The Devil’s Magic Mill

In many folk tales, the Devil is a character that is either there to punish evil-doers, tempt good people, or be outwitted and made out to be the fool. However, in one Danish folk tale, the Devil turns out to be a pretty nice guy – even to unwittingly naïve good folk.

Once upon a time, there were two brothers who lots in life were extreme opposites: one was wealthy beyond his imaginings yet extremely miserly, the other barely had any coin to rub together, and lived in a small hut with his wife and many children.

A week before Christmas, the poor brother went to his rich brother’s house and asked if he could contribute just a bit to their Chirstmas dinner table. The rich brother tossed a chunk of bacon his way and said “Here’s some bacon, and take it to the Devil with you!”

Unfortunately, it seemed that the poor brother took it too literally – he carried the chunk of bacon on his back and searched day and night, traveled through towns and cities, asking people how to find the Devil. People were shocked and confused, but all the same he went on. Soon, he found an old man who was digging a sizeable hole, and asked this the same question. The old man said, “well, I’ve been digging this hole for as long as I can remember. If you climb down this hole, I’m sure you’ll find where the Devil is.” The poor brother gave his thanks and down he went. He noticed the air around him began to grow hotter and hotter the deeper it went, and as the tunnel began to grow brighter, he could smell the bacon already beginning to sizzle on his back. He soon found hell, and the demons peered at him with amused curiosity.

“Oh, hello there,” the poor brother said, “I’d like to please talk to Devil, please. Could you please be ever so kind to show me how to get to him?” the demons were so amused that they brought him to the Devil himself. “My word. Well, what brings you here, little man”?, said the Devil. “Please sir”, said the poor brother, “my brother gave me this chunk of bacon on my back, and told me to take it to the Devil with me. I reckoned it would be best if I take it to you and ask you what to do with it next. Could you help me, sir?”

The Devil was so taken aback that he let out a mighty guffaw. “Hohoho! You’re a funny one, boy, and I like your gumption.” The Devil took him aside. “Well, tell you what: in exchange for that chunk of bacon on your back – and let me take it off you, it’s practically crispy now – and I’ll give you this magic mill. It’ll grind anything – anything! – you ask of it, and as much as you like. All you need do is ask, and it shall be granted, and when you want it to stop, just whisper these three magic words – “ The Devil leaned in close the whisper the words into his ear, “ – and it shall stop. What do you say to this?”

The poor brother cheerfully agreed, and hurried home to his wife and children with the mill in tow. He excited told his wife his story, and the wife replied, “I’m happy you are safe home my love, but what are we to feed the children? We don’t even have anything to grind in this mill. What are we to eat for Christmas?” “Well, why not we have some coffee to begin with?” The poor man asked the mill to grind out some coffee, and lo and behold, it ground out the best coffee they had ever drank, and its aroma filled their tiny hut. The poor brother next asked the mill grind out bread, and meat, and soon, their table was buckling under the weight of a sumptuous Christmas feast. The wife asked the mill to grind out pots and pans, skillets, a modest kitchen, plates, and silver and gold cutlery, and the mill did grind them all. Soon, the poor brother began going from house to house in his village, inviting everyone to come partake in their Christmas meal, as there was more than enough to feed everyone.

photo credit: Eddi van W. via photopin cc


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