Hansel and Gretel by Jessie Wilcox Smith

Household Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm translated by Margaret Hunt

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Grimm's Household Tales with the
Author's Notes
translated by Margaret Hunt

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The Knapsack, the Hat, and the Horn

THERE were once three brothers who had fallen deeper and deeper into poverty, and at last their need was so great that they had to endure hunger, and had nothing to eat or drink. Then said they, "We cannot go on thus, we had better go into the world and seek our fortune." They therefore set out, and had already walked over many a long road and many a blade of grass, but had not yet met with good luck. One day they arrived in a great forest, and in the midst of it was a hill, and when they came nearer they saw that the hill was all silver. Then spoke the eldest, "Now I have found the good luck I wished for, and I desire nothing more." He took as much of the silver as he could possibly carry, and then turned back and went home again. But the two others said, "We want something more from good luck than mere silver," and did not touch it, but went onwards. After they had walked for two days longer without stopping, they came to a hill which was all gold. The second brother stopped, took thought with himself, and was undecided. "What shall I do?" said he; "shall I take for myself so much of this gold, that I have sufficient for all the rest of my life, or shall I go farther?" At length he made a decision, and putting as much into his pockets as would go in, said farewell to his brother, and went home. But the third said, "Silver and gold do not move me, I will not renounce my chance of fortune, perhaps something better still will be given me." He journeyed onwards, and when he had walked for three days, he got into a forest which was still larger than the one before, and never would come to an end, and as he found nothing to eat or to drink, he was all but exhausted. Then he climbed up a high tree to find out if up there he could see the end of the forest, but so far as his eye could pierce he saw nothing but the tops of trees. Then he began to descend the tree again, but hunger tormented him, and he thought to himself, "If I could but eat my fill once more!" When he got down he saw with astonishment a table beneath the tree richly spread with food, the steam of which rose up to meet him. "This time," said he, "my wish has been fulfilled at the right moment." And without inquiring who had brought the food, or who had cooked it, he approached the table, and ate with enjoyment until he had appeased his hunger. When he was done, he thought, "It would after all be a pity if the pretty little table-cloth were to be spoilt in the forest here," and folded it up tidily and put it in his pocket. Then he went onwards, and in the evening, when hunger once more made itself felt, he wanted to make a trial of his little cloth, and spread it out and said, "I wish thee to be covered with good cheer again," and scarcely had the wish crossed his lips than as many dishes with the most exquisite food on them stood on the table as there was room for. "Now I perceive," said he, "in what kitchen my cooking is done. Thou shalt be dearer to me than the mountains of silver and gold." For he saw plainly that it was a wishing-cloth. The cloth, however, was still not enough to enable him to sit down quietly at home; he preferred to wander about the world and pursue his fortune farther.

One night he met, in a lonely wood, a dusty, black charcoal-burner, who was burning charcoal there, and had some potatoes by the fire, on which he was going to make a meal. "Good evening, blackbird!" said the youth. "How dost thou get on in thy solitude?"

"One day is like another," replied the charcoal-burner, "and every night potatoes! Hast thou a mind to have some, and wilt thou be my guest?" "Many thanks," replied the traveler, "I won't rob thee of thy supper; thou didst not reckon on a visitor, but if thou wilt put up with what I have, thou shalt have an invitation."

"Who is to prepare it for thee?" said the charcoal-burner. "I see that thou hast nothing with thee, and there is no one within a two hours' walk who could give thee anything." "And yet there shall be a meal," answered the youth, "and better than any thou hast ever tasted." Thereupon he brought his cloth out of his knapsack, spread it on the ground, and said, "Little cloth, cover thyself," and instantly boiled meat and baked meat stood there, and as hot as if it had just come out of the kitchen. The charcoal-burner stared, but did not require much pressing; he fell to, and thrust larger and larger mouthfuls into his black mouth. When they had eaten everything, the charcoal-burner smiled contentedly, and said, "Hark thee, thy table-cloth has my approval; it would be a fine thing for me in this forest, where no one ever cooks me anything good. I will propose an exchange to thee; there in the corner hangs a soldier's knapsack, which is certainly old and shabby, but in it lie concealed wonderful powers; but, as I no longer use it, I will give it to thee for the table-cloth."

"I must first know what these wonderful powers are," answered the youth.

"That will I tell thee," replied the charcoal-burner; "every time thou tappest it with thy hand, a corporal comes with six men armed from head to foot, and they do whatsoever thou commandest them." "So far as I am concerned," said the youth, "if nothing else can be done, we will exchange," and he gave the charcoal-burner the cloth, took the knapsack from the hook, put it on, and bade farewell. When he had walked a while, he wished to make a trial of the magical powers of his knapsack and tapped it. Immediately the seven warriors stepped up to him, and the corporal said, "What does my lord and ruler wish for?"

"March with all speed to the charcoal-burner, and demand my wishing-cloth back." They faced to the left, and it was not long before they brought what he required, and had taken it from the charcoal-burner without asking many questions. The young man bade them retire, went onwards, and hoped fortune would shine yet more brightly on him. By sunset he came to another charcoal-burner, who was making his supper ready by the fire. "If thou wilt eat some potatoes with salt, but with no dripping, come and sit down with me," said the sooty fellow.

"No, he replied, this time thou shalt be my guest," and he spread out his cloth, which was instantly covered with the most beautiful dishes. They ate and drank together, and enjoyed themselves heartily. After the meal was over, the charcoal-burner said, "Up there on that shelf lies a little old worn-out hat which has strange properties: when any one puts it on, and turns it round on his head, the cannons go off as if twelve were fired all together, and they shoot down everything so that no one can withstand them. The hat is of no use to me, and I will willingly give it for thy table-cloth."

"That suits me very well," he answered, took the hat, put it on, and left his table-cloth behind him. Hardly, however, had he walked away than he tapped on his knapsack, and his soldiers had to fetch the cloth back again. "One thing comes on the top of another," thought he, "and I feel as if my luck had not yet come to an end." Neither had his thoughts deceived him. After he had walked on for the whole of one day, he came to a third charcoal-burner, who like the previous ones, invited him to potatoes without dripping. But he let him also dine with him from his wishing-cloth, and the charcoal-burner liked it so well, that at last he offered him a horn for it, which had very different properties from those of the hat. When any one blew it all the walls and fortifications fell down, and all towns and villages became ruins. He certainly gave the charcoal-burner the cloth for it, but he afterwards sent his soldiers to demand it back again, so that at length he had the knapsack, hat and horn, all three. "Now," said he, "I am a made man, and it is time for me to go home and see how my brothers are getting on."

When he reached home, his brothers had built themselves a handsome house with their silver and gold, and were living in clover. He went to see them, but as he came in a ragged coat, with his shabby hat on his head, and his old knapsack on his back, they would not acknowledge him as their brother. They mocked and said, "Thou givest out that thou art our brother who despised silver and gold, and craved for something still better for himself. He will come in his carriage in full splendour like a mighty king, not like a beggar," and they drove him out of doors. Then he fell into a rage, and tapped his knapsack until a hundred and fifty men stood before him armed from head to foot. He commanded them to surround his brothers' house, and two of them were to take hazel-sticks with them, and beat the two insolent men until they knew who he was. A violent disturbance arose, people ran together, and wanted to lend the two some help in their need, but against the soldiers they could do nothing. News of this at length came to the King, who was very angry, and ordered a captain to march out with his troop, and drive this disturber of the peace out of the town; but the man with the knapsack soon got a greater body of men together, who repulsed the captain and his men, so that they were forced to retire with bloody noses. The King said, "This vagabond is not brought to order yet," and next day sent a still larger troop against him, but they could do even less. The youth set still more men against them, and in order to be done the sooner, he turned his hat twice round on his head, and heavy guns began to play, and the king's men were beaten and put to flight. "And now," said he, "I will not make peace until the King gives me his daughter to wife, and I govern the whole kingdom in his name." He caused this to be announced to the King, and the latter said to his daughter, "Necessity is a hard nut to crack, what remains to me but to do what he desires? If I want peace and to keep the crown on my head, I must give thee away."

So the wedding was celebrated, but the King's daughter was vexed that her husband should be a common man, who wore a shabby hat, and put on an old knapsack. She wished much to get rid of him, and night and day studied how she could accomplished this. Then she thought to herself, "Is it possible that his wonderful powers lie in the knapsack?" and she dissembled and caressed him, and when his heart was softened, she said, "If thou wouldst but lay aside that ugly knapsack, it makes disfigures thee so, that I can't help being ashamed of thee." "Dear child," said he, "this knapsack is my greatest treasure; as long as I have it, there is no power on earth that I am afraid of." And he revealed to her the wonderful virtue with which it was endowed. Then she threw herself in his arms as if she were going to kiss him, but dexterously took the knapsack off his shoulders, and ran away with it. As soon as she was alone she tapped it, and commanded the warriors to seize their former master, and take him out of the royal palace. They obeyed, and the false wife sent still more men after him, who were to drive him quite out of the country. Then he would have been ruined if he had not had the little hat. But his hands were scarcely at liberty before he turned it twice. Immediately the cannon began to thunder, and struck down everything, and the King's daughter herself was forced to come and beg for mercy. As she entreated in such moving terms, and promised amendment, he allowed himself to be persuaded and granted her peace. She behaved in a friendly manner to him, and acted as if she loved him very much, and after some time managed so to befool him, that he confided to her that even if someone got the knapsack into his power, he could do nothing against him so long as the old hat was still his. When she knew the secret, she waited until he was asleep, and then she took the hat away from him, and had it thrown out into the street. But the horn still remained to him, and in great anger he blew it with all his strength. Instantly all walls, fortifications, towns, and villages, toppled down, and crushed the King and his daughter to death. And had he not put down the horn and had blown just a little longer, everything would have been in ruins, and not one stone would have been left standing on another. Then no one opposed him any longer, and he made himself King of the whole country.

Next Tale:

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Household Tales. Margaret Hunt, translator. London: George Bell, 1884, 1892. 2 volumes.


From Lower Hesse. Hans Sachs relates a very similar jest, (2. 4, 114, 115), Nuremberg edition, 2. 4. 227. Kempt. edit. St. Peter begs a gift of a trooper, who gives him all that he asks for, namely, three farthings. In recompense for his kindness, St. Peter presents him with a couple of wishing-dice. The trooper goes on his way delighted, and in the evening he sits down under an oak, throws his dice, wishes for a well-filled table, and enjoys himself. In the meantime a peasant comes up on an ass, and says that he has lodged St. Peter for the night, and in return for. it he has this morning given him this ass, which is full of troopers; if anyone strikes it on the tail, a trooper falls down. He, however, has a dislike to troopers, for in the Bavarian war they reduced him to poverty. The trooper, on the contrary, is pleased with the ass; he offers the peasant his dice for it, and the exchange is made. The peasant goes away with the dice, and the trooper strikes the ass twice. Two troopers fall out, and with these he pursues the peasant and takes back the dice. He repairs to Sweden, where the King proclaims that whosoever shall prepare for him a royal supper without using coal, wood, or fire, shall in return for it have his daughter to wife. The trooper easily accomplishes it with his dice, but the King refuses to keep his word. The trooper secretly takes his ass away; the King hastens after him with all his court, but the trooper strikes the ass with his fist until a whole company or more of troopers stands before him. Then he throws the dice and wishes for a wall round about them. The King becomes alarmed, and gives him his daughter. The trooper prepares the wedding in the most exquisite manner, but the ass eats till it makes itself ill, and finally dies. The trooper has its skin tanned, stretched over a drum, and as soon as it is beaten, troopers come running to it.

There is an Austrian story, The Lucky Brothers, Ziska, p. 57. A Danish one is contained in a people's newspaper, from Copenhagen (compare Nyerup's Morskabsläsning, p. 234); Lykkens flyvende Fane; Historie om tre sattige Skraedere, der ved Pillegrimsreise kom til stor Vaerdighed og Velstand.

Three poor tailors, who earn little by their trade, take leave of their wives and children, and go out into the world to seek their fortunes. They conic to a desert, where there is a mountain in which an enchanter dwells. The mountain is covered with flowers and fruits both in summer and winter, and at mid-day and mid-night these are turned into the finest silver. The eldest tailor fills his bundle and all his pockets with the most beautiful silver flowers and fruits, goes home, throws needle and goose under the table, and becomes a rich merchant. The two others think, "We can return to the mountain at any time when we are inclined; we will seek our luck farther," and travel onwards. They reach a great iron door which opens of its own accord after they have knocked thrice. They enter a garden where there are trees covered with golden apples. The second tailor gathers as many as he can carry away on his back, takes leave of the other, and returns home. There he, too, betakes himself to trade, and becomes a still greater merchant than the first; indeed it is believed that the rich Jew in Hamburg is descended from him. But the third thinks to himself, "The garden with the golden apples will always be there for me, I will try my chance a little longer." He wanders about the wilderness, and when he seeks the garden and the silver mountain again, cannot find them. At last he comes to a great hill, and hears some one playing on a pipe. He goes nearer and finds an old witch, who is piping to a flock of geese, which beat their wings at the sounds, and dance backwards and forwards in front of the old woman. She has already been struggling with Death on this hilt for ninety-four years, and cannot die until the geese dance themselves dead, or some Christian comes and kills her with his weapons. As soon as she hears his footsteps, and he is near enough for her to see him, she entreats him, if he is a Christian, to kill her with the club which is lying by her side. The tailor will not do it until she tells him that he will find a cloth beneath her head on which, whenever he desires it, a dainty repast will stand, if he does but say a couple of words. So he gives her a blow on the skull, and seeks and finds the cloth, packs it up immediately in his bundle, and sets out homewards. A trooper meets him and asks him for a piece of bread. The tailor says, "Deliver up thine arms to me, and I will share with thee." The trooper who has spent all his powder and shot in the war, does that readily, and the tailor spreads his cloth, and treats the hungry warrior. The latter is much pleased with the cloth, and offers the tailor in exchange for it his wonderful cartridge-pouch, from which when anyone tars it on one side, a hundred thousand men on horse and foot come out, and if it is tapped on the other side all kinds of musicians. The tailor consents; but when he gets the cartridge- pouch, he demands ten horsemen who have to gallop after the trooper, and get the cloth back from him. And now the tailor reaches home, and his wife is surprised that he has gained so little during his travels. He goes to his former comrades, who give him such large help that he would have been able to live on it for some time with his wife and child. He, however, invites his comrades to dinner, and begs them not to be too proud to come, and not to despise him when they do. They reproach him with wanting to squander all he has at once, but promise to come. When they arrive at the appointed time, no one is at home but the wife who knows nothing of any guests being expected, and fears that her husband has lost his head. But the tailor comes, and bids his wife to make haste and clean the room, lie greets his guests, and begs them to excuse him; he knows they have everything better at their own houses, but he has been anxious to see if their riches have made them proud. They seat themselves at the table, but no dish makes its appearance. Then the tailor spreads his cloth, says his words, and in an instant the table is covered with the most dainty food. "Ha! ha!" think the others, "Is this how it is? Then thou art not so ill off by half as thou wouldst appear," and they swear to love him like brothers until the day of his death. Their host tells them they have no need to give him such assurances, and strikes his cartridge-pouch on one side, and immediately musicians come and make music which is delightful to hear. Then he strikes it on the other side, and bids a hundred thousand soldiers and artillery come forth, and they throw up a wall and carry up pieces of ordnance, and whenever the three tailors drink, they discharge the guns. The Prince dwells four miles away, and hears the thunder and thinking the enemy has come, sends out a trumpeter, who brings back the intelligence that a tailor is keeping his birthday and making merry with some good friends. The Prince goes thither himself, and the tailor regales him by means of his cloth. The Prince likes it, and offers the tailor lands and ample independence for it; but he refuses; he prefers his cloth, for with it he has no care, trouble, or vexation. The Prince makes up his mind very quickly, takes possession of the cloth by force, and goes away. The tailor puts on his cartridge-pouch, and goes with it to the Prince's court, but receives a backful of blows. Then he runs on to the castle wall and bids twenty thousand men come forth and plant their pieces against the castle and fire on it. Then the Prince has the cloth brought out, and humbly entreats him to stop the firing. So the tailor makes his men return to their quarters, goes home and lives very happily with his two brothers. In Zingerle, it is The Bag, the Hat, and the Horn, p. 143; and with peculiar variations, The Four Cloths, p. 61. The story of The Long Nose in Heinrich von Kleist and Adam Müller's Phoebus journal, 1808, 6th part, pp. 8-17, is an affected rendering of this. The conclusion has some resemblance to Fortunatus, and the whole story is allied to the story of Out of the sack, cudgel, No. 36; to the Robber's cave, in Wolf's Hausmärchen, p. 116; and to a story in Zingerle, p. 73. In Netherlandish, see Wolf's Wodana, No. 5. p. 69. In Danish, see Molbech, No. 37. For a Tartar story, see Relations of Ssidi Kur. Wallachian, see Schott, No. 54.

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