The Blacksmith and the Devil

Translated from the Greek by Patricia Fann Bouteneff by permission of the Rector and Fellows of Exeter College, Oxford, England. As told by by Vasilis Vasileiades in 1914 outside of Imera, Pontos, Turkey.

There was once a village and in that village all the people were wicked. There was only one man who was very good. His name was Temerjis, meaning Blacksmith, and he used to work at the smithy. The devil wanted to make him as wicked as the others. He rushed to his shop and told him, "I am a blacksmith: I know the craft well. I can forge ten mattocks in one heat. If you want to learn my wage, I will tell it to you now, fifteen ghurush a day." The blacksmith rejoiced greatly and hired him. The devil began to work and in one heat he made ten mattocks.

One day an old man came by the workroom of the blacksmith. He said to the blacksmith, "Blacksmith, we have heard much about you. Can you make an old person young [again]?"

"Are you insane? What is it that you are saying? All we do is temper hammers and shovels. We cannot make people young."

Then the devil jumped in. "Master, I can make old men young. Come, old man, sit down on the anvil. Blacksmith, take up the hammer. Come, make the crockery rattle, and the old man will become young." When they stopped, everyone was surprised. What did they see? The old man had become a young man. He ran to the village and told it to everyone.

A man from the old man's village went to the blacksmith. "Blacksmith, I heard that you can make people young. Please, I beg you, make me, who am so wretched, a young man again." "Come, let's see what we can do for you." At that time the blacksmith did not have the devil [with him]. He was alone. But he sat down and began to beat him. He beat and beat, but he could see that he was still as he had been. A good while later he saw that he had killed him. He ran to the devil. "Devil, you know, you are my apprentice. We killed that old man. Tell me what we should do now." The devil became angry: "Son of a dog, son of a donkey, are you only now figuring out how I hard I have worked to make you like everyone else? I wore out a load of old shoes [because of worrying over you], and as soon as I could I made you like the others, [made you] kill people. Go now to perdition and keep company with Judas."

(Aarne-Thompson type 753). The devil decides to corrupt a blacksmith, the one good man in a certain village. He deceives the man into believing that he knows how to make an old man young again by beating him with a blacksmith's hammer. The blacksmith tries to perform the cure on his own, kills his patient, and is sent to hell.

This is a variant of a type common throughout Europe and its colonies (with one recorded Turkish variant), called "Christ and the Smith," in which God or a saint in disguise visits a blacksmith, and performs various miracles using the smith's tools. When the smith tries the same thing, he ends up killing or permanently disfiguring his client.

One of only two tales told to R. M. Dawkins by Vasilis Vasileiades in 1914 outside of Imera, Pontos, "The Good Man and the Devil" is unusual in that it subverts the usual Pontic Greek folktale structure. Normally the devil, though often a trickster, would not be allowed to defeat his adversary through cunning; nor would the blacksmith, as hero, be defeated by the villain. The tale's untraditional nature may indicate that its source was literary, perhaps a sermon.

See also: The Legends of St. Eligius and St. Dunstan
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