The Brothers Grimm – The Devil's Sooty Brother


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A discharged soldier had nothing to live on, and did not know how to
make his way. So he went out into the forest and when he had walked
for a short time, he met a little man who turned out to be the devil.
The little man said to him, "What ails you, you seem so very
sorrowful?" Then the soldier said, "I am hungry, but have no money."
The devil said, "If you will hire yourself to me, and be my
serving-man, you shall have enough for all your life. You shall
serve me for seven years, and after that you shall again be free. But
one thing I must tell you, and that is, you must not wash, comb, or
trim yourself, or cut your hair or nails, or wipe the water from your
eyes." The soldier said, "All right, if there is no help for it," and
went off with the little man, who straightway led him down into hell.
Then he told him what he had to do. He was to poke the fire under
the kettles wherein the hell-broth was stewing, keep the house clean,
drive all the sweepings behind the doors, and see that everything was
in order, but if he once peeped into the kettles, it would go ill
with him. The soldier said, "Good, I will take care." And then the
old devil went out again on his wanderings, and the soldier entered
upon his new duties, made the fire, and swept the dirt well behind
the doors, just as he had been bidden.

When the old devil came back again, he looked to see if all had been
done, appeared satisfied, and went forth a second time. The soldier
now took a good look on every side, the kettles were standing all
round hell with a mighty fire below them, and inside they were
boiling and sputtering. He would have given anything to look inside
them, if the devil had not so particularly forbidden him.

At last he could no longer restrain himself, slightly raised the lid
of the first kettle, and peeped in, and there he saw his former
corporal sitting. "Aha, old bird," said he, "do I meet you here? You
once had me in your power, now I have you." And he quickly let the
lid fall, poked the fire, and added a fresh log. After that, he went
to the second kettle, raised its lid also a little, and peeped in and
there sat his former ensign. "Aha, old bird, so I find you here, you
once had me in your power, now I have you." He closed the lid again,
and fetched yet another log to make it really hot. Then he wanted to
see who might be sitting up in the third kettle - and who should it
be but his general. "Aha, old bird, do I meet you here. Once you
had me in your power, now I have you." And he fetched the bellows and
made hell-fire blaze right under him.

So he did his work seven years in hell, did not wash, comb, or trim
himself, or cut his hair or nails, or wash the water out of his eyes,
and the seven years seemed so short to him that he thought he had
only been half a year. Now when the time had fully gone by, the
devil came and said, "Well Hans, what have you done?" "I poked the
fire under the kettles, and I have swept all the dirt well behind the

"But you have peeped into the kettles as well, it is lucky for you
that you added fresh logs to them, or else your life would have been
forfeited. Now that your time is up, will you go home again?" "Yes,"
said the soldier, "I should very much like to see what my father is
doing at home." The devil said, "In order that you may receive the
wages you have earned, go and fill your knapsack full of the
sweepings, and take it home with you. You must also go unwashed and
uncombed, with long hair on your head and beard, and with uncut nails
and dim eyes, and when you are asked whence you come, you must say,
from hell, and when you are asked who you are, you are to say, the
devil's sooty brother, and my king as well."

The soldier held his peace, and did as the devil bade him, but he was
not at all satisfied with his wages. Then as soon as he was up in the
forest again, he took his knapsack from his back, to empty it, but on
opening it, the sweepings had become pure gold. "I should never have
expected that," said he, and was well pleased, and entered the town.
The landlord was standing in front of the inn, and when he saw the
soldier approaching, he was terrified, because Hans looked such a
horrible sight, worse than a scare-crow. He called to him and asked,
"Whence do you come?" "From hell." "Who are you?" "The devil's sooty
brother, and my king as well." Then the host would not let him enter,
but when Hans showed him the gold, he came and unlatched the door
himself. Hans then ordered the best room and attendance, ate, and
drank his fill, but neither washed nor combed himself as the devil
had bidden him, and at last lay down to sleep. But the knapsack full
of gold remained before the eyes of the landlord, and left him no
peace, and during the night he crept in and stole it away. Next
morning, however, when Hans got up and wanted to pay the landlord and
travel further, behold his knapsack was gone. But he soon composed
himself and thought, you have been unfortunate from no fault of your
own. And straightway went back again to hell, complained of his
misfortune to the old devil, and begged for his help. The devil
said, "Seat yourself, I will wash, comb, and trim you, cut your hair
and nails, and wash your eyes for you." And when he had done with
him, he gave him the knapsack back again full of sweepings, and said,
"Go and tell the landlord that he must return you your money, or else
I will come and fetch him, and he shall poke the fire in your place."
Hans went up and said to the landlord, "You have stolen my money, if
you do not return it, you shall go down to hell in my place, and will
look as horrible as I." Then the landlord gave him the money, and
more besides, only begging him to keep it secret. And Hans was now a
rich man.

He set out on his way home to his father, bought himself a shabby
smock to wear, and strolled about making music, for he had learned to
do that while he was with the devil in hell.

There was however, an old king in that country, before whom he had to
play, and the king was so delighted with his playing, that he
promised him his eldest daughter in marriage. But when she heard
that she was to be married to a common fellow in a smock, she said,
"Rather than do that, I would go into the deepest water." Then the
king gave him the youngest, who was quite willing to do it to please
her father, and thus the devil's sooty brother got the king's
daughter, and when the aged king died, the whole kingdom likewise.

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