Editor's note: Two sisters help a grumpy dwarf who repays their kindness by sacrificing them to a bear. Luckily, the bear turns out to be an old friend.
When the girls went into the woods to collect kindling, they came upon a clearing where a huge tree had fallen. They noticed a small creature jumping up and down on top of the trunk, and when they came closer, they saw it was a dwarf. The end of his long beard was stuck in a crack of the tree.
"Why are you just staring at me?" screamed the dwarf. "Can't you help?"
"What happened?" asked Snow White.
"You dumb, inquisitive goose!" bellowed the dwarf. "I was splitting the tree in order to get a few chips of wood for the kitchen stove when my beard got caught! So here I am, you moonfaced ninnies! And don't you dare laugh!"
The girls tried to hide their smiles as they attempted with all their strength to pull the beard out of the tree, with no success. "Fools!" yelled the dwarf. "Can't you do any better?"
"Just be patient and hold still," said Snow White, who could not bear to see another in trouble or pain. She took a pair of sewing scissors from her pocket and carefully sipped off the end of the dwarf's beard. The dwarf then jumped from the tree and grabbed a bag of gold that was hidden amongst its roots.
"Such rudeness to cut my beautiful beard!" he muttered as he swung the bag over his shoulder, and then he disappeared into the forest without a word of thanks to the two sisters.
Not long after, the two sisters were on their way to town to buy some needles, thread, and ribbons. As they walked along, they noticed an eagle circling the sky above them. The eagle descended slowly and settled upon a nearby rock. Suddenly a sharp cry pierced the air. The girls ran forward and saw the dwarf dangling from the talons of the great bird!
"Help!" he cried. The girls grabbed hold of his feet and were almost carried away as well. At last the eagle let loose his prey, and all three tumbled in a heap on the ground.
When the dwarf recovered from his fall, he began to scream at the sisters again. "You have torn my coat to shreds, you useless wretches!" Then he snatched a bag of precious gems from behind a nearby bush and vanished under a rock.
On their way home, they passed by the same field and surprised the dwarf as he was pouring out his bag of gems upon a flat rock. It was late in the day, and he must have thought no one would be passing by at that hour. The gems sparkled so beautifully in the rays of the setting sun that the girls drew near to gaze at them.
"What are you gaping at?" snarled the dwarf. His face turned dark with rage.
He started to gather up the jewels when a ferocious growl was heard in the distance. Moments later a huge brown bear trotted out of the woods.
The dwarf leapt back in fear, but the bear was already too close for him to escape. "Oh, please, Great Bear, spare me and I will give you a big reward!" cried the dwarf. "All those precious gems will be yours if you only let me go." But the bear continued to growl deep in his throat and continued lumbering toward the cowering dwarf.
"Here, look at those young plump girls. Surely they would be tender morsels for you!" But the great bear did not heed his words and gave the dwarf a single blow with his huge paw. The dwarf fell dead in an instant.
The girls held on to each other in fright and ran toward home.
As the bear approached, he rose up on his hind legs and his brown furry coat slid to the ground. A dashing young man dressed all in gold stood in his place.
"I am the son of a king," he explained, "bespelled by that evil dwarf, who stole my treasure. I was forced to wander in the shape of a bear until his death freed me from the enchantment. Now he has gotten his just reward for his evil deeds."
Excerpt from ROSE RED AND SNOW WHITE by Ruth Sanderson. Copyright (c) 1997 by Ruth Sanderson. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company (Inc.)
Pub Date: 03/10/99