Here is a new skill in character study. In place of courtly stereotypes, we see ordinary people down on the farm. And the author leaves them just as he found them. No one is dragged screaming away to hell, nor does divine intervention convert the sinners. The farmer, instead of learning his lesson and repenting, turns out to be exactly, incorrigibly, as he at first appeared, cruel and vain, quite real. The wife is made a sensible, strong woman, instead of merely bait for the trap. The neighbor goes through the motions of her stock role as go-between without really accomplishing anything but fooling the thick-wittedly grasping priest.

From courtly literature at its height we could not have learned that such people even existed. There must have been popular stories, such as this one, but no one wrote them down then, or recited them in society. Literature was a matter exclusively of, by, and for the nobility and clergy. The third class, including everyone else, neither read nor wrote, nor did the upper minority two thirds accord artistic values to the lives or thought of the host who fed them.

There is nothing to indicate who might have authored or passed along this story. No earlier versions or analogues are known. But seven manuscripts of it survive, together pointing to a local origin in southern Germany. Surely this indicates an early interest in and respect for what we now call folklore, which would take a place among other literary disciplines only hundreds of years later, when Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm made it one of the most delightful of the sciences.