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The Brothers Grimm
The Blue Light
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THE BLUE LIGHT

There was once upon a time a soldier who for many years had served the
king faithfully, but when the war came to an end could serve no longer
because of the many wounds which he had received. The king said to
him: 'You may return to your home, I need you no longer, and you will
not receive any more money, for he only receives wages who renders me
service for them.' Then the soldier did not know how to earn a living,
went away greatly troubled, and walked the whole day, until in the
evening he entered a forest. When darkness came on, he saw a light,
which he went up to, and came to a house wherein lived a witch. 'Do
give me one night's lodging, and a little to eat and drink,' said he
to her, 'or I shall starve.' 'Oho!' she answered, 'who gives anything
to a run-away soldier? Yet will I be compassionate, and take you in,
if you will do what I wish.' 'What do you wish?' said the soldier.
'That you should dig all round my garden for me, tomorrow.' The
soldier consented, and next day laboured with all his strength, but
could not finish it by the evening. 'I see well enough,' said the
witch, 'that you can do no more today, but I will keep you yet another
night, in payment for which you must tomorrow chop me a load of wood,
and chop it small.' The soldier spent the whole day in doing it, and
in the evening the witch proposed that he should stay one night more.
'Tomorrow, you shall only do me a very trifling piece of work. Behind
my house, there is an old dry well, into which my light has fallen, it
burns blue, and never goes out, and you shall bring it up again.' Next
day the old woman took him to the well, and let him down in a basket.
He found the blue light, and made her a signal to draw him up again.
She did draw him up, but when he came near the edge, she stretched
down her hand and wanted to take the blue light away from him. 'No,'
said he, perceiving her evil intention, 'I will not give you the light
until I am standing with both feet upon the ground.' The witch fell
into a passion, let him fall again into the well, and went away.

The poor soldier fell without injury on the moist ground, and the blue
light went on burning, but of what use was that to him? He saw very
well that he could not escape death. He sat for a while very
sorrowfully, then suddenly he felt in his pocket and found his tobacco
pipe, which was still half full. 'This shall be my last pleasure,'
thought he, pulled it out, lit it at the blue light and began to
smoke. When the smoke had circled about the cavern, suddenly a little
black dwarf stood before him, and said: 'Lord, what are your
commands?' 'What my commands are?' replied the soldier, quite
astonished. 'I must do everything you bid me,' said the little man.
'Good,' said the soldier; 'then in the first place help me out of this
well.' The little man took him by the hand, and led him through an
underground passage, but he did not forget to take the blue light with
him. On the way the dwarf showed him the treasures which the witch had
collected and hidden there, and the soldier took as much gold as he
could carry. When he was above, he said to the little man: 'Now go and
bind the old witch, and carry her before the judge.' In a short time
she came by like the wind, riding on a wild tom-cat and screaming
frightfully. Nor was it long before the little man reappeared. 'It is
all done,' said he, 'and the witch is already hanging on the gallows.
What further commands has my lord?' inquired the dwarf. 'At this
moment, none,' answered the soldier; 'you can return home, only be at
hand immediately, if I summon you.' 'Nothing more is needed than that
you should light your pipe at the blue light, and I will appear before
you at once.' Thereupon he vanished from his sight.

The soldier returned to the town from which he come. He went to the
best inn, ordered himself handsome clothes, and then bade the landlord
furnish him a room as handsome as possible. When it was ready and the
soldier had taken possession of it, he summoned the little black
manikin and said: 'I have served the king faithfully, but he has
dismissed me, and left me to hunger, and now I want to take my
revenge.' 'What am I to do?' asked the little man. 'Late at night,
when the king's daughter is in bed, bring her here in her sleep, she
shall do servant's work for me.' The manikin said: 'That is an easy
thing for me to do, but a very dangerous thing for you, for if it is
discovered, you will fare ill.' When twelve o'clock had struck, the
door sprang open, and the manikin carried in the princess. 'Aha! are
you there?' cried the soldier, 'get to your work at once! Fetch the
broom and sweep the chamber.' When she had done this, he ordered her
to come to his chair, and then he stretched out his feet and said:
'Pull off my boots,' and then he threw them in her face, and made her
pick them up again, and clean and brighten them. She, however, did
everything he bade her, without opposition, silently and with half-
shut eyes. When the first cock crowed, the manikin carried her back to
the royal palace, and laid her in her bed.

Next morning when the princess arose she went to her father, and told
him that she had had a very strange dream. 'I was carried through the
streets with the rapidity of lightning,' said she, 'and taken into a
soldier's room, and I had to wait upon him like a servant, sweep his
room, clean his boots, and do all kinds of menial work. It was only a
dream, and yet I am just as tired as if I really had done everything.'
'The dream may have been true,' said the king. 'I will give you a
piece of advice. Fill your pocket full of peas, and make a small hole
in the pocket, and then if you are carried away again, they will fall
out and leave a track in the streets.' But unseen by the king, the
manikin was standing beside him when he said that, and heard all. At
night when the sleeping princess was again carried through the
streets, some peas certainly did fall out of her pocket, but they made
no track, for the crafty manikin had just before scattered peas in
every street there was. And again the princess was compelled to do
servant's work until cock-crow.

Next morning the king sent his people out to seek the track, but it
was all in vain, for in every street poor children were sitting,
picking up peas, and saying: 'It must have rained peas, last night.'
'We must think of something else,' said the king; 'keep your shoes on
when you go to bed, and before you come back from the place where you
are taken, hide one of them there, I will soon contrive to find it.'
The black manikin heard this plot, and at night when the soldier again
ordered him to bring the princess, revealed it to him, and told him
that he knew of no expedient to counteract this stratagem, and that if
the shoe were found in the soldier's house it would go badly with him.
'Do what I bid you,' replied the soldier, and again this third night
the princess was obliged to work like a servant, but before she went
away, she hid her shoe under the bed.

Next morning the king had the entire town searched for his daughter's
shoe. It was found at the soldier's, and the soldier himself, who at
the entreaty of the dwarf had gone outside the gate, was soon brought
back, and thrown into prison. In his flight he had forgotten the most
valuable things he had, the blue light and the gold, and had only one
ducat in his pocket. And now loaded with chains, he was standing at
the window of his dungeon, when he chanced to see one of his comrades
passing by. The soldier tapped at the pane of glass, and when this man
came up, said to him: 'Be so kind as to fetch me the small bundle I
have left lying in the inn, and I will give you a ducat for doing it.'
His comrade ran thither and brought him what he wanted. As soon as the
soldier was alone again, he lighted his pipe and summoned the black
manikin. 'Have no fear,' said the latter to his master. 'Go
wheresoever they take you, and let them do what they will, only take
the blue light with you.' Next day the soldier was tried, and though
he had done nothing wicked, the judge condemned him to death. When he
was led forth to die, he begged a last favour of the king. 'What is
it?' asked the king. 'That I may smoke one more pipe on my way.' 'You
may smoke three,' answered the king, 'but do not imagine that I will
spare your life.' Then the soldier pulled out his pipe and lighted it
at the blue light, and as soon as a few wreaths of smoke had ascended,
the manikin was there with a small cudgel in his hand, and said: 'What
does my lord command?' 'Strike down to earth that false judge there,
and his constable, and spare not the king who has treated me so ill.'
Then the manikin fell on them like lightning, darting this way and
that way, and whosoever was so much as touched by his cudgel fell to
earth, and did not venture to stir again. The king was terrified; he
threw himself on the soldier's mercy, and merely to be allowed to live
at all, gave him his kingdom for his own, and his daughter to wife.


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From "Grimm's Fairy Tales" by Jakob Grimm (1785 -1863) and Wilhelm
Grimm (1786-1859) -- translated from "Kinder und Hausmarchen"
("Nursery and Household Tales") by Edgar Taylor and Marian Edwardes.
 

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