A witch has a daughter and a stepdaughter. When she kills the wrong one, the girl escapes with her sweetheart Roland. Will they find happiness?
Sweetheart Roland is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a young woman. With her sweetheart Roland she escapes a witch who wants to kill her. Roland forgets her, but she is rescued by a shepherd. At Roland’s wedding she sings for him, memory returns and they live happily ever after.
Complete text Sweetheart Roland
A witch has two daughters
Once upon a time there was a woman who was a real witch. She had two daughters. One was ugly and wicked, and this one she loved because she was her own daughter. Another beautiful and good, and this one she hated, because she was her stepdaughter.
The stepdaughter had a pretty apron, which the other fancied so much that she became envious. She told her mother that she had to have that apron.
“Be quiet, my child,” the old woman said, “and you will have it. Your stepsister has long deserved death. Tonight when she is asleep I will come and cut her head off. Only be careful that you are at the far side of the bed and you push her all the way to the front.”
It would have been all over with the poor girl if she had not just then been standing in a corner. She heard everything. All day long she did not dare to go outside.
When bedtime had come, the witch’s daughter got into bed first, so as to lie at the far side. However when she was asleep, the other pushed her gently to the front and took for herself the place at the back, close by the wall.
In the night the old woman came creeping in. She held an axe in her right hand, and felt with her left to see if anyone was lying at the outside of the bed. She grasped the axe with both hands and cut her own child’s head off.
The girl flees with her sweetheart Roland
When she had gone away, the girl got up and went to her sweetheart. His name was Roland. She knocked on his door. When he came out, she said to him, “Listen, lovely Roland, we must fly in all haste; my stepmother wanted to kill me, but has struck her own child. When daylight comes and she sees what she has done, we shall be lost.”
“But,” said Roland, “let’s first take away her magic wand, or we cannot escape if she pursues us.”
The girl fetched the magic wand and she took the dead girl’s head. She dropped three drops of blood on the ground, one in front of the bed, one in the kitchen, and one on the stairs. Then she hurried away with her lover.
When the old witch got up next morning, she called her daughter. She wanted to give her the apron, but she did not come. The witch shouted, “Where are you?”
“Here, on the stairs, I am sweeping,” answered the first drop of blood.
The old woman went out, but saw no one on the stairs and cried again, “Where are you?”
“Here in the kitchen, I am warming myself,” cried the second drop of blood. She went into the kitchen, but found no one. Then she cried again, “Where are you?”
“Ah, here in the bed, I am sleeping.” cried the third drop of blood. She went into the room to the bed. What did she see there? Her own child, whose head she had cut off, bathed in her blood.
The witch pursues the lovers
The witch fell into a passion and sprang to the window. She could look forth quite far into the world and she perceived her stepdaughter hurrying away with her sweetheart Roland.
“That shall not help you,” she cried, “even if you have got a long way off, you shall still not escape me.”
She put on her many league boots, in which went an hour’s walk at every step. It was not long before she overtook them.
When the girl saw the old woman striding towards her, she changed, with her magic wand, her sweetheart Roland into a lake, and herself into a duck swimming in the middle of it. The witch placed herself on the shore, threw breadcrumbs in and gave herself every possible trouble to catch the duck. But the duck did not let herself be caught and the old woman had to go home at night as she had come.
The witch is killed
On this the girl and her sweetheart Roland resumed their natural shapes again. They walked on the whole night until daybreak. The girl changed herself into a beautiful flower which stood in the midst of a briar hedge and her sweetheart Roland into a fiddler. It was not long before the witch came striding up towards them and said to the musician, “Dear musician, may I pluck that beautiful flower for myself?”
“Oh, yes,” he replied, “I will play to you while you do it.”
She hastily crept into the hedge and was just going to pluck the flower, for she well knew who the flower was. He began to play and whether she wanted or not, she was forced to dance, for it was a magical dance. The quicker he played, the more violent moves she was forced to make. The thorns tore her clothes from her body, pricked her and wounded her till she bled. He kept on going and she had to dance till she lay dead on the ground.
Sweetheart Roland forgets about the girl
When they were delivered, Roland said, “Now I will go to my father and arrange for the wedding.”
“Then in the meantime I will stay here and wait for you,” the girl said, “and so that no one may recognize me, I will change myself into a red stone landmark.”
Roland went away and the girl stood like a red landmark in the field and waited for her beloved. When Roland got home, he fell into the snares of another, who enchanted him so much that he forgot the girl.
She remained there a long time, but at last, as he did not return at all, she was sad and changed herself into a flower, thinking “Someone will surely come this way and trample me down.”
The girl ends up with a shepherd
It just so happened that a shepherd kept his sheep in the field. He saw the flower and as it was so pretty, plucked it, took it with him and laid it away in his chest. From that time forth, strange things happened in the shepherd’s house. When he arose in the morning, all the work was already done, the room was swept, the table and benches cleaned, the fire on the hearth was lighted and the water was fetched. And at noon, when he came home, the table was laid and a good dinner served.
He could not understand how this came to pass, for he never saw a human being in his house. There were no places to hide. He was certainly happy with all the help, but at last he was so afraid that he went to a wise woman and asked for her advice. The wise woman said, “There is some enchantment behind it, listen very early some morning if anything is moving in the room. If you see something, whatever it is, throw a white cloth over it and then the magic will be stopped.”
The shepherd did as she told him. Next morning just as day dawned he saw the chest opening and the flower coming out. Swiftly he sprang towards it and threw a white cloth over it. Instantly the transformation came to an end and a beautiful girl stood before him.
She told him that she had been the flower, and that up to this time she had attended to his housekeeping. She told him her story and as she pleased him he asked her if she would marry him, but she answered, “No.”
She wanted to remain faithful to her sweetheart Roland, although he had deserted her, but she promised not to go away, but to keep house for the shepherd for the future.
The girl is reunited with her sweetheart Roland
The time drew near for Roland’s wedding to be celebrated. According to an old custom in the country, it was announced that all the girls were to be present at it and sing in honor of the bridal pair. When the young woman heard of this, she grew so sad that she thought her heart would break. She did not want to go, but the other girls came and took her.
When it came to her turn to sing, she stepped back, until at last she was the only one left and then she could not refuse. When she began her song and it reached Roland’s ears, he sprang up and cried, “I know the voice, that is the true bride, I will have no other!”
Everything he had forgotten, and which had vanished from his mind, had suddenly come home again to his heart. Then the beautiful young woman held her wedding with her sweetheart Roland. Grief came to an end and joy began.
Tips for Telling Sweetheart Roland
- Don’t let the sweet title of this fairy tale fool you: it is one of the most violent Grimm tales. Don’t tell violent scenes that you do not want to imagine yourself.
- It’s kinda strange that Roland falls for another girl. What happened? This part of the story you do not necessarily need to tell, but you need to know.
- Take the time for this fairy tale, there are many strong scènes in this relatively short text. If you don’t let it breathe, it will be just a roller coaster.
All Questions Answered
This fairy tale was published by the Brothers Grimm in the first edition of their Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Their source: Dortchen Wild.
The Brothers Grimm included it in the 1812 edition of the Grimm’s fairy tales.
More useful information
Fairy tales with a duck
- Hansel and Gretel
- Herr Korbes
- Sweetheart Roland
- The Pack of Ragamuffins
- The Queen Bee
- The Three Little Men in the Woods
- The White Snake
Fairy tales with a musician
Fairy tales with a shepherd
Fairy tales with a witch
- Hansel and Gretel
- Little Brother and Little Sister
- Mother Trudy
- Snow White
- Sweetheart Roland
- The Riddle
- The Six Swans
The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales on this website are based on the authentic translation of Margaret Hunt. They were edited and reformatted for pleasant reading and telling by Storyteller Rudolf Roos.
See the complete list of The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales (link to internationalstoryteller.com).