Danish Fairy and Folk Tales/Bend the Bough in Time

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THERE were once a man and his wife who had three daughters, Karèn, Marèn and Metté. They were all fine-looking girls, but wicked and ill-natured in disposition, and Metté was the worst and most disagreeable of all. In the course of time suitors came for Karèn and Marèn; but many days passed before any one ventured to woo Metté. At length, however, a suitor arrived, coming of course from far away. Three times the marriage was to be announced from the church pulpit, and on the third day after the last announcement, at such and such a time, the ceremony was to be performed; this was his wish.

On the appointed day the man and his wife went with their daughter to the church, but they were obliged to wait a long time for the bridegroom. Finally he made his appearance, riding on an old gray horse, with a rifle across his back, and a pair of large mittens on his hands. A big dog followed him. As soon as the marriage ceremony was over, he said to his wife: "Get up on the horse in front of me, and let us ride home." So they rode away. After a while the man dropped one of his mittens. "Pick it up," said he to his dog. But the dog did not obey him. "Pick it up at once," he again commanded; but, no, the dog would not touch it. When for the third time he had given the same command, and the dog refused to obey, he seized his rifle and shot the animal dead. They now proceeded on their way and soon came to a forest. Here the man desired to rest, so they alighted and turned the horse loose in the grass. When they wished to proceed on their journey, the man called to the horse and twice repeated his call, but all in vain. The animal paid no attention to him, and seemed determined to continue enjoying the fine grass under the trees. Whereupon he again snatched his rifle and shot the poor creature.

His wife, who witnessed this act, became greatly frightened, and promised herself that she would never gainsay her husband. The man now took a green bough, bent its ends together and gave it to his wife, saying: "Keep this bough until I ask for it." They then walked home together.

For several years this couple lived happily, Metté never forgetting the promise which she made herself in the forest. She was so kind and complaisant, that no one would ever recognize in her "the wicked Metté." One day her husband said to her: "Would you not like to go and see your parents?" Metté answered that it would afford her great pleasure to pay a visit at her home. Carriage and horses were immediately ordered ready for the journey, and they soon drove off. On the way they noticed a large number of storks. "What nice ravens!" said the man. "They are not ravens; they are storks," said his wife. "Turn back and drive straight home!" shouted the man to his coachman, and back they went to the place from which they came.

Some time thereafter the man again asked his wife if she would like to visit her parents, and she answered that it would please her very much to go. On the road they met a flock of sheep and lambs. "What a number of wolves!" exclaimed the man. "No," returned his wife, "they are lambs and sheep." "Turn back!" said her husband, and back they went a second time.

When some time had elapsed the man again asked his wife if she did not desire to see how her parents were, and she at once consented. When they were fairly started, they noticed some hens. "Look at those crows!" exclaimed he. "Yes, indeed," assented his wife. They proceeded on their journey, and were eagerly welcomed by Metté's parents. Karèn and Marèn were also there, with their husbands. The old mother retired with her daughters to inquire how Metté was living. In the mean time the father filled a mug with silver and gold coin, telling the three men that he whose wife was the most ready to fulfil his wishes would get the money. The first one immediately began to call: "Karèn, Karèn, come here!" But she did not obey, and even when he opened the door, went in and tried to drag her away, she refused. The second one had no better success with his Marèn. Now the third one's turn came. He walked up to the door and called, "Metté, come here!" She was immediately before him, asking what he wanted. "Hand me the bough which I gave to you in the forest," said he. She at once produced it, and he, showing it to the two others, said: "Look at this bough; I bent it while it was green. You should have done the same."