ONCE upon a time there was a young fellow, who was going along cracking nuts. He found a wormy one, and at the selfsame moment he met the devil. "Is it true," said the young fellow, "that the devil can make himself as small as he likes, and can slip through the eye of a needle, as the people say?" "Yes," answered the devil. "Well, I should certainly like to see you crawl into that nut!" said the young fellow. The devil did so. But when he had crawled through the hole, the young fellow stopped it up with a bit of wood. "Now I've got you!" said he, and put the nut in his pocket. After he had gone a while, he came to a smithy, and went in and asked the smith to break the nut for him. "Why, that is a mere trifle!" said the smith, took his smallest hammer, laid the nut on the anvil, and struck it; but the nut would not break. Then he took a somewhat larger hammer; but that was not heavy enough either. Then he took a still larger one, but could do nothing with it at all, and thereupon he grew angry, and took his heaviest hammer. "I'll break you yet!" said he, and struck it with all his might. And then the nut cracked, so that half the smithy roof was carried away, and there was a crash as though the whole hut were falling in. "I believe the devil was in that nut!" said the smith. "And so he was!" answered the young fellow.
This getting the better of the devil, as in "The Young Fellow and the Devil" (Asbjörnsen and Moe, N.F.E., p. 133, No. 30), already occurs in the fairy-tale from the "Thousand and One Nights," where a spirit slips, not into a nut, but into a bottle, in order to show what he can do. Ibsen, too, allows Per Gynt to dwell on this fairy-tale.
Young Fellow and the Devil, The
Norwegian Fairy Book, The
Frederick A. Stokes Company
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ATU 330: The Smith and the Devil