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Main > Czechoslovak folktale > Fairy tale "The Devil's Match: The Story of a Farmer Who Remembered What His Grandmother Told Him"

The Devil's Match: The Story of a Farmer Who Remembered What His Grandmother Told Him

Once upon a time there was a poor farmer who lived in a wretched tumble-down cottage beyond the village and whose farm consisted of a miserable little field no bigger than your hand. His children were ragged and hungry and his wife was always worried over getting them enough to eat.

Yet the farmer was a clever fellow with a quick shrewd wit and people used to say that he'd be able to fool the devil if ever he had the chance. One day the chance came.

His wife had sent him into the forest to gather a bundle of faggots. Suddenly without any warning a young man with black face and shiny eyes stood before him.

"It's a devil, of course," the farmer told himself. "But even so there's no use being frightened."

So he wished the devil a civil good-day and the devil, who was really a very simple fellow indeed, returned his greeting and asked him what he was doing in the forest.

Now the farmer suddenly remembered that his grandmother had once told him devils were afraid of lime trees because the bast from lime trees is the one thing in the world they are unable to break. That's why, when you catch a devil, you must tie his hands together with bast.

So the farmer, recalling what his grandmother had said, remarked casually:

"Oh, I'm looking for a lime tree. I want to strip off some bast. Then I'm going after them"—and when he said them he paused significantly—"and tie them hand and foot."

He peeped at the devil out of the corner of his eye and saw that the devil had turned almost white under his black skin.

"He is a foolish one!" he thought to himself.

"Oh, don't do that!" the devil cried. "What have we ever done to you?"

The farmer pretended to be firm and repeated that that was just what he was going to do.

"Please listen to me," the devil begged. "If you promise to let us alone I tell you what I'll do: I'll bring you such a big bag of gold that it will make you a rich man."

At first the farmer, being a shrewd fellow, pretended that he cared nothing for money. Then gradually he let himself be persuaded and at last said:

"Very well.

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