A fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm
There was a certain village wherein no one lived but really rich
peasants, and just one poor one, whom they called the little
peasant. He had not even so much as a cow, and still less money
to buy one, and yet he and his wife did so wish to have one. One
day he said to her, "Listen, I have a good idea, there is our
gossip the carpenter, he will make us a wooden calf, and paint it
brown, so that it looks like any other, and in time it will
certainly get big and be a cow." The woman also liked the idea, and
their gossip the carpenter cut and planed the calf, and painted
it as it ought to be, and made it with its head hanging down as
if it were eating.
Next morning when the cows were being driven out, the little
peasant called the cow-herd and said, "Look, I have a little calf
there, but it is still small and has to be carried."
said, "All right," and took it in his arms and carried it to the
pasture, and set it among the grass. The little calf always
remained standing like one which was eating, and the cow-herd said,
"It will soon run by itself, just look how it eats already." At
night when he was going to drive the herd home again, he said to
the calf, "If you can stand there and eat your fill, you can also
go on your four legs. I don't care to drag you home again in
my arms." But the little peasant stood at his door, and waited for
his little calf, and when the cow-herd drove the cows through
the village and the calf was
missing, he inquired where it was. The cow-herd answered, "It is
still standing out there eating. It would not stop and come
But the little peasant said, "Oh, but I must have my
beast back again."
Then they went back to the meadow together,
but someone had stolen the calf, and it was gone. The cow-herd
said, "It must have run away."
The peasant, however, said, "Don't
tell me that," and led the cow-herd before the mayor, who for his
carelessness condemned him to give the peasant a cow for the
calf which had run away.
And now the little peasant and his wife had the cow for which
they had so long wished, and they were heartily glad, but they
had no food for it, and could give it nothing to eat, so it
soon had to be killed. They salted the flesh, and the peasant went
into the town and wanted to sell the skin there, so that he might
buy a new calf with the proceeds. On the way he passed by a mill,
and there sat a raven with broken wings, and out of pity he took
him and wrapped him in the skin. But as the weather grew so
bad and there was a storm of rain and wind, he could go no farther,
and turned back to the mill and begged for shelter. The miller's
wife was alone in the house, and said to the peasant, "Lay yourself
on the straw there," and gave him a slice of bread and cheese. The
peasant ate it, and lay down with his skin beside him, and the
woman thought, "He is tired and has gone to sleep."
meantime came the parson. The miller's wife received him well,
and said, "My husband is out, so we shall have a feast." The
peasant listened, and when he heard them talk about feasting
he was vexed that he had been forced to make shift with a slice
of bread and cheese. Then the woman served up four different
things, roast meat, salad, cakes, and wine.
Just as they were about to sit down and eat, there was a knocking
outside. The woman said, "Oh, heavens. It is my husband." She
quickly hid the roast meat inside the tiled stove, the wine
under the pillow, the salad on the bed, the cakes under it, and
the parson in the closet on the porch. Then she opened the
door for her husband, and said, "Thank heaven, you are back
again. There is such a storm, it looks as if the world were
coming to an end."
saw the peasant lying on the straw, and asked, "What is that
fellow doing there?"
"Ah," said the wife, "the poor knave came in
the storm and rain, and begged for shelter, so I gave him a bit
of bread and cheese, and showed him where the straw was."
said, "I have no objection, but be quick and get me something to
The woman said, "But I have nothing but bread and cheese."
am contented with anything," replied the husband, "so far as I am
concerned, bread and cheese will do," and looked at the peasant
and said, "Come and eat some more with me." The peasant did not
need to be invited twice, but got up and ate.
After this the
miller saw the skin in which the raven was lying on the ground,
and asked, "What have you there?"
The peasant answered, "I have a
soothsayer inside it."
"Can he foretell anything to me?" said the
"Why not?" answered the peasant, "but he only says four
things, and the fifth he keeps to himself."
The miller was curious,
and said, "Let him foretell something for once." Then the peasant
pinched the raven's head, so that he croaked and made a noise
like "krr, krr". The miller said, "What did he say
answered, "In the first place, he says that there is some wine
hidden under the pillow."
"Bless me," cried the miller, and went
there and found the wine. "Now go on," said he.
made the raven croak again, and said, "In the second place, he
says that there is some roast meat in the tiled stove."
word," cried the miller, and went thither, and found the roast
The peasant made the raven prophesy still more, and said,
"Thirdly, he says that there is some salad on the bed."
would be a fine thing," cried the miller, and went there and found
At last the peasant pinched the raven once more till
he croaked, and said, "Fourthly, he says that there are some
cakes under the bed."
"That would be a fine thing," cried the
miller, and looked there, and found the cakes.
And now the two sat down to the table together, but the miller's
wife was frightened to death, and went to bed and took all the
keys with her. The miller would have liked much to know the
fifth, but the little peasant said, "First, we shall quickly
eat the four things, for the fifth is something bad." So they
ate, and after that they
bargained how much the miller was to give for the fifth prophesy,
until they agreed on three hundred talers. Then the peasant
once more pinched the raven's head till he croaked loudly.
miller asked, "What did he say?"
The peasant replied, "He says that
the devil is hiding outside there in the closet on the porch."
The miller said, "The devil must go out," and opened the house-door.
Then the woman was forced to give up the keys, and the peasant
unlocked the closet. The parson ran out as fast as he could, and
the miller said, "It was true. I saw the black rascal with my own
eyes." The peasant, however, made off next morning by daybreak
with the three hundred talers.
At home the small peasant gradually launched out. He built a
beautiful house, and the peasants said, "The small peasant has
certainly been to the place where golden snow falls, and people
carry the gold home in shovels." Then the small peasant was
brought before the mayor, and bidden to say from whence his
wealth came. He answered, "I sold my cow's skin in the town, for
three hundred talers." When the peasants heard that, they too
wished to enjoy this great profit, and ran home, killed all their
cows, and stripped off their skins in order to sell them in the
town to the greatest advantage. The mayor, however, said, "But
my servant must go first." When she came to the merchant in the
town, he did not give her more than two talers for a skin, and
when the others came, he did not give them so much, and said,
"What can I do with all these skins?"
Then the peasants were vexed that the small peasant should have
thus outwitted them, wanted to take vengeance on him, and accused
him of this treachery before the mayor. The innocent little
peasant was unanimously sentenced to death, and was to be rolled
into the water, in a barrel pierced full of holes. He was led
forth, and a priest was brought who was to say a mass for his
soul. The others were all obliged to retire to a distance, and
when the peasant looked at the priest, he recognized the man who
had been with the miller's wife. He said to him, "I set you free
from the closet, set me free from the barrel." At this same
moment up came, with a flock of sheep, the very shepherd whom
the peasant knew had long been wishing to be mayor, so he cried
with all his might, "No, I shall not do it. If the whole world
insists on it, I shall not do it." The shepherd upon hearing that
came up to him, and asked, "What are you about? What is it that
you will not do?" The peasant said, "They want to make me mayor,
if I shall but put myself in the barrel, but I shall not do it.
The shepherd said, "If nothing more than that is needful in order
to be mayor, I would get into the barrel at once."
said, "If you will get in, you will be mayor." The shepherd was
willing, and got in, and the peasant shut the top down on him.
Then he took the shepherd's flock for himself, and drove it away.
The parson went to the crowd, and declared that the mass had
been said. Then they came and rolled the barrel towards the
water. When the barrel began to roll, the shepherd cried, "I am
quite willing to be mayor." They believed no otherwise than that
it was the peasant who was saying this, and answered, "That is
what we intend, but first you will look about you a little
down below there," and they rolled the barrel down into the water.
After that the peasants went home, and as they were entering
the village, the small peasant also came quietly in, driving a
flock of sheep and looking quite contented. Then the peasants
were astonished, and said, "Peasant, from whence do you come?
Have you come out of the water?"
"Yes, truly," replied the
peasant, "I sank deep, deep down, until at last I got to the bottom.
I pushed the bottom out of the barrel, and crept out, and there
were pretty meadows
on which a number of lambs were feeding, and from thence I
brought this flock away with me."
Said the peasants, "Are there
"Oh, yes," said he, "more than I could want."
the peasants made up their minds that they too would fetch some
sheep for themselves, a flock apiece, but the mayor said, "I
come first." So they went to the water together, and just then
there were some of the small fleecy clouds in the blue sky, which
are called little lambs, and they were reflected in the water,
whereupon the peasants cried, "We already see the sheep down
The mayor pressed forward and said, "I shall go down first,
and look about me, and if things promise well I'll call you."
So he jumped in. Splash, went the water. It sounded as if
he were calling them, and the whole crowd plunged in after
him as one man. Then the entire village was dead, and the
small peasant, as sole heir, became a rich man.