Jul 112011
 

Fairy tale by The Brothers Grimm

There was once a wonderful musician, who went quite alone through a forest and thought of all manner of things, and when nothing was left for him to think about, he said to himself, “Time is beginning to pass heavily with me here in the forest, I will fetch hither a good companion for myself.”

Then he took his fiddle from his back, and played so that it echoed through the trees. It was not long before a wolf came trotting through the thicket towards him.

“Ah, here is a wolf coming! I have no desire for him!” said the musician; but the wolf came nearer and said to him, “Ah, dear musician, how beautifully thou dost play! I should like to learn that, too.”

“It is soon learnt,” the musician replied, “thou hast only to do all that I bid thee.”

“Oh, musician,” said the wolf, “I will obey thee as a scholar obeys his master.”

The musician bade him follow, and when they had gone part of the way together, they came to an old oak-tree which was hollow inside, and cleft in the middle.

“Look,” said the musician, “if thou wilt learn to fiddle, put thy fore paws into this crevice.”

The wolf obeyed, but the musician quickly picked up a stone and with one blow wedged his two paws so fast that he was forced to stay there like a prisoner.

“Stay there until I come back again,” said the musician, and went his way.

After a while he again said to himself, “Time is beginning to pass heavily with me here in the forest, I will fetch hither another companion,” and took his fiddle and again played in the forest. It was not long before a fox came creeping through the trees towards him.

“Ah, there’s a fox coming!” said the musician. “I have no desire for him.”

The fox came up to him and said, “Oh, dear musician, how beautifully thou dost play! I should like to learn that too.”

“That is soon learnt,” said the musician. “Thou hast only to do everything that I bid thee.”

“Oh, musician,” then said the fox, “I will obey thee as a scholar obeys his master.”

“Follow me,” said the musician; and when they had walked a part of the way, they came to a footpath, with high bushes on both sides of it.

There the musician stood still, and from one side bent a young hazel-bush down to the ground, and put his foot on the top of it, then he bent down a young tree from the other side as well, and said, “Now, little fox, if thou wilt learn something, give me thy left front paw.”

The fox obeyed, and the musician fastened his paw to the left bough.

“Little fox,” said he, “now reach me thy right paw,” and he tied it to the right bough. Then he had examined whether they were firm enough, he let go, and the bushes sprang up again, and jerked up the little fox, so that it hung struggling in the air.

“Wait there till I come back again,” said the musician, and went his way.

Again he said to himself, “Time is beginning to pass heavily with me here in the forest, I will fetch hither another companion,” so he took his fiddle, and the sound echoed through the forest. Then a little hare came springing towards him.

“Why, a hare is coming,” said the musician, “I do not want him.”

“Ah, dear musician,” said the hare, “how beautifully thou dost fiddle; I, too, should like to learn that.”

“That is soon learnt,” said the musician, “thou hast only to do everything that I bid thee.”

“Oh, musician,” replied the little hare, “I will obey thee as a scholar obeys his master.”

They went a part of the way together until they came to an open space in the forest, where stood an aspen-tree. The musician tied a long string round the little hare’s neck, the other end of which he fastened to the tree. “Now briskly, little hare, run twenty times round the tree!” cried the musician, and the little hare obeyed, and when it had run round twenty times, it had twisted the string twenty times round the trunk of the tree, and the little hare was caught, and let it pull and tug as it liked, it only made the string cut into its tender neck.

“Wait there till I come back,” said the musician, and went onwards.

The wolf, in the meantime, had pushed and pulled and bitten at the stone, and had worked so long that he had set his feet at liberty and had drawn them once more out of the cleft. Full of anger and rage he hurried after the musician and wanted to tear him to pieces.

When the fox saw him running, he began to lament, and cried with all his might, “Brother wolf, come to my help, the musician has betrayed me!”

The wolf drew down the little tree, bit the cord in two, and freed the fox, who went with him to take revenge on the musician. They found the tied-up hare, whom likewise they delivered, and then they all sought the enemy together.

The musician had once more played his fiddle as he went on his way, and this time he had been more fortunate. The sound reached the ears of a poor wood-cutter, who instantly, whether he would or no, gave up his work and came with his hatchet under his arm to listen to the music.

“At last comes the right companion,” said the musician, “for I was seeking a human being, and no wild beast.”

And he began and played so beautifully and delightfully that the poor man stood there as if bewitched, and his heart leaped with gladness. And as he thus stood, the wolf, the fox, and the hare came up, and he saw well that they had some evil design. So he raised his glittering axe and placed himself before the musician, as if to say, “Whoso wishes to touch him let him beware, for he will have to do with me!”

Then the beasts were terrified and ran back into the forest. The musician, however, played once more to the man out of gratitude, and then went onwards.

From Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Household Tales, trans. Margaret Hunt (London: George Bell, 1884)

Jul 112011
 

Fairy tale by The Brothers Grimm

There was once on a time an old king who was ill, and thought to himself, “I am lying on what must be my death-bed.” Then said he, “Tell Faithful John to come to me.”

Faithful John was his favorite servant, and was so called, because he had for his whole life long been so true to him. When therefore he came beside the bed, the King said to him, “Most faithful John, I feel my end approaching, and have no anxiety except about my son. He is still of tender age, and cannot always know how to guide himself. If thou dost not promise me to teach him everything that he ought to know, and to be his foster-father, I cannot close my eyes in peace.”

Then answered Faithful John, “I will not forsake him, and will serve him with fidelity, even if it should cost me my life.”

On this, the old King said, “Now I die in comfort and peace.” Then he added, “After my death, thou shalt show him the whole castle: all the chambers, halls, and vaults, and all the treasures which lie therein, but the last chamber in the long gallery, in which is the picture of the princess of the Golden Dwelling, shalt thou not show. If he sees that picture, he will fall violently in love with her, and will drop down in a swoon, and go through great danger for her sake, therefore thou must preserve him from that.”

And when Faithful John had once more given his promise to the old King about this, the King said no more, but laid his head on his pillow, and died.

When the old King had been carried to his grave, Faithful John told the young King all that he had promised his father on his deathbed, and said, “This will I assuredly perform, and will be faithful to thee as I have been faithful to him, even if it should cost me my life.”

When the mourning was over, Faithful John said to him, “It is now time that thou shouldst see thine inheritance. I will show thee thy father’s palace.” Then he took him about everywhere, up and down, and let him see all the riches, and the magnificent apartments, only there was one room which he did not open, that in which hung the dangerous picture. The picture was, however, so placed that when the door was opened you looked straight on it, and it was so admirably painted that it seemed to breathe and live, and there was nothing more charming or more beautiful in the whole world.

The young king, however plainly remarked that Faithful John always walked past this one door, and said, “Why dost thou never open this one for me?”

“There is something within it,” he replied, “which would terrify thee.”

But the King answered, “I have seen all the palace, and I will know what is in this room also,” and he went and tried to break open the door by force.

Then Faithful John held him back and said, “I promised thy father before his death that thou shouldst not see that which is in this chamber, it might bring the greatest misfortune on thee and on me.”

“Ah, no,” replied the young King, “if I do not go in, it will be my certain destruction. I should have no rest day or night until I had seen it with my own eyes. I shall not leave the place now until thou hast unlocked the door.”

Then Faithful John saw that there was no help for it now, and with a heavy heart and many sighs, sought out the key from the great bunch. When he had opened the door, he went in first, and thought by standing before him he could hide the portrait so that the King should not see it in front of him, but what availed that?

The King stood on tip-toe and saw it over his shoulder. And when he saw the portrait of the maiden, which was so magnificent and shone with gold and precious stones, he fell fainting to the ground.

Faithful John took him up, carried him to his bed, and sorrowfully thought, “The misfortune has befallen us, Lord God, what will be the end of it?” Then he strengthened him with wine, until he came to himself again.

The first words the King said were, “Ah, the beautiful portrait! whose is it?”

“That is the princess of the Golden Dwelling,” answered Faithful John.

Then the King continued, “My love for her is so great, that if all the leaves on all the trees were tongues, they could not declare it. I will give my life to win her. Thou art my most Faithful John, thou must help me.”

The faithful servant considered within himself for a long time how to set about the matter, for it was difficult even to obtain a sight of the King’s daughter. At length he thought of a way, and said to the King, “Everything which she has about her is of gold: tables, chairs, dishes, glasses, bowls, and household furniture. Among thy treasures are five tons of gold; let one of the goldsmiths of the kingdom work these up into all manner of vessels and utensils, into all kinds of birds, wild beasts and strange animals, such as may please her, and we will go there with them and try our luck.”

The King ordered all the goldsmiths to be brought to him, and they had to work night and day until at last the most splendid things were prepared. When everything was stowed on board a ship, Faithful John put on the dress of a merchant, and the King was forced to do the same in order to make himself quite unrecognizable. Then they sailed across the sea, and sailed on until they came to the town wherein dwelt the princess of the Golden Dwelling.

Faithful John bade the King stay behind on the ship, and wait for him. “Perhaps I shall bring the princess with me,” said he, “therefore see that everything is in order; have the golden vessels set out and the whole ship decorated.”

Then he gathered together in his apron all kinds of gold things, went on shore and walked straight to the royal palace. When he entered the courtyard of the palace, a beautiful girl was standing there by the well with two golden buckets in her hand, drawing water with them. And when she was just turning round to carry away the sparkling water she saw the stranger, and asked who he was. So he answered, “I am a merchant,” and opened his apron, and let her look in.

Then she cried, “Oh, what beautiful gold things!” and put her pails down and looked at the golden wares one after the other. Then said the girl, “The princess must see these, she has such great pleasure in golden things that she will buy all you have.”

She took him by the hand and led him upstairs, for she was the waiting-maid. When the King’s daughter saw the wares, she was quite delighted and said, “They are so beautifully worked, that I will buy them all of thee.”

But Faithful John said, “I am only the servant of a rich merchant. The things I have here are not to be compared with those my master has in his ship. They are the most beautiful and valuable things that have ever been made in gold.”

She wanted to have everything brought to her there, but he said, “There are so many of them that it would take a great many days to do that, and so many rooms would be required to exhibit them, that your house is not big enough.”

Then her curiosity and longing were still more excited, until at last she said, “Conduct me to the ship, I will go there myself, and behold the treasures of thy master.”

On this Faithful John was quite delighted, and led her to the ship, and when the King saw her, he perceived that her beauty was even greater than the picture had represented it to be, and thought no other than that his heart would burst in twain.

Then she got into the ship, and the King led her within. Faithful John, however, remained behind with the pilot, and ordered the ship to be pushed off, saying, “Set all sail, till it fly like a bird in air.”

Within, however, the King showed her the golden vessels, every one of them, also the wild beasts and strange animals. Many hours went by whilst she was seeing everything, and in her delight she did not observe that the ship was sailing away. After she had looked at the last, she thanked the merchant and wanted to go home, but when she came to the side of the ship, she saw that it was on the deep sea far from land, and hurrying onwards with all sail set.

“Ah,” cried she in her alarm, “I am betrayed! I am carried away and have fallen into the power of a merchant! I would rather die!”

The King, however, seized her hand, and said, “I am not a merchant. I am a king, and of no meaner origin than thou art, and if I have carried thee away with subtlety, that has come to pass because of my exceeding great love for thee. The first time that I looked on thy portrait, I fell fainting to the ground.”

When the princess of the Golden Dwelling heard that, she was comforted, and her heart was inclined unto him, so that she willingly consented to be his wife.

It happened, however, while they were sailing onwards over the deep sea, that Faithful John, who was sitting on the fore part of the vessel, making music, saw three ravens in the air, which came flying towards them. On this he stopped playing and listened to what they were saying to each other, for that he well understood.

One cried, “Oh, there he is carrying home the princess of the Golden Dwelling.”

“Yes,” replied the second, “but he has not got her yet.”

Said the third, “But he has got her, she is sitting beside him in the ship.”

Then the first began again, and cried, “What good will that do him? When they reach land a chestnut horse will leap forward to meet him, and the prince will want to mount it, but if he does that, it will run away with him, and rise up into the air with him, and he will never see his maiden more.”

Spake the second, “But is there no escape?”

“Oh, yes, if anyone else gets on it swiftly, and takes out the pistol which must be in its holster, and shoots the horse dead with it, the young King is saved. But who knows that? And whosoever does know it, and tells it to him, will be turned to stone from the toe to the knee.”

Then said the second, “I know more than that; even if the horse be killed, the young King will still not keep his bride. When they go into the castle together, a wrought bridal garment will be lying there in a dish, and looking as if it were woven of gold and silver; it is, however, nothing but sulphur and pitch, and if he put it on, it will burn him to the very bone and marrow.”

Said the third, “Is there no escape at all?”

“Oh, yes,” replied the second, “if anyone with gloves on seizes the garment and throws it into the fire and burns it, the young King will be saved. But what avails that? Whosoever knows it and tells it to him, half his body will become stone from the knee to the heart.”

Then said the third, “I know still more; even if the bridal garment be burnt, the young King will still not have his bride. After the wedding, when the dancing begins and the young Queen is dancing, she will suddenly turn pale and fall down as if dead, and if someone does not lift her up and draw three drops of blood from her right breast and spit them out again, she will die. But if anyone who knows that were to declare it, he would become stone from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot.”

When the ravens had spoken of this together, they flew onwards, and Faithful John had well understood everything, but from that time forth he became quiet and sad, for if he concealed what he had heard from his master, the latter would be unfortunate, and if he discovered it to him, he himself must sacrifice his life. At length, however, he said to himself, “I will save my master, even if it bring destruction on myself.”

When therefore they came to shore, all happened as had been foretold by the ravens, and a magnificent chestnut horse sprang forward.

“Good,” said the King, “he shall carry me to my palace,” and was about to mount it when Faithful John got before him, jumped quickly on it, drew the pistol out of the holster, and shot the horse.

Then the other attendants of the King, who after all were not very fond of Faithful John, cried, “How shameful to kill the beautiful animal, that was to have carried the King to his palace!”

But the King said, “Hold your peace and leave him alone, he is my most faithful John, who knows what may be the good of that!”

They went into the palace, and in the hall there stood a dish, and therein lay the bridal garment looking no otherwise than as if it were made of gold and silver. The young king went towards it and was about to take hold of it, but Faithful John pushed him away, seized it with gloves on, carried it quickly to the fire and burnt it.

The other attendants again began to murmur, and said, “Behold, now he is even burning the King’s bridal garment!”

But the young King said, “Who knows what good he may have done, leave him alone, he is my most faithful John.”

And now the wedding was solemnized: the dance began, and the bride also took part in it; then Faithful John was watchful and looked into her face, and suddenly she turned pale and fell to the ground as if she were dead. On this he ran hastily to her, lifted her up and bore her into a chamber then he laid her down, and knelt and sucked the three drops of blood from her right breast, and spat them out. Immediately she breathed again and recovered herself, but the young King had seen this, and being ignorant why Faithful John had done it, was angry and cried, “Throw him into a dungeon.”

Next morning Faithful John was condemned, and led to the gallows, and when he stood on high, and was about to be executed, he said, “Everyone who has to die is permitted before his end to make one last speech; may I too claim the right?”

“Yes,” answered the King, “it shall be granted unto thee.”

Then said Faithful John, “I am unjustly condemned, and have always been true to thee,” and related how he had hearkened to the conversation of the ravens when on the sea, and how he had been obliged to do all these things in order to save his master.

Then cried the King, “Oh, my most Faithful John. Pardon, pardon bring him down.” But as Faithful John spoke the last word he had fallen down lifeless and become a stone.

Thereupon the King and the Queen suffered great anguish, and the King said, “Ah, how ill I have requited great fidelity!” and ordered the stone figure to be taken up and placed in his bedroom beside his bed. And as often as he looked on it he wept and said, “Ah, if I could bring thee to life again, my most faithful John.”

Some time passed and the Queen bore twins, two sons who grew fast and were her delight. Once when the Queen was at church and the two children were sitting playing beside their father, the latter full of grief again looked at the stone figure, sighed and said, “Ah, if I could but bring thee to life again, my most faithful John.”

Then the stone began to speak and said, “Thou canst bring me to life again if thou wilt use for that purpose what is dearest to thee.”

Then cried the King, “I will give everything I have in the world for thee.”

The stone continued, “If thou wilt will cut off the heads of thy two children with thine own hand, and sprinkle me with their blood, I shall be restored to life.”

The King was terrified when he heard that he himself must kill his dearest children, but he thought of faithful John’s great fidelity, and how he had died for him, drew his sword, and with his own hand cut off the children’s heads. And when he had smeared the stone with their blood, life returned to it, and Faithful John stood once more safe and healthy before him.

He said to the King, “Thy truth shall not go unrewarded,” and took the heads of the children, put them on again, and rubbed the wounds with their blood, on which they became whole again immediately, and jumped about, and went on playing as if nothing had happened. Then the King was full of joy, and when he saw the Queen coming he hid Faithful John and the two children in a great cupboard.

When she entered, he said to her, “Hast thou been praying in the church?”

“Yes,” answered she, “but I have constantly been thinking of Faithful John and what misfortune has befallen him through us.”

Then said he, “Dear wife, we can give him his life again, but it will cost us our two little sons, whom we must sacrifice.”

The Queen turned pale, and her heart was full of terror, but she said, “We owe it to him, for his great fidelity.”

Then the King was rejoiced that she thought as he had thought, and went and opened the cupboard, and brought forth Faithful John and the children, and said, “God be praised, he is delivered, and we have our little sons again also,” and told her how everything had occurred.

Then they dwelt together in much happiness until their death.

From Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Household Tales, trans. Margaret Hunt (London: George Bell, 1884)

Jul 112011
 

Fairy tale by The Brothers Grimm

A certain father had two sons, the elder of whom was sharp and sensible, and could do everything, but the younger was stupid and could neither learn nor understand anything, and when people saw him they said, “There’s a fellow who will give his father some trouble!”

When anything had to be done, it was always the elder who was forced to do it; but if his father bade him fetch anything when it was late, or in the night-time, and the way led through the churchyard, or any other dismal place, he answered, “Oh, no, father, I’ll not go there, it makes me shudder!” for he was afraid. Or when stories were told by the fire at night which made the flesh creep, the listeners often said, “Oh, it makes us shudder!”

The younger sat in a corner and listened with the rest of them, and could not imagine what they could mean. “They are always saying, it makes me shudder, it makes me shudder!’ It does not make me shudder,” thought he. “That, too, must be an art of which I understand nothing!”

Now it came to pass that his father said to him one day, “Hearken to me, thou fellow in the corner there, thou art growing tall and strong, and thou too must learn something by which thou canst earn thy living. Look how thy brother works, but thou dost not even earn thy salt.”

“Well, father,” he replied, “I am quite willing to learn something indeed, if it could but be managed; I should like to learn how to shudder. I don’t understand that at all yet.”

The elder brother smiled when he heard that, and thought to himself, “Good God, what a blockhead that brother of mine is! He will never be good for anything as long as he lives! He who wants to be a sickle must bend himself betimes.”

The father sighed, and answered him, “Thou shalt soon learn what it is to shudder, but thou wilt not earn thy living by that.”

Soon after this the sexton came to the house on a visit, and the father bewailed his trouble, and told him how his younger son was so backward in every respect that he knew nothing and learnt nothing. “Just think,” said he, “when I asked him how he was going to earn his bread, he actually wanted to learn to shudder.”

“If that be all,” replied the sexton, “he can learn that with me. Send him to me, and I will soon polish him.”

The father was glad to do it, for he thought, “It will train the boy a little.”

The sexton therefore took him into his house, and he had to ring the bell. After a day or two, the sexton awoke him at midnight, and bade him arise and go up into the church tower and ring the bell. “Thou shalt soon learn what shuddering is,” thought he, and secretly went there before him; and when the boy was at the top of the tower and turned round, and was just going to take hold of the bell rope, he saw a white figure standing on the stairs opposite the sounding hole.

“Who is there?” cried he, but the figure made no reply, and did not move or stir. “Give an answer,” cried the boy, “or take thyself off, thou hast no business here at night.”

The sexton, however, remained standing motionless that the boy might think he was a ghost. The boy cried a second time, “What dost thou want here? Speak if thou art an honest fellow, or I will throw thee down the steps!”

The sexton thought, “he can’t intend to be as bad as his words,” uttered no sound and stood as if he were made of stone. Then the boy called to him for the third time, and as that was also to no purpose, he ran against him and pushed the ghost down the stairs, so that it fell down ten steps and remained lying there in a corner. Thereupon he rang the bell, went home, and without saying a word went to bed, and fell asleep.

The sexton’s wife waited a long time for her husband, but he did not come back. At length she became uneasy, and wakened the boy, and asked, “Dost thou not know where my husband is? He climbed up the tower before thou didst.”

“No, I don’t know,” replied the boy, “but someone was standing by the sounding hole on the other side of the steps, and as he would neither give an answer nor go away, I took him for a scoundrel, and threw him downstairs, just go there and you will see if it was he, I should be sorry if it were.”

The woman ran away and found her husband, who was lying moaning in the corner, and had broken his leg.

She carried him down, and then with loud screams she hastened to the boy’s father. “Your boy,” cried she, “has been the cause of a great misfortune! He has thrown my husband down the steps and made him break his leg. Take the good-for-nothing fellow away from our house.”

The father was terrified, and ran thither and scolded the boy. “What wicked tricks are these?” said he, “the devil must have put this into thy head.”

“Father,” he replied, “do listen to me. I am quite innocent. He was standing there by night like one who is intending to do some evil. I did not know who it was, and I entreated him three times either to speak or to go away.”

“Ah,” said the father, “I have nothing but unhappiness with thee. Go out of my sight. I will see thee no more.”

“Yes, father, right willingly, wait only until it is day. Then will I go forth and learn how to shudder, and then I shall, at any rate, understand one art which will support me.”

“Learn what thou wilt,” spake the father, “it is all the same to me. Here are fifty thalers for thee. Take these and go into the wide world, and tell no one from whence thou comest, and who is thy father, for I have reason to be ashamed of thee.”

“Yes, father, it shall be as you will. If you desire nothing more than that, I can easily keep it in mind.”

When day dawned, therefore, the boy put his fifty thalers into his pocket, and went forth on the great highway, and continually said to himself, “If I could but shudder! If I could but shudder!”

Then a man approached who heard this conversation which the youth was holding with himself, and when they had walked a little farther to where they could see the gallows, the man said to him, “Look, there is the tree where seven men have married the ropemaker’s daughter, and are now learning how to fly. Sit down below it, and wait till night comes, and thou wilt soon learn how to shudder.”

“If that is all that is wanted,” answered the youth, “it is easily done; but if I learn how to shudder as quickly as that, thou shalt have my fifty thalers. Just come back to me early in the morning.”

Then the youth went to the gallows, sat down below it, and waited till evening came. And as he was cold, he lighted himself a fire, but at midnight the wind blew so sharply that in spite of his fire, he could not get warm. And as the wind knocked the hanged men against each other, and they moved backwards and forwards, he thought to himself, “Thou shiverest below by the fire, but how those up above must freeze and suffer!”

And as he felt pity for them, he raised the ladder, and climbed up, unbound one of them after the other, and brought down all seven. Then he stirred the fire, blew it, and set them all round it to warm themselves. But they sat there and did not stir, and the fire caught their clothes. So he said, “Take care, or I will hang you up again.”

The dead men, however, did not hear, but were quite silent, and let their rags go on burning. On this he grew angry, and said, “If you will not take care, I cannot help you, I will not be burnt with you,” and he hung them up again each in his turn.

Then he sat down by his fire and fell asleep, and next morning the man came to him and wanted to have the fifty thalers, and said, “Well, dost thou know how to shudder?”

“No,” answered he, “how was I to get to know? Those fellows up there did not open their mouths, and were so stupid that they let the few old rags which they had on their bodies get burnt.”

Then the man saw that he would not carry away the fifty thalers that day, and went away saying, “One of this kind has never come in my way before.”

The youth likewise went his way, and once more began to mutter to himself, “Ah, if I could but shudder! Ah, if I could but shudder!”

A waggoner who was striding behind him heard that and asked, “Who art thou?”

“I don’t know,” answered the youth.

Then the waggoner asked, “From whence comest thou?”

“I know not.”

“Who is thy father?”

“That I may not tell thee.”

“What is it that thou art always muttering between thy teeth?”

“Ah,” replied the youth, “I do so wish I could shudder, but no one can teach me how to do it.”

“Give up thy foolish chatter,” said the waggoner. “Come, go with me, I will see about a place for thee.”

The youth went with the waggoner, and in the evening they arrived at an inn where they wished to pass the night. Then at the entrance of the room the youth again said quite loudly, “If I could but shudder! If I could but shudder!”

The host who heard that, laughed and said, “If that is your desire, there ought to be a good opportunity for you here.”

“Ah, be silent,” said the hostess, “so many inquisitive persons have already lost their lives, it would be a pity and a shame if such beautiful eyes as these should never see the daylight again.”

But the youth said, “However difficult it may be, I will learn it, and for this purpose indeed have I journeyed forth.” He let the host have no rest, until the latter told him, that not far from thence stood a haunted castle where anyone could very easily learn what shuddering was, if he would but watch in it for three nights. The King had promised that he who would venture should have his daughter to wife, and she was the most beautiful maiden the sun shone on. Great treasures likewise lay in the castle, which were guarded by evil spirits, and these treasures would then be freed, and would make a poor man rich enough.

Already many men had gone into the castle, but as yet none had come out again. Then the youth went next morning to the King, and said that if he were allowed he would watch three nights in the enchanted castle. The King looked at him, and as the youth pleased him, he said, “Thou mayest ask for three things to take into the castle with thee, but they must be things without life.”

Then he answered, “Then I ask for a fire, a turning lathe, and a cutting-board with the knife.”

The King had these things carried into the castle for him during the day. When night was drawing near, the youth went up and made himself a bright fire in one of the rooms, placed the cutting-board and knife beside it, and seated himself by the turning-lathe.

“Ah, if I could but shudder!” said he, “but I shall not learn it here either.” Towards midnight he was about to poke his fire, and as he was blowing it, something cried suddenly from one corner,

“Au, meow! How cold we are!”

“You simpletons!” cried he, “what are you crying about? If you are cold, come and take a seat by the fire and warm yourselves.”

And when he had said that, two great black cats came with one tremendous leap and sat down on each side of him, and looked savagely at him with their fiery eyes. After a short time, when they had warmed themselves, they said, “Comrade, shall we have a game at cards?”

“Why not?” he replied, “but just show me your paws.” Then they stretched out their claws. “Oh,” said he, “what long nails you have! Wait, I must first cut them a little for you.”

Thereupon he seized them by the throats, put them on the cutting-board and screwed their feet fast. “I have looked at your fingers,” said he, “and my fancy for card-playing has gone,” and he struck them dead and threw them out into the water.

But when he had made away with these two, and was about to sit down again by his fire, out from every hole and corner came black cats and black dogs with red-hot chains, and more and more of them came until he could no longer stir, and they yelled horribly, and got on his fire, pulled it to pieces, and wanted to put it out.

He watched them for a while quietly, but at last when they were going too far, he seized his cutting-knife, and cried, “Away with ye, vermin,” and began to cut them down.

Part of them ran away, the others he killed, and threw out into the fish-pond. When he came back he blew up the embers of his fire again and warmed himself. And as he thus sat, his eyes would keep open no longer, and he felt a desire to sleep.

Then he looked round and saw a great bed in the corner. “That is the very thing for me,” said he, and got into it. When he was just going to shut his eyes, however, the bed began to move of its own accord, and went over the whole of the castle.

“That’s right,” said he, “but go faster.”

Then the bed rolled on as if six horses were harnessed to it, up and down, over thresholds and steps, but suddenly hop, hop, it turned over upside down, and lay on him like a mountain. But he threw quilts and pillows up in the air, got out and said, “Now anyone who likes, may drive,” and lay down by his fire, and slept till it was day.

In the morning the King came, and when he saw him lying there on the ground, he thought the spirits had killed him and he was dead. Then said he, “After all it is a pity, he is a handsome man.”

The youth heard it, got up, and said, “It has not come to that yet.” Then the King was astonished, but very glad, and asked how he had fared.

“Very well indeed,” answered he; “one night is over, the two others will get over likewise.”

Then he went to the innkeeper, who opened his eyes very wide, and said, “I never expected to see thee alive again! Hast thou learnt how to shudder yet?” “No,” said he, “it is all in vain. If someone would but tell me!”

The second night he again went up into the old castle, sat down by the fire, and once more began his old song, “If I could but shudder!”

When midnight came, an uproar and noise of tumbling about was heard; at first it was low, but it grew louder and louder. Then it was quiet for awhile, and at length with a loud scream, half a man came down the chimney and fell before him.

“Hello!” cried he, “another half belongs to this. This is too little!” Then the uproar began again, there was a roaring and howling, and the other half fell down likewise.

“Wait,” said he, “I will just blow up the fire a little for thee.” When he had done that and looked round again, the two pieces were joined together, and a frightful man was sitting in his place.

“That is no part of our bargain,” said the youth, “the bench is mine.”

The man wanted to push him away; the youth, however, would not allow that, but thrust him off with all his strength, and seated himself again in his own place. Then still more men fell down, one after the other; they brought nine dead men’s legs and two skulls, and set them up and played at nine-pins with them.

The youth also wanted to play and said, “Hark you, can I join you?”

“Yes, if thou hast any money.”

“Money enough,” replied he, “but your balls are not quite round.”

Then he took the skulls and put them in the lathe and turned them till they were round. “There, now, they will roll better!” said he.

“Hurrah! now it goes merrily!” He played with them and lost some of his money, but when it struck twelve, everything vanished from his sight. He lay down and quietly fell asleep.

Next morning the King came to enquire after him. “How has it fared with thee this time?” asked he.

“I have been playing at nine-pins,” he answered, “and have lost a couple of farthings.”

“Hast thou not shuddered then?”

“Eh, what?” said he, “I have made merry. If I did but know what it was to shudder!”

The third night he sat down again on his bench and said quite sadly, “If I could but shudder.”

When it grew late, six tall men came in and brought a coffin. Then said he, “Ha, ha, that is certainly my little cousin, who only died a few days ago,” and he beckoned with his finger, and cried, “Come, little cousin, come.”

They placed the coffin on the ground, but he went to it and took the lid off, and a dead man lay therein. He felt his face, but it was cold as ice.

“Stop,” said he, “I will warm thee a little,” and went to the fire and warmed his hand and laid it on the dead man’s face, but he remained cold. Then he took him out, and sat down by the fire and laid him on his breast and rubbed his arms that the blood might circulate again.

As this also did no good, he thought to himself, “When two people lie in bed together, they warm each other,” and carried him to the bed, covered him over and lay down by him. After a short time the dead man became warm too, and began to move. Then said the youth, “See, little cousin, have I not warmed thee?”

The dead man, however, got up and cried, “Now will I strangle thee.”

“What!” said he, “is that the way thou thankest me? Thou shalt at once go into thy coffin again,” and he took him up, threw him into it, and shut the lid. Then came the six men and carried him away again.

“I cannot manage to shudder,” said he. “I shall never learn it here as long as I live.”

Then a man entered who was taller than all others, and looked terrible. He was old, however, and had a long white beard.

“Thou wretch,” cried he, “thou shalt soon learn what it is to shudder, for thou shalt die.”

“Not so fast,” replied the youth. “If I am to die, I shall have to have a say in it.”

“I will soon seize thee,” said the fiend.

“Softly, softly, do not talk so big. I am as strong as thou art, and perhaps even stronger.”

“We shall see,” said the old man. “If thou art stronger, I will let thee go—come, we will try.”

Then he led him by dark passages to a smith’s forge, took an axe, and with one blow struck an anvil into the ground.

“I can do that better still,” said the youth, and went to the other anvil.

The old man placed himself near and wanted to look on, and his white beard hung down. Then the youth seized the axe, split the anvil with one blow, and struck the old man’s beard in with it.

“Now I have thee,” said the youth. “Now it is thou who wilt have to die.”

Then he seized an iron bar and beat the old man till he moaned and entreated him to stop, and he would give him great riches. The youth drew out the axe and let him go.

The old man led him back into the castle, and in a cellar showed him three chests full of gold. “Of these,” said he, “one part is for the poor, the other for the king, the third is thine.”

In the meantime it struck twelve, and the spirit disappeared; the youth, therefore, was left in darkness.

“I shall still be able to find my way out,” said he, and felt about, found the way into the room, and slept there by his fire.

Next morning the King came and said, “Now thou must have learnt what shuddering is?”

“No,” he answered; “what can it be? My dead cousin was here, and a bearded man came and showed me a great deal of money down below, but no one told me what it was to shudder.”

“Then,” said the King, “thou hast delivered the castle, and shalt marry my daughter.” “That is all very well,” said he, “but still I do not know what it is to shudder!”

Then the gold was brought up and the wedding celebrated; but howsoever much the young King loved his wife, and however happy he was, he still said always, “If I could but shudder—if I could but shudder.”

And at last she was angry at this. Her waiting-maid said, “I will find a cure for him; he shall soon learn what it is to shudder.”

She went out to the stream which flowed through the garden, and had a whole bucketful of gudgeons brought to her. At night when the young King was sleeping, his wife was to draw the clothes off him and empty the bucketful of cold water with the gudgeons in it over him, so that the little fishes would sprawl about him.

When this was done, he woke up and cried, “Oh, what makes me shudder so?—what makes me shudder so, dear wife? Ah! now I know what it is to shudder!”

From Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Household Tales, trans. Margaret Hunt (London: George Bell, 1884)

Jul 112011
 

Fairy tale by The Brothers Grimm

A certain cat had made the acquaintance of a mouse, and had said so much to her about the great love and friendship she felt for her, that at length the mouse agreed that they should live and keep house together.

“But we must make a provision for winter, or else we shall suffer from hunger,” said the cat, “and you, little mouse, cannot venture everywhere, or you will be caught in a trap some day.”

The good advice was followed, and a pot of fat was bought, but they did not know where to put it. At length, after much consideration, the cat said, “I know no place where it will be better stored up than in the church, for no one dares take anything away from there. We will set it beneath the altar, and not touch it until we are really in need of it.”

So the pot was placed in safety, but it was not long before the cat had a great longing for it, and said to the mouse, “I want to tell you something, little mouse; my cousin has brought a little son into the world, and has asked me to be godmother; he is white with brown spots, and I am to hold him at the christening. Let me go out to-day, and you look after the house by yourself.”

“Yes, yes,” answered the mouse, “by all means go, and if you get anything very good, think of me, I should like a drop of sweet red christening wine too.”

All this, however, was untrue; the cat had no cousin, and had not been asked to be godmother. She went straight to the church, stole to the pot of fat, began to lick at it, and licked the top of the fat off. Then she took a walk upon the roofs of the town, looked out for opportunities, and then stretched herself in the sun, and licked her lips whenever she thought of the pot of fat, and not until it was evening did she return home.

“Well, here you are again,” said the mouse, “no doubt you have had a merry day.”

“All went off well,” answered the cat. “What name did they give the child?”

“Top off!” said the cat quite coolly.

“Top off!” cried the mouse, “that is a very odd and uncommon name, is it a usual one in your family?”

“What does it signify,” said the cat; “it is not worse than Crumb-stealer, as your god-children are called.”

Before long the cat was seized by another fit of longing. She said to the mouse, “You must do me a favor, and once more manage the house for a day alone. I am again asked to be godmother, and, as the child has a white ring round its neck, I cannot refuse.”

The good mouse consented, but the cat crept behind the town walls to the church, and devoured half the pot of fat.

“Nothing ever seems so good as what one keeps to oneself,” said she, and was quite satisfied with her day’s work.

When she went home the mouse inquired, “And what was this child christened?” “Half-done,” answered the cat.

“Half-done! What are you saying? I never heard the name in my life, I’ll wager anything it is not in the calendar!”

The cat’s mouth soon began to water for some more licking.

“All good things go in threes,” said she. “I am asked to stand godmother again. The child is quite black, only it has white paws, but with that exception, it has not a single white hair on its whole body; this only happens once every few years, you will let me go, won’t you?”

“Top-off! Half-done!” answered the mouse, “they are such odd names, they make me very thoughtful.”

“You sit at home,” said the cat, “in your dark-grey fur coat and long tail, and are filled with fancies, that’s because you do not go out in the daytime.”

During the cat’s absence the mouse cleaned the house, and put it in order, but the greedy cat entirely emptied the pot of fat.

“When everything is eaten up one has some peace,” said she to herself, and well filled and fat she did not return home till night. The mouse at once asked what name had been given to the third child.

“It will not please you more than the others,” said the cat. “He is called All-gone.”

“All-gone,” cried the mouse, “that is the most suspicious name of all! I have never seen it in print. All-gone; what can that mean?” and she shook her head, curled herself up, and lay down to sleep.

From this time forth no one invited the cat to be godmother, but when the winter had come and there was no longer anything to be found outside, the mouse thought of their provision, and said, “Come, cat, we will go to our pot of fat which we have stored up for ourselves we shall enjoy that.”

“Yes,” answered the cat, “you will enjoy it as much as you would enjoy sticking that dainty tongue of yours out of the window.”

They set out on their way, but when they arrived, the pot of fat certainly was still in its place, but it was empty.

“Alas!” said the mouse, “now I see what has happened, now it comes to light! You a true friend! You have devoured all when you were standing godmother. First top off, then half done, then–”

“Will you hold your tongue,” cried the cat, “one word more, and I will eat you too.”

“All gone” was already on the poor mouse’s lips; scarcely had she spoken it before the cat sprang on her, seized her, and swallowed her down. Verily, that is the way of the world.

From Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Household Tales, trans. Margaret Hunt (London: George Bell, 1884)