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The Wishing Table, The Gold Ass, and The Cudgel. Brothers Grimm

A long time ago there lived a tailor who had three sons but only one goat. As the goat supplied the whole family with milk, she had to be well fed and taken daily to pasture. This the sons did in turn. One day the eldest son led her into the churchyard, where he knew there was fine herbage to be found, and there let her browse and skip about till evening. It being then time to return home, he said to her, "Goat, have you had enough to eat?" and the goat answered, -

"I have eaten so much,
Not a leaf can I touch, Nan, Nan."

"Come along home then," said the boy, and he led her by the cord round her neck back to the stable and tied her up.

"Well," said the old tailor, "has the goat had her proper amount of food?"

"Why, she has eaten so much, not a leaf can she touch," answered the son.

The father, however, thinking he should like to assure himself of this, went down to the stable, patted the animal and said caressingly, "Goat, have you really had enough to eat?" The goat answered, -

"How can my hunger be allayed?
About the little graves I played
And could not find a single blade, Nan, Nan."

"What is this I hear!" cried the tailor, and running upstairs to his son, "You young liar!" he exclaimed, "to tell me the goat had had enough to eat, and all the while she is starving." And overcome with anger, he took his yard-measure down from the wall, and beat his son out of doors.

The next day it was the second son′s turn, and he found a place near a garden hedge, where there were the juiciest plants for the goat to feed upon, and she enjoyed them so much that she ate them all up. Before taking her home in the evening, he said to her, "Goat, have you had enough to eat?" and the goat answered, -

"I have eaten so much,
Not a leaf can I touch, Nan, Nan."

"Come along home then," said the boy, and he led her away to the stable and tied her up.

"Well," said the old tailor, "has the goat had her proper amount of food?"

"Why, she has eaten so much, not a leaf can she touch," answered the boy.

But the tailor was not satisfied with this, and went down to the stable. "Goat, have you really had enough to eat?" he asked; and the goat answered, -

"How can my hunger be allayed?
About the little graves I played
And could not find a single blade, Nan, Nan."

"The shameless young rascal!" cried the tailor, "to let an innocent animal like this starve!" and he ran upstairs, and drove the boy from the house with the yard-measure.

It was now the third son′s turn, who, hoping to make things better for himself, let the goat feed on the leaves of all the shrubs he could pick out that were covered with the richest foliage. "Goat, have you had enough to eat?" he said, as the evening fell, and the goat answered, -

"I have eaten so much,
Not a leaf can I touch, Nan, Nan."

"Come along home then," said the boy, and he took her back and tied her up.

"Well," said the old tailor, "has the goat had her proper amount of food?"

"Why, she has eaten so much, not a leaf can she touch," answered the boy.

But the tailor felt mistrustful, and went down and asked, "Goat, have you really had enough to eat?" and the mischievous animal answered, -

"How can my hunger be allayed?
About the little graves I played
And could not find a single blade, Nan, Nan."

"Oh! what a pack of liars!" cried the tailor. "One as wicked and deceitful as the other, but they shall not make a fool of me any longer." And beside himself with anger, he rushed upstairs, and so belaboured his son with the yard-measure, that the boy fled from the house.

The old tailor was now left alone with his goat. The following morning he went down to the stable and stroked and caressed her. "Come along, my pet," he said, "I will take you out myself to-day," and he led her by the green hedgerows and weed-grown banks, and wherever he knew that goats love to feed. "You shall eat to your heart′s content for once," he said to her, and so let her browse till evening. "Goat, have you had enough to eat?" he asked her at the close of the day, and she answered, -

"I have eaten so much,
Not a leaf can I touch, Nan, Nan."

"Come along home then," said the tailor, and he led her to the stable and tied her up. He turned round, however, before leaving her, and said once more, "You have really had enough to eat for once?" But the goat gave him no better answer than her usual one, and replied, -

"How can my hunger be allayed?
About the little graves I played
And could not find a single blade, Nan, Nan."

On hearing this, the tailor stood, struck dumb with astonishment. He saw now how unjust he had been in driving away his sons. When he found his voice, he cried: "Wait, you ungrateful creature! it is not enough to drive you away, but I will put such a mark upon you, that you will not dare to shew your face again among honest tailors." And so saying, he sprang upstairs, brought down his razor, lathered the goat′s head all over, and shaved it till it was as smooth as the back of his hand. Then he fetched the whip, - his yard-measure he considered was too good for such work, - and dealt the animal such blows, that she leapt into the air and away.

Sitting now quite alone in his house, the tailor fell into great melancholy, and would gladly have had his sons back again, but no one knew what had become of them.

The eldest had apprenticed himself to a joiner, and had set himself cheerfully and diligently to learn his trade. When the time came for him to start as a journeyman, his master made him a present of a table, which was of ordinary wood, and to all outward appearance exactly like any other table. It had, however, one good quality, for if anyone set it down, and said, "Table, serve up a meal," it was immediately covered with a nice fresh cloth, laid with a plate, knife and fork, and dishes of boiled and baked meats, as many as there was room for, and a glass of red wine, which only to look at made the heart rejoice.

"I have enough now to last me as long as I live," thought the young man to himself, and accordingly he went about enjoying himself, not minding whether the inns he stayed at were good or bad, whether there was food to be had there or not. Sometimes it pleased him not to seek shelter within them at all, but to turn into a field or a wood, or wherever else he fancied. When there he put down his table, and said, "Serve up a meal," and he was at once supplied with everything he could desire in the way of food.

After he had been going about like this for some time, he bethought him that he should like to go home again. His father′s anger would by this time have passed away and now that he had the wishing-table with him, he was sure of a ready welcome.

He happened, on his homeward way, to come one evening to an inn full of guests. They bid him welcome, and invited him to sit down with them and share their supper, otherwise, they added, he would have a difficulty in getting anything to eat.

But the joiner replied, "I will not take from you what little you have, I would rather that you should consent to be my guests," whereupon they all laughed, thinking he was only joking with them. He now put down his table in the middle of the room, and said, "Table, serve up a meal," and in a moment it was covered with a variety of food of better quality than any the host could have supplied, and a fragrant steam rose from the dishes and greeted the nostrils of the guests. "Now, friends, fall to," said the young man, and the guests, seeing that the invitation was well intended, did not wait to be asked twice, but drew up their chairs and began vigorously to ply their knives and forks. What astonished them most was the way in which, as soon as a dish was empty, another full one appeared in its place. Meanwhile the landlord was standing in the corner of the room looking on; he did not know what to think of it all, but said to himself, "I could make good use of a cook like that."

The joiner and his friends kept up their merriment late into the night, but at last they retired to rest, the young journeyman placing his table against the wall before going to bed.

The landlord, however, could not sleep for thinking of what he had seen; at last it occurred to him that up in his lumber-room he had an old table, which was just such another one to all appearance as the wishing table; so he crept away softly to fetch it, and put it against the wall in place of the other.

When the morning came, the joiner paid for his night′s lodging, took up his table, and left, never suspecting that the one he was carrying was not his own.

He reached home at mid-day, and was greeted with joy by his father. "And now, dear son," said the old man "what trade have you learnt?"

"I am a joiner, father."

"A capital business," responded the father, "and what have you brought home with you from your travels?"

"The best thing I have brought with me, father, is that table."

The tailor carefully examined the table on all sides. "Well," he said at last, "you have certainly not brought a master-piece back with you; it is a wretched, badly-made old table."

"But it is a wishing-table," interrupted his son, "if I put it down and order a meal, it is at once covered with the best of food and wine. If you will only invite your relations and friends, they shall, for once in their lives, have a good meal, for no one ever leaves this table unsatisfied."

When the guests were all assembled, he put his table down as usual, and said, "Table, serve up a meal," but the table did not stir, and remained as empty as any ordinary table at such a command. Then the poor young man saw that his table had been changed, and he was covered with shame at having to stand there before them all like a liar. The guests made fun of him, and had to return home without bite or sup. The tailor took out his cloth and sat down once more to his tailoring, and the son started work again under a master-joiner.

The
Wishing
Table,
the Gold
Ass and
the
Cudgel

The second son had apprenticed himself to a miller. When his term of apprenticeship had expired, the miller said to him, "As you have behaved so well, I will make you a present of an ass; it is a curious animal, it will neither draw a cart nor carry a sack."

"Of what use is he then?" asked the young apprentice. "He gives gold," answered the miller, "if you stand him on a cloth, and say "Bricklebrit," gold pieces will fall from his mouth."

"That is a handsome present," said the young miller, and he thanked his master and departed.

After this, whenever he was in need of money, he had only to say "Bricklebrit," and a shower of gold pieces fell on the ground, and all he had to do was to pick them up. He ordered the best of everything wherever he went, in short, the dearer the better, for his purse was always full.

He had been going about the world like this for some time, when he began to think he should like to see his father again. When he sees my gold ass, he said to himself, he will forget his anger, and be glad to have me back.

It came to pass that he arrived one evening at the same inn in which his brother had had his table stolen from him. He was leading his ass up to the door, when the landlord came out and offered to take the animal, but the young miller refused his help. "Do not trouble yourself," he said, "I will take my old Greycoat myself to the stable and fasten her up, as I like to know where she is."

The landlord was very much astonished at this; the man cannot be very well off, he thought, to look after his own ass. When the stranger, therefore, pulled two gold pieces out of his pocket, and ordered the best of everything that could be got in the market, the landlord opened his eyes, but he ran off with alacrity to do his bidding.

Having finished his meal, the stranger asked for his bill, and the landlord thinking he might safely overcharge such a rich customer, asked for two more gold pieces. The miller felt in his pocket but found he had spent all his gold. "Wait a minute," he said to the landlord, "I will go and fetch some more money." Whereupon he went out, carrying the table-cloth with him.

This was more than the landlord′s curiosity could stand, and he followed his guest to the stable. As the latter bolted the door after him, he went and peeped through a hole in the wall, and there he saw the stranger spread the cloth under his ass, and heard him say, "Bricklebrit," and immediately the floor was covered with gold pieces which fell from the animal′s mouth.

"A good thousand, I declare," cried the host, "the gold pieces do not take long to coin! it′s not a bad thing to have a money-bag like that."

The guest settled his account and went to bed. During the night the landlord crept down to the stable, led away the gold-coining ass, and fastened up another in its place.

Early the next morning the young miller went off with his ass, thinking all the time that he was leading his own. By noonday he had reached home, where his father gave him a warm welcome.

"What have you been doing with yourself, my son?" asked the old man.

"I am a miller, dear father," he answered.

"And what have you brought home with you from your travels?"

"Nothing but an ass, father."

"There are asses enough here," said the father, "I should have been better pleased if it had been a goat."

"Very likely," replied the son, "but this is no ordinary ass, it is an ass that coins money; if I say "Bricklebrit" to it, a whole sackful of gold pours from its mouth. Call all your relations and friends together, I will turn you all into rich people."

"I shall like that well enough," said the tailor, "for then I shall not have to go on plaguing myself with stitching," and he ran out himself to invite his neighbours. As soon as they were all assembled, the young miller asked them to clear a space, and he then spread his cloth and brought the ass into the room. "Now see," said he, and cried "Bricklebrit," but not a single gold piece appeared, and it was evident that the animal knew nothing of the art of gold-coining, for it is not every ass that attains to such a degree of excellence.

The poor young miller pulled a long face, for he saw that he had been tricked: he begged forgiveness of the company, who all returned home as poor as they came. There was nothing to be done now but for the old man to go back to his needle, and the young one to hire himself to a miller.

The third son had apprenticed himself to a turner, which, being a trade requiring a great deal of skill, obliged him to serve a longer time than his brothers. He had, however, heard from them by letter, and knew how badly things had gone with them, and that they had been robbed of their property by an innkeeper on the last evening before reaching home.

When it was time for him to start as a journeyman, his master, being pleased with his conduct, presented him with a bag, saying as he did so, "You will find a cudgel inside."

"The bag I can carry over my shoulder, and it will no doubt be of great service to me, but of what use is a cudgel inside, it will only add to the weight?"

"I will explain," said the master, "if any one at any time should behave badly to you, you have only to say, ′Cudgel, out of the bag,′ and the stick will jump out, and give him such a cudgelling, that he will not be able to move or stir for a week afterwards, and it will not leave off till you say, ′Cudgel, into the bag.′"

The young man thanked him, hung the bag on his back, and when any one threatened to attack him, or in any way to do him harm, he called out, "Cudgel, out of the bag," and no sooner were the words said than out jumped the stick, and beat the offenders soundly on the back, till their clothes were in ribbons, and it did it all so quickly, that the turn had come round to each of them before he was aware.

It was evening when the young turner reached the inn where his brothers had been so badly treated. He laid his bag down on the table, and began giving an account of all the wonderful things he had seen while going about the world.

"One may come across a wishing-table," he said, "or an ass that gives gold, and such like; all very good things in their way, but not all of them put together are worth the treasure of which I have possession, and which I carry with me in that bag."

The landlord pricked up his ears. "What can it be," he asked himself, "the bag must be filled with precious stones; I must try and get hold of that cheaply too, for there is luck in odd numbers."

Bed-time came, and the guest stretched himself out on one of the benches and placed his bag under his head for a pillow. As soon as the landlord thought he was fast asleep, he went up to him, and began gently and cautiously pulling and pushing at the bag to see if he could get it away and put another in its place.

But the young miller had been waiting for this and just as the landlord was about to give a good last pull, he cried, "Cudgel, out of the bag," and the same moment the stick was out, and beginning its usual dance. It beat him with such a vengeance that the landlord cried out for mercy, but the louder his cries, the more lustily did the stick beat time to them, until he fell to the ground exhausted.

"If you do not give back the wishing-table and the gold ass," said the young turner, "the game shall begin over again."

"No, no," cried the landlord in a feeble voice, "I will gladly give every thing back, if only you will make that dreadful demon of a stick return to the bag."

"This time," said the turner, "I will deal with you according to mercy rather than justice, but beware of offending in like manner again." Then he cried, "Cudgel, into the bag," and let the man remain in peace.

The turner journeyed on next day to his father′s house, taking with him the wishing-table and the gold ass. The tailor was delighted to see his son again, and asked him, as he had the others, what trade he had learnt since he left home.

"I am a turner, dear father," he answered.

"A highly skilled trade," said the tailor, "and what have you brought back with you from your travels?"

"An invaluable thing, dear father," replied the son, "a cudgel."

"What! a cudgel!" exclaimed the old man, "that was certainly well worth while, seeing that you can cut yourself one from the first tree you come across."

"But not such a one as this, dear father; for, if I say to it, "Cudgel, out of the bag," out it jumps, and gives any one who has evil intentions towards me such a bad time of it, that he falls down and cries for mercy. And know, that it was with this stick that I got back the wishing-table and the gold ass, which the dishonest inn-keeper stole from my brothers. Now, go and call them both here, and invite all your relations and friends, and I will feast them and fill their pockets with gold."

The old tailor was slow to believe all this but nevertheless he went out and gathered his neighbours together. Then the turner put down a cloth, and led in the gold ass, and said to his brother, "Now, dear brother, speak to him." The miller said "Bricklebrit," and the cloth was immediately covered with gold pieces, which continued to pour from the ass′s mouth until everyone had taken as many as he could carry. (I see by your faces that you are all wishing you had been there).

Then the turner brought in the wishing-table, and said, "Now, dear brother, speak to it." And scarcely had the joiner cried, "Table, serve up a meal," than it was covered with a profusion of daintily dressed meats. Then the tailor and his guests sat down to a meal such as they had never enjoyed before in their lives, and they all sat up late into the night, full of good cheer and jollity.

The tailor put away his needle and thread, his yard-measure and his goose, and he and his three sons lived together henceforth in contentment and luxury.

Meanwhile, what had become of the goat, who had been the guilty cause of the three sons being driven from their home? I will tell you.

She was so ashamed of her shaven crown, that she ran and crept into a fox′s hole. When the fox came home, he was met by two large glittering eyes that gleamed at him out of the darkness, and he was so frightened that he ran away. The bear met him, and perceiving that he was in some distress, said, "What is the matter, brother Fox, why are you pulling such a long face?" "Ah!" answered Redskin, "there is a dreadful animal sitting in my hole, which glared at me with fiery eyes."

"We will soon drive him out," said the Bear, and he trotted back with his friend to the hole and looked in, but the sight of the fiery eyes was quite enough for him, and he turned and took to his heels.

The bee met him and noticing that he was somewhat ill at ease, said, "Bear, you look remarkably out of humour, where have you left your good spirits?" "It′s easy for you to talk," replied the bear, "a horrible animal with red goggle-eyes is sitting in the fox′s hole, and we cannot drive it out."

The bee said, "I really am sorry for you, Bear; I am but a poor weak little creature that you scarcely deign to look at in passing, but, for all that, I think I shall be able to help you."

With this the bee flew to the fox′s hole, settled on the smooth shaven head of the goat, and stung her so violently, that she leaped high into the air, crying, "Nan, nan!" and fled away like a mad thing into the open country; but no one, to this hour, has found out what became of her after that.

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