In a country, far
across the sea, there once dwelt a great and mighty Prince. He lived
in a grand Castle, which was full of beautiful furniture, and
curious and rare ornaments. And among them was a lovely little glass
shoe, which would only fit the tiniest foot imaginable.
And as the Prince was looking at it one day, it struck him what a
dainty little lady she would need to be who wore such a very small
shoe. And, as he liked dainty people, he made up his mind that he
would never marry until he found a maiden who could wear the shoe,
and that, when he found her, he would ask her to be his wife.
And he called all his Lords and Courtiers to him, and told them of
the determination that he had come to, and asked them to help him in
And after they had taken counsel together they summoned a trusty
Knight, and appointed him the Prince's Ambassador; and told him to
take the slipper, and mount a fleet-footed horse, and ride up and
down the whole o£ the Kingdom until he found a lady whom it would
So the Ambassador put the little shoe carefully in his pocket and
set out on his errand.
He rode, and he rode, and he rode, going to every town and castle
that came in his way, and summoning all the ladies to appear before
him to try on the shoe. And, as he caused a Proclamation to be made
that whoever could wear it should be the Prince’s Bride, I need not
tell you that all the ladies in the country-side flocked to wherever
the Ambassador chanced to be staying, and begged leave to try on the
But they were all disappointed, for not one of them, try as she
would, could make her foot small enough to go into the Fairy Shoe;
and there were many bitter tears shed in secret, when they returned
home, by countless fair ladies who prided themselves on the
smallness of their feet, and who had set out full of lively
expectation that they would be the successful competitors.
At last the Ambassador arrived at a house where a well-to-do Laird
had lived. But the Laird was dead now, and there was nobody left but
his wife and two daughters, who had grown poor of late, and who had
to work hard for their living.
One of the daughters was haughty and insolent; the other was little,
and young, and modest, and sweet.
When the Ambassador rode into the courtyard of this house, and,
holding out the shoe, asked if there were any fair ladies there who
would like to try it on, the elder sister, who always thought a
great deal of herself, ran forward, and said that she would do so,
while the younger girl just shook her head and went on with her
work. “For,” said she to herself, "though my feet are so little that
they might go into the slipper, what would I do as the wife of a
great Prince? Folk would just laugh at me, and say that I was not
fit for the position. No, no, I am far better to bide as I am.”
So the Ambassador gave the glass shoe to the elder sister, who
carried it away to her own room; and presently, to every one’s
astonishment, came back wearing it on her foot.
It is true that her face was very white, and that she walked with a
little limp; but no one noticed these things except her younger
sister, and she only shook her wise little head, and said nothing.
The Prince’s Ambassador was delighted that he had at last found a
wife for his master, and he mounted his horse and rode off at full
speed to tell him the good news.
When the Prince heard of the success of his errand, he ordered all
his Courtiers to be ready to accompany him next day when he went to
bring home his Bride.
You can fancy what excitement there was at the Laird’s house when
the gallant company arrived, with their Prince at their head, to
greet the lady who was to be their Princess.
The old mother and the plain-looking maid-of-all-work ran hither and
thither, fetching such meat and drink as the house could boast to
set before their high-born visitors, while the bonnie little sister
went and hid herself behind a great pot which stood in the corner of
the courtyard, and which was used for boiling hen’s meat.
She knew that her foot was the smallest in the house; and something
told her that if the Prince once got a glimpse of her he would not
be content till she had tried on the slipper.
selfish elder sister did not help at all, but ran up to her chamber,
and decked herself out in all the fine clothes that she possessed
before she came downstairs to meet the Prince.
And when all the Knights and Courtiers had drunk a stirrup-cup, and
wished Good Luck to their Lord and his Bride, she was lifted up
behind the Prince on his horse, and rode off so full of her own
importance, that she even forgot to say good-bye to her mother and
Alas! alas! pride must have a fall. For the cavalcade had not
proceeded very far when a little bird which was perched on a branch
of a bush by the roadside sang out:
“Nippit fit, and clippit fit, behind the King rides,
But pretty fit, and little fit, ahint the caldron hides.”
“What is this that the birdie says?” cried the Prince, who, if the
truth be told, did not feel altogether satisfied with the Bride whom
fortune had bestowed upon him. “Hast thou another sister, Madam?”
“Only a little one,” murmured the lady, who liked ill the way in
which things seemed to be falling out.
“We will go back and find her,” said the Prince firmly, “for when I
sent out the slipper I had no mind that its wearer should nip her
foot, and clip her foot, in order to get it on.”
So the whole party turned back; and when they reached the Laird’s
house the Prince ordered a search to be made in the courtyard. And
the bonnie little sister was soon discovered and brought out, all
blushes and confusion, from her hiding-place behind the caldron.
“Give her the slipper, and let her try it on,” said the Prince, and
the eldest sister was forced to obey. And what was the horror of the
bystanders, as she drew it off} to see that she had cut ofi the tops
of her toes in order to get it on.
But it fitted her little sister’s foot exactly, without either
paring or clipping; and when the Prince saw that it was so, he
lifted the elder sister down from his horse and lifted the little
one up in her place, and carried her home to his Palace, where the
wedding was celebrated with great rejoicing; and for the rest of
their lives they were the happiest couple in the whole kingdom.