THE GOLDEN GOOSE
Once upon a time . . . there was a woodcutter called Thaddeus, a dreamy, foolish-looking lad though good-hearted. One day, his father sent him to a distant wood to chop down trees. Thaddeus thought that these trees were a kind he had never seen before and that it was hard work trying to hack through their hard trunks. Sweating after all his efforts, he had barely sat down against a sewn-off trunk to have a meal, when a strange old man with a white beard popped out from behind a bush and asked him for a bite to eat. Kindly Thaddeus gave him some bread and cheese and together they cheerily drank a flask of wine.
"Of all the woodcutters that have tried to fell these trees, you're the first one who has been nice to me," said the old man, stuttering, perhaps after all the wine. "You deserve a reward. If you cut down that tree in the centre of the wood, you'll find that all the others will fall down by themselves. Have a look in its roots where there's a gift for you! You see, I'm the Wizard of the Woods!"
Not particularly surprised, Thaddeus did as he was told, and in a flash, his work was done. From the roots of the tree the Wizard had pointed towards, the woodcutter took a golden goose. Slipping the bird under his arm, Thaddeus set off homewards. Now, it may have been too much wine, or maybe the fact he was new to these parts, but the fact remains that Thaddeus lost his way. At dead of night, he reached a strange village. A tavern was still open, so the woodcutter went in.
"Something to eat for myself and for the Golden Goose that the Wizard of the Woods gave me," he ordered the innkeeper's daughter. "That's a bite for me and a bite for you," he said, sharing his food with the goose across the table. The innkeeper's other two daughters came to stare at the strange sight, then all three dared ask: "Why are you so kind to a goose?"
"This is a magic goose," replied Thaddeus, "and worth a fortune. I shall stay the night here and I need a secure room, for I don't want to be robbed."
However, during the night, one of the sisters was persuaded to steal at least one goose feather.
"If it's a magic bird, then one of its feathers will be precious too!" But the second her hand touched the goose's tail, it stuck fast, and nothing would unstick it. In a low voice, she called her sisters, but when they tried to pull her free, they too stuck fast. A little later, Thaddeus woke, not at all surprised to see the three sisters, ashamed at being discovered, stuck to the golden goose.
"How can we get free?" they wailed. But the woodcutter coolly replied:
"I have to leave with my goose. Too bad for you if you're stuck to her. You'll just have to come too!" And when the innkeeper saw the strange little procession trip past, he shouted "What's up?" and grabbed the last sister by the arm. It was the worst thing he could have done! For he too found himself attached to the tail of the little group. The same fate awaited a nosy village woman, the plump curate and the baker who had placed a hand on the curate's shoulder as he rushed past. Last of all came a guard who had tried to stop the procession. People laughed as Thaddeus and his row of followers went by, and crowds soon flocked the roads.
Close to the village where Thaddeus had spent the night stood the Royal Palace. Though rich and powerful, the King had a great sorrow: his only daughter suffered from a strange illness that no doctor had been able to cure. She was always sad and unhappy. The King had once proclaimed that the man who succeeded in making his daughter laugh would be granted her hand in marriage. But so far, nobody had so much as brought a smile to the Princess's lips.
As it so happened, the Princess chose that day to drive through the village square, just as the woodcutter with the goose under his arm, solemnly marched by with his line of unwilling followers. When she heard the people chuckle, the Princess raised the carriage curtains. The minute she set eyes on the amazing sight, she burst into peals of laughter.
Everyone was amazed to hear the Princess laugh for the first time. She stepped down from the carriage for a closer look at the golden goose and that's how she got stuck to the baker! Laughing and chattering, the procession headed towards the palace, with the crowds at their heels. When the King saw his daughter in fits of laughter, he could hardly believe it.
"How amazing! How amazing!" he said.
But in spite of all the mirth, it was a serious situation. That is, until a large man with a tall peaked hat and a white beard stepped forward and snapped his fingers three times. Suddenly, Thaddeus and the others all became unstuck. The woodcutter was about to thank the Wizard of the Woods, for it could be none other, but he had vanished into thin air. And that's how the simple woodcutter, Thaddeus, found himself married to the King's daughter.