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The Blacksmith from Jüterbogk

About Kathakali Mukherjee

Kathakali Mukherjee, born 1971, was a student of Sanskrit – Epigraphy and ancient Indian history. But her interest in language and literary studies led her learning another couple of European languages as well.
She worked for media libraries in Kolkata; also spent several years as technical translator, process and team manager with German and Indian software companies in Bangalore. Currently staying in Gurugram or Kolkata, she is engaged with reading and writing.
Apart from experimenting with short stories, she works on literary translation of fable and fairy tales as well as historical fictions. She is exploring the treasure trove left by esteemed Bengali and German authors between 18th-19th centuries these days.
She writes poems during her busy days when time does not permit her to sit at the writing desk.
Her blog: https://medium.com/@KathakaliM and https://www.indiblogger.in/kathakalim
Her self-published works:
"You and me" is a collection of poems https://www.amazon.in/dp/B01NCSMHK9/
And her effort of translating a selection of articles from Lokrahasya “Secrets of the Humankind – Satiric Articles by Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay,”: https://pothi.com/pothi/book/ebook-kathakali-mukherjee-secrets-humankind

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Once upon a time there was a blacksmith in Jüterbogk. The old and young of the region still tell wonderful stories about him. His father was very strict but he was faithful to God’s commandments. He travelled a lot and had many exciting adventures. As he grew up, he became exceptionally skilled in his art. He was gifted indeed! He had a steel tincture, which could make impenetrable harness and armour. Whoever covered himself with his armour-suit turned indomitable in the battle field. He joined the army of Emperor Frederick I. He became imperial armour-master, and took part in the battles of Milan and Puglia. He conquered the armed forces and also the banner-carriages of the cities. At last, after the Emperor died, he returned home with large amount of wealth.

He saw good days, then again bad days, and that way he became hundred years old. One day he was sitting under an old pear tree in his garden; a little old man came riding a donkey. He had already proved himself to be someone superior to the blacksmith’s guardian spirit. Entering the blacksmith’s shop, he had shoes made for his donkey, but did not pay.

The little man told Peter, the blacksmith, to tell his three wishes not forgetting the best one for life. Thieves often stole pears from the blacksmith. So he wished that none should be able to descend from the pear tree without his consent, having once climbed. Thieves often stole items from his rooms too. So he expressed another desire that one should be able to come into the room without his permission only through the keyhole. As those two he told were foolish wishes, the little old man warned, “Do not forget the best!” And the blacksmith asked for the third, “The best is a good liquor, I wish the barrel should never be empty.

“Your wishes are granted”, telling this, the little man stroke a few iron rods which were lying in the shop with his hand. Then he sat on his donkey and almost flew away. The iron rods were turned into pure silver in the meantime.

The smith who had become poor before became rich again. He continued living a life of luxury while his life-giving tonic stayed never ending in the barrel. He could not know the elixir of life without this. Finally, one day death knocked his door, who probably had forgotten him since long. Also the blacksmith seemed to be willing to go with him. He begged to death only for small refreshment before leaving. He requested death to get a few pears from the tree while he was too weak to climb due to his old age. Death climbed the tree, and the blacksmith said, “Stay up!” He wanted to live longer of course! Death ate all the pears of the tree. As there were no more pears on the tree, he started fasting. Hunger was unbearable. Eventually he consumed himself along with his skin and hair. As a consequence, death changed to an ugly, scarce skeleton forever. However, no one died on earth in the absence of death – neither man nor beast, and it brought a catastrophe. At last the blacksmith went to the clattering death, and made an arrangement with him that he should be left alone while other mortals should be taken away. Then he released death. The furious death fled from there and started cleaning the earth. He understood that he could not take revenge on the blacksmith. Hence, he hurled the devil at the blacksmith’s neck, so that the devil could take him. But as the devil began flying, and the clever smith smelt the sulphur. He closed his door, held a leather sack at the keyhole taking help from his companions. As per the second wish of Peter the smith, keyhole was only option for devil to enter his room. As soon as Herr Urian tried to enter, he slipped into the sack. The men tied it immediately. They did beat the devil ruthlessly with their most terrible hammers till his hearing and sight was lost. He became so fragile that he had to go back. Now the blacksmith lived for a long time in peace, until he felt tired of the earthly life like all his friends and acquaintances, who had died before.

Peter, the blacksmith, set out for the heaven through the sky-route. He knocked the door politely. Saint Peter, his guardian spirit, who always helped him during need and saved him from danger and also granted him three wishes, showed up. But this time Saint Peter told him, “Go away; the door of heaven is closed for you. You did not request for the best boon – the salvation!” Hearing this, Peter turned back. He thought of trying his salvation in hell. He came downwards and soon found the perfect, wide and prosperous way to hell. But the devil already learnt about the tendency of the blacksmith of Jüterbogk. He closed the hell’s gate on Peters’ face. Since the blacksmith of Jüterbogk did not find shelter neither in heaven nor in hell, also did not like the earth any longer, he went to the secret chamber of the emperor Friedrich Barbarossa under the Kyffhäuser hills. He had once served the emperor. The old emperor was naturally glad to see his armour-master again. He asked him whether the ravens were still flying around the tower of the royal castle of Kyffhäuser. Peter’s positive answer made the red-bearded man sigh. However, the servant stayed in the mountain, went on making shoes for emperor’s pet horse, and for the horses of the princes and princesses. He is supposed to continue doing the same till the last moment of the emperor.

Legends tell that when ravens would no longer fly around the mountains and an old, dry and dead pear tree would come up green and blossoming again in Rathsfeld near Kyffhäuser, the emperor will emerge with all his warriors, lead the great battle of liberation and hang his coat of arms on the resurrected pear-tree. He will go to rest eternally together with his servants only after fulfilling his mission. At the same time, Peter the Blacksmith with find salvation.

 

References :

  • Jüterbogk: a historically famous small town in Brandenburg. Frederick 1 Barbarossa’s reference tells that this was an important town even in 12th century.
  • Guardian spirit: present everywhere starting from Teutonic myth, Old Testament as well as Hebrew bible. This is a deity or an angel having special affection to a person, tries to guard and guide him through his lifetime.
    Sulphur: devil smells sulphur. Of course he does! Devil destroys human civilization and flies in the sky same like flames and magma thrown towards the sky as a result of volcanic eruption. Volcanoes emit sulphur dioxide. And European civilization, especially those developed around Mediterranean and the Middle East felt the threat of volcanic eruptions since ancient times; normal that they associate devil with sulphur.
  • Herr Urian – comparatively new name of devil, found in German literature starting from 17th century. The unexpected guest’s name was probably derived from a mythical British king.
  • Kyffhäuser – a hill-range in central Germany, home for Kyffhäuser Castle.
  • Story taken from the collection of Ludwig Bechstein (1801-1860)
  • Photo: Wikimedia commons: By Joerg.gehlmann – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54118218

Once upon a time there was a blacksmith in Jüterbogk. The old and young of the region still tell wonderful stories about him. His father was very strict but he was faithful to God’s commandments. He travelled a lot and had many exciting adventures. As he grew up, he became exceptionally skilled in his art. He was gifted indeed! He had a steel tincture, which could make impenetrable harness and armour. Whoever covered himself with his armour-suit turned indomitable in the battle field. He joined the army of Emperor Frederick I. He became imperial armour-master, and took part in the battles of Milan and Puglia. He conquered the armed forces and also the banner-carriages of the cities. At last, after the Emperor died, he returned home with large amount of wealth.

He saw good days, then again bad days, and that way he became hundred years old. One day he was sitting under an old pear tree in his garden; a little old man came riding a donkey. He had already proved himself to be someone superior to the blacksmith’s guardian spirit. Entering the blacksmith’s shop, he had shoes made for his donkey, but did not pay.

The little man told Peter, the blacksmith, to tell his three wishes not forgetting the best one for life. Thieves often stole pears from the blacksmith. So he wished that none should be able to descend from the pear tree without his consent, having once climbed. Thieves often stole items from his rooms too. So he expressed another desire that one should be able to come into the room without his permission only through the keyhole. As those two he told were foolish wishes, the little old man warned, “Do not forget the best!” And the blacksmith asked for the third, “The best is a good liquor, I wish the barrel should never be empty.

“Your wishes are granted”, telling this, the little man stroke a few iron rods which were lying in the shop with his hand. Then he sat on his donkey and almost flew away. The iron rods were turned into pure silver in the meantime.

The smith who had become poor before became rich again. He continued living a life of luxury while his life-giving tonic stayed never ending in the barrel. He could not know the elixir of life without this. Finally, one day death knocked his door, who probably had forgotten him since long. Also the blacksmith seemed to be willing to go with him. He begged to death only for small refreshment before leaving. He requested death to get a few pears from the tree while he was too weak to climb due to his old age. Death climbed the tree, and the blacksmith said, “Stay up!” He wanted to live longer of course! Death ate all the pears of the tree. As there were no more pears on the tree, he started fasting. Hunger was unbearable. Eventually he consumed himself along with his skin and hair. As a consequence, death changed to an ugly, scarce skeleton forever. However, no one died on earth in the absence of death – neither man nor beast, and it brought a catastrophe. At last the blacksmith went to the clattering death, and made an arrangement with him that he should be left alone while other mortals should be taken away. Then he released death. The furious death fled from there and started cleaning the earth. He understood that he could not take revenge on the blacksmith. Hence, he hurled the devil at the blacksmith’s neck, so that the devil could take him. But as the devil began flying, and the clever smith smelt the sulphur. He closed his door, held a leather sack at the keyhole taking help from his companions. As per the second wish of Peter the smith, keyhole was only option for devil to enter his room. As soon as Herr Urian tried to enter, he slipped into the sack. The men tied it immediately. They did beat the devil ruthlessly with their most terrible hammers till his hearing and sight was lost. He became so fragile that he had to go back. Now the blacksmith lived for a long time in peace, until he felt tired of the earthly life like all his friends and acquaintances, who had died before.

Peter, the blacksmith, set out for the heaven through the sky-route. He knocked the door politely. Saint Peter, his guardian spirit, who always helped him during need and saved him from danger and also granted him three wishes, showed up. But this time Saint Peter told him, “Go away; the door of heaven is closed for you. You did not request for the best boon – the salvation!” Hearing this, Peter turned back. He thought of trying his salvation in hell. He came downwards and soon found the perfect, wide and prosperous way to hell. But the devil already learnt about the tendency of the blacksmith of Jüterbogk. He closed the hell’s gate on Peters’ face. Since the blacksmith of Jüterbogk did not find shelter neither in heaven nor in hell, also did not like the earth any longer, he went to the secret chamber of the emperor Friedrich Barbarossa under the Kyffhäuser hills. He had once served the emperor. The old emperor was naturally glad to see his armour-master again. He asked him whether the ravens were still flying around the tower of the royal castle of Kyffhäuser. Peter’s positive answer made the red-bearded man sigh. However, the servant stayed in the mountain, went on making shoes for emperor’s pet horse, and for the horses of the princes and princesses. He is supposed to continue doing the same till the last moment of the emperor.

Legends tell that when ravens would no longer fly around the mountains and an old, dry and dead pear tree would come up green and blossoming again in Rathsfeld near Kyffhäuser, the emperor will emerge with all his warriors, lead the great battle of liberation and hang his coat of arms on the resurrected pear-tree. He will go to rest eternally together with his servants only after fulfilling his mission. At the same time, Peter the Blacksmith will find salvation.

References :

Jüterbogk: a historically famous small town in Brandenburg. Frederick 1 Barbarossa’s reference tells that this was an important town even in 12th century.

Guardian spirit: present everywhere starting from Teutonic myth, Old Testament as well as Hebrew bible. This is a deity or an angel having special affection to a person, tries to guard and guide him through his lifetime.
Sulphur: devil smells sulphur. Of course he does! Devil destroys human civilization and flies in the sky same like flames and magma thrown towards the sky as a result of volcanic eruption. Volcanoes emit sulphur dioxide. And European civilization, especially those developed around Mediterranean and the Middle East felt the threat of volcanic eruptions since ancient times; normal that they associate devil with sulphur.

Herr Urian – comparatively new name of devil, found in German literature starting from 17th century. The unexpected guest’s name was probably derived from a mythical British king.

Kyffhäuser – a hill-range in central Germany, home for Kyffhäuser Castle.

Story taken from the collection of Ludwig Bechstein (1801-1860)

Photo: Wikimedia commons: By Joerg.gehlmann – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54118218

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