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The Story Of The Youth Who Went Forth To Learn What Fear Was

A certain father had two sons, the elder of who was smart andsensible, and could do everything, but the younger was stup...

The Story Of The Youth Who Went Forth To Learn What Fear Was

A certain father had two sons, the elder of who was smart andsensible, and could do everything, but the younger was stupid andcould neither learn nor understand anything, and when people saw himthey said: «There’s a fellow who will give his father some trouble!’When anything had to be done, it was always the elder who was forcedto do it; but if his father bade him fetch anything when it was late,or in the night-time, and the way led through the churchyard, or anyother dismal place, he answered: «Oh, no father, I’ll not go there,it makes me shudder!» for he was afraid. Or when stories were toldby the fire at night which made the flesh creep, the listenerssometimes said: «Oh, it makes us shudder!» The younger sat in a cornerand listened with the rest of them, and could not imagine what theycould mean. «They are always saying: “It makes me shudder, itmakes me shudder!” It does not make me shudder,» thought he. «That,too, must be an art of which I understand nothing!»

Now it came to pass that his father said to him one day: «Hearken tome, you fellow in the corner there, you are growing tall and strong,and you too must learn something by which you can earn your bread.Look how your brother works, but you do not even earn your salt.’«Well, father,» he replied, «I am quite willing to learnsomething—indeed, if it could but be managed, I should like to learn howto shudder. I don’t understand that at all yet.» The elder brothersmiled when he heard that, and thought to himself: «Goodness, what ablockhead that brother of mine is! He will never be good foranything as long as he lives! He who wants to be a sickle must bendhimself betimes.»

The father sighed, and answered him: «You shall soon learn what it isto shudder, but you will not earn your bread by that.»

Soon after this the sexton came to the house on a visit, and thefather bewailed his trouble, and told him how his younger son was sobackward in every respect that he knew nothing and learnt nothing.«Just think,» said he, «when I asked him how he was going to earnhis bread, he actually wanted to learn to shudder.» «If that be all,’replied the sexton, «he can learn that with me. Send him to me, and Iwill soon polish him.» The father was glad to do it, for hethought: «It will train the boy a little.» The sexton therefore tookhim into his house, and he had to ring the church bell. After a day ortwo, the sexton awoke him at midnight, and bade him arise and go upinto the church tower and ring the bell. «You shall soon learn whatshuddering is,» thought he, and secretly went there before him; andwhen the boy was at the top of the tower and turned round, and was justgoing to take hold of the bell rope, he saw a white figure standingon the stairs opposite the sounding hole. «Who is there?» cried he,but the figure made no reply, and did not move or stir. «Give ananswer,» cried the boy, «or take yourself off, you have no businesshere at night.»

The sexton, however, remained standing motionless that the boy mightthink he was a ghost. The boy cried a second time: «What do you wanthere?—speak if you are an honest fellow, or I will throw you downthe steps!» The sexton thought: «He can’t mean to be as bad as hiswords,» uttered no sound and stood as if he were made of stone. Thenthe boy called to him for the third time, and as that was also to nopurpose, he ran against him and pushed the ghost down the stairs, sothat it fell down the ten steps and remained lying there in a corner.Thereupon he rang the bell, went home, and without saying a word wentto bed, and fell asleep. The sexton’s wife waited a long time for herhusband, but he did not come back. At length she became uneasy, andwakened the boy, and asked: «Do you know where my husband is? Heclimbed up the tower before you did.» «No, I don’t know,» replied theboy, «but someone was standing by the sounding hole on the other sideof the steps, and as he would neither gave an answer nor go away, I tookhim for a scoundrel, and threw him downstairs. Just go there and youwill see if it was he. I should be sorry if it were.» The woman ranaway and found her husband, who was lying moaning in the corner, andhad broken his leg.

She carried him down, and then with loud screams she hastened to theboy’s father, «Your boy,» cried she, «has been the cause of a greatmisfortune! He has thrown my husband down the steps so that he broke hisleg. Take the good-for-nothing fellow out of our house.» The father wasterrified, and ran thither and scolded the boy. «What wicked tricks arethese?» said he. «The devil must have put them into your head.’«Father,» he replied, «do listen to me. I am quite innocent. He wasstanding there by night like one intent on doing evil. I did not knowwho it was, and I entreated him three times either to speak or to goaway.» «Ah,» said the father, «I have nothing but unhappiness withyou. Go out of my sight. I will see you no more.»

«Yes, father, right willingly, wait only until it is day. Then will Igo forth and learn how to shudder, and then I shall, at any rate,understand one art which will support me.» «Learn what you will,» spokethe father, «it is all the same to me. Here are fifty talers for you.Take these and go into the wide world, and tell no one from whence youcome, and who is your father, for I have reason to be ashamed ofyou.» «Yes, father, it shall be as you will. If you desire nothingmore than that, I can easily keep it in mind.»

When the day dawned, therefore, the boy put his fifty talers intohis pocket, and went forth on the great highway, and continuallysaid to himself: «If I could but shudder! If I could but shudder!’Then a man approached who heard this conversation which the youth washolding with himself, and when they had walked a little farther towhere they could see the gallows, the man said to him: «Look, there isthe tree where seven men have married the ropemaker’s daughter, and arenow learning how to fly. Sit down beneath it, and wait till nightcomes, and you will soon learn how to shudder.» «If that is all thatis wanted,» answered the youth, «it is easily done; but if I learn howto shudder as fast as that, you shall have my fifty talers. Just comeback to me early in the morning.» Then the youth went to the gallows,sat down beneath it, and waited till evening came. And as he was cold,he lighted himself a fire, but at midnight the wind blew so sharplythat in spite of his fire, he could not get warm. And as the windknocked the hanged men against each other, and they moved backwardsand forwards, he thought to himself: «If you shiver below by the fire,how those up above must freeze and suffer!» And as he felt pity forthem, he raised the ladder, and climbed up, unbound one of them afterthe other, and brought down all seven. Then he stoked the fire, blewit, and set them all round it to warm themselves. But they sat thereand did not stir, and the fire caught their clothes. So he said: «Takecare, or I will hang you up again.» The dead men, however, did nothear, but were quite silent, and let their rags go on burning. At thishe grew angry, and said: «If you will not take care, I cannot help you,I will not be burnt with you,» and he hung them up again each in histurn. Then he sat down by his fire and fell asleep, and the nextmorning the man came to him and wanted to have the fifty talers, andsaid: «Well do you know how to shudder?» «No,» answered he, «howshould I know? Those fellows up there did not open their mouths, andwere so stupid that they let the few old rags which they had on theirbodies get burnt.» Then the man saw that he would not get the fiftytalers that day, and went away saying: «Such a youth has never come myway before.»

The youth likewise went his way, and once more began to mutter tohimself: «Ah, if I could but shudder! Ah, if I could but shudder!» Awaggoner who was striding behind him heard this and asked: «Who areyou?» «I don’t know,» answered the youth. Then the waggoner asked:«From whence do you come?» «I know not.» «Who is your father?» «ThatI may not tell you.» «What is it that you are always mutteringbetween your teeth?» «Ah,» replied the youth, «I do so wish I couldshudder, but no one can teach me how.» «Enough of your foolishchatter,» said the waggoner. «Come, go with me, I will see about aplace for you.» The youth went with the waggoner, and in the eveningthey arrived at an inn where they wished to pass the night. Then atthe entrance of the parlour the youth again said quite loudly: «If Icould but shudder! If I could but shudder!» The host who heard this,laughed and said: «If that is your desire, there ought to be a goodopportunity for you here.» «Ah, be silent,» said the hostess, «somany prying persons have already lost their lives, it would be a pityand a shame if such beautiful eyes as these should never see thedaylight again.»

But the youth said: «However difficult it may be, I will learn it.For this purpose indeed have I journeyed forth.» He let the host have norest, until the latter told him, that not far from thence stood ahaunted castle where anyone could very easily learn what shuddering was,if he would but watch in it for three nights. The king had promisedthat he who would venture should have his daughter to wife, and shewas the most beautiful maiden the sun shone on. Likewise in the castlelay great treasures, which were guarded by evil spirits, and thesetreasures would then be freed, and would make a poor man rich enough.Already many men had gone into the castle, but as yet none had comeout again. Then the youth went next morning to the king, and said:«If it be allowed, I will willingly watch three nights in the hauntedcastle.»

The king looked at him, and as the youth pleased him, he said: «Youmay ask for three things to take into the castle with you, but theymust be things without life.» Then he answered: «Then I ask for a fire,a turning lathe, and a cutting-board with the knife.»

The king had these things carried into the castle for him during theday. When night was drawing near, the youth went up and made himself abright fire in one of the rooms, placed the cutting-board and knifebeside it, and seated himself by the turning-lathe. «Ah, if I couldbut shudder!» said he, «but I shall not learn it here either.» Towardsmidnight he was about to poke his fire, and as he was blowing it,something cried suddenly from one corner: «Au, miau! how cold we are!’«You fools!» cried he, «what are you crying about? If you are cold,come and take a seat by the fire and warm yourselves.» And when he hadsaid that, two great black cats came with one tremendous leap and satdown on each side of him, and looked savagely at him with their fieryeyes. After a short time, when they had warmed themselves, they said:«Comrade, shall we have a game of cards?» «Why not?» he replied, «butjust show me your paws.» Then they stretched out their claws. «Oh,’said he, «what long nails you have! Wait, I must first cut them foryou.» Thereupon he seized them by the throats, put them on thecutting-board and screwed their feet fast. «I have looked at yourfingers,» said he, «and my fancy for card-playing has gone,» and hestruck them dead and threw them out into the water. But when he hadmade away with these two, and was about to sit down again by hisfire, out from every hole and corner came black cats and black dogswith red-hot chains, and more and more of them came until he could nolonger move, and they yelled horribly, and got on his fire, pulled itto pieces, and tried to put it out. He watched them for a whilequietly, but at last when they were going too far, he seized hiscutting-knife, and cried: «Away with you, vermin,» and began to cutthem down. Some of them ran away, the others he killed, and threwout into the fish-pond. When he came back he fanned the embers of hisfire again and warmed himself. And as he thus sat, his eyes wouldkeep open no longer, and he felt a desire to sleep. Then he lookedround and saw a great bed in the corner. «That is the very thing forme,» said he, and got into it. When he was just going to shut hiseyes, however, the bed began to move of its own accord, and went overthe whole of the castle. «That’s right,» said he, «but go faster.’Then the bed rolled on as if six horses were harnessed to it, up anddown, over thresholds and stairs, but suddenly hop, hop, it turned overupside down, and lay on him like a mountain. But he threw quilts andpillows up in the air, got out and said: «Now anyone who likes, maydrive,» and lay down by his fire, and slept till it was day. In themorning the king came, and when he saw him lying there on the ground,he thought the evil spirits had killed him and he was dead. Then saidhe: «After all it is a pity,—for so handsome a man.» The youth heardit, got up, and said: «It has not come to that yet.» Then the king wasastonished, but very glad, and asked how he had fared. «Very wellindeed,» answered he; «one night is past, the two others will passlikewise.» Then he went to the innkeeper, who opened his eyes verywide, and said: «I never expected to see you alive again! Have youlearnt how to shudder yet?» «No,» said he, «it is all in vain. Ifsomeone would but tell me!»

The second night he again went up into the old castle, sat down bythe fire, and once more began his old song: «If I could but shudder!’When midnight came, an uproar and noise of tumbling about was heard; atfirst it was low, but it grew louder and louder. Then it was quiet for awhile, and at length with a loud scream, half a man came down thechimney and fell before him. «Hullo!» cried he, «another half belongsto this. This is not enough!» Then the uproar began again, there was aroaring and howling, and the other half fell down likewise. «Wait,» saidhe, «I will just stoke up the fire a little for you.» When he haddone that and looked round again, the two pieces were joined together,and a hideous man was sitting in his place. «That is no part of ourbargain,» said the youth, «the bench is mine.» The man wanted to pushhim away; the youth, however, would not allow that, but thrust him offwith all his strength, and seated himself again in his own place.Then still more men fell down, one after the other; they broughtnine dead men’s legs and two skulls, and set them up and played atnine-pins with them. The youth also wanted to play and said: «Listenyou, can I join you?» «Yes, if you have any money.» «Moneyenough,» replied he, «but your balls are not quite round.» Then hetook the skulls and put them in the lathe and turned them till they wereround. «There, now they will roll better!» said he. «Hurrah! now we’llhave fun!» He played with them and lost some of his money, but when itstruck twelve, everything vanished from his sight. He lay down andquietly fell asleep. Next morning the king came to inquire after him.«How has it fared with you this time?» asked he. «I have been playingat nine-pins,» he answered, «and have lost a couple of farthings.’«Have you not shuddered then?» «What?» said he, «I have had awonderful time! If I did but know what it was to shudder!»

The third night he sat down again on his bench and said quite sadly: «IfI could but shudder.» When it grew late, six tall men came in andbrought a coffin. Then he said: «Ha, ha, that is certainly my littlecousin, who died only a few days ago,» and he beckoned with hisfinger, and cried: «Come, little cousin, come.» They placed the coffinon the ground, but he went to it and took the lid off, and a dead manlay therein. He felt his face, but it was cold as ice. «Wait,» said he,«I will warm you a little,» and went to the fire and warmed his handand laid it on the dead man’s face, but he remained cold. Then he tookhim out, and sat down by the fire and laid him on his breast andrubbed his arms that the blood might circulate again. As this alsodid no good, he thought to himself: «When two people lie in bedtogether, they warm each other,» and carried him to the bed, coveredhim over and lay down by him. After a short time the dead man becamewarm too, and began to move. Then said the youth, «See, little cousin,have I not warmed you?» The dead man, however, got up and cried: «Nowwill I strangle you.»

«What!» said he, «is that the way you thank me? You shall at once gointo your coffin again,» and he took him up, threw him into it, andshut the lid. Then came the six men and carried him away again. «Icannot manage to shudder,» said he. «I shall never learn it here as longas I live.»

Then a man entered who was taller than all others, and looked terrible.He was old, however, and had a long white beard. «You wretch,» cried he,«you shall soon learn what it is to shudder, for you shall die.» «Not sofast,» replied the youth. «If I am to die, I shall have to have a say init.» «I will soon seize you,» said the fiend. «Softly, softly, do nottalk so big. I am as strong as you are, and perhaps even stronger.’«We shall see,» said the old man. «If you are stronger, I will letyou go—come, we will try.» Then he led him by dark passages to asmith’s forge, took an axe, and with one blow struck an anvil into theground. «I can do better than that,» said the youth, and went to theother anvil. The old man placed himself near and wanted to look on,and his white beard hung down. Then the youth seized the axe, splitthe anvil with one blow, and in it caught the old man’s beard. «Now Ihave you,» said the youth. «Now it is your turn to die.» Then heseized an iron bar and beat the old man till he moaned and entreatedhim to stop, when he would give him great riches. The youth drew out theaxe and let him go. The old man led him back into the castle, and in acellar showed him three chests full of gold. «Of these,» said he, «onepart is for the poor, the other for the king, the third yours.» Inthe meantime it struck twelve, and the spirit disappeared, so that theyouth stood in darkness. «I shall still be able to find my way out,’said he, and felt about, found the way into the room, and sleptthere by his fire. Next morning the king came and said: «Now you musthave learnt what shuddering is?» «No,» he answered; «what can it be?My dead cousin was here, and a bearded man came and showed me agreat deal of money down below, but no one told me what it was toshudder.» «Then,» said the king, «you have saved the castle, and shallmarry my daughter.» «That is all very well,» said he, «but still Ido not know what it is to shudder!»

Then the gold was brought up and the wedding celebrated; buthowsoever much the young king loved his wife, and however happy hewas, he still said always: «If I could but shudder—if I could butshudder.» And this at last angered her. Her waiting-maid said: «I willfind a cure for him; he shall soon learn what it is to shudder.» Shewent out to the stream which flowed through the garden, and had awhole bucketful of gudgeons brought to her. At night when the youngking was sleeping, his wife was to draw the clothes off him andempty the bucket full of cold water with the gudgeons in it overhim, so that the little fishes would sprawl about him. Then he woke upand cried: «Oh, what makes me shudder so?—what makes me shudder so,dear wife? Ah! now I know what it is to shudder!»

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