In a little hut on the kingdom’s edge, there lived an old weaver woman. Her head was so old that she had long forgotten her name, and her fingers were so worked that they knew only how to weave, and they wove well, and quickly. The people of the village nearby said that in a single night, she could weave a rug that would cover the palace floor.
Many spoke this, but none expected for a prince to appear one afternoon looking to test this claim. “My brother and I vie for the hand of a foreign princess from warmer lands,” the prince told the weaver woman. “My brother tends to her with gifts of gems and sweets, all things she can find in greater abundance in her homeland. Only I have noticed that she walks like a cripple. Her feet are cold on the marble floors of the palace. I need a rug that will fill all the floors of all the rooms of my entire home, and I need it quickly, before she settles for my foolish sibling or heads home without a husband.”
The weaver woman had grown too old to care who was a prince and who was a pauper, and she didn’t give much thought to time anymore, for she had little of it. “I will weave, so take your leave, and by the morrow, what you seek you shall receive.”
Satisfied with this answer, the prince promised her many coins and left the little village. The old weaver woman went on weaving what worked through her loom already, without a muscle’s movement toward starting the prince’s new project.
Later in the day, another man appeared at the weaver’s door, and he happened to be another prince. “My brother and I vie for the hand of a foreign princess from warmer lands,” he said, and went on to tell her of misgiven gems and sweets, of a princess to be wed who had cold feet, and his need for a rug that could fill the palace’s every floor.
The weaver woman had grown too old to care who was a lover and who wanted to be loved, and she didn’t give much thought to time anymore, for she had little of it. “I will weave, so take your leave, and by the morrow, what you seek you shall receive.”
The other prince left her home, with other promises of payment, and the weaving woman went on weaving, as if there had been no visitor at all.
Near the evening there came another to her door, only this person came hidden in flowing cloaks. “Are you the weaver they say can weave a rug that fills a palace in a single night?”
“I am the weaving woman,” the weaver said.
The stranger took this as confirmation and revealed her face. “I am the princess who they seek. I have made excuses time and again about what a cold place this kingdom is, and how I long to return home. I do not wish to marry either of these brothers. Only now have they noticed my complaints, perhaps thinking them their own ideas, and now they’ve come to you, thinking a rug can cure my cold feet, and that’ll be the end of it. I beg of you, weaving woman, do not make their rug.”
“I will weave, so take your leave, and by the morrow, what you seek you shall receive.”
The princess approached the weaver and the loom where wool spun. “No, you don’t understand. I wish for you not to weave.”
The weaver woman went on weaving, as if no one had spoken, not even the wind.
The princess grew angry and seized the old woman’s hands. “You will stop this at once or I’ll fetch my guards to shorten your arms at the wrists!”
This princess came from a kingdom far away. She did not know that the weaver’s head was so old that she had long forgotten her name, which didn’t matter to the princess, and the princess did not know that the weaver’s fingers were so worked that they knew only how to weave. They did not know how to stop. The weaver fed the princess’s seizing hands into the loom. Quickly her sleeves caught in it, and then the rest of her cloaks. She began screaming while the weaver went on weaving, and her fingers fed the princess into the loom, from her pretty dark hair to her pretty cold feet. And her fingers wove well, and quickly.
The morrow came and the princes appeared on the weaver’s doorstep at the same time. She had worked tirelessly through the night, for she was too old to care for feeling tired anymore, and fed the rug through the door, onto the princes’ many carts.
“Well done,” the princes said together. “With this rug, I will surely have the princess.” The two quickly realized they had asked for the same gift, and the weaver couldn’t tell them whose gift had been finished, for she knew of only one palace and one rug for its floors. The princes began to banter over who would give this gift, and even drew their swords on each other, and then a strange piece of the rug passed their sight.
“That section appears made of hair, flesh, and a different cloth,” said one.
“And familiar shades of those parts as well,” said the other. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say she reminds me of the princess.”
“I may have found materials in a young girl who sought not to marry,” the weaver said. “Now she never will, and yet she belongs to the two of you.”
The princes hurried into the weaver’s hut, where they found bits of wool mixed with blood and bones. Their swords turned upon the owner of the hut who had woven their princess into a rug, but they went unnoticed. The weaver woman didn’t give much thought to time, for she had little of it, and she had grown too old to care who was royalty and who was a rug.