World of Tales

Hans in Luck

German Folktale

Hans had served his master seven years, and at last said to him—

"Master, my time is up; I should like to go home and see my mother, so give me my wages."

And the master said—

"You have been a faithful and good servant, so your pay shall be handsome."

Then he gave him a piece of silver that was as big as his head. Hans took out his pocket-handkerchief, put the piece of silver into it, threw it over his shoulder, and jogged off homewards. As he went lazily on, dragging one foot after another, a man came in sight, trotting along gaily on a capital horse.

"Ah!" said Hans aloud, "what a fine thing it is to ride on horseback! There he sits as if he were at home in his chair. He trips against no stones, spares his shoes, and yet gets on he hardly knows how."

The horseman heard this, and said—

"Well, Hans, why do you go on foot, then?"

"Ah!" said he, "I have this load to carry; to be sure, it is silver, but it is so heavy that I can't hold up my head, and it hurts my shoulder sadly."

"What do you say to changing?" said the horseman. "I will give you my horse, and you shall give me the silver."

"With all my heart," said Hans, "but I tell you one thing: you will have a weary task to drag it along."

The horseman got off, took the silver, helped Hans up, gave him the bridle into his hand, and said—

"When you want to go very fast, you must smack your lips loud and cry, 'Jip.'"

Hans was delighted as he sat on the horse, and rode merrily on. After a time he thought he should like to go a little faster, so he smacked his lips and cried "Jip." Away went the horse full gallop, and before Hans knew what he was about, he was thrown off, and lay in a ditch by the wayside, and his horse would have run off if a shepherd, who was coming by driving a cow, had not stopped it. Hans soon came to himself, and got upon his legs again. He was sadly vexed, and said to the shepherd—

"This riding is no joke when a man gets on a beast like this, that stumbles and flings him off as if he would break his neck. However, I'm off now once for all. I like your cow a great deal better; one can walk along at one's leisure behind her, and have milk, butter, and cheese every day into the bargain. What would I give to have such a cow!"

"Well," said the shepherd, "if you are so fond of her I will change my cow for your horse."

"Done!" said Hans merrily.

The shepherd jumped upon the horse and away he rode. Hans drove off his cow quietly, and thought his bargain a very lucky one.

"If I have only a piece of bread (and I certainly shall be able to get that), I can, whenever I like, eat my butter and cheese with it, and when I am thirsty I can milk my cow and drink the milk. What can I wish for more?" said he.

When he came to an inn he halted, ate up all his bread, and gave away his last penny for a glass of beer. Then he drove his cow towards his mother's village. The heat grew greater as noon came on, till at last he found himself on a wide heath that it would take him more than an hour to cross, and he began to be so hot and parched that his tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth.

"I can find a cure for this," thought he; "now will I milk my cow and quench my thirst." So he tied her to the stump of a tree, and held his leathern cap to milk into, but not a drop was to be had.

While he was trying his luck, and managing the matter very clumsily, the uneasy beast gave him a kick on the head that knocked him down, and there he lay a long while senseless. Luckily a butcher came by driving a pig in a wheelbarrow.

"What is the matter with you?" said the butcher, as he helped him up.

Hans told him what had happened, and the butcher gave him a flask, saying—

"There, drink and refresh yourself. Your cow will give you no milk; she is an old beast, good for nothing but the slaughter-house."

"Alas, alas!" said Hans, "who would have thought it? If I kill her, what will she be good for? I hate cow-beef; it is not tender enough for me. If it were a pig, now, one could do something with it; it would at any rate make some sausages."

"Well," said the butcher, "to please you I'll change and give you the pig for the cow."

"Heaven reward you for your kindness!" said Hans, as he gave the butcher the cow and took the pig off the wheelbarrow and drove it off, holding it by a string tied to its leg.

So on he jogged, and all seemed now to go right with him. He had met with some misfortunes, to be sure, but he was now well repaid for all. The next person he met was a countryman carrying a fine white goose under his arm. The countryman stopped to ask what was the hour, and Hans told him all his luck, and how he had made so many good bargains. The countryman said he was going to take the goose to a christening.

"Feel," said he, "how heavy it is, and yet it is only eight weeks old. Whoever roasts and eats it may cut plenty of fat off, it has lived so well."

"You're right," said Hans, as he weighed it in his hand; "but my pig is no trifle."

Meantime the countryman began to look grave, and shook his head.

"Hark ye," said he, "my good friend. Your pig may get you into a scrape. In the village I have just come from the squire has had a pig stolen out of his sty. I was dreadfully afraid when I saw you that you had got the squire's pig. It will be a bad job if they catch you, for the least they'll do will be to throw you into the horse-pond."

Poor Hans was sadly frightened.

"Good man," cried he, "pray get me out of this scrape. You know this country better than I; take my pig and give me the goose."

"I ought to have something into the bargain," said the countryman; "however, I'll not bear hard upon you, as you are in trouble."

Then he took the string in his hand and drove off the pig by a side path, while Hans went on his way homeward free from care.

"After all," thought he, "I have the best of the bargain. First there will be a capital roast, then the fat will find me in goose-grease for six months, and then there are all the beautiful white feathers. I will put them into my pillow, and then I am sure I shall sleep soundly without rocking. How happy my mother will be!"

As he came to the last village he saw a scissors-grinder, with his wheel, working away and singing—

"O'er hill and o'er dale so happy I roam, Work light and live well, all the world is my home; Who so blythe, so merry as I?"

Hans stood looking for a while, and at last said—

"You must be well off, master grinder, you seem so happy at your work."

"Yes," said the other, "mine is a golden trade. A good grinder never puts his hand in his pocket without finding money in it—but where did you get that beautiful goose?"

"I did not buy it, but changed a pig for it."

"And where did you get the pig?"

"I gave a cow for it."

"And the cow?"

"I gave a horse for it."

"And the horse?"

"I gave a piece of silver as big as my head for that."

"And the silver?"

"Oh! I worked hard for that seven long years."

"You have thriven well in the world hitherto," said the grinder, "now if you could find money in your pocket whenever you put your hand into it your fortune would be made."

"Very true, but how is that to be managed?"

"You must turn grinder like me," said the other. "You only want a grindstone, the rest will come of itself. Here is one that is only a little the worse for wear. I would not ask more than the value of your goose for it. Will you buy it?"

"How can you ask such a question?" said Hans. "I should be the happiest man in the world if I could have money whenever I put my hand in my pocket. What could I want more? There's the goose."

"Now," said the grinder, as he gave him a common rough stone that lay by his side, "this is a most capital stone. Do but manage it cleverly and you can make an old nail cut with it."

Hans took the stone, and went off with a light heart. His eyes sparkled with joy, and he said to himself—

"I must have been born in a lucky hour. Everything I want or wish comes to me of itself."

Meantime he began to be tired, for he had been travelling ever since daybreak. He was hungry too, for he had given away his last penny in his joy at getting the cow. At last he could go no further, and the stone tired him terribly, so he dragged himself to the side of the pond that he might drink some water and rest a while. He laid the stone carefully by his side on the bank, but as he stooped down to drink he forgot it, pushed it a little, and down it went, plump into the pond. For a while he watched it sinking in the deep, clear water, then, sprang up for joy, and again fell upon his knees and thanked Heaven with tears in his eyes for its kindness in taking away his only plague, the ugly, heavy stone.

"How happy am I!" cried he; "no mortal was ever so lucky as I am."

Then he got up with a light and merry heart, and walked on, free from all his troubles, till he reached his mother's house.

Folk-lore and Legends: Germany

German folktales

: Contains 30 German folktales.

Author: Charles John Tibbitts
Published: 1892
Publisher: W. W. Gibbings, London

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