The Jew Among Thorns
A story of deception and just punishment - with multiple twists. A violin playing that opens the eyes of the judge.
Once upon a time there was a rich man who had a servant who served him diligently and honestly, was the first one out of bed every morning and the last one in at night, and if there was a sour job where no one wanted to tackle it, he always got to it first. He did not complain, but was satisfied with everything and was always cheerful. When his year was over, the master gave him no wages and thought, "That's the best thing, so I save a little, and he doesn't leave me, but stays pretty in the service. The servant also kept quiet, did his work the second year like the first, and when at the end of the same year he again received no wages, he put up with it and stayed even longer. When the third year was over, the master thought about it, reached into his pocket, but took nothing out. At last the servant started and said, "Sir, I have served you honestly for three years, be so good as to give me what is due to me by right: I wanted to go away and look around in the world. Then the miser answered, 'Yes, my dear servant, you have served me unswervingly, for this you shall be mildly rewarded,' again reaching into his pocket and counting out to the servant three farthings one by one, 'there you have a farthing for every year, that is a great and ample reward, such as you would have received from few masters.' The good servant, who knew little about money, pocketed his capital and thought, "Now you have plenty in your pocket, what do you want to worry about and toil longer with hard work?
Then he went off, uphill, downhill, singing and jumping to his heart's content. Now it happened, when he passed a bush, that a little man came out and called him 'where out, Brother Merry? I see you are not heavy with your worries'. 'What should I be sad about,' replied the servant, 'I'm full up, three years' wages ring in my pocket.' 'How much is your treasure?' the little man asked him. 'How much? Three cash heller, counted right.' 'Listen,' said the dwarf, 'I am a poor needy man, give me your three pennies: I can work no more, but you are young and can earn your bread easily.' And because the servant had a good heart and felt compassion for the man, he gave him his three pennies and said, "In God's name, I will not lack anything. Then the little man said: 'Because I see your good heart, I grant you three wishes, one for each penny, and they shall come true for you. Aha,' said the servant, 'you are one who can whistle blue. Well, if it is to be, then first of all I wish for a bird's pipe, which hits everything I aim at; secondly, a fiddle, when I play it, everything that hears the sound must dance; and thirdly, if I make a request to someone, he must not refuse it. The little man said, "You shall have all that," and reached into the bush, and, think of it, the fiddle and the reed were already lying in readiness, as if they had been ordered. He gave them to the servant and said, "Whatever you ask for, no man in the world shall refuse you.
Heart, what do you desire now?" said the servant to himself and went merrily on. Soon he met a Jew with a long goatee, who stood listening to the song of a bird perched high up in the top of a tree. 'God's wonder!' he exclaimed, 'such a small animal has such a cruelly powerful voice! if only it were mine! who could put salt on its tail!' 'If it is nothing more,' said the servant, 'the bird shall soon be down,' he put on and hit the hair, and the bird fell down into the thorn hedges. My," said the Jew, "if the master lets the boy go, a dog will come running; I will pick up the bird for myself, because you have hit it once," and he lay down on the ground and began to work his way into the bush. As he was stuck in the middle of the thorn, the good servant was overcome with courage, so he took off his fiddle and began to play the violin. Immediately the Jew began to lift his legs and jump up, and the more the servant stroked, the better the dance went. But the villagers tore his shabby skirt, combed his goatee, and stung and pinched him all over his body. My,' cried the Jew, 'what is the use of my fiddling! let the master leave the fiddling, I do not wish to dance.' But the servant did not listen and thought, 'You have maltreated the people enough, now the thorn hedge should not make it better for you,' and began to play again, so that the Jew had to jump up higher and higher, and the shreds of his skirt got caught on the thorns. The Jew cried out, 'I'll give the gentleman what he wants, if he'll only let me play the violin, a whole bag of gold. If you are so generous,' said the servant, 'then I will stop my music, but I have to tell you that you are still doing your dance, so that it has a way;' then he took the bag and went his way.
The Jew stopped and looked after him and was silent until the servant was far away and completely out of his sight, then he shouted at the top of his lungs, 'You miserable musician, you beer fiddler: wait, if I catch you alone! I will hunt you down so that you lose the soles of your shoes: you rascal, put a penny in your mouth so that you are worth six heller,' and continued to rant as much as he could. And when he had done himself some good and had cleared the air, he ran into the city to the judge. Judge, I have cried out! See how a godless man has robbed me in the open countryside and done me a terrible wrong: a stone on the ground might take pity on me: my clothes torn to shreds! my body bitten and scratched! my little poverty taken away with my bag! nothing but ducats, one piece more beautiful than the other: for God's sake, let the man be thrown into prison. Said the judge, 'Was it a soldier who did you such harm with his saber?' 'God forbid!' said the Jew, 'he did not have a naked sword, but he had a reed hanging on his hump and a violin on his neck; the villain is easy to recognize.' The judge sent his men out after him, and they found the good servant, who had moved on very slowly, and also found the bag of gold with him. When he was brought to court, he said 'I did not touch the Jew and did not take the money from him, he offered it to me of his own free will, so that I would only stop playing the violin because he could not stand my music.' God forbid!" cried the Jew, "he grabs the lies like flies on the wall. But the judge did not believe it either and said 'that is a poor excuse, no Jew does that,' and sentenced the good servant to the gallows because he had committed a robbery in the open street. But when he was led away, the Jew shouted to him, 'You bear-skinner, you dog-musician, now you will get your well-deserved reward. The servant calmly climbed up the ladder with the executioner, but on the last rung he turned around and said to the judge, "Grant me one more request before I die. 'Yes,' said the judge, 'if you do not ask for your life.' 'Not for life,' replied the servant, 'I ask, at the last, let me play my violin once more.' The Jew raised a clamor, 'for God's sake, don't allow it, don't allow it.' But the judge said, "Why should I not grant him the short pleasure: it is granted to him, and it shall have its end. Nor could he refuse him because of the gift that had been given to the servant. But the Jew cried out 'ouch! ouch! tie me up, tie me up.' Then the good servant took his violin from his neck, laid it down, and as he struck the first stroke, everything began to sway and waver, the judge, the scribes, and the bailiffs: and the rope fell from the hand of the one who wanted to bind the Jew: at the second stroke all lifted their legs, and the executioner let go the good servant, and got ready to dance: at the third stroke all leaped up and began to dance, and the judge and the Jew were in front, and jumped best. Soon everything that had come to the market out of curiosity, old and young, fat and skinny people among themselves, danced along: even the dogs that had run along sat on their hind feet and hopped along. And the longer he played, the higher the dancers jumped, so that they bumped into each other's heads and began to scream piteously. At last the judge shouted out of breath, 'I give you your life, just stop playing the violin'. The good servant was moved, put down the violin, hung it around his neck again and descended the ladder. Then he came up to the Jew, who was lying on the ground gasping for breath, and said 'Rascal, now confess where you got the money, or I'll take my violin off your neck and start playing again.' I stole it, I stole it," he cried, "but you earned it honestly. So the judge had the Jew led to the gallows and hanged as a thief.