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Main > German folktales > Fairy tale "Legends of Rubezahl, or Number-Nip"

Legends of Rubezahl, or Number-Nip

His good intentions were, however, frustrated. Rubezahl had played his game, and had had all the amusement he desired with the poor knave. Accordingly he scampered away, leaving in his place the real spear, which never played any more tricks, but, after the old fashion of other spears, accompanied its master in a becoming and orderly style.

A poor woman, who got her living by gathering herbs, once went, accompanied by her two children, to the mountains, carrying with her a basket in which to gather the plants, which she was in the habit of disposing of to the apothecaries. Having chanced to discover a large tract of land covered with such plants as were most esteemed, she busied herself so in filling her basket that she lost her way, and was troubled to find out how to get back to the path from which she had wandered. On a sudden a man dressed like a peasant appeared before her, and said—

"Well, good woman, what is it you are looking for so anxiously? and where do you want to go?"

"Alas!" replied she, "I am a poor woman who has neither bit nor sup, for which reason I am obliged to wander to gather herbs, so that I may buy bread for myself and my hungry children. I have lost my way, and cannot find it. I pray you, good man, take pity on me, and lead me out of the thicket into the right path, so that I may make the best of my way home."

"Well, my good woman," replied Rubezahl, for it was he, "make yourself happy. I will show you the way. But what good are those roots to you? They will be of little benefit. Throw away this rubbish, and gather from this tree as many leaves as will fill your basket; you will find them answer your purpose much better."

"Alas!" said the woman, "who would give a penny for them? They are but common leaves, and good for nothing."

"Be advised, my good woman," said Rubezahl; "throw away those you have got, and follow me."

He repeated his injunction over and over again in vain, until he got tired, for the woman would not be persuaded. At last, he fairly laid hold of the basket, threw the herbs out by main force, and supplied their place with leaves from the surrounding bushes.

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