Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Last Christmas Tree

I saw a truck of Christmas trees
And each one had a tale,
The driver stood them in a row
And put them up for sale.
He strung some twinkly lights
And hung a sign up with a nail;
It said in red
He poured himself hot cocoa
In a steaming thermos cup,
And snowflakes started falling
As a family car pulled up.
A mom, a dad, and one small boy
Who looked no more than three
Jumped out and started searching
For the perfect Christmas tree.
The boy marched up and down the rows,
His nose high in the air;
"It smells like Christmas, mom!
It smells like Christmas everywhere!"
"Let's get the biggest tree we can!
A tree that's ten miles high!
A tree to go right through our roof!
A tree to touch the sky!"

"A tree SO big "That Santa Claus
Will stop and stare and say,
'Now, THAT'S the finest Christmas tree
I've seen this Christmas Day!'"
It seemed they looked at every tree
At least three million times;
Dad shook them, pinched them,
turned them 'round
To find the perfect pine.
"I've found it, mom!
The Christmas tree I like the best of all!
It's got a little bare spot,
But we'll turn that to the wall!"
"We'll put great-grandma's angel
On top the highest bough!
Oh, can we buy it?
Please, mom, PLEASE?!
Oh, can we buy it NOW?"
"How 'bout some nice hot cocoa?"
Asked the man who owned the lot.
He twisted off the thermos top,
"Now, THIS will hit the spot!"
He poured the steaming chocolate
In three tiny paper cups.
They toasted, "Here's to Christmas!"
And they drank the cocoa up.
"Is this your choice?" The tree man asked,
"This pine's the best one here!"
The boy seemed sad--- "My daddy says
"The price is just too dear."
"Then, Merry Christmas!" Said the man,
who wrapped the tree in twine,
"It's yours for just one promise.
You must keep at Christmas time!"
"On Christmas Eve at bedtime
As you fold your hands to pray,
Promise in your heart
To keep the joy of Christmas Day!"
"Now hurry home! This freezy wind
Is turning your cheeks pink!
And ask your dad
To trim that trunk
and give that tree a drink!"
And so it went on
All that blustery eve
As the tree man gave
Tree upon tree upon tree
To every last person
Who came to the lot-
Who toasted with cocoa
In small paper cups,

Who promised the promise
Of joy in their hearts---
And singing out carols,
Drove off in the dark.
And when it was over
One tree stood alone;
But no one was left there
To give it a home.
The tree man put on his
Red parka and hood
And dragged the last Christmas tree
Out to the woods.
He left the pine right by a stream
In the cold, 
So the wood's homeless creatures
Could make it their home.
He smiled as he brushed off
Some snow from his beard,
When out of the thicket
A reindeer appeared.
He scratched that huge reindeer
On top his huge head---
"It looks like we've
Started up Christmas again!"
"There are miles more to travel,
And much more to do!
Let's go home, my friend,
And get started anew
He looked to the sky
And heard jingle bells sound-
And then, In a twinkling,
That tree man was gone! 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

There was once an old woman who had an only daughter. The lass was good and amiable, and also extremely beautiful, but at the same time so indolent that she would hardly turn her hand to any work. This was a cause of great grief to the mother, who tried all sorts of ways to cure her daughter of so lamentable a failing. But there was no help. The old woman then thought no better plan could be devised than to set her daughter to spin on the roof of their cottage, in order that all the world might be witness of her sloth. But her plan brought her no nearer the mark. The girl continued as useless as before.

One day, as the king's son was going to the chase, he rode by the cottage where the old woman dwelt with her daughter. On seeing the fair spinner on the roof, he stopped and inquired why she sat spinning in such an unusual place.

The old woman answered, "Aye, she sits there to let all the world see how clever she is. She is so clever that she can spin gold out of clay and long straw."

At these words the prince was struck with wonder, for it never occurred to him that the old woman was ironically alluding to her daughter's sloth. He therefore said, "If what you say is true, that the young maiden can spin gold from clay and long straw, she shall no longer sit there, but shall accompany me to my palace and be my consort."

The daughter thereupon descended from the roof and accompanied the prince to the royal residence, where, seated in her maiden-bower, she received a pail full of clay and a bundle of straw, by way of trial, whether she were so skillful as her mother had said.

The poor girl now found herself in a very uncomfortable state, knowing but too well that she could not spin flax, much less gold. So, sitting in her chamber, with her head resting on her hand, she wept bitterly. While she was thus sitting, the door was opened, and in walked a very little old man, who was both ugly and deformed. The old man greeted her in a friendly tone, and asked why she sat so lonely and afflicted.

"I may well be sorrowful," answered the girl. "The king's son has commanded me to spin gold from clay and long straw, and if it be not done before tomorrow's dawn, my life is at stake."

The old man then said, "Fair maiden, weep not, I will help you. Here is a pair of gloves. When you have then on you will be able to spin gold. Tomorrow night I will return, when, if you have not found out my name, you shall accompany me home and be my wife."

In her despair she agreed to the old man's condition, who then went his way. The maiden now sat and span, and by dawn she had already spun up all the clay and straw, which had become the finest gold it was possible to see.

Great was the joy throughout the whole palace, that the king's son had got a bride who was so skillful and, at the same time, so fair. But the young maiden did nothing but weep, and the more the time advanced the more she wept, for she thought of the frightful dwarf who was to come and fetch her. When evening drew nigh, the king's son returned from the chase, and went to converse with his bride. Observing that she appeared sorrowful, he strove to divert her in all sorts of ways, and said he would tell her of a curious adventure, provided only she would be cheerful. The girl entreated him to let her hear it.

Then said the prince, "While rambling about in the forest today I witness an odd sort of thing. I saw a very, very little old man dancing round a juniper bush and singing a singular song."

"What did he sing?" asked the maiden inquisitively, for she felt sure that the prince had met with the dwarf.

"He sang these words, answered the prince,

Today I the malt shall grind,
Tomorrow my wedding shall be.
And the maiden sits in her bower and weeps;
She knows not what I am called.
I am called Titteli Ture.
I am called Titteli Ture.

Was not the maiden now glad? She begged the prince to tell her over and over again what the dwarf had sung. He then repeated the wonderful song, until she had imprinted the old man's name firmly in her memory. She then conversed lovingly with her betrothed, and the prince could not sufficiently praise his young bride's beauty and understanding. But he wondered why she was so overjoyed, being like everyone else, ignorant of the cause of her past sorrow.

When it was night, and the maiden was sitting alone in her chamber, the door was opened, and the hideous dwarf again entered. On beholding him the girl sprang up, and said, "Titteli Ture! Titteli Ture! Here are your gloves."

When the dwarf heard his name pronounced, he was furiously angry, and hastened away through the air, taking with him the whole roof of the house.

The fair maiden now laughed to herself and was joyful beyond measure. She then lay down to sleep, and slept till the sun shone. The following day her marriage with the young prince was solemnized, and nothing more was ever heard of Titteli Ture.

* retold by Benjamin Thorpe in Yule-Tide Stories: A Collection of Scandinavian and North German Popular Tales and Traditions, from the Swedish, Danish, and German published 1853
story found online here

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Bundle of Sticks


"Boys, why are you always quarreling? That is no way to live," said a farmer to his sons one day.

The sons would not listen to their father. Each wanted the best of everything. Each thought the father did more for the others than for him.

The father bore the quarreling as long as he could. One day he called his seven sons to him. He had in his hand a bundle of seven sticks.

"I wish to see which one of you can break this bundle of sticks," he said.

The oldest one tried first. He was the strongest, but he could not break it though he used all his strength. Then each of his brothers tried hard to break the bundle. None of them could break it.

At last they gave the bundle of sticks back to their father, saying, "We cannot break it."

The father untied the bundle and gave each son one stick.

"Now see if you can break the sticks," said their father.

They all said, "That is very easily done," and they held up the broken sticks.

"Now tell us why you asked us to break these sticks," said the sons.

"Do you not see," replied the father, "that if you all stand together, nothing can harm you; but if each of you stands by himself, you may easily be ruined?"

from Fifty Famous Fables retold by Lida Brown McMurry 1917

Sunday, May 13, 2012

 Sometime after God had created all the living beings, he called everyone to see them and their offspring. He wanted to see how the young birds and animals looked, and then to give them suitable gifts, and food for their little ones. They came one by one, and God looked at them, patted some and stroked others, and was very pleased with every one of them, for each one had something of beauty in it. And so he blessed them and gave them food by which to live.

The last to come was the crow, bringing her little brood with her, very proud of them.

When God cast his eyes upon the young crows, he spat in astonishment, and said, "Surely these are not my creatures. I could not have made such ugly things. Every one of my creatures has such beautiful young ones that they are a pleasure to look at, but yours are so ugly that it makes one sick to look at them. Where did you get this one?"

"Where should I get them from?" replied the crow. "It is my very own young child," she added with pride.

"You had better go back and bring me another one. This is much too ugly. I cannot look at it."

Annoyed at the words of God, the crow went away and flew all over the earth to search for another young one that would be more beautiful than the one she had brought to God. But no other young bird appeared so beautiful in her eyes as her own.

So she returned back to God and said, "I have been all over the world, and I have searched high and low, but young birds more beautiful and more dainty than mine I have not been able to find."

Then God smilingly replied, "Quite right. Just so are all mothers. No other child is so beautiful in their eyes as their own."

Then he blessed the little crows and sent them away into the world with his gifts.

story found in  Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories  by M. Gaster published in 1915

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Story Spirits.....a tale from Korea

There once lived a very rich family. They had only one child, a boy, who loved to have stories told to him. Whenever he met a new person, he would say: “Tell me a different story.”

And, each time, he would store away the story he heard in a small bag he carried at his belt. So many stories did he hear that soon the bag was packed tight and he had to push hard to get each new story in. then, to make sure that none of the stories escaped, he kept the bag tied tightly at the mouth.

The boy eventually grew into a handsome young man. The time came for him to take a wife. A bride was chosen for him, and the whole house was preparing to greet the young master’s new wife. Everything was in an uproar.

Now, there happened to be in this rich home a faithful old servant who had been with the family ever since the time when the story-loving boy was still very young. As the household made ready for the young master’s wedding, this servant was tending a fire on the kitchen hearth. Suddenly his ears caught faint whispering sounds coming from somewhere. He listened carefully an soon discovered that the voices were coming from a bag hanging on the wall. It was the bag of stories which the young master had kept in his childhood. Now it hung forgotten on an old nail on the kitchen wall. The old servant listened carefully.

“Listen, everyone,” said a voice. “the boy’s wedding is to take place tomorrow. He has kept us this long while stuffed in this bag, packed so closely and uncomfortably together. We have suffered for a long time. We must make him pay for this some way or another.”

“Yes,” said another voice, “I have been thinking the same thing. Tomorrow the young man will leave by horse to bring home his bride. I shall change into bright red berries, ripening by the roadside. There I shall wait for him. I shall be poisonous but shall look so beautiful that he will want to eat me. If does, I shall kill him.”

“And, if he doesn’t die after eating the berries,” piped up a third voice, “I shall become a clear, bubbling spring by the roadside. I shall have a beautiful gourd dipper floating in me. When he sees me he will feel thirsty and will drink me. When I get inside of him, I shall make him suffer terribly.”

A fourth voice than broke in: “If you fail, then I shall become an iron skewer, heated red-hot, and I shall hide in the bag of chaff that will be placed by his horse for him to dismount on when he reaches his bride’s home. And when he steps on me, I shall burn his feet badly.” Because, you see, according to the custom of the land in those days, a bag of chaff was always placed by the bridegroom’s horse so that he would not have to step directly on the ground.

Then a fifth voice whispered: “If that fails too, I shall become those poisonous string-snakes, thin as threads. Then I shall hide in the bridal chamber. When the bride and the bridegroom have gone to sleep, I shall come out and bite them.”

The servant was filled with alarm by what he heard. “This is terrible,” he told himself. “I must not let any harm come to the young master. When he leaves the house tomorrow, I must take the bridle and lead the horse myself.”

Early next morning, the final preparations were completed, and the wedding procession was ready to set forth. The groom, dressed in his best, came out of the house and mounted his horse. Suddenly the faithful servant came running out and grabbed the horse’s bridle. He then asked to be allowed to lead the horse.
The old master of the house said: “You have other work to do. You had better stay behind.”

“But I must lead the horse today,” the servant said. “I don’t care what happens, but I insist that I take the bridle.”

He refused to listen to anyone and, finally, the master, surprised a the old man’s obstinacy, allowed him to led the horse to the bride’s home.

As the procession wound along its way, the bridegroom came to an open field. There by the roadside many bright berries were growing. They looked temptingly delicious.

“Wait!” the bridegroom called out. “Stop the horse and pick me some of those berries.”

However, the servant would not stop. In fact, he purposely made the horse hurry on and said: “Oh, those berries. You can find them anywhere. Just be a little patient. I shall pick some for you later.” And he gave the horse a good crack of the whip.

After a while, they came to a bubbling spring. Its clear waters seemed cool and tempting. There was even a small gourd dipper floating on the water, as if to invite the passerby to have a drink.

“Bring me some of that water,” the bridegroom said to the servant. “I have been thirsty for some time.”
But, again, the servant prodded the horse and hurried by. “Once we get into the shade of those trees, your thirst will soon disappear,” he said, and he gave the horse another crack of the whip, a blow much harder than the first.

The bridegroom grumbled and mumbled from atop his horse. He was in a bad mood, but the servant took no notice. He only made the horse hurry the faster.

Soon they reached the bride’s home. There, already gathered in the yard, was a large crowd of people. The servant led the horse into the compound and stopped it beside the waiting bag of chaff. As the bridegroom put down his foot to dismount, the servant pretended to stumble and shoved the bridegroom to keep him from stepping on the bag.

The bridegroom fell to the straw mats laid out on the ground. He blushed in shame at his clumsy fall. However, he could not scold his servant in front of all the people. So he kept silent and entered the bride’s home.

There, the wedding ceremony was held without untoward incident, and the newly-married couple returned to the groom’s home.

Soon night fell, and the bride and bridegroom retired to their room. The faithful servant armed himself with a sword and hid himself under the veranda outside the bridal chamber.

As soon as the bride and bridegroom turned out the lights and went to bed, the servant opened the door of the room and leapt inside.

The newly-wed couple was startled beyond description. “Who’s there?” they both shouted, jumping out of bed.

“Young master,” the servant said, “I shall explain later. Right now, just hurry and get out of the way.”

The servant kicked the bedding aside and lifted the mattress. A terrible sight greeted their eyes. There hundreds of string-snakes coiled and writhed in a single ball. The servant slashed at the snakes with the sword in his hand. As he cut some into pieces, they opened their red mouths and darted their black forked tongues at him. Other snakes slithered here and there, trying to escape the servant’s flashing sword. The servant whirled here and there like a madman and finally killed every one of the snakes in the room.

Then he let out a great sigh of relief and began: “Young master, this is the story…” And the old servant recounted the whispers that he had heard coming form the old bag on the kitchen wall.

That is why when stories are heard they must never be stored away to become mean and spiteful, but must always be shared with other people. In this way, they are passed from one person to another so that as many people as possible can enjoy them.

This story can be found in The Story Bag: a collection of Korean Folktales by Kim So-un

Story Bag book cover

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Fairy's Gift....a New Years tale

Here's a wonderful New Years tale........

The Fairy's Gift
by Emilie Poulsson

Two little boys were at play one day when a Fairy suddenly appeared before them and said: "I have been sent to give you New Year presents."

She handed to each child a package, and in an instant was gone.

Carl and Philip opened the packages and found in them two beautiful books, with pages as pure and white as the snow when it first falls.

Many months passed and the Fairy came again to the boys. "I have brought you each another book," said she, "and will take the first ones back to Father Time who sent them to you."

"May I not keep mine a little longer?" asked Philip. "I have hardly thought about it lately. I'd like to paint something on the last leaf that lies open."

"No," said the Fairy; "I must take it just as it is."

"I wish that I could look through mine just once," said Carl; "I have only seen one page at a [4] time, for when the leaf turns over it sticks fast, and I can never open the book at more than one place each day."
"You shall look at your book," said the Fairy, "and Philip, at his." And she lit for them two little silver lamps, by the light of which they saw the pages as she turned them.

The boys looked in wonder. Could it be that these were the same fair books she had given them a year ago? Where were the clean, white pages, as pure and beautiful as the snow when it first falls? Here was a page with ugly, black spots and scratches upon it; while the very next page showed a lovely little picture. Some pages were decorated with gold and silver and gorgeous colors, others with beautiful flowers, and still others with a rainbow of softest, most delicate brightness. Yet even on the most beautiful of the pages there were ugly blots and scratches.


Carl and Philip looked up at the Fairy at last.

"Who did this?" they asked. "Every page was white and fair as we opened to it; yet now there is not a single blank place in the whole book!"

"Shall I explain some of the pictures to you?" said the Fairy, smiling at the two little boys. "See, Philip, the spray of roses blossomed on this page when you let the baby have your playthings; and this pretty bird, that looks as if it were singing with all its might, would never have been on this page if you had not tried to be kind and pleasant the other day, instead of quarreling."

"But what makes this blot?" asked Philip.

"That," said the Fairy sadly; "that came when you told an untruth one day, and this when you did not mind mamma. All these blots and scratches that look so ugly, both in your book and in Carl's, were made when you were naughty. Each pretty thing in your books came on its page when you were good."
"Oh, if we could only have the books again!" said Carl and Philip.

"That cannot be," said the Fairy. "See! they are dated for this year, and they must now go back into Father Time's bookcase, but I have brought you each a new one. Perhaps you can make these more beautiful than the others."

So saying, she vanished, and the boys were left alone, but each held in his hand a new book open at the first page.

And on the back of this book was written in letters of gold, "For the New Year."

Monday, July 4, 2011

Once a long time ago there was a hunter walking through the woods. Far off in the forest he heard the faint sound of a bird singing a very strange song:

"Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah."
(**we all know this song, it's the universal children's taunt**)

The hunter walked and walked until at last he came to a tree with a beautiful golden bird sitting in the top.

He said, "Why does such a beautiful bird like you have such an ugly song?"

The bird looked down at the hunter and sang:

"Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah."

The hunter said, "If you don't stop singing, I'm going to shoot you with my bow and arrow!"
The bird just looked down and sang again in a mocking voice:

"Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah."

The hunter put an arrow in his bow and shot.....and he missed. The golden bird sang again:

"Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah."

The hunter put another arrow in his bow and shot again. The arrow went right through the bird's heart. As the bird began to fall, the hunter rushed under the tree and caught it in his sack. He pulled the sack tight and started to walk home. But from down inside the bag, he heard the muffled singing of the bird:

"Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah."

The hunter took the bird home, pulled it out of the sack, put it on the chopping block and plucked all the feathers from it. When he turned around to get a knife to cut the bird up, he heard over on the chopping block:

"Brr, brr, brr, brr, brr, brr."

The hunter took the knife and cut the bird up into a hundred small pieces, and then scraped them into a large pot full of water and put it on the stove to boil. When the water began to boil, he heard from down inside the pot, the bird singing:

"Gurgh, Gurgh, Gurgh, Gurgh, Gurgh, Gurgh."

Now the hunter was starting to get mad. He took the pot outside and put it on the ground and found himself a shovel and started to dig a deep, deep hole.
When the hole was way over his head, he climbed out and poured all the parts of the bird into the hole and covered it with dirt. And as he turned to go back into the house, he heard from deep down in the ground the bird singing:

"Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah."

Now the hunter was furious. He grabbed his shovel and dug up every piece of the bird and put them in a little wooden box, and tied a large rock across the box with some rope.

He went down to the river and threw the box as far as he could out into the water. It splashed and went straight to the bottom. He stood on the bank waiting to hear the sound of the bird. He heard nothing, so he went home.

At the bottom of the river, the water loosened the rope around the box. The rock fell off and the box floated to the top of the water. It drifted along the river for three days. On the third day, the box floated by some children who were playing on the banks of the river. They saw this beautiful wooden box passing by and they wanted to know what was in it. They waded into the water and brought the box to shore.

When they opened it, out flew a hundred golden birds all singing in a full voice:

"Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah."

About a year later, the very same hunter was walking through the woods. And far off in the distance, he heard the strange sound of the bird singing. He walked and walked until at last he came to the same tree where he had first seen the strange bird. But this time when he looked up in the tree, instead of seeing one bird, he saw a hundred golden birds.

He raised his hands and hollered out, "I know who you are now. You're the Freedom Bird, for you cannot be killed."

And all the birds looked down and sang to him at the same time:

"Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah."

This version of "The Freedom Bird" is by David Holt published in Ready-To-Tell Tales

similar tales can be found at

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Soldiers Tale.....a repost for Memorial Day

I have tried to leave this story as I found it in Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm published in 1886. Only a very few changes have been made in language or description.

There was once a soldier who for many years had served the king faithfully. But when the war came to an end, it was decided that he could serve no longer because of the many wounds which he had received.

The king said to him, "You may return to your home, I need you no longer, and you will not receive any more money, for he only receives wages who renders me service for them."
Then the soldier, who knew no other way to earn a living, went away greatly troubled, and walked the whole day, until in the evening he entered a forest.

When darkness came on, he saw a light, which he went up to, and came to a house wherein lived a witch.
"Do give me one night's lodging, and a little to eat and drink," said he to her, "or I shall starve."

"Oho!'" she answered, "who gives anything to a cast-away soldier? Yet I will be compassionate, and take you in, if you will do what I wish."

"What do you wish?" said the soldier.

"That you should dig all round my garden for me, tomorrow."

The soldier consented, and next day labored with all his strength, but could not finish it by the evening.

"I see well enough," said the witch, "that you can do no more today, but I will keep you yet another night, in payment for which you must tomorrow chop me a load of wood, and chop it small."

The soldier spent the whole day in doing it, and in the evening the witch proposed that he should stay one night more.

"Tomorrow, you shall only do me a very trifling piece of work. Behind my house, there is an old dry well, into which my light has fallen, it burns blue, and never goes out, and you shall bring it up again."

Next day the old woman took him to the well, and let him down in a basket.
He found the blue light, and made her a signal to draw him up again.
She did draw him up, but when he came near the edge, she stretched down her hand and wanted to take the blue light away from him.

"No," said he, perceiving her evil intention, "I will not give you the light until I am standing with both feet upon the ground."

The witch fell into a passion, let him fall again into the well, and went away.
The poor soldier fell without injury on the moist ground, and the blue light went on burning, but of what use was that to him?
He saw very well that he could not escape death.
He sat for a while very sorrowfully, then suddenly he felt in his pocket and found his tobacco pipe, which was still half full.

"This shall be my last pleasure," thought he, pulled it out, lit it at the blue light and began to smoke. When the smoke had circled about the cavern, suddenly a little man stood before him, and said,"Lord, what are your commands?"

"What are my commands?" replied the soldier, quite astonished.

"I must do everything you bid me," said the little man.

"Good," said the soldier, "then in the first place help me out of this well."

The little man took him by the hand, and led him through an underground passage, but he did not forget to take the blue light with him. On the way the little man showed him the treasures which the witch had collected and hidden there, and the soldier took as much gold as he could carry.

When he was above, he said to the little man, "Now go and bind the old witch, and carry her before the judge."
In a short time she came by like the wind, riding on a wild tom-cat and screaming frightfully.
Nor was it long before the little man reappeared.
"It is all done," said he, "and the witch is already hanging on the gallows."
"What further commands has my lord?" inquired the little man.

"At this moment, none," answered the soldier, "You can return home, only be at hand immediately, if I summon you."

"Nothing more is needed than that you should light your pipe at the blue light, and I will appear before you at once."
Thereupon the little man vanished from the soldier's sight.

The soldier returned to the town from which he had come.
He went to the best inn, ordered himself handsome clothes, and then bade the landlord furnish him a room as handsome as possible.
When it was ready and the soldier had taken possession of it, he summoned the little man and said, "I have served the king faithfully, but he has dismissed me, and left me to hunger, and now I want to take my revenge."

"What am I to do?" asked the little man.

"Late at night, when the king's daughter is in bed, bring her here in her sleep, she shall do servant's work for me."

The little man said, "That is an easy thing for me to do, but a very dangerous thing for you, for if it is discovered, you will fare ill."
But the soldier would not be dissuaded and so the little man left.
When twelve o'clock had struck, the door sprang open, and the man carried in the princess.

"Aha! Are you there?" cried the soldier, "get to your work at once! Fetch the broom and sweep the chamber."
When she had done this, he ordered her to come to his chair, and then he stretched out his feet and said, "Pull off my boots."
He then made her pick them up and clean and brighten them.
She did everything he bade her, without opposition, silently and with half-shut eyes.
When the first cock crowed, the little man carried her back to the royal palace, and laid her in her bed.

Next morning when the princess arose she went to her father, and told him that she had had a very strange dream.

"I was carried through the streets with the rapidity of lightning," said she, "and taken into a soldier's room, and I had to wait upon him like a servant, sweep his room, clean his boots, and do all kinds of menial work. It was only a dream, and yet I am just as tired as if I really had done everything."

"The dream may have been true," said the king. "I will give you a piece of advice. Fill your pocket full of peas, and make a small hole in the pocket, and then if you are carried away again, they will fall out and leave a track in the streets."

Unseen by the king, the soldier's little man servant was standing beside him when he said that, and heard all. At night when the sleeping princess was again carried through the streets, some peas certainly did fall out of her pocket, but they made no track, for the crafty little man had just before scattered peas in every street there was. And again the princess was compelled to do servant's work until cock-crow.

Next morning the king sent his people out to seek the track, but it was all in vain, for in every street poor children were sitting, picking up peas, and saying, "It must have rained peas, last night."

"We must think of something else," said the king. "Keep your shoes on when you go to bed, and before you come back from the place where you are taken, hide one of them there, I will soon contrive to find it."

The little man heard this plot, and at night when the soldier again ordered him to bring the princess, revealed it to him, and told him that he knew of no expedient to counteract this stratagem, and that if the shoe were found in the soldier's house it would go badly with him.
"Do what I bid you." replied the soldier, and again this third night the princess was obliged to work like a servant, but before she went away, she hid her shoe under the bed.

Next morning the king had the entire town searched for his daughter's shoe. It was found at the soldier's, and the soldier himself, who at the entreaty of the little man had gone outside the gate, was soon brought back, and thrown into prison.

In his flight he had forgotten the most valuable things he had, the blue light and the gold, and had only one ducat in his pocket. And now loaded with chains, he was standing at the window of his dungeon, when he chanced to see one of his comrades passing by.
The soldier tapped at the pane of glass, and when this man came up, said to him, "Be so kind as to fetch me the small bundle I have left lying in the inn, and I will give you a ducat for doing it."
His comrade ran thither and brought him what he wanted.

As soon as the soldier was alone again, he lighted his pipe and summoned the little man.
"Have no fear," said the latter to his master.
"Go wheresoever they take you, and let them do what they will, only take the blue light with you."

Next day the soldier was tried, and though he had done nothing wicked, the judge condemned him to death.
When he was led forth to die, he begged a last favor of the king.

"What is it?" asked the king.

"That I may smoke one more pipe on my way."

"You may smoke three," answered the king, "but do not imagine that I will spare your life."

Then the soldier pulled out his pipe and lighted it at the blue light, and as soon as a few wreaths of smoke had ascended, the little man was there with a small cudgel in his hand, and said, "What does my lord command?"

"Strike down to earth that false judge there, and his constable, and spare not the king who has treated me so ill."

Then the little man fell on them like lightning, darting this way and that way, and whosoever was so much as touched by his cudgel fell to earth, and did not venture to stir again.

The king was terrified. He threw himself on the soldier's mercy, and merely to be allowed to live at all, gave him his kingdom for his own, and his daughter to wife.

Yes, that is the end of the story.
Part of me wants to add something more to it and a part of me thinks……well, what more is there to say???
What do you think??

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fathers Day tales.....

Father's Day is just around the corner....sometime in June...specifically, in the US, Canada and the UK it's June 19th this year.
FYI,  Father's day is celebrated in September in Australia and New Zealand .

Anyway, Father's Day is the perfect time to tell a story about fathers and their children.

Sooo, the next few blogs will features stories featuring fathers, some wise some foolish, some brave and some not so brave.

The first story I've chosen is one of my favorites. It's the story of Abiyoyo, a story written and sung by Peter Seeger. The story is based on a South African lullabye.
This vid shows Pete singing his story on the children's show Reading Rainbow.

You can find the text for the story at Pete 
and of course you can always buy the book .....


Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Dance for Water

THERE was a frightful drought.
 The rivers after a while dried up and even the springs gave no water.

The animals wandered around seeking drink, but to no avail. Nowhere was water to be found.

A great gathering of animals was held: Lion, Tiger, Wolf, Jackal, Elephant, all of them came together. What was to be done? That was the question. One had this plan, and another had that; but no plan seemed of value.

Finally one of them suggested: "Come, let all of us go to the dry river bed and dance; in that way we can tread out the water."

Good! Everyone was satisfied and ready to begin instantly, excepting Rabbit, who said, "I will not go and dance. All of you are mad to attempt to get water from the ground by dancing."

The other animals danced and danced, and ultimately danced the water to the surface.

How glad they were.

Everyone drank as much as he could, but Rabbit did not dance with them. So it was decided that Rabbit should have no water.

He laughed at them: "I will nevertheless drink some of your water."

That evening he proceeded leisurely to the river bed where the dance had been, and drank as much as he wanted. The following morning the animals saw the footprints of Rabbit in the ground, and Rabbit shouted to them: "Aha! I did have some of the water, and it was most refreshing and tasted fine."

Quickly all the animals were called together. What were they to do? How were they to get Rabbit in their hands? All had some means to propose; the one suggested this, and the other that.

Finally old Tortoise moved slowly forward, foot by foot: "I will catch Rabbit."

"You? How? What do you think of yourself?" shouted the others in unison.

"Rub my shell with pitch, and I will go to the edge of the water and lie down. I will then resemble a stone, so that when Rabbit steps on me his feet will stick fast."

"Yes! Yes! That's good."

And in a one, two, three, Tortoise's shell was covered with pitch, and foot by foot he moved away to the river. At the edge, close to the water, he lay down and drew his head into his shell.

Rabbit during the evening came to get a drink. "Ha!" he chuckled sarcastically," they are, after all, quite decent. Here they have placed a stone, so now I need not unnecessarily wet my feet."

Rabbit trod with his left foot on the stone, and there it stuck.

Tortoise then put his head out. "Ha! old Tortoise! And it's you, is it, that's holding me. But here I still have another foot. I'll give you a good clout." Rabbit gave Tortoise what he said he would with his right fore foot, hard and straight; and there his foot remained.

"I have yet a hind foot, and with it I'll kick you." Rabbit drove his bind foot down. This also rested on Tortoise where it struck.

"But still another foot remains, and now I'll tread you." He stamped his foot down, but it stuck like the others.
He used his head to hammer Tortoise, and his tail as a whip, but both met the same fate as his feet, so there he was tight and fast down to the pitch.

Tortoise now slowly turned himself round and foot by foot started for the other animals, with Rabbit on his back.

"Ha! ha! ha! Rabbit! How does it look now? Insolence does not pay after all," shouted the animals.

Now advice was sought. What should they do with Rabbit? He certainly must die. But how? One said, "Behead him"; another, "Some severe penalty."

"Rabbit, how are we to kill you?"

"It does not affect me," Rabbit said. "Only a shameful death please do not pronounce."

"And what is that?" they all shouted.

"To take me by my tail and dash my head against a stone; that I pray and beseech you don't do."

"No, but just so you'll die. That is decided."

It was decided Rabbit should die by taking him by his tail and dashing his head to pieces against some stone. But who is to do it?
Lion, because he is the most powerful one.

Good! Lion should do it. He stood up, walked to the front, and poor Rabbit was brought to him.
Rabbit pleaded and beseeched that he couldn't die such a miserable death.

Lion took Rabbit firmly by the tail and swung him around. The white skin slipped off from Rabbit, and there Lion stood with the white bit of skin and hair in his paw.

Rabbit was free.

Story Source: South-African Folk-Tales written by James A. Hone├┐; published in 1910 

Although this is a rabbit tale from South Africa, it very much reminds me of a very popular Brer Rabbit tale. Does anyone else see the similarities between this story and Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby or Brer Rabbit and the Brair Patch?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Parrot.... an English folktale

There was once a grocer who had a beautiful parrot with green feathers, and it hung in a cage at his shop door.
It was a very shrewd, sensible bird, and very observing. But it was a female, and as such could not hold its tongue, but proclaimed aloud all that it knew, announcing to everyone who entered the shop the little circumstances which had fallen under its observation.

One day the parrot observed its master sanding the sugar. Presently in came a woman and asked for some brown sugar.

"Sand in the sugar! Sand in the sugar!" vociferated the bird, and the customer pocketed her money and rushed out of the shop.

The indignant grocer rushed to the cage and shook it well.

"You abominable bird, if you tell tales again, I will wring your neck!"
 And again he shook the cage till the poor creature was all ruffled, and a cloud of its feathers was flying about the shop.

Next day it saw its master mixing cocoa powder with brick dust. Presently in came a customer for cocoa powder.

"Brick dust in the cocoa!" cried the parrot, eagerly and repeatedly, till the astonished customer believed it, and went away without his cocoa.

A repetition of the shaking of the cage ensued, with a warning that such another instance of tale-telling should certainly be punished with death. The parrot made internal resolutions never to speak again.

Presently, however, it observed its master making shop butter of lard colored with a little turmeric. In came a lady and asked for butter.

"Nice fresh butter, ma'am, fresh from the dairy," said the shopman

"Lard in the butter! Lard in the butter!" said the parrot.

"You scoundrel, you!" exclaimed the shopman, rushing at the cage.

Opening it, drawing forth the luckless bird, and wringing its neck, he cast it into the ash pit. But Polly was not quite dead, and after lying quiet for a few minutes, she lifted up her head and saw a dead cat in the pit.

"Halloo!" called the parrot. "What is the matter with you, Tom?"

No answer, for the vital spark of heavenly flame had quitted the mortal frame of the poor cat.

"Dead!" sighed the parrot. "Poor Tom! He too must have been afflicted with the love of truth. Ah me!"

She sat up and tried her wings. "They are sound. Great is truth in my own country, but in this dingy England it is at a discount, and lies are at a premium."

Then spreading her wings, Polly flew away. But whether she ever reached her own land, where truth was regarded with veneration, I have not heard.
 No, she flew twice round the world in search of it, and could not find it.

I wonder whether she has found it now!

from Sabine Baring-Gould's  "Household Tales" published in1866

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Fir Tree

 a Hans Christian Andersen tale (1835)

FAR down in the forest, where the warm sun and the fresh air made a sweet resting-place, grew a pretty little fir-tree; and yet it was not happy, it wished so much to be tall like its companions— the pines and firs which grew around it. 

The sun shone, and the soft air fluttered its leaves, and the little peasant children passed by, prattling merrily, but the fir-tree heeded them not. Sometimes the children would bring a large basket of raspberries or strawberries, wreathed on a straw, and seat themselves near the fir-tree, and say, “Is it not a pretty little tree?” which made it feel more unhappy than before. And yet all this while the tree grew a notch or joint taller every year; for by the number of joints in the stem of a fir-tree we can discover its age. 

Still, as it grew, it complained, “Oh! how I wish I were as tall as the other trees, then I would spread out my branches on every side, and my top would over-look the wide world. I should have the birds building their nests on my boughs, and when the wind blew, I should bow with stately dignity like my tall companions.” The tree was so discontented, that it took no pleasure in the warm sunshine, the birds, or the rosy clouds that floated over it morning and evening. 

Sometimes, in winter, when the snow lay white and glittering on the ground, a hare would come springing along, and jump right over the little tree; and then how mortified it would feel!

Two winters passed, and when the third arrived, the tree had grown so tall that the hare was obliged to run round it. Yet it remained unsatisfied, and would exclaim, “Oh, if I could but keep on growing tall and old! There is nothing else worth caring for in the world!” 

In the autumn, as usual, the wood-cutters came and cut down several of the tallest trees, and the young fir-tree, which was now grown to its full height, shuddered as the noble trees fell to the earth with a crash. After the branches were lopped off, the trunks looked so slender and bare, that they could scarcely be recognized. Then they were placed upon wagons, and drawn by horses out of the forest. 

“Where were they going? What would become of them?” The young fir-tree wished very much to know; so in the spring, when the swallows and the storks came, it asked, “Do you know where those trees were taken? Did you meet them?” 

The swallows knew nothing, but the stork, after a little reflection, nodded his head, and said, “Yes, I think I do. I met several new ships when I flew from Egypt, and they had fine masts that smelt like fir. I think these must have been the trees; I assure you they were stately, very stately.”

“Oh, how I wish I were tall enough to go on the sea,” said the fir-tree. “What is the sea, and what does it look like?”

“It would take too much time to explain,” said the stork, flying quickly away.

“Rejoice in thy youth,” said the sunbeam; “rejoice in thy fresh growth, and the young life that is in thee.”

And the wind kissed the tree, and the dew watered it with tears; but the fir-tree regarded them not.

Christmas-time drew near, and many young trees were cut down, some even smaller and younger than the fir-tree who enjoyed neither rest nor peace with longing to leave its forest home. These young trees, which were chosen for their beauty, kept their branches, and were also laid on wagons and drawn by horses out of the forest.

“Where are they going?” asked the fir-tree. “They are not taller than I am: indeed, one is much less; and why are the branches not cut off? Where are they going?”

“We know, we know,” sang the sparrows; “we have looked in at the windows of the houses in the town, and we know what is done with them. They are dressed up in the most splendid manner. We have seen them standing in the middle of a warm room, and adorned with all sorts of beautiful things,—honey cakes, gilded apples, playthings, and many hundreds of wax tapers.”

“And then,” asked the fir-tree, trembling through all its branches, “and then what happens?”

“We did not see any more,” said the sparrows; “but this was enough for us.”

“I wonder whether anything so brilliant will ever happen to me,” thought the fir-tree.
“It would be much better than crossing the sea. I long for it almost with pain. Oh! when will Christmas be here? I am now as tall and well grown as those which were taken away last year. Oh! that I were now laid on the wagon, or standing in the warm room, with all that brightness and splendor around me! Something better and more beautiful is to come after, or the trees would not be so decked out. Yes, what follows will be grander and more splendid. What can it be? I am weary with longing. I scarcely know how I feel.”

“Rejoice with us,” said the air and the sunlight. “Enjoy thine own bright life in the fresh air.”

But the tree would not rejoice, though it grew taller every day; and, winter and summer, its dark-green foliage might be seen in the forest, while passers by would say, “What a beautiful tree!”

A short time before Christmas, the discontented fir-tree was the first to fall.
As the axe cut through the stem, and divided the pith, the tree fell with a groan to the earth, conscious of pain and faintness, and forgetting all its anticipations of happiness, in sorrow at leaving its home in the forest.

It knew that it should never again see its dear old companions, the trees, nor the little bushes and many-colored flowers that had grown by its side; perhaps not even the birds.

Neither was the journey at all pleasant. The tree first recovered itself while being unpacked in the courtyard of a house, with several other trees; and it heard a man say, “We only want one, and this is the prettiest.”

Then came two servants in grand livery, and carried the fir-tree into a large and beautiful apartment. On the walls hung pictures, and near the great stove stood great china vases, with lions on the lids. There were rocking chairs, silken sofas, large tables, covered with pictures, books, and playthings, worth a great deal of money,—at least, the children said so.

Then the fir-tree was placed in a large tub, full of sand; but green baize hung all around it, so that no one could see it was a tub, and it stood on a very handsome carpet. How the fir-tree trembled! “What was going to happen to him now?”

Some young ladies came, and the servants helped them to adorn the tree.

On one branch they hung little bags cut out of colored paper, and each bag was filled with sweetmeats; from other branches hung gilded apples and walnuts, as if they had grown there; and above, and all round, were hundreds of red, blue, and white tapers, which were fastened on the branches.

 Dolls, exactly like real babies, were placed under the green leaves,—the tree had never seen such things before,—and at the very top was fastened a glittering star, made of tinsel. Oh, it was very beautiful!

“This evening,” they all exclaimed, “how bright it will be!”

“Oh, that the evening were come,” thought the tree, “and the tapers lighted! then I shall know what else is going to happen. Will the trees of the forest come to see me? I wonder if the sparrows will peep in at the windows as they fly? shall I grow faster here, and keep on all these ornaments summer and winter?”

But guessing was of very little use; it made his bark ache, and this pain is as bad for a slender fir-tree, as headache is for us.

At last the tapers were lighted, and then what a glistening blaze of light the tree presented!

It trembled so with joy in all its branches, that one of the candles fell among the green leaves and burnt some of them. “Help! help!” exclaimed the young ladies, but there was no danger, for they quickly extinguished the fire.

After this, the tree tried not to tremble at all, though the fire frightened him; he was so anxious not to hurt any of the beautiful ornaments, even while their brilliancy dazzled him. And now the folding doors were thrown open, and a troop of children rushed in as if they intended to upset the tree; they were followed more silently by their elders. For a moment the little ones stood silent with astonishment, and then they shouted for joy, till the room rang, and they danced merrily round the tree, while one present after another was taken from it.

“What are they doing? What will happen next?” thought the fir. At last the candles burnt down to the branches and were put out. Then the children received permission to plunder the tree.

Oh, how they rushed upon it, till the branches cracked, and had it not been fastened with the glistening star to the ceiling, it must have been thrown down. The children then danced about with their pretty toys, and no one noticed the tree, except the children’s maid who came and peeped among the branches to see if an apple or a fig had been forgotten.

“A story, a story,” cried the children, pulling a little fat man towards the tree.

“Now we shall be in the green shade,” said the man, as he seated himself under it, “and the tree will have the pleasure of hearing also, but I shall only relate one story; what shall it be? Ivede-Avede, or Humpty Dumpty, who fell down stairs, but soon got up again, and at last married a princess.”

“Ivede-Avede,” cried some. “Humpty Dumpty,” cried others, and there was a fine shouting and crying out. But the fir-tree remained quite still, and thought to himself, “Shall I have anything to do with all this?” but he had already amused them as much as they wished.

Then the old man told them the story of Humpty Dumpty, how he fell down stairs, and was raised up again, and married a princess. And the children clapped their hands and cried, “Tell another, tell another,” for they wanted to hear the story of “Ivede-Avede;” but they only had “Humpty Dumpty.”

After this the fir-tree became quite silent and thoughtful; never had the birds in the forest told such tales as “Humpty Dumpty,” who fell down stairs, and yet married a princess.

“Ah! yes, so it happens in the world,” thought the fir-tree; he believed it all, because it was related by such a nice man. “Ah! well,” he thought, “who knows? perhaps I may fall down too, and marry a princess;” and he looked forward joyfully to the next evening, expecting to be again decked out with lights and playthings, gold and fruit.

“To-morrow I will not tremble,” thought he; “I will enjoy all my splendor, and I shall hear the story of Humpty Dumpty again, and perhaps Ivede-Avede.” And the tree remained quiet and thoughtful all night. In the morning the servants and the housemaid came in.

“Now,” thought the fir, “all my splendor is going to begin again.” But they dragged him out of the room and up stairs to the garret, and threw him on the floor, in a dark corner, where no daylight shone, and there they left him.

“What does this mean?” thought the tree, “what am I to do here? I can hear nothing in a place like this,” and he had time enough to think, for days and nights passed and no one came near him, and when at last somebody did come, it was only to put away large boxes in a corner.

So the tree was completely hidden from sight as if it had never existed. “It is winter now,” thought the tree, “the ground is hard and covered with snow, so that people cannot plant me. I shall be sheltered here, I dare say, until spring comes.

How thoughtful and kind everybody is to me! Still I wish this place were not so dark, as well as lonely, with not even a little hare to look at. How pleasant it was out in the forest while the snow lay on the ground, when the hare would run by, yes, and jump over me too, although I did not like it then. Oh! it is terrible lonely here.”

“Squeak, squeak,” said a little mouse, creeping cautiously towards the tree; then came another; and they both sniffed at the fir-tree and crept between the branches.
“Oh, it is very cold,” said the little mouse, “or else we should be so comfortable here, shouldn’t we, you old fir-tree?”
“I am not old,” said the fir-tree, “there are many who are older than I am.”
“Where do you come from? and what do you know?” asked the mice, who were full of curiosity. “Have you seen the most beautiful places in the world, and can you tell us all about them? and have you been in the storeroom, where cheeses lie on the shelf, and hams hang from the ceiling? One can run about on tallow candles there, and go in thin and come out fat.”

“I know nothing of that place,” said the fir-tree, “but I know the wood where the sun shines and the birds sing.” And then the tree told the little mice all about its youth. They had never heard such an account in their lives; and after they had listened to it attentively, they said, “What a number of things you have seen? you must have been very happy.”

“Happy!” exclaimed the fir-tree, and then as he reflected upon what he had been telling them, he said, “Ah, yes! after all those were happy days.” But when he went on and related all about Christmas-eve, and how he had been dressed up with cakes and lights, the mice said, “How happy you must have been, you old fir-tree.”
“I am not old at all,” replied the tree, “I only came from the forest this winter, I am now checked in my growth.”

“What splendid stories you can relate,” said the little mice. And the next night four other mice came with them to hear what the tree had to tell. The more he talked the more he remembered, and then he thought to himself, “Those were happy days, but they may come again. Humpty Dumpty fell down stairs, and yet he married the princess; perhaps I may marry a princess too.” And the fir-tree thought of the pretty little birch-tree that grew in the forest, which was to him a real beautiful princess.

“Who is Humpty Dumpty?” asked the little mice. And then the tree related the whole story; he could remember every single word, and the little mice was so delighted with it, that they were ready to jump to the top of the tree. The next night a great many more mice made their appearance, and on Sunday two rats came with them; but they said, it was not a pretty story at all, and the little mice were very sorry, for it made them also think less of it.
“Do you know only one story?” asked the rats.
“Only one,” replied the fir-tree; “I heard it on the happiest evening of my life; but I did not know I was so happy at the time.”
“We think it is a very miserable story,” said the rats. “Don’t you know any story about bacon, or tallow in the storeroom.”
“No,” replied the tree.
“Many thanks to you then,” replied the rats, and they marched off.

The little mice also kept away after this, and the tree sighed, and said, “It was very pleasant when the merry little mice sat round me and listened while I talked. Now that is all passed too. However, I shall consider myself happy when some one comes to take me out of this place.” But would this ever happen?

Yes; one morning people came to clear out the garret, the boxes were packed away, and the tree was pulled out of the corner, and thrown roughly on the garret floor; then the servant dragged it out upon the staircase where the daylight shone.

“Now life is beginning again,” said the tree, rejoicing in the sunshine and fresh air. Then it was carried down stairs and taken into the courtyard so quickly, that it forgot to think of itself, and could only look about, there was so much to be seen. The court was close to a garden, where everything looked blooming. Fresh and fragrant roses hung over the little palings. The linden-trees were in blossom; while the swallows flew here and there, crying, “Twit, twit, twit, my mate is coming,”—but it was not the fir-tree they meant. “Now I shall live,” cried the tree, joyfully spreading out its branches; but alas! they were all withered and yellow, and it lay in a corner amongst weeds and nettles.

The star of gold paper still stuck in the top of the tree and glittered in the sunshine. In the same courtyard two of the merry children were playing who had danced round the tree at Christmas, and had been so happy. The youngest saw the gilded star, and ran and pulled it off the tree.

“Look what is sticking to the ugly old fir-tree,” said the child, treading on the branches till they crackled under his boots. And the tree saw all the fresh bright flowers in the garden, and then looked at itself, and wished it had remained in the dark corner of the garret. It thought of its fresh youth in the forest, of the merry Christmas evening, and of the little mice who had listened to the story of “Humpty Dumpty.” “Past! past!” said the old tree; “Oh, had I but enjoyed myself while I could have done so! but now it is too late.”

Then a lad came and chopped the tree into small pieces, till a large bundle lay in a heap on the ground. The pieces were placed in a fire under the copper, and they quickly blazed up brightly, while the tree sighed so deeply that each sigh was like a pistol-shot.

Then the children, who were at play, came and seated themselves in front of the fire, and looked at it and cried, “Pop, pop.” But at each “pop,” which was a deep sigh, the tree was thinking of a summer day in the forest; and of Christmas evening, and of “Humpty Dumpty,” the only story it had ever heard or knew how to relate, till at last it was consumed. The boys still played in the garden, and the youngest wore the golden star on his breast, with which the tree had been adorned during the happiest evening of its existence.

Now all was past; the tree’s life was past, and the story also,—for all stories must come to an end at last.

Other Winter Holiday Stories:

The Legend of the Silver Pinecones

The Legend of La Befana

The Legend of the Christmas Spider