A Fix-it Fairy Tale: more kindness, more consent and more inclusivity for ‘Hans in Luck’.
A story about three years work, one day’s travel, five trades, and a young man with a never-ending supply of good-nature.
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[Gentle theme music]
Laura: Hi, you can call me Laura, I’m here to tell you a story if you like. This is Patchwork Fairy Tales and you found one of my Fix-it Fairy Tales: more kindness, more consent and more inclusivity. If you want to read as well as listen, check out the transcript linked in the description. Today we’re fixing Hans in Luck.
In a town whose name no one would know, so it does little good to remember it now, a young man called Marie worked as an apprentice. He worked for his master for seven years and when these sever years were over he said:
“Master, I’ve served you for better and for worse, and I’ve learned a lot, for better and for worse, but now I think I would like to have my wages.”
“And so you shall,” his master agreed, because he was an honest man, but because he was likewise a shrewd one he added: “But you had better stay here to continue your work, rather than go somewhere else.”
“Ah,” said Marie, who had already made up his mind to be off. “But I am not a mineral that is part of the soil, nor a vegetable that will wilt in a different climate. No, I am an animal, so I have to migrate.”
His master understood very little of this speech – which was certainly Marie’s object, as he delighted in confusing him – but protested all the same:
“Where will you go though? Surely you do not intend to leave me without a destination?”
“Of course not!” Marie said light-heartedly. “I will walk to the city, where my friend Olivia lives. I have not seen her in many years and I have missed her long enough.”
“Well,” his master sighed. “If that is what your heart is set on.”
“It is indeed,” Marie answered with a smile. “And a heart once set is best followed, I always say.”
“Then you shall have your wages,” his master agreed and he gave Marie, for seven years of loyal service, a magnificent lump of gold.
“That,” Marie laughed. “Is quite the size of my head and almost as shiny! I had better guard both against the sun.” So he put on his hat to protect his bald head, wrapped the lump of gold in a strong cloth, and swung the heavy load onto his shoulder to set off towards the city. He did not hurry, for he had no reason to flee from what he was leaving behind, but he did not dawdle, because he had every reason to be pleased with where he was going.
So he walked at his own pace, with a smile on his face and as straight a back as his heavy load allowed him, until he stopped at a crossroads to give way to a man on a horse. As he did so he raised his head to greet the rider and to Marie’s surprise the man looked extremely glum and gloomy.
“Hey there, my friend,” Marie called out. “Why the long face? And furthermore, what is plaguing your master?”
“I am not in the mood for jokes,” the rider said glumly.
“I meant no harm by it,” Marie said gently. “But do tell me, what has got you so down on a day such as this?”
“The sun may shine,” the man sighed. “But the sun cannot cure my troubles. My family is so deeply indebted to the doctor and apothecary for the curing of our two youngest children, that I will be forced to sell this dear horse to pay for them. If I can find anyone at all that will give me a fair price for it.”
That was indeed no joking matter and Marie listened to the man with a sincere desire to help him. Of course there was the lump of gold on his back. He might offer to buy the horse himself, that would at least save the dutiful father the trouble of travelling far to find a buyer.
The horse, fine as the animal was, was not worth that entire sum of gold. But as things stood, there and then on the side of the road, there was no way to split the lump into portions. In any case, Marie thought, this man had more need of the gold than he did. Come to think of it, ridden on a horse he would reach the city much faster and he longed to see Olivia most of all. And in truth, this gold was really very heavy to carry on his back like this. He would be rather glad to be rid of it. So in response to the man’s concluding lament he exclaimed:
“What a lucky man I am! Here you are with a horse to sell and here I am with this lump of gold halfway breaking my back. Tell you what. Let’s trade. I will take your horse and you will take this gold.”
The man was overjoyed and gladly took that bargain. He dismounted and helped Marie into the saddle in his place. Marie took the reigns cheerfully and they parted in mutual satisfaction, the man turning back the way he came, and Marie continuing on the road towards the city.
Now Marie was not a bad horseman and he rode the beautiful mare gently, but just as he rode round a bend in the road where the view was obstructed by tall, waving trees, there happened to be a cow in the middle of the road. The horse startled and before Marie knew where he was going, up was down and left was right and he was thrown off and into the ditch at the side of the road.
“Oh my word, are you alright!” a distressed voice called out and when Marie got to his feet he saw the owner of the voice was a young woman with rather dusty clothes and a very pleasant, but very tired face.
“Right as rain,” Marie assured her. “And why shouldn’t I be, after all I also fell from the sky.”
“I should not have let go of my cow,” the young woman said ashamedly. “I really am sorry.”
“Never mind,” Marie said kindly, quietly patting the horse on its flank. “Where are you going with your cow?” He really hoped she was not in a similar predicament as the man he met before, because the young woman really did look rather worn out.
But no: “Oh I am on my way to be married,” she replied. “And this cow here is my dowry.”
“Congratulations!” Marie said heartily. “I shall wish you joy. But then what has got you so cast down?”
“Oh,” the young woman sighed. “I still have so far to go and I cannot afford to rest. We have waited so long to marry and there is so much to be done in building a household.”
Well, thought Marie, ridden on a horse she might reach her fiancé a good deal faster than walking behind a cow. And a horse would be as good or better as a dowry, he supposed. Furthermore, a cow might be more useful to him than a horse could ever be. One tumble to the ground was quite enough for him and riding may be fine, but fresh milk was also nothing to be sniffed at. So he smiled at the tired young woman and said:
“What a lucky man I am! Here I am with a horse that would rather shake me off its back than carry me and here you are with weary feet and a long way to go. If you can ride I might as well trade your cow for my horse and be a happier man for it.”
The young woman was all delight and amazement and she replied that she could ride very well and that she was more than willing to make a trade.
So the weary fiancée hitched up her skirts and climbed on the mare while Marie took up the lead of the cow instead of the reigns of the horse. Marie wished the young woman joy and she wished him a good journey and they both went off in their opposite directions in excellent spirits.
For a good while Marie walked on happily, whistling as he went, leading the cow along without a care in the world. As the sun climbed higher in the sky, however, it began to grow hot and uncomfortable.
“I tell you what, little cow,” Marie told the cow. “As there is no stream or well to drink from here, I shall give you my water and milk you so I can have a drink myself.”
So he found a quiet spot in the grass by the side of the road, gave the little milk cow to drink, and then knelt down to milk it.
Now Marie was not a clumsy man, and he was being very careful, but just as he began the milking, a nasty gadfly stung the cow and made the animal give such a kick that her hoof knocked Marie against the head and had him tumbling backwards in a daze.
For a moment he was unable to sit up, but the next he found himself being helped up by the elbow.
His helper was a young lad with a face that would have been freckled if it had not been so dirty. His grin was wide though and Marie grinned back in return.
“Thank you, my boy,” he said. “That’s good of you to stop and help me.”
“Oh,” said the boy. “I am in no hurry to get where I’m going. No, I’d rather be going the other way.”
“And why may that be?” Marie asked in curiosity.
The boy’s face fell and he gestured behind him, where Marie saw a fat little pig lying lazily by the side of the road.
“My mother sent me to bring the pig to the butcher,” the boy muttered. “And I know she has to feed me and my siblings, but I wish we didn’t have to kill our animals to do it.”
Marie had far too soft a heart to see sorrow on such a young face. A single pig, he thought, would not go far towards feeding a whole family in any case. A fine little milk cow such as his would be much better and it would save this dear boy a trip to the butcher. Besides, he was no farmer and even more than that, one kick to the head was already more than he had ever bargained for.
“You’re a kind boy,” he told the grubby lad. “And what a lucky man I am! Here I am with a cow that would rather kick me in the head than give me her milk and here you are with a crowd of hungry siblings to feed and a mother counting on you. I will take your pig and give you this cow in trade. Then you can have milk and butter and cheese at home and never think of the butcher again.”
The lad’s face lit up like the sunshine itself and he heartily agreement to the trade. Happily he exchanged the lead of the cow for the rope the pig was bound with and the boy thanked him one more time as they each went their separate ways.
Marie was extremely content, because a thin veil of clouds had slipped in front of the burning sun and the pig was a companionable, cosy sort of animal. It made him smile to look at it and really, he thought, he had had an extraordinary amount of luck on this trip, every circumstance coming together so neatly as it had.
As he continued on his way, however, Marie did notice that he had to slow his pace considerably. The pig would trot fast when it wanted to go fast, slow when it wanted to go slow and when it felt like lying down, it frequently did so. No amount of kind words or colourful scolds or pulling on the rope could change that and Marie began to worry that at this rate he would certainly not reach the city before nightfall. Several times he tried to carry it, but that fat little sow was far too heavy and far too unwilling to be carried even a little way. So on Marie went, very slowly, and now not quite so smiling.
Right at that moment a little lane met the road and down that lane came a girl with a plump white goose tucked under her arm.
“Good afternoon, miss, and good afternoon to your goose,” Marie greeted her cordially. “Please mind my pig, it has a will of its own you see and I would not have you run afoul of it.”
“Good afternoon, sir, and good afternoon to your pig,” the girl giggled. Then she frowned seriously at him from beneath her bonnet and said: “I shouldn’t be laughing. This is a sad day.”
“Is it really?” Marie said kindly. “What makes it sad?”
“It is sad because there is a fox on the loose and no matter what we do, he gets into the coop every time. Now papa has sent me to bring our last goose away before we lose her too.”
“That is sad indeed,” Marie agreed and the girl nodded regretfully.
A pig, Marie thought, would have no fear of foxes. If any of the neighbours around here had a boar, no doubt they could arrange to have some piglets. Really, that was a much better bet in fox country than raising geese or chickens. And now he came to consider it, a fine goose like that would make a much better present to give to Olivia on his arrival than a pig. It would also be a great deal easier to carry. Why, this little girl had her tucked under her arm with no problem at all. Carrying only the goose he would reach the city soon enough, so he looked at the girl with twinkling eyes and said cheerfully:
“What a lucky man I am! Here I am with a pig that is too heavy to carry and that would rather lie down than walk and here you are with a goose that needs to be carried to safety and an empty coop that needs to be filled. Let me offer you a trade. You give me the goose and I will give you this pig to take home. If it is only that little lane you need to go down you may persuade it to walk that far and no fox will be getting this heavy beast.”
The girl’s eyes went wide with joy and she happily agreed to the bargain. So Marie gave her the rope to lead the pig and she gave him the goose to tuck under his arm and when each had what was now their own, they most cordially wished one another good-day.
Now Marie whistled again as he walked, because the goose did not mind being carried and he was making good progress towards the town. He smiled to himself, thinking how surprised Olivia would be to see him. And he would give her the goose to give to her landlady, which would be a pretty good way of arriving in a household, he thought.
When Marie was nearly upon the town, with the sun setting in the west, he met a fifth fellow traveller. This time it was rag-tag sort of man, hauling a heavy whetstone wheel on a cart.
“Hello there, young man!” he called out to Marie as soon as he saw him. “Do you have anything that needs sharpening?”
“Sadly my pockets are devoid of scissors or knives at the moment,” Marie replied good-naturedly.
“Sad indeed,” the man shook his head. “But say, that’s a fine looking goose you’ve got there. Where did you buy it?”
By then Marie had reached the cart and he leaned against it comfortably, the goose still tucked snugly under his arm.
“I didn’t,” he replied merrily. “I traded my pig for it.”
“Your pig?” the man frowned in disbelief. “Did you set out to sell it then and was there no buyer?”
“I did not set out with it at all,” Marie answered, beginning to take pleasure in the joke this would become. “I traded my cow for it.”
“Then what did you mean to do with the cow?” the man asked, eyebrows travelling ever higher up his face.
“Nothing at all, for I didn’t have it until I traded my horse for it,” Marie told him with as straight a face as any man could have spoken with.
“And the horse?” the man gaped.
“That I bought,” said Marie. “For a lump of gold as big as my head.”
By now the man’s eyes were as big as saucers. “Where did you come by such a sum of gold?”
“Not easily,” Marie laughed. “I can tell you that. It was my reward after an apprenticeship of seven years.”
For a moment the man was very quiet and then he straightened his shoulders and said. “You have done some good deals there, young man, no doubt about it. Now if only you could find yourself a thing that could keep you making money, you would be set for life, with a mind like yours.”
“Reckon I would be,” Marie agreed amusedly. “But how would I manage that?”
“Well!” the man exclaimed. “You need something that can turn you a profit! Like the turning of my grinding wheel here. If you had such a thing as this, you could be making money wherever you go, for everywhere you go people will need their knives and scissors sharpened. Yes, my boy, a grinder like me never misses the clink of gold in his pockets.”
“Is that so!” Marie exclaimed and because he knew very well that the man was taking him for a simpleton, he added regretfully: “What a pity I would never know where to get one.”
“Ah,” the man grinned. “I may be able to help you there. You see this stone here is by now a little worn for a master craftsman such as myself. But for a beginner like you it would be just perfect. Tell you what, I will trade it for your goose! What do you say?”
Now Marie had half a mind to give the man a good scolding, because it was really pretty bad of him to try and take advantage of him in such a underhanded manner. But really, Marie thought, if he wants the goose that badly, he probably has more use for it than I do. Besides, it really was a bit of a joke, wasn’t it, to set off with a clump of gold and end up with a goose. To end up with a grinding stone would be an even better joke. It would make Olivia laugh and it would give him a story to tell for the rest of his life, that was certain. So despite everything, Marie exclaimed:
“Well that is an extraordinary deal! I think I will take it, my good man.”
And he handed him the goose and received the grindstone in exchange. With many well-wishes of the stranger he continued towards the town, the man hurrying off further away from it, his face shining with glee over the fine goose. Marie kept walking and as he hauled the heavy stone with him he could not help but laugh out loud. The ridiculous thing was so heavy he could barely put one foot in front of the other.
Between the laughing and the lifting he was soon out of breath and he wheezed:
“At this rate I will not reach Olivia before nightfall after all, but how she will laugh at my little adventure.”
It really was very slow going though, and when Marie reached the well at the very beginning of the town he was quite eager to stop for a drink.
“You sit yourself down too,” he said with a sigh to the heavy stone, and he placed it carefully by his side on the edge of the well.
Marie leaned forward to scoop up some water, but right then his foot slipped on a wet stone and he lost his balance. He just managed to save himself from tumbling into the well, but in doing so he pushed against the grinding stone and with a tremendous splash it fell into the water.
“Well!” Marie called out, throwing up his hands and bursting out laughing all over again. “That is me relieved of my burden!”
He laughed until he cried, leaning over the well to see into the depth, but there was nothing but darkness there. The stone was gone.
“I truly am a lucky man,” he said aloud, wiping the tears of laugher from his eyes. “Because this is a better ending to this story than I ever could have fabricated and now I will not have to carry that loathsome thing all the way to Olivia’s house. Truly, I might as well have been born on a Sunday, with the luck that has come my way today.”
So he merrily drank his thirst away and then set off for Olivia’s town house with a bounce in his step and a song on his lips. He had every reason to be cheerful he thought, because although he had set off with a load of gold and was now nearing his destination with nothing in either his hands or his pockets, he was likewise free of worries. He had done seven years of good work and in one single day he had made five people very happy, four of which he believed genuinely deserved it and all of which had given him a tale that could be told over dinner for years to come.
Most important of all, here he was finally turning into Olivia’s street. So with a mind and a body free of all burdens he ran the last paces to the door, behind which awaited the single warmest greeting a man with nothing but the clothes on his back had ever received.
“My dear, Marie,” Olivia cried, when the two friends finally broke out of their embrace. “If I had known you were coming I would have gone to meet you! You must have walked all day. Come up to the sitting room, I want to hear all about your journey…”
There was no request at that moment that could have pleased Marie more. And as soon as he had sat down, because he had been on his feet since the early dawn that day, he began telling the story that he had paid for with seven years’ wages, but was now rewarded for with his dear friend’s roaring laughter.
Which is as good a trade as anyone is likely to find, I am sure any friend will agree.
Laura: And with that last word, stitching up the very last sentence, this story has its proper end.
Thank you very much for listening, I hope you enjoyed my take on this classic folktale. If you want to know how to contact me or where to find my other projects, you can find all that on my website laurasimons.com.
I am still working on original fairy tales, as well as short fantasy stories and fantasy snippets. I’m also considering recording the rest of my urban fantasy novella Coffee and Faerie Cakes, since only the first chapter of that cosy romance has so far been shared on this podcast. If you’d like to share what kind of content you’d most like to see here, feel free to send me a message! Life has been very busy, but I’m stoked to see so many of you listening every time I can upload.
There’s another tale to tell some other day, but until then…
Mind the words of witches, guard your name, and be safe~
Copyright Laura Simons, please do not copy my stories without my permission, lest you insult the fae.