The Brothers Grimm – Wise Folks

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One day a peasant took his good hazel-stick out of the corner
and said to his wife, trina, I am going across country, and
shall not return for three days. If during that time the
cattle-dealer should happen to call and want to buy our three
cows, you may strike a bargain at once, but not unless you can
get two hundred talers for them, nothing less, do you hear. For
heaven's sake, just go in peace, answered the woman, I will
manage that. You, indeed, said the man. You once fell on your
head when you were a little child, and that affects you even now,
but let me tell you this, if you do anything foolish, I will
make your back black and blue, and not with paint, I assure
you, but with the stick which I have in my hand, and the coloring
shall last a whole year, you may rely on that. And having said
that, the man went on his way.

Next morning the cattle-dealer came, and the woman had no
need to say many words to him. When he had seen the cows and heard
the price, he said, I am quite willing to give that. Honestly
speaking, they are worth it. I will take the beasts away with
me at once. He unfastened their chains and drove them out of
the byre, but just as he was going out of the yard-door, the
woman clutched him by the sleeve and said, you must give me the
two hundred talers now, or I cannot let the cows go. True, answered the man,
but I have forgotten to buckle on my money-belt. Have no fear,
however, you shall have security for my paying. I will take two
cows with me and leave one, and then you will have a good pledge.

The woman saw the force of this, and let the man go away
with the cows, and thought to herself, how pleased Hans will be
when he finds how cleverly I have managed it. The peasant came
home on the third day as he had said he would, and at once inquired
if the cows were sold. Yes, indeed, dear Hans, answered the
woman, and as you said, for two hundred talers. They are scarcely
worth so much, but the man took them without making any objection.
Where is the money, asked the peasant. Oh, I have not got the
money, replied the woman, he had happened to forget his money-belt,
but he will soon bring it, and he left good security behind him.
What kind of security, asked the man. One of the three cows, which
he shall not have until he has paid for the other two. I have
managed very cunningly, for I have kept the smallest, which eats
the least. The man was enraged and lifted up his stick, and was
just going to give her the beating he had promised her, when
suddenly he let the stick fail and said, you
are the stupidest goose that ever waddled on God's earth, but
I am sorry for you. I will go out into the highways and wait for
three days to see if I find anyone who is still stupider than you.
If I succeed in doing so, you shall go scot-free, but if I do not
find him, you shall receive your well-deserved reward without any
discount.

He went out into the great highways, sat down on a stone, and
waited for what would happen. Then he saw a peasant's waggon
coming towards him, and a woman was standing upright in the
middle of it, instead of sitting on the bundle of straw which
was lying beside her, or walking near the oxen and leading them.

The man thought to himself, that is certainly one of the kind I
am in search of, and jumped up and ran backwards and forwards in
front of the waggon like one who is not in his right mind. What
do you want, my friend, said the woman to him. I don't know you,
where do you come from. I have fallen down from heaven, replied
the man, and don't know how to get back again, couldn't you drive
me up. No, said the woman, I don't know the way, but if you come
from heaven you can surely tell me how my husband is, who has been
there these three years. You must have seen him. Oh, yes, I
have seen him, but all men can't get on well. He keeps sheep,
and the sheep give him a great deal to do. They run up the
mountains and lose their way in the wilderness, and he has to run
after them and drive them together again. His clothes are
all torn to pieces too, and will soon fall off his body. There is
no tailor there, for saint peter won't let any of them in, as you
know by the story. Who would have thought it, cried the woman, I
tell you what, I will fetch his sunday coat which is still hanging
at home in the cupboard. He can wear that and look respectable.
You will be so kind as to take it with you. That won't do very
well, answered the peasant, people are not allowed to take clothes
into heaven, they are taken away at the gate. Then listen, said
the woman, I sold my fine wheat yesterday and got a good lot of
money for it, I will send that to him. If you hide the purse in
your pocket, no one will know that you have it. If you can't
manage it any other way, said the peasant, I will do you that
favor. Just
sit still where you are, said she, and I will drive home and fetch
the purse, I shall soon be back again. I do not sit down on the
bundle of straw, but stand up in the waggon, because it makes it
lighter for the cattle.

She drove her oxen away, and the peasant
thought, that woman has a perfect talent for folly, if she really
brings the money, my wife may think herself fortunate, for she
will get no beating. It was not long before she came in a great
hurry with the money, and with her own hands put it in his pocket.
Before she went away, she thanked him again a thousand times for
his courtesy.

When the woman got home again, she found her son who had come in
from the field. She told him what unexpected things had befallen
her, and then added, I am truly delighted at having found an
opportunity of sending something to my poor husband. Who would
ever have imagined that he could be suffering for want of anything
up in heaven. The son was full of astonishment. Mother, said he,
it is not every day that a man comes from heaven in this way, I
will go out immediately, and see if he is still to be found, he
must tell me what it is like up there, and how the work is done.

He saddled the horse and rode off with all speed. He found the
peasant who was sitting under a willow-tree, and was about to
count the money in the purse. Have you seen the man who has
fallen down from heaven, cried the youth to him. Yes, answered the
peasant, he has set out on his way back there, and has gone up
that hill, from whence it will be rather nearer, you could still
catch him up, if you were to ride fast. Alas, said the youth, I
have been doing tiring work all day, and the ride here has
completely worn me out, you know the man, be so kind as to get on
my horse, and go and persuade him to come here. Aha, thought the
peasant, here is another who has not a brain in his head. Why
should I not do you this favor, said he, and mounted the horse and
rode off at a quick trot. The youth remained sitting there till
night fell, but the peasant never came back. The man from heaven
must certainly have been in a great hurry, and would not turn back,
thought he, and the peasant has no doubt given
him the horse to take to my father. He went home and told his
mother what had happened, and that he had sent his father the
horse so that he might not have to be always running about. You
have done well, answered she, your legs are younger than his, and
you can go on foot.

When the peasant got home, he put the horse in the stable beside
the cow which he had as a pledge, and then went to his wife and
said, trina, as your luck would have it, I have found two who
are still sillier fools than you, this time you escape without
a beating. I will store it up for another occasion. Then he
lighted his pipe, sat down in his grandfather's chair, and said,
it was a good stroke of business to get a sleek horse and a great
purse full of money into the bargain, for two lean cows. If
stupidity always brought in as much as that, I would be quite
willing to hold it in honor. So thought the peasant, but you
no doubt prefer simpletons.

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