There was once an old castle in the midst of a large and thick
forest, and in it an old woman who was a witch dwelt all alone. In the
day-time she changed herself into a cat or a screech-owl, but in the
evening she took her proper shape again as a human being. She could
lure wild beasts and birds to her, and then she killed and boiled and
roasted them. If any one came within one hundred paces of the castle he
was obliged to stand still, and could not stir from the place until she
bade him be free. But whenever an innocent maiden came within this
circle, she changed her into a bird, and shut her up in a wicker-work
cage, and carried the cage into a room in the castle. She had about
seven thousand cages of rare birds in the castle.
Now, there was once a maiden who was called Jorinda, who was fairer
than all other girls. She and a handsome youth named Joringel had
promised to marry each other. They were still in the days of betrothal,
and their greatest happiness was being together. One day in order that
they might be able to talk together in quiet they went for a walk in
the forest. “Take care,” said Joringel, “that you do not go too near
It was a beautiful evening; the sun shone brightly between the
trunks of the trees into the dark green of the forest, and the
turtle-doves sang mournfully upon the young boughs of the birch-trees.
Jorinda wept now and then: she sat down in the sunshine and was
sorrowful. Joringel was sorrowful too; they were as sad as if they were
about to die. Then they looked around them, and were quite at a loss,
for they did not know by which way they should go home. The sun was
still half above the mountain and half set.
Joringel looked through the bushes, and saw the old walls of the
castle close at hand. He was horror-stricken and filled with deadly
fear. Jorinda was singing—-
“My little bird, with the necklace red,
Sings sorrow, sorrow, sorrow,
He sings that the dove must soon be dead,
Sings sorrow, sor—-jug, jug, jug.”
Joringel looked for Jorinda. She was changed into a nightingale, and
sang, “jug, jug, jug.” A screech-owl with glowing eyes flew three times
round about her, and three times cried, “to-whoo, to-whoo, to-whoo!”
Joringel could not move: he stood there like a stone, and could
neither weep nor speak, nor move hand or foot.
The sun had now set. The owl flew into the thicket, and directly
afterwards there came out of it a crooked old woman, yellow and lean,
with large red eyes and a hooked nose, the point of which reached to
her chin. She muttered to herself, caught the nightingale, and took it
away in her hand.
Joringel could neither speak nor move from the spot; the nightingale
was gone. At last the woman came back, and said in a hollow voice,
“Greet thee, Zachiel. If the moon shines on the cage, Zachiel, let him
loose at once.” Then Joringel was freed. He fell on his knees before
the woman and begged that she would give him back his Jorinda, but she
said that he should never have her again, and went away. He called, he
wept, he lamented, but all in vain,”Ah, what is to become of me?”
Joringel went away, and at last came to a strange village; there he
kept sheep for a long time. He often walked round and round the castle,
but not too near to it. At last he dreamt one night that he found a
blood-red flower, in the middle of which was a beautiful large pearl;
that he picked the flower and went with it to the castle, and that
everything he touched with the flower was freed from enchantment; he
also dreamt that by means of it he recovered his Jorinda.
In the morning, when he awoke, he began to seek over hill and dale
if he could find such a flower. He sought until the ninth day, and
then, early in the morning, he found the blood-red flower. In the
middle of it there was a large dew-drop, as big as the finest pearl.
Day and night he journeyed with this flower to the castle. When he
was within a hundred paces of it he was not held fast, but walked on to
the door. Joringel was full of joy; he touched the door with the
flower, and it sprang open. He walked in through the courtyard, and
listened for the sound of the birds. At last he heard it. He went on
and found the room from whence it came, and there the witch was feeding
the birds in the seven thousand cages.
When she saw Joringel she was angry, very angry, and scolded and
spat poison and gall at him, but she could not come within two paces of
him. He did not take any notice of her, but went and looked at the
cages with the birds; but there were many hundred nightingales, how was
he to find his Jorinda again?
Just then he saw the old woman quietly take away a cage with a bird
in it, and go towards the door.
Swiftly he sprang towards her, touched the cage with the flower, and
also the old woman. She could now no longer bewitch any one; and
Jorinda was standing there, clasping him round the neck, and she was as
beautiful as ever!