Humble Hans and Bragadocious Bert

Humble Hans was the son of a woodchopper who got his epithet because of his humility  “How strong you are, Hans!” the old men and women of the village would say as they saw him dragging to market the immense tree trunks he had felled.  “How clever you are at piling them up!”   “How brave you were when you single-handedly drove off a bear that threatened your favorite dog Louise with nothing but your big axe and your big voice against eight hundred pounds of ferocious animal!”

But Hans would always demur.  “I am not so strong as you think but I know clever tricks to chop down trees.  And I am not so clever as you think because I did not come up with those clever tricks myself.  And I am not so brave as you think because I actually was terrified fighting that bear, and if I had had more than a second to think about how long those claws were and how strong those arms (that’s a thing that’s really strong! not me!) I would have run away for sure. If you want to see strong, and clever and brave, oho you should have met my father.  And his father — that man beat trees because he was a tree. He reached to the sky.”

The town formed a volunteer fire department and they needed a leader who would be strong, and clever and brave.  Bert, the son of the richest man in town spoke up.  “Make me the leader!  I am strong and clever and brave!”   “What say you, Hans?”  “That sounds like a great idea!” said Hans.  “Anybody who has the confidence to say he is strong and clever and brave would be a great pick.”

When the village started to burn Bert was in his house eating waffles with whipped cream. They came to ask him to put it out.  He said “I don’t think it smells like a real fire.” and returned to his waffles.  Five minutes later and half the village burned.  A few people ran to the fire station and it was empty.  It seems Bert had sold the fire trucks for a tidy profit.   Finally Bert finished his waffles and emerged from the house.  “Huh I guess there was a fire — probably started by Gypsies.  Beat up the gypsies!”  The rest of the village burned down.  Everybody was gathered in the last building which was an orphanage.  Everybody was watching Bert. He ran into the orphanage — just the front room of it really — picked up a child and tried to rescue him.  He struggled and then finally dropped the child on his head. “Wow, you’re heavy!” joked Bert. “What have you been eating?”

Flames crackled at the door of the orphanage.

Bert jumped on his horse and took off at top speed “To get help!” he said.  Although he never came back.  Some say he is still riding and when he returns will be driving the biggest fire truck the world has ever seen!  The emperor’s no God’s own firetruck — all made of gold and candy and ribbons.

Be that as it may — and it may well be true, I’ve never seen it but there’s much I haven’t seen – Humble Hans ran into the orphanage and emerged a minute later with ten children on his brawny back, then led the people with shovels to divert the town river into the flame and put it out.

He dropped down exhausted. Maybe dead.

Moral: Don’t be too humble.


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