Once on a time Hans wandered into the world to find good men. He came into a great forest, and lay down weary under an oak-tree, and soon fell asleep. As he awoke, the sun appeared; he jumped up, made his breakfast out of his bread-bag, and then went deeper into the wood; but there was no end of it, and his heart was cast down.
The third night, as he went round the forest, he suddenly observed a light. Long was the way before he could reach it, but at last he came to his goal. Then he saw a small hut. Hans went in, but the owner was away; so he sat down on a moss-bank before the hut. Soon an old man appeared, and asked Hans what he wanted.
"Better men I am seeking," he answered, "better than those I knew."
"Better men you will hardly find, for they are all much alike; but if you will remain with me, you will find a good man," said the dweller in the hut. He led Hans into his hut and set some bread and cheese before him. Hans regaled himself, and told the man of the hut the reason of his leaving home. Next day, after Hans had breakfasted, the hermit went away, first giving Hans a fishing-tackle, and showing him the way to a lake where he was to fish.
Joyously he set out, and soon had reached the place. It was a lake clear as a mirror, where he saw the most beautiful fishes. But he was sorry for such beautiful fishes, so he merely looked at them, and rejoiced that for once he had found an honest man.
As he sat thinking thus, he suddenly heard a voice saying, "Let be, you will yet find good men, and it will go well with you, because you have taken none of us."
Looking up, he saw that the most beautiful fish swam away from him into the midst of the lake. Soon after Hans went home, and found the hermit getting ready a supper. Hans told him of his adventure.
The old man listened attentively, and said, "Dear Hans, what has happened to you today is very strange; go tomorrow again, and look to it that you learn more."
Next day Hans took his tackle, and again went to the lake; but this time no single fish was to be seen. As he was about to return, he saw a band of the fairest maidens, each of whom was clothed only in an apron. Shocked at the sight, he hastened to the old man's hut, and told him of it. At the same time he begged the old man for one of the maidens in marriage. The old man laughed at this desire, but advised Hans, if the maidens bathed again, to take the apron of the maiden who pleased him best. Hans followed the advice, and went next day to the lake. He had not long to wait before the maidens appeared, took off their aprons, and sprang into the water. He gently stole up to the apron which belonged to the maiden who pleased him best, seized it suddenly, and hastened away from there. But no sooner did the maidens catch sight of their disturber, than all sprang out of the water and hastened from the place.
But the maiden whose apron he had taken, was following him. When she reached him, she fell on her knees, and begged him urgently to give her back the apron, promising to go with him wherever he would. But Hans was not to be deceived; so taking the maiden by the arm, he led her into the hut of the hermit. The old man blessed their union, and told Hans that he was to burn the apron, for if she got hold of it, she would run away. Hans, however, wanted to keep the apron, and hid it in a chest.
Years passed by, and one day Hans' wife was going to wash clothes. Looking about, she found her apron. Quickly she took off her clothes, tied the apron around her, and hastened away. When Hans came home and did not see his wife, he sought everywhere, and could not find her. Then the thought came into his mind whether his wife had not found her apron and hastened away with it. Sadly he went to the chest, and convinced himself that the words of the old man had been actually fulfilled.
Next day Hans rose and was intent on seeking his wife everywhere. First he went to the hermit to bewail his sad fate, and to ask his counsel.
"I thought so," said the hermit, when Hans had told him all. "You ought to have followed my advice, but now I cannot help you. Still, I know of one means. Not far from me there lives a witch, and she is not on good terms with those who enchanted the maidens and hold them fast. Go to her, tell her your trouble, and beg her assistance."
Hans went to the witch, who was a hideous old hag.
"Good," said the witch, when she had silently listened to Hans, "It is well that you have come to me, otherwise you would have fared ill; but now listen attentively to what I shall tell you. In three days there is a great race. All the princes of the neighbouring towns are invited. He who rides his horse up a ball-shaped crystal mountain will get the fairest maiden that the old witch holds bound. Your wife is the fairest. To save her," the old woman went on, "take the horse that stands before the door, ride to the course, and announce yourself there as a competitor, for only in that way will be admitted to the contest. If you win, and this I can certainly promise you, your task is not over, for you must find her out among a thousand similar maidens. But this task will be easy, if you follow my advice. Give close heed when you come into the hall of the maidens, and choose the one that a spider descends on from the roof of the chamber."
Heartily Hans thanked the witch for her advice, and at a swinging gallop he hastened to the course, full of hope of meeting his beloved spouse.
There the nobles of all kingdoms were already gathered. They waited impatiently for the opening of the course, where they hoped to make their fortune. One after the other tried to ride up the crystal mountain, but none succeeded. Hans' turn now came. He did not long hesitate, but trusting the witch's horse, bounded at full gallop towards the goal and reached it to the astonishment of alL So Hans, the best rider, was awarded the prize.
And now, out of a thousand maidens, he had to choose his bride; and they were all alike. He recalled the witch's words, and paused; but as soon as he saw that a spider let itself down from the roof of the room on the head of a maiden, he chose her and recognised in her his spouse. He led her to the hermit's place that they might live quietly with him.
But soon the witch repented of having given Hans her choicest beauty. So she sent a messenger to take her again. When the messenger came to the heath that Hans had to pass to get to the hermit's, his wife noticed him and said, "See, over there is a messenger from the witch; she would have us both, but she shall not succeed."
With these words she muttered something, and suddenly instead of two persons a dove was seen, holding a straw in her beak. As the messenger came up to the spot where Hans and his wife had stood and saw nothing that excited his attention, he turned round.
The witch impatiently awaited the messenger. When at last she caught sight of him, she asked soon afterwards if he had the pair.
"No, I have not once seen them," answered the messenger.
"Did you see nothing?" asked the witch.
"Nothing but a dove, with a straw in her beak."
"Ride again, and take all that you find."
And again the messenger set out.
Meanwhile Hans and his wife had got a good distance further, but in the middle of the heath they were overtaken by the messenger. This time also the woman knew of a spell which she had learned from the witch, and as she uttered it Hans was changed into horse-dung, and she herself into a crow. The messenger passed the crow, and, seeing nothing, rode back.
The enraged witch sent him forth a third time, and he came up with the pair by the lake, where the hermit was wont to fish. When the woman again saw the messenger, she used her third and last spell and changed Hans into a thistle, which stood in the middle of the lake, and herself into a goldfinch that settled on the thistle and began to pipe and sing lustily.
When the messenger saw and heard this, he was going to seize the finch, but he did not succeed, because the lake was too deep, and Hans was too far from the messenger.
The messenger rode away from there in order to fetch a boat and crew; but before they came up, Hans and his spouse were already safe, for they had gone into the territory of the witch who had given Hans the horse. When the messenger returned to the witch, he could not find her, for the spell on the maiden was broken, and the witch was gone. No one knew where. Hans went with his spouse to the hermit, and they thanked him from their hearts, and in his presence the wedding was solemnised anew.
The fishes of the lake were in fact men. They had been banished by the same witch, and were now released from the spell, they too. The maidens of the Crystal Mountain were the brides of the former fishes. And now, at Hans' wedding the other husbands celebrated their own renewed weddings too, and there was no end of rejoicing.
Once there was a father and mother and their two children, John and Mary. The father had been long out of work, and they were poor. One day the parents decided to take the children to the forest and leave them there.
Next day the parents gave each child a piece of bread, and the father took them by the hand and led them into the forest. When they had come deep enough into the forest and the children were tired and weary, the father climbed a tree and fastened to the trunk a pumpkin he had brought with him. When the father had climbed down the tree again, he told the children to sleep for a while. In the meantime he would go and fetch some wood so that their mother had something to keep the home warm with. And in order not to miss the way and to find the children again, he had fastened the pumpkin to the trunk. In the evening wind the pumpkin would strike against the trunk and the sounds would help him find the children.
With these words he left the children. They were very weary and the sun shone so hot, so they lay down in the shadows of the trees and fell asleep.
When they woke up again it was already evening. The wind whispered in the trees and struck the pumpkin again and again against the tree trunk. The children still thought their father would come back, but he did not come, and it got darker. When it got still darker and the father still did not come, they decided to go home without him. But she came deeper into the forest, and soon came to a little house. They knocked at the door and asked the old woman who came out, if they could spend the night there. She willingly said yes to it, but did not take them to a bed for the night, but the dog house. They could not come into the house, for it belonged to robbers who soon would get back. If the robbers should happen to see the children, they would kill them.
Now the children got afraid. But as they were so weary that they could not go further, they curled up in the dog house and fell asleep. Next morning the children were awakened early by the old woman. She came with breakfast and asked the chldren to stay calm and remain in the dog house till she returned. As soon as the robbers had left the house, she would came back.
Now the children quickly had breakfast, each as quiet as a mouse, so that they would not be noticed. And when the robbers had left the house, the women came to the dog house once again, called for the children and praised them for being so quiet. Then she gave each child another piece of bread and showed them where they had to go so as not to meet the robbers.
The children thanked the old woman as if she were their grandmother, and went on their way. After a while the road divided. One road turned right, and the other road turned left. Then John said to Mary:
"I will go to the left, and you to the right. Some place or other the two roads will come together again, and then we will meet again."
Then John went to the left, and Mary to the right.
Toward evening John came to a castle that belong to a count. John asked the count if he could stay the night there. The count said he might stay, but there was no vacant place for him. But an hour's walk further was another castle. It was rather empty. There he could sleep, and when he came back to the count's castle next morning, he would get the count's daughter for his wife.
John accepted that and walked to the next castle. When he came there he lit a fire in the stove and prepared a meal for himself. After he had eaten he lay down in bed and fell asleep. After some time he felt jolly. When he opened his eyes, he saw a woman standing by his bed in the moonlight. She gave him a ball of wool and told him that it would bring him luck: In the middle of the night three headless men would come and ask him to come with them. When they got down to the cellar, he should fasten the thread of wool to the handrail of the stairs and let the thread run as they went down. When he had done all they asked from him, this would help him.
On this the woman disappeared again and John slept on. But at midnight he woke up from some noise at the door, and soon the door was opened and three headless men came in. They asked John to come with them. He got up and got dress, picked up the ball of wool and came along. The three men first showed him the whole castle. But when they came to the cellar below the castle, John fastened the end of the thread to the handrail let the thread run smoothly from the ball as he went along. The ball became smaller and smaller, and still the men went further. When they finally stopped, there was no more thread left. Now the men showed John to pick up some tools and start digging at a certain spot. He did, and found three barrels full of money in the light of day. The men told John that what was in one of the three barrels belonged to him, that the money in the second was for mass for their souls, and what was in the third was to be distributed among the poor. The the three headless men disappeared.
John picked up the thread of wool and followed it till he was out of the cellar once again. Then he went to bed and slept till the sun shone in his face. He rose quickly, got dressed, made breakfast and had it quickly. Then he when back to the other castle. The count was happy to see him and at once John was engaged to the count's daughter, the pretty Isolde. Then the count told John than many had spent the night in the other castle, but none had returned from it. That John came back alive proved to the count that John had done what was to be done there.
Before the wedding John gave a barrel of money to the church, to let the monks and clergy read masses for it. Next John distributed the content of one more barrel among the poor. But what was in the third barrel he kept for himself, and had built a castle that looked brand new, which it was.
When the castle had been built, the wedding took place with pomp and circumstance and lasted for eight days.
For a long time John lived happily with his wife, But in time he came to be depressed and brusque, and unfriendly. Isolde wanted to know why he had changed, so John told of his sister Mary, and that he wanted to have them both with him. The count sent people to look for Mary, and after a long time they found her. When she had taken the right road, she had come to poor people who let her stay in a poorhouse. John now travelled for three days and nights till he came to her. He rewarded the owners of the poorhouses amply and took Mary with him. John was once again lively, glad and satisfied.
When the old count died, John took over his castle and became a great master.
Once on a time there lived a man who had three sons. One of them, named Hans, was not quite master of his five senses. As the father intended that his sons should, like himself, learn something of the world, he proposed to them to leave home and get their living at a distance. They fell in joyfully with the proposal, and set out the next day. They came to a dark forest and camped under the shady boughs of a fir-tree. Here two soon fell asleep from weariness, while Hans lined his leather pouch, which he could use as a bagpipe.
Suddenly he saw on the tree a monkey. Hans smiled in so friendly a way that the ape, who perhaps thought he saw one of his own species, at once slipped down and perched on Hans' shoulder. When the two others awoke they were astonished at their comrade, and proposed to Hans that he should go through the world with the ape, thinking that if he trained the animal to perform various tricks he would earn a good deal of money. Hans agreed, and took leave of his brothers, who were tired of him. He began to practise the monkey a little, and came with him to a city, where the annual fair was going on. He hired a booth and began his performances. Soon a crowd of spectators gathered round his booth. Who was merrier than Hans? But when he went round to collect their money, the crowd dispersed, and Hans went back into his booth with only a couple of small silver coins.
When he repeated the tricks, a still greater crowd of spectators collected before the booth. Again he got so little that in a rage he blew at his bagpipe, the goitre, and blew so strongly that he almost burst it. At the very first tones the money flew in heaps into the booth, and even on to his cheeks. Hans did not trace them, for the pieces glistened like silver and not like buttons. He had collected a pretty sum of money, when the ape suddenly put an end to all his good fortune; for as a slave of the king, who was just entering the city, laden with the finest fruits of the land, passed by Hans' booth, the ape leaped from the booth and snatched some of the fruits.
In a moment Hans was torn away from the booth with his companion, and cast into a gloomy prison. And certainly Hans would not have escaped death had not the princess taken pity on him. He was very sad, and scolded the ape for his greed; while the ape, who seemed to understand the grumbling of his master, had retired into a corner of the prison to be safe from his wrath. About midnight the ape began howling; Hans hastened, in spite of his anger, to his comrade's help, and felt to his horror the coil of a mighty serpent round his body. Hans took his cudgel and beat the serpent so violently that it fell to pieces; and it was a wonder that the ape remained alive. After these violent exertions he fell asleep, and only awoke towards noon next day. When the jailer entered the prison after the noon, he saw the vast fragments of the serpent, on which a price had long been set by the king. Beside himself with joy he took the head and brought it to the king, and gave out that he had slain the magic serpent; for it had been decreed by the king that he who should slay that serpent and bring its head, should receive twenty tons of gold.
The king was greatly astonished, and seemed to see a supernatural being in his jailer; but soon he saw that he was mistaken in him; for when he asked after the crown, the jailer knew not what to answer, and left. Every chink in the wall of the prison he searched, but nowhere was it to be found. The king threatened him with death if he did not bring the crown, or at least say who had conquered the serpent.
But all attempts to recover the crown were unsuccessful; for the monkey had secretly put it on one side. The term of Hans' punishment expired, and he was let out of prison. Even now he did not see the crown in the monkey's possession, because it was still sprinkled with the blood of the slain magician, and was invisible to everybody.
Once the king was taking a walk, when he saw afar off a light which shone like the sun and blinded his eyes. In the splendour he immediately recognised the crown, went nearer, and saw Hans and his comrade who was playing with the crown. It was pure as a metal mirror, and had no more any trace of blood. Hans had paid no attention to the plaything of his comrade, but was now to learn its immense value. For it was a means by which vast treasures could be got.
Hans at first did not understand the honour which had fallen to his lot, when he and his comrade were sent for and taken in the finest court chariot to the king. The king asked how he came into possession of the crown. Hans could only reply that he had slain the serpent with a club; but how the ape had come into possession of the crown, he did not know. The ape, as if he understood this conversation, showed by his gestures that he had taken it from the head of someone. The king's doubts were at an end, and he caused the lying jailer to be slain. Hans gave the crown to the king, and the king was so pleased with it that he promised Hans his daughter. Such good fortune Hans had not dreamed of.
In course of time, however, the court no longer pleased him, and he longed for his simple life again. Besides, he could not move in refined circles with his bagpipe. Had his bride possessed such a feature, he certainly would not have despised her hand. The king tried every means to keep him at the court; but Hans made up his mind, and was not to be talked out of his purpose. And actually one day he had disappeared. He had taken neither money nor a better suit of clothes with him. He had gone into the country with his monkey, and found nothing to do for a living, except begging and praying. Not even a single piece of bread did they offer him. Nov he again took to his bagpipe and started to blow it in the marketplace, and he blew so lustily that some stones he sat on, were moved, and still it was of no avail. He was driven out of the city because he had thus thrown down the stone-wall.
Then he rued his folly; but repentance was too late. Despairing of help, he went into a wood, intending to kill himself. But at the very moment that he was winding the cord round his neck, out of the thicket stepped a fine-looking gentleman who greeted him in a friendly manner. Hans was alarmed at the unexpected appearance, but the lord bade him be in no fear, he was come to his help. Hans, whose looks were fixed on the ground, and who dared not look the stranger in the face, soon perceived whom he had to do with when he saw the horse's hoof. But the purse which the devil held out to him, and which the bright gold pieces sparkled from, soon drove away his terror. The devil now gave him the purse, with the words, "Here is an inexhaustible purse for you; but take heed, I shall return in seven years' time, and if you cannot then tell me the seven truths, your soul will belong to me."
So saying, the devil disappeared.
Hans bought a carriage and two good horses that he might go in quest of his brothers. After separating from Hans, they had gone to a city where the daughter of the king lay sick; and she had been promised to the suitor who should cure her of her sickness. The two brothers had tried it, but they could not restore her health, and were doomed to torture and death. From all lands came physicians to try their fortune, but not one succeeded.
At last Hans drove up and rattled through the city gate. He at once asked for his brothers, but learned with grief that they were dead. It was long before he could be comforted.
But his spirits rose when he heard that the king's daughter had a bagpipe like his own. He determined to use every means to get the princess, and gave all his thought to this dangerous undertaking. But as the noise in the city oppressed him, he left it and went into the country. From early morning till noon he lay in the shade of a forest, but, in spite of all his study, discovered no means whereby he could perform the difficult task. Already the sun was setting, and still nothing occurred to him.
But suddenly he heard a rustling that became louder, and as it came nearer turned into a clatter. Hans stood up and saw a skeleton approaching. The sight made Hans tremble in all his limbs. "Bones" sat down and bade Hans do the like. He did, and then Bones began to murmur: "I know why you have come here. If you can outreach me in cunning, I will get the princess for you; but if not, your head will fall by the axe of the executioner, and your soul into the power of the devil."
At these words Hans felt his stomach turn five times.
"If I stand at the head of the sick girl," said Death further, for him it was, "she is lost beyond hope; but if I stand at her feet, she will recover her health. Now try your fortune."
With these words the skeleton sprang up, and Hans slowly plucked up heart and ventured on the dangerous expedition. He put on a better suit of clothes, and went to the king. He did not fear death, for he had no more interest in life.
Quite alone he entered the chamber of the sick princess; and how he was rejoiced when he saw a bagpipe round the neck of the rich princess! But at the same moment he became pale with fright when he saw the skeleton appear at the head of the invalid. Hans now collected all his senses, that he might get happily out of the nasty trap. But no ways to save himself or the princess occurred to him.
However, the monkey suddenly appeared. It came through the open window into the sickroom, and turned the bed round so that Death came to stand at the feet of the princess. At the same moment the sick one felt better, and in a few minutes she stood up, alive and well. The father was called in, and full of joy he called in his counsellors to thank the rescuer.
Now preparations were made for the wedding, and it was celebrated with great splendour.
Hans had now become a very rich man, for he had the inexhaustible purse besides all the rest. He had become most affectionately attached to his monkey, but one day it was lost and never found afterwards.
Gradually the seventh year was drawing to a close, and as yet he knew none of the seven truths. When there were just a few days left till the devil came to fetch him, he told it to the king, who gave him a talisman to protect himself from the devil.
About midnight he went to the churchyard, and saw by means of a magical preparation the devil playing a game with the skulls, while muttering about having both Hans and his wife in a few days.
"Ha!" thought Hans, "my soul was not enough for you, you would have that of my consort too." In rage he returned to the palace. As the last night came, he went again to the churchyard, where he found the devil in the form of a wild-looking man. But as Hans laid the talisman on his breast, the devil cowered, and changed into a humpback with a horrible goat's beard. Hans laid his spell on him on a rock, which rose above the sea hard by.
Next day he went in company of his court to the rock, and the goat man with the flowing beard was there still, held down by invisible hands from the spell. Hans did not shy away, but caused him to be cast on a wagon and bound and drawn through all bushes and thorny hedges, so that after an hour the devil came out quite mangled. Hans then threw him into a vessel studded with seven spikes, and with the words, "These are the seven truths, strangely enough," he twisted the devil's nose, put him in the vessel, and threw it down the precipice.
After this Hans lived with his consort in peace and content.