Hans the Hedgehog
There was once a country man who had money and land in plenty, but
however rich he was, his happiness was still lacking in one respect - he had no children.
Often when he went into the town with the other peasants they mocked him and asked why he
had no children. At last he became angry, and when he got home he said, "I will have
a child, even if it be a hedgehog." Then his wife had a child that was a hedgehog in
the upper part of his body and a boy in the lower, and when she saw the child, she was
terrified, and said, "See, there you have brought ill-luck on us." Then said the
man, "What can be done now? The boy must be christened, but we shall not be able to
get a godfather for him." The woman said, "And we cannot call him anything else
but Hans the hedgehog."
When he was christened, the parson said, "He cannot go into any
ordinary bed because of his spikes." So a little straw was put behind the stove, and
Hans the hedgehog was laid on it. His mother could not suckle him, for he would have
pricked her with his quills. So he lay there behind the stove for eight years, and his
father was tired of him and thought, if he would but die. He did not die, however, but
remained lying there.
Now it happened that there was a fair in the town, and the peasant
was about to go to it, and asked his wife what he should bring back with him for her.
"A little meat and a couple of white rolls which are wanted for the house," said
she. Then he asked the servant, and she wanted a pair of slippers and some stockings with
clocks. At last he said also, "And what will you have, Hans my hedgehog?"
"Dear father," he said, "do bring me bagpipes." When, therefore, the
father came home again, he gave his wife what he had bought for her, meat and white rolls,
and then he gave the maid the slippers, and the stockings with clocks, and, lastly, he
went behind the stove, and gave Hans the hedgehog the bagpipes.
And when Hans the hedgehog had the bagpipes, he said, "Dear
father, do go to the forge and get the cock shod, and then I will ride away, and never
come back again." At this, the father was delighted to think that he was going to get
rid of him, and had the cock shod for him, and when it was done, Hans the hedgehog got on
it, and rode away, but took swine and asses with him which he intended to keep in the
forest. When they got there he made the cock fly on to a high tree with him, and there he
sat for many a long year, and watched his asses and swine until the herd was quite large,
and his father knew nothing about him. And while he was sitting in the tree, he played his
bagpipes, and made music which was very beautiful.
Once a king came traveling by who had lost his way and heard the
music. He was astonished at it, and sent his servant forth to look all round and see from
whence this music came. He spied about, but saw nothing but a little animal sitting up
aloft on the tree, which looked like a cock with a hedgehog on it which made this music.
Then the king told the servant he was to ask why he sat there, and if he knew the road
which led to his kingdom. So Hans the hedgehog descended from the tree, and said he would
show the way if the king would write a bond and promise him whatever he first met in the
royal courtyard as soon as he arrived at home. Then the king thought, I can easily do
that, Hans the hedgehog understands nothing, and I can write what I like. So the king took
pen and ink and wrote something, and when he had done it, Hans the hedgehog showed him the
way, and he got safely home. But his daughter, when she saw him from afar, was so
overjoyed that she ran to meet him, and kissed him. Then he remembered Hans the hedgehog,
and told her what had happened, and that he had been forced to promise whatsoever first
met him when he got home, to a very strange animal which sat on a cock as if it were a
horse, and made beautiful music, but that instead of writing that he should have what he
wanted, he had written that he should not have it. Thereupon the princess was glad, and
said he had done well, for she never would have gone away with the hedgehog.
Hans the hedgehog, however, looked after his asses and pigs, and was
always merry and sat on the tree and played his bagpipes. Now it came to pass that another
king came journeying by with his attendants and runner, and he also had lost his way, and
did not know how to get home again because the forest was so large. He likewise heard the
beautiful music from a distance, and asked his runner what that could be, and told him to
go and see. Then the runner went under the tree, and saw the cock sitting at the top of
it, and Hans the hedgehog on the cock. The runner asked him what he was doing up there. I
am keeping my asses and my pigs, but what is your desire. The messenger said that they had
lost their way, and could not get back into their own kingdom, and asked if he would not
show them the way. Then Hans the hedgehog descended the tree with the cock, and told the
aged king that he would show him the way, if he would give him for his own whatsoever
first met him in front of his royal palace. The king said, "Yes," and wrote a
promise to Hans the hedgehog that he should have this. That done, Hans rode on before him
on the cock, and pointed out the way, and the king reached his kingdom again in safety.
When he got to the courtyard, there were great rejoicings. Now he had an only daughter who
was very beautiful, she ran to meet him, threw her arms round his neck, and was delighted
to have her old father back again. She asked him where in the world he had been so long.
So he told her how he had lost his way, and had very nearly not come back at all, but that
as he was traveling through a great forest, a creature, half hedgehog, half man, who was
sitting astride a cock in a high tree, and making music, had shown him the way and helped
him to get out, but that in return he had promised him whatsoever first met him in the
royal court-yard, and how that was she herself, which made him unhappy now. But on this
she promised that, for love of her father, she would willingly go with this Hans if he
Hans the hedgehog, however, took care of his pigs, and the pigs
became more pigs until there were so many in number that the whole forest was filled with
them. Then Hans the hedgehog resolved not to live in the forest any longer, and sent word
to his father to have every stye in the village emptied, for he was coming with such a
great herd that all might kill who wished to do so. When his father heard that, he was
troubled, for he thought Hans the hedgehog had died long ago. Hans the hedgehog, however,
seated himself on the cock, and drove the pigs before him into the village, and ordered
the slaughter to begin.
Ha. - Then there was a butchery and a chopping that might have been
heard two miles off. After this Hans the hedgehog said, "Father, let me have the cock
shod once more at the forge, and then I will ride away and never come back as long as I
live." Then the father had the cock shod once more, and was pleased that Hans the
hedgehog would never return again.
Hans the hedgehog rode away to the first kingdom. There the king had
commanded that whosoever came mounted on a cock and had bagpipes with him should be shot
at, cut down, or stabbed by everyone, so that he might not enter the palace. When,
therefore, Hans the hedgehog came riding thither, they all pressed forward against him
with their pikes, but he spurred the cock and it flew up over the gate in front of the
king's window and lighted there, and Hans cried that the king must give him what he had
promised, or he would take both his life and his daughter's. Then the king began to speak
to his daughter, and to beg her to go away with Hans in order to save her own life and her
father's. So she dressed herself in white, and her father gave her a carriage with six
horses and magnificent attendants together with gold and possessions. She seated herself
in the carriage, and placed Hans the hedgehog beside her with the cock and the bagpipes,
and then they took leave and drove away, and the king thought he should never see her
again. But he was deceived in his expectation for when they were at a short distance from
the town, Hans the hedgehog took her pretty clothes off, and pierced her with his
hedgehog's spikes until she bled all over. "That is the reward of your
falseness," said he. "Go your way, I will not have you," and on that he
chased her home again, and she was disgraced for the rest of her life.
Hans the hedgehog, however, rode on further on the cock, with his
bagpipes, to the dominions of the second king to whom he had shown the way. But this one
had arranged that if any one resembling Hans the hedgehog should come, they were to
present arms, give him safe conduct, cry long life to him, and lead him to the royal
But when the king's daughter saw him she was terrified, for he
really looked too strange. Then she remembered that she could not change her mind, for she
had given her promise to her father. So Hans the hedgehog was welcomed by her, and married
to her, and had to go with her to the royal table, and she seated herself by his side, and
they ate and drank. When the evening came and they wanted to go to sleep, she was afraid
of his quills, but he told her she was not to fear, for no harm would befall her, and he
told the old king that he was to appoint four men to watch by the door of the chamber, and
light a great fire, and when he entered the room and was about to get into bed, he would
creep out of his hedgehog's skin and leave it lying there by the bedside, and that the men
were to run nimbly to it, throw it in the fire, and stay by it until it was consumed.
When the clock struck eleven, he went into the chamber, stripped off
the hedgehog's skin, and left it lying by the bed. Then came the men and fetched it
swiftly, and threw it in the fire, and when the fire had consumed it, he was saved, and
lay there in bed in human form, but he was coal-black as if he had been burnt. The king
sent for his physician who washed him with precious salves, and anointed him, and he
became white, and was a handsome young man. When the king's daughter saw that she was
glad, and the next morning they arose joyfully, ate and drank, and then the marriage was
properly solemnized, and Hans the hedgehog received the kingdom from the aged king.
When several years had passed he went with his wife to his father,
and said that he was his son. The father, however, declared he had no son - he had never
had but one, and he had been born like a hedgehog with spikes, and had gone forth into the
world. Then Hans made himself known, and the old father rejoiced and went with him to his
kingdom. My tale is done, and away it has run to little augusta's house.