When he entered the forest he met a little grey-haired old man who bade him good day, and said: ‘Do give me a piece of cake out of your pocket, and let me have a draught of your wine; I am so hungry and thirsty.’ But the clever son answered: ‘If I give you my cake and wine, I shall have none for myself; be off with you,’ and he left the little man standing and went on.

But when he began to hew down a tree, it was not long before he made a false stroke, and the axe cut him in the arm, so that he had to go home and have it bound up. And this was the little grey man’s doing.

After this the second son went into the forest, and his mother gave him, like the eldest, a cake and a bottle of wine. The little old grey man met him likewise, and asked him for a piece of cake and a drink of wine. But the second son, too, said sensibly enough: ‘What I give you will be taken away from myself; be off!’ and he left the little man standing and went on. His punishment, however, was not delayed; when he had made a few blows at the tree he struck himself in the leg, so that he had to be carried home.

Then Dummling said: ‘Father, do let me go and cut wood.’ The father answered: ‘Your brothers have hurt themselves with it, leave it alone, you do not understand anything about it.’ But Dummling begged so long that at last he said: ‘Just go then, you will get wiser by hurting yourself.’ His mother gave him a cake made with water and baked in the cinders, and with it a bottle of sour beer.