Long ago there was a man who lost his wife and lived with his little girl named Tam. Then he married again a wicked woman. The little girl found this out on the first day after the wedding. There was a big banquet in the house, but Tam was shut up in a room all by herself instead of being allowed to welcome the guests and attend the feast.
Moreover, she had to go to bed without any supper.
Things grew worse when a new baby girl was born in the house. The step-mother adored Cam - for Cam was the name of the baby girl - and she told her husband so many lies about poor Tam that he would not have anything more to do with the latter.
"Go and stay away in the kitchen and take care of yourself, you naughty child," said the wicked woman to Tam.
And she gave the little girl a dirty wretched place in the kitchen, and it was there that Tam was to live and work. At night, she was given a torn mat and a ragged sheet as bed and coverlet. She had to rub the floors, cut the wood, feed the animals, do all the cooking, the washing up and many other things. Her poor little soft hands had large blisters, but she bore the pain without complaint. Her step-mother also sent her to deep forests to gather wood with the secret hope that the wild beasts might carry her off. She asked Tam to draw water from dangerously deep wells so that she might get drowned one day. The poor little Tam worked and worked all day till her skin became swarthy and her hair entangled. But Sometimes she went to the well to draw water, looked at herself in it, and was frightened to realize how dark and ugly she was. She then got some water in the hollow of her hand, washed her face and combed her long smooth hair with her fingers, and the soft white skin appeared again, and she looked very pretty indeed.
When the step-mother realized how pretty Tam could look, she hated her more than ever, and wished to do her more harm. One day, she asked Tam and her own daughter Cam to go fishing in the village...