Devil from a Carnival float in Tivoli, Lazio, Italy in 2005.

"The Devil and his Grandmother" (German: "Der Teufel und seine Großmutter"; also published in English as "The Dragon and his Grandmother") is a German fairy tale. It is included in the 1815 second volume of Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children;s and Household Tales), the collection of German folktales compiled by the Brothers Grimm, and all subsequent editions of the complete anthology.

The story concerns three army deserters who manage to escape being captured or killed by their own side thanks to help they get from a seemingly friendly dragon. The dragon then reveals that he is the Devil himself. The Devil tells the men that he will return to claim their souls after seven years unless they can guess the answers to some riddles that he will set them. Fortunately for the three men, they receive help from the fiend's own grandmother.

"The Devil and his Grandmother" has been adapted to other media.


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The Devil, in the form of a dragon, makes the three deserters sign a contract. 1910 illustration by the German artist Alber Weisgerber.

The soldiers in the king's army are so badly paid that three of them decide to desert. They manage to escape from their camp and get into a vast cornfield that soldiers are not allowed to enter. They believe that they will only have to wait there for a day before their army marches away. The army does not march away, however. The three deserters spend several days in the cornfield without any food. They are faced with the choice of slowly starving to death or being executed for desertion if they give themselves up to their army.

A dragon then appears. The dragon tells the three men that he will carry them to safety if they will agree to serve him for seven years. The three deserters accept this condition. After he carries the three men to safety, the dragon reveals himself to be none other than the Devil. He tells the three men that he will give them a whip that will make gold coins magically appear each time it is cracked. At the end of seven years, however, he will return to claim their souls unless they can guess the answers to some riddles that he will set them. The Devil makes the three men sign a contract before he leaves.

Thanks to the magical whip that the Devil has given them, the three men live in great luxury. Time passes quickly and the three men begin to worry about their fate. When the seven years are almost up, an old woman asks the men why they look sad. Although they do not think that she will be able to help them, the three men tell the old woman everything. She replies that one of them should go into the forest and will find the help that he needs in a house made from a fallen rock.

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The Devil talks to his grandmother while eating dinner. 1910 illustration by the German artist Albert Weisgerber.

The most optimistic of the three men follows the old woman's advice. Inside the house made from a fallen rock, he finds another old woman. She says that she is the Devil's grandmother and that her grandson tells her everything. She agrees to help the man. She tells him to hide in a cellar under the floor from where he will be able to hear her conversation with the Devil.

At midnight, the Devil arrives and is given dinner by his grandmother. She asks him how his day went. The Devil says that his day did not go very well but adds that he is confident of soon claiming the souls of three soldiers. The Devil's grandmother points out that the three soldiers might yet escape him. The Devil replies that they will not because they will not be able to guess the answers to the riddle that he will set them. He will ask them what roast meat he will serve them. The answer to which is a dead dogfish that is lying at the bottom of the North Sea. He will ask them what their silver spoon will be. The answer to which is a whale's rib. He will also ask them what their wine glass is to be. The answer to which is a hollow old horse's hoof. When the Devil goes to bed, the man leaves and rejoins his companions.

Soon afterwards, the Devil comes to take the three men's souls. He says that he will serve them a meal in Hell and asks them the three questions about it. The three men are able to give the correct answers to the Devil's riddles. As a result, the Devil loses all power over the three men and they escape going to Hell. They are, however, allowed to keep the magical whip and stay wealthy for the rest of their lives.


"The Devil and his Grandmother" was loosely adapted as the twenty-first episode of the first season of the anime series Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics (Japanese: グリム名作劇場; Gurimu Meisaku Gekijō). The episode is known in English as "The Naughty Spirit" and in Japanese as "The Devil and the Demon" (悪魔と大魔王; Akuma to dai maou). It was first shown on TV Asahi in Japan on March 9, 1988. In the episode, a drummer boy is forced to desert by two older soldiers. The three of then make a deal with a low-ranking demon who is not very good at posing riddles. The character of the grandmother is omitted from the episode. The drummer boy finds out the answers to the demon's riddles by spying on him and by praying for help.

The American comic book writer and artist Mike Mignola was inspired by "The Devil and his Grandmother" to write The Three Gold Whips, the fifth title in the Hellboy in Hell comic book series, that was first published in December 2013.

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