Deutsches Märchenbuch: “The Thief in the Millet”
Excerpt, “As Pretty as Seven and Other Popular German Tales, Collected by Ludwig Bechstein, with One Hundred Illustrations by Richter: A Companion to Grimm’s German Popular Stories.” 1848.
They are flown,
Beautiful fictions of our fathers, wove
And fondly loved and cherish’d – they are flown
Before the Wand of Science! Ye have lost
Mountains, and moors, and meads, and radiant throngs
That dwelt in your green solitudes, and fill’d
The air, the fields, with beauty and with joy
Intense …… The very streams
Brightened with visitings of these so sweet
Ethereal creatures! They were seen to rise
From the charm’d waters, which still brighter grew
As the pomp pass’d to land, until the eye
Scarce bore the unearthly glory. Where they trod,
Young flowers, but not of this world’s growth, arose;
And fragrance, as of amaranthine bowers.
Floated upon the breeze.
Where is love and loyalty, great purpose and great souls, even though in a hovel or a mine, there is Fairyland.
In a certain town there dwelt a rich merchant, who had a large and thriving garden behind his house, a portion of which was sown with millet. One day early in spring, when the corn was beginning to look green and flourishing, he walked in his garden. To his great vexation, he discovered that during the past night a portion of his young millet had been destroyed by the hand of some wicked fellow.
Now, he had always sown millet in this particular spot, and he had a great affection for it; for, like most other men, he had his peculiar weaknesses. He resolved, therefore, to catch the rascal, and either to punish him on the spot or deliver him up to justice. He called together his sons, Michael, George, and John. “Last night a thief was in our garden, and tore up a quantity of my millet, to my excessive annoyance; this wretch must be caught and punished. You, my sons, must watch in turns, night by night. Whoever catches the thief, I will reward handsomely.”
Michael, the eldest son, armed with a brace of pistols and a sharp saber, watched the first night. He provided himself with good meat and drink, and, wrapped in a warm cloak, lay down under a juniper-bush. When he awoke, it was broad daylight, and a still larger piece of the millet was gone than on the former night.
When the merchant came into the garden and saw this, he knew that his son, instead of watching for the thief, had fallen asleep. He ‘rated him soundly and laughed. “A wonder the thief did not steal you, sword, pistols, and all!”
The following night, George watched, armed not only with the same weapons as his brother, but also with a thick club and a strong rope. He, too, fell asleep; and the next morning found the thief had committed still further ravages on the millet.
The father flew into a great passion. “If you fail me, the millet will be gone!”
It was now John’s turn. In spite of all remonstrance, he would take no arms with him; but secretly furnished himself with thorns and thistles to keep himself awake. When he went into the garden at night, he placed these thorns in a row before him; whenever he began to nod, they tickled his nose, and he opened his eyes.
Midnight: Tramp, tramp.
It was in the millet! “Hold! I have you, thief!” Softly pushing aside the thorns, he drew a rope from his pocket, and crept toward the noise.
Who would have thought? The thief was a pretty little pony!
John was delighted; and with scarcely any trouble he captured the intruder. The animal followed him like a dog to the stable, and there John locked him in for the night. That done, he went quietly to bed. When his brothers found him, intending to go into the garden to see how their brother had fared, they perceived him, to their great astonishment, lying snugly in bed. They began to laugh with all their might; thinking instead of watching, he had been all night long asleep in his bed.
“Don’t you say a word,” said John, “and I will soon show you the thief.” And then leading his father and brothers down to his stable, he showed them the culprit; no one knew to whom it belonged. It was a dear little thing, of an elegant form; its coat silky and silvery-white. The merchant was very much pleased, and gave the pony to his brave son.
John was gratified by the gift, and named him “Millet-thief.”
Soon after this occurrence, the brothers heard the call: A lovely princess held in enchantment upon mysterious Glass Mountain. Any man who could ascend the treacherously icy slope and ride thrice ‘round the ancient Castle walls, would rescue a worthy lady, and gain for himself a noble bride.
A great number had already made the trial, and lost their lives in the attempt. But still the wonderful tale of the magical mountain was told; and the three brothers took it into their head to try their luck. Each determined to ride up to the castle, and if possible to win the beautiful princess. Michael and George bought themselves strong young horses, and caused their hoofs to be rough-shod; but John saddled his Millet-thief, and then all three rode forth to the trial.
They reached the glass mountain, the eldest riding first; but alas! His horse began to stumble as soon as it reached the hill, and presently down it fell, and rolled with its rider to the bottom of the road. The second brother shared the same fate; and so neither of them would make a second trial.
But up John rode, as the able pony easily gained the summit; and trab, trab, trab, away he went, thrice round the castle, as if Millet-thief had been accustomed to perform the same feat many hundred times. The young man sat his mount before the castle-door.
Open it flew. Garbed in silk and gold, the Princess was as lovely as she had been described. With extended arms, she welcomed her rescuer. Quickly, he dismounted, daring to embrace with her … all his happiness and fortune.
The Princess after a while turned to the elegant steed, caressing his silky jaw. “Oh, you naughty thing! Why did you run away? Only with you could I enjoy the one delicious hour which was granted me on earth; when you carried me down and up this icy slope? You must never leave me.”
John understood at once; his Millet-thief shared her enchantment. Though his brothers tried again to ascend the mountain; the young man saw them no more. He lived happily, free from all worldly cares, with his angel in their castle on the Summit of the Glass Mountain.