从前有个年轻人应征入伍，在战争中他表现得十分英勇，在枪林弹雨中总是冲锋陷阵。 只要战争在继续，一切就很顺利，可是当和平来到的时候，他就被遣散了，上尉对他说愿意上哪儿就上哪儿吧。 他的父母都死了，他无家可归，只好投奔他的哥哥们，恳求他们收留他，等待战争再次爆发。 可是无情无义的哥哥们说："我们要你干什么？你对我们一点用都没有，自己去谋生吧。"士兵除了枪外一无所有，他把枪扛在肩上，义无反顾地走向世界。 他来到一块广阔的荒原，地上除了一圈的树外就再没有其它东西了。 他伤心地坐在树下，开始为他的命运着想。 "我身无分文，"他想道，"除了打仗，我没有一技之长，由于现在他们制造了和平，他们就不再需要我了。我已经预感到我挨饿的日子就要到了。"这时他听见一阵声响，便向四周望去，发现在他面前有一个陌生人，身着一件绿色外衣，相貌堂堂，可是却长了一只像马蹄子似的脚。 "我知道你需要什么，"那人说道，"你将拥有金子和财产，要多少就有多少，想干什么就干什么，但是首先我得了解你是否毫无畏惧，以保证我的钱不会白花。""士兵和懦夫怎能相提并论？"他回答，"你可以验证。""那太好了，"那人说，"你回头看。"士兵转过身去，看见一只硕大的熊正吼叫着向他扑来。 "噢呵！"士兵大叫一声，"我来给你鼻子挠挠痒，你就会觉得叫唤没多大意思啦。"于是他瞄准熊的鼻头开了一枪，熊轰然倒地，一动不动了。 "我非常清楚，"陌生人说，"你需要的不是勇气，但是你还得满足另外一个条件。""只要不是伤天害理的事。"士兵回答，他已经知道身边的人是谁了，"如果是的话，我决不会去做的。""你可以自己看着办，"绿衣人说，"在七年中，你不能洗澡，不能修胡子，不能理发，也不能剪指甲，还不许祈祷上帝，一次都不行。我给你一件上衣和一件斗篷，你必须穿七年。如果在七年中，你死啦，那你就归我了；如果你还活着，你就自由了，而且下半辈子非常富有。"士兵考虑自己目前的绝境，和他过去出生入死的生活，决定现在再冒一次险，于是就同意了条件。 魔鬼脱下了绿衣，递给士兵，说道："如果你穿上这件衣服，把手插进口袋，你会发现里面总有满满的钱。"然后他把熊皮剥了下来并说："这就是你的斗篷，而且是你的床，从此你只能睡在这上面，不能睡在其它任何床上，由于你的这件斗篷，以后你的名字就叫熊皮人。"说完，魔鬼就消失了。
士兵穿上那件衣服，迫不及待地把手伸进口袋，发现那是真的。 接着穿上熊皮，走进人世间，尽情地享受了金钱给他带来的快乐。 第一年他的相貌尚可说得过去，可是第二年他看起来就像个魔鬼了。 他的长发遮面，胡须像一块粗糙的毛毡，手指像兽爪，满脸是厚厚的污垢，仿佛播上芹菜种都能长出来似的。 人们一看见他都给吓跑了，他每到一处都赏给别人钱，让人们为自己祈祷别在七年中死去，由于他作任何事都慷慨大方，所以他总是能找到住宿的地方。 到了第四年，他进了一家旅店，可是店主不招待他，因为怕他把马给吓着，甚至不让他住在马圈里。 这时熊皮人把手插进口袋，掏出一大把金币，店主马上转变了态度，让他住进外宅的一间屋子里。 但是店主要求熊皮人别让其他人看见，否则会坏了旅店的名声。
傍晚，熊皮人孤伶伶地一个人坐在屋子里，从心底里希望七年已经熬到头。 就在这时，他听见从隔壁的屋子里传出一阵悲切的哭声。 他怀着一颗同情的心打开了门，看见一位老人双手绞在一起，痛苦地哭泣着。 熊皮人走上前去，然而老人跳起来，挣扎着从他身边逃开了。 最后老人听出熊皮人说的是人话，方才放下心来，在熊皮人长时间善言善语的劝说下，老人才透露了他悲伤的原因。 原来在漫长的生活中，他破产了，他和他的女儿们在挨饿，现在已身无分文，再没有办法付住店的钱，快要被送进监狱了。 "这有何难？"熊皮人说："我有的是钱。"他把店主叫来，交了店钱，并把满满一包金子放进了可怜老人的口袋里。
老人这时才明白他已经摆脱了困境，他不知道如何表达自己的感激之情。 "跟我来，"他对熊皮人说，"我的女儿都美如天仙，你挑一个作为你的妻子吧。只要她知道你为我所作的一切 ，她就不会拒绝你。 你看上去确实有点儿怪，不过她很快就会让你恢复原来相貌的。 "当大女儿看到他时，被他的那张脸吓坏，尖叫着逃跑了。二女儿站在那里从头到脚地打量着他，然后说道："我怎么能嫁给一个没有一点儿人样的人呢？ 曾经有一只剃光了毛，装成人的熊到过这里，它更让我喜欢，因为它起码穿了一身轻骑兵的制服，戴了一双白手套。 如果他仅仅相貌难看没关系，我能够习惯的。 "可是小女儿却说："亲爱的父亲，他帮助您克服了困难，那么他一定是个好人，既然您为了报答他，已经答应让他成亲，那么我们就得遵守诺言。 "遗憾的是父女们看不到熊皮人在听到这些话语后的兴奋神情，因为他的脸被厚厚的泥垢和长长的头发全遮掩了。他从手指上捋下一枚戒指，掰成两半，给她一半，自己留下另一半。他把自己的名字写在她那一半的戒指上，她的名字写在自己的一半戒指上，请求她认真地保存好她那一半。然后他告别说："我还有三年的时间在外游荡，我必须这么作，如果我届时不归，那么我就是死了，你不必再等我。 请向上帝祈祷，保佑我的生命吧。 "
可怜的未婚妇穿了一身黑衣服，一想起未婚夫，泪水就情不自禁地涌入眼眶。 她从姐姐们那儿得到的只是嘲笑和讥讽。 "小心点儿，"大姐说，"如果你把手伸给他，他会用爪子抓住你的手。""注意啦！"二姐说，"熊喜欢甜甜的食物，如果他喜欢你，就会吃掉你。""你必须常常投其所好，"大姐接着说，"否则他会大发雷霆。"二姐继续道："婚礼肯定热闹，熊喜欢跳舞。"新娘默不做声，而且不气不恼。 此时，熊皮人正在世界各处游荡，从一处到另一处，力所能及地做着善事，慷慨大方地资助穷人，大家都在为他祈祷。
终于，七年的最后一天降临了，这天，他又一次来到了那一片荒原，再次坐到那圈树下。 不一会儿，风刮起来了。 在风的呼啸中，魔鬼站到了他的面前，气呼呼地看着他，他把熊皮人的旧衣服扔还给他，然后问他要他自己的绿外套。 熊皮人不慌不忙地答道："这事别着急，你得先把我清洗干净。"魔鬼心里窝着火，极不情愿地打来水，给熊皮人洗干净，理了发，剪了指甲。 一切完毕时，他看上去像一名勇敢的士兵，比从前更加英俊漂亮了。
等魔鬼一走，熊皮人顿时感到了一身轻松。 他进城买了一件丝绒大衣穿在身上，坐上一辆四匹白马拉着的马车上，向他的新娘家驶去。 当时没有一个人认出他来，父亲把他当做高贵的将军领进女儿们坐着的房间 ，他被两个姐姐围住，她们殷勤地向他敬酒，请他品尝最好的菜肴，暗想这是她们见到的全世界最英俊潇洒的男人。 可是新娘却坐在他的对面，穿着黑衣服，既不抬头看他一眼，也不说一句话。 终于他得空对父亲说他能不能娶他的一个女儿为妻。 二个姐姐听后，马上跳起身来，跑进自己的卧室梳妆打扮起来，穿上盛装出来，每个人都想被选中。 当屋里只有他和新娘的时候，陌生人掏出他的那半个戒指，扔进一个酒杯里，隔着桌子将酒杯递给她。 她把酒喝光后发现在杯底的半个戒指，不禁心跳加快。 她把用一条绢带挂在脖子上的另一半戒指掏出，对在一起，分毫不差。 这时他说："我就是你的未婚夫，以前你看到的那个熊皮人。感谢上帝的恩典，我又恢复了人形，还变得干干净净的啦。"他站了起来，走过去热情地拥抱亲吻她。 这时，打扮得花枝招展的两个姐姐走出来，正好看见小妹妹和那个英俊的男人拥抱在一起，并听到他就是那个熊皮人，她们立刻嫉妒万分、羞愧难当、满腔怒火地跑了出去，一个投井自尽，另一个吊死在树上。 晚上，有人来敲门，新郎打开门一看，外边是穿绿衣服的魔鬼，魔鬼告诉他："你知道吗，我用你的灵魂换了两个灵魂。"
There was once a young fellow who enlisted as a soldier, conducted himself bravely, and was always the foremost when it rained bullets. So long as the war lasted, all went well, but when peace was made, he received his dismissal, and the captain said he might go where he liked. His parents were dead, and he had no longer a home, so he went to his brothers and begged them to take him in, and keep him until war broke out again. The brothers, however, were hard-hearted and said, "What can we do with thee? thou art of no use to us; go and make a living for thyself." The soldier had nothing left but his gun; he took that on his shoulder, and went forth into the world. He came to a wide heath, on which nothing was to be seen but a circle of trees; under these he sat sorrowfully down, and began to think over his fate. "I have no money," thought he, "I have learnt no trade but that of fighting, and now that they have made peace they don't want me any longer; so I see beforehand that I shall have to starve." All at once he heard a rustling, and when he looked round, a strange man stood before him, who wore a green coat and looked right stately, but had a hideous cloven foot. "I know already what thou art in need of," said the man; "gold and possessions shall thou have, as much as thou canst make away with do what thou wilt, but first I must know if thou art fearless, that I may not bestow my money in vain." - "A soldier and fear - how can those two things go together?" he answered; "thou canst put me to the proof." - "Very well, then," answered the man, "look behind thee." The soldier turned round, and saw a large bear, which came growling towards him. "Oho!" cried the soldier, "I will tickle thy nose for thee, so that thou shalt soon lose thy fancy for growling," and he aimed at the bear and shot it through the muzzle; it fell down and never stirred again. "I see quite well," said the stranger, "that thou art not wanting in courage, but there is still another condition which thou wilt have to fulfil." - "If it does not endanger my salvation," replied the soldier, who knew very well who was standing by him. "If it does, I'll have nothing to do with it." - "Thou wilt look to that for thyself," answered Greencoat; "thou shalt for the next seven years neither wash thyself, nor comb thy beard, nor thy hair, nor cut thy nails, nor say one paternoster. I will give thee a coat and a cloak, which during this time thou must wear. If thou diest during these seven years, thou art mine; if thou remainest alive, thou art free, and rich to boot, for all the rest of thy life." The soldier thought of the great extremity in which he now found himself, and as he so often had gone to meet death, he resolved to risk it now also, and agreed to the terms. The Devil took off his green coat, gave it to the soldier, and said, "If thou hast this coat on thy back and puttest thy hand into the pocket, thou wilt always find it full of money." Then he pulled the skin off the bear and said, "This shall be thy cloak, and thy bed also, for thereon shalt thou sleep, and in no other bed shalt thou lie, and because of this apparel shalt thou be called Bearskin." After this the Devil vanished.
The soldier put the coat on, felt at once in the pocket, and found that the thing was really true. Then he put on the bearskin and went forth into the world, and enjoyed himself, refraining from nothing that did him good and his money harm. During the first year his appearance was passable, but during the second he began to look like a monster. His hair covered nearly the whole of his face, his beard was like a piece of coarse felt, his fingers had claws, and his face was so covered with dirt that if cress had been sown on it, it would have come up. Whosoever saw him, ran away, but as he everywhere gave the poor money to pray that he might not die during the seven years, and as he paid well for everything he still always found shelter. In the fourth year, he entered an inn where the landlord would not receive him, and would not even let him have a place in the stable, because he was afraid the horses would be scared. But as Bearskin thrust his hand into his pocket and pulled out a handful of ducats, the host let himself be persuaded and gave him a room in an outhouse. Bearskin was, however, obliged to promise not to let himself be seen, lest the inn should get a bad name.
As Bearskin was sitting alone in the evening, and wishing from the bottom of his heart that the seven years were over, he heard a loud lamenting in a neighboring room. He had a compassionate heart, so he opened the door, and saw an old man weeping bitterly, and wringing his hands. Bearskin went nearer, but the man sprang to his feet and tried to escape from him. At last when the man perceived that Bearskin's voice was human he let himself be prevailed on, and by kind words bearskin succeeded so far that the old man revealed the cause of his grief. His property had dwindled away by degrees, he and his daughters would have to starve, and he was so poor that he could not pay the innkeeper, and was to be put in prison. "If that is your only trouble," said Bearskin, "I have plenty of money." He caused the innkeeper to be brought thither, paid him and put a purse full of gold into the poor old man's pocket besides.
When the old man saw himself set free from all his troubles he did not know how to be grateful enough. "Come with me," said he to Bearskin; "my daughters are all miracles of beauty, choose one of them for thyself as a wife. When she hears what thou hast done for me, she will not refuse thee. Thou dost in truth look a little strange, but she will soon put thee to rights again." This pleased Bearskin well, and he went. When the eldest saw him she was so terribly alarmed at his face that she screamed and ran away. The second stood still and looked at him from head to foot, but then she said, "How can I accept a husband who no longer has a human form? The shaven bear that once was here and passed itself off for a man pleased me far better, for at any rate it wore a hussar's dress and white gloves. If it were nothing but ugliness, I might get used to that." The youngest, however, said, "Dear father, that must be a good man to have helped you out of your trouble, so if you have promised him a bride for doing it, your promise must be kept." It was a pity that Bearskin's face was covered with dirt and with hair, for if not they might have seen how delighted he was when he heard these words. He took a ring from his finger, broke it in two, and gave her one half, the other he kept for himself. He wrote his name, however, on her half, and hers on his, and begged her to keep her piece carefully, and then he took his leave and said, "I must still wander about for three years, and if I do not return then, thou art free, for I shall be dead. But pray to God to preserve my life."
The poor betrothed bride dressed herself entirely in black, and when she thought of her future bridegroom, tears came into her eyes. Nothing but contempt and mockery fell to her lot from her sisters. "Take care," said the eldest, "if thou givest him thy hand, he will strike his claws into it." - "Beware!" said the second. "Bears like sweet things, and if he takes a fancy to thee, he will eat thee up." - "Thou must always do as he likes," began the elder again, "or else he will growl." And the second continued, "But the wedding will be a merry one, for bears dance well." The bride was silent, and did not let them vex her. Bearskin, however, travelled about the world from one place to another, did good where he was able, and gave generously to the poor that they might pray for him.
At length, as the last day of the seven years dawned, he went once more out on to the heath, and seated himself beneath the circle of trees. It was not long before the wind whistled, and the Devil stood before him and looked angrily at him; then he threw Bearskin his old coat, and asked for his own green one back. "We have not got so far as that yet," answered Bearskin, "thou must first make me clean." Whether the Devil liked it or not, he was forced to fetch water, and wash Bearskin, comb his hair, and cut his nails. After this, he looked like a brave soldier, and was much handsomer than he had ever been before.
When the Devil had gone away, Bearskin was quite lighthearted. He went into the town, put on a magnificent velvet coat, seated himself in a carriage drawn by four white horses, and drove to his bride's house. No one recognized him, the father took him for a distinguished general, and led him into the room where his daughters were sitting. He was forced to place himself between the two eldest, they helped him to wine, gave him the best pieces of meat, and thought that in all the world they had never seen a handsomer man. The bride, however, sat opposite to him in her black dress, and never raised her eyes, nor spoke a word. When at length he asked the father if he would give him one of his daughters to wife, the two eldest jumped up, ran into their bedrooms to put on splendid dresses, for each of them fancied she was the chosen one. The stranger, as soon as he was alone with his bride, brought out his half of the ring, and threw it in a glass of wine which he reached across the table to her. She took the wine, but when she had drunk it, and found the half ring lying at the bottom, her heart began to beat. She got the other half, which she wore on a ribbon round her neck, joined them, and saw that the two pieces fitted exactly together. Then said he, "I am thy betrothed bridegroom, whom thou sawest as Bearskin, but through God's grace I have again received my human form, and have once more become clean." He went up to her, embraced her, and gave her a kiss. In the meantime the two sisters came back in full dress, and when they saw that the handsome man had fallen to the share of the youngest, and heard that he was Bearskin, they ran out full of anger and rage. One of them drowned herself in the well, the other hanged herself on a tree. In the evening, some one knocked at the door, and when the bridegroom opened it, it was the Devil in his green coat, who said, "Seest thou, I have now got two souls in the place of thy one!"