The Man Who Became Rich
through a
Dream

and other folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 1645
about
dreamers who seek treasure abroad
but find it at home

selected and edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 1999-2011


Contents

  1. The Ruined Man Who Became Rich Again Through a Dream (The 1001 Nights).

  2. A Man of Baghdad (Persia).

  3. Numan's Dream (Turkey).

  4. How the Junkman Traveled to Find Treasure in His Own Yard (Turkey).

  5. The Peddler of Swaffham (England).

  6. The Swaffham Legend (England).

  7. A Cobbler in Somersetshire (England).

  8. Upsall Castle (England).

  9. Dundonald Castle (Scotland).

  10. Themselves (Isle of Man).

  11. Dreaming Tim Jarvis (Ireland).

  12. The Dream of Treasure under the Bridge at Limerick (Ireland).

  13. The Dream of the Treasure on the Bridge (Germany).

  14. The Dream of Treasure (Austria).

  15. The Dream of the Zirl Bridge (Austria).

  16. The Church at Erritsø (Denmark).


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

The Ruined Man Who Became Rich Again Through a Dream

1001 Nights

There lived once in Baghdad a very wealthy man, who lost all his substance and became so poor, that he could only earn his living by excessive labor. One night, he lay down to sleep, dejected and sick at heart, and saw in a dream one who said to him, "Thy fortune is at Cairo; go thither and seek it."

So he set out for Cairo; but, when he arrived there, night overtook him and he lay down to sleep in a mosque. Presently, as fate would have it, a company of thieves entered the mosque and made their way thence into an adjoining house; but the people of the house, being aroused by the noise, awoke and cried out; whereupon the chief of the police came to their aid with his officers. The robbers made off; but the police entered the mosque and finding the man from Baghdad asleep there, laid hold of him and beat him with palm-rods, till he was well-nigh dead.

Then they cast him into prison, where he abode three days, after which the chief of the police sent for him and said to him, "Whence art thou?"

"From Baghdad," answered he.

"And what brought thee to Cairo?" asked the magistrate.

Quoth the Baghdadi, "I saw in a dream one who said to me, 'Thy fortune is at Cairo; go thither to it.' But when I came hither, the fortune that he promised me proved to be the beating I had of thee.

The chief of the police laughed, till he showed his jaw teeth, and said, "O man of little wit, thrice have I seen in a dream one who said to me, 'There is in Baghdad a house of such a fashion and situate so-and-so, in the garden whereof is a fountain and thereunder a great sum of money buried. Go thither and take it.' Yet I went not; but thou, of thy little wit, hast journeyed from place to place, on the faith of a dream, which was but an illusion of sleep."

Then he gave him money, saying, "This is to help thee back to thy native land."

Now the house he had described was the man's own house in Baghdad; so the latter returned thither, and digging underneath the fountain in his garden, discovered a great treasure; and [thus] God gave him abundant fortune.




A Man of Baghdad

Persia

An anecdote is told of a man of Baghdad who was in great distress, and who, after calling on God for aid, dreamt that a great treasure lay hid in a certain spot in Egypt. He accordingly journeyed to Egypt, and there fell into the hands of the patrol, who arrested him, and beat him severely on suspicion of being a thief.

Calling to mind the proverb that "falsehood is a mischief but truth a remedy," he determined to confess the true reason of his coming to Egypt, and accordingly told them all the particulars of his dream.

On hearing them they believed him, and one of them said, "You must be a fool to journey all this distance merely on the faith of a dream. I myself have many times dreamt of a treasure lying hid in a certain spot in Baghdad, but was never foolish enough to go there."

Now the spot in Baghdad named by this person was none other than the house of the poor man of Baghdad, and he straightway returned home, and there found the treasure.




Numan's Dream

Turkey

There was of old time in the city of Cairo a man called Numan, and he had a son. One day when this boy's time to learn to read was fully come he took him to a school and gave to a teacher. This Numan was exceeding poor, so that he followed the calling of a water seller, and in this way he supported his wife and child.

When the teacher had made the boy read through the Koran, he told the boy to fetch him his present. So the boy came and told his father.

His father said, "O son, the Koran is the Word of God Most High, we have nothing worthy of it; there is our camel with which I follow my trade of water seller, take it at least and give it to thy teacher."

The boy took the camel and brought it to his teacher. But that day his father could gain no money, and that night his wife and his son and himself remained hungry.

Now his wife was a great scold, and when she saw this thing she said, "Out on thee, husband, art thou mad? Where are thy senses gone? Thou hadst a camel, and by means of it we made shift to live, and now thou hast taken and given it in a present; would that that boy had not been born, or that thou hadst not sent him to read; what is he and what his reading?'

And she made so much noise and clamor that it cannot be described. Numan saw this thing, and he bowed down his head, and from the greatness of his distress he fell asleep.

In his dream a radiant elder, white-bearded and clad in white raiment, came and said, "O Numan, thy portion is in Damascus; go, take it."

Just then Numan awoke and he saw no one, and he arose and said, "Is the vision divine or is it satanic?"

While saying this, he again fell asleep, and again he saw it. Brief, the elder appeared three times to him that night in his dream and said, "Indeed is thy provision in Damascus; delay not, go to Damascus and take it."

When it was morning Numan spake to his wife of the vision; his wife said, "Thou gavest away our camel and didst leave us hungry, and now thou canst not abide our complaints and wishest to run off; I fear thou wilt leave thy child and me here and go off."

Numan said, "My life, I will not run off."

Quoth the woman, "I will not bide, I will not bide; where thou goest I too will go with thee."

Numan sware that he would not run off, and the woman was persuaded and let him go.

So Numan went forth; and one day he entered Damascus, and he went in through the gate of the Amawi Mosque. That day someone had baked bread in an oven and was taking it to his house; when he saw Numan opposite him and knew him to be a stranger, he gave him a loaf. Numan took it and ate it, and lay down through fatigue and fell asleep.

That elder again came to him in his vision and said, "0 Numan, thou hast received thy provision; delay not, go back to thy house."

Numan awoke and was amazed and said, "Then our bearing this much trouble and weariness was for a loaf."

And he returned. One day he entered his house, and the woman looked and saw there was nothing in his hand; and Numan told her.

When the woman learned that Numan had brought nothing, she turned and said, "Out on thee, husband, thou art become mad, thou art a worthless man; had thy senses been in thy head, thou hadst not given away our camel, the source of our support, and left us thus friendless and hungry and thirsty; not a day but thou doest some mad thing."

And she complained much. And Numan's heart was broken by the weariness of the road and the complaining of the woman, and he fell asleep.

Again in his vision that elder came and said, "O Numan, delay not, arise, dig close by thee, thy provision is there, take it."

But Numan heeded not. Three times the elder appeared to him in his dream and said, "Thy provision is indeed close by thee; arise, take it."

So Numan, unable to resist, arose and took a pick-axe and shovel and began to dig where his head had lain.

The woman made mock of Numan and said, "Out on thee, man; the half of the treasure revealed to thee is mine."

Numan replied, "So be it; but I am weary, come thou and dig a bit that I may take breath a little."

The woman said, "Thou art not weary now; when thou art weary I will help."

Numan went on: and when he had dug as deep as half the height of a man, a marble slab appeared. The woman saw the marble and, saying in herself, "This is not empty," she asked the pick-axe from Numan.

Numan said, "Have patience a little longer."

The woman said, "Thou art weary."

Numan replied, "Now am I rested."

Quoth the woman, "I am sorry for thee, thou dost not know kindness."

While thus talking they saw that one side of that marble was pierced and that there was a hole. Thereupon grew Numan eager, and he pulled the marble from its place, and below it was a well and a ladder. He caught hold of the ladder and went down and saw a royal vase filled full with red gold, and he called out to the woman, "Come here."

Thereupon the woman descended likewise and saw the vase of gold, and she threw her arms round Numan's neck and said, "O my noble little husband! Blessed be God, for thy luck and thy fortune."

Numan took up some of these sequins, and the woman said, "What wilt thou do?"

Numan replied, "I shall take these to our king and tell him that there is a vase full of them, and that an elder came to me in my dream and told me, and I shall say, 'Take them all; and, if thou wilt, bestow on me a few of them that I and my wife may eat and drink, and in our comfort may bless and praise thee.'"

Quoth the woman, "My life, husband, speak not to our king now, so that all of them may remain ours and we shall have ease of heart."

Numan listened not, but took them and laid them before the king.

The king said, "What is this?"

Numan answered, "O king, I found them in thy ground." And he told of the elder's coming in his dream and of there being a vase full of them, and said, "O king, send a slave of thine, and he will return; and I shall accept the king's alms, whatever it may be."

The king said to a scribe, "Come, read this, let us see from whose time it has remained."

When the scribe took the sequin into his hand he saw that there was written on the one side of it, "This is an alms from before God to Numan." Then the scribe turned over the other side and saw that it was thus written on that side, "By reason of his respect toward the Koran."

When the scribe had read the inscriptions to the king, the king said, "What is thy name?"

He replied, "My name is Numan."

The king caused all these sequins to be read, and the writing on the whole of them was the same.

The king said, "Go ye and bring some from the bottom of the vase."

And they went and brought some from the bottom of the vase, and they read them, and they all bore the inscription of the first. And the king wondered and said, "Go, poor man, God Most High has given it thee, on my part too be it lawful for thee; come, take these sequins also."

So Numan took them and went to his house, and he took out the sequins that were in the vase; and he enjoyed delight in the world until he died, and in the hereafter he attained a lofty station. And all this felicity was for his respect to the glorious Koran.




How the Junkman Traveled to Find Treasure in His Own Yard

Turkey

In one of the towers overlooking the Sea of Marmora and skirting the ancient city of Stamboul, there lived an old junkman, who earned a precarious livelihood in gathering cinders and useless pieces of iron, and selling them to smiths.

Often did he moralize on the sad Kismet that had reduced him to the task of daily laboring for his bread to make a shoe, perhaps for an ass. Surely he, a true Muslim, might at least be permitted to ride the ass. His eternal longing often found satisfaction in passing his hours of sleep in dreams of wealth and luxury. But with the dawning of the day came reality and increased longing.

Often did he call on the spirit of sleep to reverse matters, but in vain; with the rising of the sun began the gathering of the cinders and iron. One night he dreamt that he begged this nocturnal visitor to change his night to day, and the spirit said to him, "Go to Egypt, and it shall be so."

This encouraging phrase haunted him by day and inspired him by night. So persecuted was he with the thought that when his wife said to him, from the door, "Have you brought home any bread?" he would reply, "No, I have not gone; I will go tomorrow; " thinking she had asked him, " Have you gone to Egypt?"

At last, when friends and neighbors began to pity poor Ahmet, for that was his name, as a man on whom the hand of Allah was heavily laid, removing his intelligence, he one morning left his house, saying, "I go! I go! to the land of wealth!" And he left his wife wringing her hands in despair, while the neighbors tried to comfort her. Poor Ahmet went straight on board a boat which he had been told was bound for Iskender (Alexandria), and assured the captain that he was summoned thither, and that he was bound to take him. Half-witted and mad persons being more holy than others, Ahmet was conveyed to Iskender.

Arriving in Iskender, Hadji Ahmet roamed far and wide, proceeding as far as Cairo, in search of the luxuries he had enjoyed at Constantinople when in the land of Morpheus, which he had been promised to enjoy in the sunshine, if he came to Egypt. Alas! for Hadji Ahmet; the only bread he had to eat was that which was given him by sympathizing humanity. Time sped on, sympathy was growing tired of expending itself on Hadji Ahmet, and his crusts of bread were few and far between.

Wearied of life and suffering, he decided to ask Allah to let him die, and wandering out to the pyramids he solicited the stones to have pity and fall on him. It happened that a Turk heard this prayer, and said to him, "Why so miserable, father? Has your soul been so strangled that you prefer its being dashed out of your body, to its remaining the prescribed time in bondage?"

"Yes, my son," said Hadji Ahmet. "Far away in Stamboul, with the help of God, I managed as a junkman to feed my wife and myself; but here am I, in Egypt, a stranger, alone and starving, with possibly my wife already dead of starvation, and all this through a dream."

"Alas! Alas! my father! that you at your age should be tempted to wander so far from home and friends, because of a dream. Why, were I to obey my dreams, I would at this present moment be in Stamboul, digging for a treasure that lies buried under a tree. I can even now, although I have never been there, describe where it is. In my mind's eye I see a wall, a great wall, that must have been built many years ago, and supporting or seeming to support this wall are towers with many corners, towers that are round, towers that are square, and others that have smaller towers within them. In one of these towers, a square one, there live an old man and woman, and close by the tower is a large tree, and every night when I dream of the place, the old man tells me to dig and disclose the treasure. But, father, I am not such a fool as to go to Stamboul and seek to verify this. It is an oft-repeated dream and nothing more. See what you have been reduced to by coming so far."

"Yes," said Hadji Ahmet, "it is a dream and nothing more, but you have interpreted it. Allah be praised, you have encouraged me; I will return to my home." And Hadji Ahmet and the young stranger parted, the one grateful that it had pleased Allah to give him the power to revive and encourage a drooping spirit, and the other grateful to Allah that when he had despaired of life a stranger should come and give him the interpretation of his dream. He certainly had wandered far and long to learn that the treasure was in his own garden.

Hadji Ahmet in due course, much to the astonishment of both wife and neighbors, again appeared upon the scene not a much changed man. In fact, he was the cinder and iron gatherer of old.

To all questions as to where he was and what he had been doing, he would answer, "A dream sent me away, and a dream brought me back."

And the neighbors would say, "Truly he must be blessed."

One night Hadji Ahmet went to the tree, provided with spade and pick, that he had secured from an obliging neighbor. After digging a short time a heavy case was brought to view, in which he found gold, silver, and precious jewels of great value. Hadji Ahmet replaced the case and earth and returned to bed, much lamenting that it had pleased God to furnish women, more especially his wife, with a long tongue, long hair, and very short wits. "Alas!" he thought, "If I tell my wife, I may be hung as a robber, for it is against the laws of nature for a woman to keep a secret."

Yet, becoming more generous when thinking of the years of toil and hardship she had shared with him, he decided to try and see if, by chance, his wife was not an exception to other women. Who knows, she might keep the secret. To test her, at no risk to himself and the treasure, he conceived a plan.

Crawling from his bed, he sallied forth and bought, found, or stole an egg. This egg on the following morning he showed to his wife, and said to her, "Alas! I fear I am not as other men, for evidently in the night I laid this egg; and, wife mine, if the neighbors hear of this, your husband, the long-suffering Hadji Ahmet, will be bastinadoed, bowstrung, and burned to death. Ah, truly, my soul is strangled."

And without another word Hadji Ahmet, with a sack on his shoulder, went forth to gather the cast-off shoes of horse, ox, or ass, wondering if his wife would prove an exception in this, as she had in many other ways, to other women.

In the evening he returned, heavily laden with his finds, and as he neared home he heard rumors, ominous rumors, that a certain Hadji Ahmet, who had been considered a holy man, had done something that was unknown in the history of man, even in the history of hens: that he had laid a dozen eggs.

Needless to add that Hadji Ahmet did not tell his wife of the treasure, but daily went forth with his sack to gather iron and cinders, and invariably found, when separating his finds of the day, in company with his wife, at first one, and then more gold and silver pieces, and now and then a precious stone.




The Peddler of Swaffham

England

Constant tradition says that there lived in former times in Soffham (Swaffham), alias Sopham, in Norfolk, a certain peddler, who dreamed that if he went to London Bridge, and stood there, he should hear very joyful news, which he at first slighted, but afterwards, his dream being doubled and trebled upon him, he resolved to try the issue of it, and accordingly went to London, and stood on the bridge there two or three days, looking about him, but heard nothing that might yield him any comfort.

At last it happened that a shopkeeper there, hard by, having noted his fruitless standing, seeing that he neither sold any wares nor asked any alms, went to him and most earnestly begged to know what he wanted there, or what his business was; to which the peddler honestly answered that he had dreamed that if he came to London and stood there upon the bridge he should hear good news; at which the shopkeeper laughed heartily, asking him if he was such a fool as to take a journey on such a silly errand, adding, "I'll tell you, country fellow, last night I dreamed that I was at Sopham, in Norfolk, a place utterly unknown to me where I thought that behind a peddler's house in a certain orchard, and under a great oak tree, if I dug I should find a vast treasure! Now think you," says he, "that I am such a fool to take such a long journey upon me upon the instigation of a silly dream? No, no. I'm wiser. Therefore, good fellow, learn wit from me, and get you home, and mind your business."

The peddler observing his words, what he had said he dreamed, and knowing they concerned him, glad of such joyful news, went speedily home, and dug and found a prodigious great treasure, with which he grew exceeding rich; and Soffham (Church) being for the most part fallen down, he set on workmen and rectified it most sumptuously, at his own charges; and to this day there is his statue therein, but in stone, with his pack at his back and his dog at his heels; and his memory is also preserved by the same form or picture in most of the old glass windows, taverns, and alehouses of that town unto this day.




The Swaffham Legend

England

Swaffham Church, noted for its architectural beauties, has furnished material for a legend worth recording. According to tradition, the entire expense of erecting this noble edifice was defrayed by a tinker or pedlar residing in the parish named John Chapman, who, if the voice of the legend is to be believed, was marvelously provided for by Divine Providence.

It is said that this tinker dreamed that if he went to London Bridge he would, to use the phraseology of a certain class of advertisements, "hear of something greatly to his advantage."

Nothing daunted by the difficulties of so long a journey five hundred years ago, when, not to utter a hint of railroads, even stage coaches had not been invented, the tinker heeded the voice of his good spirit, and went to London. After standing about the bridge for several hours -- some versions of the legend mention the traditional three days -- a man accosted him, and invited him to unfold the nature of his errand.

With candor quite equal to his faith, John Chapman replied that he came there on the "vain errand of a dream."

Now it appears that the stranger was a dreamer also, but, unlike the tinker, he was neither superstitious nor imprudent. "Alas! good friend," said he, "if I had heeded dreams, I might have proved myself as very a fool as thou art, for 'tis not long since I dreamt that at a place called Swaffham in Norfolk dwelt John Chapman, a pedlar, who hath a tree at the back of his house, under which is buried a pot of money."

John Chapman, of course, on hearing this hastened home, dug under his tree, and very soon found the treasure. But not all of it. The box that he found had a Latin inscription on the lid, which of course John Chapman could not decipher. But though unlettered, he was not without craftiness and a certain kind of wisdom, so in the hope that some unsuspicious wayfarer might read the inscriptiou in his hearing, he placed it in his window.

It was not long before he heard some youths turn the Latin sentence into an English couplet:

Under me doth lie
Another much richer than I.
Again he went to work, digging deeper than before, and found a much richer treasure, than the former.

With a heart overflowing with gratitude for his good fortune, the tinker shortly afterwards, when the inhabitants of Swaffham wished to re-edify their church, astonished the whole town by offering to defray the expense of a large portion of the works.

On the ends of the oaken bench nearest the pulpit, there is the carved effigy of John Chapman on one side and that of his dog on the other, and this is sufficient to establish the truth of the legend in the minds of the credulous of the district.




A Cobbler in Someretshire

England

A cobbler in Somersetshire dreamt that a person told him that if he would go to London Bridge he would meet with something to his advantage. He dreamt the same the next night, and again the night after. He then determined to go to London Bridge, and walked thither accordingly.

When arrived there, he walked about the whole of the first day without anything occurring; the next day was passed in a similar manner. He resumed his place the third day, and walked about till evening, when, giving it up as hopeless, he determined to leave London, and return home.

At this moment a stranger came up and said to him, "I have seen you for the last three days walking up and down this bridge; may I ask if you are waiting for anyone?"

The answer was, "No."

"Then, what is your object in staying here?"

The cobbler then frankly told his reason for being there, and the dream that had visited him three successive nights.

The stranger then advised him to go home again to his work, and no more pay any attention to dreams. "I myself," he said "had about six months ago a dream. I dreamt three nights together that, if I would go into Somersetshire, in an orchard, under an apple tree, I should find a pot of gold; but I paid no attention to my dream, and have remained quietly at my business."

It immediately occurred to the cobbler that the stranger described his own orchard and his own apple tree. He immediately returned home, dug under the apple tree, and found a pot of gold.

After this increase of fortune, he was enabled to send his son to school, where the boy learnt Latin. When he came home for the holidays, he one day examined the pot which had contained the gold, on which was some writing. He said, "Father, I can show you what I have learnt at school is of some use."

He then translated the Latin inscription on the pot thus: "Look under, and you will find better."

They did look under, and a larger quantity of gold was found.




Upsall Castle

England

Many years ago there resided in the village of Upsall a man who dreamed three nights successively that if he went to London Bridge he would hear of something greatly to his advantage. He went, traveling the whole distance from Upsall to London on foot. Arrived there, he took his station on the bridge, where he waited till his patience was nearly exhausted, and the idea that he had acted a very foolish part began to arise in his mind.

At length he was accosted by a Quaker, who kindly inquired what he was waiting there so long for. After some hesitation, he told his dreams. The Quaker laughed at his simplicity, and told him that he had had that night a very curious dream himself, which was, that if he went and dug under a certain bush in Upsall Castle in Yorkshire, he would find a pot of gold; but he did not know where Upsall was, and inquired of the countryman if he knew, who, seeing some advantage in secrecy, pleaded ignorance of the locality; and then, thinking his business in London was completed, returned immediately home, dug beneath the bush, and there he found a pot filled with gold, and on the cover an inscription in a language he did not understand.

The pot and cover were, however, preserved at the village inn, where one day a bearded stranger like a Jew made his appearance, saw the pot, and read the inscription, the plain English of which was:

Look lower, where this stood
Is another twice as good.

The man of Upsall, hearing this, resumed his spade, returned to the bush, dug deeper, and found another pot filled with gold far more valuable than the first. Encouraged by this, he dug deeper still, and found another yet more valuable.

This story has been related of other places, but Upsall appears to have as good a claim to this yielding of hidden treasure as the best of them. Here we have the constant tradition of the inhabitants, and the identical bush still remains beneath which the treasure was found -- an elder near the northwest corner of the ruins.




Dundonald Castle

Scotland

In Ayrshire, the following rhyme is prevalent, and is probably very old:

Donald Din
Built his house without a pin,

alluding to Dundonald Castle, the ancient seat of King Robert II, and now the last remaining property in Ayrshire of the noble family who take their title from it. According to tradition, it was built by a hero named Donald Din, or Din Donald, and constructed entirely of stone, without the use of wood, a supposition countenanced by the appearance of the building, which consists of three distinct stories, arched over with strong stonework, the roof of one forming the floor of another.

Donald, the builder, was originally a poor man, but had the faculty of dreaming lucking dreams. Upon one occasion he dreamed, thrice in one night, that if he were to go to London Bridge, he would become a wealthy man. He went accordingly, saw a man looking over the parapet of the bridge, whom he accosted courteously, and, after a little conversation, entrusted with the secret of the occasion of his coming to London Bridge.

The stranger told him that he had made a very foolish errand, for he himself had once had a similar vision, which direct him to go to a certain spot in Ayrshire, in Scotland, where he would find a vast treasure, and, for his part, he had never once thought of obeying the injunction.

From his description of the spot, the sly Scotsman at once perceived that the treasure in question must be concealed in no other place than his own humble kail-yard [cabbage patch] at home, to which he immediately repaired, in full expectation of finding it. Nor was he disappointed; for, after destroying many good and promising cabbages, and completely cracking credit with his wife, who esteemed him mad, he found a large potful of gold coin, with the proceeds of which he built a stout castle for himself, and became the founder of a flourishing family.




Themselves

Isle of Man

There was a man once in the Isle of Man who met one of the Little Fellows, and the Little Fellow told him that if he would go to London Bridge and dig, he would find a fortune. So he went, and when he got there he began to dig, and another man came to him and said, "What are you doing?"

"One of Themselves told me to come to London Bridge and I would get a fortune," says he.

And the other man said, "I dreamed that I was back in the lil' islan' an' I was at a house with a thorn tree at the chimley of it, and if I would dig there I would find a fortune. But I wouldn' go, for it was only foolishness."

Then he told him so plainly about the house that the first man knew it was his own, so he went back to the Island. When he got home he dug under the little thorn tree by the chimney and he found an iron box. He opened the box, and it was full of gold, and there was a letter in it, but he could not read the letter because it was in a foreign language. So he put it in the smithy window and challenged any scholar who went by to read it. None of them could, but at last one big boy said it was Latin and it meant, "Dig again and you'll find another."

So the man dug again under the thorn tree, and what did he find but another iron box full of gold! And from that day till the day of his death, that man used to open the front door before going to bed, and call out, "My blessing with the Little Fellows!"




Dreaming Tim Jarvis

Ireland

Timothy Jarvis was a decent, honest, quiet, hard-working man, as every body knows that knows Balledehob.

Now Balledehob is a small place, about forty miles west of Cork. It is situated on the summit of a hill, and yet it is in a deep valley; for on all sides there are lofty mountains that rise one above another in barren grandeur, and seem to look down with scorn upon the little busy village, which they surround with their idle and unproductive magnificence. Man and beast have alike deserted them to the dominion of the eagle, who soars majestically over them. On the highest of those mountains there is a small, and as is commonly believed, unfathomable lake, the only inhabitant of which is a huge serpent, who has been sometimes seen to stretch its enormous head above the waters, and frequently is heard to utter a noise which shakes the very rocks to their foundation.

But, as I was saying, everybody knew Tim Jarvis to be a decent, honest, quiet, hard-working man, who was thriving enough to be able to give his daughter Nelly a fortune of ten pounds; and Tim himself would have been snug enough besides, but that he loved the drop sometimes. However, he was seldom backward on rent day.

His ground was never distrained but twice, and both times through a small bit of a mistake; and his landlord had never but once to say to him, "Tim Jarvis, you're all behind, Tim, like the cow's tail."

Now it so happened that, being heavy in himself, through the drink, Tim took to sleeping, and the sleep set Tim dreaming, and he dreamed all night, and night after night, about crocks full of gold and other precious stones; so much so, that Norah Jarvis his wife could get no good of him by day, and have little comfort with him by night. The grey dawn of the morning would see Tim digging away in a bog-hole, maybe, or rooting under some old stone walls like a pig. At last he dreamt that he found a mighty great crock of gold and silver, and where, do you think? Every step of the way upon London Bridge, itself! Twice Tim dreamt it, and three times Tim dreamt the same thing; and at last he made up his mind to transport himself, and go over to London, in Pat Mahoney's coaster; and so he did!

Well, he got there, and found the bridge without much difficulty. Every day he walked up and down looking for the crock of gold, but never the find did he find it. One day, however, as he was looking over the bridge into the water, a man, or something like a man, with great black whiskers, like a Hessian, and a black cloak that reached down to the ground, taps him on the shoulder, and says he, "Tim Jarvis, do you see me?"

"Surely I do, sir," said Tim; wondering that anybody should know him in the strange place.

"Tim," says he, "what is it brings you here in foreign parts, so far away from your own cabin by the mine of grey copper at Balledehob?"

"Please your honor," says Tim, "I'm come to seek my fortune."

"You're a fool for your pains, Tim, if that's all," remarked the stranger in the black cloak; "this is a big place to seek one's fortune in, to be sure, but it's not so easy to find it."

Now, Tim, after debating a long time with himself, and considering, in the first place, that it might be the stranger who was to find the crock of gold for him; and in the next, that the stranger might direct him where to find it, came to the resolution of telling him all.

"There's many a one like me comes here seeking their fortunes," said Tim.

"True,'' said the stranger.

"But," continued Tim, looking up, "the body and bones of the cause for myself leaving the woman, and Nelly, and the boys, and traveling so far, is to look for a crock of gold that I'm told is lying somewhere hereabouts."

"And who told you that, Tim?"

"Why, then, sir, that's what I can't tell myself rightly; only I dreamt it."

"Ho, ho! is that all, Tim?" said the stranger, laughing; "I had a dream myself; and I dreamed that I found a crock of gold, in the fort field, on Jerry Driscoll's ground at Balledehob; and by the same token, the pit where it lay was close to a large furze bush, all full of yellow blossom."

Tim knew Jerry Driscoll's ground well; and, moreover, he knew the fort field as well as he knew his own potato garden; he was certain, too, of the very furze bush at the north end of it. So, swearing a bitter big oath, says he, "By all the crosses in a yard of check, I always thought there was money in that same field!"

The moment he rapped out the oath the stranger disappeared, and Tim Jarvis, wondering at all that had happened to him, made the best of his way back to Ireland. Norah, as may well be supposed, had no very warm welcome for her runaway husband -- the dreaming blackguard, as she called him -- and so soon as she set eyes upon him, all the blood of her body in one minute was into her knuckles to be at him; but Tim, after his long journey, looked so cheerful and so happy-like, that she could not find it in her heart to give him the first blow!

He managed to pacify his wife by two or three broad hints about a new cloak and a pair of shoes, that, to speak honestly, were much wanting to her to go to chapel in; and decent clothes for Nelly to go to the patron with her sweetheart, and brogues for the boys, and some corduroy for himself.

"It wasn't for nothing," says Tim, "I went to foreign parts all the ways; and you'll see what'll come out of it -- mind my words."

A few days afterwards Tim sold his cabin and his garden, and bought the fort field of Jerry Driscoll, that had nothing in it, but was full of thistles, and old stones, and blackberry bushes; and all the neighbors -- as well they might -- thought he was cracked!

The first night that Tim could summon courage to begin his work, he walked off to the field with his spade upon his shoulder; and away he dug all night by the side of the furze bush, till he came to a big stone. He struck his spade against it, and he heard a hollow sound; but as the morning had begun to dawn, and the neighbors would be going out to their work, Tim, not wishing to have the thing talked about, went home to the little hovel, where Norah and the children were huddled together under a heap of straw; for he had sold everything he had in the world to purchase Driscoll's field, that was said to be "the back-bone of the world, picked by the devil."

It is impossible to describe the epithets and reproaches bestowed by the poor woman on her unlucky husband for bringing her into such a way. Epithets and reproaches which Tim had but one mode of answering, as thus: "Norah, did you see e'er a cow you'd like?" -- or, "Norah, dear, hasn't Poll Deasy a featherbed to sell?" -- or, "Norah, honey, wouldn't you like your silver buckles as big as Mrs. Doyle's?"

As soon as night came Tim stood beside the furze bush spade in hand. The moment he jumped down into the pit he heard a strange rumbling noise under him, and so, putting his ear against the great stone, he listened, and overheard a discourse that made the hair on his head stand up like bulrushes, and every limb tremble.

"How shall we bother Tim?" said one voice.

"Take him to the mountain, to be sure, and make him a toothful for the old serpent; 'tis long since he has had a good meal," said another voice.

Tim shook like a potato blossom in a storm.

"No," said a third voice; "plunge him in the bog, neck and heels."

Tim was a dead man, barring the breath.

"Stop!" said a fourth; but Tim heard no more, for Tim was dead entirely. In about an hour, however, the life came back into him, and he crept home to Norah.

When the next night arrived the hopes of the crock of gold got the better of his fears, and takings care to arm himself with a bottle of potheen, away he went to the field. Jumping into the pit, he took a little sup from the bottle to keep his heart up -- he then took a big one -- and then, with desperate wrench, he wrenched up the stone. All at once, up rushed a blast of wind, wild and fierce, and down fell Tim -- down, down, and down he went -- until he thumped upon what seemed to be, for all the world, like a floor of sharp pins, which made him bellow out in earnest. Then he heard a whisk and a hurra, and instantly voices beyond number cried out:

Welcome, Tim Jarvis, dear!

Welcome, down here!"

Though Tim's teeth chattered like magpies with the fright, he continued to make answer: "I'm he-he-har-ti-ly ob-ob-liged to-to you all, gen-gentlemen, fo-for your civility to-to a poor stranger like myself."

But though he had heard all the voices about him, he could see nothing, the place was so dark and so lonesome in itself for want of the light. Then something pulled Tim by the hair of his head, and dragged him, he did not know how far, but he knew he was going faster than the wind, for he heard it behind him, trying to keep up with him, and it could not.

On, on, on, he went, till all at once, and suddenly, he was stopped, and somebody came up to him, and said, "Well, Tim Jarvis, and how do you like your ride?"

"Mighty well! I thank your honor," said Tim; "and 'twas a good beast I rode, surely!"

There was a great laugh at Tim's answer; and then there was a whispering, and a great cugger mugger, and coshering; and at last a pretty little bit of a voice said, "Shut your eyes, and you'll see, Tim."

"By my word, then," said Tim, "that is the queer way of seeing; but I'm not the man to gainsay you, so I'll do as you bid me, any how."

Presently he felt a small warm hand rubbed over his eyes with an ointment, and in the next minute he saw himself in the middle of thousands of little men and women, not half so high as his brogue, that were pelting one another with golden guineas and lily-white thirteens, as if they were so much dirt.

The finest dressed and the biggest of them all went up to Tim, and says he, "Tim Jarvis, because you are a decent, honest, quiet, civil, well-spoken man," says he, "and know how to behave yourself in strange company, we've altered our minds about you, and will find a neighbor of yours that will do just as well to give to the old serpent."

"Oh, then, long life to you, sir!" said Tim, "and there's no doubt of that."

"But what will you say, Tim," inquired the little fellow, "if we fill your pockets with these yellow boys? What will you say, Tim, and what will you do with them?"

"Your honor's honor, and your honor's glory," answered Tim, "I'll not be able to say my prayers for one month with thanking you -- and indeed I've enough to do with them. I'd make a grand lady, you see, at once of Norah -- she has been a good wife to me. We'll have a nice bit of pork for dinner; and, maybe, I'd have a glass, or maybe two glasses; or sometimes, if 'twas with a friend, or acquaintance, or gossip, you know, three glasses every day; and I'd build a new cabin; and I'd have a fresh egg every morning, myself, for my breakfast; and I'd snap my fingers at the 'squire, and beat his hounds, if they'd come coursing through my fields; and I'd have a new plow; and Norah, your honor, should have a new cloak, and the boys should have shoes and stockings as well as Biddy Leary's brats -- that's my sister what was -- and Nelly should marry Bill Long of Affadown; and, your honor, I'd have some corduroy for myself to make breeches, and a cow, and a beautiful coat with shining buttons, and a horse to ride, or maybe two. I'd have every thing," said Tim, "in life, good or bad, that is to be got for love or money -- hurra-whoop! -- and that's what I'd do."

"Take care, Tim," said the little fellow, "your money would not go faster than it came, with your hurra-whoop."

But Tim heeded not this speech: heaps of gold were around him, and he filled and filled away as hard as he could, his coat and his waistcoat and his breeches pockets; and he thought himself very clever, moreover, because he stuffed some of the guineas into his brogues. When the little people perceived this, they cried out, "Go home, Tim Jarvis, go home, and think yourself a lucky man."

"I hope, gentlemen," said he, "we won't part for good and all; but maybe ye'll ask me to see you again, and to give you a fair and square account of what I've done with your money."

To this there was no answer, only another shout, "Go home, Tim Jarvis; go home; fair play is a jewel; but shut your eyes, or ye'll never see the light of day again."

Tim shut his eyes, knowing now that was the way to see clearly; and away he was whisked as before -- away, away he went 'till he again stopped all of a sudden.

He rubbed his eyes with his two thumbs -- and where was he? -- Where, but in the very pit in the field that was Jer Driscoll's, and his wife Norah above with a big stick ready to beat "her dreaming blackguard." Tim roared out to the woman to leave the life in him, and put his hands in his pockets to show her the gold; but he pulled out nothing only a handful of small stones mixed with yellow furze blossoms. The bush was under him, and the great flag-stone that he had wrenched up, as he thought, was lying, as if it was never stirred, by his side: the whiskey bottle was drained to the last drop; and the pit was just as his spade had made it.

Tim Jarvis, vexed, disappointed, and almost heart-broken, followed his wife home; and, strange to say, from that night he left off drinking, and dreaming, and delving in bog-holes, and rooting in old caves. He took again to his hard working habits, and was soon able to buy back his little cabin and former potato garden, and to get all the enjoyment he anticipated from the fairy gold.

Give Tim one or, at most, two glasses of whiskey punch (and neither friend, acquaintance, or gossip can make him take more), and he. will relate the story to you much better than you have it here. Indeed it is worth going to Balledehob to hear him tell it.

He always pledges himself to the truth of every word with his forefingers crossed; and when he comes to speak of the loss of his guineas, he never fails to console himself by adding: "If they stayed with me I wouldn't have luck with them, sir; and father O'Shea told me 'twas as well for me they were changed, for if they hadn't, they'd have burned holes in my pocket, and got out that way."

I shall never forget his solemn countenance, and the deep tones of his warning voice, when he concluded his tale, by telling me, that the next day after his ride with the fairies, Mick Dowling was missing, and he believed him to be given to the serpent in his place, as he had never been heard of since. "The blessing of the saints be between all good men and harm," was the concluding sentence of Tim Jarvis's narrative, as he flung the remaining drops from his glass upon the green sward.




The Dream of Treasure under the Bridge at Limerick

Ireland

I heard of a man from Mayo went to Limerick, and walked two or three times across the bridge there. And a cobbler that was sitting on the bridge took notice of him, and knew by the look of him and by the clothes he wore that he was from Mayo, and asked him what was he looking for. And he said he had a dream that under the bridge of Limerick he'd find treasure.

"Well," says the cobbler, "I had a dream myself about finding treasure, but in another sort of a place than this." And he described the place where he dreamed it was, and where was that, but in the Mayo man's own garden.

So he went home again, and sure enough, there he found a pot of gold with no end of riches in it. But I never heard that the cobbler found anything under the bridge at Limerick.




The Dream of the Treasure on the Bridge

Germany

Some time ago a man dreamed that he should go to the bridge at Regensburg where he would become rich. He went there, and after spending some fourteen days there a wealthy merchant, who wondered why was spending so much time on the bridge, approached him and asked him what he was doing there.

The latter answered, "I dreamed that I was to go to the bridge at Regensburg, where I would become rich."

"What?" said the merchant, "You came here because of a dream? Dreams are fantasies and lies. Why I myself dreamed that there is a large pot of gold buried beneath that large tree over there." And he pointed to the tree. "But I paid no attention, for dreams are fantasies."

Then the visitor went and dug beneath the tree, where he found a great treasure that made him rich, and thus his dream was confirmed.

Agricola adds: "I have often heard this from my dear father."

This legend is also told about other cities, for example about Lübeck (or Kempen), where a baker's servant dreams that he will find a treasure on the bridge. Upon going there and walking back and forth, a beggar speaks to him, telling how he has dreamed that a treasure lies beneath a linden tree in the churchyard at Möln (or at Dordrecht beneath a bush) but that he is not about to go there.

The baker's servant answers, "Yes, dreams are often nothing but foolishness. I will give my bridge-treasure to you."

With that he departed and dug up the treasure from beneath the linden tree.




The Dream of Treasure

Austria

On the Tyrolean border near Wopnitz there lived a peasant from Krain whose name was Japnig. His domestic situation had fallen to the point that he feared his few remaining goods would be confiscated by the authorities.

One night he dreamed he should go to Stall in the Möll Valley, and, according to the dream, he would find a treasure on his way there. Japnig found this dream very striking, so he set forth immediately. Underway he met an old invalid on a bridge, who, as is customary asked him how far he was going.

"To Stall," answered the peasant, then added, "And you?"

"I don't know" answered the invalid, "I have neither home nor money."

This all-too-frequent topic of conversation gave the two common ground, and they complained to one another about their hard times. Finally the peasant told the old soldier about his dream.

The latter laughed into his face and said, "Anyone can dream about treasure. I myself have dreamed three times that there was a treasure in the hearth of someone named Japnig, or was it Havenot -- have you ever heard such a horrible name? What good is this to me? Do I even know if such a fellow exists? Dreams are foam."

Japnig was right startled to hear his name. He became still as a mouse, then said farewell to the soldier.

He did not go to Stall, but after a small detour returned immediately to his home in Wopnitz, where he forthwith began to tear apart his hearth. His wife thought that he had gone mad, but mortared into the hearth he found a pot filled with thalers, which solved all of Japnig's difficulties.

According to another legend, Japnig walked all the way to the bridge at Prague where he met the old soldier. That would have been a great distance, but this frequently told legend always features a bridge, with the favorites being at Innsbruck, Regensburg, or Prague.




The Dream of the Zirl Bridge

Austria

It was not going well for the peasant of G. in Rinn, and his shoes pinched him on all sides. Once he dreamed that he should go to the bridge at Zirl where he would discover something important. After having the same dream the following night he shared this information with his wife and declared that he wanted to go to Zirl.

But his old woman would not allow this, saying, "Why do you want to waste an entire day and wear out your shoes for nothing? You will not have as much as a green twig to show for yourself!"

So he remained unhappily at home, but behold, the next night he had exactly the same dream again. He arose very early and hurried to Zirl. At sunrise he was already standing by the bridge there. After walking back and forth for a quarter hour, he was approached by a goat herder who wished him a good morning, then drove his herd onward. He did not see anyone for a long time after that. Noon finally arrived, and hunger was tormenting him. He took a piece of Turkish bread [a confection made from peanuts] from his pocket and let it suffice, for he was not going to leave the bridge for any price. But however long he waited, no one came to him.

He was losing his patience, and he was irritated by the thought of how his wife would laugh at him and ridicule him for his gullibility. But he nevertheless held out, until finally the sun was about to set, and the goat herder returned with his herd. He was more that a little surprised to see that the man from Rinn was still there, and he asked him why he had been waiting there so long.

"You see," said the peasant, "I dreamed that if I were to go to the Zirl bridge that I would discover something important."

"Indeed!" answered the goat herder, laughing. "And I dreamed that if I were to go to G. in Rinn that I would find a pot of gold beneath the hearth."

The man from Rinn had now heard enough. He ran home to see if the herder's words were true. Arriving home late in the evening, he secretly dismantled his hearth at once, and he did indeed find a pot completely filled with gold. Thus he became the richest peasant far and wide. (Zillertal)




The Church at Erritsø

Denmark

Many years ago there lived at Erritsø, near Fredericia, a very poor man, who one day said, "If I had a large sum of money, I would build a church for the parish."

The following night he dreamed that if he went to the south bridge at Veile, he would make his fortune. He followed the intimation, and strolled backwards and forwards on the bridge, until it grew late, but without seeing any sign of his good fortune. When just on the point of returning, he was accosted by an officer, who asked him why he had spent the whole day so on the bridge.

He told him his dream, on hearing which the officer related to him in return, that he also, on the preceding night, had dreamed, that in a barn at Erritsø, belonging to a man whose name he mentioned, a treasure lay buried. But the name he mentioned was the man's own, who prudently kept his own counsel, hastened home, and found the treasure in his barn. The man was faithful to his word and built the church.




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

Revised March 19, 2013.