The Little Peasant

: Grimms' Fairy Tales

There was a certain village wherein no one lived but really rich

peasants, and just one poor one, whom they called the little peasant. He

had not even so much as a cow, and still less money to buy one, and

yet he and his wife did so wish to have one. One day he said to her:

'Listen, I have a good idea, there is our gossip the carpenter, he shall

make us a wooden calf, and paint it brown, so that it looks like any

and in time it will certainly get big and be a cow.' the woman

also liked the idea, and their gossip the carpenter cut and planed

the calf, and painted it as it ought to be, and made it with its head

hanging down as if it were eating.

Next morning when the cows were being driven out, the little peasant

called the cow-herd in and said: 'Look, I have a little calf there,

but it is still small and has to be carried.' The cow-herd said: 'All

right,' and took it in his arms and carried it to the pasture, and set

it among the grass. The little calf always remained standing like one

which was eating, and the cow-herd said: 'It will soon run by itself,

just look how it eats already!' At night when he was going to drive the

herd home again, he said to the calf: 'If you can stand there and eat

your fill, you can also go on your four legs; I don't care to drag you

home again in my arms.' But the little peasant stood at his door, and

waited for his little calf, and when the cow-herd drove the cows through

the village, and the calf was missing, he inquired where it was. The

cow-herd answered: 'It is still standing out there eating. It would not

stop and come with us.' But the little peasant said: 'Oh, but I must

have my beast back again.' Then they went back to the meadow together,

but someone had stolen the calf, and it was gone. The cow-herd said: 'It

must have run away.' The peasant, however, said: 'Don't tell me

that,' and led the cow-herd before the mayor, who for his carelessness

condemned him to give the peasant a cow for the calf which had run away.

And now the little peasant and his wife had the cow for which they had

so long wished, and they were heartily glad, but they had no food for

it, and could give it nothing to eat, so it soon had to be killed. They

salted the flesh, and the peasant went into the town and wanted to sell

the skin there, so that he might buy a new calf with the proceeds. On

the way he passed by a mill, and there sat a raven with broken wings,

and out of pity he took him and wrapped him in the skin. But as the

weather grew so bad and there was a storm of rain and wind, he could

go no farther, and turned back to the mill and begged for shelter. The

miller's wife was alone in the house, and said to the peasant: 'Lay

yourself on the straw there,' and gave him a slice of bread and cheese.

The peasant ate it, and lay down with his skin beside him, and the woman

thought: 'He is tired and has gone to sleep.' In the meantime came the

parson; the miller's wife received him well, and said: 'My husband is

out, so we will have a feast.' The peasant listened, and when he heard

them talk about feasting he was vexed that he had been forced to make

shift with a slice of bread and cheese. Then the woman served up four

different things, roast meat, salad, cakes, and wine.

Just as they were about to sit down and eat, there was a knocking

outside. The woman said: 'Oh, heavens! It is my husband!' she quickly

hid the roast meat inside the tiled stove, the wine under the pillow,

the salad on the bed, the cakes under it, and the parson in the closet

on the porch. Then she opened the door for her husband, and said: 'Thank

heaven, you are back again! There is such a storm, it looks as if the

world were coming to an end.' The miller saw the peasant lying on the

straw, and asked, 'What is that fellow doing there?' 'Ah,' said the

wife, 'the poor knave came in the storm and rain, and begged for

shelter, so I gave him a bit of bread and cheese, and showed him where

the straw was.' The man said: 'I have no objection, but be quick and get

me something to eat.' The woman said: 'But I have nothing but bread and

cheese.' 'I am contented with anything,' replied the husband, 'so far as

I am concerned, bread and cheese will do,' and looked at the peasant and

said: 'Come and eat some more with me.' The peasant did not require to

be invited twice, but got up and ate. After this the miller saw the skin

in which the raven was, lying on the ground, and asked: 'What have you

there?' The peasant answered: 'I have a soothsayer inside it.' 'Can

he foretell anything to me?' said the miller. 'Why not?' answered

the peasant: 'but he only says four things, and the fifth he keeps to

himself.' The miller was curious, and said: 'Let him foretell something

for once.' Then the peasant pinched the raven's head, so that he croaked

and made a noise like krr, krr. The miller said: 'What did he say?' The

peasant answered: 'In the first place, he says that there is some wine

hidden under the pillow.' 'Bless me!' cried the miller, and went there

and found the wine. 'Now go on,' said he. The peasant made the raven

croak again, and said: 'In the second place, he says that there is some

roast meat in the tiled stove.' 'Upon my word!' cried the miller, and

went thither, and found the roast meat. The peasant made the raven

prophesy still more, and said: 'Thirdly, he says that there is some

salad on the bed.' 'That would be a fine thing!' cried the miller, and

went there and found the salad. At last the peasant pinched the raven

once more till he croaked, and said: 'Fourthly, he says that there

are some cakes under the bed.' 'That would be a fine thing!' cried the

miller, and looked there, and found the cakes.

And now the two sat down to the table together, but the miller's wife

was frightened to death, and went to bed and took all the keys with

her. The miller would have liked much to know the fifth, but the little

peasant said: 'First, we will quickly eat the four things, for the fifth

is something bad.' So they ate, and after that they bargained how much

the miller was to give for the fifth prophecy, until they agreed on

three hundred talers. Then the peasant once more pinched the raven's

head till he croaked loudly. The miller asked: 'What did he say?' The

peasant replied: 'He says that the Devil is hiding outside there in

the closet on the porch.' The miller said: 'The Devil must go out,' and

opened the house-door; then the woman was forced to give up the keys,

and the peasant unlocked the closet. The parson ran out as fast as he

could, and the miller said: 'It was true; I saw the black rascal with my

own eyes.' The peasant, however, made off next morning by daybreak with

the three hundred talers.

At home the small peasant gradually launched out; he built a beautiful

house, and the peasants said: 'The small peasant has certainly been to

the place where golden snow falls, and people carry the gold home in

shovels.' Then the small peasant was brought before the mayor, and

bidden to say from whence his wealth came. He answered: 'I sold my cow's

skin in the town, for three hundred talers.' When the peasants heard

that, they too wished to enjoy this great profit, and ran home, killed

all their cows, and stripped off their skins in order to sell them in

the town to the greatest advantage. The mayor, however, said: 'But my

servant must go first.' When she came to the merchant in the town, he

did not give her more than two talers for a skin, and when the others

came, he did not give them so much, and said: 'What can I do with all

these skins?'

Then the peasants were vexed that the small peasant should have thus

outwitted them, wanted to take vengeance on him, and accused him of this

treachery before the major. The innocent little peasant was unanimously

sentenced to death, and was to be rolled into the water, in a barrel

pierced full of holes. He was led forth, and a priest was brought who

was to say a mass for his soul. The others were all obliged to retire to

a distance, and when the peasant looked at the priest, he recognized the

man who had been with the miller's wife. He said to him: 'I set you free

from the closet, set me free from the barrel.' At this same moment up

came, with a flock of sheep, the very shepherd whom the peasant knew had

long been wishing to be mayor, so he cried with all his might: 'No, I

will not do it; if the whole world insists on it, I will not do it!' The

shepherd hearing that, came up to him, and asked: 'What are you about?

What is it that you will not do?' The peasant said: 'They want to make

me mayor, if I will but put myself in the barrel, but I will not do it.'

The shepherd said: 'If nothing more than that is needful in order to be

mayor, I would get into the barrel at once.' The peasant said: 'If you

will get in, you will be mayor.' The shepherd was willing, and got in,

and the peasant shut the top down on him; then he took the shepherd's

flock for himself, and drove it away. The parson went to the crowd,

and declared that the mass had been said. Then they came and rolled the

barrel towards the water. When the barrel began to roll, the shepherd

cried: 'I am quite willing to be mayor.' They believed no otherwise than

that it was the peasant who was saying this, and answered: 'That is

what we intend, but first you shall look about you a little down below

there,' and they rolled the barrel down into the water.

After that the peasants went home, and as they were entering the

village, the small peasant also came quietly in, driving a flock of

sheep and looking quite contented. Then the peasants were astonished,

and said: 'Peasant, from whence do you come? Have you come out of the

water?' 'Yes, truly,' replied the peasant, 'I sank deep, deep down,

until at last I got to the bottom; I pushed the bottom out of the

barrel, and crept out, and there were pretty meadows on which a number

of lambs were feeding, and from thence I brought this flock away with

me.' Said the peasants: 'Are there any more there?' 'Oh, yes,' said he,

'more than I could want.' Then the peasants made up their minds that

they too would fetch some sheep for themselves, a flock apiece, but the

mayor said: 'I come first.' So they went to the water together, and just

then there were some of the small fleecy clouds in the blue sky, which

are called little lambs, and they were reflected in the water, whereupon

the peasants cried: 'We already see the sheep down below!' The mayor

pressed forward and said: 'I will go down first, and look about me, and

if things promise well I'll call you.' So he jumped in; splash! went

the water; it sounded as if he were calling them, and the whole crowd

plunged in after him as one man. Then the entire village was dead, and

the small peasant, as sole heir, became a rich man.