Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Devil and the Bowyer's Wife

In the 16th century there lived a bowyer in Vienna. His name was Kaspar Pergauer. His business went well and he was very satisfied with his daily doing. He could have been the happiest man on earth if there hadn’t been his wife Ursula.

Kaspar had married her because of her beauty and her money but his friends had warned him – she was well known for her sharp tongue. Well, after some years the beauty was gone, her money was spent and it turned out that she preferred to use her evil tongue to attack her husband.

She ranted and raved the whole day long; Kaspar had indeed a very hard life.

To escape his wife Kaspar went to the pub every evening. When he arrived home late at night Ursula awaited him with a shower of curses and at least with her rolling pin.

One evening after a big quarrel he left home and wandered aimlessly through the streets of Vienna. Finally he found himself at St. Peter's cemetery, exhausted he sat down on an old grave stone.

“Ah,” he sighed, “I can’t live with this wife anymore. May the devil take her!”

“Whom shall I take?" suddenly an eerie, sinister figure had appeared in front of the bowyer. "I'm there when you call me! What can I do for you?"

“Well,” Kaspar gave in, “you don’t have to take her necessarily. But maybe you can scare her a bit or teach her a better behaviour.” then he added depressed, “But I suppose even for you this shrew is a hard nut to crack.”

"That would be ridiculous if I weren’t be able to do this," boasted the devil. "But you know I don’t work for free."

For a moment the devil considered then Kaspar heard his conditions, "If I manage to change your wife to a tame lamb within the next three days, you may still enjoy your beautiful life here on earth for many years - but then when you die I get your soul. - If I can’t make it, which is all but impossible, then I don’t take your soul, no matter how you've lived your life, because then you have already paid the penalty of all your sins on earth at the side of your wife."

The bowyer agreed.

“And keep away from your house for the next three days!” the devil added before he disappeared. The good man nodded – he smiled relieved.


"Am Graben,Vienna 1609" - Jacob Hoefnagel
(St.Peter's Church on the right side)

The next morning the devil appeared in the person of Kaspar Pergauer in whose house.
He had decided to try it first of all in kindness.

Softly he leaned over the still sleeping Ursula in order to kiss her awake. She opened her eyes saw her alleged husband and started her rant immediately. She called him a vicious troublemaker who would spoil her life already at dawn. And in this way she continued to chatter the whole day long. The mouth of the gruff woman worked like a mill wheel; the puzzled devil couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
When her anger reached a particular level she had no shy to slap the stunned devil.
At the end of the day the devil had a black eye but not the bit of success in taming the bowyer’s wife.

On the second day the devil tried to talk sense with the woman.
He explained her what she did wrong that she shouldn’t curse and how a good wife should behave. She just listened – quietly. The devil thought already that this methode seemed to bring success.

But then at midday she flared up and shouted angrily, “Who do you think you are! You dare to teach me how to behave! I work hard for you every day and you just nag and criticize!” A load of reproaches hailed upon the allerged husband and in her fury she snatched the pot of hot soup from the stove and poured the boiling broth over the devil’s head. He screamed out loud; then he ran as fast as he could.

Having his breath back he said, “You scathing woman – tomorrow you will get know me!”

On the third day he came back to Ursula in his original form.
Ursula seemed truly astonished.

"I've tried in goodness and rigor to bring you to reason," he growled. "Now my patience has an end. From now on you are as gentle as a lamb, otherwise you get a nasty surprise!"

“Now my patience has an end,” imitated Ursula the devil’s words after she had picked up her courage again, “You threaten me? Now my patience has an end!”

Surprised by her reaction the devil flinched.

Now she grabbed him by his horns and tore them so strongly that one of the horns broke. The devil was completely/quite taken aback. Meanwhile Ursula had grabbed her rolling pin and hit the devil until he took leave of his senses.

That was even for the devil too much. Under hellish stench of sulfur he disappeared through the chimney.


Poor Kaspar Pergauer lived a long time; and with his wife at his side he paid for all his sins already on earth. When he died he got straight into heaven.

You can imagine that Ursula didn’t get into heaven after her death but she didn’t get into hell as well.
The devil strictly denied her entrance. So her restless soul is still wandering around in various forms; and from time to time you hear someone telling that he has met her.

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for including this curiosity in their 'FlashCast46 - Inappropriate Exposure' !


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