(Originally posted at http://joelnoche.multiply.com/journal/item/63/The-Old-Beggar-Woman on July 10, 2011 8:45 AM)
When I first looked through The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm Volume II (Bantam Books, 1988) many years ago, I was amused by some of the stories that were fragmentary and in some ways nonsensical. A good example is Tale 150, which I reproduce here in its entirety.
Once upon a time there was an old woman. Of course, you’ve seen old women go begging before. Well, this woman begged too, and whenever she got something, she said, “May God reward you.” Now, this beggar woman came to a door where a friendly young rascal was warming himself inside by a fire. As she stood shivering at the door the youngster spoke kindly to the old woman, “Come in, grandma, and warm yourself.”
She entered but went too close to the fire so that her old rags began to burn without her noticing it. The youngster stood there and watched. He should have put out the fire, don’t you think? And even if there was no water at hand, he should have wept out all the water in his body through his eyes. That would have made for two nice streams of water, and with that he could have extinguished the fire.