There were once three brothers. The eldest was the strongest and smartest, followed by the middle, and the youngest – called Dummling – was generally seen to be a bit stupid.
One day their father asked the oldest to go into the forest and cut down some wood. Their mother made her son a large lunch of cake and wine so he would not go hungry as he worked, after which the boy left.
On the edge of the forest the boy met an old man with grey hair.
“May I have some of your cake and wine?” the man asked.
The son replied,
“If I give you my cake and wine, I shall not have enough for myself. Go and get your own.”
The man left the boy, who began chopping at a tree. However, it was not long before the boy swung the axe and made a mistake, badly cutting his arm. He immediately ran home.
Whilst the eldest boy was getting treated, the second son went out to the woods. He too took a lunch, and on the edge of the forest he met the same old grey man.
“May I have a bit of your cake and a sip of your wine?”
“The more I give away, the less I have” the second brother said. “Go and get your own.”
The man left, and the second brother began cutting wood, just as his brother had. He too, however, was to have an accident: with a big swing he brought his axe into his leg. Blood was everywhere, and the boy went home as quickly as his one good leg could carry him.
The third son, Dummling, asked his father if he could go to cut wood.
“The other two have hurt themselves. You are not as gifted as they are; you are best to stay at home.”
Yet the youngest brother begged until his father relented.
“Perhaps if you injure yourself, you will have learnt a lesson.”
A lunch was made, and Dummling left for the woods. On the edge of the forest he too met the old grey man.
“May I have a piece of your cake and some of your wine?”
“The cake is not good, and the wine is sour, but OK: let us eat.”
When Dummling reached into his bag, however, he found that the poor cake and wine had turned into fine food. The two enjoyed a very good lunch.
“You have a good heart” the old man said to Dummling. “As a reward, let me tell you to cut that tree there; inside you will find something interesting.”
Then the old man left.
Dummling went to the tree and started to cut. he swung his axe, and hit the tree again and again. Finally the trunk fell, and inside sat a goose with feathers made of pure gold. Dummling picked it up.
On his way home Dummling stopped at an inn. The sight of the golden goose caused quite a lot of interest. The inn-keeper had three daughters, and the oldest thought that if she could take just one feather, she would be rich. However, when she touched the goose her hand stuck. She could not let go. It was like she had been glued to the goose.
The middle daughter thought she might help get the feather off, and she reached to her sister; but as she touched her, she too became stuck.
The youngest sister looked at the two of them trying to take the feather, and thought that if they could do pluck a feather from the goose then she should be allowed to as well.
“No!” the other two said, but it was too late. The eldest girl was stuck to the goose, the middle sister stuck to the eldest, and the youngest stuck on the end.
Dummling did not think about the three girls. He just picked up his goose and started to go home.
On his way he passed a minister, who saw the girls running with the young man.
“Girls, what are you doing! You shouldn’t be chasing a boy through a field!’
He reached out for the youngest daughter, but he too became stuck.
They passed a clerk, who touched the priest and became stuck. Then two peasants became stuck on the clerk. Dummling and his goose now had seven people following them.
The walk home passed a castle, in which a sad princess lived. The king had promised that if anyone could make his poor girl laugh, then they could marry her. For years nobody had managed, but on seeing Dummling, his goose and his seven ridiculous followers the princess began to cry with laughter.