If a child did not readily obey a command, a father would raise his finger and say, "A good child..," and the child would finish "promptly obeys." Then he would quickly do as he was told. If a child made a face indicating to a mother that he was about to lie, she would say, "People don't believe..," the child would respond, "People who lie," and immediately start to turn red with shame. The parents also used the other verses as needed. The children often said they had never had such a wonderful day. The lady would always respond, "If you are diligent in doing as the verses tell you then I'll let you come to another egg festival next year. But anyone who doesn't follow the verses will not be invited because the celebration is only for good children."
A Pair of Eggs worth more than Gold.
The lady noticed in the audience of those who participated in the children's festival an adolescent, who seemed very sad. He might had been around sixteen years of age. He was poorly dressed but of noble aspect with an unblemished face of healthy color. His beautiful blond hair went down to his shoulders. In his hand he held a walking stick.
After most of the audience had dispersed the lady compassionately asked him why he was so sad. The youth replied with tears in his eyes, "Alas, my father who was a stone mason died three weeks ago. Since that time things have been difficult for my mother and my brother and sister. My mother's brother wants to take me on to learn my father's trade so I can support my mother and make my way in the world. So I left for my cousin's today. I've been traveling for twenty hours and I still have twenty hours to go because my cousin lives far from here in a different section of the mountains.
The lady was moved because her situation was quite similar to that of the stone mason's widow. She gave the young man milk with eggs and a piece of egg cake and sent along some for his mother. Edmund and Blanda had much sympathy for him. "Here," said Blanda. "Take this red egg to your little sister and give her my greetings." — "And bring this blue egg to your brother with my greeting," Edmund said. "Tell him he should visit us sometime! We would enjoy milk soup and egg cake together." Their mother smiled, held up a multicolored egg and said, "Give this egg to your mother. The verse on it will bring her the best comfort I have to offer: Trust in God, He helps in times of need. This egg will be a welcome gift because if she follows the instruction in the verse she will receive the best present in the world."
The young man thanked her heartily. The miller took him in overnight and the next morning, when the sun shone red at the top of the mountain while the valley was still in shadow, the young man
took up his walking stick after the miller had placed some oat bread and goat cheese in his backpack.
The young man's name was Fridolin. He traveled spryly through the mountains over high cliffs and through deep valleys. On the evening of the third day he was still a couple of hours from his cousin's house. But lo and behold, as he climbed a little ways up to a high rock wall and looked into a deep chasm he saw a harnessed and saddled horse. The cloth covering the horse was beautiful purple and the reins were gold. The horse looked at him and whinnied as though he were happy to see a human and wanted to welcome him in great jubilation.
"Good heavens," the young man said. "How did this fine animal end up in this canyon? It must belong to a knight. I wonder if the horse's master has had an accident? I must go and look." He exerted much effort exploring the canyon although he was quite used to mountain climbing. Eventually he found a pass in the narrow ledge where a mountain stream had once flowed but now it was dry. As he successfully crossed it he saw a man of noble bearing and knightly attire lying under an overhang. His glistening helmut with prominent feather laid beside him and his pike laid nearby. The man looked very pale and the youth did not know if the man was just asleep or dead. The youth went to him, grasped his hand and asked, "Are you hurt, my lord?"
The man opened his eyes, stared at the young man, sighed and then attempted to speak, but no sound came forth. He put his hand to his mouth and then signaled to his helmut. Fridolin understood that the man wanted something to drink, so he took the helmut and went to get water. A pair of willow trees deep in the corner of the canyon showed him that there must be water nearby. He continued until he found moist soil, turned to a stretch between rocks and shrubs and found among mossy rocks a small stream as clear as crystal. Fridolin filled the helmut and hurried back to the thirsty man, who drank deeply. Eventually he was able to speak.
"Thank God" were his first words. "And thank you, my friend," he continued in a hoarse voice. He supported his head in his hand. "God sent you to me so I would not die of thirst. — Do you by change have any bread with you?" "Oh my God," Fridolin replied. "If I had only known. I ate all the oat bread and goat cheese I had in my sack earlier today. But wait," he cried happily. "I still have three eggs. They will make a healthy and nutritious meal." He sat across from the man on the mossy ground, took out the colored eggs, shelled two of them, took a pocket knife and pared it like an apple and gave the man one slice after another. The man ate, taking a drink in between, then ate again.
Fridolin wanted to break open the third egg but the man said, "That's enough for now. It's not good to eat too much after one has been hungry for a long time. I'm satisfied for now and it was the best meal I'd ever had, a meal fit for a king. Thank God, I'm feeling much stronger already," he said as he sat upright. "If you hadn't come along I would have died of thirst or hunger this very night." Having observed the rich clothing the man was wearing, Fridolin replied, "But how is it, noble knight, that you and your horse came to this obscure canyon?"
"I am not a knight, merely a nobleman's servant," said the man. "And I have been traveling for many weeks on assignments from my master. Then I lost my way on this tree covered mountain. Night fell, my horse lost its footing in the dark and I plunged from the overhang into this chasm. Nothing happened to the horse. His legs are okay but I injured my foot, couldn't climb up and get back on my horse. It's a wonder both man and horse didn't tumble down. I cannot thank God enough. I bandaged the wound as best I could but a fever from the infection hit me hard. I resigned myself to the fact that I would probably die of hunger between these two rocks. Then you appeared, fine young man, like an angel from heaven. Tell me, what's your name and how did you come to this desolate wasteland?"
Fridolin told him his name and his story. The man listened intently and occasionally asked questions. "Remarkable," he replied as he indicated the egg shells lying on the moss. "What beautiful shades of red and blue. I've never seen such eggs. May I see the egg you still have whole in your sack?" Fridolin gave him the egg and told him how he had come by it. The man examined the egg carefully and tears came to his eyes. "My God!" he said. "The verse on this egg certainly rings true: Trust in God, He helps in times of need. I just found that out. I fervently pleaded to God for help in this canyon and He heard my prayer. And I have your beneficence to thank. Bless the children who gave you the eggs. I'm sure they didn't know they would save a man's life today. Blessing upon the good woman, who placed the comforting verse on this egg."
"Beloved Fridolin," he continued, "give me the egg. I want to display it so I will always have the beautiful verse in front of me. It will fortify my children and grandchildren's trust in God whenever they see the verse. Perhaps a hundred years from now a descendant of mine will tell the story of how a couple of eggs saved his great grandfather. I'll give you something in trade for the egg." He took out his purse and gave him a gold coin for the two eggs he had eaten. For the egg with the verse he wanted to give two gold coins. Fridolin didn't want to give up the egg but the man was so persistent that he was about to give in.
"Look," the man said as he looked to the rock wall. "It's turning to night and the rocks and bushes shimmer in the twilight sun like red gold. Try to help me onto my horse. The path you took to this dreadful canyon where the sun never shines may be a way out.
Fridolin got him to his horse, which he led by the reins. They came to a narrow pass, and it took a great deal of effort to get through it. The man rejoiced when he saw the sun again as it shone so gloriously on the forest and the mountain.
"We'll be at my cousin's house soon," Fridolin said. I travel at a fast pace and your horse has kept up. My cousin will happily take you in. He's a good man. You'll not only find good accommodation but also loving care."
As night came they arrived at the home of the honorable stone mason, who gladly took in the nobleman's servant and slapped Fridolin on the shoulder
for being brave and capable. Fridolin spoke about his regrets that he couldn't keep his word and send his mother and siblings their colored eggs. "Eggs?" Fridolin's cousin said. "I don't know anything about the red and blue eggs you're carrying on about. They're certainly no different from painted eggs by other birds. Even if they were pure gold, or decorated in real gold you would be a good man and give them to the injured man so he wouldn't starve. Why, you were a true samaritan. And now I play host, but you don't have to pay me anything," he said with a smile. "Did you hear that?"
The nobleman's servant pointed to the egg with the verse on it. "It's beautiful," Fridolin's cousin said, "But let it go. The gold will serve your mother better. Come on, I'll help with the exchange!" The young man was astonished by the pile of coins he received. He didn't know they were gold because he had never seen gold before. "See," said his cousin. "The verse holds true for your mother too. God helps in times of need! The verse is worth more than all the gold in the world. And one can still profit from the verse without seeing the egg. Never forget that."
The nobleman's servant stayed until he was fully healed and he richly rewarded everyone in the household before he left to continue his journey.
An Egg encased in Gold and Pearls
Nothing exceptional happened in the valley through the spring and summer. The coal burners tended their small fields and regularly went into the woods to make charcoal. The women performed their household chores and raised many chickens. The children often asked if it was Easter yet. Sometimes the noble lady was very sad. Her old and loyal servant, whom she accompanied now and again on his short or extended trips to take care of her business, could no longer leave the valley because he was sick. In sympathy the lady shed many tears with the good old man and sometimes she cried out of concern that she had lost her last bastion of support. Around this time she was distressed by a strange event. A few of the coal burners told the miller that the night before they had encountered four strange men. "They had iron helmuts on their heads and wore chainmail. They carried swords at their sides and called themselves servicemen of the Count of Schroffeneck. They were traveling through the mountains with many other people. They were making inquiries of everyone in the region," the coal burners reported.
The miller hastened to the lady with this news. As soon as he mentioned the name Schroffeneck the lady turned pale and exclaimed, "O God, he is my worst enemy. The coal burners didn't tell the strangers about my being here, did they?" The miller assured her no one said anything about her. The strangers simply warmed themselves by the fire then moved on the next day. They certainly had made their way through the mountains by now. Once the lady calmed down she said,
"Dear Oswald! Since I have moved into your house I have learned that you are a sensible man. I am going to tell you my whole story so you can learn why I am so afraid. Then I will take advantage of your good counsel and loyal support."
"I am Rosalinde, a daughter of the Duke of Burgundy. Two prominent Counts asked for my hand in marriage. Hanno von Schroffeneck and Arno von Lindenburg. Hanno was the richest and most powerful man around. He had several fortifications and armies, but he was neither kind nor noble. Arno was the most capable and noble knight in the land, but poor in comparison to Hanno. From his noble and selfless father he inherited one old castle and he never would consider gaining more property by force. With my father's blessing I gave him my hand. My dowery provided him with a beautiful stretch of land with a few fortified castles. We lived a life of heavenly contentment."
"Hanno von Schroffeneck developed a strong hatred for me and my husband. He became a deadly enemy but he hid his animosity and never let it show in public. In support of the king my husband had to go to war against the wild pagans. Hanno was also supposed to join the campaign but he knew how to cause delays in the transport of equipment. He remained behind and promised to join the fight as soon as possible. While my husband was with his army in the far reaches of the fatherland and the forces had more than enough to contend with holding back the pagan hordes, faithless Hanno invaded our land. There was no one left to fight against him. He devastated the region and stormed one fortication after another. There was nothing else I could do but flee with my two children. Loyal, old Kuno was my only protector on this hazardous journey and I was never far from Hanno's forces. Kuno led me through the mountains to this hidden valley where I have found peaceful quarter. I want to stay here until my husband returns from the war and we can regain the estate unjustly taken from us. From time to time Kuno went back to the larger world for reports on the war, but he always returned with sad news. Evil Hanno still ruled over our lands and the war at the border still raged on with frequent reversal of fortune. It's been a year now and my servant Kuno is sick. I no longer know anything about the fatherland or my beloved husband. Perhaps he died a while ago by the enemy's sword! Perhaps Hanno and his people are near and know where I'm hiding. If that's the case, what will become of me? Death would be the best outcome I could hope for. Talk to the coal burners, dear Oswald, so they will not betray me!"
"Betrayal!" the miller exclaimed. "You're safe here. There isn't one of them who wouldn't give his life for you. Before this dreadful Schroffeneck could cause you any harm he'd have to contend with all of us. Don't worry, noble lady!" It was just as the miller said as he talked to the coal burners. "Let him come," they said. "We'll block the way with our pokers."
The good lady still lived her days in anxiety and fear. She scarcely dared to go out of the house and she didn't let her children near the door. Their lives were stressful and filled with sorrow. Once the mountains were peaceful again
Go to pages 16-19
Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks