The Peasant and the Devil

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Once upon a time there was a clever, wily peasant, whose tricks could be much talked about. The best story, however, is how he once got the best of the devil and made a fool of him. One day the peasant had been working in his field, and just as it was getting dark he was getting ready to go home when in the middle of his field he saw a pile of burning coals. Filled with amazement he walked toward it, and sitting on the top of the glowing coals there was a little black devil.

"You must be sitting on a treasure," said the peasant.

"Yes indeed," replied the devil, "on a treasure that contains more gold and silver than you have ever seen in your life."

"The treasure is in my field and belongs to me," said the peasant.

"It is yours," answered the devil, "if for two years you will give me one half of everything your field produces. I have enough money, but I have a desire for the fruits of the earth."

The peasant entered into the bargain, saying, "To prevent any dispute from arising about the division, everything above the ground shall belong to you, and everything beneath the ground to me."

The devil was quite satisfied with that, but the cunning peasant had planted turnips.

Now when harvest time came the devil appeared and wanted to take away his crop, but he found nothing except the yellow withered leaves, and the happy peasant dug up his turnips.

"You got the best of me this time," said the devil, "but it won't happen again. Next time what grows above ground shall be yours, and what is under it shall be mine."

"That is all right with me," answered the peasant. When planting time came the peasant did not plant turnips again, but wheat. The crop ripened, and the peasant went into the field and cut the full stalks off at ground level. When the devil came he found nothing but the stubble, and he angrily disappeared into a chasm in a cliff.

"That's the way one has to deal with foxes," said the peasant, then carried away the treasure.

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Revised March 6, 2008.