Clever Elsie

: Grimms' Fairy Tales

There was once a man who had a daughter who was called Clever Elsie. And

when she had grown up her father said: 'We will get her married.' 'Yes,'

said the mother, 'if only someone would come who would have her.' At

length a man came from a distance and wooed her, who was called Hans;

but he stipulated that Clever Elsie should be really smart. 'Oh,' said

the father, 'she has plenty of good sense'; and the mother said: 'Oh,

/> she can see the wind coming up the street, and hear the flies coughing.'

'Well,' said Hans, 'if she is not really smart, I won't have her.' When

they were sitting at dinner and had eaten, the mother said: 'Elsie, go

into the cellar and fetch some beer.' Then Clever Elsie took the pitcher

from the wall, went into the cellar, and tapped the lid briskly as she

went, so that the time might not appear long. When she was below she

fetched herself a chair, and set it before the barrel so that she had

no need to stoop, and did not hurt her back or do herself any unexpected

injury. Then she placed the can before her, and turned the tap, and

while the beer was running she would not let her eyes be idle, but

looked up at the wall, and after much peering here and there, saw a

pick-axe exactly above her, which the masons had accidentally left


Then Clever Elsie began to weep and said: 'If I get Hans, and we have

a child, and he grows big, and we send him into the cellar here to draw

beer, then the pick-axe will fall on his head and kill him.' Then she

sat and wept and screamed with all the strength of her body, over the

misfortune which lay before her. Those upstairs waited for the drink,

but Clever Elsie still did not come. Then the woman said to the servant:

'Just go down into the cellar and see where Elsie is.' The maid went and

found her sitting in front of the barrel, screaming loudly. 'Elsie why

do you weep?' asked the maid. 'Ah,' she answered, 'have I not reason to

weep? If I get Hans, and we have a child, and he grows big, and has to

draw beer here, the pick-axe will perhaps fall on his head, and kill

him.' Then said the maid: 'What a clever Elsie we have!' and sat down

beside her and began loudly to weep over the misfortune. After a while,

as the maid did not come back, and those upstairs were thirsty for the

beer, the man said to the boy: 'Just go down into the cellar and see

where Elsie and the girl are.' The boy went down, and there sat Clever

Elsie and the girl both weeping together. Then he asked: 'Why are you

weeping?' 'Ah,' said Elsie, 'have I not reason to weep? If I get Hans,

and we have a child, and he grows big, and has to draw beer here, the

pick-axe will fall on his head and kill him.' Then said the boy: 'What

a clever Elsie we have!' and sat down by her, and likewise began to

howl loudly. Upstairs they waited for the boy, but as he still did not

return, the man said to the woman: 'Just go down into the cellar and see

where Elsie is!' The woman went down, and found all three in the midst

of their lamentations, and inquired what was the cause; then Elsie told

her also that her future child was to be killed by the pick-axe, when it

grew big and had to draw beer, and the pick-axe fell down. Then said the

mother likewise: 'What a clever Elsie we have!' and sat down and wept

with them. The man upstairs waited a short time, but as his wife did not

come back and his thirst grew ever greater, he said: 'I must go into the

cellar myself and see where Elsie is.' But when he got into the cellar,

and they were all sitting together crying, and he heard the reason, and

that Elsie's child was the cause, and the Elsie might perhaps bring one

into the world some day, and that he might be killed by the pick-axe, if

he should happen to be sitting beneath it, drawing beer just at the very

time when it fell down, he cried: 'Oh, what a clever Elsie!' and sat

down, and likewise wept with them. The bridegroom stayed upstairs alone

for along time; then as no one would come back he thought: 'They must be

waiting for me below: I too must go there and see what they are about.'

When he got down, the five of them were sitting screaming and lamenting

quite piteously, each out-doing the other. 'What misfortune has happened

then?' asked he. 'Ah, dear Hans,' said Elsie, 'if we marry each other

and have a child, and he is big, and we perhaps send him here to draw

something to drink, then the pick-axe which has been left up there might

dash his brains out if it were to fall down, so have we not reason to

weep?' 'Come,' said Hans, 'more understanding than that is not needed

for my household, as you are such a clever Elsie, I will have you,' and

seized her hand, took her upstairs with him, and married her.

After Hans had had her some time, he said: 'Wife, I am going out to work

and earn some money for us; go into the field and cut the corn that we

may have some bread.' 'Yes, dear Hans, I will do that.' After Hans had

gone away, she cooked herself some good broth and took it into the field

with her. When she came to the field she said to herself: 'What shall I

do; shall I cut first, or shall I eat first? Oh, I will eat first.' Then

she drank her cup of broth and when she was fully satisfied, she once

more said: 'What shall I do? Shall I cut first, or shall I sleep first?

I will sleep first.' Then she lay down among the corn and fell asleep.

Hans had been at home for a long time, but Elsie did not come; then said

he: 'What a clever Elsie I have; she is so industrious that she does not

even come home to eat.' But when evening came and she still stayed away,

Hans went out to see what she had cut, but nothing was cut, and she

was lying among the corn asleep. Then Hans hastened home and brought

a fowler's net with little bells and hung it round about her, and she

still went on sleeping. Then he ran home, shut the house-door, and sat

down in his chair and worked. At length, when it was quite dark, Clever

Elsie awoke and when she got up there was a jingling all round about

her, and the bells rang at each step which she took. Then she was

alarmed, and became uncertain whether she really was Clever Elsie or

not, and said: 'Is it I, or is it not I?' But she knew not what answer

to make to this, and stood for a time in doubt; at length she thought:

'I will go home and ask if it be I, or if it be not I, they will be sure

to know.' She ran to the door of her own house, but it was shut; then

she knocked at the window and cried: 'Hans, is Elsie within?' 'Yes,'

answered Hans, 'she is within.' Hereupon she was terrified, and said:

'Ah, heavens! Then it is not I,' and went to another door; but when the

people heard the jingling of the bells they would not open it, and she

could get in nowhere. Then she ran out of the village, and no one has

seen her since.