The Spirit in the Bottle
Poor son manages to become a doctor by financing his studies with the help of a ghost and a magic plaster. Helps father, becomes famous.
Once upon a time there was a poor woodcutter who worked from morning until late at night. When he had finally saved up some money, he said to his boy, 'You are my only child, I will use the money I have earned with sour sweat to teach you; if you learn something righteous, you can feed me in my old age, when my limbs have become stiff and I have to sit at home'. So the boy went to a high school and studied diligently, so that his teachers praised him, and stayed there for a while. When he had gone through a few schools, but was not yet perfect in everything, the little poverty his father had acquired was gone, and he had to return home to him. Ah,' said the father sadly, 'I can no longer give you anything, nor can I earn a penny more in this dear time than my daily bread.' 'Dear father,' replied the son, 'don't worry about it, if it is God's will, it will work out for my good; I will send myself in. When the father wanted to go out into the forest to earn something by cutting wood, the son said, "I will go with you and help you. 'Yes, my son,' said the father, 'that should be burdensome to you, you are not used to hard work, you cannot stand it; I also have only one axe and no money left to buy another.' 'Just go to the neighbor,' the son replied, 'he'll lend you his axe until I earn one myself.'
The father borrowed an axe from his neighbor, and the next morning, at daybreak, they went out into the forest together. The son helped the father and was quite lively and fresh. When the sun was above them, the father said, "Let's rest and have lunch, and then we'll do it again. The son took his bread in his hand and said: 'You just rest, father, I am not tired, I want to go up and down a little in the forest and look for birds' nests'. 'Oh you fop,' said the father, 'what do you want to run around for, afterwards you will be tired and won't be able to pick up your arm; stay here and sit with me.'
The son, however, went into the forest, ate his bread, was quite happy and looked into the green branches to see if he could discover a nest. So he went back and forth, until he finally came to a large dangerous oak, which was certainly many hundred years old and which no five people would have spanned. He stopped and looked at it and thought, "Some bird must have built its nest in it. Suddenly he felt as if he heard a voice. He listened and heard how it called with such a rather muffled sound 'let me out, let me out'. He looked around, but could not see anything, but it was as if the voice came out of the ground below. Then he called out 'where are you?' The voice answered 'I'm down there by the oak roots. Let me out, let me out'. The pupil began to clean up under the tree and to search among the roots, until at last he discovered a glass bottle in a small cavity. He lifted it up and held it against the light, and saw a thing shaped like a frog jumping up and down inside. Let me out, let me out,' it cried anew, and the disciple, thinking of no harm, took the stopper off the bottle. Immediately a spirit rose out and began to grow, and grew so fast that in a few moments it stood before the disciple as a horrible fellow as tall as half the tree. 'Do you know,' he cried in a terrible voice, 'what your reward is for letting me out?' 'No,' replied the disciple without fear, 'how should I know?' 'So I will tell you,' cried the ghost, 'I must break your neck for it.' 'You should have told me sooner,' replied the disciple, 'so I would have had you stuck; but my head shall well stand fast before you, more people must be asked.' More people here, more people there,' cried the spirit, 'your deserved reward you shall have. Do you think I was locked up there for so long out of mercy, no, it was for my punishment; I am the mighty Mercurius, whoever lets me go, I must break his neck.' Gently,' answered the disciple, 'it cannot be done so quickly, first I must know that you really sat in the little bottle and that you are the right spirit: if you can get back in, I will believe it, and then you may do what you like with me. The spirit said haughtily, 'That is a small art,' contracted and made himself as thin and small as he had been at the beginning, so that he crawled in again through the same opening and through the neck of the bottle. But no sooner was he in than the disciple pushed the plug that had been pulled off back on and threw the bottle under the oak roots into its old place, and the spirit was deceived.
Now the disciple wanted to go back to his father, but the spirit cried piteously, 'Oh, let me out, let me out.' 'No,' answered the disciple, 'not for the second time: whoever has once sought my life, I will not let him go when I have caught him again. If you set me free,' cried the spirit, 'I will give you so much that you will have enough for the rest of your life.' 'No,' replied the disciple, 'you would cheat me as you did the first time.' 'You are wasting your luck,' said the spirit, 'I will not harm you, but reward you abundantly.' The disciple thought, "I will dare, perhaps he will keep his word, and he shall not harm me. Then he took off the stopper, and the spirit came out as before, stretched itself apart, and became as big as a giant. Now you shall have your reward,' he said, and handed the disciple a small cloth, like a plaster, and said, 'if you stroke a wound with one end, it will heal; and if you stroke steel and iron with the other end, it will be turned into silver. 'I must first try this,' said the disciple, and went to a tree, scratched the bark with his axe, and smeared it with one end of the plaster: immediately it closed up again and was healed. 'Well, it is right,' he said to the spirit, 'now we can part.' The spirit thanked him for his salvation, and the disciple thanked the spirit for his gift and went back to his father.
Where have you been running around?' said the father, 'Why have you forgotten the work? I told you at once that you would not be able to do anything.' 'Be content, father, I will make up for it. Yes, make up for it,' said the father angrily, 'that is no way. Be careful, father, I want to cut down that tree right away, so that it will crack. Then he took his plaster, smeared the axe with it and made a mighty blow: but because the iron had turned to silver, the edge turned over.' 'Well, father, look what a bad axe you have given me, it has become completely crooked.' Then the father was frightened and said, 'Oh, what have you done! Now I have to pay for the axe and I don't know with what; this is the benefit I get from your work.' Don't be angry," answered the son, "I will pay for the axe. 'O, you fool,' cried the father, 'wherewith wilt thou pay for it? thou hast nothing but what I give thee; these are student's tricks that stick in thy head, but of wood-chopping thou hast no understanding.'
After a while, the student said, 'Father, I can't work anymore, we'd better call it a day. What,' he answered, 'do you think I want to put my hands in my lap like you? I still have to work, but you can pack yourself home. Father, I am here in the forest for the first time, I do not know the way alone, go with me. When the anger had subsided, the father was finally persuaded and went home with him. Then he said to the son, 'Go and sell the axe and see what you get for it; the rest I have to earn to pay the neighbor. The son took the axe and carried it into town to a goldsmith, who tasted it, put it on the scales and said 'it is worth four hundred thalers, I don't have that much in cash'. The student said, "Give me what you have, and I will lend you the rest. The goldsmith gave him three hundred thalers and owed one hundred. Then the student went home and said: 'Father, I have money, go and ask what the neighbor wants for the axe. I already know,' the old man answered, 'one thaler, six pennies.' 'So give him two thalers twelve pennies, that is double and is enough; you see, I have money in abundance,' and gave the father one hundred thalers, saying 'you shall never want, live according to your comfort.' My God," said the old man, "how did you come by this wealth? Then he told him how everything had happened and how, trusting in his luck, he had made such a rich catch. With the rest of the money, however, he went back to high school and continued his studies, and because he could heal all wounds with his plaster, he became the most famous doctor in the whole world.