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Boots of Buffalo Leather
Grimms Fairy Tales and German Folktales

A soldier who is afraid of nothing, troubles himself about
nothing. One of this kind had received his discharge, and
as he had learnt no trade and could earn nothing, he traveled
about and begged alms of kind people. He had an old rain-coat
on his back, and a pair of riding-boots of buffalo-leather which
were still left to him. One day he was walking he knew not where,
straight out into the open country, and at length came to a forest.
He did not know where he was, but saw sitting on the trunk of a
tree, which had been cut down, a man who was well dressed and
wore a green shooting-coat. The soldier shook hands with him, sat
down on the grass by his side, and stretched out his legs. I see
you have good boots on, which are well blacked, said he to the
huntsman, but if you had to travel about as I have, they would
not last long. Look at mine, they are of buffalo-leather, and
have been worn for a long time, but in them I can go through thick
and thin. After a while the soldier got up and said, I can stay
no longer, hunger drives me onwards, but, brother brightboots,
where does this road lead to. I don't know that myself, answered
the huntsman, I have lost my way in the forest. Then you are in the
same plight as I, said the soldier. Birds of a feather flock
together, let us remain together, and seek our way. The huntsman
smiled a little, and they walked on further and further, until
night fell. We do not get out of the forest, said the soldier,
but there in the distance I see a light shining. There we might
find something to eat. They found a stone house, knocked at the
door, and an old woman opened it. We are looking for quarters for
the night, said the soldier, and some lining for our stomachs, for
mine is as empty as
an old knapsack. You cannot stay here, answered the old woman.
This is a robbers, house, and you would do wisely to get away
before they come home, or you will be lost. It won't be so bad
as that, answered the soldier, I have not had a mouthful for two
days, and whether I am murdered here or die of hunger in the
forest is all the same to me. I shall come in. The huntsman
would not follow, but the soldier drew him in with him by the
sleeve. Come, my dear brother, we shall not come to an end so
quickly as that. The old woman had pity on them and said, creep
in here behind the stove, and if they leave anything, I will give
it to you on the sly when they are asleep. Scarcely were they in
the corner before twelve robbers came bursting in, seated themselves
at the table which was already laid, and vehemently demanded some
food. The old woman brought in some great dishes of roast meat,
and the robbers enjoyed that thoroughly. When the soldier smelled
the food, he said to the huntsman, I cannot hold out any
longer, I shall seat myself at the table, and eat with them. You
will bring us to destruction, said the huntsman, and held him back
by the arm. But the soldier began to cough loudly. When the
robbers heard that, they threw away their knives and forks, leapt
up, and discovered the two who were behind the stove. Aha,
gentlemen, are you in the corner, cried they. What are you doing
here. Have you been sent as spies. Wait a while, and you shall
learn how to
fly on a dry bough. But do be civil, said the soldier, I am
hungry, give me something to eat, and then you can do what you
like with me. The robbers were astonished, and the captain said,
I see that you have no fear. Well, you shall have some food,
but after that you must die. We shall see, said the soldier, and
seated himself at the table, and began to cut away valiantly at the
roast meat. Brother brightboots, come and eat, cried he to the
huntsman. You must be as hungry as I am, and cannot have better
roast meat at home, but the huntsman would not eat. The robbers
looked at the soldier in astonishment, and said, the rascal uses
no ceremony. After a while he said, I have had enough food, now
get me something good to drink. The chief of the robbers was
in the mood to humor him in this also, and called to the old
woman, bring a bottle out of the cellar, and mind it be of the
best. The soldier drew the cork out with a loud noise, and then
went with the bottle to the huntsman and said, watch this, brother,
and you shall see something that will surprise you. I am now going
to drink the health of the whole clan. Then he brandished the
bottle over the heads of the robbers, and cried, long life to
you all, but with your mouths open and your right hands lifted
up, and then he drank a hearty draught. Scarcely were the
words said than they all sat motionless as if made of stone,
and their mouths were open and their right hands stretched up in
the air. The huntsman said to the soldier, I see that you are
acquainted with tricks of another kind, but now come and let us
go home. Oho, my dear brother, but that would be marching
away far too soon. We have conquered the enemy, and must first
take the booty. Those men there are sitting fast, and are opening
their mouths with astonishment, but they will not be allowed to
move until I permit them. Come, eat and drink. The old woman
had to bring another bottle of the best wine, and the soldier would
not stir until he had eaten enough to last for three days. At
last when day came, he said, now it is time to strike our tents,
and in order that our march may be a short one, the old woman
shall show us the nearest way to the town.

When they had arrived there, he went to his old comrades, and
said, out in the forest I have found a nest full of gallows,
birds, come with me and we will take it. The soldier led them,
and said to the huntsman, you must go back again with me to see
how they flutter when we seize them by the feet. He placed
the men round about the robbers, and then he took the bottle,
drank a mouthful, brandished it above them, and cried, long life
to you all. Instantly they all regained the power of movement,
but were thrown down and bound hand and foot with cords.
Then the soldier ordered them to be thrown into a cart as if
they had been so many sacks, and said, now drive them straight
to prison. The huntsman, however, took one of the men aside
and gave him another commission as well.

Brother brightboots, said the soldier, we have safely routed
the enemy and been well fed, now we will quietly walk behind
them as if we were stragglers. When they approached the town,
the soldier saw a crowd of people pouring through the gate of
the town who were raising loud cries of joy, and waving green
boughs in the air. Then he saw that the entire body-guard was
coming up. What can this mean, said he to the huntsman.

Don't you know, he replied, that the king has for a long time
been absent from his kingdom, and that today he is returning,
and every one is going to meet him. But where is the king,
said the soldier. I do not see him. Here he is, answered
the huntsman, I am the king, and have announced my arrival.

Then he opened his hunting-coat, and his royal garments were
visible. The soldier was alarmed, and fell on his knees and
begged him to forgive him for having in his ignorance treated
him as an equal, and spoken to him by such a name. But the
king shook hands with him, and said, you are a brave soldier,
and have saved my life. You shall never again be in want,
I will take care of you. And if ever you would like to eat
a piece of roast meat, as good as that in the robber's house,
come to the royal kitchen. But if you would drink a health,
you must first ask my permission.