Episode 13 – The Devil’s Sooty Brother

Episode 13 Show Notes

Source: Grimm’s Fairy Tales

This week on MYTH, we’ll be looking for a little sympathy for the devil from a Grimm fairy tale.  In this episode, you’ll learn that making a deal with the devil is absolutely a good idea, that Hans is the original Pretty Woman, and what is in hell broth.  Then, in Gods and Monsters, it’s the most stylish version of the devil this side of Hollywood.  This is the Myths Your Teacher Hated podcast, where I tell the stories of cultures around the world in all of their original, bloody, uncensored glory.  Modern tellings of these stories have become dry and dusty, but I’ll be trying to breathe new life into them.  This is Episode 13, “The Devil’s Sooty Brother.”  As always, this episode is not safe for work.

  • This is another tale collected by the Grimm brothers, though it isn’t as well known as some of the other stories, which is unfortunate because it’s a cool ass story.  It’s actually one of several Grimm stories that feature a career soldier suddenly finding himself discharged from the army and on the road, penniless, though it’s got by far the best name.  I can’t say much else without giving shit away, except that our protagonist Hans might just be the original pretty woman figure.  Stick with me, I promise it’ll make sense by the end.
  • Once upon a time, a man named Hans found himself discharged from the army.  The story doesn’t give a reason, so it could be anything from peace unexpectedly breaking out to desertion.  Pick your favorite reason.  Anyway, having spent most of his life as a soldier, he doesn’t have any home or family to return to and ends up wandering without any real goal.  As an aside, this sort of thing happened all the time throughout history, and a lot of these unemployed ex-soldiers would turn to banditry to survive.  The story says that he goes out into the forest, because fuck it, why not?
  • In the midst of the forest, where good shit never happens in fairy tales, Hans meets a little man, and they journey together.  It quickly becomes painfully obvious that the weird old man is actually the Devil, but the two are having a pleasant conversation, so Hans sees no reason not to keep traveling with him.  No sense in being an asshole just because your traveling companion is the Prince of Darkness.  The devil, being fairly polite, asks Hans how things are going right now.  “Pretty shitty, actually.  I’m dead ass broke, and I’m down to my last crust of bread.  Honestly, Devil, things don’t look good for old Hans right now.”
  • “Well that sucks, Hans.  You’ve got a pretty shitty lot in life right now.  You know what, though, I think I can help.  I’ll make you a deal.  And not one of those bullshit monkey’s paw things where we try to trick each other and both of us end up screwed.  I’m actually a pretty cool guy, and I really appreciate you giving me a chance.  You seem like a nice guy, and I could use an assistant.  Running Hell is a lot of work for one demon.  If you come to Hell with me and serve me for 7 years, I’ll return you to earth and give you all the money you could ever need.  You’ll never have to worry about being broke or unemployed ever again.  Sound fair?”
  • Hans thought about it, and it honestly did sound pretty fair.  He didn’t really have any skills or prospects, so this was probably the best opportunity he would ever get.  Sure, he could be a bandit, but that didn’t pay as well as the stories made out, and it often ended with a long jump and a short rope.  “Alright, Devil, we have a deal.”  “Awesome sauce.  Before you commit, though, there are a few conditions.  I’ve got an image to maintain, so you’ll need to play the part.  While you’re in Hell, you can’t wash, comb, or cut your hair.  You also can’t trim your nails or wipe your face.” 
  • “That’s it?  I’ve got to be dirty?  Dude, I was a fucking soldier.  Being dirty was kind of my life.  Not being covered in blood will be a nice change though.  Let’s do this thing.”  The Devil leads Hans to Hell, though the specifics as to how the fuck they get there are not provided.  I prefer to picture a fiery pit opening up with a nice elevator, so that they can ride down through the flames in comfort, listening to some shitty elevator music (it is still Hell, after all).  When they arrived, the Devil put Hans to work.  His job was to keep the Devil’s house clean, sweep the floors, keeping everything neat and tidy, and stoke the fires under the kettles where the hell-broth cooked.  Yes, the story uses the term “hell-broth” and no, it doesn’t explain what the fuck that means.  Me, I think it’s just a really fucking spicy stew.  “You got all that, Hans?”  “Yeah, Devil, it seems pretty straight forward.”  “Honestly, it is.  I just need someone to keep house.  Don’t look into the hell-broth kettles, though, or bad shit will happen.  Cool?”  Hans nodded. 
  • Satisfied, the Devil left Hans to it, going out in to the world to do whatever the super nice and polite devil did in the world.  Hans got to work, sweeping, cleaning, and stoking the fires.  It was simple, honest work, and Hans felt good accomplishing something.  That night, the Devil came back from his wanderings and inspected the place to see if Hans had done his job.  “Damned fine job, Hans.  Keep up the good work.”  The next morning, the Devil went out again to go teach kids to be polite or some shit.
  • Hans looked around.  The place was pretty clean from yesterday, so it didn’t take long to get everything spotless.  That just left the hell-broth kettles.  They were sizzling and sputtering, and he found himself seized with an insane curiosity.  He reeeeeeeally wanted to know what was in there, pretty much only because he had been told he absolutely couldn’t look (see, you really can’t put much blame on Pandora, especially she holds out for a lot longer than Hans as we saw in episode 1B).
  • After spending much of the day trying to stay busy, Hans finally gives in and decides to look inside the kettles.  He literally lasted about 24 hours before disobeying one of the only restrictions he was given.  Sad, really.  He goes to the first, pops the lid, and peeks inside.  Looking back out from the cramped space, Hans sees his former corporal.  “How’s it going, you old bastard?  Funny meeting you here.  You used to boss me around and be a massive swinging dick, but you’re in MY power now, asshole.”  He quickly dropped the lid back into place, thought a moment, then grabbed another log to get the fire nice and hot.  Hey, I did say it was hell.
  • More curious than before, he peeked in the second kettle to find his old ensign.  “How’s it going, you old bastard?  Funny meeting you here.  You used to boss me around and be a massive swinging dick, but you’re in MY power now, asshole.”  He drops the lid, grabs another log, and gets the second fire nice and hot.  Sensing a pattern here, Hans opens the third kettle to find his old general.  “How’s it going, you old bastard?  Funny meeting you here.  You used to boss me around and be a massive swinging dick, but you’re in MY power now, asshole.”  He quickly dropped the lid back into place, thought a moment, then grabbed another log to get the fire nice and hot, then, because this was a real dick, he grabs the bellows to stoke the fire white hot.
  • Things go more or less like this for the next 7 years.  The work was dirty, and he was forbidden to wash himself, comb or cut his hair, or trim his nails, so he got pretty raggedy and disgusting by the end of it.  He found he really enjoyed the simple pleasure of work (and the added benefit of being able to torture the assholes who had made his life in the army a living hell in a delightfully ironic way).  The time flashed by, and Hans lost track of time, and was surprised that his time was up.  He had thought he’d only been there for a little over a year. 
  • The devil sat him down for a little exit interview, since he is nothing if not a consummate professional.  “Alright, Hans, what all have you done for me over the last 7 years?”  “Well, Devil, as we agreed, I swept the floors, I kept everything tidy, and I kept the hell-broth cooking.”  “Mm hmm, mm hmm.  You did indeed.  I happen to know that you also looked inside the kettles after I explicitly told you not to.  I have every right to terminate our agreement, slit your throat, and keep you here in hell to suffer.”  Dramatic pause.  “On the other hand, you did add wood to the fire every time you looked, and stoked the fires nice and hot, so I guess I can let those transgressions slide.  I’m just a nice guy like that.  Well, I must say that on the whole, I’m satisfied with your performance.  So what are you gonna do now?  Go home?”
  • “Yeah, I think so.  I’d kind of like to see what my dad’s been up to while I’ve been gone.  We didn’t exactly get along before I left, but after seven years in hell, I think I’d like to try and patch things up.”  “That’s cool, that’s cool.  Alright, time for me to pay up.  For you to be able to get your money, take your knapsack and go fill it with the shit you’ve been sweeping up while you’re here.  Take it home with you when you go.  You have to stay unwashed, uncombed, and untrimmed and walk home with your knapsack.  Whenever you meet someone, and they ask where you’re coming from, you have to say ‘from hell’ cause it sounds cool.  Whenever anyone asks who you are, you say ‘I’m the Devil’s Sooty Brother, and my king as well.’  Sure, it sounds awkward, but them’s the rules.  See you later, Hans.”
  • The soldier thought this was kind of bullshit.  The Devil had been really nice up to now, but none of this shit had been mentioned before now.  Still, it would probably be a bad idea to piss off the Devil just as he was getting paid, so he wisely shut the fuck up and got out.  He had been hoping for a better payout after spending 7 years working, but what could you really expect from the devil, even a polite one?  He’d at least had seven years with regular meals and a roof over his head, so he’d come out even at least.
  • He went back through the portal to hell (with the same crappy elevator music as before) and found himself back in the forest.  Hans slung his knapsack on his back, and nearly toppled the fuck over.  The thing weighed a lot more than it had in hell.  He opened it up, and the dirt and dust he’d put in his bag from the piles of sweepings had changed into gold coins.  Hans smiled.  “I guess I shouldn’t have doubted the devil after all.  He played me straight, even if he did have some weird bonus conditions.”
  • Whistling happily, he walked out of the forest until he came to a road, and eventually to a town.  There was only one inn, so he went over to talk with the landlord, who was standing by the door.  The landlord saw Hans coming, and was frankly a little terrified.  Knowing nothing of this man, he saw a filthy vagrant in an old soldiers uniform who clearly had done nothing to take care of himself for years.  Best case scenario here, the man was crazy, maybe suffering from PTSD, and had become a bum.  Worst case, this man was a bandit who would rob the landlord blind.  “Hey there, buddy.  Where’re you coming from?”  “From hell.”  Fuck thought the landlord, this could still be a crazy son of a bitch or an dangerous ass bandit.  “Who are you?”  “I’m the Devil’s sooty brother, and my king as well.”  Insane, then.  “Yeah, no.  There’s no way I’m letting your crazy, nasty ass into my inn.  You’ll get everything filthy, then slip away in the night without paying.  Fuck off.”
  • Hans had more or less expected this.  Given the devil’s crazy script he had to follow, he was bound to scare some people, but nothing calmed people down faster than gold.  He pulled the knapsack off his back and flipped open the top.  A golden glow sparkled from the cloth, mesmerizing the landlord.  “I can pay, man.  Still want to turn me away?”  The landlord nearly tripped over his own feet in his haste to open the inn’s door and beckon Hans inside. 
  • Hell had been adequate, and it certainly had beat sleeping out in the open, but it had hardly been luxurious.  Hans ordered the nicest suite, his own servant, and all the room service he could eat.  He bought all the alcohol the place had and generally had a merry time.  The night got late, and more than a little drunk, Hans went upstairs to sleep.  The devil had been fair to him so far, so he kept his promise not to wash or shave and lay down on the nice clean bed, ruining the sheets.  Fuck it, he could afford to pay for them.  He passed out into the best night’s sleep he’d had in a long, long time.
  • The landlord had watched Hans stumble up the stairs, and the knapsack full of gold kept dancing in front of his eyes.  There was a medium sized fortune in there, and it’s owner was clearly a man of ill repute.  There was no way a man as filthy as that could have gotten that much gold honestly (which depends on if you call a deal with he devil honest, but in this case, I think I probably would).  The landlord decided he was either a thief or a bandit, and either way, it wouldn’t really be wrong to take the gold from him.  It wasn’t really his in the first place, right?  Convinced by his dubious logic, the landlord waited until the wee hours of the morning, then crept up the stairs.  He used his master keys to open the locked bedroom door and entered.  The knapsack lay propped against the wall where Hans had dropped it, and the landlord heaved it up with difficulty and snuck back downstairs. 
  • Hans woke up in the morning refreshed.  He yawned, and stretched luxuriously.  It was time to get back on the road.  He stood up, and reached for the knapsack of gold to pay the landlord for the room, but his hand closed on empty air.  The fuck?  Hans had been sure he’d left it right there, against the wall.  Desperately, he searched the room, but it was definitely gone.  Shit, someone must have stolen it in the night.  Hans was sure that only one man had even known about the existence of the knapsack.  “That motherfucker.  After giving me the third degree about sneaking off without paying, he fucking robs me?  Fuck!”  What was worse, the man would have every right to call the police to have him arrested for not paying, and no one would believe Hans’ story that his bag full of devil gold had been stolen. 
  • Cursing under his breath, Hans snuck out the window and left town.  Once he was outside the town limits, he vented his anger with a long bout of loud cursing, which left him feeling a little better.  “Alright, Hans, think.  You took reasonable precautions, so it’s not your fault the gold was stolen.  Maybe if you go back and see the devil again, he’ll be able to help.  He’s been a nice guy so far.”  It wasn’t like he had any better options, so Hans went back into the forest and took the hellevator back down once more.
  • “Well, hi there, Hans.  Back so soon?  I wasn’t expecting you.”  “Yeah, sorry to barge in like this, Devil.  Some prick of a landlord just stole all of my gold.  I asked for a room, using the script you gave me just like you asked, and he wasn’t gonna let me in unless I proved I could pay.  In retrospect, I probably should have had some gold in my pockets, but I hadn’t thought that far ahead.  Instead, I showed him the gold you gave me, and he let me stay.  He got me blind drunk, and then stole the whole fucking thing in the night.  Now, he’s gonna call the cops on me and I’ll spend fuck knows how long in jail for his crime.  I was hoping maybe you could help me out.  You know, for old time’s sake.”
  • The Devil nodded wisely.  “That sucks, man.  Truth be told, though, I had a feeling this might happen.  That dude is a real dickhead, and fortunately for you, my life’s work is literally punishing dickheads.  Here, have a seat.  I’ll cut your hair, trim your nails, and wash you up.  We’ll pretty woman his ass, but with a devilish twist (pun intended).”  Hans sat down, and the devil cleaned him up and made him look as suave and sophisticated as only the devil can, then handed him another knapsack.  Fill this one up with more sweepings, then go to that fuckstick of a landlord.  Tell him that you know he stole the money, and that your King, the Devil, is pissed.  Tell him to give you all of the fucking gold back, or I’ll drag him down to hell to take your place stoking the fires and sweeping the floors.  Just, don’t tell him that I’m kind of a nice guy, alright?  I’ve got a rep to maintain, or else no one will be scared of me and besides; if I have to drag his down here as punishment, it won’t be nearly as pleasant as it was for you.  You got all that, Hans?”
  • Hans nodded and took the knapsack gratefully.  “You’re alright, Devil.  Thanks for everything.”  With a wave, Hans headed back to the surface.  He hurried back to the inn, and arrived just about the time that the landlord was planning on heading up and catching Hans guilty of poverty.  The landlord was more than a little surprised to see Hans come in from outside instead of from the room upstairs.  He knew the man hadn’t requested water or a shaving kit, so he had no idea how the man had gotten so clean and stylish since last night.  The gleam on wicked glee in Hans’ eyes didn’t sit right with him either. 
  • “Wh…what can I do for you, sir?”  “Sir my ass.  I played everything straight with you last night, and you went and stole from me.”  “What?”  “Are you deaf?  I said you stole from the Devil’s Sooty Brother!  Big mistake.  Huge.  It wasn’t hard to figure out that it was you, so I went to the devil and let him know what you fucking did.  He said to let you know that if you don’t return every last motherfucking gold coin that you stole from me, he’s gonna drag you to hell to take my place.  You saw how shitty I looked when I came in here before; that’s what spending seven years stoking the fires of Hell will do to you.  So.  Are we gonna dance, or are you gonna pay up?”
  • The landlord didn’t know whether this crazy son of a bitch was for real or not, but he was starting to believe.  There was definitely some weird shit going on here, and a deal with the devil made more sense than most other explanations he could come up with.  After a long moment of stunned silence, the landlord bolted behind the bar and pried up a loose floorboard.  He pulled out the bag of gold, and added to it all of the money he had squirreled away.  He didn’t need the literal goddamned devil coming after his ass, so he wanted to make nice nice.  He handed everything to Hans, begging him to tell the devil not to come for him, and to not spread it around town that he was a fucking thief.  The man had added a substantial amount to the already middling fortune Hans had gotten from the devil.  He traded the man the knapsack full of dirt and dust, and walked out the door a very rich man.
  • Hans left the town and continued on towards home to see his estranged father.  He came to another town, and figured he should be a little wiser about his appearance to avoid another thief.  The devil had been very understanding, but Hans doubted that his patience was unlimited.  He bought a modest set of clothes and a fiddle.  No one would question why a wandering minstrel had come to town, and no one would expect his pack to be stuffed with gold, so it was a fairly safe disguise.  He’d had a surprising amount of free time while he was in Hell, and like in many traditions, the devil was an avid musician (The Devil went Down to Georgia is a classic example of this trope).  To pass the time, the devil had taught Hans to play like a motherfucker. 
  • His wanderings eventually brought him to the capital of the kingdom, where his father lived.  By that time, his fame as a musician had grown, and had gotten here before him.  The king, who loved music, had heard that this fine new minstrel was headed this way, and hd left instructions with the town guard to bring him to the castle for a command performance.  Nothing really scares you after you’ve literally waited on the devil, so Hans just shrugged and went to the castle to play before royalty.  The man could seriously fucking shred, classical = style, and the king was incredibly impressed with this handsome musician. 
  • The king considered himself a fine judge of character, and thought that this wandering musician would make a perfect husband for his eldest daughter.  He’d had a little trouble marrying her off.  She was very beautiful, but kind of a bitch, and he thought that the beautiful music might help placate her.  He was wrong.  The princess heard that marriage to a fucking commoner in goddamned peasant clothes was being considered, and she threw an epic tantrum.  “I would rather be thrown in the deepest part of the ocean with rocks in my pockets than marry this common asshole!”
  • The king relented pretty easily, well aware of just how much of a fit his daughter could throw.  “Fuck it” he thought.  “I was trying to throw her a bone so she wasn’t embarrassed, but you know what?  Fuck her.”  He went to his younger daughter, who was much, much nicer.  “Would you be interested in marrying this handsome, talented musician?  I’m not as young as I used to be, and I need someone to take over the kingdom when I die.  The way things are going now, you’re sister will die a miserable goddamned spinster, and honestly, the world is probably better off for it.  Whaddaya say?”  The younger sister didn’t even hesitate.  If her dad liked this guy, he couldn’t be all bad, and a commoner was likely to be nicer than a fucking royal (look what it had done to her sister, after all). Besides, she loved her father, and this would clearly make him very happy.  “Alright, daddy.  I’ll marry him.”
  • Thus, the devil’s sooty brother was married to the princess, who was surprised at how much money this apparent commoner had, and the two ended up being very happy together.  As predicted, the older sister never married, so when the old king died, rule of the kingdom passed to his younger daughter and her husband, the devil’s sooty brother.  And for once, they actually did live happily ever after.
  • This is one of those stories that I read when I was pretty young, probably sometime in middle school, and subsequently completely forgot about because it’s not a well-known story.  When one of our listeners suggested this story, it rang a bell somewhere in the back of my mind.  When I reread the story, I knew I had to cover it.  It’s a wild story, and surprisingly for a tale that starts with a presumed faustian bargain, it ends with a surprisingly optimistic ending (especially for one of the Grimm brothers’ stories).
  • And with that, it’s time for Gods and Monsters.  This is a segment where I get into a little more detail about the personalities and history of one of the gods or monsters from this week’s pantheon that was not discussed in the main story.  This week’s monster is the fanden, or the Scandinavian devil.  Unlike the traditional concept of Satan, the fanden is almost an affectionate name for the figure who pops up in fairy and folk tales and like the Devil’s sooty brother.
  • The term fanden is, itself, a form of profanity.  The root word, fan, is equivalent to somewhat fuck in modern english parlance, so the fanden is hardly used in a religious context.  He’s usually described as having a goatee, horns, and a hoof for his left foot (but only the one).  He is tall and lean, and wear a fucking top hat, because he fancy like that.  Basically, if Abraham Lincoln had a goatee instead of a beard, he’d more or less look like the fanden.  In Scandinavian folklore, the fanden has no wife (hence his need for a maid), but in some stories, his great-grandmother cleans for him instead.  He is always shown to be cunning, but still somehow very gullible (mostly due to too much pride).  It’s common for humans to trick him to get the better of him on bad deals.  In one story, a human manages to escape the devil, who is out looking for a soul to steal, by betting that he cannot fit into an empty nut shell.  The devil, angry and being doubted, jumps into the shell to prove that yes, he can so.  The man runs the fuck away while the devil is stuck inside the nut and leaves the fanden empty handed. 
  • The fanden is also usually considered to be a master with the fiddle (which again plays into the Charlie Daniels song).  If tricked or talked into it, he is a master teacher, who can give a human otherworldly musical skills (think blue’s musician Robert Johnson, or our friend the Devil’s sooty brother).  This makes it extra impressive that Johnny from the aforementioned song manages to beat the shit out of the devil in a fair contest (which, to his credit, the devil acknowledges losing in spite of having set no terms as to a judge, so he could have fucking cheated if he’d wanted to).

That’s it for this episode of Myth Your Teacher Hated.  Keep up with new episodes on our Facebook page, on iTunes, on Stitcher or on TuneIn, or you can follow us on Twitter as @HardcoreMyth.  You can also find news and episodes on our website at myths your teacher hated dot com.  If you like what you’ve heard, I’d appreciate a review on iTunes.  These reviews really help increase the show’s standing and let more people know it exists.  I want to thank Patty Shim Shoy on Reddit for letting me know that these stories apparently pair well with coffee and waffles.  If you have any questions, any gods or monsters you’d want to learn about, or any ideas for future stories that you’d like to hear, feel free to drop me a line.  I’m trying to pull as much material from as many different cultures as possible, but there are all sorts of stories I’ve never heard, so suggestions are appreciated.  The theme music is by Tiny Cheese Puff, whom you can find on fiverr.com.

Next time, we’ll be switching gears and traveling to India for a myth about a sexy-ass courtesan.  You’ll learn that turning a girl down a few times will definitely make her want to fuck you, that demons make excellent body guards, and that perfume merchants are legit ballers.  Then, in gods and monsters, it’s the polar opposite of the world’s best whore, the headless goddess of sexual restraint .  That’s all for now.  Thanks for listening.