A king once had a wife who was the most beautiful woman in the world. She fell ill, and knowing she was about to die, sent for the king and asked him not to marry again until he found someone as beautiful as she was.
The king gave his promise, whereupon she closed her eyes and died. Griefstricken, he refused to take another wife until his counsellors insisted. He consented, and messengers set out to find another women of the dead queen's equal.
The king also had a daughter who was as beautiful as the dead queen. She had been growing up, and very soon, the king noticed how she resembled the queen. He decided, over everyone's protests, that he would marry her.
The princess agreed to marry him provided he gave her three things: a dress as golden as the sun, a dress as silvery as the moon and a dress as glittering as the stars. Besides this, she also asked for a mantle made from a thousand skins sewn together, and that a piece of skin be taken from every animal in the kingdom. When this was done, she saw how determined he was to wed her, so she ran away from the castle. (In Perrault variation, she asks for the skin off a donkey who spat gold pieces)
In the night, she took her gold ring, gold spinning-wheel and gold hook. She folded the dresses up and put them in a walnut shell. Then she put on the skins and left. Going to a nearby kingdom, she obtained work in the scullery. Soon after she arrived, there was a great ball. She put on the dress that shone like the sun, and went out and danced with the king, but after the dance was over, she disappeared.
Going back to the kitchens, she was ordered to cook soup for the king. She did so, putting her golden ring in the soup. When he drank it, he saw the ring, but she denied any knowledge of it when he questioned her. A short time later, there was another ball, which she attended in the dress as silver as the moon. She cooked the soup again, this time putting her golden spinning wheel in the bowl, and again denied knowledge of it when the king questioned her.
At the third ball, she put on her dress that glittered like the stars. This time, the king contrived to slip a ring on her finger without her notice. He tried to keep her longer by ordering that the dancing last longer than usual, but at the end of it, she still disappeared. Running back to the kitchens, she had no time to undress, so she put her mantle over her dress. When she took the soup into the king's room, he saw the ring on her finger. Instantly, he caught hold of her hand, holding fast to it. In the struggle, her mantle fell off, and the glittering dress was plainly seen. She told him all that had happened to her, and that she was as he suspected, a princess. They were married and lived happily ever after.