The fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen (Stratton)/A Week with Olé Luk Oie
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A Week with Olé Luk Oie
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A Week with Olé Luk-Oie
OLÉ LUK-OIE; OR, THE DUSTMAN
So, when the children have fallen to sleep, Ole Luk-Oie sits upon their bed. He is very well dressed, for his coat is made of some silk stuff, though it is impossible to tell its colour, for it changes from green to red or to blue, according to which side he turns. He carries an umbrella under each arm, and he spreads one of these, all lined with pretty pictures, over the heads of good children, which makes them dream of amusing stories all night long; but as for the other umbrella, which is completely blank, he spreads that over naughty children, who then sleep so heavily that next morning when they wake they find they have dreamed nothing at all.
Now we are going to hear how Olé Luk-Oie came every evening, for a whole week, to a little boy named Hjalmar, and what he told him. There were seven stories, as there are seven days in the week.
"What is that?" said Olé Luk-Oie, going to the table and opening the box. It was the slate that was all up in arms because there was a wrong figure in a sum, and threatened to fall to pieces. The pencil was hopping about and leaping as far as its string would allow, just as if it had been a little dog trying to help the sum, but not able to manage it. And then there came a groan from Hjalmar's copy-book—and an ugly one it was too. On each leaf stood the capital letters according to order, and every one had a small letter by its side—these formed the copy. Next to them stood other letters that thought they looked like the former, and these had been penned by Hjalmar, but they lay very much as if they had fallen over the pencil line on which they ought to have stood upright.
"Look! this is the way you ought to stand upright," said the copy; "you seem as if you had been bent double by a violent blow."
"Oh, we should be willing enough to stand upright," said Hjalmar's letters, "only we can't. We are such deplorable things."
"Then you must take physic," said Olé Luk-Oie. "Oh, no!" cried they, placing themselves as straight as could be.
"There, now—we shan't be able to have any stories!" said Olé Luk-Oie; " for I must drill them. One, two—one, two!" and he drilled the letters till they all stood as slim and as straight as ever copy could be. But when Olé Luk-Oie was gone, and Hjalmar looked at them next morning, they were just as deplorable as ever.
Over the chest of drawers hung a large picture in a gilt frame, that represented a landscape. In it might be seen old trees, flowery meadows, and a broad river skirting a forest and flowing past a number of castles, till it reached the open sea.
Olé Luk-Oie touched the picture with his magic wand, and immediately the birds began to sing, the branches to rustle, and the clouds to sail; even the shadows of the latter might be seen gliding over the landscape.
Olé Luk-Oie now lifted little Hjalmar up to the frame, and placed his feet in the tall grass inside the picture; and there he stood, with the sun shining upon him through the branches of the trees. He then ran to the water's edge, and got into a little boat that was lying there; the boat was painted red and white, the sails were as dazzling as silver, and six swans all wearing gold crowns round their necks, and a brightly beaming blue star on their heads, towed the boat
ON THE BALCONIES STOOD PRINCESSES.
past the green forest, where the trees related stories of robbers and witches, and the flowers told all about pretty little elves, as well as what the butterflies had said to them.
The most beautiful fishes with gold and silver scales swam after the boat; and every now and then they gave a leap that ruffled the surface of the water, while birds both red and blue, great and small, flew behind in two long rows. The gnats kept dancing, and the cockchafers saying: "Buzz! buzz!" They all wanted to follow Hjalmar, and they each had a story to tell.
What a pleasant sail he had! Sometimes the woods were quite thick and dark, at other times they were laid out like the most enchanting garden, full of flowers and sunshine; then there were castles built of glass or of marble, and on the balconies stood princesses, all of whom wore the familiar faces of the little girls Hjalmar knew and had played with. Each held out her hand to offer him the prettiest sugar heart that ever confectioner sold; and Hjalmar caught hold of one side of the sugar heart, as he sailed past, and the princess kept firm hold of the other, so that each had a piece, the smallest falling to her share and the largest to Hjalmar's. At each castle little princes stood upon guard as sentinels; they presented arms with tiny golden swords, and made it rain plums and tin soldiers, so that one saw at once they were real princes.
Hjalmar went on sailing, now through forests, now through vast halls, now through the middle of some city; and he passed through the town where lived the nurse who had carried him in her arms when he was quite a little boy, and had been so kind to him. And she nodded and smiled, and sang the pretty little stanza that she had herself composed and sent to Hjalmar:—
"How oft thine image doth arise,
And all the birds joined in the song, the flowers danced on their stems, and the old trees nodded, just as if Olé Luk-Oie were telling them stories.
OW it did rain, to be sure! Hjalmar could hear it in
his sleep; and when Olé Luk-Oie opened the window, the water stood as high as the window-seat. There was a complete lake outside, but the prettiest ship in the world stood close to the house.
"Will you sail with me, little Hjalmar?" asked Olé Luk-Oie; "if so, you can reach foreign lands to-night and yet be back by morning."
And Hjalmar found himself suddenly standing, in his holiday clothes, on the beautiful ship, when the weather immediately grew fine, and they sailed through the streets, rounded the church, and then emerged into the open sea. They sailed till they lost sight of land, when they saw a flock of storks who were likewise leaving their home to go to a warmer climate; one stork flew behind the other, and they had already flown a long, long way. One of them was so tired that his wings could scarcely carry him any further; he was the last in the row, and was a good bit behind the others. At last he kept sinking, with outspread wings, lower and lower still; then he flapped his wings twice more, but to no purpose; his feet now touched the rigging of the vessel, then he glided down from the sails, and, plump I there he stood on the deck.
A sailor-boy now took him and put him into the hen-house, amongst ducks, hens and guinea-fowls. The poor stork remained quite confounded in the midst of them.
"Look at that chap!" said the hens.
And the guinea-fowl puffed himself out to look as big as he could, and inquired who he might be, while the ducks walked backwards, cackling, "Quack! quack!"
And the stork told all about warm Africa and the Pyramids, and the ostriches that run through the desert like wild horses. But the ducks could not understand what he said, and they then cackled amongst each other: "I think we are all of opinion that he is very stupid."
"WE SHALL COOK YOU TO-MORROW," SAID HJALMAR.
"Yes, stupid enough in all conscience," said the guinea-fowl, and fell into a rage. So the stork remained silent, and thought of his dear Africa.
"Those are very dainty, thin legs of yours," said the guinea-fowl; "pray, what may they cost per yard?"
"Quack! quack! quack!" tittered all the ducks, but the stork pretended not to have heard what had been said.
"You may as well laugh too," said the guineafowl to him, "for it was very witty. Or was it above your understanding? In truth, I fancy he is not very deep; we must try and lower ourselves to his level." And then he clucked, and the ducks cackled, "Ghick, ghack! Ghick, ghack!"
It was quite abominable to hear how they amused themselves.
But Hjalmar went to the hen-house, and opened the door, and called to the stork, who hopped out to him upon deck. He was now rested, and it seemed as if he nodded to Hjalmar to thank him. He then spread his wings, and flew to warmer lands; while the hens clucked, the ducks set up a cackling, and the guinea-fowl turned scarlet in the head.
"We shall cook you to-morow for broth," said Hjalmar, and thereupon he awoke, and found himself in his little bed.
It was a singular voyage, to be sure, that Olé Luk-Oie had made him take during that night!
"But how can I creep through a little mouse's hole in the floor?" asked Hjalmar.
AWAY THEY WENT TO THE MOUSES WEDDING.
"Leave that to me," said Olé LukOie; "I'll contrive to make you little enough." And he touched Hjalmar with his little magic wand, whereupon he became less and less, till at last he was not so long as one's finger. "Now you can borrow the clothes of the lead soldier, which I think will just fit you; and it looks well to wear a uniform when one goes into company."
"That's true," said Hjalmar; and in a moment he was dressed like the sprucest lead soldier.
THE MICE WERE NEAR TREADING EACH OTHER TO DEATH.
"Will you have the goodness to sit in your mamma's thimble?" said the little mouse, " and then I shall have the honour to draw you."
"Dear me! will you take all that trouble yourself, madam?" said Hjalmar. And away they went to the mouse's wedding.
First of all they descended beneath the floor into a long passage that was only just high enough to admit of their driving through it with the thimble. The whole passage was lit up with phosphorescent wood.
"Does it not smell nice here?" asked the mouse that drew him. "The whole passage is smeared with rinds of bacon. Nothing can be more delicious."
They now came into the room where the wedding party was assembled. On the right side stood all the lady mice, who were whispering and gossiping, as if they were making game of each other. To the left stood the gentlemen mice, stroking their moustaches with their paws; and in the middle of the room were seen the bridal pair standing side by side in a scooped-out cheese-rind, and kissing each other most heartily before all the company, for they were betrothed, and were just about to be married.
More and more strangers kept arriving; the mice were near treading each other to death; and the bridal pair had placed themselves in the doorway, so that it was impossible to go in or to come out. The room had been daubed over with rinds of bacon like the passage, and that was all the refreshment offered to the guests; but at dessert they brought out a pea in which a mouse belonging to the family had bitten the name of the bride and bridegroom â€” that is to say, the first letter of their name. And this was something quite extraordinary.
All the mice declared that it was a very grand wedding, and that the entertainment had been very agreeable.
Hjalmar then went home. He had certainly been into very genteel society; but then, on the other hand, he had been obliged to creep into a little hole, and make himself small, and put on the uniform of the lead soldier.
"What shall we do to-night?" asked Hjalmar.
"Why, I don't know whether you'll care to go to another wedding to-night, though it is a different one from yesterday's. Your sister's large doll that looks like a man, and is called Hermann, is going to marry the doll Bertha. It is, moreover, the doll's birthday, and so they will receive a great many presents."
"Yes, I know," said Hjalmar. "Whenever the dolls wants new clothes, my sister is sure to celebrate their birthday or their wedding. This happened, at least, a hundred times."
THE BRIDAL PAIR WERE SITTING ON THE FLOOR.
"So it has; only to-night is the hundred wedding; and when that has taken place, it must be the last; therefore, this one will surpass all the magnificence. Only look!"
Hjalmar turned towards the table. There the little pasteboard dolls'-house, with lights in the windows, and all the lead soldiers outside were presenting arms. The bridal pair were sitting on the floor in a pensive mood, as they had good cause to be, leaning against the leg of the table. But Olé Luk-Oie, dressed up in grandmamma's black gown, soon married them.
When the ceremony was over, all the furniture in the room joined in the following beautiful song, which the lead-pencil had written, and which was adapted to a military tattoo:
"Our song shall float upon the wind,
And they now received presents; but all eatables were prohibited, as love was their food.
"Shall we go to a country-seat, or shall we travel?" asked the bridegroom. And they consulted the swallow, who had travelled so much, and the old hen in the yard, who had sat upon five batches of chickens. The swallow told of beautiful warm climates, where large bunches of grapes hung heavily on the vines, where the air was so mild, and where the mountains are tinged with colours that we know nothing about here.
"But they haven't our red cabbage!" said the hen. "I was one whole summer in the country, with all my chickens; and there was a sand-pit, where we could walk about and scratch up the earth; and, besides this, we had admittance to a garden, where grew red cabbages. Oh, how nice they were! I can't imagine anything finer!"
"But one cabbage-stalk is as good as another," observed the swallow; "and we have bad weather so often here."
"Oh, yes; but we're accustomed to it," said the hen.
"But it is so cold here, and it freezes!"
"That is good for cabbages," said the hen; "besides, we have warm weather sometimes. Had not we a summer that lasted five whole weeks, some four years ago?—and wasn't it so hot one couldn't breathe? And then we have none of the venomous animals that they have yonder; and we are free from robbers. Wicked, indeed, must he be, who does not think our country the finest of any! Such an one does not deserve to be here!" And the hen then wept, and added, "I, too, have travelled. I once went above twelve miles in a tub. I can assure you there is no pleasure in travelling."
"The hen is a sensible person," said the doll Bertha. "I don't care, either, for travelling over mountains; it is but going up here and down there. No; let's go to the sand-pit in front of the gate, and then walk about in the cabbage-garden."
And this was accordingly agreed upon.
We shall not have time for any this evening," said Olé Luk-Oie, spreading his prettiest umbrella over the little boy. "Now, look at these Chinese." And the umbrella seemed like a large china bowl, with blue trees and pointed bridges, with little Chinese upon them, who stood nodding their heads. "We must put the whole world to rights, that it may look smart to-morrow," said Olé Luk-Oie; "for it will be a holiday, as it is Sunday. I must be off to the steeples, to see if the little elves that live in the church turrets have polished all the bells, so that they may sound prettily; I must go into the fields, and see if the wind has swept all the dust off the grass and leaves, and, what's the longest job of all, I must take down all the stars, to furbish them up a bit. I put them into my apron; but they have all to be numbered first, and the holes I take them from must be numbered likewise, in order that they may be put back into the same places, or else they would not stick fast, and then we should have too many falling stars, as they would all tumble down one after the other."
"I say. Master Olé Luk-Oie," cried an old portrait, that hung on the wall against which was placed Hjalmar's bed, "I am Hjalmar's great grandfather. I am obliged to you for telling the boy stories; only you must not warp his understanding. The stars cannot be taken down and polished. The stars are spheres like our earth, and that is their principal merit."
"Thank you, old great-grandfather!" said Ole Luk-Oie—" thank you! You are unquestionably the head of the family, and a very aged head, too; but I happen to be older still than you. I am an ancient heathen. The Greeks and Romans used to call me the God of Dreams. I have been into the highest houses, and still visit such to this day. I know how to behave towards the humblest, as well as towards the greatest, upon earth. So you may just tell stories yourself, if you please." And Olé Luk-Oie went away, taking his umbrella with him.
"Well, well! I suppose next, one must not even give one's opinion," grumbled the old portrait.
And thereupon Hjalmar awoke.
"Now you must tell me the stories of the five green peas that lived in a pod, and of the ranunculus that made love to the chick-weed, and of the darning-needle that was so grand that it fancied itself a sewing-needle."
"One may have too much of a good thing," said Olé LukOie. "You know that I like better to show you something; so I'll show you my brother. His name is Olé Luk-Oie, like mine; but he never comes to anybody more than once; and whomsoever he comes to, he takes him away on his horse, and tells him stories. He only knows two stories, however, one of which is so wonderfully beautiful, that nobody in the world can imagine anything like it; and the other so ugly and so frightful, that it is beyond description!" And then Olé Luk-Oie lifted little Hjalmar up to the window, and said. "There, now, you may see my brother, the other Olé Luk-Oie, who is likewise called Death. You may perceive that he does not look as dreadful as in the picture-books, where he is only a skeleton No, his clothes are embroidered with silver, and he wears a most splendid hussar's uniform; a black velvet mantle flies behind him over his horse. Only look how he gallops along!"
OLÉ LUK-OIE LIFTED LITTLE HJALMAR UP TO THE WINDOW.
And Hjalmar saw this Olé Luk-Oie rode on, taking up both young and old, and carrying them away on his horse. He placed some before, and others behind; but he always inquired first, "How stands your book of merit?"
"LOOK HOW HE GALLOPS ALONG."
"Very satisfactorily," was the universal answer.
"Let me see it myself," then they were obliged to hand over the book. And all those who could show upon its pages the words "Very good," or "Remarkably good," were placed on the front of the horse, and were treated to the pretty story; while those who could show nothing but the words "Tolerably good," or "Middling," were obliged to sit behind, and were forced to hear the frightful story, while they trembled and cried, and would fain have jumped down from the horse; but they could not, for they had immediately grown rooted to it.
"Why, Death is the prettier Olé Luk-Oie of the two," said Hjalmar. "I am not at all afraid of him."
"No more you need be," said Olé Luk-Oie, "if you only mind and keep a good book of merit."
"Now, that I call something instructive," murmured the great-grandfather's picture. "It is some use, after all, to speak one's mind." And he felt quite satisfied.
So that is the story of Olé Luk-Oie; and now let us hope he will himself tell you some others this evening.