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The Fairy Tales of Joseph Jacobs

A Visitor From Paradise

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THERE was once a woman, good but simple, who had been twice married. One day when her husband was in the field -- of course that was her second husband, you know -- a weary tramp came trudging by her door and asked for a drink of water. When she gave it to him, being rather a gossip, she asked where he came from.

"From Paris," said the man.

The woman was a little bit deaf, and thought the man said from paradise. "From paradise! Did you meet there my poor dear husband, Lord rest his soul?"

"What was his name?" asked the man.

"Why, John Goody, of course," said the woman. "Did you know him in paradise?"

"What, John Goody!" said the man. "Him and me was as thick as thieves."

"Does he want for anything?" said the woman. "I suppose up in paradise you get all you want."

"All we want! Why, look at me," said the man pointing to his rags and tatters. "They treat some of us right shabby up there."

"Dear me, that's bad. Are you likely to go back?"

"Go back to paradise, marm? I should say. We have to be in every night at ten."

"Well, perhaps you wouldn't mind taking back some things for my poor old John," said the woman.

"Of course, marm. Delighted to help my old chum John."

So the woman went indoors and got a big pile of clothes and a long pipe and three bottles of beer, and a beer jug, and gave them to the man. "But," he said, "please marm, I can't carry all these by my own self. Ain't you got a horse or a donkey that I can take along with me to carry them? I'll bring him back tomorrow."

Then the woman said, "There's our old Dobbin in the stable. I can't lend you mare Juniper 'cause my husband's plowing with her just now."

"Ah, well, Dobbin'll do as it's only until tomorrow."

So the woman got out Dobbin and saddled him, and the man took the clothes and the beer and the pipe and rode off with them.

Shortly afterwards her husband came home and said, "What's become of Dobbin? He's not in the stable."

So his wife told him all that had happened. And he said, "I don't like that. How do we know that he is going to paradise? And how do we know that he'll bring Dobbin back tomorrow? I'll saddle Juniper and get the things back. Which way did he go?"

So he saddled Juniper and rode after the man, who saw him coming afar off and guessed what had happened. So he got off from Dobbin and drove him into a clump of trees near the roadside, and then went and laid down on his back and looked up to the sky. When the farmer came up to him he got down from Juniper and said, "What are you doing there?"

"Oh, such a funny thing," said the man. "A fellow came along here on a horse with some clothes and things, and when he got to the top of the hill here he simply gave a shout and the horse went right up into the sky; and I was watching him when you came up."

"Oh, it's all right then," said the farmer. "He's gone to paradise, sure enough," and went back to his wife.

Next day they waited, and they waited for the man to bring back Dobbin; but he didn't come that day nor the next day, nor the next. So the farmer said to his wife, "My dear, we've been done. But I'll find that man if I have to trudge through the whole kingdom. And you must come with me, as you know him."

"But what shall we do with the house?" said the wife. "You know there have been robbers around here, and while we are away they'll come and take my best china."

"Oh, that's all right," said the farmer. "He who minds the door minds the house. So we'll take the door with us and then they can't get in."

So he took the door off its hinges, and put it on his back and they went along to find the man from paradise. So they went along, and they went along, and they went along until night came, and they didn't know what to do for shelter. So the man said, "That's a comfortable tree there; let us roost in the branches like the birds." So they took the door up with them and laid down to sleep on it as comfortable, as comfortable can be.

Now it happened that a band of robbers had just broken into a castle nearby and taken out a great lot of plunder; and they came under the very tree to divide it. And when they began to settle how much each should have they began to quarrel and woke up the farmer and his wife. They were so frightened when they heard the robbers underneath them that they tried to get up farther into the tree, and in doing so let the door fall down right on the robbers' heads.

"The heavens are falling," cried the robbers, who were so frightened that they all rushed away. And the farmer and his wife came down from the tree and collected all the booty and went home and lived happy ever afterwards.

It was and it was not.

Jacobs' Notes and References

This droll, in its two parts, occurs throughout Europe as has been shown by Cosquin in his elaborate Notes to No. 22. The Visitor from Paradise, for example, occurs in Brittany, Germany, Norway, and Sweden, England, Roumania, Tyrol, and Ireland. In some of the versions the silly wife gives some household treasure to a passer-by because her husband had said that he was keeping this for Christmas, for Easter, or for " Hereafterthis " and the Visitor claims it in that name. (See More English Fairy Tales.) The idea also occurs in the literature of jests in Pauli, 1519, Hans Sachs, and in Tresor du Ridicule, Paris, 1644. Cosquin has also traced it to Ceylon, Orientalist, 1884, p. 62.

The adventure of the door and the robbers is equally widely spread in Normandy, Germany, Austria, Bosnia, Rome, Catalonia, and Sicily. (Gonz., i., 251-2.) It forms part of the tale of "Mr. Vinegar" in English Fairy Tales. The two adventures are, however, rarely combined; Cosquin knows of only two instances. I have, however, ventured to combine them here instead of making two separate tales of them.

In telling the story one has to slur over the pronunciation of " Paradise," making the last vowel short, so as to explain the misunderstanding about " Paris." I have retained the Paris motif as all through the Middle Ages, wayfarers from and to Paris (wandering scholars or clerics) would be familiar sights to the peasantry throughout Europe.

Bolte gives in full (ii., 441-6) a Latin poem by Wickram in 1509 entitled, "De Barta et marito eius per studentem Parisiensem subtiliter deceptis, " which is practically identical with the early part of our story and has this misunderstanding about Paris and Paradise. It accordingly occurs in most of the German books of Drolls as those by Bebel and Pauli, and it is possible that the folk versions were derived from this, though they stretch as far as Cairo and North India. See Clouston, Book of Noodles, pp. 205, 214. In some of the folk-tales, there is an introduction in which the Foolish Wife sells three cows, but keeps one of the three as a pledge. Thereupon her husband leaves her until he can find any one as silly, which he does by posing as a Visitor from Paradise. This is more suitable for an introduction for "The Three Sillies."

Jacobs, Joseph, ed. European Folk and Fairy Tales. New York: G. P Putnam's Sons, 1916.

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Page created 4/15/05; Last updated 10/22/07