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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Erich Raspe (1736–1794)

A Horse Tied to a Steeple

From “Adventures of Baron Münchausen”

I SET off from Rome on a journey to Russia, in the midst of winter, from a just notion that frost and snow must of course improve the roads, which every traveler had described as uncommonly bad through the northern parts of Germany, Poland, Courland, and Livonia. I went on horseback, as the most convenient manner of traveling. I was but lightly clothed, and of this I felt the inconvenience the more I advanced northeast. What must not a poor old man have suffered in that severe weather and climate, whom I saw on a bleak common in Poland, lying on the road, helpless, shivering, and hardly having wherewithal to cover his nakedness? I pitied the poor soul. Though I felt the severity of the atmosphere myself, I threw my mantle over him, and immediately I heard a voice from the heavens, blessing me for that piece of charity, saying:

“You will be rewarded, my son, for this in time.”

I went on. Night and darkness overtook me. No village was to be seen. The country was covered with snow, and I was unacquainted with the road.

Tired out, I alighted, and fastened my horse to something like the pointed stump of a tree which appeared above the snow. For the sake of safety I placed my pistols under my arm, and laid down on the snow, where I slept so soundly that I did not open my eyes till full daylight. It is not easy to conceive my astonishment at finding myself in the midst of a village, lying in a churchyard. Nor was my horse to be seen; but I heard him soon after neigh somewhere above me. On looking upward, I beheld him hanging by his bridle to the weathercock of the steeple. Matters were now quite plain to me. The village had been covered with snow overnight; a sudden change in the weather had taken place; I had sunk down to the churchyard while asleep at the same rate as the snow had melted away; and what in the dark I had taken to be a stump of a little tree appearing above the snow, to which I had tied my horse, proved to have been the cross or weathercock of the steeple!

Without long consideration, I took one of my pistols, shot the bridle in two, brought down the horse, and proceeded on my journey.