The Farmer’s Daughter Made a Gift Worth a Fortune

The Farmer’s Fun-Loving Daughter
A Folktale from the British Isles
Original version by Taffy Thomas, adapted by Karen Chace

There once was a farmer who lived in an enormous house with 131 rooms. He had two sons and a daughter. The sons were intelligent, hard-working chaps, and the daughter, although she was smart as well and helped with the chores on the farm, she was more inclined to slip away to meet her friends and was known as the farmer’s fun-loving daughter.

Now the farmer was in the autumn of his years, and he knew he needed to make plans; he loved all three of his children equally but had to decide who would inherit the land and farm. He thought for many days and nights and finally, he knew what to do. He called for his lawyer and asked him to add a special, secret section to his will and when all was done, he sent the lawyer away.

Far too soon the day came when the farmer passed peacefully away. People came from miles around to pay tribute to the kind, old farmer for he was well-loved. After the service in the churchyard the family and friends went back to the farm to have something to eat and share stories of their dear friend. Everyone stayed long after they should have gone, for they were curious and wanted to know which of the children would inherit the farm.

When the lawyer gathered the three children together for the reading of the will a hush fell over group. He began, “Upon my passing each of my children will receive one gold coin. With this coin each one must buy something to fill every room in the house from floor to ceiling. The one who succeeds will inherit the house and the farm.”

The lawyer was barely finished when the eldest son jumped up out of his chair, ran to the barn, tackled up his horse and wagon and set off. He drove all through the countryside buying every secondhand mattress he could find. When he arrived home, everyone stepped outside to watch as he carried each one into the house. Then he took out his knife, slit each mattress open and began filling every room from floor to ceiling with…feathers. When he was done, he turned to the lawyer and said, “I’ve done it! I have filled each room from floor to ceiling with feathers.”

“Well,” said the lawyer, “It is my duty to check every room in the house.” And so, he went from room to room, noticing that each one was indeed full, but it took him so long to visit all the rooms, by the time he came to the last one the feathers had settled and there was a gap between the top of the feathers and the ceiling. So, the oldest son had failed.

Now the second son rode away and returned sometime later. While he was gone everyone rushed to remove the feathers from the house. They finished just in time as the second son returned. Jumping off his horse he withdrew a small cardboard box full of candles from his saddlebag. He set a candle in the middle of each room, struck a match, and lit each one. When he was finished, he announced “I have done it. I have filled every room from floor to ceiling with…light.”

“Not so fast,” said the lawyer and once again he set out to check every room. But it took so long that by the time he reached the last room the candle had burned down, and the room was in darkness. So, he too had failed.

That left the farmer’s fun-loving daughter. She smiled as she waved goodbye and set out on foot with her gold coin. They watched her walk down the winding, dirt road until she disappeared around the bend. Everyone waited impatiently, whispering among themselves, “What will she bring?” “She can’t carry much, she is traveling on foot, with no horse or wagon.” “She’ll stop at a party and forget all about us.”

As the sun began to settle low in the sky, they saw her walking back down the road. She didn’t seem to be carrying anything at all. When she finally stepped into the house, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a penny whistle. Everyone looked confused. “A penny whistle?” “Surely she is joking.”

With a smile still on her face she sat down cross-legged in the hall, lifted the penny whistle to her lips and began to play a lively tune. The lawyer watched as the people began to smile and laugh, some tapped their feet, and others began to dance.

At the end of the tune the lawyer said, “That’s very lovely but you haven’t filled the house.”

“Oh, dear sir, I have indeed filled the house, not once, not twice, but three times. First, I filled every room from floor to ceiling with…music. Second, the people started to smile and dance, so I filled every room with…joy. And if you put music and joy together then you have…life. So even at the time of my own father’s passing, I filled every room in his house with life. I think he would pleased.”

Everyone, including the lawyer and her brothers, were so impressed they all agreed that she should indeed inherit the farm. And the farmer’s fun-loving daughter lived a long and happy life, sharing her riches with her brothers and anyone in need.

And that is what I wish for all of you at Christmas time and throughout the year, that your homes will be filled with music, joy, and life.

Thanks to Karen Chace, a professional storyteller who provides, at my request, a heartwarming and challenging story about giving every Christmas season.

Professional Storyteller Karen Chace in Action

Visit her Website to learn more about her professional services:

Masterful Storyteller Provides a Christmas Gem

Storyteller Karen Chace

Every Christmas season I turn to a masterful professional storyteller, Karen Chace of East Freetown, MA, asking her to share a story that will warm the hearts of children and adults–and will personify the meaning of the season. Once again, Karen has come up with a gem.

Read the story, and then note how you can respond with your comments.

Also, after the story you’ll find Karen’s contact information–and the link to a 60 minute radio interview with her.

Adapted from a story by Johanna Spyri
Found in Educating by Storytelling Published in 1918

In the mountain land of Bohemia there lived in the long ago a miner with his wife and little daughter. They were happy in their hut in the forest, but after a time the father and mother died, and the child was left alone in the world. She had no money, and no aunts or cousins to take her in, and it seemed as if she would have to go hungry. But always there are kindly hearts among the poor, and one of the miners opened his house that she might have a home. He had six children of his own and little bread and meat to spare, but his good wife said, “We will divide what we have,” So little Hilda became one of the family, and they grew to love her very much.

It was midwinter, and Christmas day not far away. The children thought of nothing but the coming of St. Nicholas, who they hoped would not forget them on the Holy Night, when every boy and girl in Bohemia expects a visit from the gift bringer. But when they spoke to the miner about it he shook his head and said, “Do not set your hearts upon his coming. Our hut is very small and stands so far in the forest that he may not be able to find it.”

Gretchen, his little daughter, had a very different idea. She declared St. Nicholas could find a house in the dark if it were no bigger than an ant hill, and went to bed to dream of the toys and sweetmeats he would bring.

Day after day passed, and nearer, nearer came the season of Christ’s birth. The children talked of him as they sat by the fire at night, as they picked up dead branches in the forest, and as they bedded the goats and shut them in, for Bohemian mountain folk are a toiling people, and even boys and girls must work.

At last the day before Christmas came, and in the afternoon little Hilda started out with her basket to get some cones. She wanted the fire to be brighter and more cheerful than ever that night, and perhaps if she met a servant from the castle, he might take some to feed the prince’s fire, and give her a silver piece.

“And if he does,” she thought as she trudged on her way, “I can buy something for the miner and his dear children.”

Now, in that land of Bohemia, on the summit of a lofty mountain, a creature named Riibezahl made his home. He possessed all magic powers, and was so mighty that his sway extended to the very center of the earth. There he had chambers of gold and silver, and diamonds and jewels without number, and often gave of his treasures to those who were good enough to deserve them. He could change himself at will into any form. Now he was a bat flying in the night, now a country swain selling his wares at the fair, and now a woodman cutting down trees in the forest, because thus he was able to find out who was worthy and who unworthy, and to reward or punish them as they deserved.

Hilda had often heard of the strange ways of Riibezahl, and wondered if he would ever cross her path.

“I suppose not,” she murmured, “because I am just a little girl.”

As she came near the fir trees, a tiny white-haired man walked out of the shadow. He had a long white beard and a jolly red face, and looted as if he were the friend of children.

“What are you doing?” he called to her.

“I’ve come to gather cones,” she replied; “some for our fire and some to sell, if the servant from the castle will only buy.”

Then she told him of the miner’s family, of how eager she was to get some money that she might buy a gift for his children and of her hope that St. Nicholas would not forget them on the Holy Night.

The little old man seemed much interested, and when she finished her story he said, “The largest cones are on that tree. If you hope to sell, gather the best ones.”

He pointed to a great, dark fir just beyond them, and then went back into the shadows of the forest.

Little Hilda thanked him and ran to the spot. She could see the cones like beehives on the branches, and just as she came under them there was such a downfall of beautiful brown things it frightened her and she began to run. But thinking of what she could do with such big ones, she went back, filled her basket, and started homeward.

It was very heavy, and the farther she went the heavier it grew.

“I’ll have to ask little Gretchen to help me take it up the hill path to the castle,” she thought. But by the time she reached the hut it had become such a load she could not move it, and the miner had to carry it in himself.

“They are lovely big ones and of a beautiful brown color,” she said as the children crowded around to see.

But when they looked at the basket again, they saw no brown at all. Instead there was a gleam brighter than that of the moonbeams through the fir trees, for a wonderful thing had happened. In the twinkling of an eye every one of those cones had turned into shining silver, which sparkled and glistened so that they dazzled the eyes.

Then the little girl remembered the old man in the forest and told the miner about him.

He nodded his head in a knowing way and said, “Surely it was Riibezahl, and he has rewarded you for being sweet and gentle.”

All of which seemed like a dream to little Hilda, but when she looked into the basket she knew it was true. And so knew all the other mountain folk, when the stars of the Holy Night shone out and the children went from door to door distributing silver cones. The good folk who gave her a home received so many that never again were they poor. They built a fine house with a porch and twenty windows, and were as rich as anyone in Bohemia.

To make things lovelier still, St. Nicholas found the hut, just as Gretchen had said he would, and left some sweets and toys for the children. He laughed loud and long when he saw the shining cones, for he had heard all about it from Riibezahl himself.

Pronunciation – Riibezahl (re’be tsal)

Karen and I will welcome your comments.

Go to the end of the blog entry in the section below and click NO COMMENTS if none have been made, or if comments have been made click 1 comment, 2 comments, or whatever the comments button says. The comments section will appear.

Visit Karen’s Web site, where you will find valuable resources about stories. Read her blog, and enter your e-mail address in the slot to sign up for her newsletter. Use her contact information to talk with her about a professional presentation to your conference/convention. Not only has she attained high awards from her professional organizations, Karen has become a popular presenter to a variety of audiences. Her site link:

As the host of “The Communication Corner” on WBCX-FM, I was privileged to interview Karen about storytelling. This link gives you access to the full 60-minute interview: