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Main > German folktales > Fairy tale "Peter Klaus"

Peter Klaus

Peter Klaus, a goatherd of Sittendorf, who tended herds on the Kyffhauser mountain, used to let them rest of an evening in a spot surrounded by an old wall, where he always counted them to see if they were all right. For some days he noticed that one of his finest goats, as they came to this spot, vanished, and never returned to the herd till late. He watched him more closely, and at length saw him slip through a rent in the wall. He followed him, and caught him in a cave, feeding sumptuously upon the grains of oats which fell one by one from the roof. He looked up, shook his head at the shower of oats, but, with all his care, could discover nothing further. At length he heard overhead the neighing and stamping of some mettlesome horses, and concluded that the oats must have fallen from their mangers.

While the goatherd stood there, wondering about these horses in a totally uninhabited mountain, a lad came and made signs to him to follow him silently. Peter ascended some steps, and, crossing a walled court, came to a glade surrounded by rocky cliffs, into which a sort of twilight made its way through the thick-leaved branches. Here he found twelve grave old knights playing at skittles, at a well-levelled and fresh plot of grass. Peter was silently appointed to set up the ninepins for them.

At first his knees knocked together as he did this, while he marked, with half-stolen glances, the long beards and goodly paunches of the noble knights. By degrees, however, he grew more confident, and looked at everything about him with a steady gaze—nay, at last, he ventured so far as to take a draught from a pitcher which stood near him, the fragrance of which appeared to him delightful. He felt quite revived by the draught, and as often as he felt at all tired, received new strength from application to the inexhaustible pitcher. But at length sleep overcame him.

When he awoke, he found himself once more in the enclosed green space, where he was accustomed to leave his goats.

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