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BEC初级阅读:The Seven Ravens

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There was a man who had seven sons, but he had no daughter, greatly though he longed for one. At last his wife told him that they could again expect a child and, sure enough, when it was born it was a baby girl. There was great rejoicing, but the child was weak and puny, so weak that it had to be christened at once. The father told one of the boys to go quickly to the spring and fetch christening water; the other six ran along with him, and because each of them wanted to be the first to dip the jug into the well, it fell in and sank. So there they stood and didn't know what to do, and none of them dared go home. When they didn't come back their father got impatient and said:" I'll wager they've been playing some game again and forgotten all about it, the godless brats." He was afraid the little girl would have to die unbaptized, and in his rage he cried out:" I wish those boys would all turn into ravens." He'd scarcely spoken the words when he heard a whirring of wings in the air overhead, looked up and saw seven coal-black ravens flying away.

The parents were unable now to take back the curse, and yet, grief-stricken as they were at the loss of their seven sons, they look some comfort from their beloved little daughter, who soon got well and strong and became more beautiful with every day that passed. For a long time the little girl didn't even know that she had had brothers, for her parents took care not to mention them, but one day by chance she heard some people talking about her. "The girl's beautiful, of course," they were saying, "but she's to blame really for her seven brothers' misfortune." This made her very sad, and she went to her father and mother and asked whether it was true then that she had had brothers and what had become of them. So now it was no longer possible for her parents to conceal from her what had happened, though they told her that it had been God's will and that her birth had only been the innocent occasion for it. But day after day she was conscience-stricken about it, and felt that it was her duty to free her brothers from the spell again. The thought gave her no peace, so in the end she left home secretly and went off into the wide world to try and trace her brothers wherever they might be, and rescue them at whatever cost. She took nothing with her but a ring belonging to her parents to remember them by, a loaf of bread for when she was hungry, a jug of water for when she was thirsty, and a little chair for when she was tired.

She went on and on, further and further, till she reached the end of the world. There she came to the sun, but it was too hot and terrible and it devoured little children. Quickly she ran away and went to the moon, but it was too cold and it was grisly and evil, and when it noticed the child it sail:” I smell human flesh.” So she hurried off as fast as she could and came to the stars, and they were friendly and kind to her, and each of them was sitting on its own little chair. But the morning star got up and gave her a little chicken's leg and said:” If you don't have this chicken's leg, you won't be able to unlock the glass mountain, and inside the glass mountain is where your brothers are.”

The girl took the leg, wrapped it up well in a piece of cloth, and set off again and went on and on until she came to the glass mountain. The gate was locked, and she tried to take out the chicken's leg; but when she unwrapped the cloth it was empty, and she had lost the gift of the kindly stars. What was she to do now? she wanted to rescue her brothers, but she had no key to the glass mountain. The good little sister took a knife, chopped off one of her little fingers, stuck it in the lock and successfully opened the gate. When she got inside, a little dwarf came to meet her, saying:” My child, what are you looking for?” “I'm looking for my brothers, the seven ravens,” she answered. The dwarf said:” My masters the ravens are not at home, but if you would like to wait here till they get back, then come in.” Then the dwarf brought in the ravens' supper on seven little plates and in seven little cups, and the little sister ate a morsel from each plate and drank a sip from each cup; but into the last cup she dropped the ring she had brought with her.

Suddenly she heard a whirring and fluttering noise in the air, and the dwarf said:” Here come my lords the ravens flying home.” And they came, asked for food and drink and looked for their plates and cups. Then one after another of them said:” Who's been eating from my plate? Who's been drinking out of my cup? This must have been a human mouth.” And when the seventh of them had got to the bottom of his cup, the ring rolled out towards him. Then he looked at it and recognized it as a ring belonging to his father and mother, and said:” My God grant that our little sister is here; if she were, we should be freed from the spell.” The girl was standing listening behind the door, and when she heard him speak this wish she stepped out, and as she did so the ravens recovered their human shape. And they hugged and kissed each other and went happily home.


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