Today is the birthday of Danish author Hans Christian Andersen (april 2, 1805-August 4, 1875). Although he wrote numerous plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, Andersen is best known for his fairy tales, like the Little Mermaid, the Emperor’s New Clothes, the Ugly Duckling and the Snow Queen, which was loosely adapted into Disney’s Frozen in 2013. Those are just the highlights, he also wrote many more you’ve probably heard of and undoubtedly quite a bit more you haven’t. One of those lesser known stories is “Ole, The Watchman of the Tower” or “Ole the Tower-Keeper.” It was written in the 1850s and was included as part of his third collection of “New Fairy-Tales and Stories,” which was published in 1859.
Here’s a synopsis of the story of Ole:
There was a man named Ole who was rumored to be the child of several different people and had been said to have done many interesting things in his life. As time wore on, he became less than enthused with society and decided to become a hermit.
He lived in a church tower because it was the only place where he could easily get bread and still be away from other people. He read books and had visitors around New Years. One person in particular visited him each year around New Years and that person had three stories to tell that Ole had told him.
And here’s another, shorter, one:
Our first-person narrator tells us that he likes to visit a watchman of a tower named Ole. He visits twice on New Year’s Eve and hears some kooky stories about cobblestone, the Bible, and alcohol.
But it was during the end of his second of three nights that Ole visited and listened to the Tower-Keeper, after he’d explained about the first five glasses, who was in them, or how they would change you, he told Ole about the sixth glass:
“The sixth glass! Yes, in that glass sits a demon, in the form of a little, well dressed, attractive and very fascinating man, who thoroughly understands you, agrees with you in everything, and becomes quite a second self to you. He has a lantern with him, to give you light as he accompanies you home. There is an old legend about a saint who was allowed to choose one of the seven deadly sins, and who accordingly chose drunkenness, which appeared to him the least, but which led him to commit all the other six. The man’s blood is mingled with that of the demon. It is the sixth glass, and with that the germ of all evil shoots up within us; and each one grows up with a strength like that of the grains of mustard-seed, and shoots up into a tree, and spreads over the whole world: and most people have no choice but to go into the oven, to be re-cast in a new form.
That’s why there’s a devilish demon on the label, because that’s what’s in the bottle, too. Drink it at your own peril. Don’t say you haven’t been warned. Frankly, it only make me want to drink it even more. I love the idea that after reading that passage, founder John McDonald and/or brewmaster Steven Pauwels, were inspired to create a beer fitting that description.