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Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Our Lord’s and the Devil’s Animals

After Our Lord had created all the animals, he chose the wolves as his dogs, but overlooked the goats. Then the devil puffed himself up and also went out creating, and formed the goats with long tails. Now when they went grazing, their long tails stuck fast in thorn bushes, and so the devil had to go out and spend a lot of time loosing them. At length he grew wroth, and bit the tails off all the goats, leaving only stumps, as one may see even to this day.

Now he could let them graze alone, but it happened that our Lord saw how they could gnaw on a growing tree or devour other, delicate plants. He was moved by this, so in his grace and mercy, he set his wolves upon them, which soon tore the goats asunder.

When the devil noticed this, he approached the Lord, saying: “Your creatures have torn mine asunder.”

The Lord replied: “Why have you created them to do harm?”

The devil replied: “I had to do so, for as my mind can only conceive of harm, what I create cannot have any other nature. You must compensate me for what your creatures have done.”

“I shall compensate you,” said the Lord, “when the leaves have fallen from the oak trees. Return then and you shall have your compensation.”

When the leaves had fallen from the oak trees, the devil came and made his demand.

But Our Lord said, “Before the church in Constantinople stands a tall oak which yet has all its leaves.”

In fury the devil flew off to seek out the oak, but he wandered the desert for six months before he found it. When he returned, all the other oak trees were full of green leaves, and so he had to give up his compensation. But in his wrath he put out the eyes of all the goats, and put his own in their place.

This is why goats have devil eyes and short tails, and why the devil assumes their form.

Jens Melgaard. “Vor Herres og Fandens Dyr” in Tyve udvalgte Eventyr for Børn. Skien: J. Melgaard, 1845 (p. 90–92).

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