Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Knapsack, the Hat and the Horn

 I sometimes find myself amazed at some of the stories I come across-the 
heroes seem like people that not only shouldn't be considered heroes, but should
darn well be arrested or at least given a good kick in the saddle area! This
is one of the shining examples of a jackass hero.
The Knapsack, the Hat, and the Horn. 
There were once three brothers who had fallen deeper and deeper into
poverty, and at last their need was so great that they had to endure
hunger, and had nothing to eat or drink. Then said they, it cannot go
on like this, we had better go into the world and seek our fortune.
Youths heading out into the world to seek their fortune seems to be a common
theme, and a commonly recycled starter for such stories.  
 They therefore set out, and had already walked over many a long road
and many a blade of grass, but had not yet met with good luck.  One
day they arrived in a great forest, and in the midst of it was a
hill, and when they came nearer they saw that the hill was all
silver.  Then spoke the eldest, now I have found the good luck I
wished for, and I desire nothing more.  He took as much of the silver
as he could possibly carry, and then turned back and went home again.
Dude. It's a HILL made of silver! A whole hill! Mark out where that bad boy is,
come back with as many carts as you can and load them up! Why do people in
these stories seem to always be content with whatever they can carry in
their own arms?
Also, just who the heck left out a hill of friggen' silver? If it's coined
silver, then someone must have left it there, if it's a solid hill of silver-
well, he'd better have a miniature forge with him or some really impressive upper
body strength to haul that home. 
 But the two others said, we want something more from good luck than
mere silver, and did not touch it, but went onwards.
 'Mere' nothing! FREAKING. HILL.
 After they had walked for two days longer without stopping, they came to a hill
which was all gold. The second brother stopped, took thought with
himself, and was undecided.  What shall I do, said he, shall I take
for myself so much of this gold, that I have sufficient for all the
rest of my life, or shall I go farther.  At length he made a
decision, and putting as much into his pockets as would go in, said
farewell to his brother, and went home.
Dude...get a horse and cart or something, come back and load up! A HILL made
of gold, you could live like a king and send all your progeny to college!
GOOD colleges! Taking just what can fit in your pocket will hardly be enough
to really DO much with, unless you're either very business savvy or have
really freaking huge pockets.

Also, for some reason this makes the song 'pocketful of sunshine' pop in my head.
 But the third said, silver and gold do not move me, I will not
renounce my chance of fortune, perhaps something better still will be
given me. 
That's totally not greedy or anything. 
 He journeyed onwards, and when he had walked for three
days, he came to a forest which was still larger than the one before,
and never would come to an end, and as he found nothing to eat or to
drink, he was all but exhausted.  Then he climbed up a high tree to
find out if up there he could see the end of the forest, but so far
as his eye could pierce he saw nothing but the tops of trees.  Then
he began to descend the tree again, but hunger tormented him, and he
thought to himself, if I could but eat my fill once more.

When he got down he saw with astonishment a table beneath the tree
richly spread with food, the steam of which rose up to meet him.
 This time, said he, my wish has been fulfilled at the right moment.
And without inquiring who had brought the food, or who had cooked it,
he approached the table, and ate with enjoyment until he had appeased
his hunger. 
 What he didn't know was that the food was laid out as a sponsorship picnic
to get funds for the local orphanage/puppy and kitten shelter. They were trying
to earn enough for new shoes and maybe some toys or something, but he went and
ate all the things they were going to sell so no one got sponsored and they had to 
make shoes out of the kittens.

.....I'm sorry. I don't know where that came from.
When he was done, he thought, it would after all be a
pity if the pretty little table-cloth were to be spoilt in the forest
here, and folded it up tidily and put it in his pocket.  Then he went
onwards, and in the evening, when hunger once more returned to him,
he wanted to make a trial of his little cloth, and spread it out and
said, I wish you to be covered with good cheer again, and scarcely
had the wish crossed his lips than as many dishes with the most
exquisite food on them stood on the table as there was room for.  Now
I perceive, said he, in what kitchen my cooking is done.  You shall
be dearer to me than the mountains of silver and gold.  For he saw
plainly that it was a wishing-cloth. The cloth, however, was still
not enough to enable him to sit down quietly at home, he preferred to
wander about the world and pursue his fortune farther.

One night he met, in a lonely wood, a dusty, black charcoal-burner,
who was burning charcoal there, and had some potatoes by the fire, on
which he was going to make a meal.  Good evening, blackbird, said the
youth.  How do you get on in your solitude.
 Blackbird?! Seriously, that's just rude. 
 One day is like another, replied the charcoal-burner, and every night
potatoes.  Have you a mind to have some, and will you be my guest.
Many thanks, replied the traveler, I won't rob you of your supper,
you did not reckon on a visitor, but if you will put up with what I
have, you shall have an invitation. Who is to prepare it for you,
said the charcoal-burner.  I see that you have nothing with you, and
there is no one within a two hours' walk who could give you anything.
And yet there shall be a meal, answered the youth, and better than
any you have ever tasted.  Thereupon he brought his cloth out of his
knapsack, spread it on the ground, and said, little cloth, cover
yourself, and instantly boiled meat and baked meat stood there, and
as hot as if it had just come out of the kitchen.

The charcoal-burner stared with wide-open eyes, but did not require
much pressing, he fell to, and thrust larger and larger mouthfuls
into his black mouth.  When they had eaten everything, the
charcoal-burner smiled contentedly, and said, listen, your
table-cloth has my approval, it would be a fine thing for me in this
forest, where no one ever cooks me anything good.  I will propose an
exchange to you, there in the corner hangs a soldier's knapsack,
which is certainly old and shabby, but in it lie concealed wonderful
powers, but, as I no longer use it, I will give it to you for the

I must first know what these wonderful powers are, answered the
One of the few instances in which the hero displays some intelligence. Instead
of just hearing the words 'magic powers' and jumping on the deal, he's finding
out whether or not it'd be worth the trade. Gotta hand it to him-he's not going
to hand over a wondrous magic tablecloth only to find out the magic whatever he
trades it for does something completely useless later on.
 That will I tell you, replied the charcoal-burner, every time you tap
it with your hand, a corporal comes with six men armed from head to
foot, and they do whatsoever you command them.  So far as I am
concerned, said the youth, if nothing else can be done, we will
exchange, and he gave the charcoal-burner the cloth, took the
knapsack from the hook, put it on, and bade farewell.  When he had
walked a while, he wished to make a trial of the magical powers of
his knapsack and tapped it.  Immediately the seven warriors stepped
up to him, and the corporal said, what does my lord and ruler wish

March with all speed to the charcoal-burner, and demand my
wishing-cloth back.  They faced to the left, and it was not long
before they brought what he required, and had taken it from the
charcoal-burner without asking many questions.  The young man bade
them retire, went onwards, and hoped fortune would shine yet more
brightly on him. 
No, really, what?! He makes a fair trade with someone who kindly invited him into
their home and offered to share their only food with him, and then turns around
and backstabs the poor guy who did nothing to harm him in any way and leave
the poor fellow with nothing?!
Our hero, ladies and gentlemen. Bullies poor coal burners who show him nothing
but kindness and generosity into even more poverty than they're already in. 
 By sunset he came to another charcoal-burner, who
was making his supper ready by the fire. If you will eat some
potatoes with salt, but with no dripping, come and sit down with me,
said the sooty fellow.
Oh no.... 
 No, he replied, this time you shall be my guest, and he spread out
his cloth, which was instantly covered with the most beautiful
dishes.  They ate and drank together, and enjoyed themselves
heartily.  After the meal was over, the charcoal-burner said, up
there on that shelf lies a little old worn-out hat which has strange
properties - the moment someone puts it on, and turns it round on his
head, the cannons go off as if twelve were fired all together, and
they demolish everything so that no one can withstand them.  The hat
is of no use to me, and I will willingly give it for your tablecloth.
 How are all these old coal-burners ending up with these things? And only
to continue being poor coal-burners? Did none of them ever think to put those
items to use, or take them into town and sell them or something?
Also, if that hat has twelve little cannons sitting on it, it must look pretty
 That suits me very well, he answered, took the hat, put it on, and
left his table-cloth behind him.  But hardly had he walked away than
he tapped on his knapsack, and his soldiers had to fetch the cloth
back again.  One thing comes on the top of another, thought he, and I
feel as if my luck had not yet come to an end. 
Luck? LUCK?! That's not luck, that's being a jackass, you slimy boggart. I hope
you get eaten by a giant three-headed chicken. 
  Neither had his thoughts deceived him (for another victim lay just forward,
waiting to fall into his greedy clutches).  After he had walked on for the whole
 of one day, he came to a third charcoal-burner, who like the previous one,
invited him to potatoes without dripping.  But he let him also dine
with him from his wishing-cloth, and the charcoal-burner liked it so
well, that at last he offered him a horn for it, which had very
different properties from those of the hat.  The moment someone blew
it all the walls and fortifications fell down, and all towns and
villages became ruins.  For this he immediately gave the
charcoal-burner the cloth, but he afterwards sent his soldiers to
demand it back again, so that at length he had the knapsack, hat and
horn, all three.  Now, said he, I am a made man, and it is time for
me to go home and see how my brothers are getting on.
 This SHOULD be the point in the story where Karma smacks backhands this guy
through a wall, takes everything he has, and ditches him in a dank hotel room
without cab fare, but unfortunately rampant greed is more often rewarded than
punished in a lot of these stories. 
 When he reached home, his brothers had built themselves a handsome
house with their silver and gold, and were living in clover.
 ....Living in clover? I'm assuming that means they're well off, but I can't
help but picture two finely dressed men on all fours nibbling clover in a field
with the goats. 
 He went to see them, but as he came in a ragged coat, with his shabby hat on
his head, and his old knapsack on his back, they would not
acknowledge him as their brother.  They mocked and said, you give out
that you are our brother who despised silver and gold, and craved for
something still better for himself.  Such a person arrives in his
carriage in full splendor like a mighty king, not like a beggar, and
they drove him out of doors. 
I know the guy is a total greedy prick and didn't have the sense to quit
while he was ahead, but c'mon, that's your brother. No need for that kind of 
treatment, just because he doesn't seem to have done as well as you.
 Then he fell into a rage, and tapped his knapsack until a hundred and 
fifty men stood before him armed from head to foot.  He commanded them to 
surround his brothers' house, and two of them were to take hazelsticks with 
them, and beat the two insolent men until they knew who he was.
I'm fairly certain they know who you are, dude, and beating them isn't going
to do anything but make you look like that much more of a prick. 
 A violent disturbance broke out, people ran together, and wanted to
lend the two some help in their need, but against the soldiers they
could do nothing.  News of this at length came to the king, who was
very angry, and ordered a captain to march out with his troop, and
drive this disturber of the peace out of the town, but the man with
knapsack soon got a greater body of men together, who repulsed the
captain and his men, so that they were forced to retire with bloody
noses.  The king said, this vagabond is not brought to order yet, and
next day sent a still larger troop against him, but they could do
even less.  The youth set still more men against them, and in order
to be done the sooner, he turned his hat twice round on his head, and
heavy guns began to play, and the king's men were beaten and put to

And now, said he, I will not make peace until the king gives me his
daughter to wife, and I govern the whole kingdom in his name.  He
caused this to be announced to the king, and the latter said to his
daughter, necessity is a hard nut to crack.  What else is there for
me to do but what he desires.  If I want peace and to keep the crown
on my head, I must give you away.
Oh, great, now he wants to run the kingdom. Look, man, an important part of being
king is having the loyalty of your people, and summoning up magic soldiers to beat
people for having done well for themselves and snubbed you isn't going to earn
you that, particularly when you beat the crud out of their soldiers and are
obnoxiously noisy. Nor will demanding the daughter of the king, who is probably
a beloved princess, make you desirable in their eyes. Also, having a wife who
hates your guts tends to be a bad idea. 
 So the wedding was celebrated, but the king's daughter was vexed that
her husband should be a common man, who wore a shabby hat, and put on
an old knapsack.  She longed to get rid of him, and night and day
studied how she could accomplished this.  Then she thought to
herself, is it possible that his wonderful powers lie in the
knapsack, and she feigned affection and caressed him, and when his
heart was softened, she said, if you would but lay aside that horrid
knapsack, it makes you look so ugly, that I can't help being ashamed
of you.  Dear child, said he, this knapsack is my greatest treasure,
as long as I have it, there is no power on earth that I am afraid of.
And he revealed to her the wonderful virtue with which it was

Then she threw herself in his arms as if she were going to kiss him,
but cleverly took the knapsack off his shoulders, and ran away with
Aha, a forced wife princess who doesn't just sit around and take it! No, she 
uses her feminine wiles to trick him, take the object of his power and regain her
freedom! You go, girl! 
As soon as she was alone she tapped it, and commanded the
warriors to seize their former master, and take him out of the royal
palace.  They obeyed, and the false wife sent still more men after
him, who were to drive him quite out of the country. 
False wife? I'm pretty sure they were really married-by HIS demand, mind you.
Also, he totally deserved that and more. 
Then he would have been ruined if he had not had the little hat.  And hardly were
his hands free before he turned it twice.  Immediately the cannon
began to thunder, and demolished everything, and the king's daughter
herself was forced to come and beg for mercy.  As she entreated in
such moving terms, and promised to better her ways, he allowed
himself to be persuaded and granted her peace.

She behaved in a friendly manner to him, and acted as if she loved
him very much, and after some time managed so to befool him, that he
confided to her that even if someone got the knapsack into his power,
he could do nothing against him so long as the old hat was still his.
When she knew the secret, she waited until he was asleep, and then
she took the hat away from him, and had it thrown out into the
He couldn't guess after the first time that she wanted to know where the powers
came from so she could remove them from him? Geez. Additionally, I wouldn't have
just taken it from him and had it thrown away, I would have had the guards seize
him right then and there, strip him of all else he owned just in case, and had him
either imprisoned forever or put to death. The guy is clearly unstable. 
 But the horn still remained to him, and in great anger he
blew it with all his strength.

Instantly all walls, fortifications, towns, and villages, toppled
down, and crushed the king and his daughter to death. And had he not
put down the horn and had blown just a little longer, everything
would have been in ruins, and not one stone would have been left
standing on another.  Then no one opposed him any longer, and he made
himself king of the whole country.
Because psycho tantrum throwing man-children with dangerously powerful magic
at their disposal, who has no idea what the term 'moderation' means and has no
problem causing horrific amounts of property damage, is totallythe kind of person 
you want running your country for everyone to live happily ever after.

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