In this story, originated by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen and retold by the Brothers Grimm, a German solider deserts his regiment by hiding in the woods. Just as he is about to starve to death, an evil spirit tempts him with nourishment and wealth, so long as he serves the Devil for a period of seven years. Terms of service are simple: he must never bathe, blow his nose, cut his hair or nails, nor wipe his behind. He must also wear a bearskin robe.
That’s 2,555 days without toilet paper. One should not negotiate with the Devil sans a well-conceived contingency plan.
To Hell in a High Diction Basket
Sometime around 1592, the German legend of Faust matriculated to England where Shakespearean contemporary Christopher Marlowe popularized it in his 1604 play The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus. As he’s done in countless films and operas since, the good doctor sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for myriad knowledge, power and pleasure, ultimately damning himself to Hell. With lines like “O Faustus, leave these frivolous demands/ Which strikes a terror to my fainting soul!” you can’t say the Devil didn’t warn him.
In “The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings” episode from the animated sci-fi comedy Futurama, protagonist Fry makes a pact with the Robot Devil in which hands are exchanged for, what else, the ability to perform an instrumental opera, thus wooing his longtime crush, the cyclopean Leela. The Devil prefers metal to meat hooks, so he threatens to marry Leela if they’re not returned. Fry relents. Simpsons (and Futurama) creator Matt Groening’s empire supernovas.
This edition of Fairy-Tale Files is brought to you by Fairy Tale Review intern Corey Watson and poetry editor Jon Riccio.