There was an old woman who lived on a hill. You never heard of any one smaller or neater than she was. She always wore a black dress and a large white apron with big bows behind.
Excerpt from the publication: Nature myths and stories for little children – by Cooke, Flora J. (Flora Juliette), 1864-1953 / Publication date [c1895] / Publisher: A. Flanagan – Chicago
On her head was the queerest little red bonnet that you ever saw.
It is a sad thing to tell, but this woman ‘had grown very selfish as the years went by.
People said this was because she lived alone and thought of nobody but herself.
One morning as she was baking cakes, a tired, hungry man came to her door.
” My good woman,”
” will you give me one of your cakes? I am very hungry. I have no money to pay for it, but whatever you first wish for you shall have, “
The old woman looked at her cakes and thought that they were too large to give away. She broke off a small bit of dough and put it into the oven to bake.
When it was done she thought this one was too nice and brown for a beggar.
She baked a smaller one and then a smaller one, but each one was as nice and brown as the first.
At last she took a piece of dough only as big as the head of a pin; yet even this, when it was baked, looked as fine and large as the others.
So the old woman put all the cakes on the shelf and offered the stranger a dry crust of bread.
The poor man only looked at her and before she could wink her eye he was gone.
She had done wrong and of course she was unhappy.
“Oh, I wish I were a bird!”
“I would fly to him with the largest cake on the shelf.”
As she spoke she felt herself growing smaller and smaller until the wind whisked her up the chimney.
She was no longer an old woman but a bird as she had wished to be. She still wore her black dress and red bonnet. She still seemed to have the large white apron with the big bows behind.
Because from that day she pecked her food from the hardwood of a tree, people named this bird the red-heade’d wood-pecker.