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The Blue Light

from Grimms' Fairy Tales





There was once upon a time a soldier who for many years had served the
king faithfully, but when the war came to an end could serve no longer
because of the many wounds which he had received. The king said to him:
'You may return to your home, I need you no longer, and you will not
receive any more money, for he only receives wages who renders me
service for them.' Then the soldier did not know how to earn a living,
went away greatly troubled, and walked the whole day, until in the
evening he entered a forest. When darkness came on, he saw a light,
which he went up to, and came to a house wherein lived a witch. 'Do give
me one night's lodging, and a little to eat and drink,' said he to
her, 'or I shall starve.' 'Oho!' she answered, 'who gives anything to a
run-away soldier? Yet will I be compassionate, and take you in, if you
will do what I wish.' 'What do you wish?' said the soldier. 'That you
should dig all round my garden for me, tomorrow.' The soldier consented,
and next day laboured with all his strength, but could not finish it by
the evening. 'I see well enough,' said the witch, 'that you can do no
more today, but I will keep you yet another night, in payment for
which you must tomorrow chop me a load of wood, and chop it small.' The
soldier spent the whole day in doing it, and in the evening the witch
proposed that he should stay one night more. 'Tomorrow, you shall only
do me a very trifling piece of work. Behind my house, there is an old
dry well, into which my light has fallen, it burns blue, and never goes
out, and you shall bring it up again.' Next day the old woman took him
to the well, and let him down in a basket. He found the blue light, and
made her a signal to draw him up again. She did draw him up, but when he
came near the edge, she stretched down her hand and wanted to take the
blue light away from him. 'No,' said he, perceiving her evil intention,
'I will not give you the light until I am standing with both feet upon
the ground.' The witch fell into a passion, let him fall again into the
well, and went away.

The poor soldier fell without injury on the moist ground, and the blue
light went on burning, but of what use was that to him? He saw very well
that he could not escape death. He sat for a while very sorrowfully,
then suddenly he felt in his pocket and found his tobacco pipe, which
was still half full. 'This shall be my last pleasure,' thought he,
pulled it out, lit it at the blue light and began to smoke. When the
smoke had circled about the cavern, suddenly a little black dwarf stood
before him, and said: 'Lord, what are your commands?' 'What my commands
are?' replied the soldier, quite astonished. 'I must do everything you
bid me,' said the little man. 'Good,' said the soldier; 'then in the
first place help me out of this well.' The little man took him by the
hand, and led him through an underground passage, but he did not forget
to take the blue light with him. On the way the dwarf showed him the
treasures which the witch had collected and hidden there, and the
soldier took as much gold as he could carry. When he was above, he said
to the little man: 'Now go and bind the old witch, and carry her before
the judge.' In a short time she came by like the wind, riding on a wild
tom-cat and screaming frightfully. Nor was it long before the little man
reappeared. 'It is all done,' said he, 'and the witch is already hanging
on the gallows. What further commands has my lord?' inquired the dwarf.
'At this moment, none,' answered the soldier; 'you can return home, only
be at hand immediately, if I summon you.' 'Nothing more is needed than
that you should light your pipe at the blue light, and I will appear
before you at once.' Thereupon he vanished from his sight.

The soldier returned to the town from which he came. He went to the
best inn, ordered himself handsome clothes, and then bade the landlord
furnish him a room as handsome as possible. When it was ready and the
soldier had taken possession of it, he summoned the little black manikin
and said: 'I have served the king faithfully, but he has dismissed me,
and left me to hunger, and now I want to take my revenge.' 'What am I to
do?' asked the little man. 'Late at night, when the king's daughter is
in bed, bring her here in her sleep, she shall do servant's work for
me.' The manikin said: 'That is an easy thing for me to do, but a very
dangerous thing for you, for if it is discovered, you will fare ill.'
When twelve o'clock had struck, the door sprang open, and the manikin
carried in the princess. 'Aha! are you there?' cried the soldier, 'get
to your work at once! Fetch the broom and sweep the chamber.' When
she had done this, he ordered her to come to his chair, and then he
stretched out his feet and said: 'Pull off my boots,' and then he
threw them in her face, and made her pick them up again, and clean
and brighten them. She, however, did everything he bade her, without
opposition, silently and with half-shut eyes. When the first cock
crowed, the manikin carried her back to the royal palace, and laid her
in her bed.

Next morning when the princess arose she went to her father, and told
him that she had had a very strange dream. 'I was carried through the
streets with the rapidity of lightning,' said she, 'and taken into a
soldier's room, and I had to wait upon him like a servant, sweep his
room, clean his boots, and do all kinds of menial work. It was only a
dream, and yet I am just as tired as if I really had done everything.'
'The dream may have been true,' said the king. 'I will give you a piece
of advice. Fill your pocket full of peas, and make a small hole in the
pocket, and then if you are carried away again, they will fall out and
leave a track in the streets.' But unseen by the king, the manikin was
standing beside him when he said that, and heard all. At night when
the sleeping princess was again carried through the streets, some peas
certainly did fall out of her pocket, but they made no track, for the
crafty manikin had just before scattered peas in every street there
was. And again the princess was compelled to do servant's work until
cock-crow.

Next morning the king sent his people out to seek the track, but it was
all in vain, for in every street poor children were sitting, picking up
peas, and saying: 'It must have rained peas, last night.' 'We must think
of something else,' said the king; 'keep your shoes on when you go to
bed, and before you come back from the place where you are taken, hide
one of them there, I will soon contrive to find it.' The black manikin
heard this plot, and at night when the soldier again ordered him to
bring the princess, revealed it to him, and told him that he knew of no
expedient to counteract this stratagem, and that if the shoe were found
in the soldier's house it would go badly with him. 'Do what I bid you,'
replied the soldier, and again this third night the princess was obliged
to work like a servant, but before she went away, she hid her shoe under
the bed.

Next morning the king had the entire town searched for his daughter's
shoe. It was found at the soldier's, and the soldier himself, who at the
entreaty of the dwarf had gone outside the gate, was soon brought back,
and thrown into prison. In his flight he had forgotten the most valuable
things he had, the blue light and the gold, and had only one ducat in
his pocket. And now loaded with chains, he was standing at the window of
his dungeon, when he chanced to see one of his comrades passing by. The
soldier tapped at the pane of glass, and when this man came up, said to
him: 'Be so kind as to fetch me the small bundle I have left lying in
the inn, and I will give you a ducat for doing it.' His comrade ran
thither and brought him what he wanted. As soon as the soldier was alone
again, he lighted his pipe and summoned the black manikin. 'Have no
fear,' said the latter to his master. 'Go wheresoever they take you, and
let them do what they will, only take the blue light with you.' Next day
the soldier was tried, and though he had done nothing wicked, the judge
condemned him to death. When he was led forth to die, he begged a last
favour of the king. 'What is it?' asked the king. 'That I may smoke one
more pipe on my way.' 'You may smoke three,' answered the king, 'but do
not imagine that I will spare your life.' Then the soldier pulled out
his pipe and lighted it at the blue light, and as soon as a few wreaths
of smoke had ascended, the manikin was there with a small cudgel in his
hand, and said: 'What does my lord command?' 'Strike down to earth that
false judge there, and his constable, and spare not the king who has
treated me so ill.' Then the manikin fell on them like lightning,
darting this way and that way, and whosoever was so much as touched by
his cudgel fell to earth, and did not venture to stir again. The king
was terrified; he threw himself on the soldier's mercy, and merely to
be allowed to live at all, gave him his kingdom for his own, and his
daughter to wife.





Next: The Raven

Previous: The Fox And The Horse



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