Fairy Tales of the German Forests

Story Power author Kate Farrell has written a new blog post on the tale of Trudel and Lottchen and their magical Holiday Adventures in the German Forests.

As the world is full of fact and fancy, so is this story.

It was a magical evening. Trudel, the sister, was so engrossed in a game of cards with the boys that she could not be induced to come out; moreover she had a slight cold and the evenings were chilly. A glorious sunset glow illumined the sky as mother and Lottchen set out for their never-to-be-forgotten walk.

“We will go up and see the fire on the heath. I love the smell of dry pine wood burning,” said mother.

“I love to see the fire dancing and crackling,” said Lottchen. “How still everything is.”

“It is the calm of twilight. The wind usually drops in the evening,” said mother.

“Look, look, over there by those dark woods there is something moving,” said Lotty. “I think it is a white cat.”

“A white cat! How queer that she should have strayed so far; she does not belong to the farm, I know.”

“Hush! perhaps she is not a cat at all—then she will vanish.” And lo and behold when they looked again, there was no cat there, though they had distinctly seen it a minute before on the field at the wood’s edge.

“She is really a witch, I believe,” said mother, with the curious expression on her face that Lotty knew so well.

Going further up the hill, they saw a wonderful sight. Twenty or more peasant girls were busy working, hacking the ground, their faces illuminated by the wonderful sunset glow. They wore short full peasant skirts edged with bright-coloured ribbons, and each had a gaily coloured scarf pinned round the neck and bodice.

We learned afterwards that they were preparing the ground to plant young fir-trees on a clearing. Germans are so careful of their woods; they replant what has been cut down, so that they have a great wealth in wood that we cannot boast of in England.

A man dressed in green with a feather in his cap, and a gun over his shoulder stood by watching the girls at their work.

He was a forester and seemed to act as overseer. He gave the signal to stop work as the strangers (mother and Lotty) approached. The women hid their tools under the dry heather until the next day, and then strapped on the big baskets they carried on their backs, without which they hardly felt properly dressed.

They then marched along together, singing a melodious song in unison. As they came to the cross-roads they parted company; some went this way, some that; all kept up the tune, which echoed farther and farther, fainter and fainter in the distance.

Before long Lottchen and her mother were alone; but they felt that the ground they stood on, was enchanted. Mother said it was like a scene from the opera. They watched the fire; how the flames leaped and crackled; yet they were dying down.

The fire made a bright contrast to the dark fir-woods which formed the background to the picture. The glory died from the sky; but yet it was strangely light; darker and darker grew the woods near the fire. Suddenly Lotty espied bright sparks among the trees.

“I do believe they have set the wood on fire,” said mother.

“Oh no, mother, don’t you see; let us crouch down and hide. It is the fairies; they are coming to the fire.”

The air was suddenly full of bright beings.

And all this Trudel had missed. It seemed too great a pity, with that silly old card playing.

Spellbound mother and Lotty watched the fairies at their revels, until Lottchen began to shiver.

“We really must go home,” whispered mother. “Trudel will be anxious.”

“Oh, but mother I want to dance round the fire with the fairies, and I want a fairy wand with shooting stars,” said Lotty almost aloud.

Suddenly it seemed as if the fairies became aware that they were observed. They vanished away, and all became dark. Lottchen said she could hear the sound of little feet stamping out the fire.

“Fairies, dear fairies, come again, do,” said Lotty.

No answer, perfect stillness, not even a leaf stirred.

“Well, you are not so polite,” said Lotty, “though you are so pretty. Good night,” she shouted.

There was a sound of suppressed laughter; then from hill and dale the word “good night” was echoed all around. Spellbound, as if in a trance, they moved toward the farm. Trudel was wild with herself when she heard what she had missed.

Tomorrow,” she said. But tomorrow is sometimes a long, long way off, and the fairies did not show themselves again during these holidays.


Source: Fairy Tales from the German Forests. Margaret Arndt, Everett & Co. Ltd., London, 1913.

Note: Author Margaret Heaton published German fairy tales under Margaret Arndt, or Frau Arndt. Historians don’t have much information about her life, but we know she was of English descent and married to a German named Paul Arndt. Her cousin was the wife of English novelist G.K. Chesterton. Not only did Chesterton write the introduction to her work, he also illustrated the cover of her collection of German fairy tales, Fairy Tales from the German Forests. The book was published around 1913, and features an interesting selection of imaginative, original fairy tales from Germany with deep conversations, unlike the Grimm Brothers’ collections of authentic folktales. Some historians and fairy tale experts have likened this collection to a Victorian style of writing.

Story Power by Kate Farrell

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