Saturday, 3 March 2018

The Boy with the Beer Keg

There was once upon a time a man from north of the mountains. This man was a master of brewing beer; it was so unreasonably good that its equal was not to be found. When the boy was to leave, and the man should pay him the wages he had earned, he would not have anything but a keg of Christmas beer. Well, he got it, and went off with it, and he carried it both far and wide, but the farther he carried it, the heavier it grew, and so he began to look around for someone to drink with, so the beer would diminish and the keg grow lighter.

After a long, long time, he met a man with a great beard.

“Good day,” said the man.

“Good day to you,” said the boy.

“Where are you off to?” said the man.

“I am looking for someone to drink with, so I can lighten my keg,” said the boy.

“Can you not just as easily drink with me as with another?” said the man. “I have travelled both far and wide, so I am both weary and thirsty.”

“Yes, I can,” said the boy, “but where do you come from, and what manner of man are you, then?” he said.

“I am Our Lord, and I come from the Kingdom of Heaven, I do,” said the man.

“I do not want to drink with you,” said the boy, “for you treat people so differently here in the world, and grant them rights so unfairly, so that some grow rich and others humble. No, I will not drink with you,” he said, tramping off again with his keg.

When he had gone a way more, the keg grew very heavy again, so that he thought that he could not manage to carry it any longer, unless someone came with whom he could drink, so the beer grew less in the keg. Well, then he met an ugly, gangling man, who came sweeping so quickly.

“Good day,” said the man.

“Good day to you.”

“Where are you off to?” said the man.

“Oh, I am looking for someone to drink with, so that I may lighten my keg,” said the boy.

“Can you not just as well drink with me as with another?” said the man. “I have travelled both far and wide, and a drop of beer would do some goo in my old carcass,” he said.

“Yes, I can,” said the boy, “but what manner of man are you, and where are you from?” he asked.

“I? I am known well enough; I am the devil, and I come from Hell,” said the man.

“No,” said the boy, “you only torment and bother folk, and if there is ever any bad luck abroad, then they usually say it is your fault. No, you will I not drink with,” said the boy.

So he took his beer keg, and walked far, and farther than far, until he thought that it grew so heavy that he could not bear to carry it any farther. He began to look around again, to see if there did not come anyone he could drink with, so the keg could grow lighter. Yes, after a long time, again a man came, and he was so dry and rattle-boned that it was nothing less than a miracle of God that he hung together.

“Good day,” said the man.

“Good day to you,” said the boy.

“Where are you off to?” asked the man.

“I would see if I can find someone to drink with, so that my keg may be a little lighter; it grows so heavy to carry,” said the boy.

“Can you not drink with me, just as well as with another?” said the man.

“Well, I can, yes,” said the boy. “What manner of man are you, though?” he said.

“They call me Death,” said the man.

“I will drink with you,” said the boy, laying down the keg, and tapping some beer into a bowl. “You are a hearty man, for you make all alike, both poor and rich.”

Then he drank to him, and Death thought it was a wonderful drink, and as the boy offered him more, they drank until they had drunk their fill, so the beer decreased, and the keg grew lighter.

Finally Death said: “I have never know drink taste better, and do me so much good as the beer you have poured me; I feel like a man newly-born on the inside, and I do not know what to do to thank you for it.” But when he had thought about it for a while, he said that the keg should never be empty, however much they drank from it, and the beer should be a cure, so the boy could make the sick well, better than any doctor. And then he said that when he came in to someone sick, then should Death always be there, and show himself for him; and it should be a sure sign that when Death sat at the feet, then he would be able to save the sick one with a healing draught from the keg, but if he sat at the headboard, then there was no advice or cure for death.

The boy was soon sought after, and he was called for from both far and wide, and he helped many back to health, for whom there had been no help. When he came in, and saw where Death sat with the sick one, he foresaw either life or death, and he was steadily right. He became both a rich and a powerful man, and eventually he was fetched for for a king’s daughter, far away in the countries. She was so sick that no doctor dared help her more, and so they promised him everything he could wish for and demand, if only he could save her.

When he came in to the king’s daughter, Death sat at her headboard, but he sat there napping and nodding, and while he sat like that, she felt better. “Here it is a matter a life and death,” said the doctor, “and there is no saving her, if I see things right,” he said. But they said that he had to save her, no matter if it cost them country and kingdom. So he looked at Death, and while he sat there napping again, he winked at the servants to turn the bed around in a hurry, so that Death would be sitting at her feet, and as soon as that was done, he gave her the health draught, so she was saved.

“Now you have betrayed me,” said Death, “and now it is over between us.”

“I had to, if I was to win both country and kingdom,” said the boy.

“It will not help you much,” said Death. “Your time is up, for you belong to me now.”

“Yes, if that is the way it has to be, then let it be so,” said the boy. “But I suppose you will let me read out the Lord’s Prayer first,” he said.

Yes, this he would be allowed, but he made sure never to read the Lord’s Prayer; everything else he read, but “Our Father” never crossed his tongue, and finally he thought he had cheated Death properly. But when Death thought it had gone on for long enough, then he went one night, and hung up a large blackboard with “Our Father” on it, above the boy’s bed. When he awoke, he began to read it, and did not pull himself properly together before he reached the “Amen.” But by then it was too late.

No comments:

Post a Comment