There was once a woman who wished very much to have a little child, but she coul not obtain her wish. At last she went to a fairy, and said, “I should so very much like t have a little child; can you tell me where I can find one?Continue reading →
In a large town there was an old woman who sat in the evening alone in her room thinking how she had lost first her husband, then both her children, then one by one all her relations, and at length, that very day, her last friend, and now she was quite alone and desolate. She was very sad at heart, and heaviest of all her losses to her was that of her sons; and in her pain she blamed God for it. She was still sitting lost in thought, when all at once she heard the bells ringing for early prayer. She was surprised that she had thus in her sorrow watched through the whole night, and lighted her lantern and went to church. It was already lighted up when she arrived, but not as it usually was with wax candles, but with a dim light. It was also crowded already with people, and all the seats were filled; and when the old woman got to her usual place it also was not empty, but the whole bench was entirely full. And when she looked at the people, they were none other than her dead relations who were sitting there in their old-fashioned garments, but with pale faces. They neither spoke nor sang; but a soft humming and whispering was heard all over the church. Then an aunt of hers stood up, stepped forward, and said to the poor old woman, “Look there beside the altar, and thou wilt see thy sons.” The old woman looked there, and saw her two children, one hanging on the gallows, the other bound to the wheel. Then said the aunt, “Behold, so would it have been with them if they had lived, and if the good God had not taken them to himself when they were innocent children.” The old woman went trembling home, and on her knees thanked God for having dealt with her more kindly than she had been able to understand, and on the third day she lay down and died.Continue reading →
One day an old man and his wife were sitting in front of a miserable house resting a while from their work. Suddenly a splendid carriage with four black horses came driving up, and a richly-dressed man descended from it. The peasant stood up, went to the great man, and asked what he wanted, and in what way he could be useful to him? The stranger stretched out his hand to the old man, and said, “I want nothing but to enjoy for once a country dish; cook me some potatoes, in the way you always have them, and then I will sit down at your table and eat them with pleasure.” The peasant smiled and said, “You are a count or a prince, or perhaps even a duke; noble gentlemen often have such fancies, but you shall have your wish.” The wife went into the kitchen, and began to wash and rub the potatoes, and to make them into balls, as they are eaten by the country-folks. Whilst she was busy with this work, the peasant said to the stranger, “Come into my garden with me for a while, I have still something to do there.” He had dug some holes in the garden, and now wanted to plant some trees in them. “Have you no children,” asked the stranger, “who could help you with your work?” – “No,” answered the peasant, “I had a son, it is true, but it is long since he went out into the world. He was a ne’er-do-well; sharp, and knowing, but he would learn nothing and was full of bad tricks, at last he ran away from me, and since then I have heard nothing of him.”
The old man took a young tree, put it in a hole, drove in a post beside it, and when he had shovelled in some earth and had trampled it firmly down, he tied the stem of the tree above, below, and in the middle, fast to the post by a rope of straw. “But tell me,” said the stranger, “why you don’t tie that crooked knotted tree, which is lying in the corner there, bent down almost to the ground, to a post also that it may grow straight, as well as these?” The old man smiled and said, “Sir, you speak according to your knowledge, it is easy to see that you are not familiar with gardening. That tree there is old, and mis-shapen, no one can make it straight now. Trees must be trained while they are young.” – “That is how it was with your son,” said the stranger, “if you had trained him while he was still young, he would not have run away; now he too must have grown hard and mis-shapen.” – “Truly it is a long time since he went away,” replied the old man, “he must have changed.” – “Would you know him again if he were to come to you?” asked the stranger. “Hardly by his face,” replied the peasant, “but he has a mark about him, a birth-mark on his shoulder, that looks like a bean.” When he had said that the stranger pulled off his coat, bared his shoulder, and showed the peasant the bean. “Good God!” cried the old man, “Thou art really my son!” and love for his child stirred in his heart. “But,” he added, “how canst thou be my son, thou hast become a great lord and livest in wealth and luxury? How hast thou contrived to do that?” – “Ah, father,” answered the son, “the young tree was bound to no post and has grown crooked, now it is too old, it will never be straight again. How have I got all that? I have become a thief, but do not be alarmed, I am a master-thief. For me there are neither locks nor bolts, whatsoever I desire is mine. Do not imagine that I steal like a common thief, I only take some of the superfluity of the rich. Poor people are safe, I would rather give to them than take anything from them. It is the same with anything which I can have without trouble, cunning and dexterity I never touch it.” – “Alas, my son,” said the father, “it still does not please me, a thief is still a thief, I tell thee it will end badly.” He took him to his mother, and when she heard that was her son, she wept for joy, but when he told her that he had become a master-thief, two streams flowed down over her face. At length she said, “Even if he has become a thief, he is still my son, and my eyes have beheld him once more.” They sat down to table, and once again he ate with his parents the wretched food which he had not eaten for so long. The father said, “If our Lord, the count up there in the castle, learns who thou art, and what trade thou followest, he will not take thee in his arms and cradle thee in them as he did when he held thee at the font, but will cause thee to swing from a halter.” – “Be easy, father, he will do me no harm, for I understand my trade. I will go to him myself this very day.” When evening drew near, the master-thief seated himself in his carriage, and drove to the castle. The count received him civilly, for he took him for a distinguished man. When, however, the stranger made himself known, the count turned pale and was quite silent for some time. At length he said, “Thou art my godson, and on that account mercy shall take the place of justice, and I will deal leniently with thee. Since thou pridest thyself on being a master-thief, I will put thy art to the proof, but if thou dost not stand the test, thou must marry the rope-maker’s daughter, and the croaking of the raven must be thy music on the occasion.” – “Lord count,” answered the master-thief, “Think of three things, as difficult as you like, and if I do not perform your tasks, do with me what you will.” The count reflected for some minutes, and then said, “Well, then, in the first place, thou shalt steal the horse I keep for my own riding, out of the stable; in the next, thou shalt steal the sheet from beneath the bodies of my wife and myself when we are asleep, without our observing it, and the wedding-ring of my wife as well; thirdly and lastly, thou shalt steal away out of the church, the parson and clerk. Mark what I am saying, for thy life depends on it.”
When God had created the world and was about to fix the length of each creature’s life, the ass came and asked, “Lord, how long shall I live?” – “Thirty years,” replied God; “does that content thee?” – “Ah, Lord,” answered the ass, “that is a long time. Think of my painful existence! To carry heavy burdens from morning to night, to drag sacks of corn to the mill, that others may eat bread, to be cheered and refreshed with nothing but blows and kicks. Relieve me of a portion of this long time.” Then God had pity on him and relieved him of eighteen years. The ass went away comforted, and the dog appeared. “How long wouldst thou like to live?” said God to him. “Thirty years are too many for the ass, but thou wilt be satisfied with that.” – “Lord,” answered the dog, “is that thy will? Consider how I shall have to run, my feet will never hold out so long, and when I have once lost my voice for barking, and my teeth for biting, what will be left for me to do but run from one corner to another and growl?” God saw that he was right, and released him from twelve years of life. Then came the monkey. “Thou wilt certainly live thirty years willingly?” said the Lord to him. “Thou hast no need to work as the ass and the dog have to do, and wilt always enjoy thyself.” – “Ah! Lord,” he answered, “it may seem as if that were the case, but it is quite different. When it rains porridge I have no spoon. I am always to play merry pranks, and make faces which force people to laugh, and if they give me an apple, and I bite into it, why it is sour! How often sadness hides itself behind mirth! I shall never be able to hold out for thirty years.” God was gracious and took off ten.
At last man appeared, joyous, healthy and vigorous, and begged God to appoint his time for him. “Thirty years shalt thou live,” said the Lord. “Is that enough for thee?” – “What a short time,” cried man, “when I have built my house and my fire burns on my own hearth; when I have planted trees which blossom and bear fruit, and am just intending to enjoy my life, I am to die! O Lord, lengthen my time.” – “I will add to it the ass’s eighteen years,” said God. “That is not enough,” replied the man. “Thou shalt also have the dog’s twelve years.” – “Still too little!” – “Well, then,” said God, “I will give thee the monkey’s ten years also, but more thou shalt not have.” The man went away, but was not satisfied.
Three women were changed into flowers which grew in the field, but one of them was allowed to be in her own home at night. Then once when day was drawing near, and she was forced to go back to her companions in the field and become a flower again, she said to her husband: “If thou wilt come this afternoon and gather me, I shall be set free and henceforth stay with thee.” And he did so. Now the question is, how did her husband know her, for the flowers were exactly alike, and without any difference?Continue reading →
A man and his wife were once sitting by the door of their house, and they had a roasted chicken set before them, and were about to eat it together. Then the man saw that his aged father was coming, and hastily took the chicken and hid it, for he would not permit him to have any of it. The old man came, took a drink, and went away. Now the son wanted to put the roasted chicken on the table again, but when he took it up, it had become a great toad, which jumped into his face and sat there and never went away again, and if any one wanted to take it off, it looked venomously at him as if it would jump in his face, so that no one would venture to touch it. And the ungrateful son was forced to feed the toad every day, or else it fed itself on his face; and thus he went about the world without knowing rest.Continue reading →
There was once a poor man who had four sons, and when they were grown up, he said to them, “My dear children, you must now go out into the world, for I have nothing to give you, so set out, and go to some distance and learn a trade, and see how you can make your way.” So the four brothers took their sticks, bade their father farewell, and went through the town-gate together. When they had travelled about for some time, they came to a cross-way which branched off in four different directions. Then said the eldest, “Here we must separate, but on this day four years, we will meet each other again at this spot, and in the meantime we will seek our fortunes.”
Then each of them went his way, and the eldest met a man who asked him where he was going, and what he was intending to do? “I want to learn a trade,” he replied. Then the other said, “Come with me, and be a thief.” – “No,” he answered, “that is no longer regarded as a reputable trade, and the end of it is that one has to swing on the gallows.” – “Oh,” said the man, “you need not be afraid of the gallows; I will only teach you to get such things as no other man could ever lay hold of, and no one will ever detect you.” So he allowed himself to be talked into it, and while with the man became an accomplished thief, and so dexterous that nothing was safe from him, if he once desired to have it. The second brother met a man who put the same question to him what he wanted to learn in the world. “I don’t know yet,” he replied. “Then come with me, and be an astronomer; there is nothing better than that, for nothing is hid from you.” He liked the idea, and became such a skillful astronomer that when he had learnt everything, and was about to travel onwards, his master gave him a telescope and said to him, “With that you canst thou see whatsoever takes place either on earth or in heaven, and nothing can remain concealed from thee.” A huntsman took the third brother into training, and gave him such excellent instruction in everything which related to huntsmanship, that he became an experienced hunter. When he went away, his master gave him a gun and said, “It will never fail you; whatsoever you aim at, you are certain to hit.” The youngest brother also met a man who spoke to him, and inquired what his intentions were. “Would you not like to be a tailor?” said he. “Not that I know of,” said the youth; “sitting doubled up from morning till night, driving the needle and the goose backwards and forwards, is not to my taste.” – “Oh, but you are speaking in ignorance,” answered the man; “with me you would learn a very different kind of tailoring, which is respectable and proper, and for the most part very honorable.” So he let himself be persuaded, and went with the man, and learnt his art from the very beginning. When they parted, the man gave the youth a needle, and said, “With this you can sew together whatever is given you, whether it is as soft as an egg or as hard as steel; and it will all become one piece of stuff, so that no seam will be visible.”
There was once on a time a King who had a little boy of whom it had been foretold that he should be killed by a stag when he was sixteen years of age, and when he had reached that age the huntsmen once went hunting with him. In the forest, the King’s son was separated from the others, and all at once he saw a great stag which he wanted to shoot, but could not hit. At length he chased the stag so far that they were quite out of the forest, and then suddenly a great tall man was standing there instead of the stag, and said, “It is well that I have thee. I have already ruined six pairs of glass skates with running after thee, and have not been able to get thee.” Then he took the King’s son with him, and dragged him through a great lake to a great palace, and then he had to sit down to table with him and eat something. When they had eaten something together the King said, “I have three daughters, thou must keep watch over the eldest for one night, from nine in the evening till six in the morning, and every time the clock strikes, I will come myself and call, and if thou then givest me no answer, to-morrow morning thou shall be put to death, but if thou always givest me an answer, thou shalt have her to wife.”
When the young folks went to the bed-room there stood a stone image of St. Christopher, and the King’s daughter said to it, “My father will come at nine o’clock, and every hour till it strikes three; when he calls, give him an answer instead of the King’s son.” Then the stone image of St. Christopher nodded its head quite quickly, and then more and more slowly till at last it stood still. The next morning the King said to him, “Thou hast done the business well, but I cannot give my daughter away. Thou must now watch a night by my second daughter, and then I will consider with myself, whether thou canst have my eldest daughter to wife, but I shall come every hour myself, and when I call thee, answer me, and if I call thee and thou dost not reply, thy blood shall flow.” Then they both went into the sleeping-room, and there stood a still larger stone image of St. Christopher, and the King’s daughter said to it, “If my father calls, do you answer him.” Then the great stone image of St. Christopher again nodded its head quite quickly and then more and more slowly, until at last it stood still again. And the King’s son lay down on the threshold, put his hand under his head and slept. The next morning the King said to him, “Thou hast done the business really well, but I cannot give my daughter away; thou must now watch a night by the youngest princess, and then I will consider with myself whether thou canst have my second daughter to wife, but I shall come every hour myself, and when I call thee answer me, and if I call thee and thou answerest not, thy blood shall flow for me.”
There was once a King who had an illness, and no one believed that he would come out of it with his life. He had three sons who were much distressed about it, and went down into the palace-garden and wept. There they met an old man who inquired as to the cause of their grief. They told him that their father was so ill that he would most certainly die, for nothing seemed to cure him. Then the old man said, “I know of one more remedy, and that is the water of life; if he drinks of it he will become well again; but it is hard to find.” The eldest said, “I will manage to find it,” and went to the sick King, and begged to be allowed to go forth in search of the water of life, for that alone could save him. “No,” said the King, “the danger of it is too great. I would rather die.” But he begged so long that the King consented. The prince thought in his heart, “If I bring the water, then I shall be best beloved of my father, and shall inherit the kingdom.” So he set out, and when he had ridden forth a little distance, a dwarf stood there in the road who called to him and said, “Whither away so fast?” – “Silly shrimp,” said the prince, very haughtily, “it is nothing to do with you,” and rode on. But the little dwarf had grown angry, and had wished an evil wish. Soon after this the prince entered a ravine, and the further he rode the closer the mountains drew together, and at last the road became so narrow that he could not advance a step further; it was impossible either to turn his horse or to dismount from the saddle, and he was shut in there as if in prison. The sick King waited long for him, but he came not. Then the second son said, “Father, let me go forth to seek the water,” and thought to himself, “If my brother is dead, then the kingdom will fall to me.” At first the King would not allow him to go either, but at last he yielded, so the prince set out on the same road that his brother had taken, and he too met the dwarf, who stopped him to ask, whither he was going in such haste? “Little shrimp,” said the prince, “that is nothing to thee,” and rode on without giving him another look. But the dwarf bewitched him, and he, like the other, rode into a ravine, and could neither go forwards nor backwards. So fare haughty people.
As the second son also remained away, the youngest begged to be allowed to go forth to fetch the water, and at last the King was obliged to let him go. When he met the dwarf and the latter asked him whither he was going in such haste, he stopped, gave him an explanation, and said, “I am seeking the water of life, for my father is sick unto death.” – “Dost thou know, then, where that is to be found?” – “No,” said the prince. “As thou hast borne thyself as is seemly, and not haughtily like thy false brothers, I will give thee the information and tell thee how thou mayst obtain the water of life. It springs from a fountain in the courtyard of an enchanted castle, but thou wilt not be able to make thy way to it, if I do not give thee an iron wand and two small loaves of bread. Strike thrice with the wand on the iron door of the castle and it will spring open: inside lie two lions with gaping jaws, but if thou throwest a loaf to each of them, they will be quieted. Then hasten to fetch some of the water of life before the clock strikes twelve, else the door will shut again, and thou wilt be imprisoned.” The prince thanked him, took the wand and the bread, and set out on his way. When he arrived, everything was as the dwarf had said. The door sprang open at the third stroke of the wand, and when he had appeased the lions with the bread, he entered the castle, and came to a large and splendid hall, wherein sat some enchanted princes whose rings he drew off their fingers. A sword and a loaf of bread were lying there, which he carried away. After this, he entered a chamber, in which was a beautiful maiden who rejoiced when she saw him, kissed him, and told him that he had delivered her, and should have the whole of her kingdom, and that if he would return in a year their wedding should be celebrated; likewise she told him where the spring of the water of life was, and that he was to hasten and draw some of it before the clock struck twelve. Then he went onwards, and at last entered a room where there was a beautiful newly-made bed, and as he was very weary, he felt inclined to rest a little. So he lay down and fell asleep. When he awoke, it was striking a quarter to twelve. He sprang up in a fright, ran to the spring, drew some water in a cup which stood near, and hastened away. But just as he was passing through the iron door, the clock struck twelve, and the door fell to with such violence that it carried away a piece of his heel. He, however, rejoicing at having obtained the water of life, went homewards, and again passed the dwarf. When the latter saw the sword and the loaf, he said, “With these thou hast won great wealth; with the sword thou canst slay whole armies, and the bread will never come to an end.” But the prince would not go home to his father without his brothers, and said, “Dear dwarf, canst thou not tell me where my two brothers are? They went out before I did in search of the water of life, and have not returned.” – “They are imprisoned between two mountains,” said the dwarf. “I have condemned them to stay there, because they were so haughty.” Then the prince begged until the dwarf released them; but he warned him, however, and said, “Beware of them, for they have bad hearts.” When his brothers came, he rejoiced, and told them how things had gone with him, that he had found the water of life and had brought a cupful away with him, and had rescued a beautiful princess, who was willing to wait a year for him, and then their wedding was to be celebrated and he would obtain a great kingdom. After that they rode on together, and chanced upon a land where war and famine reigned, and the King already thought he must perish, for the scarcity was so great. Then the prince went to him and gave him the loaf, wherewith he fed and satisfied the whole of his kingdom, and then the prince gave him the sword also wherewith he slew the hosts of his enemies, and could now live in rest and peace. The prince then took back his loaf and his sword, and the three brothers rode on. But after this they entered two more countries where war and famine reigned and each time the prince gave his loaf and his sword to the Kings, and had now delivered three kingdoms, and after that they went on board a ship and sailed over the sea. During the passage, the two eldest conversed apart and said, “The youngest has found the water of life and not we, for that our father will give him the kingdom the kingdom which belongs to us, and he will rob us of all our fortune.” They then began to seek revenge, and plotted with each other to destroy him. They waited until they found him fast asleep, then they poured the water of life out of the cup, and took it for themselves, but into the cup they poured salt sea-water. Now therefore, when they arrived home, the youngest took his cup to the sick King in order that he might drink out of it, and be cured. But scarcely had he drunk a very little of the salt sea-water than he became still worse than before. And as he was lamenting over this, the two eldest brothers came, and accused the youngest of having intended to poison him, and said that they had brought him the true water of life, and handed it to him. He had scarcely tasted it, when he felt his sickness departing, and became strong and healthy as in the days of his youth. After that they both went to the youngest, mocked him, and said, “You certainly found the water of life, but you have had the pain, and we the gain; you should have been sharper, and should have kept your eyes open. We took it from you whilst you were asleep at sea, and when a year is over, one of us will go and fetch the beautiful princess. But beware that you do not disclose aught of this to our father; indeed he does not trust you, and if you say a single word, you shall lose your life into the bargain, but if you keep silent, you shall have it as a gift.”
There was one on a time a great war, and when it came to an end, many soldiers were discharged. Then Brother Lustig also received his dismissal, and besides that, nothing but a small loaf of contract-bread, and four kreuzers in money, with which he departed. St. Peter had, however, placed himself in his way in the shape of a poor beggar, and when Brother Lustig came up, he begged alms of him. Brother Lustig replied, “Dear beggar-man, what am I to give you? I have been a soldier, and have received my dismissal, and have nothing but this little loaf of contract-bread, and four kreuzers of money; when that is gone, I shall have to beg as well as you. Still I will give you something.” Thereupon he divided the loaf into four parts, and gave the apostle one of them, and a kreuzer likewise. St. Peter thanked him, went onwards, and threw himself again in the soldier’s way as a beggar, but in another shape; and when he came up begged a gift of him as before. Brother Lustig spoke as he had done before, and again gave him a quarter of the loaf and one kreuzer. St. Peter thanked him, and went onwards, but for the third time placed himself in another shape as a beggar on the road, and spoke to Brother Lustig. Brother Lustig gave him also the third quarter of bread and the third kreuzer. St. Peter thanked him, and Brother Lustig went onwards, and had but a quarter of the loaf, and one kreuzer. With that he went into an inn, ate the bread, and ordered one kreuzer’s worth of beer. When he had had it, he journeyed onwards, and then St. Peter, who had assumed the appearance of a discharged soldier, met and spoke to him thus: “Good day, comrade, canst thou not give me a bit of bread, and a kreuzer to get a drink?” – “Where am I to procure it?” answered Brother Lustig; “I have been discharged, and I got nothing but a loaf of ammunition-bread and four kreuzers in money. I met three beggars on the road, and I gave each of them a quarter of my bread, and one kreuzer. The last quarter I ate in the inn, and had a drink with the last kreuzer. Now my pockets are empty, and if thou also hast nothing we can go a-begging together.” – “No,” answered St. Peter, “we need not quite do that. I know a little about medicine, and I will soon earn as much as I require by that.” – “Indeed,” said Brother Lustig, “I know nothing of that, so I must go and beg alone.” – “Just come with me,” said St. Peter, “and if I earn anything, thou shalt have half of it.” – “All right,” said Brother Lustig, so they went away together.
Then they came to a peasant’s house inside which they heard loud lamentations and cries; so they went in, and there the husband was lying sick unto death, and very near his end, and his wife was crying and weeping quite loudly. “Stop that howling and crying,” said St. Peter, “I will make the man well again,” and he took a salve out of his pocket, and healed the sick man in a moment, so that he could get up, and was in perfect health. In great delight the man and his wife said, “How can we reward you? What shall we give you?” But St. Peter would take nothing, and the more the peasant folks offered him, the more he refused. Brother Lustig, however, nudged St. Peter, and said, “Take something; sure enough we are in need of it.” At length the woman brought a lamb and said to St. Peter that he really must take that, but he would not. Then Brother Lustig gave him a poke in the side, and said, “Do take it, you stupid fool; we are in great want of it!” Then St. Peter said at last, “Well, I will take the lamb, but I won’t carry it; if thou wilt insist on having it, thou must carry it.” – “That is nothing,” said Brother Lustig. “I will easily carry it,” and took it on his shoulder. Then they departed and came to a wood, but Brother Lustig had begun to feel the lamb heavy, and he was hungry, so he said to St. Peter, “Look, that’s a good place, we might cook the lamb there, and eat it.” – “As you like,” answered St. Peter, “but I can’t have anything to do with the cooking; if thou wilt cook, there is a kettle for thee, and in the meantime I will walk about a little until it is ready. Thou must, however, not begin to eat until I have come back, I will come at the right time.” – “Well, go, then,” said Brother Lustig, “I understand cookery, I will manage it.” Then St. Peter went away, and Brother Lustig killed the lamb, lighted a fire, threw the meat into the kettle, and boiled it. The lamb was, however, quite ready, and the apostle Peter had not come back, so Brother Lustig took it out of the kettle, cut it up, and found the heart. “That is said to be the best part,” said he, and tasted it, but at last he ate it all up. At length St. Peter returned and said, “Thou mayst eat the whole of the lamb thyself, I will only have the heart, give me that.” Then Brother Lustig took a knife and fork, and pretended to look anxiously about amongst the lamb’s flesh, but not to be able to find the heart, and at last he said abruptly, “There is none here.” – “But where can it be?” said the apostle. “I don’t know,” replied Brother Lustig, “but look, what fools we both are, to seek for the lamb’s heart, and neither of us to remember that a lamb has no heart!” – “Oh,” said St. Peter, “that is something quite new! Every animal has a heart, why is a lamb to have none?” – “No, be assured, my brother,” said Brother Lustig, “that a lamb has no heart; just consider it seriously, and then you will see that it really has none.” – “Well, it is all right,” said St. Peter, “if there is no heart, then I want none of the lamb; thou mayst eat it alone.” – “What I can’t eat now, I will carry away in my knapsack,” said Brother Lustig, and he ate half the lamb, and put the rest in his knapsack.