THE ELVES DANCE - Sweden
UPON THE marshy oak and linden covered island of Sor, 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 upon 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 upon 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 at its conclusion 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.
From Scandinavian Folk and Fairy Tales
THE FIDDLER AND THE SEA NYMPH - Sweden
MANY YEARS ago a dancing society of Brasta, a village in the parish of Stora Mellosa, planned a great Christmas festival, to which, on the appointed day, old and young flocked from far and near, knowing that Sexton Kant, of Norrbyas, would be there with his fiddle, and assured that fun would run riot. Kant, it is related, was no ordinary fiddler, not a little proud of his skill, and ready at the least word of praise to laud himself to the skies.
When the merry making had gone well into the night and the pleasures were at their height, some one remarked that not many could measure themselves with Father Kant, when he let the bow leap over the strings and played in "tour voices," as he himself called it. Nothing further was needed. Kant, always ready to begin where the others left off, declared that the devil, good player as he was reputed to be, could not compete with him in the waltz which they had just heard. This boast came near costing Kant dear. When the dance ended and he set out in the night on his way home, he met, near the hill of Bjurbacka, a young woman clad in white, who saluted him and addressed him as follows:
"If you will play a polka for me, Father Kant, I will dance for you."
So said, so done. Father Kant sat himself upon a stone and applied the bow to the strings of the instrument. Instantly he lost all control of himself. Such a polka as now came from his fiddle he had never expected to hear, much less play. The tones seemed to come without help from him. The how hounded over the strings and his arm was forced to follow. One melody followed another; his arm became numb, but the music continued in the same wild measure.
Kant now understood that something was wrong. Finally he burst forth:
"God forgive me, poor sinner. What have I brought upon myself?"
Upon the instant the fiddle strings parted, and an awful-sounding laugh was heard from the brook at the foot of the hill. Heavy of heart, Kant hastened homeward, acknowledging to himself that the devil, after all, was his superior. For a long time he could not be persuaded to again take up his fiddle, but, when he finally complied, he found that one of the beautiful waltzes he had played on the eventful night had fastened itself upon his memory, and he acquired greater renown than before as a fiddler.
SCANDINAVIAN FOLK & FAIRY TALES
THE RASPBERRY WORM - A Finnish Tale
'Phew!' cried Lisa.
'Ugh !' cried Aina.
'What now?' cried the big sister.
'A worm !' cried Lisa.
'On the raspberry! ' cried Aina.
' Kill it! ' cried Otto.
' What a fuss over a poor little worm!' said the big sister scornfully.
'Yes, when we had cleaned the raspberries so carefully,' said Lisa.
'It crept out from that very large one,' put in Aina. 'And Supposing someone had eaten the raspberry,' said Lisa.
'Then they would have eaten the worm, too,' said Aina.
' Well, what harm? ' said Otto.
' Eat a worm!' cried Lisa.
'And kill him with one bite!' murmured Aina.
'Just think of it!' said Otto laughing.
' Now it is crawling on the table,' cried Aina again.
' Blow it away!' said the big sister.
' Tramp on it!' laughed Otto.
But Lisa took a raspberry leaf, swept the worm carefully on to the leaf and carried it out into the yard. Then Aina noticed that a sparrow sitting on the fence was just getting ready to pounce on the poor little worm, so she took up the leaf, carried it out into the wood and hid it under a raspberry bush where the greedy sparrow could not find it, Yes, and what more is there to tell about a raspberry worm? Who would give three Straw s for such a miserable little thing? Yes, but who would not like to live in such a pretty home as it lives in; in such a fresh fragrant dark-red cottage, far away in the quiet wood among flouters and green leaves!
Now it was just dinner time, so they all had a dinner of raspberries and cream. ' Be careful with the sugar, Otto,' said the big sister; but Otto's plate was like a snowdrift in winter, with just a little red under the snow.
Soon after dinner the big sister said: 'Now we have eaten up the raspberries and we have none left to make preserve for the winter; it would be fine if w e could get two baskets full of berries, then we could clean them this evening, and to-morrow we could cook them in the big preserving pan, and then we should have raspberry jam to eat on our bread!'
' Come, let us go to the wood and pick,' said Lisa.
' Yes, let us,' said Aina. ' You take the yellow basket and I will take the green one.'
' Don't get lost, and come back safely in the evening,' said the big sister.
' Greetings to the raspberry worm,' said Otto, mockingly. ' Next time I meet him I shall do him the honour of eating him up.'
So Aina and Lisa went off to the wood. Ah! How delightful it was there, how beautiful! It was certainly tiresome sometimes climbing over the fallen trees, and getting caught in the branches, and waging war with the juniper bushes and the midges, but what did that matter? The girls climbed well in their short dresses and soon they were deep in the wood.
There were plenty of bilberries and elder berries, but no raspberries. They wandered on and on, and at last they came . . . No, it could not be true! . . . they came to a large raspberry woods The wood had been on fire once, and now raspberry bushes had grown up, and there were raspberry bushes and raspberry bushes as far as the eye could see. Every bush was weighed to the ground with the largest, dark red, ripe raspberries, such a wealth of berries as two little berry pickers had never found before!
Lisa picked, Aina picked. Lisa ate, Aina ate, and in a little while their baskets were full.
'Now we shall go home,' said Aina. 'No, let us gather a few more,' said Lisa. So they put the baskets down on the ground and began to fill their pinafores, and it was not long before their pinafores were full, too.
' Now we shall go home,' said Lisa. 'Yes, now we shall go home,' said Aina. Both girls took a basket in one hand and held up her apron in the other and then turned to go home. But that was easier said than done. They had never been so far in the great wood before, they could not find any road nor path, and soon the girls noticed that they had lost their way.
The worst of it was that the shadows of the trees were becoming so long in the evening sunlight, the birds were beginning to fly home, and the day was closing in. At last the sun went down behind the pine tops, and it was cool and dusky in the great wood.
The girls became anxious but went steadily on, expecting that the wood would soon end, and that they would see the smoke from the chimnevs of their home.
After they had wandered on for a long time it began to grow dark. At last they reached a great plain overgrown with bushes, and when they looked around them, they saw, as much as they could in the darkness, that they were among the same beautiful raspberry bushes from which they had picked their baskets and their aprons full. Then they were so tired that they sat down on a stone and began to cry.
'I am so hungry,' said Lisa.
' Yes,' said Aina, ' if we had only two good meat sandwiches now.'
As she said that, she felt something in her hand, and when she looked down, she saw a large sandwich of bread and chicken, and at the same time Lisa said
' How very queer! I have a sandwich in my hand '
' And I, too,' said Aina 'Will you dare to eat it? '
'Of course I will,' said Lisa 'Ah, if we only had a good glass of milk now!'
Just as she said that she felt a large glass of milk between her fingers, and at the same time Aina cried out, 'Lisa! Lisa! I have a glass of milk in my hand! Isn't it queer?'
The girls, however, were very hungry, so they ate and drank with a good appetite When they had finished Aina yawned, stretched out her arms and said ' oh, if only we had a nice soft bed to sleep on now!'
Scarcely had she spoken before she felt a nice soft bed by her side, and there beside Lisa was one too. This seemed to the girls more and more wonderful, but tired and sleepy as they were, they thought no more about it, but crept into the little beds, drew the coverlets over their heads and were soon asleep.
When they awoke the sun was high in the heavens, the wood was beautiful in the summer morning, and the birds were flying about in the branches and the tree tops.
At first the girls were filled with wonder when they saw that they had slept in the wood among the raspberry bushes They looked at each other, they looked at their beds, which were of the finest flax covered over with leaves and moss At last Lisa said ' Are you awake, Aina? '
' Yes,' said Aina.
' But I am still dreaming,' said Lisa.
' No,' said Aina,' but there is certainly some good fairy living among these raspberry bushes. Ah, if we had only a hot cup of coffee now, and a nice piece of white bread to dip into it!'
Scarcely had she finished speaking when she saw beside her a little silver tray with a gilt coffee-pot, two cups of rare porcelain, a sugar basin of fine crystal, silver sugar tongs, and some good fresh white bread. The girls poured out the beautiful coffee, put in the cream and sugar, and tasted it; never in their lives had they drunk such beautiful coffee.
' Now I should like to know very much who has given us all this,' said Lisa gratefully.
' I have, my little girls,' said a voice just then from the bushes.
The children looked round wonderingly, and saw a little kind-looking old man, in a white coat and a red cap, limping out from among the bushes, for he was lame in his left foot; neither Lisa nor Aina could utter a word, they were so filled with surprise.
'Don't be afraid, little girls,' he said smiling kindly at them; he could not laugh properly because his mouth was crooked. 'Welcome to my kingdom! Have you slept well and eaten well and drunk well?' He asked.
'Yes, indeed we have,' said both the girls, ' but tell us . . . ' and they wanted to ask who the old man was, but were afraid to.
I will tell you who I am,' said the old man; ' I am the raspberry king, who reigns over all this kingdom of raspberry bushes, and I have lived here for more than a thousand years. But the great spirit who rules over the woods, and the sea, and the sky, did not want me to become proud of my royal power and my long life. Therefore he decreed that one day in every hundred years I should change into a little raspberry worm, and live in that weak and helpless form from sunrise till sunset. During that time my life is dependent on the little worm's life, so that a bird can eat me, a child can pick me with the berries and trample under foot my thousand years of life. Now yesterday was just my transformation day, and I was taken with the raspberry and would have been trampled to death if you had not saved my life. Until sunset I lay helpless in the grass, and when I was swept away from your table I twisted one of my feet, and my mouth became crooked with terror; but when evening came and I could take my own form again, I looked for you to thank you and reward you. Then I found you both here in my kingdom, and tried to meet you both as well as I could without frightening you. I will send a bird from my wood to show you the way home. Good-bye, little children, thank you for your kind hearts; the raspberry king can show that he is not ungrateful.' when children shook hands with the old man and thanked him, feeling very glad that they had saved the little raspberry worm. They were just going when the old man turned round, smiled mischievously with his crooked mouth, and said: 'Greetings to Otto from me, and tell him when I meet him again I shall do him the honour of eating him up.'
' Oh, please don't do that,' cried both the girls, very frightened.
' Well, for your sake I will forgive him,' said the old man, ' I am not revengeful. Greetings to Otto and tell him that he may expect a gift from me, too. Goodbye.'
The two girls, light of heart, now took their berries and ran off through the wood after the bird; and soon it began to get lighter in the wood and they wondered how they could have lost their way yesterday, it seemed so easy and plain now.
One can imagine what joy there was when the two reached home. Everyone had been looking for them, and the big sister had not been able to sleep, for she thought the wolves had eaten them up.
Otto met them; he had a basket in his hand and said: ' Look, here is something that an old man has just left for you.'
When the girls looked into the basket they saw a pair of most beautiful bracelets of precious stones, dark red, and made in the shape of a ripe raspberry and with an inscription: 'To Lisa and Aina '; beside them there was a diamond breast pin in the shape of a raspberry worm: on it was inscribed 'Otto, never destroy the helpless!'
Otto felt rather ashamed: he quite understood what it meant, but he thought that the old man's revenge was a noble one.
The raspberry king had also remembered the big sister for when she went in to set the table for dinner, she found eleven big baskets of most beautiful raspberries, and no one knew how they had come there, but everyone guessed.
And so there was such a jam-making as had never been seen before, and if you like to go and help in it, you might perhaps get a little, for they must surely be making jam still to this very day.
From Z. Topelius.
In Andrew Lang's The Lilac Fairy Book
I KNOW WHAT I HAVE LEARNED
A Danish Tale
THERE was once a man who had three daughters, and they were all married to trolls, who lived underground. One day the man thought that he would pay them a visit, and his wife gave him some city bread to eat by the way. After he had walked some distance he grew both tired and hungry, so he sat down on the east side of a mound and began to eat his dry bread. The mound then opened, and his youngest daughter came out of it, and said, Why father why are you not coming in to see me?'
'Oh,' said he, 'if I had known that you lived here, and had seen any entrance, I would have come in.'
Then he entered the mound along with her.
The troll came home soon after this, and his wife told him that her father was come and asked him to go and buy some beef to make broth with.
' We can get it easier than that,' said the troll.
He fixed an iron spike into one of the beams of the roof, and ran his head against this till he had knocked several large pieces off his head. He was just as well as ever after doing this, and they got their broth without further trouble.
The troll then gave the old man a sackful of money, and laden with this lie betook himself homewards. When he came near his home. He remembered that he had a cow about to calve, so he laid down the money on the ground, ran home as fast as, he could, and asked his wife whether the cow had calved yet.
'What kind of a hurry is this to come home in?' said she. 'No, the cow has not calved yet.'
'Then you must come out and help me in with a sackful of money,' said the man.
'A sackful of money?' cried his wife.
'Yes, a sackful of money,' said he. 'Is that so very wonderful? '
His wife did not believe very much what he told her, but she humoured him, and went out with him.
When they came to the spot where he had left it there was no money there; a thief had come along and stolen it. His wife then grew angry and scolded him heartily.
'Well, well!' said he, 'hang the money! I know what I have learned.'
'What have you learned?' said she.
'Ah I know that,' said the man.
After some time had passed the man had a mind to visit his second eldest daughter His wife again gave him some dry bread to eat, and when he grew tired and hungry he sat down on the east side of a mound and began to eat it. As he sat there his daughter came up out of the mound, and invited him to come inside, which he did very willingly.
Soon after this the troll came home. It was dark by that time, and his wife bade him go and buy some candles.
'Oh, we shall soon get a light,' said the troll. With that he dipped his fingers into the fire, and they then gave light without being burned in the least.
The old man got two sacks of money here, and plodded away homewards with these. When he was very nearly home he again thought of the cow that was with calf, so he laid down the money, ran home, and asked his wife whether the cow had calved yet.
' Whatever is the matter with you?' said she. 'You come hurrying as if the whole house was about to fall. You may set your mind at rest: the cow has not calved yet.'
The man now asked her to come and help him home with the three sacks of money. She did not believe him very much, but he continued to assure her that it was quite true, till at last she gave in and went with him. When they came to the spot there had again been a thief there and he had taken the money. It was no wonder that the woman was angry about this, but the man only said, 'Ah, if you only knew what I have learned.'
A third time the man set out-to visit his eldest daughter. When he came to a mound he sat down on the east side of it and ate the dry bread which his wife had given him to take with him. The daughter then came out of the mound and invited her father to come inside.
In a little the troll came home, and his wife asked him to go and buy
'We can get them much more easily than that,' said the troll. 'Give me your dough trough and your ladle. 'They seated themselves in the trough, and rowed out on the lake which was beside the mound. When they had got out a little way the troll said to his wife, 'Are my eyes green?'
'No, not yet,' said she.
He rowed on a little further and asked again, Are my eyes not green yet?'
'Yes,' said his wife, 'they are green now.'
Then the troll sprang into the water and ladled up so many fish that in a short time the trough could hold no more. They then rowed home again, and had a good meal off the fish.
The old man now got three sacks full of money, and set off home with them. When he was almost home the cow again came into his head, and he laid down the money. This time, however, he took his wooden shoes and laid them above the money, thinking that no one would take it after that. Then he ran home and asked his wife whether the cow had calved. It had not, and she scolded him again for behaving in this way, but in the end he persuaded her to go with him to help him with the three sacks of money.
When they came to the spot they found only the wooden shoes, for a thief had come along in the meantime and taken all the money. The woman was very angry, and broke out upon her husband; but he took it all very quietly, and only said, 'Hang the money! I know what I have learned.'
'What have you learned I should like to know?' said his wife.
'You will see that yet,' said the man.
One day his wife took a fancy for broth, and said to him, 'Oh, go to the village, and buy a piece of beef to make broth.'
' There's no need of that,' said he, 'we can get it an easier way.' With that he drove a spike into a beam, and ran his head against it, and in consequence had to lie in bed for a long time afterwards.
After he had recovered from this his wife asked him one day to go and buy candles, as they had none.
'No,' he said, 'there's no need for that;' and he stuck his hand into the fire. This also made him take to bed for a good while.
When he had got better again his wife one day wanted fish, and asked him to go and buy some. The man, however, wished again to show what he had learned, so he asked her to come along with him and bring her dough trough and a ladle. They both seated themselves in this, and rowed upon the lake. When they had got out a little way the man said, 'Are my eyes green?'
'No,' said his wife; 'why should they be?'
They rowed a little further out, and he asked again, 'Are my eyes not green yet? '
'What nonsense is this?' said she, 'why should they be green?'
'Oh, my dear,' said he, 'can't you just say that they are green.'
'Very well,' said she, 'they are green.'
As soon as he heard this he sprang out into the water with the ladle for the fishes, but he just got leave to stay there with them!
From Andrew Lang's The Pink Fairy Book
Back to the Library of Faerie