A fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm
Hans wished to put his son to learn a trade, so he went into the
church and prayed to our Lord God to know which would be the most
suitable for him. Then the clerk got behind the altar, and said,
"Thieving, thieving." On this Hans went back to his son, and told him
he was to learn thieving, and that the Lord God had said so. So he
went with his son to seek a man who was acquainted with thieving.
They walked for a long time and come into a great forest, where stood a
little house with an old woman in it. Hans said, "Do you know of a
man who is acquainted with thieving?"
"You can learn that here quite
well," said the woman, "my son is a master of it." So he spoke with
the son, and asks if he knows thieving really well.
"I shall teach him well. Come back when a year is over, and then
if you recognise your son, I shall take no payment at all for teaching
him, but if you don't know him, you must give me two hundred talers."
The father went home again, and the son learnt witchcraft and
thieving thoroughly. When the year was out, the father was full of
anxiety to know how he should recognise his son. As Hans was thus going
about in his trouble, he met a little dwarf, who said, "Man, what
ails you, that you are always in such trouble?"
"Oh," said Hans, "a year ago I placed my son with a master-thief who
told me I was to come back when the year was out, and that if I then
did not know my son when I saw him, I was to pay two hundred talers,
but if I did know him I was to pay nothing, and now I am afraid of
not knowing him and can't tell where I am to get the money." Then the
dwarf told him to take a crust of bread with him, and to stand
beneath the chimney. "There on the cross-beam is a basket, out of
which a little bird is peeping, and that is your son."
Hans went thither, and threw a crust of black bread in front of the
basket with the bird in it, and the little bird came out, and looked
up. "Hello, my son, are you here?" said the father, and the son was
delighted to see his father, but the master-thief said, "The devil
must have prompted you, or how could you have known your son?"
"Father, let us go," said the youth.
Then the father and son set out homeward. On the way a carriage
came driving by. Hereupon the son said to his father, "I shall change
myself into a large greyhound, and then you can earn a great deal of
money by me."
Then the gentleman called from the carriage, "My man,
will you sell your dog?"
"Yes," said the father.
"How much do you want
"Well, man, that is a great deal, but as it
is such a very fine dog I shall have it." The gentleman took it into
his carriage, but when they had driven a little farther the dog
sprang out of the carriage through the window, and went back to his
father, and was no longer a greyhound.
They went home together.
Next day there was a fair in the neighbouring
town, so the youth said to his father, "I shall now change myself into
a beautiful horse, and you can sell me, but when you have sold me,
you must take off my bridle, or I cannot become a man again." Then
the father went with the horse to the fair, and the master-thief
comes and bought the horse for a hundred talers, but the father
forgot, and did not take off the bridle. So the man went home with
the horse, and put it in the stable.
When the maid crossed the threshold, the horse said, "Take off my
bridle, take off my bridle."
Then the maid stood still, and said,
"What, you can speak?" So she went and took the bridle off, and the
horse becomes a sparrow, and flew out at the door, and the
master-thief became a sparrow also, and flew after him.
Then they came together and cast lots again, and the master lost.
So the master changed himself into a cock, and the youth became a
fox, and bit the master's head off, and he died and has remained
dead to this day.