A fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm
When God created the world and was about to fix the length of
each creature's life, the ass came and asked, "Lord, how long shall
"Thirty years," replied God, "does that content you?"
Lord," answered the ass, "that is a long time. Think of my painful
existence. To carry heavy burdens from morning to night, to drag
sacks of corn to the mill that others may eat bread, to be
cheered and refreshed with nothing but blows and kicks. Relieve
me of a portion of this long time." Then God had pity on him and
relieved him of eighteen years.
The ass went away comforted, and
the dog appeared. "How long would you like to live?" said God to
him, "Thirty years are too many for the ass, but you will be
satisfied with that."
"Lord," answered the dog, "is that thy will? Consider how I shall have to run, my feet will never hold out so
long, and when I have once lost my voice for barking, and my teeth
for biting, what will be left for me to do but run from one
corner to another and growl." God saw that he was right, and
released him from twelve years of life.
Then came the monkey.
"You will certainly live thirty years willingly," said the Lord to
him, "you have no need to work as the ass and the dog have to, and
will always enjoy yourself."
"Ah, Lord," he answered, "it may seem
as if that were the case, but it is quite different. When it
rains millet-porridge I have no spoon. I am always to play merry
pranks, and make faces which force people to laugh, and if they
give me an apple, and I bite into it, why, it is sour. How often
sadness hides itself behind mirth. I shall never be able to hold
out for thirty years." God was gracious and took off ten.
At last man appeared, joyous, healthy and vigorous, and begged
God to appoint his time for him. "Thirty years will you live,"
said the Lord. "Is that enough for you?"
"What a short time," cried
man, "when I have built my house and my fire burns on my own
hearth, when I have planted trees that blossom and bear fruit,
and am just intending to enjoy my life, I am to die. O Lord,
lengthen my time."
"I shall add to it the ass's eighteen years," said
"That is not enough," replied the man.
"You will also have
the dog's twelve years."
"Still too little."
"Well, then," said God,
"I shall give you the monkey's ten years also, but more you will
not have." The man went away, but was not satisfied.
So man lives seventy years. The first thirty are his human
years, which are soon gone, then is he healthy, merry, works with
pleasure, and is glad of his life. Then follow the ass's
eighteen years, when one burden after another is laid on him, he
has to carry the corn which feeds others, and blows and kicks are
the reward of his faithful services. Then comes the dog's twelve
years, when he lies in the corner, and growls and has no longer
any teeth to bite with, and when this time is over the monkey's
ten years form the end. Then man is weak-headed and foolish,
does silly things, and becomes the jest of children.