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Literature / Nine Bags Of Gold

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"Nine Bags of Gold" (German: Neun Säcke voll Gold) is a German Fairy Tale collected by Franz Xaver Von Schonwerth. It has been translated into English and published in The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales collection.

There was once a miller who had two sons, Hans and Michael. He also owned two mills, so he saw that each son got married and inherited one mill before passing away.

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When Hans' wife gets pregnant, Michael -whose own wife is too ill to conceive children- proposes to adopt Hans' son so the mills stay in the family. However, Han's wife gives birth to a baby girl, and Michael angrily declares he will only pass his mill on a male relative.

Hans' daughter, Marie, grows up happy, but every so often she feels sad because she has no brothers to play with. One day she is grumbling about her loneliness as playing alone in the parlor, when elves come through the floorboards. The elves offer to be her siblings, play with her and teach her all kind of things if she does not reveal their existence to her parents. Marie keeps their secret, and the elves teach her how to read, write and knit. Meanwhile, Marie's mother grows concerned because of her daughter liking her to be home alone. Since she is forced to leave the house for increasingly long periods of time, Marie's mother plans to send her daughter to an aunt so she gets an education. She abandons her plans, though, when Marie shows her knitting samples to prove she has already been educated.

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When Marie turns sixteen, her father wants to marry her to a wealthy man in a nearby town. Nevertheless, Marie rejects his father's proposal for two reasons: first, her friends have warned her that man is a jerkass who will abandon her after squandering her family's money; second, she is in love with one of her father's apprentices. Hans grudgingly accepts her daughter's refusal, but he declares she will not be allowed to marry her lover until he hangs nine bags filled with gold on the spokes of the wheels in the mill.

Shortly after, the prince of the kingdom falls sick with an incurable disease. Marie's friends reveal to her they caused the prince's sickness, and they have the medicine which he needs. Since her father is leaving on a trip tomorrow, she can go into the town and give him the medicine.

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The next day, Marie goes to the palace and assures the queen she can cure her son. Since all doctors had exhausted every method and Marie looks like an honest person, the queen gives her permission to try. Marie succeeds and is given one bag full of money. She goes back home, wondering where she will find eight more bags. The elves suggest counting the money— nine hundred talers. The money is divided into nine equal parts and stuffed in nine bags. The elves tell Marie to hang the little bags on the spokes and show them to her father when he returns from the church. They also reassure Marie that her father may grumble, but he will not break his promise.

Marie gets married to her boyfriend, and she gives birth to a baby boy one year after the wedding. Michael, who had abandoned the mill after his wife's death, visits the family and offers to take up his nephew as his apprentice. Hans and his wife can move with him and manage the business.

And so Marie was given her father's mill and lived happily ever after with her husband.


Tropes:

  • Babies Ever After: At the end of the story, Marie and her husband have a baby boy.
  • Child Marriage Veto: Hans wants to marry Marie to a wealthy man, but she turns him down because she has been warned the man is a gold-digging asshole. Hans is unhappy about Marie's refusal, but he accepts his daughter's decision.
  • Dangerous 16th Birthday: When she turns sixteen, Marie's father tries to get her married to a greedy asshole.
  • Engineered Heroics: The elves make the prince ill so Marie can cure him and be paid for her "deed".
  • Gold Digger: Marie turns an arranged marriage down because her friends have warned her that her father's proposed suitor will squander her money and then he will abandon her. Subverted, since the man is financially well-off.
  • Heir Club for Men: Subverted. Michael refuses to pass his mill on his niece Marie. However, when Marie's son is born, he takes him up as apprentice. Marie's parents move with Michael, and Marie gets her father's mill.
  • I Gave My Word: The house elves assure Marie her father may grumble or whine when he sees the gold bags, but he will not go back on his word.
  • Impossible Task: Hans says his daughter he will allow her to marry her lover if the boy hangs nine bags of gold on the mill's axes. Hans does not expect the boy will manage to meet his condition since he is poor, and Hans is the one who is paying his wages.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Marie befriends a family of diminutive house elves.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Both brothers want to have male children, so the mills stay in the family. However, Michael's wife is too sick to bear children, and Hans' wife has a single, female baby.
  • Lilliputians: Marie's elven friends live under her house's floorboards.
  • Love-Obstructing Parents: Hans is not happy with his daughter fancying his apprentice, so he sets a condition for their wedding which he does not expect him to be able to fulfill.
  • The Mourning After: After his wife's death, Michael abandons his mill and refuses to remarry.
  • Our Elves Are Different: As it could be expected from a pre-The Lord of the Rings story, elves are tiny, trickster creatures.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: Marie's elven friends are small magical humanoid creatures who live beneath human houses, keeping themselves hidden from adult menfolk (albeit they like befriending and even teaching children). Although clever and benevolent, they are tricksters who are not above of making someone sick to further their goals.
  • Outside-the-Box Tactic: Marie is rewarded with one bag full of gold, but she cannot figure out how she can find eight more bags. Her friends come up with a very simple solution: splitting the loot into nine parts and filling nine bags.
  • Panacea: The elves give Marie a medicine which can cure a sickness that gets every doctor in the kingdom stumped.
  • Rule of Three: Marie's boyfriend needs three times three bags of gold to be allowed to marry her.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: The elves teach Marie how to knit, and Marie's mother is delighted at her daughter learning such an important skill apparently on her own.
  • Uptown Girl: Marie fancies one of her father's mill workers, who is definitely less affluent than her.


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