“On the eighth day…” The Twelve Grimm Days of Christmas

We are delighted to share these stories from The Complete First Edition of The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm with our readers. This series will run for 12 days and each story is accompanied by original art from Andrea Dezsö.

devil in green coat

The Devil in the Green Coat

There were once three brothers, and the two eldest used to push the youngest around, and when they decided to go out into the world, they said to him: “We don’t need you. You can go off wandering by yourself.”

Then they left him, and he had to set off all alone. When he came to a large meadow, he was very hungry and sat down beneath a ring of trees and began to weep. All of a sudden he heard a roar, and when he looked up, the devil came toward him. He was dressed in a green coat and had a cloven foot.

“What’s the matter?” he spoke. “Why are you weeping ?”

Then the young man told him his troubles and said: “My brothers have driven me away from them.”

“Well, I’m willing to help you,” replied the devil. “If you put this green coat on, you’ll see that it has pockets that are always full of money. You just have to dig into the pockets whenever you like. But in exchange for the coat I demand that you don’t wash yourself for seven years, that you don’t comb your hair, and that you don’t pray. If you die during the seven years, then you are mine. If, however, you live, then you’ll be free. In addition, you’ll be rich for the rest of your life.”

The young man’s troubles were so great that they drove him to accept the devil’s bargain. So the devil took off the green coat, and the young man put it on. As soon as he stuck his hand in a pocket, he had a handful of money.

Now he set out into the world with the green coat, and the first year was good. He could pay for anything he liked with his money, and he was still regarded as a human being for the most part. Things became worse in the second year. His hair had grown so long that nobody could recognize him and nobody would give him lodging for the night because he looked so atrocious. The more time passed, the worse it became. However, he gave poor people a lot of money so that they would pray for him and request that he wouldn’t die during the seven years and fall in the devil’s hands.

At a certain point in the fourth year he came to an inn, and the innkeeper wouldn’t let him stay there. However, he took out a heap of money and was willing to pay in advance so that the innkeeper gave him a room. That evening he heard a loud moaning in the neighboring room, and so he went next door and saw an old man sitting there. He was crying and complaining about something and told the young man to go away because he wouldn’t be able to help him. The young man asked him, however, what was troubling him. The old man told him that he didn’t have any money and that he owed the innkeeper a great deal. And now he was being detained until he paid his debt. Then the young man in the green coat said: “If that’s all it is, I’ve got plenty of money. I’ll pay, and you’ll be freed of your debts.” Now the old man had three beautiful daughters and told him to come along with him, and he would give him one of the daughters for his reward. So the young man went with him, and when they arrived at the old man’s home and the eldest daughter saw him, she screamed and cried that she would never marry such a hideous man who didn’t have human traits and looked like a bear. The second daughter immediately ran off and preferred to set out into the wide world than marry the young man. However, the youngest said, “Dear father, since you’ve promised him and he’s helped you get out of trouble, I shall obey you.”

So the young man in the green coat took a ring from his finger and broke it in two. Then he gave her one half and kept the other for himself. He wrote his name in her half and her name in his half and told her to keep her half in a safe place. Afterward he stayed a little while longer with her until he said, “Now I must take my leave. I shall be gone three years. Be true to me during this time. Then I’ll return, and we’ll celebrate our wedding. If I don’t return in three years, you’ll be free, and I shall be dead. However, pray for me and ask God to protect me.”

Now, during the three years, the two older sisters made a great deal of fun of the youngest and said that she couldn’t get a real man and would have to marry a bear. However, the youngest daughter kept quiet and thought, “I must obey my father no matter what.”

In the meantime the young man in the green coat traveled about the world and often stuck his hand into a pocket to buy the most beautiful things he saw for his bride. He didn’t do anything evil. Indeed, he only did good deeds wherever he could and gave poor people money so that they would pray for him. So God showed him mercy, and the three years flew by and he was healthy and alive. Now that the time was over, he went back to the meadow and sat down under the ring of trees. Once again there was a tremendous roar, and the devil arrived. He grumbled and viciously threw the young man’s old coat at him and demanded the green one in return. Well, the young man was glad to take off the green coat and handed it to the devil.

He was now free and rich for the rest of his life. So he went home, cleaned himself, and moved on to visit his bride. When he came to the door, the father met him. The young man greeted him and said he was the bridegroom, but the father didn’t recognize him and wouldn’t believe him. When the young man went over to the bride, she, too, wouldn’t believe him. Finally, he asked whether she still had her half of the ring. She said, yes, and went to fetch it. Then he took out his half and held it next to hers, and they matched. Now they knew that he was definitely the bridegroom. And when she saw that he was a handsome man, she was very happy and fond of him, and they held the wedding. However, since the two sisters had passed up their chance for happiness, they became so furious that one of them drowned herself on the wedding day, and the other hanged herself.

That evening something knocked and banged on the door, and when the bridegroom went and opened it, the devil was standing there in his green coat and said, “You see! Now I’ve got two souls instead of just yours!”


bookjacket

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm:
The Complete First Edition
Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm, Translated and edited by Jack Zipes
Illustrated by Andrea Dezsö

Art credit: Andrea Dezsö
This post is part of a series, explore additional posts here<< “On the seventh day…” The Twelve Grimm Days of Christmas“On the ninth day…” The Twelve Grimm Days of Christmas >>