Wittysplinter by Clemens Brentano
ONCE upon a time there was a King of Roundabout
who had, among many other servants, a
page-boy who was called Wittysplinter, and
he preferred him above all the others, and showered upon
him honours and presents, because of his uncommon skill
and cleverness, and because everything the King gave
him to do he always accomplished successfully. Now,
because of the great favour which the King showed to
Wittysplinter, all the other page-boys and servants were
jealous of him; for, if his cleverness were rewarded
with money, they generally received nothing but scoldings
for their stupidity; if Wittysplinter received praise
from the King, they generally received a blowing-up;
when Wittysplinter got a new coat to his back, they
got instead the application of a stick to theirs; and if
Wittysplinter were permitted to kiss the King's hand, they were only allowed to touch it when they got a
smack from it.
On account of all these things, therefore, they got
very angry with Wittysplinter, and went about murmuring
and whispering the whole day long, and putting their
heads together and plotting how best they could deprive
Wittysplinter of the love of the King. One of them
scattered a lot of peas on the steps up to the throne, so
that Wittysplinter might stumble and break the glass
sceptre which he always had to present to the King;
another nailed pieces of melon skin to his shoes, so that
he might slide along and make a dreadful mess of the
King's gown when he was handing him the soup; a
third put all sorts of horrid flies in a straw, and blew
them into the King's wig when Wittysplinter was dressing
it; a fourth played some other nasty trick, and every one
sought to do something to deprive Wittysplinter of the
King's favour. Wittysplinter was so cautious, however,
and so clever and watchful, that everything they did was
in vain, and he brought all the commands of the King
to a successful issue.
Well, when they found that all these manœuvres were
quite useless, they determined to try something else. Now,
the King had an enemy, whom he could never get the
better of, and who was always doing him some mischief.
This was a giant who was called Sleepyhead, and who
lived in a large mountain, where he had a splendid palace
surrounded by a thick, gloomy wood; and with the
exception of his wife, Thickasmud, no human being lived
with him; but a lion who was called Hendread, and a bear
called Honeybeard, and a wolf called Lambsnapper, and a dog called Harescare, acted as his servants. He had
also in the stables a horse called Flyinglegs.
Now, there dwelt in the neighbourhood of Roundabout
a very beautiful Queen, Madam Flosk, who had a daughter,
Miss Flink, and the King of Roundabout, who wanted to
possess all the land adjoining his own, was very anxious
to marry Madam Flosk. But she was proud, and let him
know that many other Kings were also anxious to marry
her, and that she would accept in marriage that King only
who was most expeditious, and that he who was first by
her side when she went into church next Monday morning
at half-past ten should have her as his wife, and all her
possessions into the bargain.
Thereupon the King summoned all his household, and
put the question to them: "How am I to manage to be
first in the church on Monday morning next, and so gain
Queen Flosk for my wife?"
Then his servants answered him, and said: "You must
gain possession of the horse Flyinglegs, belonging to the
giant Sleepyhead; if you once get astride of it, no one can
possibly get there before you; and to get this horse for
you no one is more suited than Wittysplinter, who is so
successful in all he undertakes."
Thus spoke the wicked servants, in the hope that the
Giant Sleepyhead would kill Wittysplinter. The King,
accordingly, commanded Wittysplinter to bring the horse
Flyinglegs to him.
Wittysplinter got a hand-barrow, and placed a bees
hive on it, then a sack into which he thrust a cock, a hare,
and a lamb, and laid it on the barrow; he took with him,
also, a long piece of rope, and a large box full of snuff; slung round him a riding whip, fastened a pair of good
spurs to his boots, and quietly set off, pushing his barrow
in front of him.
Towards evening he had reached the summit of the
high mountain, and when he had traversed the wood he
saw before him the castle of the giant Sleepyhead. Night
drew on, and very soon he heard the giant Sleepyhead
and his wife, Thickasmud, and his lion, Hendread, and his
bear, Honeybeard, and his wolf, Lambsnapper, and his
dog, Harescare, all snoring loudly; only the horse, Flyinglegs,
was still awake, and stamping the floor of the stable
with its hoofs.
Then Wittysplinter took the long piece of rope very
quietly from the sack, and stretched it across in front of
the door of the castle from one tree to another, and placed
the box of snuff in the middle; next he took the beehive
and placed it in a tree by the side of the path, and then
went into the stable and undid the fastenings of Flyinglegs.
He placed the sack with the lamb, the hare, and the cock
on its back, and jumping up himself and using his spurs,
he rode out of the stable.
But the horse Flyinglegs could speak, and screamed out
"Thickasmud and Sleepyhead!
Honeybeard and Hendread!
Lambsnapper and Harescare!
I'm being stolen, so pray beware!"
and then it galloped off as hard as it could, because, with
Wittysplinter on its back, it couldn't help itself. Then
Thickasmud and Sleepyhead woke up and heard the cry
of the horse Flyinglegs. Quickly they awakened the bear Honeybeard, the lion Hendread, the wolf Lambsnapper,
and the dog Harescare, and all together they rushed pell-mell
out of the house, to try and catch Wittysplinter with
the horse Flyinglegs.
But in the darkness the giant Sleepyhead and his wife
Thickasmud stumbled over the rope which Wittysplinter
had tied in front of the castle door, and, splosh!—they fell
with their eyes and noses right into the box of snuff which
he had placed there. They rubbed their eyes and sneezed
one time after another, and Sleepyhead said: "Your good
health, Thickasmud." "I thank you," answered Thickasmud,
and then said: "Good health to you, Sleepyhead."
"I thank you," answered he; and so on, until they had
wept the snuff out of their eyes and sneezed it out of their
noses, and by the time this had happened Wittysplinter
was clear of the wood.
The bear Honeybeard was the first after him, but when
he came to the bees' hive the smell of the honey enticed
him, and he wanted to eat it; then the bees came buzzing
out, and stung him all over the face to such an extent
that he ran back half blind to the castle. Wittysplinter
had already got some distance out of the wood when he
heard the lion Hendread coming bounding after him, so
he quickly took the cock out of his sack, and when it flew
up into a tree and began to crow, the lion got so dreadfully
frightened that it ran back again.
Now Wittysplinter heard the wolf Lambsnapper behind
him. He quickly let loose the lamb out of his sack, and
the wolf galloped after it, and let him ride off in safety.
He was by this time quite near the town when he heard a bark behind him, and looking round, saw the dog Harescare
coming tearing after him. Quickly he let loose the
hare out of the sack, and the dog ran after it, and he
arrived safely in the town.
The King thanked Wittysplinter very much for the
horse, but the wicked servants of the Court were very
much annoyed that he had come off with a whole skin.
On the following Monday the King mounted upon his
horse Flyinglegs and rode off to Queen Flosk, and the
horse galloped so quickly that he was there long before
any of the other Kings, and had already danced several
of his wedding dances when they arrived. Just when
he was about to start off home with his Queen, his
servants said to him: "Your Majesty has indeed the
giant Sleepyhead's horse, but how much more splendid
it would be if you had his clothes as well, which are
said to surpass anything that man has ever seen. The
clever Wittysplinter would, no doubt, very soon bring
them to you if you commanded him to do so."
The King was at once possessed with a great desire
for Sleepyhead's clothes, and again gave the commission
to Wittysplinter. When the latter had started off upon
the road the wicked servants rejoiced, and thought that
this time he would surely not escape the clutches of the
On this occasion Wittysplinter took nothing with him
but a few good strong sacks. On arriving at the giant's
castle he climbed up into a tree, and lay hid until every
one was in bed. When everything had become quiet
he climbed down again. Just then he heard Madam
Thickasmud calling out: "Sleepyhead, my pillow is very low; fetch me a bundle of straw from outside." Thereupon
Wittysplinter quickly slipped into a bundle of
straw, and Sleepyhead carried him, along with the straw,
into his room, shoved him under the pillow, and then
lay down in bed again.
As soon as they had fallen asleep Wittysplinter packed
all Sleepyhead's and Thickasmud's clothes into his sack,
and very quietly and very carefully tied it to the tail
of the lion Hendread; then he tied the wolf Lambsnapper,
and the bear Honeybeard, and the dog Harescare, who
were lying about asleep, fast to the giant's bed, and
opened the door very wide. So far he had managed
everything just as he would have wished, but he wanted
to take away the giant's beautiful bed-cover as well.
So he gave the corner of it a slight tug, then another,
and another, and so on, until it fell on the floor. He
immediately wrapped himself up in it, and seated himself
on the sack containing the giant's clothes, which he had
tied to the lion's tail. Soon the cool night wind began
to blow through the open door and over Thickasmud's
legs, and waking up, she cried, "Sleepyhead, you've
pulled all the bed-clothes off me. I've nothing at all
over me." "Thickasmud, you've pulled all the clothes
off me," and thereupon they began to belabour each
other, so that Wittysplinter began to laugh loudly at
them. As soon as they heard this they called out
"Thieves, thieves! Up, Hendread! Up, Lambsnapper!
Up, Honeybeard and Harescare! Thieves, thieves!" At
this all the animals woke up, and the lion sprang forth
out of the door. Now Wittysplinter, wrapped up in the
bed-cover, was sitting on the bundle of clothes tied to the lion's tail; and as soon as the lion began to run,
he was driven along just as if he was in a carriage.
He began to cry out several times "kikriki-ki-kri-ki,'
just like a cock, and the lion got such a fright at this
that he ran in mad terror right up to the gates of the city. When quite near to the gates, Wittysplinter took
out his knife and cut the string, and the lion, who was
going at such a rate that he couldn't stop himself, ran
his head full bang against the gates and fell down
The other animals, who had been bound to the bedstead
of Sleepyhead and Thickasmud, could not get it
out of the door because it was too wide, and they dragged
it and pulled it about the room so much that both
Sleepyhead and Thickasmud fell out, and became so
angry that they beat the wolf, the bear, and the dog to
death, although the poor animals really couldn't help it.
When the watch in the city heard the noise of the
great blow which the lion had given to the gates, they
opened them, and Wittysplinter carried the clothes of
Sleepyhead and Thickasmud in triumph to the King, who
nearly jumped out of his skin with joy, for such clothes had
never before been seen. There was, among other things,
a hunting-coat, made of the skins of all the fourfooted
animals, and so beautifully sewn together that one could
see the whole story of Reynard the Fox depicted on
it. Also a bird-catcher's coat, made of feathers from all
the birds in the world, an eagle in front and an owl
behind; and in the pockets there were a musical box
and a peal of bells, which made music just like all kinds
of birds singing together. Further, there was a bathing-dress
and a fisher's-dress, made from the skins of all
the fish in the world, sewn together so that one saw a
whale-hunt and a great catch of herrings on it. Then
a garden-dress of Madam Thickasmud's, on which all
sorts of flowers and fruits, salads and vegetables, were embroidered. But what surpassed everything else was
the bed-cover; it was made entirely of the skins of bats,
and all the stars of heaven were represented on it by
means of diamonds.
The Royal family were quite dumb with astonishment
and wonder. Wittysplinter was kissed and embraced,
and his enemies nearly exploded with rage to see that
he had again escaped without hurt from the hands of
Even yet they did not despair, and put the idea into
the King's head that nothing was now wanting to his
dignity but that he should possess the castle of Sleepyhead
itself, and the King, who was a very child in these
matters and always wanted to have whatever took his
fancy, said immediately to Wittysplinter that he wanted
Sleepyhead's castle, and that as soon as he got it for him
he would be rewarded.
Wittysplinter did not take much time to think about
it, and for the third time ran off to the abode of Sleepyhead.
When he arrived there, the giant was not at
home, and he heard something in the room crying like
a calf. Then he looked through the window, and saw
Dame Thickasmud chopping wood, and at the same
time nursing a little giant on her arm, who was showing
his teeth and bleating like a calf.
Wittysplinter went in, and said: "Good-day, my
great and beautiful, broad and portly dame! How is
it that you have got to do so much work and have to
nurse your child at the same time? Have you no
maids or grooms? Where is your husband, then?"
"Ach," said Madam Thickasmud, "my husband has gone out to invite all his relations to a feast we are
going to hold. And I have to cook everything for myself
now, for my husband killed the bear, and the wolf, and
the dog, that used to help us; and the lion has run
"That is certainly very hard lines on you," said
Wittysplinter. "If I could do anything to help you,
I should be only too glad."
Then Thickasmud asked him to chop up four logs
of wood into small pieces for her; and Wittysplinter
took the axe and said to the giantess: "You might hold
the wood for me a moment, please," and the giantess
bent down and caught hold of the wood. Wittysplinter
raised the axe in the air, and swish! down it came,
and cut Thickasmud's head off and Mollakopp's at the
same time, and there they lay.
The next thing he proceeded to do was to dig a large,
deep hole right in front of the castle door, into which
he threw Thickasmud and Mollakopp, and then covered
over the opening with a thin layer of branches and
leaves. Then he proceeded to light up all the rooms of
the castle with candles and torches, and took a large
copper kettle, and beat upon it with soup ladles. Then
he got a tin funnel, and blew a blast on it just like
a trumpet, and between each performance he shouted,
"Hurrah! Long live His Majesty the King of Roundabout."
When Sleepyhead was returning home towards evening,
and saw all the lights in the windows and heard the
shouting, he was mad with rage, and ran with such
fury against the door that he fell through the hole covered
with branches and lay there a prisoner, shouting and
making a great noise. Wittysplinter immediately ran
down and threw large stones on him, until he had filled
up the hole.
And now Wittysplinter took the key of the castle
and ran with it to King Roundabout, who immediately
betook himself to the castle, along with his wife Flosk
and her daughter Flink and Wittysplinter, and inspected
all there was to be seen there. After they had spent
fourteen whole days in looking at an immense number of rooms, chambers, cellars, look-out towers, bakeries,
furnaces, kitchens, wood-stove houses, dining-rooms,
smoking-rooms, wash-houses, etc., the King asked Wittysplinter
what he would like as a reward for his faithful
services. And Wittysplinter replied that he would like
to marry the Princess Flink, if it were agreeable to her.
The Princess very readily consented, and they were
married and lived in the giant's castle, where they are
to be found to this day.