Oxes with overgrown horns, a tree reaching into heaven, where will this story go?
The Flail from Heaven is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a peasant who sells his oxen, climbs up a tree into heaven, and sees the angels working. When his tree is shaking, he manages to grab some chaff, a hoe, and a flail. Safely arriving at the ground he digs himself out of a hole.
Complete text The Flail from Heaven
A countryman was once going out to plow with a pair of oxen. When he got to the field, both the animals’ horns began to grow and went on growing. When he wanted to go home they were so big that the oxen could not get through their gateway.
Luckily a butcher came by just then. He delivered them over to him, and made a bargain in this way: he would take the butcher a measure of turnip-seed, and then the butcher was to count him out a Brabant thaler (a coin) for every seed.
I call that well sold!
The peasant went home and carried the measure of turnip-seed to him on his back. On the way, however, he lost one seed out of the bag. The butcher paid him justly as agreed on. If the peasant had not lost the one seed, he would have had one thaler more.
In the meantime, when he went on his way back, the seed had grown into a tree that reached up to the sky.
The peasant thought, “You have a chance now, a chance to see what the angels are doing up there above. To see them for once with your own eyes.”
So he climbed up and saw that the angels above were threshing oats, and he looked on. While he was watching them, he observed that the tree on which he was standing, was beginning to totter. He peeped down and saw that someone was just going to cut it down.
“If I were to fall down from here it would be a bad thing,” he realized.
He did not know how to save himself better than by taking the chaff of the oats which lay there in heaps, and twisting a rope of it. He likewise snatched a hoe and a flail which were lying about in heaven, and let himself down by the rope.
He came down on the earth exactly in the middle of a deep, deep hole. So it was a real piece of luck that he had brought the hoe, for he hoed himself a flight of steps with it. He mounted up and took the flail with him as a token of his truth so that no one could have any doubt of his story.
Tips for Telling The Flail from Heaven
- A tall tale, this story! Tell it like you believe it and your audience will be confused before the story is over.
- The fun in this story is the weird things that are happening. Don’t slow down but let your audience fall with you from one things into the other.
- Not all your listeners will know what a hoe and a flail are. So make sure you know and show them by using them.
All Questions Answered
It was published by the Brothers Grimm in the second edition of their Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Their source: the Haxthausen family.
The Brothers Grimm included it in the 1819 second edition of their Grimm’s fairy tales.
More Useful information
Fairy tales with a butcher
Fairy tales with a cow
The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales on this website are based on the authentic translation of Margaret Hunt. They were edited and reformatted for pleasant reading and telling by Storyteller Rudolf Roos.
See the complete list of The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales (link to internationalstoryteller.com).