A story from the fairy tale collection Children's and Household Tales
, famously compiled by the Brothers Grimm
Twelve servants, who had the entire day done nothing, would still not strain themselves in the evening, but lay in the grass and boasted to each other of their laziness.
The first said, "What is your laziness to me? I must concern myself with my own. Caring about my own life is my main occupation: I eat no little amount and drink still more. When I have taken four meals, I fast for a short while until I feel hunger again; that suits me best. Getting up early is not my thing; when it is around midday I look to rise from my resting place. When the master calls, I act as if I had not heard him, and when he calls for the second time I wait for a while longer till I arise, and then also go right slowly. Life like this is bearable."
The second said, "I have a horse to take care of, but I leave the bit in his mouth, and when I do not want to, I give him no feed and say that he has already eaten. Instead I lie in the oatmeal-chest and sleep for four hours. Afterwards I contentedly stretch out a foot and stroke it a few times over the horse's flanks, so he is spruced up and clean; who would go to more trouble? Yet the work is still too much bother for me."
The third said, "For what reason would one plague oneself with work? Out of it comes nothing. I lay in the sun and slept. It may have begun to rain a little, but why get up? I let it carry on raining in God's name. Eventually a downpour came, and it was so fierce that it tore out and washed away my hair, and I got a hole in my skull. I placed a plaster on it, and then it was fine. I have had worse injuries."
The fourth said, "If I am to carry out any kind of work, I first loiter about for an hour in order to save up my strength. After that I get up very leisurely and ask if there is no one who could help me. Then I leave him to do the majority of the work, and I only watch: but that also is too much for me."
The fifth said, "What does that matter? Think on this: I am supposed to remove the dung from the horse's stall and load it into the wagon. I leave it a long time before I begin, and if I have taken something up with the pitchfork I lift it only halfway up and rest for quarter of an hour, after which I completely throw it in. It is quite enough if I load up a cartful in the day. I have no desire to kill myself."
The sixth said, "Be ashamed of yourselves; I shrink from no work, but I lie down for three weeks and not once do I take off my clothes. Why buckle up one's shoes, when for all I care they may fall off my feet? It does no damage. When I want to climb the stairs, I slowly drag one foot after another over the first step, then I count the rest so that I may work out where to rest."
The seventh said, "In my household that would not do; my master watches my work, only he is not at home the entire day. But I neglect nothing; I run as fast as is possible when one is crawling. Should I have to get on, four strong men must push me with all their might. I came to a place where six men were lying and sleeping next to each other: I lay down with them and sleep too. I was not to be woken again, and when they wanted me to go home, they had no choice but to carry me."
The eighth said, "I see well that I alone am an active chap. If a stone lies in front of me, I do not take the trouble to lift up my legs and stride over it; I lay down on the ground and if I am wet, or covered in fodder and mud, I stay lying there until the sun has dried me: at the most I turn over so that the sun can shine on both sides."
The ninth said, "That is the right attitude! Today a piece of bread lay before me, but I was too lazy to pick it up, and almost died of hunger. Moreover a beer-mug stood next to it, but it was so big and heavy that I did not want to lift it up and suffered from thirst. To turn myself around was too much for me, and I lay like a log the whole day."
The tenth said, "Laziness has brought ill luck upon me; it has given me a broken leg and swollen calves. Three of us were lying in the road, and I stretched out my legs. Suddenly a wagon came along, and its wheels went over me. I could easily have drawn back my legs, but I had not heard the wagon coming: mites were humming in my ears, and were creeping up my nose and out again at my mouth; who would have taken the trouble to drive the vermin away?"
The eleventh said, "Yesterday I gave up my job. I no longer had any desire to carry heavy books to my master and take them away again: it meant that the day had no end. But to tell the truth, he gave me my dismissal; he no longer wanted to keep me, for his clothes, which I had let lie in the dust, were eaten away by moths, and a good job too."
The twelfth said, "Today I had to drive the wagon through many fields; I made a camp in the straw and slept wonderfully. The reins slipped from my hand, and when I awoke, the horse had almost torn itself away, the harness was gone, and so were the horse's straps, the collar, the bridle and the bit. Someone had come by and had taken everything. On top of that the wagon had slid into a quagmire and stuck fast. I left it to stand there and stretched myself again in the straw. Eventually the master himself came and dragged the wagon out, and had he not come, I would not be lying here, but would be there sleeping peacefully."
Translated by me from the German "Projekt Gutenberg" e-text. More can be found here.