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  1. The Polite Coal-Burner
  2. The Elves' Dance
  3. The Valiant Chanticleer

The Polite Coal-Burner

At Vejefors forge, up near the northern frontier, there was, many years ago, a charcoal burner who. however vigilant he might be, always had to rebuild and burn his stacks. Now, the wood was not burned enough, again, poorly burned, and a thousand annoyances pursued him in his work.

One evening, as he sat in his hut mending his tools, a beautiful maiden entered, and, complaining that she was almost frozen, asked permission to warm herself at the fire.

The coal burner, who had been long in the woods, understood at once that his visitor was a wood nymph, beautiful and enchanting when seen face to face, but, when seen behind, is adorned with a bushy fox tail.

When she had warmed herself in front awhile, she turned her back to the fire, and the coal burner was given an opportunity to see the tail, whereupon, with unexpected courtesy, he addressed his guest;

"Miss, look out for your train, please!"

That nice name for her troublesome appendage won the troll woman's affections, and from that day everything went admirably with the coal burner.


The Elves' Dance

On the marshy oak and linden covered island of Sör, when the grass starts forth in the spring, are to be seen, here and there, circles of a deeper green than the surrounding grass, which the people say mark the places where elves have had their ring dances.

While the provost, Lille Strale, was pastor of the parish church, a servant was sent out late one evening to bring a horse in from a pasture. Plodding along as best he could in the darkness, he had not gone far when it was discovered that he had lost his way, and, turn which way he would, he could not find the sought for meadow.

Exhausted at last by constant walking, he sat down at the foot of an oak to rest himself. Presently strains of lovely music reached his ears, and he saw, quite near, a multitude of little people engaged in a lively ring dance on the sward. So light were their footsteps that the tops of the grass blades were scarcely moved.

In the middle of the ring stood the elf queen herself, taller and more beautiful than the others, with a golden crown on her head and her clothes sparkling in the moonlight with gold and precious stones.

Beckoning to him, she said, "Come, Anders, and tread a dance with me!" and Anders, thinking it would be impolite not to comply with the request of a woman so beautiful, rose and stepped bowing into the ring.

Poor lad, he did not know what a fate awaited him who ventured to participate in the sports of the elves. How the dance terminated is not known, but when it ended the young man found himself again under the oak, and from that hour he was never again wholly himself. From being the most lively and cheerful young man in the village, he became the dullest and most melancholy, and, before the year had gone, his days were ended.


The Valiant Chanticleer

THERE was once on a time a married couple who had no children, and they did not know what to do to get a child. The husband did not seem to mind so much, but the wife could not rest till she had a child. She must have one, whatever happened; and she went to doctors and wise men, and consulted all who knew a little more than other people, but to no avail. There was no one who could give her any advice.

So one evening an old woman came and asked for shelter for the night, which she got. But when women get together they always find something to talk about, and before long the wife had told the old woman all about herself and her affairs, and what a pity it was that she had no children.

"Is it no worse than that?" said the woman. "There's a way out of that! Look," she said, "here is an egg for you, and when you put it in your bosom and keep it nice and warm, you will soon have a little one, and a wonderful child it will be; such a child you have never seen," she said.

The wife thought this was strange, but there are so many strange things in this world that it was hardly worthwhile to wonder much about it. She took the egg and thanked the woman for her good advice, and said she would do as she was bid, and with this they parted.

She put the egg in her bosom and tended it well and carefully, and kept it as warm as she possibly could, and after a time a little cockerel flew out of it. The wife was not very pleased at this, you can understand, for she had not expected it would end in this way.

But as she had hatched him herself, she supposed he must be her child after all, such as he was. She looked after him and gathered food together for him, and cackled to him, and made herself as much like a hen as she could. And so he grew up and got both feathers and comb, and became so big, so big, that his equal had never been seen before.

When he was full-feathered he had to go out and find what he could, and he began to kick and scratch about in the dust heap, so that the rubbish was thrown up in the air so high that no one could see what became of it. But he wanted to try if he could do more than that, and so he strutted out into the corn-field, where the master of the house was toiling away and ploughing with the one ox he possessed. But he got on very slowly, so the cock thought he ought to help him. So he was yoked to the plough; and then things took a different turn, for now they went at such a speed that the master had to run as fast as he could, and in a little while the cock had ploughed the whole field. He now thought he was a full-grown fellow, and that he could get married; but not to a little farmyard hen, that would never do for him. No, he must look higher, and so he flapped his wings and crowed.

"The king's daughter shall be mine!" and he wanted to set out for the king's palace.

But he must have a suitable conveyance for the bride, he thought, even if he had to drag it himself; and as there was nothing else to be found, he took the big soup-ladle. The wife cried and cackled after him, but out into the world he must go, and away he went.

All at once he met a fox.

"Where are you going?" asked the fox.

"To the king's palace," crowed the cock.

"May I come with you?" said the fox.

"Sit up behind," cried the cock; and the fox took a seat in the ladle, and away they went.

Then he met a wolf.

"Where are you going?" asked the wolf.

"To the king's palace," crowed the cock.

"May I come with you?" said the wolf.

"Sit up behind," cried the cock; and then the wolf seated himself in the ladle, and away they went.

Then the cock met a bear.

"Where are you going?" asked the bear.

"To the king's palace," crowed the cock.

"May I come with you?" said the bear.

"Sit up behind," cried the cock; and then the bear took a seat in the ladle, and away they went.

All at once they came to a lake.

"Where are you going?" asked the lake.

"To the king's palace," crowed the cock.

"May I come with you?" said the lake.

"Sit up behind," cried the cock; and then the lake began to heave, so that the one billow after the other washed up into the ladle, and soon the whole lake was in it. The cock's companions got a little wet about the feet, but there was no help for that. The cock set off with them, and so they came to the king's palace. The cock now flew up on the roof of the palace and crowed:

"The king's daughter shall be mine!"

The king heard this.

"That's a strange cock!" he thought. And then he gave orders that his men should catch him, and all of them began to run after the cock and call him. But when they got so near to him that they could almost catch him, he flew up on the roof again, and then he crowed:

"The king's daughter shall be mine!"

It was all in vain, they could not catch him.

"I suppose you must have her, then," said the king, with a laugh; and then the cock allowed himself to be caught at once.

But as soon as the king had got him he was sorry for what he had promised, for a king's word is a king's word; but a better son-in-law he might surely have got, he who had such a fair and beautiful daughter, and his only daughter into the bargain. But how should he get rid of him?

"If I let him into the goose-pen, the geese are sure to finish him off," he thought; and so he let the cock in among the geese. They began to pinch and peck at him with their beaks and to pluck his feathers out, but just then he crowed for the fox:

"Cock-a-doodle-do! Foxie, come and help!" And the fox came sneaking along, and he was not slow in getting in among the geese, and there he ravaged about in such a way that they were all dead in less than some time.

The cock then flew up on the roof, and crowed: "The king's daughter shall be mine!"

"Such a dreadful cock I have never set eyes on!" thought the king. "Now he has killed all my geese! How shall I get rid of him? What if I let him in among my cattle? They'll be sure to finish him," he thought, and so he let him into the cow-shed. The king had a large herd of cattle, and they seized the cock with their horns and tossed him about between them like a ball.

But the cock flew up on top of the bull and crowed for the wolf:

"Cock-a-doodle-do! Wolfie, come and help!" The wolf was not long in coming, and he had such a feast that there wasn't a single beast left alive. The cock flew up on the roof again, and then he crowed:

"The king's daughter shall be mine!"

"Has anyone seen the like of that cock?" said the king. "Now he has finished all my geese and all my cattle. How shall I get rid of him? What if I let him in among the horses? They'll be sure to finish him," he thought; and so he let the cock into the stable.

The king had a lot of horses, and they began to rear and kick with all their might, so that the cock was knocked about from one to the other like a wheel rolling down the street, and he soon got tired of that kind of knocking about. So he crowed for the bear. "Cock-a-doodle-do! Bruin, come and help!"

And the bear was not long in coming, and he began to strike and tear, till there was not one of the king's horses left.

The cock then flew up on the roof again, and crowed:

"The king's daughter shall be mine!"

"That's the worst cock I ever came across," said the king. "First he kills all my geese and all my cattle, and now he has finished my horses as well. I shall be quite ruined. But now I'll put him on the spit and roast him and eat him myself, and it'll be a wonder if I don't get rid of him then."

That was what must be done; and so they took the cock and put him on the spit, and the kitchen maids made such a big fire, that it fizzled all round him. But the cock crowed for the lake.

"Cock-a-doodle-do! Lakey, come and help!"

And the lake came rolling in and put out the fire. But it was only just in the nick of time, for the cock was half roasted. But as they could not get him done any better, he would have to do as he was; and so they carried him up on a silver dish and placed him on the table. The king was so angry that he swallowed him in one gulp.

"Now I suppose I'm rid of him," he thought. But as soon as the cock got into the king's stomach he began to revive again and to crow:

"The king's daughter shall be mine!" And he tumbled about so terribly down there that the king could not keep him down, and so had to vomit him. But no sooner had the cock recovered than he began to flap his wings, and he flew up and perched on the top of the king's crown, and there he crowed:

"The king's daughter shall be mine!"

The king was in despair; he did not know what to do, and flung his crown away.

"Well, you had better take her then, you bird of ill-omen, and half the kingdom as well; only leave me in peace!" he cried.

The cock was now to have the princess. She cried and wept bitterly, for you can easily understand she did not want such a bridegroom. She was not a hen, and did not want to become one.

But all her crying and her wailings were of no avail, she would have to marry the cock and be satisfied with him. He tried to comfort her as best he could, and swept the table with his wings, and breasted and plumed himself in a cock's very best manner; but she went on crying and weeping, and as he was not able to console her, he at last asked her to wring his neck. No, that she would not do, for life may be dear, even to a cock, she thought. But he begged and prayed so hard that at last she did it, and the next moment a prince stood before her, and he was so fine and handsome as to beggar all description; and yet he was the cock! There was soon an end to the crying and wailing, and things took another turn, for both the princess and the king were so happy that no one can believe how happy they were.

To the wedding came people from all parts of the country, and the man and his wife were there as well. The fox and the wolf and the bear waited at the table, and the lake washed up the dishes, and altogether it was the grandest wedding I have ever been to in all my days.




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