Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday Tales: Bearskin

If you aren't familiar with the Brothers Grimm, you should make yourself acquainted. They collected fairy tales from all over and recorded them for future generations. Today's Tuesday Tales is for Bearskin. It follows the folk tale tradition of a man gaining fortune and a beautiful wife by making an agreement with the devil.

The story follows a man in the war. When he returned home, his parents had died and his brother would not allow him to live with him. He was desperate when a man in a green coat appears offering to make him rich. All he had to do was not cut his hair, clip his nails, bathe, or pray, and he had to wear the coat and cloak provided by the man. If he survived the seven years, the soldier would be rich. If he didn't survive, the devil got him. The coat would always have limitless money. The cloak was a bearskin that he had to sleep in, and he was known as Bearskin because of it.

After he made the deal, he gave out as much money as he could to the poor in exchange for them praying for him. He had to pay a lot for shelter because of the lack of hygiene. One night, he heard an old man crying and the soldier asked the man to tell him his story. The old man was broke and could not provide for his daughters or pay the innkeeper for his tab. Bearskin paid his debt and gave the man enough money to support his children. In gratitude, the old man offered any one of his daughters to the soldier.

The oldest child ran away screaming. The middle child said he was worse than a bear playing at being human. Only the youngest child agreed to fulfill her father's promise. The soldier gave her half of a promise ring and told the girl he would return for her 3 years later. After the 3 years passed, Bearskin claimed his reward from the devil and returned to the old man's home. He told the man that he would marry one of the daughters. The two older girls ran off to dress in fancy clothes, while the youngest paid him no attention. He dropped his half of the promise ring into her drink and she realized her bridegroom had finally returned. When they got married, the two older sisters killed themselves in rage and jealousy. The devil had gotten two souls for the price of Bearskin's one soul.

I always found the last part of that to be incredibly creepy.

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