Faust Legends

translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 1999-2013


Contents

  1. Doctor Johann Faustus. (Abstracted from the Faust Chapbook of 1587).

  2. Dr. Faust at Boxberg Castle (Germany, Bernhard Baader).

  3. Faust's Book of Hell's Charms (Germany, Hermann Harrys).

  4. Dr. Faust's Hell-Master (Germany, Joh. Aug. Ernst Köhler).

  5. Dr. Faust in Erfurt (Germany, J. G. Th. Grässe).

  6. Dr. Faust and Melanchton in Wittenberg (Germany, J. G. Th. Grässe).

  7. Dr. Faust in Anhalt (Germany, Ludwig Bechstein).

  8. A Scholar Assigns Himself to the Devil (Denmark).

  9. Doctor Faustus Was a Good Man (1) (a nursery rhyme from England).

  10. Doctor Faustus Was a Good Man (2) (another version of the above nursery rhyme).

  11. Devil Compacts (Scotland).

  12. Dafydd Hiraddug and the Crow Barn, (Wales, Elias Owen). This account is included here because of its similarity with the Faust legends.

  13. Selected literary works based on the Faust legend, with links to electronic texts.

  14. Selected musical works based on the Faust legend.

  15. Related Links.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Doctor Johann Faustus

Abstracted from the Faust Chapbook of 1587

Johann Faustus was born in Roda in the province of Weimar, of God-fearing parents.

Although he often lacked common sense and understanding, at an early age he proved himself a scholar, mastering not only the Holy Scriptures, but also the sciences of medicine, mathematics, astrology, sorcery, prophesy, and necromancy.

These pursuits aroused in him a desire to commune with the Devil, so--having made the necessary evil preparations--he repaired one night to a crossroads in the Spesser Forest near Wittenberg. Between nine and ten o'clock he described certain circles with his staff and thus conjured up the Devil.

Feigning anger at having been summoned against his will, the Devil arrived in the midst of a great storm. After the winds and lightning had subsided the Devil asked Dr. Faustus to reveal his will, to which the scholar replied that he was willing to enter into a pact. The Devil, for his part, would agree:

  1. to serve Dr. Faustus for as long as he should live,
  2. to provide Dr. Faustus with whatever information he might request, and
  3. never to utter an untruth to Dr. Faustus.

The Devil agreed to these particulars, on the condition that Dr. Faustus would promise:

  1. at the expiration of twenty-four years to surrender his body and soul to the Devil,
  2. to confirm the pact with a signature written in his own blood, and
  3. to renounce his Christian faith.

Having reached an agreement, the pact was drawn up, and Dr. Faustus formalized it with his own blood.

Henceforth Dr. Faustus' life was filled with comfort and luxury, but marked by excess and perversion. Everything was within his grasp: elegant clothing, fine wines, sumptuous food, beautiful women--even Helen of Troy and the concubines from the Turkish sultan's harem. He became the most famous astrologer in the land, for his horoscopes never failed. No longer limited by earthly constraints, he traveled from the depths of hell to the most distant stars. He amazed his students and fellow scholars with his knowledge of heaven and earth.

However, for all his fame and fortune, Dr. Faustus could not revoke the twenty-four year limit to the Devil's indenture. Finally recognizing the folly of his ways, he grew ever more melancholy. He bequeathed his worldly goods to his young apprentice, a student named Christoph Wagner from the University of Wittenberg .

Shortly after midnight on the last day of the twenty-fourth year, the students who had assembled at the home of the ailing Dr. Faustus heard a great commotion. First came the sound of a ferocious storm and then the shouts--first terrifyingly loud then ever weaker--from their mentor.

At daybreak they ventured into his room. Bloodstains were everywhere. Bits of brain clung to the walls. Here they discovered an eye, and there a few teeth. Outside they found the corpse, its members still twitching, lying on a manure pile.

His horrible death thus taught them the lesson that had escaped their master during his lifetime: to hold fast to the ways of God, and to reject the Devil and all his temptations.




Dr. Faust at Boxberg Castle

Germany

When Dr. Faust was in Heilbronn, performing his troublesome arts throughout the region, he often went to Boxberg Castle, where he was always courteously received.

Once he was there on a cold winter's day, strolling with the lords and ladies of the palace along the garden paths on the east side of the castle. The ladies complained about the frost, and he immediately caused the sun to shine warmly, the snow-covered ground to turn green, and a mass of violets and beautiful flowers of every kind to spring forth. Then at his command the trees blossomed, and -- following the desires of the group -- apples, plums, peaches, and other good fruit ripened on the branches. Finally he caused grape vines to grow and bear grapes. He then invited each of his companions to cut off a grape, but not before he gave the signal to do so. When all of them were ready to cut away he removed the deception from their eyes, and each one saw that he was holding a knife against the nose of the person next to him. The part of the garden where this took place has ever since been called "the violet garden."

Another time Faust left Boxberg Castle at a quarter past eleven in order to be at a banquet in Heilbronn at the last strike of twelve o'clock. He got into his carriage hitched to four black horses and drove away like the wind, and he did indeed arrive in Heilbronn punctually at the strike of twelve.

A man working in a field saw how horned spirits paved the way before the carriage, while others pulled up the paving stones from behind and carried them away, thus destroying every trace of the pavement.




Faust's Book of Hell's Charms

Zellerfeld, Germany

The Book of Hell's Charms is in the church at Zellerfeld, secured by an iron chain. It was written by Doctor Faust. Only a few people can read it, and it is extremely dangerous to read it. To read it without losing one's life, one must be able to read it forwards and backwards. If one reads it forwards, the devil will appear. If one reads it backwards, he will leave. If anyone has read the Book of Hell's Charms forwards and cannot read it backwards, then the devil will do the rest.




Dr. Faust's Hell-Master

Germany

According to legend, there is a book, named Dr. Faust's Hell-Master, which teaches the art of controling spirits, even of making the devil subservient to oneself. It is said to be buried beneath a thorn bush behind the Chemnitz Castle, on the road to the Küch Forest. Many advocates of the black art have unsuccessfully attempted to find this book.




Dr. Faust in Erfurt

Germany

At one time the renowned Dr. Faust sojourned in Erfurt. He lived in Michelsgasse next to the great Collegium.

As a learned professor and with the permission of the academic senate he lectured in the large auditorium of the Collegium Building about Greek poets. Indeed, he explained Homer to his audience, the students, describing the heroic figures of the Iliad and the Odyssey so realistically that the students expressed their desire to see them with their own eyes. He made this possible, conjuring them up from the underworld, but when the students saw the powerful giant Polyphemus, they all became terrified and wanted to see or hear nothing more from him.

He drove through the narrowest street in Erfurt with a double-span load of hay, for which reason this street has ever since been called "Dr. Faust's Street."

Once he came riding a horse that ate and ate and could never be satisfied.

Another time he tapped all kinds of wine from a wooden table and made the drunken drinking companions think that they saw grapes. They wanted to cut them from the vines, but when he caused the deceptive image to disappear, each one had another one's nose in his fingers instead of wine grapes.

A house in Schössergasse is said to still have an opening in the roof that can never be closed with roofing tiles because Faust used it for his cloak rides.

He is said to have created a magnificent winter garden and provided delicious meals for numerous noble guests, thus achieving a high reputation.

Soon everyone in Erfurt was talking of nothing but Dr. Faust, and it was feared that a great many people would be led astray through his devilish arts.

Thus a learned monk by the name of Dr. Klinge was sent to convert him. But Faust did not want to be converted. In response to the masses and prayers directed at tearing him away from the devil, Dr. Faust said, "No, my good Dr. Klinge, it would be disreputable for me to break the contract that I signed with my blood. That would be dishonest. The devil has honestly upheld his promises, and I will also keep my word with him."

"Then go to the devil, you cursed piece of devil's meat and member of the devil's band!" cried the monk angrily. "Go to the eternal fires that have been prepared for the devil and his angels!" And the monk ran to Rector Magnificus and reported to him that Dr. Faustus was a totally unrepentant sinner.

Then Faust was banished from the city of Erfurt, and never again has a sorcerer been accepted there.




Dr. Faust and Melanchton in Wittenberg

Germany

It is not true, as some claimed as early as the middle of the sixteenth century, that Dr. Faust grew up in Wittenberg and earned a doctorate of theology there, that he lived near the outer gate and had a house and garden in a street named Schneegasse (which never existed), and that he was strangled by the devil in the village of Kimlich, a half mile from Wittenberg, in the presence of several scholars and students. However, he did spend time in Wittenberg and was tolerated there for a while, until he became so crude that they tried to imprison him, and then fled to another place.

While in Wittenberg he approached Philipp Melanchton, who read the book to him, scolding him and warning him that if he did not immediately desist from his evil ways he would come to an evil end, which did indeed happen. He did not repent.

Now one day at ten o'clock in the morning Master Philipp was leaving his study on his way downstairs to eat when Faust, who was with him at that time, and whom he had vigorously scolded, said to him: "Master Philipp, you always approach me with rough words. Someday, when you are about to sit down to a meal, I am going to cause all the pots in the kitchen to fly up the chimney, so that you and your guests will have nothing to eat."

Thereupon Philipp answered him: "Desist from such talk! I ---- on your art!" And he did desist.

Another old God-fearing man also tried to convert him. To show his thanks, Faust sent a devil to the man's bedroom to frighten him as he was going to bed. The devil walked about in the room, grunting like a sow. The man, however, was not afraid. Armed with his faith, he ridiculed the devil: "What a fine voice you have! You are singing like an angel who was not allowed to remain in heaven because he wanted to be God's equal and was thus thrust out for his pride and now wanders through people's houses in the form of a sow!" With that the spirit, not wanting to be in a place where he was ridiculed because of his apostasy and his wickedness, returned to Faust and complained to him how he had been received there.

Dr. Faust, however, did lead a student astray. Dr. Lercheimer himself knew one of his friends well into an advanced age. This man had a crooked mouth. Whenever he wanted a hare, he would go out into the woods, make his hocus-pocus, and a hare would run right into his hands.




Doctor Faust in Anhalt

Ludwig Bechstein

One winter the renowned Doctor Faustus came to the Count of Anhalt. Seeing that the count's wife was pregnant, Doctor Faustus asked her if she did not desire something special to eat, as is often the case with expectant mothers. He said that with the help of his magic powers he could get her anything she wanted. The countess graciously accepted his friendly offer and told him that a great desire of hers would be satisfied if she could have some fresh fruit such as grapes, cherries, and peaches, instead of the dried confection and nuts that she currently had. But she thought that neither he nor any other magician could get such things in the middle of a harsh winter.

Doctor Faustus took three silver platters, set them in front of the dining room window, muttered a magic formula, then soon returned with fresh fruit. The first platter was filled with apples, pears, and peaches; the second with cherries, apricots, and plums; and the third filled with red and green grapes. He invited the countess to partake of the fruit, which she did with great pleasure.

When it came time for Doctor Faustus to take leave of Anhalt, he requested the count and the countess to accompany him on a walk, for he wanted to show them something new. This they did, accompanied by the count's entourage. Approaching the castle gate, they saw a newly constructed palace on the hill called Rombühl. Water birds were swimming in its broad moats. The palace had five towers. As the party came closer, they found that two of the towers and the outer yard were alive with a menagerie of rare animals which were walking a jumping about inside, without injuring one another. There were apes, monkeys, bears, chamois, ostriches, as well as other animals.

An elaborate breakfast awaited them in one of the halls. Doctor Faust's familiar, Christoph Wagner, served as waiter, and music was sounding from an unseen source. The food and wine were such that everyone ate and drank with great pleasure until they were full.

After spending more than an hour in this place, the party left the beautiful palace. As they were approaching Anhalt Castle they looked back at the new palace and saw and heard it go up in flames, with the sound of rifles and canons. Faustus and Wagner had disappeared, and they all were suddenly as hungry as lions. They had to have breakfast once again, for everything that they had eaten had been merely an illusion.




A Scholar Assigns Himself to the Devil

Denmark

There was once a scholar in the school of Herlufsholm, who through the devil's craft was seduced to give himself up to his power and will. He therefore wrote a contract on a strip of paper with his own blood, and stuck it in a hole in the church wall. But for the salvation of his sinful soul, which the fiend would else have seized, it happened that another scholar of the school found the paper and took it to the rector.

Now nothing was to be done but to have recourse to many prayers, whereby the devil's cunning was turned to naught; but it was long impossible to close up the hole in the wall so effectually that it was not immediately found open again.




Doctor Faustus Was a Good Man (1)

England

Doctor Faustus was a good man,
He whipt his scholars now and then;
When he whipp'd them he made them dance
Out of Scotland into France,
Out of France into Spain,
And then he whipp'd them back again!



Doctor Faustus Was a Good Man (2)

England

The following lines are common in Hants [Hampshire]:
Doctor Faustus was a good man,
He beat his children now and "tan,"
When he did, he led them a dance,
Out of England into France,
Out of France into Spain,
And then he whipp'd them back again.



Devil Compacts

Scotland

It was believed that many went further than the students of "Black Art," and actually made compacts with the devil. Such a compact was made at midnight in some lonely churchyard, or amid the ruins of some castle. Those who did so, were they men or women, became bound to give themselves up soul and body to Satan at the end of a certain number of years, on a fixed day and at a fixed hour, or at the time of their death.

For this they received power to do almost everything man could conceive—to control the elements, to send disease on man or beast, to make crops unfruitful, to destroy them by wind or rain, to amass as much wealth as they wished to spend upon their evil passions—in short, to do what wicked work they set their minds to. A wild wanton life did such lead, often with the appearance of unbounded wealth and happiness far beyond the reach of most men. Their whole time seemed one round of success and joy.

The time fixed by the contract might be prolonged, but, if the contract was not renewed, go they must at the hour appointed.

A man had made such a contract. He had, to all appearance, lived a life of comfort and success. The time for him to go drew very near. When he began to think of his doom, horror took hold of him. He told his terrible secret to some of his friends. They did what they could to cheer him, and make him forget it. On the last night they met with him, and kept him surrounded, persuading him and themselves that, if it should come to the worst, they would be able to defend him. Hour after hour passed, and they began to think that the devil had forgotten.

The appointed hour came. Next moment a knock was heard at the door. All eyes were turned to it. It opened, and in stalked the devil. There was no delay. He rushed upon his thrall, and both disappeared in fire, leaving behind them nothing but smoke and stench.




Dafydd Hiraddug and the Crow Barn

Wales

There is an incredible tradition connected with this place, Ffinant, Trefeglwys. It is said that an old barn stands on the right-hand side of the highway.

One Sunday morning, as the master was starting to church, he told one of the servants to keep the crows from a field that had been sown with wheat, in which field the old barn stood. The servant, through some means, collected all the crows into the barn, and shut the door on them. He then followed his master to the church, who, when he saw the servant there, began to reprove him sharply. But the master, when he heard the strange news, turned his steps homewards, and found to his amazement that the tale was true, and it is said that the barn was filled with crows. This barn ever afterwards was called Crow-Barn, a name it still retains.

It is said that the servant's name was Dafydd Hiraddug, and that he had sold himself to the devil, and that consequently, he was able to perform feats, which in this age are considered incredible.

However, it is said that Dafydd was on this occasion more subtle than the old serpent, even according to the agreement which was between them. The contract was, that the devil was to have complete possession of Dafydd if his corpse were taken over the side of the bed, or through a door, or if buried in a churchyard, or inside a church. Dafydd had commanded, that on his death, the liver and lights were to be taken out of his body and thrown on the dunghill, and notice was to be taken whether a raven or a dove got possession of them; if a raven, then his body was to be taken away by the foot, and not by the side of the bed, and through the wall, and not through the door, and he was to be buried, not in the churchyard nor in the church but under the church walls. And the devil, when he saw that by these arrangements he had been duped cried, saying:

Dafydd Hiraddug, badly bred,
False when living, and false when dead.




Selected literary works based on the Faust legend

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Selected musical works based on the Faust legend




Related Links

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Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Revised February 9, 2013.