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The Drummer

Then he came back and said, "Now run to the goal, and whoever gets there first, shall ride first." Both put themselves into a trot; but hardly had they gone a couple of steps before the drummer swung himself on the saddle, wished himself on the glass-mountain, and before any one could turn round, he was there. On the top of the mountain was a plain; there stood an old stone house, and in front of the house lay a great fish-pond, but behind it was a dark forest. He saw neither men nor animals, everything was quiet; only the wind rustled amongst the trees, and the clouds moved by quite close above his head. He went to the door and knocked. When he had knocked for the third time, an old woman with a brown face and red eyes opened the door. She had spectacles on her long nose, and looked sharply at him; then she asked what he wanted. "Entrance, food, and a bed for the night," replied the drummer. "That thou shalt have," said the old woman, "if thou wilt perform three services in return." "Why not?" he answered, "I am not afraid of any kind of work, however hard it may be." The old woman let him go in, and gave him some food and a good bed at night. The next morning when he had had his sleep out, she took a thimble from her wrinkled finger, reached it to the drummer, and said, "Go to work now, and empty out the pond with this thimble; but thou must have it done before night, and must have sought out all the fishes which are in the water and laid them side by side, according to their kind and size." "That is strange work," said the drummer, but he went to the pond, and began to empty it. He baled the whole morning; but what can any one do to a great lake with a thimble, even if he were to bale for a thousand years?

When it was noon, he thought, "It is all useless, and whether I work or not it will come to the same thing." So he gave it up and sat down. Then came a maiden out of the house who set a little basket with food before him, and said, "What ails thee, that thou sittest so sadly here?

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