Friday, February 10, 2012

Clever Else

I actually know the basic plot of this fairy tale under three different titles. This one is Clever Else, and I got the text and image from this website.

There was once a man who had a daughter who was called Clever Else, and when she was grown up, her father said she must be married, and her mother said, “Yes, if we could only find some one that would consent to have.”

Was she that bad of a girl? Okay, now I'm worried. You would think that a clever girl would be quickly married off. Apparently not.

At last one came from a distance, and his name was Hans, and when he proposed to her, he made it a condition that Clever Else should be very careful as well. 

She has to be careful. That might get them in trouble.

“Oh,” said the father, “she does not want for brains.”

But Hans wasn't asking about brains, he was asking about how careful she was.

 “No, indeed,” said the mother, “she can see the wind coming up the street and hear the flies cough.” 

See the wind? Wind is invisible. And flies don't cough. They're almost as bad as the girl's father in Rumpelstiltskin!

“Well,” said Hans, “if she does not turn out to be careful too, I will not have her.” 

You know, I'd think that if I had a stipulation for my potential spouse, I wouldn't tell it to her. That way, she can't pretend to have the traits you seek. But, to each his own, I guess.

Now when they were all seated at table, and had well eaten, the mother said, “Else, go into the cellar and draw some beer.” Then Clever Else took down the jug from the hook in the wall, and as she was on her way to the cellar she rattled the lid up and down so as to pass away the time. 

Um ... talk about a nervous habit. Hey, Hans, this girl looks to be a bit hyper! Are you sure you want her?

When she got there, she took a stool and stood it in front of the cask, so that she need not stoop and make her back ache with needless trouble. Then she put the jug under the tap and turned it, and while the beer was running, in order that her eyes should not be idle, she glanced hither and thither, and finally caught sight of a pickaxe that the workmen had left sticking in the ceiling just above her head. 

You know, I wonder how often this girl went down to the cellar to get beer - and if she had been down there often enough - why hadn't she noticed it before?

Then Clever Else began to cry, for she thought, “If I marry Hans, and we have a child, and it grows big, and we send it into the cellar to draw beer, that pickaxe might fall on his head and kill him.” 

Define big. Big enough to react in time to get out of the way in time? But she has to worry, anyways. She's supposed to be being careful, after all.

So there she sat and cried with all her might, lamenting the anticipated misfortune. All the while they were waiting upstairs for something to drink, and they waited in vain. At last the mistress said to the maid, “Go down to the cellar and see why Else does not come.”

So they were rich enough to have a maid. 

 So the maid went, and found her sitting in front of the cask crying with all her might. “What are you crying for?” said the maid. “Oh dear me,” answered she, “how can I help crying? if I marry Hans, and we have a child, and it grows big, and we send it here to draw beer, perhaps the pickaxe may fall on its head and kill it.” 

"You see, Hans wants me to be careful - so I'm being careful!" Yes, I see why she's called clever. It takes cleverness to be this manipulative!

“Our Else is clever indeed!” said the maid, and directly sat down to bewail the anticipated misfortune. After a while, when the people upstairs found that the maid did not return, and they were becoming more and more thirsty, the master said to the boy, “You go down into the cellar, and see what Else and the maid are doing.”

They're rich enough to have a boy too. Unless the maid and boy are Else's younger sister and brother ... They might be, actually.

The boy did so, and there he found both Clever Else and the maid sitting crying together. Then he asked what was the matter. “Oh dear me,” said Else, “how can we help crying? If I marry Hans, and we have a child, and it grows big, and we send it here to draw beer, the pickaxe might fall on its head and kill it.” 

Well, boys tend to be more intelligent than girls, so the boy might not fall for this stupidity.

“Our Else is clever indeed!” said the boy, and sitting down beside her, he began howling with a good will. 

Guess he isn't much smarter.

Upstairs they were all waiting for him to come back, but as he did not come, the master said to the mistress, “You go down to the cellar and see what Else is doing.” So the mistress went down and found all three in great lamentations, and when she asked the cause, then Else told her how the future possible child might be killed as soon as it was big enough to be sent to draw beer, by the pickaxe falling on it. 

And the mother, being utterly convinced that her daughter is completely clever, will go along with it.

Then the mother at once exclaimed, “Our Else is clever indeed!” and, sitting down, she wept with the rest. 

See my previous comment.

Upstairs the husband waited a little while, but as his wife did not return, and as his thirst constantly increased, he said, “I must go down to the cellar myself, and see what has become of Else.” And when he came into the cellar, and found them all sitting and weeping together, he was told that it was all owing to the child that Else might possibly have, and the possibility of its being killed by the pickaxe so happening to fall just at the time the child might be sitting underneath it drawing beer; and when he heard all this, he cried, “How clever is our Else!” and sitting down, he joined his tears to theirs. 

You would think that Dad, at least, had a head on his shoulder. But, no, he, too, had to go along with the clever Else. I say that that girl's spoiled!

The intended bridegroom stayed upstairs by himself a long time, but as nobody came back to him, he thought he would go himself and see what they were all about And there he found all five lamenting and crying most pitifully, each one louder than the other. 

I wonder how he didn't hear them from upstairs.

“What misfortune has happened?” cried he. 

He's worried she wasn't being careful.

“O my dear Hans,” said Else, “if we marry and have a child, and it grows big, and we send it down here to draw beer, perhaps that pickaxe which has been left sticking up there might fall down on the child’s head and kill it; and how can we help crying at that!” 

Oh, he sees, she was crying to show how careful she is.

“Now,” said Hans, “I cannot think that greater sense than that could be wanted in my household; so as you are so clever, Else, I will have you for my wife,” and taking her by the hand he led her upstairs, and they had the wedding at once.

Apparently he couldn't see through her act.

A little while after they were married, Hans said to his wife, “I am going out to work, in order to get money; you go into the field and cut the corn, so that we may have bread.” 

Since she hadn't yet any kids, she might as well work, ya know?

“Very well, I will do so, dear Hans,” said she. And after Hans was gone she cooked herself some nice stew, and took it with her into the field. 

Stew. I would have fixed myself a sandwich, actually, since stews don't keep well outside. Well, her prerogative, I guess.

And when she got there, she said to herself, “Now, what shall I do? shall I reap first, or eat first? All right, I will eat first.” 

No, Else, you're supposed to be working!

Then she ate her fill of stew, and when she could eat no more, she said to herself, “Now, what shall I do? shall I reap first, or sleep first? All right, I will sleep first.” 

I thought she was supposed to be clever.

Then she lay down in the corn and went to sleep. And Hans got home, and waited there a long while, and Else did not come, so he said to himself, “My clever Else is so industrious that she never thinks of coming home and eating.” 

Well, at least he assumes the best. There are others who would assume the worst... I think she got the better end of the marriage.

But when evening drew near and still she did not come, Hans set out to see how much corn she had cut; but she had cut no corn at all, but there she was lying in it asleep. 

And he was severely disappointed, and he realized that he should have made his stipulation "industrious" instead of "careful." 

Then Hans made haste home, and fetched a bird-net with little bells and threw it over her; and still she went on sleeping. 

Um ... Hans? What are you up to?

And he ran home again and locked himself in, and sat him down on his bench to work. At last, when it was beginning to grow dark, Clever Else woke, and when she got up and shook herself, the bells jingled at each movement that she made. 

And since she was clever, she realized that she had bells on her ...

Then she grew frightened, and began to doubt whether she were really Clever Else or not, and said to herself, “Am I, or am I not?” 

Or not. This reminds me of Alice in Wonderland, actually, when Alice is wondering if she's still Alice, then decides that she isn't and that she's really Mabel.

And, not knowing what answer to make, she stood for a long while considering; at last she thought, “I will go home to Hans and ask him if I am I or not; he is sure to know.” 

She's not clever enough to know if she's herself it appears.

So she ran up to the door of her house, but it was locked; then she knocked at the window, and cried, “Hans, is Else within?” 

And what does he answer?

“Yes,” answered Hans, “she is in.” 

Hans. You're the one who married her! Don't be so cruel to her!

Then she was in a greater fright than ever, and crying, “Oh dear, then I am not I,” she went to inquire at another door, but the people hearing the jingling of the bells would not open to her, and she could get in nowhere. So she ran away beyond the village, and since then no one has seen her.

And the moral of the story is, marry a girl who is industrious, not clever or careful.

Image: Clever Else (Grimm)

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