have some supper. I
can't let you go hungry to bed."
Then, bending over the basket, she whispered some magic words, and instantly a table
covered with fruits and cakes stood on the ground before them. When they had finished
eating, the godmother led the child back, and on the way taught her the words she must say
to the basket when she wanted it to give her something.
In a few years more, Cindy was a grown-up young lady, and those who saw her thought that
the world didn't contain so lovely a girl.
About this time a terrible war broke out, and the king and his army were beaten back and
back, till at length they had to retire into the town, and make ready for a siege. It
lasted so long that food began to fail, and even in the castle there was not enough to
So one morning Cindy, who had had neither supper nor breakfast, and was feeling very
hungry, let her wing fly away. She was so weak and miserable, that directly her godmother
appeared she burst into tears, and couldn't speak for some time.
"Don't cry so, dear child," said the godmother. "I'll carry you away from
all this, but the others I must leave to take their chance." Then, bidding Cindy
follow her, she passed through the gates of the town, and through the army outside, and
nobody stopped them, or seemed to see them.
The next day the town surrendered, and the king and all his courtiers were taken
prisoners, but in the confusion his son managed to make his escape. The queen had already
met her death from a spear carelessly thrown.
As soon as Cindy and her godmother were clear of the enemy, Cindy took off her own
clothes, and put on those of a peasant, and in order to disguise her better her godmother
changed her face completely. "When better times come," her protectress said
cheerfully, "and you want to look like yourself again, you have only to whisper the
words I've taught you into the basket, and say you would like to have your own face once
more, and it will be all right in a moment. But you'll have to endure a little longer
yet." Then, warning her once more to take care of the basket, the lady bade the girl
For many days Cindy wandered from one place to another without finding shelter, and though
the food which she got from the basket prevented her from starving, she was glad enough to
take service in a peasant's house till brighter days dawned. At first the work she had to
do seemed very difficult, but either she was wonderfully quick in learning, or else the
basket may have secretly helped her. Anyhow at the end of three days she could do
everything as well as if she had cleaned pots and swept rooms all her life.
One morning Cindy was busy scouring a wooden tub, when a noble lady happened to pass
through the village. The girl's bright face as she stood in the front of the door with her
tub attracted the lady, and she stopped and called the girl to come and speak to her.
"Would you not like to come and enter my service?" she asked.
"Very much," replied Cindy, "if my present mistress will allow me."
"Oh, I'll settle that," answered the lady; and so she did, and the same day they
set out for the lady's house, Cindy sitting beside the coachman.
Six months went by, and then came the joyful news that the king's son had collected an
army and had defeated the usurper who had taken his father's place, but at the same moment
Cindy learned that the old king had died in captivity. The girl wept bitterly for his
loss, but in secrecy, as she had told her mistress nothing about her past life.
At the end of a year of mourning, the young king let it be known that he intended to
marry, and commanded all the maidens in the kingdom to come to a feast, so that he might
choose a wife from among them. For weeks all the mothers and all the daughters in the land
were busy preparing beautiful dresses and trying new ways of putting up their hair, and
the three lovely daughters of Cindy's mistress were as much excited as the rest. The girl
was clever with her fingers, and was occupied all day with getting ready their smart
clothes, but at night when she went to bed she always dreamed that her godmother bent over
her and said, "Dress your young ladies for the feast, and when they have started
follow them yourself. Nobody will be so fine as you."
When the great day came, Cindy could hardly contain herself, and when she had dressed her
young mistresses and seen them depart with their mother she flung herself on her bed, and
burst into tears. Then she seemed to hear a voice whisper to her, "Look in your
basket, and you'll find in it everything that you need."
Cindy didn't want to be told twice! Up she jumped, seized her basket, and repeated the
magic words, and behold! there lay a dress on the bed, shining as a star. She put it on
with fingers that trembled with joy, and, looking in the glass, was struck dumb at her own
beauty. She went downstairs, and in front of the door stood a fine carriage, into which
she stepped and was driven away like the wind.
The king's castle was a long way off, yet it seemed only a few minutes before Cindy drew
up at the great gates. She was just going to alight, when she suddenly remembered she had
left her basket behind her. What was she to do? Go back and fetch it, lest some
ill-fortune should befall her, or enter the castle and trust to chance that nothing evil
would happen? But before she could decide, a little swallow flew up with the basket in its
beak, and the girl was happy again.
The feast was already at its height, and the hall was brilliant with youth and beauty,
when the door was flung wide and Cindy entered, making all the other maidens look pale and
dim beside her. Their hopes faded as they gazed, but their mothers whispered together,
saying, "Surely this is our lost princess!"
The young king didn't know her again, but he never left her side nor took his eyes from
her. And at midnight a strange thing happened. A thick cloud suddenly filled the hall, so
that for a moment all was dark. Then the mist suddenly grew bright, and Cindy's godmother
was seen standing there.
"This," she said, turning to the king, "is the girl whom you have always
believed to be your sister, and who vanished during the siege. She isn't your sister at
all, but the daughter of the king of a neighbouring country, who was given to your mother
to bring up, to save her from the hands of a wizard."
Then she vanished, and was never seen again, nor the wonder-working basket either; but now
that Cindy's troubles were over she could get on without them, and she and the young king
lived happily together till the end of their days.
Märchen aus Estland. (Schicksalsfrau)