Site Map
Swedish Folktales
Section › 2 Set Search Previous Next

Reservations Contents  

  1. The Brownies
  2. The Lame Dog
  3. Neighbours Bickering

The Brownies

In descriptions of Swedish brownies we are told that they look like little men well along in years, and in size about that of a child three or four years old, as a rule clad in coarse grey clothes and wearing red caps on their heads. They usually make the pantry or barn their abiding-place. There they busy themselves night and day and keep watch over the household arrangements. When the servants are to go to threshing, or other work requiring early rising, they are awakened by the brownies. If there is building going on, it is a good sign if the brownies are heard chopping and pounding during the hours of rest for the workmen.

In the forge where the brownies have established themselves, the smith may take his rest in confidence that they will awaken him by a blow on the sole of the foot when it is time for him to turn the iron.

Formerly no iron was worked on "brownie night," which they reserved for purposes of their own. On this night, were one to peek through the cracks of the door, the little people would be discovered working silver bars, or turning their own legs under the hammer.

It is believed that in the house or community where there is order and prosperity, the brownies are at home. But in the house where proper respect is lacking or where there is a want of order and cleanliness, they will not remain. It will follow that the cup-board and corn-crib will be empty, the cattle will not thrive, and the peasant will be reduced to extreme poverty and want.

It happened thus to a farmer that he had never finished his threshing before spring, although he could not find that he had harvested more grain than others of his neighbours. To try to discover the source of such plenty he one day hid himself in the barn. From there he saw a multitude of brownies come, each bearing a stalk of rye. Among them was one who was not larger than a man's thumb, bearing a straw on his shoulders.

"Why do you puff so hard?" said the farmer from his hiding-place, "your burden is not so great.''

"His burden is according to his strength, for he is but one night old," answered one of the brownies, "but from now on you shall have less."

From that day all luck disappeared from the farmer's house, and finally he was reduced to beggary.

In the parish of Nyhil there are two estates lying near each other, and both called Tobo. On one was a brownie, who was usually offered wheaten porridge and honey on Christmas eve. One time the porridge was so warm when it was set out that the honey melted. When the brownie came to the place and failed to find his honey as before, he became so angry that he went to the stable and choked one of the cows to death. After having done this he returned and ate the porridge. On emptying the dish, he found the honey in the bottom. Repenting what he had done a few minutes before, he carried the dead cow to a neighbouring farm and led a similar cow from there to replace the one he had killed.

While he was away, the women had been to the barn and returned to the house, where they told of the dead cow to the men. But when the men came to the cow-shed, there was no missing cow.

In one place, in the municipality of Ydre, a housewife saw that however much she took of meal from the bins, they seemed to be just as full as before, perhaps even fuller. One day when she went to the larder she spied, through the chinks of the door, a little man sifting meal with all his might.

The woman noticed that his clothes were very much worn, so she thought rewarding him for his labour and the good he had brought her, and made him a new suit. hanging it on the meal bin, she hid herself to see what he would think of his new clothes. When the brownie came again he noticed the new garments, and at once exchanged his tattered ones for the better. But when he began to sift and found that the meal made his fine clothes dusty, he threw the sieve into the corner and said, "Junker Grand is dusting himself. He shall sift no more.

It is the Swedish word tomt that translates into brownie. - TK

TO TOP

The Lame Dog

ONCE on a time there lived a king, like many others. He had three daughters, who were young and beautiful. Yet there was a great difference among them; for the two older sisters were haughty; while the youngest was sweet and friendly, and everyone liked her. Besides, she was fair as the day and delicate as the snow.

One day the king's daughters were sitting together in their room, and their talk happened to turn on their husbands-to-be.

The oldest said, "If I ever marry, my husband must have golden hair and a a golden beard!"

And the second exclaimed, "And mine must have silver hair and a silver beard!"

But the youngest princess held her tongue and said nothing. Then her sisters asked her whether she did not want to wish for a husband. "No," she answered, "but if fate should give me a husband, I will be content to take him as he is, and were he no more than a lame dog."

Then the two other princesses laughed and joked about it, and told her the day might easily come when she would change her mind.

But many speak truth and do not know it! Thus it chanced with the king's daughters; since before the year had come to an end, each had the suitor she had wished for. A man with golden hair and golden beard courted the oldest princess and won her consent. And a man with silver hair and a silver beard courted the second and she became his bride; but the youngest princess had no other suitor than a lame dog.

Then she recalled her talk with her sisters in their room, and thought to herself, "May heavens help me in the marriage I have to enter!" Yet she would not break the word she had once passed; but followed her sisters' example and accepted the dog.

The wedding lasted a number of days and was celebrated with great pomp and splendour. But while the guests danced and amused themselves, the youngest princess sat apart and wept, and when the others were laughing, her tears flowed.

After the wedding the newly married pairs were each to drive off to their castle. And the two older princesses each drove off in a splendidly decorated coach, with a large retinue, and all sorts of honours. But the youngest had to go on foot, since her husband, the dog, had neither coach nor driver.

When they had wandered long and far, they came to a great forest. The dog limped along in advance, and the king's daughter followed after, weeping. As they went along, she suddenly saw a magnificent castle lying before them, and round about it were beautiful meadows and green woods, all of them most enjoyable to see. The princess stopped and asked to whom the great mansion might belong. "That," said the dog, "is our home. We will live here, and you shall rule it as you see fit."

Then the maiden laughed among her tears, and could not overcome her surprise at all she saw. The dog added, "I have but a single request to make to you, and that you must not refuse to grant."

"What is your request?" asked the princess. "You must promise me," said the dog, "that you will never look at me while I am asleep: otherwise you are free to do whatever you wish."

The princess gladly promised to grant his request, and so they went to the great castle. And if the castle was magnificent from without, it was still more magnificent within. It was so full of gold and silver that the precious metals gleamed from every corner; and there was such abundance of supplies of every kind, and of so many other things, that everything in the world one might have wished to have was already there. The princess spent the livelong day running from one room to another, and each was handsomer than the one she had just entered. But when evening came and she went to bed, the dog crept into his own, and then she noticed that he was not a dog; but a human being. Yet she said not a word, because she remembered her promise, and did not wish to cross her husband's will.

Thus some time passed. The princess dwelt in the beautiful castle, and had everything her heart might desire. But every day the dog ran off, and did not reappear until it was evening and the sun had set. Then he returned home, and was always so kind and friendly that it would have been a fine thing had other men done half as well.

The princess now began to feel a great affection for him, and quite forgot he was only a lame dog; for the proverb says, "Love is blind." Yet time passed slowly because she was so much alone, and she often thought of visiting her sisters and seeing how they were. She spoke of it to her husband, and begged his permission to make the journey. No sooner had the dog heard her wish than he at once granted it, and even accompanied her some distance, in order to show her the way out of the wood.

When the king's daughters were once reunited, they were naturally very happy, and there were a great many questions asked about matters old and new. And marriage was also discussed. The oldest princess said, "It was silly of me to wish for a husband with golden hair and golden beard; for mine is worse than a troll, and I have not known a happy day since we married."

And the second went on, "Yes, and I am no better off; for although I have a husband with silver hair and a silver beard, he dislikes me so heartily that he begrudges me a single hour of happiness."

Then her sisters turned to the youngest princess and asked how she fared. "Well," was her answer, "I really cannot complain; for though I only got a lame dog, he is such a dear good fellow and so kind to me that it would be hard to find a better husband."

The other princesses were much surprised to hear this, and did not stop prying and questioning, and their sister answered all their questions faithfully. When they heard how splendidly she lived in the great castle, they grew jealous because she was so much better off than they were. And they insisted on knowing whether there was not someone little thing of which she could complain. "No," said the king's daughter, "I can only praise my husband for his kindness and amiability, and there is but one thing lacking to make me perfectly happy."

"What is it?" "What is it?" cried both sisters with a single voice.

"Every night, when he comes home," said the princess, "he turns into a human being, and I am sorry that I can never see what he really looks like."

Then both sisters again with one voice, began to scold the dog loudly; because he had a secret which he kept from his wife. And since her sisters now continually spoke about it, her own curiosity awoke once more, she forgot her husband's command, and asked how she might manage to see him without his knowing it.

"O," said the oldest princess, "nothing easier! Here is a little lamp, which you must hide carefully. Then you need only get up at night when he is asleep, and light the lamp in order to see him in his true shape."

This advice seemed good to the king's daughter; she took the lamp, hid it in her breast, and promised to do all that her sisters had counselled.

When the time came for them to part, the youngest princess went back to her beautiful castle. The day passed like every other day. When evening came at last and the dog had gone to bed, the princess was so driven by curiosity that she could hardly wait until he had fallen asleep. Then she rose, softly, lit her lamp, and drew near the bed to look at him while he slept. In the bed was the handsomest youth her eyes had ever seen. She could not stop looking at him; but sat up all night bending over his pillow, and the more she looked at him the handsomer he seemed to grow, until she forgot everything else in the world. At last the morning came. And as the first star began to pale in the dawn, the youth began to grow restless and awaken.

The princess blew out her lamp and lay down in her bed. The youth thought she was sleeping and did not wish to wake her, so he rose quietly, assumed his other shape, went away and did not appear again all day long.

And when evening came and it grew late, everything happened as before. The dog came home from the forest and was very tired. But no sooner had he fallen asleep than the princess rose carefully, lit her lamp and came over to look at him. And when she cast the light on his bed it seemed to her as though the youth had grown even handsomer than the day before, and the longer she looked the more handsome he became; until she had to laugh and weep from sheer love and longing. She could not take her eyes from him, and sat all night long bent over his pillow, forgetful of her promise and all else, only to be able to look at him.

With the first ray of dawn the youth began to stir and awake. Then the princess quickly blew out her lamp and lay down in her bed. The youth thought she was sleeping, and not wishing to waken her, rose softly, assumed his other shape, went away and was gone for the entire day.

At length it grew late again, evening came and the dog returned home from the forest as usual. But again the princess could not control her curiosity; no sooner was her husband sleeping than she rose quietly, lit her lamp, and drew near carefully in order to look at him while he slept. And when the light fell on the youth, he appeared to be handsomer than ever before, and the longer she looked the more handsome he grew, until her heart burned in her breast, and she forgot all else in the world looking at him. She could not take her eyes from him, and sat up all night bending over his pillow.

When morning came and the sun rose, the youth began to move and awaken. In a hurry the princess tried to put out her lamp quickly. But her hand trembled, and a warm drop of oil fell on the youth and he awoke. When he saw what she had done, he leaped up, terrified, and at once turned into a lame dog who limped out into the forest. The princess felt so remorseful that she nearly lost her senses, and she ran after him, wringing her hands and weeping bitterly, and begging him to return. But he did not come back.

The king's daughter now wandered over hill and dale, along many roads new to her, in order to find her husband, and her tears flowed. But the dog was gone and stayed gone, When she saw that she could not find him, she thought she would return to her handsome castle.

But the castle was nowhere to be seen, and wherever she went she was surrounded by a forest black as coal. Then she thought that the whole world had abandoned her, sat down on a stone, wept bitterly, and thought how much rather she would die than live without her husband.

At that a little toad hopped out from under the stone and said, "Lovely maiden, why do you sit here and weep?"

The princess answered, "I have lost the love of my heart."

"O," said the toad, "if that is all that troubles you, I can help you! If you will promise to be my dear, I will show you the way to him."

But that the princess did not want to do. She answered, "Ask of me what you will, but not that. I have never loved anyone more than my lame dog, and so long as I live will never love anyone else more."

With that she rose, wept bitterly, and went on her way. But the toad looked after her in a friendly manner and once more crept under his stone.

After the king's daughter had wandered on for a long, long way, and still saw nothing but forest and wilderness, she grew very tired. She once more sat down on a stone, rested her chin on her hand. Suddenly there was a rustling in the bushes, and she saw a grey wolf coming directly toward her. She was much frightened, since her one thought was that the wolf intended to eat her.

But the wolf stopped, wagged his tail, and said, "Hello, maiden! Why do you sit here and weep so bitterly?"

The princess answered, "I have lost my heart's dearest."

"O," said the wolf, "if that is all that troubles you, I can help you! Let me be your dear one and I will show you the way."

But the princess answered, "Ask of me what you will, but not that. I have never loved anyone more than my lame dog, and so long as I live I will never love anyone else more."

With that she rose, weeping bitterly, and went on her way. But the wolf looked after her in a friendly manner and ran off hastily.

After the princess had once more wandered for a long time in the wilderness, she was again so wearied and exhausted that she could not go on. She sat down on a stone, wrung her hands and despaired. At that moment she heard a hollow roaring, and a lion appeared and came directly toward her. Now she was much frightened, but the lion was so weighed down with heavy iron chains that he could scarcely drag himself along, and the chains clashed at either side when he moved.

When the lion finally reached the princess he stopped, wagged his tail and asked, "Beautiful maiden, why do you sit here and weep so bitterly?''

The princess answered, "I have lost my heart's dearest, that's why."

"O," said the lion, "if that is all that troubles you, I can help you! Just untie my chains and I will be your dear one and l show you the way."

But the princess was so terrified that she could not answer, far less venture to draw near him. But at that moment she heard the clear voice of a little nightingale who sat among the branches and sang:

"Maiden, maiden, loose his chains!"

Then she felt sorry for the lion, grew braver, went up to him, unloosed his chains and said, "Your chains I can untiefor you; but I can never be your special friend. For I have never loved anyone more than my lame dog and will never love anyone else more."

When the last chain fell from him, the lion turned into a handsome young prince, and when the princess looked at him more closely, it was none other than her heart's dearest, who before had been a dog. She sank to the ground, clasped his knees, and begged him not to leave her again. But the prince raised her with deep affection, took her in his arms and said, "No, now we shall never more be parted, for I am released from my enchantment, and have proved your faith toward me in some ways."

Great was their joy. The prince took his young wife home to the beautiful castle, and there he became king and she was his queen. And if they have not died, they are living there to this very day.

TO TOP

Neighbours Bickering

THE Smalanders declare: At the time when our Lord created the earth, he made a level and fruitful stretch of land, and that was Skåne. But the devil had been busy in the meantime, and had created Smaland, a barren region consisting mainly of hills and swamps. When the Creator saw it, it looked very hopeless to him, and he strewed the bits of earth that remained in his apron out over it, and created the Smalanders. They turned out to be a fine race of men, handsome and strong and able to take care of themselves in any situation. It is said to this very day, that if you take a Smalander and set him down on a rock in the sea, he will still manage to save himself.

But in the meantime the devil had been down in Skåne, and had created the people who live there, and that is why they are so slow, boastful and servile. But the people of Skåne say:

Once as the Creator and a servant were walking together, they heard a terrible commotion in a forest. "Go see what is happening there," said the Creator, and the servant went at once. He soon came upon the devil and a Smalander who were beating each other with might and main. God's servant tried to separate them; but they paid no attention to him. So he took his sword and chopped off both their heads, and then told the Creator what he had seen and done.

"That was not well done," said God. "Go and put back their heads where they were, and touch the wounds with your sword, and both will come to life again."

God's servant did so, but he happened to switch their heads. Since that time the Smalanders have a bit of the devil about them. And those who know the devil, will tell you that he is more or less like the Smalanders.

Contents


Swedish folktales, fairy tales and legends of Sweden, Literature  

Swedish folktales, fairy tales and legends of Sweden, To top Section Set Next

Swedish folktales, fairy tales and legends of Sweden USER'S GUIDE: [Link]
© 2007–2017, Tormod Kinnes. [Email]  ᴥ  Disclaimer: [Link]