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Stiltskin thanked him and tucked the walnut shell carefully into his pocket, then set off on his way.
He had not traveled far when he heard the pitiful groaning of a great brown bear, who sat shivering outside his cave.
“Good day, great bear,” said Stiltskin. “Whatever troubles you?”
“The winter will soon be here,” said the bear, “and while my cave gives me shelter, it is so very cold. I have nothing to keep me warm when the snows come, and I am sure I will shiver the whole winter through.”
Stiltskin thought hard on this, and then he took off the cloak he had woven himself and gave it to the bear. “This will keep you very warm until the spring.”
The bear was grateful. In return, he gave Stiltskin a stone taken from the mouth of his cave. “Plant this in the ground, and it will become a great castle, with tall turrets and strong walls,” said the bear.
Stiltskin thanked him and tucked the stone carefully into his pocket, then set off on his way.
He had not traveled far when he heard the pitiful mewing of a tiny deer, who sat crying in a meadow.
“Good day, tiny deer,” said Stiltskin. “Whatever troubles you?”
“The winter will soon be here,” said the deer, “and while my den will shelter me, and my brothers and sisters will give me warmth, we do not have enough food to last the winter through. Surely, my family will starve.”
Stiltskin thought hard on this, and then he opened his pouch and took out the409loaves of bread he had baked and the vegetables he had grown, and he gave them to the deer. “This will keep you very well-fed until the spring.”
The deer was grateful. In return, she gave to Stiltskin a bouquet of wildflowers picked from the meadow. “Spread these seeds upon the ground,” said the deer, “and any creature who eats of them will become your friend and servant.”
Stiltskin thanked her and tucked the wildflowers carefully into his pocket, then set off on his way.
Soon, Stiltskin came to the great oak tree that grew in the center of the forest. Its branches hung with shimmering golden acorns, but the tree was protected by an enormous tatzelwurm.
Stiltskin greeted the tatzelwurm kindly and asked if he might have a golden acorn so as to win the king’s contest.
The tatzelwurm studied the poor peasant. “No magic is given for free,” said the beast. “What would you trade?”
Stiltskin considered. He did not want to give up the beautiful gifts he had been given during his journey, but he had nothing else to offer. He laid them out before the tatzelwurm—the walnut shell with the single drop of dew, the stone from the mouth of the bear’s cave, the bouquet of wildflowers.
The tatzelwurm nodded, as if pleased with these offerings. But rather than take the gifts, the beast said, “I have been watching you as you journeyed through the forest, and I have seen that you are both hardworking and generous. I will not take these gifts. Instead, I ask that when this acorn is planted, you give to me whatever grows in that place.”
Thinking this a very fair deal, Stiltskin agreed, and he was given the golden acorn.
He took the acorn to the king, who brought before him his thirteen children and offered Stiltskin his choice in marriage. But before Stiltskin could speak, all but the youngest turned their backs on him, proclaiming they would never be wed to a poor peasant so far beneath them.
Only young Prince Rumpel could see that Stiltskin was hardworking and generous, handsome and good, and he said that he would marry the one who had brought back the golden acorn. For their wedding, the king bestowed on the couple the golden410acorn and two horses with which to make the trek to the northern lands of his kingdom, which now belonged to them.
Stiltskin and the prince traveled many weeks, for the terrain was difficult and the northern lands far. Winter came and snow covered the land. When they arrived at their new kingdom, Prince Rumpel looked forlornly upon the swamplands that greeted them, where nothing lived but monsters and beasts.
“What shall we do?” asked the prince. “There is no kingdom here over which to rule.”
Stiltskin told the prince not to worry. He took the walnut shell with the single drop of dew and planted it in the soil. No sooner had he done so than the swamp waters ran as clear as crystal, and the land before them became a beautiful blue lake.
Then Stiltskin buried the stone from the mouth of the bear’s cave, and in its place emerged a great castle.
Lastly, Stiltskin took the flowers and shook them, so that their seeds scattered across the ground. The monsters came and ate the seeds, and as they did, they transformed into humans—bakers and cobblers, spinners and weavers, farmers and millers and all manner of craftspeople. They were so hardworking and industrious, and ruled over by such generous kings, that the northern lands soon became very prosperous, just as Prince Rumpel had wished.
But as the years passed, there developed a sorrow in the hearts of Stiltskin and his prince, for they came to want for a child.
“We can take the golden acorn and give it as an offering to Eostrig, god of fertility,” said Prince Rumpel, “and pray that they give us a child of our own.”
But Stiltskin remembered the promise he had made to the tatzelwurm and told Rumpel that the bargain must be honored. “If fate wishes for us to have a child, we will find another way,” he said. So he took the golden acorn into the castle gardens and planted it there.
From the acorn emerged a golden sapling. But when the leaves unfurled—inside lay a newborn child.