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The Three Spinners

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Title: The Three Spinners  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Brothers Grimm, Rumpelstiltskin, Grimms' Fairy Tales, Italian Folktales, The Three Feathers
Collection: Flax, German Fairy Tales, Grimms' Fairy Tales, Textiles in Mythology and Folklore
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

The Three Spinners

The Three Spinners
Folk tale
Name The Three Spinners
Also known as The Seven Little Pork Rinds
And Seven!
Aarne-Thompson grouping 501
Country Germany
Published in Grimm's Fairy Tales
Italian Folktales

"The Three Spinners" is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm.[1] It is tale no 14 and Aarne-Thompson type 501. It is widespread throughout Europe.[2]

It has obvious parallels to Rumpelstiltskin, and obvious differences, so that they are often compared.

Giambattista Basile includes an Italian literary fairy tale, The Seven Little Pork Rinds, in his 1634 work, the Pentamerone.[3]

Italo Calvino's Italian Folktales includes a variant, And Seven!.[4]

The first edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales contained a much shorter variant, Hateful Flax Spinning, but it is "The Three Spinners" that became well-known.


  • Synopsis 1
    • Variant: Hateful Flax Spinning 1.1
  • The Seven Little Pork Rinds 2
    • And Seven! 2.1
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Once there was a beautiful-but-lazy girl who would not spin. While her mother berates her for it, the Queen, passing by, overhears and asks the reason for the scolding. Ashamed to admit that her daughter is lazy, the woman replies that the girl spins so much that her mother cannot afford to buy enough flax to keep her occupied. The Queen, impressed by such industry, offers to take the girl with her.

Once at the castle, the queen takes the girl to a room filled with flax. If she spins it all within three days, she'll be rewarded with marriage to the queen's oldest son. Two days later, the queen returns and is amazed to find the flax untouched. The girl pleads that homesickness has kept her from spinning, but she realizes that excuse will not serve her twice.

Three women appear in the room that night. One has a grotesquely swollen foot; the second, an overgrown thumb; the third, a pendulous lip. They offer to spin all the flax for the girl if she will invite them to her wedding, introduce them as her aunts, and seat them at the high table. She agrees, and they commence and complete the spinning.

In the morning, the queen is satisfied to see the flax all spun. She arranges for the wedding to her son, the prince, and the girl asks to invite her "aunts". When they appear, the king asks how they came to have such deformities, and the three explain that they come from their years of spinning. The king forbids his beautiful daughter-in-law to spin again.

Variant: Hateful Flax Spinning

A king orders his queen and daughters to spin all the time. One day, he gives them a great box of flax to spin, to his daughters' distress. The queen invites three hideous old maids to come to the castle and spin. The king sees them and asks the cause of their deformities. Their answer: from spinning. The king forbids his wife and daughters to spin again.

The Seven Little Pork Rinds

A girl eats seven pieces of bacon, leaving none for her mother. While the mother beats her for her gluttony, a passing merchant asks the reason, and the woman replies that her daughter is ruining her health by working too hard. The merchant decides on the spot to marry this industrious girl.

The now-married merchant goes on a journey, leaving his wife the spinning. Making an effort to spin, she flicks a passersby with water; some passing fairies are so amused by this that they offer to do the spinning for her. Despite their aid, the merchant's wife claims that the spinning has made her ill, and the merchant decides not to require her to spin any more, as her mother must have been right about her overworking.

And Seven!

In this version, as in the one just described, the part of the king is taken by a merchant; similarly, the mother berates her daughter for "seven" -- meaning seven bowls of soup that the girl has eaten -- but the mother pretends that they are spindles of hemp that the girl has spun.

The women helpers in this version--who also are deformed from their years of spinning--instruct the girl to invite them to her wedding by calling their names. If she does not do so, they warn her, she will be worse off than she would have been had they not spun for her. She forgets the names and puts off the wedding while she tries to recall them. The merchant sees the three women cavorting in the forest and hears them call out their names, similar to the scene in Rumpelstiltskin; he describes this to his bride in hopes of amusing her and getting her to agree to a wedding date. She is therefore able to invite her helpers and bring about the happy ending as in "The Three Spinners".

A Puerto Rican version exists, with three Holy Souls in Purgatory replacing the fairies, and a merchant in place of the king. The heroine in this version is an orphan abused by an aunt.

See also


  1. ^ Jacob and Wilheim Grimm, Grimm's Fairy Tales, "The Three Spinners"
  2. ^ Italo Calvino, Italian Folktales p 716 ISBN 0-15-645489-0
  3. ^ Jack Zipes, The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm, p 585, ISBN 0-393-97636-X
  4. ^ Italo Calvino, Italian Folktales p 14-18 ISBN 0-15-645489-0

External links

  • Hateful Flax Spinning and The Three Spinning Women
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