German Folktale from Book

OWLS AND MONKEYS Till Eulenspiegel was a vagabond who lived in the region of Braunschweig Germany around the 1300s. He traveled from village to village telling stories, playing jokes on people, and entertaining children with puppet shows. He looked for odd jobs when his luck ran out and he was hungry. You see, in those days there was no television and few books. Storytellers were welcomed in every village and their pay was food and a warm bed. One day Till comes upon a baker and asks for a loaf of bread in exchange for a story. “You’ll get no bread from me without first doing a good day’s work.” Till agrees and discovers he likes the work. When the baker sees he is trustworthy, he decides to take a morning off. The baker normally wakes at three to light the fire in the oven and begin forming loaves from the dough mixed the night before. By five the dough is raised enough for loaves to be slid into the hot brick ovens. When the bakery opens at six o’clock the fragrance of freshly baked bread greets customers. “Till, you know how to do this work. I need a break. I want you to sleep in the backroom and be ready to build a good fire in the ovens. While they’re heating, you’ll put the dough into the pans. Then the loaves go in when the temperature is right. Handle them carefully and don’t let them burn. Do you have any questions for me before I head home for the night?” “Thank you for trusting me, sir. But I do have one question. What should I bake?” At this, the baker erupts into laughter. “That’s a good joke, Till. What do you think you should bake? Bake owls and monkeys of course!” The baker is making a joke. The next morning when the baker arrives he finds his helper pulling the first loaves out of the ovens. “How did I do, sir? I wasn’t sure how to make the eyes, so I used some of your raisins. I hope that was okay.” The baker takes one look at the loaves of bread, all shaped like owls and monkeys, and let out a thunderous shout that rattles the windows. “You fool! What have you done?” “I baked the owls and monkeys just like you said, but you seem angry. If not raisins, then what should I use for the eyes?” “Oh, you foolish boy! Whoever heard of making loaves of bread into silly shapes? You’re fired! And take all these useless loaves with you. They are no good to me! You’ve ruined my entire batch of bread.” Till is confused by the reaction of the baker, but he takes the owls and monkeys with him. Not knowing what else to do, the jester starts selling his funny loaves along the road. Word spreads and one neighbor tells another and another. The owls and monkeys are given as gifts to friends in nearby towns and everyone wants to buy this unusual bread. When that day’s loaves are sold out, people want more. Soon another baker in town invites the young man to bake owls and monkeys in his ovens and people from far and wide come to buy them. The tradition holds to this day and you can still purchase loaves of bread in the shape of owls and monkeys in one certain bakery in the city of Braunschweig, Germany.