|Illustratiion by Fritz Kredel.|
Once upon a time, a soldier who had served his King and country for many years was dismissed from service. The King told this veteran,"You can go home now. I have no further need for you. and I can only pay those who serve me." Life for an old warrior who knows only fighting is not easy, and this man wandered for some hours while he thought what he might do. At length, weak with hunger and thirst, he realized that night had fallen and that he was deep in the forest. That's when, in the distance, "he saw a light. On approaching it, he found a house inhabited by a witch. 'Pray give me shelter for the night and something to eat and drink,' he said, 'or I shall perish.' 'Oh, ho!' said she. 'Who gives anything to a runaway soldier, I should like to know?" However she did take him in, on promise that he would do a task. So he ate and drank and slept, and in the morning, the witch told him to dig up her garden. He spaded all day but could not finish the task by nightfall. She agreed to feed him and shelter him for another night so that he could do so. But the next day she told him to chop logs for firewood. Again the old soldier worked all day, and again, could not cut all that she asked. She told him to stay for one more night's lodging, and that, on the morrow, he would find his last task an easy one. That day she told him,"There is an old, dry well behind my house. My light, which burns blue and never goes out, has fallen into it and I want you to bring it back." Then she sent him down the well on a rope. He got the light and she began to lift him out, but before he had reached the top she told him to throw the light up to her. He refused saying, "No, I will not give you the light until I have both feet safe on dry land again." So the witch cut the rope and he fell to the bottom of that deep, dark hole. He lay miserable for some time, and then felt the bump of his pipe and tobacco in his pocket. Drawing them out he said to himself,"This will be my last pleasure." So he filled his pipe and bent towards the blue light. He puffed upon the pipe and great circles of gray smoke rose from it. That's when a dwarf as dark as ebony "appeared before him and asked,"What orders, master?' 'What do you mean?' the soldier asked in amazement. 'I must do anything that you command." said the dwarf. So the soldier ordered him to get him out of the well. On the way up, he spied the witch's treasures, and filled his pockets with gold. Then he commanded the dwarf to report the witch to the magistrate so that she could be hanged. This was done at once. And then, the soldier called for the dwarf a third time, telling him of a plot to pay the King back his abuse. The soldier had taken lodgings in the best rooms of an inn, and it was to this place that he commanded the dwarf to bring the King's only daughter, that very night when the clock struck twelve. The dwarf protested, on grounds of danger to the soldier's own self. But the veteran persisted, and ordered that the dwarf bring the princess, and so he had no choice. At the very stroke of twelve the princess appeared in the soldiers room. He was waiting for her, with brooms and buckets and mops. Now he commanded this pampered princess to scrub and clean his rooms, even the windows and floors. But the girl could not finish all in a night, and, at dawn, she was returned to her own bed. Now the King was quite solicitous of this treasured daughter, and when she appeared at breakfast with rings under her eyes, he asked what was amiss? She told her father of an extraordinary dream. In it, she said, "I was carried through the streets at lightning speed and taken to the room of a soldier, whom I had to serve as a maid and do all kinds of menial work. I had to sweep the room and clean his boots. Of course, it was only a dream, and yet, I am as tired this morning as if I had done it all." The King was not convinced that this was a dream. and so, as a means of testing the event, filled his daughter's pockets with peas. Then he told her to cut a small hole in each one, that the peas would scatter along if she were dragged away in her sleep. So the princess did this, but unbeknownst to King and princess the dwarf heard all. He scattered peas over every street in the town so that in the morning, after the princess had worked the whole night through at the soldiers commands, all the roads were thick with peas. "In every street, the poor children were picking up peas and saying, 'It must have rained peas in the night." And the King told the princess, "We must devise a better plan. Keep your shoes on when you go to bed, and before you come away from the place where you are taken, hide one of them. I shall be sure to find it." And when the dwarf heard this he returned to his master and warned him that he would surely be discovered that night. But the soldier commanded him to bring the princess, nevertheless. At this the dwarf "said he knew no further means against their craftiness, and if the shoe were found, it would be very dangerous for his master." But the soldier would not listen, and called for the princess to be brought. And so she was, and so for a third night she labored for the soldier, but this time when she had done working and the soldier did not see, she hid one of her shoes under his bed. The dwarf took the princess home and the soldier now fled for his life, knowing that the King's men were abroad and that he could not evade discovery. Sure enough, "the next morning the King ordered the whole town to be searched for his daughter's shoe, and it was soon found in the soldier's room." The man was soon seized and thrown into jail. Now he realized that in his haste he had forgotten to bring along the blue light, and so he was trapped in his cell. Just then, an old comrade passed outside the window, and the soldier, finding a single coin in his pocket, begged the man to take it in exchange for bringing him his pipe, and the blue light. So the man did this, and the soldier "lighted his pipe and summoned the little man." The dwarf advised him to "Go where they take you and let what will happen. Only take the blue light with you." Now the bailiff came and took the soldier to trial and he was sentenced to be hanged. So they took him out to the gallows, and asked him if he had a last wish. And the soldier said that he did, that he wished for a last puff of his pipe. And the King said," You may smoke three, but don't imagine that I will therefore grant you your life." So the soldier lit his pipe and the dwarf appeared from the blue light with a cudgel in his hand and said,"What is my master's command?' And the soldier said,"Strike the false judge and his minions to the ground. And do not spare the King either for all his cruelty to me." So the dwarf "flew about like lightning, here, there!" and "whomever he touched with his cudgel fell to the ground and dared not move." The soldier made the King beg to be spared, and this man then "rendered up his kingdom and gave his daughter to the soldier to be his wife."