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A Story Of Two Men

In ancient times, when the Lord Heimdall himself still walked about quite openly on MidgardR among men, it once happened that He was tired and quickly overtaken by the darkness of night before He could reach an inn. Now there stood on the road before Him two houses facing one another; the one large and beautiful, the other small and meager. The large one belonged to a rich man, and the small one to a poor man.

Then the Lord thought aloud, "I shall be no burden to the rich man, I shall stay the night with him."

When the rich man heard someone knocking at his door, he opened the window and asked the stranger what he was seeking.

Lord Heimdall answered, "I but ask only for a night's lodging."

Then the rich man looked the traveler from head to foot, and as the Lord was wearing common clothes, and did not look like one who had much money in his pocket, he shook his head, and said, "No, I cannot take you in, my rooms are full of herbs, and of seeds; and if I were to lodge everyone who knocked at my door, I might very soon go begging myself. Go somewhere else for a night's lodging." And with this he rudely shut down the window and left the Lord standing there.

So it was that Lord Heimdall turned his back on the rich man, and went across the way to the small house and knocked. he had hardly done so when the poor man opened the little door and bade the traveler enter.

"Pass the night with me, it is already dark," said he; "you cannot go any further this dark night."

This pleased the Lord, and He went in. The poor man's wife shook hands with, and welcomed Him, and said He was to make Himself to home if He would but put up with what they had; for they had not much to offer, but what they did have they would give unto Him with all their hearts. Then she happily put potatoes on the fire, and while they were boiling, she milked the goat, that they might have a little milk with them. When the cloth was laid, Lord Heimdall sat down with the man and his wife, and He enjoyed their coarse food, for there were happy faces at the table.

When they had had supper and it was bed-time, the woman called her husband apart and said, "Hark you, dear husband, let us make up a bed of straw for ourselves tonight, and then the poor traveler can sleep in our bed of feathers and have a good rest, for he has been walking the whole day through, and that makes one weary."

"With all my heart," he answered pleasantly, "I will go and offer it to him."

Thus he went to the stranger and invited him, if he had no objection, to sleep in their bed and rest his limbs properly. But the Lord was unwilling to take their soft bed from the couple; however, they would in no ways be satisfied, until at length He did accept and lay down in their bed, while they themselves lay on some straw on the ground.

Next morn the folk got up before daybreak, and made as good a breakfast as they could for their guest. When Sunna shone her bright rays through the little window, and the Lord had got up, He again ate with them, and then prepared to set forth once again upon His journey.

But as He was standing at the door He turned round and said, "As you are so kind and good, you may wish three things for yourselves and I will happily grant them."

Then the kind man said, "What else should I wish for but our eternal happiness, and that we two, as long as we live, may be healthy and have every day our needed foodstuffs; for the third wish, I know not of what else there could be to have."

And Lord Heimdall said unto him, "Will you wish for a new house instead of this old one?"

"Oh, yes," said the man; "if we can have that, too, I should like it very much."

And the Lord fulfilled this wish too, and changed their old house into a new one, and gave them His blessing, and went on.

It was neigh onto noon-tide afore the rich man awoke and leaned out his window to breathe of the day's air, and saw, on the opposite side of the way, a new clean-looking house with red tiles and bright windows, where the old hut used to be. He was indeed very much astonished, and called out to his wife and said to her, "Tell me, what can have happened? Last night there was a miserable little hut standing there, and today there is a beautiful new house. Run over and see how that has come to pass."

So his wife went and asked the poor man, and he said to her, "Yesterday eve a traveler came here and sought a night's lodging, and this morn when he took leave of us he granted unto us three wishes– eternal happiness, health during this life and our daily bread as well, and, besides this, a beautiful new house instead of our old hut."

When the rich man's wife heard this, she ran back in haste to her husband and told him of how it had happened. Whereupon he said, "I could tear myself to pieces! If I had but known that! The traveler came to our house too, and wanted to sleep here, and I sent him away."

"Quick!" said his wife, "get on your horse. You can still catch the man up, and then you must ask to have three wishes granted you."

The rich man followed the good counsel and galloped away on his horse, and soon came abreast Lord Heimdall. The man spoke to Him softly and pleasantly, and begged Him not to take it amiss that he had not let Him in directly; he had been looking for the front-door key, and in the meantime the stranger had gone away; if He returned the same way He must come and stay with him.

"Yes," said the Lord; "if ever again I come back this way, I will do so."

Then the rich man asked if he might not wish for three things too, as had done his nieghbor before him. Yes Lord Heimdall told him, he might, but it would not be to his advantage, and he would be much the better for not wishing anything; but the rich man thought that he could easily ask for something which would add to his happiness, if only he knew that it would be granted. So the Lord assured him that three wishes which he should form, shall then be fulfilled.

The rich man had now gained what he wanted, so he began his ride home, and to consider what he should wish for. As he was thus thinking he let the bridle fall, and the horse began to caper about, so that he was continually disturbed in his greedy meditations, and could not collect his thoughts at all. He patted its neck, and said, "Gently Lisa," but the horse only began new tricks. Then at last he was angry, and cried out quite impatiently, "I wish your neck was broken!"

Directly he had spoken the words, down the horse fell on the ground, and there it lay dead and never moved again. And thus was his first wish fulfilled. As he was miserly by nature, he did not like to leave the harness lying there, so he cut it off, and sadly put it upon his back; and now he had to go on foot. "I have still two wishes left," said he, and comforted himself with this thought.

And now as he was walking slowly through the meadow, and as the sun was burning bright at noon-tide with no shade near, he grew quite hot-tempered and angry. The saddle hurt his back, and he had not yet any idea what to wish for. "If I were to wish for all the riches and treasures in the world," said he to himself, "I should still think of all kinds of things besides later on; I know that, beforehand. But I will manage so that there is nothing at all left me to wish for afterwards." Then he sighed and said, "Ah, if I were but that Bavarian peasant, who likewise had three wishe granted to him, and knew quite well what to do, and in the first place wished for a great deal of beer, and in the second for as much beer as he was able to drink, and in the third for a barrel of beer into the bargain."

Many a time he thought he had found it, but then it seemed to him to be, after all, too little. It then came into his mind, what an easy life his wife had, for she stayed to home in a cool room and enjoyed herself to no end. This really did vex him, and before he was aware, he said, "I just wish she was sitting there on this saddle, and could not get off it, instead of my having to drag it along on my back." And as the last word was spoken, the saddle disappeared from his back, and he saw that his second wish had been fulfilled. Then he really did feel quite warm!

He began to run and wanted to be quite alone in his own room to home, thinking of something really large for his last wish. But when he arrived there and opened the parlor-door, he saw his wife sitting in the middle of the room on the saddle, crying and complaining, and quite unable to get off it. So he said, "Do bear it, and I will wish for all the riches known, just for you, only stay where you are."

She, however, called him a fool, and said, "What good will all those riches do me, if I am to stay here in this saddle? You have wished it upon me, so you must therefore help me be quit of it."

So whether he would or no, he was forced to let his third wish be that she should be forever done with the saddle, and immediately that final wish was fulfilled. So he got nothing but vexation, trouble, abuse, and the loss of his valuable horse; while the poor folk lived joyously, quitely, and faithfully until their happy death.

Source: Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales ~ published 1815


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