Doctor Know-All

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Once upon a time there was a poor peasant by the name of Crab who drove two oxen with a load of wood into town where he sold it to a doctor for two thalers. He received his money just as the doctor was sitting down to eat. When the peasant saw how well the doctor ate and drank, his heart took a longing for the same things, and he decided that he would like to have been a doctor. He stood there for a while, and then asked if he too could not become a doctor.

"Certainly," said the doctor, "in no time at all."

"What do I have to do?" asked the peasant.

First of all, buy yourself an ABC-book, one that has a picture of a rooster up front. Second, sell your wagon and your two oxen and buy yourself some clothing and other things that doctors use. Third, have yourself a sign painted with the words 'I am Doctor Know-All' and nail it above the door to your house."

The peasant did everything he was told to do. After he had doctored a little -- but not very much -- some money was stolen from a great and wealthy nobleman. Someone told him about the Doctor Know-All who lived in such and such a village, and who must know where the money had gone. So the nobleman had his carriage hitched up, rode out to the village, and asked him if he were Doctor Know-All.

"Yes, that I am."

"Then you must come with me and recover my stolen money."

"Yes, but my wife Grete must come along too."

The nobleman agreed and had them take their places in his carriage. They rode away together.

They arrived at the nobleman's court just at mealtime, and the nobleman invited him to eat.

"Yes, but include my wife Grete," he replied, and the two of them sat down behind the table.

When the first servant brought out a platter of fine food the peasant nudged his wife and said, "Grete, that's the first one," meaning the meal's first course.

However, the servant thought that he meant, "That's the first thief," and because that is indeed what he was, he took fright, and outside he said to his comrades, "The doctor knows everything. It's going to go badly for us. He said that I'm the first one."

The second one did not want to go inside at all, but finally he had to, and when he entered, the peasant nudged his wife and said, "Grete, that's the second one."

This servant took fright as well, and went outside. It did not go any better for the third one. Once again the peasant said, "Grete, that's the third one."

The fourth one brought in a covered platter, and the nobleman told the doctor that he should demonstrate his art by guessing what it contained. It was crabs. The peasant looked at the platter, and seeing no way out of his dilemma, he said to himself, "Oh, poor Crab!"

Hearing this, the nobleman called out, "If he knows that then he must know who has the money as well!"

The servant grew very fearful and motioned to the doctor to go outside. There all four of them confessed to him that they had stolen the money. They offered to give it all to him and a handsome sum in addition, if he would not turn them in. Otherwise they would all hang. They showed him where the money was hidden. The doctor was satisfied with this, and he went back inside and sat down again at the table.

"My lord," he said, "Now I will look in my book to see where the money is hidden.

However, the fifth servant climbed into the stove in order to hear if the doctor knew anything else. The doctor leafed back and forth in his book looking for the picture of the rooster. Not finding it, he said, "I know that you are in there. Come on out."

The man in the stove thought that the doctor was talking to him, and terrified, he jumped out, saying, "The man knows everything!"

Then Doctor Know-All showed the nobleman where the money was, but he did not tell who had stolen it. Thus he received a large reward from each side and became a famous man.

Related links

Revised September 6, 2002.