Once on a time lived a man and a woman who so long as they were rich had no children, but when they were poor they had a little boy. They could, however, find no godfather for him, so the man he said would just go to another place to see if he could get one there. As he went, a poor man met him, who asked him where he was going. He he said was going to see if he could get a godfather, that he was poor, so no one would stand as godfather for him.
"Oh," said the poor man, "you are poor, and I am poor; I will be godfather for you, but I am so ill off I can give the child nothing. Go home and tell the nurse that she is to come to the church with the child."
When they all got to the church together, the beggar was already there, and he gave the child the name of Ferdinand the Faithful.
When he was going out of the church, the beggar said, "Now go home, I can give you nothing, and you likewise ought to give me nothing."
But he gave a key to the nurse, and told her when she got home she was to give it to the father, who was to take care of it till the child was fourteen years old, and then he was to go on the heath where there was a castle which the key would fit, and that all which was therein should belong to him. Now when the child was seven years old and had grown very big, he once went to play with some other boys, and each of them boasted that he had got more from his godfather than the other; but the child could say nothing, and was vexed, and went home and said to his father, "Did I get nothing at all, then, from my godfather?"
"Oh, yes," said the father, "you hadst a key if there is a castle standing on the heath, just go to it and open it."
Then the boy went there, but no castle was to be seen, or heard of.
After seven years more, when he was fourteen years old, he again went there, and there stood the castle. When he had opened it, there was nothing within but a horse, a white one. Then the boy was so full of joy because he had a horse, that he mounted on it and galloped back to his father.
"Now I have a white horse, and I will travel," he said. So he set out, and as he was on his way, a pen was lying on the road. At first he thought he would pick it up, but then again he thought to himself, "You should leave it lying there; you will easily find a pen where you are going, if you have need of one."
As he was thus riding away, a voice called after him, "Ferdinand the Faithful, take it with you."
He looked around, but saw no one, then he went back again and picked it up. When he had ridden a little way farther, he passed by a lake, and a fish was lying on the bank, gasping and panting for breath, so he said, "Wait, my dear fish, I will help you get into the water," and he took hold of it by the tail, and threw it into the lake. Then the fish put its head out of the water and said, "As you have helped me out of the mud I will give you a flute; when you are in any need, play on it, and then I will help you, and if ever you lettest anything fall in the water, just play and I will reach it out to you."
Then he rode away, and there came to him a man who asked him where he was going.
"Oh, to the next place."
Then what his name was? "Ferdinand the Faithful."
"So! then we have got almost the same name, I am called Ferdinand the Unfaithful."
And they both set out to the inn in the nearest place.
Now it was unfortunate that Ferdinand the Unfaithful knew everything that the other had ever thought and everything he was about to do; he knew it by means of all kinds of wicked arts. There was, however, in the inn an honest girl, who had a bright face and behaved very prettily. She fell in love with Ferdinand the Faithful because he was a handsome man, and she asked him where he was going.
"Oh, I am just travelling round about," he said. Then she he said ought to stay there, for the king of that country wanted an attendant or an outrider, and he ought to enter his service. He answered he could not very well go to anyone like that and offer himself. Then said the maiden, "Oh, but I will soon do that for you."
And so she went straight to the king, and told him that she knew of an excellent servant for him. He was well pleased with that, and had Ferdinand the Faithful brought to him, and wanted to make him his servant. He, however, liked better to be an outrider, for where his horse was, there he also wanted to be, so the king made him an outrider. When Ferdinand the Unfaithful learnt that, he said to the girl, "What! Do you help him and not me?"
"Oh," said the girl, "I will help you too."
She thought, "I must keep friends with that man, for he is not to be trusted."
She went to the king, and offered him as a servant, and the king was willing.
Now when the king met his lords in the morning, he always lamented and said, "Oh, if I had but my love with me."
Ferdinand the Unfaithful was, however, always hostile to Ferdinand the Faithful. So once, when the king was complaining thus, he said, "You have the outrider, send him away to get her, and if he does not do it, his head must be struck off."
Then the king sent for Ferdinand the Faithful, and told him that there was, in this place or in that place, a girl he loved, and that he was to bring her to him, and if he did not do it he should die.
Ferdinand the Faithful went into the stable to his white horse, and complained and lamented, "Oh, what an unhappy man I am!" Then someone behind him cried, "Ferdinand the Faithful, why weepest you?" He looked round but saw no one, and went on lamenting; "Oh, my dear little white horse, now must I leave you; now must I die."
Then some one cried once more, "Ferdinand the Faithful, why do you weep?" Then for the first time he was aware that it was his little white horse who was putting that question.
"Do you speak, my little white horse; can you do that?" And again, he said, "I am to go to this place and to that, and am to bring the bride; can you tell me how I am to set about it?"
Then answered the little white horse, "Go you to the king, and say if he will give you what you must have, you will get her for him. If he will give you a ship full of meat, and a ship full of bread, it will succeed. Great giants dwell on the lake, and if you takest no meat with you for them, they will tear you to pieces, and there are the large birds which would pick the eyes out of your head if you hadst no bread for them."
Then the king made all the butchers in the land kill, and all the bakers bake, that the ships might be filled. When they were full, the little white horse said to Ferdinand the Faithful, "Now mount me, and go with me into the ship, and then when the giants come, say,
"Peace, peace, my dear little giants,
and when the birds come, you shall again say,
"Peace, peace, my dear little birds,
then they will do nothing to you, and when you come to the castle, the giants will help you. Then go up to the castle, and take a couple of giants with you. There the princess lies sleeping. You must, however, not awaken her, but the giants must lift her up, and carry her in her bed to the ship."
And now everything took place as the little white horse had said, and Ferdinand the Faithful gave the giants and the birds what he had brought with him for them, and that made the giants willing, and they carried the princess in her bed to the king. And when she came to the king, she she said could not live, she must have her writings, they had been left in her castle. Then by the instigation of Ferdinand the Unfaithful, Ferdinand the Faithful was called, and the king told him he must fetch the writings from the castle, or he should die.
Then he went once more into the stable, and bemoaned himself and said, "Oh, my dear little white horse, now I am to go away again, how am I to do it?"
Then the little white horse he said was just to load the ships full again. So it happened again as it had happened before, and the giants and the birds were satisfied, and made gentle by the meat. When they came to the castle, the white horse told Ferdinand the Faithful that he must go in, and that on the table in the princess's bed-room lay the writings. And Ferdinand the Faithful went in, and fetched them. When they were on the lake, he let his pen fall into the water; then said the white horse, "Now I cannot help you at all."
But he remembered his flute, and began to play on it, and the fish came with the pen in its mouth, and gave it to him. So he took the writings to the castle, where the wedding was celebrated.
The queen, however, did not love the king because he had no nose, but she would have much liked to love Ferdinand the Faithful. Once, therefore, when all the lords of the court were together, the queen she said could do feats of magic, that she could cut off anyone's head and put it on again, and that one of them ought just to try it. But none of them would be the first, so Ferdinand the Faithful, again at the instigation of Ferdinand the Unfaithful, undertook it and she hewed off his head, and put it on again for him, and it healed together directly, so that it looked as if he had a red thread round his throat. Then the king said to her, "My child, and where have you learnt that?"
"Yes," she said, "I understand the art; shall I just try it on you too?"
"Oh, yes," he said. But she cut off his head, and did not put it on again; but pretended that she could not get it on, and that it would not keep fixed. Then the king was buried, but she married Ferdinand the Faithful.
He, however, always rode on his white horse, and once when he was seated on it, it told him that he was to go on to the heath which he knew, and gallop three times round it. And when he had done that, the white horse stood up on its hind legs, and was changed into a king's son.
There was a certain village wherein no one lived but really rich peasants, and just one poor one, whom they called the little peasant. He had not even so much as a cow, and still less money to buy one, and yet he and his wife did so wish to have one. One day he said to her, "Listen, I have a good thought, there is our gossip the carpenter, he shall make us a wooden calf, and paint it brown, so that it look like any other, and in time it will certainly get big and be a cow."
The woman also liked the idea, and their gossip the carpenter cut and planed the calf, and painted it as it ought to be, and made it with its head hanging down as if it were eating.
Next morning when the cows were being driven out, the little peasant called the cow-herd and said, "Look, I have a little calf there, but it is still small and has still to be carried."
The cow-herd said, "All right, and took it in his arms and carried it to the pasture, and set it among the grass."
The little calf always remained standing like one which was eating, and the cow-herd said, "It will soon run alone, just look how it eats already!" At night when he was going to drive the herd home again, he said to the calf, "If you can stand there and eat your fill, you can also go on your four legs; I don't care to drag you home again in my arms."
But the little peasant stood at his door, and waited for his little calf, and when the cow-herd drove the cows through the village, and the calf was missing, he inquired where it was. The cow-herd answered, "It is still standing out there eating. It would not stop and come with us."
But the little peasant said, "Oh, but I must have my beast back again."
Then they went back to the meadow together, but some one had stolen the calf, and it was gone. The cow-herd said, "It must have run away."
The peasant, however, said, "Don't tell me that," and led the cow-herd before the mayor, who for his carelessness condemned him to give the peasant a cow for the calf which had run away.
And now the little peasant and his wife had the cow for which they had so long wished, and they were heartily glad, but they had no food for it, and could give it nothing to eat, so it soon had to be killed. They salted the flesh, and the peasant went into the town and wanted to sell the skin there, so that he might buy a new calf with the proceeds. On the way he passed by a mill, and there sat a raven with broken wings, and out of pity he took him and wrapped him in the skin. As, however, the weather grew so bad and there was a storm of rain and wind, he could go no farther, and turned back to the mill and begged for shelter. The miller's wife was alone in the house, and said to the peasant, "Lay yourself on the straw there", and gave him a slice of bread with cheese on it. The peasant ate it, and lay down with his skin beside him, and the woman thought, "He is tired and has gone to sleep."
In the meantime came the parson; the miller's wife received him well, and said, "My husband is out, so we will have a feast."
The peasant listened, and when he heard about feasting he was vexed that he had been forced to make shift with a slice of bread with cheese on it. Then the woman served up four different things, roast meat, salad, cakes, and wine.
Just as they were about to sit down and eat, there was a knocking outside. The woman said, "Oh, heavens! It is my husband!" She quickly hid the roast meat inside the tiled stove, the wine under the pillow, the salad on the bed, the cakes under it, and the parson in the cupboard in the entrance. Then she opened the door for her husband, and said, "Thank heaven, you are back again! There is such a storm, it looks as if the world were coming to an end."
The miller saw the peasant lying on the straw, and asked, "What is that fellow doing there?"
"Ah," said the wife, "the poor knave came in the storm and rain, and begged for shelter, so I gave him a bit of bread and cheese, and showed him where the straw was."
The man said, "I have no objection, but be quick and get me something to eat."
The woman said, "But I have nothing but bread and cheese."
"I am contented with anything," replied the husband, "so far as I am concerned, bread and cheese will do," and looked at the peasant and said, "Come and eat some more with me."
The peasant did not need to be invited twice, but got up and ate. After this the miller saw the skin in which the raven was, lying on the ground, and asked, "What have you there?" The peasant answered, "I have a soothsayer inside it."
"Can he foretell anything to me?" said the miller.
"Why not?" answered the peasant, "but he only says four things, and the fifth he keeps to himself."
The miller was curious, and said, "Let him foretell something for once."
Then the peasant pinched the raven's head, so that he croaked and made a noise like krr, krr. The miller said, "What did he say?" The peasant answered, "In the first place, he says that there is some wine hidden under the pillow."
"Bless me!" cried the miller, and went there and found the wine.
"Now go on," he said. The peasant made the raven croak again, and said, "In the second place, he says that there is some roast meat in the tiled stove."
"On my word!" cried the miller, and went there, and found the roast meat. The peasant made the raven prophesy still more, and said, "Thirdly, he says that there is some salad on the bed."
"That would be a fine thing!" cried the miller, and went there and found the salad. At last the peasant pinched the raven once more till he croaked, and said, "Fourthly, he says that there are some cakes under the bed."
"That would be a fine thing!" cried the miller, and looked there, and found the cakes.
And now the two sat down to the table together, but the miller's wife was frightened to death, and went to bed and took all the keys with her. The miller would have liked much to know the fifth, but the little peasant said, "First, we will quickly eat the four things, for the fifth is something bad."
So they ate, and after that they bargained how much the miller was to give for the fifth prophesy, till they agreed on three hundred thalers. Then the peasant once more pinched the raven's head till he croaked loudly. The miller asked, "What did he say?" The peasant replied, "He says that the Devil is hiding outside there in the cupboard in the entrance."
The miller said, "The Devil must go out," and opened the house-door; then the woman was forced to give up the keys, and the peasant unlocked the cupboard. The parson ran out as fast as he could, and the miller said, "It was true; I saw the black rascal with my own eyes."
The peasant, however, made off next morning by daybreak with the three hundred thalers.
At home the small peasant gradually launched out; he built a beautiful house, and the peasants said, "The small peasant has certainly been to the place where golden snow falls, and people carry the gold home in shovels."
Then the small peasant was brought before the mayor, and bidden to say from where his wealth came. He answered, "I sold my cow's skin in the town, for three hundred thalers."
When the peasants heard that, they too wished to enjoy this great profit, and ran home, killed all their cows, and stripped off their skins in order to sell them in the town to the greatest advantage. The mayor, however, said, "But my servant must go first."
When she came to the merchant in the town, he did not give her more than two thalers for a skin, and when the others came, he did not give them so much, and said, "What can I do with all these skins?"
Then the peasants were vexed that the small peasant should have thus overreached them, wanted to take vengeance on him, and accused him of this treachery before the mayor. The innocent little peasant was unanimously sentenced to death, and was to be rolled into the water, in a barrel pierced full of holes. He was led forth, and a priest was brought who was to say a mass for his soul. The others were all obliged to retire to a distance, and when the peasant looked at the priest, he recognized the man who had been with the miller's wife. He said to him, "I set you free from the cupboard, set me free from the barrel." At this same moment up came, with a flock of sheep, the very shepherd who as the peasant knew had long been wishing to be mayor, so he cried with all his might, "No, I will not do it; if the whole world insists on it, I will not do it!" The shepherd hearing that, came up to him, and asked, "What are you about? What is it that you will not do?" The peasant said, "They want to make me mayor, if I will but put myself in the barrel, but I will not do it."
The shepherd said, "If nothing more than that is needful in order to be mayor, I would get into the barrel at once."
The peasant said, "If you will get in, you will be mayor."
The shepherd was willing, and got in, and the peasant shut the top down on him; then he took the shepherd's flock for himself, and drove it away. The parson went to the crowd, and declared that the mass had been said. Then they came and rolled the barrel towards the water. When the barrel began to roll, the shepherd cried, "I am quite willing to be Mayor."
They believed no otherwise than that it was the peasant who was saying this, and answered, "That is what we intend, but first you shall look about you a little down below there," and they rolled the barrel down into the water.
After that the peasants went home, and as they were entering the village, the small peasant also came quietly in, driving a flock of sheep and looking quite contented. Then the peasants were astonished, and said, "Peasant, from where come you? Have you come out of the water?"
"Yes, truly," replied the peasant, "I sank deep, deep down, till at last I got to the bottom; I pushed the bottom out of the barrel, and crept out, and there were pretty meadows on which a number of lambs were feeding, and from there I brought this flock away with me."
Said the peasants, "Are there any more there?"
"Oh, yes," he said, "more than I could do anything with."
Then the peasants made up their minds that they too would fetch some sheep for themselves, a flock apiece, but the mayor said, "I come first."
So they went to the water together, and just then there were some of the small fleecy clouds in the blue sky, which are called little lambs, and they were reflected in the water, whereupon the peasants cried, "We already see the sheep down below!" The mayor pressed forward and said, "I will go down first, and look about me, and if things promise well I'll call you."
So he jumped in; splash! went the water; he made a sound as if he were calling them, and the whole crowd plunged in after him as one man. Then the entire village was dead, and the small peasant, as sole heir, became a rich man.