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  1. Maiden Swanwhite and Maiden Foxtail
  2. Food for Kings: Oatcake and Herring
  3. Nightly Disturbances

Maiden Swanwhite and Maiden Foxtail

There was once on a time a wicked woman who had a daughter and a stepdaughter. The daughter was ugly and of an evil disposition, but the stepdaughter was most beautiful and good, and all who knew her wished her well. When the girl's stepmother and stepsister saw this, they hated the poor girl.

One day it chanced that she was sent by her stepmother to the well to draw water. When the girl came there she saw a little hand held out of the water, and a voice said,

"Maiden, beautiful and good, give me your golden apple, and in return for it I will wish you well three times."

The girl thought that one who spoke so fairly to her would not do her an ill turn, so she put the apple into the little hand. Then she bent down over the spring, and, taking care not to muddy the water, filled her bucket.

As she went home the guardian of the well wished that the girl would become three times as beautiful as she was, that whenever she laughed a gold ring might fall from her mouth, and that red roses might spring up wherever she trod. The same hour all that he wished came to pass.

From that day the girl was called the Maiden Swanwhite, and the fame of her loveliness spread all through the land.

When the wicked stepmother perceived this, she was filled with rage, and she thought how her own daughter might become as beautiful as Swanwhite. So she set herself to learn all that had happened, and then she sent her own daughter to fetch water. When the wicked girl had come to the well, she saw a little hand rise up out of the water, and heard a voice that said,

"Maiden, beautiful and good, give me your gold apple and I will wish you well three times."

But the hag's daughter was both wicked and avaricious, and it was not her way to give something away. She therefore made a dash at the little hand and said pettishly:

"You need not think you'll get a gold apple from me."

Then she filled her bucket, muddying the water, and away she went in a rage.

The guardian of the well was enraged too, so he wished that she was punished for her wickedness. He wished that she should become three times as ugly as she was, that a dead rat should fall from her mouth whenever she laughed, and that foxtail grass might spring up in the footsteps wherever she trod.

So it happened at once, and from that day the wicked girl was called Maiden Foxtail, and there was very much talk among the folk of her strange looks and her ill-nature.

The hag could not bear her stepdaughter should be more beautiful than her own daughter, and poor Swanwhite had to put up with all the ill-usage and suffering that a stepchild can meet with.

Swanwhite had a brother that she loved very much, and he also loved her with all his heart. He had long ago left home, and he was now the servant of a king, far, far off in a strange land. The other servants of the king had no good-will for him because he was liked by his master and they were petty. They therefore wished to ruin him if they could find anything against him.

They watched him closely, and one day, coming to the king, said, "Lord king, we know well that you do not like evil or vice in your servants. So we think it is only right to tell you that the young foreigner in your service bows on his knees to an idol every morning and evening."

When the king heard that, he thought it was due to envy and ill-will and did not think there was any truth in it. But the courtiers said that he could see for himself whether what they said was true or not. They led the king to the young man's rooms, and told him to look through the keyhole. When the king looked in he saw the young man on his knees before a fine picture, and so he could not help believing that what the courtiers had told him was true. He got much enraged and ordered the young man to come before him, and condemned him to die for his great wickedness.

"But," said Swanwhite's brother, "that is my sister's picture. I commend her to the care of God every morning and evening, asking him to protect her, for she remains in a wicked stepmother's power."

The king then wished to see the picture, and he never tired of looking on its beauty.

"If it is true," said he, "that it is your sister's picture, she shall be my queen. You yourself shall go and fetch her. But if you lie, you will be cast into the lions' den."

The king then commanded that a ship should be fitted out in grand style, having wine and treasure in it. Then he sent away the young man to fetch his beautiful sister to the court.

The young man sailed away over the sea and came at length to his own land. Here he delivered his master's message and also made preparations to return to the king.

The stepmother and stepsister begged that they might go with him and his sister. The young man had no liking for them, so he said no, and refused their request, but Swanwhite begged for them, and got them what they wanted.

When they had put to sea and were on the wide ocean, a great storm arose so that the sailors expected the vessel and all on her to go to the bottom. The young man was, however, in good spirits, and went up the mast in order to see if he could discover land anywhere. When he had looked out from the mast, he called to Swanwhite, who stood on the deck, "Dear sister, I see land now."

It was, however, blowing so hard that the maiden could not hear a word. She asked her stepmother if she knew what her brother said.

"Yes," said the false hag; "he says we shall never come ashore alive unless you throw your gold casket into the sea."

When Swanwhite heard that, she did what the hag told her, and cast the gold casket into the deep sea.

Some time later her brother once more called to his sister, who stood on the deck, "Swanwhite, go and deck yourself as a bride, for we shall soon be there."

But the maiden could not hear a word for the raging of the sea. She asked her stepmother if she knew what her brother had said.

"Yes," said the false hag; "he says we shall never get ashore unless you cast yourself into the sea."

While Swanwhite thought of this, the wicked stepmother sprang to her, and thrust her overboard all of a sudden. The young girl was carried away by the blue waves, and came to the mermaid who rules over all those who are drowned in the sea.

When the young man came down the mast, and asked if his sister was well dressed by now, the stepmother told him many falsehoods about Swanwhite having fallen into the sea.

When the young man heard this, he and all the ship-folk were afraid, for they well knew what punishment awaited them for having so ill looked after the king's bride. The false hag then thought of another deception. She said they had better dress her own daughter as the bride, and then no one need know that Swanwhite had perished.

The young man would not agree to this, but the sailors, fearing for their lives, made him do as the stepmother had suggested. Maiden Foxtail was dressed out in the finest manner with red rings and a gold girdle, but the young man was ill at ease, and could not forget what had happened to his sister.

In the middle of this, the vessel came to shore. There the king was waiting for them with all his court. Carpets were spread on the ground, and the king's bride left the ship. When the king saw Maiden Foxtail and was told that that was his bride, he suspected some cheat and was very angry, and he ordered that the young man should be thrown into the lions' den. He would not, however, break his kingly word, so he took the ugly maiden for his wife, and she became queen in the place of her stepsister.

Now Maiden Swanwhite had a little dog of which she was very fond, and she called it Rascal. Now that its mistress was lost, there was no one who cared for it, so it came into the king's palace and took refuge in the kitchen, where it lay down in front of the fire. When it was night and all had gone to bed, the master-cook saw the kitchen door open of itself and a beautiful little duck, fastened to a chain, came into the kitchen. Wherever the little bird trod the most beautiful roses sprang up. The duck went up to the dog on the hearth, and said,

"Poor little Rascal!
Once on a time you lay on blue silk cushions.
Now you must lie on the grey ashes.
Ah, my poor brother, who is in the lions' den!
Shame on Maiden Foxtail!
She sleeps in my lord's arms."

"Alas, poor me!" the duck continued, "I shall come here only on two more nights. After that I shall see you no more."

Then it caressed the little dog, and the dog returned its caresses. After a little while the door opened of itself and the little bird went its way.

Next morning, when it was daylight, the master-cook took the beautiful roses that lay strewn on the floor and decorated the dishes for the king's table with them. The king so much admired the flowers that he sent for the master-cook and asked him where he had found such magnificent roses. The cook told him all that had happened, and what the duck had said to the little dog.

When the king heard it he was much perplexed, and he told the cook to let him know as soon as the bird showed itself again.

Next night the little duck again came to the kitchen, and spoke to the dog as before. The cook sent word to the king, and he came just as the bird went out at the door. However he saw the beautiful roses lying all over the kitchen floor, and from them came such a delightful scent that the like had never been known.

The king made up his mind that if the duck came again he would see it, so he lay in wait for it. He waited a long while, when, at midnight, the little bird, as before, came walking up to the dog that lay on the hearth, and said,

"Poor little Rascal!
Once on a time you lay on blue silk cushions.
Now you must lie on the grey ashes.
Ah, my poor brother, who is in the lions' den!
Shame on Maiden Foxtail!
She sleeps in my lord's arms."

Then it went on, "Alas! I shall see you no more."

Then it caressed the little dog, and the dog returned its caresses.

Now as the bird was about to go away, the king sprang out and caught it by the foot. Then the bird changed its form and became a horrible dragon, but the king held it fast. It changed itself again, and took the forms of snakes, wolves, and other fierce animals, but the king did not lose his hold. Then the mermaid pulled hard at the chain, but the king held so fast that the chain broke in two with a great snap and rattling. That moment a beautiful maiden stood there. She was much more beautiful than that in the fine picture. She thanked the king for having saved her from the power of the mermaid.

The king was very glad, and took the beautiful maiden in his arms, kissed her, and said, "It was worth it! You are so much better than the one that dead rats come out of- aj-aj-aj! Now I see that your brother at first was without guilt."

Then he sent off at once to the lions' den to learn if the young man was yet alive. There the young man was safe and sound among the wild beasts. They had done him no injury. Then the king rejoiced that everything had chanced so well at last.

The brother and sister told him all that the stepmother had done, and when it was daylight, the king ordered a great feast to be held, and asked the foremost people in the country to the palace. As they all sat at table and were very merry, the king told a story of a brother and sister who had been treacherously dealt with by a stepmother. When the tale was ended, the king's folk looked at one another, and all agreed that the conduct of the stepmother in the tale was a piece of horrid wickedness.

The king turned to his mother-in-law, and said, "I should like to know what punishment the taking of such an innocent life deserves."

The false hag did not understand that the tale had been about her own treachery, and said, "I certainly think she should be put into boiling lead."

The king then turned to Foxtail, and said, "I should like to have your opinion too; what punishment is deserved by one who takes so innocent a life?"

The wicked woman answered at once, "I think she deserves to be put into boiling tar."

Then the king started up from the table and said in a rage, "You have pronounced your own doom!" He then ordered the two women to be taken out to die as they themselves had said, and no one save Swanwhite begged him to have mercy on them. She still had not learnt!

After that, the king was married to the beautiful maiden, and all folk agreed that nowhere could be found a finer queen. The king gave his own sister in marriage to the Swanwhite's brother, although that brother had taken part of the scam that gave him Foxtail for his bride, and there was great joy in all the king's palace.

There they live prosperous and happy to this day for all I know, but I may be wrong.

TO TOP

Food for Kings: Oatcake and Herring

King Charles XI had confiscated most of the property of the nobility to the use of the crown. Shortly after, he came to Höjentorp one day on one of his journeys. His aunt on his father's side, Maria Eufrosyna, lived there.

As he was about to enter her dwelling, she met him on the stairs, and at once greeted him with a sound box on the ear. Astounded, the king burst out, "It is fortunate that it is me that you have struck! But why are you in such a combative mood, my aunt?"

"Why?" said the countess. "Because you have taken all my possessions from me."

Leading the king to the dining hall, the countess sat before him to eat a herring's tail and an oatcake.

"Have you no better fare for me than this?" asked the king.

"No," answered the lady; "as you have spread the cloth, so you must dine."

"Aunt," said the king, "if you will give me your gold and silver, I will provide for you richly till your death."

"Shame on you!" interrupted the countess. "Will you not allow me to keep so little as my gold and silver either?'' Advancing on him, she gave him a second box on the ear. It so alarmed the king that he retreated hastily and commanded that the countess was to keep her property to the end of her days.

TO TOP

Nightly Disturbances

On the estate of Brokind in the parish of Yardsnas, lived a rich and distinguished lady named Barbro. She was so hard-hearted and severe with her dependents that they were bound with their hands behind their backs and cast into prison for the least transgression. And to add to their misery she had a table placed there. On it was a bountiful supply of food and drink spread before them. But the bound folks could not reach. When it was complained to her that the prisoners were perishing from hunger and thirst, she would reply laughingly, "They have both food and drink; if they will not partake of it the fault is theirs, not mine."

Thus the prison at Brokind was known far and wide, and the spot where it stood is to this day called Kisthagen, in memory of it.

When Lady Barbro finally died, she was buried with her forefathers in a grave in the cathedral of Linkoping. But this was followed by such ghostly disturbances that her body was taken up, and then buried in the churchyard of Yardsnäs.

But she was not at rest there either, so, at the suggestion of one of the wiser men of the community, her body was again taken up. This time it was carried to a swamp, and a pole was thrust through both coffin and corpse. Afterwards, at nightfall, an unearthly noise was heard in the swamp, and the cry of "Barbro, pole! Barbro, pole!"

For some time the ghost of Barbro was quieted. But it returned after a time, and often a light is seen in the large, uninhabited building at Brokind.

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