Fiber Folklore – Hateful Flax Spinning

Here’s a little known story about flax from The Brothers Grimms’ first edition of Kinder und Hausmärchen [Household Stories] (1812).

Hateful Flax Spinning

In former times there lived a king who liked nothing better in all the world than having flax spun. The queen and his daughters had to spend the entire day spinning, and he was very angry if he could not hear the spinning wheels humming. One day he had to go abroad, and before taking leave, he gave the queen a great chest filled with flax, and said, “This must all be spun by the time I return.”

The princesses were very concerned and started to cry, “If we are to spin all this, we’ll have to sit here the whole day, and won’t be able to get up at all.” The queen said, “Fear not, I will help you.”

Now in this country there were three terribly ugly old maids. The first one had such a large lower lip that it hung down over her chin. The second one had a forefinger on her right hand that was so broad and thick that one could have made three normal fingers from it. The third one had a broad flat foot, as wide as half a kitchen table. The queen sent for the three, and on the day that the king was to return, she had them all sit in her parlor. She gave them her spinning wheels, and had them spin. She told each one how she was to answer the king’s questions.

When the king arrived, he was pleased to hear the humming of the wheels from afar, and prepared to praise his daughters. He entered the parlor, and when he saw the disgusting old maids sitting there, he was at first repulsed, but then he approached the first one and asked her where she had gotten the terribly large lower lip.

“From licking! From licking!”

Then he asked the second one where she had gotten the thick finger.

“From twisting the thread! From twisting the thread, and wrapping it around!” she said, at the same time letting the thread run around her finger a few times.

Finally he asked the third one where she had gotten the thick foot.

“From pedaling! From pedaling!”

When the king heard this he ordered the queen and the princesses to never again touch a spinning wheel, and thus they were delivered from their misery.

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4 thoughts on “Fiber Folklore – Hateful Flax Spinning

  1. Good story! You know it’s funny how spinning is only fun when it’s a hobby but not fun when you HAVE to spin like they did.

  2. Anne Everts says:

    I am a member of the IceHouse Spinners who volunteer to spin at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic in Lunenburg Nova Scotia every Wednesday and Saturday. This year we are learning to spin flax. Would it be a violation of any copyright laws to copy the story of”Hateful Flax” and use it as a handout at the Museum? I assume it was written by someone at this website. Anne Everts

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