"The Blacksmith and the Devil"
I had to search a bit, but I finally found the 'six-thousand-year-old' story I was looking for - "The Blacksmith and the Devil" - which can be found in The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition, as follows:
Once upon a time there was a blacksmith who enjoyed life: he squandered his money and carried on many lawsuits. After a few years, he didn't have a single cent left in his pouch.At this point, we readers surely already know who it is and also what's coming, but if you want the whole Faustian story, go here and read. But I must say . . . if this story really is so old as claimed, it's clearly picked up some elements from other times, that bit about lawsuits, for instance, what does that mean? A Bronze Age rule of law? Surely not! Actually, I don't understand, in any era, what point lawsuits might play in the story.
"Why should I torture myself any longer in this world?" he thought. So he went into the forest with the intention of hanging himself from a tree. Just as he was about to stick his head into the noose, a man with a long white beard came out from behind a tree carrying a large book in his hand.
"Listen, blacksmith," he said. "Write your name down in this large book, and for ten long years you'll have a good life. But after that you'll be mine, and I'll come and fetch you."
"Who are you?" asked the blacksmith.
Labels: Literary Criticism