Once upon a time...
there was, far away amid high mountains, a green valley. The valley was crossed by a clear stream and a woodsman had built his stone house on its shore. The woodsman was married and had seven sons and one daughter.
He often had to travel from home to work and his wife had a hard time bringing up the children alone. The daughter did not cause her any trouble because she was kind, pretty and helpful. But the boys were the cause of her problems because they were rude, disobedient and quarrelsome. They had no respect for their mother and she was very worried for them.
When the husband returned home tired after a week's hard work, the poor wife couldn't bring herself to tell him of the sons' mischievous behavior because she didn't want to worry him further. The woman kept her sorrow to herself not realizing that by doing so her sons would only get worse and worse. As a matter of fact, when their father was not home to punish them, the boys kept on taking advantage of the situation which continued to get worse.
Their sister suffered most because she loved her brothers even if they were wicked, but she loved her mother especially. Being the youngest, however, none of the brothers paid any attention to her reprimands.
One day the seven boys got into the biggest trouble yet. In the woods grew a dangerous grass which causes the animals stomachs to swell. The woodsman had always told his sons to make sure that their goats never ate any. The cruel boys filled a bag with the grass and then mixed it in with the animals' food. Later on the goats and the cow fell ill, their bellies swelled and ached and they could not stand up.
"We won't have any more milk! We won't be able to make any cheese!"
the mother cried desperately. "How will we survive? The sons laughed maliciously and did not realize the evil they had done until the woman, at the height of her desperation, cried:
"I wish you were crows rather than sons of mine!" When she spoke these words, a mysterious cloud overshadowed the sun, it was suddenly very chilly and the boys turned into seven big crows that flew away croaking.
The woman was so frightened and felt such regret that she fainted. When the father came back from work the day after, he found out the truth and was very upset. Nevertheless he tried to comfort his wife, telling her she was not to blame for the terrible wish that had been fulfilled. But the house was filled with sadness and despair.
A long time passed and the little girl grew older. She still remembered her brothers and rarely smiled. One day she asked her mother's permission to go and look for them.
"I will find them, I feel it. I feel I have to go and that they are expecting me. Let me go, Mother, and give me your blessing."The mother could not resist her daughter's pleas and the little girl left home with a little bundle of provisions. She walked for two days through the woods, climbing towards the mountains. Pretty soon she had no more food , her clothes were torn and she was cold and tired.
The third day, at dawn, she saw a strange little cottage in the mist. Something attracted her to the house even though it had a gloomy and uninviting appearance. When she was inside the house she found a little table with seven bowls on it and her heart beat very fast . . . maybe she had found what she was looking for. There was a large pot full of wheat and oats on the fire.
The little girl was very hungry and so she poured a bit of food in a bowl and ate it avidly. Then she went upstairs and found a little bedroom with seven little beds, each one with a different blanket. With tears in her eyes, the little girl realized she had finally found her brothers. Exhausted by the trip and the commotion, the little girl lay down on a bed and fell asleep.
Later on, seven chattering crows pushed open the front door and sat around the kitchen table.
"Someone has eaten some of our soup," one of the crows said after finding
"But who would ever come up here?" answered another.
"We're condemned to be alone on these mountains forever."
"Nobody will ever come to look for us." When they finished eating, the crows pulled on their sleeping caps, went upstairs and found the little girl in one of their beds.
"But this is . . ." one of the crows said, after delicately touching her braid with his beak.
"That's right, this is . . . our sister," they said all together. At that moment the little girl opened her eyes and when she saw herself surrounded by the big and ugly birds, she was frightened. But out of one ugly beak spoke a kind voice:
"Are you our sister?" The little girl got up and opened her arms:
"I've found you! I've found you! We're together again at last!" The seven crows looked at her sadly and one said:
"Don't we frighten and disgust you?" The girl hugged every one of them.
"I love you very much and even if you've turned into crows you're still my brothers." When they heard this, the crows were moved and began crying.
"Why don't you come back home with me?" she asked.
"We would like very much to come back," they all answered together, "and we regret our evil ways. But how can we show ourselves to our parentslike this?"
"Mother would accept you all the same, I am sure of it. She keeps crying and thinking of you," the little girl answered. The little girl insisted and convinced her brothers to come home with her.
"There's no need to walk back up and down the mountains like you did. We will fly there and carry you," they said. As they were about to leave, the youngest brother said,
"Wait a minute! Let's bring Mother all the sparkling stones we found as a present."
"They are really beautiful," the little girl said when she saw the bag with her brothers' treasure.
"Do you like them? They might be precious, you know. When we crows see something sparkle, we cannot help ourselves and take it."
"This one sparkles more than the rest, maybe it's a diamond." They finally left. The world was very different from above. At first the little girl was scared, but the seven crows held her firmly and flew safely. Then they saw the valley, the stream and the little house where they were born. The courtyard was deserted and when they landed the little girl said,
"You wait here and I'll go and call Mother."
She silently went into the kitchen and saw the poor woman leaning on the table and weeping. She hugged her and kissed her saying,
"Mother I'm back and I have a big surprise for you."
"You're here at last! I thought I'd lost you forever." The poor woman was so happy and moved that she didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. In the courtyard she found the crows.
"My poor sons! I missed you so much. I am so sorry to have uttered that curse. A mother should never say such things against her children."
"We regret all we have done too. We very much regret our wickedness." They were all crying over the past when, suddenly, another miracle occurred. The seven brothers became boys again. The father, who had heard voices, ran out of the house.
"Thank God I can see my children again," he cried as he hugged his sons and his daughter.
The years passed and the crows' hats became the only memory of this moving story.
The stones the crows had brought to their mother turned out to be precious after all, and the treasure allowed the family to live a better future.