I sit on a shelf of books in a room that is off-limits to anyone but the old hill-man. I hold secret instructions for shape-shifting. Want to become a whale in the sea, or a deer running through the woods? Want to beguile or seduce others with your physical charms? Read me, and you will be able to change yourself into anything you like.
The old man enjoys hiring young men to keep his house for him. He tells them not to come into this room, but of course they do. Inevitably they find me and they turn themselves into different forms for fun and profit.
A young man named Hans has just picked me up. He plans to become a huge dog and have his parents sell him to the duke. As soon as the transaction is finished he will turn himself into something else, like a dove, and fly away. Oh, these boys are clever, but they all end up back in old man’s locked room in that pile of bones over there. That is what they come to in the end, after the old man is finished having his fun with them.
Magic Book in The Magic Book, The Orange Fairy Book. Painting by Carl Spitzweg.