The golden goose
This amusing tale by the Brothers Grimm tells the tale of a boy whose parents called him “Dummy.” But he can’t have been all that much of a dummy, because he found a golden goose and made all the grandest people of the local town look like fools. He finally wins the princess, living happily ever after
Once upon a time, there lived a woodcutter and his wife, who had three sons. The eldest two were strong and tall, and their mother and father were always telling them how handsome and clever they were – but the youngest son was, to tell you the truth, just a bit simple in the head. He wasn’t very tall, and he wasn’t very strong, and his family thought he was good for nothing. They hardly ever called him by his real name, but instead they gave him a cruel nickname. They called him Dummy, because they said he was stupid.
One day the eldest son wanted to go to the forest to cut wood. The mother praised him for being such a useful boy, and before he set out she gave him some of her best fruit cake for his lunch, and a bottle of wine to wash it down. While the boy was walking through the forest, he met a little grey old man who said to him: “Do give me a little piece of your cake and a swig of your wine. I’m so terribly hungry and thirsty.”
And the eldest son replied: “Be off with you, you filthy old beggar.”
The little grey old man went away, but not without taking his revenge. He put a curse on the boy, so that when he started to cut a tree down, his axe slipped and went into his leg. The boy limped home to his mother who washed his wound and bandaged him.
The next day, the second eldest son went out to the forest to cut wood. Before he set out, his mother praised him for being such a useful boy, but especially asked him to be careful with the axe, so as not to have a nasty accident like his brother. The boy promised not to be careless, and his mother gave him some of her best sponge cake for his lunch, and a bottle of wine to wash it down.
It happened that as the boy was walking through the woods, he came across the same little grey old man. The man said to him: “Do please share your sponge cake and your wine with me, for I am so terribly weak with hunger and thirst.”
The boy said: “Be off with you, you lazy old scoundrel. If you want to eat, you’d better work.”
The little grey old man went away, but not without taking his revenge. Not long after, when the boy was cutting down a tree, his axe flew out of his hand and hit him on the head. He crawled home to his mother who bandaged up his wound and asked him why he had not kept his promise to be more careful.
For the rest of the week, the two eldest sons were both lying in bed recovering from their wounds. The father said to the third and youngest son: “Get on your feet, you lazy Dummy. Why are you sitting around doing nothing, when both brothers are hurt and unable to work? Get out to the forest and cut some wood – if you’re not too stupid to do that.”
The mother laughed at him and said: “It’s more than likely that Dummy will cut his own head off – but it won’t be much of a loss to anyone.” Before he left she gave him some cake that she had burned almost to a crust in the oven, and a bottle of sour beer to wash it down.
As the youngest boy was going through the woods, he met the same little grey old man who had crossed the path of his brothers. The man said to him: “Do please share some of your cake and beer with me. I am so terribly hungry and thirsty, and I fear that if I don’t have something to eat and drink soon, I will surely die”
The young boy replied: “Old man, I will gladly share with you what I have – but the cake is burnt and the beer is sour.”
“Never mind that,” said the man. “I am grateful for what you can give me.”
The boy and the little grey old man sat down and shared the cake and the beer. After they had finished their lunch, the man said: “Since you have a good heart, and have shared what you have with me, I will give you a reward. You see that old tree over there. Cut it down with your axe and you will find something of value inside its hollow trunk.”
So when the little grey old man had left, the young boy, whose parents called him “Dummy”, took his axe and cut down the hollow tree just as he had been told. Inside he found a goose – but this was no ordinary bird, for its feathers were made of gold.
The boy realised that he was in luck, and thought to himself: “Why should I go home now and suffer the insults of my parents and brothers? They will take this valuable bird from me, and I shall have nothing.” So the boy decided to run away from home. He put the golden goose under his arm and set out for the town. Then he went to the inn, intending to stay there. He stood at the bar and asked the innkeeper if he would accept a golden feather as payment for his board and lodgings. When the innkeeper saw the golden goose, he readily agreed.
After the boy had gone to bed he said to his three daughters: “That young boy whose parents call him Dummy is staying up in our guest room. But he can’t be as simple in the head as they say – for he’s got a valuable bird with him – a goose with feathers made of gold.”
The eldest daughter thought to herself: “Well fancy that; feathers made of gold. I’ll pluck one or maybe more of those for myself.”
After the clock struck midnight, she sneaked into the boy’s room, and saw that he was asleep with his arm around the golden goose. She crept up and tried to pluck a feather, but the feather wouldn’t budge, and when she tried to take her hand away, she found that she was stuck to it. She couldn’t move, and she couldn’t cry out for fear of waking the boy. She had to stay exactly where she was – on her knees by the bed, with her hand on the feather.
After the clock struck one in the morning, the second sister came in the room, planning to take one feather or more for herself. In the dark she didn’t see her sister, but as soon as she touched her back, she found that her hand was stuck fast to her, and she had to stay where she was, not moving and not making a sound.
After the clock struck two in the morning, the third sister came in. The other two shouted: “Stay back!” But it was too late – she reached out hoping to steal a feather and found that her hand was stuck to the middle sister.
The boy and the goose slept soundly through all of this. In the morning the boy got up, paid his bill with a golden feather, and left the inn with the goose under his arm. The sisters had no choice but to follow on behind him. What a pretty procession they made!
Along the way they met the bishop: “What a sight!” He exclaimed. “It’s hardly right for three young women to follow a boy around like that!”
As the girls went past he tapped the youngest on the shoulder. In doing so he found that he was stuck to her and had to follow.
Further up the road they met a police sergeant. The bishop called out to him: “Sergeant. Help me get free from this young woman’s shoulder. I’m stuck to her and people are bound to start all kinds of gossip about it!”
The police sergeant tried to pull the bishop free, but in doing so he found that both his hands were stuck to his waist, and he had to follow along with the procession too.
At the top of the road they met the mayor. “What’s this town coming to?” Cried the mayor. “The bishop and the police sergeant are following three young girls who are following a young boy; all holding on to each other in a most unseemly fashion. Have they all gone mad?”
As he spoke, he tried to pull the police sergeant and the bishop away – but in doing so he found that he was stuck to both of them, and had to follow on.
The boy led the little line of the townspeople along up the road, and at the top of the hill they passed the King’s palace. Now the King’s daughter was very beautiful, but she had the saddest face in the whole wide world. She had never laughed and not once even smiled. The King was so troubled by the young princess’ unhappiness, that he had made a special law: Whosoever could make her laugh and smile would win her hand in marriage.
But the truth was that nothing very funny ever happened inside the royal palace. All the King’s servants and advisers were far too high and mighty to understand what would make a young girl laugh – or indeed to allow anything amusing to happen at all.
As the boy, known as Dummy, went past the palace, he still held the golden goose under his arm; and he was followed by the innkeeper’s three daughters, the bishop, the police sergeant, and the mayor. The princess looked out and saw the important people in their uniforms being tugged along behind three girls and a boy with a goose. She thought that it was the first thing she had seen in her life that was truly funny. She burst out laughing and ran, still giggling, to her father to tell him all about what she had seen. When the King looked out of his window and saw the procession, he couldn’t help laughing himself. He sent for his guards and told them to bring the boy and his followers directly to him. When the boy entered the King’s chamber, with the followers behind him; the mayor, the bishop and the policeman all called out angrily that he should pay for his crime with his head. The king, still laughing, said that on the contrary – he would be rewarded with the hand in marriage of his daughter, the princess.
For an entire week after that, the innkeeper’s three daughters, the bishop, the policeman, and the mayor were all stuck to the golden goose and to one another. While they were stuck, all the townspeople and the whole court laughed and smiled at them. The boy whose family called him Dummy married the princess and inherited the kingdom. He lived with his beautiful wife and they had six happy smiling children, and the palace was often filled with laughter.