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  1. The Loutish Peasant
  2. The Wolf
  3. The Walk to the Mill

The Loutish Peasant

Once on a time there were two gentlemen who were brothers; one had married and had children, the other was an old bachelor. He lived in Jutland, but his married brother lived in Seeland, between Kalundborg and Holbaek. In the course of time the bachelor found it too burdensome to maintain a household of his own and look after the serving-men at home and in the fields; so when his brother suggested that he come live with him in his old days, he gladly accepted his offer, sold his estate, and turned all he had into cash, with the exception of a team of horses and a wagon, which he took with him in order that he might enjoy them in the future. He also had a faithful servant, who had been with him many years, and who was to accompany him. They had themselves ferried across to Kalundborg, and drove on into the country.

All went well as long as they kept to the high road, for the way was easy to find; but when they had to turn aside, the gentleman was not quite sure which direction they should take, although he had visited his brother several times for, after all, it is not hard to go astray in parts unknown. A neat little farm lay beside a narrow road along which they were driving, and the gentleman said to his servant, "Oh, Peter, run over there, and ask whether we are on the right road, for I am not quite sure!" The servant crossed the road, and when he came to the house there stood a lean old peasant chopping peat.

"How do you do, daddy?" said Peter.

"Hey?" said the peasant.

"How do you do, daddy?" said Peter, more loudly, for he thought the man was hard of hearing. But the latter did not answer.

"Can you tell me if that is the road to the estate?" He had to repeat it once more, and speak louder.

"To the devil with the road! You can drive wherever you want to, it is nothing to me!":

"He's a hard man to do business with," thought Peter to himself, and went back to his master.

"Are we on the right road?"

"I don't know," said Peter, short and to the point.

"Why, what is the matter, Peter?"

"I've never met such a lout in all my days," said Peter, and he told what had happened to him.

"I think we are on the right road, so we'll drive straight ahead." So they drove on, and before long they reached the brother's house. When they had stepped in the old bachelor said, "That's a fine race of peasants you have in this part of the country. "!

"Yes, indeed."

"They are a particularly fine sort."

"You praise them a little too highly," said his brother. "Perhaps you are not altogether serious. Whom did you meet?"

"Well, we met a rude old fellow at a neat little homestead down the road."

"Ah, yes, he is the only one of his kind," said his brother, who knew at once who was meant, "he would begrudge a man dying of thirst a single drop of water from his well."

Peter, who was standing there, said, "I can scarcely believe that he is as bad as that."

"He is, for a fact."

"Then I think I'll try, after all, and see whether I cannot make him take me in overnight."

"No, that's something that cannot be done," said the Seelander. "I will give you fifty dollars if you can manage it."

The bargain was struck, and the coachman was ordered to go along to see that the conditions were honestly observed. So toward evening they rode off.

"Good-evening, daddy!" said Peter to the peasant, who was still in the yard chopping peat.


"Will you take us in for the night?"

"No, may the devil take me, I will not!" said the old man suddenly, in a fit of rage.

"Thank you, you are very kind," replied Peter. "Then we will lead in the horses," and without more ado he went toward the stable door. But the peasant followed him and wanted to seize the staple.

"Thanks, thanks, but that is really not necessary, we can open it ourselves," said Peter; and shoved the dumbfounded old man aside. In the stable were two handsome bays. Peter untied them, and they ran out into the yard, where the peasant could catch them again if he had a mind. In the meantime the coachman held their horses, and they stabled them, and fastened them so firmly that the lout would have no easy task unloosening them again. For he was so furious that he did not know what to do. But Peter acted as though nothing had happened, and said, "I feel sure that you will feed our horses well.':

"No, may the devil take me if I do!" cried the peasant and wanted to close the stable door.

But Peter shoved him aside and said, "That is really not necessary; we can fetch the fodder ourselves." And he went Tip into the hay-loft and found hay so fine that poor people might almost have eaten it. The peasant went in with him, planted himself before the hay and stretched out his arms, as though to keep them away.

"No, thanks, we do not need so much," said Peter, "a small armful will be enough." At the same time he took as much as he needed, and went with it to his horses. But the old man slunk out into the yard, and began chopping peat again.

When Peter came out of the stable, he went to the window, looked in and saw the peasant's wife, a good, neat, nice-looking woman. And as he passed the window he imitated her husband's voice and cried, "Wife, dish up the best in the house for the two strangers!" This she was glad to do, for she was not at all miserly, and she at once prepared supper.

The two strangers walked about outside until the old man went into the house; for they were afraid he might go into the stable and drive out their horses. Then they crept into the house after him, and when his wife began to put the good things to eat on the table before them, her husband grew still more enraged, and sat him down in the corner by the stove. The two servants acted as though they were at home, and did full justice to their supper.

Then Peter said, "Come, eat with us!" But the peasant answered, furiously, "No, may the devil take me if I sit at the table with fellows like yourselves!" And he had his wife give him a bone to chew on, in order to make it seem as though he, too, were eating.

In the meantime the others enjoyed a good meal, and when they had finished Peter said to the peasant's wife, "You can leave everything on the table until tomorrow morning, for our breakfast; and now I think we had best go to bed." The woman obeyed them, and showed them a room in which a good bed had been set up. The coachman laid himself down on it, but Peter said, "I have travelled some distance today, and I've grown stiff, so I would rather sleep on the bench." The peasant and his wife now went to bed themselves; but after a while the man complained that he felt very hungry. "Well, why did you not eat with the strangers?" his wife asked him.

"How could I have eaten with those accursed strangers, such a brace of robbers, helping themselves to everything!"

"Well, at least you can get up now, and take whatever you need of the food on the table," said his wife.

So he got up and sneaked over to the table, and began to help himself from the dishes with his fingers. But Peter had taken care to bring his horsewhip in with him, and it lay beside him. He got up and gave the man a sound crack across the fingers.

"Scat, scat!" he said, and acted as though he were driving off a cat. "These people have forgotten to lock out the cat, and it would be a sin and a shame if it stole all the good food."

The man was so frightened he hurried off without a word and crept back into bed. There he lay a while. "I am so hungry."

"Well, what are we to do?" said his wife, "it seems so strange that you did not satisfy your hunger this evening."

"One thing is certain, I will not be able to stand it much longer."

"Then I suppose I will have to get up and make you some pan-cakes?"

This suggestion pleased him mightily, and he accompanied her so that the strangers should not frighten her. When they had three cakes on the glowing ashes, Peter joined them and said, "You are early risers."

"Yes, at our age people cannot sleep until daybreak," the old man answered.

"Well, I am not able to sleep myself, and I am weary from travelling," said Peter, "so we will sit up together and talk. I might have been just as well placed as you are, for my father had a big homestead. But I had three sisters, and they married three farm-owners, and one of them lived there" - and he made a drawing in the ashes with the butt-end of his whip that ruined one pan-cake - "and the other lived there" - and then the second pan-cake had met with an accident - "and the third one lived over there" - and then he tore the third pan-cake apart - "and each one received a homestead. But if my father had only given me as much as there is lying in the ashes now . . ." - and then he stirred up the ashes with the butt of his whip until the pan-cakes were entirely destroyed.

Then the peasant cried, "When are you confounded fellows really going away?"

"We never say good-bye until there's a crow sitting on the roof," said Peter and went in, while the rest remained outside. Not long after the peasant's wife came in, and said that now a crow was sitting on the roof.

"Wretched bird!" cried Peter and ran out. After a time he came back and said, "Now I have driven it off. I threw a good chunk of wood at it and it fell down."

"Well, you have probably done no great harm," said the peasant's wife.

That he knew nothing was his answer and, as to harm, what harm could have been done?

But she ran out and looked for her husband; because he had decided to play the part of the crow, and had climbed on the roof.

Now he lay on the ground and that was the end of him. The woman wept and complained, but Peter was at hand and helped her lay him out and before he went, said he would be glad to come back and help her in any way he could. Thereupon Peter and the coachman travelled home again, and his master's brother had to give him the fifty dollars.

But that was not all. Peter became a regular visitor at the widow's home after the funeral; and since she was a nice woman he proposed to her and she accepted him, because he had been such a help to her. So he became a prosperous homesteader, and was obliging and friendly to everyone, and hospitable to all whose path led them to his door.



The Wolf

Once on a time there was a man, and a woman, and they had seven sheep, a bobtailed colt, a dog and a cat. They had a boy of fourteen, who took care of the sheep.

One day the boy went out with his lunch and the seven sheep, and the wolf came along and said, "Those are fine sheep. Do they belong to you?"

"Yes," said the boy.

"Give me your lunch or I will eat up one of the sheep," said the wolf.

"No, I'll not give you my lunch," said the boy. So the wolf ate up a sheep.

The next day, when the boy went out again with his lunch and his six sheep, the wolf came along again, and what had happened the day before happened again. And so it went every day, until the wolf had eaten up all the sheep. Then the boy's master grew angry and told him to herd the bobtailed colt.

One day the boy went out to the pasture, to look after the colt, and met the wolf again, and the wolf said, "Boy, give me your lunch, or I'll eat up the colt."

But the boy would not give up his lunch, so the wolf ate up the colt.

And when the boy came home and told his master what had happened, his master told him to go out into the world, and look for the sheep and the colt. So the boy went, although he knew the wolf had eaten them up.

After he had gone a while, he took his lunch out of his pocket and began to eat. Up came the wolf and said, "Boy, give me your lunch, or else I will eat you up!" But the boy would not give up his lunch, and so the wolf swallowed him.

The folk at home thought the boy was a long time getting back, and they sent the farm hand out after him. The farm hand met the wolf, and asked him whether he had seen the boy, seven sheep, and a bobtailed colt. The wolf answered, "They are lying in my belly, and are rumbling and tumbling, and there is plenty of room there for you." And no sooner had he said so than he ate him up.

It seemed to the folk at home that the farm hand was a long time getting back, and they sent the maid out to look for him. She, too, met the wolf, and asked him whether he had not seen a farm hand, seven sheep, a bob-tailed colt and a boy. The wolf answered her and said, "They are lying in my belly, and are rumbling and tumbling, and there is plenty of room there for you, too," and with that he ate her up.

The farmer waited a long time for the maid; but at last he grew impatient, and went out to look for her himself. When he met the wolf, he asked him whether he had not seen a boy, a farm hand, a maid, seven sheep and a bob-tailed colt. The wolf answered, "They are lying in my belly, rumbling and tumbling, and there is plenty of room there for you, too.'! And no more had he said it than he ate the farmer up.

At home his wife waited a long time for her husband; but at last she had no peace of mind, and went out to look for him. So she met the wolf and asked him whether he had seen a boy, seven sheep, a bob-tailed colt, a farm-hand, a maid and a man. "Yes," said the wolf, "they are lying in my belly, rumbling and tumbling, and there is plenty of room there for you, too." And then he ate up the woman.

Now the dog began to feel very lonely at home, and he set out to look for his people. Soon he met the wolf and asked him whether he had not seen a boy, seven sheep, a bob-tailed colt, a farm hand, a maid, a man and a woman. The wolf said to him, "They are lying in my belly, rumbling and tumbling, and there is plenty of room there for you, too."

And now there was only the cat left at home; and the cat found it very tiresome, and set out to look for the others. She also met the wolf and asked him whether he had not seen a boy, seven sheep, a bob-tailed colt, a farm hand, a maid, a man, a woman and a dog. "Yes," said the wolf, "they are lying in my belly, rumbling and tumbling, and there is plenty of room for you there, too." And then the wolf swallowed the cat.

But he had now eaten so much that he had not enough room to hold it all; the cat and the dog began to quarrel, and at last they scratched him open. And once they had done so, they all came tumbling out: the boy with the seven sheep, the bob-tailed colt, the farm-hand, the serving-maid, the man, the woman, the dog and the cat. They were all still very much alive, and they fell on the wolf together, killed him and went cheerfully and happily back home again.



The Walk to the Mill

Once there was a woman who had an over-grown son who was not very bright. She could not send him anywhere with a message because he could never remember what he had been told to say. One day she wanted two bushels of buckwheat from the mill, and thinking he would at least be able to get that for her, she said to him, "Can you bring me two bushels of buckwheat from the mill?"

"Yes, indeed," said he.

"But do not forget it," said his mother. No, he would not forget it, he said, for he always answered promptly.

"You should keep on repeating it to yourself as you go along."

So he went along, and kept repeating to himself, "Two bushels, two bushels, two bushels." But after a while he was saying it so loudly that everyone could hear him. At length he passed a man who was sowing corn. When he heard what the boy was saying it made him angry, for he had sown seven tons, and it seemed to him as though the lad was predicting that he would only reap two bushels.

"You rascal, I'll teach you!" and with that he gave him several cuffs. "You dare to say that!"

"Well, what should I say, then?"

"You should say, 'God grant a hundred-fold increase!'"

The boy had no objection, and went on his way repeating as he went, "God grant a hundred-fold increase! God grant a hundred-fold increase!" Then he passed a farm, where they were busy rat-hunting. When the people heard him calling they grew furious, and since he wished them a hundredfold increase, he got another trouncing.

"Hold your tongue, you scoundrel, and do not say that!" they said when they let him go.

"I will gladly hold my tongue," said the boy, and cried pitifully, "but what am I to say?"

"You should say, 'Off with the infernal vermin! Off with the infernal vermin!'"

This he was quite willing to do and went along crying out as they had told him, "Off with the infernal vermin! Off with the infernal vermin!"

Not long after he encountered a funeral procession. When the people heard what the boy was calling out, and what he was saying about the dead man, they grew angry, collared him and leathered him well.

"You must not say anything like that, you vagabond!" they cried and gave him a few more cracks for good measure. So he asked them, very much depressed, what he should say.

"That's how one carries the dead to the grave!" they told him. He was quite willing to oblige them, and went on his way, calling out, "That's how one carries the dead to the grave! That's how one carries the dead to the grave!"

As he did so he met a man who was walking along with a greyhound he intended to sell. When he heard what the boy was calling out, he grew angry, for he thought he was making fun of him. So he seized him and gave him a good beating.

"What business has a vagabond like you calling out such an insult! Do not dare to do so again! Now see how you like it!"

"But what should I say?" asked the boy.

"You must say, "That's how one leads a dog to market!'"was the answer.

He was quite willing to say this, and went on repeating what he had been taught, "That's how one leads a dog to market! That's how one leads a dog to market!" Then he reached a homestead where they were just lifting the daughter into a wagon. She was dressed as a bride, and they were taking her to church to be married. When the people heard what the boy was calling out, they took for granted that he was insulting the bride, and they seized him and gave him a terrible flogging, and made it clear to him that he had better not venture to repeat his call.

"Well, what shall I say then?" wailed the boy, who had already had his full share of thrashings.

"You should say, 'Here there's joy in the house!!'" said the farm people.

He was willing and went on his way, crying out as well as he could for it was no more than a pitiful snivel now "Here there's joy in the house! Here there's joy in the house!"

At length he came to a farmhouse that was flaming to the sky, and a number of people were busy around it trying to put out the fire. "When they heard what the boy was calling out they grew angry.

"You miserable hound! Do you mean to say that there's joy in the house here when such a terrible misfortune has happened?" And they caught him, for he could not escape from such a crowd, even if he tried, and they gave him the worst beating he had as yet received.

"Yes, but what should I say?" wailed the boy. "You should say, 'May God lay weather and wind!'"

He took their word for it, and went on repeating what they had told him. At length he came to the mill. There stood the miller tugging at the wings, for the mill would not run because there was no wind, and the miller was angry since he had a great deal of meal to grind. So he turned on the boy when he heard him crying out.

"Is it necessary for a scamp like you to come along with such a wish!" And he gave him a few more cuffs.

By this time the boy had been so thoroughly beaten, and was so frightened that he at once began to cry, and he cried so hard that he clean forgot what he had last said, and as for what he was to get, he had forgotten that long ago. The miller could get nothing out of him, though he cross-questioned him carefully. At last it occurred to him to ask, "Who told you to call out, 'May God lay weather and wind'?" That he remembered; it was the people around the house in flames. "They beat me and said I should not call out what I was calling."

"And what were you not to call out?"

Now he remembered that, too, "I was not to call out, 'Here there's joy in the house!'"

"Who told you to call that out?"

He remembered that as well. It was the people in the farmyard who were lifting a woman into a wagon. "They beat me and told me I must not call out what I was calling."

"What had you been calling out?" inquired the miller.

"I kept repeating, 'That's how one leads a dog to market!'"

"And who taught you that?"

"A fellow who was leading a dog," said the boy. "He beat me and told me I should not call out what I was calling."

"What had you been calling?"

"I kept on saying, 'That's how one brings the dead to the grave!'" said the boy; for his answers now came as smooth as silk, seeing the miller had known at which end to begin.

"And who told you to call that out!"

"It was the people from a house by the road. They were just carrying out a dead man, and they beat me and forbade my calling out what I was calling."

"Well, what had you been calling?"

"I had just been calling out, 'Off with the infernal vermin!'"

"And who told you to say that?"

"It was the people in a farm-yard who were killing rats," said the boy. "They beat me, and told me I should not call out what I was calling."

"And what were you saying?"

"Wait a minute. Now I remember. I was going along repeating, 'May God give a hundred-fold increase!' and that made them angry."

"But tell me from whom you heard that?"

"There was a man who told me to say that. He was walking in a field beside the road, sowing, and when I came by he grew angry and beat me, and told me not to say what I was saying."

"But what were you saying?" asked the miller.

"I was saying, 'Two bushels of buckwheat! Two bushels of buckwheat!' Wait a minute, I was told to get two bushels of buckwheat!"

Then the boy got his two bushels of buckwheat, and that's the end of the story.

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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