The Lord Who Became a Blacksmith

A Latvian folk tale, this version is from Tales of The Amber Sea, compiled and translated by Irina Zheleznova in 1974.

Once a lord was journeying to a certain place on business. On the way his coach broke down. Luckily, there happened to be a smithy nearby, so the lord ordered the coach to be repaired without delay. That was all right with the blacksmith who went to work at once and was done before you could count to two. He asked a ruble in payment, and the lord gave it him, for he could not very well do anything else, but the sum seeming much too high to him, became very angry. He rode home and he muttered half under his breath:

“To take a whole ruble for such a trifle! … All he did was take off the thing, heat it, give a knock on it here and another there, cool it and put it back again. Work? Bah! A mere nothing, and he gets a ruble for it! Why, that blacksmith must take in more money than I, a lord! Come to think of it, I could be doing what he does just as well and lining my pockets. Now wait a minute, why don’t I watch him for a spell and then take over his job and drive him out of his shop altogether at the end of summer! “

So the lord began visiting the smithy regularly and watching the blacksmith at work. It all seemed simple as pie to him and after a while he felt that he had mastered the trade and knew all there was to know about it. He drove out the blacksmith, set his coachman to fanning the flame with a bellows, and himself took up a hammer-come up, good folk, and the lord will forge whatever it is you want him to forge!

Soon a farmer came from a neighbouring village, bringing a piece of iron and asking for a ploughshare to be forged out of it.

The lord glanced at him with an air of importance, took the piece of iron, thrust it in the forge, and, putting some coals on top, called to the coachman:

“Hey, there, look sharp and blow the fire! “

The poor coachman did as he was told and set to with all his strength. When the piece of iron had been heated to white heat, the lord flung it on the anvil and turned to the farmer.

“You, there, hammer away at it and be quick about it! ” cried he.

The farmer picked up the blacksmith’s big, heavy hammer and began hammering at the iron so hard that the sparks flew. And the lord took a small hammer and joined him. The big hammer went “Wham! ” and the small one “Clank-clank! “, the big hammer went “Wham! ” and the small one “Clank-clank! ” again, and the sound of it carried all over the neighbourhood just the way it used to when the blacksmith had been in the shop:

The farmer looked and he saw that the iron had cooled and turned dark but there was no ploughshare to show for it. But the lord never turned a hair. He thrust the iron back in the forge and ordered the coachman to blow the fire, and as soon as the iron was hot again flung it on the anvil. They hammered away again, the two of them, and the iron began to wear thin.

Said the farmer:

“We’ll spoil the piece at this rate and all for no- thing! “

“What do you know about it, you fool! ” the lord told him. “Come, coachman, take the hammer from him and beat away with it hard!

“The coachman set to work, he and the lord went at the piece of iron with their hammers, but though they made a great din and racket there was no ploughshare to show for it. They went on with it for a while and then the lord said to the farmer:

“I’ve never seen such poor iron as yours! A ploughshare will never come out of it, but I’ll forge you an axe instead.”

This did not make the farmer any too happy, but what could he do!

“Oh, all right, let it be so,” said he. “I can always use an extra axe.”

They began heating the iron and forging it again, and there was less and less of it every moment. The lord saw that though they were making a great din and racker there would be no axe to show for it.

“This is very poor iron indeed!” said he. “No axe will come out of it, but I’ll forge you a knife instead.”

“Oh, all right,” the farmer agreed. “A knife will come in handy, too.”

They began heating and forging the iron again, and hammered away at it, but thought they made a great din and racket, there was no knife to show for it.

Said the lord to the farmer:

“I’ve never seen such poor iron as this! No knife will come out of it, but I’ll forge you a sizz instead.”

“Oh, all right, then! ” said the farmer and he glanced at the lord, but what he was thinking the lord never knew.

They began forging the iron again, but there was only a little bit of it left now and even less by the time they were through with it. The lord took it out of the forge and threw it in a tub of water. There a -s-s-siz! and the tiny burning bit darkened.

Said the lord to the farmer:

“That was a fine sizz, and at least we haven’t worked in vain. That’ll be a ruble, my good fellow! “

“I haven’t one, ” said the farmer. “But I do have some fine wheat at home. Coe to see me, Your Honour, and I’ll pay you as you deserve! “

Off rode the farmer, and the lord, impatient to get what he had earned, at once ordered his coach to be brought round and drove after him.

Said he to his coachman on the way:

“I’ll take the sake and go into the storeroom myself, for I know how much is owing me. The famer will start filling the sack and you lend an ear and listen. When you hear him say ‘That’s enough’, shout as loud as you can, ‘No, it’s not! Let him have my share too!’ “

And so that was the way they settled it.

They came to the farmer’s house, and the farmer led the lord to the storeroom where he had two strong, brawny youths lying in wait for him. The moment the lord came in the youths seized him, laid him down on a bench and went at him with birch rods.

Not wanting his coachman to know how he was being treated, the lord bore the pain in silence. They gave him a sound flogging and then the farmer said:

“Well, that’s enough, I suppose! “

But the coachman heard him and shouted at the top of his voice:

“No, it’s not! Let him have my share, too! “

So then they set to again and let the lord have the coachman’s share as well.

And from that time on, so they say, the lord did not try to forge anything any more, not even a sizz!

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