Sunday, December 26, 2010
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
“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
Monday, October 11, 2010
Now this is truly unique storytelling!
You have to watch the whole vid. I loooooove this!!
This is Clark Terry performing the same song back in the day. Recorded in Finland March 23, 1965.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Well, there was once a very rich gentleman, and he'd three darters [daughters]. And he thought to see how fond they was of him. So he says to the first, "How much do you love me, my dear?"
"Why," says she, "as I love my life."
"That's good," says he. So he says to the second, "How much do you love me, my dear?"
"Why," says she, "better nor all the world."
"That's good," says he.
So he says to the third, "How much do you love me, my dear?"
"Why," she says, "I love you as fresh meat loves salt," says she.
Well, he were that angry. "You don't love me at all," says he, "and in my house you stay no more." So he drove her out there and then, and shut the door in her face.
Well, she went away, on and on, till she came to a fen. And there she gathered a lot of rushes, and made them into a cloak kind o', with a hood to cover her from head to foot, and to hide her fine clothes. And then she went on and on till she came to a great house.
"Do you want a maid?" says she.
"No, we don't," says they.
"I hain't nowhere to go," says she, "and I'd ask no wages, and do any sort o' work," says she.
"Well," says they, "if you like to wash the pots and scrape the saucepans, you may stay," says they.
So she stayed there, and washed the pots and scraped the saucepans, and did all the dirty work. And because she gave no name, they called her Cap o' Rushes.
Well, one day there was to be a great dance a little way off, and the servants was let go and look at the grand people. Cap o' Rushes said she was too tired to go, so she stayed at home.
But when they was gone, she offed with her cap o' rushes, and cleaned herself, and went to the dance. And no one there was so finely dressed as her.
Well, who should be there but her master's son, and what should he do but fall in love with her, the minute he set eyes on her. He wouldn't dance with anyone else.
But before the dance were done, Cap o' Rushes she stepped off, and away she went home. And when the other maids was back, she was framin' [pretending] to be asleep with her cap o' rushes on.
Well, next morning, they says to her, "You did miss a sight, Cap o' Rushes!"
"What was that?" says she.
"Why the beautifullest lady you ever see, dressed right gay and ga'. The young master, he never took his eyes off of her."
"Well, I should ha' liked to have seen her," says Cap o' Rushes.
"Well, there's to be another dance this evening, and perhaps she'll be there."
But come the evening, Cap o' Rushes said she was too tired to go with them. Howsumdever, when they was gone, she offed with her cap o' rushes, and cleaned herself, and away she went to the dance.
The master's son had been reckoning on seeing her, and he danced with no one else, and never took his eyes off of her.
But before the dance was over, she slipped off, and home she went, and when the maids came back, she framed to be asleep with her cap o' rushes on.
Next day they says to her again, "Well, Cap o' Rushes, you should ha' been there to see the lady. There she was again, gay an' ga', and the young master he never took his eyes off of her."
Well there," says she, "I should ha' liked to ha' seen her."
"Well," says they, "there's a dance again this evening, and you must go with us, for she's sure to be there."
Well, come the evening, Cap o' Rushes said she was too tired to go, and do what they would, she stayed at home. But when they was gone, she offed with her cap o' rushes, and cleaned herself, and away she went to the dance.
The master's son was rarely glad when he saw her. He danced with none but her, and never took his eyes off her. When she wouldn't tell him her name, nor where she came from, he gave her a ring, and told her if he didn't see her again he should die.
Well, afore the dance was over, off she slipped, and home she went, and when the maids came home she was framing to be asleep with her cap o' rushes on.
Well, next day they says to her, "There, Cap o' Rushes, you didn't come last night, and now you won't see the lady, for there's no more dances."
Well, I should ha' rarely liked to ha' seen her," says she.
The master's son he tried every way to find out where the lady was gone, but go where he might, and ask whom he might, he never heard nothing about her. And he got worse and worse for the love of her till he had to keep his bed.
"Make some gruel for the young master," they says to the cook. "He's dying for love of the lady."
The cook she set about making it, when Cap o' Rushes came in.
"What are you a' doin' on?" says she.
"I'm going to make some gruel for the young master," says the cook, "for he's dying for love of the lady."
"Let me make it," says Cap o' Rushes.
Well, the cook wouldn't at first, but at last she said "yes," and Cap o' Rushes made the gruel. And when she had made it, she slipped the ring into it on the sly, before the cook took it upstairs.
The young man, he drank it, and saw the ring at the bottom.
"Send for the cook," says he. So up she comes.
"Who made this here gruel?" says he.
"I did," says the cook, for she were frightened, and he looked at her.
"No, you didn't," says he. "Say who did it, and you shan't be harmed."
"Well, then, 'twas Cap o' Rushes," says she.
So Cap o' Rushes came.
"Did you make the gruel?" says he."
"Yes, I did," says she.
"Where did you get this ring?" says he.
"From him as gave it me," says she.
"Who are you then?" says the young man.
"I'll show you," says she.
And she offed with her cap o' rushes, and there she was in her beautiful clothes.
Well, the master's son he got well very soon, and they was to be married in a little time. It was to be a very grand wedding, and everyone was asked, far and near. And Cap o' Rushes' father was asked. But she never told nobody who she was.
But afore the wedding she went to the cook, and say she, "I want you to dress every dish without a mite o' salt."
"That will be rarely nasty," says the cook.
"That don't signify," says she.
"Very well," says the cook.
Well, the wedding day came, and they was married. And after they was married, all the company sat down to their vittles.
When they began to eat the meat, that was so tasteless they couldn't eat it. But Cap o' Rushes father, he tried first one dish and then another, and then he burst out crying.
"What's the matter?" said the master's son to him.
"Oh!" says he, "I had a daughter. And I asked her how much she loved me. And she said, 'As much as fresh meat loves salt.' And I turned her from my door, for I thought she didn't love me. And now I see she loved me best of all. And she may be dead for aught I know."
"No, father, here she is," says Cap o' Rushes.
And she goes up to him and puts her arms round him. And so they was happy ever after.
this story and similar ones found here
picture found at ConceptArt.org
Monday, September 13, 2010
As I am sure you all know, there's more than one way to tell a story.
One of my favorite storytellers is Heather Forest. I love the way she takes traditional folktales and makes them her own by setting them to music.
Here is a video of Heather telling an amusing Norwegian folktale called The Squire's Daughter.
I have included the traditional written version of the story below the video to give you an idea of how Heather Forest makes the story her own. Enjoy!
The Squire's Daughter
ONCE UPON a time there was a rich squire who owned a large farm, and had plenty of silver at the bottom of his chest and money in the bank besides; but he felt there was something wanting, for he was a widower.
One day the daughter of a neighboring farmer was working for him in the hayfield. The squire saw her and liked her very much, and as she was the child of poor parents he thought if he only hinted that he wanted her she would be ready to marry him at once.
So he told her he had been thinking of getting married again.
"Aye! one may think of many things," said the girl, laughing slyly.
In her opinion the old fellow ought to be thinking of something that behooved him better than getting married.
"Well, you see, I thought that you should be my wife!"
"No, thank you all the same," said she, "that's not at all likely."
The squire was not accustomed to be gainsaid, and the more she refused him the more determined he was to get her.
But as he made no progress in her favor he sent for her father and told him that if he could arrange the matter with his daughter he would forgive him the money he had lent him, and he would also give him the piece of land which lay close to his meadow into the bargain.
"Yes, you may be sure I'll bring my daughter to her senses," said the father. "She is only a child, and she doesn't know what's best for her." But all his coaxing and talking did not help matters. She would not have the squire, she said, if he sat buried in gold up to his ears.
The squire waited day after day, but at last he became so angry and impatient that he told the father, if he expected him to stand by his promise, he would have to put his foot down and settle the matter now, for he would not wait any longer.
The man knew no other way out of it but to let the squire get everything ready for the wedding; and when the parson and the wedding guests had arrived the squire should send for the girl as if she were wanted for some work on the farm. When she arrived she would have to be married right away, so that she would have no time to think it over.
The squire thought this was well and good, and so he began brewing and baking and getting ready for the wedding in grand style. When the guests had arrived the squire called one of his farm lads and told him to run down to his neighbor and ask him to send him what he had promised.
"But if you are not back in a twinkling," he said, shaking his fist at him, "I'll-"
He did not say more, for the lad ran off as if he had been shot at.
"My master has sent me to ask for that you promised him," said the lad, when he got to the neighbor, "but there is no time to be lost, for he is terribly busy to-day."
"Yes, yes! Run down into the meadow and take her with you. There she goes!" answered the neighbor.
The lad ran off and when he came to the meadow he found the daughter there raking the hay.
"I am to fetch what your father has promised my master," said the lad.
"Ah, ha!" thought she. "Is that what they are up to?"
"Ah, indeed!" she said. "I suppose it's that little bay mare of ours. You had better go and take her. She stands there tethered on the other side of the pea field," said the girl.
The boy jumped on the back of the bay mare and rode home at full gallop.
"Have you got her with you?" asked the squire.
"She is down at the door," said the lad.
"Take her up to the room my mother had," said the squire.
"But master, how can that be managed?" said the lad.
"You must just do as I tell you," said the squire. "If you cannot manage her alone you must get the men to help you," for he thought the girl might turn obstreperous.
When the lad saw his master's face he knew it would be no use to gainsay him. So he went and got all the farm tenants who were there to help him. Some pulled at the head and the forelegs of the mare and others pushed from behind, and at last they got her up the stairs and into the room. There lay all the wedding finery ready.
"Now, that's done master!" said the lad; "but it was a terrible job. It was the worst I have ever had here on the farm.
"Never mind, you shall not have done it for nothing," said his master. "Now send the women up to dress her."
"But I say master-!" said the lad.
"None of your talk!" said the squire. "Tell them they must dress her and mind and not forget either wreath or crown.
The lad ran into the kitchen.
"Look here, lasses," he said; "you must go upstairs and dress up the bay mare as bride. I expect the master wants to give the guests a laugh."
The women dressed the bay mare in everything that was there, and then the lad went and told his master that now she was ready dressed, with wreath and crown and all.
"Very well, bring her down!" said the squire. "I will receive her myself at the door," said he.
There was a terrible clatter on the stairs; for that bride, you know, had no silken shoes on.
When the door was opened and the squire's bride entered the parlor you can imagine there was a good deal of tittering and grinning.
And as for the squire you may he sure line had had enough of that bride, and they say he never went courting again.
By P. C. Asbjornsen
Sunday, September 5, 2010
This story is based on a folktale.
This vid was produced by Sesame Street maaaaany years ago. (I feel really old because I remember seeing this.)
The moral of this tale is that all things are connected.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
There once lived a man and a woman. The woman died and the man married a second time, but from his first marriage he had a daughter. The mean stepmother didn't like her, beat her, and tried to think of ways to get rid of her for good.
Once, when the father was away somewhere, the stepmother told the girl: "Go to your step-aunt's, my sister's, ask her for a needle and some thread so that I can sew you a shirt." For that aunt was Baba-Yaga with the Bony Leg.
But the girl wasn't stupid, and first she stopped at her aunt's.
"Hello, dear aunt!"
"Hello, my darling! What brings you?"
"Mother sent me to her sister's to ask for a needle and some thread so she can sew me a shirt."
So her aunt told her what to do. "There will be a birch, dear niece, and it will slap you in the face. You just put a ribbon on it. Then the gates will screech and flap. You just pour some oil on the hinges. The dogs will bite you. You just throw them some bread. The cat will scratch your eyes. You just give it some ham."
The girl set off. She walked for a long time, and finally arrived.
A small house stood, and Baba Yaga with the Bony Leg sat in it, weaving.
"Hello, dear aunt!"
"Hello, my darling!"
"Mother sent me to ask for a needle and some thread so she can sew me a shirt."
"All right, well for now, sit down and do some weaving."
So the girl sat at the weaving loom, and Baba Yaga left to give order to her maid. "Go, heat up the bathhouse and give my niece a bath, and make sure she's nice and clean. I want her for my breakfast."
The girl sat still as a statue, frightened nearly to death, and asked the maid: "Dearest! Don't spend so much time lighting the wood as pouring water on it, and don't hurry hauling water, use a seive for it!" And she gave her a kerchief.
Baba Yaga was waiting. She walked up to the window and asked: "Are you weaving, dear niece, are you weaving, my darling?" "Yes, I'm weaving, auntie, I'm weaving, my dearest!"
Baba Yaga stepped away.
The girl gave the cat some ham and asked it: "Isn't there a way to get out of here?"
"Here's a comb and a towel," the cat said, "take them and run away; Baba Yaga will run after you. You put your ear to the ground, and as soon as you hear that she's close, throw the towel first. It will turn into a great wide river. If Baba Yaga crosses the river and starts catching up again, put your ear to the ground again, and as soon as you hear that she's close, throw the comb. It will turn into a deep, dark forest. She won't be able to get through it!"
The girl took the towel and the comb and ran. The dogs wanted to tear her to pieces, but she threw them some bread, and they let her pass. The gates wanted to close, but she poured some oil on the hinges, and they let her through. The birch wanted to slap her in the face and blind her, but she tied a ribbon around it, and it let her pass.
Meanwhile, the cat sat at the weaving loom and started weaving. He didn't weave so much as he tied the threads into knots.
Baba Yaga walked up to the window and asked: "Are you weaving, dear niece, are you weaving, my darling?"
"Yes, I'm weaving, auntie, I'm weaving, my dearest," the cat answered in his rough voice.
Baba Yaga ran into the house. She saw that the girl was gone, and the started hitting the cat and yell at him -- why didn't he scratch out her eyes?
"How many years have I served you," the cat said, "you never even gave me a bone, and she gave me some ham."
Baba Yaga became furious at the dogs, the gate, the birch, and the maid, and she started hitting and beating them.
The dogs told her: "How many years have we served you, you never even gave us a burnt crust, and she gave us some bread."
The gate said: "How many years have I served you, you never even poured water on my hinges, and she poured oil on them."
The birch said: "How many years have I served you, you never even tied a string around me, and she tied a ribbon."
The maid said: "How many years have I served you, you never even gave me a rag, and she gave me a kerchief."
Baba Yaga with the Bony Leg quickly sat in her mortar, hurried it along with the pestle, and swept her trail with a broom, and set off on the trail of the girl.
The girl put her ear to the ground, and heard that Baba Yaga was chasing after her, and that she was close already. She threw the towel. It turned into a great wide river. Baba Yaga arrived at the river and she gnashed her teeth in anger. She returned home, gathered her bulls, and brought them to the river. The bulls drank up the entire river until it was dry. Baba Yaga set off once again in pursuit.
The girl put her ear to the ground again, and heard that Baba Yaga was close. She threw the comb. It turned into a deep, frightening forest. Baba Yaga began gnawing on it, but try as she may, she couldn't gnaw through it. She turned around and went home.
Meanwhile, the man returned home and asked: "Where is my daughter?"
"She went to visit her aunt," the stepmother said.
A little later, the girl arrived home.
"Where were you?" her father asked her.
"Oh, daddy!" she said. "This is the way it was. Mother sent me to my aunt's to get a needle and some thread to sew me a shirt, but her aunt turned out to be Baba Yaga, and she wanted to eat me."
"How did you get away, daughter?"
So the girl told him. As soon as the man found out everything, he became very angry at his wife and shot her to death. From then on, he lived happily ever after with his daughter, and amassed a great fortune.
And I was there, and I drank mead and beer: it ran down my mustache, but didn't get into my mouth.
Baba Yaga (A Russian Folktale)
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
When Coyote was traveling about one day, he saw a small bird. The bird was hopping about contentedly and Coyote thought,
"What a beautiful bird. It moves about so gracefully."
He drew nearer to the bird and asked, "What beautiful things are you working with?" but the bird could not understand Coyote.
After a while the bird took out his two eyes and threw them straight up into the air, like two stones. It looked upward but had no eyes. Then the bird said,
"Come, my eyes. Come quickly, down into my head." The eyes fell down into the bird's head, just where they belonged, but were much brighter than before.
Coyote thought he could brighten his eyes. He asked the bird to take out his eyes. The bird took out Coyote's eyes, held them for a moment in his hands, and threw them straight up into the air. Coyote looked up and called,
"Come back, my eyes. Come quickly." They at once fell back into his head and were much brighter than before. Coyote wanted to try it again, but the bird did not wish to. But Coyote persisted. Then the bird said,
"Why should I work for you, Coyote? No, I will work no more for you." But Coyote still persisted, and the bird took out his eyes and threw them up. Coyote cried,
"Come, my eyes, come back to me."
But his eyes continued to rise into the air, and the bird began to go away. Coyote began to weep. But the bird was annoyed, and called back,
"Go away now. I am tired of you. Go away and get other eyes."
But Coyote refused to go and entreated the bird to find eyes for him. At last the bird gathered gum from a pinon tree and rolled it between his hands and put it in Coyote's eye holes, so that he could see. But his eyes had been black and very bright. His new eyes were yellow.
"Now," said the bird, it "go away. You cannot stay here any longer."
(from Myths and Legends of California and the Old Southwest by Katharine Berry Judson published in 1912)
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Long ago when the Earth was new, there were ten suns in the sky. The ten suns all rose at the same time, so the Earth was a very bright place. But it was also very hot; very hot indeed!
It was so unbearably hot that people, animals and plants suffered and died. The people who were left wanted to find a way to kill some of the suns to reduce the light and the heat so it was more comfortable.
Eventually, they found a man who they thought could do the job. He was an archer, a very famous archer.
His name was Dan.
Every day, Dan would shoot at the suns; he shot one arrow at every sun, on the hour every hour. As the days passed, Dan became more and more accurate and the suns became more and more nervous. They didn’t want to be punctured! One day, the suns decided they had had enough of dodging arrows and took themselves off to a world where their light and warmth would be better appreciated.
Of course, without the suns’ rays it was very dark and very cold on the Earth.
Nothing could live in the darkness and the people, animals and plants began to die. The people realized how stupid and selfish they had been and were very sorry. They begged the ten suns to come back and shine their light and heat on the Earth.
But nothing happened.
Day after day, the people shouted, prayed, set off fireworks, sang songs and lit bonfires.
Still nothing happened; the suns stayed away.
One day, a cockerel thought he would try his drumstick at bringing the suns back.
He began crowing as loudly as he could. He crowed and crowed and crowed.
Now, it’s a well-known fact that suns have very sensitive hearing and the racket that was coming from the Earth did nothing for them. Nothing at all except for one sun. It was tone deaf and was strangely attracted to the noise the cockerel was making. The sun peered over the eastern horizon to better hear the cockerel’s calling. The closer the sun crept the more the sun liked the sound. Eventually the sun rose completely in the sky and it listened and it really did like the cockerel’s song!
The light melted the darkness and the Earth warmed up. The people were amazed and, there and then, made a bargain with the cockerel that he should start crowing early every morning to attract the sun into the sky.
In exchange, the people would look after and feed the cockerel and his hens forever or, for as long as the cockerel sang for the sun.
And that, ladies, gentlemen, and children of the world, is why cockerels crow every morning.
Not just to attract the sun, but to ensure there’s an ample supply of corn.
Once a cockerel makes a bargain you can be sure it’ll be kept.
story found here
Saturday, June 26, 2010
"What was that, Uncle Remus?" the child asked, after waiting a moment to see what else would happen.
"New from Jack Frost, honey. When that hickory-nut tree out there hears him coming, she begins to drop what she's got. I'm mighty glad," he continued, scraping the burnt crust from hi hoe-cake with an old case-knife. "I'm mighty glad hickory nuts aren't as big and heavy as grindstones."
He waited a moment to see what effect this queer statement would have on the child.
"Yes, sir, I'm might glad, that I am. Because if hickory nuts were as big as grindstones, this here old calaboose would be leaking long before Christmas."
Just then another hickory nut dropped upon the roof, and the little boy jumped again. This seemed to amuse Uncle Remus, and he laughed until he was near to choking himself with his smoking hoe-cake.
"You are doing exactly what old Brer Rabbit did, I declare to gracious if you aren't," the old man cried, as soon as he could get his breath. "Exactly for the world."
The child was immensely flattered, and at once he wanted to know how Brother Rabbit did. Uncle Remus was in such good humor that he needed no coaxing. He pushed his spectacles back on he forehead, wiped him mouth on his sleeve, and began:
It came about that early one morning towards the fall of the year Brer Rabbit was stirring around in the woods after some bergamot to use for making him some hair grease. The wind was blowing so cold that it made him feel right frisky, and every time he heard the bushes rattle, it seemed to scare him. He was going on this way, hoppity-skippity, when by and by he heard Mr. Man cutting on a tree way off in the woods. He sat up, Brer Rabbit did, and listened first with one ear and then with the other.
The man, he cut and cut, and Brer Rabbit, he listened and listened. By and by, while all this was going on, down came the tree: kubber-lang-bang-blam! Brer Rabbit, he took and jumped just like you jumped, and not only that, he made a break, he did, and he leaped out of as though the dogs were after him.
"Was he scared, Uncle Remus?" asked the little boy.
"Scared! Who? Him? Shoo! Don't you fret yourself about Brer Rabbit, honey. In those days there was nothing going that could scare Brer Rabbit. To be sure, he took care of himself, and if you know anyone who refuses to take care of himself, I would mighty well like you to point him out. Indeed I would!" Uncle Remus seemed to boil over wit argumentative indignation.
Well then, he continued, Brer Rabbit ran until he sort of got heated up, and about the time he was getting ready to squat and catch his wind, who should he meet but Brer Coon going home after sitting up with old Brer Bull-Frog. Brer Coon saw him running, and he hailed him, "What's your hurry, Brer Rabbit?"
"Haven't got time to tarry."
"No, my Lord! Haven't got time to tarry!"
"Trying out your suppleness?"
"No, my Lord! Haven't got time to tarry!"
"Do pray, Brer Rabbit, tell me the news!"
"Mighty big fuss back there in the woods. Haven't got time to tarry!"
This made Brer Coon feel might skittish, because he was far from home, and he just leaped out, he did, and he went a-boiling through the woods. Brer Coon hadn't gone far until he met Brer Fox.
"Hey, Brer Coon, where are you going?"
"Haven't got time to tarry!"
"Going to the doctor?"
"No, my Lord! Haven't got time to tarry!"
Do pry, Brer Coon, tell me the news."
Mighty queer racket back there in the woods! Haven't got time to tarry!
With that, Brer Fox leaped out, he did, and fairly split the wind. He hadn't gone far until he met Brer Wolf.
"Hey, Brer Fox! Stop and rest yourself!"
"Haven't got time to tarry!"
"Who is wanting the doctor?"
"No one, my Lord! Haven't got time to tarry."
"Do pray, Brer Fox, good or bad, tell me the news."
"Mighty curious fuss back there in the woods! Haven't got time to tarry!"
With that, Brer Wolf shook himself loose from the face of the earth, and he didn't get far until he met Brer Bear. Brer Bear, he asked, and Brer Wolf made an answer, and by and by Brer Bear snorted and ran off. And, bless gracious, it wasn't long before the last one of the creatures was a-skaddling through the woods as though the Old Boy were after them, and all because Brer Rabbit heard Mr. Man cut a tree down.
They ran and they ran, Uncle Remus went on, until they them to Brer Terrapin's house, and they sort of slacked up, because they had nearly lost their wind. Brer Terrapin, he up an asked them where they were going, and they said there was a monstrous, terrifying racket back there in the woods. Brer Terrapin, he asked what it sounded like. One said he didn't know; the other said he didn't know; and they all said they didn't know. This made old Brer Terrapin laugh way down in his insides, and he up and said, "You all can run along if you feel skittish," he said. "After I cook my breakfast and wash up the dishes, and if I get wind of any suspicious racket, maybe I might just take down my parasol and follow along after you," he said.
When the creatures came to ask one another about who started the news, it went right back to Brer Rabbit, but low and behold, Brer Rabbit wasn't there! It turned out that Brer Coon was the one who had seen him last. Then they got to laying the blame of it on one or the other, until they almost began to fight, but then old Brer Terrapin, he up and said that if they wanted to straighten it out, they'd better go see Brer Rabbit.
All the creatures agreed, the they started out for Brer Rabbit's house. When they got there, Brer Rabbit was sitting cross-legged on the front porch winking his eyes at the sun.
Brer Bear spoke up, "What made you fool me, Brer Rabbit?"
"Fool who, Brer Bear?"
"Me, Brer Rabbit, that's who."
"This is the first time I've seen you today, Brer Bear, and you are more than welcome at that."
They all asked him and got the same answer, and then Brer Coon put in, "What made you fool me, Brer Rabbit?"
"How did I fool you, Brer Coon?"
"You made like there was a big racket, Brer Rabbit."
"What kind of a racket, Brer Rabbit?"
"Ah-yi! You should have asked me that first, Brer Coon."
"I'm asking you now, Brer Rabbit."
"Mr. Man cut a tree down, Brer Coon."
Of course this made Brer Coon feel like a natural-born slink, and it wasn't long before all the creatures made their bows to Brer Rabbit and moseyed off home.
"Brother Rabbit had the best of it all along," said the little boy, after waiting to see whether there was a sequel to the story.
"Oh, did he ever!" exclaimed Uncle Remus. "Brer Rabbit was a mighty man in those days."
* Source: Joel Chandler Harris, Nights with Uncle Remus: Myths and Legends of the Old Plantation published in 1883
This version found online at End of the World Tales (D.L. Ashliman)
Thursday, May 20, 2010
There was an enchanted mill, so that no one could stay there, because a she-wolf always haunted it. A soldier went once into the mill to sleep. He made a fire in the parlor, went up into the garret above, bored a hole with an auger in the floor, and peeped down into the parlor.
A she-wolf came in and looked about the mill to see whether she could find anything to eat. She found nothing, and then went to the fire, and said, "Skin down! Skin down! Skin down!" She raised herself upon her hind-legs, and her skin fell down. She took the skin, and hung it on a peg, and out of the wolf came a damsel. The damsel went to the fire, and fell asleep there.
He came down from the garret, took the skin, nailed it fast to the mill-wheel, then came into the mill, shouted over her, and said, "Good morning, damsel! How do you do?
She began to scream, "Skin on me! Skin on me! Skin on me!" But the skin could not come down, for it was fast nailed.
The pair married and had two children.
As soon as the elder son got to know that his mother was a wolf, he said to her, "Mamma! Mamma! I have heard that you are a wolf."
His mother replied, "What nonsense are you talking! How can you say that I am a wolf?"
The father of the two children went one day into the field to plow, and his son said, "Papa, let me, too, go with you."
His father said, "Come."
When they had come to the field, the son asked his father, "Papa, is it true that our mother is a wolf?"
The father said, "It is."
The son inquired, "And where is her skin?"
His father said, "There it is, on the mill-wheel."
No sooner had the son got home, than he said at once to his mother, "Mamma! Mamma! You are a wolf! I know where your skin is."
His mother asked him, "Where is my skin?"
He said, "There, on the mill-wheel."
His mother said to him, "Thank you, sonny, for rescuing me." Then she went away, and was never heard of more.
from Sixty Folk-Tales from Exclusively Slavonic Sources published in 1889
Friday, May 7, 2010
If you're looking for good books for kids to read be sure to check out my Listmania Book lists, the links I have on the side of this blog (look to your right) and all of the books I have linked below. Most of the books below are books that I have read myself and truly enjoy.
Dang it! I couldn't stand it. I had to give you some kind of story, so I'm linking you to Fairy Gifts a wonderful story (yes it's on my other blog) from Andrew Lang's Green Fairy book. There are also crafts after the story if you feel like making something. Try it....it's fun!
Friday, April 23, 2010
Tell a Story Day celebrates story-telling of all kinds.
It doesn't matter if its fiction or non-fiction, a tall tale, a folk tale or a fairy tale. April 27th is the day to tell any and all types of stories. The stories can be told from a book, from memory or from a blog (hint,hint). It doesn't matter as long as the stories are told.
In Scotland and England, there is a National Tell Me A Story Day which is celebrated October 27th, exactly 6 months after the U.S. holiday.
The Endless Tale...a tale from England (Nottinghamshire)Once upon a time there was a king who had a very beautiful daughter.
Many princes wished to marry her, but the king said she should marry the one who could tell him an endless tale, and those lovers that could not tell an endless tale should be beheaded.
Many young men came, and tried to tell such a story, but they could not tell it, and were beheaded. But one day a poor man who had heard of what the king had said came to the court and said he would try his luck.
The king agreed, and the poor man began his tale in this way:
"There was once a man who built a barn that covered many acres, and that reached almost to the sky.
He left just one little hole in the top, through which there was only room for one locust to creep in at a time, and then he filled the barn full of corn to the very top.
When he had filled the barn there came a locust through the hole in the top and fetched one grain of corn, and then another locust came and fetched another grain of corn."
And so the poor man went on saying, "Then another locust came and fetched another grain of corn," for a long time, so that in the end the king grew very weary, and said the tale was endless, and told the poor man he might marry his daughter.
"Give me my freedom, dear man! Of what use is it to you to lock me in a cage? Looking at me will not please you, for I do not have beautiful feathers. I cannot entertain you, for I do not sing like other birds. And I cannot provide you with nourishment. I am much too small for that. But I will tell you three wise teachings if you will give my freedom."
The master of the garden looked at the little creature and said,
"If you do not sing then of course you cannot entertain me. Let me hear your wisdom, and if it teaches me anything, I will give you your freedom."
Then the little bird said,
"First: Do not grieve over things that have already happened.
Second: Do not wish for that which is unattainable.
Third: Do not believe in that which cannot be possible."
Then the master of the garden said, "You have indeed taught me something. I will give you your freedom."
Letting the bird fly away, he thought seriously about its words.
Then he heard it laughing quietly. Its voice came from a tree where the bird was sitting.
"Why are you laughing so cheerfully?" shouted the man.
"About my easily won freedom," answered the bird, "and more than that, about the foolishness of humans who believe they are smarter than all other creatures. If you had been smarter, only just as smart as I am, then you would now be the richest man."
"How would that have been possible?" asked the master of the garden.
The bird replied, "If, instead of giving me my freedom, you had kept me, for in my body I have a diamond the size of a hen's egg."
The man stood there as though he were petrified.
After recovering from the surprise, he began to speak, "You think that you are happy because I gave you your freedom. But summer will soon be over and winter with its storms will arrive. The brooks will freeze over, and you will not be able to find a single drop of water to quench your thirst. The fields will be covered with snow, and you will not find anything to eat. But I will give you a warm place where you can freely fly around, and you can have as much water and bread as you want. Come down, and I will show you that you are better off with me than with your freedom."
Thus spoke the master of the garden, but the little bird laughed louder than before, making the man even angrier.
"You are still laughing?" asked the man.
"Of course," replied the bird. "See, you gave me my freedom on account of the teachings that I gave you, and now you are so foolish that you do not take the teachings to heart. I earned my freedom fairly, but you forgot my teachings after only a few minutes. You should not grieve over things that have already happened, but still you are grieving that you gave me my freedom. You should not wish for things that you cannot obtain, and yet you want me, for whom freedom is my whole life, to voluntarily enter a prison. You should not believe that which is impossible, and yet you believe that I am carrying about inside my body a diamond as large as a hen's egg, although I myself am only half the size of a hen's egg."
And with that the bird flew away.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Earth day is April 22nd...this story is a tale about the rewards of caring for the land.
There was once an old farmer who was dying.
The farmer had worked hard in his vineyard all his life and before he died he wanted to teach his three, somewhat lazy, sons how to be good farmers.
So he called them to him and said, "My boys, before I die I want you to know that there is a great treasure buried in the vineyard.
Promise me that you will look for it when I'm dead".
The sons promised and as soon as their father had died, they began looking for the treasure.
They worked very hard in the hot sun and all the time as they were working they wondered what their father had left for them.
In their minds they pictured boxes of gold coins, diamond necklaces and other such things.
Soon they had dug up every inch of the vineyard, but they found not a penny.
As you can imagine, the sons were very upset.
They felt that all their hard work had been for nothing.
But then the grapes started to appear on the vines and their grapes were the biggest and best in the neighborhood, and they sold them for a lot of money.
Now they understood what their father had meant by the great treasure, and they lived happily ever after.
Friday, April 2, 2010
Yep, today is International Children's Book Day which ,since 1967, is held on or around Hans Christian Andersen's birthday. April 2nd.
International Children's Book Day (ICBD) is a day to inspire a love of reading and to call attention to children's books.
The Red Shoes
by Hans Christian Andersen(1845)
ONCE upon a time there was little girl, pretty and dainty. But in summer time she was obliged to go barefooted because she was poor, and in winter she had to wear large wooden shoes, so that her little instep grew quite red.
In the middle of the village lived an old shoemaker’s wife; she sat down and made, as well as she could, a pair of little shoes out of some old pieces of red cloth. They were clumsy, but she meant well, for they were intended for the little girl, whose name was Karen.
Karen received the shoes and wore them for the first time on the day of her mother’s funeral. They were certainly not suitable for mourning; but she had no others, and so she put her bare feet into them and walked behind the humble coffin.
Just then a large old carriage came by, and in it sat an old lady; she looked at the little girl, and taking pity on her, said to the clergyman, “Look here, if you will give me the little girl, I will take care of her.”
Karen believed that this was all on account of the red shoes, but the old lady thought them hideous, and so they were burnt. Karen herself was dressed very neatly and cleanly; she was taught to read and to sew, and people said that she was pretty. But the mirror told her, “You are more than pretty—you are beautiful.”
One day the Queen was travelling through that part of the country, and had her little daughter, who was a princess, with her. All the people, amongst them Karen too, streamed towards the castle, where the little princess, in fine white clothes, stood before the window and allowed herself to be stared at. She wore neither a train nor a golden crown, but beautiful red morocco shoes; they were indeed much finer than those which the shoemaker’s wife had sewn for little Karen. There is really nothing in the world that can be compared to red shoes!
Karen was now old enough to be confirmed; she received some new clothes, and she was also to have some new shoes. The rich shoemaker in the town took the measure of her little foot in his own room, in which there stood great glass cases full of pretty shoes and white slippers. It all looked very lovely, but the old lady could not see very well, and therefore did not get much pleasure out of it. Amongst the shoes stood a pair of red ones, like those which the princess had worn. How beautiful they were! and the shoemaker said that they had been made for a count’s daughter, but that they had not fitted her.
“I suppose they are of shiny leather?” asked the old lady. “They shine so.”
“Yes, they do shine,” said Karen. They fitted her, and were bought. But the old lady knew nothing of their being red, for she would never have allowed Karen to be confirmed in red shoes, as she was now to be.
Everybody looked at her feet, and the whole of the way from the church door to the choir it seemed to her as if even the ancient figures on the monuments, in their stiff collars and long black robes, had their eyes fixed on her red shoes. It was only of these that she thought when the clergyman laid his hand upon her head and spoke of the holy baptism, of the covenant with God, and told her that she was now to be a grown-up Christian. The organ pealed forth solemnly, and the sweet children’s voices mingled with that of their old leader; but Karen thought only of her red shoes. In the afternoon the old lady heard from everybody that Karen had worn red shoes. She said that it was a shocking thing to do, that it was very improper, and that Karen was always to go to church in future in black shoes, even if they were old.
On the following Sunday there was Communion. Karen looked first at the black shoes, then at the red ones—looked at the red ones again, and put them on.
The sun was shining gloriously, so Karen and the old lady went along the footpath through the corn, where it was rather dusty.
At the church door stood an old crippled soldier leaning on a crutch; he had a wonderfully long beard, more red than white, and he bowed down to the ground and asked the old lady whether he might wipe her shoes. Then Karen put out her little foot too. “Dear me, what pretty dancing-shoes!” said the soldier. “Sit fast, when you dance,” said he, addressing the shoes, and slapping the soles with his hand.
The old lady gave the soldier some money and then went with Karen into the church.
And all the people inside looked at Karen’s red shoes, and all the figures gazed at them; when Karen knelt before the altar and put the golden goblet to her mouth, she thought only of the red shoes. It seemed to her as though they were swimming about in the goblet, and she forgot to sing the psalm, forgot to say the “Lord’s Prayer.”
Now every one came out of church, and the old lady stepped into her carriage. But just as Karen was lifting up her foot to get in too, the old soldier said: “Dear me, what pretty dancing shoes!” and Karen could not help it, she was obliged to dance a few steps; and when she had once begun, her legs continued to dance. It seemed as if the shoes had got power over them. She danced round the church corner, for she could not stop; the coachman had to run after her and seize her. He lifted her into the carriage, but her feet continued to dance, so that she kicked the good old lady violently. At last they took off her shoes, and her legs were at rest.
At home the shoes were put into the cupboard, but Karen could not help looking at them.
Now the old lady fell ill, and it was said that she would not rise from her bed again. She had to be nursed and waited upon, and this was no one’s duty more than Karen’s. But there was a grand ball in the town, and Karen was invited. She looked at the red shoes, saying to herself that there was no sin in doing that; she put the red shoes on, thinking there was no harm in that either; and then she went to the ball; and commenced to dance.
But when she wanted to go to the right, the shoes danced to the left, and when she wanted to dance up the room, the shoes danced down the room, down the stairs through the street, and out through the gates of the town. She danced, and was obliged to dance, far out into the dark wood. Suddenly something shone up among the trees, and she believed it was the moon, for it was a face. But it was the old soldier with the red beard; he sat there nodding his head and said: “Dear me, what pretty dancing shoes!”
She was frightened, and wanted to throw the red shoes away; but they stuck fast. She tore off her stockings, but the shoes had grown fast to her feet. She danced and was obliged to go on dancing over field and meadow, in rain and sunshine, by night and by day—but by night it was most horrible.
She danced out into the open churchyard; but the dead there did not dance. They had something better to do than that. She wanted to sit down on the pauper’s grave where the bitter fern grows; but for her there was neither peace nor rest. And as she danced past the open church door she saw an angel there in long white robes, with wings reaching from his shoulders down to the earth; his face was stern and grave, and in his hand he held a broad shining sword.
“Dance you shall,” said he, “dance in your red shoes till you are pale and cold, till your skin shrivels up and you are a skeleton! Dance you shall, from door to door, and where proud and wicked children live you shall knock, so that they may hear you and fear you! Dance you shall, dance—!”
“Mercy!” cried Karen. But she did not hear what the angel answered, for the shoes carried her through the gate into the fields, along highways and byways, and unceasingly she had to dance.
One morning she danced past a door that she knew well; they were singing a psalm inside, and a coffin was being carried out covered with flowers. Then she knew that she was forsaken by every one and damned by the angel of God.
She danced, and was obliged to go on dancing through the dark night. The shoes bore her away over thorns and stumps till she was all torn and bleeding; she danced away over the heath to a lonely little house. Here, she knew, lived the executioner; and she tapped with her finger at the window and said:
“Come out, come out! I cannot come in, for I must dance.”
And the executioner said: “I don’t suppose you know who I am. I strike off the heads of the wicked, and I notice that my axe is tingling to do so.”
“Don’t cut off my head!” said Karen, “for then I could not repent of my sin. But cut off my feet with the red shoes.”
And then she confessed all her sin, and the executioner struck off her feet with the red shoes; but the shoes danced away with the little feet across the field into the deep forest.
And he carved her a pair of wooden feet and some crutches, and taught her a psalm which is always sung by sinners; she kissed the hand that guided the axe, and went away over the heath.
“Now, I have suffered enough for the red shoes,” she said; “I will go to church, so that people can see me.” And she went quickly up to the church-door; but when she came there, the red shoes were dancing before her, and she was frightened, and turned back.
During the whole week she was sad and wept many bitter tears, but when Sunday came again she said: “Now I have suffered and striven enough. I believe I am quite as good as many of those who sit in church and give themselves airs.” And so she went boldly on; but she had not got farther than the churchyard gate when she saw the red shoes dancing along before her. Then she became terrified, and turned back and repented right heartily of her sin.
She went to the parsonage, and begged that she might be taken into service there. She would be industrious, she said, and do everything that she could; she did not mind about the wages as long as she had a roof over her, and was with good people. The pastor’s wife had pity on her, and took her into service. And she was industrious and thoughtful. She sat quiet and listened when the pastor read aloud from the Bible in the evening. All the children liked her very much, but when they spoke about dress and grandeur and beauty she would shake her head.
On the following Sunday they all went to church, and she was asked whether she wished to go too; but, with tears in her eyes, she looked sadly at her crutches. And then the others went to hear God’s Word, but she went alone into her little room; this was only large enough to hold the bed and a chair. Here she sat down with her hymn-book, and as she was reading it with a pious mind, the wind carried the notes of the organ over to her from the church, and in tears she lifted up her face and said: “O God! help me!”
Then the sun shone so brightly, and right before her stood an angel of God in white robes; it was the same one whom she had seen that night at the church-door. He no longer carried the sharp sword, but a beautiful green branch, full of roses; with this he touched the ceiling, which rose up very high, and where he had touched it there shone a golden star. He touched the walls, which opened wide apart, and she saw the organ which was pealing forth; she saw the pictures of the old pastors and their wives, and the congregation sitting in the polished chairs and singing from their hymn-books. The church itself had come to the poor girl in her narrow room, or the room had gone to the church. She sat in the pew with the rest of the pastor’s household, and when they had finished the hymn and looked up, they nodded and said, “It was right of you to come, Karen.”
“It was mercy,” said she.
The organ played and the children’s voices in the choir sounded soft and lovely. The bright warm sunshine streamed through the window into the pew where Karen sat, and her heart became so filled with it, so filled with peace and joy, that it broke. Her soul flew on the sunbeams to Heaven, and no one was there who asked after the Red Shoes.