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The Brothers Grimm
The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean
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THE STRAW, THE COAL, AND THE BEAN

In a village dwelt a poor old woman, who had gathered together a dish
of beans and wanted to cook them. So she made a fire on her hearth,
and that it might burn the quicker, she lighted it with a handful of
straw. When she was emptying the beans into the pan, one dropped
without her observing it, and lay on the ground beside a straw, and
soon afterwards a burning coal from the fire leapt down to the two.
Then the straw began and said: 'Dear friends, from whence do you come
here?' The coal replied: 'I fortunately sprang out of the fire, and if
I had not escaped by sheer force, my death would have been certain,--I
should have been burnt to ashes.' The bean said: 'I too have escaped
with a whole skin, but if the old woman had got me into the pan, I
should have been made into broth without any mercy, like my comrades.'
'And would a better fate have fallen to my lot?' said the straw. 'The
old woman has destroyed all my brethren in fire and smoke; she seized
sixty of them at once, and took their lives. I luckily slipped through
her fingers.'

'But what are we to do now?' said the coal.

'I think,' answered the bean, 'that as we have so fortunately escaped
death, we should keep together like good companions, and lest a new
mischance should overtake us here, we should go away together, and
repair to a foreign country.'

The proposition pleased the two others, and they set out on their way
together. Soon, however, they came to a little brook, and as there was
no bridge or foot-plank, they did not know how they were to get over
it. The straw hit on a good idea, and said: 'I will lay myself
straight across, and then you can walk over on me as on a bridge.' The
straw therefore stretched itself from one bank to the other, and the
coal, who was of an impetuous disposition, tripped quite boldly on to
the newly-built bridge. But when she had reached the middle, and heard
the water rushing beneath her, she was after all, afraid, and stood
still, and ventured no farther. The straw, however, began to burn,
broke in two pieces, and fell into the stream. The coal slipped after
her, hissed when she got into the water, and breathed her last. The
bean, who had prudently stayed behind on the shore, could not but
laugh at the event, was unable to stop, and laughed so heartily that
she burst. It would have been all over with her, likewise, if, by good
fortune, a tailor who was travelling in search of work, had not sat
down to rest by the brook. As he had a compassionate heart he pulled
out his needle and thread, and sewed her together. The bean thanked
him most prettily, but as the tailor used black thread, all beans
since then have a black seam.


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Translated from the Grimms' "Kinder und Hausmarchen"
("Fairy Tales") by Edgar Taylor and Marian Edwardes.
 

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