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  1. The Magic Hat
  2. The Little Girl and the Serpent

The Magic Hat

ONE day a shepherd boy was sitting on a hill. It was the very day that they were celebrating a big feast in the neighbouring village; and when the bells rang at noon as was always the custom in the old days he heard a great tumult and noise inside the hill on which he was sitting, and the same question asked over and over again, "Where is my hat? Where is my hat?"

That seemed strange to him, and suddenly it occurred to him to call out himself, "Have you no hat for me?"

"No," said one voice.

"Yes, we have," said another, "here is father's old hat!"

And an old, worn-out hat popped up out of the hill for the shepherd boy. He at once put it on and saw a vast number of trolls hurrying toward the village, and went home himself, in order to get his dinner. But he could not understand how it happened that all the people whom he met passed close by him or nearly stepped on him; and when he spoke to any one they turned about in surprise, and did not answer him. At last he thought of the hat, and began to suspect that it might be due to the hat that people did not see him.

No more had this passed through his mind, than it occurred to him how pleasant it would be to see what was going on in the house where the feast was being given. So there he went, and was able to walk freely about among the guests and see everything without being seen or noticed by anybody himself. And when the guests sat down to dinner, he could see an enormous number of trolls sitting among them, and helping themselves liberally to all the dishes, so that the people were entirely unable to understand what became of all the food that was brought on the table, and that seemed to disappear beneath their very hands. The shepherd boy hung about where there was something to get, and made a fine meal of everything among the eatables. And when he had not a bit of room left in which to stow away any more, it occurred to him that a good bite to eat would not harm his old mother at home. So he loaded himself with cake, roast, wine and other good things, and carried them home to her.

Of course she was pleased when she saw all the good things; and, like her boy, she thought it would be pleasant to have more good things to eat the following day.

So the boy saw to it that he carried home the best of all he could manage to lay hand on; and wherever he dipped in there was soon a hole in the dish, and whoever gave a feast was soon at the end of his resources. But that never worried our shepherd boy, who attended strictly to his own affairs.

At last, toward evening, the dance was about to begin. The boy, who had just gathered up another good armful of provisions, felt like looking on, and went up with the rest to the upper story. Here he had to squeeze into a corner, as well as he could, and look to it that no one stepped on him. Finally, he stood in front of the others, because he dared not trust himself in the closely pressed crowd. There he stood and looked on, and was enjoying himself hugely; but just as the bride danced past him, her coat was spinning merrily around, and it knocked the hat from his head, and as soon as the hat was off, his invisibility had come to an end. There he stood, loaded down with all sorts of eatables; and when the people had recovered from their astonishment, he had to explain everything in detail. When he had done that, he had to take a good thrashing and resign himself to bringing back all the food he had stolen. So with the exception of the good dinner that he had already put away, he had no further profit for all his pains. As to the hat, it was never seen again.



The Little Girl and the Serpent

There was once a little girl who had to take her father's dinner out to him in the fields, where he was working. And when she had brought him his dinner he told her to go fetch his jacket, which he had laid under a tree. And the little girl went to fetch it. But when she came to the tree, there was a monstrous big serpent lying on the jacket, so she took a stick and made as though to drive him off; but the serpent would not leave the jacket. Then the girl begged the serpent please to go away, so that she might take the jacket to her father.

"Yes," said the serpent, "if you will come back and seat yourself on my back, you may take away the jacket."

The girl agreed, the serpent crawled off the jacket, and the girl brought it to her father. Then she came straight back again, and seated herself on the serpent's back; but no sooner had she done so than the serpent crawled to the woods, and kept crawling further and further into them.

After they had gone a long way, the serpent said "Little girl, stand up on my back and tell me if you see anything."

The girl stood up and said, "I see something shining like bright silver!"

"Yes, that is my mother's castle," said the serpent. "We still have a long way to go."

Then the serpent crawled through the woods for another long stretch, and once more said, "Little girl, stand up on my back and tell me if you see anything."

"Yes," said the girl, "I see something shining like pure gold!"

"Well, that is my father's castle," said the serpent. "We still have a long way to go."

So the serpent crawled on again for a long stretch, and said for the third time: "Little girl, stand up on my back and tell me if you see anything."

"Yes," said the girl, "I see something shining like diamonds!"

"Well, we will be there in a moment," said the serpent. And he crawled on until he came to a handsome castle, and there he laid himself before the door, and said to the girl: "Stand on my back and ring the bell! And when the doorkeeper comes, tell him you want to take service in the castle; then he will receive you kindly."

The girl did as the serpent told her, and when the doorkeeper came and asked her what she wanted, she told him that she wished to take service in the castle. He asked her what she could do, and she said she could sweep the floor, and carry water and help in the kitchen. Then she had better come right along, said he, for they could make good use of her. So he led her into the castle, and showed her to her bedroom, and then she went down to the kitchen and helped with all the work, and everybody took a liking to her because she was so active.

In the evening, when she came to her little room, she heard someone knock at the door, and asked who it might be. "Oh, just myself," replied the serpent. "It is so cold out here that I am freezing. May I come in and lie down in your room?" The girl felt sorry for the serpent, who had to lie outside and freeze, and she let him in. But no sooner was he in the room than he tried to kiss her. She held her apron before her face, but the serpent kissed her for all that, and suddenly he was changed into as handsome a prince as one might wish to see. He thanked her for releasing him from his enchantment, and told her that he was a king's son, and that they were in his own castle. The prince and the maiden now celebrated their wedding with great pomp, then went to see his father and his mother, and after that visited the parents of the little girl, whom they brought back to the castle with them, where they all lived in peace and happiness.

Notes to Danish fairy tales



 The Danish Fairy Book, ed Clara Stroebe, tr. Frederick Herman Martens, Danish folktales, fairy tales of Denmark, To top    Section     Set    Next

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