Wishing Table, Gold Ass and Cudgel in the Sack

Wishing Table Gold Ass Cudgel in the Sack Fairy Tale

Three brothers are chased away from their home. Each of them receives a special gift, but an evil innkeeper tries to take all their gifts.

Wishing Table, Gold Ass and Cudgel in the Sack is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about three brothers. Each one becomes an apprentice and receives a gift. Returning home an evil innkeeper takes the wishing table and the gold ass. The youngest brother uses the cudgel in the sack to get all their gifts back.

Complete text Wishing Table, Gold Ass and Cudgel in the Sack

The first son takes the goat to pasture

Once upon a time there was a tailor who had three sons and only one goat.

The goat supported all of them with her milk, so she needed to have good food and to be taken every day to pasture. The sons did this in turn. Once the eldest took her to the churchyard, where the finest herbs were to be found, and let her eat and run about there. At night when it was time to go home he asked, “Goat, have you had enough?”

The goat answered,

“I have eaten so much,
Not a leaf more I’ll touch, meh! meh!”

“Come home, then,” said the eldest brother. He took hold of the cord around her neck, led her into the stable and tied her up securely.

“Well,” said the old tailor, “has the goat had as much food as she ought?”

“Oh,” the son answered, “she has eaten so much, not a leaf more she’ll touch.”

The father wanted to be sure, so he went down to the stable, stroked the dear animal and asked, “Goat, are you satisfied?”

The goat answered,

“With what should I be satisfied?
Among the graves I leapt about,
And found no food, so went without, meh! meh!”

“What am I hearing now?” cried the tailor. He ran upstairs and said to his son, “Hey you liar: you said the goat had had enough, but she is hungry!”

In his anger he took the yardstick from the wall and drove him out with blows.

The second son takes the goat to pasture

Next day it was the turn of the second son. He looked out for a place in the fence of the garden where nothing but good herbs grew. The goat cleared them all off. At night when he wanted to go home, he asked, “Goat, are you satisfied?”

The goat answered,

“I have eaten so much,
Not a leaf more I’ll touch, meh! meh!”

“Come home, then,” said the second son. He led her home, and tied her up in the stable. “Well,” said the old tailor, “has the goat had as much food as she ought?”

“Oh,” answered the son, “she has eaten so much, not a leaf more she’ll touch.”

The tailor would not rely on this answer, but went down to the stable and said, “Goat, have you had enough?”

The goat answered,

“With what should I be satisfied?
Among the graves I leapt about,
And found no food, so went without, meh! meh!”

“The godless wretch!” cried the tailor, “to let such a good animal hunger.” He ran up and drove the second son out with the yardstick.

The third son takes the goat to pasture

Now came the turn of the third son. He wanted to do the thing well, sought out some bushes with the finest leaves and let the goat devour them. In the evening when he wanted to go home, he asked, “Goat, have you had enough?”

The goat answered,

“I have eaten so much,
Not a leaf more I’ll touch, meh! meh!”

“Come home, then,” said the youth. He led her into the stable and tied her up.

“Well,” said the old tailor, “has the goat had a proper amount of food?”

“She has eaten so much, not a leaf more she’ll touch.”

The tailor did not trust to that, but went down and asked, “Goat, have you had enough?”

The wicked beast answered,

“With what should I be satisfied?
Among the graves I leapt about,
And found no leaves, so went without, meh! meh!”

“Oh, the brood of liars!” cried the tailor, “each as wicked and forgetful of his duty as the other! You shall no longer make a fool of me.” Quite beside himself with anger he ran upstairs and belabored the poor young fellow so vigorously with the yardstick that he sprang out of the house.

The old tailor himself takes the goat to pasture

The old tailor was now alone with his goat. Next morning he went down into the stable, caressed the goat and said, “Come, my dear little animal, I will take you to feed myself.”

He took her by the rope and brought her to green hedges, and among mil foil, and to whatever else goats like to eat.

“Here you may for once eat until you are satisfied,” he said to her and let her browse till evening. Then he asked, “Goat, are you satisfied?”

She replied,

“I have eaten so much,
Not a leaf more I’ll touch, meh! meh!”

“Come home, then,” said the tailor. He led her into the stable and tied her fast. When he was going away, he turned around again and said, “Well, are you satisfied for once?”

But the goat did not behave better to him, and cried,

“With what should I be satisfied?
Among the graves I leapt about,
And found no leaves, so went without, meh! meh!”

When the tailor heard that, he was shocked. He saw clearly that he had driven away his three sons without cause.

“Wait, you ungrateful creature,” he cried, “it is not enough to drive you away, I will mark you so that you will no more dare to show yourself to honest tailors.”

In great haste he ran upstairs, fetched his razor, lathered the goat’s head and shaved her as clean as the palm of his hand. As the yardstick would have been too good for her, he brought the horsewhip, and gave her such cuts with it that she ran away in violent haste.

Alone in his house the tailor fell into great grief. He would gladly have his sons back again, but no one knew where they had gone.

The first son gets a wishing table

The eldest had apprenticed himself to a joiner (woodworker, making furniture and the like, more info on Wikipedia). He learnt industriously and indefatigably. When the time came for him to go traveling, his master presented him with a little table. It had no particular appearance and was made of common wood, but it had one good property. If anyone set it out and said, “Little table, spread yourself,” the good little table was at once covered with a clean little cloth, a plate, a knife, a fork and dishes with boiled meats and roasted meats. As many as there was room for and a great glass of red wine shone so that it made the heart glad.

The young journeyman thought, “With this you have enough for your whole life.” Happy he went around the world, never troubling himself at all whether an inn was good or bad or if anything was to be found in it or not.

When he wanted he did not enter an inn at all. On the plain, in a wood, a meadow, or wherever he fancied, he took his little table off his back, set it down before him, and said, “Cover yourself.” Everything would appear as his heart desired.

At last he took it into his head to go back to his father, whose anger would now be appeased and who would now willingly receive him with his wishing table.

The wishing table is exchanged in the inn

On his way home he came one evening to an inn filled with guests. They welcomed him and invited him to sit and eat with them, for otherwise he would have difficulty in getting anything. “No,” answered the joiner, “I will not take the few bites out of your mouths; rather than that, you shall be my guests.”

They laughed and thought he was jesting with them. However he placed his wooden table in the middle of the room and said, “Little table, cover yourself.”

Instantly it was covered with food, so good that the host could never have procured it. The smell of it ascended pleasantly to the nostrils of the guests. “Enjoy, dear friends,” the joiner said. When the guests saw that he meant it, they did not need to be asked twice, but drew near, pulled out their knives and attacked it valiantly.

What surprised them the most was that when a dish became empty, a full one instantly took its place of its own accord. The innkeeper stood in one corner and watched the affair. He did not at all know what to say, but thought, “You could easily find a use for such a cook as that in thy kitchen.”

The joiner and his new friends had a good time until late into the night. At last they lay down to sleep. The young joiner also went to bed,and set his magic table against the wall.

The innkeeper’s thoughts, however, let him have no rest. It occurred to him that there was a little old table in his lumber room which looked just like the joiner’s. He brought it out quite softly and exchanged it for the wishing table.

The first son returns home

Next morning, the joiner paid for his bed, took up his table, never thinking that he had got a false one, and went his way. At midday he reached his father, who received him with great joy. “Well, my dear son, what have you learned?” he said to him.

“Father, I have become a joiner.”

“A good trade,” the old man replied. “But what have you brought back with you from your apprenticeship?”

“Father, the best thing I have brought back with me is this little table.”

The tailor inspected it on all sides and said, “You did not make a masterpiece when you made that. It is a bad old table.”

“But it is a table which furnishes itself,” the son replied. “When I set it out, and tell it to cover itself, the most beautiful dishes stand on it, and a wine also which gladdens the heart. Just invite all our relations and friends, they shall refresh and enjoy themselves for once, for the table will give them all they want.”

When the company was assembled, he put his table in the middle of the room and said, “Little table, cover yourself.” However the little table did not cover itself. It remained just as bare as any other table which did not understand language.

The poor joiner became aware that his table had been changed and was ashamed at having to stand there like a liar. The relations, however, mocked him, and were forced to go home without having eaten or drunk. The father brought out his patches again, and went on tailoring, but the son went to a master in the craft.

The second son gets a gold ass

The second son had gone to a miller and had apprenticed himself to him. When his years were over, the master said, “Because you have done so well, I will give you a special ass, which neither draws a cart nor carries a sack.”

“What to do with this ass, then?” the young apprentice asked.

“He lets gold drop from his mouth,” answered the miller. “If you put him on a cloth and say ‘Bricklebrit,’ the good animal will drop gold pieces for you.”

“That is a fine thing,” said the apprentice. He thanked his master and went out into the world. When he had need of gold, he had only to say “Bricklebrit” to his ass, and it rained gold pieces. He had nothing to do but pick them off the ground.

Wherever he went, only the best of everything was good enough for him. The more luxurious the better, for he had always a full purse. After looking about the world for some time, he thought to himself, “You need to seek out your father. If you go to him with the gold ass he will forget his anger and receive you.”

The gold ass is exchanged in the inn

It came to pass that he came to the same inn where his brother’s table had been exchanged. He led his ass by the bridle. The innkeeper was about to take the animal from him and tie him up, but the young miller said, “Don’t trouble yourself, I will take my grey horse into the stable myself. I tie him up too, because I must know where he stands.”

This struck the innkeeper as odd. A man who was forced to look after his ass himself, could not have much to spend. However when the stranger put his hand in his pocket and brought out two gold pieces, and said he was to provide something good for him, the host opened his eyes wide. He ran and sought out the best he could muster.

After dinner the guest asked what he owed. The host did not see why he should not double the reckoning and said the young miller must give two more gold pieces. He felt in his pocket, but his gold was just at an end.

“Wait a minute, sir innkeeper,” he said, “I will go and fetch some money.”

He took the table cloth with him. The innkeeper could not imagine what this could mean. Being curious, he sneaked after him. As the guest bolted the stable door, he peeped through a hole left by a knot in the wood.

He saw the stranger spreading out the cloth under the animal and saying, “Bricklebrit”. Immediately the beast began to let loose gold. It rained down money on the ground.

“Eh my word,” the innkeeper mumbled to himself, “ducats are quickly coined there! A purse like that is not amiss.”

The guest paid his bill and went to bed. In the night the innkeeper sneaked down into the stable, led away the master of the mint and tied up another ass in his place.

The second son returns home

Early next morning the miller traveled away with his ass, thinking that it was his gold ass.

At midday he reached his father, who rejoiced to see him again, and gladly took him in. “What have you become, my son?” asked the old man.

“A miller, dear father,” he answered.

“What have you brought back with you from your travels?”

“Nothing else but an ass.”

“There are asses enough here,” said the father, “I would rather have had a good goat.”

“Yes,” replied the son, “but this is no common ass, but a gold ass. When I say ‘Bricklebrit,’ the good beast opens its mouth and drops a whole sheet full of gold pieces. Call all our relations and I will make them rich folks.”

“That sounds amazing,” the tailor said, “for I will no longer need to torment myself with the needle.” He ran out himself and called all relations together. As soon as they were assembled, the miller bade them make way, spread out his cloth and brought the ass into the room. “Now watch,” he said, and cried, “Bricklebrit,” but no gold pieces fell.

It was clear that the animal knew nothing of the art, for not every ass does attain such perfection. The poor miller pulled a long face, saw that he was betrayed, and begged pardon of the relatives, who went home as poor as they came. There was nothing else to be done about it, the old man had to take up his needle once more and the youth hired himself to a miller.

The third son gets a cudgel in the sack

The third brother had apprenticed himself to a turner (somebody who works with a lathe, more info on Wikipedia). As that is skilled labor, it took him longer than his brothers to learn his trade.

He received a letter from his brothers. They told him how badly things had gone with them and how the innkeeper had cheated them of their beautiful wishing gifts on the last evening before they reached home.

When the turner had served his time, he had to set out on his travels. He had conducted himself so well that his master presented him with a sack and said, “There is a cudgel in it.”

“I can put on the sack,” he said, “and it may be of good service to me, but why should the cudgel be in it? It only makes it heavy.”

“I will tell you why,” the master replied. “If anyone has done anything to injure you, only say, ‘Out of the sack, cudgel!’ and the cudgel will leap forth among the people. He will dance such a dance on their backs that they will not be able to stir or move for a week. He will only stop when you say, ‘Into the sack, Cudgel!’”

The apprentice thanked him and put the sack on his back. When anyone came too near him and wanted to attack him, he said, “Out of the sack, Cudgel!”. Instantly the cudgel sprang out and dusted the coat or jacket on their backs. Never stopping until it had stripped it off them. So quickly that before anyone was aware, it was already his own turn.

Tricking the innkeeper

In the evening the young turner reached the inn where his brothers had been cheated. He laid his sack on the table before him and began to talk of all the wonderful things which he had seen in the world.

“Yes,” he said, “people may easily find a table which will cover itself, a gold ass, and things of that kind — extremely good things which I by no means despise — but these are nothing in comparison with the treasure which I have won for myself. I am carrying it with me in my sack there.”

The innkeeper pricked up his ears, “What in the world can that be?” he thought. “The sack must be filled with nothing but jewels. I ought to trick this one too, all good things go in threes.”

When it was time for sleep, the guest stretched himself on the bench and laid his sack beneath him for a pillow. When the innkeeper thought his guest was sound asleep, he went to him and pushed and pulled quite gently and carefully at the sack to see if he could possibly draw it away and lay another in its place.

The turner had been waiting for this for a long time. Just as the innkeeper was about to give a hearty tug, he cried, “Out of the sack, Cudgel!” Instantly the little cudgel came forth, fell on the innkeeper and gave him a sound thrashing.

The innkeeper cried for mercy; but the louder he cried, the more heavily the cudgel beat on his back, until at length he fell to the ground, exhausted. The turner said, “If you don’t give back the table which covers itself, and the gold ass, the dance shall begin afresh.”

“Oh, no,” cried the host quite humbly, “I will gladly give back everything, only make that accursed kobold creep back into the sack.”

The turner said, “I will let mercy take the place of justice, but beware of getting into mischief again!”

So he called out, “Into the sack, Cudgel!” and let him have rest.

The third son returns home

Next morning the turner went home to his father with the wishing table and the gold ass. The tailor rejoiced when he saw him once more and asked him likewise what he had learned away from home. “Dear father,” he said, “I have become a turner.”

“A skilled trade,” said the father. “What have you brought back with you from your travels?”

“A precious thing, dear father,” replied the son, “a cudgel in the sack.”

“What!” cried the father, “a cudgel! That’s worth the trouble, indeed! From every tree you can cut yourself one.”

“But not one like this, dear father. If I say, ‘Out of the sack, Cudgel!’ the cudgel springs out and leads any one who means ill with me a weary dance. He never stops until he lies on the ground and prays for fair weather. With this cudgel I have gotten back the wishing table and the gold ass which the thievish innkeeper took away from my brothers. Now let them both be sent for and invite all our kinsmen. I will give them to eat and to drink, and will fill their pockets with gold.”

The old tailor could not quite believe it, but nevertheless got the relatives together. Then the turner spread a cloth in the room and led in the gold ass, and said to his brother, “Now, dear brother, speak to him.” The miller said, “Bricklebrit,” and instantly the gold pieces fell down on the cloth like a thunder-shower, and the ass did not stop until every one of them had so much that he could carry no more. (I can see in your face that you also would have liked to be there.)

Then the turner brought the little table, and said, “Now dear brother, speak to it.” And scarcely had the joiner said, “Table, cover yourself,” than it was spread and richly covered with the most exquisite dishes. A meal took place as the good tailor had never yet known in his house. The whole party of kinsmen stayed together till far in the night and were all merry and glad.

The tailor locked away needle and thread, yardstick and goose, in a press, and lived with his three sons in joy and luxury.

What has become of the goat?

What, however, has become of the goat who was to blame for the tailor driving out his three sons? I will tell you what happened.

She was ashamed that she had a bald head, ran to a fox’s hole and crept into it. When the fox came home, he was met by two great eyes shining out of the darkness. Terrified he ran away.

A bear met him. As the fox looked quite disturbed, he said, “What is the matter with you, brother Fox, why do you look like that?”

“Ah,” answered Redskin the fox, “a fierce beast is in my cave and stared at me with its fiery eyes.”

“We will soon drive him out,” said the bear. He went with him to the cave and looked in, but when he saw the fiery eyes, he also became afraid. He would have nothing to do with the furious beast and ran away.

The bee met him. She saw that he was ill at ease and said, “Bear, you are really making a very pitiful face. Where is your joy and happiness?”

“You can say all you want,” the bear replied, “a furious beast with staring eyes is in Redskin’s house, and we can’t drive him out.”

The bee said, “Bear I have pity on you. I am a poor weak creature. You would not turn aside to look at me, but still, I believe I can help you.”

She flew into the fox’s cave and landed on the goat’s smoothly shaven head. She stung her so violently, that she sprang up, crying “Meh, meh,” and running forth into the world as if she was mad.

To this hour no one knows where she has gone.

Tips for Telling Wishing Table, Gold Ass and Cudgel in the Sack

Storyteller Rudolf Roos
  • This story actually consists of two stories. The parts with the goat and the parts without. That gives you the flexibility in the telling to only tell the part of the three sons and their gifts, or to make the telling longer by including the goat parts.
  • In this tale there are some words I would change. For example I needed to look up the words ‘joiner’ and ‘turner’. So I assume most of my listeners will also not know these words. I can explain them or change them. Personally I would choose different, more well known occupations, because they do not really matter to the story. Also I would prefer to use the word ‘donkey’ instead of ‘ass’.
  • This tale has a very clear structure. That’s nice, but can also be a bit boring for adults. A suggestion to make it more exciting: omit the explanation of the gifts and immediately go to the inn and describe the scene were the gift is shown.
A reading of ‘Wishing Table, Gold Ass and Cudgel in the Sack’

All Questions Answered

Who wrote the story Wishing Table, Gold Ass and Cudgel in the Sack?

This tale was included in the first edition of the Brothers Grimm collection. They heard it from Jeannette Hassenpflug. It was a story that was widely told in many countries and cultures.

When was Wishing Table, Gold Ass and Cudgel in the Sack written?

The Brothers Grimm included it in the first edition (1812) of their Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

More useful information

Photo credits: Ansgar Scheffold from Pixabay

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