The Peasant and the Devil

The Peasant and the DevilThe Peasant and the Devil

Oh that Devil, he’s always trying to get people.

Once upon a time there was a farmer who was known for being a prankster. One day he was in his field and saw a pile of steaming coals. He went to the pile and upon it sat a little devil. He asked the devil if he was sitting on a treasure and the devil told him that he was. There was a great amount of gold and silver there. The man replied that the treasure in the field belonged to him because it was his field. The devil said the man could have it if for two years he gave him half of what his field produced. The devil said that during the first year everything above the ground would belong to him and everything under the ground would belong to the farmer.

Well, during the first year the man planted turnips. He harvested the turnips from under the ground and the devil was left with nothing but leaves. The next year the devil decided that everything below the ground would belong to him and everything above the ground would belong to the peasant. So the next year the farmer planted wheat. He harvested his portion from above the ground and the devil was left with pretty much nothing. He was so angry that he ran away into a hole in a rock. The farmer was then able to dig up the treasure.

The End

Observations

I seriously don’t think the devil is that stupid. If the devil is real, he’s not an idiot. I don’t think you can trick him. I could be wrong though.

Themes

Maybe if you make a wager or a deal you should know a bit about what it is you’re wagering. You can’t as an Average Joe walk up to a body builder and bet him that you could beat him at arm wrestling. First of all, you probably don’t work out that much. Second of all, he knows more about muscles and using them than you do. Were you drunk or something? You can’t expect to come out on the better end of a bet if you have no idea what it is you’re betting about. Go to Vegas and play yourself a round of poker if you don’t believe me. If you don’t know much about poker, you’re going to lose terribly.

The devil apparently didn’t know that some plants are harvested below the ground and some plants are harvested above the ground. A better deal would have been for the devil to ask for half of whatever the peasant harvested and not half of what grew.

Overall

I don’t know why this devil is going around putting gold and silver in people’s gardens.


Bearskin

BearskinSummary

Bearskin is another one of those stories that are like East O’ The Sun and West O’ The Moon, but in this story, the man in question does not actually transform. He just looks as if he has. We also encounter the discharged soldier again, and, yet again, he meets the Devil. That’s kind of sad.

Once upon a time there was a man who had been discharged from the military. The war was over and he had no place to go. He decided to go to his brothers and see if they wanted him, they didn’t. The man bemoaned the fact that he did not have any money and went into the woods. He heard a rusting and a strange man appeared. The man wore a green coat, but had a cloven foot.

The man in the green coat told the ex-soldier that he already knew what the man needed. He needed gold and possessions. The man in the green coat told the ex-soldier that he could help him out, if he proved he was fearless. All of the sudden, a large bear appeared. The ex-soldier did not flinch, but shot the bear in the head, it fell down dead. The man in the green coat said there was one more condition the ex-soldier must fulfill before he got paid. The ex-soldier agreed as long as it did not endanger his salvation. He knew who the man in the green coat was.

The man in the green coat told the man he would have to figure that out on his own, but the condition was that for the next seven years the ex-soldier should not was himself, comb himself, cut his nails, or say the Lord’s prayer. The man in the green coat told the ex-soldier he would give him a cloak and  a coat to last for the seven years. If the man died during the seven years, he would belong to the Devil, if he lived, he would be rewarded.

The ex-soldier decided he could handle all of this. The Devil gave the man his green coat, telling him that in one pocket there would always be money. He then took the skin off of the dead bear and said it would be the man’s cloak. From this point on, he would be known as Bearskin. The cloak would be his protection as well as his bed. The two parted ways. Bearskin was pleased to find the bit about the money to be true.

He started his years of wandering. He could pay innkeeper’s to stay in their rooms. During the first year, Bearskin still looked human, but in the following years he grew more and more to resemble the bear of whose skin he wore. During the fourth year of his wandering, an innkeeper would not let him in the inn, he wouldn’t even let him stay in the stable. After the offer of much money, the innkeeper finally agreed to let Bearskin spend the night in the outhouse providing he didn’t let anybody else see him.

Bearskin was there for a while when he heard a man sobbing and bemoaning his life. The man was scared of Bearskin at first, but soon realized the voice coming out of the strange creature was human. The old man told Bearskin his woes. His property was all gone and he didn’t have any money for anything. Bearskin was a generous person and gave the man all the money he needed to right his life.

The old man wanted to repay Bearskin in some way. He told Bearskin to follow him home, there he had three daughters. Bearskin could have one of them for his wife. The oldest daughter saw Bearskin and ran away in fright. The second-oldest daughter said she would not have Bearskin because he was a man pretending to be a bear. Just last year a bear, shaven of all its fur and wearing nice clothes had come a-courting and that was much better(where do these people live?). The youngest saw Bearskin, and despite his outward appearance agreed to become his wife since Bearskin had been so generous to their family.

Bearskin had a ring, which is broke in two. He gave one half to the girl and he kept the other half. On his half he engraved her name and on her half, he engraved his name. He told her to wait for three years. He would be back. The youngest daughter put on black clothes and waited for Bearskin to return.

Bearskin went out into the world for three more years. He gave generously to many people. During his absence, the older two sisters would tease their younger sister. They would say that at least the dancing would be good at the wedding, because bears could dance well.

When the seven years was up, Bearskin returned to the spot where he had made the deal with the Devil seven years before. The Devil was not happy that Bearskin had stayed alive. The Devil got his green coat back. Bearskin wouldn’t let the Devil leave without cleaning him up first. So the Devil was obliged to bring water and neaten Bearskin up. After the Devil was finished, Bearskin looked so much better. He went to town and bought some nice clothes and then went to the house of his betrothed. No one recognized him. Everyone thought he was some famous general.

The older sisters rushed to look their best and fawned over Bearskin, while the youngest sat in black. After a while, Bearskin asked the old man if he would give him one of his daughters for a wife. The older two sisters rushed to change and the old man was out of the room. Bearskin and his betrothed were alone. There Bearskin brought out his half of the ring and put it into the girl’s glass of wine. When she had drunk it all, she found the ring.

When this happened Bearskin admitted that he was indeed Bearskin and it was time for them to get married. The two sisters came back after having prissed and primped only to find Bearskin and the youngest kissing. It was made known that the handsome man was Bearskin. The oldest two daughters were very upset. One drowned herself in a well and the other hanged herself.

Later that night, someone knocked on the door, it was the Devil. The Devil was glad to be getting two souls in place of Bearskin’s one soul. He was just paying his thanks.

The End

BearskinObservations

Bearskin does not actually turn into a bear, but does look like a bear for seven years. Remember this is very much the same as The Singing, Soaring Lark and East O’ The Sun West O’ The Moon. We have mentioned this idea of indentured servitude before. This tale is no exception. Bearskin may not have been stoking the Hell-broth kettles, but he was a servant, in a way, to the Devil for those seven years. The Nazarite also comes to mind when I think of this tale. The definition of Nazarite is down below.

noun: Nazarite
1.

an Israelite consecrated to the service of God, under vows to abstain from alcohol, let the hair grow, and avoid defilement by contact with corpses.

This was a practice that happened a long time ago, but the idea was the same. A man was dedicated to God. He didn’t cut his hair and he lived in a certain manner. Sampson, Jesus Christ, and John the Baptist were all considered Nazarites at points. I mention this because, Bearskin does take a vow. He doesn’t cut his hair for seven years. He also didn’t wash for seven years. I’m sure no one was happy with this arrangement. He agrees to set himself apart, for money, for seven years. It’s almost like a reverse version of the Nazarite. He does serve others though. He is very generous with the Devil’s money.

I don’t know where these people live, but bears usually do not shave off all of their fur and dress up like men. I’ve never been to this place, wherever it is. What woman in her right mind would have a shaved bear over a real man, even if the real man did kind of look like a bear? Real man? Bear? Real man? Bear? Is the choice really that hard? How about Bear Grylls? There I have made a compromise. Maybe Bear Grylls is really a shaved bear and that’s why drinking his own pee doesn’t bother him… Someone should write a story about that.

BearskinThemes

Spending the Devil’s money on charity is an interesting idea. It’s the Devil’s money, it came from his own darn pocket. You cannot deny that he did not have contact with it or create it. The money is pure Satan spawn, but this man spends it on charity. That’s funny actually.

Some people like to look at money as good or evil. If you earn your money through an honest job, it’s good money, right? If you earn your money through selling crack and your body on the street corner, it’s bad money, right? All the money looks the same to me. We have these arguments with ourselves. Are we going to let pharmaceutical money sponsor our anti-allergy fun walk? Are we going to let the Mafia invest in our casino? Are we going to let a Monsanto-subsidiary buy our family owned food company? The money looks good. It looks so good. It’s sitting there all green and beckoning, but will your moral compass allow you to take it?

Sure, you could take it and do with it exactly what Bearskin did with the Devil’s money, but would that outweigh the idea that you sold yourself out to the Devil in the first place? In Bearskin’s situation, it does seem that he has redeemed himself of any deals he has made with the Devil, but…there is still some sadness and woe in the story. His two would-be sisters-in-law commit suicide. That was a big “no-no” back in the day, certain to send you straight to Hell. No matter all the goodness that Bearskin did, misfortune still befell the people he loved because of his Devil deal.

If you take the Devil’s money, even if you use it for good, do you ever entirely get rid of the Devil’s influence in your life? Would you ever forgive yourself? That’s a question I cannot answer. It essentially boils down to this, if you sell yourself out knowing you are selling yourself out, but then do good with your received windfall or fame, does that cancel out the idea that you sold yourself out in the first place? It’s an individual answer. You really can’t look into the future and determine which path would be better in the end.

Overall

I like how this story is like East O’ The Sun West O’ The Moon. I also like this idea that Bearskin never really pulls himself away from the Devil’s influence. It’s an interesting idea to look at, although, a bit sad.


The Girl Without Hands

The Girl Without Hands Summary

The Girl Without Hands is exactly as horrible as the title implies. In fact, it might just be more horrible than the title implies.

Once upon a time there was a miller who had fallen upon hard times. An old man stopped him in the woods one days and told him that he would make the miller rich if he could have what stood behind the mill. The miller was thinking that only an old apple tree stood behind his mill and thought it was a good idea to lose and apple tree for lots of money. The old man told the miller that in three years he would come and collect his due.

He went home and the wife was like, “Where did all this money come from.” The miller told her what he had agreed and that it would only cost them their apple tree. The wife was all like, ‘No, you idiot! That was the Devil! Our daughter was standing behind the mill sweeping!” Harsh words were said that night.

The little girl was a very good and pious girl and when the day came for the devil to take her away she made sure she was nice and clean. Then she made a circle around herself with chalk to keep him away. (I always thought you made a salt circle around yourself to keep evil away, but I guess chalk will do.)

The devil was there, but it turns out he cannot abide cleanliness. He told the parents to take away all her water so she could not wash. If she were dirty, then he could take her away. The parents did as the devil bade. The devil came again the next day thinking that by now this girl is going to be a horribly, filthy mess. Well, she cried so much that it washed her hands. The devil was not happy about this, so he told the miller to cut off his daughter’s hands. At this the miller does protest a bit. He asks the devil how he is supposed to cut the hands off of his own daughter. The devil really doesn’t care and tells the miller if he doesn’t cut off his daughter’s hands that he will take the miller in her place. The miller doesn’t want this to happen so he talks to his daughter.

The Girl Without HandsHe tells her that the devil wants him to cut off her hands. The girl agrees because apparently she doesn’t have any self-esteem or notions that she is her own person. “Dear father, do with me what you will, I am your child.” So the dad cut off his daughter’s hands.

The devil comes again the next day only to find that the girl has cried so much that the stumps where her hands should be are too clean for him to handle. So he gives up and says, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

The father is sorry for what he is done, and now he is rich, so he tells the girl that he will care for her as long as he lives. The girl is like, “No thanks.” She says that she will go out into the world on her own. For some reason it’s a good idea for her to have her arms tied behind her back. So with her arms tied behind her back she wanders off into the world.

She soon comes upon a royal garden. The garden is full of beautiful ripe fruit that she could eat, but there is a moat around the garden so she can’t get there, especially since she doesn’t have the use of her arms.

The girl is not deterred. She kneels down to pray and an angel appears. The angel holds back the water so the girl can walk across the moat. The girl ate one pear that was hanging on a tree, but a gardener saw her. The girl went into the bushes after this. The gardener thought the girl was a ghost because an angel was with her, so that’s why he didn’t say anything.

The next day the king comes into the garden and is like, “Why is there a pear missing from this tree?” Apparently, he counted them every day. The gardener tells the king what happened and the king decides to go on a stake out with the gardener that night to see if the same thing happens again.

The same thing does happen again and they confront the girl. She tells them that she is mortal, because they ask, and that an angel helped her cross the moat. Actually, the girl comes back three nights to eat a pear. The king is all impressed with this poor girl who hangs with angels so he says that he will not forsake her. He has silver hands made for her and she lived in his castle for a while, until the king thought that she would make a better wife.

They lived together for about a year and then the king had to go away. He told his mother that if his wife had a baby while he was gone to write him a letter right away. The queen did have a baby and the king’s mother wrote to the king right away, but the messenger who was delivering the letter got tired and slept besides a brook. The devil just happened to be in the area and took a peek at the letter. He switched out the letter to say that the queen had brought a monster into the world.

The king got the letter and wrote back words of comfort, but the devil interceded again and this time the letter said that the queen should be put to death. The king’s mom was a bit freaked out by this. She didn’t want to kill her daughter-in-law. She wrote back to the king, but again, the devil was at his trickery and switched some letters around. A letter came back from the king saying that the king’s mom was still to kill the queen, but that she should preserve her tongue and eyes.

The king’s mom was like, “Ok, I’ve had it, this is crazy non-sense.” She tells the queen that she can no longer stay in the castle because her son is freaking crazy. She straps the baby to her back and sends the queen out into the wide-world alone. The queen in the meantime has a deer killed and saves its eyes and tongue to please the king.

The girl is disappointed, but, once again, she prays and a woman appears. The woman tells her she can stay in her house as long as she needs to. The queen stays there seven years and her hands grow back because she is so pious.

The king finally comes home and is like, ‘Where’s my wife and my baby?” His mom tells him, “Look I had to send them away because you were talking crazy.” She still had the letters from the devil. The king reads them and begins to weep. He vows that he will find his wife and son.

The king travels for seven years in search of his wife and son and he doesn’t eat the entire time. God provides his sustenance. He finally comes upon the little house. He tells the girl there that he seeks his wife and child. The girl, who is another angel, goes into the room where the queen is and tells her that her husband has shown up. The king had put a handkerchief over his face to sleep, but it fell off of his face when the queen went into the room. The queen told her son, Sorrowful, to pick up the handkerchief again, and put it back on his father’s face. The kid is all like, “You told me I only had a father in heaven. How can I put a handkerchief on my dad’s face if he’s not here?”

Well, the king wakes up and asks the angel who these people are. The queen says, “I’m your wife.” The king is confused and says, “No, no, no, my wife has silver hands.” “No, really it’s me, my hands grew back, see I still have the silver hands,” which she did. The king realizes that this is really his wife and his son.

“There were great rejoicings everywhere, and the King and Queen were married again, and lived contentedly to their happy end.”

The End

The Girl Without HandsObservations

This story is a bit morbid. Why would you ever cut off your child’s hands? The guy even has an out. He can let the devil take him instead, but he doesn’t. He cuts off his own daughter’s hands. What a jerk. I’m rich now, I can’t be bothered with such things as children.

The devil is up to his old trickery again I see.

Why does the story say that they got married again? Did they get divorced? I mean, threatening your life is probably a good reason to divorce your husband.

This is just so weird. This girl gets her hands cut off. How is she supposed to do anything in the world? It’s a good thing a king found her instead of a pimp. The king treats her well and makes her silver hands. Notice it’s not gold. Gold was probably considered too valuable to make into hands for your hand-less wife whose own father cut of her hands to get out of a deal with the devil. Notice the story never says she goes back to visit with her parents after this. No thanks, I’ve hand enough of those guys.

The girl in this tale is almost saint-like. Remember we’ve seen a few of these stories that are heavily Catholic influenced. That’s not a bad thing, it just indicates the era. This story doesn’t have that heavy Catholic influence in some ways, but it’s still there. This girl is revered and aided like a saint would be. I am not up on all my saint history and mythology, but I have heard a few stories about a few of the saints of the Catholic church. Some of the stories are so fantastic you can’t fathom that they would happen in real life. Here we have this girl walking around being aided by angels. They even part the waters for her. Who else parted the waters? Moses. This girl is so pious and she is a martyr in a way.

A martyr is someone who sacrifices something for their beliefs or maybe even for other people. We generally think of people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Joseph Smith in terms of martyrs. This girl allows her hands to be cut off so her father will not be taken by the devil. That’s pretty much the epitome of being a martyr.

It seems to me that this man cuts off his daughter’s hands for nothing. The devil doesn’t take her and the man gets to keep his money. I bet he felt rotten afterwards. It was a good choice that the girl decided not to stay with her parents. How could you continue living with a person knowing that they were willing to sacrifice something so important as your hands?

Don’t you think it’s great that the mom tells her son that he doesn’t have an Earthly father? Son, you were an immaculate conception, so I’m going to name you Sorrowful.

The Girl without handsThemes

This theme of sacrificing your child for gain has come up several times already in the Grimm’s anthology. In Rapunzel, her parents sacrificed her for a nice salad. In The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs, a child was sacrificed because of a lot of gold and a silly belief in superstition. As you know Rumpelstiltskin also has a couple who sacrifices their child, or attempts to. We haven’t made it to old Rumple yet in our Grimm adventure.

Where does this idea of sacrificing your child come from? Well, there are many tales of dedicating your child to this or that, but the era in which I am going to point to is the biblical age. Don’t argue with me here. People did sacrifice their children to an extent in the Bible. Think about the people who offered up their children unto God and only to God. That’s what a Nazarite is after all. A Nazarite was a man who was dedicated to God. He didn’t cut his hair and some other stuff. We also have to point at the story of Moses who was raised by someone else. His parents sacrificed him from their care unto someone else, just hoping that he would survive.

I also want to call attention to another story related to Moses. The last plague of Moses was the worst plague. The first-born of all families was killed in one night, unless the people were warned and spread the blood of a lamb about their door. Whenever you hear the phrase something like, “may the destroying wind pass over you,” this is what it refers to. God took the first-born of many families that night, according to the Bible. These parents, or rather, the pharaoh, sacrificed all these children because of his stubbornness.

There are of course other eras in which we have this idea of child sacrifice. Remember we’re not literally talking about taking your child up on an altar and slitting their throat, although that has been done. Recall some of those ancient Greek stories about sacrificing virgins and so forth. I think stories mention this idea of offering your child up unto someone else in return for something else because it’s such a big deal. Most people wouldn’t hear of it. They love their children way too much to sacrifice them to some unknown. There are some people who don’t love their children and think it’s an ok idea to trade the baby for a bag of money.

The Girl Without HandsCleanliness is a big theme in this story and with reason to be. If you’re all down on your Biblical lingo like the people who first enjoyed this tale would be, then you would know that no unclean thing can enter into the presence of God. Therefore, it stands to reason that no clean thing can enter into the presence of the devil. This girl is clean by her own virtue and even when the devil tries to make her dirty, she cries herself clean again. It’s a metaphor.

Let’s say you are a sinner, you probably are I don’t know why we’re going the hypothetical route here, but bear with me. So you’re a sinner; you’re dirty. You have sins blotting your soul and you will forever be stained crimson instead of being the lovely white that your soul should actually be. Not true. You can repent. You can clean yourself up. This girl cleans her dirtiness away and the devil has no hold upon her. Even if you were a prostitute for forty-two years of your life, it’s ok, you can still repent. You may seem pretty dirty, but you can wash yourself clean, maybe even with your own tears, in fact, probably with your own tears. Anyone who has ever been feeling truly guilty knows that it can make a person shed a few tears. This idea is hidden in this story.

It’s a great lesson if you look deep enough in the story to find it.

Overall

This story is a bit heavy on the religion and on the gore. Who thinks it’s a good idea to chop off a person’s hands? In ancient times, if you hand your hand chopped off it meant you were a thief. Hmmm…so this guy doomed his daughter to being seen as a thief because he made a deal with the devil.