Once upon a time a shepherd was taking his flock out to pasture, when he found a little baby lying in a meadow, left there by some wicked person, who thought it was too much trouble to look after it. The shepherd was fond of children, so he took the baby home with him and gave it plenty of milk, and by the time the boy was fourteen he could tear up oaks as if they were weeds. Then Paul, as the shepherd had called him, grew tired of living at home, and went out into the world to try his luck.
He walked on for many miles, seeing nothing that surprised him, but in an open space of the wood he was astonished at finding a man combing trees as another man would comb flax.
‘Good morning, friend,’ said Paul; ‘upon my word, you must be a strong man!’
The man stopped his work and laughed. ‘I am Tree Comber,’ he answered proudly; ‘and the greatest wish of my life is to wrestle with Shepherd Paul.’
‘May all your wishes be fulfilled as easily, for I am Shepherd Paul, and can wrestle with you at once,’ replied the lad; and he seized Tree Comber and flung him with such force to the ground that he sank up to his knees in the earth. However, in a moment he was up again, and catching hold of Paul, threw him so that he sank up to his waist; but then it was Paul’s turn again, and this time the man was buried up to his neck. ‘That is enough,’ cried he; ‘I see you are a smart fellow, let us become friends.’
‘Very good,’ answered Paul, and they continued their journey together.
By-and-by they reached a man who was grinding stones to powder in his hands, as if they had been nuts.
‘Good morning,’ said Paul politely; ‘upon my word, you must be a strong fellow!’
‘I am Stone Crusher,’ answered the man, and the greatest wish of my life is to wrestle with Shepherd Paul.’
‘May all your wishes be as easily fulfilled, for I am Shepherd Paul, and will wrestle with you at once,’ and the sport began. After a short time the man declared himself beaten, and begged leave to go with them; so they all three travelled together.
A little further on they came upon a man who was kneading iron as if it had been dough. ‘Good morning,’ said Paul, ‘you must be a strong fellow.’
‘I am Iron Kneader, and should like to fight Shepherd Paul,’ answered he.
‘Let us begin at once then,’ replied Paul; and on this occasion also, Paul got the better of his foe, and they all four continued their journey.
At midday they entered a forest, and Paul stopped suddenly. ‘We three will go and look for game,’ he said, ‘and you, Tree Comber, will stay behind and prepare a good supper for us.’ So Tree Comber set to work to boil and roast, and when dinner was nearly ready, a little dwarf with a pointed beard strolled up to the place. ‘What are you cooking?’ asked he, ‘give me some of it.’