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The Nun, the Miner, and the Blacksmith

A fairy tale by Ludwig Bechstein

A nun, a miner, and a blacksmith were wandering through the world together. One day they lost their way in a large and dark forest, so they were of course delighted when, at last, they caught sight of some walls in the distance, inside which they thought to find shelter. So they walked towards them and found an old and desolate castle, already half dilapidated, but with enough of it preserved for people to live inside, at any rate, should the need arise. So they decided to stay there and deliberated how they should manage their domestic affairs. Soon they came to the agreement that there should always be one of them staying at home to keep house while the two others were out procuring provisions.

The lot to stay at home fell to the nun first. Now when the miner and the blacksmith had gone into the forest, the nun attended to the cooking, and as her companions did not come home at lunchtime she ate her share of the meal in the meantime. All of a sudden a little grey man walked in through the door, shivered, and said, “Oh, I’m freezing!” The nun replied, “Sit down at the stove and warm yourself.” The little man did as the nun commanded, but he soon cried out, “Oh, I’m starving!” The nun said, “There’s food on the stove, so eat.” Then the little man got stuck into the food and speedily ate it up, all that there was. This incensed the nun and she scolded him for not having left even a morsel for her companions. Then the little man in his turn flew into a rage, and he seized the nun, beat her, and hurled her from one wall to the other. And then the wicked little man left the nun lying and went on his way. In the evening both of the nun’s companions came home, and when they hungrily demanded their food but found nothing left, they reproached the nun vehemently and would not believe her when she told them what had befallen her.

On the following day the miner volunteered to keep house, and he promised he would certainly see to it that no one would have to go to bed hungry. So both the others went into the forest and the miner attended to the food, consumed his share, and placed the remainder on the stove. Then the little man walked in, but what a shock the miner got when he saw that this time he had two heads. The man shivered and said, “Oh, I’m freezing!” Quite terrified, the miner pointed him to the stove. Soon afterwards he began to moan, “Oh, I’m starving!” – “There’s food on the stove, so eat!” replied the miner. Then the little man pitched into the food with both his heads and soon everything was consumed and the bowl looked like every inch of it had been licked clean. When the miner scolded the little man for this, he fared as the nun had fared – the little man beat him black and blue, hurled him against every wall with such force that there was a crash! and the miner did not know whether he was coming or going, and then, leaving him lying there, the little man went away. Now when the blacksmith came home with the nun in the evening and they both found nothing to still their hunger, he and the miner fell to quarrelling, and he solemnly promised, by all he held holy, that tomorrow, when it was his turn to keep house, no one should want for food.

When the food was ready on the next day, the little man came again, and this time he had three heads. He complained about the frost and the blacksmith bid him sit down by the stove. When he then complained of hunger, the blacksmith dealt out a portion of food and set it down for him. The little man swiftly made an end of that, then looked greedily around with his six eyes and demanded more; and when the blacksmith refused to give him more, he made to treat him as he had the nun and the miner. But the blacksmith, not letting the grass grow under his feet, took his large smith’s hammer, went for the little man, and knocked off two of his heads, making him duck his third head and hurriedly take flight. The blacksmith chased him through many passageways until he suddenly disappeared, right in front of him, through an iron door. Now the blacksmith had to give up pursuing the little man any further, but he determined not to rest until he, with both of his companions, had brought everything to a successful close. In the meantime the miner and the nun had returned home. The blacksmith brought them their food, as he had promised, told them about his adventure, and showed them both of the knocked-off heads, which stared at them with rolled eyes. Thereupon they all three decided to free themselves entirely from the little grey man, if it were possible; and the very next day they set to work. They had to seek a long time before they found the iron door through which the little man had disappeared the previous day, and only after great exertions were they able to force it open. Then a white vault opened before them; inside a beautiful young girl sat working at a table. She leapt up and fell at their feet, thanking them for setting her free, and telling them how she was a King’s daughter who had been spellbound hither by a powerful wizard; around noon on the day before, she had suddenly felt that the spell was broken, and since then she had hoped every hour for liberation. But besides her there was yet another King’s daughter spellbound in this castle. So they went and sought out this other Princess and set her free. She likewise thanked them delightedly and said that she too had felt, around noon on the previous day, that her bewitchment was broken. Now the two Princesses told their liberators that there was a great pile of treasure in hidden cellars of the castle which was guarded by a fearsome dog. So they went after it and at length found the dog, and the blacksmith slew him with his heavy hammer, try to defend himself as he might. The treasure was gold and silver, in overflowing vats, and a handsome youth sat by it as guardian. He came up to them and thanked them for having delivered him. He was the son of a King but had been spellbound in this castle and turned into the three-headed man by a wizard. When he had lost two of his heads the enchantment of both the King’s daughters had been lifted, and when the blacksmith had slain the terrible dog, then he too had been delivered. For doing this, they should now have the whole treasure as their reward. So the treasure was divided up, and it took no little time to bring this task to an end; and from gratitude for their deliverance, the King’s daughters married, the one the blacksmith and the other the miner, and the handsome King’s son married the nun. And they lived together in peace and pleasure until the end of their days.

The Book of German Folk- and Fairy Tales

Bechstein book cover 1

Notes: Translated by Dr. Michael George Haldane. Contains 100 fairy tales.

Author: Ludwig Bechstein
Translator: Dr. Michael George Haldane
Published: 1845-53

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