Rich Man --
            Poor Man
A long, long time ago, when Gods still occasionally walked among us, it so happened that Allvater Odin, in human guise, had wandered about all day.  As night was near, he started to look for a place where he might rest.  He came upon two houses, one rich and beautiful, a mansion really, but the one across the street a poor cottage.  Odin figured that it would be much easier for the rich man to put him up for the night than for the poor one and knocked on the gate of the mansion.  The rich man looked out the window to seize up the wanderer, and what he saw was an elderly man, his modest travelling frock well-worn and dusty from the road.  Rather grumpily, he asked what all this knocking was about; the stranger did not look to him like he'd have too many coins in his pocket.  The man asked for shelter for the night.  But the rich man's none-too-friendly reply was that if he took in everyone that happen to come by, it wouldn't be long he himself could take to the road like a begger.  Then he slammed the window shut.

Odin only shook his head and walked across the street to the poor cottage.  As soon as he knocked, the door was opened and an elderly man invited him to come in an rest by the fire while the wife would see to some supper.  They didn't have much, he added, but didn't mind sharing with him whatever there was, as long as he didn't mind. The guest indicated he'd be grateful for any little bite they could spare. So the woman put on the potatoes to boil and milked the goat so they'd have a bit of milk with their potatoes.  The fare might have been meagre, but the company so pleasant that Odin enjoyed himself immensely.  The couple even insisted that he sleep in their bed while they'd just go to the shed and get comfortable in the straw.  This the stranger did not want to accept, but the couple wouldn't take "no" for an answer.

The next morning, the old couple shared their breakfast with him, such as it was, then it was time for the wanderer to be on his way.  As he was halfway out the door, he turnd back toward the good people and told them that for their kindness and their hospitality, they should be granted three wishes, whatever it might be.  After consulting with his wife, the old man said, "What could be possibly wish for as that our souls may find rest when our time comes, but to keep our health and spirits until that time.  And that we have just enough to eat every day to keep body and soul together.  I can't think of anything else that we could possibly wish for."

"That can easily be done," replied the God, "but how about I turn your little cottage into a nice, cozy new house?"

This the couple accepted gratefully and the stranger took his leave.

The sun was already well into its way across the heavens when the rich man finally rolled himself out of bed and looked out the window.  He couldn't believe his eyes when he saw that where once had been this little old cottage with the straw roof, there now was a neat little house with a red shingled roof.  He rubbed them once, twice, but the house remained.  So he sent his wife across the street to find out what was going on.  You might imagine his ire when he heard what had transpired.  But the wife advised him to saddle his horse and ride after their potential benefactor, invite him for a visit and so gain three wishes for themselves.

It wasn't long before the horse had caught up with the wanderer.  The rich man made nice and explained that he would have gladly put the stranger up for the night; he was only looking for the key to the front door but when he got it open, the wanderer had left.  So now he begged him to return and enjoy his hospitality.  Odin nodded knowingly and thanked the man kindly.  But no, he must be on his way.  "Is there any way I can stll have my three wishes," asked the rich man.  Odin told him, that yes, he could have his three wishes, but strongly advised against it.  More harm than good might come of it.  But greed overrode any words of warning and finally, Odin told him that alright, the next three wishes that he uttered would be fulfilled.  "But don't say I didn't warn you," he called after the man who was already  gallopping back the way he had come.

As he was riding along, he started to think about what he might wish for.  Every time he thought of something he might like, he cautioned himself that as soon as that wish were fulfilled, he'd think of something ever better.  So deep in thought was he that he let go of the reigns and the horse stumbled off the road.  Abruptly shaken out of his reverie, the rich man cried "Stupid horse, that you'd fall down and break your neck!"  And no sooner had the words left his lips that the horse stumbled and lay on the ground, his neck broken, dead.  The man cursed at his carelessness but then took comfort in the thought that he still had two wishes left.  Not wanting to abandin the expensive saddle, he took it off the dead horse and put it on his own back, then started the long walk home.

It turned out a pretty hot day, and soon he was sweating, his back started to ache, he was thirsty, his feet hurt, his stomach growled ... that's when his thoughts turned to home, where his wife was in a nice cool room, probably having a splendid meal and lots of cold beer to drink.  "Darn that woman," he said to himself, she ought to be sitting on this saddle, with no way to get down."  And at that moment, the saddle disappeared from his back.

Now he began to sweat in earnest, realising what he had done, and only the thought of the one remaining wish kept him going.  He was not going to waste this one, he promised himself, oh no, he was going to think of something truly splendid for this last wish.

Alas, when he finally reached his house and entered the front room, there was the Missus, sitting on the saddle, and nothing she and the maids had tried was able to get her down.  He tried to calm her and told her what beautiful riches they'd have, the splendor in which they could live out their lives ... and was it really all that bad to be sitting on the saddle?

I fear her answer is not repeatable here.  But the end result was that he had to use his last wish to get the woman off the saddle.  So all he had to show for his three wishes was a dead horse, blistered feet, a useless saddle, and a very, very angry wife.

The poor couple across the street, however, lived in quiet happiness until their death at a very old age.
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