Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for pre-intermediate learners. The name of the story is Brother and Sister. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/BrotherSister. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/BrotherSister. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
So yesterday I finally had my Spanish exam! For months I have been working and preparing for it, and on Friday and Saturday, I went to the Cervantes Institute in London to do the exam. It was very long, but it all went very well.
The main thing with these kind of exams is to stay relaxed, especially with the speaking. I knew that if I got stressed in the speaking I could ruin it all and get very lost and make a lot of mistakes, so I made sure to do lots of breathing and calm thoughts and just go at a nice, slow pace. And I think it worked!
The writing exam was two-and-a-half hours. In the end, we wrote about a thousand words in Spanish. It’s a long exam! But this is the highest level of the Spanish proficiency exam, the DELE, and if I do get it, it lasts for life. So nobody will ever be able to question my Spanish ability! I feel very, very free now. I feel like I have so much time. I feel much more relaxed, which is fantastic.
Unfortunately, I won’t find out the results of the exam for about two months, which is a long time. It means I’ll probably find out in January or February, but I’m fairly sure that I will pass. In all of the practice exams I passed, so if I don’t pass, I will have to see why. I might have to, uh, ask them to remark it. I don’t know. But for now, I’m just going to assume that I did pass.
Anyway, I have a lot more time now to spend on writing, which is fantastic, because I’ve really been missing it. I spent so much time preparing for the exam that I haven’t written much. So look forward to some great new stories on the podcast!
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
A stepmother is like your mother, but she’s not your birth mother. She’s not the mother who gave birth to you. Basically, if your mother and father are married, and then the mother dies, and your father marries a new woman, she will be your stepmother, and you will be her stepchild. Of course, if you have a mother and father and the father dies, and your mother marries a new man, he will be your stepfather.
In fairy tales, stepmothers are always evil, for some reason. They are always very bad. And this story is no different. In this story, the stepmother is a real witch.
Cast a spell. So a spell is a piece of magic. For example, in the Harry Potter books, Wingardium Leviosa is a spell that makes things float. And when you cast a spell, you use a spell. So it’s using magic to do something specific. Sometimes I wish I was a witch so I could cast spells as well…
Whisper is when you talk like this. You talk very quietly. So you’re whispering. So you whisper when you don’t want other people to hear. For example, in school you might whisper to your friends in class so that the teacher doesn’t hear. Whispering is actually quite bad for your voice, I’ve heard. But it’s quite fun to do!
Actually, there’s a trend now, isn’t there?, called ASMR, where people make videos with sounds that are supposed to be nice, pleasant, for your brain. And in these videos, they always talk like this. They always whisper really quietly. Hi, welcome to Easy Stories in English ASMR.
Just joking! Maybe if the podcast gets really popular I’ll make that version. Maybe I’ll do an ASMR episode. Maybe you have no idea what ASMR is! If you’re interested, go on YouTube and search “ASMR”. You will be very surprised. It is a strange, strange thing.
A wolf is an animal, like a dog but they’re more dangerous than dogs. They are quite wild. You can’t really keep a wolf as a pet. Wolves travel in large groups called “packs” and they like to go awoo. At least, that’s my best wolf voice.
A deer is a very cute four-legged animal. Deer live in the forest. They have hooves, like horses. So they don’t have feet, they have hooves, which are hard. And male deer have big, complicated horns called antlers, and they fight each other with antlers. The most famous deer of all is Bambi, from the Disney film Bambi.
I love deers. I’ve been to a place in Japan called Miyajima, and in Miyajima there are wild deer everywhere, and they’re very friendly. They come up to you. You can pat them. You just have to be careful because they do try and eat your things.
Hunting horns are a kind of instrument that are used during hunts. So when people are going after wild animals to kill for food. I’m going to try and make a hunting horn sound. [toot toot]. Something like that! More or less. Basically, you blow hunting horns to announce the start of the hunt and to get the dogs excited for the hunt.
Chase after. When you chase after someone, or something, you’re running after it, but you really want to catch it. Usually, if you’re chasing something, it’s because they did something bad and you want to tell them off, or it’s an animal that you want to kill. In action films, there are often police chases where a police car chases after a criminal who’s driving away.
A desire is a very strong want. So if you want something, it’s like, OK, you want this. But if you desire something, it’s very strong. You usually desire people, but I personally often desire food. It’s quite a poetic word. We don’t use it that much in everyday conversation.
A servant is someone who works for another person and lives in their house. You might be familiar with the British TV show Downton Abbey, which is about the lives of servants. Cleaning and cooking are just some examples of jobs that servants do.
Finally, “stroke” is when you rub something but you want to show that you like it. So if you have a pet, maybe a dog or a cat, you will stroke him or her. You might stroke a baby. You might stroke a really, really nice cushion that’s nice and soft. Basically, there’s something soft that you want to touch, so you stroke it.
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OK, so listen and enjoy!
Brother and Sister
Once there was a brother and a sister. Their mother had died, and they lived with their father and their stepmother. Their stepmother was always mean to them, and their father was always busy with work.
So one day, the brother took the sister’s hand and said, ‘Our stepmother hits us every day. We only have hard, old bread to eat. Even the dog under the table has better food than us! Oh, if only our mother were here. She would look after us. But we have to look after ourselves now. We must leave this place.’
So they left their house and travelled the whole day through fields. When it rained, the sister said, ‘The sky is crying with us.’
In the evening they arrived at a forest, tired and hungry from their long journey. They climbed into a tree and fell asleep.
The next morning, the brother said, ‘Sister, I am thirsty. I hear a stream in the distance. Let us go and drink.’
So the brother took the sister’s hand and they went to the stream.
However, the children’s stepmother had found out that they left. She was a witch, and wanted everyone to be as sad and cruel as her. So she cast a spell on all the water in the forest.
The brother was about to drink from the stream. But then the sister heard the stream whisper, ‘Glug glug, glug glug! If you drink this water, you will become a tiger.’
The sister cried, ‘Brother, do not drink, or you will become a tiger and eat me up!’
So the brother did not drink, even though he was very thirsty.
‘I will wait until the next stream.’
They walked, and finally they arrived at another stream. This time, the sister heard the stream whisper, ‘Glug glug, glug glug! If you drink this water, you will become a wolf.’
So the sister cried, ‘Please, dear brother, do not drink! You will become a wolf and eat me up.’
So the brother did not drink, and said, ‘I will wait until the next stream. But then I must drink, because I am really very thirsty.’
They kept walking, and came to a third stream. This one whispered, ‘Glug glug, glug glug! If you drink this water, you will become a deer.’
The sister said, ‘Dear brother, do not drink, or you will become a deer and run far away from me!’
But the brother had already drank from the water, and he quickly changed into a deer.
The sister cried and cried over her brother, and the deer cried as well. Finally, she said, ‘Don’t worry, little deer. I will never leave you.’ She had a gold chain around her neck. She took it off and put it around the deer’s neck.
They kept walking and went deeper into the forest. After walking a long, long way they found a wooden house, which was empty.
‘We can live here!’ said the sister.
So they started living in the house. Every day, the sister went out and found food in the forest for both of them, and the deer played happily in the grass. At night, they lay together in the little house and slept. If her brother had not been a deer, it would have been a lovely life.
They kept living in the forest like this for many years. However, there was a young king who lived nearby. He liked to hunt, and he had not hunted in this forest before. One day he decided he wanted to hunt there, so he went with all his men. They brought many dogs into the forest, and they blew loud hunting horns.
The deer brother heard the horns and desired to join the hunt.
‘Oh, dear sister, please let me go hunt! I cannot stay here any longer.’
The sister did not want him to go, but he asked so much. Finally, she let him go, but she said, ‘Come back here at night. I will lock the door, so when you arrive, knock on the door and say, “Little sister, let me in.” Then I will know it is you.’
So the deer jumped out and played in the forest. The King and his men saw the beautiful animal, and chased after him, but they could not catch him, because he was too fast.
When it was dark, the deer went to the house, knocked on the door, and said, ‘Little sister, let me in.’ The sister opened the door and they slept together.
The next morning the hunt began again. Once more, the deer heard the hunting horns and felt a strong desire to join them.
‘Little sister, I must go!’
The sister sighed, but she opened the door and said, ‘Now, remember to come back at night and say the same words.’
When the King and his men saw the deer again, they chased after him, but again he was too fast for them. They chased him all day, and finally they surrounded him. One of them hurt his foot, so he went slowly to the house. One of the hunters followed him, and heard him saying, ‘Little sister, let me in.’
The hunter told this to the King, and the King smiled and said, ‘Tomorrow we will hunt again.’
When the sister saw that the deer was hurt, she was terrified. She washed his foot and put leaves around it and said, ‘Lie down, dear brother, and rest.’
The deer was not seriously hurt, so the next morning he felt fine again. Once more, when he heard the hunting horns, he said, ‘I cannot stay inside. I must go with them. They won’t catch me today!’
The sister cried and said, ‘You will be killed! They will kill you and I will be all alone here in the forest. You can’t go!’
‘If I stay here then I will die of desire. When I hear the hunting horns, I desire to go out so much. I feel like I will jump out of my skin!’
The sister saw that she could not stop him, so she opened the door and watched the deer run away happily.
When the King saw him, he said to his hunters, ‘Follow him all day, until night falls. Do not hurt him.’
When the sun had gone down, the King and his men followed the deer to the little house. Before the deer could knock, the King’s men caught him and covered his mouth. The King went and knocked on the door and said, ‘Little sister, let me in!’
The door opened, and the King went in, and there he saw a beautiful young woman.
The sister shouted when she saw the King instead of the deer. But the King took her hand and said, ‘Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you. Will you come with me to my castle and be my dear wife?’
The sister had been so lonely all these years. This king looked kind, but she did not know if she could trust him. So she said, ‘I will only come if the deer can come too. He must come with me, and you cannot hurt him.’
‘Of course!’ said the King. ‘He will stay with you forever, and he will have much food and drink.’
Then the deer came jumping in, and the sister took him by the golden chain and they went out of the little house.
The King rode with her to his castle, and they had a great wedding. She became Queen, and they lived happily for a long time. Everyone loved the deer and looked after him, and he jumped happily around the castle gardens.
Meanwhile, the children’s stepmother, who had cast the spell on the forest, heard of the wedding. ‘How can it be?’ she said. ‘Surely the brother turned into a tiger and ate his sister? Or surely he became a deer and the hunters killed him?’
In truth, the brother and sister’s happiness did not change her life at all, but she still felt a great jealousy. ‘I will show them,’ she said.
Her own daughter was very ugly, and only had one eye. When she heard about the wedding, she complained to her mother, saying, ‘I want to be queen!’
This gave the stepmother an idea.
The Queen and her brother deer lived happily in the King’s castle. A few months later, the Queen had a baby boy. That day, the King was hunting in the forest. The stepmother went to the castle and changed her shape. She made herself look like a servant, and went into the Queen’s bedroom. The Queen was exhausted from the birth, and she did not notice that it was not really her servant.
‘You are so tired!’ said the stepmother. ‘Come, I have made a bath for you. It will make you feel much better.’
‘Oh no, I would rather stay in bed,’ said the Queen.
‘No, no. The water is getting cold! It really will help you. Come.’
She took the Queen to the bathroom and left her in the bath. The Queen was so tired that she quickly fell asleep. The stepmother then made a great fire under the bath, shut all the windows and locked the door, so that all the air left the room. When the Queen woke up, it was too late, and she died in the bath.
The old stepmother took her daughter and dressed her in the Queen’s clothes. She changed her appearance to look like the Queen, but she could not fix her bad eye. If someone saw her missing eye, they would know it wasn’t the Queen.
‘Lie down on your side in the bed. The King won’t see. He is a stupid man.’
The daughter did what her mother said, because she wanted to be queen.
In the evening, the King came home and heard about his new son. He was overjoyed! He went to his wife’s room to see how she was. The witch saw him and said, ‘Do not open the curtains! She is very weak. She must be kept in the quiet and the dark.’ So the King left, and never knew that a different woman lay in the bed.
The baby slept in a nursery, separate from its mother. Because the “Queen” was sick, a nurse looked after the baby for her. While the baby, and everyone else in the castle, slept, the nurse sat awake. She could not sleep. She had a strange feeling in her stomach. The Queen had been acting… strange since her birth. And whenever the nurse tried to come and speak to her, the Queen’s servant sent her away.
When it turned midnight, someone opened the door to the nursery. The nurse sat right up. It was a woman, but she didn’t know who. And stranger, this woman looked dead. Her clothes were burnt, and her skin was as white as a ghost.
The nurse did not move at all, and the woman did not see her. She went and took the baby out of its bed and fed it. Then she put it back. She also went and stroked the deer, who was lying in the corner.
‘My child and my deer three times I will see,
Twice more I will come, and then the end must be.’
Saying this, she left the room.
The next morning, the nurse asked if anyone had come into the castle at night, but nobody had.
So the nurse went and told the King about the strange woman and what she said, and he said, ‘How strange! I must go and watch the child tomorrow night.’
So the King waited in the nursery, and again the woman appeared at midnight and said,
‘My child and my deer two times I will see,
Once more I will come, and then the end must be.’
She fed the child and stroked the deer, and then left the room. The King was too afraid to say anything. He did not understand. The woman spoke like his wife. But his wife was alive! Yes, she was tired and sick, but the servants were looking after her.
The King tried to see his wife the next day, but the witch stopped him and said, ‘She is far too sick to see! You will have to come back tomorrow.’ And then the King had many important things to do and could not see his wife.
So in the evening, he went back to the nursery. The burnt woman appeared once more, saying,
‘My child and my deer one time I will see,
This time is now, and now the end must be.’
The King was sure now. It was his wife. He jumped up and said, ‘You are my wife!’
The woman looked at him for a long time. She was as white as a ghost, but slowly the colour returned to her face.
‘Yes… I am your wife.’
The King put his arms around her, and felt the life return to her body.
‘You are strong and well again. But if you are here, who lies in your bed and calls herself the Queen?’
So she told the King of the bath and how she had died, and they ran to the Queen’s room. Inside they found the witch and her daughter, talking of riches and stupid kings. When the witch saw the King and his wife she screamed, and her daughter hid under the duvet.
‘I will give you one chance,’ said the King. ‘Tell me what you have done.’
‘She is not the true queen!’ the witch said, pointing at the King’s wife. ‘She is a trick! The true queen is here.’
The King shook his head. ‘I gave you a chance, and you lied to me. Now you will die in a cruel and painful way.’
‘No,’ said the real Queen. ‘Too many people have suffered. I have a better idea. They will go and live alone in the forest, just as me and my brother did for so many years.’
So the witch and her daughter were sent away to the forest. However, the waters were still under her spell. One day, her daughter drank from a certain stream, and turned into a wolf.
‘You idiot!’ cried the witch. ‘I told you not to drink from those streams!’
But the daughter did not understand her. All she knew was that she was a wolf, and she was hungry. The witch tried to run inside the house and hide, but the wolf was too fast, and ate her up. So in the end, she died in a cruel and painful way, just like the King had said.
As soon as the witch died, her spell broke, and the deer turned back into a human. The brother and sister laughed and hugged, and they were a whole family again. The Queen had many children, and they lived happily ever after.
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