The Brown Fairy Book
The Enchanted Head
Once upon a time an old woman lived in a small cottage near the sea with her two
daughters. They were very poor, and the girls seldom left the house, as they worked all
day long making veils for the ladies to wear over their faces, and every morning, when
the veils were finished, the other took them over the bridge and sold them in the city.
Then she bought the food that they needed for the day, and returned home to do her share
One morning the old woman rose even earlier than usual, and set off for the city with her
wares. She was just crossing the bridge when, suddenly, she knocked up against a human
head, which she had never seen there before. The woman started back in horror; but what
was her surprise when the head spoke, exactly as if it had a body joined on to it.
'Take me with you, good mother!' it said imploringly; 'take me with you back to your
At the sound of these words the poor woman nearly went mad with terror. Have that
horrible thing always at home? Never! never! And she turned and ran back as fast as she
could, not knowing that the head was jumping, dancing, and rolling after her. But when
she reached her own door it bounded in before her, and stopped in front of the fire,
begging and praying to be allowed to stay.
All that day there was no food in the house, for the veils had not been sold, and they had
no money to buy anything with. So they all sat silent at their work, inwardly cursing the
head which was the cause of their misfortunes.
When evening came, and there was no sign of supper, the head spoke, for the first time
'Good mother, does no one ever eat here? During all the hours I have spent in your house
not a creature has touched anything.'
'No,' answered the old woman, 'we are not eating anything.'
'And why not, good mother?'
'Because we have no money to buy any food.'
'Is it your custom never to eat?'
'No, for every morning I go into the city to sell my veils, and with the few shillings I get
for them I buy all we want. To-day I did not cross the bridge, so of course I had nothing