So, temperance lectures can be fun, after all. This thief's bizarre originality sets him a world apart from the witless farmer, and marks him as the forebear of the clever pranksters such as Till Eulenspiegel who later starred through inexhaustible sequels of popular comedy.

But make no mistake. Serious craftsmanship is afoot. Our poet here melds two symbolic roles assigned to St. Martin: first as protector of the destitute, parodying his legendary gesture of parting his cloak with a naked beggar (a.k.a. clever thief), and then in his traditional patronage of imbibing, feasting, and luxury, the avatar to which the farmer has paid homage. A quintessentially medieval compositio oppositorum plays as boozeridden double vision in the cowstall. Gullible enthusiasts for divinely-inspired hallucinations could be excused for preferring stories more like the preceding one.

There was plainly an imaginative and independent mind at work here. The story is usually attributed to a southern Franconian or Austrian itinerant poet called Der Stricker, who produced a large and varied body of work. He was active until about the middle of the thirteenth century. It has been thought that his name ("cordage maker") indicates membership in the artisan class, but maybe he just meant to hide behind a witty epithet for his craft of spinning a net of tales. He became the pioneer of popular literature in German, and is also one of the first writers known to have collected and revised his own works, grouping his many short narratives into cycles.