In 1816, the folktale collector Wilhelm Grimm wrote to a young girl, Mili, a letter that included a story. The letter was preserved by the family; its existence was made public knowledge in 1983. This first published edition in English is translated by Ralph Manheim and illustrated by Maurice Sendak.
The story’s unnamed protagonist is a little girl “who was always obedient and said her prayers.” She lives with her mother, a widow, who marvels at her child’s good fortune: “My child must have a guardian angel.” When war comes, the anxious mother sends her into the forest and entrusts her to God’s care. Guided by an unseen angel, the little girl endures a fearful storm and presses on until she finds a cottage. The old man who lives there--who is actually Saint Joseph--welcomes her and sets her simple tasks. She spends three happy days with him, working and playing with a beautiful little girl who resembles her--actually her guardian angel. As he finally sends her away, Joseph presents her with a rosebud, promising, “When this rose blooms, you will be with me again.” Her angel-friend is there to guide her back to her village. Surprised to find it much changed, the little girl makes her way to her mother’s house. An old woman sitting outside raises her arms in welcome; it is then that the child finds that what to her seemed three days has been thirty years: “All the fear and misery her mother had suffered during the great war had passed...
(The entire section is 552 words.)