It was in 1510 when Theophrastus Paracelsus lived in Vienna to study medicine.
He used to walk through the forests to collect all sorts of medical plants and herbs.
On one of those days – he was already on his way back to town he had a rest under a huge fir tree.
Suddenly he heard a groan and a heartrending voice crying, “Help me! Oh help me!”
Paracelsus jumped up, he looked around but he couldn’t find the caller.
“How can I help when I can’t see you?” Paracelsus said impatiently, “I don’t know where you are and I even don’t know who you are!”
“I am the evil,” the voice replied, “an exorcist squeezed me into a hole of this tree trunk and closed it with a plug. I can not get out! Free me, oh free me! I don’t want to stay here till the last day.”
“For my part you can remain trapped for an eternity; at least you can’t cause harm anymore.”
“Free me, oh free me,” lamented the devil, “I’ll give you everything you ask for; I’ll fulfill you all your wishes; and you even don’t have to give me your soul!”
For a moment Paracelsus thought about the devil’s offer then he replied, “So listen what I ask for. I want a drug which can cure every disease; and – I want a tincture which can turn everything I want into gold.”
“Very well then. Your wishes are fulfilled.”
Paracelsus took his pocket knife and scatched around the plug till he could pull it out easily.
A coal black spider crawled out of the tree trunk, which turned at the moment into a tall gaunt man with a red cloak, a sword and a hat with a red rooster feather.
“Come with me.” the devil said with grinning friendliness.
Paracelsus accepted the invite.
They stopped at a rock and the bad guy hit his sword forcefully against it.
The rock split and the devil went through the gaping hole. Soon he reappeared with two bottles.
“Here, the yellow liquid is the gold tincture, the other one is the miracle drug; both bottles will never be empty no matter how much you will use.”
The devil handed Paracelsus the bottles, ”So, and now I have to go to the exorcist, who brought me into this awkward situation.”
They walked back to the fir tree where Paracelsus freed the devil. The smart man used the time to think about how he could save the exorcist’s life.
Finally he said, “That exorcist must be a very clever guy and a master of the black arts. I mean he turned you into a spider and squeezed you in the hole of the tree trunk.”
“Pha,” the devil replied, “to turn into a spider is a very easy feat.”
“I bet the two bottles you just gave me that you can’t do this.” Paracelsus insisted.
“Okay – the bet is on!”
And in no time the devil was a black spider again and crawled into the hole of the fir tree.
Paracelsus reacted very quickly and closed the hole with the plug. Then he cut a cross in it to make the devil mute.
A couple of years later Paracelsus became one of the most famous physicians. He cured many patients with the miracle drug and helped many poor people with the gold tincture.
And the devil? - Well, if a lightning hasn’t split that fir tree I suppose the devil is still trapped inside.
Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska
Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for putting the legend on their 'FlashCast 25 - Anonymous Donor' !