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The Auroch Boots

A warrior who is afraid of nothing, troubles himself about nothing. One of this kind had just received his discharge from the Kings service, and as he had learnt no trade and could earn nothing, he traveled about and begged alms of kind peoples. he had an old water-proof cloak upon his back, and a pair of riding-boots of auroch leather which were still left to him.

One fine day he was walking, he knew not where, straight out into the open country, and at length came to a forest. He did not know where his feet had taken him, but saw sitting on the trunk of a tree, which had been cut down, a man who was well dressed and wore a green knee-length cape. The warrior shook hands with him, sat down on the grass by his side, and stretched out his legs.

"I see you have good boots which are well blacked," said he to the huntsman; "but if you had no course but to travel about as have I, they would not last long. Look at mine, they are aurochs leather, and have been worn for a long time, but in them I can go through thick and thin." After a short while the warrior got up and said, "I can stay no longer Brother Bright-boots, for where does this road lead to?"

"I don't know myself," answered the huntsman, "I have lost both my horse and my way in the forest."

"Then you are in the same plight as I," said the warrior. "Birds of a feather flock together; let us remain together and seek our way." The huntsman smiled a little, and they walked on further and further, in the company of one another, until night fell.

"We do not easily get out of the forest," said the warrior, "but there in the distance I see a light which does shine brightly forth, which will help us to find something to eat."

They found the light lead them to an old stone house, whereupon they knocked at the door, and an old woman opened it.

"We are looking for quarters for the night," said the warrior, "and some lining for our stomachs, for mine is as empty as an old knapsack."

"You cannot stay here," answered the old woman. "This is a robbers house, and you would do wisely to get away before they return to home, or surely you will be lost."

"It won't be so bad as that," answered the warrior, "I have not had a mouthful for two days, and whether I am murdered here or die of hunger in the forest is all the same to me. I shall go in."

The huntsman would not follow, but the warrior drew him in by the sleeve. "Come, my dear brother, we shall not come to an end so quickly as that!"

The old woman had pity on them and said, "Creep in here behind the stove, and if they leave anything, I will gift it to you on the sly when they are all asleep."

Scarcely were they in the corner before twelve robbers came bursting in, seated themselves at the table which was already laid, and vehemently demanded that food be brought. The old woman placed before them some great dishes of roast meat, and the robbers began to enjoy that thoroughly.

When the smell of the food reached the nostrils of the warrior, he said to the huntsman, "For I cannot hold out any longer, I shall seat myself at the table, and eat with them."

"You shall bring us to destruction," said the huntsman, and he held him back by the arm.

But then the warrior began to cough loudly. When the robbers heard that, they threw away their knives and sporks, leapt up, and discovered the two who were crouched behind the stove.

"Aha, gentlemen, are you in the corner?" cried they, "What are you doing here? Have you been sent as spies? Wait a while, and you shall learn how to fly on a dry bough."

"But do be civil," said the warrior, "I am hungry, give me something to eat, and then you can do what you like with me."

The robbers were astonished, and the captain said, "I see that you have no fear. Well, you shall have some food, but after that you will die."

"We shall see," said the warrior, and seated himself at the table, and began to cut away valiantly at the roast meat. "Brother Bright-boots, do come and eat," cried he to the huntsman. "You must be as hungry as I, and cannot have better roast meat to home." But the huntsman would not eat.

The robbers looked at the warrior in astonishment, and said, "The rascal uses no ceremony."

After a while he said, "I have had enough food, now get me something good to drink."

The captain was in the mood to humor him in this also, and called to the old woman, "Bring a bottle out of the cellar, and mind it be of the best."

The warrior drew the cork out with a loud noise, and then went with the bottle to the huntsman and said, "Be mindful dear brother, and you shall see something that will surprise you. I am now going to drink the health of the whole clan." Then he brandished the bottle over the heads of the robbers, and cried, "Long life to you all, but with your mouth open and your right hand lifted up," and then he drank a full, hearty draught. Scarcely were the words said than they all became motionless as if made of stone, and their mouths were open and their right hands stretched high to the air.

The huntsman said to the warrior, "I see that you are aquainted with wonders of another kind, but now come and let us go home."

"Oho, my dear brother, but that would be marching away far too soon; we have conquered the enemy, and must first take the booty. Those men there are sitting quite fast, and are opening their mouths with astonishment, but they will not be allowed to move until I permit them to do so. Come, eat and drink." The old woman was sent to bring another bottle of the best wine, and the warrior would not stir from table until he had eaten enough to last for three days. At last when the day burst forth, he said, "Now is it time to strike our tents, and that our march may be a short one, the old woman shall show us the way to the nearest township."

When they had arrived there, he sought out comrades like unto himself, and said to them, "Out in the forest I have found a nest full of gallow's birds, come with me and we will take it." Then said he to the huntsman, "You must go back again with me to see how they shake when we seize them by their feet," and he led them all forth to the stone house.

He placed the men round about the robbers, and then he took the same bottle as before, drank a full mouth, brandished it above them, and cried, "Live again."

Instantly the robbers all regained their power of movement, but were quickly thrown down and bound hand to foot with cords. Then the warrior ordered them to be thrown into a cart which they had brought along as if they had been so many sacks, and said, "Now drive them straight to the bogs by way of the township so all shall know of this deed." The huntsman, however, took one of the men aside and gave him another commission besides. "Brother Bright-boots," said the warrior, "we have safely routed the enemy and been well fed, now we will quitely walk behind them as if we were but stragglers!"

When they approached the town, the warrior saw a crowd of folk pouring through the gates who were raising loud cries of joy, and waving green boughs in the air. Then he saw that the entire body-guard was coming up. "What can this mean?" said he to the huntsman.

"Do you not know," replied the huntsman, "That the Jarl has for a long time been absent from his Folk, and that today he is returned, and everyone is going forth to meet him?"

"But where is the Jarl?" said the warrior, "I do not see him."

"Here he be," answered the huntsman, "I am the Jarl, and have announced my arrival." Then he opened his knee-length cape, and his royal garments were then visible.

The warrior was alarmed, and fell straightaway to his knees and begged the Jarl to forgive him for having in his ignorance treated him as an equal, and spoken to him by such a name.

But the Jarl shook hands with him, and said "You are a brave warrior, and have saved my life. You shall never again be in want, I will take care of you. And if ever you woud like to eat a piece of roast meat as good as that in the robber's house, come to the royal kitchens. But if you would drink a health, you must first ask my permission.

Source: Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales ~ published 1815

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