Gold-Donkey, and

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

There was once upon a time a tailor who had three sons, and only one goat. But as the goat supported all of them with her milk, she was obliged to have good food, and to be taken every day to pasture. The sons did this, in turn.

Once the eldest took her to the churchyard, where the finest herbs were to be found, and let her eat and run about there. At night when it was time to go home he asked, "Goat, have you had enough?"

The goat answered,

I have eaten so much,
Not a leaf more I'll touch;
Meh, meh!

"Come home, then," said the youth, and took hold of the cord around her neck, led her into the stable, and tied her up securely.

"Well," said the old tailor, "has the goat had as much food as she ought?"

"Oh," answered the son, "she has eaten so much, not a leaf more she'll touch."

But the father wished to satisfy himself, and went down to the stable, stroked the dear animal, and asked, "Goat, are you satisfied?"

The goat answered,

How should I be satisfied?
Among the ditches I leapt about,
Found no leaf, so went without;
Meh, meh!

"What do I hear?" cried the tailor, and ran upstairs and said to the youth, "Hey, you liar, you said the goat had had enough, and have let her hunger." And in his anger he took the yardstick from the wall, and drove him out with blows.

Next day it was the turn of the second son, who sought a place next to the garden hedge where nothing but good herbs grew, and the goat gobbled them all up. At night when he wanted to go home, he asked, "Goat, are you satisfied?"

I have eaten so much,
Not a leaf more I'll touch;
Meh, meh!

"Come home then," said the youth, and led her home, and tied her up in the stable.

"Well," said the old tailor, "has the goat had as much food as she ought?"

"Oh," answered the son, "she has eaten so much, not a leaf more she'll touch."

The tailor would not rely on this, but went down to the stable and said, "Goat, have you had enough?"

The goat answered,

How should I be satisfied?
Among the ditches I leapt about,
Found no leaf, so went without;
Meh, meh!

"The godless wretch!" cried the tailor, to let such a good animal hunger, and he ran up and drove the youth out of doors with the yardstick.

Now came the turn of the third son, who wanted to do his duty well, and sought out some bushes with the finest leaves, and let the goat devour them. In the evening when he wanted to go home, he asked, "Goat, have you had enough?"

The goat answered,

I have eaten so much,
Not a leaf more I'll touch;
Meh, meh!

"Come home then," said the youth, and led her into the stable, and tied her up.

"Well," said the old tailor, "has the goat had her full share of food?"

"She has eaten so much, not a leaf more she'll touch."

The tailor was distrustful, went down, and asked, "Goat, have you had enough?"

The wicked beast answered,

How should I be satisfied?
Among the ditches I leapt about,
Found no leaf, so went without;
Meh, meh!

"Oh, the brood of liars!" cried the tailor, "Each as wicked and forgetful of his duty as the other. You shall no longer make a fool of me!" And quite beside himself with anger, he ran upstairs and tanned the poor young fellow's back so vigorously with the yardstick that he leaped out of the house.

The old tailor was now alone with his goat. Next morning he went down into the stable, stroked the goat and said, "Come, my dear little animal, I myself will take you to feed." He took her by the rope and led her to green hedges, and amongst yarrow and whatever else goats like to eat. "Here you may for once eat to your heart's content," he said to her, and let her browse till evening. Then he asked, "Goat, are you satisfied?"

She answered,

I have eaten so much,
Not a leaf more I'll touch;
Meh, meh!

"Come home then," said the tailor, and led her into the stable, and tied her fast. When he was going away, he turned around again and said, "Well, are you satisfied for once?"

But the goat behaved no better for him, and cried,

How should I be satisfied?
Among the ditches I leapt about,
Found no leaf, so went without;
Meh, meh!

When the tailor heard that, he was shocked, and saw clearly that he had driven away his three sons without cause. "Wait, you ungrateful creature," he cried, "it is not enough to drive you away, I will brand you so that you will no more dare to show yourself amongst honest tailors." He quickly ran upstairs, fetched his razor, lathered the goat's head, and shaved her as clean as the palm of his hand. And as the yardstick would have been too honorable for her, he grabbed a whip, and gave her such blows with it that she bounded away with tremendous leaps.

When the tailor was thus left quite alone in his house he fell into great grief, and would gladly have had his sons back again, but no one knew where they were gone.

The eldest had apprenticed himself to a joiner, and learned industriously and tirelessly, and when the time came for him to be on his way, his master presented him with a little table which was not particularly beautiful, and was made of common wood, but which had one good property. If anyone set it out, and said, "table be set," the good little table was at once covered with a clean little cloth, and a plate was there, and a knife and fork beside it, and dishes with boiled meats and roasted meats, as many as there was room for, and a great glass of red wine shone, so that it made the heart glad.

The young journeyman thought, "With this you have enough for your whole life," and went joyously about the world and never troubled himself at all whether an inn was good or bad, or if anything was to be found in it or not. When it suited him, he did not enter an inn at all, but either on the plain, in a wood, a meadow, or wherever he fancied, he took his little table off his back, set it down before him, and said, "table be set," and then everything appeared that his heart desired.

At length he took it into his head to go back to his father, whose anger would now be appeased, and who would now willingly receive him with his magic table. It came to pass that on his way home, he came one evening to an inn which was filled with guests. They bade him welcome, and invited him to sit and eat with them, for otherwise he would have difficulty in getting anything.

"No," answered the joiner, "I will not take the few morsels out of your mouths. Rather than that, you shall be my guests."

They laughed, and thought he was jesting with them. He but placed his wooden table in the middle of the room, and said, "Table be set." Instantly it was covered with food, so good that the host could never have procured it, and the smell of it ascended pleasantly to the nostrils of the guests.

"Fall to, dear friends," said the joiner, and the guests when they saw that he meant it, did not need to be asked twice, but drew near, pulled out their knives and attacked it valiantly. And what surprised them the most was that when a dish became empty, a full one instantly took its place of its own accord.

The innkeeper stood in one corner and watched the affair. He did not at all know what to say, but thought, "You could easily find a use for such a cook as that in your household."

The joiner and his comrades made merry until late into the night. At length they lay down to sleep, and the young journeyman also went to bed, and set his magic table against the wall. The host's thoughts, however, let him have no rest. It occurred to him that there was a little old table in his backroom which looked just like the journeyman's and he brought it out, and carefully exchanged it for the wishing table. Next morning the joiner paid for his bed, took up his table, never thinking that he had got a false one, and went his way.

At midday he reached his father, who received him with great joy. "Well, my dear son, what have you learned?" he said to him.

"Father, I have become a joiner."

"A good trade," replied the old man. "But what have you brought back with you from your apprenticeship?"

"Father, the best thing which I have brought back with me is this little table."

The tailor inspected it on all sides and said, "You did not make a masterpiece when you made this. It is a bad old table."

"But it is a table-be-set," replied the son. "When I set it out, and tell it to set itself, the most beautiful dishes immediately appear on it, and wine also, which gladdens the heart. Just invite all our relatives and friends. They shall refresh and enjoy themselves for once, for the table will fill them all."

When the company was assembled, he put his table in the middle of the room and said, "Table be set," but the little table did not move, and remained just as bare as any other table which does not understand language. Then the poor journeyman became aware that his table had been changed, and was ashamed at having to stand there like a liar. The relatives, however, mocked him, and were forced to go home without having eaten or drunk.

The father brought out his scraps again, and went on tailoring, but the son found work with a master joiner.

The second son had gone to a miller and had apprenticed himself to him. When his years were over, the master said, "As you have conducted yourself so well, I give you a donkey of a peculiar kind, which neither draws a cart nor carries a sack."

"What good is he then?" asked the young journeyman.

"He spews forth gold," answered the miller. "If you set him on a cloth and say 'Bricklebrit,' the good animal will spew forth gold pieces for you from back and front."

"That is a fine thing," said the journeyman, and thanked the master, and went out into the world. When he had need of gold, he had only to say "Bricklebrit" to his donkey, and it rained gold pieces, and he had nothing to do but pick them off the ground. Wherever he went, the best of everything was good enough for him, and the more expensive the better, for he had always a full purse. When he had looked about the world for some time, he thought, "You must seek out your father. If you go to him with the gold-donkey he will forget his anger, and receive you well."

It came to pass that he came to the same inn in which his brother's table had been exchanged. He led his donkey by the bridle, and the host was about to take the animal from him and tie him up, but the young journeyman said, "Don't trouble yourself, I will take my nag into the stable, and tie him up myself too, for I must know where he is."

This struck the host as odd, and he thought that a man who was forced to look after his donkey himself, could not have much to spend. But when the stranger put his hand in his pocket and brought out two gold pieces, and said he was to provide something good for him, the host opened his eyes wide, and ran and sought out the best he could muster. After dinner the guest asked what he owed. The innkeeper did not see why he should not double the bill, and said the journeyman must give two more gold pieces. He felt in his pocket, but his gold was just at an end.

"Wait an instant, sir," said he, "I will go and fetch some money." But he took the tablecloth with him. The innkeeper could not imagine what this meant, and being curious, stole after him, and as the guest bolted the stable door, he peeped through a hole left by a knot in the wood.

The stranger spread out the cloth under the animal and cried, "Bricklebrit," and immediately the beast began to let gold pieces fall from back and front, so that it fairly rained down money onto the ground.

"Eh, my word," said the innkeeper. "Ducats are quickly coined there. A purse like that is not bad." The guest paid his bill and went to bed, but in the night the innkeeper stole down into the stable, led away the master of the mint, and tied up another donkey in his place.

Early next morning the journeyman traveled away with his donkey, and thought that he had his gold-donkey. At midday he reached his father, who rejoiced to see him again, and gladly took him in.

"What have you made of yourself, my son?" asked the old man.

"A miller, dear father," he answered.

"What have you brought back with you from your travels."

"Nothing else but a donkey."

"There are donkeys enough here," said the father, "I would rather have had a good goat."

"Yes," replied the son, "but it is no common donkey, but a gold-donkey. When I say 'Bricklebrit' the good beast spews forth a whole sheetful of gold pieces. Just summon all our relatives here, and I will make them rich folks."

"That suits me well," said the tailor, "for then I shall have no need to torment myself any longer with the needle," and he himself ran out and called the relatives together. As soon as they were assembled, the miller bade them make way, spread out his cloth, and brought the donkey into the room.

"Now watch," said he, and cried, "Bricklebrit," but what fell were not gold pieces, and it was clear that the animal knew nothing of the art, for not every donkey attains such perfection. Then the poor miller made a long face, saw that he had been betrayed, and begged pardon of the relatives, who went home as poor as they came. There was no help for it, the old man had to take up his needle once more, and the youth hired himself to a miller.

The third brother had apprenticed himself to a turner, and as that is skilled labor, he was the longest in learning. His brothers, however, told him in a letter how badly things had gone with them, and how the innkeeper had cheated them of their beautiful wishing gifts on the last evening before they reached home. When the turner had served his time, and was about to set forth, as he had conducted himself so well, his master presented him with a sack saying, "There is a cudgel in it."

"I can take the sack with me," said he, "and it may serve me well, but why should the cudgel be in it. It only makes it heavy."

"I will tell you why," replied the master. "If anyone has done anything to injure you, do but say, 'Cudgel out of the sack,' and the cudgel will leap forth among the people, and play such a dance on their backs that they will not be able to stir or move for a week. And it will not quit until you say, 'Cudgel into the sack.'"

The journeyman thanked him, and put the sack on his back, and when anyone came too near him and wished to attack him, he said, "Cudgel out of the sack," and instantly the cudgel sprang out and beat the dust out of their coats and jackets, right on their backs, not waiting until they had taken them off, and it was done so quickly, that before anyone was aware, it was already his own turn.

In the evening the young turner reached the inn where his brothers had been cheated. He laid his sack on the table before him, and began to talk of all the wonderful things which he had seen in the world. "Yes," said he, "table-be-sets, gold-donkeys, and things of that kind -- extremely good things which I by no means despise -- but these are nothing in comparison with the treasure which I have obtained and am carrying about with me here in my sack."

The innkeeper pricked up his ears. "What in the world can that be?" he thought. "The sack must be filled with nothing but jewels. I ought to get them cheap too, for all good things come in threes."

When it was time for sleep, the guest stretched himself out on the bench, laying his sack beneath him for a pillow. When the innkeeper thought his guest was lying in a sound sleep, he went to him and pushed and pulled quite gently and carefully at the sack to see if he could possibly take it away and lay another in its place.

The turner, however, had been waiting for this for a long time, and now just as the innkeeper was about to give a hearty tug, he cried, "Cudgel out of the sack!"

Instantly the little cudgel came forth, and falling on the innkeeper gave him a sound thrashing. The innkeeper cried for mercy, but the louder he cried, the harder the cudgel beat the time on his back, until at length he fell to the ground exhausted.

Then the turner said, "If you do not give back the table-be-set and the gold-donkey, the dance shall start again from the beginning."

"Oh, no!" cried the innkeeper, quite humbly, "I will gladly give everything back, only make the accursed kobold creep back into the sack."

Then the journeyman said, "I will let mercy take the place of justice, but beware of getting into mischief again" Then he cried, "Cudgel into the sack," and let him rest.

Next morning the turner went home to his father with the table-be-set, and the gold-donkey. The tailor rejoiced when he saw him once more, and asked him likewise what he had learned in foreign parts. "Dear father," said he, "I have become a turner."

"A skilled trade," said the father. "What have you brought back with you from your travels?"

"A precious thing, dear father," replied the son, "a cudgel in the sack."

"What!" cried the father, "A cudgel! That's worth your trouble! From every tree you can cut yourself one."

"But not one like this, dear father. If I say, 'Cudgel out of the sack,' the cudgel springs out and leads anyone ill-disposed toward me a weary dance, and never stops until he lies on the ground and prays for fair weather. Look you, with this cudgel have I rescued the table-be-set and the gold-donkey which the thievish innkeeper took away from my brothers. Now let them both be sent for, and invite all our relatives. I will give them to eat and to drink, and will fill their pockets with gold as well."

The old tailor had not much confidence. Nevertheless he summoned the relatives together. Then the turner spread a cloth in the room and led in the gold-donkey, and said to his brother, "Now, dear brother, speak to him."

The miller said, "Bricklebrit," and instantly the gold pieces rained down on the cloth like a cloudburst, and the donkey did not stop until every one of them had so much that he could carry no more. (I can see by your face that you would have liked to be there as well.)

Then the turner brought out the little table and said, "Now, dear brother, speak to it." And scarcely had the joiner said, "Table be set," than it was spread and amply covered with the most exquisite dishes. Then such a meal took place as the good tailor had never yet known in his house, and the whole party of relatives stayed together until after nightfall, and were all merry and glad. The tailor locked his needle and thread and yardstick and pressing iron into a chest, and lived with his three sons in joy and splendor.

What, however, happened to the goat who was to blame for the tailor driving out his three sons? That I will tell you.

She was ashamed that she had a bald head, and ran to a fox's hole and crept into it. When the fox came home, he was met by two great eyes shining out of the darkness, and was terrified and ran away. A bear met him, and as the fox looked quite disturbed, he said, "What is the matter with you, Brother Fox, why do you look like that?"

"Ah," answered Redskin, "a fierce beast is in my cave and stared at me with its fiery eyes."

"We will soon drive him out," said the bear, and went with him to the cave and looked in, but when he saw the fiery eyes, fear seized on him likewise. He would have nothing to do with the furious beast, and took to his heels.

The bee met him, and as she saw that he was ill at ease, she said, "Bear, you are really pulling a very pitiful face. What has become of all your cheerfulness?"

"It is all very well for you to talk," replied the bear. "A furious beast with staring eyes is in Redskin's house, and we can't drive him out."

The bee said, "Bear, I pity you. I am a poor weak creature whom you would not turn aside to look at, but still, I believe I can help you." She flew into the fox's cave, lit on the goat's smoothly shorn head, and stung her so violently, that she sprang up, crying "meh, meh," and ran forth into the world as if mad, and to this hour no one knows where she has gone.

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Revised September 2, 2002.