The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs
Fairy-Tale Witches and Mother Goose
In this Teutonic equivalent of a táltos tale, a poor woman bears a son born with a caul, indicating his special destiny. A fortune-teller is called in: she prophesies that at age fourteen the boy will marry the king’s daughter.
The reference to the fortune-teller is matter-of-fact and non-judgmental
Fourteen is the age when táltos and similar shamans traditionally undergo initiations involving battling.
The king learns of the prophecy and, appalled by the idea that his daughter could marry a peasant, arranges to kill the child. The baby is placed in a box and thrown into the river but is rescued by a miller.
When the boy turns fourteen, the king discovers that he’s not dead and again attempts to kill him. The boy consistently survives and outwits all attempts on his life until finally the king announces that the boy can marry his daughter if he journeys to Hell and brings back three gold hairs from the devil’s head. This is the shamanic journey, the journey to the other realm, and confrontation or negotiation with the spirits.
Upon reaching Hell, the boy finds the devil away but the devil’s grandmother at home. (According to legend, the devil’s grandmother taught the devil everything he knows.) She is sympathetic to the boy, offers her help, and protects him by allowing him to crawl into the folds of her skirt where it is safe.
Significantly she doesn’t perform the boy’s task for him. She instructs him to listen closely to her conversation with the devil; if he has the ears, skill, and talent, he will accomplish his task, survive, and vanquish his opponent. If not, he loses all.
See DICTIONARY: Caul, Táltos; HAG: The Devil’s Grandmother; HORNED ONE: The Devil; MAGICAL PROFESSIONS: Millers.