Lucky Hans

Stones

by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

 

Hans had served his master as an apprentice for seven years, and so he said to him, "Master, my time is up. Now I would like to go back home to my mother.  Give me my wages."

The master answered, "You have served me faithfully and honestly. As the service was, so shall the reward be." And he gave Hans a piece of gold as big as his head. Hans pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket, wrapped up the lump in it, put it on his shoulder, and set out on the way home. As he went on, always putting one leg before the other, he saw a horseman trotting quickly and merrily by on a lively horse.

"Ah," said Hans quite loudly, "what a fine thing it must be to ride. There you sit as on a chair, never stumbling over a stone, saving your shoes, and making your way without even knowing it."

The rider, heard him.  He stopped and called out, "Hey there, Hans, then why are you travelling on foot?"

"I must," answered Hans, "for I have this lump to carry home. It is true that it is gold, but I cannot hold my head straight for it, and it hurts my shoulders."

"I tell you what," said the rider. "Let's trade. I will give you my horse, and you can give me your lump of gold."

"With all my heart," said Hans. "But I can tell you, you will be dragging along with it."

The rider got down, took the gold, and helped Hans up, then gave him the bridle tight in his hands and said, "If you want to go fast, you must click your tongue and call out, 'Gee-up.'

Hans was heartily delighted as he sat upon the horse and rode away so bold and free. After a little while he thought that it ought to go faster, and he began to click with his tongue and call out, 'Gee-up.'  The horse started a fast trot, and before Hans knew where he was, he was thrown off and lying in a ditch which separated the fields from the highway. The horse would have escaped if it had not been stopped by a peasant, who was coming along the road, herding a cow before him.

Hans pulled himself together and stood up, but he was vexed, and said to the peasant, "It is a poor joke, this riding, especially when one gets hold of a mare like this, that kicks and throws one off, so that one has a chance of breaking one's neck. Never again will I mount it. Now I like your cow, for one can walk quietly behind her, and moreover have one's milk, butter, and cheese every day without fail. What would I not give to have such a cow?

"Well," said the peasant, "if it would give you so much pleasure, I do not mind trading the cow for the horse." Hans agreed with the greatest delight, and the peasant jumped upon the horse and rode quickly away.

Hans drove his cow quietly before him, and thought over his lucky bargain. "If only I had a morsel of bread -- and that can hardly fail me -- I could eat butter and cheese with it as often as I like. If I am thirsty, I can milk my cow and drink the milk. My goodness, what more could I possibly want?"

At last he came to an inn and stopped.  To celebrate his good fortune, he ate up everything he had with him -- his dinner and supper -- and all he had, and with his last few farthings had half a glass of beer. Then he drove his cow onwards in the direction of his mother's village.

As noon approached, the heat grew more oppressive, and Hans found himself upon a moor which would take at least another hour to cross. He felt very hot, and his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth with thirst. "I can find a cure for this," thought Hans. "I will milk the cow now and refresh myself with the milk." He tied her to a withered tree, and as he had no pail, he put his leather cap underneath, but try as he would, not a drop of milk came. And because he was working in a clumsy way, the impatient beast at last gave him such a blow on his head with its hind foot, that he fell to the ground, and for a long time did not know where he was. By good fortune a butcher just then came along the road with a pushcart, in which lay a young pig.

"What sort of a trick is this?" he cried, and helped poor old Hans up. Hans told him what had happened.

The butcher gave him his flask and said, "Take a drink and refresh yourself. The cow will certainly give no milk. It is an old beast. At the best it is only fit for the plow, or for the butcher."

"Well, well," said Hans, as he stroked his hair down on his head. "Who would have thought it? Certainly it is a fine thing when one can slaughter a beast like that for oneself. What meat one has! But I do not care much for beef, it is not juicy enough for me. But to have a young pig like that! It tastes quite different, and there are sausages as well."

"Listen, Hans," said the butcher. "To do you a favour, I will trade, and let you have the pig for the cow."

"God reward you for your kindness," said Hans as he gave up the cow. The pig was untied from the cart, and the cord by which it was tied was put in his hand. Hans went on, thinking to himself how everything was going just as he wished. If anything troublesome happened to him, it was immediately set right.

Presently he was joined by a lad who was carrying a fine white goose under his arm. They greeted one another, and Hans began to tell of his good luck, and how he had always made such good trades. The boy told him that he was taking the goose to a christening feast. "Just heft her," he added, taking hold of her by the wings. "Feel how heavy she is. She has been fattened up for the last eight weeks. Anyone who bites into her after she has been roasted will have to wipe the fat from both sides of his mouth."

"Yes," said Hans, hefting her with one hand, "she weighs a lot, but my pig is not so bad either."

Meanwhile the lad looked suspiciously from one side to the other, and shook his head. "Look here, he said at last. "It may not be all right with your pig. In the village through which I passed, the mayor himself had just had one stolen out of its sty. I fear -- I fear that you have got hold of it there. They have sent out some people and it would be a bad business if they caught you with the pig. At the very least, you would be shut up in the dark hole.

Poor Hans was terrified. "For goodness' sake," he said. "help me out of this fix. You know more about this place than I do. Take my pig and leave me your goose."

"I am taking a risk," answered the lad, "but I do not want to be the cause of your getting into trouble." So he took the cord in his hand, and quickly drove the pig down a side path.  Hans, freed from care, went homewards with the goose under his arm.

"When I think about it properly," he said to himself, "I have even gained by the trade. First there is the good roast meat, then the quantity of fat which will drip from it, and which will give me goose fat for my bread for a quarter of a year, and lastly the beautiful white feathers. I will have my pillow stuffed with them, and then indeed I shall go to sleep without being rocked. How glad my mother will be!"