Danish Fairy and Folk Tales/Brave against His Will

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ON his table in a poorly furnished room a little tailor was sitting. He sewed busily, while the flies buzzed about the window-panes, and the beautiful sunshine gleamed bright and pleasant on the blooming elder-bushes and the rosy-red, shining cherries outside the house. Under the eaves numerous sparrows were twittering cheerily.

The door was opened, and in came our tailor's friend, the blacksmith, dressed in his best coat, and with a knotty stick in his hand. "Do you sit there yet?" asked he. "Do you not intend to visit the fair, like other good Christians?"

"I don't care to go," returned the tailor, in his faint, shrill voice.

"How about your wife?" asked the blacksmith, again.

"She went away more than two hours ago," answered he.

"Come, come, that beats all!" cried his friend. "Do you care so little for your clever little wife that you let her trudge to the fair alone on such a day as this, when the roads are filled with vagabonds and robbers?"

"My wife is in good hands," declared the tailor, "for our wealthy neighbor, Mads, promised to take care of her, and—"

"—And in the mean time you are forced to prick with your needle this whole splendid summer day!"

"A tailor must attend to his duties," said the shrivelled little fellow, looking helplessly into the blacksmith's large face with the blinking eyes and the curly beard. "When I was a boy I dreamed of becoming a great warrior. I was to win a golden helmet and ride on a stately steed, followed by a hundred brave men. Nothing ever came of it!"

"Why should you not yet live to see your dream realized?" pursued his friend, and nodded smilingly at him.

"I know one thing!" cried the tailor, straightening himself and striking his breast. "I possess a lion's courage and the force of a bear. Blood cannot frighten me! How often have I pricked my fingers with a needle without feeling either fear or pain! And oh, how I yet dream! Often I slay dragons and serpents and other fearful beasts, the very names of which would frighten you."

"Were I in your place," answered the blacksmith, "I would at once throw these rags aside and jump from the table, go into the wide world, seek those great monsters you spoke of, and slay them—slay them!"

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"No, no," replied the little man, "I cannot! At present I own not a single penny, and without money you can do nothing."

"I will aid you," returned the blacksmith. "Five dollars are all that I have, but I will share them with you, my friend. Two dollars and fifty cents will reach far in a thrifty man's hand. Come and take them!"

"My wife will feel very lonely," objected the tailor.

"Your wife! Mads and I will take care of her while you are gone," asserted his friend.

"Will you, surely?" asked the ambitious young man.

"I promise you solemnly!" cried the animated blacksmith. "Think of the day when you return with a golden helmet, and followed by a hundred great warriors!"

"Yes! yes!" shouted the tailor, slapping the table with his hand and sweeping the goods he had been at work with into a corner. "When I strike, I strike hard!" He lifted his hand and looked at it. When it struck the table seven flies had been killed, and their dead bodies stuck to the palm.

"Seven of them," said he, looking sternly at his friend. "Seven with one blow. Such is the beginning. What do you think of that?"

"Remarkable!" answered the blacksmith—"remarkable, indeed! Make a belt and sew on it, with red worsted, 'Seven with one Blow.' This will tell every one what a great man you are, and that is very important."

"I will follow your advice," returned the little tailor, "for now I am determined!"

In the afternoon he set out to win all that he had dreamed of. A short distance from home he met his wife and wealthy Mads, who returned from the market, laughing and talking about the fine day which had been passed so pleasantly. "Let her be glad and happy," thought the good little tailor, as they passed without seeing him; "when I return she will be still more delighted." He walked on, the hopeful and trustful little person he was.

At the fair he met an old invalid soldier who had lost both of his arms in war, for which reason he had no more use for his weapons. The tailor bought his sword. It was rusty and hacked, but one dollar was a low price, and he was satisfied.

He pursued his way, well equipped and hopeful. Every one gave him shelter and food when needed, for the sake of the words which he had sewed on his belt, but when he inquired about dragons and serpents they shook their heads; no such monsters were living in this part of the world. At length he began to doubt the many descriptions which he had read about these beings, and hesitated to believe the frightful havoc which they were said to have made.

Soon he heard, however, that in a country called Franconia there were many of these marvellous animals. As soon as one of them had been killed, another appeared, and they spared neither kings nor emperors. So this was a great country for the tailor, who went there without delay.

One evening he lay down to sleep in a large forest, and when he awoke the next morning he found two strangers in beautiful clothes staring at him. They read the inscription on his belt, and although unacquainted with the language, succeeded in interpreting the meaning of the words. Thinking of seven men, and not of seven flies, they approached the mighty hero, bowing and scraping, asking him to accompany them to the king and be enlisted in the Royal body-guard.

The king received the tailor well. "My people are a nation of heroes," said he; "we know how to value bravery. Soon you will have occasion to show your proficiency and your manhood."

The tailor replied that he was pleased to hear this, and that his greatest desire was to kill dragons and serpents. "In that case," said the king, "you may make a beginning by going into the forest behind this palace. Two fearful giants dwell there, and none of my heroes are as yet able to slay them. They devour the entire crop, and at length they will lay the whole country waste. If you can slay them I will give you a hundred pieces of gold."

The little man's heart swelled within him, he beat his old rusty sword, and declared that even if there were seven giants, he would kill them as easily as if they were seven flies. He was conducted to the pantry, and received a large parcel containing ten whole slices of bread-and-butter. The queen had herself prepared them, and there were five with collared beef and five with sweet-milk cheese.

Thus equipped the tailor departed. When he had walked about in the forest a couple of hours without noticing even a trace of the giants, he determined to open the package and taste the dainty bread-and-butter. He had hardly swallowed the first bite before the leaves began to rattle, and in the next moment two huge men, fearful to look at, stood before him. They were so tall that if they had been standing on the stone stair in front of the tailor's hut it would have been an easy matter for them to look down into the chimney-top. Now his heart sank within him, and he dropped his bread-and-butter. "I wish to God," thought he, "that I had stayed among my needles and rags. Now I am a lost man."

So he was, indeed. The one giant seized him by the collar, and without even attempting an excuse, lifted him up, holding him out at arm's-length.

"Let us chop him in a trough and sprinkle him with pepper and salt; he will make a delicious supper," said one.

"He looks too withered and dry," answered his comrade. "We had better hang him up, dry, and stretch him. Why, such a shrivelled little creature can be better used for making bow-strings!"

"No; let us eat him," proposed the other.

"We will dry him, as I said," returned his companion.

"Will we, indeed?" replied the first, stealing a glance at his friend. "No; as I caught him, I wish to determine what to do with him, and I am bent upon having him for supper."

"But I say he shall he dried," said the first, again.

"I say he shall not!" cried the other.

"He shall!" yelled the first, poking his friend in the ribs.

"Do you mean to strike me?" shouted the other, furiously, seizing a heavy club.

"Why not?" roared his companion, in a great rage, catching hold of a young tree and brandishing it over his head.

Now the battle began. The little tailor was dropped and forgotten, while the giants used their clubs against each other with such a force that every stroke sounded as if one of the largest trees were felled to the ground. The great warrior who slew seven with one stroke would have run away, but became so frightened that he was utterly unable to move; so with closed eyes and shaking limbs he awaited the end of the struggle, thinking how foolish it was for him to leave his needle and thread for such exploits as killing dragons, serpents, and giants.

At length all was still, and the tailor ventured to open his eyes. Both giants were lying on the ground. Having knocked the clubs to pieces upon each other, they had torn trees from the ground and fought with them, until branches and stems lay scattered on all sides.

The little man walked around them a couple of times to see if they were really dead. He touched them with his foot, and at length he ventured to pluck the one by his long beard. Then he pulled out his sword and thrust it into the breast of the dead giant. When the other one had received the same treatment, the tailor sat down in the shade, wiped his forehead, and ate the rest of his bread-and-butter. He now returned to the palace and told the king that he had killed both giants. The entire court was greatly surprised, but the king said, "He has deserved the hundred gold pieces, and he shall have them."

"We all clearly see," observed a stout little general, "that a great and heroic spirit can dwell in a small body."

They went into the forest and found the dead monsters. "Look," exclaimed one of the courtiers, "how they have torn trees from the ground in the fearful struggle!"

"Wonderful, wonderful!" cried every one, looking admiringly at the little tailor, who drew himself up and looked proudly around.

"I should think," at length remarked one of the king's men, "that this brave man might also slay the unicorn which works havoc beyond the river."

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"To be sure!" exclaimed the king. "Do you dare to engage in contest with the unicorn?" continued he, turning to the tailor. "I will give you two hundred gold pieces if you can manage to kill it!"

Now the tailor's dreams again awoke within him, and at this moment he did not remember that he had not really killed the giants. With sparkling eyes he turned to the king, exclaiming: "Your majesty, I shall kill the unicorn!"

The next day he was followed to the river by the whole court. The ferryman took him across the water, where he soon found himself in a forest, dense, wild, and desolate. No sooner was he left alone than the thought entered his head to turn back and run away from the danger, but in the same moment the unicorn burst through the bushes and came down upon him with glowing eyes, galloping wildly, and with the fearful frontal horn pointing to the very place where the tailor knew his heart was. There was no time even to think, and when the animal had come within four inches of him he swooned away and fell to the ground motionless. The monster, which came along at a furious rate, was, however, unable to stop. Like a fierce wind it passed him and ran its horn into the trunk of a large oak-tree with such a force that it was impossible to draw it back again. The tailor suffered no injury whatever. When he awoke from his swoon and found himself alive, the monster stood near him, kicking up the dust and leaves with its hoofs, and howling with pain and fury. He saw that his life was yet at stake, for if the unicorn succeeded in getting away no doubt it would again turn upon him. So, however hard it went with him, he must pull out his hacked sword, which he ran into the neck of the unicorn with all his might. A stream of green and black blood burst out through the wound, while the animal began howling like all the swine in the land of Franconia taken together. This was again too much for the heroic tailor; he fainted, but when he awoke the animal lay dead by his side. Without stopping to examine it he repaired to the palace with the news of his great deed. The whole city rejoiced over it. He was led through the streets in triumph, and all the church-bells rang for him. A gold chain was placed around his neck by the king himself; two hundred shining gold pieces were paid him; the queen kissed his forehead, and all the great and small poets made verse in honor of his heroism.

But our friend had had enough of both fright and honor. He wished himself far from Franconia and all its giants and unicorns. When he went to bed in the evening he swore that nothing would induce him to fight more of these frightful monsters, or to dream of great deeds, for he had found that dreams were dreams, and sometimes far from reality.

The next morning he packed his knapsack, stuffing the belt and money together at the bottom, whereupon he went over to bid good-bye to the king and the queen. The king did not wish, however, to part so soon from the great hero. "There is one more deed which you must accomplish before leaving us," he said. The tailor begged to be excused, but the king of Franconia possessed one remarkable quality: when he had taken something into his head he was bent upon having his will in spite of everything.

"What does your majesty ask me to do?" at length asked the tailor.

"I desire to have you kill a wild boar which haunts the woodlands on the borders of my domain," said the king. "If you succeed in killing this monster, three hundred gold pieces will be yours, and I promise to give you a duke's rank."

When the little man heard of the borders of the land he felt relieved, and thought: "If I can only manage to cross the frontiers, I care little about the boar, the money, and the duke's title, but will return home as fast as possible." He answered, however: "Your majesty's wish shall be fulfilled; I will take the boar's life."

But his face lengthened a great deal when the king told him that one hundred brave knights were ready to follow him to the place, and that he himself intended to go also. "I am not the least afraid," concluded he, "when I am near your strong arm!"

Although the tailor did not at all enjoy the thought of having the king and the knights watch the fight between him and the boar, he made no objection, and so they started on their journey. The road was covered in many places with fragments of arms and legs from the poor victims of the raging beast.

"Your majesty," at length said one of the knights, "must not be exposed to the danger of meeting the boar. I propose that we stop here, and let this brave man face the monster alone. He will easily kill it."

"I agree with this friend of mine," observed the tailor at once.

The king assented, bidding his men to halt, while the hero pursued his way alone. So long as he could yet be seen by the king and his men he stepped briskly forward; but as soon as the trees concealed him from their view he uncovered his feet and walked along cautiously. Having thus pursued his way for a couple of hours, and thinking himself already out of danger, he noticed a little chapel among the trees, and thought that here he might pass the night undisturbed, when at once a fearful creaking was heard, and the boar came rushing against him as rapidly as the wind. It was immensely large, with a pair of gleaming, wicked eyes, and tusks of enormous length and size.

With a scream of terror the tailor made for the chapel, reached it, and jumped from one pew to another, the boar following him closely. At length he felt the animal's hot and fiery breath on the
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back of his neck, when he saw an open window in front of him. Gathering all his force in a final jump, he skipped through the window and hastened, as soon as he had reached the ground, back to the entrance, the door of which he closed and bolted.

When he had thus escaped the animal and locked it up safely, he returned to the king and the knights, who greeted him with merry shouts.

"The animal was too small and unimportant for me to fight," said he. "I grasped it by the neck and threw it into the chapel. Now you may amuse yourselves by hunting and killing it. I only desire to receive the three hundred gold pieces, and to be allowed to return home."

His wish was granted at once, and with many thanks and blessings the King of Franconia parted with the great hero.

The tailor reached his native village safe and sound. One evening he was standing outside of his house, thinking how glad his wife would be to see him again, when he heard her voice within, crying for mercy, while a gruff answer followed, and a sound as if some one was beating her. The tailor's heroism at once awoke; he pushed the door open, seized his sword, and rushed into the room, where he found Mads, his wealthy neighbor, standing before the little woman, threatening to beat her with a thick cane. "He will never return home to you!" shouted Mads. "I will beat you until you give up every thought of him and consent to marry me."

"Yes, he will!" cried the little tailor; "and here he is, a great and honored man! With this sword I have killed two giants, a unicorn, and a wild boar, and six hundred gold pieces were my reward." He looked fiercely at Mads, and continued: "I ought to kill you for beating my wife, you wretch; but I feel too great for such trifling deeds. Out with you!" shouted he, pulling forth the rusty sword and pointing to the open door. "Out with you! Do you hear?"

Mads retreated through the door in great haste, but the tailor and his little wife clasped each other in their arms He told her how he had accomplished these great deeds, but that he was tired of leading such a hard life as a hero must necessarily lead. Therefore he had returned home.

The little tailor became a wealthy man; he had his own carriage and horses, and henceforth he sewed only for his own pleasure. The blacksmith, his devoted friend, received a liberal share of these riches which were obtained by manful deeds, and so well deserved.