SHORT STORY
The Poor Widow And Her Two Beautiful Daughters

Once upon a time, on a lonely hillside just outside the town, there stood a small cottage. In the cottage lived a widow with her two beautiful daughters. They were named Snow-White and Rose-Red after the two rose bushes that grew on either side of the cottage.

One bush was covered with snow-white roses and the other with deep-red roses. The two girls were very kind hearted and used to help their mother in her work. The mother loved her daughters very much.

One evening, when the two girls were sitting with their mother near the fireplace, they heard a knock on the door. Since it was a cold winter evening, and everyone preferred to stay indoors, it was very unusual to receive visitor. When they opened the door, they were frightened to see a large bear walk into the house.

“Don’t be afraid of me” said the bear, to everyone’s surprise “It is very cold outside. I came in only to escape from the cold. Allow me to stay through the winter. I will leave as soon as spring comes!”

The girls and their mother were pleased to hear the bear say so. They were also amazed that the bear could talk. They allowed the bear to stay during the winter. The two girls, Snow-White and Rose-Red, took good care of the bear and provided him with good food and warm blankets.

True to his word, on the first day of spring, the bear was ready to leave. He was happy with the care taken by the two girls. He said “I am indebted to both of you for your kindness towards me. I will try to repay your kindness!”

‘We are happy to be of some help to you, dear bear!” they said.

After the bear had left, the two girls went about their work. Many days passed. One day, when the two girls were playing in the forest, they heard someone shouting. When they neared the place, they saw a dwarf whose long white beard had been caught in a bramble bush. When he saw them, he snapped at them “Well, what are you waiting for? Come here and free my beard!”

Snow-White and Rose-Red had pity on the ill-mannered fellow and freed his beard from the bramble bush. As soon as he got his beard freed, the ugly dwarf shouted:

‘You bungling idiots! Can’t you do a thing right? You hurt me so much while freeing my beard. Clumsy fools!”

The girls were surprised to see such an ungrateful creature.

“How can you say such things when we have helped you? Instead of thanking us, you are throwing insults at us!” said an enraged Snow-White.

“We were better off without helping you, you ungrateful fellow!” said Rose-Red, equally angry.

“Big deal!” said the dwarf and walked away, muttering to himself.

The two girls looked at each other in amazement with the dwarf’s behavior.

The next day, when the sisters were busy picking some berries in the forest, they again heard someone cry out for help. They hurried to the place from where the sound had come. They saw the dwarf again. This time, he had been caught by a large bird, which was about to carry him away.

“Help me! Help me!” the dwarf pleaded.

The girls had pity on him. Snow-White picked up a large stick lying nearby and gave a hard blow to the bird. The startled bird let go of the dwarf and flew away. The girls rushed to the dwarf and helped him to his feet. No sooner, had the fellow regained his composure that he once again snapped at them “You could have been more gentle, you dumb fools!”

The girls were taken aback. They could not stand him anymore. They turned and walked away from him, very annoyed with themselves for helping the dwarf again.

Later in the day, the girls saw the dwarf again. This time he was carrying a bag. As they watched him, the dwarf tripped on his way, and the bag slipped from his hands and fell to the ground. The contents of the bag spilled on the ground. What contents! Diamonds, pearls, sapphires, rubies and emeralds. The precious gems sparkled in the bright sunshine. The girls gaped at them.

“Stupid of me to have tripped on a dead branch!” muttered the dwarf to himself “I hope no one is watching”.

He quickly collected the rare gems and was about to leave, when a bear appeared from nowhere and knocked him down. As the dwarf watched helplessly, the bear advanced towards him menacingly.

“Spare me, Lord Bear, spare my life. I promise to return you to your original form. Allow me! I promise you! I will never trouble you again!”

The bear stopped and said “Do it now, little schemer! Turn me into my original self, or I will kill you this very instant!”

“Yes, Sir!” said the dwarf. He hurriedly uttered some magical words. A cloud of smoke arose from where the bear stood. When the smoke cleared, there stood a handsome youth.

“Run away, before I kill you! You horrible wretch!” He said. The dwarf ran for his life.

Rose-Red and Snow-White, who were watching all this, were utterly confused. When they saw the young man approaching them, they felt shy and turned to leave.

‘Wait, please!” they heard him say. As they turned around, the young man came near and said “I think you don’t recognize me. Why, I spent the whole of winter with you!”

“Are you the same bear who came to our house and stayed with us?” asked Snow-White.

“I certainly am”, said the young man with a slight bow “And I can never forget how well I was treated!”

“But, how were you turned into a bear!” the girls asked.

“Let me explain” said he. “I am actually the Royal Prince. When I was a small boy, I was kidnapped by the dwarf. He promised to return me for a bag of rare gems. My father gave him the gems, but the wicked fellow changed me into a bear. My own people could not recognize me when I went back. Since then I have been roaming in the forests, hoping to find this dwarf. The only gesture of kindness I received was from you when I came to your house. You have helped me again by saving the dwarfs life, so that he could change me back to my normal self. Now, the time has come when I can repay your kindness. Come with me to the palace!”

The two sisters accompanied the Prince to the Royal Palace. The King was immensely pleased to see his long lost son. The Prince introduced Snow-White and Rose-Red to the King and told him about their kindness. After a few days, as a measure of their kindness, the King married Snow-White to the Prince and Rose-Red to the Prince’s younger brother. Their mother also came to live in the palace with her two daughters. The two rose bushes were brought from the cottage and were planted on either side of the entrance to the Royal Palace. Every year, one bush would be covered with red roses and the other with white.

Disclaimer.. The picture used in this story is a mere illustration. The Storyteller is PA.