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.
The Blue Light
Once upon a time there was a king who had a soldier as servant. When the soldier became very old, the king sent him away without giving him anything for his service. Now the soldier had no idea how he was to eke out an existence and went off sadly and walked until he reached a forest in the evening. After he went farther, he saw a light, and as he approached it, he came upon a small house that was owned by a witch. He asked for a night’s lodging and a little food and drink. At first she refused him, but finally she said: “All right, I’ll be merciful, but you must dig my garden tomorrow morning.”
The soldier promised to do it and was given a place to sleep. The next morning he hoed the witch’s garden and worked until evening, when the witch wanted to send him on his way, but he said, “I’m so tired. Let me stay another night.”
She didn’t want to let him, but finally she gave in. So the next day he was to chop up a cartload of wood into small pieces, and indeed, the soldier chopped the wood into logs, and by the end of the day he had worn himself out so much that once again he couldn’t depart and asked for lodging for a third night. In exchange for the lodging, the witch demanded that he fetch the blue light from her well the following day. So the next morning the witch led him to a well and tied a long rope around him and lowered him down the well. When he reached the bottom, he found the blue light and made a signal to the witch so that she would pull him up. Indeed, she pulled him up, but just as he reached the edge of the well, she reached down with her hand and wanted to take the blue light from him and then let him fall back down. However, he sensed her evil intentions and said: “No, you don’t. I won’t give you the light until both my feet are firmly on the ground.”
The witch became furious, and she shoved him with the light down the well and went away. The soldier was now quite sad down in the moist dark quagmire, for he thought his fate was sealed. He reached into his pocket for his pipe, which was half full, and thought: “I might as well smoke it to the end as my last pleasure.” So he lit it with the blue light and began to smoke. As the smoke floated around a bit, a little black man appeared and asked: “Master, what do you command? I must do anything you demand.”
“Then first help me out of this well.”
The little man took him by the hand and led him up above, and they took the blue light with them. When they were back above ground, the soldier said: “Now go and beat the old witch to death for me.”
After the little man did this, he showed the soldier the witch’s treasures and gold, and the soldier loaded them in a sack and took everything with him. Then the little man said, “If you need me, just light your pipe with the blue light.”
The soldier returned to the city and stopped at the best inn where he had fine clothes made for himself and had a room furnished in a splendid way. When it was ready, the soldier called the little man and said: “The king sent me away and let me starve because I could no longer serve him well. Now bring the king’s daughter to me here tonight. She will have to wait on me and do what I command.”
“That’s dangerous,” the little man said, but he did what the soldier demanded anyway. He went and fetched the sleeping princess from her bed and brought her to the soldier. Then she had to obey and do what he said. In the morning when the cock crowed, the little black man had to bring her back again. When she got up, she told her father: “I had a strange dream this past night, and it seemed to me that I had been taken away and had become a soldier’s maid and had to wait on him.”
“Fill your pockets full of peas,” replied the king, “and make a hole in it. The dream could be true. Then the peas will fall out and leave a trail on the street.”
So she did this, but the little man had overheard what the king had advised her to do. When evening came and the soldier said that the little man should bring the king’s daughter to him again, the little man spread peas all over the city so that the few peas that fell out of her pocket could leave no trace. The next morning the people of the city had to pick up and sort all the peas. Once again, the king’s daughter told her father what had happened to her, and he answered: “Keep one shoe on, and hide the other secretly wherever you are.”
The little black man heard the plan, and that night, when the soldier demanded that he bring him the king’s daughter, the little man said: “I can no longer help you. You’re going to have some bad luck if you’re exposed.”
However, the soldier insisted on having his will done
“Well then, after I’ve returned her to the king, make sure you get yourself out of here right away and through the city gate.”
So the king’s daughter kept one of her shoes on and hid the other in the soldier’s bed. The next morning, when she was once again with her father, he had the entire city searched and the shoe was found in the soldier’s room. To be sure, the soldier had already rushed out of the city, but he was soon overtaken and thrown into a sturdy prison. Now he was chained and tied up with rope, and due to the frantic flight, his most valuable things, the blue light and the pipe, had remained behind, and the only thing he had with him was a gold coin. As he was now standing sadly at the window of his prison, he saw one of his comrades passing by. So he called out to him and said: “If you get me the little bundle that I left in my room at the inn. I’ll give you a gold coin.”
So his comrade went there and brought back the blue light and the pipe in exchange for the gold coin. The prisoner lit his pipe right away and summoned the little black man who said to him: “Have no fear. Go wherever they take you, and let them do what they want. Just remember to take the blue light with you.”
The next day the soldier was interrogated and sentenced to hang on the gallows. As he was being led out to be executed, he asked the king to grant him one last favor.
“What kind of a favor?” asked the king.
“I’d like to smoke my pipe along the way.”
“You can smoke three pipes if you like,” answered the king.
Then the soldier took out his pipe and lit it with the blue light. All at once the little black man was there.
“Beat everyone here to death,” the soldier said, “and tear the king into three pieces.”
Well the little man began and beat all the people around him to death. The king kneeled and pleaded for mercy, and to save his life he gave the soldier the kingdom and his daughter for his wife.
|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