The Grey Fairy Book
The Little Gray Man
A nun, a countryman, and a blacksmith were once wandering through the world together.
One day they lost their way in a thick, dark forest, and were thankful when they saw, in
the distance, the walls of a house, where they hoped they might obtain refuge for the
night. When they got close to the house they found that it was an old deserted castle, fast
falling into ruins, but with some of the rooms in it still habitable. As they were homeless
they determined to take up their abode in the castle, and they arranged that one of them
should always stay at home and keep house, while the other two went out into the world
to seek their fortunes.
The lot of remaining at home fell first to the nun, and when the countryman and the
blacksmith had gone out into the wood, she set to work, tidied up the house, and prepared
all the food for the day. As her companions did not come home for their mid-day meal,
she ate up her own portion and put the rest in the oven to keep warm. Just as she was
sitting down to sew, the door opened and a little gray man came in, and, standing before
her, said: ‘Oh! how cold I am!'
The nun was very sorry for him, and said at once: ‘Sit down by the fire and warm
The little man did as he was told, and soon called out: ‘Oh! how hungry I am!'
The nun answered: ‘There is food in the oven, help yourself.'
The little man did not need to be told twice, for he set to work and ate up everything with
the greatest possible despatch. When the nun saw this she was very angry, and scolded
the dwarf because he had left nothing for her companions.
The little man resented her words, and flew into such a passion that he seized the nun,
beat her, and threw her first against one wall and then against the other. When he had
nearly killed her he left her lying on the floor, and hastily walked out of the house.
In the evening the countryman and the blacksmith returned home, and when they found,
on demanding their dinner, that there was nothing left for them, they reproached the nun
bitterly, and refused to believe her when she tried to tell them what had happened.
The next day the countryman asked to be left in charge of the house, and promised that, if
he remained at home, no one should go hungry to bed. So the other two went out into the
forest, and the countryman having prepared the food for the day, ate up his own portion,
and put the rest in the oven. Just as he had finished clearing away, the door opened and
the little gray man walked in, and this time he had two heads. He shook and trembled as
before, and exclaimed: ‘Oh! how cold I am.'