Grimm's Saga No. 276
The Legend of the Monks who Crossed the Rhine
In ancient times there lived a certain fisherman in the City of Speyer. One night when this man went down to the Rhine River to let out his fishing line a man approached him wearing a long cowl-necked robe in the manner of monks. The fisherman respectfully greeted the man, who replied “I come as messenger from far away and need to cross the Rhine.”
“Enter my boat,” replied the fisherman. “I will ferry you across.”
After he had ferried the man across the river, he returned to find five more monks standing on shore. They also wanted to cross the river. The fisherman modestly asked what moved the men to travel in such a vain night? “Necessity drives us,” said one of the monks. “The world has become a hostile place for us; take us on and God shall pay your reward.”
The fisherman demanded to know what they would give him for his labours. “Now we are poor, but when things are better for us, you shall feel our gratitude.” The oarsman shoved off, but when his vessel reached the middle of the Rhine, a fearful storm blew up. Waves crashed down upon the ship and the fisherman paled in terror. “What is this,” he thought, “at sunset the sky was clear and promising and the moon shone beautifully. Whence comes this fast tempest?” And as he raised his hands to pray to God, one of the monks cried out “Why are you filling God’s ears with prayers? Steer the ship!”
With these words he tore the rudder from the boatman’s hand and began beating the poor fellow. Half-dead he lay in his vessel until daylight broke and the dark strangers had vanished. As the first rays of sunlight broke on the horizon, the heavens were once again as clear as before. The boatman took heart, sailed back to shore and reached his dwelling in sore need.
The next day a messenger who was traveling in the early morning hours from Speyer encountered these same monks driving in a rickety black wagon. The cart had only three wheels and was driven by a long-nosed driver. In confusion the man allowed the wagon to pass and saw it hasten by with much clattering, until it vanished altogether in thin air. All the while the messenger heard the sound of swords clanging like an army in battle. The messenger promptly returned to town and reported everything.
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