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  1. The Jutlander and His Stockings
  2. "A Stork Is Not Always a Stork"
  3. The Master Fool

The Jutlander and His Stockings

A well-dressed Jutlander once took a drop too much, and consequently lost command of his legs, landing at full length in the middle of the high-road, where he fell asleep. While he was lying in this state another wayfarer passed him. When he observed the Jutlander's fine stockings and compared them with his own, which were old and worn, he saw his chance to draw the good stockings off the Jutlander's feet and to replace them with his own. On doing this, he walked on.

When the Jutlander had slept till he was somewhat more sober, a man came driving along, shouting: "Keep your legs by yourself or I shall run over them!"

The Jutlander awoke, lifted his head, and looked at the legs; but when he noticed a pair of gray, ragged stockings, and remembered that his own were pretty, white, and brand-new, he lay quietly down again, answering: "Drive on! These are not my legs!"



"A Stork Is Not Always a Stork"

Storks are storks, and men are men, and some say that's the end of it. But sometimes storks are men, and men are storks, and this story is the proof of it. Not so very long ago, on a farm in Denmark, there was a man mowing a field of rye, and as his scythe went forward, a stork kept hopping beside him. This made him very nervous, for he feared he might get a good deep peck. "Be off with you!" he said, and, "Mind your own business, stork!"

But it served no purpose, and at last he grew so rattled that he plucked out his short knife and flung it, zip, at the stork's head. Luckily he missed, it fell to the ground, and the stork picked it up and flew off.

Soon after this the man who had been mowing felt an urge to go travelling. Try as he would, he could not resist it, so he left the farm and signed for a sailor. Now he would be among icebergs and now off palm-treed coasts; today they would sail up steamy rivers, tomorrow down skerried creeks. Nor was he always on sea, for sometimes the urge drove him through jungles and deserts or over frozen plateaux. It was a cruel life he had of it, nor could he tell why. All he knew was that he had to keep going until somewhere, some time, he found something, he knew not what.

After many long years he found himself in Egypt, where he took lodging at an inn. The landlord asked him what he was doing so far from home.

"If only I knew!" sighed the traveller, and went on to explain that he had never travelled further than the nearest farm till after he flung his knife at a stork, "Since then," he said, "I have known not a single day's rest."

The landlord went out from the room, but in a moment or two he returned. "Would this be the knife?" he asked and it was.

"Yes," said the landlord, "and if it hadn't been that I brought up fourteen children on your father's barn, I should certainly have done you an injury that day."

As soon as the traveller received his knife again, he thought only of home. But first he had to meet the fourteen children, and bonny children they were too, without a feather among them at that moment. He took the next ship back to Denmark, where he told his story to all who would listen. But some said storks are storks, and men are men, and that's the end of it. But most agreed that storks are sometimes men, and men are storks, and reckoned this story the proof of it.



The Master Fool

Once there lived a woman who had a very foolish boy. One day, when she had been churning, the lad wished to go to town and sell the butter. His mother objected to this, saying it would not do at all, as he had never been in town before; but as he coaxed and pleaded for her permission, she at last consented, gave him a roll of butter, whereupon he went away.

The boy trudged along, and finally reached a large stone. Supposing this stone to be the town, he addressed it very politely, asking if it cared to buy some butter. Of course the stone made no reply. "I'll tell you," said the boy, "that my butter is of a good quality. If you wish, you may have a taste of it." Without waiting for permission, he smeared a bit of butter on the stone, and as it was a very warm day, it melted in the heat.

Thinking that the stone or the town ate it with delight, the boy resumed, "I observe that you seem to like it. You may as well buy the whole, and I am willing to wait for the money till tomorrow."

So he smeared the rest of the butter on the stone, and returned home. His mother at once asked him who had bought the butter, and what price he had received for it. "I sold it to the town and gave him credit till tomorrow," answered the boy.

"How so?" pursued his mother. "You sold it to the town, you say? Why, that's nonsense. I would like to know to whom in town you sold it!"

"Well," returned the lad, "I tell you that I sold it to the town, just as you told me to do."

"All right, then," observed his mother; "we got rid of the butter, anyway. It was, of course, foolish to let you have it."

Next day the boy wanted to go and collect the money. His mother declared that it would be of no use: she knew he would secure nothing. But he would not listen to her; he went on his own accord, and arrived at the stone. "I have come," said he, "to collect the money for the butter you bought of me yesterday."

The stone did not utter a single word. Now the boy became angry. "You wretch!" cried he; "yesterday you bought my butter, and today you refuse to pay for it nay, even to answer me. On my word, I will show you that I am not to be trifled with." Thus he took hold of the stone and struggled with it till it tipped over, whereupon he found that it had covered a pot filled with money. Not hesitating for a moment, he picked it up and returned home with it.

When the woman saw her son return with so much money, she was greatly astonished, and proceeded to ask him where and how he had procured it. "I obtained it from the town, mother," answered he. "At first it refused both to pay and even to answer, so I grew angry, turned it over, and took all, its money. I was sure, all the time, that it had enough to pay with; but it was stubborn, and did not wish to pay."

"I don't comprehend your foolish talk," answered his mother. "How could you overthrow the town? Never mind, however; you realized a great deal of money."

Some time passed, and the woman slaughtered her cow. The boy wished to take the meat to town and sell it; so a large piece was put into a basket, with which he started off. This time he really came to town. When he had walked about the streets for a while, he met several dogs that barked at him. "How do you do!" said the boy. "Do you wish to buy some meat?"

The dogs barked again. "Very well," answered our friend; "you may taste it."

The dogs at once began to eat it. "Take all of it, then," said he, throwing the remainder before them; "tomorrow I will come for the money."

Next morning he returned and found the dogs in the street. Having saluted them, he told them that he had come for the money. The dogs barked and barked, but produced no money. "What!" cried he; "do you refuse to pay me? Indeed, I will teach you manners." As one small dog carried a pretty collar, he considered it one of the prominent members of the party, and seizing it, placed it under his arm, saying: "I see that you refuse to pay what you owe me; but I will teach you something else before we part. Depend on that!" Having delivered this speech, he repaired to the king's palace, the dog under his arm.

The king had a daughter who was very beautiful, but always downcast and afflicted. Her father had declared that he who was able to cheer her and make her laugh would be at liberty to marry her and ascend the throne with her when he himself died.

When the boy arrived at the palace one of the sentinels stopped him, forbidding him to pass. "How?" exclaimed the boy. "Am I not permitted to seek my rights by the king, when I am being cheated by villains? What a confounded state of affairs!"

"What is your errand, then?" inquired the sentinel. The boy proceeded to tell him all, whereupon he was allowed to pass on condition of promising to pay the sentinel one-half of what he got for the meat. Soon he was stopped by another guard, who also made him promise to pay one-half of what he got for the meat. At length he reached the king's rooms, and his coming was duly announced. When the king appeared, the boy told him how wrongly he had been treated.

The king merely shrugged his shoulders, and said: "If you have sold the meat to the dogs you must see how you can obtain your money. I cannot help you collect it."

"Well," said the boy to the dog, catching hold of his collar and giving him a thorough shaking, "you are a good specimen, aren't you?"

On this the king's daughter, who had listened to the whole story, was unable to keep herself from laughing. "Now you may secure a good price for your meat," said the king to the lad, "for you are free to marry my daughter."

"No, I don't care for her," answered he.

"You don't!" said the king; "well and good, I will give you a sum of money, for really I would rather that you should not marry her."

"Money I don't care for," declared the boy. "If money cannot satisfy you," inquired the king, "what do you wish?"

"I wish sixty raps of foot whipping for my meat," declared the boy. "You shall have them," answered the king, "although that seems a poor reward."

"Come here," he went on, turning to his men, "and give this boy sixty raps of bastinado."

"No, thank you," said he; "the sentinels must receive them; they forced me to promise each of them one-half of the payment for the meat."

Thus the guardsmen received their dues. "Listen to me!" now said the king. "I am sure that you are not so foolish as you seem. Will you not marry my daughter?"

"Yes, I will," answered the boy; "since the soldiers have received what was due to them, and are entitled to no more."

He was soon married to the princess, and they lived long and happily together. It seems to me that this was well done by such a boy!



The Dog King in Denmark

To avenge the death of his kinsman Harald Whiteleg, whom the Danes had killed, King Athils of Sweden sent them a little dog to be their king, and along with the dog he sent this threat: that whosoever should tell him that dog was dead should lose his life for it. However, one day when the dog King Rakki was seated at table with his silver dish before him and his tongue in the drinking-horn, the lesser hounds that fed on his scraps made such sudden uproar about the floor that he barked two words and spoke a third and then jumped down to chastise them. They felt his teeth once, they felt his teeth twice, but before they would feel his teeth thrice they tore him to pieces, which was the end of Rakki.

The Danes were afraid to tell King Athils what had happened, but in the end Lae the giant from Laeso sent a herdsman of his, Snio by name, to inform the king that Rakki was dead, and to win himself the dog's kingdom.

Snio walked before King Athils, and the king asked him his tidings.

"The bees fly all wildered in Denmark," replied Snio.

Now there was a proverb among the Danes and Swedes that when the queen-bee lies dead the bees fly all wildered and wild.

"Then Rakki is dead!" said the king.

"You said so, not I," countered Snio.

"All the same you shall die," said King Athils, half drawing his sword, "unless you tell me an unlikely truth. But tell me that and you may have the kingdom."

"Then ask me a quick question," invited Snio.

"Where did you sleep last night?"

"Where sheep were eating a wolf."

"How could that be?" asked the king.

"The farmer killed the wolf and gave the sheep wolfbroth for medicine."

King Athils slammed his sword home into its sheath and handed over the dog's kingdom to him.

Notes to Danish folktales



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