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  1. The Good Sword
  2. The Patient Woman

The Good Sword

Once on a time there was an old widower who had an only son, who lived with him. The old man was a poacher, and that is how he supported his son and himself. But when he had grown old, he became weaker and weaker, and sadly told his son that soon he would no longer be able to hunt for him, and that ere long he would have to die. His son comforted him, and assured him he would soon recover; but his father said no, ere long he would have to die, and he had nothing to leave him. What they had would just about do for his own funeral. Yet he had one possession that might prove to be a blessing to his son. It was only a sword, and badly rusted at that, but it would conquer any one against whom it was raised.

Before long the father died, and his son had to sell what he left in order to bury him. All that he kept of his inheritance was the rusty sword. Now he had to find work to do, and this was not easy, since he had never learned a trade, and at the best could only herd sheep. So he went to the village, and had to content himself with hiring out as a shepherd. His master sent him out with the sheep, and warned him to keep away from three meadows, which belonged to three mountain trolls. They lived on a hill known as "Troll's Mount," and if one of his sheep were to stray to their meadow, the mountain troll would come, and not only carry off the sheep, but their shepherd as well. As to his carrying off the shepherd, his master only said that to frighten the young fellow, because it was not true.

The new shepherd promised to take good care of the sheep, and so he did; for he lost not a single one, and his master was well content with him. Once he happened to think of his sword, and that it might be of use to help him should he have trouble with the mountain troll. And he determined to try it on him some time.

So one day he let his sheep stray into the first of the forbidden meadows, and at once the mountain troll, raging and roaring, rushed up to him, and asked who had allowed him to pasture his sheep in that meadow.

"I allowed myself to do it," said the young fellow, and when the mountain troll threatened to carry him off together with his sheep, he attacked him and struck him dead with his sword.

Now the first meadow belonged to him; but not long after the sheep felt like visiting the second meadow, and the young fellow let them go. Thereupon the second mountain troll rushed up to him in a towering rage, and the young fellow slew him, too. It was the same with regard to the third meadow, and the lad came home with his sheep, singing.

Now he had a fancy to see "Troll's Mount," and there he found three steeds, a red, a white and a yellow one, and three dogs, also red, white and yellow in colour. And for each steed there was a saddle, and a full suit of armour as well, and they, too, were red, white and yellow in colour. Besides, there was fodder for the horses, and food for the dogs, and gold and silver in abundance. The shepherd lad was naturally much pleased with all the splendour that had come into his possession, and went home singing. Then his master had him told by the farmhand that although he was extraordinarily well satisfied with him, he wished he would stop singing. The young fellow could not see what harm his singing did. And at first the farm-hand did not want to tell him the true reason, and said he ought to be willing to stop because his master wished it. But at last the young fellow induced the farm-hand to tell him why he was not to sing, though he forbade him to tell anyone else.

It seems that great sorrow reigned throughout the land, because the king had been compelled to betroth his three daughters to three trolls. Soon the trolls were to come to fetch them, and the king had promised a third of the kingdom to any man who could deliver one of them, and the hand of the princess he delivered as well. "It is for that reason you must not sing here in town, although out in the fields it makes no difference," said the farm-hand.

The young fellow could not help thinking about the story of the poor princesses, and it occurred to him that perhaps he might be able to save them. He could leave his sheep to their own devices with a clear conscience, since now he had nothing to fear from the mountain trolls, and he went to town to find out what was being said about the calamity that was due. There he learned on which day the oldest princess would be led out to the troll, and putting on his red armour, he mounted his red steed, and with the red dog rode out to the place where the troll was to receive the princess. She came driving up in a coach, and the coachman climbed a tree in his fear of the troll. And at the very moment the red knight came riding up, a three-headed troll rose out of the sea. The knight rode up to him, hewed off all three of his heads with his rusty sword, cut out their tongues, and rode off again.

Then the coachman climbed down from his tree, and threatened to kill the princess unless she promised to say that he had delivered her. She had to promise, he gathered up the heads, and they drove home.

Eight days later the second princess was driven out, and all happened as before. The coachman sought safety in a tree, and a yellow knight came riding up on a yellow horse followed by a yellow dog. Then out of the sea rose a monster with six heads. The knight cut off the heads, tore out the tongues, and rode off again. This coachman also threatened this princess, and demanded she say he had delivered her.

Eight days later the youngest princess was driven out to be handed over to her troll, and again all happened as before. The coachman climbed a tree, and a white knight appeared on a white horse, followed by a white dog. The troll rose out of the sea and he had nine heads: but the knight hewed them all off, and tore out their tongues. When the princess saw that he had delivered her she took off her chain of gold and tried to throw it around his neck; but it fell on his head. He had curly hair, and feeling something on his head, he gathered it up and wound it in his hair, and put his helmet over it so that no one could see it. Then he rode away. This coachman acted just as the others had. and compelled the princess to say that he had delivered her.

The greatest joy now reigned in the castle, and all three princesses were to be married on the same day. The young fellow by now had had his fill of sheep-herding, and took leave of his master, who did not like to let him go, since he had never done so well with this sheep as when the young fellow had had them in charge. But there was nothing he could do; his shepherd wanted to go, and so they settled their accounts and off he went.

He went to another village near-by, and took a room in the inn, where he heard much talk about the splendour with which the coming triple wedding was to be celebrated. The host of the tavern mentioned how pleasant it would be to have a chance to taste a bit of the fine wheat bread that was baked in the castle.

"Well," said the young fellow, "that's not at all impossible. My dog can get it," and he sent his red dog to get some wheat bread. The dog ran to the castle and scratched at one door after another. The people opened their doors for him, and in this way he reached the room where the wheat bread lay. He seized a loaf of bread, and the king said that they were to let him keep it, so he came safely home with it. Then the tavern-keeper talked about how pleasant it would be to sample the roast that came from the kitchens of the castle. The young fellow sent his yellow dog to fetch some of the roast, and the dog ran to the castle, sniffed about for the kitchen, seized the whole roast and ran off with it, and the king gave order to let him go. Now when the tavern-keeper saw the roast, he wished to have wine as well, and the young fellow sent his white dog to fetch it. And he actually found the wine cellar, took a bottle of wine, and ran into the room where all the princesses and their husbands-to-be were seated.

When the youngest princess saw the white dog she clapped her hands, and said that his master had delivered her. Her betrothed grew angry, and said that hereto she had always declared that he had delivered her, and what did she mean by saying what she did? But she insisted that the white dog's master had delivered her. So the king sent out men to follow the dog, in order to discover his master and bring him to the castle. The dog ran as fast as ever he could, so that the men could scarcely follow him. Yet they reached the tavern, puffing and groaning, and told the young fellow that he was to come to the castle. When he got there he asked whether his dog had misbehaved in the castle in any way that called for punishment, He himself knew of nothing he could have done.

"Yes," said the king, "he has stolen a bottle of wine. Not that that matters; but you must come into the great hall."

The young fellow excused himself, and said that he was not used to meeting such fine people. But he could not help himself, for the king insisted that he enter. So he went into the great hall, and no sooner had the youngest princess seen him than she declared that he was her deliverer. When her betrothed grew angry, and the others would not believe it, she asked him whether he did not have her chain of gold. So he drew it from his curls, and all saw that it was the princess's own. But her betrothed spoke of the nine heads which he had. On this the young fellow produced the nine tongues for the nine heads, and all recognized that he had delivered the three princesses. The three deceivers were beheaded, and the true deliverer received the youngest princess and the third part of the kingdom at once, and after her father's death the remainder of it.



The Patient Woman

Once on a time there was a king that was greatly loved by his people. For many years they had been much worried because he would not decide to marry, and that as a result he had no heir to his throne. His subjects often asked him to take a queen, so that the kingdom might remain in the hands of his family. At last he said that he would take a wife; but he must be given a free choice, and they must promise and swear that they would honour his wife as queen, whether he chose a girl of the people, or one of the high nobility. And all of them swore that they would honour and love her, though her birth be never so humble.

The king had a gatekeeper, and he an only daughter. Her mother was dead, and she lived with her father, kept house for him and was the joy and comfort of his life. One day the gatekeeper was told that the king was about to ride out and might, perhaps, pay him a visit, so that he had better be prepared and put his best foot foremost. When the daughter heard this she asked her father whether she might not go out and look at the royal coach; she could be fetching a pail of water, and that would serve as an excuse.

When the king arrived, he had the coach stopped outside just as she was coming along with her pail of water, and he went in to the old gatekeeper, and told him that he wished to marry his daughter. The gatekeeper refused to have anything to do with it. He said it was the worst thing that the king could wish; for he would not be happy in such a marriage, and neither would his daughter, and he earnestly begged him to change his mind. But this the king would not do. He had brought along rich clothes for the young girl, which she had to put on; she was bathed with the water she had fetched in her pail, was adorned with jewels, and driven back to the palace with the king.

When they reached the palace, the king told her she should be his lawful wife; but that she must promise him that she would never cry, and would never show temper, no matter what unpleasantness might be her portion; and this she promised.

They were married and at the end of a year the queen was blessed with a son. When her subjects heard the news their happiness exceeded all bounds, and they streamed to the palace to show their joy with cries and cheers. But the king came to his queen and said to her, "I have something to tell you. The people are enraged and object to your little son's inheriting the kingdom, because he is of "Such humble birth; they insist that he be killed."

The queen replied, "Now you see what my father said, and what I said was true; yet we cannot alter it now." On this a servant came in and demanded the child of her. She was alone, and she only begged him to kill the infant as quickly as possible; yet she showed no sign of sorrow, for she had promised never to show any but a cheerful face.

In the following year she was blessed with a little daughter, and hoped that she might be allowed to keep her. Her subjects were just as pleased at the arrival of the princess as they had been at that of the prince. But the king went in and said that the people had demanded that this child, too, be killed; and just as before a servant appeared to take the child away. She said, "Yes, it must be!" and only asked him to slay it quickly, so that it would not suffer.

Thereafter she lived and reigned as queen for fourteen years. Then one day the king came to her and said his subjects now demanded that he should choose another queen, one of noble birth, so that he might have a high-born son to succeed him on the throne. It it did not suit them that a woman of low degree should be their queen, so she would have to go back home to her father. She told the king that she had long expected this; that since he had not been willing that her children should live, she could easily understand that he did not wish to keep her either, and that she would gladly return to her father.

So she went home to her father, the old gatekeeper. He was very glad to have her again, and they joyfully celebrated their meeting. There stood her spindle with the flax in it, just as she had left it, and she sat down and spun the yarn to an end.

One day as she sat at home spinning, the king sent word that she was to come to the palace and suggest which dishes should be served at his wedding banquet. She did not want to go, but she had to, nevertheless. So she went to the palace, and gave her orders; and as she ordered so they did. On the day that the wedding was to take place, the king sent her a new gown, and had her informed that she was to come to the palace to see the wedding. And so she had to go through it against her wish. She put on her new gown and went to the palace, and there she had to stand at the king's left hand, while at his right stood a beautiful maiden, whom she thought must be the bride. But when it came time for the king to take the bride's hand, he took her hand instead, and she was remarried to him; and then he told her that the maiden whom she had thought to be the new bride, was her own daughter. Then her son also came in, and she learned that these were her children, whom she had long thought dead.

For many years she had suffered great grief; yet in order to be true to her promise, she had kept her sorrow to herself. The king was well aware of this, for he knew her too well to think she was indifferent to the fate of her children. But since she had never shown her grief, he now honoured her above measure, and her joy was now as great as her sorrow had been before. So she lived very happily with her husband for a number of years, loved and honoured by the people she and the king as well.

Notes to Danish folktales



 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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