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How Six Men Got on In the World
Grimms Fairy Tales and German Folklore
There was once a man who understood all kinds of arts. He served in
war, and behaved well and bravely, but when the war was over he
received his dismissal, and three farthings for his expenses on the
way. Wait, said he, I shall not be content with this. If I can only
meet with the right people, the king will yet have to give me all the
treasure of the country.
Then full of anger he went into the forest, and saw a man standing
therein who had plucked up six trees as if they were blades of corn.
He said to him, will you be my servant and go with me. Yes, he
answered, but, first, I will take this little bundle of sticks home
to my mother, and he took one of the trees, and wrapped it round the
five others, lifted the bundle on his back, and carried it away. Then
he returned and went with his master, who said, we two ought to be
able to get through the world very well, and when they had walked on
for a short while they found a huntsman who was kneeling, had
shouldered his gun, and was about to fire. The master said to him,
huntsman, what are you going to shoot. He answered, two miles from
here a fly is sitting on the branch of an oak-tree, and I want to
shoot its left eye out.
Oh, come with me, said the man, if we three are together, we
certainly ought to be able to get on in the world. The huntsman was
ready, and went with him, and they came to seven windmills whose
sails were turning round with great speed, and yet no wind was
blowing either on the right or the left, and no leaf was stirring.
Then said the man, I know not what is driving the windmills, not a
breath of air is stirring, and he went onwards with his servants, and
when they had walked two miles they saw a man sitting on a tree who
was shutting one nostril, and blowing out of the other. Good
gracious. What are you doing up there.
He answered, two miles from here are seven windmills. Look, I am
blowing them till they turn round. Oh, come with me, said the man.
If we four are together, we shall carry the whole world before us.
Then the blower came down and went with him, and after a while they
saw a man who was standing on one leg and had taken off the other,
and laid it beside him. Then the master said, you have arranged
things very comfortably to have a rest.
I am a runner, he replied, and to stop myself running far too fast, I
have taken off one of my legs, for if I run with both, I go quicker
than any bird can fly. Oh, go with me. If we five are together, we
shall carry the whole world before us.
So he went with them, and it was not long before they met a man who
wore a cap, but wore it entirely over one ear. Then the master said
to him, gracefully, gracefully, don't stick your cap on one ear, you
look just like a tom-fool. I must not wear it otherwise, said he,
for if I set my hat straight, a terrible frost comes on, and all the
birds in the air are frozen, and drop dead on the ground. Oh, come
with me, said the master. If we six are together, we can carry the
whole world before us.
Now the six came to a town where the king had proclaimed that
whosoever ran a race with his daughter and won the victory, should be
her husband, but whosoever lost it, must lose his head. Then the man
presented himself and said, I will, however, let my servant run for
me. The king replied, then his life also must be staked, so that his
head and yours are both set on the victory. When that was settled
and made secure, the man buckled the other leg on the runner, and
said to him, now be nimble, and help us to win. It was fixed that
the one who was first to bring some water from a far distant well was
to be the victor. The runner received a pitcher, and the king's
daughter one too, and they began to run at the same time, but in an
instant, when the king's daughter had got a very little way, the
people who were looking on could see no more of the runner, and it
was just as if the wind had whistled by. In a short time he reached
the well, filled his pitcher with water, and turned back. Half-way
home, however, he was overcome with fatigue, and set his pitcher
down, lay down himself, and fell asleep. But he had made a pillow of
a horse's skull which was lying on the ground, in order that he might
lie uncomfortably, and soon wake up again. In the meantime the
king's daughter, who could also run very well - quite as well as any
ordinary mortal can - had reached the well, and was hurrying back
with her pitcher full of water, and when she saw the runner lying
there asleep, she was glad and said, my enemy is delivered over into
my hands, emptied his pitcher, and ran on. And now all would have
been lost if by good luck the huntsman had not been standing at the
top of the castle, and had not seen everything with his sharp eyes.
Then said he, the king's daughter shall still not prevail against us.
And he loaded his gun, and shot so cleverly, that he shot the horse's
skull away from under the runner's head without hurting him. Then
the runner awoke, leapt up, and saw that his pitcher was empty, and
that the king's daughter was already far in advance. He did not lose
heart, however, but ran back to the well with his pitcher, again drew
some water, and was at home again even ten minutes before the king's
daughter. Behold, said he, only now have I begun to use my legs.
What I did before did not deserve to be called running.
But it pained the king, and still more his daughter, that she should
be carried off by a common discharged soldier like that. So they took
counsel with each other how to get rid of him and his companions.
Then said the king to her, I have thought of a way. Don't be afraid,
they shall not come back again. And he said to them, you shall now
make merry together, and eat and drink, and he conducted them to a
room which had a floor of iron, and the doors also were of iron, and
the windows were guarded with iron bars. There was a table in the
room covered with delicious food, and the king said to them, go in,
and enjoy yourselves. And when they were inside, he ordered the
doors to be shut and bolted. Then he sent for the cook, and
commanded him to make a fire under the room until the iron became
This the cook did, and the six who were sitting at table began to
feel quite warm, and they thought the heat was caused by the food.
But as it became still greater, and they wanted to get out, and found
that the doors and windows were bolted, they became aware that the
king must have an evil intention, and wanted to suffocate them. He
shall not succeed, however, said the one with the cap. I will cause
a frost to come, before which the fire shall be ashamed, and creep
Then he put his cap on straight, and immediately there came such a
frost that all heat disappeared, and the food on the dishes began to
freeze. When an hour or two had passed by, and the king believed
that they had perished in the heat, he had the doors opened to behold
them himself. But when the doors were opened, all six were standing
there, alive and well, and said that they should very much like to
get out to warm themselves, for the very food was fast frozen to the
dishes with the cold. Then, full of anger, the king went down to the
cook, scolded him, and asked why he had not done what he had been
ordered to do. But the cook replied, there is heat enough there,
just look yourself. Then the king saw that a fierce fire was burning
under the iron room, and perceived that there was no getting the
better of the six in this way.
Again the king considered how to get rid of his unpleasant guests,
and caused their chief to be brought and said, if you will take gold
and renounce my daughter, you shall have as much as you will.
Oh, yes, lord king, he answered, give me as much as my servant can
carry, and I will not ask for your daughter.
On this the king was satisfied, and the other continued, in fourteen
days, I will come and fetch it. Thereupon he summoned together all
the tailors in the whole kingdom, and they were to sit for fourteen
days and sew a sack. And when it was ready, the strong one who could
tear up trees had to take it on his back, and go with it to the king.
Then said the king, who can that strong fellow be who is carrying a
bundle of linen on his back that is as big as a house. And he was
alarmed and said, what a lot of gold he can carry away. Then he
commanded a ton of gold to be brought, which took sixteen of his
strongest men to carry, but the strong one snatched it up in one
hand, put it in his sack, and said, why don't you bring more at the
same time. That hardly covers the bottom. Then, little by little,
the king caused all his treasure to be brought thither, and the
strong one pushed it into the sack, and still the sack was not half
full with it. Bring more, cried he, these few crumbs don't fill it.
Then seven thousand carts with gold had to be gathered together in
the whole kingdom, and the strong one thrust them and the oxen
harnessed to them into his sack. I will examine it no longer, said
he, but will just take what comes, so long as the sack is but full.
When all that was inside, there was still room for a great deal more.
Then he said, I will just make an end of the thing. People do
sometimes tie up a sack even when it is not full. So he took it on
his back, and went away with his comrades. When the king now saw how
one single man was carrying away the entire wealth of the country, he
became enraged, and bade his horsemen mount and pursue the six, and
ordered them to take the sack away from the strong one. Two
regiments speedily overtook the six, and called out, you are
prisoners, put down the sack with the gold, or you will be cut to
pieces. What say you, cried the blower, that we are prisoners.
Rather than that should happen, all of you shall dance about in the
air. And he closed one nostril, and with the other blew on the two
regiments. Then they were driven away from each other, and carried
into the blue sky over all the mountains, one here, the other there.
One sergeant cried for mercy. He had nine wounds, and was a brave
fellow who did not deserve ill treatment.
The blower stopped a little so that he came down without injury, and
then the blower said to him. Now go home to your king, and tell him
he had better send some more horsemen, and I will blow them all into
the air. When the king was informed of this he said, let the rascals
go. There is magic in them. Then the six conveyed the riches home,
divided it amongst them, and lived in content until their death.