Finally, Hildegarde came to a small house. An old woman was peering out from inside. She had very large teeth, which frightened the girl, and she wanted to run away. But the old woman called out to her, “Oh, please wait, Hildegarde. There’s no reason for you to be afraid of me, my dear, because I know everything about you.”
Shocked, the child turned back and asked, “Why, how could you know my name when I never told you what it was, m’am?”
The old woman smiled kindly. “You can believe me, my dear. You don’t need to tell me your name. I know most everything for I am Mother Holle.”
At this, Hildegarde’s shock grew for she could scarcely believe what she heard. This woman was the Mother Holle of legend? She felt as if she must be in a dream.
"I’ve been waiting for you to come to my home for quite some time, but what is most important is that you are here now," Mother Holle continued. "So, would you like to work in my home?"
"But what work could I possibly do in your home?" Hildegarde asked.
"It will be much easier, child, than most of the work your stepmother had you do up there. Only you must take care to make up my bed well each morning and shake out my down-quilt vigorously so that the down flies from it and makes snow on the world."
Because the old woman spoke so kindly to her, Hildegarde took heart, agreed, and started in her service. The first morning, Mother Holle watched as the young girl took up her quilt at the open window and began to shake it out. It was large and quite heavy, and at first Hildegarde found it difficult, but she was a hard worker and shook with all her might. The down began to fly out of the quilt and into the sky, drifting through the air and transforming itself into beautiful snowflakes. It began to fall to the earth slowly at first, then became a rich white carpet of snow for the humans to enjoy. Hildegarde had done her job well.
All the world exclaimed wonderingly, “Mother Holle must be making up her bed again!” But no, today is not Mother Holle’s doing; she has entrusted her most important job to Hildegarde, so one must say that Hildegarde is making up her bed.
— Mother Holle, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
[Artwork by Gabriela de Carvalho.]