THE MAGICIAN'S PUPIL - A TALE FROM DENMARK -



There Was once a peasant who had a son, whom, when of a proper age, his father apprenticed to a trade; but the boy, who had no inclination for work, always ran home again to his parents; at this the father was much troubled, not knowing what course to pursue. One day he entered a church, where, after repeating the Lord’s Prayer, he said: “To what trade shall I apprentice my son? He runs away from every place.”
The clerk, who happened at that moment to be standing behind the altar, hearing the peasant utter these words, called out in aswer: “Teach him witchcraft; teach him witchcraft!” The peasant, who did not see the clerk, thought it was our Lord who gave him this advice, and determined upon following it. The next day he said to his son, that he should go with him, and he would find him a new situation. After walking a good way into the country, they met with a shepherd tending his flock. “Where are you going to, good man?” inquired the shepherd. “I am in search of a master, who can teach my son the black art,” answered the peasant. “You may soon find him,” said the shepherd; “keep straight on and you will come to the greatest wizard that is to be found in all the land.” The peasant thanked him for this information, and went on. Soon after, he came to a large forest, in the middle of which stood the wizard’s house. He knocked at the door, and asked the Troll-man whether he had any inclination to take a boy as a pupil. “Yes,” answered the other; “but not for a less term than four years; and we will make this agreement, that at the end of that time, you shall come, and if you can find your son, he shall belong to you, but should you not be able to discover him, he must remain in my house, and serve me for the rest of his life.” The peasant agreed to these conditions, and returned home alone. At the end of a week he began to look for his son’s return; thinking that in this, as in all former cases, he would run away from his master. But he did not come back, and his mother began to cry, and say her husband had not acted rightly in giving their child into the power of the evil one, and that they should never see him more. After four years had elapsed the peasant set out on a journey to the magician’s, according to their agreement. A little before he reached the forest, he met the same shepherd, who instructed him how to act so as to get his son back. “When you get there,” said he, “you must at night keep your eyes constantly turned towards the fireplace, and take care not to fall asleep, for then the Troll-man will convey you back to your own house, and afterwards say you did not come at the appointed time. To-morrow you will see three dogs in the yard, eating milk-porridge out of a dish. The middle one is your son, and he is the one you must choose.” The peasant thanked the shepherd for his information, and bade him farewell. When he entered the house of the magician, everything took place as the shepherd had said. He was conducted into the yard, where he saw three dogs. Two of them were handsome with smooth skins, but the third was lean and looked ill. When the peasant patted the dogs, the two handsome ones growled at him, but the lean one, on the contrary, wagged his tail. “Canst thou now tell me which of these dogs is thy son?” said the Troll-man; “if so thou canst take him with thee; if not, he belongs to me.” “Well then I will chose the one that appears the most friendly,” answered the peasant; “although he looks less handsome than the others.” “That is a sensible choice,” said the Troll-man; “he knew what he was about who gave thee that advice.” The peasant was then allowed to take his son home with him. So, putting a cord round his neck, he went his way, bewailing that his son was changed into a dog. “Oh! Why are you bewailing so?” asked the shepherd as he came out of the forest, “it appears to me you have not been so very unlucky.”
When he had gone a little way, the dog said to him: “Now you shall see that my learning has been of some use to me. I will soon change myself into a little tiny dog, and then you must sell me to those who are coming past.” The dog did as he said, and became a beautiful little creature. Soon after a carriage came rolling along with some great folks in it. When they saw the beautiful little dog that ran playing along the road, and heard that it was for sale, they bought it of the peasant for a considerable sum, and at the same moment the son changed his father into a hare, which he caused to run across the road, while he was taken up by those who had bought him. When they saw the hare they set the dog after it, and scarcely had they done so, than both hare and dog ran into the wood and disappeared. Now the boy changed himself again, and this time both he and his father assumed human forms. The old man began cutting twigs and his son helped him. When the people in the carriage missed the little dog, they go out to seek after it, and asked the old man and his son if they had seen anything of a little dog that had run away. The boy directed them further into the wood, and he and his father returned home, and lived well on the money they had received by selling the dog.
When all the money was spent, both father and son resolved upon going out again in search of adventures. “Now I will turn myself into a boar,” said the youth, “and you must put a cord round my leg and take me to Holsens market for sale; but remember to throw the cord over my right ear at the moment you sell me, and then I shall be home as soon as you.” The peasant did as his son directed him, and went to market; but he set so high a price on the boar, that no one would buy it, so he continued standing in the market till the afternoon was far advanced. At length there came an old man who bought the boar of him. This was no other than the magician, who, angry that the father had got back his son, had never ceased seeking after them from the time they had left his house. When the peasant had sold his boar he threw the cord over its right ear as the lad had told him, and in the same moment the animal vanished; and when he reached his own door he again saw his son sitting at the table. They now lived a pleasant merry life until all the money was spent, and then again set out on fresh adventures. This time the son changed himself into a bull, first reminding his father to throw the rope over his right ear as soon as he was sold. At the marke he met with the same old man, and soon came to an agreement with him about the price of the bull. While they were drinking a glass together in the alehouse, the father threw the rope over the bull’s right horn, and when the magician went to fetch his purchase it had vanished, and the peasant upon reaching home again found his son sitting by his mother at the table. The third time the lad turned himself into a horse, and the magician was again in the market and bought him. “Thou hast already tricked me twice,” said he to the peasant; “but it shall not happen again.” Before he paid down the money he hired a stable and fastened the horse in, so that it was impossible for the peasant to throw the rein over the animal’s right ear. The old man, nevertheless, returned home, in the hope that this time also he should find his son; but he was disappointed, for no lad was there. The magician in the meantime mounted the horse and rode off. He well knew whom he had bought, and determined that the boy should pay with his life the deception ha had practised upon him. He led the horse through swamps and pools, (paludi e pozzanghere), and galloped at a pace that, had he long continued it, he must have ridden the animal to death; but the horse was a hard trotter, and the magician being old he at last found he had got his master, and was therefore obliged to ride home. When he arrived at this house he put a magic bridle on the horse and shut him in a dark stable without giving him anything either to eat or drink. When some time had elapsed, he said to the servant-maid: “Go out and see how the horse is.” When the girl came into the stable the metamorphosed boy “who had been the girl’s sweetheart while he was in the Troll’s house) began to moan piteously, and begged her to give him a pail of water. She did so, and on her return told her master that the horse was well. Some time after ha again desired her to go out and see if the horse were not yet dead. When she entered the stable the poor animal begged her to loose the rein and the girths, which were strapped so tight that he could hardly draw breath. The girl did as she was requested, and no sooner was it done than the boy changed himself into a hare and ran out of the stable. The magician, who was sitting in the window, was immediately aware of what had happened on seeing the hare go springing across the yard, and, instantly changing himself into a dog, went in pursuit of it. Hen they had run many miles over cornfields and meadows, the boy’s strength began to fail and the magician gained more and more upon him. The hare then changed itself into a dove, but the magician as quickly turned himself into a hawk and pursued him afresh. In this manner they flew towards a palace where a princess was sitting at a window. When she saw a hawk in chase of a dove she opened the window, and immediately the dove flew into the room, and then changed itself into a gold ring. The magician now became a prince, and went intot the apartment for the purpose of catching the dove. When he could not find it, he asked permission to see her gold rings. The princess showed them to him, but let one fall into the fire. The Troll-man instantly drew it out, in doing which he burnt his fingers, and was obliged to let it fall on the florr. The boy now knew of no better course than to change himself into a grain og corn. At the same moment the magician becme a hen, in order to eat the corn, but scarcely had he done so than the boy became a hawk and killed him. He then went to the forest, fetched all the magicina’s gold and silver, and from that day lived in wealth and happiness with his parents.
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