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 Mother Holle. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Mother. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Mother. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
So a very Happy New Year to everyone! It is 2020. It is a new decade. “Decade” is a set of 10 years. So we are in the third decade of the 21st century, officially! Phew, that’s a bit scary, actually! But I think this year is going to be excellent. At least, I want it to be excellent. We have to bring a positive energy into the new year, I think. It has been a very bad decade politically but we can always move forward. We have to keep fighting in our own lives and for the good of the world.
So I hope you all had a lovely restful holiday time. If you were working, I hope you have a bit of time to recover from your work and, whatever the case, I hope you are feeling excited and full of energy for 2020. But also, if you’re not feeling excited—maybe you’re feeling a bit sad, tired, depressed—that’s OK! Feel however you want. Just know that Ariel from Easy Stories in English wants you to do well. Sorry, apparently I am in a very good mood today because I am being very positive. Hopefully, some of my positive thoughts will reach you and make you feel good! Some of you might be listening to this in the morning on your way to work and I hope the story and my talk puts you in a good mood for the rest of the day.
As I mentioned before, from the 14th to the 27th of December I was on holiday in Seville, in the south of Spain, and it was amazing! I had such a good time. Possibly one of the best days of my life, and that might sound a bit crazy, but let me tell you why.
When I go on holiday, I like to spend a long time somewhere, so that I can really get to know the area and meet people, and this time I stayed with two different people. So the first person I stayed with was an Esperantist. If you’ve listened to the episode The Boy Who Hoped, you will know that Esperanto is a constructed language for world communication, and just like Couchsurfing—you might know Couchsurfing—there is a website for Esperantists who like travelling, where you can have other Esperantists come to your house and sleep and visit you, and then you can go and visit other Esperantists.
So I stayed with two Esperantists in Seville, who are actually from Venezuela, and I had a lovely time with them. And I even got to try some traditional Venezuelan Christmas food, which are called ayacas. And ayacas—you might have heard of tamales—they’re basically like tamales, like tamales, but they’re Venezuelan and not Mexican. So it’s kind of a cake made of corn and meat and olive and it is wrapped in banana leaves, which are very thick, and then you boil it, you heat it in water, and you take off the leaf and it’s very good.
I also stayed with a friend of a friend of a friend. So there is a group of Spanish people in my city, Bath, and we go out for drinks every week, and one of them used to live in Seville. So she put me in contact with lots of her friends from there. So I stayed with a friend of a friend of hers, and that was also really interesting. I got to experience some of the alternative culture in Seville, some of the political activism, and so on. And that was really interesting because, you know, it’s always interesting to compare the political situation in other countries to your own, and the south of Spain, Andalusia, the region, is generally very politically active but it’s very strongly divided. There are very right-wing people and very left-wing people. Actually, that’s true for all of Spain, to be honest.
Aside from ayacas, I had lots of delicious food. Lots of seafood and fresh, uh, fruits and vegetables and a lot of fried food. I had prawns for the first time. So prawns are a type of seafood and you have to pull off the head and tail before you eat it. I also had churros. We have churros, or “churros”, as it sounds with an English accent! We do have them here but it’s not the same. In Spain you can find churros everywhere. Churros are basically long fried sticks of dough and you dip them in hot chocolate and it’s very tasty, but it’s very heavy. It’s a lot to eat. I ate three churros while I was there, like three sets of churros, and then I thought, “Ugh, no! I can’t have anymore! It’s too much.” So I think next time I need to eat less churros but make sure they’re special churros.
Seville also has beautiful architecture, beautiful buildings. For a long part of Spanish history, the region of Spain and Portugal was controlled by an Arabic group of people called the moors. So throughout Spain, but especially in the south, there is a lot of Arabic and Islamic architecture. However, Spain is a very Catholic country, and religion is very important there. So in Seville, you find a very interesting mixture of Christian churches and Islamic castles and mosques—very interesting.
The weather was lovely. So Seville is the warmest city in Europe, so in winter it’s just a lovely time to go. Every day it was between 15 and 20 degrees, and keep in mind in the UK in summer 20 degrees is quite nice weather, so for me it was the perfect temperature, and I was even walking around on the 25th of December, on Christmas Day, and it was sunny and warm and it was just so lovely. You don’t get that in England, let me tell you.
So, I am full of food, full of energy and ready for the new year!
While I was in Seville, I also took quite a few photos. So I have a digital camera, and I really feel like I learned how to take artistic photos during my stay. So if you go to the transcript for this episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Mother, I will include a link to a photo gallery with all of my photos from Seville, if you want to have a look.
OK, so I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
A widow is a woman who was married, but while she was married, her husband died.
A stepmother is not your biological mother. So, let’s say your parents have you, but then your father gets divorced, he ends his marriage, and he married another woman. That woman is now your stepmother. And if he and she have a child together, that child will be your stepsister. And of course, the daughter of a stepmother is a stepdaughter.
“Treat” is how you act towards someone. So when we talk to children, we treat them differently to how we treat adults. We don’t make them do very difficult things, and usually we treat them nicer. If you are a good person, you probably treat animals and children well. And if you treat animals and children badly, if you are mean to them, then you’re probably a bad person. But don’t worry, I don’t think anyone who listens to this podcast is a bad person!
A well is a hole in the ground. Usually it has stones around it. And it’s very deep, and in the hole is water. So wells were ways of getting water in the past. Now we have sinks and taps and showers, but in the past you had to go to the well and put a bucket in the well to get out water. In fairy tales, there are often wishing wells. Wishing wells are magic wells and if you throw a coin in and make a wish, it might just come true.
“Spin” is another thing that we don’t really do now, very much. It was a way of making materials like wool in the past. And I don’t really understand how spinning works, but you’re taking long thin bits of the material and using a machine, like a spinning wheel, to turn them into material for clothes. As I said, you can use a spinning wheel to spin, but if you don’t have a spinning wheel, you will have to use your hands and a spindle. So a spindle is a tool that you use to spin thread.
“Dip” is when you put something into water, or a liquid like milk or coffee or tea, for a bit of time. You dip things in water to clean them or to make them soft. British people, as you know, love tea, and we also love biscuits, or cookies, as Americans say. So we love to dip biscuits into our tea because then the biscuits are nice and soft and they so good and warm! But you have to be careful, because if you dip your biscuit too long into the tea it will break and fall to the bottom of the cup. And then when you finish your tea there is all this horrible, soft biscuits at the bottom. So, dip carefully! Dip carefully…
Darkness is when it’s dark, when there is no light. So there is darkness at night if you turn off all the lights, of course. These days, with streetlights and phones, we actually don’t experience complete darkness very often. Obviously, we want darkness when we go to sleep, though.
A feather is a part of a bird. So birds’ wings are made of lots of feathers, and you can pull feathers out. Actually, if you’re going to eat a bird, such as a chicken or a turkey, you have to take out all the feathers first. In the past, we used feathers to write with. So we sharpened the ends of feathers and used them as pens. Nowadays, you use feathers, such as goose feathers, to put inside pillows and coats to make them nice and warm.
A rooster is a male chicken. So a boy chicken. Roosters are known for crying in the morning. They make a noise like cock-a-doodle-do! Or, well, that’s my version of a rooster. I don’t know if it sounds really like a rooster! They cry very early in the morning. We also sometimes call roosters “cocks”.
Finally, tar is a thick black material. When it is wet, you can pour it, but when it goes hard, it is very hard to move it. So tar, in the past, was used to make roads, and you definitely don’t want tar on your skin, because it’s very difficult to get tar off your skin, and it looks very ugly.
If you enjoy the podcast and want more, you can support us on Patreon. For just $2 a month you can get exercises with each episode, and for $5 you get an extra story every month. You can support us at Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish. That’s Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish.
Today I have the lovely Christmas present of lots of new patrons! So thank you so much all of the new patrons, who are: Ngân Phạm, Miroslav Pokorný, Vien Nguyen, Maciej Łącki and Tomáš Janoušek. That was quite a difficult mixture, I have to say! A few Vietnamese, and a few Czech, a Polish one… I love learning how to pronounce different languages, though, so I’m very happy that we have such an international audience!
OK, so listen and enjoy!
Once there was a widow with two daughters. One was pretty and hard working, and the other was ugly and lazy. The ugly one was her own daughter, whereas the pretty one was her stepdaughter. She loved her own daughter the most, so she treated her very well, but the pretty one had to do all the work in the house.
Every day the poor girl had to sit by a well and spin until her fingers bled. When they did bleed, she dipped the spindle into the well to wash it, but one time it slipped out of her hand and fell into the water.
The girl began to cry, and ran to her stepmother. But her stepmother just told her off and said, ‘You dropped it in, so you have to take it out!’
The girl went back to the well, not knowing what to do. She was a bad swimmer, and the water was very deep. But if she came home without the spindle, her stepmother would surely beat her.
So she took a deep breath and jumped into the well. She swam down and down, into the darkness, and everything went black. When she woke up, she was in a beautiful field, and the sun was shining on the flowers all around her.
“How strange,” she thought. “I was in the well, and now I am here. Have I died?”
Since she could not know, she decided to walk. She walked until she came to a big baker’s oven. The oven was full of bread, and the bread called out to her, ‘Oh, take me out, take me out! If you don’t take me out, I will burn!’
So she put on some oven gloves and pulled the loaves of bread out of the oven.
Then she kept walking, until she came to a tree heavy with apples. The tree called out to her, ‘Oh, shake me, shake me! My apples are ready to be eaten!’
So she shook the tree until the apples fell like rain, and one by one the apples all fell down.
Then she kept walking, and finally she came to a little house. There was an old woman outside with huge teeth, and the girl almost ran away, but the old woman called her back.
‘Why are you afraid, my dear child? Come and live with me. If you do all the housework well, things will go well for you. Make sure you shake my pillow well every morning, so that the feathers fly about. You see, when the feathers in my pillow are shaken, it snows out in the world.’
‘What is your name?’ asked the girl.
‘I am Mother Holle.’
The woman sounded very kind, so the girl agreed and went to work. She did everything just like the old woman said, and shook her pillow very hard indeed. She lived a good life, and the old woman never told her off.
When she had lived a long time with Mother Holle, she began to feel sad. She could not think why, until she realised that she missed her home. Even though she was a thousand times better off here, she still missed her mother and her sister.
At last she said to Mother Holle, ‘I miss my home, and although I am very well off here, I cannot stay any longer. I must go back to my own home.’
Mother Holle answered, ‘I am happy that you want to go home. As you have served me well, I will send you there!’
She took her hand and led her to a large door, and when the girl walked through it she was showered with gold. The gold covered her whole body and stuck to her.
‘All this is yours, because you worked so hard,’ said Mother Holle. Then she gave her back her spindle, the one she had dropped in the well. And then the door closed, and the little girl found herself back in the world, not far from her mother’s house. As she walked through the garden, the rooster cried:
Our golden girl has come home, too!’
Then she went in to find her mother, who was very happy to see her, as she was covered with gold.
The girl told her the story, and her mother decided she wanted her ugly and lazy daughter to have the same riches. So she sent her to sit by the well and spin.
But of course, the girl was lazy, so instead of spinning until her hand bled, she cut her hand with a knife. Then she threw the spindle into the well and jumped in.
She found herself, like her sister, in the beautiful field, and followed the same path.
When she came to the baker’s over, the bread cried out, ‘Oh, take me out, take me out! If you don’t take me out, I will burn!’
But the lazy girl answered, ‘I don’t want to get my hands all black,’ and kept on walking.
Soon she came to the apple tree, who called out, ‘Oh, shake me, shake me! My apples are ready to be eaten!’
But she answered, ‘No way! What if one of your apples falls on my head? It’s too dangerous,’ and she kept on walking.
When she came to Mother Holle’s house she did not feel afraid, as she knew about her huge teeth, and she agreed to help her at once.
The first day, she worked hard, and did everything as Mother Holle said, because she dreamed about the gold she would receive. The second day, however, she started to get lazy, and the third day even more, and finally she did not even get up in the morning. Nor did she shake Mother Holle’s pillow in the right way.
Mother Holle soon grew tired of the girl, and warned her that she would not be staying there for long. This pleased the girl, who thought she would soon get her shower of gold and go home. So she waited until Mother Holle led her to the large door, and she walked through it with her arms held out wide, ready to be showered with gold.
But instead of a shower of gold, a huge kettle full of tar was poured over her.
‘That is the reward for your “help”,’ said Mother Holle, and shut the door.
So the lazy girl came home all covered with tar, and the rooster saw her and cried:
Our dirty girl has come home too!’
And the tar stuck close to her, and never, for the rest of her whole life, could she get it off.
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