The shopkeeper and the dwarfThere was once a shopkeeper who loved to play practical jokes. One evening, as he was on his way home from work, he felt in a particularly humorous mood. He suddenly saw a dwarf who was shorter than the shortest and who was wearing a pair of glasses. The shopkeeper was overcome with the desire to make fun of this dwarf, so he called out to him, “My wife is a very good cook. May I invite you to come with me to my place tonight for dinner?” The dwarf agreed to the shopkeeper’s invitation, unaware that the shopkeeper only had in mind to poke fun at him and laugh at his expense. So together they went to the shopkeeper’s place.
At first, the shopkeeper’s wife was very kind and hospitable. She made the dwarf feel right at home and so, as they sat around the dinner table, he kept on talking and talking and talking. The shopkeeper was feeling very happy and proud of himself that the dwarf’s visit was such a success, and he felt that the time had come for him to start making fun of the dwarf. But the wife was getting annoyed with the dwarf. She thought to herself, “This fellow is talking so much and eating next to nothing. It is an insult to my cooking.” She turned to the dwarf and said, “You do not want to eat? You do not care for anything?”
The dwarf replied, “I get such joy in just talking!”
The wife was so frustrated that she commanded the dwarf to open his mouth. He obeyed, opening his mouth wider than necessary, and the wife put a huge portion of cooked goat meat inside. Then she forced the dwarf’s mouth shut so he had to eat it! What could the poor fellow do? He had no choice but to swallow the huge portion of meat. But, alas, there was a bone inside it. The bone got stuck in the dwarf’s throat and he died immediately!
Now the shopkeeper felt miserable. He said to himself, “What am I going to do?” He was blaming himself for the dwarf’s death. At the same time, he was worried that he would get into trouble. He said to his wife, “I have an idea. Let us cover his dead body and take him to the doctor. You follow me, crying and crying. We will tell the doctor that our son is sick and that we are afraid his case is very serious.”
So the shopkeeper carried the dead body of the dwarf to the doctor’s house. His wife followed behind him, crying pitifully. When they arrived at the doctor’s place, the doctor and his wife were eating dinner together upstairs. Seeing that he had a patient, the doctor wanted to go downstairs immediately, but the doctor’s wife insisted that he finish his dinner. “Sit down and finish eating!” she ordered. “I will go and see what they want.”
The doctor’s wife went downstairs and told the shopkeeper and his wife, “I am sorry, but you will have to wait. The doctor will see you, but you have come at an odd hour. He must finish his dinner first, and then he will come down.” Then the doctor’s wife went back upstairs, leaving the shopkeeper and his wife waiting outside the door.
The shopkeeper was truly a wonderful rogue. Recognising a chance to abandon the dead body, he said to his wife, “Let us put the corpse right up against the door. When the doctor opens the door, the body will fall down on the ground and roll down the staircase.” Quietly, the shopkeeper and his wife put the body against the door of the doctor’s house. Then, as the doctor still had not come down, they went home very peacefully.
When the doctor finally finished eating his dinner, he went downstairs and opened the door. In shock, he watched as the body fell tumbling to the foot of the staircase below. He ran down after it only to find the poor dwarf lying there, dead.
The doctor felt so miserable. He said to himself, “How could this happen?” The shopkeeper had informed the doctor’s wife that the case was extremely serious, so now the doctor was blaming himself mercilessly for not attending to the patient sooner. He thought, “Now I will be in serious trouble!” But since it was late at night, he picked up the dead body and placed it back against his door. Then he went upstairs. The eyeglasses were still on the body of the dwarf.
It happened that this dwarf was the court jester of the king. One of the king’s guards had been heavily drunk the previous day and had dropped his glasses on the ground and could not find them. Now, he happened to pass by the doctor’s office and saw his own glasses on the dwarf’s face. Still a little drunk, the king’s guard began punching the dead man mercilessly.
A passerby saw what was happening and shouted, “What are you doing?”
The king’s guard replied, “This man has stolen my eyeglasses! Look at this! They are mine!”
“But why are you punching a dead body?” the man cried.
The guard was immediately arrested and taken to the king. He said to himself, “Now I will be punished; I will be hanged.”
The doctor came to know that this guard was going to be hanged and he felt absolutely miserable. He felt that it was he who had killed the dwarf, and his conscience was bothering him terribly. So, at the last moment, just as the guard was about to be hanged, he ran to the king and made his confession. “It is not this man’s fault,” he exclaimed. “I am to blame!”
The king was very pleased with the doctor’s confession. While he was considering what kind of punishment to give the doctor, the first culprit, the shopkeeper, came to know what was going on and his conscience started bothering him. He ran to the king and said, “No, no, no! I am to be blamed! I was the one who brought about the death of this dwarf! I was the one!”
Then the shopkeeper’s wife cried out, “No! I am the culprit, I am the culprit! I put a piece of goat meat into his mouth and forced him to eat it. There was a bone inside the meat. It got caught in his throat, and he died immediately!”
In this way, all of the culprits made their confessions.
Then the king exclaimed, “I never thought that I had such sincere people in my kingdom! You all could have escaped, but one by one you have all confessed.” The king was so proud of all of these sincere people that he declared, “I shall not punish any of you. Instead, I shall give all of you rewards! You all deserve to be rewarded.”
So the king gave rewards to each and every one. Then the king said, “We should admire the court jester most of all, because even after his death he has made us laugh. He has made us all laugh even after leaving this world. Such an excellent jester!”