Once upon a time there lived a farmer in a small kingdom in the mountains. He had a wife and three daughters, but the work was hard and they were very poor. When his daughters were old enough to marry, he gathered them around the hearth one evening and said:
“It is time to find you suitable husbands, but we are so poor that I cannot afford a dowry for all three of you. I must send you away to work as maids.”
The eldest daughter did not like what she heard one bit.
“I’m not a maid, and I will not work for other people peeling their potatoes. But I am clever, so I will go and find a way to earn my dowry by other means.”
And just like she said, she packed a basket with pretty pastries and went to the city. There she set up at the market with her basket. The people who lived in the city saw her lovely pastries and asked her how much she would sell them for, but each time someone asked her, she replied:
“These sweetmeats are too lovely to be squandered. I will only sell them to someone who can weigh them up in silver.”
This heard a goldsmith, who was curious to see these pastries too good for the common people, and he went to the market to seek out the farmer’s daughter. When he came upon her, he found that her pastries were indeed the finest he had ever seen, and his mouth watered.
“I will give you the weight of your pastries in silver,” he said, “but you must promise to come back and bring me more tomorrow.”
The girl accepted, and went home with the silver. The next day she went to the market again, and her pastries were even lovelier than the day before. Whenever someone wanted to buy them, she said:
“These are too delicate to be squandered, I must have their weight in silver.”
The goldsmith saw the pastries and again he thought he must have them, whatever the cost. The girl took his silver and went home, not before promising to return with pastries again.
But on the third day the girl took a basket of vegetables to the market, and sold them to the passers-by. When the goldsmith arrived, her basket was empty.
“Have you no sweetmeats for me today?” he asked.
“Alas, no. But you should not spend all your silver on pastries,” said the clever girl, “you should find yourself a wife instead, who can bake you as many as you like.”
The goldsmith thought the girl spoke the truth, and asked her to marry him, if only she could make pastries for him each sunday. The girl had saved all the silver he had given her, and kept it as a dowry.
After the wedding, the farmer gathered his two remaining daughters around the hearth once again and said:
“Your sister found a good husband, but I am still just a poor farmer, and cannot afford dowries for you. I must send you to work as maids.”
The second daughter also did not like what she heard one bit.
“I’m not a maid, and I won’t scrub other people’s floors. But I’m beautiful, I will find a husband who won’t mind that I have no dowry.”
And just like she said, she put on her most beautiful dress and went to dance around the may pole. All the men at the dance were struck by her beauty, but she would not speak to them.
The next day she returned to the festival, and this time she had pretty ribbons in her hair. She looked even lovelier than before. All the young men looking for a wife fell over themselves to ask her to dance, but still she would not choose one.
On the third day she returned to the festival again, and looked even lovelier than before. As the dance was coming to an end, one of the merchants took all his courage and said:
“Will you give me your hand in marriage? I won’t even ask for a dowry, if only I could have the most beautiful wife in the kingdom.”
Thus the second daughter had also solved the problem of her dowry.
After the wedding, the farmer sat at the hearth with his last remaining daughter and said:
“Your two sisters found good husbands, but I am still just a poor farmer, and cannot afford a dowry for you. I must send you away to work as a maid.”
The youngest daughter thought for a while, and then said:
“I do not want a husband who only likes my pastries, or one who only likes me for my looks. I will do as you ask, and work as a maid.”
The next day a woodsman knocked on the farmer’s door. He was dressed in green, and had a bow slung on his back.
“I’m looking for a maid,” he said, “and I heard your daughter is willing to work.”
The farmer was delighted that his daughter had found employment so soon, and agreed to send his daughter away with the woodsman.
They walked away from the farm, and into the mountains. They walked many miles, until at long last they came to a large forest. Deep inside the forest they came to a small hut made from logs and thatched with moss.
“This is where I live,” said the woodsman, “and this is where you shall work.”
He gave her a green dress and a green apron, and the girl set to work. Each morning she lit the fire in the hearth, milked the cow and fed the chicken. Then she went to collect wood in the forest, draw water from the well, pick berries and sweep the hut. In the evenings the woodsman returned and she cooked for him and mended his clothes.
One day the woodsman said:
“I have to go away for a while. Keep up with your chores and do your work well until I return.”
The little maid did as she was told. She lit the fire in the hearth, milked the cow and fed the chicken, collected wood in the forest and went about her chores. One day a hunter came to the hut.
“Green maid! Green maid! The woodsman bids me to bring you wild game from the hunt! Come outside and sit with me for a while.”
The maid went outside and greeted the hunter. She offered him berries and wine for his troubles, but after the meal she said:
“Stay and rest of a while if you like, but I must return to my chores.” and went back to work.
After a few days, a shepherd came to the hut.
“Green maid! Green maid! The woodsman bids me to bring you cheese from my goats! Come outside and sit with me for a while.”
The maid went outside and greeted the shepherd. She offered him berries and wine, but after the meal she said:
“Stay and rest of a while if you like, but I must return to my chores.” and she went back to work.
After a few days, a cobbler came to the hut.
“Green maid! Green maid! The woodsman bids me to bring you leather for new boots! Come outside and sit with me for a while.”
The maid went outside and greeted the cobbler. She offered him berries and wine, but after the meal she said:
“Stay and rest of a while if you like, but I must return to my chores.” and, like before, she went back to work.
When the woodsman returned, she greeted him at the door to the hut. The fire was lit, the wood had been collected, the game had been salted, the leather had been cured, and cheese was sitting in the larder.
The woodsman unslung his bow and took off his green hat.
“You have done well, green maid,” he said, “so I will reveal myself at last. I disguised myself as a hunter, to see if you would send me away and idle around while I was gone. But you offered me food, drink and rest, and did your chores and I bade you. I then disguised myself as a shepherd, but again you treated me well and did as I bade you. I was also the cobbler, to see if your resolve would falter after so many days, but you passed all the tests.”
The woodsman took the green maids hand and went down on one knee before her.
“Will you be my wife and live with me in the forest?” he asked.
“But I have no silver for a dowry,” answered the green maid, “for I am not as clever as my eldest sister.”
“You have worked for me to earn your dowry thrice and over,” said the woodsman, “I shall regard it paid.”
“But I’m just a plain maid,” answered the green maid, “I am not beautiful as my second sister.”
“I love you for your kind heart and your honesty,” said the woodsman, “that is more beautiful to me than ribbons and dresses.”
“Then I will be your wife.” said the maid.
The woodsman took a golden circlet from his pocket and put it on his head.
“I have another secret: I am the king of all the forests and all the mountains in this land. I searched high and low for a girl worthy to be my wife, but could not find one until you passed all my tests.”
And so the green maid became the green queen of the forest. She moved from the little wooden hut to a stately castle, and all her husband asked of her was that she never forget to be kind to others, and to keep what she promises, and they lived happily ever after.