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  1. "Never mind the money!"
  2. The Devil's Kindness

"Never mind the money!"

Once there was a man who had three daughters, who were all three married to trolls. One day the man set out to visit them, and his wife gave him some dry bread to eat on the road. When he had walked a while, he felt tired and hungry. So he sat down on the east side of a hill and began to munch his dry bread. Thereupon the hill opened and his oldest daughter looked out.

"But, father dear, why don't you come into the house?"

"Well," said he, "if I had known that you were living here, and had seen any entrance, you may be sure I would have gone in."

Right after, her husband the troll came home, and the woman said her father had come to visit them, and that he had best buy some soup meat.

"We need not go to that trouble," said the troll. And with these words he hammered a nail into the wall, and beat his head against it so that great lumps of flesh fell off. The troll at once gathered them up, and then they all had a rich, strong soup. Then the troll gave the old man a bag of money, and he started back home. When he was nearly home, it suddenly occurred to him that his cow might have had a calf. So he set down his bag of money on the ground, ran home as quickly as he could, and asked his wife whether the cow had a calf. "How is it you come a-running so, all out of breath?" said his wife. "No, the cow has no calf."

"Well, at any rate you will have to come out with me and help me carry home a bagful of money," said the man.

"Carry home a bagful of money?" said his wife.

"Of course, carry home a bagful of money," said the man. "Is there anything very surprising about that?"

Though his wife did not quite believe him, she gave in, nevertheless, and went along. But when they came to the spot where he had left it, there was not a trace of the bag of money: a thief had stolen it. Then the woman grew angry and began to scold her husband.

"Oh, nonsense," said he, "never mind the money! I know what I've learnt."

"What do you know?" asked his wife.

"Well, that's just what I know," said the man.

Not long after the man wanted to visit his second oldest daughter. His wife once more gave him some dry bread, and when he grew tired and hungry, he sat down on the east side of a hill and began to eat. "While he was in the midst of it his second daughter came out of the hill, and invited him in, and he was glad to accept her invitation. Right after the troll came home; and since in the meantime it had grown dark, his wife asked him to buy a candle.

"Oh, we will light up at once, "said the troll, and thrust his fingers into the fire; then his fingers shone, and yet they were not burned. Here the old man was presented with two bags of money and trudged off home with them. But when he had nearly reached home, he thought of his cow again. So he put down his two bags of money on the ground, ran home and asked his wife whether the cow had a calf.

"What is the matter with you?" said his wife. "Here you come a-running as though the house were afire. You have nothing to excite yourself about, for the cow has no calf."

Then the man insisted that his wife help him carry home the two bags of money. She did not place much faith in his words, but he kept at her so long that finally she gave in and went with him. But when they reached the spot a thief had once more anticipated them, and had taken the money-bags along. So it is not surprising that his wife was much put out. But the man only said, "If you only knew what I've learnt!"

Then the man set out for the third time, to visit his youngest daughter. When he reached a hill he sat down on the eastern slope, and began to eat the dry bread his wife had given him. Out came his daughter and took her father in, and before long the troll came home. They wanted to have a fish-dinner, and the wife told her husband to go out and buy some fish. But he said they could have fish without taking so much trouble. All he needed was her bread-pan and her ladle. So the troll and his wife sat down in the bread pan and rowed out to sea. When they had rowed awhile, the troll said, "Are my eyes green?"

"No, not yet," answered his wife.

Then they rowed another while and the troll asked once more, "Are not my eyes green yet!"

"Yes, now they are green," said his wife.

Then the troll leaped into the water and fetched up so many fishes with his ladle that the bread-pan was put to it to hold them all. When they got back they ate them with gusto; and the old man was given three bags of money to take home with him. But when he was nearly home, he again remembered the cow. He laid down the bags of money on the ground; but this time he took off his wooden shoe and put them on top of them, for he thought that would prevent their being stolen.

Then he ran home to ask his wife whether the cow had yet had a calf. But while he was home a thief came once more, and carried off the bags of money; but he left the wooden shoe. When the man brought along his wife to get the bags of money, she was furious and began to scold. But he was perfectly quiet and only said, "never mind the money! I know what I've learnt!"

"What do you know?" asked his wife. "I should like to know what you have learnt myself."

"Wait, and in due time you shall," said the man.

One day the woman wanted to make soup, so she said to her husband, "Now go to town and buy a piece of soup-meat."

"That is not necessary," said he, "we need not go to that trouble." And he hammered a nail in the wall, and beat his head against it until the blood ran down in streams and then he lay ill in bed for a long time after. When he recovered, it happened that they were without light one day, and his wife told him to go and buy a candle.

"No," said he, "that is not necessary at all," and he thrust his hand into the fire. Thereupon he again had to stay in bed for a long time. When he was well once more, his wife wanted to have a fish dinner one day, and told him to go and buy some fish. But he again wanted to show how artful he was, and told her she need only come with him, and take her bread-pan and ladle along. They both sat down in the bread-pan and rowed out to sea. After they had rowed a while the man said, "Are my eyes green?"

"No," said his wife, "why should they be green?"

And when they had rowed a while longer, the man again asked her, "Are not my eyes green yet?"

"No, why do you talk such nonsense?" said his wife. "Why should your eyes be green?"

Then the man said, "My dear good woman, can you not at least say that my eyes are green?"

"Well, have it so," said his wife, "they are green."

No sooner had he heard this than he leaped into the water with the ladle, in order to ladle out the fish. But instead, he stayed down below with them.



The Devil's Kindness

Two young fellows once were journeying south in order to look for work. One of them soon found a place, but the other was a long time on the road and could secure none. Then, one day, he met a young stranger who asked him where he was going. The young fellow told him his story and the stranger said, "Come along with me. I am looking for work, too, and I think we can find employment."

So they came to a homestead, and were both taken into service as mowers. But the stranger mowed so tremendously that the young fellow had never seen his like. He himself had hard work dragging together enough for the other to thresh. On the very first day they threshed twenty-five tons of barley. When the barley was to be winnowed, all the doors and windows were opened. The stranger stood at one side of the thrashing-floor, and blew so that all the chaff flew out into the courtyard. Then it was gathered up and carried in. They worked in this fashion every day, and it was not long before all the grain had been threshed.

"Now you can go in," said the stranger to the young fellow, "and settle our accounts with the master; but tell him he must pay us for the chaff as well as for the wheat. And if he does not want to pay for it, you may tell him we will turn his barn upside-down."

The young fellow went to the master and received his pay for the wheat. But when he insisted on being paid for the chaff as well, his master quite naturally would not listen to him, and when the young fellow told him that they would stand his barn on its head, he laughed and replied, "You are at liberty to do so if you can."

The young fellow came back to his friend with his report, and the latter at once said, "Come, we will attend to the barn without delay!" So they went up to one side of the barn, and put their shoulders against the wall, and the barn began to shake. When the master saw that, he came running, and called out, "Wait, wait, I'll pay you for the chaff!" So the barn remained standing, and they were paid for the chaff.

Then they left the homestead and wandered on for a while. And when they parted, the young fellow, who had received the whole of the pay, said that the stranger should take his share of it. But the stranger said, "No, the few shillings mean nothing to me, you keep the whole amount."

The young fellow thanked him heartily and then wanted to know who it was who had so kindly assisted him.

"Well," said the stranger, "they call me the devil, but I am not so black as I am painted." The young fellow was of the same opinion, but still the whole affair seemed strange to him.

But do you think that the devil had done what he did for no other reason than to do the young fellow a favour? Then you do not really know him. The young fellow visited his comrade, with whom he had been journeying, and when the latter saw all the money, and heard how easily his companion had come by it, he became envious; and his envy tormented him to such a degree that he went and hung himself. And in this way the devil got the payment he had wished to have.

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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