“Oh, ouch, oh!” shrieked the devil. “Oh, please let me out, and I’ll promise faithfully never to come back again.”
“Well, now, I guess the joints are pretty well soldered,” said the smith, “so I’ll let you out.”
So the smith opened the purse, and the devil jumped out and rushed off in such a hurry, he did not even dare to look back.
As the smith thought over the whole matter, he thought he had made a mistake in falling out with the devil. “For if I don’t get into heaven,” he said to himself, “I might be without lodgings, since I’m on bad terms with the fellow who rules in hell.”
He decided he might as well try now as later to see whether he could get into either heaven or hell; then he would know what was in store for him. So he shouldered his hammer and started off.
When he had gone quite a bit, he came to the crossroads where they branched off to heaven and hell, and there he met a tailor’s apprent
“Thanks,” said the devil, sitting down in the armchair. But no sooner was he seated than the smith told him that, as he looked his work over, he was afraid it would take him at least four years to sharpen the nail and that the devil would have to sit there while he worked.
Fault of the iron
At first the devil begged him politely to let him out of the chair, but then he got angry and began to threaten him. The smith kept making all kinds of excuses, saying it was the fault of the iron which was hard as the deuce, and he tried to console the devil by telling him how comfortable he was in the armchair and that he would certainly let him out in four years on the stroke of the clock.
At last the devil saw there was nothing for it but to promise that he would not come for the smith till the four years were over.
“Well, then, you can get up,” said the smith, and the devil hustled off as fast as ever he could.
In four years he cam
“Well, then, I wish, first, that whenever I tell someone to climb up into the pear tree outside the smithy wall, he will have to stay there till I tell him he may come down again,” said the smith. “Next, I wish that when I beg anyone to sit down in the armchair in the workroom, he will have to stay there till I myself beg him to get up again, and, lastly, whenever I ask someone to creep into the steel mesh purse I have in my pocket, he will have to stay there till I give him leave to creep out again.”
“You’ve wished very foolishly,” said St. Peter; “first of all, you should have asked for God’s grace and friendship.”
“I didn’t dare ask for anything so great,” said the smith, whereupon Our Lord and St. Peter bade him good-bye and left.
Well, time wore on, and when the seven years were up, the devil came, according to the terms of the contract, to fetch the smith.
“Are you ready?” he asked, poking his nose in at the
The smith stood by all the time watching Him.
“You’re not such a bad smith, after all,” he said.
“Do you think so?” said Our Lord.
Soon after the smith’s mother came to tell him dinner was ready. She was old and wrinkled, bent double, and barely able to walk.
“Now you mark carefully what you see,” said Our Lord, and He took the old woman, put her into the forge, and changed her into a beautiful young girl.
“I repeat what I’ve said,” said the smith, “you’re quite a smith. Over my door stands: ‘Here lives the master of all masters,’ but even if I have to say it myself, ‘We live and learn,’ ” and, so saying, he went home to eat his dinner. When he came back to the smithy, a man rode up and wanted his horse shod. Our Lord and St. Peter were still there.
“I’ll do it in a jiffy,” said the smith; “I’ve just learned a new way of shoeing which isn’t so bad when the days are short.” S
Peter Christen Asbjornsen (1812—1878)
Jorgen Moe (1813—1880)
Both Asbjornsen and Moe came from the country, and belonged to families in modest circumstances. They made friends while preparing for a university career. Influenced by the Grimms, they set out to study the folklore of their country, and in their first collection of tales, which appeared in 1841, they produced a work of striking interest and genuine originality. “This vdlume,” says John Gade, “was perhaps the greatest single event in the whole movement of that generation toward a more truly national culture.”
The Smith Who Could Not Get Into Hell is a highly artistic treatment of a bit of ancient folklore. It is reprinted, in the translation by Helen and John Gade, from Norwegian Fairy Tales, American-Scandinavian Foundation, New York, 1924, by permission of the Foundation.
The Smith Who Could Not Get Into Hell
In the days when Our Lord