The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales |
This collection of "classics" certainly is a departure from the Disney versions. The tales are mostly very dark and pessimistic, as originally recorded by the Brothers. For the more "colourful" children's stories it is better to buy the specific tales from the bookstore instead of a collective book.
This story is available in the following languages
Once upon a time there lived a little boy called Til Ulenspighel. His
father was a good blacksmith, his mother a kindly woman but they never
imagined that they had brought into the world naughtiest rascal ever heard of!
Til had such a lively personality, bright and naughty, that people couldn't
help smiling when they saw him. And he got up to such mischief and all sorts
of tricks that we can't help smiling to ourselves . . . But as you'll soon
see, the ones who didn't see the funny side of things were his fellow
citizens. The minute he learned to speak, Til pulled people's legs. If a man,
for instance, had flat feet, Til would greet him by saying,
"Good day, Mr. Flatfeet!" And if a lady had a red nose, he would say, "Good
evening, Mrs. Rednose!" He enjoyed playing tricks and teasing everyone. Of
course, the neighbours complained to his father, saying,
"Mr. Ulenspighel, what a rude son you have!" And so, one day, Til's father
said to him,
"Listen, son, why don't people like you? Do you annoy them?"
"Who, me?" said Til with an innocent air. "I never bother anyone. It's
other people that shake their fists at me whenever they see me and say nasty
"Hmm!" said his father. "I wonder if that's really so. l'm going to market
with the donkey. Get up behind!" Till didn't need to be told twice and he
clambered behind his father.
But the second he was on the donkey's back, he hung a notice on his
shoulders on which he had written: 'Whoever reads this is a donkey.' People
did read it and they were offended, so they shook their fists and shouted,
"Oh, you horrid boy, Til! What a little horror you are!" On hearing these
shouts, Til's father, who knew nothing about the notice, muttered:
"You're right, Til. People are angry with you, though goodness knows why!
Don't worry," he added, "come and sit in front and we'll see if they still
call you names." Til did as he was told and slung the notice over his chest.
Though his father couldn't see it, he could see other people as they shook
their fists, scowled, shouted and yelled insults, and he said, "Folk don't
like you, Til. But pay no attention to them and go your own way!" And Til
laughed up his sleeve....
Time went by and Til began to weary of long faces every time people saw
him. He joked and teased folk now and again, but what harm was there in that?
All he wanted to do was amuse himself and others as well. One day, a company
of wandering entertainers came to the town: actors, sword swallowers and
acrobats. They made a great impression on the lad, who stared at them
open-mouthed. While holding a pole in their hands, they kept their balance as
they walked the tightrope across the road. How he would love to do the same.
The people who now shook their fists at him would clap their hands. No sooner
thought than done, the boy picked up a pole, stretched a rope between two
trees in the wood and started to practise. Of course, it wasn't easy and he
fell more than once. But in the end, he felt pretty secure and decided to hold
a show. He went through the streets crying,
"Tomorrow, Til Ulenspighel, the acrobat, will walk the tightrope!" Filled
with curiosity, everyone came to watch.
Til had stretched the rope between his balcony and a tree in the nearby
wood: the rope lay above the river and the young lad climbed on. The crowd
that, at first had laughed and made a noise, grew quiet after a while, and
"He's clever all right," someone said. "He's a real acrobat," said someone
else. "We were wrong about him!"
At that moment, Til's mother, who knew nothing about her son's gymnastics,
hearing the murmur of the crowd, went onto the balcony . . . and saw her son
walking the rope suspended over empty space. Frightened, she shouted,
"Til, come down at once!" And seeing that the boy was not doing as he was
told, she picked up the scissors and cut the rope. Til fell with a splash into
the river. You can imagine the people! First they started to laugh, snigger
and make fun of the poor lad as he struggled soaking from the water.
"Hey, acrobat! If that had been the ground instead of water, you'd have had
a cracked head, wouldn't you?" they called, chuckling, and Til said to
himself, "Laugh if you want to, he who laughs last laughs longest! . . ."
Some days later, Til announced he was going to repeat the show, this time
not over the river but above the main road. Everyone rushed to watch, hoping
to see him fall off and hurt himself. Before he ventured on to the rope, Til
called out, "To make it more difficult for me, I'm going to carry a sack on my
back. Every spectator will give me his left shoe. I'll put it in the sack and
hand it back at the end of the show." Everyone did this. Til walked the
tightrope until he reached the middle of the road, and from the heights he
said, "Now I'm going to give vou back your shoes. There they are!" and opening
the sack, he emptied out the shoes.
You can picture the confusion that reigned then. Not only did the onlookers
get hit on the head by shoes, but everyone hunted for his own shoe without
managing to find it; he'd pick one up, but it belonged to somebody else, and
he'd throw it down again, and start to look for another, argue, exchange
insults . . . and Til, from a window on high looked down on the pandemonium
and chuckling said,
"Ha! He who laughs last laughs longest!"