John B. Gruelle
A Thorny Tale
This is my favorite part of the day, when Thalia crawls into my lap with Teddy in tow and we nestle into the comfy chair. Thalia’s small finger circles in the air and lands on a line of the table of contents in her copy of Grimm.
I grimace. “How about this one?” I stab at another line. She jerks her head around and fixes me with a stare of suspicion. “Well,” I defend, “it’s not a nice story.”
“How do you know?”
“I read it.”
“Read it to me.”
I sigh and give into child logic. “The Jew in the Thornbush.”
A servant, after three years of faithful service, is paid a mere three farthings by his miserly employer. The servant, content with that small amount, nonetheless gives it all to a beggar. The beggar, who is more than he seems, grants the servant three wishes: a fowling gun that never misses; a fiddle, to the music of which all must dance; and the boon that others must do as he wishes.
The servant soon comes across a Jew admiring a bird’s song and wishing aloud that he could have that bird. In a rather sudden turn of his good nature, the servant shoots the bird and obliges the Jew to crawl into the thornbush into which the bird has fallen. The servant then plays his fiddle, causing the Jew to dance inside the brambles. In pain, the Jew pleads with the servant to stop playing and offers him all the money he has, a substantial bag of gold.
Thalia wriggles in my lap, pulling Teddy closer to her, toying with his floppy ear, the one not as well sewn on as the other.
When freed, the Jew curses the fellow and runs off to a judge with his complaint. The servant is found, arrested, and condemned to death for highway robbery.
At the hanging, the servant requests to play his fiddle one last time. Against the Jew’s warning, and because everyone must do as the fellow wishes anyway, the judge allows it. Soon the Jew, the judge, the hangman, and everyone gathered to watch the hanging are dancing to the tune of the fiddle.
At the point of exhaustion, the judge cries out and pledges to release the servant from his sentence if he will only stop fiddling. The Jew then, unaccountably, confesses that he stole the money, but that the servant came into its possession honestly, and for this confession he is hung in the servant’s stead.
Thalia looks at me accusingly. “Teddy doesn’t like that story.”
“Well, I don’t either and I did warn you,” I say.
“Humph.” Thalia slips off my lap. Teddy, being dragged behind her, looks at me with the same accusing eyes.