THERE was once a man who had three sons. The youngest of them was called Dullhead, and was sneered and jeered at and snubbed on every possible opportunity.
One day it happened that the eldest son wished to go into the forest to cut wood, and before he started his mother gave him a fine rich cake and a bottle of wine, so that he might be sure not to suffer from hunger or thirst.
When he reached the forest he met a little old grey man who wished him ‘Good-morning,’ and said: ‘Do give me a piece of that cake you have got in your pocket, and let me have a draught of your wine–I am so hungry and thirsty.’
But this clever son replied: ‘If I give you my cake and wine I shall have none left for myself; you just go your own way;’ and he left the little man standing there and went further on into the forest. There he began to cut down a tree, but before long he made a false stroke with his axe, and cut his own arm so badly that he was obliged to go home and have it bound up.
Then the second son went to the forest, and his mother gave him a good cake and a bottle of wine as she had to his elder brother. He too met the little old grey man, who begged him for a morsel of cake and a draught of wine.
But the second son spoke most sensibly too, and said: ‘Whatever I give to you I deprive myself of. Just go your own way, will you?’ Not long after his punishment overtook him, for no sooner had he struck a couple of blows on a tree with his axe, than he cut his leg so badly that he had to be carried home.
So then Dullhead said: ‘Father, let me go out and cut wood.’
But his father answered: ‘Both your brothers have injured themselves. You had better leave it alone; you know nothing about it.’
But Dullhead begged so hard to be allowed to go that at last his father said: ‘Very well, then–go. Perhaps when you have hurt yourself, you may learn to know better.’ His mother only gave him a very plain cake made with water and baked in the cinders, and a bottle of sour beer.
When he got to the forest, he too met the little grey old man, who greeted him and said: ‘Give me a piece of your cake and a draught from your bottle; I am so hungry and thirsty.’
And Dullhead replied: ‘I’ve only got a cinder-cake and some sour beer, but if you care to have that, let us sit down and eat.’
So they sat down, and when Dullhead brought out his cake he found it had turned into a fine rich cake, and the sour beer into excellent wine. Then they ate and drank, and when they had finished the little man said: ‘Now I will bring you luck, because you have a kind heart and are willing to share what you have with others. There stands an old tree; cut it down, and amongst its roots you’ll find something.’ With that the little man took leave.
Then Dullhead fell to at once to hew down the tree, and when it fell he found amongst its roots a goose, whose feathers were all of pure gold. He lifted it out, carried it off, and took it with him to an inn where he meant to spend the night.
Now the landlord of the inn had three daughters, and when they saw the goose they were filled with curiosity as to what this wonderful bird could be, and each longed to have one of its golden feathers.
The eldest thought to herself: ‘No doubt I shall soon find a good opportunity to pluck out one of its feathers,’ and the first time Dullhead happened to leave the room she caught hold of the goose by its wing. But, lo and behold! her fingers seemed to stick fast to the goose, and she could not take her hand away.