Cinderella #261 Guldtæning (Gold-dice;1857)
Once upon a time, as a farmer's wife told the tale, there was " a king who has three daughters, the youngest named Guldtæning." It happened that war broke out in the kingdom. To keep his daughters safe, the king buries them in a mound with "victuals for seven years". But the war drags on. The king himself is killed, and the seven years have passed. There is no more food, and "after they have eaten the dog and the cat, the two elder die of hunger." The younger girl survives, and digs her way to the surface. There, she catches a little mouse, "which she skins and eats". This gives her enough strength to make her way over the burned and scarred landscape, to the castle, which once belonged to her father. She begs for work there, and is given tasks, "first as gooseherd, then as cook". It turns out that the king of the castle has been betrothed to a woman he has never met. When she arrives for the wedding ceremony, the servants see that she is "very ugly". Furthermore, she "gives birth on the wedding day". Then this bride-to-be sends for a servant to change places with her. Guldtæning is sent, and switches clothes with her. The ugly bride warns her not to speak a word to anyone on the way to church, and not to reveal her face. But when Guldtæning approaches the horse, "it knows her instantly, and bows to her." She whispers to it,"Bow not to me, Dear Black, my steed. The last maid that rode thee was I, indeed." When the prince asks what she just said, she does not reply. Next they ride over a bridge, and she says,"The bridge was built firm by my father, they say. Not to tremble on Guldtæning's wedding day. Now a raven flies by, and the disguised former princess sings,"The raven black o'erhead is flying; the bride in the oven-hole is lying. She bears a son, there's no denying." She won't answer the prince's queries about why she has sung these lines. As they walk on, Guldtæning sees "a mouse-skin, fastened to a stick." She says, very quietly, "Ah! The gray mouse still is there. These little fingers skinned it bare. If only less cruel had been my need, I would rather have died than have done this deed." They go on to church and are married. Then the prince gives her one of the gloves that he is wearing, telling her to put it on. When they get back to the castle, the women exchange dresses again, and the true, ugly bride goes to the prince. He asks her immediately what she told the horse. She excuses herself and runs quickly to ask Guldtæning what she had said. Then she goes and tells the prince. But now he wants to know what she told the bridge. Again, she runs away and returns a few minutes later. Exasperated, the prince demands that she tell him, at once, what she sang to the raven, and that she return his glove. When she refuses, he becomes suspicious. That's when the prince hears a voice! It is Guldtæning and she has snuck up behind the ugly bride. She holds out the glove, which the prince accepts. Then "the princess is sentenced to death, for deception, and prince and heroine live happily together."
From: Cox, M. R. (1893/2011) p. 228
Notes: This story gives a whole new twist to the mouse as animal helper. What would Disney say if Cinderella ate Gus instead of stitching him a beret? Even Mouse-Skins, and the Princess in Mouse Skins, didn't actually eat the mice...