The Story Of The Youth Who Went Forth To Learn What Fear Was

: Grimms' Fairy Tales

A certain father had two sons, the elder of who was smart and sensible,

and could do everything, but the younger was stupid and could neither

learn nor understand anything, and when people saw him they said:

'There's a fellow who will give his father some trouble!' When anything

had to be done, it was always the elder who was forced to do it; but

if his father bade him fetch anything when it was late, or in the

me, and the way led through the churchyard, or any other dismal

place, he answered: 'Oh, no father, I'll not go there, it makes me

shudder!' for he was afraid. Or when stories were told by the fire at

night which made the flesh creep, the listeners sometimes said: 'Oh,

it makes us shudder!' The younger sat in a corner and listened with

the rest of them, and could not imagine what they could mean. 'They are

always saying: "It makes me shudder, it makes me shudder!" It does not

make me shudder,' thought he. 'That, too, must be an art of which I

understand nothing!'

Now it came to pass that his father said to him one day: 'Hearken to me,

you fellow in the corner there, you are growing tall and strong, and you

too must learn something by which you can earn your bread. Look how your

brother works, but you do not even earn your salt.' 'Well, father,' he

replied, 'I am quite willing to learn something--indeed, if it could but

be managed, I should like to learn how to shudder. I don't understand

that at all yet.' The elder brother smiled when he heard that, and

thought to himself: 'Goodness, what a blockhead that brother of mine is!

He will never be good for anything as long as he lives! He who wants to

be a sickle must bend himself betimes.'

The father sighed, and answered him: 'You shall soon learn what it is to

shudder, but you will not earn your bread by that.'

Soon after this the sexton came to the house on a visit, and the father

bewailed his trouble, and told him how his younger son was so backward

in every respect that he knew nothing and learnt nothing. 'Just think,'

said he, 'when I asked him how he was going to earn his bread, he

actually wanted to learn to shudder.' 'If that be all,' replied the

sexton, 'he can learn that with me. Send him to me, and I will soon

polish him.' The father was glad to do it, for he thought: 'It will

train the boy a little.' The sexton therefore took him into his house,

and he had to ring the church bell. After a day or two, the sexton awoke

him at midnight, and bade him arise and go up into the church tower and

ring the bell. 'You shall soon learn what shuddering is,' thought he,

and secretly went there before him; and when the boy was at the top of

the tower and turned round, and was just going to take hold of the bell

rope, he saw a white figure standing on the stairs opposite the sounding

hole. 'Who is there?' cried he, but the figure made no reply, and did

not move or stir. 'Give an answer,' cried the boy, 'or take yourself

off, you have no business here at night.'

The sexton, however, remained standing motionless that the boy might

think he was a ghost. The boy cried a second time: 'What do you want

here?--speak if you are an honest fellow, or I will throw you down the

steps!' The sexton thought: 'He can't mean to be as bad as his words,'

uttered no sound and stood as if he were made of stone. Then the boy

called to him for the third time, and as that was also to no purpose,

he ran against him and pushed the ghost down the stairs, so that it fell

down the ten steps and remained lying there in a corner. Thereupon he

rang the bell, went home, and without saying a word went to bed, and

fell asleep. The sexton's wife waited a long time for her husband, but

he did not come back. At length she became uneasy, and wakened the boy,

and asked: 'Do you know where my husband is? He climbed up the tower

before you did.' 'No, I don't know,' replied the boy, 'but someone was

standing by the sounding hole on the other side of the steps, and as he

would neither gave an answer nor go away, I took him for a scoundrel,

and threw him downstairs. Just go there and you will see if it was he.

I should be sorry if it were.' The woman ran away and found her husband,

who was lying moaning in the corner, and had broken his leg.

She carried him down, and then with loud screams she hastened to the

boy's father, 'Your boy,' cried she, 'has been the cause of a great

misfortune! He has thrown my husband down the steps so that he broke his

leg. Take the good-for-nothing fellow out of our house.' The father was

terrified, and ran thither and scolded the boy. 'What wicked tricks

are these?' said he. 'The devil must have put them into your head.'

'Father,' he replied, 'do listen to me. I am quite innocent. He was

standing there by night like one intent on doing evil. I did not know

who it was, and I entreated him three times either to speak or to go

away.' 'Ah,' said the father, 'I have nothing but unhappiness with you.

Go out of my sight. I will see you no more.'

'Yes, father, right willingly, wait only until it is day. Then will I

go forth and learn how to shudder, and then I shall, at any rate,

understand one art which will support me.' 'Learn what you will,' spoke

the father, 'it is all the same to me. Here are fifty talers for you.

Take these and go into the wide world, and tell no one from whence you

come, and who is your father, for I have reason to be ashamed of you.'

'Yes, father, it shall be as you will. If you desire nothing more than

that, I can easily keep it in mind.'

When the day dawned, therefore, the boy put his fifty talers into his

pocket, and went forth on the great highway, and continually said to

himself: 'If I could but shudder! If I could but shudder!' Then a man

approached who heard this conversation which the youth was holding with

himself, and when they had walked a little farther to where they could

see the gallows, the man said to him: 'Look, there is the tree where

seven men have married the ropemaker's daughter, and are now learning

how to fly. Sit down beneath it, and wait till night comes, and you will

soon learn how to shudder.' 'If that is all that is wanted,' answered

the youth, 'it is easily done; but if I learn how to shudder as fast as

that, you shall have my fifty talers. Just come back to me early in the

morning.' Then the youth went to the gallows, sat down beneath it, and

waited till evening came. And as he was cold, he lighted himself a fire,

but at midnight the wind blew so sharply that in spite of his fire, he

could not get warm. And as the wind knocked the hanged men against each

other, and they moved backwards and forwards, he thought to himself:

'If you shiver below by the fire, how those up above must freeze and

suffer!' And as he felt pity for them, he raised the ladder, and climbed

up, unbound one of them after the other, and brought down all seven.

Then he stoked the fire, blew it, and set them all round it to warm

themselves. But they sat there and did not stir, and the fire caught

their clothes. So he said: 'Take care, or I will hang you up again.' The

dead men, however, did not hear, but were quite silent, and let their

rags go on burning. At this he grew angry, and said: 'If you will not

take care, I cannot help you, I will not be burnt with you,' and he hung

them up again each in his turn. Then he sat down by his fire and fell

asleep, and the next morning the man came to him and wanted to have

the fifty talers, and said: 'Well do you know how to shudder?' 'No,'

answered he, 'how should I know? Those fellows up there did not open

their mouths, and were so stupid that they let the few old rags which

they had on their bodies get burnt.' Then the man saw that he would not

get the fifty talers that day, and went away saying: 'Such a youth has

never come my way before.'

The youth likewise went his way, and once more began to mutter to

himself: 'Ah, if I could but shudder! Ah, if I could but shudder!' A

waggoner who was striding behind him heard this and asked: 'Who are

you?' 'I don't know,' answered the youth. Then the waggoner asked: 'From

whence do you come?' 'I know not.' 'Who is your father?' 'That I may

not tell you.' 'What is it that you are always muttering between your

teeth?' 'Ah,' replied the youth, 'I do so wish I could shudder, but

no one can teach me how.' 'Enough of your foolish chatter,' said the

waggoner. 'Come, go with me, I will see about a place for you.' The

youth went with the waggoner, and in the evening they arrived at an inn

where they wished to pass the night. Then at the entrance of the parlour

the youth again said quite loudly: 'If I could but shudder! If I could

but shudder!' The host who heard this, laughed and said: 'If that is

your desire, there ought to be a good opportunity for you here.' 'Ah,

be silent,' said the hostess, 'so many prying persons have already lost

their lives, it would be a pity and a shame if such beautiful eyes as

these should never see the daylight again.'

But the youth said: 'However difficult it may be, I will learn it. For

this purpose indeed have I journeyed forth.' He let the host have

no rest, until the latter told him, that not far from thence stood a

haunted castle where anyone could very easily learn what shuddering was,

if he would but watch in it for three nights. The king had promised that

he who would venture should have his daughter to wife, and she was the

most beautiful maiden the sun shone on. Likewise in the castle lay great

treasures, which were guarded by evil spirits, and these treasures would

then be freed, and would make a poor man rich enough. Already many men

had gone into the castle, but as yet none had come out again. Then the

youth went next morning to the king, and said: 'If it be allowed, I will

willingly watch three nights in the haunted castle.'

The king looked at him, and as the youth pleased him, he said: 'You may

ask for three things to take into the castle with you, but they must

be things without life.' Then he answered: 'Then I ask for a fire, a

turning lathe, and a cutting-board with the knife.'

The king had these things carried into the castle for him during the

day. When night was drawing near, the youth went up and made himself

a bright fire in one of the rooms, placed the cutting-board and knife

beside it, and seated himself by the turning-lathe. 'Ah, if I could

but shudder!' said he, 'but I shall not learn it here either.' Towards

midnight he was about to poke his fire, and as he was blowing it,

something cried suddenly from one corner: 'Au, miau! how cold we are!'

'You fools!' cried he, 'what are you crying about? If you are cold, come

and take a seat by the fire and warm yourselves.' And when he had said

that, two great black cats came with one tremendous leap and sat down

on each side of him, and looked savagely at him with their fiery

eyes. After a short time, when they had warmed themselves, they said:

'Comrade, shall we have a game of cards?' 'Why not?' he replied, 'but

just show me your paws.' Then they stretched out their claws. 'Oh,' said

he, 'what long nails you have! Wait, I must first cut them for you.'

Thereupon he seized them by the throats, put them on the cutting-board

and screwed their feet fast. 'I have looked at your fingers,' said he,

'and my fancy for card-playing has gone,' and he struck them dead and

threw them out into the water. But when he had made away with these two,

and was about to sit down again by his fire, out from every hole and

corner came black cats and black dogs with red-hot chains, and more

and more of them came until he could no longer move, and they yelled

horribly, and got on his fire, pulled it to pieces, and tried to put

it out. He watched them for a while quietly, but at last when they were

going too far, he seized his cutting-knife, and cried: 'Away with you,

vermin,' and began to cut them down. Some of them ran away, the others

he killed, and threw out into the fish-pond. When he came back he fanned

the embers of his fire again and warmed himself. And as he thus sat, his

eyes would keep open no longer, and he felt a desire to sleep. Then he

looked round and saw a great bed in the corner. 'That is the very thing

for me,' said he, and got into it. When he was just going to shut his

eyes, however, the bed began to move of its own accord, and went over

the whole of the castle. 'That's right,' said he, 'but go faster.' Then

the bed rolled on as if six horses were harnessed to it, up and down,

over thresholds and stairs, but suddenly hop, hop, it turned over upside

down, and lay on him like a mountain. But he threw quilts and pillows up

in the air, got out and said: 'Now anyone who likes, may drive,' and

lay down by his fire, and slept till it was day. In the morning the king

came, and when he saw him lying there on the ground, he thought the evil

spirits had killed him and he was dead. Then said he: 'After all it is a

pity,--for so handsome a man.' The youth heard it, got up, and said: 'It

has not come to that yet.' Then the king was astonished, but very glad,

and asked how he had fared. 'Very well indeed,' answered he; 'one

night is past, the two others will pass likewise.' Then he went to the

innkeeper, who opened his eyes very wide, and said: 'I never expected to

see you alive again! Have you learnt how to shudder yet?' 'No,' said he,

'it is all in vain. If someone would but tell me!'

The second night he again went up into the old castle, sat down by the

fire, and once more began his old song: 'If I could but shudder!' When

midnight came, an uproar and noise of tumbling about was heard; at

first it was low, but it grew louder and louder. Then it was quiet for

a while, and at length with a loud scream, half a man came down the

chimney and fell before him. 'Hullo!' cried he, 'another half belongs

to this. This is not enough!' Then the uproar began again, there was a

roaring and howling, and the other half fell down likewise. 'Wait,' said

he, 'I will just stoke up the fire a little for you.' When he had done

that and looked round again, the two pieces were joined together, and a

hideous man was sitting in his place. 'That is no part of our bargain,'

said the youth, 'the bench is mine.' The man wanted to push him away;

the youth, however, would not allow that, but thrust him off with all

his strength, and seated himself again in his own place. Then still more

men fell down, one after the other; they brought nine dead men's legs

and two skulls, and set them up and played at nine-pins with them. The

youth also wanted to play and said: 'Listen you, can I join you?' 'Yes,

if you have any money.' 'Money enough,' replied he, 'but your balls are

not quite round.' Then he took the skulls and put them in the lathe and

turned them till they were round. 'There, now they will roll better!'

said he. 'Hurrah! now we'll have fun!' He played with them and lost some

of his money, but when it struck twelve, everything vanished from his

sight. He lay down and quietly fell asleep. Next morning the king came

to inquire after him. 'How has it fared with you this time?' asked he.

'I have been playing at nine-pins,' he answered, 'and have lost a couple

of farthings.' 'Have you not shuddered then?' 'What?' said he, 'I have

had a wonderful time! If I did but know what it was to shudder!'

The third night he sat down again on his bench and said quite sadly:

'If I could but shudder.' When it grew late, six tall men came in and

brought a coffin. Then he said: 'Ha, ha, that is certainly my little

cousin, who died only a few days ago,' and he beckoned with his finger,

and cried: 'Come, little cousin, come.' They placed the coffin on the

ground, but he went to it and took the lid off, and a dead man lay

therein. He felt his face, but it was cold as ice. 'Wait,' said he, 'I

will warm you a little,' and went to the fire and warmed his hand and

laid it on the dead man's face, but he remained cold. Then he took him

out, and sat down by the fire and laid him on his breast and rubbed his

arms that the blood might circulate again. As this also did no good, he

thought to himself: 'When two people lie in bed together, they warm each

other,' and carried him to the bed, covered him over and lay down by

him. After a short time the dead man became warm too, and began to move.

Then said the youth, 'See, little cousin, have I not warmed you?' The

dead man, however, got up and cried: 'Now will I strangle you.'

'What!' said he, 'is that the way you thank me? You shall at once go

into your coffin again,' and he took him up, threw him into it, and shut

the lid. Then came the six men and carried him away again. 'I cannot

manage to shudder,' said he. 'I shall never learn it here as long as I


Then a man entered who was taller than all others, and looked terrible.

He was old, however, and had a long white beard. 'You wretch,' cried he,

'you shall soon learn what it is to shudder, for you shall die.' 'Not so

fast,' replied the youth. 'If I am to die, I shall have to have a say

in it.' 'I will soon seize you,' said the fiend. 'Softly, softly, do not

talk so big. I am as strong as you are, and perhaps even stronger.'

'We shall see,' said the old man. 'If you are stronger, I will let you

go--come, we will try.' Then he led him by dark passages to a smith's

forge, took an axe, and with one blow struck an anvil into the ground.

'I can do better than that,' said the youth, and went to the other

anvil. The old man placed himself near and wanted to look on, and his

white beard hung down. Then the youth seized the axe, split the anvil

with one blow, and in it caught the old man's beard. 'Now I have you,'

said the youth. 'Now it is your turn to die.' Then he seized an iron bar

and beat the old man till he moaned and entreated him to stop, when he

would give him great riches. The youth drew out the axe and let him go.

The old man led him back into the castle, and in a cellar showed him

three chests full of gold. 'Of these,' said he, 'one part is for the

poor, the other for the king, the third yours.' In the meantime it

struck twelve, and the spirit disappeared, so that the youth stood in

darkness. 'I shall still be able to find my way out,' said he, and felt

about, found the way into the room, and slept there by his fire.

Next morning the king came and said: 'Now you must have learnt what

shuddering is?' 'No,' he answered; 'what can it be? My dead cousin was

here, and a bearded man came and showed me a great deal of money down

below, but no one told me what it was to shudder.' 'Then,' said the

king, 'you have saved the castle, and shall marry my daughter.' 'That

is all very well,' said he, 'but still I do not know what it is to


Then the gold was brought up and the wedding celebrated; but howsoever

much the young king loved his wife, and however happy he was, he still

said always: 'If I could but shudder--if I could but shudder.' And this

at last angered her. Her waiting-maid said: 'I will find a cure for him;

he shall soon learn what it is to shudder.' She went out to the stream

which flowed through the garden, and had a whole bucketful of gudgeons

brought to her. At night when the young king was sleeping, his wife was

to draw the clothes off him and empty the bucket full of cold water

with the gudgeons in it over him, so that the little fishes would

sprawl about him. Then he woke up and cried: 'Oh, what makes me shudder

so?--what makes me shudder so, dear wife? Ah! now I know what it is to