edition amalia   

Home Lexikon  |  Titel  |  Index-AT  |  Motive Grimm-KHM  |  edition amalia 


The Enchanted Toad

There was once a peasant, like many others, who had three sons but his wife had long been dead. When the two elder lads were somewhat grown up they went one day to their father, and begged him to allow them to go from home, and get themselves wives. The peasant answered: "It is not fitting that you go seeking for wives before you have tried your luck in the world. I want to know which of you can earn the handsomest cloth to spread over the table on Yule eve. This was agreeable to the two brothers, and on their departure the peasant gave five shillings to each of them, saying it would be for them to live on until they could find themselves some employment.

When the two elder sons were ready to leave home, the youngest son went to his father, and begged for permission to go and try his fortune. The peasant would not listen to him, but said mockingly: "Yes, you poor little fellow! No doubt there are many who will be glad to have you in their service! It is better for you to sit at home in the chimney-corner; that is your proper place." But the boy insisted: "Father, let me go with them. No one can tell what turns luck may tale. It may be that I get on well in the world, though I am little and younger than my brothers." When the old man heard this he thought to himself: "Well, it may be all right to be rid of him for some time. Here he is of no use, and he will no doubt, come back before the forest is green again." So, the lad got leave to accompany his brothers, and also received five shillings from his father to subsist on during his travels.

The three sons then set out, and travelled the whole day. Towards evening they came to an alehouse by the roadside, in which a number of travellers and other guests were assembled. The two elder brothers sat down, and ate and drank, and gambled, and made merry, while the youngest lad crept into a corner by himself, and would not join the company. When the two brothers had thus spent their money, they went to their young brother, and demanded from him his five shillings, telling him he had better return home, and the sooner the better. But the lad refused to give them his money, whereupon the brothers seized and beat him, took his money from him, and drove him out of the alehouse. They then sat down again, and ate and drank as before. But the poor boy fled away in the dark night, not knowing where to direct his steps. He trod many rugged paths, until he was unable to proceed further. Sitting down, therefore, on a little hill, he wept bitterly, until he fell asleep from weariness.

Early in the morning, before the lark had begun his song, the lad awoke and continued his journey. He now wandered over mountains and through deep valleys, neither knowing nor caring in what direction he went, provided only that he could escape from his brothers. After travelling for a long time he came to a green path that led to a mansion. This mansion was so spacious, that he thought it could be no other than a royal palace. The lad did not long hesitate, but entered, and came into many fine apartments, one more sumptuous than another -- but not a living soul was there. After wandering about for some time out of one hall into another, he came at last to a room yet more splendid than any of the others. In the place of honor there sat a toad, blacker than the blackest pitch, and so horrid in appearance that the lad could hardly turn his eyes towards her. The toad asked who he was, and on what errand he came. He answered, as was the truth: "I am a poor peasant boy, and have left home in search of some employment."

The toad then said: "Would you like to stay here with me? I am just now in great want of a servant." The boy expressed his willingness, and said that he would gladly serve her. The toad said: "Be welcome, then! If you are faithful to me, it shall be well for you." The matter was now settled, and the lad assured her that there should be no lack of devotion on his part, provided only that his mistress did not require of him more than he was able to perform.

When all was thus arranged, the lad and the toad went down into the garden that lay around the house, and came to a large bush, of a kind that the youth had never before seen. The toad then said: "It shall be your job to cut a branch of this bush every day when the sun is in the heavens. You must do it on Sunday as well as on Monday, on Yule-day as well as on Midsummer-day; but you must cut only branch each day." The boy promised to obey her wishes in all things. The toad then led him up to a chamber, and said: "Here you may henceforward sleep and live. On this table you will always find meat and drink, when you are hungry. This bed you shall find ready whenever you wish to rest, and in every respect you shall enjoy perfect liberty. Only be faithful in what is required of you." When she had thus spoken they separated, and the toad hopped away. The lad then went down into the garden, and cut a branch from the bush, and so was at liberty for that day. On the following morning he did the same, and so on throughout the whole year. He fared well in the palace, enjoying an abundance of everything he could wish. Nevertheless, his time seemed long; for the day came and the day went, and he never saw nor heard a human being.

When a year had expired, and the youth had cut the last branch of the bush, the toad came hopping to him, thanked him for his faithful services, and asked him what reward he wished. The lad answered that he had done very little that deserved a reward, and would be quite satisfied with whatever his mistress would be pleased to give him.

The toad then said: "I know well enough what you would like as payment. Your brothers are gone to earn cloths to spread on their father's table on Yule-eve. But I will give you a cloth, the like of which they will hardly find, even if they search over twelve kingdoms." With these words she gave the youth a tablecloth whiter than snow, and so fine that it could not be matched. The lad was now overjoyed, thanked his mistress in many expressions of gratitude, bade her farewell, and prepared, with great joy of heart, to return home to his father.

The youth now set out on his journey, and travelled the whole day without meeting with any adventure. Late in the evening he perceived a light, towards which he bent his course, in expectation of finding shelter for the night. On reaching the spot he at once recognized the alehouse in which he had left his brothers, and on entering, lo! there sat his two brothers in the midst of cups and jugs, eating and drinking, and making merry. As the lad no longer remembered the wrong he had suffered at their hands, he felt glad to meet with his brothers, and went and greeted them affectionately. He then asked how they had done since they last saw each other, and whether they had succeeded in getting a cloth to lay upon their father's Yule-table. The brothers answered yes, and said that all had turned out well. Each then produced his cloths, but the cloths were both torn and worn. "Now," said the lad, "wait, and you shall see another sort of thing." He then spread out the cloth given him by the toad, and all the guests in the alehouse admired the fineness of the texture. But the two brothers were not content that their youngest brother should possess so costly a thing. They therefore took the beautiful cloth from him by force, and gave him their old ones in return. All the three then returned home to their father. When Yule-eve came, and the youths spread their cloth on the table, the old man was delighted, and could not rejoice enough at their good fortune. The two brothers then began to praise themselves, and talked largely of all the great things they had performed. But the youngest lad said very little. He was neither heard nor believed, say what he might.

When the two elder brothers had remained at home over Yule-tide they went one day to their father, and begged for permission to go and get themselves wives. But the old man answered as before: "It is not proper that you should go looking for wives before you have further tried your luck in the world. I long to see which of you can earn the handsomest drinking-cup to set on the table on Yule-eve." On their departure the old man gave to each of them five shillings as before.

When they had left home the youngest boy went to his father, and asked for permission to go again and try his luck. The father at first refused his consent, but finally yielded to the lad's pleading, thinking to himself he would no doubt come back before the forest was in leaf. So he got his five shillings and departed.

In the same alehouse the lad found his elder brothers eating, drinking, and gambling, and was, as before, robbed by them. He then wandered forth again to the palace of his late mistress. When the toad saw him she returned a friendly answer to his greeting, and asked the reason his coming. He answered: "I am come again to offer my services, if you require them."

The toad replied: "Be welcome, I am just now in great need of a servant. If you wilt serve me well, your reward shall not be small." The toad then took forth a bundle of short threads, gave them to the youth, and said: "This shall be your task; you must tie a thread round every branch of the bush that you had to cut last year. But you must tie a thread every day the sun is in the heavens, and you must do so as well on Sunday as on Monday, as well on Yule-day as on Midsummer-day. You must not tie many threads, but only one." His treatment in the palace was then as generous as told before.

When the year was at an end, and the youth had bound the last thread round the last branch, the little toad came again hopping to him, thanked him for his faithful services, and asked what reward he wished. He answered, as before, that he had done little to deserve a reward, and would be quite content with whatever his mistress might think proper to give him. Thereupon the toad said: "I know well what reward you wish above all. Your brothers are gone to earn a drinking-cup to set on their father's table on Yule-eve; but I will give you a cup, the like of which is hardly to be found." With these words she gave the youth a drinking vessel which was of fine silver, covered with gold inside and out; thirteen masters had set their marks on it, the workmanship was, moreover, so curious and elaborate, that its like was not to be found, even if twelve kingdoms were to be searched through. The youth returned thanks for the costly gift, as it was well worth, and with great joy of heart prepared to return home.

After travelling the whole day he came late in the evening within sight of the same alehouse of which we have already spoken. He would have taken another direction, but a rapid river prevented him from going by any other road, and he required shelter for the night. On entering the alehouse he found his brothers just as when he last parted from them; and again they robbed him of his treasure.

When the three brothers had been at home till Yule was past, the two elder ones went again to their father and asked his permission to set out in search of wives. The old man readily granted their request, thinking that his sons were now grown up and well-experienced in all things. He added, "I long to see which of you brings the fairest bride to the village by Yule-eve." Each then having received his five shillings, they set out on their journey.

When they were about to leave home, the youngest son went to his father, and begged to be allowed to accompany his brothers. The old man would not listen to him, but said: "You young fool, do you think there is any one who will have you for a husband? Better is it for you to sit at home and rake in the ashes, that is the right place for you." The youth would not be diverted from his purpose, but said: "Father, let me go with them; no one can tell what will turn up. It may chance to go well with me, although I am little and younger than my brothers." The old man at last thought: "Well, it may be as well to let him go for a time, he will no doubt come back when pressed by want." Thus the youth got permission to accompany his brothers, and, on parting from his father, received, like each of them, his five shillings.

The three brothers then set out on their wanderings, and in the evening came to the same inn, and there all happened as before. The elder brothers robbed the youngest, and threw him out of the house.

After long traveling he bent his way again to the palace where he enjoyed so much ease and comfort. On reaching his destination, he entered boldly into the beautiful chamber, in which his mistress was in the habit of sitting. She received him graciously, and asked the reason for his coming. He told her that he came to offer his services, if she had need of them. The toad replied: "You are welcome, for I am in great want of a servant. If you serve me faithfully, your reward shall be greater than you now think." The youth assured her that there should be no lack of faith on his part, provided she did not require more than he could perform.

The toad said: "Your work shall be neither hard nor tedious. It shall be thy employment to gather up the branches you hast cut and tied, and lay them together in a heap in the court-yard. But you shall take up a branch every day that the sun is in the heavens, and you shall do so as well on Wednesday as on Thursday, on Yule-day as well as on Midsummer-day; and you must not take up many branches together, but a single one only. When the year is at an end, and you hast gathered up the last branch, you shall set fire to the heap and withdraw a while to thy chamber. Then go down and sweep well round the pile, that every branch may be consumed. If then you see anything in the fire, take it out and save it." The youth promised to obey these directions. She thereupon, as before, conducted him to his chamber, and went hopping away. The lad then went down into the garden, fetched a branch that he had previously cut and tied, carried it to the vacant spot where he purposed erecting the pile, and was afterwards free for the rest of the day. On the following morning he did the same, and so on through the whole year. In the palace he enjoyed every comfort, and grew up into a tall, comely young man. But his hours were passed in solitude, for he neither saw nor heard a human being, and he often thought how his brothers were probably taking home their brides, while he had not one.

When the year had run its course, and the youth had gathered up the last branch and laid it with the others, he did as the toad had ordered him: set fire to the heap, and withdrew for a while to his chamber. He then returned and swept round the heap, that all the branches, great and small, might be burnt to ashes. Behold! there rose from the midst of the fire a damsel exquisitely beautiful; she was whiter than snow, and her hair hung down to her feet and covered her like a mantle.

When the youth saw the fair damsel, he ran quickly and snatched her out of the flames. The young maiden then fell on his neck, overcome with joy, and thanked him for having saved her. She was the daughter of a king, and had been enchanted by a troll, who had changed her into a loathsome toad.

At the same moment a great commotion and noise arose in the palace, and the court was filled with courtiers, knights and high-born dames, all of whom had, in like manner been enchanted. All now came forward and greeted their queen as well as the brave youth who had released them. But the princess ordered horses to be put instantly to her gilded chariot, and made preparations for immediate departure. She then caused the peasant's son to be clothed in silk and rich scarlet, gave him arms and other equipment, such as might befit a prince's son -- and thus was the poor peasant lad transformed into as noble and stately a youth as ever girded a sword to his side. When everything was. ready for the journey, the king's daughter said: "I can well believe that your thoughts are turned to your brothers, who are directing their steps towards home together with their brides. We will, therefore, travel to your father, that he may also know what kind of bride you have earned for yourself." The youth immediately stepped into the gilded chariot, and in great state and with a large retinue they departed to visit the old peasant in his cottage.

The youth and his fair bride now traveled on to the old peasant's cottage, at which they did not arrive until late in the evening. They entered and begged to have lodging for the night; but the old man answered, as was the truth that he was expecting his three sons with their brides, and had, moreover, only a very small cottage, that was ill suited to receive persons of such high nobility. But the king's daughter said that she would have her way, and the old peasant could not refuse her. She then ordered a sumptuous Yule-feast to be prepared, and sent her pages out into the neighborhood to invite guests to the entertainment. When the evening was far advanced, and the feast was ready, the two elder sons arrived with their brides; and no one wondered that the old man was not particularly delighted with his daughters-in-law, as they were homely and cross. While they were sitting at table, the king's daughter asked the old man whence he had procured so fine a cloth and such a beautiful drinking-cup. The old peasant answered: "My two elder sons were out, and received them as payment for their services." Whereupon the princess said: "No, your elder sons earned neither the one nor the other; but if you will know the truth, it is your youngest son who has earned them; and here you see the fellow both of the cloth and cup." When she had thus spoken, the youth rose from the table and all now saw that the stranger prince was no other than the old peasant's youngest son, the little lad, who had formerly been so despised by his kindred. When the old man recognized his son, and, at the same time, heard all that had taken place, he was stricken with amazement, and could scarcely believe his own eyes and ears. But the two elder sons stood with shame before their father and the many guests; and their treachery and falsehood became in later times known to the whole neighborhood.

The youth and the beautiful princess now allowed the guests to drink to their happy union, and there was such a Yule-feast as had not been seen within living memory. But when Yule was over, the bride and bridegroom returned to their kingdom, and took the old peasant with them. And the youth became king over the whole realm, and lived with his fair queen in love and happiness.


Yule-Tide Stories: A Collection of Scandinavian and North German Popular Tales and Traditions. Hrsg. von Benjamin Thorpe. London 1853. (AT 402)




Home  |  Lexikon  |  Titel  |  Index-AT  |  Motive  |  Grimm-KHM  |  edition amalia