The Little Man In Grey
Source: Fairy Tales From All Nations
A miner, a blacksmith, and a nun were travelling together through the
wide world. One day they were bewildered in a dark forest, and were so
wearied with wandering that they thought themselves right fortunate
when they saw, at a distance, a building wherein they hoped to find
shelter. They went up to it, and found that it was an ancient castle,
which, although half in ruins, still was in condition to afford a
habitation for such distressed pilgrims as they. They resolved
therefore to enter, and held a council how they might best establish
themselves in it, and they very soon agreed that it would be best that
one of them should always remain at home whilst the other two went out
in search of provisions. They then cast lots who should first stay
behind, and the lot fell on the nun.
So when the miner and the blacksmith were gone out into the forest,
she prepared the food, and when noon arrived, and her companions did
not return, she ate her share of the provisions. As soon as she had
finished her meal a little man, clad in grey, came to the door, and
shivering, said: "Oh, I am so cold!"
Then the nun said to him: "Come to the fire and warm thyself."
The little man did as the nun desired him, but presently after he
exclaimed: "Oh, how hungry I am!"
Then the nun said to him: "There is food by the fire; eat some of it."
The little man fell upon the food, and in a very short time devoured
it all. When the nun saw what he had done she was very angry, and
scolded him for not having left any food for her companions. Upon this
the little man flew into a great passion, seized the nun, beat her,
and threw her from one wall to the other. He then quitted the castle
and went his way, leaving the nun on the floor. Towards evening the
two companions returned home very hungry, and when they found no food
they reproached the nun bitterly, and would not believe her when she
told them what had happened.
The following day the miner proposed to keep watch in the castle, and
said he would take good care that no one should have to go to bed
fasting. So the two others went into the forest, and the miner looked
after the cooking, ate his share, and put the rest by on the oven. The
little grey clad man came as before, but how terrified was the miner
when he perceived that this time the little man had two heads. He
shivered as on the preceding day, saying: "Oh, how cold I am!"
Much frightened, the miner pointed to the hearth. Then the little man
said: "Oh, how hungry I am!"
"There is food on the oven," said the miner; "eat some."
Then the little man fell to with both his heads, and soon ate it all
up, and licked the plates clean. When the miner reproached him for
eating all up, he got for his pains just the same treatment as the
nun. The little man beat him black and blue, and flung him against the
walls till they cracked; the poor miner lost both sight and hearing,
and at last the little man left him lying there, and went his way.
When the blacksmith and the nun returned hungry in the evening, and
found no supper, the blacksmith fell into a great rage with the miner,
and declared that when his turn should come next day to watch, the
castle, no one should want a supper. The next day, at meal time, the
little man appeared again but this time he had three heads. He
complained of cold, and was bidden by the blacksmith to sit by the
hearth. When he said he was hungry, the blacksmith gave him a portion
of the food. The little man soon dispatched that, and looked greedily
round with his six eyes, asking for more food, and when the blacksmith
hesitated to give it him, he tried to treat him as he had done the
nun and the miner; the blacksmith, however, was no coward, and seizing
a great smith's hammer, he rushed on the little man, and struck off
two of his heads, so that he made off as fast as he could with his
remaining head. But the blacksmith chased him through the forest along
many a pathway, till at last he suddenly disappeared through an iron
door. The blacksmith was thus obliged to give up the pursuit, but
promised himself not to rest until, with the aid of his two
companions, he should have brought the matter to a satisfactory
Meantime the nun and the miner had returned home. The smith set their
supper before them as he had undertaken to do, and then related his
adventure, showing them the two heads he had cut off, with their
staring glazed eyes. They then all three resolved to free themselves
altogether, if possible, from the little grey man, and the very next
day they set to work. They searched a long time before they could find
the iron door through which he had disappeared the preceding day, and
great toil did it cost them before they were able to break it open.
They then found themselves in a great vaulted chamber wherein sat a
beautiful maiden at a table, working. She started up, and threw
herself at their feet, thanking them as her deliverers, and told them
that she was the daughter of a king, and had been confined there by a
powerful sorcerer. Yesterday afternoon she had suddenly felt that the
spell was loosened, and from that moment she had hourly expected her
freedom, but that besides herself there was the daughter of another
king confined in the same place. They then went in search of the other
king's daughter and set her at liberty also. She thanked them joyfully
in like manner, and said that she also had felt since yesterday
afternoon that the spell was unbound. The two royal maidens now
informed their liberators that in concealed caves of the castle great
treasures were hoarded, which were guarded by a terrible dog. They
went in search of them and at length came upon the dog, whom the
blacksmith slew with his hammer, although he endeavoured to defend
The treasure consisted of whole tons of gold and silver, and a
handsome young man sat beside them as if to guard them. He came to
meet them and thanked them for setting him free. He was the son of a
king, but had been transformed by a sorcerer into the three-headed
little man and banished to that castle. By the loss of two of his
heads the spell was taken off the two royal maidens, and when the
blacksmith slew the terrible dog he himself was delivered from it. For
that service the whole of the treasure should be theirs.
The treasure was then divided, and it was a long time before they
could complete the distribution. The two princesses, however, out of
gratitude to their deliverers, married the miner and the blacksmith,
and the handsome prince married the nun; and so they passed the rest
of their lives in peace and joy.
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