There was a man who had three sons, the youngest of whom was called
Dummling, and was despised, mocked, and sneered at on every
It happened that the eldest wanted to go into the forest to hew wood,
and before he went his mother gave him a beautiful sweet cake and a
bottle of wine in order that he might not suffer from hunger or
When he entered the forest he met a little grey-haired old man who
bade him good day, and said: 'Do give me a piece of cake out of your
pocket, and let me have a draught of your wine; I am so hungry and
thirsty.' But the clever son answered: 'If I give you my cake and
wine, I shall have none for myself; be off with you,' and he left the
little man standing and went on.
But when he began to hew down a tree, it was not long before he made a
false stroke, and the axe cut him in the arm, so that he had to go
home and have it bound up. And this was the little grey man's doing.
After this the second son went into the forest, and his mother gave
him, like the eldest, a cake and a bottle of wine. The little old grey
man met him likewise, and asked him for a piece of cake and a drink of
wine. But the second son, too, said sensibly enough: 'What I give you
will be taken away from myself; be off!' and he left the little man
standing and went on. His punishment, however, was not delayed; when
he had made a few blows at the tree he struck himself in the leg, so
that he had to be carried home.
Then Dummling said: 'Father, do let me go and cut wood.' The father
answered: 'Your brothers have hurt themselves with it, leave it alone,
you do not understand anything about it.' But Dummling begged so long
that at last he said: 'Just go then, you will get wiser by hurting
yourself.' His mother gave him a cake made with water and baked in the
cinders, and with it a bottle of sour beer.
When he came to the forest the little old grey man met him likewise,
and greeting him, said: 'Give me a piece of your cake and a drink out
of your bottle; I am so hungry and thirsty.' Dummling answered: 'I
have only cinder-cake and sour beer; if that pleases you, we will sit
down and eat.' So they sat down, and when Dummling pulled out his
cinder-cake, it was a fine sweet cake, and the sour beer had become
good wine. So they ate and drank, and after that the little man said:
'Since you have a good heart, and are willing to divide what you have,
I will give you good luck. There stands an old tree, cut it down, and
you will find something at the roots.' Then the little man took leave
Dummling went and cut down the tree, and when it fell there was a
goose sitting in the roots with feathers of pure gold. He lifted her
up, and taking her with him, went to an inn where he thought he would
stay the night. Now the host had three daughters, who saw the goose
and were curious to know what such a wonderful bird might be, and
would have liked to have one of its golden feathers.
The eldest thought: 'I shall soon find an opportunity of pulling out a
feather,' and as soon as Dummling had gone out she seized the goose by
the wing, but her finger and hand remained sticking fast to it.
The second came soon afterwards, thinking only of how she might get a
feather for herself, but she had scarcely touched her sister than she
was held fast.
At last the third also came with the like intent, and the others
screamed out: 'Keep away; for goodness' sake keep away!' But she did
not understand why she was to keep away. 'The others are there,' she
thought, 'I may as well be there too,' and ran to them; but as soon as
she had touched her sister, she remained sticking fast to her. So they
had to spend the night with the goose.
The next morning Dummling took the goose under his arm and set out,
without troubling himself about the three girls who were hanging on to
it. They were obliged to run after him continually, now left, now
right, wherever his legs took him.
In the middle of the fields the parson met them, and when he saw the
procession he said: 'For shame, you good-for-nothing girls, why are
you running across the fields after this young man? Is that seemly?'
At the same time he seized the youngest by the hand in order to pull
her away, but as soon as he touched her he likewise stuck fast, and
was himself obliged to run behind.
Before long the sexton came by and saw his master, the parson, running
behind three girls. He was astonished at this and called out: 'Hi!
your reverence, whither away so quickly? Do not forget that we have a
christening today!' and running after him he took him by the sleeve,
but was also held fast to it.
Whilst the five were trotting thus one behind the other, two labourers
came with their hoes from the fields; the parson called out to them
and begged that they would set him and the sexton free. But they had
scarcely touched the sexton when they were held fast, and now there
were seven of them running behind Dummling and the goose.
Soon afterwards he came to a city, where a king ruled who had a
daughter who was so serious that no one could make her laugh. So he
had put forth a decree that whosoever should be able to make her laugh
should marry her. When Dummling heard this, he went with his goose and
all her train before the king's daughter, and as soon as she saw the
seven people running on and on, one behind the other, she began to
laugh quite loudly, and as if she would never stop. Thereupon Dummling
asked to have her for his wife; but the king did not like the son-in-law,
and made all manner of excuses and said he must first produce a
man who could drink a cellarful of wine. Dummling thought of the
little grey man, who could certainly help him; so he went into the
forest, and in the same place where he had felled the tree, he saw a
man sitting, who had a very sorrowful face. Dummling asked him what he
was taking to heart so sorely, and he answered: 'I have such a great
thirst and cannot quench it; cold water I cannot stand, a barrel of
wine I have just emptied, but that to me is like a drop on a hot
'There, I can help you,' said Dummling, 'just come with me and you
shall be satisfied.'
He led him into the king's cellar, and the man bent over the huge
barrels, and drank and drank till his loins hurt, and before the day
was out he had emptied all the barrels. Then Dummling asked once more
for his bride, but the king was vexed that such an ugly fellow, whom
everyone called Dummling, should take away his daughter, and he made a
new condition; he must first find a man who could eat a whole mountain
of bread. Dummling did not think long, but went straight into the
forest, where in the same place there sat a man who was tying up his
body with a strap, and making an awful face, and saying: 'I have eaten
a whole ovenful of rolls, but what good is that when one has such a
hunger as I? My stomach remains empty, and I must tie myself up if I
am not to die of hunger.'
At this Dummling was glad, and said: 'Get up and come with me; you
shall eat yourself full.' He led him to the king's palace where all
the flour in the whole Kingdom was collected, and from it he caused a
huge mountain of bread to be baked. The man from the forest stood
before it, began to eat, and by the end of one day the whole mountain
had vanished. Then Dummling for the third time asked for his bride;
but the king again sought a way out, and ordered a ship which could
sail on land and on water. 'As soon as you come sailing back in it,'
said he, 'you shall have my daughter for wife.'
Dummling went straight into the forest, and there sat the little grey
man to whom he had given his cake. When he heard what Dummling wanted,
he said: 'Since you have given me to eat and to drink, I will give you
the ship; and I do all this because you once were kind to me.' Then he
gave him the ship which could sail on land and water, and when the
king saw that, he could no longer prevent him from having his
daughter. The wedding was celebrated, and after the king's death,
Dummling inherited his kingdom and lived for a long time contentedly
with his wife.