A certain father had two sons, the elder of whom was smart and sensible, and could do everything, but the younger was stupid and could neither learn nor understand anything, and when people saw him they said, "There's a fellow who will give his father some trouble!" When anything had to be done, it was always the elder who was forced to do it; but if his father bade him fetch anything when it was late, or in the night-time, and the way led through the churchyard, or any other dismal place, he answered "Oh, no, father, I'll not go there, it makes me shudder!" for he was afraid. Or when stories were told by the fire at night which made the flesh creep, the listeners sometimes said "Oh, it makes us shudder!" The younger sat in a corner and listened with the rest of them, and could not imagine what they could mean. "They are always saying 'it makes me shudder, it makes me shudder!' It does not make me shudder," thought he. "That, too, must be an art of which I understand nothing."
Now it came to pass that his father said to him one day "Hearken to me, thou fellow in the corner there, thou art growing tall and strong, and thou too must learn something by which thou canst earn thy living. Look how thy brother works, but thou dost not even earn thy salt." - "Well, father," he replied, "I am quite willing to learn something - indeed, if it could but be managed, I should like to learn how to shudder. I don't understand that at all yet." The elder brother smiled when he heard that, and thought to himself, "Good God, what a blockhead that brother of mine is! He will never be good for anything as long as he lives. He who wants to be a sickle must bend himself betimes." The father sighed, and answered him "thou shalt soon learn what it is to shudder, but thou wilt not earn thy bread by that."
Soon after this the sexton came to the house on a visit, and the father bewailed his trouble, and told him how his younger son was so backward in every respect that he knew nothing and learnt nothing. "Just think," said he, "when I asked him how he was going to earn his bread, he actually wanted to learn to shudder." - "If that be all," replied the sexton, "he can learn that with me. Send him to me, and I will soon polish him." The father was glad to do it, for he thought, "It will train the boy a little." The sexton therefore took him into his house, and he had to ring the bell. After a day or two, the sexton awoke him at midnight, and bade him arise and go up into the church tower and ring the bell. "Thou shalt soon learn what shuddering is," thought he, and secretly went there before him; and when the boy was at the top of the tower and turned round, and was just going to take hold of the bell rope, he saw a white figure standing on the stairs opposite the sounding hole. "Who is there?" cried he, but the figure made no reply, and did not move or stir. "Give an answer," cried the boy, "or take thy self off, thou hast no business here at night." The sexton, however, remained standing motionless that the boy might think he was a ghost. The boy cried a second time, "What do you want here? - speak if thou art an honest fellow, or I will throw thee down the steps!" The sexton thought, "he can't intend to be as bad as his words," uttered no sound and stood as if he were made of stone. Then the boy called to him for the third time, and as that was also to no purpose, he ran against him and pushed the ghost down the stairs, so that it fell down ten steps and remained lying there in a corner. Thereupon he rang the bell, went home, and without saying a word went to bed, and fell asleep. The sexton's wife waited a long time for her husband, but he did not come back. At length she became uneasy, and wakened the boy, and asked, "Dost thou not know where my husband is? He climbed up the tower before thou didst." - "No, I don't know," replied the boy, "but some one was standing by the sounding hole on the other side of the steps, and as he would neither give an answer nor go away, I took him for a scoundrel, and threw him downstairs, just go there and you will see if it was he. I should be sorry if it were." The woman ran away and found her husband, who was lying moaning in the corner, and had broken his leg.
She carried him down, and then with loud screams she hastened to the boy's father. "Your boy," cried she, "has been the cause of a great misfortune! He has thrown my husband down the steps and made him break his leg. Take the good-for-nothing fellow away from our house." The father was terrified, and ran thither and scolded the boy. "What wicked tricks are these?" said he, "the devil must have put this into thy head." - "Father," he replied, "do listen to me. I am quite innocent. He was standing there by night like one who is intending to do some evil. I did not know who it was, and I entreated him three times either to speak or to go away." - "Ah," said the father, "I have nothing but unhappiness with you. Go out of my sight. I will see thee no more." - "Yes, father, right willingly, wait only until it is day. Then will I go forth and learn how to shudder, and then I shall, at any rate, understand one art which will support me." - "Learn what thou wilt," spake the father, "it is all the same to me. Here are fifty thalers for thee. Take these and go into the wide world, and tell no one from whence thou comest, and who is thy father, for I have reason to be ashamed of thee." - "Yes, father, it shall be as you will. If you desire nothing more than that, I can easily keep it in mind."
When day dawned, therefore, the boy put his fifty thalers into his pocket, and went forth on the great highway, and continually said to himself, "If I could but shudder! If I could but shudder!" Then a man approached who heard this conversation which the youth was holding with himself, and when they had walked a little farther to where they could see the gallows, the man said to him, "Look, there is the tree where seven men have married the ropemaker's daughter, and are now learning how to fly. Sit down below it, and wait till night comes, and you will soon learn how to shudder." - "If that is all that is wanted," answered the youth, "it is easily done; but if I learn how to shudder as fast as that, thou shalt have my fifty thalers. Just come back to me early in the morning." Then the youth went to the gallows, sat down below it, and waited till evening came. And as he was cold, he lighted himself a fire, but at midnight the wind blew so sharply that in spite of his fire, he could not get warm. And as the wind knocked the hanged men against each other, and they moved backwards and forwards, he thought to himself "Thou shiverest below by the fire, but how those up above must freeze and suffer!" And as he felt pity for them, he raised the ladder, and climbed up, unbound one of them after the other, and brought down all seven. Then he stirred the fire, blew it, and set them all round it to warm themselves. But they sat there and did not stir, and the fire caught their clothes. So he said, "Take care, or I will hang you up again." The dead men, however, did not hear, but were quite silent, and let their rags go on burning. On this he grew angry, and said, "If you will not take care, I cannot help you, I will not be burnt with you," and he hung them up again each in his turn. Then he sat down by his fire and fell asleep, and the next morning the man came to him and wanted to have the fifty thalers, and said, "Well, dost thou know how to shudder?" - "No," answered he, "how was I to get to know? Those fellows up there did not open their mouths, and were so stupid that they let the few old rags which they had on their bodies get burnt." Then the man saw that he would not get the fifty thalers that day, and went away saying, "One of this kind has never come my way before."
The youth likewise went his way, and once more began to mutter to himself, "Ah, if I could but shudder! Ah, if I could but shudder!" A waggoner who was striding behind him heard that and asked, "Who are you?" - "I don't know," answered the youth. Then the waggoner asked, "From whence comest thou?" - "I know not." - "Who is thy father?" - "That I may not tell thee." - "What is it that thou art always muttering between thy teeth." - "Ah," replied the youth, "I do so wish I could shudder, but no one can teach me how to do it." - "Give up thy foolish chatter," said the waggoner. "Come, go with me, I will see about a place for thee." The youth went with the waggoner, and in the evening they arrived at an inn where they wished to pass the night. Then at the entrance of the room the youth again said quite loudly, "If I could but shudder! If I could but shudder!" The host who heard this, laughed and said, "If that is your desire, there ought to be a good opportunity for you here." - "Ah, be silent," said the hostess, "so many inquisitive persons have already lost their lives, it would be a pity and a shame if such beautiful eyes as these should never see the daylight again." But the youth said, "However difficult it may be, I will learn it and for this purpose indeed have I journeyed forth." He let the host have no rest, until the latter told him, that not far from thence stood a haunted castle where any one could very easily learn what shuddering was, if he would but watch in it for three nights. The King had promised that he who would venture should have his daughter to wife, and she was the most beautiful maiden the sun shone on. Great treasures likewise lay in the castle, which were guarded by evil spirits, and these treasures would then be freed, and would make a poor man rich enough. Already many men had gone into the castle, but as yet none had come out again. Then the youth went next morning to the King and said if he were allowed he would watch three nights in the haunted castle. The King looked at him, and as the youth pleased him, he said, "Thou mayest ask for three things to take into the castle with thee, but they must be things without life." Then he answered, "Then I ask for a fire, a turning lathe, and a cutting-board with the knife."
The King had these things carried into the castle for him during the day. When night was drawing near, the youth went up and made himself a bright fire in one of the rooms, placed the cutting-board and knife beside it, and seated himself by the turning-lathe. "Ah, if I could but shudder!" said he, "but I shall not learn it here either." Towards midnight he was about to poke his fire, and as he was blowing it, something cried suddenly from one corner, "Au, miau! how cold we are!" - "You simpletons!" cried he, "what are you crying about? If you are cold, come and take a seat by the fire and warm yourselves." And when he had said that, two great black cats came with one tremendous leap and sat down on each side of him, and looked savagely at him with their fiery eyes. After a short time, when they had warmed themselves, they said, "Comrade, shall we have a game at cards?" - "Why not?" he replied, "but just show me your paws." Then they stretched out their claws. "Oh," said he, "what long nails you have! Wait, I must first cut them for you." Thereupon he seized them by the throats, put them on the cutting-board and screwed their feet fast. "I have looked at your fingers," said he, "and my fancy for card-playing has gone," and he struck them dead and threw them out into the water. But when he had made away with these two, and was about to sit down again by his fire, out from every hole and corner came black cats and black dogs with red-hot chains, and more and more of them came until he could no longer stir, and they yelled horribly, and got on his fire, pulled it to pieces, and tried to put it out. He watched them for a while quietly, but at last when they were going too far, he seized his cutting-knife, and cried, "Away with ye, vermin," and began to cut them down. Part of them ran away, the others he killed, and threw out into the fish-pond. When he came back he fanned the embers of his fire again and warmed himself. And as he thus sat, his eyes would keep open no longer, and he felt a desire to sleep. Then he looked round and saw a great bed in the corner. "That is the very thing for me," said he, and got into it. When he was just going to shut his eyes, however, the bed began to move of its own accord, and went over the whole of the castle. "That's right," said he, "but go faster." Then the bed rolled on as if six horses were harnessed to it, up and down, over thresholds and steps, but suddenly hop, hop, it turned over upside down, and lay on him like a mountain.
But he threw quilts and pillows up in the air, got out and said, "Now any one who likes, may drive," and lay down by his fire, and slept till it was day. In the morning the King came, and when he saw him lying there on the ground, he thought the evil spirits had killed him and he was dead. Then said he, "After all it is a pity, he is a handsome man." The youth heard it, got up, and said, "It has not come to that yet." Then the King was astonished, but very glad, and asked how he had fared. "Very well indeed," answered he; "one night is past, the two others will get over likewise." Then he went to the innkeeper, who opened his eyes very wide, and said, "I never expected to see thee alive again! Hast thou learnt how to shudder yet?" - "No," said he, "it is all in vain. If some one would but tell me."
The second night he again went up into the old castle, sat down by the fire, and once more began his old song, "If I could but shudder." When midnight came, an uproar and noise of tumbling about was heard; at first it was low, but it grew louder and louder. Then it was quiet for awhile, and at length with a loud scream, half a man came down the chimney and fell before him. "Hollo!" cried he, "another half belongs to this. This is too little!" Then the uproar began again, there was a roaring and howling, and the other half fell down likewise. "Wait," said he, "I will just blow up the fire a little for thee." When he had done that and looked round again, the two pieces were joined together, and a frightful man was sitting in his place. "That is no part of our bargain," said the youth, "the bench is mine." The man wanted to push him away; the youth, however, would not allow that, but thrust him off with all his strength, and seated himself again in his own place. Then still more men fell down, one after the other; they brought nine dead men's legs and two skulls, and set them up and played at nine-pins with them. The youth also wanted to play and said "Hark you, can I join you?" - "Yes, if thou hast any money." - "Money enough," replied he, "but your balls are not quite round." Then he took the skulls and put them in the lathe and turned them till they were round. "There, now, they will roll better!" said he. "Hurrah! Now it goes merrily!" He played with them and lost some of his money, but when it struck twelve, everything vanished from his sight. He lay down and quietly fell asleep. Next morning the King came to inquire after him. "How has it fared with you this time?" asked he. "I have been playing at nine-pins," he answered, "and have lost a couple of farthings." - "Hast thou not shuddered then?" - "Eh, what?" said he, "I have made merry. If I did but know what it was to shudder!"
The third night he sat down again on his bench and said quite sadly, "If I could but shudder." When it grew late, six tall men came in and brought a coffin. Then said he, "Ha, ha, that is certainly my little cousin, who died only a few days ago," and he beckoned with his finger, and cried "Come, little cousin, come." They placed the coffin on the ground, but he went to it and took the lid off, and a dead man lay therein. He felt his face, but it was cold as ice. "Stop," said he, "I will warm thee a little," and went to the fire and warmed his hand and laid it on the dead man's face, but he remained cold. Then he took him out, and sat down by the fire and laid him on his breast and rubbed his arms that the blood might circulate again. As this also did no good, he thought to himself "When two people lie in bed together, they warm each other," and carried him to the bed, covered him over and lay down by him. After a short time the dead man became warm too, and began to move. Then said the youth, "See, little cousin, have I not warmed thee?" The dead man, however, got up and cried, "Now will I strangle thee." - "What!" said he, "is that the way thou thankest me? Thou shalt at once go into thy coffin again," and he took him up, threw him into it, and shut the lid. Then came the six men and carried him away again. "I cannot manage to shudder," said he. "I shall never learn it here as long as I live."
Then a man entered who was taller than all others, and looked terrible. He was old, however, and had a long white beard. "Thou wretch," cried he, "thou shalt soon learn what it is to shudder, for thou shalt die." - "Not so fast," replied the youth. "If I am to die, I shall have to have a say in it." - "I will soon seize thee," said the fiend. "Softly, softly, do not talk so big. I am as strong as thou art, and perhaps even stronger." - "We shall see," said the old man. "If thou art stronger, I will let thee go - come, we will try." Then he led him by dark passages to a smith's forge, took an axe, and with one blow struck an anvil into the ground. "I can do better than that," said the youth, and went to the other anvil. The old man placed himself near and wanted to look on, and his white beard hung down. Then the youth seized the axe, split the anvil with one blow, and struck the old man's beard in with it. "Now I have thee," said the youth. "Now it is thou who will have to die." Then he seized an iron bar and beat the old man till he moaned and entreated him to stop, and he would give him great riches. The youth drew out the axe and let him go. The old man led him back into the castle, and in a cellar showed him three chests full of gold. "Of these," said he, "one part is for the poor, the other for the king, the third is thine." In the meantime it struck twelve, and the spirit disappeared; the youth, therefore, was left in darkness. "I shall still be able to find my way out," said he, and felt about, found the way into the room, and slept there by his fire. Next morning the King came and said "Now thou must have learnt what shuddering is?" - "No," he answered; "what can it be? My dead cousin was here, and a bearded man came and showed me a great deal of money down below, but no one told me what it was to shudder." - "Then," said the King, "thou hast delivered the castle, and shalt marry my daughter." - "That is all very well," said he, "but still I do not know what it is to shudder."
Then the gold was brought up and the wedding celebrated; but howsoever much the young king loved his wife, and however happy he was, he still said always "If I could but shudder - if I could but shudder." And at last she was angry at this. Her waiting-maid said, "I will find a cure for him; he shall soon learn what it is to shudder." She went out to the stream which flowed through the garden, and had a whole bucketful of gudgeons brought to her. At night when the young king was sleeping, his wife was to draw the clothes off him and empty the bucketful of cold water with the gudgeons in it over him, so that the little fishes would sprawl about him. When this was done, he woke up and cried "Oh, what makes me shudder so? What makes me shudder so, dear wife? Ah! now I know what it is to shudder!"
有一天，父亲对他说："你就呆在角落里，给我听好了。你已经是一个强壮的小伙子了，也该学点养活自己的本事了。你看你哥哥，多么勤奋好学；你再看看你自己 ，好话都当成了耳边风。 "
过了不多日子，教堂的执事到他们家来作客，于是父亲向他诉说了自己的心事，抱怨他的小儿子简直傻透了，啥也不会 ，还啥也不学。 他对执事说："您想一想，我问他将来打算靠什么来养活自己，他却说要学会害怕。"
几天后的一个深夜，执事把小儿子叫醒，要他起床后到教堂钟楼上去敲钟。 "这回我要教教你什么是害怕。"执事心里想着，随后悄悄地先上了钟楼。 小儿子来到钟楼，转身去抓敲钟的绳子的时候 ，却发现一个白色的人影儿，正对着窗口站在楼梯上。
接着小伙子第三次冲他吼叫，可还是没有一点儿用，于是小伙子猛扑过去，一把将鬼怪推下了楼梯。 鬼怪在楼梯上翻滚了十多级，才躺在墙角不动了。 接着小伙子去敲钟，敲完钟回到了他自己的房间后，一言未发，倒头便睡。
小伙子说完就朝绞架走去，然后坐在绞架的下面，等着夜幕的降临。 他坐在那里感到很冷，于是就生起了一堆火。 可是夜半风起，寒冷难耐，他虽然烤着火，还是感到很冷。 寒风吹得吊着的死尸荡来荡去，相互碰撞。 他心想，"我坐在火堆旁还感到挺冷的，那几个可怜的家伙吊在那里，该多冷呀。"小伙子的心肠可真好：他搭起梯子，然后爬上去，解开了这些被绞死的强盗身上的绳索，再一个接一个地把他们放下来。 接着他把火拨旺，吹了又吹，使火堆熊熊燃烧起来。 然后他把他们抱过来，围着火堆坐了一圈，让他们暖暖身子。 可是这些家伙坐在那里纹丝不动，甚至火烧着了他们的衣服，他们还是一动也不动。 于是小伙子对他们说："你们在干什么？小心点啊！要不我就把你们再吊上去。"可是这些被绞死的强盗根本听不见他的话，他们仍然一声不吭，让自己的破衣烂衫被火烧着。
听了店主太太的这番话，小伙子却说："我一定要学会，不管多么艰难，我都不在乎。正是为了这个我才从家里出来闯荡的。"小伙子死缠着店主不放，店主只好告诉他：离小旅店不远，有一座魔宫，谁要想知道害怕是怎么一回事，只要在那里呆三个夜晚就行了。 国王已经许下诺言，谁愿意到魔宫里一试身手，就把公主许配给谁。 那位公主啊，是天底下最最美丽的少女呢。 在魔宫里，藏着大量的金银财宝，由一群恶魔把守着。 谁要是能得到这些金银财宝，就是一个穷光蛋也会成为大富翁的。 不少人冒险进到魔宫里去，可是都是有去无还。
国王吩咐把小伙子所要的东西在白天搬深到魔宫里去。 黄昏时分，小伙子走进魔宫，在一个房间里生起了一堆熊熊燃烧的大火，把木匠工作台和车刀放在火堆旁边，自己则靠着车床坐下。 "我要是会害怕该多好啊！"他说道，"没准在这儿我还是学不会害怕。"
可是，他刚刚收拾了这两只黑猫，准备回到火边坐下的时候，从房间的各个角落、各个洞穴又钻出成群的黑猫和黑狗，还拖着烧得火红的链子，而且越来越多，多得连小伙子藏身的地方都没有了。 这些黑猫黑狗尖叫着，声音非常吓人，接着它们在火堆上踩来踩去，把火堆上燃烧的柴火拖得到处都是，想将火弄灭。 起先，小伙子一声不吭地忍受着它们的恶作剧，可等到它们闹得太不像话了，他一把抓起车刀来，大声喝道："都给我滚开，你们这帮流氓！"说着他就开始左劈右砍。 有的猫狗逃之夭夭，没逃掉的就被他砍死了，扔进了外面的水池里。
他回屋后，把余烬吹了又吹，使火重新熊熊燃烧起来，然后坐在火边暖和暖和身子。 他这样做着坐着，眼睛渐渐地就睁不开了，他很想睡上一觉。 他环顾四周，发现角落里有一张大床。 "这正是我需要的东西。"他说道，然后就躺了上去。 谁知他刚要合眼，大床却开始移动，接着在魔宫中到处滚动。
"接着滚，挺好的，"小伙子喊叫着说，"想滚多快都行啊。"话音刚落，大床就像有六匹马拉着似的，上下翻腾，飞也似的向前滚动，越过一道道门槛，翻越一段段楼梯。 忽然间，轰隆一声巨响，大床翻了个个儿，来了一个底朝天，像一座大山一样压在了小伙子的身上。 可小伙子把床垫枕头什么的猛地一掀，就钻了出来，然后说道："现在谁想乘坐，就请便吧。"
说完，嘈杂声又响了起来。 随着一阵喧嚣，另半截身子也摇摇晃晃地落了下来。 "等一等，"小伙子说，"我把火吹旺一点。"
那个家伙想把小伙子推开，可小伙子怎么会答应呢，一用劲儿把那家伙推开，重又坐在自己的座位上。 随后，越来越多这样的家伙从烟囱落到地面，他们随身带着九根大骨头和两个骷髅，把骨头立在地上就玩起了撞柱游戏。 小伙子一见心里痒痒的，也想玩这种游戏，于是就问他们："喂，算我一个好吗？"
小伙子和他们一块儿玩了起来，结果输了一些钱。 说也奇怪，午夜十二点的钟声响起时，眼前的一切消失得无影无踪。 于是小伙子默默地躺下睡觉。
"我会干得比这更漂亮。"小伙子一边说着一边朝另一个铁砧走过去。 老头儿站在一旁观看，白花花的胡子垂在胸前。 小伙子一把抓起斧头，一斧就把铁砧劈成两半，还把老头儿的胡子紧紧地楔了进去。