There was a man who had three sons, the youngest of whom was called
Dummling, and was despised, mocked, and sneered at on every occasion.
It happened that the eldest wanted to go into the forest to hew wood,
and before he went his mother gave him a beautiful sweet cake and a
bottle of wine in order that he might not suffer from hunger or
When he entered the forest he met a little grey-haired old man who
bade him good-day, and said, do give me a piece of cake out of your
pocket, and let me have a draught of your wine, I am so hungry and
thirsty. But the clever son answered, if I give you my cake and
wine, I shall have none for myself, be off with you, and he left the
little man standing and went on.
But when he began to hew down a tree, it was not long before he made
a false stroke, and the axe cut him in the arm, so that he had to go
home and have it bound up. And this was the little grey man's doing.
After this the second son went into the forest, and his mother gave
him, like the eldest, a cake and a bottle of wine. The little old
grey man met him likewise, and asked him for a piece of cake and a
drink of wine. But the second son, too, said sensibly enough, what I
give you will be taken away from myself, be off, and he left the
little man standing and went on. His punishment, however, was not
delayed, when he had made a few blows at the tree he struck himself
in the leg, so that he had to be carried home.
Then Dummling said, father, do let me go and cut wood. The father
answered, your brothers have hurt themselves with it, leave it alone,
you do not understand anything about it. But Dummling begged so long
that at last he said, just go then, you will get wiser by hurting
yourself. His mother gave him a cake made with water and baked in
the cinders, and with it a bottle of sour beer.
When he came to the forest the little old grey man met him likewise,
and greeting him, said, give me a piece of your cake and a drink out
of your bottle, I am so hungry and thirsty.
Dummling answered, I have only cinder-cake and sour beer, if that
pleases you, we will sit down and eat. So they sat down, and when
Dummling pulled out his cinder-cake, it was a fine sweet cake, and
the sour beer had become good wine. So they ate and drank, and after
that the little man said, since you have a good heart, and are
willing to divide what you have, I will give you good luck. There
stands an old tree, cut it down, and you will find something at the
roots. Then the little man took leave of him.
Dummling went and cut down the tree, and when it fell there was a
goose sitting in the roots with feathers of pure gold. He lifted her
up, and taking her with him, went to an inn where he thought he would
stay the night. Now the host had three daughters, who saw the goose
and were curious to know what such a wonderful bird might be, and
would have liked to have one of its golden feathers.
The eldest thought, I shall soon find an opportunity of pulling out a
feather, and as soon as Dummling had gone out she seized the goose by
the wing, but her finger and hand remained sticking fast to it.
The second came soon afterwards, thinking only of how she might get a
feather for herself, but she had scarcely touched her sister than she
was held fast.
At last the third also came with the like intent, and the others
screamed out, keep away, for goodness, sake keep away. But she did
not understand why she was to keep away. The others are there, she
thought, I may as well be there too, and ran to them, but as soon as
she had touched her sister, she remained sticking fast to her. So
they had to spend the night with the goose.
The next morning Dummling took the goose under his arm and set out,
without troubling himself about the three girls who were hanging on
to it. They were obliged to run after him continually, now left, now
right, wherever his legs took him.
In the middle of the fields the parson met them, and when he saw the
procession he said, for shame, you good-for-nothing girls, why are
you running across the fields after this young man. Is that seemly?
At the same time he seized the youngest by the hand in order to pull
her away, but as soon as he touched her he likewise stuck fast, and
was himself obliged to run behind.
Before long the sexton came by and saw his master, the parson,
running behind three girls. He was astonished at this and called
out, hi, your reverence, whither away so quickly. Do not forget that
we have a christening to-day, and running after him he took him by
the sleeve, but was also held fast to it. Whilst the five were
trotting thus one behind the other, two laborers came with their hoes
from the fields, the parson called out to them and begged that they
would set him and the sexton free. But they had scarcely touched the
sexton when they were held fast, and now there were seven of them
running behind Dummling and the goose.
Soon afterwards he came to a city, where a king ruled who had a
daughter who was so serious that no one could make her laugh. So he
had put forth a decree that whosoever should be able to make her
laugh should marry her. When Dummling heard this, he went with his
goose and all her train before the king's daughter, and as soon as
she saw the seven people running on and on, one behind the other, she
began to laugh quite loudly, and as if she would never stop.
Thereupon Dummling asked to have her for his wife, but the king did
not like the son-in-law, and made all manner of excuses and said he
must first produce a man who could drink a cellarful of wine.
Dummling thought of the little grey man, who could certainly help
him, so he went into the forest, and in the same place where he had
felled the tree, he saw a man sitting, who had a very sorrowful face.
Dummling asked him what he was taking to heart so sorely, and he
answered, I have such a great thirst and cannot quench it, cold water
I cannot stand, a barrel of wine I have just emptied, but that to me
is like a drop on a hot stone.
There, I can help you, said Dummling, just come with me and you shall
He led him into the king's cellar, and the man bent over the huge
barrels, and drank and drank till his loins hurt, and before the day
was out he had emptied all the barrels. Then Dummling asked once
more for his bride, but the king was vexed that such an ugly fellow,
whom everyone called Dummling, should take away his daughter, and he
made a new condition, he must first find a man who could eat a whole
mountain of bread. Dummling did not think long, but went straight
into the forest, where in the same place there sat a man who was
tying up his body with a strap, and making an awful face, and saying,
I have eaten a whole ovenful of rolls, but what good is that when one
has such a hunger as I. My stomach remains empty, and I must tie
myself up if I am not to die of hunger.
At this Dummling was glad, and said, get up and come with me, you
shall eat yourself full. He led him to the king's palace, where all
the flour in the whole kingdom was collected, and from it he caused a
huge mountain of bread to be baked. The man from the forest stood
before it, began to eat, and by the end of one day the whole mountain
had vanished. Then Dummling for the third time asked for his bride,
but the king again sought a way out, and ordered a ship which could
sail on land and on water. As soon as you come sailing back in it,
said he, you shall have my daughter for wife.
Dummling went straight into the forest, and there sat the little grey
man to whom he had given his cake. When he heard what Dummling
wanted, he said, since you have given me to eat and to drink, I will
give you the ship, and I do all this because you once were kind to
me. Then he gave him the ship which could sail on land and water,
and when the king saw that, he could no longer prevent him from
having his daughter. The wedding was celebrated, and after the
king's death, Dummling inherited his kingdom and lived for a long
time contentedly with his wife.