Ludwig Bechstein: “The Kitten and the Knitting Needles”

Excerpt, “As Pretty As Seven and Other Popular German Tales.” Collected by Ludwig Bechstein, with One Hundred Illustrations by Richter:  A Companion to Grimm’s German Popular Stories.  London: 1873.

ONCE upon a time there lived a poor woman who earned her livelihood by picking up sticks in the forest to sell for firewood. One day, as she was returning home with a bundle, she saw a kitten lying against the trunk of a tree and mewing piteously. She took compassion on it, and putting it in her apron, carried it home. On her way her two children met her, and asked her what she had in her apron; but she would not let them have the kitten, fearing they might tease and distress it. So she took it carefully home, and laying it on some soft rags, gave it some milk to drink. The kitten stayed in the house till it was quite recovered, and then suddenly disappeared. Some time afterwards, when the woman was again in the forest, and was returning home with her bundle of firewood at her back, just as she passed the place where she had found the kitten, there stood there an old dame who beckoned to her, and gave her five knitting needles. The poor woman knew not what to make of this gift, and thought the needles were not of much value to her. However, she carried them home, and laid them on the table at night.

The next morning she found a pair of newly made stockings on the table close by the needles. The poor woman was much astonished, and left the needles the following evening in the same place. A second pair of stockings was the result; and she now supposed that the wonderful needles were given her as a reward for her kindness to the kitten. Every night a fresh pair of stockings was produced; and as they found a ready sale, the woman gained for herself and her children an honest livelihood without the hard drudgery to which she had formerly been accustomed.