The Juniper Tree

By Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Illustrated by Warwick Goble

Illustration for The Juniper Tree by Warwick Goble

A long, long time ago, perhaps as much as two thousand years, there was a rich man, and he had a beautiful and pious wife, and they loved each other very much, and they had no children, though they wished greatly for some, and the wife prayed for one day and night. Now, in the courtyard in front of their house stood a juniper tree; and one day in winter the wife was standing beneath it, and paring an apple, and as she pared it she cut her finger, and the blood fell upon the snow.

“Ah,” said the woman, sighing deeply, and looking down at the blood, “if only I could have a child as red as blood, and as white as snow!”

And as she said these words, her heart suddenly grew light, and she felt sure she should have her wish. So she went back to the house, and when a month had passed the snow was gone; in two months everything was green; in three months the flowers sprang out of the earth; in four months the trees were in full leaf, and the branches were thickly entwined; the little birds began to sing, so that the woods echoed, and the blossoms fell from the trees; when the fifth month had passed the wife stood under the juniper tree, and it smelt so sweet that her heart leaped within her, and she fell on her knees for joy; and when the sixth month had gone, the fruit was thick and fine, and she remained still; and the seventh month she gathered the berries and ate them eagerly, and was sick and sorrowful; and when the eighth month had passed she called to her husband, and said, weeping, “If I die, bury me under the juniper tree.”

Then she was comforted and happy until the ninth month had passed, and then she bore a child as white as snow and as red as blood, and when she saw it her joy was so great that she died.

Her husband buried her under the juniper tree, and he wept sore; time passed, and he became less sad; and after he had grieved a little more he left off, and then he took another wife.

His second wife bore him a daughter, and his first wife’s child was a son, as red as blood and as white as snow. Whenever the wife looked at her daughter she felt great love for her, but whenever she looked at the little boy, evil thoughts came into her heart, of how she could get all her husband’s money for her daughter, and how the boy stood in the way; and so she took great hatred to him, and drove him from one corner to another, and gave him a buffet here and cuff there, so that the poor child was always in disgrace; when he came back after school hours there was no peace for him.

Once, when the wife went into the room upstairs, her little daughter followed her, and said, “Mother, give me an apple.”

“Yes, my child,” said the mother, and gave her a fine apple out of the chest, and the chest had a great heavy lid with a strong iron lock.

“Mother,” said the little girl, “shall not my brother have one too?”

That was what the mother expected; and she said, “Yes, when he comes back from school.”

And when she saw from the window that he was coming, an evil thought crossed her mind, and she snatched the apple, and took it from her little daughter, saying, “You shall not have it before your brother.”

Then she threw the apple into the chest, and shut the lid. Then the little boy came in at the door, and she said to him in a kind tone, but with evil looks, “My son, will you have an apple?”

“Mother,” said the boy, “how terrible you look! Yes, give me an apple!”

Then she spoke as kindly as before, holding up the cover of the chest, “Come here and take out one for yourself.”

And as the boy was stooping over the open chest, crash went the lid down, so that his head flew off among the red apples. But then the woman felt great terror, and wondered how she could escape the blame. And she went to the chest of drawers in her bedroom and took a white handkerchief out of the nearest drawer, and fitting the head to the neck, she bound them with a handkerchief, so that nothing should be seen, and set him on a chair before the door with the apple in his hand.

Then came little Marjory into the kitchen to her mother, who was standing before the fire stirring a pot of hot water.

“Mother,” said Marjory, “my brother is sitting before the door and he has an apple in his hand, and looks very pale; I asked him to give me the apple, but he did not answer me; it seems very strange.” “Go again to him,” said the mother, “and if he will not answer you, give him a box on the ear.”

So Marjory went again and said, “Brother, give me the apple.”

But as he took no notice, she gave him a box on the ear, and his head fell off, at which she was greatly terrified, and began to cry and scream, and ran to her mother, and said, “Oh mother! I have knocked my brother’s head off!” and cried and screamed, and would not cease.

“Oh Marjory!” said her mother, “what have you done? But keep quiet, that no one may see there is anything the matter; it can’t be helped now; we will put him out of the way safely.”

When the father came home and sat down to table, he said, “Where is my son?” But the mother was filling a great dish full of black broth, and Marjory was crying bitterly, for she could not refrain. Then the father said again, “Where is my son?” “Oh,” said the mother, “he is gone into the country to his great-uncle’s to stay for a little while.” “What should he go for?” said the father, “and without bidding me good-bye, too!” “Oh, he wanted to go so much, and he asked me to let him stay there six weeks; he will be well taken care of.” “Dear me,” said the father, “I am quite sad about it; it was not right of him to go without bidding me good-bye.”

With that he began to eat, saying, “Marjory, what are you crying for? Your brother will come back some time.”

After a while he said, “Well, wife, the food is very good; give me some more.”

And the more he ate the more he wanted, until he had eaten it all up, and he threw the bones under the table. Then Marjory went to her chest of drawers, and took one of her best handkerchiefs from the bottom drawer, and picked up all the bones from under the table and tied them up in her handkerchief, and went out at the door crying bitterly. She laid them in the green grass under the juniper tree, and immediately her heart grew light again, and she wept no more.

From Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
Garden City, N.Y.: International Collectors Library, 1900.

Fairy tales


Stories you might like

Find stories