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Earthman And The Midwife


In The Science of Fairy Tales (1891), Edwin Sidney Hartland gives the following account of a Swabian* story where a human midwife is called to aid an Earthman’s wife (a name given to this type of fairy) give birth.

‘In this case the midwife was afraid to go alone with her summoner, and begged that her husband might accompany her. This was permitted; and the Earthman showed them the way through the forest with his lantern, for it was of course night. They came first to a moss door, then to a wooden door, and lastly to a door of shining metal, whence a staircase went down into the earth, and led them into a large and splendid chamber where the Earthwife lay. When the object of their visit was accomplished the Earthman thanked the woman much, and said: "You do not relish our meat and drink, wherefore I will bestow something else upon thee." With these words he gave her a whole apronful of black coals, and taking his lantern again he lighted the midwife and her husband home. On the way home she slily threw away one coal after another. The Earthman said nothing until he was about to take his leave, when he observed merely: "The less you scattered the more you might have." After he had gone the woman's husband remonstrated with her, bidding her keep the coals, for the Earthman appeared in earnest with his gift. When they reached home, however, she shook out her apron on the hearth, and behold! instead of coals, glittering true gold pieces. The woman now sought eagerly enough after the coals she had thrown away, but she found them not.

*Swabia is the name of an old province of Germany part of which is now the eastern half of Baden-Württemberg and the western part of Bavaria. Therefore the map shows a random location on the Baden-Württemberg, Bavarian border.


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