My picture book The Princess Mouse describes how Mikko’s father tests his future daughters-in-law by having them weave some cloth. But in the original folktale, another test comes first. Here is that first test, which I had to take out so the picture book wouldn’t get too long.—Aaron
“Well!” said the farmer. “It sounds like Mikko’s tree pointed a good way too! But now I must test both your sweethearts. Tomorrow you’ll ask them to bake you some bread, then you’ll bring it home to me. That’s how we’ve done it, and that’s how we always will.”
They started out early next morning. When Mikko reached the cottage in the woods, there was the little mouse on the table. She jumped up and down and clapped her tiny paws.
“Oh, Mikko, I’m so glad you’re here! Is this the day of our wedding?”
Mikko gently stroked her fur. “Not yet, little mouse,” he said glumly.
“Why, Mikko, you look so sad! What’s wrong?”
“My father wants you to bake some bread. But how can you do that? You’re only a mouse!”
“That may be true,” she said, “but I’m also your sweetheart, and surely Mikko’s sweetheart can bake! But you must be tired from your walk. Why don’t you rest while I work?”
“All right,” said Mikko, yawning. He lay down on a bed in the corner, and the little mouse sang him a pretty lullaby.
“Mikko’s sweetheart will I be.
What a fine young man is he!
Loaf of wheat bread I will bake.
I’ll be done when he must wake.”
When the little mouse was sure that Mikko was asleep, she picked up a sleigh bell on a cord and rang it. Out of mouseholes all around the room poured hundreds of mice. They all stood before the table, gazing up at her.
“Hurry!” she said. “Each of you, fetch a grain of the finest wheat.”
The mice rushed from the cottage but returned before long, each with a grain of wheat. First they ground it into flour in the mill. Then they mixed the dough, kneaded it, and formed the loaf. While the bread rose, they cleaned up all the dough and flour—from themselves too! Then they put the loaf in the oven and started the fire.
“Now, off with you!” said the little mouse, and they all scampered back to their mouseholes.
When the bread smelled good and done, the little mouse called, “Mikko, wake up! Will you take out the loaf?”
Mikko sleepily opened the oven door, then his eyes grew wide. He turned and stared in wonder at the little mouse.
She said, “Didn’t I tell you Mikko’s sweetheart could bake?”
When Mikko got home, his brother was proudly presenting the bread from his sweetheart. The farmer cut a slice and tasted it. “Rye bread. Just fine for simple folk like us.”
Then he tasted Mikko’s loaf. “Wheat bread! Mikko truly has found a rich sweetheart!”
Mikko’s brother turned red.
“And now,” said the farmer, “I will test your sweethearts once more. Tomorrow you’ll ask them to weave you some cloth, then you’ll bring it home to me. That’s how we’ve done it, and that’s how we always will.”