November 24, 2016 in Stories
In a village once, there was a man who was not as the others in the village were, he was good. He was a blacksmith, and he worked at the smithy that he had built. And death watched him, and wondered why he was good. And so he decided to test the blacksmith.
And so death went to the blacksmith’s forge, and he told the smith, “I am a blacksmith, I know the craft well. I can do the work of ten men, and I can do it well. If you want to know my price, it’s simple, it’s 10 copper pieces a day.
The blacksmith was happy to hear the price, for it was so low, and so he hired him. And so death began to work, and it was as he said, he could do the work of ten men, and for only 10 coins a day of copper.
And, one day, an old man came to the smithy, and he said to the blacksmith, “Blacksmith, we have heard much about you. Can you make an old person young again?”
“What?” said the blacksmith. “How could I make you young again? That isn’t what we do.”
But death said his words as well, after the blacksmith, “Master, I can make old men young. Come, old man, sit down on the anvil. And blacksmith, you take up the hammer. Come, strike him as a piece of copper, and the old man will become young.”
And the blacksmith worked, and afterwords everyone was surprised. As the old man had become young again. And he ran to the village and told everyone about how he was young again, and about the smithy.
And then, sometime later, a man from the village of the old man came by the smithy, and he said, “Blacksmith, I have heard that you can make people young. Please, I beg you, make me, who am so wretched, a young man again.”
And the blacksmith was there at the smithy alone, and he looked around, and he thought, “Well, it can’t be hard can it, do I really need the help of an apprentice?”
Turning to the old man, he said, “Come, let’s see what we can do for you.”
And so, though he was alone without his helper, he sat down and he began to beat the man like a piece of copper. And he saw that the man did not change as happened before, but was always the same as he beat him. And so he beat him more, and harder. And, awhile later, he knew that he had killed the man.
“Well that’s not what I wanted to do,” said the blacksmith. And he ran and found his apprentice, and he said, “As you are my apprentice, we killed that old man. Tell me what we should do now.”
“Are you a donkey?” said Death. “Are you only now figuring out how hard I have worked to make you like everyone else? How long I have worked to make you like everyone else? I wore out a lot of shoes, walking to and fro worrying about you!”
“And so as soon as I could make you like the others, I did. Now go on your way, I don’t have to worry about you now.”
Recent phylogenetic comparative studies have indicated that the story of The Smith and Death, or The Smith and the Devil, is a story that seems to date back to the time of the last common ancestor of the Indo-European language family (Proto-Indo-European). As variations of the basic story are fairly cohesive, from the Indian sub-continent to Scandinavia, this shouldn’t be too surprising.
The dominant theory currently, with regard to the Indo-European language family, is that it spread relatively rapidly throughout much of Eurasia starting sometime around 5000 to 6000 years ago. Presumably by groups living on the Pontic steppe at the time that made aggressive use of domesticated horses, chariots, and copper metallurgy. Previous to this expansion the languages spoken in what’s now Europe would have been very different from the ones spoken there now. The Finno-Ugric language spoke by the surviving Sami in far Northern Europe, as well as Finnish, Estonian, and Hungarian, and the Basque language of Basque Country, are the primary languages of the region that ‘probably’ predate Indo-European language incursion. (For more on the various, numerous mass migrations into Europe from elsewhere that have occurred over the last 10,000 years see: Late Bronze Age Collapse, Collapse As Witnessed 3400 To 3000 Years Ago.)