Thursday, April 02, 2015

Luther said to his dog, "Be thou comforted, little dog, Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail"

Maybe dogs have an immortal soul as well. As Martin Luther said to his dog, "Be thou comforted, little dog, Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail” [source]

While this sentiment touches the heart of every person owning a dog, I'm not so sure Luther actually said it. Some time back it's authenticity was questioned here on this blog in the comment box, and this sort of desperation doesn't point toward authenticity.  There are a number of versions of it, some of them coming in the form of fiction or being weaved into fictional stories. Other than the theological similarities to 1544 letter that Preserved Smith popularly documents, the earliest accounts I could find were mostly fictional. Below I've compiled a number of versions of the quote, primarily from the 1800's, It's interesting (well, to me at least) to see how the  quote changed as it went along. If Luther did say it, it's highly probable it was a Table talk comment.

1843:  Siri's jesting words remind us of what Luther said to his dog when it was snarling: 'Do not snarl, Jacky; be a good dog, and at the resurrection you shall have a golden tail." [The rectory of Mora] [Bremer's Novels, Vol. 2]

1845: Siri's playful words remind one of the words which Luther said to his dog when he growled: "Growl not, my little doggy; in the resurrection thou too shalt get a little golden tail!"[The Novels of Frederika Bremer]

1849: Siri is great at riddles, and also delights in taxing people's powers in more modern mysteries and speculations; as, where she inquires into the future life of the animal creation, and promises a glorious future existence to her fawn on the sanction of Luther, who is quoted as having said to his dog one day when he growled, ‘ Growl not, my little doggy; in the resurrection thou, too, shalt have a little golden tail.’ [The Christian Remembrancer]

1854: "Good, I daresay; but great?" "Not your mere dog fancier, who tyrannizes over or tires of his pets, but a gentle superior, like wise Sir Isaac Newton to silly little Diamond; and do you know what Martin Luther told his dog?" "No, something polemical?" "Neil Farquharson would not believe it; he would say it was a most fantastic doctrine, but it was no doctrine, only a loving fancy. 'Doggie,' he said, "you'll have a golden tail to wag in heaven." "He said that; I am glad to hear it, it was a throb of the great tender heart under his armour of dauntless faith and courage, and massive learning." [Phemie Millar, by the author of 'The Kinnears']

1856:When Luther was a little disturbed by his favourite dog, dreaming at the fire, the jolly old Reformer said to the uneasy cur, "Be quiet, hundchen, and at the resurrection you, too, shall have a golden tail." Mr. Punch would almost borrow the words of Luther, saying, "Be tranquil, dearest Muntz, and when the Bank of England stops gold payments, you, too, shall have an unlimited queue of paper." [Punch]

1861: Mors wagged his tail assentingly, and I thought of Luther's words to his dog:— "Don't grumble, little Hans; thou too shalt have a golden tail some day!"[Two years in Switzerland and Italy]

1864: Thekla has experienced her first sorrow. Her poor little foundling, Nix, is dead. For some days the poor creature had been ailing, and at last he lay for some hours quivering, as if with inward convulsions; yet at Thekla's voice the dull, glassy eyes would brighten, and he would wag his tail feebly as he lay on his side. At last he died; and Thekla was not to be comforted, but sat apart and shed bitter tears. The only thing which cheered her was Christopher's making a grave in the garden for Nix, under the pear tree where I used to sit at embroidery in summer as now she does. It was of no use to try to laugh her out of her distress. Her lip quivered and her eyes filled with tears if any one attempted it. Atlantis spoke seriously to her on the duty of a little girl of twelve beginning to put away childish things; and even the gentle mother tenderly remonstrated and said one day, when Dr. Luther had asked her for her favourite, and had been answered by a burst of tears, "My child, if you mourn so for a dog, what will you do when real sorrows come?" But Dr. Luther seemed to understand Thekla better than any of us, and to take her part. He said she was a child, and her childish sorrows were no more trifles to her than our sorrows are to us; that from heaven we might probably look on the fall of an empire as of less moment than we now thought the death of Thekla's dog; yet that the angels who look down on us from heaven do not despise our little joys and sorrows, nor should we those of the little ones; or words to this effect. He has a strange sympathy with the hearts of children. Thekla was so encouraged by his compassion, that she crept close to him and laid her hand in his, and said, with a look of wistful earnestness, "Will Nix rise again at the last day? Will there be dogs in the other world?" Many of us were appalled at such an irreverent idea; but Dr. Luther did not seem to think it irreverent. He said, "We know less of what that other world will be than this little one, or than that babe," he added, pointing to my little Gretchen, "knows of the empires or powers of this world. But of this we are sure, the world to come will be no empty, lifeless waste. See how full and beautiful the Lord God has made all things in this passing, perishing world of heaven and earth! How much more beautiful, then, will he make that eternal incorruptible world! God will make new heavens and a new earth. All poisonous, and malicious, and hurtful creatures will be banished thence,—all that our sin has ruined. All creatures will not only be harmless, but lovely, and pleasant and joyful, so that we might play with them. 'The sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den." Why, then, should there not be little dogs in the new earth, whose skin might be fair as gold, and their hair as bright as precious stones?" Certainly, in Thekla's eyes, from that moment there has been no doctor of divinity like Dr. Luther. [Chronicles of the Schönberg-Cotta Family]

1864: Cheer up, little heart! Jikkir's soulful eyes and faithful heart prophesy to me. Somewhere in that beautiful Home to come, toward which your love looked forward with longing for reunion with its object, there must be a snug little corner where they will let us have our own again. Cowper his hares, you your immaculate little pets, and us our Jikkir. And I even dare hope that Jikker's caudal shortcomings may there find compensation; for what saith the stern old re-former, the good Martin Luther, to his dog? "Hans, Hans! be quiet, and in the resurrection thou shalt have a little golden tail!" [Harper's Magazine, Volume 28]

1875: The Catholic Portuguese and the Protestant of Northern Europe can here meet on common ground; and if the one can cite St. Francis and St. Hubert, the other can quote the authentic legend of Martin Luther to support his attachment to dogs. “ Don’t growl, Hans,” the great reformer is known to have said to his dog, “ and when the resurrection comes, I promise that you shall have a golden tail! ”[Travels in Portugal]

1877: You have escaped immortality, being switched off the celestial railroad on to a side-track leading to an old coal-yard. You shall be paid for it some day; if not here, then hereafter. Luther promised his dog, that, in the resurrection, he should have a golden tail. ["Warrington" Pen-portraits]

1878: Some of the more intelligent brutes are capable of such affinities with men, women, and children as would seem to justify the hope of the great Doctor Adam Clarke, that he should meet his old white horse in heaven; though there is some doubt whether Martin Luther will be able to keep his promise to his dog, that if he were good, in heaven he should have a golden tail. [That Boy: Who Shall Have Him?]

1881: Could she have had the new sense which psychologists promise (with perhaps the assurance of Luther in telling his dog of a golden tail that awaited him in the resurrection), she might that moment have discovered Rushmore smoking outside a bright cafe watching the elegant ladies on their way for a drive in the Bois de Boulogne.[Eunice Lathrop: Spinster]

1883: Martin Luther believed in animal's souls and in their immortality. He consoled a child grieving over the death of her dog by telling her she would have her pet to play with in Heaven and that it would have a golden tail!- From the Exchange [The Christian Life, Volume 9]

1887: Who can study the face of a fine dog, and watch it play of expression, its excitement under sympathy, its ready disappointment, its visible struggle between some sore temptation and the sense of duty, its tender loyalty, its look of comfortable peace on being petted, without being reminded of some of childhood's sweetest qualities? It is one of our most agreeable associations with Martin Luther that when writing his treatise on the Resurrection he looked down upon his impatient little dog, and promised him that he also should rise again at the Great Day, and should have a little golden tail. [Harper's Bazaar, Volume 20]

1887: The heart is unfortunate that has no room for dumb creatures; some of the greatest souls that earth has known have been characterized by a sort of reverential tenderness towards these wonderful, faithful lives of an inferior order to our own. "Be comforted, little dog," said Martin Luther to his canine friend; "thou too in the resurrection shall have a little golden tail." Be not overshocked reader! we do not comfort our dogs like Martin Luther, but we confess to a consciousness that dogs can comfort us. [The Quiver]

1889: "Tiens, tiens, I must tell Hugo that. She says she would like to sit and hold Hugo's hands. Do you hear her, Mousey, my treasure? Oh, what a droll idea! Bless my little angel-love! Yes, he was an angel! And when he died, he should go straight to heaven, like Martin Luther's little dog, and. have a little golden tail, like his! So he should! For he was a thousand times sweeter" (kiss) "and cleverer" (kiss) "and handsomer and more angelic" (kiss) "than "Martin Luther's little dog, yes, so he was!" [The Open Door, Volume 1]

1889: Just back of the churchyard at Berkeley, on the way to the gardens, and separated from consecrated ground by a narrow fence, are a row of little graves with modest tombstones, under the shade of branching trees. Trusted, true-hearted dogs, who have lived their faithful lives, rest here almost within "God's Acre," given careful burial after death by the master and mistress generously good to them in life ; and we often wondered whether the dogs of all breeds and sizes who invariably accompany the Lord of Berkeley and his guests in their walks to the different points of view, or to see the great oak mentioned in Doomsday Book, can know what tender care will be taken of their bodies after their trusty, little loving hearts have ceased to beat. Luther himself went only one step further, in that he promised his favourite dog that in the general resurrection it should have a golden tail.[The English Illustrated Magazine, Volume 6]

1890: Luther himself went only one step further, in that he promised his favourite dog that in the general resurrection it should have a golden tail.[Glimpses of old English homes]

1896: "We held a little service in the parlor of the hotel, and Mrs. C. read the fourteenth chapter of John. Rev. Mr. W. read a sermon from 'The pure in heart shall see God,' written by Parkhurst, of New York. He thought the child should be told that in heaven he should have his hobby-horse. After the service, when we talked it over, I objected to telling the child this. Whittier did not object; he said that Luther told his little boy that he should have a little dog with a golden tail in heaven. [Maria Mitchell: life, letters, and journals]

1897: One day she found some of Martin Luther's sayings. He one day remarked to his dog, that was growling, " Don't growl, little Hans, for in the resurrection thou, too, shalt have a little golden tail." [Daisy, the Autobiography of a Cat]

1898: " 'Is it not so, More P' continued he, as he patted one of the large, pious dogs! ‘Thou wilt hold out for another year, and then thou wilt die! ’ “ I thought of Luther’s words to his dog, ‘Don’t grumble, little Hans; then, too, shalt have a golden tail some day! ’ ” Or, to give another version, “Be comforted, little dog ; thou, too, in the resurrection, shalt have a little golden tail.” From which we may take it, half playful though the words are, that Luther, who so firmly believed in the restoration of all things, would have conceded his canine friend an entrance to that equal sky. [Temple Bar: A London Magazine for Town and Country Readers, Volume 113]

1898: Some of our readers may remember Luther's words to his dog, "Never mind, little Hans, thou too shalt have a golden tail some day"; or, according to a better translation, "Thou too, in the Resurrection, shalt have a little golden tail." [The Westminster Review, Volume 150]

1901: ...and Luther is reported to have said: “ Be comforted, little dog; thou, too, in the resurrection shall have a little golden tail.” [The Puritan, Volume 9]

1902: He lost one little girl, and he bent over her saying, " Magdalene, my little daughter, thou wouldst willingly remain with thy father here, but gladly goest to thy Father yonder." "Yes, dear father, as God wills it," said the child. His love went out to all around. Looking at his little dog's wistful eyes, and feeling as if even its life must last on, he said, "Fear not, Hanslein, thou too shall have a little golden tail." [Cameos from English History]

1904: "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the This doubtless will seem to many a shocking conclusion, and it is commonly dodged for two reasons,— one taking the ground that immortality is for man alone, because only man is capable of conceiving of immortality,—the latter a just assumption probably; the other that, malgri Hans, Martin Luther's dog, even with his "little golden tail," the idea of the lower forms of existence in a higher state of existence is incongruous. Streets of gold, the tree of life, the pale horse of Revelation,—these indeed do not jar upon our fancy. Even song birds might be acceptable. But what would one say to a hen or a donkey in the undiscovered country? [The Unitarian Register, Volume 83].

1906: The story is told of Luther that when his dog Hans was angrily growling he soothed him with the words, “Don’t growl, little Hans; you too will go to heaven and have a little golden tail to wag.” [Matthew Arnold]

1907: The more I know men, the better I like dogs." Lord Byron expressed a good deal in an epitaph for his dog, "Denied in heaven the soul he held on earth." Even Luther is reported to have said, "Be comforted, little dog; thou, too, in the resurrection, shall have a little golden tail." Thus endeth the "dog story." [Three Westerners Abroad: European Trip in 1900, Over the Pond in 1905]

1908: like grain, would go up in price if you only kept it long enough. "Don't growl, Hans," said Luther to his dog, "and you shall have at the resurrection a golden tail."[Literary and Historical Essays]

1915: To animals also his love flowed warmly forth, and he was sure that God would receive them into His bright heaven. "Fear not, Hanslein," he said one day to his little dog, which stood regarding him with faithful, intelligent eyes, "thou too shalt have a little golden tail." [Stories from German History from Ancient Times to the Year 1648]

1932: To her better comfort came that gentler saying of Martin Luther's: "Be of good courage, little dog, for thou too in the resurrection shalt have a golden tail." [The Cat who Saw God]

1964: Father," Martin Luther's boy once asked the reformer, "father, are there any little dogs in heaven?" "Gewiss, most certainly," replied Luther. "Little dogs and big dogs and lambs and lions and deer, and they play together in meadows of gold." Sultan is there, I am sure of it. [To Number Our Days]


Carl Vehse said...


These quotes that Luther never said do seem to spread like wildfire. Maybe your list of dubious quotes and their dates could be analyzed as gossip was treated in the Big Bang Theory comedy, "The Herb Garden Germination, when Amy told Sheldon, "Meme theory suggests that items of gossip are like living things that seek to reproduce using humans as their host.... We need to fabricate a tantalizing piece of gossip."
Sheldon: "And a second non-tantalizing piece to use as a control."
Amy: "Then we’ll track its progress through our social group and interpret the results through the competing academic prisms of memetic theory, algebraic gossip, and epidemiology."

In a follow-up experiment, Amy tells Penny she's carrying Sheldon's child and she is getting orthotics. Walking down the stairs, Amy runs into Leonard who, glancing up from a cellphone text message, expresses shock that Amy is pregnant. Amy: "Wow. Is there anything on there about orthotics?"

James Swan said...

Interesting analogy.

The only thing I didn't check were key German words like "golden" "tail" "little dog" etc. (obviously translated into German!) in the Tischreden. That would really settle it for me if nothing pops up. It really does sound like if it is authentic, it's a Table Talk statement (and even then, something only purported to have been said).

I'm not completely convinced the quote is spurious yet. It doesn't appear to me that the quote came from any of the early English editions of the Tabletalk.

It may be that if the quote is real, someone snagged it from that edition of the Tischreden put together by Walch in the mid 18th Century, which, if I recall, spans multi-volumes.