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The Three Apprentices

THERE were once three apprentices, who had agreed to keep always together while travelling, and always to work in the same town. At one time, however, their masters had no more work to give them, so that at last they were in rags, and had nothing to live on. Then one of them said, "What shall we do? We cannot stay here any longer, we will travel once more, and if we do not find any work in the town we go to, we will arrange with the innkeeper there, that we are to write and tell him where we are staying, so that we can always have news of each other, and then we will separate." And that seemed best to the others also. They went forth, and met on the way a richly-dressed man who asked who they were. "We are apprentices looking for work: up to this time we have kept together, but if we cannot find anything to do we are going to separate." "There is no need for that," said the man, "if you will do what I tell you, you shall not want for gold or for work;—nay, you shall become great lords, and drive in your carriages!" One of them said, "If our souls and salvation be not endangered, we will certainly do it." "They will not," replied the man, "I have no claim on you." One of the others had, however, looked at his feet, and when he saw a horse's foot and a man's foot, he did not want to have anything to do with him. The Devil, however, said, "Be easy, I have no designs on you, but on another soul, which is half my own already, and whose measure shall but run full." As they were now secure, they consented, and the Devil told them what he wanted. The first was to answer, "All three of us," to every question; the second was to say, "For money," and the third, "And quite right too!" They were always to say this, one after the other, but they were not to say one word more, and if they disobeyed this order, all their money would disappear at once, but so long as they observed it, their pockets would always be full. As a beginning, he at once gave them as much as they could carry, and told them to go to such and such an inn when they got to the town.

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