The devil and his grandmother



There was a great war, and the King had many soldiers, but gave them small pay, so small that they could not live upon it, so three of them agreed among themselves to desert. One of them said to the others, "If we are caught we shall be hanged on the gallows; how shall we manage it?" Another said, "Look at that great cornfield, if we were to hide ourselves there, no one could find us; the troops are not allowed to enter it, and to-morrow they are to march away." They crept into the corn, only the troops did not march away, but remained lying all round about it. They stayed in the corn for two days and two nights, and were so hungry that they all but died, but if they had come out, their death would have been certain. Then said they, "What is the use of our deserting if we have to perish miserably here?" But now a fiery dragon came flying through the air, and it came down to them, and asked why they had concealed themselves there? They answered, "We are three soldiers who have deserted because the pay was so bad, and now we shall have to die of hunger if we stay here, or to dangle on the gallows if we go out." - "If you will serve me for seven years," said the dragon, "I will convey you through the army so that no one shall seize you." - "We have no choice and are compelled to accept," they replied. Then the dragon caught hold of them with his claws, and carried them away through the air over the army, and put them down again on the earth far from it; but the dragon was no other than the Devil. He gave them a small whip and said, "Whip with it and crack it, and then as much gold will spring up round about as you can wish for; then you can live like great lords, keep horses, and drive your carriages, but when the seven years have come to an end, you are my property." Then he put before them a book which they were all three forced to sign. "I will, however, then set you a riddle," said he, "and if you can guess that, you shall be free, and released from my power." Then the dragon flew away from them, and they went away with their whip, had gold in plenty, ordered themselves rich apparel, and travelled about the world. Wherever they were they lived in pleasure and magnificence, rode on horseback, drove in carriages, ate and drank, but did nothing wicked. The time slipped quickly away, and when the seven years were coming to an end, two of them were terribly anxious and alarmed; but the third took the affair easily, and said, "Brothers, fear nothing, my head is sharp enough, I shall guess the riddle." They went out into the open country and sat down, and the two pulled sorrowful faces. Then an aged woman came up to them who inquired why they were so sad? "Alas!" said they, "how can that concern you? After all, you cannot help us." - "Who knows?" said she. "confide your trouble to me." So they told her that they had been the Devil's servants for nearly seven years, and that he had provided them with gold as plentifully as if it had been blackberries, but that they had sold themselves to him, and were forfeited to him, if at the end of the seven years they could not guess a riddle." The old woman said, "If you are to be saved, one of you must go into the forest, there he will come to a fallen rock which looks like a little house, he must enter that, and then he will obtain help." The two melancholy ones thought to themselves, "That will still not save us," and stayed where they were, but the third, the merry one, got up and walked on in the forest until he found the rock-house. In the little house, however, a very aged woman was sitting, who was the Devil's grandmother, and asked the soldier where he came from, and what he wanted there? He told her everything that had happened, and as he pleased her well, she had pity on him, and said she would help him. She lifted up a great stone which lay above a cellar, and said, "Conceal thyself there, thou canst hear everything that is said here; only sit still, and do not stir. When the dragon comes, I will question him about the riddle, he tells everything to me, so listen carefully to his answer." At twelve o'clock at night, the dragon came flying thither, and asked for his dinner. The grandmother laid the table, and served up food and drink, so that he was pleased, and they ate and drank together. In the course of conversation, she asked him what kind of a day he had had, and how many souls he had got? "Nothing went very well to-day," he answered, "but I have laid hold of three soldiers, I have them safe." - "Indeed! three soldiers, that's something like, but they may escape you yet." The Devil said mockingly, "They are mine! I will set them a riddle, which they will never in this world be able to guess!" - "What riddle is that?" she inquired. "I will tell you. In the great North Sea lies a dead dog-fish, that shall be your roast meat, and the rib of a whale shall be your silver spoon, and a hollow old horse's hoof shall be your wine-glass." When the Devil had gone to bed, the old grandmother raised up the stone, and let out the soldier. "Hast thou paid particular attention to everything?" - "Yes," said he, "I know enough, and will contrive to save myself." Then he had to go back another way, through the window, secretly and with all speed to his companions. He told them how the Devil had been overreached by the old grandmother, and how he had learned the answer to the riddle from him. Then they were all joyous, and of good cheer, and took the whip and whipped so much gold for themselves that it ran all over the ground. When the seven years had fully gone by, the Devil came with the book, showed the signatures, and said, "I will take you with me to hell. There you shall have a meal! If you can guess what kind of roast meat you will have to eat, you shall be free and released from your bargain, and may keep the whip as well." Then the first soldier began and said, "In the great North Sea lies a dead dog-fish, that no doubt is the roast meat." The Devil was angry, and began to mutter, "Hm! hm! hm!" And asked the second, "But what will your spoon be?" - "The rib of a whale, that is to be our silver spoon." The Devil made a wry face, again growled, "Hm! hm! hm!" and said to the third, "And do you also know what your wine-glass is to be?" - "An old horse's hoof is to be our wineglass." Then the Devil flew away with a loud cry, and had no more power over them, but the three kept the whip, whipped as much money for themselves with it as they wanted, and lived happily to their end.
从前爆发了一场大战,国王招募了许多士兵,而发给士兵的军饷少得可怜,士兵简直无以聊生。 于是,三个士兵相约逃跑。 只听一个士兵对另两个说:"如果我们被抓住,就会被绞死,怎样才能顺利地逃走呢?"另一个说:"瞧那边不是块玉米地吗?如果我们藏到里面,谁能找到我们?再说,部队又不许进入玉米地,何况明天他们就要出发了!"他们偷偷溜进了玉米地。 不过部队并没有像他们想象的那样出发,而是继续驻扎在玉米地的周围。 他们三人在里面藏了两天两夜,简直快饿死了。 如果他们现在就出来那是必死无疑了。 他们想:"如果在这里悄悄死去,那逃跑又有什么意义呢?"正在这时,空中有一条火龙,向他们飞下来,问他们为什么藏在那儿。 他们告诉它说:"我们三个都是当兵的,由于军饷太少,就当了逃兵。可现在,呆在这里我们只会饿死,就是出去也会被绞死。""假如你们甘愿为我当七年的奴仆,"龙说,"我保证能把你们带出去,根本不会被抓住。""既然如此,我们还有什么法子呢?"他们回答说。 于是龙用爪子钳住他们三个,飞过军营的上空,最后将他们放到了远处的地上。 原来这条龙不是别人,而是一个魔鬼,他给了三人一条小鞭,说:"只要将鞭子啪啪地抽响,你们四周就会涌现许多金子,要多少就有多少。这样你们就可以过上富翁的生活,有马骑,有车坐。可七年一过,你们就归我啦!"他拿着一本簿子逼着他们一一签字。 "不过到时后我会给你们一个谜语猜,"他接着说,"如果猜对了,你们就自由了,不再属我的管束了。"说完,龙便飞走了。
他们就带着鞭子开始旅行了,果然他们有了许多金子。 他们换上了华丽的衣服,招摇过市;他们住的是富丽堂皇的宫殿,出进都是马车来马车去,吃的尽是山珍海味。 不过他们也没干什么坏事。 时光飞逝,眨眼功夫,七年期限就到了。 他们中的两个就焦虑不安起来,而另一个却不急不慢,只听他说:"兄弟们,别害怕,我的头脑够好使的,我准能猜出谜语的。"他们来到外面的开阔地坐下,那两人仍是神色紧张。 这时,一位老太婆向他们走来,问他们为何如此悲伤。 "你老要知道干什么呢?就是知道了您也帮不上忙。"他们没好气地说。 "只管把你的心事告诉给我听,没准我能帮得上忙!"老太婆说道。 于是三人告诉她,他们是魔鬼的仆人,差不多有整整七年了,魔鬼给他们弄来了许多金子,多得不计其数;不过他们都和魔鬼写了卖身契,如果七年后他们猜不出谜语,就等于把自己出卖给魔鬼了。 老太婆听完说:"你们要想得救,你们中一人得走进森林里去,到一座像小屋模样的悬岩前,他得跨进去,以后就能找到救星。"那两个闷闷不乐的士兵想道:"这哪能救我们?"因而坐着不动。 而那个开心的士兵却站起来,径直往森林中走去。
他找到了石头房并走了进去。 屋里坐着位老太龙钟的老婆子,她就是魔鬼的祖母。 她问士兵从哪来,到这来要干什么。 士兵把发生的一切都告诉了她,老婆子很喜欢这士兵,动了恻隐之心,便答应帮他。 他揭开了地窖上的一块大石板,对士兵说:"你藏进去,这里你可听到外面的一切,千万坐好,不要动。等龙来了,我会问它那个谜语,他会把什么都告诉我的,你仔细听好啦。"
夜晚十二点,龙飞来要饭吃。 老祖母摆好了桌子,端上酒菜。 魔鬼很高兴,他一边吃喝,一边拉家常。 祖母问它那天过得怎样 ,得到了多少灵魂。 "今天运气可真不好,"它说,"不过我抓了三个士兵,这可是十拿九稳的。""真的吗?三个士兵!他们可有两下子,他们能逃脱的。"魔鬼轻蔑地一笑,说:"他们肯定归我!我还有个谜语给他们猜,不过他们肯定猜不出。"老祖母问:"是个什么样的谜语?""这我可以告诉你,在辽阔的北海有只死长尾猿,那是他们的烤肉;一头鲸的肋骨是他们的银勺子;一条空心的老马腿是他们的酒杯。"等魔鬼睡着后,老祖母揭开石板,让士兵上来,说:"这些都记牢了没有?""记住了,都记住了,这下我得救了。"随后他从另一条路走,悄悄地从窗户爬了出去,以最快的速度跑到了同伴身边。 他向他们讲了鬼是如何中了它祖母的计,他又怎样得知了谜底。 这下三个人可高兴啦,他们拿起了鞭子,抽出了许多金币,让它们满地乱滚。
整整的七年过去了,魔鬼带着那本簿子来了,他让他们看自己签过的字,说:"我将带你们去地狱,让你们在那里吃顿饭;你们要是能猜出会吃什么样的烤肉,你们就自由了,我们的协议不再生效,并且我可以让你们留着这鞭子。"只听第一个士兵说道:"在辽阔的北海有只死长尾猿,那肯定是烤肉。"魔鬼又惊又气,又问第二个,"那你们用的是什么勺子?""鲸的肋骨将是我们的勺子。"魔鬼这下气歪了脸,他咆哮着问了第三个问题,"哼!你们可知道酒杯会是什么吗?""一条老马的腿将是我们的酒杯。"魔鬼怒吼着飞走了,它的魔力再也管不了他们了。 从此他们三人留下了那条鞭子,需要钱时就抽几下,一起愉快地生活着,一直到死。

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