The Magician and his Pupil by A. Godin
THERE was once a poor shoemaker renowned far
and wide as a drunkard. He had a good wife
and many daughters, but only one son. As
soon as this son was old enough his mother dressed him
in his best clothes, combed his hair until it shone, and
then led him far, far away; for she wished to take him
to the capital, and there apprentice him to a master
who would teach him a really good trade.
When they had accomplished about half their journey
they met a man in black, who asked whither they were
going and the object of their journey. On being told,
he offered to take the boy as his apprentice, but as he
had not given the customary Christian greeting, and
would not mention the name of his trade, also because
the mother thought there was a wicked gleam in his
eyes, she declined to trust him with her son. As he
persisted in his offer they were rude, then he troubled
them no further.
Shortly after leaving the old man they came to a
wide stretch of land, solitary and barren as a desert,
over which they journeyed until hunger, thirst, and
fatigue compelled them to rest. Exhausted, they sank
on the sandy ground and wept bitterly. Suddenly, at
a short distance from them arose a large stone, on whose
surface stood a dish of smoking roast beef, a loaf of
white bread, and a jug of foaming ale.
Eagerly the weary travellers hastened forward. Alas!
the moment they moved, meat and drink vanished,
leaving the stone bare and barren; but as soon as they
stepped back, the food again made its appearance.
After this had happened several times the shoemaker's
son guessed what was at the bottom of it. Pointing
his stick of aspen wood—a wood, by the way, very
powerful against enchantment—he cautiously approached
the stone, and thrust his stick into that place on the
earth where the shadow of the stone rested.
Immediately the stone with everything on it disappeared,
and in the place where the shadow had lain
stood the stranger in black who had met them earlier
in the day. He bowed politely to the youth and requested
him to remove his stick.
"No, that I will not do! This time the stone has
met its match! You are a magician, or at least a necromancer.
You locked us in this desert and amused
yourself with our misery. Now you shall be treated
as you deserve. You shall stand here for a year and
six weeks, until you are as dry as the stick with which
I have nailed you to the earth."
"Loose me, I entreat you."
"Yes, on certain conditions! First, you must once
more become a stone, and on the stone must appear
everything we have already seen."
The magician immediately vanished, and in his stead
appeared the stone covered with a white cloth, and
bearing the hot roast beef, white bread, and foaming
ale, of which the travellers ate and drank to their hearts'
content. When they had finished the stone became
the man in black, who entreated piteously to be unnailed.
"I will unnail you directly," said the youth, "but
only on one condition. You must take me as apprentice
for three years, as you yourself formerly proposed, and
give me a pledge that you will really teach me all
The magician bowed himself to the earth, dug his
fingers into the sand, and drew forth a handful of
ducats, which he threw into the boy's cap.
"Thanks," replied the youth; "this money will be
very useful to my mother, but you must give me a
better pledge than that. I must have a piece of your
"Will nothing else serve?"
"Well, then," said the magician, "take your knife."
"I have no knife with me," replied the youth; "you
must lend me yours."
The magician obediently lent his knife, and bent his
right ear towards the youth.
"No, no, I want the left ear; you offer the right
far too willingly."
The magician then offered his left ear; and the
youth cut off a slant piece, laid it in his wallet, and
then drew his stick out of the ground. The magician
groaned, rubbed his mutilated ear, then, turning a
somersault, changed himself into a black cock, ordered
the youth to take his mother back, and return at midnight
and await his arrival at the cross-road where
they now stood, when he would take him home and
teach him for three years. The cock then flapped his
wings, changed into a magpie, and flew away.
When the youth had accompanied his mother to the
next village he kissed her hands and feet, shook the
gold into her apron, and begged her to call for him in
three years at the place where he had made his agreement
with the magician. He then hastened back and
reached the cross-road just at midnight.
Being very tired he leaned against the mile-stone to
await the arrival of his master. He waited long, then
as no one came, he drew the piece of the magician's
ear from his wallet and bit it hard. At this the mile-stone
staggered, cracked, and roared. The youth sprang
quickly aside, looked at the inscription, and cried: "Ho!
ho! Is that you, master?"
"Of course, it is! But why did you bite me?" asked
"Take human form instantly!" replied the youth.
"I have done so!" With this the man in black
stood on the cross-road. "Now we will go home," said
he. "I take you as my pupil, but remember, from this
moment you remain my pupil and servant, until, the
three years ended, your mother fetches you away."
Thus the youth became the magician's pupil. You
wish to know how he taught him his art? Well, so
be it. He stretched his hands and feet, turned him
into a paper bag, and then left him to return to his
proper shape as best he could. Or else, he thrust his
hand and arm up to the shoulder down the youth's
throat, turned him inside out, and left him to turn himself
The youth learnt so well, that at the end of the three
years his skill in magic surpassed even that of his
master. During this time many parents had come to
fetch their children, for the magician had quite a crowd
of pupils; but the cunning old man always contrived
that they went away without them. Three days before
the time appointed for the shoemaker's wife to fetch
her son, the youth met her on the road and told her
how to recognise him.
"Remember, dearest mother," said he, "when the
magician calls his horses together, a fly will buzz over
my ear; when the doves fly down, I shall not eat of
the peas; and when the maidens stand around you, a
brown mole will make its appearance above my eyebrow!
Be sure you remember this, or you will destroy
When the shoemaker's wife demanded her son of the
magician, he blew a brazen trumpet towards all four
corners of the world. Immediately a crowd of coal-black
horses rushed forward; they were not, however,
real horses, but enchanted scholars.
"Find your son—then you can take him with you!"
said the magician.
The mother went from horse to horse, trying hard
to recognise her son; she trembled at the mere thought
that she might make a mistake, and thus destroy both
herself and her beloved child. At length she noted a
fly buzzing over the ear of one of the horses, and cried
joyfully: "That is my son!"
"Right," said the magician; "now guess again." So
saying he blew a silver trumpet towards the corners of
the earth, and threw on the ground half a bushel of
peas. Then like some vast cloud down flew a flock
of doves, and began eagerly picking up the peas. The
shoemaker's wife looked at dove after dove, until she
found one that only appeared to eat. "That is my
son!" said she.
"Right again! Now comes the third and last trial.
Guess right, and your son goes with you; guess wrong,
and he remains with me for ever." The magician then
blew his trumpet, and immediately beautiful songs resounded
through the air. At the same time lovely
maidens approached and surrounded the shoemaker's
wife. They were all crowned with cornflowers, and wore
white robes with rose-coloured girdles.
The shoemaker's wife examined each carefully, and
saw a brown mole over the right eye of the most
beautiful. "This is my son!" she exclaimed.
Scarcely had she spoken than the maiden changed
into her son, threw himself into her arms, and thanked
her for his deliverance. The other maidens flew away,
and the mother and son returned home.
The student of magic had not been long at home
before he discovered that in his father's house Want
was a constant guest. The money given by the magician
had long since come to an end, for the shoemaker had
spent it all in drink.
"What have you learnt in foreign parts?" he asked
his son. "What help am I to expect from you."
"I have learned magic, and will give you help enough.
I can at your wish change myself into all possible
shapes, to-day into a falcon, to-morrow into a greyhound,
a nightingale, a sheep, or any other form. Lead me as
an animal to market, and there sell me, but be sure
always to bring back the rope with which you led me
thither, and never desire me to become a horse: the
money thus acquired would be useless to you, and you
would make me, and through me yourself, unhappy."
Thereupon the shoemaker demanded a falcon for sale;
his son at once disappeared, and a splendid falcon sat
on the father's shoulder. The shoemaker took the bird
to market, where he sold it to a hunter for a good price,
but on returning home, he found his son seated at the
table enjoying a good dinner.
When the money thus gained had been spent to the
last farthing, the shoemaker required a greyhound, which
he again sold to a hunter, and on his return home found
his son had arrived there before him.
Thus the father led his son to market again and
again, as an ox, a cow, a sheep, a goose, a turkey, and
in many other animal forms. One day he thought: "I
should very much like to know why my son does not
wish to become a horse! Surely he takes me for a fool,
and grudges me the best prize!" He was half drunk
when he thought this, and then and there desired his
son to become a horse. Hardly had he spoken than
his wish was gratified: a splendid horse stood before
the window; he dug his hoofs deep into the ground,
whilst his eyes shot forth lightning, and flames issued
from his nostrils.
The shoemaker mounted and rode into the town.
Here a merchant stopped him, admired the horse, and
offered to give the animal's weight in gold if his master
would only sell him. They went together to a pair of
scales: the merchant shook gold from a sack on one
of the wooden scales, whilst the shoemaker made his
horse mount on the other. As he was staring in amazement
at the heap of gold in the scales, one of the
chains broke, and the gold pieces rolled over the street.
The shoemaker threw himself on the ground to pick
them up, and forgot both the horse and bridle.
The merchant meanwhile mounted the horse, and
galloped out of the town, digging his spurs into the
poor animal's sides until the blood flowed, and beating
him cruelly with a steel riding-whip; for this merchant
was none other than the magician, who thus revenged
himself for the piece cut from his ear.
The poor horse was quite exhausted when the magician
arrived with him at his invisible dwelling; this house,
it is true, stood in an open field, yet no one could see
it. The horse was then led to the stable, whilst the
magician considered how he might best torture him.
But while the magician was considering, the horse,
who knew what a terrible fate awaited him, succeeded
in throwing the bridle over a nail, on which it remained
hanging, thus enabling him to draw his head out. He
fled across the field, and changing into a gold ring,
threw himself before the feet of a beauteous Princess just
returning from bathing.
The Princess stooped, picked up the gold circle,
slipped it on her finger, and then looked around in
wonder. In the meantime, the magician—changed into
a Grecian merchant—came up and courteously asked
the Princess to return the gold ring he had lost. Terrified
at the sight of his black beard and gleaming eyes, the
Princess screamed aloud, and pressed the ring to her
Alarmed by her cries, her attendants and playmates,
who were waiting near, hastened up and formed a circle
round their beloved Princess. But as soon as they
understood the cause of her distress, they threw themselves
on the importunate stranger, and began tickling
him in such a manner that he laughed, cried, giggled,
coughed, and at length danced over the ground like
a maniac, forgetting through sheer distress that he was
still a magician.
When, however, he did remember it, he changed himself
into a hedgehog, and stuck his bristles into the
maidens until their blood flowed, and they were glad
to leave him alone.
Meanwhile the Princess hastened home and showed
her father the ring, which pleased her so much that
she wore it on her heart-finger night and day. Once
when playing with it, the ring slipped from her hand,
fell to the ground and sprang in pieces, when, oh, wonder!
before her stood a handsome youth, the magician's pupil.
At first the Princess was very troubled, and did not
venture to raise her eyes, but when the scholar had told
her everything she was satisfied, conversed with him a
long while, and promised to ask her father to have the
magician driven away by the dogs should he ever come
to demand the ring. When in the course of the day
the magician came, the King, in spite of all his daughter's
entreaties, ordered the ring to be given up.
With tears in her eyes the Princess took the ring
(the scholar had resumed this form immediately after
relating his adventures) and threw it at the merchant's
feet. It shivered into little pearls.
Trembling with rage, the merchant threw himself on
the ground in the shape of a hen, picked up the pearls,
and when he saw no more, flew out of the window,
flapped his wings, cried, "Kikeriki! Scholar, are you
here?" and then soared into the air.
Having been told by the scholar what to do should
she be compelled to return the ring, the Princess had
let her handkerchief fall at the same moment she threw
the ring on the ground, and two of the largest pearls
had rolled beneath it. She now took out these pearls,
and they immediately called, in mocking imitation of
the hen's voice:
"Kikeriki! I am here!"
They then changed into a hawk and chased after the
hen. Seizing it with his sharp talons, he bit its left
wing with such force that all the feathers cracked, and
the hen fell like a stone into the water, where it was
The hawk then returned to the Princess, perched on
her shoulder, gazed fondly into her eyes, and then
became once more the young and handsome scholar.
The Princess had grown so fond of him that she chose
him as her husband, and from that moment he gave up
magic for ever. In his prosperity he did not forget his
relations—his mother lived with him and the Princess
in their magnificent palace, his sisters married wealthy
merchants, and even his father was content.
When the old King died the magician's pupil became
King over the land, and lived so happily with his wife
and children, and all his subjects, that no pen can write,
no song sing, and no story tell of half their happiness.