Golden-Curls and How She Kept Silent
A Slovak Tale
Caution: this tale may be too intense for children less than
six years old.
Once upon a time, there was a very poor blacksmith whose worldly
possessions were a tumbledown cottage, a wife, a troop of hungry
children, and otherwise nothing but seven pence. So with these
seven pence he bought himself a stout rope, and went into the
forest to hang himself. He found a tall tree with a strong branch,
threw the rope over it and began to tie a knot. Suddenly a lady
all in black stood before him, as if she had risen up out of the
ground. "Blacksmith, stop that at once," she commanded.
The blacksmith was so frightened that he untied the rope, and
the woman immediately disappeared. As soon as she was gone, he
began to tie the rope around the branch again.
But the lady in black reappeared at once, waved a threatening
finger at him and snapped, "I told you to stop that, Blacksmith!"
Again the blacksmith untied the rope, and started to make his
way home. But on the way he thought to himself, "There's
nothing left for me at home but to die of hunger anyway. I think
I'd rather hang myself."
So again he found a good tree for hanging himself, and tied the
rope around a branch. But the lady in black was there at once,
shaking with anger. "Why won't you listen to me, Blacksmith?"
"What else can I do?" sighed the blacksmith. "I
and my family are going to starve anyway."
"You will not starve," answered the lady in black,
"because I shall give you all the money you could possibly
wish for. But in return, you must give me that thing which you
have at home, and yet know not that you have."
The blacksmith could hardly believe his ears, or his eyes, when
he saw the sack full of gold coins that the lady handed to him.
He thanked her heartily and set off as fast as he could with the
"But don't forget your promise," called the lady in
black after him. "That which you have at home, yet know not
that you have, belongs to me. In seven years I shall come to claim
"I know everything there is in my house," laughed the
blacksmith. "If there's anything there I don't know about
you're welcome to it." And off he went.
When the blacksmith got home he counted the sack of gold coins
into a great heap. The family was overjoyed. "Our little
Golden-curls has brought us luck," laughed the blacksmith's
wife, and she showed her husband a beautiful little baby girl
with golden hair and a golden star on her forehead. It was the
blacksmith's baby daughter, who had just been born that day. The
blacksmith was shocked and saddened. So that was the thing he
had at home, which he had not known about!
Well, the years passed and Golden-curls grew into a beautiful
little girl, the joy and sorrow of her parents. On her seventh
birthday, a black coach stopped outside the cottage and the lady
in black stepped from it. "I have come for your little girl,"
she said, and led the girl to the coach. The parents and the other
children begged her to relent, but the woman was not to be moved.
The coachman cracked his whip and in a flash the carriage was
They drove for a long, long time, through barren deserts and
dark forests, until at last they reached a huge black castle.
"This castle is yours," said the lady in black. "It
has one hundred rooms, all of which you may enter freely, except
the hundredth one. Do not enter that, or great evil will befall
you. Remember! In seven years' time I shall visit you again."
And with that, the lady in black drove away.
In exactly seven years to the day the lady in black returned
in her carriage. "Have you been into the hundredth room?"
was the first thing she asked.
"No, I haven't," replied Golden-curls honestly.
"You are a good, obedient girl. In seven years I shall return
again, and if you have still obeyed me, I will make you the happiest
of girls. But if you step inside that hundredth room, a fate more
terrible than death will await you." With this threat the
lady in black rode off again for another seven years.
The seven years passed quickly, and the day came for the lady
in black to return. Golden-curls could hardly wait, for she was
sure she would be rewarded in some marvelous way for her obedience.
Then suddenly she heard strange and beautiful music. "Who
can be playing so sweetly in my castle?" she wondered. Following
the sounds up a twisting staircase, she came to the topmost room
of the castle, the hundredth room, for that was where the music
was playing. Without stopping to think she opened the door, and
stood there staring, horrified at what she had done.
Inside, twelve men in black cowls were sitting around a great
table, and a thirteenth man was standing looking down at her.
"Golden-curls, Golden curls, what have you done?" he
cried, and his voice echoed like thunder around the stone chamber.
Golden-curls was so terrified that her heart missed several beats.
"Whatever can I do?" she wailed.
"You must never, never tell a soul what you have seen in
this room. That is the only way you may find forgiveness for what
you have done."
Golden-curls closed the heavy door and went downstairs. Almost
at once she heard the lady in black's carriage rattling up. "What
did you see in the hundredth room?" the woman snapped, for
she knew at once what had happened.
Golden-curls shook her head and said nothing.
"Very well, if it's dumb you are then dumb you shall stay!
From this moment on you will be able to speak to no one but me."
And saying this the lady in black drove Golden-curls out of the
Golden-curls walked until she could go no further. She came to
a beautiful green meadow, lay down on the grass and cried herself
Now it happened that the young king of that land, who was out
hunting, passed by the meadow and saw Golden-curls lying there
asleep. She was so beautiful that he as once fell in love with
her, and he didn't mind at all that she couldn't speak. He took
her to his palace, where a few days later they were married. And
so Golden-curls became a queen.
She lived very happily at the castle, and before a year had passed
a little boy was born to her, who also had golden hair and a golden
star on his forehead. Everyone in the palace was delighted with
their new prince.
But the very first night after the baby's birth, the terrible
lady in black appeared at Golden-curls' bedside, and said in a
cruel voice, "Tell me what you saw in the hundredth room,
or I'll kill your little son."
Poor Golden-curls was terrified, but she remembered what the
thirteenth man had said: she must keep silent. So she just shook
Then the woman seized the little baby, strangled him, and rubbed
his blood on Golden-curls lips, and vanished with the dead child.
In the morning everyone was horrified when they saw the blood
on her face, and they wondered, "Surely she couldn't have
eaten her own child?"
But the king did not accuse her and no one else dared to, and
Golden-curls still could not speak.
Another year passed and a little girl was born to Golden-curls.
She too had golden hair and a golden star on her forehead. Everyone
at the palace was delighted, but they were frightened too, lest
the same terrible thing should happen as last time. So the king
set a strong guard around Golden-curls' room, but to no avail.
During the night the lady in black appeared again and said, "Tell
me what you saw in the hundredth room, or I'll kill the girl too."
Golden-curls was beside herself with grief, but she still only
shook her head. The woman strangled the little girl, rubbed blood
on Golden-curls' lips, and vanished carrying the dead child.
Next day the palace was thrown into dismay by the news, and the
king in a rage gave orders for Golden-curls to be burned at the
stake. She wept and wept, but no one now felt the least bit sorry
As they were leading her out beyond the city, the black carriage
appeared again, and the lady in black stepped out of it. "This
is your last chance to tell me what you saw in the hundredth room,"
she cried. "Tell me, or they will most certainly burn you
Golden-curls still just shook her head and said nothing.
The executioners tied Golden-curls to the stake and lit the fire
beneath her. But just as the flames were starting to lick at her
feet, the lady in black suddenly became dressed in white, and
called out, "Put out the fire! Please, hurry!"
Everyone was astonished, but the executioners quickly doused
the flames. The lady in white went to her carriage, and out of
it climbed a little boy and girl, both with golden hair and golden
stars on their foreheads.
She brought them to Golden-curls, saying, "By keeping silent
so steadfastly, you have saved yourself, and you have also saved
me, by delivering me from a terrible enchantment." With that
Watching all this the king could hardly believe his eyes or ears,
especially when Golden-curls finally spoke to him and told him
the whole strange story. They rode straight back to the palace,
and lived there long and happily together. The old blacksmith,
his wife and all his children came to live with them, and all
were blessed with the greatest happiness and good fortune.