The Grey Fairy Book HTML version
Herr Lazarus and the Draken
Once upon a time there was a cobbler called Lazarus, who was very fond of honey. One
day, as he ate some while he sat at work, the flies collected in such numbers that with one
blow he killed forty. Then he went and ordered a sword to be made for him, on which he
had written these words: ‘With one blow I have slain forty.' When the sword was ready
he took it and went out into the world, and when he was two days' journey from home he
came to a spring, by which he laid himself down and slept.
Now in that country there dwelt Draken, one of whom came to the spring to draw water;
there he found Lazarus sleeping, and read what was written on his sword. Then he went
back to his people and told them what he had seen, and they all advised him to make
fellowship with this powerful stranger. So the Draken returned to the spring, awoke
Lazarus, and said that if it was agreeable to him they should make fellowship together.
Lazarus answered that he was willing, and after a priest had blessed the fellowship, they
returned together to the other Draken, and Lazarus dwelt among them. After some days
they told him that it was their custom to take it in turns to bring wood and water, and as
he was now of their company, he must take his turn. They went first for water and wood,
but at last it came to be Lazarus's turn to go for water. The Draken had a great leathern
bag, holding two hundred measures of water. This Lazarus could only, with great
difficulty, drag empty to the spring, and because he could not carry it back full, he did not
fill it at all, but, instead, he dug up the ground all round the spring.
As Lazarus remained so long away, the Draken sent one of their number to see what had
become of him, and when this one came to the spring, Lazarus said to him: ‘We will no
more plague ourselves by carrying water every day. I will bring the entire spring home at
once, and so we shall be freed from this burden.'
But the Draken called out: ‘On no account, Herr Lazarus, else we shall all die of thirst;
rather will we carry the water ourselves in turns, and you alone shall be exempt.'
Next it comes to be Lazarus's turn to bring the wood. Now the Draken, when they fetched
the wood, always took an entire tree on their shoulder, and so carried it home. Because
Lazarus could not imitate them in this, he went to the forest, tied all the trees together
with a thick rope, and remained in the forest till evening. Again the Draken sent one of
them after him to see what had become of him, and when this one asked what he was
about, Lazarus answered: ‘I will bring the entire forest home at once, so that after that we
may have rest.'
But the Draken called out: ‘By no means, Herr Lazarus, else we shall all die of cold;
rather will we go ourselves to bring wood, and let you be free.' And then the Draken tore
up one tree, threw it over his shoulder, and so carried it home.