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Why the Sea Is Salt

ONCE ON A TIME, but it was a long, long time ago, there were two brothers, one rich and one poor. Now, one Christmas eve, the poor one hadn't so much as a crumb in the house, either of meat or bread, so he went to his brother to ask him for something to keep Christmas with, in God's name. It was not the first time his brother had been forced to help him, and you may fancy he wasn't very glad to see his face, but he said:

"If you will do what I ask you to do, I'll give you a whole flitch of bacon."

So the poor brother said he would do anything, and was full of thanks.

"Well, here is the flitch," said the rich brother, "and now go straight to hell."

"What I have given my word to do, I must stick to," said the other; so he took the flitch and set off. He walked the whole day, and at dusk he came to a place where he saw a very bright light.

"Maybe this is the place," said the man to himself. So he turned aside, and the first thing he saw was an old, old man, with a long white beard, who stood in an outhouse, hewing wood for the Christmas fire.

"Good evening," said the man with the flitch.

"The same to you; where are you going so late?" said the man.

"Oh! I'm going to hell, if I only knew the right way," answered the poor man.

"Well, you're not far wrong, for this is hell," said the old man; "when you get inside they will be all for buying your flitch, for meat is scarce in hell; but mind, you don't sell it unless you get the hand-quern which stands behind the door for it. When you come out, I'll teach you how to handle the quern, for it's good to grind almost anything."

So the man with the flitch thanked the other for his good advice, and gave a great knock at the devil's door.

When he got in, everything went just as the old man had said. All the devils, great and small, came swarming up to him like ants round an anthill, and each tried to outbid the other for the flitch.

"Well!" said the man, "by rights my old dame and I ought to have this flitch for our Christmas dinner; but since you have all set your hearts on it, I suppose I must give it up to you; but if I sell it at all, I'll have for it that quern behind the door yonder."

At first the devil wouldn't hear of such a bargain, and chaffered and haggled with the man; but he stuck to what he said, and at last the devil had to part with his quern. When the man got out into the yard, he asked the old woodcutter how he was to handle the quern; and after he had learned how to use it, he thanked the old man and went off home as fast as he could, but still the clock had struck twelve on Christmas eve before he reached his own door.

"Wherever in the world have you been?" said his old dame; "here have I sat hour after hour waiting and watching, without so much as two sticks to lay together under the Christmas brose."

"Oh!" said the man, "I couldn't get back before, for I had to go a long way first for one thing, and then for another; but now you shall see what you shall see."

So he put the quern on the table, and bade it first of all grind lights, then a table-cloth, then meat, then ale, and so on till they had got everything that was nice for Christmas fare. He had only to speak the word, and the quern ground out what he wanted. The old dame stood by blessing her stars and kept on asking where he had got this wonderful quern, but he wouldn't tell her.

"It's all one where I got it from; you see the quern is a good one, and the mill-stream never freezes, that's enough."

So he ground meat and drink and dainties enough to last out till Twelfth Day, and on the third day he asked all his friends and kin to his house, and gave a great feast. Now, when his rich brother saw all that was on the table, and all that was behind in the larder, he grew quite spiteful and wild, for he couldn't bear that his brother should have anything.

"It was only on Christmas eve," he said to the rest, "he was in such straits that he came and asked for a morsel of food in God's name, and now he gives a feast as if he were count or king;" and he turned to his brother and said:

"But from where, in hell's name, have you got all this wealth?"

"From behind the door," answered the owner of the quern, for he didn't care to let the cat out of the bag. But later on the evening, when he had got a drop too much, he could keep his secret no longer, and brought out the quern and said:

"There, you see what has gotten me all this wealth;" and so he made the quern grind all kind of things. When his brother saw it, he set his heart on having the quern, and, after a deal of coaxing, he got it; but he had to pay three hundred dollars for it, and his brother bargained to keep it till hay-harvest, for he thought, if I keep it till then, I can make it grind meat and drink that will last for years. So you may fancy the quern didn't grow rusty for want of work, and when hay-harvest came, the rich brother got it, but the other took care not to teach him how to handle it.

It was evening when the rich brother got the quern home, and next morning he told his wife to go out into the hay-field and toss, while the mowers cut the grass, and he would stay at home and get the dinner ready. So, when dinner-time drew near, he put the quern on the kitchen table and said:

"Grind herrings and broth, and grind them good and fast."

So the quern began to grind herrings and broth; first of all, all the dishes full, then all the tubs full, and so on till the kitchen floor was quite covered. Then the man twisted and twirled at the quern to get it to stop, but for all his twisting and fingering the quern went on grinding, and in a little while the broth rose so high that the man was like to drown. So he threw open the kitchen door and ran into the parlour, but it wasn't long before the quern had ground the parlour full too, and it was only at the risk of his life that the man could get hold of the latch of the house door through the stream of broth. When he got the door open, he ran out and set off down the road, with the stream of herrings and broth at his heels, roaring like a waterfall over the whole farm.

Now, his old dame, who was in the field tossing hay, thought it a long time to dinner, and at last she said:

"Well! although the master doesn't call us home, we may as well go. Maybe he finds it hard work to boil the broth, and will be glad of my help."

The men were willing enough, so they sauntered homewards; but just as they had got a little way up the hill, what should they meet but herrings, and broth, and bread, all running and dashing, and splashing together in a stream, and the master himself running before them for his life, and as he passed them he bawled out,—"Would to heaven each of you had a hundred throats! But take care you're not drowned in the broth."

Away he went, as though the devil were at his heels, to his brother's house, and begged him for God's sake to take back the quern that instant; for, he said:

"If it grinds only one hour more, the whole parish will be swallowed up by herrings and broth."

But his brother wouldn't hear of taking it back till the other paid him down three hundred dollars more.

So the poor brother got both the money and the quern, and it wasn't long before he set up a farm-house far finer than the one in which his brother lived, and with the quern he ground so much gold that he covered it with plates of gold; and as the farm lay by the sea-side, the golden house gleamed and glistened far away over the sea. All who sailed by put ashore to see the rich man in the golden house, and to see the wonderful quern, the fame of which spread far and wide, till there was nobody who hadn't heard tell of it.

So one day there came a skipper who wanted to see the quern; and the first thing he asked was if it could grind salt.

"Grind salt!" said the owner; "I should just think it could. It can grind anything."

When the skipper heard that, he said he must have the quern, cost what it would; for if he only had it, he thought he should be rid of his long voyages across stormy seas for a lading of salt. Well, at first the man wouldn't hear of parting with the quern; but the skipper begged and prayed so hard, that at last he let him have it, but he had to pay many, many thousand dollars for it. Now, when the skipper had got the quern on his back, he soon made off with it, for he was afraid lest the man should change his mind; so he had no time to ask how to handle the quern, but got on board his ship as fast as he could, and set sail. When he had sailed a good way off, he brought the quern on deck and said:

"Grind salt, and grind both good and fast."

Well, the quern began to grind salt so that it poured out like water; and when the skipper had got the ship full, he wished to stop the quern, but whichever way he turned it, and however much he tried, it was no good; the quern kept grinding on, and the heap of salt grew higher and higher, and at last down sunk the ship.

There lies the quern at the bottom of the sea, and grinds away at this very day, and that's why the sea is salt.

TO TOP NOTES  

Katie Woodencloak

ONCE ON A TIME, there was a king who had become a widower. By his queen he had one daughter, who was so clever and lovely, there wasn't a cleverer or lovelier princess in all the world. So the king went on a long time sorrowing for the queen, whom he had loved so much, but at last he got weary of living alone, and married another Queen, who was a widow, and had, too, an only daughter; but this daughter was just as bad and ugly as the other was kind, and clever, and lovely. The stepmother and her daughter were jealous of the princess, because she was so lovely; but so long as the king was at home they daren't do her any harm, he was so fond of her.

Well, after a time he fell into war with another king, and went out to battle with his host, and then the step-mother thought she might do as she pleased; and so she both starved and beat the princess, and was after her in every hole and corner of the house. At last she thought everything too good for her, and turned her out to herd cattle. So there she went about with the cattle, and herded them in the woods and on the fells. As for food, she got little or none, and she grew thin and wan, and was always sobbing and sorrowful. Now in the herd there was a great dun bull, which always kept himself so neat and sleek, and often and often he came up to the princess, and let her pat him. So one day when she sat there, sad, and sobbing, and sorrowful, he came up to her and asked her outright why she was always in such grief. She answered nothing, but went on weeping.

"Ah!" said the bull, "I know all about it quite well, though you won't tell me; you weep because the queen is bad to you, and because she is ready to starve you to death. But food you've no need to fret about, for in my left ear lies a cloth, and when you take and spread it out, you may have as many dishes as you please."

So she did that, took the cloth and spread it out on the grass, and lo! it served up the nicest dishes one could wish to have; there was wine too, and mead, and sweet cake. Well, she soon got up her flesh again, and grew so plump, and rosy, and white, that the queen and her scrawny chip of a daughter turned blue and yellow for spite. The queen couldn't at all make out how her stepdaughter got to look so well on such bad fare, so she told one of her maids to go after her in the wood, and watch and see how it all was, for she thought some of the servants in the house must give her food. So the maid went after her, and watched in the wood, and then she saw how the stepdaughter took the cloth out of the bull's ear, and spread it out, and how it served up the nicest dishes, which the stepdaughter ate and made good cheer over. All this the maid told the queen when she went home.

And now the king came home from war, and had won the fight against the other king with whom he went out to battle. So there was great joy throughout the palace, and no one was gladder than the king's daughter. But the queen shammed sick, and took to her bed, and paid the doctor a great fee to get him to say she could never be well again unless she had some of the dun bull's flesh to eat. Both the king's daughter and the folk in the palace asked the doctor if nothing else would help her, and prayed hard for the bull, for everyone was fond of him, and they all said there wasn't that bull's match in all the land. But no; he must and should be slaughtered, nothing else would do. When the king's daughter heard that, she got very sorrowful, and went down into the byre to the bull. There, too, he stood and hung down his head, and looked so downcast that she began to weep over him.

"What are you weeping for?" asked the bull.

So she told him how the king had come home again, and how the queen had shammed sick and got the doctor to say she could never be well and sound again unless she got some of the Dun bull's flesh to eat, and so now he was to be slaughtered.

"If they get me killed first," said the bull, "they'll soon take your life too. Now, if you're of my mind, we'll just start off, and go away tonight."

Well, the princess thought it bad, you may be sure, to go and leave her father, but she thought it still worse to be in the house with the queen; and so she gave her word to the bull to come to him.

At night, when all had gone to bed, the princess stole down to the byre to the bull, and so he took her on his back, and set off from the homestead as fast as ever he could. And when the folk got up at cockcrow next morning to slaughter the bull, why, he was gone; and when the king got up and asked for his daughter, she was gone too. He sent out messengers on all sides to hunt for them, and gave them out in all the parish churches; but there was no one who had caught a glimpse of them. Meanwhile, the bull went through many lands with the king's daughter on his back, and so one day they came to a great copper-wood, where both the trees, and branches, and leaves, and flowers, and everything, were nothing but copper.

But before they went into the wood, the bull said to the king's daughter:

"Now, when we get into this wood, mind you take care not to touch even a leaf of it, else it's all over both with me and you, for here dwells a troll with three heads who owns this wood."

No, bless her, she'd be sure to take care not to touch anything. Well, she was very careful, and leant this way and that to miss the boughs, and put them gently aside with her hands; but it was such a thick wood, 'twas scarce possible to get through; and so, with all her pains, somehow or other she tore off a leaf, which she held in her hand.

"AU! AU! what have you done now?" said the bull; there's nothing for it now but to fight for life or death; but mind you keep the leaf safe."

Soon after they got to the end of the wood, and a troll with three heads came running up:

"Who is this that touches my wood?" said the troll.

"It's just as much mine as yours," said the bull.

"Ah!" roared the troll, "we'll try a fall about that."

"As you choose," said the bull.

So they rushed at one another, and fought; and the bull he butted, and gored, and kicked with all his might and main; but the troll gave him as good as he brought, and it lasted the whole day before the bull got the mastery; and then he was so full of wounds, and so worn out, he could scarce lift a leg. Then they were forced to stay there a day to rest, and then the bull bade the king's daughter to take the horn of ointment which hung at the troll's belt, and rub him with it. Then he came to himself again, and the day after they trudged on again. So they travelled many, many days, till, after a long, long time, they came to a silver wood, where both the trees, and branches, and leaves, and flowers, and everything, were silvern.

Before the bull went into the wood, he said to the king's daughter:

"Now, when we get into this wood, for heaven's sake mind you take good care; you mustn't touch anything, and not pluck off so much as one leaf, else it is all over both with me and you; for here is a troll with six heads who owns it, and him I don't think I should be able to master."

"No," said the king's daughter; "I'll take good care, and not touch anything you don't wish me to touch."

But when they got into the wood, it was so close and thick, they could scarce get along. She was as careful as careful could be, and leant to this side and that to miss the boughs, and put them on one side with her hands, but every minute the branches struck her across the eyes, and, in spite of all her pains, it so happened she tore off a leaf. "AU! AU! what have you done now?" said the bull. "There's nothing for it now but to fight for life and death, for this troll has six heads, and is twice as strong as the other, but mind you keep the leaf safe, and don't lose it."

Just as he said that, up came the troll:

"Who is this," he said, "that touches my wood?"

"It's as much mine as yours," said the bull. "That we'll try a fall about," roared the troll.

"As you choose," said the bull, and rushed at the troll, and gored out his eyes, and drove his horns right through his body, so that the entrails gushed out; but the troll was almost a match for him, and it lasted three whole days before the bull got the life gored out of him. But then he, too, was so weak and wretched, it was as much as he could do to stir a limb, and so full of wounds, that the blood streamed from him. So he said to the king's daughter she must take the horn of ointment that hung at the troll's belt, and rub him with it. Then she did that, and he came to himself; but they were forced to stay there a week to rest before the bull had strength enough to go on.

At last they set off again, but the bull was still poorly, and they went rather slow at first. So to spare time the king's daughter said as she was young and light of foot, she could very well walk, but she couldn't get leave to do that. No; she must seat herself up on his back again. So on they travelled through many lands a long time, and the king's daughter did not know in the least where they went; but after a long, long time they came to a gold wood. It was so grand, the gold dropped from every twig, and all the trees, and boughs, and flowers, and leaves, were of pure gold. Here, too, the same thing happened as had happened in the silver wood and copper wood. The bull told the king's daughter she mustn't touch it for anything, for there was a troll with nine heads who owned it, and he was much bigger and stouter than both the others put together, and he didn't think he could get the better of him. No; she'd be sure to take heed not to touch it; that he might know very well. But when they got into the wood, it was far thicker and closer than the silver wood, and the deeper they went into it the worse it got. The wood went on getting thicker and thicker, and closer and closer; and at last she thought there was no way at all to get through it. She was in such an awful fright of plucking off anything, that she sat, and twisted and turned herself this way and that, and here and there, to keep clear of the boughs, and she put them on one side with her hands; but every moment the branches struck her across the eyes, so that she couldn't see what she was clutching at; and lo! before she knew how it came about, she had a gold apple in her hand. Then she was so bitterly sorry she burst into tears and wanted to throw it away; but the bull said she must keep it safe and watch it well, and comforted her as well as he could; but he thought it would be a hard tussle, and he doubted how it would go.

Just then up came the troll with the nine heads, and he was so ugly, the king's daughter scarcely dared to look at him.

"WHO IS THIS THAT TOUCHES MY WOOD?" he roared.

"It's just as much mine as yours," said the bull.

"That we'll try a fall about," roared the troll again.

"Just as you choose," said the bull; and so they rushed at one another, and fought, and it was such a dreadful sight the king's daughter was ready to swoon away. The bull gored out the troll's eyes, and drove his horns through and through his body, till the entrails came tumbling out; but the troll fought bravely; and when the bull got one head gored to death, the rest breathed life into it again, and so it lasted a whole week before the bull was able to get the life out of them all. But then he was utterly worn out and wretched. He couldn't stir a foot, and his body was all one wound. He couldn't so much as ask the king's daughter to take the horn of ointment which hung at the troll's belt, and rub it over him. But she did it all the same, and then he came to himself by little and little; but they had to lie there and rest three weeks before he was fit to go on again.

Then they set off at a snail's pace, for the bull said they had still a little farther to go, and so they crossed over many high hills and thick woods. So after a while they got on the fells.

"Do you see anything?" asked the bull.

"No, I see nothing but the sky and the wild fell," said the king's daughter.

So when they clomb higher up, the fell got smoother, and they could see farther off.

"Do you see anything now?" asked the bull.

"Yes, I see a little castle far, far away," said the princess.

"That's not so little though," said the bull.

After a long, long time, they came to a great cairn, where there was a spur of the fell that stood sheer across the way.

"Do you see anything now?" asked the bull.

"Yes, now I see the castle close by," said the king's daughter, "and now it is much, much bigger."

"There you're to go," said the bull. "Right underneath the castle is a pig-sty, where you are to dwell. When you come there you'll find a wooden cloak, all made of strips of lath; that you must put on, and go up to the castle and say your name is 'Katie Woodencloak,' and ask for a place. But before you go, you must take your penknife and cut my head off, and then you must flay me, and roll up the hide, and lay it under the wall of rock yonder, and under the hide you must lay the copper leaf, and the silvern leaf, and the golden apple. Yonder, up against the rock, stands a stick; and when you want anything, you've only got to knock on the wall of rock with that stick."

At first she wouldn't do anything of the kind; but when the bull said it was the only thanks he would have for what he had done for her, she couldn't help herself. So, however much it grieved her heart, she hacked and cut away with her knife at the big beast till she got both his head and his hide off, and then she laid the hide up under the wall of rock, and put the copper leaf, and the silvern leaf, and the golden apple inside it.

So when she had done that, she went over to the pig-sty, but all the while she went she sobbed and wept. There she put on the wooden cloak, and so went up to the palace. When she came into the kitchen she begged for a place, and told them her name was Katie Woodencloak. Yes, the cook said she might have a place—she might have leave to be there in the scullery, and wash up, for the lassie who did that work before had just gone away.

"But as soon as you get weary of being here, you'll go your way too, I'll be bound."

No; she was sure she wouldn't do that.

So there she was, behaving so well, and washing up so handily. The Sunday after there were to be strange guests at the palace, so Katie asked if she might have leave to carry up water for the prince's bath; but all the rest laughed at her, and said:

"What should you do there? Do you think the prince will care to look at you, you who are such a fright?"

But she wouldn't give it up, and kept on begging and praying; and at last she got leave. So when she went up the stairs, her wooden cloak made such a clatter, the prince came out and asked:

"Pray, who are you?"

"Oh, I was just going to bring up water for your Royal Highness's bath," said Katie.

"Do you think now," said the prince, "I'd have anything to do with the water you bring?" and with that he threw the water over her.

So she had to put up with that, but then she asked leave to go to church; well, she got that leave too, for the church lay close by. But first of all she went to the rock, and knocked on its face with the stick which stood there, just as the bull had said. And straightway out came a man, who said:

"What's your will?"

So the princess said she had got leave to go to church and hear the priest preach, but she had no clothes to go in. So he brought out a kirtle, which was as bright as the copper wood, and she got a horse and saddle beside. Now, when she got to the church, she was so lovely and grand, all wondered who she could be, and scarce one of them listened to what the priest said, for they looked too much at her. As for the prince, he fell so deep in love with her, he didn't take his eyes off her for a single moment.

So, as she went out of church, the prince ran after her, and held the church door open for her; and so he got hold of one of her gloves, which was caught in the door. When she went away and mounted her horse, the prince went up to her again, and asked from where she came.

"Oh, I'm from Bath," said Katie; and while the prince took out the glove to give it to her, she said,

"Bright before and dark behind,
Clouds come rolling on the wind;
That this prince may never see
Where my good steed goes with me."

The prince had never seen the like of that glove, and went about far and wide asking after the land from where the proud lady, who rode off without her glove, said she came; but there was no one who could tell where "Bath" lay.

Next Sunday some one had to go up to the prince with a towel.

"Oh, may I have leave to go up with it?" said Katie.

"What's the good of your going?" said the others; "you saw how it fared with you last time."

But Katie wouldn't give in; she kept on begging and praying, till she got leave; and then she ran up the stairs, so that her wooden cloak made a great clatter. Out came the prince, and when he saw it was Katie, he tore the towel out of her hand, and threw it into her face.

"Pack yourself off, you ugly troll," he cried; "do you think I'd have a towel which you have touched with your smutty fingers?"

After that the prince set off to church, and Katie begged for leave to go too. They all asked what business she had at church—she who had nothing to put on but that wooden cloak, which was so black and ugly. But Katie said the Priest was such a brave man to preach, what he said did her so much good; and so at last she got leave. Now she went again to the rock and knocked, and so out came the man, and gave her a kirtle far finer than the first one; it was all covered with silver, and it shone like the silver wood; and she got besides a noble steed, with a saddle-cloth broidered with silver, and a silver bit.

So when the king's daughter got to the church, the folk were still standing about in the churchyard. And all wondered and wondered who she could be, and the prince was soon on the spot, and came and wished to hold her horse for her while she got off. But she jumped down, and said there was no need, for her horse was so well broke, it stood still when she bade it, and came when she called it. So they all went into church, but there was scarce a soul that listened to what the priest said, for they looked at her a deal too much; and the prince fell still deeper in love than the first time.

When the sermon was over, and she went out of church, and was going to mount her horse, up came the prince again and asked her from where she came.

"Oh, I'm from Towelland," said the king's daughter; and as she said that, she dropped her riding-whip, and when the prince stooped to pick it up, she said,

"Bright before and dark behind,
Clouds come rolling on the wind;
That this prince may never see
Where my good steed goes with me."

So away she was again; and the prince couldn't tell what had become of her. He went about far and wide, asking after the land from where she said she came, but there was no one who could tell him where it lay; and so the prince had to make the best he could of it.

Next Sunday some one had to go up to the prince with a comb. Katie begged for leave to go up with it, but the others put her in mind how she had fared the last time, and scolded her for wishing to go before the prince—such a black and ugly fright as she was in her wooden cloak. But she wouldn't leave off asking till they let her go up to the prince with his comb. So, when she came clattering up the stairs again, out came the prince, and took the comb, and threw it at her, and bade her be off as fast as she could. After that the prince went to church, and Katie begged for leave to go too. They asked again what business she had there, she who was so foul and black, and who had no clothes to show herself in. Might be the prince or some one else would see her, and then both she and all the others would smart for it; but Katie said they had something else to do than to look at her; and she wouldn't leave off begging and praying till they gave her leave to go.

So the same thing happened now as had happened twice before. She went to the rock and knocked with the stick, and then the man came out and gave her a kirtle which was far grander than either of the others. It was almost all pure gold, and studded with diamonds; and she got besides a noble steed, with a gold broidered saddle-cloth and a golden bit.

Now when the king's daughter got to the church, there stood the priest and all the people in the churchyard waiting for her. Up came the prince running, and wanted to hold her horse, but she jumped off, and said:

"No; thanks—there's no need, for my horse is so well broke, it stands still when I bid him."

So they all hastened into church, and the priest got into the pulpit, but no one listened to a word he said; for they all looked too much at her, and wondered from where she came; and the prince, he was far deeper in love than either of the former times. He had no eyes, or ears, or sense for anything, but just to sit and stare at her.

So when the sermon was over, and the king's daughter was to go out of the church, the prince had got a firkin of pitch poured out in the porch, that he might come and help her over it; but she didn't care a bit—she just put her foot right down into the midst of the pitch, and jumped across it; but then one of her golden shoes stuck fast in it, and as she got on her horse, up came the prince running out of the church and asked from where she came.

"I'm from Combland," said Katie. But when the prince wanted to reach her the gold shoe, she said,

"Bright before and dark behind,
Clouds come rolling on the wind;
That this prince may never see
Where my good steed goes with me."

So the prince couldn't tell still what had become of her, and he went about a weary time all over the world asking for "Combland;" but when no one could tell him where it lay, he ordered it to be given out everywhere that he would wed the woman whose foot could fit the gold shoe.

So many came of all sorts from all sides, fair and ugly alike; but there was no one who had so small a foot as to be able to get on the gold shoe. And after a long, long time, who should come but Katie's wicked stepmother, and her daughter, too, and her the gold shoe fitted; but ugly she was, and so loathly she looked, the prince only kept his word sore against his will. Still they got ready the wedding-feast, and she was dressed up and decked out as a bride; but as they rode to church, a little bird sat on a tree and sang,

"A bit off her heel,
And a bit off her toe;
Katie Woodencloak's tiny shoe
Is full of blood—that's all I know."

And, sure enough, when they looked to it, the bird told the truth, for blood gushed out of the shoe.

Then all the maids and women who were about the palace had to go up to try on the shoe, but there was none of them whom it would fit at all.

"But where's Katie Woodencloak?" asked the prince, when all the rest had tried the shoe, for he understood the song of birds very well, and bore in mind what the little bird had said.

"Oh, she! think of that!" said the rest; it's no good her coming forward. "Why, she has legs like a horse."

"Very true, I daresay," said the prince; "but since all the others have tried, Katie may as well try too."

"Katie!" he bawled out through the door; and Katie came trampling up-stairs, and her wooden cloak clattered as if a whole regiment of dragoons were charging up.

"Now, you must try the shoe on, and be a princess, you too," said the other maids, and laughed and made game of her.

So Katie took up the shoe, and put her foot into it like nothing, and threw off her wooden cloak; and so there she stood in her gold kirtle, and it shone so that the sunbeams glistened from her; and, lo! on her other foot she had the fellow to the gold shoe.

So when the prince knew her again, he grew so glad, he ran up to her and threw his arms round her, and gave her a kiss; and when he heard she was a king's daughter, he got gladder still, and then came the wedding-feast; and so

"Snip, snip, mover,
The story's over."

TO TOP NOTES  

Soria Moria Castle

Theodor Kittelsen. Soria Moria. Slightly modified.


ONCE on a time there was a poor couple who had a son whose name was Halvor. Ever since he was a little boy he would turn his hand to nothing, but just sat there and groped about in the ashes. His father and mother often put him out to learn this trade or that, but Halvor could stay nowhere; for, when he had been there a day or two, he ran away from his master, and never stopped till he was sitting again in the ingle, poking about in the cinders.

Well, one day a skipper came and asked Halvor if he hadn't a mind to be with him, and go to sea, and see strange lands. Yes, Halvor would like that very much; so he wasn't long in getting himself ready.

How long they sailed I'm sure I can't tell; but the end of it was, they fell into a great storm, and when it was blown over, and it got still again, they couldn't tell where they were; for they had been driven away to a strange coast, which none of them knew anything about.

Well, as there was just no wind at all, they stayed lying wind-bound there, and Halvor asked the skipper's leave to go on shore and look about him; he would sooner go, he said, than lie there and sleep.

"Do you think now you're fit to show yourself before folk," said the skipper, "why, you've no clothes than those rags you stand in?"

But Halvor stuck to his own, and so at last he got leave but he was to be sure and come back as soon as ever it began to blow. So off he went and found a lovely land; wherever he came there were fine large flat corn-fields and rich meads, but he couldn't catch a glimpse of a living soul. Well, it began to blow, but Halvor thought he hadn't seen enough yet, and he wanted to walk a little farther, just to see if he could meet any folk. So after a while he came to a broad high road, so smooth and even, you might easily roll an egg along it. Halvor followed this, and when evening drew on he saw a great castle ever so far off, from which the sunbeams shone. So as he had now walked the whole day and hadn't taken a bit to eat with him; he was as hungry as a hunter, but still the nearer he came to the castle, the more afraid he got.

In the castle kitchen a great fire was blazing, and Halvor went into it, but such a kitchen he had never seen in all his born days. It was so grand and fine; there were vessels of silver and vessels of gold, but still never a living soul. So when Halvor had stood there a while and no one came out, he went and opened a door, and there inside sat a princess who span on a spinning-wheel.

"Nay, nay, now!" she called out, "dare Christian folk come here? But now you'd best be off about your business, if you don't want the troll to gobble you up; for here lives a troll with three heads."

"All one to me," said the lad, "I'd be just as glad to hear he had four heads beside; I'd like to see what kind of fellow he is. As for going, I won't go at all. I've done no harm; but meat you must get me, for I'm almost starved to death."

When Halvor had eaten his fill, the princess told him to try if he could brandish the sword that hung against the wall. No, he couldn't brandish it; he couldn't even lift it up.

"Oh!" said the princess, "now you must go and take a pull of that flask that hangs by its side; that's what the troll does every time he goes out to use the sword."

So Halvor took a pull, and in the twinkling of an eye he could brandish the sword like nothing; and now he thought it high time the troll came; and lo! Just then up came the troll puffing and blowing. Halvor jumped behind the door.

"Hutetu," said the troll, as he put his head in at the door, "what a smell of Christian man's blood!"

"Ay," said Halvor, "you'll soon know that to your cost," and with that he hewed off all his heads.

Now the princess was so glad that she was free, she both danced and sang, but then all at once she called her sisters to mind, and so she said,

"Would my sisters were free too!"

"Where are they?" asked Halvor.

Well, she told him all about it; one was taken away by a troll to his castle, which lay fifty miles off, and the other by another Troll to his castle, which was fifty miles farther still.

"But now," she said, "you must first help me to get this ugly carcase out of the house."

Yes, Halvor was so strong he swept everything away, and made it all clean and tidy in no time. So they had a good and happy time of it, and next morning he set off at peep of grey dawn; he could take no rest by the way, but ran and walked the whole day. When he first saw the castle he got a little afraid; it was far grander than the first, but here too there wasn't a living soul to be seen. So Halvor went into the kitchen, and didn't stop there either, but went straight farther on into the house.

"Nay, nay," called out the princess, "dare Christian folk come here? I don't know I'm sure how long it is since I came here, but in all that time I haven't seen a Christian man. It were best you saw how to get away as fast as you came; for here lives a troll who has six heads."

"I shan't go," said Halvor, "if he had six heads besides."

"He'll take you up and swallow you down alive," said the princess.

But it was no good, Halvor wouldn't go; he wasn't at all afraid of the troll, but meat and drink he must have, for he was half starved after his long journey. Well, he got as much of that as he wished, but then the princess wanted him to be off again.

"No," said Halvor, "I won't go, I've done no harm, and I've nothing to be afraid about."

"He won't stay to ask that," said the princess, "for he'll take you without law or leave; but as you won't go, just try if you can brandish that sword yonder, which the troll wields in war."

He couldn't brandish it, and then the princess said he must take a pull at the flask which hung by its side, and when he had done that he could brandish it.

Just then back came the troll, and he was both stout and big, so that he had to go sideways to get through the door. When the troll got his first head in he called out,

"Hutetu, what a smell of Christian man's blood!"

But that very moment Halvor hewed off his first head, and so on with all the rest as they popped in. The princess was overjoyed, but just then she came to think of her sisters, and wished out loud they were free. Halvor thought that might easily be done, and wanted to be off at once, but first he had to help the princess to get the troll's carcase out of the way, and so he could only set out next morning.

It was a long way to the castle, and he had to walk fast and run hard to reach it in time; but about nightfall he saw the castle, which was far finer and grander than either of the others. This time he wasn't the least afraid, but walked straight through the kitchen, and into the castle. There sat a princess who was so pretty, there was no end to her loveliness. She, too, like the others, told him there hadn't been Christian folk there ever since she came there, and bade him go away again, else the troll would swallow him alive, and do you know, she said, he has nine heads.

"Ay, ay," said Halvor, "if he had nine other heads, and nine other heads still, I won't go away," and so he stood fast before the stove. The princess kept on begging him so prettily to go away, lest the troll should gobble him up, but Halvor said,

"Let him come as soon as he likes."

So she gave him the troll's sword, and bade him take a pull at the flask, that he might be able to brandish and wield it.

Just then back came the troll puffing and blowing and tearing along. He was far stouter and bigger than the other two, and he too had to go on one side to get through the door. So when he got his first head in, he said as the others had said,

"Hutetu, what a smell of Christian man's blood!"

That very moment Halvor hewed off the first head and then all the rest; but the last was the toughest of them all, and it was the hardest bit of work Halvor had to do to get it hewn off, although he knew very well he had strength enough to do it.

So all the princesses came together to that castle, which was called Soria Moria Castle, and they were glad and happy as they had never been in all their lives before, and they all were fond of Halvor and Halvor of them, and he might choose the one he liked best for his bride; but the youngest was fondest of him of all the three.

But there, after a while, Halvor went about, and was so strange and dull and silent. Then the princesses asked him what he lacked, and if he didn't like to live with them any longer? Yes, he did, for they had enough and to spare, and he was well off in every way, but still somehow or other he did so long to go home, for his father and mother were alive, and them he had such a great wish to see.

Well, they thought that might be done easily enough.

"You shall go there and come back here, safe and unscathed, if you will only follow our advice," said the princesses.

Yes, he'd be sure to mind all they said. So they dressed him up till he was as grand as a king's son, and then they set a ring on his finger, and that was such a ring, he could wish himself there and here with it; but they told him to be sure not to take it off, and not to name their names, for there would be an end of all his bravery, and then he'd never see them more.

"If I only stood at home I'd be glad," said Halvor; and it was done as he had wished. Then stood Halvor at his father's cottage door before he knew a word about it. Now it was about dusk at even, and so, when they saw such a grand stately lord walk in, the old couple got so afraid they began to bow and scrape. Then Halvor asked if he couldn't stay there, and have a lodging there that night. No; that he couldn't.

"We can't do it at all," they said, "for we haven't this thing or that thing which such a lord is used to have; it were best your lordship went up to the farm, no long way off, for you can see the chimneys, and there they have lots of everything."

Halvor wouldn't hear of it. He wanted to stop; but the old couple stuck to their own, that he had better go to the farmer's; there he would get both meat and drink; as for them, they hadn't even a chair to offer him to sit down on.

"No," said Halvor, "I won't go up there till tomorrow early, but let me just stay here tonight; worst come to the worst, I can sit in the chimney corner."

Well, they couldn't say anything against that; so Halvor sat down by the ingle, and began to poke about in the ashes, just as he used to do when he lay at home in old days, and stretched his lazy bones.

Well, they chattered and talked about many things; and they told Halvor about this thing and that; and so he asked them if they had never had any children.

"Yes, yes, they had once a lad whose name was Halvor, but they didn't know where he had wandered; they couldn't even tell whether he were dead or alive."

"Couldn't it be me now?" said Halvor.

"Let me see; I could tell him well enough," said the old wife, and rose up. "Our Halvor was so lazy and dull, he never did a thing; and besides, he was so ragged that one tatter took hold of the next tatter on him. No; there never was the making of such a fine fellow in him as you are, master."

A little while after the old wife went to the hearth to poke up the fire, and when the blaze fell on Halvor's face, just as when he was at home of old poking about in the ashes, she knew him at once.

"Ah! but is it you after all, Halvor?" she cried; and then there was such joy for the old couple, there was no end to it; and he was forced to tell how he had fared, and the old dame was so fond and proud of him, nothing would do but he must go up at once to the farmer's and show himself to the lassies, who had always looked down on him. And off she went first, and Halvor followed after. So, when she got up there, she told them all how her Halvor had come home again, and now they should only just see how grand he was, for, said she, "he looks like nothing but a king's son."

"All very fine," said the lassies, and tossed up their heads. "We'll be bound he's just the same beggarly, ragged boy he always was."

Just then in walked Halvor, and then the lassies were all so taken aback, they forgot their sarks in the ingle, where they were sitting darning their clothes, and ran out in their smocks. Well, when they were got back again, they were so shamefaced they scarce dared look at Halvor, towards whom they had always been proud and haughty. "Ay, ay," said Halvor, "you always thought yourselves so pretty and neat, no one could come near you; but now you should just see the eldest princess I have set free; against her you look just like milkmaids, and the midmost is prettier still; but the youngest, who is my sweetheart, she's fairer than both sun and moon. Would to Heaven she were only here," said Halvor, "then you'd see what you would see."

He had scarce uttered these words before there they stood, but then he felt so sorry, for now what they had said came into his mind. Up at the farm there was a great feast got ready for the princesses, and much was made of them, but they wouldn't stop there.

"No; we want to go down to your father and mother," they said to Halvor; "and so we'll go out now and look about us."

So he went down with them, and they came to a great lake just outside the farm. Close by the water was such a lovely green bank; here the princesses said they would sit and rest a while; they thought it so sweet to sit down and look over the water.

So they sat down there, and when they had sat a while, the youngest princess said,

"I may as well comb your hair a little, Halvor."

Yes, Halvor laid his head on her lap, and so she combed his bonny locks, and it wasn't long before Halvor fell fast asleep. Then she took the ring from his finger, and put another in its stead; and so she said,

"Now hold me all together! And now would we were all in Soria Moria Castle."

So when Halvor woke up, he could very well tell that he had lost the princesses, and began to weep and wail; and he was so downcast, they couldn't comfort him at all. In spite of all his father and mother said, he wouldn't stop there, but took farewell of them, and said he was safe not to see them again; for if he couldn't find the princesses again, he thought it not worthwhile to live.

Well, he had still three hundred dollars left, so he put them into his pocket, and set out on his way. So when he had walked a while, he met a man with a tidy horse, and he wanted to buy it, and began to chaffer with the man.

"Ay," said the man, "to tell the truth, I never thought of selling him; but if we could strike a bargain, perhaps"

"What do you want for him," asked Halvor.

"I didn't give much for him, nor is he worth much; he's a brave horse to ride, but he can't draw at all; still he's strong enough to carry your knapsack and you too, turn and turn about," said the man.

At last they agreed on the price, and Halvor laid the knapsack on him, and so he walked a bit, and rode a bit, turn and turn about. At night he came to a green plain where stood a great tree, at the roots of which he sat down. There he let the horse loose, but he didn't lie down to sleep, but opened his knapsack and took a meal. At peep of day off he set again, for he could take no rest. So he rode and walked, and walked and rode the whole day through the wide wood, where there were so many green spots and glades that shone so bright and lovely between the trees. He didn't know at all where he was or where he was going, but he gave himself no more time to rest than when his horse cropped a bit of grass, and he took a snack out of his knapsack when they came to one of those green glades. So he went on walking and riding by turns, and as for the wood there seemed to be no end to it.

But at dusk the next day he saw a light gleaming away through the trees.

"Would there were folk hereabout," thought Halvor, "that I might warm myself a bit and get a morsel to keep body and soul together."

When he got up to it, he saw the light came from a wretched little hut, and through the window he saw an old, old couple inside. They were as grey-headed as a pair of doves, and the old wife had such a nose! Why, it was so long she used it for a poker to stir the fire as she sat in the ingle.

"Good evening," said Halvor.

"Good evening," said the old wife.

"But what errand can you have in coming here?" she went on, "for no Christian folk have been here these hundred years and more."

Well, Halvor told her all about himself, and how he wanted to get to Soria Moria Castle, and asked if she knew the way there.

"No," said the old wife, "that I don't, but see now, here comes the Moon, I'll ask her, she'll know all about it, for doesn't she shine on everything."

So when the moon stood clear and bright over the treetops, the old wife went out.

"You moon, you moon," she screamed, "can you tell me the way to Soria Moria Castle?"

"No," said the Moon, "that I can't, for the last time I shone there a cloud stood before me."

"Wait a bit still," said the old wife to Halvor, "by and by comes the West Wind; he's sure to know it, for he puffs and blows round every corner."

"Nay, nay," said the old wife when she went out again, "you don't mean to say you've got a horse too; just turn the poor beastie loose in our enclosed pasture and don't let him stand there and starve to death at the door."

Then she ran on,

"But won't you swop him away to me; we've got an old pair of boots here, with which you can take twenty miles at each stride; those you shall have for your horse, and so you'll get all the sooner to Soria Moria Castle."

That Halvor was willing to do at once; and the old wife was so glad at the horse, she was ready to dance and skip for joy.

"For now," she said, "I shall be able to ride to church. I too, think of that."

As for Halvor, he had no rest, and wanted to be off at once, but the old wife said there was no hurry.

"Lie down on the bench with you and sleep a bit, for we've no bed to offer you, and I'll watch and wake you when the West Wind comes."

So after a while up came the West Wind, roaring and howling along till the walls creaked and groaned again.

Out ran the old wife.

"You west wind, you west wind! Canst you tell me the way to Soria Moria Castle? Here's one who wants to get there."

"Yes, I know it very well," said the West Wind, "and now I'm just off there to dry clothes for the wedding that's to be; if he's swift of foot he can go along with me."

Out ran Halvor.

"You'll have to stretch your legs if you mean to keep up," said the West Wind.

So off he set over field and hedge, and hill and fell, and Halvor had hard work to keep up.

"Well," said the West Wind, "now I've no time to stay with you any longer, for I've got to go away yonder and tear down a strip of spruce wood first before I go to the bleaching-ground to dry the clothes; but if you go alongside the hill you'll come to a lot of lassies standing washing clothes, and then you've not far to go to Soria Moria Castle."

In a little while Halvor came on the lassies who stood washing, and they asked if he had seen anything of the West Wind, who was to come and dry the clothes for the wedding.

"Ay, ay, that I have," said Halvor, "he's only gone to tear down a strip of spruce wood. It'll not be long before he's here," and then he asked them the way to Soria Moria Castle.

So they put him into the right way, and when he got to the Castle it was full of folk and horses; so full it made one giddy to look at them. But Halvor was so ragged and torn from having followed the West Wind through bush and brier and bog, that he kept on one side, and wouldn't show himself till the last day when the bridal feast was to be.

So when all, as was then right and fitting, were to drink the bride and bridegroom's health and wish them luck, and when the cupbearer was to drink to them all again, both knights and squires, last of all he came in turn to Halvor. He drank their health, but let the ring which the princess had put on his finger as he lay by the lake fall into the glass, and bade the cupbearer go and greet the bride and hand her the glass.

Then up rose the princess from the board at once.

"Who is most worthy to have one of us," she said, "he that has set us free, or he that here sits by me as bridegroom."

Well they all said there could be but one voice and will as to that, and when Halvor heard that he wasn't long in throwing off his beggar's rags, and arraying himself as bridegroom.

"Ay, ay, here is the right one after all," said the youngest princess as soon as she saw him, and so she tossed the other one out of the window, and held her wedding with Halvor.

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