Site Map
Grimm Tales
Section › 22 Set Search Previous Next

Reservations Contents  

Old Hildebrand
(Der alte Hildebrand)

Once on a time lived a peasant and his wife, and the parson of the village had a fancy for the wife, and had wished for a long while to spend a whole day happily with her. The peasant woman, too, was quite willing. One day, therefore, he said to the woman, "Listen, my dear friend, I have now thought of a way by which we can for once spend a whole day happily together. I'll tell you what; on Wednesday you must take to your bed, and tell your husband you are ill, and if you only complain and act being ill properly, and go on doing so till Sunday when I have to preach, I will then say in my sermon that whoever has at home a sick child, a sick husband, a sick wife, a sick father, a sick mother, a sick brother or whoever else it may be, and makes a pilgrimage to the Göckerli hill in Italy, where you can get a peck of laurel-leaves for a kreuzer, the sick child, the sick husband, the sick wife, the sick father, or sick mother, the sick sister, or whoever else it may be, will be restored to health at once."

"I will manage it," said the woman promptly.

Now therefore on the Wednesday the peasant woman took to her bed, and complained and lamented as agreed on, and her husband did everything for her that he could think of. But nothing did her any good, and when Sunday came the woman said, "I feel as ill as if I were going to die at once, but there is one thing I should like to do before my end I should like to hear the parson's sermon that he is going to preach today."

On that the peasant said, "Ah, my child, do not do it – you might make yourself worse if you were to get up. Look, I will go to the sermon, and will attend to it very carefully, and will tell you everything the parson says."

"Well," said the woman, "go, then, and pay great attention, and repeat to me all that you hear."

So the peasant went to the sermon, and the parson began to preach and said, if any one had at home a sick child, a sick husband, a sick wife, a sick father a sick mother, a sick sister, brother or anyone else, and would make a pilgimage to the Göckerli hill in Italy, where a peck of laurel-leaves costs a kreuzer, the sick child, sick husband, sick wife, sick father, sick mother, sick sister, brother, or whoever else it might be, would be restored to health at once, and whoever wished to undertake the journey was to go to him after the service was over, and he would give him the sack for the laurel-leaves and the kreuzer.

Then no one was more rejoiced than the peasant. After the service was over, he went at once to the parson, who gave him the bag for the laurel-leaves and the kreuzer. After that he went home, and even at the house door he cried, "Hurrah! dear wife, it is now almost the same thing as if you were well! The parson has preached today that whoever had at home a sick child, a sick husband, a sick wife, a sick father, a sick mother, a sick sister, brother or whoever it might be, and would make a pilgrimage to the Göckerli hill in Italy, where a peck of laurel-leaves costs a kreuzer, the sick child, sick husband, sick wife, sick father, sick mother, sick sister, brother, or whoever else it was, would be cured at once. Now I have already got the bag and the kreuzer from the parson, and will at once begin my journey so that you may get well the faster," and thereupon he went away. He was, however, hardly gone before the woman got up and the parson was there directly.

But now we will leave these two for a while, and follow the peasant, who walked on quickly without stopping, in order to get the sooner to the Göckerli hill, and on his way he met an egg-merchant who was just coming from the market, where he had sold his eggs.

"May you be blessed," said the egg-merchant, "where are you off to so fast?"

"My friend," said the peasant, "my wife is ill, and I have been today to hear the parson's sermon, and he preached that if anyone had in his house a sick child, a sick husband, a sick wife, a sick father, a sick mother, a sick sister, brother or anyone else, and made a pilgrimage to the Göckerli hill in Italy, where a peck of laurel-leaves costs a kreuzer, the sick child, the sick husband, the sick wife, the sick father, the sick mother, the sick sister, brother or whoever else it was, would be cured at once. I have got the bag for the laurel-leaves and the kreuzer from the parson, and now I am beginning my pilgrimage."

"But," said the egg-merchant to the peasant, "are you stupid enough to believe such a thing as that? The parson wants to spend a whole day alone with your wife in peace, so he has given you this job to do to get you out of the way."

"My word!" said the peasant. "How I'd like to know if that's true!"

"Come, then," said the egg-merchant, "I'll tell you what to do. Get into my egg-basket and I will carry you home, and then you will see for yourself."

So that was settled, and the egg-merchant put the peasant into his egg-basket and carried him home.

When they got to the house all was going merry there! The woman had already had nearly everything killed that was in the farmyard, and had made pancakes. The parson was there, and had brought his fiddle with him. The egg-merchant knocked at the door, and woman asked who was there.

"It is I, the egg-merchant," said the egg-merchant, "give me shelter tonight, for it is dark already."

Said the woman, "You come at a very inconvenient time for me, but as you are here it can't be helped: Come in and take a seat there on the bench by the stove."

Then she placed the egg-merchant and the basket which he carried on his back on the bench by the stove. The parson and the woman, however, were as merry as possible. At length the parson said, "Listen, my dear friend, you can sing beautifully; sing something to me."

"Oh," said the woman, "I cannot sing now, in my young days indeed I could sing well enough, but that's all over now."

"Come," said the parson once more, "do sing some little song."

On that the woman began and sang,

"I've sent my husband away from me
To the Göckerli hill in Italy."

Then the parson sang,

"I wish it was a year before he came back,
I'd never ask him for the laurel-leaf sack.
Hallelujah."

Then the egg-merchant who was in the background began to sing (but I ought to tell you the peasant was called Hildebrand). The egg-merchant sang,

"What are you doing, my Hildebrand dear,
There on the bench by the stove so near?
Hallelujah."

And then the peasant sang from his basket,

"All singing I ever shall hate from this day,
And here in this basket no longer I'll stay.
Hallelujah."

And he got out of the basket and cudgelled the parson out of the house.

To top Notes

The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs
(Der Teufel mit den drei goldenen Haaren)

There was once a poor woman who gave birth to a little son; and as he came into the world with a caul on, it was predicted that in his fourteenth year he would have the king's daughter for his wife.

* Caul: the inner fetal membrane. In some cases it covers the head at birth, and meanings are "read" into it.

It happened that soon afterwards the king came into the village, and no one knew that he was the king, and when he asked the people what news there was, they answered, "A child has just been born with a caul on; whatever anyone so born undertakes turns out well. It is prophesied, too, that in his fourteenth year he will have the king's daughter for his wife."

The king, who had a bad heart, and was angry about the prophecy, went to the parents, and, seeming quite friendly, said, "You poor people, let me have your child, and I will take care of it."

At first they refused, but when the stranger offered them a large amount of gold for it, and they thought, "It is a luck-child, and everything must turn out well for it," they at last consented, and gave him the child.

The king put it in a box and rode away with it till he came to a deep piece of water; then he threw the box into it and thought, "I have freed my daughter from her unlooked-for suitor."

The box, however, did not sink, but floated like a boat, and not a drop of water made its way into it. And it floated to within two miles of the king's chief city, where there was a mill, and it came to a stand-still at the mill-dam. A miller's boy, who by good luck was standing there, noticed it and pulled it out with a hook, thinking that he had found a great treasure, but when he opened it there lay a pretty boy inside, quite fresh and lively. He took him to the miller and his wife, and as they had no children they were glad, and said, "God has given him to us."

They took great care of the foundling, and he grew up in all goodness.

It happened that once in a storm, the king went into the mill, and he asked the mill-folk if the tall youth was their son.

"No," answered they, "he's a foundling. Fourteen years ago he floated down to the mill-dam in a box, and the mill-boy pulled him out of the water."

Then the king knew that it was none other than the luck-child which he had thrown into the water, and he said, "My good people, could not the youth take a letter to the queen; I will give him two gold pieces as a reward?"

"Just as the king commands," answered they, and they told the boy to hold himself in readiness. Then the king wrote a letter to the queen, wherein he said, "As soon as the boy arrives with this letter, let him be killed and buried, and all must be done before I come home."

The boy set out with this letter; but he lost his way, and in the evening came to a large forest. In the darkness he saw a small light; he went towards it and reached a cottage. When he went in, an old woman was sitting by the fire quite alone. She started when she saw the boy, and said, "Where do you come, and where are you going?"

"I come from the mill," he answered, "and wish to go to the queen, to whom I am taking a letter; but as I have lost my way in the forest I should like to stay here over night."

"You poor boy," said the woman, "you have come into a den of thieves, and when they come home they will kill you."

"Let them come," said the boy, "I am not afraid; but I am so tired that I cannot go any farther:" and he stretched himself on a bench and fell asleep.

Soon afterwards the robbers came, and angrily asked what strange boy was lying there? "Ah," said the old woman, "it is an innocent child who has lost himself in the forest, and out of pity I have let him come in; he has to take a letter to the queen."

The robbers opened the letter and read it, and in it was written that the boy as soon as he arrived should be put to death. Then the hard-hearted robbers felt pity, and their leader tore up the letter and wrote another, saying, that as soon as the boy came, he should be married at once to the king's daughter. Then they let him lie quietly on the bench till the next morning, and when he awoke they gave him the letter, and showed him the right way.

And the queen, when she had received the letter and read it, did as was written in it, and had a splendid wedding-feast prepared, and the king's daughter was married to the luck-child, and as the youth was handsome and agreeable she lived with him in joy and contentment.

After some time the king returned to his palace and saw that the prophecy was fulfilled, and the luck-child married to his daughter.

"How has that come to pass?" he said; "I gave quite another order in my letter."

So the queen gave him the letter, and said that he might see for himself what was written in it. The king read the letter and saw quite well that it had been exchanged for the other. He asked the youth what had become of the letter entrusted to him, and why he had brought another instead of it.

"I know nothing about it," answered he; "it must have been changed in the night, when I slept in the forest."

The king said in a passion, "You shall not have everything quite so much your own way; whoever marries my daughter must fetch me from hell three golden hairs from the head of the devil; bring me what I want, and you shall keep my daughter."

*The sun has been exchanged for Old Harry and the devil in some tales. Pick your choice as a story-teller, then.

      In this way the king hoped to be rid of him for ever. But the luck-child answered, "I will fetch the golden hairs, I am not afraid of the Devil;" thereupon he took leave of them and began his journey.

The road led him to a large town, where the watchman by the gates asked him what his trade was, and what he knew.

"I know everything," answered the luck-child.

"Then you can do us a favour," said the watchman, "if you will tell us why our market-fountain, which once flowed with wine has become dry, and no longer gives even water?"

"That you shall know," answered he; "only wait till I come back."

Then he went farther and came to another town, and there also the gatekeeper asked him what was his trade, and what he knew.

"I know everything," answered he.

"Then you can do us a favour and tell us why a tree in our town which once bore golden apples now does not even put forth leaves?"

"You shall know that," answered he; "only wait till I come back."

Then he went on and came to a wide river over which he must go. The ferryman asked him what his trade was, and what he knew.

"I know everything," answered he.

"Then you can do me a favour," said the ferryman, "and tell me why I must always be rowing backwards and forwards, and am never set free?"

"You shall know that," answered he; "only wait till I come back."

When he had crossed the water he found the entrance to Hell. It was black and sooty within, and the Devil was not at home, but his grandmother was sitting in a large arm-chair.

"What do you want?" she said to him, but she did not look so very wicked.

"I should like to have three golden hairs from the devil's head," answered he, "else I cannot keep my wife."

"That is a good deal to ask for," she said; "if the devil comes home and finds you, it will cost you your life; but as I pity you, I will see if I cannot help you."

She changed him into an ant and said, "Creep into the folds of my dress, you will be safe there."

"Yes," answered he, "so far, so good; but there are three things besides that I want to know: why a fountain which once flowed with wine has become dry, and no longer gives even water; why a tree which once bore golden apples does not even put forth leaves; and why a ferry-man must always be going backwards and forwards, and is never set free?"

"Those are difficult questions," answered she, "but only be silent and quiet and pay attention to what the devil says when I pull out the three golden hairs."

As the evening came on, the devil returned home. No sooner had he entered than he noticed that the air was not pure.

"I smell man's flesh," he said; "all is not right here."

Then he pried into every corner, and searched, but could not find anything. His grandmother scolded him.

"It has just been swept," she said, "and everything put in order, and now you are upsetting it again; you have always got man's flesh in your nose. Sit down and eat your supper."

When he had eaten and drunk he was tired, and laid his head in his grandmother's lap, and before long he was fast asleep, snoring and breathing heavily. Then the old woman took hold of a golden hair, pulled it out, and laid it down near her.

"Oh!" cried the devil, "what are you doing?"

"I have had a bad dream," answered the grandmother, "so I seized hold of your hair."

"What did you dream then?" said the devil.

"I dreamed that a fountain in a market-place from which wine once flowed was dried up, and not even water would flow out of it; what is the cause of it?"

"Oh, ho! if they did but know it," answered the devil; "there is a toad sitting under a stone in the well; if they killed it, the wine would flow again."

He went to sleep again and snored till the windows shook. Then she pulled the second hair out.

"Ha! what are you doing?" cried the devil angrily.

"Do not take it ill," she said, "I did it in a dream."

"What have you dreamt this time?" asked he. "I dreamt that in a certain kingdom there stood an apple-tree which had once borne golden apples, but now would not even bear leaves. What, think you, was the reason?"

"Oh! if they did but know," answered the devil.

"A mouse is gnawing at the root; if they killed this they would have golden apples again, but if it gnaws much longer the tree will wither altogether. But leave me alone with your dreams: if you disturb me in my sleep again you will get a box on the ear."

The grandmother spoke gently to him till he fell asleep again and snored. Then she took hold of the third golden hair and pulled it out. The devil jumped up, roared out, and would have treated her ill if she had not quieted him once more and said, "Who can help bad dreams?"

"What was the dream, then?" asked he, and was quite curious.

"I dreamt of a ferry-man who complained that he must always ferry from one side to the other, and was never released. What is the cause of it?"

"Ah! the fool," answered the devil; "when anyone comes and wants to go across he must put the oar in his hand, and the other man will have to ferry and he will be free."

As the grandmother had plucked out the three golden hairs, and the three questions were answered, she let the old serpent alone, and he slept till daybreak.

When the devil had gone out again the old woman took the ant out of the folds of her dress, and gave the luck-child his human shape again.

"There are the three golden hairs for you," she said.

"What the Devil said to your three questions, I suppose you heard?"

"Yes," answered he, "I heard, and will take care to remember."

"You have what you want," she said, "and now you can go your way."

He thanked the old woman for helping him in his need, and left hell well content that everything had turned out so fortunately.

When he came to the ferry-man he was expected to give the promised answer. "Ferry me across first," said the luck-child, "and then I will tell you how you can be set free," and when he reached the opposite shore he gave him the devil's advice: "Next time anyone comes, who wants to be ferried over, just put the oar in his hand."

He went on and came to the town wherein stood the unfruitful tree, and there too the watchman wanted an answer. So he told him what he had heard from the devil: "Kill the mouse which is gnawing at its root, and it will again bear golden apples."

Then the watchman thanked him, and gave him as a reward two asses laden with gold, which followed him.

At last he came to the town whose well was dry. He told the watchman what the devil had said: "A toad is in the well beneath a stone; you must find it and kill it, and the well will again give wine in plenty."

The watchman thanked him, and also gave him two asses laden with gold.

At last the luck-child got home to his wife, who was heartily glad to see him again, and to hear how well he had prospered in everything. To the king he took what he had asked for, the devil's three golden hairs, and when the king saw the four asses laden with gold he was quite content, and said, "Now all the conditions are fulfilled, and you can keep my daughter. But tell me, dear son-in-law, where did all that gold come from? this is tremendous wealth!"

"I was rowed across a river," answered he, "and got it there; it lies on the shore instead of sand."

"Can I too fetch some of it?" said the king; and he was quite eager about it.

"As much as you like," answered he. "There is a ferry-man on the river; let him ferry you over, and you can fill your sacks on the other side."

The greedy King set out in all haste, and when he came to the river he beckoned to the ferry-man to put him across. The ferry-man came and bade him get in, and when they got to the other shore he put the oar in his hand and sprang out. But from this time forth the king had to ferry, as a punishment for his sins. Perhaps he is ferrying still? If he is, it is because no one has taken the oar from him.

Notes

Contents


Brothers Grimm Household Tales, Grimm Brothers, Grimm tales, Literature  

Brothers Grimm Household Tales, Grimm Brothers, Grimm tales, To top Section Set Next

Brothers Grimm Household Tales, Grimm Brothers, Grimm tales. USER'S GUIDE: [Link]
© 2005–2017, Tormod Kinnes, MPhil. [Email]  ᴥ  Disclaimer: [Link]