Home Tales from the Grimm Brothers
Once upon a time a brave soldier returned from the wars. In spite of his courage, his pockets were empty and his only possession was his sword. As he walked through a forest, he met a witch, who said to him:
"I say, good soldier, would you like to earn a bag of money?"
"Money? I'd do anything for money . . ."
"Good!" went on the witch. "It won't be difficult, you'll see! All you have to do is go down that hollow tree till you reach a cave. There, you'll find three doorways. When you open the first door, you'll see a big dog with eyes like saucers, guarding a large chest of copper coins. Behind the second door lies a treasure of silver coins, guarded by a dog with eyes the size of mill stones. When you open the third door, you'll come upon another dog, with eyes the size of a castle tower, beside a treasure of gold. Now, if you lay this old apron of mine before these dogs, they'll crouch on it and do you no harm. You'll be able to carry away all the coins you want. What do think of that?"
However, the soldier suspiciously asked: "What do you want in return?"
"Just bring me back an old tinderbox my grandfather left down there, long ago!"
So the young soldier tied a rope round his waist and, not forgetting his trusty sword, he lowered himself into the hollow tree. To his great surprise, he found the three doorways and the three dogs, just as the witch had said. Soon he was back, his pockets bulging with coins, but before he handed the tinderbox to the old witch, he asked her: "What do you want it for?"
The witch hurled herself at the soldier, screaming: "Give it to me! Give it to me at once, or else . . .", as she tried to scratch him. When the witch attacked him, the soldier exclaimed: "Aha! So this is the thanks I get! Now I'll show you!"
He undid the rope from around his waist and tied up the old woman. Then away he went, whistling cheerfully.
When he reached the town, he said to himself: "Now I can feast as much as I like - at last!"
After years of scrimping on a miserable pay, with his sudden wealth, the soldier felt like a prince. He bought a new pair of boots and he went to the best tailor in the town. Some days later, he was clad in a fine new uniform and people turned in the street to admire him. Lavish with his money, the soldier was surrounded by folk quick to tell him how to spend his coins, and it all went on a round of dances, fine carriages, theatres and, most of all, on drinking sprees. Of course, his money soon ran out and when this happened, his "friends" vanished. When the innkeeper discovered that the soldiercould no longer pay his board, he rudely put him out. So the poor soldier ended up in a garret and every day he had to draw in his belt a little more. All the fun was over.
One evening, he realized he had never used the old witch's tinderbox. So he rubbed it, and as it sparked, the dog with the eyes like saucers suddenly appeared.
"Tell me your wish, sir," it said.
". . . bring me heaps of money!" gasped the soldier in amazement. A second later, the dog was back with a bag of coins. Every time he rubbed the tinderbox, the dog brought him more money. Then when he rubbed it quickly twice in succession, the dog with eyes like mill stones stood before him, carrying silver coins. And when the soldier rubbed the tinderbox three times in a row, the third dog came carrying gold. Rich all over again, the soldier chose the best hotel in the town and went back to leading the life of a fine gentleman.
The soldier was told that the King would not allow anyone to meet his beautiful daughter, for he believed in a saying that the Princess's destiny was to marry a simple soldier. That evening, the soldier rubbed the tinderbox.
"Bring me the Princess," was his new order. Immediately the dog returned with the beautiful Princess, fast asleep. The soldier kissed her. Next morning, the girl told her parents that she had had a dream. But the Queen, suspiciously ordered one of the ladies-in-waiting to guard her daughter day and night. The dog was seen when it came next evening and the alarm raised. The king's guards followed the dog and the soldier was arrested at dawn.
The King's revenge was terrible: the soldier was to be hanged!
In a dark prison, the soldier calmly awaited his fate. When the day of execution came, a mob crushed round the scaffold.
The soldier asked if he could smoke his pipe, and placed it between his lips, as he rubbed the tinderbox over and over again. In a flash, the three dogs appeared with gaping jaws and bloodshot eyes. At the soldier's sharp command, they leapt on the guards and the crowd cheered in delight.
Awestruck at this magic feat, the King bowed his head and whispered to the Queen. "The saying is true!" he said. A little while after, the young soldier married the Princess and the tinderbox was rubbed and rubbed, but this time to invite the three dogs to the splendid wedding.