There are many legends
from around the world (especially Germany
) in which the devil
builds a bridge
, but is then cheated out of the human soul
he expected as payment.
of the story tells of a builder
who agreed to complete the bridge by a certain date, but as that date approached, he saw that it would be impossible to meet the deadline
. With only a few days remaining, the builder enters a pact with the devil
, who offered to complete the bridge under cover of night if the builder would deliver to him the first living being that crossed the bridge. The next morning, when the bridge was completed, the builder came and drove a rooster
across the bridge ahead of himself, thus delivering it to the devil. Depending on the various folktale
s, the devil angrily leaves and often times curses
the bridge in some way.
Another variant of the story tells of a shepherd
who had to drive his herd completely around a lake in order to
reach his pasture
(or, in another story, the shepherd had to cross the lake to visit his girlfriend
). This annoyed him, and one day he wished with a curse that a bridge went across the lake. He had scarcely uttered this wish when a man appeared before him. The man promised to build a bridge in one night, before the rooster crowed three times, under the condition that the shepherd would then belong to him. The shepherd entered into this agreement. That evening when he arrived home, he told his wife
what had happened. She said nothing, but at midnight
she went to the chicken coop and awakened the rooster, who thought that it was already morning, and crowed three times. The devil heard this and since he was not finished with his work, he angrily flew off through the air without completing the bridge.Sources: Grimm's Fairy Tales, edited by D. L. Ashliman, among others...