The Brothers Grimm – The Drummer

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A young drummer went out quite alone one evening into the country,
and came to a lake on the shore of which he perceived lying there
three pieces of white linen. What fine linen, said he, and put one
piece in his pocket. He returned home, thought no more of what he
had found, and went to bed. Just as he was going to sleep, it
seemed to him as if someone was calling his name. He listened,
and was aware of a soft voice which cried to him, drummer, drummer,
wake up. As it was a dark night he could see no one, but it
appeared to him that a figure was hovering about his bed. What
do you want, he asked. Give me back my shift, answered the voice,
that you took away from me last evening by the lake. You shall have
it back again, said the drummer, if you will tell me who you are.
Ah, replied the voice, I am the daughter of a mighty king. But I
have fallen into the power of a witch, and am shut up on the
glass-mountain. I have to bathe in the lake every day with my
two sisters, but I cannot fly back again without my shift. My
sisters have gone away, but I have been forced to stay behind. I
entreat you to give me my shift back. Don't worry, poor child,
said the drummer. I will willingly give it back to you. He took
it out of his pocket, and reached it to her in the dark. She
snatched it in haste, and wanted to go away with it. Stop a
moment, perhaps I can help you. You can only help me by ascending
the glass-mountain, and indeed if you were quite close to it you
could not ascend it. When I want to do a thing I always can do
it, said the drummer. I am sorry for you, and have no fear of
anything. But I do not know the way which leads to the
glass-mountain. The road goes through the great
forest, in which the man-eaters live, she answered, and more than
that, I dare not tell you. And then he heard her wings as she flew
away.
By daybreak the drummer arose, buckled on his drums, and went
without fear straight into the forest. After he had walked for
a while without seeing any giants, he thought to himself, I
must waken up the sluggards, and he hung his drum before him,
and beat such a roll that the birds flew out of the trees with
loud cries. It was not long before a giant who had been lying
sleeping among the grass, rose up, and was as tall as a fir-tree.
Wretch, cried he, what are you drumming here for, and wakening
me out of my best sleep. I am drumming, he replied, because
I want to show the way to many thousands who are following me.
What do they want in my forest, demanded the giant. They want
to put an end to you, and cleanse the forest of such a monster
as you. Oho. Said the giant, I will trample you all to death
like so many ants. Do you think you can do anything against us,
said the drummer, if you stoop to take hold of one, he will jump
away and hide himself. But when you are lying down and sleeping,
they will come forth from every thicket, and creep up to you.
Every one of them has a hammer of steel in his belt, and with
that they will beat in your skull. The giant grew angry and
thought, if I meddle with the crafty folk, it might turn out
badly for me. I can strangle wolves and bears, but I cannot
protect myself from these earth-worms. Listen, little fellow,
said he, go back again, and I will promise you that for the
future I will leave you and your comrades in peace, and if there
is anything else you wish for, tell me, for I am quite willing
to do something to please you. You have long legs, said
the drummer, and can run quicker than I. Carry me to the
glass-mountain, and I will give my followers a signal to go
back, and they shall leave you in peace this time. Come here,
worm, said the giant. Seat yourself on my shoulder, I will carry
you where you wish to be. The giant lifted him up, and the
drummer began to beat his drum up aloft to his heart's delight.
The giant thought, that is the signal for the other people to
turn back.
After a while, a second giant was standing in the road, who took
the drummer from the first, and stuck him in his button-hole.
The drummer laid hold of the button, which was as large as a
dish, held on by it, and looked merrily around. Then they came
to a third giant, who took him out of the button-hole, and set
him on the rim of his hat. Up there the drummer walked backwards
and forwards, and looked over the trees, and when he perceived
a mountain in the blue distance, he thought, that must be the
glass-mountain, and so it was. The giant only made two more
steps, and they reached the foot of the mountain, where the
giant put him down. The drummer demanded to be put on the
summit of the glass-mountain, but the giant shook his head,
growled something in his beard, and went back into the forest.
And now the poor drummer was standing before the mountain, which
was as high as if three mountains were piled on each other, and
at the same time as smooth as a looking-glass, and did not know
how to get up it. He began to climb, but that was useless, for
he always slipped back again. If one was a bird now, thought
he. But what was the good of wishing, no wings grew for him.
Whilst he was standing thus, not knowing what to do, he saw, not
far from him, two men who were struggling fiercely together. He
went up to them and saw that they were disputing about a saddle
which was lying on the ground before them, and which both of them
wanted to have. What fools you are, said he, to quarrel about
a saddle, when you have not a horse for it. The saddle is
worth fighting about, answered one of the men. Whosoever
sits on it, and wishes himself in any place, even if it should
be the very end of the earth, gets there the instant he has uttered
the wish. The saddle belongs to us in common. It is my turn
to ride on it, but that other man will not let me do it. I
will soon decide the quarrel, said the drummer, and he went
to a short distance and stuck a white rod in the ground. Then
he came back and said, now run to the goal, and whoever gets
there first, shall ride first. Both set out at a trot, but
hardly had they gone a couple of steps before the drummer swung
himself on the saddle, wished himself on the glass-mountain
and before any one could turn round, he was there. On the
top of the mountain was a plain. There stood an old stone house,
and in front of the house lay a great fish-pond, but behind it was
a dark forest. He saw neither men nor animals, everything was
quiet. Only the wind rustled amongst the trees, and the clouds
moved by quite close above his head. He went to the door and
knocked. When he had knocked for the third time, an old woman
with a brown face and red eyes opened the door. She had
spectacles on her long nose, and looked sharply at him. Then
she asked what he wanted. Entrance, food, and a bed for the
night, replied the drummer. That you shall have, said the old
woman, if you will perform three services in return. Why not,
he answered, I am not afraid of any kind of work, however, hard
it may be. The old woman let him go in, and gave him some food
and a good bed at night. The next morning when he had slept
his fill, she took a thimble from her wrinkled finger, reached
it to the drummer, and said, go to work now, and empty out the
pond with this thimble. But you must have done it before night,
and must have sought out all the fishes which are in the water
and laid them side by side, according to their kind and size.
That is strange work, said the drummer, but he went to the pond,
and began to empty it. He baled the whole morning. But what
can anyone do to a great lake with a thimble, even if he were
to bale for a thousand years.
When it was noon, he thought, it is all useless, and whether I
work or not it will come to the same thing. So he gave it up
and sat down. Then came a maiden out of the house who set a
little basket with food before him, and said, what ails you,
that you sit so sadly here. He looked at her, and saw that
she was wondrously beautiful. Ah, said he, I cannot finish
the first piece of work, how will it be with the others. I
came forth to seek a king's daughter who is said to dwell here,
but I have not found her, and I will go farther. Stay here,
said the maiden, I will help you out of your difficulty. You
are tired, lay your head in my lap, and sleep. When you awake
again, your work will be done. The drummer did not
need to be told that twice. As soon as his eyes were shut,
she turned a wishing-ring and said, rise, water. Fishes, come out.
Instantly the water rose on high like a white mist, and moved
away with the other clouds, and the fishes sprang on the shore
and laid themselves side by side each according to his size and
kind. When the drummer awoke, he saw with amazement that all
was done. But the maiden said, one of the fish is not lying
with those of its own kind, but quite alone. When the old
woman comes to-night and sees that all she demanded has been
done, she will ask you, what is this fish lying alone for.
Then throw the fish in her face, and say, this one shall be
for you, old witch. In the evening the witch came, and when
she had put this question, he threw the fish in her face. She
behaved as if she did not notice it, and said nothing, but
looked at him with malicious eyes. Next morning she said,
yesterday it was too easy for you, I must give you harder work.
To-day you must hew down the whole of the forest, split the wood
into logs, and pile them up, and everything must be finished
by the evening. She gave him an axe, a mallet, and two wedges.
But the axe was made of lead, and the mallet and wedges were of
tin. When he began to cut, the edge of the axe was blunted,
and the mallet and wedges were beaten out of shape. He did
not know how to manage, but at mid-day the maiden came once more
with his dinner and comforted him. Lay your head on my lap,
said she, and sleep. When you awake, your work will be done.
She turned her wishing-ring, and in an instant the whole forest
fell down with a crash, the wood split, and arranged itself
in heaps, and it seemed just as if unseen giants were finishing
the work. When he awoke, the maiden said, do you see that the
wood is piled up and arranged, one bough alone remains. But
when the old woman comes this evening and asks you about that
bough, give her a blow with it, and say, that is for you,
you witch.
The old woman came, there you see how easy the work was,
said she. But for whom have you left that bough. For you,
you witch, he replied, and gave her a blow with it. But she
pretended not to feel it, laughed scornfully, and said, early
to-morrow morning you shall arrange all the wood in one heap,
set fire to it, and burn it. He rose at break of day, and began
to pick up the wood, but how can a single man get a whole forest
together. The work made no progress. The maiden, however,
did not desert him in his need. She brought him his food at
noon, and when he had eaten, he laid his head on her lap, and
went to sleep. When he awoke, the entire pile of wood was
burning in one enormous flame, which stretched its tongues
out into the sky. Listen to me, said the maiden, when the witch
comes, she will give you all kinds of orders. Do whatever she
asks you without fear, and then she will not be able to get the
better of you, but if you are afraid, the fire will lay hold
of you, and consume you. At last when you have done everything,
seize her with both your hands, and throw her into the midst
of the fire. The maiden departed, and the old woman came
sneaking up to him. Oh, I am cold, said she, but that is a fire
that burns. It warms my old bones, and does me good. But I
see a log lying there which won't burn, bring it out for me.
When you have done that, you are free, and may go where you
like. Now, jump in.
The drummer did not reflect long. He sprang into the midst of
the flames, but they did not hurt him, and could not even singe
a hair of his head. He carried the log out, and laid it
down. Hardly, however, had the wood touched the earth than it was
transformed, and the beautiful maiden who had helped him in his
need stood before him, and by the silken and shining golden
garments which she wore, he knew right well that she was the
king's daughter. But the old woman laughed venomously, and said,
you think you have her safe, but you have not got her yet. Just
as she was about to fall on the maiden and take her away, the
youth seized the old woman with both his hands, raised her up
on high, and threw her into the jaws of the fire, which closed
over her as if it were delighted that an old witch was to be
burnt.
Then the king's daughter looked at the drummer, and when she saw
that he was a handsome youth and remembered how he had risked
his life to deliver her, she gave him her hand, and said, you
have ventured everything for my sake, but I also will do everything
for yours. Promise to be true to me, and you shall be my
husband. We shall not want for riches, we shall have enough
with what the witch has gathered together here. She led him into
the house, where there were chests and coffers crammed with the
old woman's treasures. The maiden left the gold and silver where
it was, and took only the precious stones. She would not stay
any longer on the glass-mountain, so the drummer said to her,
seat yourself by me on my saddle, and then we will fly down like
birds. I do not like the old saddle, said she, I need only
turn my wishing-ring and we shall be at home. Very well, then,
answered the drummer, then wish us in front of the town-gate. In
the twinkling of an eye they were there, but the drummer said,
I will just go to my parents and tell them the news. Wait for
me outside here, I shall soon be back. Ah, said the king's
daughter, I beg you to be careful. On your arrival do not kiss
your parents on the right cheek, or else you will forget
everything, and I shall stay behind here outside, alone and
deserted. How can I forget you, said he, and promised her to
come back very soon, and gave his hand upon it. When he went into
his father's house, he had changed so much that no one knew who
he was, for the three days which he had passed on the glass-mountain
had been three years. Then he made himself known, and his parents
fell on his neck with joy, and his heart was so moved that
he forgot what the maiden had said and kissed them on both
cheeks. But when he had given them the kiss on the right cheek,
every thought of the king's daughter vanished from him. He
emptied out his pockets, and laid handfuls of the largest jewels
on the table. The parents had not the least idea what to do with
the riches. Then the father built a magnificent castle all
surrounded by gardens, woods, and meadows as if a prince were
going to live in it, and when it was ready, the mother said, I
have found a maiden for you and the wedding shall be in three days.
The son was content to do as his parents desired.
The poor king's daughter had stood for a long time outside the
town waiting for the return of the young man. When evening came,
she said, he must certainly have kissed his parents on the right
cheek, and has forgotten me. Her heart was full of sorrow, she
wished herself into a solitary little hut in a forest, and would
not return to her father's court. Every evening she went into
the town and passed the young man's house. He often saw her,
but he no longer knew her. At length she heard the people
saying, the wedding will take place to-morrow. Then she said,
I will try if I can win back his heart.
On the first day of the wedding ceremonies, she turned her
wishing-ring, and said, a dress as bright as the sun. Instantly
the dress lay before her, and it was as bright as if it had been
woven of real sunbeams. When all the guests were assembled, she
entered the hall. Every one was amazed at the beautiful dress,
and the bride most of all, and as pretty dresses were the
things she had most delight in, she went to the stranger and asked
if she would sell it to her. Not for money, she answered, but
if I may pass the first night outside the door of the room where
your betrothed sleeps, I will give it up to you. The bride
could not overcome her desire and consented, but she mixed a
sleeping-draught with the wine her betrothed took at night,
which made him fall into a deep sleep. When all had be-
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of the bedroom, opened it just a little, and cried,
drummer, drummer, I pray you hear.
Have you forgotten you held me dear.
That on the glass-mountain we sat hour by hour.
That I rescued your life from the witch's power.
Did you not plight your troth to me.
Drummer, drummer, hearken to me.
But it was all in vain, for the drummer did not awake, and when
morning dawned, the king's daughter was forced to go back again
as she came. On the second evening she turned her wishing-ring
and said, a dress as silvery as the moon. When she appeared at
the feast in the dress which was as soft as moonbeams, it again
excited the desire of the bride, and the king's daughter gave it
to her
for permission to pass the second night also, outside the door
of the bedroom. When in the stillness of the night, she cried,
drummer, drummer, I pray you hear.
Have you forgotten you held me dear.
That on the glass-mountain we sat hour by hour.
That I rescued your life from the witch's power.
Did you not plight your troth to me.
Drummer, drummer, hearken to me.
But the drummer, who was stupefied with the sleeping-draught,
could not be aroused. Sadly next morning she went back to
her hut in the forest. But the people in the house had heard
the lamentation of the unknown maiden, and told the bridegroom
about it. They told him also that it was impossible that he could
hear anything of it, because the maiden he was going to marry
had poured a sleeping-draught into his wine.
On the third evening, the king's daughter turned her wishing-ring,
and said, a dress glittering like the stars. When she showed
herself therein at the feast, the bride was quite beside herself
with the splendor of the dress, which far surpassed the others,
and she said, I must, and will have it. The maiden gave it as
she had given the others for permission to spend the night
outside the bridegroom's door. The bridegroom, however, did not
drink the wine which was handed to him before he went to bed,
but poured it behind the bed, and when everything was quiet, he
heard a sweet voice which called to him,
drummer, drummer, I pray you hear.
Have you forgotten you held me dear.
That on the glass-mountain we sat hour by hour.
That I rescued your life from the witch's power.
Did you not plight your troth to me.
Drummer, drummer, hearken to me.
Suddenly his memory returned to him. Ah, cried he, how can I
have acted so unfaithfully. But the kiss which in the joy of my
heart I gave my parents, on the right cheek, that is to blame
for it all. That is what stupefied me. He sprang up, took the
king's daughter by the hand, and led her to his parents, bed.
This is my true bride, said he. If I marry the other, I shall
do a great wrong. The parents, when they heard how everything
had happened, gave their consent. Then the lights in the
hall were lighted again, drums and trumpets were brought,
friends and relations were invited to come, and the real wedding
was solemnized with great rejoicing. The first bride received
the beautiful dresses as a compensation, and declared herself
satisfied.

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