Key words£ºshoemaker, smith, tailor, artisan, devil  
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Genre£ºfolklore Topic£ºadventure Words: 1100
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ESL,  English,  Story,  Tale,  Legend, Folktale, Myth, Fable, Learning, Teaching

The devil asked him whether they knew the answer.
"Of course," answered the tailor.

The shoemaker, the smith, and the tailor

Author£ºUnknown Source£º
Nation£ºUnknown Date£º2008-9-7


Three traveling artisans went together into the world. They decided to work in the same town, and if this would not be possible, to move to another place. As they were going along, they met a man who asked them what they were up to. They told him that they were looking for work. He proposed that they go with him and work for him for a whole year. He promised them plenty to eat and to drink.

He led them to a room where there was a table with a red linen tablecloth and a coffeepot and a coffeecup on it. Then he told them that they would be free if they could guess what this was. If they did not find out, they would have to stay with him forever, for he was the devil. After this he left and was seen no more.

The three artisans led a happy life. They ate and drank to their heart's content and did not worry about anything. Soon the time they had been given to answer the question, one year and six weeks, was almost over. The shoemaker and the smith were soon asleep, and only the tailor was still awake. He thought, you had better leave. He set out and came to a fir tree in a forest. Lying underneath the fir tree, he suddenly heard a noise overhead. Well, thought the tailor, tomorrow the time will be over; this certainly is the devil who comes to fetch me!

However, on this fir tree all the devils happened to meet, and Lucifer asked the others about their achievements. At last it was the turn of the tailor's devil. He was a crooked fellow. He came forth and said, "I am sure to have three: a shoemaker, a smith, and a tailor." Then Lucifer asked the crooked devil what task he had given the three. He told him and said that they would certainly not be able to find out. Lucifer wanted to know all about it. The crooked devil explained everything, "The red linen tablecloth is the skin of a horse; the coffeepot is the horse's head; and the coffeecup is the horse's hips." When the tailor under the tree heard this, he rose immediately and went back to the others. When he reached them, the two had lost their senses. There was nothing to be done.

Then the devil came and asked them if they knew the answer. He saw that two of them were lying in the corner and did not move any more. He asked the tailor what was the matter with them. The tailor told him, "They are drunk. Leave them alone." The devil asked him whether they knew the answer. "Of course," answered the tailor, "they know it as well as I do. Just leave them where they are." Then the tailor went to the table, he sniffed and pulled at the red linen tablecloth, and there was a horse's skin lying in the room. Then he sniffed at the coffeecup and threw it down, and there were the horse's hips; then he sniffed at the coffeepot and threw it down, and there was the horse's head. When they saw this, the two jumped up.

So the devil had caught none of them. He proposed to the three fellows to stay for another year with him; they would have nothing to do but to travel through the world and to say, "Fill the glass for the money; that's all right."

Then the three fellows came to a large town and went to a big hotel. The first one said, "Fill the glass for the money; that's all right!" There was a rich merchant staying in this place. Now the innkeeper said to his wife, "This merchant has quite a lot of money with him, and the three fellows say nothing but 'Fill your glass for the money; that's all right'; we are going to kill the merchant, and it will be pinned on the three artisans."

In the morning everybody knew that the merchant had been killed. Everybody said that only the artisans could have done it. They were brought before the judge where they were to make a deposition. Now the first one stepped forth and said, "Fill the glass for the money; that's all right."

The judge said, "All right, that will do." He decided that the three artisans should be hanged, and they were brought to the gallows.

As the first one was placed on the scaffold, someone whizzed through the air, waving a white doth and shouting, "Pardon! Pardon!" When he came near, he said that the three were innocent and that the merchant had been killed by the innkeeper and his wife. When the innkeeper heard this, he jumped with his wife into the watering trough.

Meanwhile, the year ended, and the three were free. The devil asked them to stay for another year. The tailor was quite willing, but the others did not want to stay any longer. So the devil paid them off, and the tailor entered his service once more. The devil told him that for a whole year he was to wear a sack, and that he would not be allowed to wash himself or to blow his nose. The tailor agreed and set out.

He came to a large town, and there was a king who had three daughters. It was known that any rich man who would come and pay the king's debts would get one of the daughters. The tailor said that he would be just the man; he would pay the whole debt if he was given one of the daughters. So the tailor went to the king, presented himself, and said that he wanted to have one of the daughters and that he was willing to pay the debts.

Now the tailor was presented to the first daughter, but she did not want him. When she saw the tailor in his sack, with his black face and dirty nose, she was disgusted. Then the second one came. When she saw him, she said, "Fie! I don't want him!"

Finally, the third one came along and said, "All right, if it has to be and if he is willing to pay the debts, I shall not mind." Meanwhile, the tailor's time was almost over. The tailor married the princess. And after a short while, the sack fell off and he could wash himself.

Then the tailor was cleaned and washed thoroughly. After he had been cleaned up, they saw what a handsome fellow he was. The two sisters were so jealous for not having got him that they jumped into the water and drowned themselves.



1. What was in the devil's room? 

2. How did the tailor know the answer?

3. Who were the three men to do during the second year?

4. Who killed the merchant?

5. What did the devil tell the tailor to do in the third year?

6. Why did the princess' two sisters drown themselves?


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