The Story Of The Youth Who Went Forth To Learn What Fear Was

The Story Of The Youth Who Went Forth To Learn What Fear Was

A certain father had two  sons, the elder of  who was smart andsensible, and could do  everything, but  the younger  was stupid  andcould  neither learn nor understand anything, and when people saw himthey said: «There’s a fellow who will give his father  some trouble!’When anything had to  be done, it was always the elder who was  forcedto do it; but if his  father bade him fetch anything when  it was late,or  in the night-time, and  the way led through the  churchyard, or anyother  dismal place, he  answered: «Oh, no  father, I’ll  not go  there,it  makes me  shudder!» for  he  was afraid. Or when  stories were toldby the  fire at night  which made  the flesh creep, the listenerssometimes said: «Oh, it makes us shudder!»  The younger sat in a cornerand listened with the rest of them, and could  not imagine what  theycould  mean.  «They are  always  saying: “It  makes  me shudder, itmakes me shudder!” It  does not make me shudder,» thought  he. «That,too, must be an art of which I understand nothing!»

Now it came to pass that his father  said to him one day: «Hearken tome, you fellow in the corner there, you  are growing tall and strong,and  you too must learn something by which you  can earn your bread.Look how  your brother works, but  you do not  even earn your  salt.’«Well, father,»  he replied, «I am quite willing to learnsomething—indeed, if it could but be managed, I should like to learn howto shudder. I don’t understand that at all yet.» The  elder brothersmiled when he  heard that,  and thought  to himself: «Goodness, what  ablockhead  that brother  of mine  is! He  will never be good  foranything  as long as  he lives!  He who wants  to be  a sickle must bendhimself betimes.»

The father sighed, and answered him: «You  shall soon learn what it isto shudder, but you will not earn your bread by that.»

Soon after this the sexton  came to the house on  a visit, and thefather bewailed his trouble, and told him how his younger son was sobackward  in every respect that he knew nothing and learnt nothing.«Just think,»  said he, «when I  asked him how  he was going  to earnhis  bread, he  actually wanted to learn to shudder.» «If that be all,’replied the sexton, «he can learn that with  me. Send  him to  me, and Iwill soon  polish him.»  The father was  glad to  do it,  for  hethought:  «It will  train the  boy  a little.» The sexton therefore tookhim into his house, and he had to  ring the church bell. After a day ortwo, the sexton awoke him at midnight, and bade him arise and  go upinto  the church tower and  ring the bell.  «You shall soon learn whatshuddering is,» thought he, and secretly went  there before him; andwhen the boy was at the top of the tower and turned round, and was justgoing to  take hold of the bell  rope, he saw a white  figure standingon the stairs opposite the  sounding hole. «Who is there?»  cried he,but the  figure made  no reply,  and did not  move or  stir. «Give  ananswer,» cried the boy, «or take  yourself off, you have no businesshere at night.»

The sexton, however, remained standing motionless that the boy mightthink he was a ghost. The boy cried a second time: «What do you wanthere?—speak if you are  an honest fellow,  or I will  throw you downthe steps!»  The sexton thought: «He  can’t mean to  be as  bad as hiswords,» uttered  no sound and stood as if  he were made of stone.  Thenthe boy called to  him for the third time, and as that was also to nopurpose, he ran against him and pushed the ghost down the stairs,  sothat it fell down the ten  steps and remained lying  there in a  corner.Thereupon he  rang the bell,  went home, and without saying a word wentto bed, and fell asleep. The sexton’s wife waited a  long time for  herhusband, but  he did not  come back.  At length she became  uneasy, andwakened  the boy, and  asked: «Do you  know where my husband is? Heclimbed up the tower before you did.» «No, I don’t know,» replied theboy, «but someone was standing by the sounding hole  on the other sideof the steps, and as he would neither gave an answer nor go away, I tookhim for a scoundrel, and threw him downstairs. Just go  there and youwill see if it  was he. I should be  sorry if it were.» The  woman ranaway and found her husband, who  was lying moaning in the corner,  andhad broken his leg.

She carried him down, and then with loud screams she hastened to theboy’s father, «Your boy,» cried she, «has been the cause of a greatmisfortune! He has thrown my husband down the steps so that he broke hisleg. Take the good-for-nothing fellow out of our  house.» The father wasterrified,  and ran thither and scolded the boy. «What wicked tricks arethese?» said  he. «The devil must have put them  into your head.’«Father,» he replied,  «do listen to me. I am quite innocent. He wasstanding there by night like one intent on doing evil. I did not knowwho it was, and I entreated him three times either to  speak or  to goaway.» «Ah,»  said the  father, «I  have nothing but unhappiness withyou.  Go out of my sight.  I will see you  no more.»

«Yes, father, right willingly, wait only until  it is day. Then will Igo forth and learn how to shudder, and then I shall, at any rate,understand one art which will support me.»  «Learn what you will,» spokethe  father, «it is all the same to me. Here  are fifty talers for you.Take these  and go into the wide world, and tell no  one from whence youcome, and who  is your father, for I  have reason to  be ashamed ofyou.» «Yes, father,  it shall be as you will. If you  desire nothingmore than that, I can  easily keep it in mind.»

When the day  dawned, therefore,  the boy put  his fifty  talers intohis pocket, and  went forth  on the  great highway,  and continuallysaid  to himself: «If I  could but shudder!  If I  could but shudder!’Then a  man approached who heard this  conversation which the  youth washolding  with himself, and when they had walked a little farther towhere they could see the gallows, the man said to him: «Look, there isthe tree where seven men have married the ropemaker’s  daughter, and arenow  learning how to  fly. Sit down beneath it, and  wait till nightcomes,  and you will soon  learn how to shudder.» «If that is all thatis wanted,» answered the youth,  «it is easily done; but if I learn howto shudder as fast as that, you  shall have my fifty talers. Just comeback to me early in the morning.» Then the youth went to the  gallows,sat down beneath  it, and waited till  evening came. And as he was cold,he  lighted himself a fire, but at midnight  the wind blew so sharplythat in spite of his fire, he could not get warm. And as the windknocked the  hanged men against  each other,  and they  moved backwardsand forwards, he thought to himself: «If you shiver below by the fire,how those up above must freeze and suffer!» And as he felt pity  forthem, he raised the ladder, and climbed up, unbound one of them afterthe other, and brought down all seven. Then  he stoked the fire, blewit,  and set them all round it to warm  themselves. But they sat thereand did  not stir, and the fire caught their clothes. So he said: «Takecare, or I will hang you up again.» The  dead men, however, did  nothear, but were  quite silent, and let their rags go on burning. At thishe grew angry, and said: «If you will not take  care, I cannot help you,I will not be burnt  with you,» and he hung them up again each in histurn. Then he sat down by  his fire and fell asleep, and the nextmorning the man came to him and  wanted to have the fifty  talers, andsaid:  «Well do you  know how to  shudder?» «No,» answered he, «howshould I know? Those fellows up there did not open their mouths, andwere so stupid that they let the few old rags which they had on theirbodies get burnt.» Then the man saw that he would not get the fiftytalers that day, and went away saying: «Such a youth has never  come myway before.»

The youth likewise went his way, and once more began to mutter tohimself: «Ah, if I could but shudder! Ah,  if I could but shudder!» Awaggoner  who was striding behind  him heard  this and asked:  «Who areyou?» «I  don’t know,» answered the youth.  Then the waggoner asked:«From whence do  you come?» «I know  not.» «Who is  your father?»  «ThatI may  not tell  you.» «What is  it that  you are  always mutteringbetween your  teeth?»  «Ah,» replied the youth, «I do so wish I couldshudder, but no one can teach  me how.» «Enough of your foolishchatter,» said the waggoner. «Come, go  with me, I will see about aplace  for you.» The youth went with the  waggoner, and in the eveningthey  arrived at an inn where  they wished to pass  the night. Then atthe entrance  of the parlour  the youth  again said  quite loudly: «If Icould  but shudder! If  I could but  shudder!» The host  who heard this,laughed and said: «If that is your desire, there ought to be a goodopportunity for  you here.» «Ah,  be silent,» said  the hostess,  «somany prying persons have already lost their lives, it would be a pityand a shame if  such beautiful  eyes as these  should never  see thedaylight again.»

But the youth said:  «However difficult it  may be, I  will learn it.For this purpose indeed have I journeyed forth.» He let the host have norest, until the latter told him, that not far from thence stood ahaunted castle where anyone could very easily learn what shuddering was,if he would  but watch in it  for three nights.  The king  had promisedthat  he who  would venture should have his daughter to  wife, and shewas the most  beautiful maiden the sun shone on. Likewise in the castlelay great treasures, which were guarded by evil spirits, and thesetreasures would then be freed, and would make a  poor man rich  enough.Already  many men had  gone into  the castle, but as  yet none  had comeout again.  Then the  youth went  next morning to the king, and said:«If  it be allowed, I will willingly  watch three nights in the hauntedcastle.»

The king looked at him,  and as the youth pleased  him, he said: «Youmay ask for three things to  take into the castle with  you, but theymust  be things without life.» Then he answered: «Then I ask for a fire,a  turning lathe, and a cutting-board with the knife.»

The king had these things carried into the castle for him during theday. When night was drawing near, the youth  went up and made himself abright fire in one of  the rooms, placed the  cutting-board and knifebeside  it, and seated himself  by the turning-lathe.  «Ah, if I  couldbut  shudder!» said he, «but I shall not learn  it here either.» Towardsmidnight he  was about to poke his fire, and as he was blowing it,something cried suddenly from one corner: «Au, miau! how cold we are!’«You fools!» cried he, «what are you crying about? If  you are cold,come and  take a seat by the  fire and warm yourselves.» And when he hadsaid that, two great black cats came with one tremendous  leap and satdown on  each side of  him, and  looked savagely at him with their fieryeyes.  After a short time, when they  had warmed themselves, they said:«Comrade, shall we have  a game of  cards?» «Why not?» he replied, «butjust  show me your paws.» Then they  stretched out their claws. «Oh,’said  he, «what long nails  you have! Wait, I  must first cut them foryou.» Thereupon he seized them by the throats, put them on thecutting-board and screwed their  feet fast. «I have looked at  yourfingers,» said he, «and my fancy for card-playing has gone,» and hestruck them dead and threw  them out into  the water. But when  he hadmade  away with these two,  and was about  to sit down  again by hisfire, out  from every hole and corner came black cats and black dogswith red-hot  chains, and more and more  of them came  until he could nolonger move, and  they yelled horribly, and got on  his fire, pulled itto pieces, and tried  to put it out. He  watched them for  a whilequietly, but  at last when  they were going too  far, he seized  hiscutting-knife, and  cried: «Away  with you, vermin,» and  began to  cutthem  down. Some  of them  ran away,  the others he killed, and threwout into  the fish-pond. When he came back  he fanned the embers of  hisfire again  and warmed himself.  And as he  thus sat, his eyes wouldkeep  open no longer, and he  felt a desire to  sleep. Then he lookedround and saw a great bed in the corner. «That is the  very thing forme,» said he,  and got into it. When  he was just going to  shut hiseyes, however, the bed began to move of its own accord, and went  overthe whole of the  castle. «That’s right,» said  he, «but go faster.’Then the bed rolled on as if six horses were harnessed to it, up anddown, over thresholds and stairs, but suddenly hop, hop, it turned overupside  down, and lay on him like a mountain. But he threw quilts andpillows up in  the air, got out and said: «Now anyone who likes, maydrive,» and lay down  by his fire, and slept  till it was  day. In themorning  the king came,  and when he saw him lying there on the ground,he thought the evil spirits had killed him and he was dead. Then saidhe: «After all it is a pity,—for  so handsome a man.» The youth heardit, got up, and said: «It has not come to that yet.» Then the king wasastonished,  but very glad, and asked how  he had fared. «Very wellindeed,» answered he; «one  night is past, the  two others will passlikewise.» Then he went to the innkeeper, who opened  his eyes verywide, and said: «I never  expected to see you alive again!  Have youlearnt how  to shudder yet?»  «No,» said he,  «it is all  in vain.  Ifsomeone would but tell me!»

The second night he  again went up  into the old castle,  sat down bythe fire, and once more  began his old  song: «If I  could but shudder!’When midnight came, an uproar and noise  of tumbling about was heard; atfirst it was low, but it grew louder and louder. Then it was quiet for awhile, and at length with  a loud scream,  half a man came  down thechimney  and fell before him. «Hullo!» cried he, «another half belongsto this. This is not enough!» Then the uproar began again, there was aroaring and howling, and the other half fell down likewise. «Wait,» saidhe, «I will just stoke up the fire  a little for  you.» When he  haddone that  and looked  round again, the two pieces were joined together,and a hideous man was  sitting in his place. «That is no part of ourbargain,» said the youth, «the bench is mine.» The man wanted to pushhim away; the youth, however, would  not allow that, but thrust him offwith all his strength, and seated  himself again in his  own place.Then still  more men  fell down,  one after  the other; they broughtnine dead men’s legs  and two skulls, and set them  up and played atnine-pins with them. The youth also wanted to play and said: «Listenyou,  can  I join  you?»  «Yes, if  you  have any  money.»  «Moneyenough,» replied he, «but  your balls are not  quite round.» Then hetook the skulls and put them in the lathe and turned them till they wereround. «There, now they will roll better!» said he. «Hurrah! now we’llhave fun!» He played with them and lost some of his money, but when itstruck twelve, everything vanished from his sight. He  lay down andquietly fell  asleep. Next morning the king came  to inquire after him.«How has it fared  with you this time?» asked he. «I have been playingat nine-pins,» he answered, «and have lost  a couple  of farthings.’«Have you  not shuddered  then?» «What?» said he, «I have had awonderful  time! If I did but know what  it was to shudder!»

The third night he sat down again on his bench and said quite sadly: «IfI could but shudder.» When it grew late, six tall men came in andbrought  a coffin. Then he  said: «Ha, ha,  that is certainly  my littlecousin,  who died only a few  days ago,» and  he beckoned with  hisfinger, and  cried: «Come, little cousin, come.» They placed the coffinon the ground, but  he went to it and took the lid off,  and a dead manlay therein. He felt  his face, but it was cold as ice. «Wait,» said he,«I will warm you a little,» and went to the  fire and warmed his  handand laid it  on the dead  man’s face, but he remained cold. Then he tookhim out, and sat down by the fire and laid  him on  his breast  andrubbed  his arms  that the  blood  might circulate again. As this  alsodid no good,  he thought to himself:  «When two people lie in bedtogether, they warm each other,» and carried him  to the bed, coveredhim over and lay down by him. After a short time the dead man becamewarm too, and began to move. Then said the youth, «See,  little cousin,have I not warmed you?» The  dead man, however, got up and  cried: «Nowwill I strangle you.»

«What!» said he, «is that the way you thank me? You shall at once gointo your coffin again,» and he  took him up, threw him  into it, andshut  the lid. Then came the six men and carried him away again. «Icannot manage to shudder,» said he. «I shall never learn it here as longas I live.»

Then a man entered who was taller than all others, and looked terrible.He was old, however, and had a long white beard. «You wretch,» cried he,«you shall soon learn what it is to shudder, for you shall die.» «Not sofast,» replied the youth. «If I am to die, I shall have to have a say init.»  «I will soon seize you,» said the fiend. «Softly, softly, do nottalk so big. I am as strong  as you are,  and perhaps even  stronger.’«We shall  see,» said the old man. «If  you are stronger, I will  letyou go—come, we  will try.» Then he led him  by dark passages to asmith’s forge, took an  axe, and with one blow struck an anvil  into theground. «I can do better  than that,» said the youth,  and went to  theother anvil.  The old man  placed himself near and wanted to  look on,and his  white beard hung down.  Then the youth seized the axe, splitthe anvil with one blow, and in it  caught the old man’s beard.  «Now Ihave  you,» said the youth.  «Now it is  your turn to die.»  Then heseized  an iron bar  and beat the  old man till  he moaned and entreatedhim to stop, when he would give him great riches. The youth drew out theaxe and let him  go. The old man led him back into  the castle, and in acellar showed him three chests full of gold. «Of  these,» said he, «onepart is for  the poor, the  other for the  king, the  third yours.» Inthe meantime it struck  twelve, and the spirit disappeared,  so that theyouth stood in  darkness. «I shall still be  able to find my  way out,’said he,  and felt about,  found the  way into the  room, and  sleptthere by his fire. Next morning the king came and said: «Now you musthave learnt what shuddering is?»  «No,» he answered; «what  can it be?My  dead cousin was here,  and a bearded  man came and  showed me agreat deal  of money down below, but no one told me what it was toshudder.» «Then,» said the king, «you have saved the castle, and shallmarry my daughter.»  «That is all  very well,»  said he,  «but still  Ido  not know  what it  is  to shudder!»

Then the gold  was brought up  and the wedding  celebrated; buthowsoever much the young king  loved his wife,  and however happy  hewas, he  still said always: «If I could but shudder—if I could butshudder.» And this  at last angered her. Her waiting-maid said: «I  willfind a cure for him;  he shall soon learn what it is to shudder.» Shewent out to the stream  which flowed through the garden, and had  awhole bucketful of gudgeons  brought to her. At night when  the youngking was sleeping,  his wife was to  draw the clothes off  him andempty the  bucket full  of cold  water with  the gudgeons in it overhim, so that the little fishes would sprawl about him. Then he woke upand  cried: «Oh, what makes  me shudder so?—what makes  me shudder so,dear wife? Ah! now I know what it is to shudder!»