One day a man came along the road pushing in front of him a wheelbarrow containing a bushel of rye that he wanted to bring to the mill. He met another man, and they fell to talking.
"Good morning, my friend! Was the mill running?"
"I did not meet her along the road."
"Why!" cried the first, "you are a funny fellow, aren't you?"
"I am no fellow, for I am a married man, and so I was for the last twenty years."
"Grood enough for you!"
"No, it was not so very good."
"My wife was too old."
"Too bad, wasn't it?"
"No, it might have been much worse."
"She had a house and a heap of money."
"Pretty good for you, then!"
"No, it might have been better, for there was too much small coin in the heap."
"Bad enough for you!"
"No, it might have been worse, for we had enough to buy four good-sized pigs."
"Good for you!"
"No, it was bad enough, for when my wife melted off the lard, she set the house afire."
"That was pretty bad!"
"It might have been worse, for I built a new one."
"That was good!"
"Not for me. When my wife went into the new house to see what it looked like, she fell down the stairs and broke her neck."
"Too bad! Too bad!"
"I don't say so, for I married again. My second wife is young and pretty." "Good for you, then!"
"No, no. It might have been better, for she scolds and kicks me with a broomstick all the day long."
"That is too bad!"
"Yes, that is bad enough. Good-morning!"
Once there lived a peasant on the Alhede in Jutland. When winter came, he and his wife suffered much; they were starving, and knew not what to do to support themselves. At length they determined to leave house and home and beg. Each took a different road, and the woman, laying her child in a basket, carried it on her back.
The man wandered the first few days from one town to another, and at length came to a great wood, where there was a troll's house, at the door of which he knocked. The troll came out and asked what he wanted. The man told him how hard it went with him, and begged the troll to help him, if with ever so little.
"Yes, that I can do," said the troll; "you see here, for instance, a purse, which has the property, that every time you shake it you will find money. If you will give me your son the day he is fourteen years old, this purse shall be yours: but this you must know, that if you deceive me, you will have to come in his place."
The peasant at once complied with the conditions, received the purse, and went his way. In the meantime, the woman met with another incident. One afternoon she met on the heath with a little man crying and making doleful lamentations.
"Why are you so sorrowful?" asked the woman, when they had walked some way by the side of each other.
"Oh!" answered he, "my wife lies sick, and our child I fear will die; for I can get no nurse for it."
"I will help you," said the woman; "lead me to your house." They walked on together, and when they came to a large mound, they crept into it; from where the woman saw at once that they were mount-folk she had to do with. However, she cared little for that, but nursed the sick woman and her child, and scoured and cleaned the place, so that it was quite a pleasure to see. Before long the sick woman recovered, and the child began to thrive under the nurse's care.
The little man of the mount rejoiced to see this change, and one day he asked the peasant woman what she desired in return for her services.
"Nothing," answered the woman, "for if I have been of any help to you, you have also fed me and my son during the time we have been here; but as your wife is now well again, I should like to return home and see how things go on there."
"Yet, I must give you something," said the man of the mount," and we can, I dare say, find some trifle in the cupboard, which can be of help either to you or your son." On this he took a little packet out of a press in the wall, and gave it to the woman.
"See, here is a bear's hair, a fish's scale, and a bird's feather. Take good care of them; for they have the property that when you squeeze one in your hand, then will appear before you the king of whichever of those animals you wish, and will give you all the help he can."
As for her son, the man of the mount foretold that he would find favour with God and man, and would wed a king's daughter. Having said this he led the woman out of the mount.
Taking, then, her little son by the hand, she wandered towards home, where she found everything changed. Her husband, by the help of the troll's purse, had become so rich that he had built a fine house and lived in luxury and splendour. The report of the man of the mount's prediction was soon spread through the country, and many persons came from a distance to see a poor peasant boy who was destined to be the husband of a princess.
At length the report reached the palace; and as the king one day came from Viborg Ting, he rode to the peasant's house and talked with him about taking the boy into his service. At this the parents, and particularly the mother, were delighted, thinking that the prophecy was already about to be fulfilled. They therefore at once gave their consent, and the king took the child.
But could these parents only have looked into his heart, they would have found they had but little reason to rejoice; for as soon as the king reached the river Skoldborg, he put the boy into a chest, threw him into the water, and rode away.
But Providence had ordained it otherwise than that he should come to such an untimely end in the water. The chest floated down to a mill, and when the miller's man went the next morning to open the sluices, he saw the chest floating on the water, dragged it up, and, on opening it, was much surprised to find a little boy in it. He called his master, who, as he had no children and was well to do in the world, resolved on taking care of Svend, as the boy was called, and bring him up as his own son.
About the same time the king's daughter disappeared, and no one could discover what had become of her. The king was sorely afflicted for her loss, regarding it as a punishment for his cruel lead to Svend.
In the meantime the boy grew up, promised well, and advanced in courtesy and good manners. When he had attained the age of manhood, he asked the miller to let him go out in the world and seek his parents. The miller gave him much good advice and a purse well stocked to take with him, and Svend set out on his travels.
One evening, as he was passing across a heath, he met with an old woman who was crying and lamenting. When he asked why she grieved, she answered that the trolls had carried off her husband. While she was relating her misfortunes, Svend found that chance had brought him to the place where he most desired to be, and that he stood before his mother. He made himself known, and went home with her, and then the two of them agreed that next day Svend should continue his travels to see if he could not come on some traces of his father, and rescue him.
When his mother took leave of him, she gave him the presents from the man of the mount, and explained to him how he was to act when he needed the help of the animals. Svend then committed himself to God's care, and departed.
At noon he came to a thick wood where he resolved to eat his dinner. While he sat enjoying his meal, there came a swarm of ants and collected all the crumbs that had fallen, and carried them away. Svend crumbled a morsel of his bread for the little creatures, so that each might have a portion. No sooner had he done so, than it seemed to him as if a soft voice rose out of the ant-hill, saying: "You shall not have done this for nothing; a time will come when we can requite you."
Svend now went on his journey, and when he entered further into the wood, he met with an old woman who was staggering under a heavy load of sticks that she had gathered.
"I think it will be best for me to give you a helping hand, mother!" said Svend; "if you are willing, you may place your wood on my back, for I have younger shoulders than you."
"Such an offer deserves thanks," answered the old woman, quite pleased. "I am now more than eighty years old, and no one ever yet made me such an offer."
While Svend carried the old woman's wood, they conversed together, and Svend confided to her the motive of his journey.
"Didn't I think right?" she said. ""There is not a twig in the wood, be it ever so little, that will not do to burn; now you have done me a service and I will repay you. I serve a troll, who can give you information of what you wish to know; provided I can get you well and safely into his house. During the day he changes himself into an owl, and sits over the door to take care that no stranger enters his dwelling and robs him of the precious treasure he has hoarded there; but I think we shall find a way. You had better wait here and let me take the wood on my back. I will soon return and see to smuggle you in."
Svend did as she desired him, and when night came on, the old woman returned to him, tied him fast under the belly of the troll's cow, and in this manner got him safely past the owl, that sat looking out over the door. When Svend had taken some supper, he crept under the bed, and soon after the troll came into the room.
"Oh!" cried he, "I smell Christian blood. Have you dared to bring anyone in here to me?"
"Oh! no," answered the woman boldly. "It was only a crow that let fall a little bone as he flew over our house at noon." The troll now sat down to his supper, and then went to bed. In the night the woman gave a loud scream, and when the troll woke and asked her what the matter was, she said, "I have had such an unpleasant dream about a troll that took a poor man instead of his son."
"Well, that has happened over at my brother's," answered the troll; "but now let me be quiet."
A little while after this the woman gave another scream, and begged the troll to tell her where his brother lived.
"He lives," said the troll, "on an island at the other end of the forest. In the daytime he transforms himself into a dragon, and his twelve sons fly about as crows; but every night they become men again. Leave me now in peace; if you wake me again, it will be the worse for you."
Svend listened to every word the troll said, and remained quite quiet under the bed until it was daylight.
When the troll had gone out, the old woman gave him something to eat, and then conveyed him out as she had brought him into the house. When they parted, she advised him, before he encountered the dragon, to get a sword made by her brother, who was a smith and understood a little of the black art. So Svend went to the smith's. The smith made a sword for Svend; but when he learned against whom it was to be used, he doubted whether his art was enough, and advised Svend not to engage with the dragon. But his words helped nothing; Svend was bent on the adventure, and he bade the smith farewell, after paying him for his work.
He now wandered about for a long time without being able to find an outlet in the forest. His provisions were all gone, and he knew not what to do, when he suddenly recollected the presents his mother had given him when they parted. He then drew forth the eagle's feather, and no sooner had he pressed it in his hand than an enormously large bird came clattering through the air, and descended at his feet, asking what his commands were. When Svend had somewhat recovered from his fright, he informed the eagle of his undertaking, and asked him if he could convey him over to the dragon's island.
"That, I fear, will be a difficult task," said the eagle," but we can make the attempt; so spring up on my back and hold fast." The eagle now soared up in the air with Svend, and in a short tune began to descend on a small island. But the terrific dragon instantly approached; and every time the eagle would alight on the island, he hissed, and spat a long stream of fire at them.
"I see that we shall not succeed," said the bird as he flew back; "but if you will take my advice, try what the fishes can do for you."
Svend then went down to the sea, and drew forth the scale, which he had no sooner pressed than a merman appeared, and asked what he could do to serve him.
When the merman had heard Svend's wish, he bound up his mouth and ears, and then plunged under the water with him. In this manner they fortunately reached the island, but no sooner had Svend set his foot on shore, than the dragon came creeping towards him, and it would have fared ill with him, had not all the little birds at the same moment perched on him, and thus hidden him from head to foot while the dragon crept past.
A dragon is a formidable animal to look on; it has three crowned heads, and some maintain there are dragons that have six heads. The tail is long and covered with scales, and at the same time so powerful, that a dragon once overthrew the tower of Kandbol church with his tail; a dragon can also spit fire out of his mouth. Such a creature as this was Svend going to encounter; and although he saw his own destruction almost certain, he did not lose courage, but only resolved to defer the combat till the following day, when he would be rested after a night's sleep. He therefore laid himself down to rest under some elder-trees, making himself a couch of leaves and moss.
Just as he was going to sleep, twelve crows came flying and perched in the elder-trees over Svend's head. They began to talk together, and the one told the other what had happened, to him that day. When they were about to fly away, one crow said, "I am so hungry, so hungry! Where shall I get something to eat?"
"We shall have food enough tomorrow, when father has killed Svend," answered the crow's brother.
"Do you then think that such a miserable fellow dares to fight with our father?" said another.
"Yes, it is probable enough that he will; but it will not profit him much, as our father cannot be overcome but with the man of the mount's sword, and that hangs in the mound, within seven locked doors, before each of which are two fierce dogs that never sleep."
Svend here learned that he should only be sacrificing his strength and life in attempting a combat with the dragon, before he had made himself master of the man of the mount's sword. As soon therefore as it began to dawn, he hastened clown to the sea, and called on the merman. He appeared at once, and Svend begged him to take him across to the wood again.
When he got into a thick part of the forest, he drew forth the bear's hair, and at once the king of the beasts came running towards him, asking his commands. When Svend said that he wanted to know where the man of the mount was, the bear instantly called all the four-footed animals altogether, and inquired of them one by one as they came, but not one knew the place. At last the hare came running; the bear chided her because she had been so long absent; but the hare excused herself by saying that she had been watching the oddest sight anybody could imagine.
"And what might that be?" asked the bear.
The hare related that while she was skipping and playing outside the cave where the man of the mount lives, an old witch came out who had made herself a fingerstall, which had the property of making her invisible every time she put it on.
"That must indeed be a strange kind of fingerstall," said the bear; "do you know what, Svend, this may be of some service to you, and we will try to get possession of it.
The bear forthwith sent a little mouse to get it, and let the hare go also to be its guide. Soon after the mouse returned with the fingerstall, and the bear gave it to Svend saying: "Now seat yourself on my back, and in a trice you shall be at the cave of the man of the mount. You are now in possession of a thing which can enable you to pass securely in and out of the mount." The hare was now obliged again to go and show the way.
Svend, mounted on the bear's back, soon reached the hill.
"Thus far have I helped you," said the bear, "the rest you must manage yourself. Take good care of the fingerstall, and wait out here till the watchmen come to open the door, and then you will have an opportunity of slipping in without being perceived."
When the bear had thus spoken, he ran back to the forest, and soon after Svend saw the guards, who every evening went through all the rooms in the troll's mount to see that everything was in order by the time their master came home. The moment they opened the door Svend ran in and also passed safely by the fierce dogs. The troll's palace was furnished in the richest manner, with ebony and ivory, and covered with ornaments of pure gold. But the room in which the enchanted sword hung was the most costly of them all. This sword was so heavy that Svend could not lift it from the wall. After making many fruitless attempts, he was just going to turn back without accomplishing his object, when his eyes fell on a little flask that hung under the sword, and on which was written, "Seven men's strength."
Svend emptied the flask, and now he could almost lift the sword; he then drank from another flask, on which was written, "Twenty men's strength; "then he emptied a third flask, on which stood, "Thirty men's strength." When he had so done he could swing the sword as easily as a straw.
He then stole quietly away; but as he was going out of the door he accidentally made a rattling with the sword, and instantly a whole swarm of trolls came about him screaming and howling; but owing to his having on the fingerstall, they could not see him, and he fortunately got out of the mount unscathed.
"Well! How did it go?" asked the bear that had waited for him a little way in the wood. Svend told him what had passed, then mounted on the bear's back, and away they went over hill and dale till they came down to the water which ran between the forest and the dragon's island. Here Svend called the merman, who bound up his mouth and ears as before, and then conveyed him over to the island. The monster came at once towards him, but Svend was prepared for the combat. He had not only become much stronger from emptying the three small flasks in the troll's mount, but his courage was greater than it had ever been.
As the dragon was now sensible that he could effect nothing by threats, he said, "I will grant you your miserable life till tomorrow, and then you shall serve me for breakfast." The monster then crept away to his den. He had said this because he thought to himself that his adversary would be sure to make his escape in the night.
But Svend had determined quite differently. He went into the thicket, made himself a couch of moss and leaves, and lay down to sleep, first putting on the fingerstall. This was a good precaution, for when night came the dragon called together the twelve crows, and held a council with them what was best to be done. They all agreed that they would fly away and pick Svend's eyes out while he slept. Now the fingerstall had, as we have seen, the property of rendering him invisible, so that the crows could not find him, although the sharp scent brought them directly to the place where he lay.
He rose with the sun, and offered up a prayer that he might succeed in delivering his father. He then went forth to fight with the dragon. The monster was already on the spot, lashing the earth with his tail, and appeared so ferocious and grim that it might easily be seen he had resolved on the destruction of Svend. The combat now began with such fury that the earth seemed to thunder under them, and the whole island trembled to its very foundation. Forenoon came, and noon came, yet neither of them had the mastery, but in the afternoon the dragon had to yield. When he saw that he could no longer stand against Svend, he began to beg for his life, and was desirous of coming to terms; but Svend thought of his father and slew the monster.
He then went up to the palace. All the doors stood open, and his father came out to meet him, threw his arms round his son's neck and kissed him. Soon after the old man prepared a good meal, and while they ate Svend related all the wonderful feats he had achieved.
His father answered that he feared there were more adventures in store for him, for as soon as night came on, the dragon's twelve sons would come to avenge his death; "but I will see whether we cannot get rid of them," said the old man. He then went to the spot where the dragon lay, and cut off twelve pieces of his flesh. These he roasted and prepared so well that it was impossible for anyone to imagine this dish so poisonous that whoever ate a mouthful of it must die. When evening came the twelve crows flew into the palace. They did not know of their father's death, and Svend hidden himself from them. They laid aside their feathery garb and called for supper. The old peasant then brought them the dragon's flesh, and they had no sooner eaten a morsel of it than one after another they fell down under the table and died. Svend and his father were now masters over the entire palace, and went to rest for the night.
The next morning they walked all over the palace, and came at length to a cellar in which was a young damsel who cried and lamented bitterly, for she thought that it was the dragon coming to kill her. When Svend comforted her by telling her that he was the slayer of the dragon, she rejoiced and informed him that she had been carried away from her parents, and that she was a princess.
Scarcely had Svend heard these words when he remembered the prophecy of the mount- folk, from when he lived in their mound with his mother. He therefore resolved to take the princess home to the king.
So one afternoon he took leave of his father, who wished him a happy journey, and he left the dragon's island with the princess while the old peasant returned to his own house and lived nobly and happily there. To travel from the island to Denmark was, however, much sooner said than done, and the truth of this saying Svend soon experienced. When they had wandered about for some days, they lost their way, and could find neither road nor path, and as they had not taken with them any great stock of provisions, they had to live on such wild fruits and berries as they found in the wood. The princess was very sorrowful, but Svend comforted her as well as he could. He was of good courage himself, thinking that as Providence had assisted him so often and so long, it would not now leave him to perish.
In the evening of the fourth day they saw a light at a great distance glimmering through the trees. They went towards it and came to a little cottage, at the door of which stood an old woman looking out.
"Now you must he guided by me," said Svend to the princess," and say yes to all I relate, then I no doubt shall procure you a night's lodging and a good sum of money into the bargain." The princess promised that she would do as he desired her.
Svend then wished the old woman a good evening, and asked her whether they could have anything to eat, and shelter for the night.
"My accommodations are but scanty," answered the woman," and my stock of provisions still more so; but nevertheless come in, it is not the first time I have housed people, and no one has ever made a complaint."
They entered the cottage, and the old woman placed victuals before them.
"Where do you come from so late?" said she while they were eating.
"I will tell you," said Svend," if you will promise not to betray us. I and my sister belonged to a band of robbers which in the last few days has been destroyed by the kings men, so that our whole company is exterminated with the exception of us two; and now I am in search of new comrades."
"Of what use are girls in your den of thieves?" asked the woman, incredulously.
"To dress our meals," answered Svend; "and my sister understands the art of cooking as well as anyone."
"Then that happens luckily enough," said the woman, "for I have twelve sons who are also robbers, and if you are inclined you can stay with them. But since as you say your sister is such a good cook, let her go into the kitchen and make a savoury dish for our people by the time they come home in the evening."
"Yes, that shall soon be done," answered the princess, on Svend making a sign to her; and although she had no extraordinary knowledge of culinary matters, she nevertheless boiled and roasted what the old woman had set out. In the meantime Svend whispered to her to make the evening-drink as strong as possible.
When everything was ready, the robbers came home. They sat down at once to table, and all agreed that the supper that evening was much better than they used to have it. When they had had a hearty meal, they began to drink until the night was far spent. Svend was admitted into the fraternity, but he nevertheless saw plainly that they harboured treacherous designs against both him and the princess; he was therefore careful not to drink with the robbers, but excused himself by saying that he was tired and sleepy after his perilous flight.
The woman then showed the strangers a sleeping chamber and went back to her sons. But hardly was she gone before Svend crept softly down after her, and heard how the old crone agreed with the robbers to murder both him and the princess. In the meantime the strong drink began to take effect, so that one after another they fell down under the table in a deep sleep. When Svend saw that they were all dead drunk he drew his sword, sprang into the room where they lay, and killed every one of them, together with the old woman. He then went upstairs and lay down outside the door of the princess's sleeping chamber.
The next morning they continued their journey, after having furnished themselves with provisions from the thieves' kitchen. The following afternoon they came to the inhabited part of the country and saw a large mansion, which they entered, and asked a lodging for the night. They were now in the territory where her father was king. The knight that the mansion belonged to, was called Peter. He received them in the most courteous manner, especially when he heard that it was his princess he should entertain. A great banquet was prepared at once, and all the chief persons of the neighbourhood came to the mansion, because the king had promised that whoever should bring back his daughter should be richly rewarded and invested with the highest offices.
When they were all gathered at table, Svend told of his adventures, greatly to the gratification of the guests. Before their departure next morning, the knight led Svend over the mansion and showed him all its splendour. At length they came to a den of lions. While Svend stood viewing these fierce animals, Peter seized him round the waist, cast him down into the den, and fastened the door on him. When he had done this atrocious deed he went to the princess, and told her the infamous falsehood that Svend, weary of accompanying her any longer, had asked him to lead her to the king.
The princess at once doubted the truth of this story, partly because she already entertained a strong partiality for Svend, for every day as they travelled together she became more and more attached to him, partly because he had at all times shown her so much devotion.
But as she had no alternative, she had to continue her journey with the knight Peter. At the end of a few days they arrived at the king's palace. There was rejoicing over the whole land when it was known that the princess was restored; and the king was so delighted at having recovered his daughter that he promised her hand to the knight.
Thus Peter rose to great consideration, in consequence of his base lead to Svend. The noblest among the courtiers considered it an honour to associate with him, and the king overloaded him every day with new proofs of favour.
Now let us see how things in the meantime went with Svend. No sooner had he been thrown into the lions' den than the hungry animals rushed forward to tear him in pieces, and the history would have been ended, had not late events rendered our hero so familiar with danger that he stood prepared as soon as a new one presented itself. At the moment he fell into the den he pressed the bear's hair in his hand, and then it should have been seen how friendly the wild animals became all at once, wagging their tails, licking his hands and feet, and were in all respects devoted to him. He shared in their food, and thereby sustained his life for some months. Nevertheless, the time at length grew tedious, and as he longed to know what was passing in the upper world he one day summoned the king of the birds, and asked him how things were going on above. The eagle informed him that the princess had returned to her home, and that the king had resolved on giving her in marriage to the knight Peter, and that on the following day there was to be a great tournament at the palace. Svend thereupon resolved in his mind to be at that entertainment, so taking a friendly farewell of the beasts, he caused the eagle to convey him out of the den. He then entered the palace, and chose a suit of armour, and the king of the beasts gave him a horse, and he rode to the tournament.
The journey from the lions' den to the royal city occupied an ordinary traveller more than four days, but Svend was a good rider and his horse could not grow weary; it galloped away as if it flew; and thus Svend reached the palace just as the tournament was about to end. The knight Peter had vanquished all his opponents, and was already declared the victor when Svend rode into the place. He had hidden his face by drawing down his visor, and refused to give his name when asked by Peter.
The two now engaged together, and although the contest was only in sport, it could be seen that Svend was in earnest, and that he strove to fell his antagonist. The knight was sorely perplexed, being chased from one side of the place to the other. But what took place? Just as he was in the greatest danger, he suddenly remembered the fingerstall that he had taken from Svend the morning when he cast him into the lions' den, and which he had always carried about with him since then. This he drew on in an instant, and at once became invisible. Svend could now no longer defend himself against him, and was wounded. Peter then hid the fingerstall, and drove Svend close up to the throne, that the king might see how bravely he fought. Thus, by the help of the fingerstall Svend was overpowered and had to surrender unconditionally.
The knight Peter called his attendants, and ordered them to carry the wounded man into the tent, where he was undressed and his wounds were bound up. Hardly was this done when there came a messenger from the king, to order the stranger to be led to the palace.
When he stood in the king's presence, he threw himself at the foot of the throne and said, "Most gracious king! You see before you an unhappy youth that the treachery and wickedness of one of your courtiers has deprived of his most precious treasure, honour, and nearly of life also, had it not pleased the Almighty to save me."
Then Svend told of his exploits, and accused the knight Peter as guilty of intending his death in order to hinder him from bringing back the princess. The king could not believe what he heard, and sent for his daughter, so that she might say whether she knew Svend.
But since Svend had last seen the princess, he had become pale and emaciated, partly as a result of being confined in the lions' den, and partly through the pain of his wounds. The princess therefore did not recognise him. Svend was declared a slanderer and driven out of the palace. But this was not the worst; for when Peter's servants had bound up his wounds, they took off his bloody clothes and gave him others in their place. In this manner he had been deprived of his sword, his feather, his hair, and his fish-scale, so that he was more helpless than he had ever been before.
Svend now wandered for many days, hardly knowing what course to take. Little had he to live on, and when that was eaten, he was forced to beg his way until he reached home. There he found his father enjoying wealth; because he was still in possession of the troll's purse, which afforded him money as often as he desired it. The peasant received his son with open arms, and when Svend had related all his adventures, the old man sought to persuade him to remain quietly at home, and think no more of the princess. But Svend would not accede to this; for he was not only strongly attached to the king's daughter, but also relied on the man of the mount's prediction to his mother.
They then took counsel together, and agreed that they would shake the purse till it had yielded money enough to last the old man's lifetime, and that Svend should take it, and again set out in search of fresh exploits, and see what fortune had yet in store for him.
No sooner said than done; so when Svend had remained at home a whole month, and had recovered somewhat of his health and strength, he bade his father farewell, and departed with the troll's purse. Just as he stood ready to begin his journey, the old man said, "Wait a little, my son, I have got a small present for you, which may, perhaps, prove of use. When I came back from the dragon's island, I found in my pocket an apple-pip, which I set in our garden. It has shot up rapidly, and this year, for the first time, has borne three apples. Take them with you and take good care of them."
The old man then gave him the apples, two of which were large and red, the third, on the contrary, was small and green.
"You may on no account eat the apples yourself," said his father," and take special care of the least, for although it looks the worst, it is far better than the other two, and can cure any injury caused by the others.' After having thus spoken, the old man bade him farewell, and gave him his blessing.
Svend now set out a second time on his wanderings, and, on reaching the next town, went to an inn, and remained there for some days, while he ordered new clothes, bought horses, and found a carriage so splendid and costly that the king himself hardly had the like. He also shook the purse so often that at last he got a large sack full of money, and then went on his journey till he arrived at the town where the palace stood. There the princess lived. He took up his quarters in the best inn, lived sumptuously, and drove out every day at the same hour as the princess.
It could not be very long before the news of the arrival of so rich a man reached the palace, and the king sent for him. Svend behaved so courteously both in words and manners that he soon won the heart of every one. Money he scattered on all sides, and sent the most precious gifts to the king and princess, until at length he became almost a daily guest at the palace.
One day he drove with them down to the seaside, and the discourse turned on the beautiful view there, on which occasion, the princess remarked, that she would not exchange that spot for any place in the world, if there were only a wood there, that could screen them from the midday sun. When Svend heard this, he sent for all the gardeners in the place, and gave them large sums of money to plant by the next day the princess's favourite spot with trees. When all was done, he went up to the palace and invited the king and his daughter to ride out with him. The joy of the princess can well be imagined, when she saw that the wish she had expressed the day before, and which she considered impossible to carry out that fast, had been accomplished.
By such attentions Svend gained favour daily in the eyes of the princess, and there was no one who recognised him, or believed that the wealthy stranger could be the same person whom the king had called an impostor and caused to be driven from the palace.
The knight Peter alone seemed to have some misgivings. The princess had constantly, on some pretence or other, deferred her marriage; and since Svend's arrival, she appeared more indisposed than ever to marry him.
"There is certainly some mystery in all this," said he to himself; "either this stranger is Svend or else a troll; but I can soon find out, if I put on my fingerstall." When he had put it on, he went up in the evening to the inn where Svend lodged, but notwithstanding all the exertion he made, he could not get inside the door. He tried many times, but was always held back by some invisible power. This arose from the three magic apples, which were in Svend's trunk, that stood near the door. Peter therefore had to return without being a whit the wiser.
When Svend had passed a year in the city, and increased daily in the king's favour, and, as we can easily imagine, still more so in that of his daughter, he began to drop some words indicating his love for the princess, and the king seemed not indisposed to having so rich a son-in-law; but knew not how he could manage matters on account of the promise he had previously made to the knight Peter; although he saw that the princess had but little regard for him, and was always finding excuses to delay her wedding. The king, being thus undecided which of the rivals to choose, went to consult an old courtier, who being well disposed towards Svend, advised the king to fix the condition, that he who could produce as large a sum as would be equal to the amount of all the treasure of the country, should have the princess.
When Svend heard this he was very glad, and begged to be shown into the room in which the king wished the money to be deposited. When the evening came he went in, and began shaking his purse till he got the sum required. He now knew that the princess belonged to him; but what he did not know and least suspected was, that the knight Peter had stolen into the room, snatched up the purse when Svend had laid it down, and disappeared with it as unobserved as when he entered.
Peter then went into another room, and as he had watched how Svend got the money, he did the like, and continued shaking the purse till he also had got the desired sum. As soon as this was done, he went to the king and told him that Svend was a troll and gained his wealth by witchcraft. To prove the truth of his words he showed the king the stolen purse, which he promised to give him if in return the king would give him his daughter. The king was as delighted as surprised at this discovery, and consulted with the knight how they should get rid of Svend.
When morning came, the king said to Svend: "It is true you have fulfilled your promise and produced the money; but as the knight Peter has, as you see, done the like, I will fix a new condition. In the granary are seven barrels of wheat, and seven barrels of rye, in one heap; these you must separate hy the morning, so that each kind of grain may lie apart. If you can do this, then my daughter shall be yours."
On hearing this, Svend was much troubled, and still more so when he found that he had lost his purse. He sought after it the whole day in vain, and in the evening he was led up into a granary where the grain lay that he was to sort. While sitting there he heard people underneath talking about the princess's wedding, which was to take place the next day, and how busy they all were in preparing for the entertainment. In his sorrows for the misfortunes which constantly attended him, he began to weep and think of destroying himself, as now everything was lost, and he could not live to see his rival victorious.
But Providence always helps the good, and just as Svend was most sorrowful, he thought he heard a little rustling in the heap of grain. The moon was shining in the granary, and by its light he saw that the wheat and the rye were gently separating, each into its own heap. Here were all the ants, for which he once had crumbled his bread, when he first set out on his wanderings, and which had promised they would return his kindness, when the time should come. They had now all crept up into the granary, and each taking a grain on its back, went from heap to heap. Some stood and loaded the others, while others received the grains. And thus they continued working all the night long, till, in the morning, the wheat lay all in one heap, the rye in another. When they had finished their task, the little ant king placed himself on the top of the heap of wheat, and asked Svend, in a small voice if he were content now.
"No," answered Svend, "I am not quite content till I get my fingerstall back, and that is impossible for you to get."
The ants went their way, and Svend, who was very weary with having watched all night to see how the work was going on, fell asleep; but when he awoke again, he found the fingerstall by his side. Now he was really glad; he paced up and down the room, and sang so merrily that it echoed; and when the messenger came from the king, the work was done. While all this was going on. the knight Peter, as soon as he missed the fingerstall in the morning, went to Svend's lodging to seek for it; but there he found nothing, save the three apples, which the old man had given Svend when he left home. The knight took the two ripe and finest looking apples, and as it was just that time of the year when this fruit was a rarity, he sent them up to the palace, as a present to the king and the princess. The small apple, which was green, and in appearance far from tempting, lie left behind.
The king and his daughter ate the apples, and soon after Peter was sent for, to show before the whole assembled court his wonderful feat with the inexhaustible purse. He drew forth the purse, and let it pass from hand to hand among all those present, but what he was not aware of was, that Svend had in the meanwhile made himself invisible, and snatched up the purse, substituting in its stead another that looked exactly like it. Therefore Peter could not extract a single skilling, although he shook and shook the purse with all his might; but all to no purpose; the king hereupon became highly incensed, and thought he was making a fool of him.
But this was not the worst that was to befall the wretched culprit; for while the king and princess were thus sitting among their courtiers, their noses began to grow, and, in a few moments, had attained such a length that nobody who looked at them could refrain from laughing. This was caused by the bewitched apples that Peter had sent, and which they had eaten that morning.
There was now a general alarm and outcry in the palace, and Peter was threatened with the severest punishment, if he did not at once confess all that related to the apples and the purse. He was now obliged to make a full confession of everything. Thus, the king came to know of all his villainy, and how he had acted towards Svend. A messenger was then instantly despatched after Svend, who in the meantime had returned to the granary, where he sat, thinking he would let the king suffer a little, for all the wrongs and troubles he had endured.
When he appeared before the assembly, he confirmed all that Peter had confessed, adding that it was now his intention to return to the place of his birth, and to resign the princess to anyone ou whom the kinf might think proper to bestow her. The unfortnr. tie king wept and begged of him that at least he would be so merciful, before he went away, as to help them to get rid of their long noses. The princess also besought him so piteously, that he could resist no longer He therefore went to fetch the green apple, and, cutting it in two, gave the father and daughter each a part; and hardly had they eaten a morsel before their noses began to resume their proper form. To make an end of the story, Svend was married to the princess, as the troll had foretold, and they lived many years together in happiness and splendour till their deaths.
But the knight Peter was cast into a pen of serpents.
In a village there once lived a smith called Basmus, who was in a very poor way. He was still a young man, and a strong handsome fellow to boot, but he had many little children and there was little to be earned by his trade. He was, however, a diligent and hard-working man, and when he had no work in the smithy he was out at sea fishing, or gathering wreckage on the shore.
It happened one time that he had gone out to fish in good weather, all alone in a little boat, but he did not come home that day, nor the following one, so that all believed he had perished out at sea. On the third day, however, Basmus came to shore again and had his boat full of fish, so big and fat that no one had ever seen their like. There was nothing the matter with him, and he complained neither of hunger or thirst. He had got into a fog, he said, and could not find land again. What he did not tell, however, was where he had been all the time; that only came out six years later, when people got to know that he had been caught by a mermaid out on the deep sea, and had been her guest during the three days that he was missing. From that time forth he went out no more to fish; nor, indeed, did he have to do so, for whenever he went down to the shore it never failed that some wreckage was washed up, and in it all kinds of valuable things. In those days everyone took what they found and got leave to keep it, so that the smith grew more prosperous day by day.
When seven years had passed since the smith went out to sea, it happened one morning, as he stood in the smithy, mending a plough, that a handsome young lad came in to him and said, "Good-day, father; my mother the mermaid sends her greetings, and says that she has had me for six years now, and you can keep me for as long."
He was a strange enough boy to be six years old, for he looked as if he were eighteen, and was even bigger and stronger than lads commonly are at that age.
"Will you have a bite of bread?" said the smith.
"Oh, yes," said Hans, for that was his name.
The smith then told his wife to cut a piece of bread for him. She did so, and the boy swallowed it at one mouthful and went out again to the smithy to his father.
"Have you got all you can eat?" said the smith.
"No," said Hans, "that was just a little bit."
The smith went into the house and took a whole loaf, which he cut into two slices and put butter and cheese between them, and this he gave to Hans. In a while the boy came out to the smithy again.
"Well, have you got as much as you can eat?" said the smith.
"No, not nearly," said Hans; "I must try to find a better place than this, for I can see that I shall never get my fill here."
Hans wished to set off at once, as soon as his father would make a staff for him of such a kind as he wanted.
"It must be of iron," said he, "and one that can hold out."
The smith brought him an iron rod as thick as an ordinary staff, but Hans took it and twisted it round his finger, so that wouldn't do. Then the smith came dragging one as thick as a waggon-pole, but Hans bent it over his knee and broke it like a straw. The smith then had to collect all the iron he had, and Hans held it while his father forged for him a staff, which was heavier than the anvil. When Hans had got this he said, "Many thanks, father; now I have got my inheritance." With this he set off into the country, and the smith was very pleased to be rid of that son, before he ate him out of house and home.
Hans first arrived at a large estate, and it so happened that the squire himself was standing outside the farmyard.
"Where are you going?" said the squire.
"I am looking for a place," said Hans, "where they have need of strong fellows, and can give them plenty to eat."
"Well," said the squire, "I generally have twenty-four men at this time of the year, but I have only twelve just now, so I can easily take you on."
"Very well," said Hans, "I shall easily do twelve men's work, but then I must also have as much to eat as the twelve would."
All this was agreed to, and the squire took Hans into the kitchen, and told the servant girls that the new man was to have as much food as the other twelve. It was arranged that he should have a pot to himself, and he could then use the ladle to take his food with.
It was in the evening that Hans arrived there, so he did nothing more that day than eat his suppera big pot of buck-wheat porridge, which he cleaned to the bottom and was then so far satisfied that he said he could sleep on that, so he went off to bed. He slept both well and long, and all the rest were up and at their work while he was still sleeping soundly. The squire was also on foot, for he was curious to see how the new man would behave who was both to eat and work for twelve.
But as yet there was no Hans to be seen, and the sun was already high in the heavens, so the squire himself went and called on him.
"Get up, Hans," he cried; "you are sleeping too long."
Hans woke up and rubbed his eyes. "Yes, that's true," he said, "I must get up and have my breakfast."
So he rose and dressed himself, and went into the kitchen, where he got his pot of porridge; he swallowed all of this, and then asked what work he was to have.
He was to thresh that day, said the squire; the other twelve men were already busy at it. There were twelve threshing-floors, and the twelve men were at work on six of themtwo on each. Hans must thresh by himself all that was lying on the other six floors. He went out to the barn and got hold of a flail. Then he looked to see how the others did it and did the same, but at hte first stroke he smashed the flail in pieces. There were several flails hanging there, and Hans took the one after the other, but they all went the same way, every one flying in splinters at the first stroke. He then looked round for something else to work with, and found a pair of strong beams lying near. Next he caught sight of a horse-hide nailed up on the barn-door. With the beams he made a flail, using the skin to tie them together. The one beam he used as a handle, and the other to strike with, and now that was all right. But the barn was too low, there was no room to swing the flail, and the floors were too small. Hans, however, found a remedy for thishe simply lifted the whole roof off the barn, and set it down in the field beside. He then emptied down all the corn that he could lay his hands on and threshed away. He went through one lot after another, and it was ll the same to him what he got hold of, so before midday he had threshed all the squire's grain, his rye and wheat and barley and oats, all mixed through each other. When he was finished with this, he lifted the roof up on the barn again, like setting a lid on a box, and went in and told the squire that the job was done.
The squire opened his eyes at this announcement; and came out to see if it was really true. It was true, sure enough, but he was scarcely delighted with the mixed grain that he got from all his crops. However, when he saw the flail that Hans had used, and learned how he had made room for himself to swing it, he was so afraid of the strong fellow, that he dared not say anything, except that it was a good thing he had got it threshed; but it had still to be cleaned.
"What does that mean?" asked Hans.
It was explained to him that the corn and the chaff had to be separated; as yet both were lying in one heap, right up to the roof. Hans began to take up a little and sift it in his hands, but he soon saw that this would never do. He soon thought of a plan, however; he opened both barn-doors, and then lay down at one end and blew, so that all the chaff flew out and lay like a sand-bank at the other end of the barn, and the grain was as clean as it could be. Then he reported to the squire that that job also was done. The squire said that that was well; there was nothing more for him to do that day. Off went Hans to the kitchen, and got as much as he could eat; then he went and took a midday nap which lasted till supper-time.
Meanwhile the squire was quite miserable, and made his moan to his wife, saying that she must help him to find some means to getting rid of this strong fellow, for he durst not give him his leave. She sent for the steward, and it was arranged that next day all the men should go to the forest for fire-wood, and that they should make a bargain among them, that the one who came home last with his load should be hanged. They thought they could easily manage that it would be Hans who would lose his life, for the others would be early on the road, while Hans would certainly oversleep himself. In the evening, therefore, the men sat and talked together, saying that next morning they must set out early to the forest, and as they had a hard day's work and a long journey before them, they would, for their amusement, make a compact, that whichever of them came home last with his load should lose his life on the gallows. So Hans had no objections to make.
Long before the sun was up next morning, all the twelve men were on foot. They took all the best horses and carts, and drove off to the forest. Hans, however, lay and slept on, and the squire said, "Just let him lie."
At last, Hans thought it was time to have his breakfast, so he got up and put on his clothes. He took plenty of time to his breakfast, and then went out to get his horse and cart ready. The others had taken everything that was any good, so that he had a difficulty in scraping together four wheels of different sizes and fixing them to an old cart, and he could find no other horses than a pair of old hacks. He did not know where it lay, but he followed the track of the other carts, and in that way came to it all right. On coming to the gate leading into the forest, he was unfortunate enough to break it in pieces, so he took a huge stone that was lying on the field, seven ells long, and seven ells broad, and set this in the gap, then he went on and joined the others. These laughed at him heartily, for they had laboured as hard as they could since daybreak, and had helped each other to fell trees and put them on the carts, so that all of these were now loaded except one.
Hans got hold of a woodman's axe and proceeded to fell a tree, but he destroyed the edge and broke the shaft at the first blow. He therefore laid down the axe, put his arms round the tree, and pulled it up by the roots. This he threw on his cart, and then another and another, and thus he went on while all the others forgot their work, and stood with open mouths, gazing at this strange woodcraft. All at once they began to hurry; the last cart was loaded, and they whipped up their horses, so as to be the first to arrive home.
When Hans had finished his work, he again put his old hacks into the cart, but they could not move it from the spot. He was annoyed at this, and took them out again, twisted a rope round the cart, and all the trees, lifted the whole affair on his back, and set off home, leading the horses behind him by the rein. When he reached the gate, he found the whole row of carts standing there, unable to get any further for the stone which lay in the gap.
"What!" said Hans, "can twelve men not move that stone?" With that he lifted it and threw it out of hte way, and went on with his burden on his back, and the horses behind him, and arrived at the farm long before any of the others. The squire was walking about there, looking and looking, for he was very curious to know what had happened. Finally, he caught sight of Hans coming along in this fashion, and was so frightened that he did not know what to do, but he shut the gate and put on the bar. When Hans reached the gate of the courtyard, he laid down the trees and hammered at it, but no one came to open it. He then took the trees and tossed them over the barn into the yard, and the cart after them, so that every wheel flew off in a different direction.
When the squire saw this, he thought to himself, "The horses will come the same way if I don't open the door," so he did this.
"Good day, master," said Hans, and put the horses into the stable, and went into the kitchen, to get something to eat. At length the other men came home with their loads. When they came in, Hans said to them, "Do you remember the bargain we made last night? Which of you is it that's going to be hanged?" "Oh," said they, "that was only a joke; it didn't mean anything." "Oh well, it doesn't matter, 'said Hans, and there was no more about it.
The squire, however, and his wife and the steward, had much to say to each other about the terrible man they had got, and all were agreed that they must get rid of him in some way or other. The steward said that he would manage this all right. Next morning they were to clean the well, and they would use of that opportunity. They would get him down into the well, and then have a big mill-stone ready to throw down on top of himthat would settle him. After that they could just fill in the well, and then escape being at any expense for his funeral. Both the squire and his wife thought this a splendid idea, and went about rejoicing at the thought that now they would get rid of Hans.
But Hans was hard to kill, as we shall see. He slept long next morning, as he always did, and finally, as he would not waken by himself, the squire had to go and call him. "Get up, Hans, you are sleeping too long," he cried. Hans woke up and rubbed his eyes. "That's so," said he, "I shall rise and have my breakfast." He got up then and dressed himself, while the breakfast stood waiting for him. When he had finished the whole of this, he asked what he was to do that day. He was told to help the other men to clean out the well. That was all right, and he went out and found the other men waiting for him. To these he said that they could choose whichever task they likedeither to go down into the well and fill the buckets while he pulled them up, or pull them up, and he alone would go down to the bottom of the well. They answered that they would rather stay above-ground, as there would be no room for so many of them down in the well.
Hans therefore went down alone, and began to clean out the well, but the men had arranged how they were to act, and immediately each of them seized a stone from a heap of huge blocks, and threw them down above him, thinking to kill him with these. Hans, however, gave no more heed to this than to shout up to them, to keep the hens away from the well, for they were scraping gravel down on the top of him.
They then saw that they could not kill him with little stones, but they had still the big one left. The whole twelve of them set to work with poles and rollers and rolled the big mill-stone to the brink of the well. It was with the greatest difficulty that they got it thrown down there, and now they had no doubt that he had got all that he wanted. But the stone happened to fall so luckily that his head went right through the hole in the middle of the mill-stone, so that it sat round his neck like a priest's collar. At this, Hans would stay down no longer. He came out of the well, with the mill-stone round his neck, ad went straight to the squire and complained that the other men were trying to make a fool of him. He would not be their priest, he said; he had too little learning for that. Saying this, he bent down his head and shook the stone off, so that it crushed one of the squire's big toes.
The squire went limping in to his wife, and the steward was sent for. He was told that he must devise some plan for getting rid of this terrible person. The scheme he had devised before had been of no use, and now good counsel was scarce.
"Oh, no" said the steward, "there are good enough ways yet. The squire can send him this evening to fish in Devilmoss Lake: he will never escape alive from there, for no one can go there by night for Old Eric."
That was a grand idea, both the squire and his wife thought, and so he limped out again to Hans, and said that he would punish his men for having tried to make a fool of him. Meanwhile, Hans could do a little job where he would be free from these rascals. He should go out on the lake and fish there that night, and would then be free from all work on the following day.
"All right," said Hans; "I am well content with that, but I must have something with me to eata baking of bread, a cask of butter, a barrel of ale, and a keg of brandy. I can't do with less than that."
The squire said that he could easily get all that, so Hans got all of these tied up together, hung them over his shoulder on his good staff, and tramped away to Devilmoss Lake.
There he got into the boat, rowed out on the lake, and got everything ready to fish. As he now lay out there in the middle of the lake, and it was pretty late in the evening, he thought he would have something to eat first, before starting to work. Just as he was at his busiest with this, Old Eric rose out of the lake, caught him by the cuff of the neck, whipped him out of the boat, and dragged him down to the bottom. It was a lucky thing that Hans had his walking-stick with him that day, and had just time to catch hold of it when he felt Old Eric's claws in his neck, so when they got down to the bottom he said, 'stop now, just wait a little; here is solid ground." With that he caught Old Eric by the back of the neck with one hand, and hammered away on his back with the staff, till he beat him out as flat as a pancake. Old Eric then began to lament and howl, begging him just to let him go, and he would never come back to the lake again.
"No, my good fellow," said Hans, "you won't get off until you promise to bring all the fish in the lake up to the squire's courtyard, before tomorrow morning."
Old Eric eagerly promised this, if Hans would only let him go; so Hans rowed ashore, ate up the rest of his provisions, and went home to bed.
Next morning, when the squire rose and opened his front door, the fish came tumbling into the porch, and the whole yard was crammed full of them. He ran in again to his wife, for he could never devise anything himself, and said to her, "What shall we do with him now? Old Eric hasn't taken him. I am certain that all the fish are out of the lake, for the yard is just filled with them."
"Yes, that's a bad business," said she; "you must see if you can't get him sent to Purgatory, to demand tribute." The squire therefore made his way to the men's quarters, to speak to Hans, and it took him all his time to push his way along the walls, under the eaves, on account of the fish that filled the yard. He thanked Hans for having fished so well, and said that now he had an errand for him, which he could only give to a trusty servant, and that was to journey to Purgatory, and demand three years tribute, which, he said, was owing to him from that quarter.
"Willingly," said Hans; "but what road do I go, to get there?"
The squire stood, and did not know what to say, and had first to go in to his wife to ask her.
"Oh, what a fool you are!" said she, "can't you direct him straight forward, south through the wood? Whether he gets there or not, we shall be quit of him."
Out goes the squire again to Hans.
"The way lies straight forward, south through the wood," said he.
Hans then must have his provisions for the journey; two bakings of bread, two casks of butter, two barrels of ale, and two kegs of brandy. He tied all these up together, and got them on his shoulder hanging on his good walking-stick, and off he tramped southward.
After he had got through the wood, there was more than one road, and he was in doubt which of them was the right one, so he sat down and opened up his bundle of provisions. He found he had left his knife at home, but by good chance, there was a plough lying close at hand, so he took the coulter of this to cut the bread with. As he sat there and took his bite, a man came riding past him.
"Where are you from?" said Hans.
"From Purgatory," said the man.
"Then stop and wait a little," said Hans; but the man was in a hurry, and would not stop, so Hans ran after him and caught the horse by the tail. This brought it down on its hind legs, and the man went flying over its head into a ditch. "Just wait a little," said Hans; "I am going the same way." He got his provisions tied up again, and laid them on the horse's back; then he took hold of the reins and said to the man, "We two can go along together on foot."
As they went on their way Hans told the stranger both about the errand he had on hand and the fun he had had with Old Eric. The other said but little but he was well acquainted with the way, and it was no long time before they arrived at the gate. There both horse and rider disappeared, and Hans was left alone outside. "They will come and let me in presently," he thought to himself; but no one came. He hammered at the gate; still no one appeared. Then he got tired of waiting, and smashed at the gate with his staff until he knocked it in pieces and got inside. A whole troop of little demons came down on him and asked what he wanted. His master's compliments, said Hans, and he wanted three years' tribute. At this they howled at him, and were about to lay hold of him and drag him off; but when they had got some raps from his walking-stick they let go again, howled still louder than before, and ran in to Old Eric, who was still in bed, after his adventure in the lake. They told him that a messenger had come from the squire at Devilmoss to demand three years' tribute. He had knocked the gate to pieces and bruised their arms and legs with his iron staff.
"Give him three years'! give him ten!" shouted Old Eric, "only don't let him come near me."
So all the little demons came dragging so much silver and gold that it was something awful. Hans filled his bundle with gold and silver coins, put it on his neck, and tramped back to his master, who was scared beyond all measure at seeing him again.
But Hans was also tired of service now. Of all the gold and silver he brought with him he let the squire keep one half, and he was glad enough, both for the money and at getting rid of Hans. The other half he took home to his father the smith in Furreby. To him also he said, "Farewell;" he was now tired of living on shore among mortal men, and preferred to go home again to his mother. Since that time no one has ever seen Hans, the Mermaid's son.