Thursday’s Tale: The Stolen Liver

Digital scanned images of vintage picture postcards of Hammer, near Zielenzig, in what was prior to 1945, at various times, part of the Prussian province of Brandenburg / Neumark, Germany.  Found at http://www.ostbrandenburg.com/.
Digital scanned images of vintage picture postcards of Hammer, near Zielenzig. Found at http://www.ostbrandenburg.com/.

How about a ghost story today, in the lead up to Halloween? This one comes Poland and was retold by Otto Knoop in Ostmärkische Sagen, Märchen und Erzählungen, 1909. It was translated by D. L. Ashliman and I found it on his website, Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts.

In the village of Hammer many years ago there lived a young married couple. The wife loved to eat liver and could not live if she didn’t eat a liver every day. One day she sent her husband once again to town to fetch a liver. However, the husband met a group of young merrymakers and went with them to a tavern, where he drank away all his money.

Sad, and without the liver, he made his way homeward. On his way he had to go through a forest. Here he met a hunter, who asked him why he was so sad. The man told him everything, . The hunter told him that in the middle of the forest there was a clearing with a gallows and a number of dead bodies hanging. He advised the man to take one of them down, cut out his liver, and give it to his wife, passing it off as beef liver. The man did just that.

When he arrived home his wife was at first angry because he had been away so long, but she calmed down as soon as she saw the liver, and began frying it. The man lay down and went to sleep.

Suddenly a white figure appeared at the window, and it cried into the room, “Everyone is asleep. The dogs are keeping watch in the yard. And you are standing there frying my liver.”

The man was terrified, and in his fear he cried out to his wife that she should come to bed. But the wife wanted first to dip a little piece of bread into the gravy and taste it.

Meanwhile, the ghost, a white skeleton, had already entered the house, calling out the same words again and again.

The woman was not afraid, but asked the ghost, “Now, my little fellow, what happened to your flesh?” The ghost replied, “The ravens ate it, and the wind blew it away.”

Then the woman asked, “Now, my little fellow, what happened to your eyes and ears?” The ghost gave the same answer.

The woman asked, “Now, my little fellow, what happened to your liver?” Then the ghost cried out, “You have it!” And with that he seized the woman and strangled her to death.

Once again, we know that we need to respect the dead. This time, though, the wife ends up paying for the husband’s crime. I guess part of the lesson is know where your food comes from. Or don’t marry a man who’s going to spend all your money on alcohol. All good lessons, really, and relevant today, I’d say.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.

4 Comments

Leave a comment