folktales of Aarne-Thompson type 1066
translated and/or edited by
D. L. Ashliman
Some years ago, when driving past a gallows standing in a field at Melton Ross, an old man told me a curious tale. He said, "Some hundred of years ago, three or four boys were playing at hanging, and seeing who could hang the longest in a tree. Just as one of them got up and put the noose on, a three-legged hare (the devil, sir) came limping past, and off the other lads ran after him, and forgot their comrade. They very nearly caught the hare several times, but he got away. And when they came back the lad in the tree was dead. That's what the gallows was put up for."
In Damsdorf many years ago a number of boys were herding cattle in a field. One Sunday morning Farmer Bruhnke was suddenly overcome by an uncanny fear, and he rushed out to the field to see what the herders were doing. He had scarcely left the village when a little man came his way who asked him where he was going. Bruhnke told him, and the little man replied that he had just passed the boys, who were passing the time by playing a game.
Bruhnke was relieved, but as he took leave of the little man, he noticed that the latter had a hen's foot. He ran as fast as his feet would carry him to the herding place, but it was too late. The head of one of the herders was already dancing on the ground.
The boys had wanted to see how beheading went. To this end they built themselves an actual guillotine, fastening an old blade from a straw cutter onto a platform to serve as an ax. They all tried it, but just as they tied the last one to the block, a three-legged hare came limping by, and the boys ran after it, completely forgetting their comrade and the cattle. The prisoner tried to free himself of his bonds, but his motions released the blade, and the unfortunate boy paid for his game with his life.
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Revised July 22, 2000.